Letters to the Editor

The New President

I read the article about Marc Tessier-Lavigne (“A Leader in Full,” September/October) with great interest and, by the time I finished the article, considerable enthusiasm about an impressive scientist and educator. I was heartened to read that he feels a commitment to the humanities and social sciences as well as to the STEM curriculum.

As the proud possessor of a doctorate in American history from Stanford, I had become quite concerned about the seeming diminution in the valuation placed on the history department, as evidenced by the failure to replace certain retiring professors. When I entered the graduate program in the fall of 1970, I couldn’t believe how exciting most of my professors were. My first year I studied with four Pulitzer Prize winners: David Potter, Don Fehrenbacher, Carl Degler and David Kennedy, ’63. Quite simply, I had entered one of the premier history departments in the country, and all of us students, whether graduate or undergraduate, were fortunate indeed. Even the subsequent anxiety of studying for exams coupled with the stress of working on a dissertation haven’t darkened my memories of that time.

As the incoming president takes the pulse of the university, I hope he looks at the history of the many departments outside STEM that have brought glory to the Farm.
Glenna Matthews, MA ’71, PhD ’77
Laguna Beach, California

I read with rapt attention your article about Stanford’s new president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne. He certainly seems to have all the tickets necessary to be Stanford’s 11th president—solid academic background, important administrative experience, praise from many with whom he has worked and solid family values. He has big shoes to fill, but I believe he has the ability to fill them well.

One of his accomplishments at Rockefeller was to construct the River Campus, a huge laboratory building, which was to sit across the East River Drive. You mention some of the many obstacles he overcame in order to see this project to completion. Taking nothing away from your recounting or his ability to get this job done, I should point out that his neighbor, The New York Hospital, had much the same problem in the late 1990s. My friend the late David B. Skinner, MD, was its president and CEO, facing the problem of how to expand and modernize a great academic medical center in the heart of New York City. It was he who first thought about building across the East River Drive and went through the laborious process of getting this gargantuan task accomplished. You mention all the permits that were necessary to get the job done; David said that the most difficult permit to obtain was permission to close, however temporarily, the jogging path between the East River Drive and the East River. Well done, both!
James B. D. Mark, MD
Stanford, California

Thank you, Kevin Cool, for illustrating our good fortune that Marc Tessier-Lavigne is sacrificing an exemplary career in science and dedicating his leadership gifts to the field of advanced education in the world. How honored we are that he chose Stanford as his platform.
Richard M. Janopaul, ’53, JD ’55
Yukon, Oklahoma

Has Stanford ever had a president who wasn’t a white male? Would the powers that be ever consider appointing a black woman? Every other school that I have graduated from has people from minority groups who have run these institutions. Why can’t Stanford do likewise? To me this is pretty pathetic. What do other alumni think? Responses would be appreciated.
Richard Harrison, ’57
London, United Kingdom

You missed an opportunity to dissociate your magazine from the stereotypical coverage of women in the media while writing and editing “In a League of Her Own” (September/October), a sidebar interviewing neuroscientist Mary Hynes, the spouse of President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. You asked her, “How do you and Marc balance your working lives with the demands of family?” The accompanying profile of Tessier-Lavigne is a much longer piece, yet it offers no information as to how he might think he and Mary balance their working lives with the demands of family.
Paola Bonomo, MBA ’95
Milan, Italy

I love the magazine and it always makes me proud to be a Cardinal alum.

I am intrigued by our new president and greatly enjoyed the full article about him. I was also delighted to read that his wife is a distinguished professional and will be joining the Stanford faculty.

Why did a large portion of the article on Mary Hynes ask the most quintessentially sexist questions? Her husband’s article asked nothing of how he balances work and family, or how his wife’s campus job affects his own. Why then was this OK to ask of Hynes?

If one doesn’t see her professional accomplishments as sufficient (which they are!), better to omit rather than subject her to questions only asked of women—effectively taking away space for her to discuss her portfolio or inspire future scientists.

It is ironic that the article immediately following was about how Stanford has addressed sexism in its athletic program. We all rejoice when women are given full consideration as Stanford athletes. Let’s give Mary Hynes the same respect.  
Melodie Nicholes Holden, MS ’96
Sunnyvale, California

Glass Ceiling in the Gym 

I read with great interest the story by Kelli Anderson, ’84, on women’s athletics (“The Fight for Fair Play,” September/October). As a student and athlete in the early 1960s, I found Stanford to be infinitely more enlightened even then than my large public high school, which operated on the assumption that sweaty girls do not find husbands. Those of us who enjoyed sports found at least some opportunities for competition. I played “varsity” tennis and basketball for three years and loved it.

I do take issue with the unfair characterization of Pam Strathairn as manipulative and hidebound. Pam, ’45, MA ’49, EdD ’62, was a fierce advocate for more outlets for women interested in sports, and she spent an enormous amount of time herself coaching basketball and schlepping us all over the Bay Area to play. I knew her well enough to understand the frustrations she endured working with a minuscule budget and an indifferent, if not hostile, attitude by the administration. In fact, it is remarkable that Pam endured and was able to open up some new opportunities for us. In 1963, I played in the National Collegiate Tennis Championships in St. Louis, and Stanford paid my way.
Mary Campbell, ’63, MA ’66
Mill Valley, California

Wonderful article on women’s athletics at Stanford. However, you did not mention the accomplishments of Anne Quast, ’59. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Championship three times and came second three times. She won her first championship as a Stanford student in 1958. Her quest for a women’s golf team at that time was denied.
Don Thornburg, ’59
Bend, Oregon

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the article on the state of women’s athletics before (and even a little after) Title IX.  It brought back memories of struggles, disappointments and victories. I arrived at Stanford in 1975, fully expecting to continue my athletic career in college. Small towns in Iowa had long made a commitment to women’s sports with strong basketball, track and softball programs. This was not so much the case in larger towns and cities, which is where I found myself in high school. Those of us who wanted to compete did not have many options, although there was always cheerleading if you could win largely popularity-based tryouts. One girl in my high school tried out for the boys’ basketball team, but the environment was less than supportive and she managed only a couple of days before returning to cheerleading.

After Title IX, I left cheerleading and joined every competitive team my high school fielded. Finally excelling in track and field and making a mark in the hurdles and long jump, I had every expectation of competing for Stanford in those events. It was not to be, as I discovered soon after my arrival. There was a cross country team, but no track and field team, no sprints, no hurdles, no long jump. In a way, it might have been a bit of a relief. There would be no worries about being good enough to make the team or good enough to have some victories. I’d concentrate on my studies and that would be enough. But I missed the workouts and the comradery of a team and the competition. Intramurals, though fun, were not the same and did not claim much of my time.  

Stanford as a whole was not a disappointment, and I have felt very fortunate to have spent my undergraduate years there. Some women athletes today haven’t even heard of Title IX, and I guess that’s a sign of progress. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
Christal Jensen, ’79
San Carlos, California

I suspect that almost every woman athlete who attended Stanford before Title IX has a story to tell. I have always been intrigued by the story of tennis player Carol Hanks Aucamp, ’65, who won the intercollegiate doubles title while at Stanford and was selected for the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame. After her short time at Stanford, she returned to her hometown of St. Louis, where she graduated from Washington University.
I was an undergrad and can clearly remember her play: Washington University also lacked women’s sports teams, so she played 2/3 on the men’s team. Of the three top-10 ranked women who were then at WU (Hanks, Bricka, Eisel), only Hanks played on the men’s team.
David Tieman, PhD ’72
Niskayuna, New York

When I entered Stanford in 1971, I was one of three swimmers from the 1968 Olympic team to attend. I was the only one without a scholarship. Jim Gaughran, ’54, JD ’58 (men’s varsity coach), invited me to practice with the men at the Encina pool (which, as noted in the article, had men’s nude sunbathing in the bleachers). I swam in one dual meet and received a letter from the Pac-8 stating that women were not allowed to compete in the Pac-8. In preparation for the 1972 Olympic trials, I had intended to leave Stanford so I could train but decided to stay and drop the athletics since there was “no future” in athletics for women. I kept the letter from the Pac-8 as a memento but never would have considered fighting them. The women of today have a bright future, thanks to people like Billie Jean King who were willing to stand up and fight for equal footing. Title IX brought women’s sports to almost equal footing, but we still have some room to improve.
Victoria King, ’75
Penrose, Colorado

I really enjoyed reading your article about the women athletes and the Title IX breakthrough. It brought back a lot of very pleasant memories and encouraged me to reach out to a women’s basketball player of that era, Maggie Nelson, ’78. 

I was an assistant coach with the Stanford men’s teams in 1974-75. That was also the year that Stanford took Title IX seriously, “canned” the men’s JV team and replaced it with starting the task of taking the women’s basketball program to the next level. The first year that Stanford women practiced and played in Maples Pavilion was 1975-76. Your article mentioned the fall of 1976, but it was actually the fall of 1975. I was hired to be the assistant coach that year, and Gay Coburn remained as the head coach. It was an exciting season, and we had many good-to-outstanding players that year. It was just the beginning, and nothing like what Stanford is today—but we opened the door for the women’s basketball Maples journey.

Our league back then consisted of Hayward State, SF State, Humboldt State, Chico State, Santa Clara University and Stanford. We played each team twice (10 games total in league) and ended up 7-3 and in second place that year. We also played Cal, University of Nevada-Reno and San Jose State. We beat Cal and UNR, made the NCIAC playoffs and lost to UC-Davis in the first round. The women did not play in the Pac-8 for a few more years. The cost of admission for the first round of playoffs was 50 cents for students and $1 for others. 

That year, fans could walk into Maples at the beginning of the game and get any seat they wanted. I believe we pulled out only one section of the bleachers and they were practically empty. We got maybe 100 to 200 fans. There was no Band or cheerleaders—except for the three “preliminary games” that we played prior to the men’s varsity games. Toward the end of our games, fans, the Band and cheerleaders would start showing up for the men’s game, so we got a taste of what that excitement was all about. The packed house/Band/cheerleader thing for the women came years later. 

The players on that first team were Yvonne Waterman, ’76; Sonia Jarvis, Carol Power, both ’77; Onnie Killifer, Nancy Lovvold, Maggie Nelson, Lisa Kolp, all ’78; Stumpy O’Meara, ’78, MA ’79; Peggy Bruggman, Diana Dahlgren, Stephanie Galef, Sukie Jackson, Elaine Levin, Ruth Montague, all ’79; and Jan Cenedella, ’79, MS ’81. Maggie Nelson ended up competing to make the Olympic team that year—she didn’t make it but had the thrill of the attempt. The next year, 1976-77, was when Dotty McCrea arrived on the scene. She had a great group of women to work with. Scholarships were relatively new, and as they became more prominent, the caliber of women’s basketball leaped tremendously.
Ken Morgan, MA ’72
Palo Alto, California

I read your article with great interest, since I am one of the 2,200 female athletes who received her block S (for swimming in 1963) by mail in 1995. Looking through my 1963 Quad, I noticed 23 pages dedicated to men’s sports and three to women’s (including dance and tennis—so the women had a “chance to wear short skirts and show their legs,” and the WRA, an organization which provided basketballs to the women’s dorms, but no swim team). I did enjoy my time on the team, but it was certainly not the intense and focused membership that real sports enjoyed.

One of the reasons I was a serious competitive swimmer before college was my desire to go to the Olympics and see Rome. I did end up going to Rome as a member of my Stanford in Germany group, and, in contrast to reports back from swimmers who competed, I thoroughly enjoyed the food, culture, etc., without all the physical and mental discipline needed when swimming in the Olympics. I don’t know if it was ironic justice, but our son swam competitively and had a full ride to Iowa State University when the men’s program was cut after his sophomore year due to Title IX. 

Just like Allyn Price Taylor, ’72, who was cited in your article, I enjoy the reverential response when I tell people I received my letter in swimming from Stanford, and with a slight pause, I add: “and I was captain too.” So glad to see how things have changed.
Judy Mucha-Jimenez, ’63
Orchard Park, New York

Whither Objectivity?

In “The Ethics of Election Coverage” (Farm Report, September/October), Professor Theodore Glasser proposes a new regulative ideal to replace the long-standing journalistic goal of “objectivity” in news reportage.

Glasser notes that “there are no finally ‘correct’ or ‘accurate’ accounts of the world; all descriptions are interpretations in the sense that everything can be redescribed.” In what he calls a misappropriation of Ken Burns’s definition of history, he writes that news is not “‘a fixed thing . . . but . . . a mysterious and malleable thing, constantly changing, not just as new information emerges, but as our own interests, emotions and inclinations change.’”

Isn’t that what the op-ed and editorial page columnists have been doing for many years? It is exactly what Edward R. Murrow was doing in his wonderful evisceration of Joseph McCarthy.

Objectivity in news reporting does and should matter. It is an ideal approximation to which journalists should always strive. I hope the Stanford School of Journalism continues to use objectivity as a regulative standard for its students even as many move on to use social media as their distribution platform.
Dan Gold, ’57
Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

Theodore Glasser, who is better at double-talk than Laurel and Hardy, indicates objectivity in news reporting is a “co-conspirator” to such characteristics as “detachment, disinterestedness.” He believes, it seems, that responsible reporting must be editorialized. That’s probably because most of us Americans are too dumb to handle or interpret facts.

A decade or more ago I dumped Time, U.S. News and World Report and the New York Times after years of subscribing. Now I just read the Economist. Those silly folks report a lot of facts, and when they editorialize, they tell you. Imagine how careless, lazy and naive!
Tom Isola, ’65, MBA ’68
Malvern, Pennsylvania

I was astonished to read in Theodore Glasser’s entertaining essay that at some time in the past the press was “steeped in the virtues of impartiality and objectivity.”
Lisa Volckhausen McCann, MA ’65
Redding Ridge, Connecticut

In his criticism of election coverage, Theodore Glasser claims “objective reporting has handicapped American journalism.” He concludes that journalists would better serve the public by sacrificing objectivity according to how their “own interests, emotions and inclinations change.” I view such paternalistic liberalism as a treacherous slippery slope. How would Glasser like it if, one day, the facts didn’t matter at all? Where do you draw the line?
Eugene Tatum, ’78
Bowling Green, Kentucky

Bracero Memories

It was 1969 again, and I could smell the musty basement of the old library (“To Be a Bracero: Seeing Beyond Abuses,” Farm Report, September/October). When I arrived at Stanford, I was assigned to a work/study job in the Special Collections Department. I spent many hours in the basement archives, and my strongest memories are of working on the Ernesto Galarza collection. Hailing from Tucson, Ariz., with its large Hispanic population, I felt a connection to the stories of people from Mexico.

As I sorted and read and noted and filed, I came to appreciate Galarza and his deep concern for the abuse of the workers “imported” from Mexico. He worked tirelessly in opposition to the bracero program, and was also instrumental in the formation of La Raza Unida and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). He exposed poor working conditions and negligence by those who hired the braceros, but was unable to form a strong union to champion the workers’ cause. The labor supply was almost infinite, so he had no leverage.

I was happy to read another side of the bracero story, hailing the program for supporting the upward mobility of the children of the bracero workers. Galarza could not have known this potentially positive result back in the ’60s and ’70s, but I have to believe he would be pleased there was a long-term upside for the families of some of those who worked in the bracero program.
Connie Marking, ’73
Tucson, Arizona

I was very interested in the article on braceros. I earned a PhD in Latin American Studies in 1959. My doctoral dissertation was “The Role of the Bracero in the Economic and Cultural Dynamics of Mexico, A Case Study of Chihuahua.” It was published by the Hispanic Society at Stanford in 1959. 

I share Ornelas’s opinion that there were abuses in the bracero program but that the good that came out of the program overshadowed these abuses. I have spent a great part of my life in Mexico and have talked to many ex-braceros who have shared positive experiences of their lives as braceros.

Kristine Navarro was the director of the Institute of Oral History at the University of Texas-El Paso. She told me that they interviewed everybody that had anything to do with the bracero program, including braceros, farmers, Labor Department employees and Mexican government employees. All of them regarded the bracero program in a positive light.

I feel that it was unfortunate that the bracero program was canceled in 1964. This is the primary cause of the fact that we now have 11 million illegal immigrants in this country. There were abuses in the program, but they could easily have been corrected.

My wife, Nancy Tout, ’54, MA ’59 (Spanish) and I both have fond memories of our time at Stanford. We first met when attending a Latin American literature class taught by Juan B. Rael, PhD ’37. I wrote on Mexico for the Hispanic American Report, published monthly. We both feel that Stanford gave us excellent preparation for lives spent working and visiting in the many countries of the Hispanic world.
Richard H. Hancock, PhD ’59
Norman, Oklahoma

Voting Vexations

I would like to take issue with some of the statements made in the interesting short pieces by Jack Rakove and Michael M. McConnell (“Should We Abolish the Electoral College?” Farm Report, September/October).

Professor Rakove argues that the electors, rather than thoughtful people who are better qualified than the general public to select a president, are “simply party loyalists who do not deliberate about anything more than where to eat lunch.” That’s true of the college as it now works, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Electors can be chosen proportionately within a state, and they can be chosen from a group of knowledgeable people—say, the state legislators and other officials. That said, I realize that the chances of changing the current system of choosing electors are minuscule.

Professor McConnell’s statement concerning the number of presidents who did not receive a majority of the popular vote is incorrect as it stands. A look at information provided by Wikipedia shows that 18 out of the 48 elections held since 1824, when popular vote totals were first recorded, were won by candidates who received the votes of less than half of the people voting. What McConnell should have said (and probably meant to say) is that three presidents were elected who did not receive either a majority or a plurality of the popular vote. In nearly a third of our presidential elections for which we have the records, no one received a majority because of votes going to more than two candidates. Presidents so chosen include such consequential figures as James K. Polk (1844, 49.54 percent), Abraham Lincoln (1860, 39.65 percent), Woodrow Wilson (1912, 41.84 percent), Harry S. Truman (1948, 49.55 percent), John F. Kennedy (1960, 49.72 percent), Richard Nixon (1968, 43.42 percent) and William Clinton (1992, 43.01 percent, and 1996, 49.23 percent). 

Those who, like Rakove, advocate a national popular election should say how they would deal with this situation. Do you simply drop low-polling candidates and split their votes proportionately among the two leaders? Do you limit the election to the top two candidates in the polls at the time of the ballot preparation? Do you hold a runoff of the top two vote-getters? And what if the second- and third-place candidates were nearly tied, and the loser asked for a national recount?

I like McConnell’s idea of changing the way the major parties select their candidates, which would de-emphasize the impact of the primaries and increase the influence of the party establishments. Ironically, it is the Democrats, who bill themselves as the party of the people, who now have superdelegates chosen by party officials and not subject to a vote. But sometimes “Throw the rascals out!” is the right thing to do. And it seems likely that a caucus of Democratic politicians would also have selected Hillary Clinton, just as the primary voters did. There don’t seem to be any perfect solutions.
Frederick P. Boynton III, MS ’59
La Jolla, California

Thank you for the discussion. I am inclined to agree more with Professor McConnell, partly because I fear direct democracy—voted on any initiatives lately?—but also because amending the Constitution is too difficult to attempt for what has been a relatively small problem.

Rather than change the things that would require revamping Amendment XII, let’s look at those that can be accomplished within its confines: Require the states to select one elector by each congressional district plus two electors chosen at large. This would mean that at least some of the Republicans in California and some of the Democrats in Texas would have a meaningful voice. It would blur, if not erase, the pattern of battleground and safe states.

If the policy of “top two” elections works as well in California as its proponents promised, then apply it to a national presidential primary, with the electors then limited to choosing among the top performers in that primary (possibly, but not necessarily limited to two).
Richard Gorin, MA ’74
San Diego, California

Law professor Michael W. McConnell contends that the present electoral college can be “changed” (he may mean “abolition” or a change of some kind to the Constitution) only by the laborious process of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Actually, the process to change the workings of the electoral college is hiding in plain sight in the very constitutional article that created the college. The article provides in part as follows: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress. . . .” (Article II, second provision; emphasis added).

Two good examples of such state independence and discretion regarding electors’ voting behaviors are Maine and Nebraska. Their electors are required to vote when the college convenes in accordance with the popular vote winner in each congressional district in their respective states, and the two “senatorial votes” are awarded by the statewide popular vote in each. Thus, a somewhat proportional electoral outcome is achieved rather than the winner-take-all systems of the other 48 states.

A movement called National Popular Vote has proposed model state legislation, which provides that state-appointed electors shall vote for the winner of the total national popular vote (all states plus the District of Columbia), with the legislation automatically taking effect only when enough states totaling 270 electoral votes (the minimum amount needed to elect the president) have enacted such model legislation. Their website notes that 11 states totaling 165 electoral votes have already done so and are simply waiting for states totaling 105 more electoral votes to join them. We would then have a national popular vote. On August 8, 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed that model legislation into law, making California the eighth state to adopt it, and on January 13, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice cleared the National Popular Vote bill under the federal Voting Rights Act.

California traditionally votes overwhelmingly for the Democratic presidential candidate. Indeed, that candidate darts to California mainly for fund-raising. The Republican candidate seemingly visits even less, and each Republican vote cast in California usually ends up counting not at all in the presidential election under California’s present winner-take-all system. Under the model legislation, Republican votes cast in California would be counted in the national tally and thus any vote cast anywhere would matter equally in determining the outcome of the presidential race.

Presto! All this occurs without a constitutional amendment and without changing the electoral mechanisms of all 50 states. The ball is well past midfield. When a few states totaling 105 more electoral votes join the present 11, we will (1) have a commonsense way of electing our president, (2) eliminate the phenomenon of only a very few “swing states” mattering in the national election, (3) reduce the disproportionate federal largesse those “swing states” receive between elections and (4) probably never again have to witness the Monty Python-like silliness of microscopic examinations of Florida’s hanging chads (a “swing state,” it so happens).

Visit their scholarly and helpful website at NationalPopularVote.com.
James K. Eckmann, JD ’65
Del Mar, California

I agree with Professor McConnell that we should not abolish the electoral college, but for different reasons. Constitutional framers did not trust the individual members of the citizenry to elect either the president or senators to Congress by direct vote.

Article 1, Section 3 in the original Constitution noted: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each State chosen by the legislature thereof . . .” —that was how the framers viewed democracy in the young republic. This was later overturned by the 17th Amendment in 1913, allowing for individuals to elect senators.

Abolishing the electoral college might appear to be more consistent with modern democratic principles. But I concur with the original constitutional beliefs that the public as a whole is too prone to demagoguery and needs a stopgap measure in electing a president. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom is one example of how the general public can, to its dismay and regret, be led astray. Our current presidential campaign is another reason uninformed individual judgment is suspect. If a majority of the public voted for Donald Trump—admittedly an unlikely prospect—a courageous electoral college could, and should, block his election altogether.
Don Sharpes, MA ’68
Scottsdale, Arizona

Old Chem

I thoroughly enjoyed the “Old Chem Lives Again” article and photos (Farm Report, September/October). But I was disappointed that you didn’t include a picture of the renovated result. I’m left wondering if any of the 39 chimneys survived. Perhaps you can find a spot in the next issue to showcase the building as it looks today.
Bruce Weber, MS ’67
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Editor’s note: The chimneys are gone. Photos of the new Sapp Center for Science Teaching and Learning can now be seen at the Stanford News Service website.

Pod Casting

I saw containers for coffee pods in Switzerland at several recycling centers (“Coffee Pods: A Happy Ending,” Farm Report, September/October). There must be a way to recycle the whole things, not just reusing, but I’m not sure.
Pam Gasser, MA ’69
Murphys, California

‘Dismayed Clamor’

I was surprised to see the volume of one-sided letters criticizing the Board of Trustees on [fossil fuel] divestment (“Dangerous Decision,” September/October). I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks they made the correct decision.
Warren Redlich, MA ’92
Boca Raton, Florida

I’d like to add my voice to the dismayed clamor regarding the Board of Trustees’ decision not to divest from fossil fuels, as it does not reflect the forward-thinking, bold and intellectually rigorous standards that exemplify a Stanford education. 

I am deeply grateful for my education at Stanford, and the tools and mentorship it gave me to pursue a life where I could most fully make a difference in the world. The commitment and intelligence I see my Stanford friends and other alumni applying as they tackle problems of all kinds make me certain that Stanford is doing a great job as an educational institution. When I think about the problems facing our world, climate change at the top of the list, I feel a cautious hope, knowing that there are so many caring, clear-thinking people out there working on them, and that there are institutions like Stanford raising the rigor and boldness of that work.

However, as I am choosing where to donate my money this year, I once again do not feel I can give to Stanford, knowing that the gift will be invested in an archaic, hypocritical portfolio. Instead, I’ll be giving to organizations that are leading us in solving climate problems.

It makes no sense to me that an institution as innovative and rigorous as Stanford would bother to do such a stellar job educating young people while actively working to destroy the planet they will inherit.
Becca Hall, ’03
Snoqualmie, Washington

Tree Queen Revealed

I can help with the Tree Queen ID (“Let Us Count the Ways,” Letters, September/October): Jo Alexis “Lexi” Dickerson (now Tejeda), ’78 (me). Ironically, I became a landscape architect later in life, although I did not graduate from Stanford, leaving after two years.

I was a friend of the Band, and they asked me to pose as the Tree Queen. I made the long red dress. I don’t recall who made the sash and “crown” of branches. It was a pretty good joke, not only about the mascot flap, but also a jibe at Cal homecoming.

Some time after, my friend Carolyn Chooljian, ’78, who became an emergency physician, surprised me with a photo showing me being carried on the throne. (I think one of my qualifications was that I weigh only about 105 pounds!)

Thanks for the memory, Carolyn, the Band and Stanford.
Lexi Tejeda, ’78
Las Vegas, Nevada

Shared Humanity

I was touched by the last item in the 1967 Class Notes (September/October) from Roberta Payne, about her long struggles with schizophrenia, which “took over . . . most of my adult life.” A rare admission for Class Notes. One of the problems of a place like Stanford is that there are so many success stories, so many superachievers whom we naturally celebrate that we overlook the goodness in more “ordinary” but intensely worthwhile and beautiful lives. And certainly we don’t often acknowledge the folks who struggle simply to achieve some measure of normalcy. I would be pleased if every issue of the magazine had something that reminded us all of our shared humanity, from the most humble to the superstar.
Leah Knapp Hair, ’68
Seattle, Washington

Another Up-and-Comer

Jewel played the Coffee House at Stanford on two Tuesdays sometime in 1994 or early 1995 (“9 Big Names Who Played on the Farm Before They Were Famous,” July/August). Her big-break album came out shortly thereafter.
Rich Snyder, ’95
Falls Church, Virginia

California Needs Help Too

I read with interest Kristen Powers’s article “Carolina’s Blues” (Student Voice, July/August) because my daughter has also just returned from Stanford to North Carolina.

However, Kristen’s stated reasons for leaving California puzzled me. She wrote that she wanted to return home to address issues of racial division, gender equity, police violence, poverty and inequality.

Yet North Carolina enjoys substantially more racial integration among African-Americans and whites than California. North Carolina ranks in the top 10 states by this measure, while California lags in the middle third. North Carolina’s Hispanic community is also more integrated into the general population than California’s. 

North Carolina’s per-capita rate of hate crimes is 30 percent lower than California’s, including crimes against LGBTQ citizens. But California leads the way in police killings of civilians. Five of the 10 most dangerous such cities are in California. You were four times more likely to be killed by police in San Francisco than in Raleigh, N.C., in 2015.

Although California’s poverty rate is just 0.8 percent lower than North Carolina’s, its economic inequality is far greater. California is America’s seventh most unequal state, and the Bay Area is California’s most unequal region; North Carolina comes in at number 34. 

Kristen, North Carolina welcomes you and your generous heart. But if, as you say, you wish to make a home “not just for a select few, but for everyone,” then the Golden State is clearly in greater need of your ministrations.
David Wharton
Greensboro, North Carolina

Bob Olson’s response to Kristen Powers’s “Carolina’s Blues” is at turns disappointing and laughable (“Carolina Bound,” Letters, September/October). Olson admonishes Powers to “do [her] homework” and “learn from history” before he suggests that Martin Luther King Jr. changed “race relations in one speech” and that he did so “by persuasion, not confrontation.” Such a cartoonish view of the civil rights movement indicates that someone else has a thing or two to learn from history.

One might realize that (a) the movement was much larger than King (and his “one” speech!), and comprised a diverse range of activism and protest strategies; (b) the gains of the Modern Freedom Struggle (as Stanford’s own Clayborne Carson called it in his graduate seminar) came because activists sacrificed their bodies, lives and liberty (King himself was beaten, stabbed, jailed and murdered); and (c) King (in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”) explicitly called for direct action as a means to “create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community . . . is forced to confront the issue.” Yes, that’s confront, as in confrontation. The entire letter is a persuasive justification of the need for direct, nonviolent, take-to-the-streets confrontation.

Olson could do his own homework and read MLK’s letter. In it, King writes that the white moderate was often a greater obstacle than the Ku Klux Klan: “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” Kristen Powers has her work cut out for her, and, judging by much of the reaction to her essay, the work is as necessary as ever.
Bryon Williams, MLA ’09
Ligonier, Pennsylvania

Mapping a Memory

Imagine my surprise! I was leafing through my magazine a few days ago when I came upon “3 Cool Maps Housed at Stanford” (“17 Lists You’ve Never Seen Before,” July/August). There, in the lower right corner, was Vsevolod Nicouline’s 1938 map of Italy.

Wait—I know that map!

It took me a while, but I found a book—Il Tuo Paese (1941)—that my grandmother had. Right there, on one of the very first pages, was the exact same map. I used to pore over it as a small child in the 1950s.

The Italian Fascist government had decided that they might be able to capitalize on the sentiments that Italian-Americans (particularly immigrants) might hold for la patria, and thus conducted various programs in the ’30s and early ’40s concerning the Italian language, Italian cultural topics and geography/travelogue (thus Italgeo’s Il Tuo Paese).

Although nearly all my grandparents were truly immigrants, having come to the United States in the 1900 to 1910 period, the grandmother in question was actually born here (and, more remarkably, was a college graduate). As immigrants, my other grandparents were determined to show their American bona fides and steered clear of such efforts by the Fascist government.

But the grandmother who was born here had a typical second-generation longing to show her Italian bona fides and did attend such sessions, including the language programs. There they used a primer that clearly had a slant. 

Thank you for inspiring that little sojourn back into my childhood and into a chapter of American (and Italian-American) history that’s been lost.
Gavino Villapiano, Gr. ’78
Little Silver, New Jersey


In “Paris, 1739,” (Farm Report, September/October) the map of Paris was described as having 21 panels. In fact, it has 20; the 21st sheet is an index.