|What You Thought|
Reader comments since the last issue:
Manuel Contreras ’16 has a unique perspective and is doing so much for those who deserve a chance in the Ivy League but who do not even know where to start. Even my daughter, a first-year at Brown, is going through an adjustment. Imagine the challenges for students who are dealing with the adjustment by themselves.
In the end I found many wonderful and accepting friends at Brown and loved the experience so much that I stayed for a master’s degree. This acceptance is a key advantage Brown has over the other Ivies.
As the executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative, I was thrilled to invite Manuel Contreras to speak at the White House after meeting with him and hearing his story. I was so proud of how well he articulated the needs of first-gen students, and I’m equally proud of what he and his classmates are doing to bring this issue to the forefront of the national dialogue. Great job, Manuel and Team 1vyG!
Women at Brown
In fact, the first female students were admitted to Brown in 1891, and the Corporation approved creation of the Women’s College in Brown University in 1896. In 1928, the name was changed to Pembroke College in Brown University. When I graduated from Brown in 1955, there were 377 men and 170 women (roughly 30 percent) in our graduating class.
Yes, we were called Pembrokers in those days, but the degree was from Brown, and every undergraduate class I took included both men and women. The 1971 date is significant only because that’s when the few remaining separate male and female administrative functions were merged and, as of July 1, 1971, the name Pembroke College in Brown University officially disappeared. In 1991, Brown celebrated the 100th anniversary of women at Brown with a special Opening Convocation and a four-day symposium. Women have been marching down the Hill in those Commencement processions for a long time.
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to join Larry in this year’s march. It was my
reunion too. But it’s a very steep hill and my knees aren’t in great
shape these days.
Art the Fishman Way
What is most impressive about Richard Fishman is that he has more energy
and enthusiasm than people who are one-third his age. Clearly, he has
many years of creative energy to go, and his talent is a rare gift that
he should continue to share. I am not an artist, but Fishman’s
extraordinary output and contribution make me wish I had half his
talent. He continues to be an inspiration to Brown students and faculty
on every level.
I had a chance to work closely with Richard Fishman as an inaugural
member of Brown’s Creative Arts Advisory Board. His vision, leadership,
and energy are unmatched, and Brown is immeasurably richer for his
contributions. He’s a treasure!
I took a studio art painting course with Richard Fishman my freshman
year. He submitted two of my early paintings to an art contest and
exhibit at RISD. One day I was walking down to the art department when
several classmates shouted “Congratulations!” Unbeknown to me, I had won
first prize! Now my home in Washington, D.C., is filled with my
paintings, and I get great joy from them every day. Thank you, Prof.
Computers and Teachers
A couple of dates are a bit confused here. Yes, the applied math department did house an IBM 650 in 1965 (I was introduced to it as an applied math sophomore in 1958), but the IBM 7070 arrived long before 1965.
How do I know? I was employed by the computer lab as a machine operator (among other duties) for the year after I graduated (1961–62). This was before there was such a thing as an “operating system,” and the 7070 had to be booted up from a large tray of punched cards every morning: be very careful never to drop them!
As a side note, I think I was the only person at the lab who actually
liked the rug that appears over Professor Andy van Dam’s head in the
photo of him that appears with the article. I still enjoy looking in
through the glass doors of the lab and seeing it (now rather faded) when
I pass by that building.
From Brown to West Point
After a long business career, I am now an adjunct professor teaching leadership and management at several New England colleges, including Boston University and Babson College. At every school where I’ve taught, students have been avidly interested in the lessons of military service. The values of self-sacrifice, discipline, sense of duty, and love of country resonate with them as they begin to find their own paths. They recognize the important and critical role that service, broadly defined, can play in their own growth and development, and they value interacting with those who have experienced situations that required leadership under pressure.
In addition to the reasons so well articulated by the other alumni, I would add one more. Many Brown students will graduate to nonprofit or government service. At some point, they will need to interact with members of the military. Would it not make sense, as it has historically, to begin the process of mutual understanding on Brown’s campus? Brown’s ethos of critical thinking, it seems to me, would be more than enhanced by this kind of exposure and would better comport to the classical definition of a university.
If memory serves me correctly, there are several monuments on Brown’s
campus to alumni who chose to join the military. If they could speak,
which side of this issue do you think they would be on?
Such public relations are needed. Most Americans and most Muslims do not
understand each other. The Capital Area Interfaith Alliance (CAIA) is
trying to do something about this. We recently brought in Rihab Sawah, a
Syrian American woman, to talk about Islam vs. Islamic State. She was
born in the United States and raised in Syria. She teaches both physics
and theology. We first learned about her through her radio show, Arab
Music Arab Culture. I congratulate the BAM for working toward goals
similar to those of CAIA and for bringing people together.
Your article on Ayad Akhtar surpassed even BAM’s usual standard
of sycophancy when it claims Akhtar will not say what he thinks about
9/11 because it would prejudice audiences and reveal his politics. On
the contrary, if true, an unwillingness to condemn the mass murder of
thousands of fellow Americans speaks volumes about his politics and
I really appreciate receiving the BAM. The article on Ayad Akhtar is so relevant to issues of racism and diversity in our world today. Keep up the good work.
I imagine the other students discussed in the article were not happy
that their generous summer activities—volunteering, teaching, doing
research, interning—were mentioned alongside an example of animal
cruelty. The BAM should not have given this student’s activity, which you called a “bizarre accomplishment,” the privilege of being publicized.
The Veteran's College
Don't Blame the Drillers
What bothered me is the bias in the article. The Louisiana plan to rebuild its coastal wetlands is a morally disingenuous effort to find money other than through taxation “to fund the state’s rebuilding of its vanishing coast or to build higher levees” by throwing blame at the petroleum industry. It is also an unethical effort by the lawyers to line their own pockets by making money off the backs of an industry valuable to the state’s economy.
The industry has admitted to contributing to damage affecting the wetlands. They should be held responsible for any damage they do. In Canada such damage has to be repaired right away, but in North America we have evolved only in the last couple of decades to truly enforcing regulations. Many jurisdictions do not do and have not done a good job of regulating, mainly because they lack resources.
Before blaming the petroleum industry, the state should be laying the blame at the feet of earlier officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose goal, as you note, was “to tame the lower Mississippi.” The loss of the wetlands is first and foremost the result of the creation and maintenance of the huge levees that permit shipping traffic to move up the Mississippi. A delta requires the sediment load from flooding into the wetlands, which lie between the channel areas, to maintain itself. Once deposited, the sediment compacts, resulting in subsidence, which can only be counteracted by the addition of new sediment to maintain the wetlands. Upriver the Mississippi has breached its levees ever since the river has existed and has flooded the adjacent prairie, thereby refertilizing those lands. It is what rivers do.
As long as we avoid the full stories, we are going to repeat errors that
lead to bad decisions with tremendous costs. Education is more than
blurting out biased thoughts. We must continue to ensure that people
become knowledgeable about a subject before they begin professing to
know. I thought that was what Brown offered to all its students.