Letters to the Editor

May/June 2015

Reading time min

Letters to the Editor

Beyond Helmets

Concussions involve more than head protection. The fine article "Damage Control" (March/April) overlooks the behavior of the user, especially in football. This [also applies to] the obligatory helmets for children who ski. Improved head protection increases the wearer's isolation from the threatening environment and leads to a sense of invulnerability—present in spades in this age group—which in turn allows the wearer to take actions such as using the head in tackling with far greater abandon and vigor, and skiing

faster than one would without the confidence that the helmet provides. The statistics about [helmeted] youngsters on the ski slopes are mixed and seem not to show any reduction in head injuries. It is undeniable that removing helmets in tackle football would profoundly affect the attitude and behavior of the players; it is safe to speculate that there might be a reduction of concussions.

It appears that using statistics from non-helmet sports does not help to tease out the possibility that wearing a helmet may have perverse or adverse consequences. Those statistics also present a sorry picture, as is the case in rugby, with the strong likelihood that the recent rise in [concussion] rates in that sport may be due to the increased number of significantly heavier players, an influence not much discussed in connection with concussions in football.

Contemplating the use of a cage such as that used in race car driving should give us pause about the direction of current efforts. The admission by Scott Anderson, Stanford's head athletic trainer, that no head protection now available will protect against concussions seems to support the futility of present measures. In addition, we disregard at the peril of the participants in these sports the not-so-subliminal effects of television in enhancing the sound of helmet collisions, and in announcers glorifying the violence of the hit. Why are there parabolic sound receivers on the sidelines?

The siren call of research is often accompanied by tunnel vision. Is it a vain hope that science and medicine avoid the taint of the fashion du jour: doing everything possible to not allow the least blame to fall on the victim and rather let it rest on the helmet manufacturers?
Myron Gananian, '51, MD '59
Menlo Park, California


One comment on the excellent article about Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman ("Duty Calls," March/April): There is a reference to "Pvt. Bradley Manning, who leaked a trove of classified material to WikiLeaks while stationed as an Army intelligence officer." Pvt. Manning was an enlisted man, not an officer. Also, you may know that Pvt. Manning's first name is now Chelsea, rather than Bradley. An officer accused of leaks is Gen. David Petraeus, who faces, at the moment at least, a light sentence without jail time, compared to 39 years for Pvt. Manning's leaks. One can see that there are many differences between generals and privates, leaking penalties being just one of them.
Francis P. King, MA '48, PhD '53
New York, New York

Djerassi's School

"A Phenomenon of Nature," the essay on Carl Djerassi in the March/April issue (Farm Report), includes the sentence, "He spent a year and a half studying at an American school in Sofia, Bulgaria, before emigrating to the United States at age 16." I would like to provide some detail on that school.

After fleeing Austria, Professor Djerassi spent a year and a half at the American College of Sofia (ACS), an American-sponsored high school that traces its origins to 1860. The pressures of World War II forced the school to close after the 1941-42 school year, and the communist government prevented it from reopening after the end of the war. ACS reopened, on the same campus, in 1992, and today it has approximately 700 students in grades 8 through 12. Most graduates go on to undergraduate studies at major American or Western European universities.

With all his honors and achievements, Professor Djerassi had never received a high school diploma. Therefore, when he visited the ACS campus recently, the school awarded him an honorary diploma.
Joel Studebaker, '66
Trustee, American College of Sofia
Princeton, New Jersey

Though one can't expect a [short] article to do justice to a nine-decade life in full, I was disappointed and somewhat shocked that the March/April paean to Professor Carl Djerassi devoted not even a phrase to his 22-year marriage to former Stanford professor Diane Wood Middlebrook.
David Altschul, MA '76
Nashville, Tennessee

Energy Then and Now

"A Powerhouse Idea" (Farm Report, March/April) rang a bell with me about the time 25 years ago when my sister and I visited Stanford's department of mechanical engineering. Working for GE's gas turbine business in Schenectady, N.Y., at the time, I was delivering a 3-by-1-foot Mylar placard depicting in two dimensions the GE gas turbine that was then powering and heating the campus. Three years earlier, the cogeneration plant, operated by Cardinal COGEN, went on line and was considered state-of-the-art. The department chairman was so surprised that he invited us both to lunch in the faculty dining room. For those wanting to know more about the generating plant, please Google "Cardinal COGEN Stanford power plant" and click on "Central Energy Facility (CEF)—Cardinal Cogen" (re the 28-year-old plant). If you really want diagrammatical views and many technical details to compare it with the new plant, go to
Bill Poppino, '56
Schenectady, New York

Fixing Mistakes

I read with interest about the razing of Meyer Library in your March/April issue ("Closing the Books," Farm Report). I applaud its disappearance. One thing I've always admired about Stanford is its ability to acknowledge architectural mistakes and remedy them. Most examples originated in the early postwar period when institutional architecture was so dismal and include the former Dinkelspiel Auditorium, the Physics Tank and the atrocious (and low-quality) interiors of the buildings in the Quad that the university began to remedy in the early 1980s. I can remember avoiding all of those buildings. Perhaps even more impressive is that the university understands the value of leaving open the space where Meyer stood. Whoever is in charge of the landscaping and architectural vision for the university's campus is doing an excellent job; it is nicer every time I return.
Kent Matlack, '81
Brookline, Massachusetts


In the January/February Farm Report (Reunion Homecoming), there's a picture of two young girls with the caption "Future Dollies?" Don't you think it's time to stop referring to any of your women students as play objects? It's embarrassing and degrading.
Michael Babcock, '72
Oakland, California

In Grateful Memory

I read the obituary of Carl Degler (Farewells, March/April) in the New York Times, and it brought with it a flood of memories. I took Professor Degler's American South course as a senior. It was a great class. When Professor Degler learned I was interested in graduate school, he took me aside and counseled me. "What field?" he asked. I told him that I was interested in literature or history. Good choices, he said, though he thought that career opportunities might be marginally better in history. I took his advice seriously, just as I took to heart his scolding when I didn't measure up to expectations in his course. But above all, I remember when he invited me to be his guest at a lecture in San Francisco given by famed church historian Jaroslav Pelikan. I went, but I don't think I understood very much of what Professor Pelikan discussed. But I'd like to think that I understood the generosity of Professor Degler's invitation, his magnanimous gesture that invited me into the world of scholarship. If I didn't know it then, I do now, and I would like to commemorate his kindness by way of this note.
William Deverell, '83
Chair, USC History Department
Pasadena, California

Four decades ago, in my final quarter at Stanford, there was a significant amount of campus unrest surrounding Stanford's undergraduate admissions and financial aid policies and practices as they pertained to underrepresented minority students. Flashpoints included the brief takeover of the Old Union by Students for Equity. (We got out just as the tactical squad moved in!) These flashpoints were the context in which I met and worked with campus leaders including Cecilia Preciado Burciaga, Gwen Shunatona, Thom Massey, '69, MA '72, and Charles Ogletree, '75, MA '75.

I learned a lot about politics and social action and how universities work. I also began to learn how to learn about myself and others through the group communication course, sponsored through the drama department, of Helen Schrader (Obituaries, March/April). This course brought together 10 people from each of the major ethnic groups on campus: African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Caucasians and Asian-Americans. As I recall, the underrepresentation of Native Americans resulted in only seven from this group in the class. We spent the quarter explaining to one another who we are and how it feels to be who we are, and listening to others explaining who they are.

Helen Schrader's recent passing reminded me of the incredibly valuable lessons imparted through her class. True diversity in science and in society will be achieved when we develop the skills to work across differences—how to listen and how to be motivated as much by emotion as by intellect. Thank you, Professor Schrader, for starting me on this path.
David J. Asai, '75, MS '75
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Back to the 1950s?

The letters to the editor written by Alvin T. King, Jackson McElmell and Frederick Gates ("We Said, You Said," March/April) in response to the article "Untangling the Knot" (January/February) are examples, once again, of a total lack of respect toward women. Instead of giving a reasoned argument for how sexual assaults can be stopped, what we have are totally misogynist "arguments": We, women, are the culprit. Let me quote a few of their insulting ramblings: If we were "proper ladies," as most women were into the 1950s, that is, dressing with "modest clothing" such as "long dresses, high necklines, veils"; if we were still accompanied by "chaperones"; if we were not "liberated women," that is, women who "are eager as men" to enter into "casual" sex relations; if society would not be "hesitant to express its strong disapproval" for our "inappropriate" sexual behavior with terms such as "tramp," "rake," "slut," etc.; then the universities would not have any problem in the first place.

Do the letter writers really want to advocate a return to the Fifties? The only difference between then and now is not the incidence of sexual assault, as they seem to believe, but rather the openness with which we can currently address these issues. I am a woman who regrettably had to suffer all of the demeaning behaviors these three men put on me and the women of my generation (I am 70 years old). If we were raped during that time, we had no legal recourse—a popular assumption of the time being that it was the woman's fault. And, if we got pregnant, we "sluts" had to go to dark alleys to have a hanger placed between our legs, to get rid of the consequences of our reckless sexual behavior. It appears that then, as now, only women are the ones who should bear the responsibility of sexual assaults. Where are the men in this picture? Are they only the righteous authors of these letters?

Given the clear lack of knowledge expressed by these three letters written by these three men, colleges should have a required course on what constitutes sexual assault, first, and gender equality, second.
Maricler Mosto
San Diego, California

Preventing Assaults

Neither your article on sexual assault nor the ensuing correspondence mentioned the rape-prevention resources that were some of the highlights of my Stanford education in the 1980s ("Untangling the Knot," January/February).

As an undergraduate female, I did explore friendship and romance. I set limits for myself on how far to go with both alcohol and physical affection. The first dozen or so young men treated these limits as reasons to scoff at me, to lose interest in me, or to ignore my thinking and overpower me. It was enough to make me start doubting myself.

One night in the Coffee House I found a group of women leading an introduction to their self-defense class. I had pictured that as a where-to-kick class, but no. The intro had more to do with not doubting ourselves and not doubting our right to set limits. [The organizers] said most rapists were not complete strangers to their victims. They had us practice saying "no" to small, simple requests as a prelude to shouting "No!" to an overt attack. It was surprising to me how hard it was to follow their instructions: Say "no" in a clear tone while making eye contact, with my torso facing the same way as my face, and without a smile.

Later I met a student who had taken a Stanford class based on A Book of Readings For Men Against Sexism. He had also been trained as a contraceptive peer counselor. He was capable of listening with respect and of sharing the decision-making. Instead of treating the limit I set as "an annoying obstacle to what could have been a great night," he treated it as one of the many topics on which he wanted to elicit my thinking. To him, pursuing a relationship with me included getting to better know my mind, as well as his own. (Thirty years later, it still does. Of course I chose this one to marry!)

Does Stanford still train contraceptive peer counselors, and send them out to every dorm to encourage couples to communicate responsibly? Does it still have a strong group of leaders reminding students in the Coffee House and elsewhere that they each deserve to own their own bodies? Does Stanford still offer courses where men can overcome their own prejudices and sexual desperations enough to be actively curious about what their proposed partners want and don't want? Is there a phone number students can call when they are nervous about trekking home across campus alone late at night and would like a security escort?

If these Stanford resources that saved my life are still present, then I hope they will continue. If they have crumbled away, then I'd say that restoring them is far more important than bickering about what kind of punishment should be assigned to the perpetrator after the damage has already been done. For the victim as well as the perpetrator, prevention is preferable to revenge.
Jennifer Kreger, '87
Fort Bragg, California

I loved my time at Stanford, and I always felt safe. It was a time, however, when in loco parentis was still in place for freshmen. And paternalism was still in play. But I must question the seriousness of any university's self-examination on the subject of sexual assault when it still, in this day and age, after all the discussion of language and bias that has taken place over the last 50 years, and after all the back-and-forth over political correctness, after all that, it still calls its cheerleaders the Stanford Dollies. I had to look it up a few years back to see if this was really the case. I couldn't believe it. Dollies? Really?
Teri Lyn Brown, '71
Friday Harbor, Washington

There are several awkward and unpleasant facts that are frequently, perhaps perpetually, forgotten or ignored by legislators and administrators in their deliberations about sexual abuse.

1) Casual and/or nonconsensual sex was the basis on which our species evolved ever since we branched off from other primates some 7 million years ago. Until a few centuries ago, rape was an offense against the male "owner" of the victim. In some cultures this twisted logic still prevails today. Until only about 50 years ago in the United States, a husband could not even be charged with raping his wife, her permanent and irrevocable "consent" being deemed given by her wedding vows. Thus, all procedures or policies dealing with rape run contrary to both evolutionary forces and societal expectations. If rape is to be stopped, then policies must be both highly intrusive and draconian. Changing the campus "climate" is not enough. The violent storm of rape does not occur all over the campus but rather in the tiny biosphere of isolated spaces. Campus climate has no relevance to the situation where booze, drugs and sex drives cloud the minds of both perpetrators and victims. The drunken fraternity lout-rapist does not think, "Gee, what I'm doing is contrary to school policy."

2) Fuzzy language leads to fuzzy thinking and even fuzzier solutions. For example, the word assault means at law an "attempted battery." Threatening to rape someone is an assault. Raping someone is a battery. It is vital to maintain this distinction, but too often the line is blurred by language. The introduction into federal law of the "climate" concept is a result of this type of fuzzy thinking. It should not be the business of either university administrators or federal legislators to regulate hurt feelings or to socialize the student body. Life is full of insults, bumps and scrapes. Socializing is the responsibility of parents, relatives and one's contemporaries, not the police, not administrators and not boards of inquiry. Let's deal with the real issues and forget about trying to be sociological meteorologists. In other words, let's confine the administrative and legal solutions to the real problem: sexual abuse, which includes attempted rape and rape.

3) Let's clean up our attitude before attempting to improve other people's. For example, in the January/February issue of Stanford, there is a laudatory article about a perky, cute, sparkling graduate student who is also a cheerleader for the 49ers ("A Reason to Cheer," Farm Report). The article is accompanied by a pinup poster photo of her in the standard, provocative, sex-object cheerleader uniform, with little fabric and ample strutting-her-stuff boots of white leather. What does this article and photo say about the climate attitude at the alumni magazine?

4) One of the pillars of American democracy is due process. Any procedure designed to punish sexual abuse must not be ad hoc, informal or amateurish. If universities are going to investigate, prosecute and punish criminal acts, then they must dig deeply into their coffers and fund a system that is both even-handed and professional. They must hire trained judges and attorneys (both plentiful in the ranks of the retired) to conduct trials. The right to confrontation and pretrial discovery must be included in campus policy. The current systems are equivalent to a hospital performing surgery using stone scalpels wielded by dipsomaniacs.

5) The one "climate" area where university administrators should become involved is that of defining consent and educating all members of the school on what consent means and does not mean. This includes making it clear that any person who mumbles an ambiguous "No?" when she or he actually means "yes" or "maybe" is acting in both a dangerous and unsocialized manner. On the other side of this coin, it is imperative that everyone be introduced to the concept that assent must be unambiguous before it means "yes." Men and boys especially must be reminded that when hormonally stimulated, the primitive part of their brains wants desperately to see or hear "yes" regardless of any subtle, higher-order signals to the contrary.

Sexual abuse can be curtailed on campus, but elimination is unlikely given the human condition and the limitations (both practical and legal) on surveillance. The key is to clearly define that which can be prevented and to create an efficient system for detection and prosecution.
James Luce
Peralada, Spain

I have a real issue with your usage of the word conundrum to describe Stanford's difficult choices when addressing the issue of sexual assault.

There is no conundrum, period. Sexual assault occurs when an individual says "no" and the offending individual continues his or her offending behavior. The incident should always be referred to the local police, where an investigation by trained experts and prosecutors can determine if legal action is warranted. If students knew that their bad behavior would always end up on the desk of the local police, and possibly the district attorney, better behavior among the entire student body would occur overnight.

Additionally, eliminate fraternities, which encourage tribal behavior of the worst kind. When an 18-year-old freshman leaves 10 empty bottles of beer on a table and follows a female student back to her dormitory, the outcome is rarely positive. In coed dorms young men and women learn to "live" together in a more mature atmosphere. Better choices can be made by both sexes because social behavior is more closely monitored.

Just a thought.
Rob Hammel, '75
Palm Desert, California

"Untangling the Knot" devoted a lot of ink to describing Stanford's effort to answer the question posed on the magazine's cover: Can sexual assault be stopped? Unfortunately, there's an essential implied question that the article seemed largely uninterested in answering: How much sexual assault has actually started?

The writers missed an obvious opportunity to explore this issue, at least as far as Stanford is concerned. Data contained in its brief discussion of reported sexual assaults on campus since the late 1990s can be used to tease out a rate of sexual assault at the university.

According to the article, in 2010 Stanford established new evidentiary standards designed to encourage victims to report sexual assault. These standards—now being urged upon all U.S. colleges and universities by the federal government—could find defendants responsible based on "a preponderance" of the evidence, rather than a unanimous or significant-majority vote. In the four subsequent years from 2010 through 2014, there were 105 sexual assaults reported, with 14 adjudicated and eight assailants found responsible.

Just looking at this, the average number of confirmed sexual assaults at Stanford in this time frame was two per year. What percentage of all students would that represent?

According to figures available from Stanford's Office of Communications, the average number of students on campus each year from fall 2010 through spring 2014 was 18,958 (75,833 divided by four). This includes all undergraduate and graduate students, both full and part time.

So the chances of experiencing a confirmed sexual assault at Stanford from 2010 through 2014 were two in 18,958, or one in 9,479. . . .

Granted, these data include all students at Stanford, not just women. Granted, I'm not a mathematician or statistician. But I'm pretty sure my calculations set a higher bar for validity than what the article refers to as the "much-cited" 2007 Department of Justice survey that found that 19 percent of female undergrads had been victims of attempted or completed sexual assault.

That study—and the Stanford article fails to emphasize this nearly enough—was based on data from two schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 4,140 two- and four-year colleges and universities in the United States. This means that current government directives increasing the pressure on U.S. institutions of higher learning to take action against sexual assault are based on statistics from .0005 percent of all college campuses.

Which leads to another question that the article never considered. Sexual assault is certainly heinous, and should be dealt with appropriately. But "appropriately" means in proportion to the risk it poses. To its actual threat. Is this the case?

Not at all. As far as Stanford now knows, its own data indicate that the risk of being sexually assaulted at the university in any given year is less than the annual risk of dying in a car accident (one in 7,700, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation). Yet the campus isn't in the midst of a "sea change moment" over the issue of car safety.

What's going on here? I understand that this foment has to a large extent been instigated by the federal government and the media, as the article notes, and that Stanford is being required by law to respond to it. But the fact remains that facts have little to do with the current furor over campus sexual assault: It is being driven by ideology and fear.

This shouldn't happen at Stanford. The Stanford I know, or perhaps knew, is a highly intelligent, rationally competent community.

Shouldn't we object more strongly when the desire to stop sexual assault seems based more on political, ideological and even messianic agendas than on objective analysis and reason? When the government urges simple-majority hearings that risk being more inquisition than legal proceeding? When a Stanford student-judge at such hearings declares, with an apparently straight face, that "the Stanford judicial system isn't about law"? Or when a Stanford ASSU president hopes to turn the student body into a "huge army for good," trained "every year, throughout the year" to sniff out sexual wrongdoing and stop it in its tracks?

Shouldn't we do more to point out the patent absurdity of the state-mandated California sexual-consent law—which, by my reading, seems to require the presence of an attorney, or at least the sexual equivalent of a golf-tournament rules official, every time students feel amorous?

Shouldn't we very much worry that, as it conducts a "campus climate" survey on sexual assault, Stanford has already biased the results? That it has invested too much time and money on sexual-assault prevention programs and training. That it feels too much pressure from government, the media and its own students. That it has already been swept up in the "sea change moment" and the "revolution happening right now," as the article describes the university's current mood. That it has already accepted a high rate of campus sexual-assault as fact, even before the facts are known, and there's no going back now. And so it may simply "find" what it assumes to be true.

Undeniably, Stanford has a responsibility to protect its students from sexual harm. But that is not its reason for being. It was founded to teach its students to think. Its mandate is to better prepare students to understand the world around them and to thrive in it. The real world, with its real risks and dangers, not its imagined ones.

When it does not counsel them to replace fear and belief with thoughtfulness and reason, it fails. When it does not train them to assess a problem before trying to solve it, it fails. When it does not help them understand that a revolution is a last-ditch effort to solve a social issue, not a first attempt, it fails. When it does not stand up to government bodies or officials that only really care about how much political capital they can gain, it fails.

"Untangling the Knot" asserts that "preoccupation with sexual assault will only intensify at Stanford as the year progresses." Final exams on this issue will be here soon. Stanford had better study harder.
Neil Conway, '76
Alexandria, Virginia

I have never been so angry coming back from the mailbox. The headline on the cover of Stanford was "Can Sexual Assault Be Stopped? The Conundrum Colleges Face." Having been forcibly raped as a freshman by another freshman while at Stanford, [I say] it must be stopped. Sexual assault is not a conundrum; it is a tragedy. Being raped is humiliating and has lifelong effects. Until now I have told fewer than five people I was a victim. It's clearly now time I need to step out of the shadows.

As the article references, it's not all about harsher penalties—by then the crime has already happened. Very few women would ever report a fraternity member if the rest of their friends would lose their house. As the author of the article understands, sexual assault most commonly occurs when people know each other.

In my case, my boyfriend must certainly have understood that the definition of rape included getting his virgin girlfriend (who had just told him the night before that she wasn't remotely interested in having sex until she was married) drunk out of her mind, literally carrying her back to her room, and then penetrating her when she was so close to unconscious she had no idea what happened until the next morning. Perhaps, as this articles states, education provided to both parties during orientation would have prevented this crime from ever occurring. However, I think students need a deeper understanding of the issues.

A systemic issue, not presented in the article, is that a great many young college men think the greatest benefit of alcohol is to make it easier for them to have sex. A great many college women think they can trust men to treat them with respect under any condition. Both need to be educated about how, why and when sexual assault happens. It's Stanford's responsibility to create a safe atmosphere, and the administration must increase efforts in awareness, prevention and enforcement.

Finally, I absolutely cannot believe the lack of compassion, callousness and ignorance shown by this cover title toward the many women, like myself, who were raped while at Stanford. The cover title makes it sound like it's OK if sexual assault doesn't stop. Rape and sexual assault are never OK, anywhere, but especially not at an institution of knowledge for the sake of progress like Stanford. Women like myself are all owed an apology for positioning this abomination as merely a puzzling situation. We all need to hear a commitment from the administration that they will do everything they can to stop future rape from occurring and that their goal is to completely eliminate sexual assault from our school.
Laurie J. Seibert, '92, MS '96
Lake Oswego, Oregon

The San Jose Mercury News article on the Ellie Clougherty/Joe Lonsdale rape lawsuits once again gives Stanford a black eye. It reports that Stanford banned venture capitalist Lonsdale, '04, from the campus after investigating Clougherty's sexual assault charges and finding in favor of Clougherty, '13, 1) without informing Lonsdale what he was charged with; 2) refusing to interview any of Lonsdale's witnesses; 3) declining to review Lonsdale's evidence; and 4) entering into a secret settlement with Clougherty.

This will surely have a chilling effect on the future employment by Valley employers of female Stanford interns.

I certainly hope that Stanford's revised policies on sexual assault matters are a little more "fair and balanced." But the fact that the current program is led by a civil rights attorney who has just transferred to Stanford from the federal department that brought us Title IX anti-male regulations makes me wonder how likely that is.
Tom Macdonald, MA '65
Carmel Valley, California

The Right Thing

In light of the recent controversy at Oklahoma with Sigma Alpha Epsilon, I think we all should be reminded what happened at Stanford in the early 1960s ("What They Stood For," March/April 2014). I was vice president of ATO (Omicron, not Omega) in the late '60s. I was disappointed that the magazine did not mention our story when it featured that of another fraternity when it first admitted an African-American; ATO was way ahead.

A short summary: In the late '50s and early '60s ATO admitted, without the national fraternity's knowledge, people of color and Jews. As my brothers said nonchalantly, "We just did it, we didn't think it was a big deal." (ATO had a reunion last fall with dozens attending. Part of the motivation for that reunion was anger that ATO was excluded from your article about [Sigma Chi's] African-American pledge.)

The ATO National did notice, convening a "trial" of the ATO local in 1963 and convicting it of admitting non-Christians and nonwhites. This story was carried in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner. ATO was kicked out of the national fraternity—and the brothers called the national henchmen "weenies."

At the reunion, older brothers of ATO told the story in some detail. After being removed from the national, the only way ATO could continue was with university support. That was begrudgingly given, with the stipulation that if numbers dropped, it would be over. It should be noted that then, even more than now, housing was at a premium at Stanford. As usual, racism and prejudice, which no doubt colored Stanford's past as much as other universities', made things difficult in often unforeseen ways.

The University was constructing, with alumni ATO support, a new facility that was about 50 spaces larger than the old house. I can remember meeting with "old bros" who lectured us that we had to fill the house, else all that fundraising and hard work would be wasted. In short, we were under the gun to fill the new facility or die as a fraternity, albeit a "local" one.

Then history and fate stepped in.

The week of rush, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. The timing could not have been worse, not only for the nation, but for ATO. The university, in an unbelievable move, allowed the fraternities to decide whether to cancel rush or have it anyway, a few days after the assassination. I still cannot believe it.

We held an unforgettable meeting and the choices were stark: Hold rush because we had to make our quota, or die. We met and debated it for hours. Finally, in a close vote, we decided to have rush. I will never forget the look of our African-American brothers as they left the meeting, some never to return. It broke the house's heart. We had to choose between respect for Dr. King or surviving as a house.

After only one year, ATO died from lack of membership. And the university swiftly swooped in and took the house. You see, when the national kicked ATO out, the old house ceased to be the property of the national, and ATO essentially became a university-sponsored dorm. ATO was at the mercy of the university, and ATO had lots of dorm space.

In the late 1960s, to be fair, fraternities were dying everywhere. People were smoking the evil weed, kegs were supplanted with little packets, and frats were seen as out of date—even the precedent-setting ATOs.

This story has never been told, and I think it should be now, especially in light of the [Oklahoma] SAE story. I know that ATOs, especially those who were around when the fraternity was exiled, do not want the story told. At the reunion, the modesty of social courage was quite evident. As one of them said, doing the right thing should not be a big deal. And they are right to a certain extent . . . but on the other hand, there is the SAE thing!

It is a big deal.

Every time I visit the campus now, I remark about the "United Nations" perspective of the student body. People of color are everywhere. Stanford has diversity because it can. I also am bothered, in my old liberal roots, that there are just not enough spots at Stanford, knowing that thousands are turned away every year.

But as I read about the SAE scandal, I was taken back to that horrible meeting, where history tapped us on the shoulder, we were given an impossible decision, and we did not choose wisely.
Greg Beale, '69
Redding, California


"A Phenomenon of Nature" (Farm Report, March/April), about the life of the late Carl Djerassi, misstated the number of autobiographies he published. He wrote four; the latest, published in English in 2014, was a translation of Der Schattensammler, published in German in 2013.

The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.


It is shameful that the Stanford Student Senate has passed a boycott resolution against Israel in recent days ("Discussing Divestment," Online Exclusive, March/April). There is no point in my rehearsing all the arguments against this fashionable and immoral action here. Many clear-seeing scholars, journalists and public figures have made the case in other venues. In spite of their compelling observations, Stanford students join the self-righteous lynch mob to attack the nation in the Middle East that is such a positive force for good in the world. The hypocrisy and cowardice of the boycotters is stunning. Once upon a time I tore up my draft card on campus. Today I feel like I should come back and tear up my diploma.
Steve Siporin, '69
Logan, Utah

Missing Attribution

I was just reading the March/April issue when my wife suggested that I look at the ad on the back cover. She noted that the entire ad for Cadillac centered around a quote, but that it did not credit the source. She and I both feel that the magazine should insist on the same editorial practices in the advertisements that you would expect of the magazine.
Geoff Trowbridge, MS '80
Mercer Island, Washington

Editor's note: The words were taken from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt.

Zero Tolerance

The tangling is self-inflicted ("Untangling the Knot," January/February). If 10 percent of women are being raped as part of the college experience, Stanford and other colleges need to investigate their admission policy, process and decision makers. It has been well established in recent decades that students have no rights at all. So stop delaying action under the guise of balancing rights against punishment. Offensive violence is not acceptable. I suggest you appeal to the current popular norms of guilt by accusation and zero tolerance. Anyone accused of rape gets expelled and barred from ever attending college anywhere. As a safeguard, the third time the same person makes a rape complaint, both accuser and accused suffer this same punishment. Obtaining the benefits of a college education do not require, indeed are better without, the pursuit of sexual adventure and drug exploration.

Thanks for a remarkable magazine.
Joseph F. Iaquinto, MS '71
Leesburg, Virginia

The March/April letter of Johnson-era alumna Allyson Johnson ("We Said, You Said") shows some original perspectives. It starts with the proposition that "perpetrators of sexual assault" must be expelled from Stanford. It offers no data as to what percentage of the current student population is made of convicted violent felons.

In another flourish, the letter declares: "expelling violent aggressors from Stanford" (as if some aggressors are Gandhian) "will not 'ruin their lives'—life goes on even if you have to go to Cal."

From this we must infer that in Johnson's world: 1) UC-Berkeley's admissions process is uninfluenced by their Office of General Counsel; and 2) Cal women have no right to an environment free of sexual predators.
David Altschul, MA '76
Nashville, Tennessee

Judging from family feedback, the brevity of my prior letter to the editor gave an erroneous impression, which I would like to correct now: The existence of an ongoing sexual relationship between victim and assailantdoes not give a free pass for sexual assault. 

However, the fact of such a relationship is surely relevant in assault proceedings, although someone smarter than I am will have to determine how much; by comparison, assault by a stranger or mere acquaintance is clear-cut.

To restate my proposal: I would expect an enormous deterrent effect if the college review system put the burden of showing "knowing consent" on the alleged aggressor (once a victim provided proof that sex actually happened), and if it summarily punished such assailants by hitting them in the pocketbook with forfeiture of a term. These changes would rebalance college assault proceedings in favor of the complainant. Further consequences could be pursued in the judicial system.

Sexual assault is an issue of public safety. Shouldn't we all want to see a huge reduction in sexual attacks, a higher proportion of rape complaints brought and handled sympathetically, and more public resources spent on education about safe consensual sex, on rape crisis centers, rape kit testing and anything else that would increase safety?
Peg Healy
Albany, California

I blame a lot on the fraternity behavioral climate, where the members think they are the best of the best and can get whatever they want when they want it, with no reprimands of any sort by the university.
Peter Guckenheimer, Gr. '77
Santa Rosa, California


Say it ain't so! Is my beloved alma mater actually going to play kissy face with Saudi Arabia ("A Saudi Connection," Farm Report, November/December)? Do you know their brutal tyranny sentences homosexuals to death and treats women like [excrement]? Try this on for size: If a coed at the Stanford Center for Excellence in Aeronautics and Astronautics goes to visit her benefactors, they'll slam her in jail for driving a car.

Now I know what the soul of a great university is worth: $18 million.

Shame on Stanford!
John Gamel, MD '71
Louisville, Kentucky

Missions Possible

I was intrigued by the idea of declaring a mission rather than a major ("Sky's the Limit," Farm Report, September/October 2014). But how do you account for changes to missions over time? When I was 21, I would have said with my whole heart and soul that I wanted to save the world through poetry and literature. I even did a PhD and taught at the college level for several years. Twenty-five years later, my mission has changed to seeking solutions to the world's complex problems by first learning to understand our own and others' cultures, through one-on-one relationships and first-hand experiences. I now work in international exchange, where I am blessed to be able to pursue my personal mission on a daily basis. But this wasn't where I started out.
Patricia Marby Harrison, '91
Arlington, Virginia

You May Also Like

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305.