LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Between the Covers
As Columbia College parents, we really enjoyed your July
issue of Columbia College Today. The new graphical
layout of the cover gives the magazine a nice contemporary lift
but more importantly, what is “between the covers” continues
to impress us. Just three years ago, we watched the mailbox daily
hoping for a thick package from Admissions — now we find we
can start to see the top of the hill as our son enters his senior
year. Through this period, CCT has been a great link to
the College, as it is difficult for us West Coast types to attend
the various parent events.
This issue’s “Flouting Convention, Parts I and II”
were of particular interest to us, as we begin to wonder what career
path our future CC grad will pursue. At first, my wife and I pondered
the concept of a career in the handicapping or poker industries,
but it struck us that you had profiled two extraordinary individuals
who had once again demonstrated that perseverance, hard work and
talent can result in remarkable achievement, regardless of what
field one chases. The importance of passion as a catalyst was nicely
identified in these pieces.
Tony Kushner [’78]’s Class Day address also was a kick
to read and another testament to the wonderful alumni the College
produces. So, congrats on a beautiful new format, and we look forward
to each issue to help us stay connected to CC during the coming
Robert and Midori Stanton P’05
Palo Alto, Calif.
Thank you for printing the full text of Tony Kushner ’78’s
Class Day address to the “redeemers and rescuers” of
the Class of 2004. As an openly gay alumnus, I was thrilled to have
this extremely talented and hard-working openly gay playwright be
chosen as this year’s speaker, and extra pleased that CCT
saw fit to print the entire stirring text. Not only did Tony call
on our youthful fellow Columbians to “change the world,”
but he was such a mensch about it, showing appreciation
and respect for the parents, praising the campus so poetically as
“this most beautiful brick and stony womb,” describing
a Columbia education as “superlative” and suggesting
that even Republicans in the crowd have a role in weeding out the
Allen Young ’62, ’64J
I read with dismay the infantile ramblings of Tony Kushner ’78
that passed for a Class Day address. If the powers that be wanted
a left-wing political diatribe, why not pick someone with better
credentials, as for example, Nancy Pelosi?
But more discouraging, as no one should care what Kushner’s
political views are, was his tired call to man the picket lines
and “Save the World.” How much more significant it would
have been (you need to live in the real world to grasp this) to
exhort the new graduates to be entrepreneurs, start new businesses,
hire and train new workers, especially the disadvantaged, and in
general, promote the virtues of capitalism throughout the world.
Edward C. Broge ’43
Glen Mills, Pa.
I read with distress Tony Kushner ’78’s Class Day
speech. Mr. Kushner shows writing ability of a sort, as he mentions
numerous times that he is allotted only eight minutes for his talk
and yet still manages to deliver a speech that seems eternal. Doubtless,
1960s liberalism is still in fashion at Columbia, but must that
fashion be so garish and sloppy? Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Louis Henkin
or Joseph Stiglitz could have delivered an address that was liberal
and thoughtful, admittedly a difficult feat, but one within the
realm of possibility.
Compare Mr. Kushner’s remarks to the commencement speech
at Hillsdale College, delivered by Edwin Feulner of the Heritage
Foundation. Dr. Feulner’s speech (www.hillsdale.edu/newimprimis/2004/july/july.htm),
which concerned the current intolerance of conservatives and liberals,
was nuanced, thoughtful and even self-critical (there’s an
unexplored literary avenue for you, Tony!). That Dr. Feulner’s
speech was given at little Hillsdale College and Kushner’s
at Columbia is depressing. However, don’t worry, Mr. Kushner;
don’t worry, President Bollinger. The comparison is only depressing
if you stop and think about it.
William M. Carey ’81
Is the accumulation of wealth the sole criterion for a useful,
productive life? My grandfather, also a Columbia graduate, and I
never felt that way. In articles that should have been in a Las
Vegas tabloid rather than Columbia College Today (“Flouting
Convention, Parts I and II,” July), two professional gamblers
are glorified. Remember, Jimmy the Greek’s broadcast career
came to an ignominious end. Perhaps a third article about Jack Molinas
[’53] should have been included, or Chet Forte [’57].
Richard R. Feder ’69 M.D.
Playwright Tony Kushner [’78]’s charge to the Class
of 2004 that “you will rescue us from these dreadful, dreadful
people ... ” (page 7, July) is tragically undone on pages
20–23 of the same issue of Columbia College Today.
The frantic, unmitigated greed for money that permeates the words
on these pages and seems to drive the lives of Wayne Root ’83
and Annie Duke ’87, with no redeeming social value unless
you count “and as soon as I have enough money I will run for
the U.S. Senate” (page 21) or “she’ll definitely
be able to achieve her goals of ‘earning a living, putting
my kids through college and owning a nice home’” (page
23) is sickening, or did I miss something here?
We are so obsessed with pointing fingers at our current administration
that it seems we are profoundly failing to see from whence they
come. Like Michael Moore, I say, “Shame on you, Columbia.
Shame on you.”
Carol Coffin P’98
Leafing through the May 2004 issue of CCT, my eye was
caught by a full-page photo of Irwin Edman ’17, from
whom I took an upper-division course in philosophy of art. I was
surprised to read that he had been one of the founders of the Humanities
course that I took in 1937–38, my freshman year. A few pages
further, the reading list for that course was given, and I detected
three errors: We started with Homer’s Odyssey, not
Iliad, and Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides were
missing from the list. Not trusting my faltering memory I contacted
Bob Wallerstein ’41, our class valedictorian, and he confirmed
Leon Henkin ’41
Not that anyone at Michigan (and now at Columbia) will listen,
but the appointment of a special diversity individual for anything
is a mistake. As there is no generic anything, be it black, white,
woman and so forth, diversity training usually is meaningless.
True diversity is simple: Treat everyone as an individual, with
dignity and respect. If you approach individuals with an open mind
and treat them with respect, they will end up teaching you about
their culture, and you are unlikely to offend them. If you treat
them as a generic anything, you are bound to offend.
R. Alexander Blackwood ’76 M.D.
A Teacher Remembered
I was saddened to read the obituary of Paul Schweitzer ’29,
an educator (July). He was my English teacher at the Bronx H.S.
of Science, and I can remember his keen wit a half-century later.
In January 1954, when Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio, Schweitzer
announced to our class, with feigned optimism, “This is a
marriage certain to last many, many months.” They were divorced
Gerald W. Grumet ’59 M.D.
Let’s hope the use of “student-athletes” [in
May] is Columbia College Today’s last. The term was
devised years ago by a football factory trying to persuade the public
that its Hessians were bone fide students. Its use became widespread
when others engaged in prostituting college athletics quickly and
enthusiastically adopted it. It has no place, however, in a Columbia
publication. Columbia’s athletes, like all other students
engaged in extra-curricular activities, have met its admission requirements
and are taking full courses. Columbia only demeans itself (and its
athletes) when it uses the term.
John McCormack ’39
[Editor’s note: Former Director of Athletics John Reeves
replies, “Student-athlete is the universally accepted term.
‘Columbia athlete’ would be demeaning, leading one to
believe that his/her purpose at Columbia is to participate in athletics.”
Dean of Student Affairs Chris Colombo concurred, saying, “Student-athlete
is the accepted term in today’s world.”]
A solution to the need to reconfigure the Columbia campus is to
move Grant’s Tomb to General Grant’s birthplace, Point
Pleasant, Ohio, or to where he lived in his final days and passed
on at Mount McGregor, N.Y., or to West Point. Columbia and New York
City can then trade this property and adjacent property on Riverside
Drive for the athletic facilities at the tip of Manhattan Island.
This integration of the Columbia campus would be a boon to the students,
who could then walk only a few blocks to athletic facilities for
training and competitions. It also would benefit the city, giving
it the opportunity to provide facilities for institutions local
to northern Manhattan and the Bronx.
Arthur L. Thomas ’50
I share the excitement that the University, the city and the neighborhood
feel about the development of the [Manhattanville] area. While certainly
the enhancement and integration of our academic campus and residential
facilities, with the attendant economic benefit for the neighborhood,
appropriately occupy the position as the top planning priorities,
I believe that the University should consider using some of the
new area for other important purposes. For example, I have not read
or heard of plans to include a “green space” by the
Hudson River, west of 12th Avenue, as a recreational field that
can serve as an intramural sports recreational facility for College
undergraduates and as a varsity football practice field.
I was heartened by President Lee C. Bollinger’s expression,
soon after he assumed the presidency and in light of his Michigan
experience, that the performance of Columbia’s intercollegiate
teams, and especially the football and men’s basketball teams,
should be improved to reflect the level of excellence for research
and scholarship that the University has earned and now enjoys in
worldwide academic circles.
The football coaching staff’s opportunities to compete with
other Ivy League football programs for outstanding student-athletes
would be improved immeasurably by creating the University’s
practice facilities in closer proximity to the College dormitory
complex. Potential football recruits (and their parents) have found
the task of charter bus travel from the College dormitories to Baker
Field for their afternoon practices to be a necessary inconvenience
that operates, in my judgment, as a recruiting impediment because
it adds travel time to their tight academic and practice schedules.
If the University is to help the football coaching staff to raise
the level of performance of the varsity to the same level as the
University’s reputation for excellence, the removal of the
football practice travel time obstacle, by the allocation of some
of the Manhattanville project to a practice field (with some scheduled
community use, perhaps) would go a long way to round out the project’s
student faculty objectives.
Stephen E. Ronai ’57
New Haven, Conn.
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
Editor, Columbia College Today
475 Riverside Dr., Ste 917
New York, NY 10115-0998
Telephone: (212) 870-2752
Fax: (212) 870-2747
CCT thanks alert readers Amiel Z. Rudavsky
’54 and Don Gertler ’79
for bringing to our attention an error in the July issue’s
cryptogram (inside back cover). The code in No. 13 should
have corresponded to the Graduate (not Craduate) School of
Also in July, in "Alumni Reconnect at Reunion 2004,"
the link on page 14 referring readers to a website about Columbia’s
underground tunnels should have read http://newmedia.jrn.columbia.edu/2003/issue2/story1/