Letters to the Editor

November/December 2007

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Letters to the Editor


The article “Mind Over Platter” (September/October) on the work of Brian Wansink says “just hoping to learn why we eat more M&Ms when they are sorted by color.” To me, sorting by color means that each group contains only one color. The pullout quote repeats the text, but the illustration shows a pile of variegated candies.

Time magazine (October 8, 2007) discusses the same research. The illustration shows one bowl of all red M&Ms and one bowl of red and blue M&Ms. The caption says “Multiple Choices. Not only do more options make us eat more but even the semblance of variety—more colors of M&Ms, for example—ups our intake.” That appears to be the direct opposite of what Barrett Sheridan wrote. How does he define sorting by color?

Virginia Braxton, ’55
Chicago, Illinois

Editor's Note: Wansink has done lots of M&M experiments, with colors sorted and assorted in many ways. We should have been clearer.

The wider the assortment of colors, the more people eat. Wansink has found that people eat more when presented with lots of choices—even if the choices are essentially identical, as with M&Ms whose colors all taste the same.


I enjoyed your current article describing the hidden discoveries of Archimedes (“Eureka!” September/October). I worked on my MA at Stanford in education in 1947-48. One of my projects was to write a series of five-minute talks entitled Their World, meant to be given at the beginning of a mathematics class for upper-level high school students or lower-division college students not majoring in math. I got the idea from my freshman math professor at Denison University. I was chairman of the math department at Newport Harbor High School and gave these talks during the 33 years I taught there.

My very first talk was on Archimedes, and it included not only what you wrote about, but also how he built cranes that could lift the Roman ships out of the water, using grappling irons, and dash them to pieces. Thus arose his boast, “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the world.”

Webster Jones, MA ’48
Costa Mesa, California


I will never forget seeing the Stanford Band for the first time at the 1973 Michigan game in Palo Alto (“They’re Back!” September/October). I am a Michigan native and rabid Wolverine fan. I recall only vaguely that we won the game. But my memories of the halftime show remain vivid. 

Even though I am a typically conservative Orange County lawyer, I truly appreciated the creativity and outrageous social irreverence displayed in that show, and in others that I have seen over the years. I am therefore disheartened by the patina of political correctness that the administration apparently wants to impose upon the Band.

Political correctness is the scourge of the modern university in America. It is also a growing threat to the First Amendment. Ironically, academia seems to embrace it as somehow supportive of the cherished goals of inclusion, tolerance and diversity.

In fact, political correctness is itself apolicy of exclusion. It is the antithesis of true and honest inclusion, tolerance, diversity and free expression. And it impedes the means of achieving these goals.

Reincarnating the Stanford Band as a hip but politically correct organ of expression is just another exclusionary brick in the wall of political correctness.When it comes to the Band, there should be only one policy: let ’er rip.

Greg Hatton
Newport Beach, California


I have to commend the Stanford School of Education (“Learning from Experience,” September/October). As a former secondary educator, I witnessed grave disparities amongst at-risk youth. My commitment to this group afforded opportunities to partner with state and local government officials, the U.S. Department of Labor, concerned parents and charter school advocates.

I will briefly explain my dilemma. I was an English instructor for Job Corps. I had the responsibility of educating 14- to 22-year-olds toward completion of a trade and GED. In theory, the program worked. It provided a grassroots approach toward developing employment opportunities in urban communities.

However, the students sat in classrooms without instruction, did not learn a trade, and the curriculum was outdated [with] no scholastic or technological contingencies since the 1970s. Hence, I resolved the logistical issues and then became a curriculum developer.

I was removed from the classroom to facilitate training throughout the 50 states. My colleagues were far removed from this process. They had not undergone a “new” process in the 40-plus-year lifetime of the Job Corps program. I continued to persevere.

In this effort, I went back to UC-Santa Cruz and gained insight on educational policy throughout the United States and Europe. I am happy to say that my students are college graduates and working in their various trades. Education is such a complement of life. The Stanford School of Education is definitely preparing its students for advocacy in educational leadership. Kudos!

Ayeesha Pitchford
Watsonville, California

After reading the article on the School of Education and looking at the pictures, I was moved to wonder: “Are there any men enrolled at the school? Is this one of the not-so-subtle female-dominant fields where men are the excluded populations?”

I’m a high school English teacher, pondering retirement or going back to graduate school. I’d be afraid to apply to the School of Education after reading this article, and that’s despite being an African-American.

Michael Fuller, ’72
Richmond, California


I strongly suspect that Chris Scott’s choice of the word “radical” to describe the Catholic view on stem cell research was not meant as a compliment (“Clinical Trials Raise New Concerns,” Farm Report, September/October). But is a radical respect for human life a bad thing? The pivotal ethical question for stem cell research is whether the human embryo is a human being. If an embryo is a human person, the moral options for potential research would, for most, be either nonexistent or very limited. Any utilitarian arguments for the use of human embryos would be self-defeating, since lives would be sacrificed to achieve such an end. An appeal to Immanuel Kant would also offer no help. In Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant advises that one “act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.” We must think before we act, not simply to justify actions already taken. Respecting the humanity of the embryo hardly sounds radical to me.

Richard B. Hesla, MD ’80
Portland, Oregon

Paul Dankoski’s eloquent letter (“Stem Cell Plea,” Letters, September/October) follows an important exchange in regard to Professor Zimbardo’s famous Prison Experiment (“Regarding Zimbardo,” Letters, September/October). Though at first the two topics may seem unconnected, when I later read Professor Reijo Pera giving recognition to the uniqueness of a developing human life (“Stanford Opens Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lab,” Farm Report, September/October)—which all medically educated individuals must recognize—then freely partaking in a perceived right to experiment on those same individuals at their earliest stage of existence, I find a disturbing parallel. Are these embryonic stem cell researchers different from Zimbardo’s “good guards”? They want to do this research for the perceived benefit of humanity, yet they possess an utterly absolute control over the microscopic lives in their charge. What effect does that have on them—and all of us—over time? Will they be able to face up to the “bad guards” when the time comes? History gives us no reason to trust where our desire for power over life itself will take us, and when the slippery-slope horrors start to emerge, as history suggests they inevitably will, will the good guards be willing or able to intervene?

Zimbardo’s noble acceptance of the critique that his use of “lobbyists from Israel” could be construed as anti-Semitic, and the apology offered, should also raise a related question for cell biologist Chris Scott, who helps scientists interested in defending embryonic stem cell research to answer, “I do understand the radical Catholic position, but here’s a rebuttal to that.” Why the association of a disagreement with embryonic stem cell research, which has a very broad base as an ethical concern, with “radical” and “Catholic”? This verbal marginalization of the opposition, so as to discredit them, is a classic propaganda weapon (hopefully unintended), but the isolation of a specific religion as the focus of the marginalization is every bit as inappropriate as the comment which elicited Zimbardo’s apology. I would hope a similar apology is as forthcoming from Scott.

James J. McMillan, ’86
Bellevue, Washington


The article “Student-athletes and Mental Health” (Farm Report, September/October) brought back some old memories. In the early ’50s, I was a polo player at Stanford. One day I was practicing on the polo field by myself, when I turned my horse too sharply. It fell over and landed on top of me. I broke a couple of ribs, but the thing I still remember best is that I was in a near panic, as I thought the horse, which was kicking its legs wildly to regain its stance, was going to kick me in the head. After being tightly bandaged around the chest for a week or two, I finally returned to normal.

However, several months later when crossing Galvez Street on the way back to the barn, I was thrown from my horse, my helmet flew off and I lit on the pavement, landing on the back of my head. I was nearly knocked unconscious. It eventually stopped hurting, but to this day, nearly 60 years later, I still worry sometimes over whether I regained all of my mental faculties. I wish they had had a program like [the one] Katie Steiner [proposes] in those days.

Jim Davis, ’52
Sunnyvale, California


In “Should Stanford Expand the Freshman Class?” President Hennessy argues yes, applications keep rising and we are rejecting talented kids (President’s Column, September/October). Yet the federal Department of Education’s latest stats show the number of U.S. high school graduates will peak in 2008 and decline from that point forward. Since the application surge felt by Hennessy in his seven-year tenure is largely due to the demographic bulge of baby boomers’ kids working their way through the population, why expand after the pig is already through the python? Two theories: 1) with class expansion plans underway at Yale, Princeton and Chicago, Stanford needs to defend market share; 2) the additional spots are in fact tagged for increased international admits.

John Wilen, MBA ’84
Dallas, Texas

I was surprised to see President Hennessy arguing, “I believe expanding the size of the undergraduate population would be both a practical and principled response to current realities.”

I always believed that one of the most attractive aspects of Stanford was its medium size—6,500 undergraduates. Stanford is a place where you can truly get to know a lot of students and feel connected to your class. With freshman students spread out over two miles, from Wilbur to Governor’s Corner, I think adding any more students would pose problems for class cohesion. If the freshman class is larger, the chance of students from Branner and Lagunita meeting will be smaller, to the detriment of class spirit.

I wonder whether President Hennessy is considering this move at least partially due the recent moves by Princeton and Yale to increase their class sizes—both of which will still be smaller than Stanford’s after implementation. While competing for the top students across the country should remain Stanford’s top priority in college admissions, I remain confident that Stanford can compete—and win—with our current class size.

Stuart B. Baimel, ’09
Stanford, California


I was sorry you chose to publish Julie Doherty’s piece (“Me Talk Pretty One Día,” End Note, September/October). In rejecting the wonderful and widely coveted gift of a bachelor’s degree from Stanford for the utterly trivial reason that she didn’t want to take foreign language courses, Ms. Doherty reveals herself to be unworthy of the esteem that such a degree confers. Her article had the tone of a spoiled child who rejects a banana split because she doesn’t like the cherry on top.

I hope you’ll publish more substantial pieces in coming issues. Ms. Doherty’s piece reeked of privilege and entitlement. It’s a tremendous luxury to reject something as significant as a bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university when others don’t even have the possibility of getting a high-quality education.

Bill McClanahan, MA ’96
San Francisco, California


I rise to the bait offered by Frederick Mendelsohn and Rick Blumsack objecting to part of Professor Zimbardo’s interview in the May/June magazine (“Regarding Zimbardo,” Letters, September/October). Gentlemen, could we have a little perspective, please? I remember a course in Religion and Literature where the professor (Deity help me, I can’t remember his name) said, “Not every bare tree is the True Cross.” Professor Zimbardo’s remark was made “live,” in an interview. It seems to be a true statement. To attack it as anti-Semitic dilutes the term to the point of meaninglessness. To support the argument with hyperbole and, dare I say it, illogic, suggests that the argument is fatally flawed.

A million people have died in this war. Enough with the kvetching.

Charles Bragg Jr., ’67
Pacific Palisades, California

In his response to several critical letters, Professor Zimbardo describes me as a “good guard”, but apparently a bad student (albeit good enough to graduate from Stanford). He criticizes me for not confronting or intervening against actions taken by another guard on my shift. Further he quotes fragments from my notes regarding one of the prisoners.

Since I witnessed no physical violence or specific incident that crossed the line of prison guard malfeasance during the day shift of the experiment, what position was I in to judge and intervene against the actions of others? In our daily lives we all witness bad behavior exhibited by others around us; does Professor Zimbardo really expect that a “hero” would intervene in every instance, and if not, where would he have us draw the line? As an anthropology major, my edited notes on prisoner No. 3 were just what would be expected: observations, not value judgments. To somehow extrapolate this passivity (“evil of inaction”) on my part to that which existed during the times of the Nazis would be offensive to me even if my family were not of Jewish heritage.

Rather than the subjects having been attracted to the experiment due to a predisposition of aggressiveness, as has been speculated by some outside observers, I was hoping to be chosen as a prisoner. Nonetheless, when I was designated a guard I accepted my assigned role and performed my duties to the best of my abilities.

I feel that Professor Zimbardo and the prison leadership established an environment where prisoner abuse was to be expected. The prisoners wore sheer smocks without underwear and women’s nylon stockings on their heads in an institutional statement of degradation that exceeded that of most real prisons. The guards were instructed to wear dark glasses and militaristic uniforms that created an authoritarian atmosphere and made eye contact or other more intimate and humane interactions with our peers on the other side of the bars difficult, if not impossible.

The student prisoners were housed in a basement without access to daylight 24 hours a day. Frequent prisoner counts were permitted, if not originally encouraged by the prison warden, and became so common that the student prisoners could no longer even get adequate sleep. I believe the physical conditions as laid out by Professor Zimbardo, either intentionally or inadvertently, created an accelerated breakdown of the prisoners’ orientation and senses. That was furthered by sleep deprivation, leading to a vicious cycle of misbehavior only to be met by increased guard discipline. To my mind, much like Donald Rumsfeld and the generals in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, if one creates the conditions to maximize abusive behavior by guards it is hard to later claim innocence.

To the best of my knowledge, prison warden Zimbardo never instructed us to adhere to any norms of guard behavior as even regular prison guards would. And even the described actions of the most abusive guard during the night shift must be taken in proper context. This guard was a friend and high school classmate of mine who was a serious drama student. Certainly some degree of his “Cool Hand Luke” style of abusive behavior was role playing that needed to be taken into account.

With regard to speaking out against the actions of others, I did speak up during the guard debriefing when we were told that we would receive a bonus of $25 or $30 over the $90 ($15 a day) we earned for the six-day experiment. I protested that if anyone received a bonus it should be the prisoners, who were there 24 hours a day, were poorly fed (while we got special treats) and received all the harassment.

After I made this statement I tried to leave the room through a door that turned out to lead to the other side of a one-way mirror where we were being observed by the prisoners. This was a total shock, and once again I felt that warden Zimbardo and the prison establishment were acting with underhandedness as they continued to pit the guards against the prisoners even after the experiment was over. I still wonder why there was never a combined prisoner and guard debriefing to discuss the feelings that we all shared during this common experience.

While I may have been a “bad student” then, today I am a concerned citizen who is greatly disturbed about the serious damage done to our national image by the abusive actions at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Professor Zimbardo has testified that prison conditions and administrative direction can lead to these abuses. He seems to have learned this lesson from his own experience as warden of the Stanford prison experiment.

If this is indeed the case, then I commend him.

John Mark, ’73
Sausalito, California

I never expected to see it in Letters to Stanford, but there it was, the Dismal Ritual, played as perfectly as any Greek drama. Perhaps not tragedy, perhaps farce, but it’s playing as well at Barnard, Columbia and DePaul, even in a New York public school named after Khalil Gibran. A crying shame to see it at Stanford, even in abbreviated form.

Back in the day, the Dismal Ritual was played against the klieg lights of Senate hearing rooms, the bright blink of flash bulbs in a courtroom. Back then, the charge was that you were a Red or a Fellow Traveler or a Dupe. You were accused because you actually were a Red, or maybe you weren’t, but you supported civil rights or did not support our foreign policy or had commented that college students might well take a look at the writings of Karl Marx. Once named, there was the blacklist, financial ruin, perhaps jail. Of course, there was a way out. There’s always a way out. The actor Larry Parks pleaded with Congress not to force him to take it. “Please don’t make me crawl through the mud,” he begged. Needless to say, they did.

There was even a ruthless foreign lobby to be feared. The China lobby—little China, that is, that tiny island off the coast of the very big China, roughly twice the square miles of . . . oh, let’s say, Israel. Cross them and it was the klieg lights for sure. They were backed to the hilt by the Luce empire; the Republican Party was a wholly owned subsidiary; Congress sat in their pocket.

We no longer persecute our Reds, there’s too few left. Call someone a Fellow Traveler and you’re likely to get a puzzled look. But, nonetheless, try repeating what Phil Zimbardo said in his interview with Marina Krakovsky. Repeat prominently, “Lobbyists from Israel,” then imply that they do exactly what they are paid to do, what has been documented ad infinitum, what they openly brag they do so well, which is mold American policy to fit the needs of Israel—no matter what. Just like the China lobby.

Then wait for the likes of Frederick Mendelsohn and Rick Blumsack, if not, heaven forbid, Alan Dershowitz or Abraham Foxman, or any of the other attack dogs of the Israel First crowd. These days it’s “anti-Semite” instead of “Red,” but therein lie the same vile attacks, the same demand for ideological conformity.

Take Blumsack. For him Zimbardo is not merely mistaken, he’s a purveyor of “anti-Semitic canards,” a “David Duke,” a Ku Kluxer, and so are other unnamed Stanford professors. Z is “obsessively biased,” aiding “evil ideologies.” For him, Americans no longer have the right to be wrong or misspeak or to differ when it comes to Israel. One has only the right to bend correctly or be damned as an anti-Semite.

Then there is Mendelsohn. Despite his peremptory demurral that Jews like himself are often considered “too sensitive or not discriminating enough” to discern “true anti-Semitism,” he is neither sensitive nor discriminating but another equally blunt instrument.

The Fulbright Committee found more than 40 years ago that Israel was indeed illegally funding American lobbyists, thus bringing to light what Newsweek referred to at the time as “one of the most effective networks of foreign influence.” And while AIPAC is not registered as an agent of a foreign government (that says nothing as to whether it acts as one), the grain of Mendelsohn’s argument lies in his unspoken but inevitable conclusion that the interests of Israel and those of world Jewry, in particular American Jews, are one and the same.

Thus he leads us from Israel “does not send or pay lobbyists,” to AIPAC “not registered as a foreign agent” and “not funded by Israel but American Jews,” to another pairing of Israel and American Jews, then to a lone reference to “Jews,” and finally to the “shibboleth of Jewish money,” where Israel and its lobby depart the argument altogether, leaving only Jewish-Americans, thus revealed to be Zimbardo’s true target.

That Zimbardo had no such target and that Mendelsohn is asserting in defense of Zion a classic anti-Semitic trope goes without saying. Zionism and anti-Semitism have long been two sides of the same coin, for they both hold that the Jews must live apart. The sins of both have thus inevitably followed.

The final act belongs to Phil Zimbardo. Years ago I took a class from him, and more recently we argued briefly via e-mail concerning his prison experiment. I do not presume to know his mind, but I do say that to assume any anti-Semitism on his part, either by conviction or inadvertent statement, is disgraceful. That in his response he appears to play an assigned role is perhaps inevitable considering the climate of the times, if not somewhat ironic considering the context of the prison experiment. But I must say also that Larry Parks and others targeted during that long-ago day would find the form of his apologia all too familiar: the immediate avowal of loyalty, the earnest explanation of how such a careless slip of the tongue might have occurred, followed by expressions of profuse gratitude for being set on the right path by those who have just vilified one’s name. These were, and are now, the proscribed steps leading to return. All save one, of course, and that is the ritual of naming names. Let us hope it never again comes to that.

Griffin Fariello, ’73
San Francisco, California


I enjoyed Steven Wagner’s article on the Hollywood sign, but was surprised that the fact that the sign was replaced in 1978 was missed in the article (“Keeping His Word ,” July/August). It was not decades of graffiti when Chris Baumgart saw the sign, but 15 years.

From Wikipedia: “In 1978, the Chamber set out to replace the intensely deteriorated sign with a more permanent structure. Nine donors gave $27,700 apiece to sponsor replacement letters made of Australian steel, guaranteed to last for many years. . . . The new version of the sign was unveiled on Hollywood’s 75th anniversary, November 14, 1978, before a live television audience of 60 million people.”

Alan White
Royal Oak, Michigan


It is regrettable that you chose Regina Ip as a symbol of Hong Kong in this 10th anniversary year of its return to Chinese sovereignty and appalling that you called Ip “a force for democracy” (“Trading Places,” July/August). The U.S. equivalent would be to choose John Bolton as a national symbol and call him “a force for international cooperation.” Following her repudiation by the people of Hong Kong for doing Beijing’s bidding on the defeated draconian Article 23 anti-sedition law, Ip may have learned to talk the democratic talk at Stanford but there is no evidence that she is ready to walk the path to democracy for our city.

The article would be laughable, except that Ip, backed by Beijing and its Hong Kong cohorts who hope to delay universal suffrage for election of our chief executive and full legislative council indefinitely, is now running for legislative council. I am sure that she and her campaign will cite Stanford’s endorsement of her democratic credentials throughout the contest. A retraction and repudiation of your unfounded conclusions about Ip is in order.

Muhammad Cohen, MA ’84
Hong Kong


Playing the academic freedom card in defense of the faculty’s right to accept funding from “any source” strikes me as ethically shallow, self-serving and generally shabby behavior by Stanford’s community of scholars (“Ban Up in Smoke,” Farm Report, July/August). Am I to understand that there are no communal moral limits beyond which a faculty member would not be allowed to go in his or her search for research dollars? If so, then the faculty are telling me, in effect, that it really is okay to take funding from an industry whose leaders have lied to the public for decades and perjured themselves before Congress, all the while intentionally making their tobacco as addictive as possible and denying any responsibility for the deaths of millions upon millions of people who simply used the product as directed. The photograph accompanying your report, of a dollar bill wrapped around a cigarette, got it right, unlike the faculty. The next time I receive a request for a donation to the Stanford Fund, I think I’ll just forward it to Philip Morris corporate.

Joel S. Meister, ’62
Silver City, New Mexico
Professor Emeritus, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
University of Arizona

It seems to me that those faculty members who want to ban the University from accepting funding from tobacco companies to do research on tobacco are calling into question the integrity of their colleagues. Do they think the latter might be corrupted by the source of their funding? What would be their view if the funding came from government? It makes no sense.

The only other reason I can think of for the banners’ opposition to tobacco research is fearing the possibility that the results might find that the effects of smoking are not quite as dire as nearly everyone thinks.

Thomas Letchfield, ’49
Palo Alto, California

The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.


Your article “Stanford Opens Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lab” (Farm Report, September/October) is offensive in its one-sided approach and avoids discussing key aspects of this highly controversial issue.

It is offensive to describe the “ palpable sense of excitement” about what Reijo Pera and her lab of 15 researchers are doing at Stanford to those who deplore research that treats human beings as objects, discarded as medical waste, poured down the sink or experimented upon and strip-mined for their embryonic stem cells. Never mentioned are those who believe that human beings are never disposable, whether in the form of a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, a neonate, an infant, a child, an adolescent, a teenager, an adult or a 90-year-old man or woman. 

There is something macabre about defending this body of research by saying that the embryos they use would be discarded anyway. Basic embryology makes it clear that from fertilization, new human beings exist, separate from their father and mother, and they are entitled to human rights. The fact that these embryos were brought into the world by their parents and are not wanted, in no way minimizes their innate value. Each one of us started as an embryo and has value, which outweighs any utilitarian consideration.

A description of Pera as she “pauses, gazing out the window of her lab, which overlooks a beautiful rose garden and a flourishing vineyard beyond” during the interview is interesting. This attempt to normalize what is being done at Stanford University brings to mind the German people, who went about their business as normal as atrocities were committed in the concentration camps. Readers are told that Pera herself asks for “a sense of clarity about what is really being done”; however, rather than informing readers of the nature of embryonic stem cell research and how it differs from noncontroversial adult stem cell research, we are told it’s the “same type of mentality people had in the race to the moon.”

Stanford alumni deserve to know the truth. All forms of research using adult sources of stem cells, including umbilical cord blood and placental sources, should continue to be supported because there is respect for human dignity. Research obtained through the destruction of human beings is simply wrong.

Richard A. Lubin, MS ’80
Chandler, Arizona

What a relief to know that God (Chris Scott), Jesus (David Magnus) and the Virgin Mary (Renee A. Reijo Pera) are all alive and well at Stanford! I am also comforted to know that they have ordained secular saints like Mill and Kant to overcome “radical Catholics.” I guess those “radical Catholics” are about as pesky to the embryonic stem cell research folks as the Jews were to that lovable old Hitler and his secular saints of the Nazi party.

But what do I know, I’m just a plain old life-loving Presbyterian who will probably end up hiding some of those radical Catholics in my attic until they are freed by the peace-loving religious world that values human life. I’m going down to the supermarket to buy some extra food, see you at the next cross-burning reunion on campus.

David B. Geeting, ’62, MA ’64
Valencia, California


I write in response to President Hennessy’s column (“Should Stanford Expand the Freshman Class,” September/October). I am the proud parent of two recent Stanford alums; I am also a resident of the Bay Area. It is that interest which prompts me to write. Stanford, as an established institution in the Bay Area, cannot and should not propose any expansion of its facilities to accommodate more freshmen without the input of the Bay Area (especially Peninsula) residents. As is well known, the Peninsula region is a semi-arid region with limited resources. Any increase in freshman enrollment would increase the demand for water and sewage treatment, traffic, pollution, etc. For those reasons, I am opposed to increasing the freshman class at the Bay Area campus.

On the other hand, because Stanford has such an international presence, it is blessed with a unique opportunity to expand its overseas campuses. What better way to “globalize” the university than to enroll freshmen at its other campuses and make the Bay Area campus the “overseas” opportunity for those students? This would create a true international university. Stanford can lead the way in demonstrating that global expansion in the higher educational field is possible. 

Ronald Yin
Mountain View, California

I support President Hennessy’s proposal for a moderate increase in the freshman class. Stanford has the resources to extend its superb education to more of its talented applicants, and such an expansion will not threaten the nature of the Stanford experience.  It’s a win-win idea.

Carl Danner, ’80
Alamo, California

President Hennessy says the most difficult part of his job is “to explain to parents with gifted children why a son or daughter was denied admission.” That’s no surprise. [There is] a more serious problem: explaining to alumni with children and grandchildren why their progeny didn’t make the cut. Never mind all the usual blather about Stanford admitting only the most brilliant, talented, creative, intelligent and deserving individuals. An alumnus whose family member is “denied admission” doesn’t give a hoot about Hennessy’s goals of “a more global outlook as an institution” and improving “the quality of the interactions in which students and faculty engage.” They just want their child or grandchild to be admitted to their alma mater. If denied that wish, many take a vow of abstinence with regard to Stanford’s endowment fund. What Hennessy needs to do is figure out how to keep that negative reaction from occurring.

Here’s my suggestion. Admit all legacies, defined as children or grandchildren of graduates, who come close to meeting Stanford’s standards. How close? 85 to 90 percent of the normal SAT level, with one caveat. The freshman flunk-out ratio will rise from near-zero to a level that will reduce the sophomore class to its normal size. This might increase the freshman class by 2,000 or 3,000, but what’s the harm? Some legacies will attend Stanford for a year and choose to move on; at least they had a chance. Likewise, with 25 percent of the freshmen bound to flunk out, many borderline legacies will apply elsewhere; why attempt the impossible? A few might even graduate! In any event, the applicants and their families will be spared the lifelong sting of rejection.

This proposal is not without problems: additional housing, additional teachers, a possible lowering of Stanford’s cherished academic reputation, inevitable allegations of favoritism. But it’s a winner with regard to alumni relations. Or doesn’t that matter in this enlightened day and age?

Michael Lindeman, ’59
El Macero, California


In response to W.L. “Lanny” Prichard, in the September/October Just One Question (“What don’t you worry about?”), who thinks he no longer cares what people think of him, I would reply as follows:

Dear Doc Prichard,

Land sakes, honey lambs, are you tryin’ to put us on, or do you really not know you still care? Cuz your last paragraph gave you plum clean away. As an Oklahoma girl I learned that whenever you say “them’s fightin’ words” it means your little ole “How’m I doin’?” chain just got yanked real good. And it’s okay. Someday, maybe soon, you’ll just smile and let it go. Or not. To Life!

Alyson MacDonald Neils, ’66
Bainbridge Island, Washington


It was delightful to read Barbara Mckean Wyman’s appreciation of Professor Harold Schmidt (“An Everlasting Voice,” Unforgettable Teachers, July/August). Singing under his direction with the chorus, choir and the Stanford Chorale are certainly among the happiest of my Stanford memories. He found wonderful music for us and arranged opportunities to sing under other conductors, including (in addition to Pierre Monteux), William Steinberg, Darius Milhaud and Bruno Walter. When he wasn’t conducting, he added his own clarion tenor to the mix. After rehearsals, he would often give us lifts in the rumble seat of his Model A Ford, and, yes, I, too, babysat for the Schmidts, but I don’t recall being paid with symphony tickets. Some years later, when Bob and I were living in Cambridge, I sang with the Harvard Summer School Chorus and an associated small group. Thanks to Barbara for reviving all these pleasant memories! My idea of Heaven ever since would be perpetually to sing motets, chansons and madrigals with a choir of angels directed by Harold Schmidt.

Junetta Kemp Gillespie, ’52
Urbana, Illinois

Address letters to:

Letters to the Editor
Stanford magazine
Arrillaga Alumni Center
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Or fax to (650) 725-8676; or send us an e-mail. You may also submit your letter online. Letters may be edited for length, clarity and civility.

CORRECTION: The obituary of Richard C. Greulich, ‘49 (July/August), incorrectly named his former wife, Leonora Faye, as his first wife. His first wife was Betty Mitchell Ames. His survivors also include two sons, Rex Probe (formerly Christopher Brent Greulich) and Robert Brighten Skye (formerly Robert Curtice Greulich and Robert Mitchell Smith); four additional grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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