Letters to the Editor

September/October 2011

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Letters to the Editor

The Experiment

I thank the magazine's editors for arranging the retrospective, so effectively organized by Romesh Ratnesar, on the Stanford Prison Experiment ("The Menace Within," July/August). However, a few corrections are in order; some factual, others a matter of memory fallibility of participants in reconstructing what they think they did or imagining what they experienced. Our study began Sunday, August 14, 1971 (not August 17), and ended six days later on Friday, August 19. The riot at San Quentin Prison started on Saturday, August 20 (not during the Stanford Prison Experiment).

Prisoner Richard Yacco recalls being paroled on Thursday and told that the study was going to be terminated the next day. No prisoner was ever paroled by our Parole Board; Yacco, #1037, was released following his emotional breakdown that night, and the decision to end the study was not made by me until midnight after my dramatic interaction with Christina Maslach. Finally, in a letter on file that he asked me to send to his draft board (December 14, 1971), I testify that his "severe psychological disturbance" in our study qualifies Yacco as a poor risk for induction into military service.

Guard John Mark's reflections are more contentious given that they challenge the validity of our study, and are being used by some psychologists who prefer dispositional explanations of behavior change to our situationist ones. He claims being high on drugs throughout the study, but there is no evidence of that in any of his lucid audio taped interviews, or daily shift reports, or in any of our staff's recollections. (Our extensive files are being archived by Stanford's library.) Next, he claims that I used "forced sleep deprivation" as a tactic of prisoner control. He was on the morning shift, where prisoners did not sleep; rather they followed a standardized, prescribed, typed regime of meals, work, rest and recreation, and number count-offs at the start and end of that and all guard shifts. The counts, initially used to force prisoners to think of themselves as their assigned number not their given name, were used by night shift guards as occasions for extended torment—of their own doing.

Mark also asserts that I created tensions, and shaped the conclusion, of the study; however, he forgets that nothing happened on the first day when guards were allowed to get into their roles naturally, with no input from our staff. That changed on the morning of day 2 when the prisoners rebelled on his shift, and we told the guards that they had to deal with it in their own way, we would give them no directions—that was the start of the ever-escalating abuse of their "dangerous prisoners."

Finally, Mark recalls feeling sorry for the prisoners. That was never evident in any of his rejections of all parole requests, such as, "I don't feel he (#7258) is any more entitled to parole than any of the other prisoners, and I'm confident that the prisoner experience will have a healthy effect on his rather unruly by nature character." Also on that same day, August 18th, he says that Yacco, #1037, "has not yet reached a perfectly acceptable level," and so he recommended no parole.

Obviously, each participant encoded this unique experience differently at the time, and now four decades later their memory is being reconstructed in subjective narratives. That is why getting at the truth in our Pirandellian Prison requires the detached perspective provided by examining our 12 hours of videotapes, and more hours of transcribed audio interviews, along with detailed files on each participant developed during those days and nights in the dungeon of Jordan Hall. Some of those details are provided in four sources:;; Quiet Rage: the Stanford Prison Experiment (a documentary produced by Stanford student Ken Musen, '86) and my book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

Phil Zimbardo
Emeritus Professor
Principal investigator and superintendent of the Stanford Prison Experiment
San Francisco, California

The article should be required reading for all people in positions of power. I was in law school when the prison experiment story broke, and it helped me empathize when I was providing legal aid to prisoners at McNeil Island federal penitentiary in Washington State. I was berated by the warden for my efforts, a conversation I always wished I could have recorded. I was probably the only associate who brought a real bank robber (an ex-convict) to my law firm's "Bonnie and Clyde" party shortly after I graduated. I'm currently involved in a battle with my homeowners association leaders, who are abusing their power by locking up our community swimming beach and requiring swimmers to wear identification lanyards, so the effort to stay on the tolerant side continues.

Clydia J. Cuykendall, '71
Olympia, Washington

I am reminded of an observation made by Professor Lewis Spitz in an introductory modern European history class in the 1970s. He said that social scientists are disciples of the obvious, and there could hardly be a better example of that premise than the Stanford Prison "Experiment." (That word is hardly accurate in this context.) What was the hypothesis? Prisoners and guards are antagonistic towards each other? Guards often abuse their power because prisoners have no recourse? Gee, that's only been proved a few hundred million times throughout history. Further, the "investigation" contained in the article is no better than the premise of the "experiment." Professor Zimbardo, who was supposed to have been in control of the situation—and not a part of the experiment—took sides. One of the guards says that no one who knew him would believe that his behavior could have been that bad, and the other says that the reports of what took place were exaggerated. Your author needs to look up the meaning of the verb "prevaricate." Finally, only one prisoner's memories are included. These are the people the investigation should have focused on, especially as a balance to the self-justifications of those in power. The only thing this "experiment" proved was how badly an experiment can be conceived.

Kevin Cavanaugh, '79
Costa Mesa, California

Stanford still needs to explain how it came to be that no one was charged for violating standards of decency and ethical conduct. Apparently the argument is that what was done did not amount to a violation of human subject protections or other rules for scientific conduct in effect at the time. These standards were tightened only after the event.

But in the late 1960s and early '70s it was common to charge students with violating both a specific rule (say, the disruptions policy) and the Fundamental Standard. That enabled the administration to sanction students who were not convicted of violating any specific rule but did act contrary to reasonable standards of behavior. It would have been only fair to at least charge Professor Zimbardo with having violated obvious ethical standards and unreasonably endangering students.

Yale Braunstein, MA '68, PhD '75
Berkeley, California

Your editorial analysis of the Stanford Prison Experiment 40 years later ("A Shadowy Reminder of an Ugly Truth," First Impressions, July/August) didn't match the personal reflections of the guards and prisoners. My reading of the interviews is that the prisoners and guards were colluding to make the experiment seem real and powerful to the psychologists conducting the study. It seems that the boys (and Professor Zimbardo, too) were primarily engaged in a long, madcap (and apparently weed-fueled) role-play, with one terrific actor to get the ball rolling.

The Stanford campus is as divine a place on earth as one can find; the prisoners and guards couldn't have seriously believed something truly awful would happen to them—their play was always bounded by safety and security. The interviewees didn't recall any damaging effects on their psyches; sleepless nights can cause anyone to become depressed and whimper a bit but aren't going to cause permanent damage. Even Richard Yacco said he was surprised that they released him early because he never felt any depression. But for one passionate and perhaps overly sensitive woman who couldn't believe the man she loved was capable of such disgusting idiocy, the experiment might have ended with a few rounds of beers, some hugs and definitely a few joints. Instead, anxious parents intervened, word got out, and the media did what they always do: spun our understanding of events to create a horrific, mean-spirited version of what happened.

It is hard to believe the claims that the experiment shows us how quickly we turn evil. Rather, it shows us, as at least two of the participants note, how quickly we are willing to follow institutional scripts. Indeed, one could argue the guards in both the Abu Ghraib and Stanford situations were doing what they believed their employers wanted. (When people have intense power and lack strict governing authority, they tend to rip people off, not put paper bags over their heads.) In the case of Abu Ghraib, the guards' behavior was truly violent and disgusting, but they worked under difficult circumstances and likely felt their military careers were at risk. In the case of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the guards demonstrated that people will put up a good show to perform well in their summer jobs.

In other words, we're weak under normative pressure, and especially the pressure of people we really like, as Zimbardo himself demonstrated when his girlfriend cried foul. As word of the experiment traveled, everyone did what's expected of them—moms worried, university officials clucked, congressmen found the expert witness they needed to prove a point, and journalists found a convenient way to explain everything that is so terribly wrong with our world. The researchers went on to have terrific careers and likely made a difference to many. The prisoners seemed to have a strong sense of self and an understanding of how institutions affect us. These are interesting and positive outcomes, and rather unremarkable, all things considered.

But the media don't much like interesting and positive; the media like gossip and rubbernecking and 24-hour tragedy, fixating on naked cheerleading pyramids at Abu Ghraib while glossing over the real psychological trauma soldiers experience from killing and maiming people. It is convenient and dangerous of journalists and social scientists to use what happened in Jordan Hall to explain horrific acts as "human nature." While human history has its bloody moments, we aren't monsters, and we're not all equally capable of bad things. Fear of death leads us to horrific acts, not some deranged love of power. Sure we'll kill rather than be killed, but we save lives, too, and more often than not we lead with love and compassion. The prisoners and guards alike suggested their experience was more like an episode of Jackass than a living hell. Why don't we believe them?

Aurora Wood Moore, PhD candidate
San Francisco, California

Bad Knee

I enjoyed the moment in the Bill Neukom profile that goes directly from "his balky knee kept him out of Vietnam" to "[h]e played on the Law School basketball team" ("A Giant Leap," July/August). "Balky," apparently, describes a physical condition that lets you play sports but also dodge the draft. Thanks for reminding us that the road to success is paved with not serving in the military.

Daniel Mendelsohn, '92
Los Angeles, California

'Chilling' Account

Joshua Davis's chilling account of the malicious slander frenzy suffered by the unfortunate Daniel Lee might have addressed one of the trigger accusations: that he could not have completed the two Stanford degrees in 3 1/2 years ("The Persecution of Daniel Lee," July/August). Did Lee arrive on campus with a semester or two of AP credits from a superior Canadian secondary education or with other prior college credits? Did he complete summer coursework? Did he enroll in above-average course loads? Any combination of these conditions easily explains the short, stellar academic career. The article also left hanging the question of a master's thesis. If Lee's field was creative writing, he simply would have written fiction in lieu of a thesis. Alas, these points are probably opaque to Lee's execrable accusers and the envy-driven cybermob. They would, however, sharpen his defense.

Michael Doudoroff, '61, MA '65, PhD '69
Lawrence, Kansas

What you relate in your fine article has all the hallmarks of a purposeful attack. The question is: What provoked that attack? You just begin to get into the kind of data that's important to unraveling Dan's persecution near the end of your article, when you mention the Korean "businessman" in Chicago. Sure. Always nice to have a legitimate cover. "Korean operative on foreign soil" doesn't have the same innocent ring to it.

I sense that the successful Dan Lee got crosswise with someone, for example the Korean mafia, without necessarily realizing he had done so. Maybe he said "No!" to some suggested recording project beneath his standards. People—especially those of high visibility and vast public influence—who are naive to the darker elements at work on this planet can get into life-altering and career-altering trouble without comprehending what focused engineering is taking place behind the scenes.

I hope what you wrote helps. I sense him to be a person of very good vibes—and thus all the more likely a candidate for dark attack. It's imperative he not let this attack achieve its desired goal of crippling his light. People don't yet realize how accurate the Harry Potter material is.

Ed Young, MS '75, PhD '86
Tehachapi, California

Not all Koreans bought the stupid story, because not all Koreans are stupid. There were voices against the crowd, only they were ignored, or people were afraid to speak out and fight for a rapper because the mob was so cruelly violent.

True, after the media wrote about the anti-Tablo Internet group, many people joined TaJinYo. However, not everyone bought [the leading perpetrator] Whatbecomes's story. For instance, I joined TaJinYo to see what was happening, as did the media and others. Not all 200,000 people were against Tablo; his fans joined, too. In short, it was a battlefield.

I won't deny that too many people bought the story, because even though WhatBecomes has left TaJinYo (and even tried to sell his Internet group), some still believe it—even after every [accusation] they could think of was proven false. Now Tablo is threatened again: People posted another story widely, including on Todayhumor, a famous Korean entertainment website, challenging [Registrar Thomas] Black's statement that the transcript is authentic. The new story arose because celebrity magazines and newspapers quoted your article. I don't know if they intended to put a period to this stupidity, but this only made it worse.

D. Jeon
Seoul, South Korea

Snarky Sudoku

It will not have escaped the notice of those from the '50s (and likely beyond) that the solution to horizontal line 4 of the polyomino puzzle spells out "Snodfart"—in those days a scrambled irreverent reference to our alma mater ("Crazy 8s," Planet Cardinal, July/August). Despite Todd Neller's insistence in two places in the accompanying description that this was a random creation, I have my snickering doubts.

George Burtness, '53, MBA '60
Santa Barbara, California 

Different Diagnosis

I read with interest the article about Jon Krosnick's surveys ("Diagnosing the Body Politic," Farm Report, July/August). Unknowingly the article actually diagnosed the body of university professors, for Krosnick's attempt to take on "more in-depth social questions" merely showed us his biases.

For instance, his research showing racist attitudes cost Obama six percentage points in votes failed to analyze the 95 percent of African-Americans who voted for Obama. Avoided was any statement that Obama may well have gained votes because of the racist attitudes of African-Americans.

As for "Obama's health care reform bill" (emphasis added), what Krosnick does not state is that no one (especially the people on Capitol Hill) had any real knowledge of what the bill contained because it was 2,500-plus pages that were voted upon before anyone could read it or comprehend it.

What this article really points out is the left-wing prejudice of Jon Krosnick and his nonobjective and irrational "analysis." What else is new among most academics?

Edward Abbott, MBA '70
La Quinta, California

Administration Inflation?

In his explanation of the rising cost of a university education President Hennessy failed to mention one important element: the continuing increase in the size and compensation of university administrations ("A Closer Look at the Costs of College," July/August). This development is affecting institutions of every quality, and the fault lies squarely with administrators and regents/trustees. How many vice presidents/associate provosts does Stanford have, and what exactly do they all do?

Richard M. Berthold, '67
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Faking It

I read your End Note column with a revulsion that grew with each passing word ("The Assent of Man," July/August). Sure, it attempts to be a witty article about how faking it—and following one's instinct—can serve one well; however, what are you trying to say to us, Stanford alumni, by including this piece? The world is dumb enough that we can succeed by faking it? We are smart enough to snow others into believing we know what we're doing, that we have real competence, when in fact we're simply ad-libbing?

My proudest time at Stanford was spent building arguably the most sophisticated scientific satellite ever created: Gravity Probe B. This long-lived project, spanning a decade before I was born to just this year, produced 80-plus PhDs and hundreds of BS and MS students, and invented and perfected at least 10 new technologies—all to attempt to test some of the most subtle and intriguing predictions of Einstein's theory of general relativity, his theory of gravity. There are no posers here, no fakers. Over the project's 50 years of effort, no rock was left unturned, no question unasked, no concern unaddressed, no battle left unfought—all working toward the goal of doing something audacious, risky, courageous. Everyone worked tirelessly to ensure that we did not need to send NASA a "mise à jour": Sorry, we faked our results; your $750 million investment has now become a piece of space junk. Bummer. Google doesn't help here.

There is nothing stupid about a question except not asking it. Mine is simply this: "Really, Stanford, this is a model you're proposing?" I know many of my fellow alumni will ask the same thing.

William Bencze, '89, MS '91, PhD '97
Half Moon Bay, California

I thought the piece by Robert L. Strauss was both funny and meaningful. I have run into several people in different lines of work who consider many Stanford graduates as arrogant, kind of full of themselves. I think that this is valid. Many Stanford people do not admit or give credit to luck and even bluffing, both of which may have contributed to their success. Many of us could not get into Stanford now: Like it or not, the criteria for admission have narrowed. We're proud of our school, but let's lower our noses. We're lucky.

Roderick Biswell, '59, MD '62
San Jose, California

Middle East Complexities

As a citizen of the Middle East for the past 11 years, I enjoyed the article entitled "After the Revolution" (May/June). The discussion was insightful and raised good questions.

While most of the discussion was straightforward and interesting, I was dismayed by Professor Beinin's statement that the [most important] way for the United States to gain legitimacy in the Arab world was to "pressure Israel to resolve the Palestinian/Israeli conflict on the basis of the international consensus." Why is he raising the topic of Israel in this article? Perhaps I don't read enough news or see enough pictures, but in no protest in Egypt, Yemen, Libya or even Syria did I hear that the reason the people are revolting is Israel. The reason for their revolution was their autocratic, dictatorial leaders who limit their freedom. In fact, one of the important revelations of the Arab revolution was that Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is not and has not been the cause of the problems in the Middle East, as has been stated so many times.

Instead of dealing with the Middle East complexities in an intellectually honest and academic way, Professor Beinin has revealed his clear bias against Israel by inserting an issue irrelevant to the discussion. Since he raised the topic, it is important to note that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute based on "international consensus" is a flawed concept. The withdrawal from Gaza was an international consensus and what resulted? Eight thousand rockets aimed at innocent civilians (including the death two months ago of my 16-year-old son's classmate who was on the way to visit his grandmother) and a terrorist leadership (recognized as such internationally) in Gaza. The key to peace is for Israel and the Palestinians to bilaterally negotiate the terms of any peace. Any third party-produced "solution" will likely not have the commitment of one or both of the parties.

I would recommend that Stanford edit more carefully, allowing only material that is relevant to the issue. By not doing so, you decrease the credibility and intellectual honesty of the magazine and our alma mater as well.

Glen Rosenbaum, '89
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel

I started to read the article with great interest and enthusiasm. What a disappointment! The lead question gave the panelists a perfect opportunity to provide some real insight into the current situation: "Historically, why has it been difficult to establish democratic governments in the Arab world?"

Unfortunately, for this group "historically" seems to mean postwar or later. The first response (predictably?) blamed the West and oil interests, and relegated long-term historical and cultural factors to the status of a vague footnote ("certain elements of our culture, or at least how they were interpreted"). Others cited such factors as the influence of television and electronic social media—hardly an in-depth historical perspective.

The Arab world has never been democratic even to the degree that the slave-owning Greeks and Romans knew democracy, much less the democracy practiced by populations as varied as pre-Roman Germanic tribes or by various Berber tribes prior to their very undemocratic subjugation by the Arabs. Both the knee-jerk tendency to blame the outside world (were petroleum-driven Western interests subverting democracy in the region prior to the 20th century?), and the sidestepping of the question to focus on the very recent past, reveal an unwillingness to examine the deep-rooted historical, cultural and religious factors essential to any meaningful analysis. In individuals, this process is called denial. In a purportedly academic discussion, it is properly called an intellectual failure.

David Rearwin, PhD '73
La Jolla, California

New York Quest

While it is commendable that New York City will open an innovation university, I think it is unfortunate that Stanford should consider expanding to a new campus ("Imagining Stanford in New York," President's Column, May/June). Stanford is outstanding because of its uniqueness. I would never have thought Stanford could ever consider a second campus just as I could never envision a second Oxford or Cambridge or Harvard or MIT. It sadly brings to mind corporate growth plans like those present in for-profit higher education, and a potential devaluation of our diplomas. What would be next? A Midwest campus? I hope you will reconsider the decision to submit a proposal.

Enrique Garza, MS '95, Engr. '96, PhD '99
Huixquilucan, Mexico

Civilization is about the civis and driven by great cities. Cities derive their flavor from regions to which they are attached. Great cities of Renaissance Italy—Florence, Venice et al.—invested identity in institutions that they would not have dreamed of sharing with Rome. [Leland Stanford's] fortune was made in the development of the West; his city was San Francisco and his region Northern California. Stanford has throughout its history been identified with this region and has led in its cultural and intellectual development. It is a tradition that ought to impose a commitment.

Who could imagine Oxford sharing its mystique with London, or Brussels? Stanford must continue as it has been, as a center of excellence advancing its region as a beacon for world culture and cutting-edge thought. If there is to be movement, let it be towards rather than away from. A second campus in the "empire state" sounds like capitulation to an idea that California is a sort of super-Greece: indebted, lovely to visit, but mainly for tourism and lotus-eating—in short, a province. Those in the East so provincial as to imagine that real civilization hardly exists west of the Hudson River will welcome the proposal. I am against it.

Stoddard "Chip" Martin, '70
London, England

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

 ‘Spare Us’

A flawed study that deeply wounded some of its participants, even one that in so doing led to better protection for human subjects, to me is not something that really ranks as a perennial cover story ("The Menace Within," July/August). There are so many amazing things going on at Stanford that I think you could probably give this a rest for a few decades. I challenge you to wait for anniversary No. 75 and to spare us the 50th.

Sue Reinhold, ’87
Berkeley, California

Tragic Story

Although I’ve been getting the magazine for nearly 30 years, I almost never get a chance to read it. I just put down your article on Daniel Lee and found it fascinating—such a tragic story, but so well told ("The Persecution of Daniel Lee," July/August). I think if alumni had heard about this when the proverbial shit was hitting the fan, they might have rallied a massive response. I wonder whether there could be a follow-up piece with commentary from Stanford sociology or psychology faculty? I see a PhD thesis here.

Congratulations on a job well done.

David Meryash, ’73
Manhasset, New York

My wife, Robin, ’72, and I were appalled to read your account of the smear campaign against Daniel Lee. Clearly, Heart of Darkness and Lord of the Flies are not confined to African jungles and islands in the Pacific. The Internet is a dangerous place. How do mobs form and go viral? What motivates participants to make these attacks, and how are they able to sustain them over time?

Your article identifies one of the “leading agitators” as Eung Kim, a 57-year-old Korean-American businessman living in Chicago. How does someone with that profile become a leader in an Internet mob persecuting a Korean rap star?

The U.S. legal system provides recourse against abusers of the sort Kim appears to be. My law firm, the Chicago Stanford Club and others may be able to assist Daniel with legal follow-up in Chicago, if recompense is an objective Daniel and his Korean lawyers are working toward.

Thank you for your article.

Peter Baugher
Wilmette, Illinois

Faked Out

I suppose Robert Strauss’s blithe boasts of “faking it” his entire business
career ("The Assent of Man," End Note, July/August) indicate a certain kind of personal
success, but I’m not sure that ethos scales up so well. Incurious financial
managers with stellar reputations faked us all right into a recession.

Sarah Mangin, ’04
Berkeley, California

The Value of Free Education

This letter is in response to the President’s Column ("A Close Look at the Costs of College," July/August.)

Why do certain members of the UC Regents (e.g., Dick Blum) say that low or free tuition is bad? Building on the achievements of earlier grads like Bernard Baruch in finance and Felix Frankfurter in law, beginning with the Class of 1933, City College of New York nurtured nine Nobel Prize winners in economics, chemistry, physics and medicine. All nine obtained their undergraduate degrees at CCNY, the last in 1950. City College and Hunter in Manhattan, and Brooklyn and Queens Colleges, offered free tuition to qualified students, many of them fleeing persecution in Europe. Nathan Glazer and Irving Kristol in politics, Ira Gershwin the lyricist, Bernard Malamud the writer, Andrew Grove in business and technology, and actors including Edward G. Robinson, Judd Hirsch, Zero Mostel and Eli Wallach  received a super education for the cost of a subway fare. Blum himself paid what I paid at our alma mater Cal: nothing.

Richard Thompson
San Diego, California

Another Side of Frost

I enjoyed Ivan Maisel’s feature in May/June ("A Place in the Sun"). I’d like to reminisce—from an older person’s point of view—about other magnificent Frost events of that time.

One of my fantastic memories was the Shakespeare Festival of 1964. If I remember correctly, Professor Virgil Whitaker (a highly-touted Shakespearean scholar) organized the event. It was to be the first of many scholarly summer festivals in years to follow. The ink on my English BA barely dry, I was ecstatic about the program and made arrangements to see as many of the productions as possible. Sadly, military obligations got in the way. But I did get to see King Lear, which ended up being the best performance of that formidable play I ever saw in my life. Gloucester tottering out of the woods onto the stage—under the stars of a Stanford night—is a scene still etched in my memory. The words of Edgar saying to his blind father, “What, in ill thoughts again? Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither; ripeness is all—come on!” have rung clearly in my ears over the decades since. These words mean a great deal more to me now than they did then, but that’s another story.

During the summer of 1965 came the Mozart Festival, which I was not able to attend—the Vietnam War got in the way. Sadly, this grand cultural project came to an end after only two fabulous seasons.

My next and last encounter with Frost was the receipt of my JD degree there, on a glorious summer day. I now live in Europe, and recalling the magnificent uniqueness of Frost has brought back some wonderful memories. Thanks for making it a major feature.

Adam von Dioszeghy, ’64, JD ’70
Budapest, Hungary

We enjoyed the article about music at Frost Amphitheater, as it brought back memories of some great concerts there. We have a special affinity for the place, as we were married in the glen at Frost in 1981. Since we were planning a definitely nontraditional wedding  ceremony, we decided that Frost would be the perfect location. The wedding and reception were there, complete with our two golden retrievers, Scottish and Irish bagpipes, three bands (the groom’s, the bride’s and the one we hired), and the Porta-Pottys. (Try fitting onto one of those in a wedding dress.) It was the perfect start to our 30-years-and-counting marriage.

Richard, ’73, and Leigh, ’74, Jones-Bamman
Storrs Mansfield, Connecticut

Fortunately, the music survives. Whether it is The Grateful Dead at Maples (1973) or at Frost during the 1980s, the concerts can be enjoyed at Thanks for a fun article.

George Saade, ’74
Downey, California

It was very nostalgic to read about the concerts at Frost. They were superb. It was also at Stanford I first heard classical music. But quintessential Stanford was the football game and the Band playing “All Right Now,” the cheer girls with red pompoms doing their dance, hot dogs and mustard, coolers and no one paying much attention to the game except when Stanford won (against UC-Berkeley, I think). I never did understand American football, or any football much, but thanks for the music. And, of course, the education.

Gabrielle E. Kelly, PhD ’81
Monkstown, County Dublin, Ireland

Frost Amphitheater was also the venue for graduations. Bob and I “walked” there in 1957. It moved to the stadium between our daughters’ graduations: Sara Whittier Boadwee in 1982, Laurel Whittier Reidy in 1983 and Margo Whittier Jones in 1986. We’ve since enjoyed it for reunion activities.

Mary Ann Whittier, ’57
San Clemente, California

One of the key rock concerts to be held at Frost is not featured in your article. In late June 1976, The Band played Frost. I was there, and so were a lot of really sun-baked fans: it was over 100 degrees. This was the opening show of The Band’s “Last Waltz” tour that culminated in the legendary concert on Thanksgiving at Winterland in San Francisco. They arrived in the amphitheater via an access road atop one of Stanford’s fire engines, and one of the musicians was wielding an active fire hose, cooling off the crowd. The Band had not given a concert in over a year, but you wouldn’t have thought so—they were that tight. An especially dramatic moment occurred when Garth Hudson was playing “The Genetic Method” and segued into “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Coming just days before our Bicentennial, it was greeted with quite a cheer. I remember taking my T-shirt to the restroom several times during the concert to soak it down and then wear it. Several young women took off their tops, I recall clearly.

By the way, you have an error in the article. The Grateful Dead did not debut their “Wall of Sound” at Maples in 1973; that sound system was first used at a Cow Palace show in March 1974. I was at the Maples show, and it was famous for a different reason: They debuted at least five new songs.

Philip Tone, ’75
San Diego, California

Rock Revival

I read Simon Firth’s article on bands with great interest ("School Bands," Farm Report, May/June). He did some very good research, but the record must be set straight!

The Geoffrey Luce Band formed and performed in the 1974-75 school year. Featuring Harry Soza, MS ’75 (guitar, vocals), Jon Randall, MS ’75 (bass guitar, vocals), Steve Burris, ’75, and yours truly (drums, vocals). GLB was a popular party band playing at numerous residence parties and White Plaza. Our motto: “Never a bad or dull gig.” We rocked. People danced. We were known for our encores . . . sets, not songs. The band somehow got the keys to Harmony House early that fall, a small, latent structure that I believe had been used by international studies at one time. We squatted, er, rehearsed there the entire school year.

In 2002, Jon turned 50 and Harry was asked by Jon’s wife to pull together some memorabilia from the band days of old. He got the sentimental bug, tracked me and Steve down and arranged a four-way conference-call reunion to share memories. Harry opined how much fun it would be to get together and reminisce over a beer someday. “Beer, my arse,” I chimed in. “Let’s play!” Jon just egged things on with, “If you guys come here to play, I can get a crowd.” Jon took the old reel-to-reel tape Harry dug out for his birthday and burned it on CDs. Three months later, we arrived in Jon’s driveway, one by one, inspecting each other for flaws and observing what ravages time had wrought. Since then, we have gathered once a year (missing only once) to play live for the famous Selborn Place Block Party in San Jose for a summer-happy throng of over 250, ages 1 to 85. Our next reunion (GLB-9: The Nine Lives Tour) will take place on Saturday, August 27. Okay, one gig does not equal a tour exactly, but c’mon, we’re old! But never too old to rock and roll.

How do we rehearse for a once-a-year gig? That is a whole other story—and a darn good one.

What makes our second coming all the more remarkable is that we have become a multigenerational band. John’s teenage sons are up there playing sax and trumpet, and they have friends that join in to make it a real horn section. Three extremely talented young women from Harry’s church musical circle add a powerful vocal punch, and the list goes on. At its peak, we have had 14 rehearsed, coordinated musicians on stage rocking at once. And we have never sounded better. We continue to add new “classic” material every year. We have figured out that in two years we will have played more gigs as middle-aged men than we did back in ’74-’75.

Top that!

Aaron Weiner, ’77
Irvine, California

New York: Don’t Omit Humanities

President Hennessy’s ambitious proposal for a Stanford campus in New York brought to mind the motto on the University seal: “Die Luft der Freiheit weht” ("Imagining Stanford in New York," May/June).

Historically, that wind of freedom (and American democracy) blew westward from its origins on the East Coast. Hennessy’s plan anticipates a new wind, this one reversing history and moving eastward across the continent. The University’s research role in the creation of Silicon Valley, that dynamic frontier of the American economy,
would be expanded to carry eastward the Stanford spirit of innovation.

An inspiring vision indeed. However, my further reading of his proposal raised some serious questions. It would set up “an applied science and engineering campus.” In Hennessy’s words, it would have “more than 400 graduate students drawn from the business and engineering schools, focused on information technology and entrepreneurship.”

I would suggest that the Stanford spirit of innovation has involved far more than technology and cannot be divorced from the broader purposes of education, including the humanities. One of the University’s most distinguishing characteristics has been its departure in some areas from the exclusive focus on increasingly narrow fields of specialization. Stanford’s emphasis on collaborative studies includes interdisciplinary institutes and centers [which] can bring together faculty from separate fields of study to focus on specific problems. Where the applied sciences deal with concrete facts, machines and devices, which can be categorized and measured, the humanities can be concerned with values, principles and assumptions.

That kind of mutual exchange may be a “secret” ingredient in Stanford’s success in sponsoring Silicon Valley’s amazing fount of innovation. Would it be wise on a New York campus to abandon a practice that may well have contributed significantly to Stanford’s success? The habits of thought resulting from regular association with people with various personal perspectives should continue to enrich the minds of both students and faculty.

Confronting such global challenges as climate change will certainly involve the development of green technologies, but it will also require much more—some drastic lifestyle changes and totally new perspectives, where the humanities can offer invaluable
guidance in rethinking the traditional views of humans on earth.

In the past, President Hennessy has affirmed the importance of the humanities and has encouraged the interdisciplinary studies that have bolstered Stanford’s spirit of innovation. We may trust that in the final plans for the New York campus, those aspects of human learning will find their proper place—and that the wind of freedom (and innovation) will blow vigorously from West to East.

Harold Gilliam, Gr. ’48
San Francisco, California

Searsville Memories

"What to Do with Searsville" by Nick Wenner (March/April) took me back to the summers of 1959 and 1960, when I made a survey of the flora and vegetation of Jasper Ridge and Searsville Lake. My trudging over, around and through both resulted in my second scientific paper (The Vascular Plants of the Jasper Ridge Biological Experimental Area of Stanford University, Research Report No. 2, Jasper Ridge Biological Experimental Area, 1962). Wenner states that the lake was closed to the public in 1972, but I can vouch that there were No Swimming signs around it in my time there. Perhaps the most important scientific observation that I made on the ridge was to discover that the ubiquitous poison oak wafts its resins into the air on very hot days. You do not have to touch it to get it!

Duncan M. Porter, ’59, MA ’61
Blacksburg, Virginia 

Okinawa’s Resistance 

I believe that some clarification is due about the excellent article on Fukio Hatoyama and John Roos ("Pacific Overtures," January/February), as the one statement about the political reality of Okinawa can be misleading: “Roos has been stretched from Okinawa in the south, where some locals fume over the presence of U.S. forces, to the Korean Peninsula. . . .”

Those “locals” include the governor of Okinawa Prefecture; mayors of cities, townships and villages; councilmen and women from all major parties including traditional opposing parties; and the people they represent, including a growing number of U.S. citizens, retired military and members of the local international community.

We would like to see a favorable solution to this mess. The more I study about Okinawa, the more I realize there are very deep wounds indeed. The island was occupied after the Battle of Okinawa; many locals refer to the U.S. occupation as a military dictatorship. The more I research this, it is quite sad to find that it is not far from the truth.

Of course, everything has its plus side. I personally know of many acts of kindness and cooperation from the U.S. forces personnel and their families through exchanges, beach cleanups, etc. These go out the window when a bad apple commits a crime (almost monthly in the news) or our government and Japan decide to leave the Okinawans out of the loop.

In my years on the island I have never seen this level of resistance in political circles.

Edo Heinrich-Sanchez
Okinawa, Japan

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