Mail Room

By The Editors / January / February 2002
July 1st, 2007


On September 11 America was attacked, as was Brown University and the class of '71. One of our classmates, my friend and hero Donald F. Greene, was on board United Airlines flight 93, which went down in the middle of Pennsylvania ("The Victims," November/December).

These terrorists did not know Don as I knew Don. No evil in the world could overtake him. Don was the epitome of a Brown man. He was quiet, unassuming, honorable, true, and decent. He loved his country, his faith, his school, his classes, his community, his friends, and, most of all, his family. He was a proud member of our freedom-loving civilization. Terrorists don't understand such values. How could they imagine that such values lay in Don's core, making him strong? They thought he was simply another "soft" American.

Don brought a scientist's bright mind to any topic. He studied engineering at Brown and became an engineer and a pilot. He was executive vice president of Safe Flight Instrument Corporation in White Plains, New York. He was the strongest man I ever met, yet he rarely showed it. A wrestler at Brown, he was, despite his average size, all muscle. He was a gentle man, and a capable one. When we went anywhere together, I knew I was safe.

On flight 93, Don and others took down the hijackers. There was only a moment or two for them to figure out what was going on. There was only a moment or two for Don and the others to organize or join a response team. Don did exactly what he had to do. He put all his skills to work at a critical moment when we desperately needed it. He saved us all. MSNBC recently aired a one-hour special about the heroes of flight 93, and there is a movement under way to honor all of the flight crew and passengers with medals of honor from the federal and Pennsylvania governments.

On behalf of our classmates and friends, I salute Donald F. Greene and offer our thoughts and prayers to Claudette and the rest of their family. Our best wishes also go to everyone impacted in any way by the recent tragedies.

Elie Hirschfeld '71
New York City


The writer is president of the class of '71 and a trustee emeritus.

While the horrors of escaping from the eighty-fourth floor of the World Trade Center will always be with me, the intensity of my feelings about that day will eventually fade. As a postscript to your article ("9.11.01," November/ December), I would like to report that my firm found temporary space and I was back at work less than two weeks after the attack. In addition, I have flown with my entire family since September 11. As various grief and traumatic stress counselors have told me, getting back to your old routine and maintaining a sense of normalcy is one of the best ways to heal after a horrible tragedy.

Andrew Soloway '86 Short Hills, N.J.

The November/December issue of the BAM is among the finest I have read. I strongly commend editor Norman Boucher and his staff for their outstanding coverage of both President Ruth Simmons's inauguration and the tragic events of September 11. Charlotte Bruce Harvey's splendid account of President Simmons's inauguration ("Her Day") brought home the excitement and enthusiasm shown by its participants. My sole regret is that there wasn't enough space to publish the entire text of Simmons's speech. However, judging from the few published excerpts, I think she possesses a vision of Brown consistent with those of her predecessors Howard Swearer and Vartan Gregorian. I have no doubt she'll be celebrated for deeds as memorable as theirs.

As memorable as Harvey's article was, I was captivated by the BAM's thoughtful, compelling, and at times inspirational reporting of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Most compelling was its celebration of those Brunonians lost, thankfully a mere few. In Jonathan Kim's words I heard echoes of my father's dismal life in Japanese-occupied China during World War II. Only Professor Hopmann's essay struck a discordant note with the tales of heroism and patriotism I read; a more apt model for the present situation is our victorious struggle against fascism in World War II, not his diplomatic scenario for fighting terrorism.

John Kwok '82
Brooklyn, N.Y.

I was eager to read your article "9.11.01." It was heartening to learn that a fellow graduate was also a fellow firefighter. It was tragic to learn, however, that he made the ultimate sacrifice at the World Trade Center. As the article turned to campus reaction, I expected to read the regular left-wing stance for which Brown's student body is well known. In fact, most of the antiwar, anti-action statements were quite predictable. Unfortunately, I was caught off guard by a comment on the memorial wall pictured on page 51. I don't know whether to be disgusted by the student who wrote it or to be disappointed in the BAM for printing it. Near the center of the photo someone wrote, "god bless afghanistan." With more than 4,000 civilians killed in the attacks, and more than 350 emergency service personnel (mostly firefighters) killed in efforts to save even more lives, it is unconscionable to attempt to defend the nation who harbored the guilty parties for these attacks. Such a statement is an affront to the families who lost loved ones at the WTC, and an insult to the firefighters who gave their lives.

With our fully justified military response and success to date, perhaps it would have been more appropriate for the author to write, "afghanistan: god have mercy on you."

In remembrance of the members of FDNY,
Jonathan F. Bastian '89
Rockford, Ill.

Modern Meiklejohn

As one who has also written a biography of Alexander Meiklejohn, I read with considerable interest Adam R. Nelson's article entitled "Setting Students Free" (September/October).

I should point out, however, that there is an incorrect statement in the opening page of the article. Although Meiklejohn was indeed an important figure in ACLU affairs, he was not a founding member of that organization. That was done by Roger Baldwin and others in 1920. What Meiklejohn did do was help found the northern California branch of the ACLU in San Francisco in 1935. He then became a member of the national committee, an advisory group to Baldwin and other members of the national board, and served in that capacity for many years.

What is particularly interesting with regard to Meiklejohn's activity as a civil libertarian is that in the xenophobic aftermath of World War II he translated his lifelong interest in education and the development of free minds into the formulation of a unique interpretation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This in turn led him into a critique of the Supreme Court and its Holmesian "marketplace of ideas" approach to free speech. As a lawyer friend of Meiklejohn said of him with some awe - Meiklejohn was in his late seventies - "here was a man without training in the law who was undertaking to prove that the Supreme Court of the United States had grievously and abysmally misunderstood one of the most important legal questions ever brought before it." During the McCarthy years he was also in correspondence with Hugo Black and other members of the Court and was cited by Black as providing a basis for the latter's similar view of the First Amendment.

It should also be noted that in this new century Meiklejohn is still being cited by Supreme Court justices. In January 2000, Justice Stephen Breyer footnoted Meiklejohn in support of his view in the Jay Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC campaign finance case.

I look forward to reading Nelson's biography when it becomes available.

Eugene H. Perry
Cranston, R.I.


The writer is a professor emeritus of political science at Rhode Island College.

Minding the Engineers

Thanks to Emily Gold for her article "Mind Control" (November/ December), which describes the ambitious interdisciplinary effort under the leadership of neuroscience professor John Donoghue to implant arrays of neural sensors in the cortex, first of monkeys and eventually of humans. The team includes a group from the Division of Engineering led by Professor Arto Nurmikko that is working on implant- able electronics with optical fiber connections to the outside world.

The article mentions that most of the engineering work is being done by a group of undergraduates. Those students are Phillip Chin, Timothy Correia, Whitney Fellberg, Christopher Lay, Justin Permar, and Rebecca Schultz, all from the class of 2002. We are very fortunate to have some excellent undergraduates and have every incentive to involve them in the most advanced research. While this is not unique to Brown, it is quite unusual and is one of the best opportunities in a Brown education.

William R. Patterson III '63, '66 Sc.M.

The writer is a senior lecturer in engineering.

Grad-Student Union

I read with dismay the article in the November/December BAM describing President Ruth Simmons's opposition to a graduate-student union ("Unity, Yes. Unions, No," Elms). Like university administrators around the country facing graduate students choosing to unionize, she fears the union would undermine faculty control over academic decisions and interfere with the teacher-student relationship. Similar to union busters in corporate settings who invoke a rhetoric of "family" to deprive workers of their rights, she also suggests that the union isn't necessary because she is personally open to graduate students' concerns. Yet she fails to address the core issues - workload, remuneration, health care, and housing - which are best approached through collective bargaining and codified in a union contract.

When I was an undergraduate at Brown, much of my classroom experience came from teaching assistants. At the time I did not think much about their working conditions. Now, as a graduate student (and union member) at the University of California at Berkeley, I know the commitment graduate students make to their own teaching, the time that effort (often unpaid) takes from their own work, and the economic hardship they face in their pursuit of an academic career. Brown, like many other universities, depends heavily on the work of these teachers and should respect their right to form a union. Having lived through the long struggle for union recognition on UC campuses, I know that prolonged conflict over recognition is far more disruptive to undergraduate education and teacher-student relations than union representation has been.

I and many of my alumni friends were enthusiastic about Ruth Simmons's arrival at Brown. I am disappointed to learn that early in her presidency she is taking this divisive stance. I hope to read soon that she has changed her position.

Rachel Sherman '91
Oakland, Calif.

Peter Dechiara's letter ("Anti-union Rhetoric," Mail Room, November/December) urges Brown to recognize the UAW as the exclusive labor representative of graduate students because unions supposedly make democracy, dialogue, and respect for the concerns of others a reality in the workplace. To me, as a management-side practitioner, this pro-union rhetoric at first demonstrated either extraordinary na"vet} or suggested a closer affiliation with the union side in labor relations than DeChiara acknowledged. Sure enough, a quick check revealed that he is associated with a New York City law firm well known for representing unions.

Unions are in the business of promising to improve working conditions as well as persuading those they want to represent that a union is necessary to instill or preserve the values DeChiara extols. But to make that argument here is unfairly to imply that Brown management lacks those attributes, and that neither side is capable of engaging in responsible dialogue without the union's intervention. Moreover, how referring to unions as "outsiders" (which in truth they are) can be used with "vicious effect" is beyond me. Finally, banner waving about the union's civil rights record and reputation for internal democracy and progressive politics (whatever that is) does nothing to justify the union's presence at Brown.

Peter D. Stergios '64
New York City

Military Detail

I believe I am the skinny kid posing as a trombone player in the front line of the band in the photograph captioned "Military School" (The Classes, November/December). Although the photo was taken some fifty-eight years ago, I think that a Major Campbell was reviewing the group.

The unit pictured was the United States Air Force Pre-Meteorology Detachment, which was stationed at Brown. Your text was not exactly correct, for we were not, in truth, "Brown's army band." A small point, perhaps, but the Air Force and the Army at that time relished separate identities. In any event, an excellent photo that brought back old memories. Thank you!

Lester Karstadt '48
New York City

The photograph captioned "Military School" underscored the fact that an ROTC program is currently not conducted on campus. Since World War II the attitude has developed that providing such a program on campus is something unsavory and beneath Brown's dignity.

Brown was very much a part of the 1930s peace movement that swept some college campuses. Each year Norman Thomas would speak at campus peace rallies held at Brown. At one such rally a flight of U.S. Army Air Corps bombers "happened" to fly over. Thomas, waving his arm at the planes, asserted, "You will be up there bombing women and children." He was right. Some women and children did get bombed. But they were not the targets, as were the civilians of London and Coventry. The targets were plants producing munitions, tanks, and airplanes, as well as the railroads that delivered them.

More than 90 percent of the class of 1941 served in World War II. Thirteen were killed. During the 1990s our class had a plaque made that listed those thirteen killed, but for a time the plaque was something of an embarrassment for Brown. At the presentation held at the John Hay Library, no official from University Hall was present, and the BAM did not cover the event. Later, President Vartan Gregorian readily agreed that "it was about time" to include those who died in World War II on the Memorial Arch.

Once again it's necessary for Brown to realize that in the history of this country come times when your men and women must put their lives on the line to preserve the freedoms the country enjoys. Programs for such times are not something ignoble, including ROTC.

Victor J. Hillery '41
Madison, N.J.

Beyond the Holocaust

The gift Brown gave me more than forty years ago was a tool kit to live what we then called "the life of the mind" - critical thinking, interpretation of meaning, joy in learning/knowing, purposeful inquiry, and thoughtful irreverence for commonly received wisdom.

So it was from that context and my life experience as a Jewish woman that I read Rabbi Richard Kirschen's ideas for rejuvenating the role and perception of Hillel on campus ("More Than Kosher," Elms, November/December). It's hard to fault the rabbi for yet another exploration of the Holocaust; and certainly we would all enjoy an evening with Billy Crystal. But where's the surprise of multiple dissenting truths? Where's the shock of objectively exploring pure unthinking human meanness? Where's the risk of venturing into uncharted waters?

In the spirit of stimulating bold inquiry into other less politically correct but equally fascinating realities of being Jewish in America, I suggest the following topics be considered:

1. The history of Jewish quotas in the Ivy League.

2. The ways in which the role of women in traditional Jewish society affects and reflects the distribution of power in the Jewish family.

3. The economic, social, and political purpose of anti-Semitism from 1492 to the present.

4. Assimilation - what's lost and what's gained?

5. A linguistic analysis of Yiddish - why is this language so cool?

If a role of the academy is to create experiences that press people through their comfort zone toward insight, I'd suggest that Rabbi Kirschen take another pass at his topics.

Carol T. Gaffney '62
Chestnut Hill, Mass.

BAM on Thin Ice?

I take strong exception to the overall theme and tone of your three-page article boldly headlined "Grillo on Thin Ice?" (Sports, November/ December). Frankly, I question your judgment in the prior BAM issue when over the editor's signature you stated that Brown was drifting during Sheila Blumstein's interim presidency. Did you believe this was a positive observation to pass on to Brown alumni and helpful in fund-raising efforts?

I think even less of your judgment to feature this totally negative, personalized account of a Brown coach with its underlying message that he may well be fired. At its best, this article, written by an outside reporter, is in poor taste and unbecoming from an official Brown publication. Is this theme and tone consistent with BAM's mission statement?

At its worst, it comes across as a real cheap shot at a leader of our students. (Ironically, Grillo, who just three years ago was a finalist for National College Hockey Coach of the Year, led his team early this season to wins over the nationally ranked Harvard and University of Vermont.)

Frankly, Brown alumni deserve better, and I ask you:

1. Does this article serve any useful purpose for the University?

2. Does this article help the University's major campaign to raise $4.3 million to make Meehan Auditorium competitive with our Ivy peers in recruiting?

3. Does this article's tone help Brown recruit and motivate our excellent group of paid coaches?

4. And does this negative portrait of a Brown coach send the right message of fairness and objectivity in the Brown tradition?

As an alumnus shareholder of this great University and a former member of the Corporation, I submit that as a paid manager of this enterprise, you may be the one who is skating on thin ice.

William A. Pollard '50
Essex, Conn.

I am extremely disappointed by the content and tone of your story on the Brown men's hockey program in the November/December issue. To my knowledge, the BAM has never personally attacked a coach and athletic team the way you attacked Roger Grillo and our men's ice hockey team. Yes, the program has struggled in the past few years, but the program is on the upswing, something your writer Scott Cole would have found out if he had spoken with more people who have consistently been around the program.

I am stunned that the BAM would make such an editorial decision. There are so many good stories about Brown athletic teams and student athletes that a story of this nature was way out of line. Within the men's ice hockey program, there are stories about NHL draft choices on our roster who are staying in school instead of making the leap to professional hockey. One of our assistant coaches, Steve King '90, returned to his alma mater following an NHL and AHL career to be part of a program he strongly believes will be successful. A recent change in our recruiting priorities has kicked in, and we opened the 2001а02 season with a young but talented team.

Scott Cole claims he presented a fair and balanced story. On the contrary, the story started out on an extremely negative note and went downhill from there. Would the BAM criticize a University professor or administrator in much the same way? I think not. But why do the BAM editors believe that athletics is open to such harsh criticism?

It is great to hear from some players who were part of the great Brown hockey Final Four team of 1976. However, it is important to remember that just three years later, the program had fallen on tough times. In fact, after the 1977 season, the next winning season for our men's ice hockey program was not until 1993.

The decision to attack a coach or athletic program is counterproductive to our mission as we continue to strengthen the men's ice hockey program. I do not expect the BAM to be a cheerleader for the Brown athletic department; nor do I expect it to humiliate an intercollegiate athletics program. Brown's alumni deserve better.

David R. Roach

The writer is Brown's athletic director.


Editor Norman Boucher replies: The tone ofBAM's sports coverage can indeed generally be characterized as cheerleading for the University's various teams. Occasionally, though, the magazine has looked at teams or programs that have found success elusive, with the intent of examining what factors might be at work. The purpose of the article on men's hockey was precisely this kind of examination. Writer Scott Cole quoted two members of Friends of Brown Hockey who criticized Coach Grillo for his lack of a winning record in recent years. However, Cole then went on to quote other sources, including the president of Friends of Brown Hockey and Director of Athletics Roach, who argued that Coach Grillo's lack of success has been due to (1) tougher admission standards, (2) recruiting difficulties, and (3) aging facilities. The article also contained lengthy quotes from Coach Grillo about the program's more hopeful recent developments - including the planned renovation of Meehan - and mentions nine current players by name who are on the verge of breakout years. At the same time, injudicious editing may have inadvertently overemphasized the sentiment by some Brown hockey fans that Coach Grillo should have had more success by now. I apologize to Coach Grillo for creating an unduly harsh impression and for any embarrassment the article may have caused him.

Missing Gee

Charlotte Bruce Harvey '78 writes that past president E. Gordon Gee's values "came to feel incompatible with those of the University community" ("Her Day," November/December). Gee's values were just fine for West Virginia and Ohio State universities, and Vanderbilt seems to be comfortable with him. These institutions admire his leadership qualities, and the two state schools were sorry to lose him. I was sorry to see him leave Brown, too. He was offered a bigger, more lucrative job at a great university with world-class graduate programs. Perhaps Brown can look at its sorry history since his departure and its uncertain future and reevaluate why it has fallen to last place in peer rankings.

Yes, I miss President Gee.

Michael M. Peters '59
East Orleans, Mass.

Truth or Bigotry?

Shame on BAM for labeling a review of Professor of Anthropology and Italian Studies David Kertzer's controversial book as truth ("Truth and Consequences," Arts & Culture, November/December). Now I must condemn BAM for its anti-Catholic bigotry as well as Kertzer. As Rabbi David Dalin has written, "What, exactly, is gained by Kertzer's [and BAM's] attempts to twist history to his [its] own absolute anti-papalism? What new understanding do we achieve by denouncing as anti-Semites some of the least anti-Semitic people of their time?"

Edward A. Nolfi '80
Akron, Ohio

Not the Last Word

Many, many letters, cards, notes, and announcements from [Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies] Giles Milhaven's former students lay unanswered at our home. And still the messages continue. It was Giles's practice to reply to such correspondence each year during the month of August. Letters of reference, of course, were sent immediately. However for the past four years he has been unable to continue this lifetime routine, and that is why I write this letter, knowing he would heartily approve.

John Giles Milhaven retired from Brown in 1998 at a time when his memory began to dim and fade. At that time he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and he has continued a downward progression quite dramatically ever since. Giles has resided in a nursing facility since February 2001.

I well know of his intense feelings for his students and his dedication to teaching during his twenty-eight years at Brown. Giles would want his students, especially those who communicated with him through the years, to know the truth about his current situation. He repeatedly said that his role as teacher was to enable students "to think and to feel." Judging from so many thoughtful, appreciative, and "feeling" letters, Giles, in his understated fashion, would rejoice knowing the response his passion for teaching elicited.

Somewhere in our catastrophe a book is brewing. Comments from students offer a profile of a teacher that no other method of description could achieve. So, on John Giles Milhaven's behalf, and for his very fruitful past, let these not be our last words. We are grateful.

Annie Milhaven

Influencing Wendy

How kind of Wendy Schornstein Good '80 to remember my course, The Citizen as Victim (Alumni P.O.V., September/October). It is gratifying in the extreme to be remembered so fondly and to have played so important a role in the life of a former citizen. Thanks, too, to Wendy and her family in New Orleans, who showered warm hospitality on my daughter Shara and her husband, Igal, who were stuck in their city in the wake of the terror attacks on New York City and Washington.

Alan S. Zuckerman

The writer is a professor of political science at Brown.


In a review of the documentary Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sound ("Getting to Know Him," Arts & Culture, November/ December), the musical Showboat was incorrectly attributed to Richard Rodgers. It was written by Jerome Kern.


The title of the feminist journal Lilith was misspelled in a profile ("The Next Generation") featured in The Classes section of the November/December issue.

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