Letters to the Editor

November/December 2000

Reading time min

The humor of your suggestion (No. 87) to "Lose a drinking game" as part of a proper Stanford experience might elude someone who's actually lost such a contest ("101 Things You Must Do Before Graduating," September/October). I vividly recall the Saturday night some of us found a classmate, naked, retching and barely alive, in a Wilbur Hall shower after he'd lost a chugging duel. (Unbeknownst to him, his opponent had been spiking his drink with vodka.) We rushed him to the hospital, and he was lucky to survive. Nobody was laughing.

Mark Paul, '70, MA '71
Sacramento, California

Many things on your list, such as "Design a web page," were not available to the Class of '49. However, today's students will miss a few wonderful opportunities that we had, such as:
1) Take a music class from Dr. Popper in the ballroom of Hoover House.
2) Make and sell strawberry shortcake for the convalescent home.
3) Sing in the Spring Sing.
4) Perform card stunts at football games.
5) Have a free drink at Dinah's when the bell rings.
6) Shake hands with your date at the dorm door because Dean Mary said it was as good as a kiss.
7) Attend a Jolly-Up.
8) Receive flowers from a date because he didn't get you in on time.
9) Watch the quail lead their families through Roble Woods.

Lastly, on the suggestion to "Catch yourself paying heed to the Honor Code," we always paid heed to the Honor Code.

Lynn Cox Titus, '49
Arroyo Grande, California

Thank you for your token attempt to support student activism at Stanford by listing "Attend a protest, demonstration, rally or sit-in" (No. 100) as one of your 101 things. But by mysteriously including "Buy clothes at the Gap" (No. 55) as another of those truly unique things we simply must do before leaving Stanford, you raise some moral dilemmas. Beyond the obvious question of how much the Gap paid you for that shameless plug, we are compelled to ask: what if the protest we choose to attend is against the Gap's labor practices in developing countries? Is it still okay to wear our Gap clothes to the rally, since both actions are so wonderfully, distinctively Stanford? Or should we just avoid the moral dilemmas, bypass the Gap, skip the protest and instead "Buy a Stanford sweatshirt" (No. 47)?

Rafe Sagarin, '94
Rebecca Crocker, '94

Monterey, California

Reading about Harold Ickes, I come away with these impressions ("Odd Man In," September/October). It's okay to break federal election laws as long as it's for a "good cause," in this case, Bill Clinton's reelection. And it's clever repartee to accuse a Republican senator of using innuendo instead of fact, when dozens of the Democratic Party faithful pleaded the Fifth in congressional hearings, and others simply left the country. Where your Washington Post writer sees in Ickes a quirky but committed "progressive," others of us see a political hack with the moral compass of a, well‚ Bill Clinton. Hey, to cinch that definition, your writer sort of apologetically allows as how Ickes now hires out to "corporate" clients. Now how far can a guy fall, anyway?

Dick Wharton, '53
Tucson, Arizona

Your latest issue contained an ad from The Economist that went over the line for partisan political statement. What disturbed me was the use of a photo of Gov. Bush reading a children's book and a caption stating, "Living proof that genetic traits can skip a generation."

As treasurer of a local nonprofit pre-school for low-income families, we started a program to give each new mother at our hospitals a book to read to her baby and a developmental calendar. Barbara Bush waived her speaking fee and flew into town to address a luncheon and hand out the first book. We raised $48,000 that day and have distributed 6,500 books and calendars in the 21Ú2 years since.

Gov. Bush is indeed following the family tradition of reading to children in that picture. The ad, however, excludes the children and uses the image to belittle him. This is dishonest.

I realize advertising is necessary to publish an alumni magazine of which we are all justly proud. I only hope our alumni have the good sense to see through such obvious bias.

Chuck Kitsman, '71
Amarillo, Texas

It is discouraging that Stanford featured the book excerpt "In Praise of Spoken Soul" in its September/October issue. A broad discussion of the subject would have been welcome, but the magazine's treatment of this critical issue was irresponsible.

Those of us who have spent our lives in the intensive study of many languages (not just one) and their implications for development realize that, whereas language is a marvelous instrument, the modern proliferation of languages is a curse.

Take Spain. Castilian is a great and beautiful language. The revival of Catalan, a language with a long tradition, has a solid basis, but it endangers the role of Barcelona as perhaps the most important publishing center in the Spanish-speaking world and as a place to learn Spanish. Valencian is an extension of Catalan, but the Valencianos sharply insist that it is a different language and are trying to establish it as such.

On the other side of the Peninsula, you have Portuguese, an international language and the language of Brazil, the most important country in Latin America. It derived from Galician, which, in a united Spain, was reduced to dialect status. Now Galician is asserting its status as a language, but what the Galicians actually speak is a muddle. Other Spanish dialects are claiming their rights as languages, with the consequent chaos in schools.

The worst case is that of Basque, a language whose origin is not known and, when I was there, was spoken only by mountain folk. Now it is used in schools and has become an affirmation of Basque nationalism and associated terrorism.

The result is the linguistic and social fragmentation of Spain, with the consequent bitterness. Instead of learning standard Castilian, many children are being confused by this chaos and cannot express themselves properly in Spanish, which is necessary for success in life. The Spanish government is properly concerned.

The situation is similar in much of Europe, aggravated by the "Europe of regions" that is part of the structure of the European Union. Regions feel encouraged to promote their local language. In Britain, the demand of Welsh nationalists that even professors speak Welsh has led to the resignation of leading specialists, with the resultant serious downgrading of Welsh universities.

Language is the glue that holds countries together. Without a common language, countries tend to fall apart.

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

Stanford seems to have lost its journalistic compass by publishing the excerpt from John Rickford's book. Why exacerbate this dying controversy by giving the pulpit to a Stanford professor and his publicist son to preach an academically disoriented and demeaning pedagogy masquerading as a legitimate contribution to arts and letters? Why must respected Standard English be diluted and diminished by a gaggle of dialects which are diverse as the people who mouth its puzzling syntax?

Standard English for years has had an etymologically sound basis for its compilation. Black English is a recent arrival, a hodgepodge of words, expressions and slang that resists any academically acceptable codification. If Black English is so important, why have the dialectic variations of the speech of Poles, Jews, Irish, etc., not been elevated to a legitimate linguistic and pedagogic standard? Slang is slang in any culture.

Your magazine does a disservice, debasing Stanford's proud academic excellence, by publishing a weird article that elevates Black English's status.

Eugene Danaher, PhD '46
Tallahassee, Florida

I was sorry that your feature on Stanford's representation at the Olympics omitted a member of the Stanford community who rowed on the U.S. team ("Making a Splash Down Under," September/October). She is Ruth Davidon, a 36-year-old surgical resident at Stanford Hospital. The national press didn't miss her, and neither did the San Francisco Chronicle. Her remarkable story can be found online at

Carolyn Lougee Chappell
Professor and Chair of History
Stanford, California

I am pleased with your article on my work, but would like to rectify a couple of points ("Cuba's Lost Art Schools," September/October).

First, the article states: "American laws prohibit money transfers to Cuba, but Loomis is quietly lobbying to coax the funding through." I am flattered, but I have no contacts or influence in Washington.

And second: "Gottardi fled Havana to pursue modest projects elsewhere on the island." While architect Roberto Gottardi did work on projects in different parts of Cuba after designing the arts schools, he stayed in Havana, where he lives to this day.

It might be added that architect Vittorio Garatti was acquitted of espionage but nevertheless was compelled to leave the island.

John Loomis, '73
San Francisco, California

As a Stanford alum who got a graduate degree at Berkeley and is currently employed there, I enjoyed Steve Tollefson's humorous look at life in "enemy" territory (Endnotes, September/October). For years now, I have had a bevy of Old Blue friends asking indignantly how I can be so staunch a Stanford supporter when my livelihood is a direct result of training and employment supplied by Berkeley. And that's not to mention the fierce but good-natured harassment I receive the Friday before Big Game.

But how can any Stanford alum ever hope to convey the special feelings we all have from our four years at the Farm? I, for one, have given up trying, opting instead for quiet rebellion with a Stanford screensaver on my computer and a beanbag Tree on the corner of my desk. Perhaps what we need is a Red, White and Blue Club?

Elizabeth Lopez Babalis, '92
Berkeley, California

Mitchell Leslie writes that Lewis Terman "cheered efforts" in the 1920s to restrict immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, and that such efforts "had an undeniably racist taint" ("The Vexing Legacy of Lewis Terman," July/August). This scarcely does justice to the depths of Terman's racism. In 1922, Terman wrote:

Army mental tests have shown that not more than 15 percent of American negroes equal or exceed in intelligence the average of our white population, and that the intelligence of the average negro is vastly inferior to that of the average white man. . . . The intelligence of the American Indian has also been over-rated, for mental tests indicate that it is not greatly superior to that of the average negro. Our Mexican population, which is largely of Indian extraction, makes little if any better showing. The immigrants who have recently come to us in such large numbers from Southern and Southeastern Europe are distinctly inferior mentally to the Nordic and Alpine strains we have received from Scandinavia, Germany, Great Britain, and France. . . . No nation can afford to overlook the danger that the average quality of its germ plasm may gradually deteriorate as a result of unrestricted immigration.

Terman may have done many good things in his life, but he is also a giant in the history of scientific racism--a history that continues today. I consider him to be a skeleton in Stanford's closet about which the less said the better.

Jack Kaplan, '70
Hamden, Connecticut

Thank you, Mitchell Leslie, for exposing the shame of Lewis Terman and his part in the eugenics movement. However, even a description of Terman's concept of giftedness as "grounded in a cold-blooded, elitist ideology" glosses over the tremendous social costs of his ideas.

I worked for 15 years with math teacher Jaime Escalante in the barrios of East Los Angeles and Sacramento. (His work is documented in the 1989 book Escalante: The Best Teacher in America and in my paper, "The Jaime Escalante Math Program," in the Journal of Negro Education.) Escalante disproved the notion of "the gifted" every day in advanced-placement calculus classes jammed with low-income Hispanic kids, some speaking little English, who outscored students in elite communities such as Palo Alto and Beverly Hills. He used to tell them, "You're gifted, Johnny--you have an IQ of 180," poking fun at this absurd idea while boosting the self-images of kids who'd been told they belonged in auto shop. However, every day Escalante was challenged by the school psychologists, who had been loaded with crackpot theories started by Sir Francis Galton (Darwin's cousin and the founder of eugenics) and spread by the leading lights of psychology, such as Terman.

Jack Dirmann, '69
Sand Key, Florida

Your article stirred memories of an absurd and deservedly ignored component of Terman's genius studies. In the summer of 1952, after my sophomore year, I served as the nominal caretaker (in return for lodging) of the Stanford Faculty Club, then a ramshackle wooden structure in the eucalyptus grove near the football stadium. The main room had a wall of bookshelves burdened with scholarly tomes put out by the Stanford Press. Among these was a set of several volumes recording Terman's IQ research.

I was amazed to find that one of these was devoted to assigning IQ scores to intellectual celebrities who had died long before IQ tests were invented. Of course, I looked up some of the scores. Three I remember, at least approximately, were 135 for Isaac Newton, 120 for Karl Friedrich Gauss and nothing less than 220 for Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz.

Curious to learn why such ridiculously low numbers were assigned to scientists and mathematicians, while philosophers received remarkably high scores, I read Terman's research protocol. That made things clear: in the formula concocted to compute the IQs of dead people, a major factor was the number of words about them found in encyclopedias!

Dudley Herschbach, bs '54, ms '55
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Stanford's alcohol policy has been one of the best features of its residential education program ("The Drinking Dilemma," July/August). Because Stanford is small compared to the state schools, with most students living on campus, there is very little intoxicated driving. Learning to handle alcohol in an environment as safe as Stanford's helps students develop mature behaviors that could save their lives after they leave the Farm.

Sooner or later, a student will die from some alcohol-related incident. I recall one drunken student who fell into Lake Lag, passed out and drowned. But as unfortunate as these incidents are, stringent policies do not prevent them. At UCSD several years ago, students snuck into the campus swimming pool for a midnight swim; they were all inebriated, and one drowned. UCSD is a dry campus.

The important point is that Stanford has a rare opportunity to provide a valuable education that will save more lives in the future than creating a dry campus and forcing students to hide their drinking or go off campus.

Randy Silvers, '88
Phoenix, Arizona

While scanning my dad's Stanford I was surprised to read that "schools across the country have tightened alcohol regulations . . . . Dartmouth banned its storied fraternity system."

As a member of a thriving Dartmouth sorority, I want to set the record straight. Dartmouth's six sororities, 14 fraternities, three coed houses and nine historically black fraternities and sororities were all doing very well the last time I checked. While it is true that the recent Student Life Initiative brought about by the Board of Trustees has changed many of the rules governing alcohol in fraternities and sororities on campus, it has in no way ended a strong and proud history of a system that dates back almost 150 years.

Adrian Loehwing
Hanover, New Hampshire

Your Commencement Day story included a photo of a graduate wearing a sign, "Lit crit for food" (Farm Report, July/August). The caption: "A humanities student looks for an Old Economy job."

Not only does your magazine's New Economy ideology operate with the subtlety of Stalinist propaganda and the foresight of a fruit fly, but its level of oblivion to world affairs beyond dot-com has reached its apogee. Who's going to teach the now-twentysomething start-uppers' kids, or write magazines for their parents? There is and always was economy and culture, and it's time you started to distinguish the two.

Magda Romanska, '98
Chicago, Illinois

I felt like I was in a time warp reading the July/August Stanford. Some of it seemed to be stuck in the past midcentury.

For instance, in First Impressions: "My favorite photo from the article shows Chandler, an avid big-game hunter, smiling slyly in front of a dozen stuffed trophies." Trophy hunting is the ultimate cowardice; one hopes Viagra will eradicate the practice.

And then, in Farm Report: the "uplifting" tale of a man who cleared a swamp to make a soccer field. Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems, yet we are losing them to development pressures.

Where have your editors been? Do we next get a paean to the joys of cruising crowded freeways in SUVs?

Diane Shepherd, '72
Kihei, Hawaii

Over Labor Day weekend I decided to run the "new" Dish to see what the fuss was all about ("To Save the Dish, a Ban on Dogs and Picnics," Farm Report, July/August). In the 27 years I have run at Stanford, I have never witnessed anything but responsible behavior by those frequenting the area. I have always felt that the goodwill generated by allowing free access to Stanford's open space would come back to the University many-fold.

This time, I was greeted at the gate by a uniformed guard shouting at me that a curfew would be in effect shortly. A curfew! A new human banishment as well as a canine one! After handing me a list of new rules, he did allow me to run until the patrol told me to leave. The Dish resembled a paved-over demilitarized zone, with signs every few hundred yards warning, "No Trespassing," "Penal Code Violations" and "Area Closed."

As I finished my short run, two additional guards in a vehicle made their final curfew "sweep." I encountered yet another two at the end of the trail, standing sternly in the middle of the trailhead.

It is obvious that Stanford has made a concerted effort to make many of us feel unwelcome. Is what we are witnessing here the new face of "environmentalism"? If not, what is Stanford's real agenda?

Gordon von Richter, '68
Menlo Park, California

Andy Coe, director of community relations, replies: President Casper announced a conservation and use plan for the Dish area in May. The plan emphasizes academic uses and sound conservation practices while continuing to allow public access. Stanford has permitted the public to hike in the Dish area since the 1980s, but heavy use has contributed to erosion on unofficial routes through the hills, among other environmental problems. A survey in August recorded 7,878 visitors over only nine days--more than a quarter of the total number of visitors to Palo Alto's Foothill Park in an entire year. The University plan permits hikers and joggers on the existing paved Dish service road, enforces long-neglected restrictions on hours, and bans dogs to mitigate the effects of visitors and to begin restoring damaged areas. Since the new rules went into effect in September, community service officers from the Stanford Police--who are unarmed--have been posted at the Dish to educate visitors. The officers have been complimented for their courtesy and respect. Many people have thanked the University for its efforts to maintain public recreational access to its private academic lands. We encourage Stanford's alumni and friends to visit and enjoy the Dish area when they have an opportunity.

Regarding the unexpected benefits of a Stanford education, I'd like to share something that happened to me in Moscow in 1990.

I was traveling with a friend, and we had the name of a professor of Tibetan history who was teaching at Moscow University. We had been in the Soviet Union for several days, so I don't know why I was surprised to see, as we stepped from our cab, that we would not be able to just walk onto the campus of the university. There was a guard at the entrance clearly blocking our way.

I rummaged through my purse for the usual bribes--a pack of Marlboros and some of those complimentary soaps from the hotel--when a man bounded up the steps behind us. "Are you Americans?" he asked. "I'm here to meet Senator Fulbright. He's coming here this morning."

"Oh," I said, closing my purse. I had begun considering alternative excursions for the day when he spoke again. "Did you go to university in America?"

"Yes," I said. "Stanford."

"Ah," he said. "Stanford. One of the great universities." And he turned to the guard: "Let them in."

Judith Skinner, '63
San Francisco, California

The photo of John Loomis in "Cuba's Lost Art Schools" (September/October) should be credited to Simo Neri.

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