Letters to the Editor
Allow me to share my favorite recollection from the spring of 1958, when I was involved in the great “Naval Battle” on Lake Lag (“Tales from the Lake,” May/June).
Phi Kappa Sigma members decided that we needed a boat for the season—one of those incredible decisions made by 20- to 21-year-olds who had no real money. However, another Phi Kap and I were not to be deterred and traveled up to the Sacramento Delta, where we found an old “boat” that was sunk at a pier and available for $10. Fortunately, another member had served in the Coast Guard and knew (well, sort of) how to caulk the seams of our craft, a task accomplished by our pledges. We then named the boat the “Aquawazoo” and were ready to sail except for some means of propulsion—and, of course, an appropriate weapon with which to attack the boathouse and sunbathers. This was accomplished by renting a P-500 damage-control pump from some unsuspecting vendor in San Francisco.
Our first venture out onto the lake was successful. The pump was so powerful that it not only moved our boat at a good clip but also literally drove sunbathers right up into the wall of the boathouse. We made several passes and were greeted with an increasingly violent reaction in the form of rocks, appropriate hand gestures and some very hostile language. As president of the Phi Kaps, I was the captain of the Aquawazoo and thought we really had something going. The next week the president of the Delt house challenged us to a sea battle. The Delt boat, as I recall, was named the “Pig Pen” and consisted of a series of boards lashed to three 50-gallon drums. The Delts were armed with balloons filled with paint and mud balls; the wager was, of course, a keg of beer.
We had mobility and long-range firepower, but the Delts had most of the football team and a fervent desire to sink our boat. I finally made a tactical error and swept too close to the Pig Pen, whereupon their entire crew abandoned ship, swam to our proud craft and by sheer weight of bodies boarded and sank us along with the $500 pump. The War was written up in the Daily and earned the Delt president and me a trip to Dean Craig’s office, where we were advised that any similar “war” would adversely affect our graduation date. Good memories.
Bob Gast, ’58
The full moon was just rising and shimmering off the surface of Lake Lag. “Too bad we don’t have a boat,” whispered Nancy, a frequent date during my Stanford years. By 2 a.m. we were pushing off from the dock in my inflatable kayak. She lit a candle and secured it to the bow. We snuggled under blankets and just drifted....
Bob Cook, ’66
My memories of Stanford are both selective and highly repressed. But I am quite certain there is an error in the Lake Lagunita timeline. The Lagunita Seca road race took place in the fall of 1964. I believe the field included at least one Hertz rent-a-car, and another using a nitromethane fuel blend.
Bob Boyd, ’65
La Cañada Flintridge, California
Thank you for the wonderful images and recollections. It brought back a multitude of memories, including the incredibly intense heat (from what I recollect was more than 100 feet away) experienced by throngs of spectators during the ’85 bonfire. I remember backing farther and farther away from the already roped-off area and feeling there was little respite from it.
In the fall of ’83, a group of us freshmen from Florence Moore Hall decided it was time for an impromptu game of mud Ultimate Frisbee in the bottom of the nearly dried-out lake. Although no score was kept, there were miraculous sliding catches and celebrations past imaginary goal lines. There also happened to be one injury—to my then-girlfriend, Jill (Nelson) Florant, ’87, when she stepped on a piece of glass hidden in the mud. I was asked for a “ride home” and honorably complied, but not without the urging of dormmates Susan Robinson, ’87, and Alex Camacho, ’87. Fortunately, Jill’s cut was not serious and healed within a short time.
Almost a quarter-century later, Jill and I still keep in touch, talking about our separate families with school-age children, discussing a common interest in public school education (Jill is a consultant with a company that develops web-based accountability software for school administrators, and I am an elementary school principal) and even sharing some reminiscences about the good old days at Lake Lagunita.
James Martinez, ’87
It was with joy and sadness that I read your article: joy for those halcyon days spent on the dock next to Lake Lag during warm spring afternoons, sadness that the tyranny of the politically correct has robbed the majority once again of enjoyment. When I think of the fun we had at Lake Lag—whether it be the Spring Hydra Follies or the bonfire during Homecoming weekend—it is truly regrettable that today’s students can only enjoy a blanket under the stars. They will have missed so much fun from our time.
The tiger salamander can survive only one fire a year (or be relocated); the University can pay to pump water from Felt Lake (what wasn’t expensive at Stanford then or now?); and those who are interested can change the law about water usage by institutions. I say that what was such a quintessential experience for thousands of Stanford grads down through the years should not be cancelled by the idealistic few.
Steve Covey, ’68
Cedar City, Utah
Carol and Peter Polk, ’45, write: “WWII broke out the semester we started.” Seems to me the Polks missed the first two years of the war.
World War II started on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. France and Great Britain entered the war on September 3, 1939. The Soviet Union invaded Poland on September 17, 1939. On November 30, 1939, the Soviets attacked Finland, and in June 1940 they invaded Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The war was enabled by the Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 23, 1939, and until June 22, 1941, the Nazis and the Soviets were allies. I assume the Polks meant to say that the United States joined the war during the fall semester of 1941.
Juris Petričeks, ’57, MS ’59
Regarding the article “You Say Up, I Say Yesterday” (May/June), which discussed Lera Boroditsky’s work on language and thinking, I would say the only surprising thing is that there is any surprise or controversy about it. As someone who has been teaching English in Italy for the past three years, I can definitely say that language affects thinking. This much would be obvious to anyone in a similar situation who observes how non-native English speakers speak (or try to speak) in English. My observations are qualitative rather than quantitative, but it’s not surprising that quantitative research backs them up.
Vlad Beffa, ’98, MS ’00
Jonathan Eisenberg, ’92, and his co-authors’ claim of “unjustified advantages” for applicants who consult admissions counselors is itself an unjustified and sweeping generalization without merit (“Admission by Deception,” Letters, May/June). Almost every student who applies to highly selective schools like Stanford consults and benefits from their school counselors, parents, coaches, trusted friends and family, and a host of others on every aspect of the application. And legacy applicants enjoy even more advantages. The authors do not object to any of this, ostensibly, but only to a specific form of consulting that involves paying a high fee. This would seem more a matter of personal preference and class sensitivity than a principled opposition to all outside influence.
The authors are entitled to their view on the specific company they mention, or any other provider of counseling services. To suggest, however, that the applicants who receive such counseling are less deserving of admission is utterly indefensible. These students earn their admissions based on their exceptional work—which would not be any different with or without the assistance of an admissions counselor.
Stanford is a fine institution. Discriminating against students just because they received one form of assistance versus another would be wrong. I applaud the restraint of the Committee on Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid in this regard.
Ashok Ramaswami, MS ’88, MS ’89
Pleasant Hill, California
I completely agree with Jonathan Eisenberg et al. in their criticism of Stanford for running ads for Hernandez College Consulting. However, what I’ve seen of the college admissions process recently suggests that parents who use such services are misguided. They would most improve their children’s chances of admission by just donating Hernandez’s $40,000 fee directly to the college of their choice.
Steve Beck, ’76
Menlo Park, California
War and the Military
Virginian Thomas P. Lowry, ’54, MD ’57, goes back a century and a half to the Civil War to find an honorable military campaign, forgetting that the Americans in the Confederate army fought just as passionately in support of an indefensible injustice, slavery (“Stanford and the Military,” Letters, May/June). The military adventures of my generation, Vietnam, and now wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are unjustifiable morally and tactically; clearly, then as now, “unwinnable.” This is not an insult to the young men and women, often no more than children, the military sends out to possible injury and death. It is an indictment of the leadership of this country. Stanford should continue to refuse to support ROTC (“Stanford to Reconsider ROTC,” Farm Report, May/June) until there is a generation who understands that wars should only be fought when the nation’s survival is at risk. South Korea’s economic prowess is no proof of a “good” war. My new dining room chairs were manufactured in Vietnam.
Steven H. Wander, PhD ’75
The assertion [by Frank Brokaw, ’67, MBA ’74] that Air Force pilots do not spend time in the field with combat units and, further, cannot speak with authority about military ground operations is simply not accurate.
Air Force personnel (usually pilots) historically have been, and are now, embedded with combat ground units in the field in order to coordinate and provide effective air support for those units as needed. They do not go back to their base at night, but stay with the troop unit as a necessary component. As a result, they live and sometimes die with the troops. Accordingly, they are thoroughly knowledgeable about the ground operations confronting them and their unit.
The second assertion, that our conventional military lacks the capability of being effective “occupiers,” assumes a fact not in evidence: that we are “occupiers.” In both Iraq and Afghanistan, we are there at the continued request of both those governments. Our primary purpose in both places is providing stability, security, training and infrastructure. Our civil affairs service aids significantly in that.
A military force whose sole mission is “occupation” has an entirely different agenda. Our military presence in Japan, Germany and South Korea speaks for itself regarding past and continuing constructive economic results for those countries.
Draper B. Gregory, MS ’75 U.S.M.A., West Point, ’54
China Not Unique
The chart on Chinese school tuition in the March/April issue (“A Breakfast Solution”) [omitted] a serious statistical anomaly. In a Seoul City survey reported April 14, 2010, in the Korea Times, Asians accounted for more than 90 percent of respondents, and Chinese made up three-fourths of the total. “More than half, at 51 percent, of expatriates considered tuition costs as the biggest problem in educating their children in the capital city,” the survey said. “The burden of educational expenses was seen as the heaviest among Chinese, with 65 percent of them responding so.” Public high school tuition in South Korea is currently 10 times what it is in China.
San Diego, California
The Rural Education Action Project sounds like an awesome project, but it is simply not true to suggest that high school students in China pay more than students anywhere else in the world, as implied by your article’s bar chart.
I run a nonprofit that provides sponsorships to East African girls for their high school tuition fees. We work in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is very difficult to find overall national statistics for the average fees paid at rural government schools in these countries. Even if the governments concerned collected those figures—it’s far from clear that they do—my efforts to extract any data from the websites of the national ministries of education have not met with any success. However, I do have some backup for what I am telling you, based on my experience administering programs that run in rural government-run schools in East Africa.
Your bar chart suggests that students pay nothing for tuition in Kenya and Uganda, and a nugatory amount in Tanzania of about $30 a year. The actual figures vary somewhat from school to school, but we typically find that students in Kenya pay around $300 to $350 (partially subsidized by the government), students in Uganda pay around $400 to $600, and students in Tanzania pay $600 to $1,000 per year, placing a high school education far out of reach there for people earning an average household income of between $250 and $500 a year.
Editor's note: Alex Marthews later amended this letter, saying that Tanzanian students can pay $30 a year for public school tuition, but that conditions are so poor that most students find it necessary to attend a private school.
Growth Through Learning, Inc.
The ascendancy of the venture capitalist and the management consultant is not yet complete. There is still a place in the world for people who operate outside the realm of cost-benefit analyses, of the binary of positive/negative outcomes, of the word “outcome” itself; for people who don’t convert every relationship into an economic one. And Stanford is a place where those people can take refuge.
At least, that’s the probably deluded hope I spend too much time convincing myself is true. Your profile of freshman Jonathan Manzi (“The Company He Keeps,” Farm Report, March/April) went a long way toward curing me of that delusion. We learn with relief that Manzi has run the cost/benefit analysis and decided that studying to make money in the future won’t prevent him from making money now. We learn that his intellectual endeavors are a kind of salve he prepares to clear his mind for business transactions, like massages for distance runners: “When I’m fulfilled philosophically to a very high level, then I can perform as an entrepreneur to a very high level.”
I read on, hoping to be told that a college education is something other than a mere step on the ladder to capitalist success; that a true education has very little to do with competitive sport; that the “most optimal form of life” is something other than both making money and learning to make more of it at the same time. I read on, wondering if the writer would dare ask Manzi and his adviser whether an “addiction to company building” is a good and spirit-enriching trait, trying to ignore the sensation that the air was being gradually sucked out of the room.
Sean Howell, ’07
San Francisco, California
President Hennessy’s column is glowing—boasting?—about Stanford’s growing presence outside of Palo Alto (“A Growing Presence Overseas,” March/April). Our new Stanford center at Peking University is featured; programs in India, Taipei and Spain are mentioned. Not mentioned is the growing number of foreign graduate students in engineering, science and business at Stanford: roughly  percent of engineering students and 35 percent of business students are from abroad.
This picture certainly creates a favorable world image of Stanford and contributes to technical advancements outside of the United States. But it also brings one’s attention to the growing employment problems of U.S. citizens. Note the recent announcement that the headquarters of Applied Materials Company is being moved to China. And it’s common knowledge that HP, Intel, IBM, Microsoft and many other high-tech companies have developed larger and larger facilities in India, China, South Korea and other Asian countries, assigning more and more of their engineering, biology and computer science (research and development of products) to those facilities.
We all know why: Work in those fields is vastly less expensive in any Asian country. In addition, all of them have developed universities big enough and good enough to train increasing numbers of highly skilled graduates. No longer do U.S. companies look abroad only for inexpensive manufacturing; today they count on innovative technology to be produced abroad. Creative ideas, as well as clever products, come from China, India, etc.
But that creates a major question for American youth: Why should any capable student want to major in engineering (as Hennessy did) or physics (as I did), let alone take the time, trouble and expense of getting an advanced degree? Today there are rapidly declining opportunities in the United States for people with those kinds of training; the jobs are in China and India. Most attractive jobs in our country are with investment companies or banks, or in the professions of law and medicine (no products created). Even starting small technical companies is hard now, with the obvious exception of electronic entertainment, like games, social networks or movies.
So is it sensible for Stanford, funded by endowment, gifts and U.S. research contracts, to educate engineers and scientists, more and more of whom are from foreign countries and will return “home” for their careers? Is it even ethical to have U.S. taxpayers (either individuals or companies) fund the technical education of more non-U.S. citizens? Will any, if successful, have either tax incentives or cultural dispositions to make gifts to Stanford like those from the founders of HP, Yahoo, Google, etc.? Or does President Hennessy’s column tell us that Stanford recognizes this new world of technology and is going where the action is? What about our country?
Charles A. Eldon, ’48, MBA ’50
Sierra Vista, Arizona
The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.
Stanford has done it again. The May/June issue was hard to put down. My comments on three articles: 1) Professor Boroditsky shifts our paradigms. Language can shape our thoughts? Whodathunkit? 2) The functional beauty of Heathware was part of my childhood. I’m glad that Stanford grads are rejuvenating the business. 3) Readers may be amused that a photo of Lagunita has been in the Journal of the American Dental Association (March 1984). That year, the ADA used five of my black-and-white photos as filler in their dental publications.
Steve Kirkpatrick, ’75
More Lake Memories
Loved your piece on Lake Lagunita (“Tales from the Lake,” May/June). One of the coolest things I did while at Stanford was learning how to windsurf there. The “primo” time to do so was on a Friday afternoon—for 1 unit of credit! I’ve always been very grateful for the experience and have used that skill for pleasure throughout my life. A shame that the lake cannot still serve those attending now, but the memories for those of us who had a chance to experience it live on.
Dean Avary, ’84
Palm City, Florida
In our family, we have an often-repeated favorite story of Lake Lagunita. When I came from India in 1965 to study for the master’s degree in industrial engineering, one of my favorite spots was this lake. For an international student, Bechtel International Center was a home away from home; from there it was a short walk up the small mound of a hill and voilà, there was the gorgeous lake—shimmering waters in the California sun, boating, parasailing, sunbathing beauties on the deck, a jovial, relaxed, fun atmosphere. This was quite a sight in the middle of the pressure cooker that Stanford could be. After obtaining my MS degree, I came to the East Coast and have stayed in this general area ever since.
The real story starts here—subsequently I married Hilkka, now my wife of 38 years, who comes from Finland. During our initial married years, I often would talk to her about the glories of the Stanford campus and invariably about this beautiful lake. After several years, I took her on a California trip highlighted with a visit to Stanford. It was a purposeful, fast walk, cutting across the campus, passing by the I-center and toward the hill, all the while talking about this must-see lake. When we came over the mound, there was a puzzled look on my wife’s face and I was flabbergasted. Where is the water? Where is the lake? Where? It was a summer day in 1976; the lake bed was totally dry with weeds and grass. My wife, coming from the land of 60,000 or more lakes, took it with generous kindness toward me; and I learned a lesson: Nature changes and nothing remains the same. But those early sights of the lake when it was a happening place are still among my cherished memories of Stanford. As our daughter, Asha, ’02, MA ’04, subsequently went to Stanford, we had many more occasions to revisit and get used to the new realities of Lake Lagunita.
Jay M. Bhandary, MS ’66
I enjoyed Mary Fahnestock-Thomas’s letter “What’s Wrong with Frugality?” (May/June 2010). Frugality can also be applied to the number of children couples choose to produce. As frugality is expressed through the prevention of pregnancies—everywhere—we will all reap the benefits. (Strive for quality, not quantity.) The need to build more power plants, drill for more oil, with its spills, and maybe build more jails would greatly be reduced. We could all experience a greater supply of food, fresh clean air and water, and a higher sense of home.
Frugality is a quality that can be reflected in every aspect of our lives.
It would appear that our democracy is losing the ability to have commonsense discussions about important issues (“Remembering Tolerance,” Letters, March/April). Much of what is going on is the verbal equivalent of a food fight. If we cannot do better than this, America is doomed to decline. If our parties alternate stonewalling the efforts of the other party when it is in the majority, we will have a paralyzed and ineffective government.
There are those among us who dislike government so much that they are encouraging general disrespect for and distrust of all government. This is anarchistic and will harm America. Thoughtful citizens realize that we must have laws and regulations, even in a free market, and that there are social services that we need.
One of my heroes, my own uncle Joe Malinowski, secured the water rights of the Wishkah River at considerable personal sacrifice so that the citizens of Aberdeen, Wash., could have affordable electricity. What a guy! Perhaps he would be called a socialist today for that. I would call him a public-spirited citizen who wanted to put the interests of his community above those of a private power company that wanted to keep a monopoly.
Communities join together to provide some services that the private sector may not find profitable. We tax ourselves to fund this. Being willing to do this, to share the burden for some things that make America a better place to live, seems to me a mark of a healthy society.
Some of these efforts that have made America great include free public schools, libraries, the interstate freeway system, local and state colleges and universities, standards to keep our air and our water clean and healthy, local and national parks to preserve some beautiful areas for us to share, building standards to protect us from catastrophic failures, a mail system that allows someone in rural Minnesota to reliably and economically send a letter to someone living along a road in rural Washington, and many more. Imagine America without these great community services and facilities.
If we are unwilling to cooperate to provide community services such as these, in the name of individualism and a fight against “socialism,” our children will suffer the consequences and our quality of life decline.
Let’s all stop name-calling and resume the hard work essential for a successful democracy: the never-ending struggle to keep government as efficient as possible and a civil discourse over what things are so important that they need to be done by government. The ascendancy of the venture capitalist and the management consultant is not yet complete. There is still a place in the world for people who operate outside the realm of cost-benefits analyses, of the binary of positive/negative outcomes, of the word “outcome” itself—people who don’t convert every relationship into an economic one. And Stanford is a place where those people can take refuge.
Mel Malinowski, ’71
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The Effort Effect
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Dunder Mifflin Going Out of Business
Data is from the past two weeks.