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I was moved to write by the short blurb in the Light & Verity section of the Summer Yale Alumni Magazine regarding the Yale Wrestling Association taking part in a lawsuit challenging Title IX because it alleges that Title IX is reverse discrimination. To me, a woman athlete (crew and rugby) who benefited from previous Title IX fights, this seems like a huge step backwards, one that makes the Yale wrestling community seem terribly short-sighted and even misogynistic. It would make more sense to simply start a women’s wrestling program.
Many high schools in the U.S. offer girls' wrestling either as a separate program or alongside the boys, but only six U.S. colleges and universities have women’s programs. The girls coming up in wrestling have few options if they want to continue the sport. In addition, there are likely many other girls and women who would love to wrestle if they were given the chance: Girls and women have been joining traditionally male sports (such as ice hockey and rugby) in record numbers, and they have been doing martial arts for years.
There are many reasons why Yale should start a women’s team, and no reason why it should not. In the words of Doug Reese, the coach of the University of Minnesota-Morris women’s wrestling team: “It’s an inexpensive sport, especially if you already have a men’s team. It seems like a no-brainer.”
A Modern Miracle
Kudos to Yale and David M. Schwarz Architectural Services on the design of the new Environmental Science Center (“Designed for Science,” May). Judging from the photographs, the building successfully combines modern simplicity and airiness with traditional grace and solidity, both outdoors and in.
The attention to continuity with Yale’s neo-Gothic architecture is also encouraging. The ESC is one more cheering sign that, in the world of architecture, “modern” is no longer synonymous with “stark.”
President Levin, in his 2002 Baccalaureate Address to graduating seniors and their families, tried to counter the barbarism and savagery of September 11 with the banalities of moderation, tolerance, and enlightenment (“Thinking About September 11,” Sum.). Who could be against such lofty goals, even if they are unlikely to be achieved through the exercise of the will in which he places such confidence?
Moreover, President Levin mistakenly condemns the attitudes of our enemies on the basis that they emanate from “deeply held and profoundly conservative religious beliefs” and that they embody utopian visions of the future based on the enduring reality of absolutes. In their place, he suggests that each of us construct our own realities out of those authorities in which we find meaning. It is precisely such relativism that causes our enemies to doubt those cherished democratic ideals which President Levin thinks, more or less, America should still export. I say “more or less” because he goes on to say, “We should tailor our expectations . for those cultures that do not share our conception of human rights.”
I have less confidence than President Levin in our unaided ability to will righteousness into being, because I have a darker understanding of human nature than, say, Jefferson, who saw no need for redemption. But I am also more confident than President Levin in the importance and value of visions of the ideal society—as long as they are not enforced by political means. Such visions animated many who founded this nation, and continue to give moral coherence to many who lead it. It was Chesterton who once said, “As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will remain the same. The modern young person will never change their world—because they will always change their mind.”
As a recent proud graduate of Yale College, I would like to share my great disappointment at the Baccalaureate speech delivered by President Levin at Commencement weekend and reprinted in the Summer the Yale Alumni Magazine. I, along with many of my fellow students and my family (both my parents are Yale graduates as well), felt that the speech reflected poorly on both Yale as an academic institution and on President Levin.
By speaking of having “toleration” for “those who fail to embrace our values” (rather than simply “those who do not embrace 'our' values”), Levin made clear the chauvinistic tenor of his speech, and it did not waver. He spoke consistently of “us” and “them,” of “civilization” and “barbarism,” and continually made the jingoistic equation of the United States of America with “freedom” since the beginning of its history. In this regard, it is simply irresponsible to ignore the many instances in which the United States has acted against the freedom of both her own citizens and those of other nations—to gloss over the shameful history of African slavery (yes, the Jefferson Levin held up as such a beacon of liberty was a slaveholder), or the hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths our military and CIA have been directly responsible for over the past century in Hiroshima, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. This is not to say that the atrocities committed by the United States nullify all that is great about our country, nor is it to say that we should not all be very proud of the rights and responsibilities bestowed upon us as American citizens: It is only to say that no nation in the world can be, nor should be, held up as an unambiguous paragon of virtue.
The academy, and especially one of its leading global representatives such as Yale, should live up to its historical function as a space where values of universalist humanism, reason, and critical thought may be upheld. Quite simply, vulgar nationalism and dogmatism are out of place, and I was ashamed to see them on display in Levin’s speech. It was a disappointing way to summate a college career at Yale, where I have been taught by a great many brilliant and humane people that such simplistic thought dehumanizes us all, and indeed contributes to the terrible violence we have witnessed over the past year.
A Musical Note
A few thoughts after reading “Making Music Matter” (Sum.):
The decisive factor in the quality of the art created in any specific time and place is not the artist, but the patron. Given a great patron, great art will appear. A great patron is an individual or institution that holds clear values relating to essentials of the human condition, is willing and able to sustain artists whose work expresses those values, and has the discernment to recognize work that is supreme in expressive power. Such patrons are rare, but the history of art is the history of their flourishing: e.g. the government of Athens in the 5th century B.C. (Sophocles, the Parthenon), the Roman Catholic Church from the 6th to the 16th century (Gregorian chant, Chartres, Palestrina), the Viennese aristocracy of the 18th century (Haydn, Beethoven), the Viennese bourgeoisie of the 19th century (Brahms, Mahler), etc.
In the 20th century, the landed aristocracy having faded and the bourgeoisie having become obsessed with material and social status, patronage of the arts has fallen to academia. Unfortunately, academia does not give primacy to values that are of fundamental human concern. Academia’s reigning value is intellectual superiority, demonstrated in acute perception of subtle relationships among symbols and phenomena. Therefore, academia perceives art as an occasion for analytical gymnastics. The works of art that are most fertile in opportunities for such contests are those that verge on—or achieve—unintelligibility. In music, academia has fostered Schoenberg, Cage, Glass, and other initiators of sufficiently obscure orthodoxies whose compositions, when performed, persuade most of the general concert-going audience not to return for more. Thus, viable classical music has been reduced to a fixed body of antiques progressively less relevant to our time, symphony orchestras are folding, and performance opportunities for classical musicians are dwindling toward naught.
I, therefore, disagree with Anthony Tommasini’s claim that (what is left of) the audience needs educating. I believe that musical academia needs educating—needs to understand that music is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but a spiritual one, and that readily intelligible contemporary music is not to be greeted as beneath condescension. In short, musical academia must become a great patron, or classical music will die.
In the interest of disclosure, I must mention that I am a non-academic composer whose work has been received with enthusiasm by the general audience in southern New England for nearly half a century.
Lindy Brought to Life
Regarding Charles Lindbergh donating his papers to Yale (“Lindbergh in New Haven,” May), I would like to point out an earlier Lindbergh-Yale connection.
My grandfather, Theodore W. Case '12, invented sound movies. Using his new sound-on-film technology, Ted Case documented Lindbergh’s takeoff, rushed back to Manhattan to process the film, and showed it that afternoon at the Roxy Theatre. While Lindy was somewhere over the Atlantic, incommunicado, there were lines around the block in Times Square.
It was the first time in history that people were able to see and hear one of the great events of the day. Television was decades away. People got their news from radio, newspapers, and silent films. The Lindbergh newsreel caused such a sensation that Case and his partner, William Fox, had over 50 Movietone crews in place around the world within a year. Case and Fox created what we now know as the nightly news.
Case conceived the technology underlying sound films as a Yale junior. In a letter to his mother, dated January 21, 1911, Case wrote: “Most of my time now is taken up in experimenting with my selenium cell with the idea in mind of photographing sound waves and using the positives as records for a new kind of phonograph, or rather it would be called lightograph, I suppose.” A month later, he wrote: “Yesterday, I at last succeeded in transmitting sound by light. The reproduction of the voice was perfect.”
Case’s few months of part-time work changed the world. The Lindbergh film was the first great success of the talking pictures era. Four months later, Case and F. W. Murnau collaborated on the feature film Sunrise. In the first year the Academy Awards were given out, Sunrise received three Oscars. One Oscar, for Most Artistic and Unique Film, has never been awarded since. That particular award seems to have been an acknowledgement that Sunrise was the first talking picture, a month before Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer.
The combined PR juggernauts of the brothers Warner and General Electric, who had a competing system of a phonograph record synced up to a silent movie, have managed to obscure the historical records on this point, but every film school graduate knows the truth. And, of course, the WB/GE system soon proved to be a dead end, while the optical track is now the dominant technology.
I wanted my fellow Yalies to know that when you see Lindbergh taking off on his epic voyage, you are seeing—and hearing—the work of two great men, one a fellow Eli.
Twist in the Business
“Business with a Twist” (Mar.) notes that SOM’s three-year program in management and environment was cited as one of the best in the evaluation “Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2001: Preparing MBAs for Social and Environmental Stewardship.” As co-authors of this Aspen Institute/World Resources Institute report, we acknowledge the excellence of the environment and management program, but we wish to note that the recognition SOM received was based on a much broader set of activities.
First, SOM rated among world leaders for its coverage of social impact management as well as its top rating in environmental subjects. Second, SOM rated highly in environmental coursework not primarily for the joint degree with FES, which attracts relatively few students, but for covering environmental subjects in courses available to all SOM students. Finally, courses and degrees available to students comprised only one category of evaluation. SOM faculty have strong research records, particularly in environmental areas. SOM also provides excellent institutional support in the form of conferences and speakers, internship funds, loan forgiveness, and more. Attributing SOM’s strengths only to the joint program with FES shortchanges the School’s records of innovation and achievement.
SOM cannot rest on its laurels. Our biennial “Beyond Grey Pinstripes” reports have identified many top-ranked schools that are now developing innovative, comprehensive approaches to social and environmental topics in management. SOM should take care not to surrender its historic leadership in these areas in its quest to become an “unabashed, hard-edged” business school.
A letter in the Summer Yale Alumni Magazine about the History of Arts and Letters program confused two professors in the program. Joseph Curtiss was an English professor; Lewis Curtis was a history professor.
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