Letters to the Editor

May/June 1998

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Winners and Losers

Venture capitalists are not just shaping the future of technology ("Let's Make a Deal," March/April). They're shaping the future of the planet, and their game really frightens me. Their "test" to determine if they will back a particular venture is all about large, quick profits. The game does not allow for questions about long-term sustainability of human and other life on the earth. It doesn't ask about the just distribution of opportunity and resources that might lead to peace. As the article states, the game is all about separating the winners and losers.

These bright young men have clearly been given many resources by nature and nurture. I'm not sure they understand, though, that they and those like them hold the fate of the earth in their hands.

Bryan Jessup, '69
Sanford, Maine

Class Conscious

I am frightened of the Class Notes section of Stanford magazine and I want to make a plea to my fellow '97 grads to spread a selective sort of gossip for the next few years.

Peek at Class Notes for recent alumni. Jobs, degrees, degree plans, job plans. Great résumé one-liners. Here is all the boasting we were too compassionate for when we actually went to Stanford. ("Peggy Hsieu is sharpening her ambitious quill as an Assistant Editor at the Paris Review.") I'm not sure, but I think these immodest tidbits are supposed to evoke jealousy. ("Theodore McDunnum is first in his class at the MIT Theological Seminary.") The Class Notes, by bewildering us with our classmates' wondrous achievements, turn them from companions to competitors.

I say we dispense with the envious enumeration of promotions and accolades. Instead: "Paul Schwarz and Alma Alvarez pay long-distance to laugh together, but miss each other." "Maynard Klein and Alphonse Boon cling to one another ferociously, tenderly." "Susan Dufour had pneumonia, but it gave her the chance to sneeze on her ex-boyfriend, so no loss."

Let us spread no word to our class scribe of anything suitable for a job interviewer's ears. Instead, let us be tender and honest. I'll begin: "Rudolph Delson writes when he can, and combats despair with merriment."

Rudy Delson, '97
San Jose, California

Behind the Medical Merger

One-and-a-half cheers for your article, "A Marriage Made in Medicine" (Stanford Today, March/April). It is a brave attempt to be evenhanded, but falls short of the goal.

First, there appear to have been no interviews of people at UC – half the merger. How do the administrators, doctors, staff and patients at UC feel about it?

How about Stanford University patients and alumni? How about community relations on the Peninsula? Tougher journalistic digging would have produced a less sanguine piece.

Which raises the question of the magazine's journalistic independence. The interests and values of informed alumni should not be assumed to be identical with the policies of any particular University administration. There was a time when Stanford's dissemination of news, however controversial, had a high national reputation for "letting the winds of freedom blow."

William Carter, '57
Los Altos Hills, California

Learning to Learn

The cover article in the January/February issue of Stanford ("The Matchmakers") lamented the loss of sizable income from an expired patent owned by the University.

More important, to me, was an article by our former president, Don Kennedy, on "The Lost Art of Teaching," tucked into the back pages of the magazine. I agree that the most important function of a university is to teach, to expand the minds of young people so they can learn to think and, hopefully, make our world and their world a better place in which to live.

Congratulations to an excellent teacher for speaking out. If enough is said, maybe the good teachers will get back in the classroom where they belong.

Ray J. Diekemper Jr., '41
Lubbock, Texas

Skill and Compassion

I want to write belatedly to express my admiration for Mary Catherine Fish's memoir of her husband's death from brain cancer ("This Is Not Happening," January/February). Written with skill, perception and compassion, it's a landmark, bringing to mind John Gunther's Death Be Not Proud, the poignant account a half century ago of his prep-school-age son's death from a brain tumor.

Excellent writing by Fish, in the best Stanford tradition!

Bill Spurgeon Jr., '55
Muncie, Indiana

East Palo Alto

I appreciated your article on East Palo Alto ("Reversal of Misfortune," January/February). At one point, you noted, "More than 4,000 residents still live below the federal poverty level."

Early last year, I tried to interest both our state and federal legislators in doing something about getting the government to adjust the federal poverty levels to represent regions rather than one level for the country. If the 4,000 in East Palo Alto lived in Kentucky, they'd probably be well-off! The general answer I got from them all was that it wasn't important. One mentioned that when actual grants – for example, in the state of California – were given, it was figured on our cost of living in the state.

Of course, politicians probably don't want to advertise that poverty is even greater than written about, so maybe, unless it came up as a campaign issue, they would rather leave it alone.

Eleanor T. Perkins, '72, MA '74
Palo Alto, California

I have always wondered why people send letters to publications relating to the most esoteric corrections. Now I join their ranks – although I still don't understand the motivation.

Your article on East Palo Alto claims that, in April 1993, Dianne Feinstein became the first U.S. senator to visit that town. In fact, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy came to East Palo Alto in June 1968 to campaign for his brother, Bobby, in his ill-fated race in the California Democratic presidential primary. I lived there at the time and attended the campaign rally in the parking lot at Ravenswood High School. It was an exciting and heart-breaking period.

I found the article especially interesting because, in 1967-68, I was involved in a tutoring program in East Palo Alto run by Gertrude Wilks, who was featured in your article. She was an incredible person then, and I am pleased to see that she's still going strong.

Alan B. Pick, JD '70
Venice, California

"Beat Cal" in Africa

As Stanford alumni, we would like to congratulate you on the excellent articles summarizing the history of the Big Game (November/December).

We particularly enjoyed your photos of "far-flung fans" unfurling banners in the most unlikely places. We took a photo of a "Beat Cal" banner at Gombe Stream Research Center in western Tanzania, which debuted in the Stanford Daily in November 1974. More than 30 undergraduates in the human biology program contributed to long-term primate research at Gombe under then-department of psychiatry Chairman David Hamburg and Visiting Professor Jane Goodall from 1972 to 1975. Figan, the alpha male of the Kasakela Community of chimpanzees, seemed to enjoy our company that day and hooted for Stanford!

Curt Busse, '74
David Riss, '73, MD '79
Madison, New Hampshire

In Defense of the British Library

I am writing regarding Nicole Krauss's article on the relative merits of British academic libraries and Stanford's libraries ("In the Bowels of the Bodleian," January/February). My own experience with Stanford's libraries is now somewhat dated, as I left Stanford in 1974. However, I regularly use the British Library and feel I must defend what I believe is an excellent service.

Krauss is rather comparing apples and oranges, as Stanford's libraries are privately funded, whereas the British Library is a publicly funded institution. One could question why she, as a non-taxpayer, should have access to the collection at all. I wonder whether U.K. citizens working in the Palo Alto area have access to Stanford's libraries?

Contrary to what Krauss implies, the British Library does indeed lend out materials. The British Library document Supply Centre, which is based in Yorkshire, is in fact the world's largest lending library, supplying 14,000 requests per day from subscribers all over the world. I am a librarian in an academically selective high school, and our students and staff regularly order materials via the DSC's online service. Things may have changed since I was a high school student in California, but I do not remember my high school being able to access materials from either university or national libraries.

Anne-Marie Adams Tarter, '74
Ripon, North Yorkshire, England

An Admission of Interest

I just wanted to thank you for your recent series of articles on building the class of 2002 (Stanford Today). Being able to read about actual applicants made the college admission process much easier and also eased my mind. I am happy to report that I was offered a chance to become a part of Stanford. Needless to say, I will be accepting that offer. See you at the Farm!

Daniel Kwon, '02
Castro Valley, California

Leaving the Law

I enjoyed the article by Leslie Gordon, who left her law practice to go to Stanford and study journalism ("Student Voice," January/February). As a psychologist, I have become increasingly interested in helping people who face major life-shifts (e.g., divorce, burnout) to find the internal resources that can guide and sustain them through these transitions. I was impressed with her description of how she came to such a major life-shift by considering her life at so many levels – the personal, the ethical, the physical.

Carol Macpherson, '64

Editor's Note: It's our standard practice to edit letters for space considerations. In that process, we make sure to preserve the substance of the writer's views, as we believe we did in Professor Perloff's case. Her original letter ran 600 words; the published version was 322 words -- still more than twice the length of the average letter in this space. To read her original letter and the edited version, click here.

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