May 23rd, 2012

With Vartan Gregorian, Ruth Simmons, and now Christina Paxson, Brown has identified, embraced—and learned from—three very different, but clearly outstanding, leaders (“The Nineteenth President,” March/April). The search committee did not have an easy job. They appear to have worked wonderfully, and chosen well. I look back with gratitude and forward with eagerness, prouder than ever to be a Brown alum.

Dan Woog ’75
Westport, Conn.


It is always with a bit of apprehension that you turn your university over to a new administration. Will he or she keep the best of the old? Introduce the best of the new? Christina Paxson seems uniquely positioned to do both. All members of the Brown family welcome her into the fold and eagerly await her leadership. Brown has done well with Princeton people. Remember President Manning?

Jack E. Giddings ’57
Jacksonville, Fla.


I have to say that i was shocked and dismayed to read the piece by Lawrence Goodman on President-elect Christina Paxson’s research (“Paxson the Scholar,” March/April).
As a doctoral candidate in social work, I have been well educated in the differences between good and irresponsible research. To state categorically that tall people are smarter is no less offensive or inaccurate than the Bell Curve myth that white people are smarter than people of color. Thorough research would reveal that there are too many other factors responsible for this spurious relationship. Any demographic that has an easier time walking through this life (people who are taller, right-handed, white, heterosexual, physically attractive, able-bodied, etc.) will have a “leg up” on standard measures of intelligence because less of their energy needs to be spent on making the world a more accommodating environment.
It worries me that a new Brown president would buy into—much less publicize—research that suggests any demographic group to be more intelligent than another. Will height now be a new query on our college application?

Mara Gottlieb ’93
Southport, Conn.

Lawrence Goodman replies: Christina Paxson does not claim that tall people are born smarter than short ones. Rather, her work suggests that taller people may benefit from a better early-development environment as infants and children. Other factors may be at play as well.

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Related Issue
May/June 2012