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Opinion | The Professor, the Donors and a Clash at Yale | tnewst.com Press "Enter" to skip to content

Opinion | The Professor, the Donors and a Clash at Yale

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To the Editor:

Re “At Yale, a Celebrated Program on Power Gets a Lesson in Politics” (front page, Oct. 1):

As a historian, a high school teacher and a Yale alumna, I was dismayed to read that Yale seems to have bowed to donor pressure on the curriculum of its Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy.

I am grateful to Prof. Beverly Gage for standing up for academic freedom, scholarly integrity and a commitment to excellent, unbought teaching — values foundational to the education I received as an undergraduate and graduate student in history at Yale.

Peter Salovey, the president of Yale, has since asserted in a statement to the faculty “Yale’s unwavering commitment to academic freedom.” While this is far better than a Yale administrator’s earlier dismissive statement you quoted, suggesting that an outside advisory board dominated by donor-selected members was just not Professor Gage’s “cup of tea,” Mr. Salovey’s broad generalizations seem to say the right things while falling short of offering explicit assurance of how he will right the violations of academic freedom Professor Gage had to contend with, and ensure that “free inquiry and academic freedom” are not, in fact, for sale.

As a former student of hers, I know that Professor Gage is a generous and inspired teacher, a brilliant scholar, and committed to a diversity of voices and thought in Yale classrooms. The critical questions she raises deserve better from a school whose aspirational motto is “light and truth.”

Emily Pressman
Middletown, Del.

To the Editor:

Universities that accept donations for academic programs should not be surprised when the donors’ worldview inevitably collides with academic freedom.

The Grand Strategy program itself is antithetical to today’s diversity politics. Yale is naïve in wanting to have it both ways: take a $17.5 million endowment from two Republicans and then mold Grand Strategy to fit leftist, progressive ideals.

A truly independent program cannot be underwritten by outside interests.

Betty J. Cotter
Shannock, R.I.

To the Editor:

Prof. Beverly Gage has resigned as director of the famed Grand Strategy program at Yale, claiming political interference from donors to the program. Grand Strategy had traditionally centered on high-level policymakers and their theories of statecraft. Ms. Gage paid more attention to domestic social movements, and some donors objected.

While such movements have some influence on foreign policy, they get much more attention in domestic policy, where Congress listens much more to interests outside government — as it is doing in the current struggles over the Biden agenda.

In national security, however, policymaking is tightly centralized. Presidents dominate, and they can usually act with input from only a handful of cabinet secretaries and White House staff.

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So Professor Gage has a point, but in seeking to broaden the Yale course, she is up against the elitist nature of foreign policy.

Lawrence M. Mead
New York
The writer is a professor of politics at New York University.

To the Editor:

Re “Sinema Stars in Her Own Film,” by Maureen Dowd (column, Oct. 3):

The self-indulgence of Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona goes beyond inscrutability; it’s a form of narcissism that is destructive not only to her, but also to her constituents, the Democratic Party and the well-being of the nation as a whole.

Her shenanigans increase the likelihood of depriving the Democrats next year of control of the House and the Senate. If the latter occurs, hopefully she will conduct herself more responsibly as a member of the minority than she has while holding the balance in the slender majority.

Marshall H. Tanick
Minneapolis

To the Editor:

If Maureen Dowd thinks that Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s behavior is “disquieting,” she should see it from here, the state Ms. Sinema purportedly represents, by people like me and my family, who campaigned for her, wrote letters on her behalf seeking donations and planted big bright signs with her name emblazoned on them.

It might make a charming and interesting story within the Beltway to write about her unpredictable behavior and apparel choices, about someone who might be called a colorful iconoclast and just plain goofy, but from here it’s nothing short of frightening and appalling.

What’s most galling isn’t her flamboyance, as distasteful and inappropriate as it sometimes has been. It’s that much of what she’s saying and doing is in direct contrast to what she told us she believes and would do while campaigning on issues ranging from the minimum wage to the filibuster.

As a retired journalist, I’m especially angry that she refuses to do interviews because it’s part of her job to explain to constituents and the country what she’s doing and why.

Greg Joseph
Sun City, Ariz.

To the Editor:

Re “Sexual Assault Accusations Sour More Students Against Fraternity Row” (news article, Oct. 2):

Kudos to the brave students who are finally demanding a change from the social structure created by Greek organizations.

Your article details how students are taking a page from the Me Too movement and Black Lives Matter, and demanding changes and the abolition of fraternities on campuses across the country. It is important to note that sororities have also been responsible for physical assaults and deaths of students.

As a psychologist and expert in hazing, I have seen abuse cases from all areas of Greek life at a variety of schools, including Ivy League institutions, state schools and historically Black colleges and universities.

Peer-on-peer violence, including sexual assault, occurs throughout Greek organizations, regardless of race, gender, location or class.

Students across the country no longer want to be held hostage by institutions that protect perpetrators who have successfully hidden behind “a code of silence.”

Susan Lipkins
Port Washington, N.Y.
The writer is the author of “Preventing Hazing: How Parents, Teachers and Coaches Can Stop the Violence, Harassment and Humiliation.”

To the Editor:

Re “Europe’s New Cycling Capital, or a Pedestrian’s Nightmare?” (Paris Dispatch, Oct. 3):

The chaos between cyclists and pedestrians in Paris is on display every day in New York City. Cyclists here seem to have an attitude that they are environmentally “green” and that the rules of the road do not apply. To them, a red light or a stop sign is something to ignore.

Many people I know believe that they are more likely to die from being hit by a bicycle than from Covid or any other disease. Time for traffic control to do something about this ever increasing problem.

Daphne Philipson
New York

To the Editor:

Re “Messi Is Worth Every Euro for P.S.G.” (On Soccer column, Sept. 29):

With all of the bad news swirling around these days, what a ray of light Rory Smith gives us with his portrait of that great artist known as Messi and his goal for the ages.

It’s not just a snapshot of a moment in time on a soccer pitch, but also a reminder that there’s still beauty and magic in the world, and that the humdrum can become the spectacular in just a matter of seconds, if only we propel ourselves forward with a creative burst and an eye toward lifting up our teammates (or fellow man) to attain something great — and that feeling of freedom and accomplishment that comes with it, that feeling that anything is possible.

Thank you, Mr. Smith, and thank you, Lionel Messi.

Andrew Sherman
New York


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