The only way Providence can have the "highest percentage of lead-poisoned children in the nation" ("The Lead Heads," May/June) is to have a severe contamination of her drinking water, which I seriously doubt.
I am dismayed by Brown's embarking on yet another lead study, apparently with the popular aim of attributing the problem to lead paint. The most credible studies here and abroad show that lead intake for children eating paint chips is overwhelmed by the intake from burning lead-bearing gasoline, whose airborne emission particles are brought indoors on hands and feet or drift in through open windows. This may explain the little-publicized observation that many children have elevated lead levels even though they live in homes with no lead paint.
Despite the rhetoric, there is little evidence that removal of lead paint will significantly reduce the incidence of lead poisoning. I can't speak to Brown's motivation, but nationwide the lead-paint campaign is driven by lawyers in search of deep pockets. To quote the executive director of the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, "We're focusing on the paint in rental units, where the other force at play is the tort system."
L.M. Foster '47 Ph.D.
I was surprised to read that Kathleen Norris found "Christian language, with its vocabulary of sin and repentance and heresy and salvation" to be "one of the greatest obstacles to her return" to Christianity (Here and Now, May/June).
I am not religious, but I find much of religious language appealing. Much of my work deals with Sir Thomas Malory, a fifteenth-century writer whose characters use the vocabulary of sin, repentance, and salvation. I find it a welcome con-trast to the present-day alternative - the vocabulary of therapy, self-help groups, "dysfunctional behavior," and "self-actualization." People in Malory's world have religious beliefs I do not share, but their religious language is a lot nicer aesthetically than today's clunky psychobabble. It also shows concerns that are a lot richer than the present-day one of "self-actualization."
A recent spate of letters from young Brown homosexuals addressed my concern that gay-and-lesbian-studies programs offered by the University seem to miss the mark entirely (Mail, May/June).
My "fork-tongued hypocrisy" (per Mr. Ben Darrow '95) was not decrying homosexuality per se - there's no point to it - but rather that University funds are utilized to study the same. Why is it necessary? What are gay-and-lesbian studies? Are there heterosexual studies?
Since Mr. Robert Sarno '86 claims to be a homosexual without "inherent deviant psychological problems," why does he then take offense at what doesn't relate to him?
The point of my letter was the proper expenditure of funds to which I formerly contributed, not the people pursuing the "studies." In short: fiscal prudence versus program prurience.
Alfred I. Miranda '46
Whatever happened to civility and tolerance? In your May/June issue, two young alumni attacked a contemporary of mine for expressing a negative opinion about homosexuality ("Trash Canned," Mail). One of them questioned the BAM's editorial judgment for publishing the opinion and demanded an apology. The other accused Mr. Miranda of "fork-tongued hypocrisy." Uncivil.
Both of them proceeded as though the genetic origin of homosexuality were an established fact and dissenting opinions were therefore not permitted. Intolerant.
In the same issue, another contemporary of mine expressed similarly uncivil and intolerant remarks about Kenneth Starr '69 A.M. and three other alumni ("Right-Wing Alums," Mail) - not that I'm inclined to defend any of the four. But John Harry Hill '49 proceeds to add a brash statement that is simply not true. He says that Brown failed in its duty by producing right-wing ideologues. He appears to be unaware that our alumni roster includes himself and many other left-wing ideologues.
I, like Mr. Hill, left Brown voluntarily to enter the military in World War II, and my pride in the fact that diverse opinions were tolerated when I came back is undiminished. The most appropriate reply I can muster for my classmate Mr. Hill comes from that fictional M*A*S*H colonel of the Korean War, played on television by Harry Morgan, who was wont to say "Hosspucky!"
Richard T. Downes '45
John Harry Hill castigates Brown for having produced Kenneth Starr, whom he links with George Rockwell, E. Howard Hunt, and Charles Colson, ideologues apparently unacceptable to him. Universities don't "produce" anything or anyone. They proffer an educational opportunity, but the acquisition of knowledge is an active process on the part of the student. Whether or not that individual actually acquires an education is based upon many factors, including genetic endowment and the environment in which the student has grown. In other words, the "baggage" individuals carry to the University is by far the most significant factor in determining their educational experience and what learning takes place.
I'm certain that all institutions of higher learning, including religious institutions, have awarded degrees to individuals in whom they take little pride. It would be far better for Mr. Hill to focus on Brown's high achievers, of which there are very many, including both Mr. Colson and Mr. Starr, whatever their shortcomings.
Lawrence Ross M.D. '52
I am sure that the irony of accusing Kenneth Starr of harassing women was unintentional in John Harry Hill's letter. But the use of phrases such as Nazis and Gestapo cohorts to describe - at least indirectly - Mr. Starr is unfair, or worse.
Joseph S. Medeiros '88
In the May/June issue appears an item strongly opposing the death penalty ("Swallowing Poison," Elms). I suggest that a life sentence without possibility of parole is a crueler punishment than death. Yet this is the sentence we hear so often lately. Can you imagine looking forward to spending the rest of your life in the grim and violent confines of prison, without any hope of ever getting out?
I wish opponents of the death penalty would focus on this. Death could be the less-cruel alternative.
William E. O'Connor '42
I read with interest, but also some consternation, the report on the activities of Zaid Ashai '99 in Bosnia and Herzegovina ("Primary Sources," Elms, May/June). I am currently engaged in my third project in Bosnia-Herzegovina over the last three years, this time as a legal advisor in the Office of the High Representative.
I must admit that I felt some resentment at the idea that Mr. Ashai could offer advice on the measures necessary to rebuild this country after three weeks of wandering around it. Those of us who have spent months and years attempting to restore hope to the people of this country have been unable to uncover the facile answers that Mr. Ashai apparently perceived in three weeks as a tourist.
Frankly, his idea of re-creating multiethnic neighborhoods because it "forces people to interact again" is little short of absurd. I trust that the international-relations curriculum at Brown is not really so out of touch with reality that it leads students to offer naively simplistic answers to incredibly complex issues after a few weeks of superficial observation.
William C. Potter '62
However well Professor Henry Kucera may have known John Cheever, there is little excuse for his splenetic attack ("Cork the Bottle," Mail, May/June) on Susan Cheever's work and personality ("pathetic enterprises," "narcissistic exercise," "exploits her father's name"). The first two phrases might more accurately be applied to John Cheever's Notebooks - but without denigrating his worth as "a very talented writer."
Susan Cheever may well have inherited a disposition to alcoholism, but no genetic component for literary excellence has yet been identified. Nevertheless, Susan Cheever's Home Before Dark and Treetops are exemplary memoirs, with a distinction of style, structure, and candor that ranks them among the best of recent "nonfiction novels." Even Note Found in a Bottle has instructive insights on the mixed blessings in legacies of fame, privilege, and behavior.
Neil D. Isaacs '59 Ph.D.
Having read John Andes's unwarranted, nasty personal attack on Dick Holbrooke '62 in The Classes (May/June), I believe you should either reconsider your editorial policy of permitting such personal attacks in The Classes or change the name of the publication to the Brown Alumni Molester.
For the record: (1) As of July 1999, the war in Bosnia has indeed ended and does not continue to kill hundreds, and (2) it does not appear to me, as a duly licensed attorney, that Dick violated any conflict-of-interest laws.
Given Dick's historic achievements,it might be appropriate to treat him with some amount of civility in your pages.
David Gubits '63
Whether or not we agree with the politics of our classmate Richard Holbrooke, the comments expressed by John Andes were inappropriate and offensive as a class note. We hope that the BAM will find a more suitable way to present such views in the future.
Dale Burg '62
The class notes section is not an appropriate place for one class member to take potshots at another's accomplishments. I couldn't believe my eyes. What ever possessed you to publish those negative, sarcastic comments about Richard Holbrooke in that forum?
Lawrence Weene '59
The BAM received similar notes from J. Sidman, John Schultz, and John Payne. The magazine erred in including Mr. Andes's comments in The Classes, which should be restricted to news about alumni and their classmates and which should be an attack-free zone. Had Mr. Andes linked his comments to a specific BAM article, they could have been published in Carrying the Mail. The magazine apologizes to Mr. Holbrooke and to the class of 1962 for the error in judgment. - Editor
As Donald Kent '68 suggested (Mail, July/August) about the Sayles Hall photo (The Classes, March/ April), no post-war class ever wore ties and jackets for a final exam!
In fact, I'm sure that this photo is not of a final exam at all, but of an S.A.T. test, which in those pre-World War II days was held at Brown for Providence-area high schools. Although I can't be sure I see myself in the crowd, I definitely do spot several Cranston High School classmates and several later-to-be post-war Brown classmates from other local high schools.
I would date the photo as late 1942, because I entered Brown in February 1943 and got my call from Uncle Sam later that spring.
P.S.: Also note the cuffs on the trousers, which went out of style during the war to save material. Note, too, the lack of button-down collars, which were definitely very post-war.
John A. Howland '48
Thank you for the article on the financial-aid bidding wars ("The Payoff," Elms, March/April). The Corporation's decision to increase financial-aid spending by $5 million over the next four years is a step in the right direction, but more still needs to be done.
Currently, the realization of a more socioeconomically diverse community on campus is not a priority of the administration. Brown is only devoting as much money to financial aid as required to stay competitive with the handful of colleges and universities that have revised their financial-aid policies over the last several years.
We urge Brown to increase aid packages further and to move more rapidly toward need-blind admission. We also urge alumni donors to direct their giving to financial aid, which will not become a top University priority until alumni start supporting it with more of their dollars.
Eric Neutuch '99