Letters to the Editor

May/June 2010

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Letters to the Editor

A Mystery Solved

I was surprised to see the article about Clelia Mosher ("The Sex Scholar," March/April). At one point in my life, her name was extremely important to me.

When I entered Stanford as a freshman in 1973—the same year Professor [Carl] Degler discovered Mosher's research in the Stanford archives—I had Clelia Mosher to thank for my ability to pay for my college education. A substantial portion of my generous financial aid package consisted of the Clelia Mosher Scholarship. I was not provided with any further information, but I felt enormously grateful to Mosher, whoever she was.

After I graduated and the decades began to slip by, I thought less and less about Mosher, until I read the recent article. Her life, work and thoughts were fascinating, although I was not surprised that her research showed what most of us already know: Women are, and have always been, human. I feel fortunate all over again to have been a beneficiary of Clelia Mosher's generosity, her foresight and her hope that women of rising generations "will answer the question of what woman's real capacities are."

Judy Drake, '77
 Bend, Oregon

Stanford and the Military

"Military Matters" (Farm Report, March/April) reminded me of Leona Helmsley, who allegedly said, "Only the little people pay taxes." Stanford has the same attitude toward military service. The abolishment of ROTC at Stanford marked future officers as Kipling's "lesser breeds without the law."

Who freed the slaves? Not Lincoln. It was the Union Army, which suffered 360,000 dead. Why is France not under Nazi rule? Why does South Korea make Hyundais and Samsung electronics instead of starving under Communist cruelty? Why were the Soviets afraid to invade Western Europe? The answer is the same: America's armed forces.

Now we have four dedicated students, along with the Truman National Security Project Educational Institute, presenting Military 101 and getting a crowd of 40. Forty! That is shameful. My father, my father-in-law, my uncles, my brother, my son and I have all been "citizen soldier" officers. We and our colleagues are men of honor. It was lawyers and MBAs—not the American military—who nearly destroyed the world economy. They are not men of honor.

I say to Stanford today: Have a little respect for the men and women who keep you safe.

Thomas P. Lowry, '54, MD '57
 Woodbridge, Virginia

"Military Matters" references important knowledge gaps in post WWII society. One of those gaps is the notion that military competencies are fungible and generic—for example, that a Navy or Air Force fighter pilot can speak with authority about ground operations. He can't. He flies back to base at night. He spends no time in the field on the ground. The other misconception is that infantry maneuver battalions and armored cavalry squadrons can be used effectively as occupiers. They can't.

Broad lack of understanding of the capabilities and limitations of our conventional military may well have led to unwise and imprudent use of these assets in the period from 2003 to the present.

Frank Brokaw, '67, MBA '75
 Greenwich, Connecticut

Not-So-Mighty Wind

The article on the Stanford Solar and Wind Energy Project caught my attention ("Power Plays," Farm Report, March/April). The projects are right-sized for a student environment, with benefits that can be extended to many localities. However, as reported, not all have met with success. SWEP president John Ten Hoeve, MS '07, jokes that "There's no wind at Stanford," but the sidebar indicates that it's full of "hot air." Sorry, couldn't resist.

Otto Schleich, MS '55
 Goleta, California

Pushmi-Pullyu Dates

Reading your item about palindrome dates in the American calendar highlighted one of the many adjustments I have had to make, living in Europe for the better part of 25 years ("Math Rules!" Red All Over, March/April). It was a surprise to realize that in other countries, the date is not always written in the "normal" way. January 2, 2010, was also a palindrome here in Sweden, though it would be written this way instead: 2010 01 02; and in France, where I worked for 19 years, the palindrome arrived on February 1 instead: 01 02 2010. Go figure!

Beth Anderson Webster, '77
 Stockholm, Sweden

It was with interest that I read of Henry Segerman's (PhD '07) autoglyphs and other mathematically-based artwork ("Math Rules!" Red All Over, March/April). These come close to the mathematical objects proposed by the surrealists André Breton and Salvador Dalí.

Chevalier Daniel C. Boyer
 Houghton, Michigan

The Stanford 'Brand'

The message in the article about Sigourney Weaver, '72, wearing a Stanford tank shirt in Avatar seems to be that Stanford's name is associated with good science and top quality doctors ("The Avatar Wore Cardinal," March/April, But given the final points made in the article, perhaps a truer statement would be that the school represents utter narcissism and an absolute concern with status and public perception rather than with true science, which doesn't think about how it is perceived because it is focused on searching out what is true and useful.

I thoroughly enjoyed Avatar; it was a very entertaining film. But that only increases the irony of this superficial article about what it means for a Stanford jersey to appear in the film. Avatar is about the ugliness and ruthlessness that arise from a culture focused entirely on the bottom line. It is the story of a huge, multinational corporation crushing an indigenous people to secure a rare natural resource that belongs to those people.

What makes great science is a complete focus on what is true and what is useful that is at the same time not harmful to life on Earth. Stanford is involved in planning some of the most ghastly genetic modifications yet imagined by our species.

I'm certain that your writers haven't the slightest sense of irony about their focus on "branding" and the monetary value of the Stanford "brand" appearing in a high-grossing film. I'm so glad I got through Stanford before it morphed into the commercial juggernaut it has become. It was once a great institution in the service of truth and beauty, but those ideals are dead to the Stanford of today. It's all about the Benjamins.

Karen-Lynette Bauer, '77
 New York, New York

The article about Sigourney Weaver's Stanford tank top in Jim Cameron's Avatar was terrific, but Jim's exposure to Stanford alumni and their influence goes well beyond Sigourney. The earlier hit films he directed—The Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss—were all wonderfully produced by Gale Anne Hurd, '77, to whom he was married at the time. Gale, Jim and I became friends while working for our boss then, Roger Corman, '47, who was a huge influence on our lives.

Roger's New World Pictures and his various other film production entities were veritable incubators for rising talent in the Hollywood film industry. As your Showcase article in the January/February issue relates, Roger received a richly deserved Honorary Oscar by the Academy on November 14, 2009.

I have to think Jim's inclusion of Stanford's logo in his film was also a nod to these two Stanford alumni, who were such an important part of his life.

I acted opposite Sigourney in a scene in the Stanford stage production Androcles and the Lion freshman year and later worked on her classic sci-fi/comedy film, Ghostbusters. With my brother Steve, I have recently completed a feature screenplay entitled Lureen.

Jeff Shank, '73
 Irvine, California

Local Problems

I refer to President Hennessy's informative column, "A Growing Presence Overseas," and the cover photo with the caption, "How I Can Get a Fair Chance" (March/April).

I ask that the next issue contain the president's report on [how] the University addresses the problems right here in the Bay Area, including Palo Alto. True, there are not l.3 billion people in the Bay Area, but one does not have to look far to see the severity of the problems. It would be curious to have the officials of Chinese universities come here to help us solve our social ills.

I doubt that the founders of our University would approve of articles featuring lesbians and the gay lifestyle. But the Stanfords were old-fashioned and we are living in a new, enlightened era.

For those who doubt the fruits of our new moral and social standards, take a tour of the overcrowded Deuel correctional facility at Tracy, Calif. The razor wire high atop steep walls and surveillance towers sickened me when I did just that.

The Stanfords put Memorial Chapel in the center of the Quad for a reason. May the administration, including the president, not forget this in their desire to establish an overseas presence.

Peter Frusetta, '54
 Tres Pinos, California

What's Wrong with Frugality?

I feel compelled to respond to John Ingram's letter ("Climate Chagrin," March/April). He lives in Ohio, the state I live in and one that seems to have perennial difficulties deciding whether to leave the Dark Ages politically.

Surely it is clear to thinking human beings, at least in developed countries, that we are making a mess of our one and only planet and that that is bound to get us as a species in trouble. How can it be wrong to try to modify our way of life so that we are less destructive of natural systems that functioned quite efficiently for eons before our egotistical notions of "progress" unthinkingly began to interfere with them?

Ingram commends Stanford's attempted "frugality," but he seems to think this term applies only to money. My dictionary says "economy in the expenditure of resources," which surely intimates conservation of—and perhaps even respect for—our environment in all its aspects. If we all try to live frugally in this sense, who or what is to blame for any climate change becomes moot, because then at least we can be confident that we are doing our best not to upset any applecart.

I'm with President Hennessy: Often less is more.

Mary Fahnestock-Thomas, '70
 Oxford, Ohio

Admission by Deception

For many months, Stanford has run advertisements from Hernandez College Consulting, which, from all appearances, offers some applicants to Stanford unjustified advantages in the admissions process. This letter is a protest against that company and its influence at Stanford.

Stanford applicants' papers are supposed to represent their own work, according to the application form. Yet the Hernandez company advertises that (for $14,000—with no apparent need-based "scholarships") an applicant can "[c]omplete your college applications with leading admissions pros." The Hernandez company's Internet site states, in part, "Need help . . . writing those all important college essays? We've got the tutors for you." For $2,500, a Hernandez company tutor will spend five hours "editing" somebody's college application essays.

Moreover, the Hernandez company depends on deception. A CBS News story currently displayed on the Hernandez website states, in part: "[Company Head Michele] Hernandez charges $40,000 for her services and starts working with kids in eighth grade. The only thing that could go wrong, she says, is college admissions officers finding out that an applicant is using her; but that, she says, has never happened. 'I'm pretty good at hiding my tracks,' she said."

It follows that any student who uses the Hernandez company's services in preparing his or her Stanford application is not likely participating in the process honestly and is exploiting an undisclosed advantage.

A selective college like Stanford should admit students based on merit and diversity, not on which kids' parents pay for the best professional college application help. It does not further either merit or diversity to allow the Hernandez company to coach some applicants without admissions officers knowing about it.

Stanford's director of admission, Shawn Abbott, has stated in emails sent directly or copied to authors of this letter that the Hernandez company's "services raise serious concerns about equity, access and authenticity regarding our application and admissions process." (Abbott does not uniformly oppose college admissions consulting companies.) Abbott also has stated via email that it is "appalling" that STANFORD runs the Hernandez company's ads.

Abbott has raised with the Stanford Faculty Committee on Undergraduate Admission & Financial Aid (C-UAFA) the idea of amending the Stanford application form to require applicants to disclose affirmatively whether they used paid college application consultants in preparing the forms and essays. This seemingly unobjectionable suggestion was not adopted by C-UAFA.

Stanford's integrity is on the line when some applicants use their wealth to get a leg up in the competition for spots at the University. The situation is even worse when STANFORD takes ad money from the company that is providing these unfair advantages.

We implore Stanford to make concerted efforts, such as imposing an application-help disclosure requirement, to make transparent which applicants use the Hernandez company's clandestine services.

Jonathan Eisenberg, '92
 South Pasadena, California

The following people also signed:
Tori Carreon, '92
Dale Edmondson, '93, MA '93
Ruben Garcia, '92
Minal Hajratwala, '92
Barbara Johnson, '92
Nancy D. Kates, MA '95
Gerardo Moreno, '92
Julius Paras, '91
Amisha Patel, '97
 Rosaura Sandoval, '93

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

A Weather Wager

John Ingram, '72, accuses President Hennessy of selling Stanford's soul to "the hoax of climate change" ("Climate Chagrin," Letters, March/April). It's encouraging that this year [Letters to the Editor] are down from three to one writer with a conspiratorial head-in-sand on climate change.

Since any Stanford grad in science, business, engineering, medicine, even law, must have taken some statistics, I'll just offer a wager. Given all the clear evidence on climate damages from our naïve ignorance of [Svante] Arrhenius's and others' warnings over 100 years ago (, we've got ourselves and our kids in a "nice mess" (borrowing from Laurel & Hardy). A large graph representing temperature rises in the last 38 years, ending with the claimed "cooling" or lack of continued rise over that last several years, was presented by the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the general meeting early in 2009. It models all recent years with just four factors: solar activity, volcanism, GHG emissions, and El Niño events. The model is spot on. Since this is an El Niño year and sunspot activity will soon return, things will be getting even hotter.

As any Stanford grad surely knows, data is king. So what does freely available climate data show? Warming, increasing greenhouse gases (not just CO2), melting land and sea ice, rising sea levels, and so on—all more severe than in the last 600,000 years of ice cores from either pole. Even business knows what's up, as the Chinese are negotiating with Iceland to build logistics ports for distribution of Chinese products shipped directly across a melted Arctic Ocean.

But let's say all the hundreds of scientists who prepared the latest data for the Copenhagen meeting flop last November ( are indeed conspirators—modestly paid ones, compared to those nicely compensated cable and speaking-tour folks. (Check out Limbaugh's 5,000-square-foot New York apartment for sale, overlooking Central Park, or Monckton's engagement fee.) Yes, let's say all those scientists are dishonest while all the Fox folks are paragons of true knowledge, devoted to all humanity's benefit, regardless of ratings.

That kind of bet is, in statistics, a Pascal's Wager. That is, it has great payoff but very low probability. It's identical to selling our personal effects, mortgaging our homes, cashing in our 401ks and IRAs and taking all the money to Vegas to gamble at the craps and roulette tables, until we double our bucks. Great payoff, but what chance? A Pascal's Wager is exactly what conmen and some lotteries entice us to make. It's also known as a fool's wager.

Given the actual data and the clear risk, betting against climate change we were warned of by the father of industrial chemistry 100 years ago is a fool's wager. So, John Ingram, here's a deal. Show your faith in the "hoax" and bet me $1,000 a year for the next five years that three of those years will not be hotter (as internationally reported) than any of the five years preceding 2010. Proceeds to go to Stanford, of course. Time to put up, or . . .

Alexander Cannara, Engr. '66, MS '74, PhD '76
 Menlo Park, California

I'm not quite sure why you printed the global warming denial letter. I expect that next time you publish an article about recent developments in paleontology, you will print a letter of rebuttal from a Biblical creationist. And if you do a feature on the space program, you certainly need to honor the opinion of someone who thinks that NASA faked the moon landing.

The nations of the world have resisted taking action on the degradation of the biosphere, and the United States has been among the worst. Even at this late date, those with their heads in the sand actively undermine every positive effort. For the sake of all future generations, please remember that climate change denial is just as despicable as Nazi Holocaust denial, with far more deadly consequences.

James Freudiger, '66
 Seattle, Washington

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