Letters to the Editor

May/June 2002

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Letters to the Editor


I loved your piece on the invention of the Apple computer mouse (“Mighty Mouse,” March/April). I use concepts and habits learned in Stanford product design courses in classes I teach on social problem solving at Harvard. It was in Rolf Faste’s cult-favorite Visual Thinking course, for example, that I first learned to unpack big problems into many smaller ones, to have many ideas about solving each of those, and then to “bundle” solutions back together to create an innovative whole. Social change agents and public service leaders need these habits of mind and practice. They often have the hardest time looking at old problems in new ways. Strong emotions, ideological and professional divides, and the fiefdoms created by specialized laws all contribute to the tunnel vision.

Back to the product design program: the late nights, the wacky challenges of popping a balloon suspended over Terman Pond, the thrill of “showtime” in front of classmates and faculty—these are some of my most exciting learning memories of the Farm. “Mighty Mouse” brought it all back, and taught me new things about this ubiquitous little bundle of plastic, rubber and wire that makes the world . . . click along.

Xavier de Souza Briggs, ’89
Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts

In describing David Kelley’s respect for his mentor, product design professor Robert McKim, you quote Kelley as saying, “If McKim had been a Nazi artist, I’d be a Nazi artist now.” We all know that Mr. Kelley was not serious, but for millions around the world, Nazis, their ideologies and their evil deeds are not light matters, and this statement shows a lack of respect for history and human suffering. Chalk up another reason for mandatory “fuzzy” courses in the humanities for all “techies.”

Kurt Hofgard, ’89
Boulder, Colorado


“Our Town” (March/April) brought back an incident I had not thought of for more than 40 years. I was one of the first employees at the St. Michael’s Alley coffeehouse in Palo Alto in 1959. One night the “espresso chef” didn’t show, and I, a mere waiter, was pressed into service. I didn’t have a clue what all the buttons, dials and levers were on the imposing machine, so I just started pushing this and pulling that. Steam came out of somewhere, and somehow the “espresso” was created and served. Fortunately, the Stanford students of the late ’50s didn’t know much more about espresso than I did, so my concoctions passed early coffeehouse muster. And a “grateful” Jerry Garcia left a good-sized tip!

Richard Turner, ’60
Sacramento, California

Mark Simon’s fine piece on Palo Alto as a student town—and the list of favorite hangouts, including the Oasis—turned on the memory machine.

You think the Stanford Band is berserk? Let me tell you about the Stanford Daily, some 65 years ago, when three top staffers nearly were tossed out of school. The editor, who shall remain nameless, thought an exposé was in order: neighborhood bars were serving underage students, heavens to Betsy. So Doug Jaques, Richard Dudman and I set out to put the story together. In Doug’s coupe, we headed for a bar on Bayshore Highway (not freeway, yet). Dudman carried a Speed Graphic camera, in which the blank 4x5 film was in a flat wooden holder attached to the back of the camera (this is important).

Doug and I walked in, Dudman behind us. We separated. He flashed a shot of the bar. We ran out. Doug leaped behind the wheel, Dudman in the passenger side, and I had to climb through the driver’s-side window into the car as Doug took off. Lost my Sigma Delta Chi key from its chain in the process.

On to the Oasis. Invasion repeated. We ran to the car. Patrons ran after.

Dudman wisely had taken out the film holder, hidden it and inserted a new one. Patrons demanded to see the film. Dudman said sure and gave them the film holder. They removed the slides. (“Aha, nothing there on the film; let’s let them go.” Bright patrons.)

We headed for the Daily, locked ourselves in the darkroom (good idea; lots of heavy steps tramping through the Daily Shack). Eight-column banner next day: “These Places Serve Liquor to Minors.”

It apparently wasn’t as well-documented as such a story should be. President Ray Lyman Wilbur called us in, one by one, and read the riot act as only that incredibly stern man could do. Threatened to throw us out of school. We stood silently. We survived.

Richard Dudman went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his outstanding reporting and writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I have lost track of Doug Jaques. Me, a hack newspaperman all my life.

Harry Press, ’39
Palo Alto, California

Editor’s note: The writer has served as managing editor of the Stanford Daily, founding editor of the Stanford Observer (a predecessor to Stanford magazine) and managing director of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Journalists.


Every now and then something appears in Stanford that reminds me why I read the articles rather than simply skim the back section for the names of my friends. Ann Marsh’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” (March/April) is one of those articles. Not until the end did I realize that she had gracefully kept her tongue in cheek while gently depicting overachievers who have dedicated themselves to making absurd amounts of money, sometimes at the expense of their personal and social consciences. Ms. Marsh writes like a deft and amusing Tom Wolfe, creating parodies of human types whose selfishness and shallowness would seem absurd if they were not so realistically drawn.

Manuel Lerdau, PhD ’94
Port Jefferson, New York

Ann Marsh is one heck of a good writer, able to capture thoughts and emotions in a few well-chosen words. I trust that some intelligent organization will soon lure her from the “freelance” category.

David DeLancey, ’48
San Mateo, California

I could really relate to what people were talking about in “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and would love to see more articles like this. I think a lot of us are exploring what success, careers and life are all about in this changing world.

The award-winning short story about the backpackers (“This Is the Side of the Road”) was good, too.

Blake Stephenson, ’94
Austin, Texas


Keeping up with the University through Stanford has been a rewarding experience over the years. A disappointing exception, however, was "This Is the Side of the Road" in the March/April issue. If one accepts the proposition that people write best about what they experience, I can only hope, for the author’s sake, that her quality of experience improves.

Chuck Harlow, ’53
Culver City, California


I am troubled by the discussion, or lack of it, of the admission of students from “countries that are thought to support terrorism” (“Rallying Together,” Farm Report, March/ April). Senator Feinstein withdraws her proposal for a six-month moratorium on such visas; Stanford registrar Roger Printup says he is “concerned about assumptions being made because of where [students] come from, their religion or the color of their skin”; and Bechtel Center director John Pearson, comparing the present situation to the Cold War, says he fears INS agents may overreact to increasing criticism from Congress by requesting more interviews with students.

This war is not a cold one. We face a constant threat of violence and death, possibly involving weapons of mass destruction, from an international criminal conspiracy numbering tens of thousands of well-trained and determined zealots, which has clearly announced its hatred of our nation and culture, and which is encouraged and financed by important and perhaps growing elements of a great religion, including thousands of mosques throughout the world. Under these circumstances, we are worrying about international students’ “mistrust of centers like Bechtel”? Rather, we should expect that entering students have a commitment to liberty and peace throughout the world and are willing to lend voluntary and candid voices to the solution of the unprecedented dilemma in which their host nation and host university find themselves.

Richard W. Jencks, ’46, JD ’48
Mill Valley, California

I am disturbed to find an article about welcoming students from countries thought to support terrorism. The September 11 terrorists lived among us, yet apparently failed to “learn about Western democracy and philosophy and take it back to their country.” I think we are taking the realities much too lightly.

Joel Rogosin, ’55
Oxnard, California


Serving the nation and refusing to adopt a military training program are not mutually exclusive (“Corps Curriculum,” January/ February). It depends on one’s view of how Stanford ought best to promote the public welfare. I do not wish to denigrate the choice of students who participate or have participated in ROTC training; they have my respect for doing what they feel is best for them and their country. Yet I would like to note some reasons why Stanford should remain wary of granting academic credit to military training through its own ROTC program.

Central to the outlook of any American university should be some ideal of academic freedom. The underlying premise of objectivity remains important to the conception of the university. The challenge of universities in the United States has long been in negotiating a balance between serving the country by cooperating with government aims, and serving the country by maintaining an ability to criticize it.

An historical example illustrates the pitfalls of allowing explicit military intrusion into academia. In the fall of 1918, Stanford, along with more than 500 other institutions of higher learning in America, inaugurated the Students’ Army Training Corps, allowing eligible male students to enroll at the University as privates under the authority of the War Department. The program included a mandatory War Issues Course taught by nonmilitary history and political science faculty. It was a blatant justification for U.S. war policies, despite some professors’ insistence to the contrary. The reading list included such gems of academic objectivity as “The Guilt of Germany,” “Belgium’s Case” and the unambiguously titled “Why We Are at War.”

I realize that the SATC in 1918 is not the ROTC in 2002. Warfare has changed, as have the relationships among universities, the military and the civil government. Some rightfully bring up the millions in federal grants Stanford receives for defense research, or certain faculty holding government advisory positions. True, these also compromise Stanford’s ability to maintain critical objectivity. I’m hardly claiming that Stanford without ROTC is free of political interests, or even that pure objectivity is possible. But I would argue that a cautionary tale is there if we care to see it. Stanford would do well to continue weighing the implications of reinstating ROTC on campus.

Lydia Poon, ’02
Stanford, California


“Angel Island: Breaking the Silence” (January/February) was educational, timely and touching. Not only is the subject matter relevant to all of us in the richly diverse Bay Area, but as a Stanford student, I’m glad to read about alumni who are doing something to help preserve history. Too often, students get over-involved in searching for the typical “successful” jobs and do not realize that our wonderful educations can take us wherever our passions lie.

Elita Cheung, ’02, MS ’02
Stanford, California

Angel Island is a beautiful 15-acre park—truly breathtaking with its high trees, shaded picnic areas, walking trails and rock-strewn beach. What could have been a great nostalgic story of those old barracks dating back to the Civil War turned into a vindictive diatribe toward the United States because the place was later used for detaining illegal immigrants fleeing the Far East.

To hear Ms. Toy tell it, we treated the detainees—mostly young men—barbarously. Forget about the fact that they were given free room, board and clothing, along with electricity and running water. I’ve been treated more barbarously at a fraternity initiation or by airport security. Your photos belie their miserable treatment: nearly all the men are well groomed, healthy-looking and smiling.

I’m not saying that the cause is unjust. Build a memorial, but don’t exaggerate conditions to run down the United States. After all, American taxpayers are picking up three-quarters of the $32 million rehab. And remember that these detainees were uninvited. Ms. Toy is living proof that they may have been among the luckiest people to have fled any country—because they landed on U.S. soil.

Bill Burget, ’57
Pauma Valley, California


Your article on Ukrainian-born activist Ella Wolfe (“Life of the Party,” January/ February) does not make explicit that she and her husband, Bert, were Jewish—a fact that is crucial to understanding their place in history. German Jews were well integrated into mainstream society, whereas Russian Jews were not. Originally, the Russian Communist Party consisted largely of Jews, unlike the German Communist Party. In the United States, the large German immigration in the 19th century was liberal and prosperous. They despised the East European Jews—later arrivals who congregated in New York and formed the bulk of the American Communist Party. Two things changed the attitude of American Jewish Communists: Stalin’s purge of Jews and the Nazi-Soviet pact. Feeling that they had been betrayed, they swung to the other pole and became the most vehement anti-Communists.

Bert Wolfe could be very rude to anyone he suspected of liberalism, but his Stalinist past allowed the U.S. State Department to use him as an example of a Communist who had seen the light. Ella remained in the party for two years longer than Bert. When I asked her why much later, she simply said, “Stupidity.” At the same time, she was never as anti-liberal as Bert.

I knew both of them well, and I spoke with Ella regularly right up to her death at 103. Fortunately, she did not suffer poverty in her old age. She had acquired a number of Mexican paintings, especially by Frida Kahlo, and they sold at a good price. Ella the ex-Communist remained proud of her relationship with Diego Rivera and Frida, dating back to when all three were personae non gratae to the American authorities.

Ronald Hilton
Professor Emeritus, Romance Languages
Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution
Stanford, California


As someone who came into political maturity near the end of the 1960s, I was irritated by your use of the phrase “tyrannical claw of that era,” referring to the pervasive influence the Sixties seem to have over everyday discourse (First Impressions, January/February). Any anti-war child of the Sixties hates to be accused of tyranny. But I get your point and agree that each generation has the right, even obligation, to express its own historical identity. I wish today’s generation well.

What continues to trouble me, however, is the other suggestion at the heart of the essay—namely, that protest itself was what the Sixties was all about. For me and many others, as you correctly note, college was more about personal social development than about political activism. But the idealism and commitment to social justice that was the real essence of the anti-war and other movements of the period influenced my worldview and affected choices I and many others made about careers. I have spent most of the 30 years since then working on health promotion in places where quality health-care delivery systems and basic health education are lacking or denied to many who desperately need it. Judging from direct experience in more than 20 countries on five continents, what I do is far from mainstream, and still countercultural in far too much of the world: high rates of avoidable maternal and child mortality are too often accepted without question or, worse, blamed on the victims by callous and sometimes corrupt bureaucracies.

I don’t expect others to do with their lives what I have done with mine, but I suspect that there are disproportionate numbers of graduates of the Sixties who continue to protest injustice in a variety of ways, without sit-ins or purple hair. That kind of countercultural current has not dried up. I hope it doesn’t anytime soon.

Doug Storey, PhD ’90
Senior Adviser, Research & Evaluation
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Center for Communication Programs
Indonesia Country Office
Jakarta, Indonesia


Just when they’re finally free of parental restrictions and regarded as full-fledged adults, freshmen get the go-ahead to keep acting like kids in the San Francisco scavenger hunts (Farm Report, January/February). Pretty silly. Almost makes me glad I attended Stanford during wartime and took accelerated classes so I could finish in physical therapy, along with the WACS, and get out to join one of the services to help our wounded. No time for kid stuff then, or the kind of behavior that’s gotten our Band banned.

“Cutesy” gets monotonous, just as the Sixties rebellions ran their course and faded out.

Mimi Hallman, ’45
Aiken, South Carolina


I was somewhat taken aback that the Rev. Joanne Sanders, Episcopal priest and assistant dean for religious life, did not pronounce the name of the God of Christians in her inspirational speech prior to the Arizona State football game (Farm Report, January/February). She could have simply said, “Folks, I am a Christian minister, and that entails my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and my comments to you are going to be based on that premise because that is who I am.” Had a Muslim or Jewish minister been invited to deliver the inspirational speech, it is reasonable to expect that they would have invoked the name of Allah or Jehovah—and rightly so, for that is who they are.

Robert D. Griffin, ’63
Loomis, California


The statement that UNIX is “the granddaddy of all operating systems” (Showcase, January/February) is astounding coming from a magazine associated with Stanford. UNIX was the first well-known open-source operating system, but that’s it. By the mid-1980s, a multitude of companies were providing different versions of UNIX. More important, from the freeware perspective, a number of free versions were available from Berkeley and other places. Companies experimented with many versions, using them on outlying systems.

The problem was that open-source people kept wanting to talk about freeware, and that’s not what companies will trust for mission-critical applications.

I remember a conversation on a newsgroup a few years ago. A Linux advocate tried to tell me that free open-source programs were the future. “Just look at Red Hat” was the cry. Of course, Red Hat does not provide free software. Open-source acolytes, like other religious fanatics, rarely look at the real world.

Linux sales have jumped because of the need for massive numbers of cheap web servers. Those servers aren’t that stable but are redundant. Simplified Linux is being used for basic embedded systems. Almost no companies use Linux for large-applications key systems in the running of the company. However, the Linux horde has gotten the attention of major companies. IBM now provides Linux partitions on mainframes. Does anyone want to bet on IBM’s control of Linux on its hardware?

The only key benefit of Linux is its portability across multiple hardware platforms. That’s important, but it has nothing to do with any “morality” spouted by people such as those quoted in your article.

David A. Teich, MS ’88
Fremont, California


As a peace educator and as a Stanford alumna who last year participated in an act of civil disobedience in front of the White House to oppose nuclear weapons and to promote the U.N. and Nobel peace laureates’ declaration that the first decade of the 21st century be dedicated to the building of a culture of peace and nonviolence, I was moved to see both Ruth V. Gordon and Robert McAfee Brown celebrated in Class Notes (January/February) for putting their knowledge to work in acts of civil disobedience for social justice.

I smiled seeing the picture of Gordon chained to the Pacific Stock Exchange to support equal rights for women, and I marveled at Brown’s hunger strike against nuclear weapons when he was 77 years old. I am greatly encouraged by my fellow Stanford community members who have so exercised their personal and democratic power. It is good to have the magazine’s pages graced by their efforts, and it is important that you have shared their stories.

Christine Gutierrez, ’77, MA ’88
Santa Monica, California

Thank you for such a wonderful write-up about my participation in the 1980 information action at the Pacific Stock Exchange. I would like to explain why I decided to take part.

I was and still am a strong supporter of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. When I learned of the proposed action by a group of fairly young men and women, I thought it was important that I, a middle-aged mother of grown children, participate.

The news photo accompanying your article shows a security guard with a huge pair of chain cutters starting to cut my chain. Just before that picture was taken, my older daughter, Madeline, ’77, who worked near the stock exchange, decided (unbeknownst to me) that she would walk over to see what was happening. When she saw those cutters, she called out, “Don’t you hurt my mother!” There were a lot of reporters around, and the one from CNN called to the others, “Come and see these two!” So that night, Madeline and I were on CNN, and my point was made.

Ruth V. Gordon, ’48, MS ’49
San Francisco, California

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