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Letters to the Editors

RELUCTANT TEACHERS

"Thinking Small" (September/October) presents for the umpteenth time a program to enable Stanford undergraduates to attend classes taught by tenured members of the faculty. One can summarize the current status as follows: great idea, will cost a bundle, has failed in the past, still opposed by senior faculty.

I think it is a terrible arrangement where the senior faculty decides what shall be taught and who will teach it. And I do believe that undergraduates are shortchanged. Postgraduate work under learned professors is great, but those same teachers should be inspiring young minds as well. It seems to me that the president of a university, with the support of the trustees, has a primary responsibility to ensure that undergraduate students receive a fine education from the best minds he or she can assemble, with the prerequisite that no one gets hired to teach unless he or she is a good teacher and is enthusiastic about a plan for interacting with young people.

Glenn Waterman, '33, MS '50
Bainbridge Island, Washington


REMEMBERING LOMA PRIETA

Theresa Johnston's article about the Loma Prieta earthquake and its aftermath was great reading ("All Right Now," September/October). One of the miracles of the event was that all campus buildings were inspected without delay, so that Stanford was shut down for only a single day -- even though 200 buildings were damaged, 20 had to be closed and repairs were estimated at $160 million. Working 48 hours without sleep, civil engineering professor Haresh Shah did outstanding service in organizing knowledgeable faculty, graduate students and staff into inspection teams that rapidly evaluated safety issues. Entering a dark, damaged building -- perhaps ready to fall down -- with a flashlight was not for the faint of heart. Shah and his teams deserve great credit for Stanford's being down only for the count of one.

Bob Eustis
Professor emeritus, mechanical engineering
Stanford, California

Thank you for the great article remembering the '89 quake. I was a facilities engineer in the operations and maintenance department at the time, and my memories of the event are still vivid. The day after the earthquake, as one of a handful of licensed civil engineers on the staff, I was assigned to inspect several buildings as a follow-up to the emergency inspections of the previous night. I remember needing to cover so much ground so quickly that we didn't have time to be too detailed in our inspections or too clever in our solutions. One thing we did in several locations was pull down chimneys that appeared somewhat damaged, in order to prevent an accident in the event of strong aftershocks. To yank the things onto the ground, some of the maintenance crews rigged a cherry picker with a large canvas strap, hooked the strap around the chimneys and then just drove away.

Another vivid memory is the interior of the Knoll, which had an enormously valuable assembly of audio equipment. The quake tossed the equipment, even the largest speakers, into an unrecognizable jumble of junk. The scene was surreal.

Toward the end of the day, after having seen a great deal of destruction and marveling that no one was killed, I entered one of the last buildings on my list. The building had been red-tagged, at least temporarily -- yet I found a graduate student inside, tapping away on a computer. He refused to leave, even after I pointed out the huge sandstone block 20 feet directly overhead that had been displaced a good six inches from its original spot. I guess when your dissertation is due, it's due.

Marty Beene, '83
Alameda, California

Your review of the Loma Prieta experience and the University's progress in mitigating seismic hazards over the last several years was especially poignant in view of the recent earthquakes in Turkey, Greece, Taiwan and Mexico. Our campus has come a long way in a short time, and our seismic safety programs are models for other universities, if not cities. Nevertheless, earthquakes are a normal, recurring phenomenon in this part of the world, and we will be challenged by them again. As the article points out, there is really no such thing as an "earthquake-proof" building.

Stanford's improved earthquake preparedness involves enhanced emergency plans as well as safer buildings, and there are some important developments in emergency communications not fully described in your article. When a severe quake (or any major emergency) strikes the campus or community, the University is prepared to provide timely status reports to students and employees, their families and the "outside world" on special emergency information hotlines and on the Internet. The primary hotline numbers are 725-5555 (local), 1-800-89shake (from outside the Bay Area) and 01-602-241-6769 (from abroad). Emergency bulletins also will be accessible via a new website installed just this fall: emergency.stanford.edu.

To learn more about Stanford's emergency plans and obtain information on general preparedness measures for any emergency situation, visit www.stanford.edu/dept/EHS.

Roni Gordon
Manager, emergency preparedness planning
Stanford, California


THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY

A photograph in "The Way We Were" (September/October) shows a portion of the fish collection started by the first president of the University. What ever happened to the collection?

William A. Dill, '30
Davis, California

David Starr Jordan's world-famous fish collection was housed at the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum until 1969, when the University began to disperse the contents among various U.S. museums and research institutions. Most of the collection went to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which received more than half a million specimens representing some 10,000 kinds of fish. "We use the fish in our study of systematics -- classification, nomenclature, evolution and adaptation patterns," reports the academy's curator, Tomio Iwamoto. "This donation essentially made the California collection of fishes the most important in the world."

fish silo
HOOKED ON SCIENCE: Students, like this one holding a sturgeon in the '50s, studied Jordan's collection.
Courtesy Stanford Archives

TRUE TO LIFE

The caption describing Angela's Ashes as "the bestselling Frank McCourt novel" is a bit misleading, to say the least ("On Top of the World," September/October).

McCourt wrote a memoir, if not a biographical account, of his mother's struggles to raise a family under most difficult circumstances.

Robert C. Austin, '49
Columbus, Ohio


HOOVER POWER

With Newt Gingrich, Pete Wilson and Ed Meese at Hoover all at once (Farm Report, September/October), that institution may no longer be all that prestigious!

Kay Moorsteen, '45, MA '61
San Diego, California


PLAT DU JOUR

Pardon me, but where were the grilled mahi panini when I was there (First Impressions, September/October)? Tresidder had limp cafeteria food, if memory serves, though one could make a decent meal of the brownies. A low-fat half-caf mocha latte was available on campus, and we thought we were living the high life -- but California combo sushi?

Ah, the old days: when the Bookstore had books, as I recall, and Green Library served the same, but cheaper. I think I may have a few credits I'd like to finish up; better work on my menu French.

Janet Reich Elsbach, '89
Sheffield, Massachusetts


THE PROBLEM WITH TENURE

In her really fine and important article, Joan Hamilton observes that the laws of supply and demand don't seem to apply to the relationship between the number of humanities PhDs being granted and the number of tenure-track faculty positions available ("Pecking at Crumbs," July/August). Isn't tenure the reason for this? Isn't tenure a restraint of free trade? Should taxpayers' money be contributing to universities that support tenure -- an institution that seems to diminish competition, lessen academic quality and add to the general unemployment situation?

Writing to this magazine, thinking you might publish this letter, is a little delusional, perhaps like writing to the pope with some ideas supporting abortion and thinking he might just share them from the high altar.

Marcella Craft
Telluride, Colorado


THE BUSINESS OF WINNING

Maybe it is just a matter of style in your July/August issue. The expressions on the faces of the athletes on the cover were not of joy, but of the business of winning. This was repeated in the coaches' photo inside, with just hints of a smile on Ted Leland's countenance ("How to Build a Dynasty"). In both images, a winning tradition peers passionlessly back.

The conflict I have is not with Art Streiber's photographic style, however, but with the contrast between the faces on the cover and those of the near-totally white male coaching staff. Reading on, I then came to "Bringing Color to the Coaching Ranks" (Farm Report), with the quote from Tom Williams on NFL coaching jobs: "It doesn't matter what color your skin is. If you win, they're going to keep you."

Maybe I am just reading between too many lines. But as I went from "An Offer They Can't Refuse" (Farm Report), on Stanford's desire to compete with Harvard, Yale and Princeton for students of Calvin Miaw's ilk, to "Pecking at Crumbs," on reducing the number of humanities graduate students, I found myself more confused. Send us your smartest athletes. Send us your ethnically diverse and culturally pluralistic students. However, you need to find your own place in the competitive, capitalistic environment called the Farm. Our coaches do not look like you, but they win. If you are interested in the humanities, work hard, have a difficult life, be patient, apply to be a Stegner fellow, and we will feature you when you publish your next bestseller ("Success Stories").

My alma mater wants the best and the brightest, but they should know how to win the game of life.

Paul Juarez, '75
Oakland, California


CASTE FROM THE PAST

Carl Heintze says that on Pearl Harbor Day he was a sophomore wearing jeans and was known as a Stanford rough (Time Capsule, July/August). In earlier times, this would have violated tradition on two counts: sophomores did not wear jeans, and they did not qualify as Stanford roughs.

When I was a Stanford undergraduate (1930-34), there was a rather rigid caste system on campus. Freshmen wore jeans. Sophomores got to wear moleskins. Only upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) could wear corduroys. The definition of a Stanford rough was an upperclassman whose cords were so dirty and stiff they could be left standing in the corner by themselves.

I believe the decline of that tradition started around the mid-'30s after the University abandoned Jane Stanford's stipulation that the enrollment of women be limited to a maximum of 500. Anyway, the tradition appears to have been completely lost by 1941.

W. Kelly Woods, '34
Salem, Oregon


UNSAVORY TREND

In the letter to the editor titled "Selling Out the Stanfords," from Eugene Danaher (July/August), a few points are not accurate. It was not President Casper -- but rather, museum director Thomas Seligman -- who received the seed money to rebuild the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum. I was present in Seligman's office when he opened Gerald Cantor's generous check in the early 1990s, shortly after President Casper took office. Seligman, not Casper, was the prime mover to change the museum's name to the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford, wiping out an imparted legacy from a revered edifice. President Casper should not be targeted for this inappropriate erasing of a Stanford historical building.

Many of us faithful alums and former volunteers on the Committee for Art at Stanford would applaud the restoration of the museum's former designation -- and would be happy to see the end of this unsavory trend to match bucks with building names.

Carol Graham, MA '50
Portola Valley, California

 


The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.

KUDOS

I enjoyed the article by Bernard Butcher, crediting Charles Palm for obtaining the Soviet Union history documents ("Cracking the Kremlin Files," May/June), as much as any article I have ever read in STANFORD.

Al Towle, PhD '62
Auburn, California

Your article on cartoonist Hilary Price ("Rhymes with Harpoonist," May/June) was excellent! Thanks for making the magazine so varied and interesting.

Deborah Krass, '76
Los Altos Hills, California

Of all the magazines I receive, yours is the only one that never makes it to that pile for reading later -- instead I stop whatever I am doing to read it now!

Thanks for another successful year.

Rob Burrington, '64, MS '65
Woodside, California

An excellent publication! My husband (not a Stanford alum, but I love him anyway) and I both enjoy reading it.

Lois Barry, '52
La Grande, Oregon

Stanford is a treasure to read. It also is the only means to be reminded of memorable days of academics, the pride of being at Stanford, and the virtue of standing tall. This identity comes with every issue of your magazine. Thank you.

Fred Y. Chen, MS '66
Sarah W. Chen, MA '78, PhD '85
San Marino, California

Keep up the good work! Having degrees from both Duke and Stanford, I am in the fortunate position to receive two of the top university magazines being published. When I finish reading them, I send them to my niece Emilynn, a Yale graduate, who also enjoys them.

Malcolm Murray, MS '61
Baytown, Texas


SELF-CONGRATULATIONS

We're pleased to report that Stanford has won an Editorial Excellence Award (university/alumni category) in the annual magazine competition held by Folio, a publication for magazine professionals.


Address letters to:

Letters to the Editor
Stanford magazine
Arrillaga Alumni Center
326 Galvez Street
Stanford, CA 94305-6105

Or fax to (650) 725-8676; or send us an email. You may also submit your letter online. Letters may be edited for length, clarity and civility. Please note that your letter may appear in print, online or both.

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