Dialogue — May 2023

May 2023

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STANFORD magazine May 2023 cover

Quite a Trip

Our March cover story examined the surge of research into psychedelic medicine.

As a specialist in general internal medicine, I provide a lot of psychiatric care. (More psychiatric care happens in primary care than in psychiatry.) I would love to have more tools in my box than SSRIs, SNRIs, and the smattering of other meds that seem to have less than favorable risk-benefit ratios.I found Leanne Williams’s comment, “How do we identify who is going to benefit?” to be rather telling. I have no idea who will benefit from our current medications. Fluoxetine, escitalopram, venlafaxine? Take your pick. So it is critical that we conduct well-designed trials, not just of psilocybin or MDMA against placebo, but against other currently available treatments, to define the populations most likely to benefit.
Charles Hamori, ’88
La Mesa, California

My intention was to do my doctoral dissertation on LSD, following in the footsteps of Jim Fadiman, MA ’62, PhD ’65, who was one of the primary researchers at a nearby private research facility in Menlo Park. I met with him there as soon as I arrived at Stanford and was dismayed to discover that he was closing up shop, as the federal authorization for such research had just been withdrawn. I have been grateful ever since for the wise counsel Jim gave me: to go ahead and earn my psychology PhD, choosing a noncontroversial dissertation topic and “not even whispering the word psychedelic until the ink is dry on your diploma.” Upon completion of my studies, I found an opening at the only remaining legal psychedelic research facility in the country. Clearly it is now safe to whisper, and perhaps even shout, the word psychedelic at Stanford.
John Rhead, PhD ’71
Baltimore, Maryland

For more than 50 years, our government championed ignorance. We are only now beginning to learn how much harm resulted in patients who could not sufficiently be helped with existing therapies. Government in this instance was the problem and not the cure.
Larry Stewart, ’58
Ventura, California

You say “more evidence is needed at the molecular and cellular level to prove that the drugs are responsible for these changes—and not a comfy couch, the therapist in the dosing room, or the good old placebo effect.” How reductionistic and medicalized! Why insist that a molecule is the only acceptable factor in what facilitates healing? Research of therapy shows that regardless of the methods, the primary factor in healing is the quality of the therapist-client relationship. The Multi-disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies most accurately calls this field “psychedelic-assisted therapy,” with the operative word being assisted.
Eric Braun, MA ’95
Scotts Valley, California

Lessons of War

A March story on Craig McNamara, ’73, explores his relationship with his father, former U.S. secretary of defense Robert McNamara

My younger brother, John, served two years with the Navy in Vietnam during the time I was at Stanford. When he was asked many years later by an interviewer for PBS whether he had been wounded, he replied that everyone, whether in Vietnam or on the home front, had been wounded by the war. Nothing demonstrates that more clearly than your feature on Craig McNamara. Thanks to you for running it and to him for sharing his memories of that difficult time.
Jerry A. Dibble, MA ’67, PhD ’71
Santa Rosa, California

You failed to mention Craig McNamara’s brainchild, the Center for Land-Based Learning. CLBL educates and trains students and adults interested in habitat preservation and careers in agriculture through a farm leadership program for high school students, an incubator program for veterans and other young adults, a mobile farmers market for seniors, and community gardens in Davis and West Sacramento. McNamara initiated and guided CLBL with the desire to give young people the knowledge of where their food comes from and to nurture the next generation of farmers.
Debra J. Johnson, MD ’81
Sacramento, California

After graduation, I became an USAF B-52 pilot and flew bombing missions in Vietnam. I know Craig thought the war was a mistake and that his father acknowledged that the war was unwinnable. However, maybe the war did slow (or stop) the expansion of communism in Southeast Asia. I think today’s resistance to both Russia’s and China’s expansion is a follow-on to what the Vietnam War was really about.
Larry Chasteen, Engr. ’71
Dallas, Texas

To read that Robert McNamara never once discussed any of his motivations or decisions with his own son is goddamn shocking—and evidence that he well understood the amoral dimensions of his actions as an anticommunist hard-liner.
Wes Rose
Menlo Park, California

Editor's note: The print version of Dialogue unintentionally attributed this letter to the incorrect author.

Double Dribble

A picture of Castaño Court on a rainy day left some alums in a puddle of nostalgia.

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Castaño Court in the rain

Serious hoopers play on the Near-illaga courts. Casuals play in Far-illaga. But the Castaño Court is reserved for only the hardest of street-rules showdowns. That’s where you’ll find the 38-year-old PhD student who collects nine boards and four hard fouls, then hits the lab and discovers some new nanoparticle. I miss Stanford.
Steven Fahy, ’18

Photo: Herschell Taghap

In Memory

In March, we published the obituaries of former U.S. Rep. James Kolbe, MBA ’67, and professor emerita of education Nel Noddings, PhD ’73.

I find myself reading the Farewells section of Stanford with more interest these days than I’d care to admit. At the Stanford Teacher Education Program, I had the honor to study under Professor Nel Noddings; her approach to education was a reason I had hoped to be a public school teacher. Instead, I became a public policy advocate. As a very young policy fellow in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to meet—and more important, appreciate the courage of—Rep. Jim Kolbe. To them both, que en paz descansen.
Arturo Vargas, ’84, MA ’85
Los Angeles, California

Soaking It In

Our March 1,000 Words photo showcased a temporary pond that popped up on campus after heavy winter rains.

I discovered this lovely bit of serenity during the COVID lockdown; it is now a favorite destination for me on campus. The shallow marsh gives temporary habitat to ducks and birds of various kinds. It is nicely mirrored across the way by another pond well tucked in behind the trees, which is deeper and longer lived. Indeed, the vernal pond featured in the photograph will be vanishing soon, to return courtesy of the next rainy season.
Carole Hyde, Gr. ’80
Menlo Park, California

Admissions and Equity

Readers commented in our March issue on a December article about a task force report on Jewish admissions in the mid-20th century.

President Tessier-Lavigne’s [October] email acknowledges Stanford’s discrimination against Jews, apologizes wholeheartedly, and pledges support for Jews at Stanford. What’s missing is a pledge to not discriminate against anyone in admissions on the basis of race or ethnicity. The Supreme Court is likely to rule against Harvard and the University of North Carolina for discrimination against Asian Americans. This is a good time for Tessier-Lavigne to make admissions completely race blind. Stanford’s amicus brief supporting Harvard and UNC makes sense only if Stanford wishes to continue race-conscious admissions and, perhaps, to justify its past use. We have to acknowledge that favoring specific races, even for the sake of diversity, disfavors all others. Asian Americans, historically discriminated against even by Leland Stanford, are being discriminated against here.
Denise Louie, ’74
San Francisco, California

Some letters published in your March issue imply that any consideration of differences such as race must be discriminatory and therefore improper. One letter writer even puts diversity in quotation marks and calls it “an indefinable goal.” 

Those who endorse a “color-blind” approach to admissions (and other social policies) must imagine a nonexistent level playing field where meritocracy flourishes and no one questions who defined merit and how, for what purpose, for whose benefit. 

There’s an additional benefit to diversification that these letter writers seem not to recognize. Any institution that would claim a leadership role in our society must in some reasonable measure reflect the people of that society. We live in a diverse region, state, and nation: California’s largest ethnic group is Latino, and the rest of the nation will be majority non-white in 20 years. I don’t suggest there should be exact alignment of percentages or strict quotas, but where the percentages are wildly and consistently out of alignment, the disproportionality may reveal biases that need redress. 

My classmates who grew up in other places and circumstances, with physical and neurological differences, who were immigrants or the children of immigrants, who had been in the foster care system, who had served in
the military, who were single parents, whose nationality, race, gender, sexuality, and religion differed from mine, all enhanced the quality of my education, my professional preparation, and my understanding of the society I share with diverse communities. Diversity is both a definable goal and a strength, and I’m grateful my Stanford education was, by design, enhanced by the diversity of those with whom I experienced it.
David B. Cohen, MA ’95
Palo Alto, California

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