Mail Room

By The Editors / January / February 2004
June 8th, 2007

From the Ashes

Addiction is a poorly understood problem in our society. Both its causes and its successful treatment receive inadequate and often inaccurate coverage. Zachary Block’s article, “Top Doc,” on the other hand, is a fine effort that celebrates the work of Terry Horton ’83 and Christopher Randolph ’74 and their colleagues who provide excellent treatment at Phoenix House (November/December).

As a director of the Phoenix House Foundation and chairman of the board of Phoenix Houses of New England, I can attest that the article is accurate. I often despair that so few people— even medical professionals—realize that even hard-core drug addicts can transform their lives with appropriate treatment programs. Supporting addiction treatment is a sound investment, beneficial to society and cost effective as well.

Thanks for publishing this excellent article and for helping to shed light on a critical topic.

Fraser A. Lang ’67

As a longtime practitioner in the substance-abuse-treatment field, I was pleased to see the article on Terry Horton and Phoenix House. However, your facile use of derogatory terms for persons with substance-use disorders (“crackheads, dope fiends, mainliners, pill poppers, and every other class of drug addict”) was startlingly disrespectful and for me a clear indication of society’s pervasive—and apparently unexamined—bias against persons with addictive disorders.

If the BAM called persons with diabetes or hypertension (other behavioral health disorders) nasty little names, I’ll bet you’d have a slew of protest letters. Unfortunately, as Dr. Lawrence Brown says in the article, we are talking about those with “the least political energy,” who live in a society that still sees addiction as a moral shortcoming. While lip service is given to the concept of addiction as a medical disorder, it seems we are in the end looking to pin the blame.

It is unfortunate that the BAM would promote such an unhelpful and prejudicial attitude, perpetuating the stigma against those suffering from substance-use disorders—the very stigma that undermines getting funding and support for programs like Phoenix House.

Stephen J. Gumbley

The writer is the liaison between the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Addiction Technology Transfer Center of New England, which is part of Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.

The BAM Machine

Your November/December cover and puff piece on Bobby Jindal was a hilarious act of desperate corruption. Did you (or Bobby) actually think that an eleventh-hour glowing endorsement from his white-shoe Ivy League alumni magazine would be enough to tip the balance in his favor in the waning hours of a tight Louisiana governor’s race?

I do give you credit for parading your atrocious ethics before your readers by admitting that Jindal is a trustee. However, you forgot to mention how much Jindal gave Brown in return for his high-gloss BAM campaign brochure. Jindal and BAM are setting a new sub-Enron low in morality. Keep the laughs coming.

Dan Jones ’86

Editor Norman Boucher replies: For 103 years and counting, the BAM has been editorially independent of any Brown administration and willfully ignorant of who gives what to Brown (no one would tell us even if we asked). During my five years as BAM editor, I have never assigned, written, or published a story based on someone’s donation or net worth. The decision to assign a profile of Bobby Jindal was mine, based solely on the value of his unusual and, I think, compelling story.

As most readers know, the BAM occasionally mails a letter of its own asking for reader contributions to the magazine. Last year we received about 10,000 individual donations, and because I have no idea who wrote most of those checks, I have no idea whether Bobby Jindal has ever been a BAM contributor. I do know, however, that neither I nor anyone on the magazine staff has had any contact with him or any of his handlers before, during, or after we did the story.

Finally, the suggestion that the BAM might have tried to swing the Louisiana election to Jindal is deliciously intriguing. Unfortunately, according to our latest circulation audit, the magazine is mailed to precisely 192 Louisiana residents, which suggests that, as fun as it would be for us to install Brown alumni in governor’s mansions around the country, our credentials as powerbrokers pose no threat to any political party.

Say what you will about Bobby Jindal ’92 —and I’m sure he’s a fine fellow alumnus—I’m pleased that at best one southern governor is a Democrat and not a Republican religious conservative.

Robert A. Frenette ’54
Brockton, Mass.

As I read “Bobby Goes Home,” all I could think of was that he’s following in the footprints of Margaret Hilda Thatcher and/or Clarence Thomas. The less fortunate of Louisiana have at least one thing to be thankful for.

John Harry Hill ’49
Davenport, Fla.

The Wrong Note

I greatly enjoyed the Looking Back on the Hutchins-Votey organ at Sayles Hall (“The Human Touch,” Classes, November/December). It did strike me as odd that a piece extolling excellence did not quite get it right, however. Marcel Dupré (not DuPrès) was never organist of Notre Dame but rather at St. Suplice, where he succeeded his teacher, Charles Maire Widor, in 1934.

Carole Walker Trickett ’59
Orwell, Vt.

As the biographer Michael Murray records in Marcel Dupré: The Work of a Master Organist, long before Dupré took over at St. Suplice he was indeed the organist at Notre Dame, from 1916 to 1920, while the church’s regular organist, Louis Vierne, sought treatment in Switzerland for his deteriorating eyesight. —Editor

Guilt-Free Giving

Thank you for mentioning the Elle article that details the donation of my inheritance of $3 million to create the Chahara Foundation. (In the News, Classes, September/October). I just wanted readers to know that I did not give the money away out of guilt, as Elle reported. I gave the money away because I wanted to align my resources with my social-justice values. I wanted to put my beliefs about the redistribution of wealth into action.

In addition, the folks at Elle invented the term “radical philanthropy” to describe my “day job.” Actually I work at Resource Generation (, a national nonprofit that supports and challenges wealthy people between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five to explore their relationship to class, privilege, and social change. If this sounds like something any other alums may be looking for, I hope you’ll get in touch!

Karen Pittelman ’97
Cambridge, Mass.

Un-PC at PC

I read with interest about the six Brown students who are enrolled in the U.S. Army ROTC unit at Providence College (“All That They Can Be,” Elms, November/December). It is unfortunate that ROTC has not been allowed at Brown since the Vietnam War. No matter how unpopular and how un-PC it would be to have a military organization on campus, ROTC should be made available to students just as any other organization is.

I wonder why this issue has not been revisited by the University. It should be embarrassing to this school that someone who wants to give it their all for their country is forced to commute across town.

Martin Velazquez ’94
Bryan, Texas

Mead’s Paradox

Scarcely forty-five years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead said birth control portended disaster—near heresy for a liberal feminist at the pill’s dawning. Challenged, she stated a simple paradox: “Those who should practice it most, will practice least; those who should practice least, will practice most.” Since then, we’ve witnessed a progression from the pill to illegitimacy, abortion and RU-486, Third World explosion, and Western family shrinkage; Mead’s prescience has become memorable.

And now in “Breeding Responsibly” (Elms, September/October) learned researchers declare the First World isn’t breeding enough and solemnly advise that childbearing “could come to be considered a ‘social act’ rather than a purely private decision.”

Anyone hear Huxley? “And that,” [said] the Director sententiously, “that is the secret … liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.”

I hear both prescient voices in pierced, tattooed Gammas swarming in Ecstasy-induced erotic play, Prozac-soma-using Alphas, and dawning Bokanovskian cloning. Now if we can just get Lenina an effective “Pregnancy Substitute.”

John C. Davis II ’63
Ramona, Calif.

A Christian Voice

I read with disappointment the interview with chaplain David Ames, which mentioned his helping a student find the money to terminate her pregnancy (Elms, July/August).

It is regrettable that Brown only has domesticated chaplains who say only what the rest of the relativistic campus thinks on such issues as abortion. No wonder that, when I went to church at Brown, there was a mere handful of students in the congregation. Why bother turning up at church when it has nothing to say that’s different from what the rest of the world says? A truly liberated and tolerant campus, as Brown claims to be, would allow all voices to be heard. It would converse with and tolerate voices with whom some disagree. Alas, Brown has no Christian voice on campus for students to even consider.

Polly Seidler
Sydney, Australia

University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson replies: Polly Seidler’s glimpse of Brown’s religious life seems too limited to have comprehended or enjoyed the broad range of faith and engagement that is one of the glories of this University. David Ames, while never officially a Brown chaplain, gave long service to Brown as affiliated Episcopal clergy and was valued by many. His work employed the freedom of belief and expression that defines the Brown experience. This liberty affords all Brunonians the rare opportunity to explore and to exemplify a spectrum of religious and ethical viewpoints. Christianity in its many forms and voices is well-represented “under the elms.” While “domesticated” is an unlikely description of our good chaplains, we do look forward to welcoming Ms. Seidler back to Brown from Down Under for a closer and kinder look at Brown’s remarkable religious and spiritual diversity.

Colson Redux

I was delighted to read the dismissal of Chuck Colson ’53 by my classmate and sometime acquaintance Norm Sprinthall ’54, ’59 A.M. (“Too Much Colson,” Mail Room, November/December). I’m guessing—and hoping—that the number of people who have been connected with Brown who agree with Sprinthall are legion. We have been cringing for decades at the thought that anyone would associate Colson with Brown.

Myles D. Striar ’54

I would like to address Norm Sprint hall: it’s quite obvious that, despite your extensive education and years spent walking God’s earth, you still haven’t learned very much. Chuck Colson is a living example of a life reversed and devoted to atonement. He has lived out Matthew 25 and done more by himself for mankind than most of Harvard’s faculty.

That the rare air of academia finds itself affronted and/or uncomfortable with the blunt words of the Lord is an unfortunate result of man’s arrogance. One should not shoot the messenger but rather heed the message.

Ernest H. Fontan Jr. ’55
Kissimmee, Fla.

With reference to the campus return of Chuck Colson ’53, I am in total support of Norm Sprinthall’s letter. Buttressed with proper historical analogy, Sprinthall emphasized how estranged Colson has been from the spirit of free inquiry.

It long has been apparent that Colson was not growing. However, I, of the class of 1952, did not wish to criticize a younger alumnus. Now that a whippersnapper, one of the class of 1954, has stepped forward, all has been rectified.

Alexander R. Simpson ’52
Pittsford, N.Y.

Fair Play

I write as someone who was, and is, devoted to sports. Growing up in Brooklyn, I played ball in the street or schoolyard every non-rainy day. I was on my high school tennis team, and at Brown I was at Marvel Gym with the track team every afternoon, rain or shine.

In that context, I am troubled by “Raising the Rim,” (Sports, September/ October). Why should academic standards for athletes be even one notch lower than they are for everybody else? Why should coaches and athletic directors have such influence on admissions? Winning games may be important for the Green Bay Packers and the New York Yankees, but Brown’s concern, and only concern, is education.

Education surely includes sports, as it includes music, theater, the debating society, WBRU, the Brown Daily Herald, chess tournaments, art, providing social services to the needy of Providence, and whatever else may interest Brown undergraduates. But lowering academic standards just because a person is a good athlete is, to me, inconsistent with the noble purpose of our beloved University.

Mordecai Rosenfeld ’51
New York City

Rhodes Scholar

The Brown Alumni Association recently honored Bill Rhodes, chairman of Citibank, with an award for his “service to society” in spite of his company’s appalling record of human rights abuse, environmental degradation, labor violations, racism, and fraudulent business deals (“Top Bears,” Classes, November/December).

Because of this record, the Rainforest Action Network recently named Citigroup the “world’s most destructive and corrupting bank.” And for the record, the BAA’s claim that Citibank had a positive role to play in the debt crisis of the 1980s—its justification for giving him the award—is a laughable oversimplification of the issue. My source for this assertion? Everything I learned in development studies classes at Brown.

Jennifer Cartwright ’01
Machias, Maine


I noted in a Brown football program that one of the players was concentrating in “Astrology.” To those concerned about football’s becoming too commercial in the Ivy League, I hasten to point out that its proofreaders are not yet slick enough to notice the misspelling of astronomy.

P.S. Why are there practically no students in the stands at the games?

Harry Dahl ’50
Preston, Conn.

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January / February 2004