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Columbia College Today November 2004
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 Making Holidays
 A Life in Jazz
 Changing a Culture:
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    Director Dianne
 Columbia’s 2004


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Alumni Profiles





This Issue





Stand, Columbia

A statement made in my book, Stand, Columbia, regrettably remained unchanged by me in the excerpt you ran in the September issue of CCT.

The statement as it appeared (p. 574 S/C; p. 29, CCT): “The firing of Bob Pollack [as dean of Columbia College] in 1988 was seen by some College alumni as an example of Low Library’s getting up to its old tricks.” While I stand by the statement as to how some alumni construed the situation, Bob assured me on the book’s publication that his return to teaching and research was a decision mutually reached between him and President Michael Sovern ’53.

Accordingly, I agreed with Bob that the term “firing” did not fit the situation as he described it, and that I would drop the term and amend the sentence in any subsequent edition of the book. My apologies to Bob and to your readers.

Bob McCaughey
History Department
Barnard College

Kushner Revisited

CCT printed three letters [September] commenting on Tony Kushner ’78’s Class Day address, one laudatory, the others critical. The dramatically different perspectives of the address led me to watch and listen to the speech at

I found the address to be a call to involvement in our society. Edward Broge ’43 seems to think we would be best served by our graduates being private citizens. I agree with Mr. Kushner that we need more public citizens. I, for one, believe that Mr. Kushner has contributed immeasurably more to us through his work than 100 enterprising franchise operators. Columbia always will have well-heeled alumni; I hope our alumni also will seek truth and speak truth.

Perhaps Mr. Broge thinks I do not live in the real world, but part of my real world is the lyrical and transcendent works of Mr. Kushner. I find that far more enriching than tax-free dividends.

Alan Miller ’81
New York City

I read Tony Kushner ’78’s address to the new grads [July CCT] and howled with pleasure. He made them laugh and then he told them to get out there and do something about the world. The grads are pretty smart — they don’t need to be told what to do. They’re not there for another lecture, they want to enjoy and celebrate. I felt his tone was perfect, but what does the Class of ’04 think? They’re the ones who count.

Duane “Dink” Barnes ’51


Sidney Morgenbesser was my Contemporary Civilization instructor in 1959. Let me add a story to the ones mentioned in your article [September].

In preparation for the final exam, Morgenbesser gave us the following advice: “Answer the questions on the final defending your own position. Do not try to guess my position on the issues. The only thing on which I may have taken a position this term is free will versus determinism. I should tell you that I have since changed my mind on that issue, but I will not tell you whether it was an even or odd number of times.”

Sidney Morgenbesser and Moses Hadas were the greatest teachers I have ever had. I tried to see Morgenbesser while I was on sabbatical at Columbia in 1998, but he was too ill to see me. Your article made me understand the nature of his illness.

Joel Moses ’62
Institute Professor and former Provost

Truman on 1968

David B. Truman, former dean of the College and v.p. and provost of the University, died on August 28, 2003. Following his death and a memorial service at Columbia on October 23, 2003, it became more widely known that in 1995 he completed a manuscript, Reflections on the Columbia Disturbances of 1968. His family received many requests for copies. In response, the family has reproduced the 275-page manuscript and will provide copies to those interested. Please send requests to me (Truman’s son), Edwin M. Truman, 5803 Warwick Pl., Chevy Chase, MD 20815 along with a check for $20 tocover the cost of reproduction. The family will cover postage.

Edwin M. Truman
Chevy Chase, Md.

Theoretical Inquiry

I read with great interest the review of Dean Austin Quigley’s new book, Theoretical Inquiry: Language, Linguistics, and Literature [September]. His idea that “theory has often reduced literature to illustrating a theory’s presuppositions” and is therefore essentially reductionist is reflected in Great Books by David Denby ’65. Although there is considerable food for thought in the critical approaches toward theory expressed by both authors, theory also can considerably expand students’ horizons and give them new insights.

I teach in the Humanities Department at a college in Montreal. We are expected to teach interdisciplinary studies. I have students read from the textbook Controversies in Sociology, by Sylvia Hale. The author has sympathetic presentations of the four major schools of sociological thought today: functionalism, Marxism, feminism and social constructionism, in the context of subject matter normally found in sociology textbooks. I teach students to contextualize an argument based on one of the above four schools of thought and then organize three-to-four hour in-class parliamentary-style role play debates on drama, as, for example, Marxist vs. functionalist interpretations of Major Barbara, feminist vs. functionalist interpretations of Hedda Gabler, or social constructionist vs. functionalist interpretations of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen.

The students and I enjoy ourselves immensely during these debates, and we see how well students understand theory and are able to manipulate theoretical approaches and apply them. Weak students who had difficulty understanding the theory during preparation begin to understand it during the debate, as students teach other students.

Rather than limiting students’ appreciation of literature, theory allows them to consider aspects of the plays they may not have considered otherwise. Theory doesn’t only reduce drama to illustrating a theory’s presuppositions. Presenting theoretical interpretations in a debate format guarantees that a wide range of approaches and opinions are considered. Sometimes it is the drama itself that expands the theory into new directions For example, the sociology textbook discusses the Marxist notion of false consciousness reducing class consciousness. In Death of a Salesman, one can see that Willy does not identify himself as a “white-collar worker,” or a worker of any kind, and that he only has contempt for “blue-collar workers.” However, the false consciousness of the American Dream in the play goes beyond eliminating class consciousness and is far more devastating. It results in his failure to properly socialize his children and to commit suicide with the expectation that the $20,000 insurance policy will guarantee that his sons will thereby have the prerequisite to become successful.

My interest in interdisciplinary approaches toward education goes back to my years at Columbia. Allan Silverman in Sociology-Contemporary Civilization awakened me to the brilliant ideas of people such as Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Robert Merton, Talcott Parsons, Herbert Marcuse and Karl Marx, and I use those ideas in my teaching. Edward Said taught me what a sociology of literature could be like. What I learned from these teachers and others at the College, such as Angus Fletcher, Homer Brown and Richard Brett, remains fondly in my memory.

If anyone is interested in my teaching approach, I may be contacted at

Alan Weiss ’68


CCT welcomes letters from readers about articles in the magazine, but cannot print or personally respond to all letters received. All letters are subject to editing for space and clarity. Please direct letters for publication “to the editor.”

Editor, Columbia College Today
475 Riverside Dr., Ste 917
New York, NY 10115-0998
Telephone: (212) 870-2752
Fax: (212) 870-2747



In “College Fund Rises for 12th Straight Year” [September, page 7] Bob Berne ’60 should have been included as a member of the Fund Steering Committee. CCT apologizes for the omission.




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