What You Thought

May 1st, 2017

Back to School

Opening spread for Crisis Text Line article in the recent March/April issue.

Stephanie Grace’s profile of Delaware Governor Jack Markell blindly praises him for backing the Common Core and other corporate-style school reform efforts fueled by investors such as the Gates Foundation, AT&T, Boeing, DuPont, ExxonMobil, General Electric, and IBM (“The Education of Jack Markell,” March/April). These corporate interests rationalize corporate-style school reform based on the argument that our economic prosperity is only assured if we embrace an education model driven by standards, tests, and accountability. Such a myth ultimately promotes education policies such as the Common Core (from which Pearson Education and others have benefitted handsomely) while discouraging real solutions to unemployment, underemployment, and racial disparities.

Riana Good ’03
Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Making an Effort

To the Brown community, I wrote an emotional and heated response about the desecrated national ensigns in conjunction with the Veterans Day 2016 Main Green ceremony (“Election Fallout,” Mail Room, March/April). While I maintain the candor and emotion of my criticism, I painted too broad a picture of the Brown student body. I genuinely apologize for that mistake. 

The actions of a truly misguided few do not define the whole. As a proud alumnus, a regular University financial contributor, and, most importantly, a U.S. Marine combat veteran, I suspect that my somewhat careless response was a natural impulse to defend my fellow combat veterans from a personal and very public affront to our collective service. In fairness, the University has clearly made an effort to offer veterans and future service members an opportunity for a Brown education. The addition of an Office of Student Veterans and several ROTC programs are excellent steps toward a better relationship between veterans and the rest of the Brown community. Additionally, the recent forum and exhibit at the John Hay Library on Brown Vietnam Vets gave a voice to a very important cause. 

In conclusion, I once again apologize for too broadly maligning the Brown community. Semper Fidelis.

Roy Moore ’96
San Diego

Brown and Trump

I was not surprised by the treatment of President Trump’s election in your March/April issue, and appreciate that many at the University do not share my own political views. However, in fairness I believe it is worth noting that some Brunonians actually played an important role in helping elect the president. In my case, I even credit Brown with a piece of this success. 

No matter your cause, Brown encourages you to pursue it passionately, considerately, and earnestly. This inspiration is something I gained during my time on campus and has served me well since.  In my case, I helped organize and deploy almost 2,000 volunteers to get out the vote for Donald Trump in the battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and North Carolina as part of the Mighty Texas Strike Force. Moreover, I got out on the ground to find out for myself what people were thinking and how we were doing; I personally knocked on thousands of doors in southwestern Pennsylvania and parked just as many cars at the rallies. It all made a difference. On January 20, my team and I got to watch from only steps away as our former candidate, now the president of the United States, entered the White House for the first time. 

My preparation for doing this? Brown liberal arts. I was a dual Russian language and literature/U.S. history concentrator before going into merchant banking in New York, moving on to create the first school milk program in Afghanistan and later planting 70,000 pecan trees in Texas (in a way, I applied the Open Curriculum to life). While at Brown, I studied abroad in the Soviet Union, witnessing firsthand the depredations of socialism while picking up colloquial Russian from my fellow students and friends, who included Afghan vets and Chernobyl survivors. It was Brown that opened the door to this life-changing experience, which in turn helped shape my own beliefs and, ultimately, helped propel my efforts last year. I’ll always count myself a proud Brown alum and celebrate its unique spirit and dynamism. This doesn’t mean, however, that I expect Brown to ever embrace my own views. That’s not the job of a university.  

Lastly, to those who are still upset about the election, perhaps I could offer some unwelcome, yet possibly useful advice: for your own sake, get over it and get past the negativity.  Instead, be positive and get after changing the world the way you want. Your Brown experience will be there to help.

Thomas Emanuel Dans ’91
Richmond, Tex.

The January/February Under the Elms article “After the Voting” cited a BDH poll that 85 percent of Brown students would vote for Clinton. Such a political monoculture must stifle debate on the campus. The actual election had a dramatically different result. How did Brown get so out of touch with the rest of the country? Were students afraid to say they would vote for Trump in the BDH poll? Is Brown running a university with the free expression of ideas or an indoctrination camp?

Farrel I. Klein ’77

New Insight

I picked up the most recent BAM for a quick breakfast read this morning and found myself riveted by multiple articles, including the ones on Jack Markell and the Crisis Text help line (March/April). What was just going to be a brief skim of the class notes turned into a real learning experience that expanded my horizons and got my day off to a more inspired start. I often have that sort of positive experience while reading the BAM, and I’m sorry I have not thanked you for your excellent work until now. Thanks so much for producing a magazine that not only celebrates Brown, but regularly offers new insights and perspectives on a wide range of fascinating topics.

Heidi Horstmann Koester ’86
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Needles and the Damage Done

So proud to read that alumna Jayna Zweiman ’01 was a force behind the “pussyhats” campaign (“Pink Protest,” Elms, March/April). However, Clementine Quittner ’19 and the BAM editors do not lend credibility to the movement if they themselves fail to fact-check, or proofread for details. A simple glance at the accompanying photo clearly reveals that the “knitted cap” is made with a single crochet needle, not knitting needles, as the article stated, several times.

Lisa Spraragen ’80
New York City
Although the photo with this article shows women using a crochet pattern, pussyhats can be knitted, crocheted, or sewn; the Pussyhat Project website (pussyhatproject.com) includes patterns for all three methods. As the article states, the idea for the hats came to Zweiman in a knitting class.  —Editor

The Smell of Peppermint in the Morning

Thanks for the article on Dr. Bronner’s soap (“Message on a Bottle,” January/February). I had no idea of the connection to Brown, but I do have fond memories of the soap from the summer of 1990 that I spent backpacking through South America with my brother, Greg (’90 UPenn). We carried a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s with us and used it for everything: bathing, shaving, brushing teeth, washing clothes and dishes. It also provided a lot of entertainment as we spent hours scrutinizing all the fine print on the label, trying to figure out what it all meant. The smell of peppermint and the sight of the little blue bottles still bring back memories.

Kevin Merrell ’88

Pop-Up Portraits

My thanks to artist Ajuan Mance ’88 and to BAM for publishing the article on her pop-art portraits of “1001 Black Men,” (January/February) . What a delightful collection—cheerful, warm, and drawn with obvious affection. I enjoyed it enormously.

Barbara Shipley Boyle ’58
San Francisco

Carrying Debt

I’m glad to see alums like Lauren Asher ’87 (“The Explosion of Student Debt,” January/February) and Mike Bronner ’97 (“Message on a Bottle,” January/February) achieve wonderful things, but it struck me that many of your articles feature alums who did not graduate with a ton of debt. 

I struggled to pay off nearly $200,000 in undergraduate loans from Brown and did not have a leadership position waiting for me at a family business as Bronner did. I don’t have money to donate to the magazine, so I can’t exactly put my money where my mouth is, but I don’t think it would hurt to ask: could you please include more articles about high-flying alums from less privileged backgrounds? It would be an inspiration to those of us who do or did have debt. We might actually be able to relate to your content! Hell, even an article or two about a low-achieving alum could bring more diversity and realism to your content. We can learn from their mistakes.

Mikka Pineda ’04
Berkeley, Calif.

ICE Matters

I thank and applaud President Paxson for her support for and commitment to students with immigrant backgrounds (“After the Voting,” President’s Page, January/February). I hope that she will clarify what she means by the words “legal warrant.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely generates internal administrative warrants for their enforcement actions. These documents may be considered “legal warrants” because they proceed from a law enforcement agency. But a higher standard would be for Brown to participate in actions only when a signed judicial warrant is presented; this would convey that an independent authority has reviewed the case and found reason to move forward above and beyond the discretion of the ICE agent. 

Rev. James deBoer ’05
Livingston, N.J.

Judging Poems

Professor Gale Nelson’s loyalty to his colleagues and his profession is impressive, but, if he had read my November/December 2016 letter carefully, he would have seen that it does not imply that “today poetry is a worthless undertaking perpetrated by a gang of lazy frauds” (“Poetry Redux,” Mail Room, January/February). Saying,

It often involves
Overwritten and banal sentences
Chopped up to
implies nothing about laziness, nor,
since often is a long way from always, does it imply that contemporary poetry is worthless. In particular, it is compatible with admiration for the excellent William Carlos William poem Professor Nelson quotes, and it certainly does not “mock with glee” such a poem.

Moreover, while many poets may be, as Professor Nelson puts it, “marginalized in this extended commercial republic,” this hardly applies to those, such as the ones he mentions in his letter’s next-to-last paragraph, who have been privileged enough to be tenured professors at Brown.

Felicia Nimue Ackerman
The writer is a Brown professor of philosophy.

Who’s in Denial?

Richard Salit quotes David Grinspoon ’82 from his book Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future: “The delusion we may need to shed is that we can avoid the responsibility … of running this planet” (“Planet in Denial,” Arts & Culture, March/April). Without addressing our collective arrogance that “we” can actually run a planet, the real delusion is that the social and economic cost of controlling just the climate alone can be both bearable and sustainable.

The stark reality is that the economic cost is more than just astronomical. In order to reduce global carbon emissions from our current level of 400 ppm to zero, we must permanently capture and safely store twenty-five to thirty metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. Estimated costs are around $130 per ton.

The levels required by the Paris Agreement would bring atmospheric CO2 back to its 1987 level, a safe 350 ppm, but because one part-per-million of CO2 weighs two billion metric tons, getting the levels down to that level will cost $260 billion and will get us back only to 399 ppm. All this assumes that global population growth will slow and “alternative” fuels will do the job that fossil fuels now do. By any standard, this is delusional, as is the reality of the climate responding even if we do.  

Ken Towe ’59 ScM
Eatonton, Ga.

Meeting Scholes

In 1977 I met Howard Swearer, then president of Brown, at a cocktail party in Honolulu. He convinced me to go to Brown and major in the newly minted multidisciplinary study of semiotics. There I met this quiet, mild-mannered man with a true twinkle in his eye, Robert Scholes (“This Is What Became of Me,” Obituaries, March/April). He inspired me to look at all communication—film, art, and, especially, literature—differently.

I have never forgotten the discipline of that one-page paper, and it has guided much of my business and professional writing over the years. I often made fun of the very esoteric nature of semiotics, but it has proven invaluable during a long and varied career in advertising.

Bob’s love of the story has stayed with me. I was in the first class of semiotics graduates, and all those who graduated then and since then owe Robert Scholes a debt of gratitude. May he hear my words up above.

Karen Cavanagh ’82
Comment from brownalumnimagazine.com

My husband, Oren Jacoby ’77, and I were both students of Bob Scholes, but we did not meet each other until some years after graduation. It was at a crowded brunch in my apartment, when I was approached by one of the guests, a friend of a friend, who had seen The Nature of Narrative in my bookcase. A long Scholesian conversation ensued, and we were married several years later. A few years after that, we took Bob for a drink to thank him for the semiotic introduction.

Betsy West ’73
New York City

Boucher’s Bias

I have enormous respect for the vast majority of Editor Norman Boucher’s writings, especially his Here & Now columns. While I confess to not reading the entire BAM religiously, I always make it a point to read his columns, which usually provide a glimpse of the more important content that follows.

I graduated from Brown in 1966. As everyone knows, those were the days of civil rights and antiwar protests, which I wholeheartedly supported. But not so much actively, because I was pursuing a double major while working two jobs to pay tuition and support my wife and son. Brown was liberal even then, but a different kind of liberal: thoughtful and willing to respectfully consider political and philosophical differences of opinion. While I admit to being a conservative, the childish temper tantrums of the left over last fall’s election results on almost all college campuses, including Brown, are a huge waste of time—time that could be spent repairing the Democrat party, which has lost touch with its base.

Now comes Boucher’s biased, pandering article (“Remembering,” Here & Now, March/April). I encourage him to reread his earlier article himself (“What the BAM Can Do,” Here & Now, January/February) and reread his equally pandering pushback in the current issue. Both lame.

I understand the shock and awe of the left over the results of the election. But Trump won. Period. Have at it what he does. But get over it, grow up, and move on. Or go for a Constitutional amendment. Good luck with that one, too.

Don Bernardo ’66
Manteo, N.C.


In his March/April class note, Dewey S. Wigod ’84 mistakenly identified Artemis Joukowsky III as the grandson of Professor Emerita of Archaeology and the Ancient World Martha Sharp Joukowsky ’58. He is her son.

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Related Issue
May/June 2017