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Letters to the Editor

WHAT LUCK?
I loved reading “Luck of the Draw” (September/October) and am saddened at the loss of the actual “Draw.” Being assigned a random computer number is no fun, and not at all in the Stanford spirit.

When I lamely avoided all the hoopla and drama of Draw groups freshman year, I formed a Draw group of two with a guy friend who was also opting out of the scene of picking “seven best friends” for his Draw group. I felt lucky, so I drew our number. Of the 3,000 numbers allocated to “guaranteed” students under that old system, I drew 2,319. I’ll never forget that awful number; I even endured it as a nickname for a while. I was the last female to be assigned to “Hurlburt” on the Row, now Slav Dom. When my one-room double (shared with a random transfer student who turned out to be a ton of fun) caught fire at the end of first quarter, right before finals, I was jokingly tagged as the ultimate “resister” who had tried to torch my room in order to be placed in better housing. Obviously, it was not arson. (Warning: electric blankets are dangerous.) But the year was awesome in spite of where I lived, because I was at Stanford.
Pilar Keagy Johnson, ’89, JD ’94
Atlanta, Georgia


HARD TO LEAVE
I taught for a semester at a private school and loved it (“Why Teach?” September/ October). But private schools pay even less than public schools, especially since I still don’t have a credential, and the cost of living in Silicon Valley is even higher now than when I was teaching. Now I’m back in software engineering.

It’s hard to leave a high-paying engineering job and take a year off to get a teaching credential when, as a teacher, I’ll end up earning less than half my current salary.
Darin McGrew, ’85
Sunnyvale, California


PRAIRIE ROOTS
I was amazed and delighted on opening the new issue to see that beautiful spread of pictures of my husband’s home country (“On the Edge of Nowhere,” September/ October). The illustrations are exceptional, and in the text, Mr. Foley caught and expressed the love my husband had for that prairie country. The quotes he chose from Wolf Willow are some of the most beautiful and evocative prose my husband ever wrote.
Mary Stegner
Los Altos Hills, California

I was delighted to see Jim Foley’s article on the current state of Wallace Stegner’s boyhood home in Eastend, Saskatchewan, with its testimony to the continuing value of Stegner’s writing to younger generations of Western authors. I wondered if something fell to the cutting-room floor, though, when I read that Wolf Willow—correctly characterized elsewhere in the article by its subtitle, “A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier”—is a “semiautobiographical novel.” The autobiographical novel (nothing semi about it) is The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

In any case, both of these books are still well worth rereading as we contemplate our history as “Americans” in the West and try to figure out how to live in harmony with our neighbors and our environment.
Suzanne Ferguson, PhD ’67
Distinguished Visiting Honors
Professor (Humanities)
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

If Jim Foley had read The Big Rock Candy Mountain—Stegner’s most autobiographical novel, and his best, in my opinion—he wouldn’t have written, “His family came to Eastend from Iowa by stagecoach in 1914.” And the article might have had more feeling and depth.
Hazel K. McCuen, MA ’29
Bakersfield, California

Editor’s note: According to Jackson J. Benson, ’52, author of Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work (Viking Penguin, 1996), Stegner arrived in Eastend by horse and wagon in 1914, at age 5, in the company of his mother and older brother. They had come from Iowa, where his maternal grandfather had a farm. His father was already in Eastend trying to get established. Decades later, Stegner said that both Wolf Willow and The Big Rock Candy Mountain mixed autobiography with fiction (although Wolf Willow is not a novel but a collection of writings inspired by Eastend). Of the lesser-known work, Stegner once said, “It was a book as personal to me as The Big Rock Candy Mountain.”


IN PRAISE OF 'DUST'
My eye caught Professor Felstiner’s wonderful essay on Elizabeth Wiltsee’s honors thesis on Samuel Beckett (“this dust of words,” September/October). I could not put it down until the last word.

May Stanford have more such articles.
Stephen Horn, ’53, PhD ’58
Washington, D.C.


BLENDED MAJORS
As the product of an interdisciplinary program—international relations—I appreciated your article on IDPs (Farm Report, September/October). After graduation, I too found that my major—a unique blend of political science, history, economics and languages—required some explanation. The inevitable question would follow: so what do you do with that?

In the wake of the horrific attacks on New York and Washington, the answer is clear: it helps me understand what is happening in the world. I can hold educated debates about global terrorism and the emerging American response to it. I can explain why Iran is important and how the Arab-Israeli conflict will be affected. More fundamentally, it comforts me to understand the actors on the world stage, the concerns they are weighing, the tools they are using and the threats we are all facing.

I owe this to my professors and to the vibrant IDP of which I was a part. To grapple with a crisis of this magnitude, it is not enough to understand history, economics or political theory alone. Their synthesis, however, produces a powerful result.
Cody Harris, ’00
Washington, D.C.

As one parent of Heather Pon-Barry, who was quoted in your IDP article, I write to point out that it is due to our being more “thoughtful and reflective” that it takes Heather longer to explain sym sys to us than to her classmates. No one need infer that we are not as bright! No, sir!
Jack Barry
San Francisco, California

IDPs are indeed an important part of Stanford’s academic landscape. I write to point out one omission in your list: the earth systems program, housed in the School of Earth Sciences. Our majors numbered 127 at graduation last June, when we conferred 25 BS and 15 MS degrees. We began the 2001-02 academic year with 102 undergraduate and coterminal master’s students.
Julie A. Kennedy, PhD ’92
Senior Lecturer and Associate Director
Earth Sciences Program
Stanford, California


GUARDING AN ANGEL
"Restored to Glory" (Farm Report, September/October) warms the hearts of those of us who remember the sorry mutilation of the Angel of Grief statue. However, the article omits any reference to protecting the rest of the cemetery from future vandalism. This is why she is grieving.

Recalling the wild parties with which Stanford students celebrate Halloween at the Mausoleum, I suggested that a fence be put around the whole cemetery area to protect it from vandalism. A Stanford student (one of the best and brightest) wrote to the Stanford Daily ridiculing the proposal and inviting me to share a keg of beer with him there. Since I declined, he will probably drink that keg all by himself.

Better build that fence quickly—before October 31.
Ronald Hilton
Professor Emeritus, Romance Languages
Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution
Stanford, California


LOADED WORDS
I think the “Asian bitches” graffiti (Letters, September/October; Farm Report, July/ August) is some kind of hoax, because while I’ve heard white bigots say all kinds of horrible things, I have never heard a white person say, “Rape all Asian bitches and dump them” or anything even remotely resembling those words or their syntax.
Tom Hwang, ’76
Columbia, Maryland

I take strong exception to Dr. Laura Leets when she opines that the campus graffiti is free speech protected by the First Amendment. There are two recent cases handed down by the California appellate courts that make it very clear that writing “Rape all Asian bitches and dump them” on classroom walls is at the very least an act of vandalism and at worst a “hate crime” under state law.

Furthermore, a hate crime does not have to amount to a “firebombing” or “beating someone up,” as Professor Leets asserts. I only hope that the University and any of its students who feel threatened report such incidents to the authorities. There is an effort by law enforcement throughout the state to track hate crimes. I would suggest that Professor Leets consult the Santa Clara district attorney’s office for information about exactly what crimes were committed.
Greg Jacobs, ’70
Sebastopol, California

Leets responds: Mr. Jacobs raises an important question of distinguishing where free speech ends and a hate crime begins. First Amendment dogma maintains that speech may not be penalized merely because its content is racist, sexist or offensive. The content of the hate graffiti was protected, but if someone was arrested for it, they could be charged with vandalism. Moreover, I certainly agree that there are times when words may cause a reasonable person to feel threatened. In that case, a person is not punished for his or her beliefs but for speech deemed equivalent of conduct, such as advocating rape or violence. It requires judgment and experience to determine whether speech may constitute a criminal threat. Fact patterns are not always clear, and reasonable discretion and reasoned judgment are crucial in determining whether a hate crime, giving rise to civil or criminal liability, has occurred. There were other mediating factors that prevented Stanford’s case from resulting in a criminal offense (e.g., not directed at a specific person). I can assure Mr. Jacobs that the Stanford community takes all “acts of intolerance” very seriously and has adopted a protocol to maximize the reporting of such occurrences.


BEYOND THE SOUP KITCHEN
James Hamilton (Letters, September/ October) criticizes Dean Scotty McLennan (“Cut from a Different Cloth,” July/ August) for advancing a “liberal-radical” love of government in his analysis of students’ religious views. While I do not accept some of McLennan’s liberal statements about religion, he is right on target about the alienation of service from politics. Whether conservative, liberal, radical or reactionary, each of us has a responsibility to understand the “social and institutional conditions” in which we live. We cannot skip through the daisies of community service without recognizing how politics and economics make the meadow possible. The student who says, “I don’t like politics” may not want to seek office, but by ignoring the auguries of her political and social surroundings she defies them not a whit.

To think that any concern for social forces beyond the walls of a soup kitchen is a call for “government bureaucracy” is to immobilize the very community spirit and duty Hamilton invokes as Christ’s legacy. Such an ideological straitjacket not only discourages a challenge, whether governmental or not, to wide-scale oppression, but also legitimizes a confinement of “one’s reach,” as Hamilton puts it, to a group of folks small enough to soothe, not rattle, the conscience. Christ, though, was not afraid to clash with political, social and ethnic arrangements in Israel; nor, in doing so, did he trust prevailing estimations of who was within reach as a neighbor (see the parable of the Good Samaritan). And, while government is no panacea for social ills, I wonder what present-day Christians would say to Matthew 25 echoes like these: “I was starving, and you fought to abolish AFDC; I was working to feed my family, and you shrugged at standards for a safe workplace.” Perhaps an ideologue assured of the irrelevance of politics and the incompetence of bureaucracy would reply with uptilted chin, “Well, that would have been government.” But given the complex history of our political and social institutions— churches, of course, included—I believe for now that answer falls short of loving God with all of one’s mind.
Thomas Arnold, ’94
Cambridge, Massachusetts


RESEARCH FRONTIER
Ronald Levy’s cancer research (“Made to Order,” July/August) is pushing back a frontier that I was first aware of when, in the early 1950s, I knew Dr. Harvey B. Stone, a graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School’s Class of 1906. Dr. Stone was a general surgeon of that era who was greatly concerned about the problem of cancer in general and breast cancer in particular. In his first published paper (1908), he discussed the theoretical possibility of two basic causes, one being parasitic and the other being cell autonomy, in which cancer might be regarded as a growth related to fundamental changes in the cells themselves. A later paper of his was titled, “Can Resistance to Cancer Be Induced?”

Dr. Stone worked principally with mice, placing killed cancer cells back into a host mouse. Also included in his research were several women, in whom he replanted their own killed tumor cells. His premise was that tumors might be of viral or other protein origin, and if so, patients might develop antibodies to their own cancers, thus improving their chances of survival and “resistance to malignant disease.”

The work of Drs. Stone and Levy exemplifies the challenges inherent in the profession of medicine. There are many unanswered questions, the solutions to which will yield huge dividends, thus allowing researchers to move on to other unsolved problems.
Gaylord Lee Clark, ’53
Baltimore, Maryland


DIFFERENT PATHS
I enjoyed Kevin Cool’s column, “What’s a Guy Supposed to Do?” (First Impressions, July/August). To one old fart still making choices one week at a time, his theme resonates strongly. I’m sure others of my generation have discovered that there are many mountains to climb as well as different paths up each one (Scotty McLennan’s wonderful religious metaphor). We’re all trying to “figure it out, to make sense and be useful” to others. Let’s have less in the way of overly familiar “success” stories and more in the way of quests that stretch the envelope.
Roger Coates, MBA ’69
Charlotte, North Carolina


SERVING HER NATION
I am a biology teacher for the Navajo and Hopi nations in Tuba City, Ariz., and have seen Karletta Chief’s presentations on several occasions during her term as Miss Navajo Nation (Snapshot, May/June). As far back as I can recall, she may be the first woman to hold that title with two degrees, and she is certainly the first from Stanford. What a role model she has been for the younger generation of Navajos and other Native Americans. Many of the students don’t even know about Stanford, so she has given the University—as well as her people—a lot of positive PR.
Willie LongReed, ’78, MA ’85
Tuba City, Arizona


'GIVE HIM HIS DUE'
It was with sadness that I read Denni Woodward’s letter (July/August) questioning Timm Williams’s dedication to Native American values. I first met Timm (a.k.a. Prince Lightfoot) while taking the field with the rest of the Stanford football team at the Stadium. I met him a second time in 1975 while working with a trail crew in the Redwood National Park. For a few years afterward, I was the caretaker at his family’s fishing camp on the Klamath River, where I spent many hours with Timm discussing his role as Prince Lightfoot and his profound reverence for his Yurok traditions. I know firsthand that Timm saw this role as the only vehicle available to him to put forth his views on the plight of Native American peoples during a time when the dominant society was pushing all Native Americans to the back pages of history. He was agonizingly aware of the suffering of Native Americans in the 1950s and ’60s, and he worked for the betterment of not only his fellow Yuroks, but all Indian people.

Timm fully understood that his costume was not traditional, and he did not consider his dance to be a religious ceremony. The costume was the means by which his words could reach the dominant society. It was his off-field words, made possible by his on-field performance, that justified his actions.

I knew him. His heart was right. He remains my friend, despite his death. He honored his family and his people. Give him his due. Let him rest in peace.
Joel McDonough, ’69
Myers Flat, California

CORRECTIONS
The father of Damien Hall (“The Karmic Capitalism of Chip Conley,” September/ October) was brought to the hospital where Hall works, but not by police.

The article on the death of Jack Elway (Farm Report, July/August) states that when Elway coached the Cardinal into the 1986 Gator Bowl against Clemson, it was Stanford’s first bowl appearance in 15 years. In fact, Stanford beat Michigan in the ’72 Rose Bowl and, during Bill Walsh’s first two years as coach, beat LSU in the ’77 Sun Bowl and beat Georgia in the ’78 Bluebonnet Bowl.


 

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