Bias and Evolution

Thank you for the article on Jennifer Eberhardt’s thoughtful research on implicit racial bias (“A Hard Look at How We See Race,” September/October). I was struck by the phrase “The reach of implicit bias, arising from America’s tortured racial history, from culture and from still pervasive inequities. . . .” We have long accepted these factors as the causes of this social cancer. 

However, I wonder if researchers have considered that the cause may also have an evolutionary component. In our distant past, we gathered together in tribes and competed with other tribes for resources in order to survive. This resulted in the survival imperative to fear people who appear different from us. Examples of the biological reverberations of this can be seen in religious wars, World War II and even modern American political polarization of left versus right. The reaction of Eberhardt’s 5-year-old to a man on a plane may have been an example of this outdated biological imperative, as the person seen wore dreadlocks, which the child’s father does not. Her son’s negative reaction may have been to someone whose hair looked strange to the child, not to the color of his skin. If there is also a biological evolutionary survival factor in racial prejudice, this bias will be far harder to correct than we thought. 
Michael Booth, ’65 
Parker, Texas

I was both inspired and appalled by the critical work of Jennifer Eberhardt. Even the description of some of her experiments elicited gasps from both me and my wife—I can only imagine the reaction of the police officers who have been fortunate enough to experience that work firsthand. I also could not help but appreciate the parallels with the thoughtful and articulate End Note essay by Adrienne Keene, ’07 (“Ghosts of Mascots Past,” September/October). The line between cultural misappropriation, which Keene highlights so effectively on her blog, and the deeply ingrained racial bias that is the subject of Eberhardt’s work is emblematic of the struggles still faced by people of color in these times and this country. Yet I take hope and inspiration in the work done by both of these scholars and appreciate that Stanford has given a spotlight to these issues.
Rafael Figueroa, ’87
Albuquerque, New Mexico


Cold War Cheating 

Concerning “Why We Cheat” (September/October), my first knowledge of cheating at Stanford began when an All-American athlete was suspended for a term for cheating on an introductory art history or speech class final exam. In those days you were supposed to “tap your pencil” while looking at the cheater during an exam. The general student body could not understand why one would cheat in a course rumored to give you a B grade if you had a pulse and were breathing.

Several years later, as a senior, I was the president of the associated student chapters of the electrical and the radio engineers organizations. Stanford had groups of NATO officers, mostly men in their 30s, studying for MS degrees in EE. We also had a dozen or so Russian students, also in their 30s. Provost Fred Terman, ’20, Engr. ’22, had instituted strict grading standards: Take out those students receiving flunking grades, then distribute the remaining grades as 15 percent A, 35 percent B and C, and 15 percent D. This made it tough to get an A, in our typical undergraduate sections of about 30 students. Now imagine that five in the class were NATO officers and all got the A grades. My experience was that all the Norwegian officers were smart and worked hard. They deserved their high grades. But there was another similar-sized group of NATO officers (let’s say they were from country X). One of these officers was smart, and the rest cheated using his papers and exams.

One afternoon I was called into the office of Hugh Hildreth Skilling, a master teacher, textbook author and protégé of Provost Terman. Skilling, ’26, Engr. ’27, PhD ’31, was chair of the EE department. “Gillmor,” he said, “We have to do something about the cheating of the NATO officers from X.” “Why not just kick them out?” was my wise response. “No, you must give a lecture to all EE students on the subject of honesty and ethical behavior. We can’t kick them out, since it’s a NATO program. And additionally we have a related problem with the Russians. They are skipping most of their classes. They spend their time touring all the area electronic and avionics factories, looking for tips on our manufacturing techniques. We can’t kick them out, either. You must give a lecture in the big physics tank lecture hall and you can’t mention the Russians or country X.”

Having received a C in Religion 1 and an F for my paper on St. Augustine and homosexuality in the “pear tree incident,” I bought a couple of paperbacks and worked together a mishmash of truisms from Aristotle, Plato, Augustine and Hildegard of Bingen through Kant. The hall was packed, nearly all graduate students, with the faculty seated in the first row. When I finished my 15-minute performance, the faculty burst into wild applause and the students simply looked puzzled. “What in H--- were you talking about?” asked several friends. “The X students cheating and the Russians spying around,” I replied.

Quoting Professor Monin from your recent article, “It’s clear that people cherish the idea of being a moral person. . . .” Back in 1960, I guess I waved the flag of morality to a puzzled audience.
Stew Gillmor, ’60
Higganum, Connecticut


Jazz Memories

The Stanford Jazz Year was one of the best things I never saw. 

Reading “When Stanford Got Its Groove” (September/October), I felt cheated by my freshman ignorance and lack of musical awareness. As an entering freshman in 1965, I might have regretted missing the Beatles at the Cow Palace, but I was clueless about jazz. Deaf to the genius of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Miles Davis. 

Just writing those names now is an intoxicating incantation. I wish someone at Stanford would invent time travel so I could go back to hear these superstars. I am sure that I missed many other amazing things during my years at Stanford, but I’d trade whatever those other things were to have seen these giants of jazz. Thanks to Rick Bale, ’66, PhD ’72, for capturing the excitement of the Jazz Year in words, especially for those of us who missed it.
Lynn Bahrych, ’69
Shaw Island, Washington

For the record, I attended the Coltrane concert and was far from “underwhelmed.” Overwhelmed and moved to tears is a more accurate description of my reaction. He played with a “double quartet” that added such luminaries as Art Davis, Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders to his regular stellar quartet, and anyone who thought he exhibited a “detached air” as he played nonstop for more than an hour missed a great performance. The description of his “entourage of more than 20 odd-looking folks dressed in leather and snakeskin” is simply embarrassing.
Robin Madden, ’69
Santa Barbara, California

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to thank Rick Bale and his co-workers for providing the most memorable listening experiences of my life. I was convinced then that Frost Amphitheater was the most pleasant setting imaginable for a performance. 

I have not seen or heard anything since to change that opinion. The names Armstrong, Fitzgerald, Ellington and Charles are emblematic of excellence and of course variety.
A superb program!

Rick Bale and you have caused me to revisit treasured memories.
Emon Mahony, JD ’66
El Dorado, Arkansas


Energy Guide

Each year the planet is, on record, hotter than before. More and more studies find that California’s four-year drought has been intensified by anthropogenic climate change, which has left crisp conditions for wildfires to inflame thousands of acres recently in Northern California, incinerating forests, homes and natural habitats.

It is clearly time for us to be vigorous in developing renewable energies and the infrastructure to use them. What a joy it is to read Stanford’s report, “Energy Tally, State by State” (Farm Report, September/October), which focuses on the work of Professor Mark Jacobson, ’87, MS ’88, laying out the kind of renewable energy development that is possible and practical, sane and sustainable. Building a vibrant demand for and the means to rely on renewable energy can renew us and help safeguard the biosphere and civilization.

Towards that end, we need to adapt financial investments and signal the market accordingly. From around the warming planet, Stanford alumni of all ages are calling for the university to cease investing in the fossil fuel industry that pours perilous amounts of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

While the destabilized climate begins to destroy human and natural communities on Earth, Stanford President Hennessy and the Board of Trustees dawdle, pointing to renewable energy and low-carbon efforts on campus. The sincerity and effectiveness of those innovations are countered by Stanford’s $20 billion-plus endowment continuing to pump investments into fossil fuels, worsening climate conditions.
Cris Gutierrez, ’77, MA ’88
Santa Monica, California


McMurtry’s Designers

I was happy to read about the recently completed McMurtry building (“McMurtry Dazzles,” Farm Report, September/October), but disappointed that the article did not provide the name of the architecture firm responsible for the design.
Emily Aune, ’08
Seattle, Washington

Editor’s note: The building was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Boora Architects.


Bouquets and Brickbats

Finally, someone takes issue with the climate change myth. Martin Hertzberg (“Divestment Won’t Affect Climate,” Letters, September/October) explains very well why we can expect change in global weather conditions over time. In the same issue, Alexander Cannara’s final comments regarding nuclear versus windmill and solar farms as the long-term clean energy source (“About Mars,” Letters) should be passed on to the current U.S. president’s administration; Stanford could have used the $500M wasted on Solyndra to prop up its nuclear engineering department. And, thanks to David Holton in “Divergent Viewpoint” (Letters, September/October) for pointing out that your extensive publishing of letters enables rebuttal to the single-minded feature articles. 
Maury Bunn, MS ’70
Enterprise, Oregon

In asserting that climate is too grand in scale for humans to affect, the writer suggests this is true because it is commonsense. Unfortunately, this is irrelevant, as apparent common sense does not make a conclusion true. The commonsense conclusion that the Sun revolves around the Earth is one of many examples.  

The next fallacy is to suggest that since humans can’t “control” climate, that it will continue “in the same way” with and without humans. The effects of greenhouse gases have nothing to do with “controlling” the carefully itemized natural forces outlined in the letter. Changing the concentration of greenhouse gases changes the initial conditions on which these natural forces act, not the forces themselves. You can drop a ball off a roof or throw a ball off a roof, and you are not “controlling” gravity. However, you clearly influence the ball.  

Imagine the effect on climate if approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet were to detonate. This is obviously a human cause, in spite of the enormous scale of the Earth. The slower time scale of burning fossil fuels does not remove the human cause. Carbon dioxide doesn’t have to “control” anything in order to effectively trap a small percentage of additional heat. This suggested absurdity relies on an absolute percentage (0.04 seems very small), but ignores relative change. The concentration has increased approximately 75 percent since the industrial revolution.  

The letter closes saying carbon dioxide is an “essential ingredient” and is not a pollutant. Analogously, virtually every essential ingredient in the human body can be toxic in high enough concentrations. Even water. Here again, the point is irrelevant. Relating divestment from fossil fuels to such weak arguments on climate change simply perpetuates unnecessary confusion.
Cory Schaffhausen, MS ’03
Minneapolis, Minnesota

The description of enormous-scale natural forces and motions beyond human control is at odds with the consensus of scientists concerning man’s effect on climate.

Sixty years ago in a classroom at Geology Corner, the theory of continental drift, also enormous-scale natural forces and motions beyond human control, was said to be at odds with the consensus of scientists. 
Keve Larson, ’59
Mobile, Alabama


Packard’s Record

A letter published in July/August (“Protestations”) is unjust and inaccurate. Dan Rosenfeld, ’75, states that our fellow alumnus David Packard, ’34, Engr. ’39, while deputy secretary of defense, “was responsible for procuring and delivering napalm, Agent Orange and other weapons that contributed to the deaths of up to 3 million Vietnamese.” Nixon had been elected president on the promise to get us out of Vietnam, which he was doing, but he also established the Environmental Protection Agency. This concern for the environment extended to the Department of Defense, where, during Packard’s service, it was engaged in withdrawing not only our military, but also our supplies of Agent Orange. During that time, I was appointed to the newly established position of assistant secretary of defense for health and the environment. Under Packard’s direction, I was charged with being certain that Agent Orange would never be used again—and I made sure of this by traveling to military facilities and firebases across Vietnam myself, sometimes under enemy
fire. The weapons Rosenfeld complains about were procured and sent to Vietnam by JFK’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, and were removed under secretaries Melvin Laird and Packard. Dave Packard was
a California environmentalist, an engineer, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist—in every way, an extraordinary Stanford alumnus and this reckless charge is both wrong and demeaning.
Richard Wilbur, ’43, MD ’47
Lake Forest, Illinois


Airstream Origins

I enjoyed your July/August article about Wally Byam and the Airstream trailer (“Our Favorite Mobile Device”). While Byam could claim to be the “inventor” of the Airstream, his aerodynamic designs were based on earlier work by sailplane designer and manufacturer Hawley Bowlus. Hawley created a trailer, using aircraft manufacturing techniques, in the early ’30s. The Bowlus (later Bowlus-Teller) Manufacturing Co. produced these riveted, duraluminum-skinned trailers until going bankrupt in 1936. Wally Byam was actually a Bowlus dealer and incorporated many of Bowlus’s ideas into what became the Airstream. Many of the Bowlus trailers have been lovingly restored, and several reside in Northern California. Some years ago, proud owners displayed them at the Stanford Concours d’Elegance, re-creating a ’30s campsite. It was a thrill for me to see these beautiful trailers fully restored, as Hawley Bowlus was my great uncle. For more information, I refer readers to the books Ready to Roll: A Celebration of the Classic American Travel Trailer by Arrol Gellner and Douglas Keister, and Bowlus Trailers—The Origin of the Species by John Long.
Margie (Bowlus) Stehle, ’65
Palo Alto, California


Band Fan

The LSJUMB is silly and crosses lines of respectability (“Band Ban,” Farm Report, September/October). Who cares? The people offended by the LSJUMB are often those for whom Stanford was inaccessible because of admissions selectivity. Each LSJUMB member earned a place at Stanford through academic achievement, National Merit status, community service, test scores and numerous laudable accomplishments. Can LSJUMB critics identify which famous innovators, doctors, lawyers, CEOs, journalists, philanthropists, astronauts, world leaders, Nobel Prize winners, Supreme Court justices and U.S. presidents were in the Stanford marching band? Of course not. When LSJUMB critics use computers, search engines or social media platforms; when critics have open heart surgery or cancer treatment; when critics appear in court; when critics read a Scott Turow, MA ’74, book or see a Sigourney Weaver, ’72, movie, they seek access to goods and services from the brightest minds, often attached to a Stanford graduate. And guess what? That Stanford grad may even have marched with the LSJUMB.
Ellen Jean Winograd, ’80
Reno, Nevada


Let’s Keep It Civil

Over the past few years, I have noticed a change in the published letters to the editor that makes me less inclined each issue to look at a section I once consistently enjoyed. To be sure, thoughtful, informed and humane letters continue to appear each issue. But lately there has been, for my taste at least, an excess of letters that are either (1) right-wing political rants about a recent article, (2) left-wing political rants about a recent article, or (3) right- or left-wing political rants designed to refute rants of the opposite sort that have appeared in letters in prior issues. 

When I pick up the magazine created for one of most cultured and erudite communities in the world, I now sometimes feel as if I am watching a scream-filled 2 a.m. political talk show on cable television. I recognize of course that we live at a time of significant political alienation and rage, in which many people believe that ad hominem attacks, shrill rhetoric and bad faith are the essentials of political argument. But I don’t think your readers would be any worse off if you left letters in that vein out of the magazine and elected instead to highlight the observations and experiences of the overwhelming majority of Stanford community members who can be passionate and civil at the same time. 
Keith Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry
Stanford, California 

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


Seeing Race

Allow me to congratulate you all on your recent cover article by Sam Scott (“A Hard Look at How We See Race,” September/October). It’s outstanding. Terrific work by a talented reporter that nicely tracked the personal and professional course Jennifer Eberhardt has traveled to highlight the phenomenon of implicit bias.
Tim Taliaferro
Austin, Texas

Professor Jennifer Eberhardt tellingly recounts that “people [choosing] their friends based on how smart they were . . . just didn’t happen in [her] old [black] neighborhood.” This mirrors data from a study in Shaker Heights, a wealthy Cleveland suburb, in which researchers sought to discover why well-to-do black kids underperformed their non-black neighbors. The underperformers explained that discipline, study, reading and postponement of gratification were “too white.” Meanwhile, thanks to Dodd-Frank, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, EPA over-regulation and other schemes of the current regime in Washington, the 2014 unemployment rate among African-American teens was 33 percent. That’s not caused by racial bias.
David Altschul, MA ’76
Nashville, Tennessee

Professor Jennifer Eberhardt’s experience with her 5-year-old’s remarks about an observed black man brought back a similar surprising remark in 1964 by my 2-year-old son, Gregg. He and his mother, Ami Gorman Sadler, ’59, were walking by the I-House where foreign visitors often were hosted. An Eastern Indian family was coming out with their probably 4-year-old son when Gregg pointed at the boy and asked his mother if that was a bear!

Those were days when Stanford lacked the diversity of recent years, but the sight must have triggered something Gregg had seen in picture books, since we had no TV.
Jim Lauer, ’57, MD ’65
Grand Junction, Colorado

Jennifer Eberhardt is addressing only one half of the problem. The other half is stereotypes that black people have of fair-skinned people they regard as white. If she lived in Mississippi, she could observe the polarization of the population firsthand. It extends into politics and makes things extremely difficult for those of us trying to form a coalition. A black person cannot seem to get elected statewide (it has been tried), and the black population will not get behind a white candidate. As I write this, we are heading into an election for state and county offices with a black small business owner as our Democratic candidate for governor, a white male as our candidate for lieutenant governor, and a gay individual as a candidate for another statewide office. Strange things sometimes happen in politics. Jesse Ventura was elected as governor of Minnesota a while back, but Mississippi is a different cup of tea. We shall see.

To illustrate the problem, when I was at a reception a few years back for a Democratic Party candidate, I mentioned to a black woman that people kept mistaking me for a Republican. She said it was because I was white. Well, my handkerchief is white, and I don’t personally know anyone that color. I consider myself a fair-skinned multiethnic. More to the point, I have lived in five other states before ending up in Mississippi, and no one in any of those other states would have made such a remark. Her comment reflects the polarization in state politics.

I have found that the attitude seems to persist in both the white and black populations. Sometimes I feel like I am a spy. White people make comments to me expressing their attitudes because they think of me as being one of them. On the other hand, blacks seem to regard me as one of those others, and it is difficult to get their participation in attempts to form a meaningful coalition.
Fred E. Camfield, MS ’64, PhD ’68 
Vicksburg, Mississippi

I am very impressed with Professor Eberhardt’s valuable research. But before we assume this is just an American problem, and use this research to continue the left’s incessant white-man bashing, I suggest Eberhardt expand her research into the worldwide universalities of prejudice.

Could this be not just an American problem, but a Western cultural problem, where the white color is seen as good, and black as evil (White Hat versus Black Hat)? Bad things happen at night (black), and the dawn represents renewal (white). Though I am not a trained anthropologist, I recall being jolted into an awareness of the impact of color in cultures when I read about a people who considered white to be evil and black to be good in an anthropology class I took at Stanford. I cannot remember the specific people, but I recall that their skin color was dark, and their lifestyle portrayed in the book I was reading was primitive tribal.

Has Eberhardt’s study been expanded to include how other groups react to the same kinds of tests? One of the silliest prejudicial battles I have observed in my lifetime is the one between Irish Catholics and Protestants, which, as with the various Muslim sects, revolves around beliefs and not race. Nonetheless, a serious hatred exists between groups like this. There are sects within sects, and tribes of the same sect that hate each other. We should not forget the many hatreds that exist between Asian countries, and in the Balkans. The list goes on and on.

Would [Eberhardt’s] tests produce similar results among these contending groups? I suspect that they would, my theory being that humans appear to divide themselves into identifiable groups, possibly mimicking the tribes we all started from, as a way of protecting ourselves and our turf. Expanding this research to ferret this out might be very useful.

This is not to make excuses for racism, tribalism, sectism, etc., existing in what we consider the modern world, but to help understand what the problem really is: the human condition. And to ultimately provide solutions such as those Eberhardt is so diligently working on.
Bill Lorton, ’64
San Jose, California


Sin of Omission

As a licensed architect, I was pleased to see the dramatic design of the new McMurtry Building that has begun serving as a stimulating campus arts-district hub for the practice and study of a variety of arts (“McMurtry Dazzles,” Farm Report, September/October). However, I was deeply disappointed that you failed to include the name of the architectural firm that created this exceptional piece of work. Nearly every major newspaper and periodical follows a tradition of listing the names of those to be credited with notable architectural design, much as a major painting is always identified by its artist. Stanford should follow this tradition as well.

For the record, the McMurtry was designed by the New York based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, while executive architect functions were provided by Boora Architects of Portland, Ore. 
James E. Ellison, ’61
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware


Game On

As a resident of Sacramento I cannot attend the football games this year due to the late-night start times (“Star Burst,” Farm Report, September/October). On the East Coast, people must lose a lot of sleep to watch. I do enjoy the 7:30 PST start times. It is wonderful watching the success of the team. I hope that success continues for Shaw’s Midnight Marauders!
Robert West, ’61, MBA ’70
Sacramento, California


Hot Topic

What a pleasure to read Martin Hertzberg’s letter in the September/October issue (“Divestment Won’t Affect Climate”) amidst all the mindless and fanatical climate-think that permeates even academic institutions where facts, reason and common sense are supposed to prevail.

Our planet has been around for 4.6 billion years. Regarding the climate, nothing is occurring that hasn’t occurred many, many times before. Our climate is not warmer than ever before, and it is not warming more rapidly than ever before. Sea levels are not higher than ever before, and they are not rising more rapidly than ever before, Atmospheric carbon dioxide is not higher than ever before (not even close!), and it is not increasing more rapidly than ever before.

The Earth’s climate has always been in a state of flux, and it always will be. Get used to it. Stop whining. Man up to an immutable law of species survival: Adapt or perish.
Walt Kimball, ’67
Palo Alto, California

In “Divestment Won’t Affect Climate,” the letter writer first pedantically reminds us of all the basic physical ingredients of our Earth’s atmosphere and its laws of operation. Nothing to disagree with there. But then comes a classic hand-waving zinger: 0.04 percent carbon dioxide is such a minor constituent that it is “absurd” that it would play a major role. This sounds as if the writer is totally unaware of the role of greenhouse gases, which is quite a feat for the year 2015. I suspect that the only way to achieve such a level of ignorance is willfully.
Donald E. Hall, MS ’64, PhD ’67
Sacramento, California

The letter from Martin Hertzberg counters the 97 percent consensus of 12,000 peer-reviewed papers published between 1991 and 2011 that conclude that humans are causing global warming with “ . . . the commonsense conclusion that weather and climate are controlled by natural laws on an enormous scale that dwarfs human activity.” Common sense tells us the sun revolves around the Earth and water is what you should throw on an oil fire. It is also a pitiful argument from someone with a Stanford PhD.
Charles Bragg Jr., ’67
Pacific Palisades, California

I am disappointed that Stanford published Martin Hertzberg’s letter without comment. The final paragraph asserts that it is absurd to assert that “a minor constituent of the atmosphere [400 ppm of CO2] can control the above forces and motions.” To my knowledge, no one is claiming that CO2 is causing perturbations in the Earth’s orbit, fluid motions in the oceans or volcanic activity. This is not the argument that is made linking CO2 to climate change.

He asserts that the amount of CO2 is too minor to have effect flies in the face of many phenomena that surround us that are caused by minuscule amounts of molecules, even compared to CO2. Take, for example, the parts per billion of phosphorous added to silicon in the manufacture of billions upon billions of functioning transistors in integrated circuits. It is not the amount of the material, but the mechanism(s) by which it acts. Surely anyone with a PhD—from Stanford!—would know this.

The assertion that “there is not one iota of reliable evidence” that CO2 controls, among other things, the motion of the planet, is, at face value, true. But the wording of this sentence is not what I usually read from a scientist. One would expect a more measured statement and one that did not intentionally set up a straw man argument to decimate.

Sensing something amiss, I searched for more information about this letter’s writer. Perhaps this is Stanford’s intent—to have us rely on the great education we all received at the Farm to question authority, to do our own research, to have our antennae attuned to something that indicates there may be logical fallacies afoot. In that case, count this as a success by editorial omission! But wouldn’t it have been nice had the editors included something along the lines of what one would find in the New York Times in its letters to the editor section. That the writer is a professional skeptic of CO2-induced climate change; that, as far as I could tell, his theories about CO2/climate change have never been published in a peer-reviewed journal; that his assertions have been debunked many times by competent scientists. He is entitled to his view, he’s entitled to work out his own theories and publish them. But, shame on Stanford for providing him with a mouthpiece (a letter about an article on political activism, no less) without doing a little bit of editorial work, such as giving us a background of the writer or soliciting countering remarks from faculty who are well-informed on the topic at hand.
Steve Hamner, MS ’81
San Francisco, California


‘Shiny Awesomeness’

I loved your article on Airstreams, and it was timely because I just purchased a beautiful 1964 trailer (“Our Favorite Mobile Device,” July/August). It’s not an Airstream, but its shiny awesomeness was inspired by the Airstreams. My 11-year-old son, 10-year-old daughter, dog and I have found a new level of family life in this small space. When we are on the road, we find we need to team more than we ever thought possible. Everyone has to pitch in, everyone has to take turns, and we all have to support each other’s needs and desires. And in this small space, the world seems to get smaller and less complex. There is nothing to do but be fully present with each other. It becomes an intensified family time, with all the ups and downs and connections and struggles and learning that come from that. 
Alison McCauley, ’93, MA ’94
Oakland, California


California Back When

The short article “Mythbusting America’s West” (Farm Report, July/August) brings to mind Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s Two Years Before the Mast. Aside from the sometimes tedious description of sail handling aboard a trading brig on a voyage from Boston to California and back around Cape Horn, it provides a fascinating description of coastal California from San Diego to San Francisco in the mid 1830s, when the state was largely unsettled and the land was home to huge herds of cattle. San Francisco seemed to have only one house, and it rained continually while he was there. Dana returned to California, and his later editions of the book have an appendix titled “Twenty-Four Years After,” wherein he describes how things had changed dramatically due to the rapid influx of people moving west. The weather had also changed, an early indication of climate change, and travel had changed from sailing vessels to steam packets making regular runs along the coast. The cattle had mostly disappeared along with the trade in hides, horn and tallow.
Fred Camfield, MS ’64, PhD ’68
Vicksburg, Mississippi


On Activism

I was not in the least surprised that Stanford devoted its cover and feature article to hyping the student activists who decided to block a major traffic artery to protest the killing of Michael Brown (“Something Is Stirring,” May/June). Neither was I surprised by the negative responses in your Letters to the Editor section. Don’t these students realize that there are far easier targets for their activism than the police? Millions of Americans are ready to believe that every Palestinian freedom fighter killed by an Israeli soldier or policeman is a big teddy bear, this despite any video clips proving otherwise. There are millions of Americans willing to believe, despite legal testimony, that all brave Palestinian martyrs die with their hands in the air, begging “Don’t shoot.” If these Stanford activists are looking for praise in this magazine’s Letters section, they should be defending the peace-loving Palestinian people and attacking the Fourth Reich, fascist, Zionist Israel.
R. Roth, MA ’81
Jerusalem, Israel

Activism in Stanford takes many forms: subtle and active. I would like to share a story of the first kind relating to active faculty-student dialogue on issues of topical interest.

As a seven-year member of Stanford Speakers Bureau, I gave a brown bag lunch talk at Bechtel International Center on “Geo-Strategic Dynamics of Pakistan” in 1984. During the Q&A, a faculty member impugned that the country was diverting precious financial resources to its nuclear program instead of prioritizing national development. I answered briefly by explaining that Pakistan considered the investment in crucially needed nuclear deterrence as an investment in peace, given the mercurial history of territorial wars with a big neighbor seven times its size. The audience showed considerable interest in this subject, but because of time constraints I was not able to delve deeper. At the end of the lecture, a few faculty members approached me to have an in-depth discussion. The subject was attracting considerable international attention as, according to some reports, Pakistan had already crossed the nuclear weapons capability threshold. The faculty expressed their concern about the likely threat to international peace that would be posed by a nuclear weapons-capable Pakistan. Considering the level of their interest, we decided that they would come to my campus home for a detailed discussion in the afternoon. It turned out to be a fruitful and intellectually free dialogue. I argued that no nuclear-capable nation had shown irresponsibility in guarding the mass destruction technology. The responsibility of safeguarding the technology developed in the very process of acquiring the challenging capability. I contended that the pattern would remain unchanged even with nuclear Pakistan. I pointed out that the country had taken a front-door approach to acquiring related knowledge and had developed a large team of scientists who, given resources and opportunity, could succeed in developing nuclear weapons technology anywhere.

My wife generously served Pakistani snacks with hot sauces that made the evening socially enriching. We dispersed with a sense of relative understanding. 

Stanford followed the tradition of free intellectual dialogue within its community of faculty and students, and this evening was a microcosm. Institutions like Speakers Bureau, brown bag lunches, guest speakers, seminars and the Stanford Daily and others provided ample opportunities for exchange of views and opinions, mimicking a scaled- down version of America’s melting pot. 
Gulfaraz Ahmed, MS ’85, PhD ’90
Islamabad, Pakistan