|What You Thought|
Here’s one data point: I graduated from Brown in 1980 with about $10,000 in debt, which would be the inflation-adjusted equivalent of about $23,000 in 2004, or $29,000 in 2016, the two comparison years cited in Lorraine Glennon’s interesting “The Explosion of Student Debt” from the January/February BAM.It seemed like quite a lot of money at the time. The rules then in place allowed for deferrals of loan repayment for Peace Corps service (I served for five years) and for graduate school (another five years, but with no additional debt), which for me effectively allowed inflation to “pay” a third of the debt. A doctorate in economics and a good job paid the rest.
Debt forces individuals to make tough choices. If a good education is a human right, or if we believe in equality of opportunity, then something is amiss. Kudos to Lauren Asher ’87 for focusing on this issue.
Jeffrey Cochrane ’80
What is the average student debt upon graduation for Brown students?
Andrew Halvorsen ’68
Lauren Asher ’87 replies: According to data we at the Institute for College Access and Success collected as part of The Project on Student Debt, 34 percent of Brown’s 2015 graduates had student loans, and their average debt was $22,197. View state-by-state data at http://ticas.org/posd/map-state-data#.
I wanted to share an insightful comment made by Jennifer Hoffman ’89 on Facebook, in response to the article “1001 Black Men” (January/February): “I liked what you [Ajuan Mance ’88] said about your progression from drawing the sorts of men you encounter in your life to learning to see other types of men. Even for those of us who don’t do much drawing this is a good challenge: who do we see and not see, and how can we expand our vision?” I loved this point, and think it so critical. This has to be one of the reasons why drawing, or, more broadly, perhaps, artistic activity, are a critical part of learning—even “moral” learning, for lack of a better term.
Keith Greenbaum ’92 PhD
Compliments to Editor Norman Boucher, President Christina Paxson, and Deputy Editor Louise Sloan on their admirably well balanced comments on Brown’s response to the recent U.S. election and to Brown’s observance of Veteran’s Day (January/February).
The real hero, of course, is U.S. Marine and student Jonathan Hagedorn ’19, who not only honored and defended the U.S. flag, as he has been trained to do, but also took time to explain to fellow students the real significance of Veteran’s Day and why it is important to the Brown community. May Brown be blessed with more such heroes.
Tom Rollinson ’60
In reference to the harvesting of the flags: “These were University flags put out for a University event honoring veterans” (“After the Election,” From the President). By putting them out, the University took sides in a fight it could have stayed out of. Patriotism and flags are a secular religion in the United States, and people resist having another’s religion forced upon them. Those who think of all war victims as victims of politicians on all sides would disapprove of little flags dedicated to just some of them.
Charles W. McCutchen ’52 ScM
The new U.S. president has indeed struck fear in “Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and so many others left isolated and frightened by the election campaign and its aftermath,” as the editor and publisher wrote in the preface to the latest issue (“What the BAM Can Do,” Here & Now). But in that recitation, how could the BAM forget half the population—women—which includes so many graduates of Brown?
What can the BAM do? For starters, please don’t leave me out. It makes me really, really sad. And there’s so much more for me to be sad about these days.
Margaret E. Murray ’80
It saddens me deeply to read of the Veteran’s Day flag destruction on the College Green last November 10. I am a graduate and a veteran of twenty years in the U.S. Marine Corps who served three combat tours in the Iraq War, and I am decorated for valor as both an aviator and an infantry marine. I have numerous friends buried in Arlington and other national cemeteries.
I am disappointed in the “well-heeled” ignorance of the students who uprooted the flags. This world is real, not ideal. Unfortunately, an idealistic youth all too often forgets or simply doesn’t understand the luxury of America. My existence may be grotesque to the Brown student body, but it is necessary for and respected by the majority of citizens in this country. The very rights these students so poorly express are defended by marines like me. I think I’ll change my license plate frame from “Brown Bears” to “Veteran USMC.”
Roy Moore ’96
I do not think it was necessary for the publisher of the alumni monthly to state that he voted for the Clinton woman. He voted for Hillary, as was his right. But was it necessary to focus so many pages on the election? Is it possible for Norman Boucher to “man up” and admit that many people do not like Clinton or what she stands for?
Now that Trump is president, I can actually use those words and that is a good thing! Those of us who voted for the guy who won are going to think twice before sending in donations to a campus that is intolerant of politically incorrect beliefs and divergent opinions. If you want to know why Clinton lost, read the first few articles in the January/February BAM. It is a tribute to political correctness gone wild. Now go back to your coloring books and safe spaces.
Alice Lemos ’81 PhD
AGEISM AT THE BAM?
What’s with the “Even” in the subtitle to the article in the January/February print issue about my classmate—“Even at 70, Jon Turk ’67 is addicted to high-risk exploration” (“The Adventurer,” Classes)? That implies we are not to explore, pursue adventure, and keep living wildly at 70. Somebody forgot to tell a lot of us about that rule.
Alice Cannon Vilardi ’67
CORRUPTOR OF YOUTH
Professor Emeritus of MCM, English, and Comparative Literature Robert Scholes was my most important teacher. He combined a fearsome intellectual discipline with an open-minded enthusiasm. That meant he insisted on getting the details of a text right (I never use the word rigor without thinking of him stressing it all through a Derrida seminar I took senior year) while also being jovially open to the crazy notions of undergrads.
He taught me a relish for theory, and he humored and extended my work on James Joyce in an extraordinarily generous way. I still think about the Scholes paper: one page, any font, any margins. It was a brilliant, organic way to teach us how to edit. And I have taught his book Textual Power to my own graduate students for years.
Bob, thank you for being a model of generous, warm, patient excellence. I went to Cornell for grad school because he did, and he told me that the great thing about Cornell was that, whenever the students walked in a certain direction, the school recognized that fact and laid down a pathway. I don’t know if that’s true of Cornell, but it’s true of Bob Scholes. Thank you for treading ahead and making a pathway for your students. The world is poorer now that you’re not in it.
Talia Schaffer ’90
I will greatly miss Bob Scholes. I first met him when we were on opposing sides, or so we thought, in the critical wars of the 1970s and 1980s, but from talking through them we became friends and, I felt, intellectual allies.
For many, Bob and his work were absolutely crucial in helping us understand the baffling and seemingly alienating new theories and methods that exploded in those years. His 1985 book Textual Power was and is not only a most clarifying discussion of those theories and methods but, for me, the most useful available guide by far on how to use them in teaching, which was always Bob’s bottom line. Bob was always friendly, warm, and funny, and I loved the times I (and later my wife, Cathy, and I) spent with Bob and his wife, JoAnn.
The writer is a former president of the Modern Language Association.
When Bob Scholes put up his Facebook page in 2009, he told me he did it only because his former students wanted to connect with him there. But soon he was posting pieces of new things he was working on, photos of himself all over Asia during his U.S. Navy years, and on March 5, 2012, a fabulous essay entitled “Corruptors of Youth,” which begins: “I am one of those college professors feared by Senator Santorum as corrupters of safely indoctrinated young people in colleges.” The essay itself is witty and brilliant, and the back-and-forth comments between Bob and his students are hilarious. As one of the many proudly corrupted by Bob, I commend that posting to all of you in tribute to him.
John Braunstein ’79
When someone asks me what was special about my time at Brown, I immediately reply: “That would have to be the Group Independent Study Project I organized around Joyce’s Ulysses, which met once a week at Bob Scholes’s home on Power Street with an eager coterie of six curious and committed undergraduates.”
There, after a splendid dinner prepared by Bob’s lovely wife, JoAnn, we worked our way through the greatest novel of the twentieth century. (I’m exercising some license here as the first and only Anglo-Irish Literature major to graduate from Brown.) Chapter by chapter, often line by line, Bob was our passionate and trenchant guide to my namesake’s journey throughout Dublin on June 16, 1904. I’ve never had a more engaging and joyous learning experience in my life.
Few know this about Bob: In 1970 I returned from a semester at Trinity College Dublin with an English edition of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Of course, I asked Bob to read it. As a result, he helped to confront the longstanding Plath family censorship of the work and ultimately arranged to have it published in the United States for the very first time.
Bob was supremely gracious, encouraging, and kind. He was an inspiring teacher who could not wait to share his wide-ranging enthusiasms, whether they were new films, travel tours, or professional sports. It was my great, enduring fortune that Bob became my friend.
Bob knew that literature matters. And you could tell by the ever-present twinkle in his eye that he wanted you to know the same.
David W. Bloom ’71
I write in memory and appreciation of Judaic studies professor Jacob Neusner after his recent passing at age 84. When I was at Brown in the early 1980s, I knew Professor Neusner’s reputation as one of the most prolific and controversial Judaic scholars of his generation. That aspect of his life has been well reported in obituaries in many major papers.
Professor Neusner was also one of the most interesting and effective teachers I ever had. For a college student, Professor Neusner’s classroom was a unique challenge. The texts and concepts were often difficult, but that was not what distinguished his classes. He set a high standard for discussion and did not tolerate lack of participation. Sitting in the middle of the classroom in a swivel chair, with twenty or twenty-five students sitting in a circle around him, Professor Neusner was Socratic, demanding, and thoughtful; he always relished, and even invited, well reasoned disagreement. His goal was not to persuade, but to engage every student in making and defending as strong an argument as possible.
Professor Neusner took an unusual interest in his students. He spent considerable time marking up papers of mine and then going over his comments with me one-on-one. This was not drudgery left to his TAs; for him, it was the professor’s job. I am a far better writer today because he coached me more than thirty years ago. I recall being invited to his home for dinner with his family, as most of my classmates were. And I recall later, when I was editor of the Brown Daily Herald, getting more than one call or note from Professor Neusner because he agreed or disagreed with something we had written.
Professor Neusner left Brown in 1989 and continued teaching until 2014. Among his many accolades, he should be remembered for his positive impact on many a Brown education.
Peter B. Krupp ’83
TASTES IN POETRY