Arts’ contribution to global society cannot be overlooked

To the Editor:

Among many concerns that one may raise with Jenny Lee’s letter (“Global humanitarian crises should outweigh University’s financial needs,” 10/31), it seems that the larger issue she opens is the benefit of musical arts, and by extension arts funding in general. Letting alone the millions of dollars recently raised through arts events specifically for the disasters she cites (celebrity concerts, auctions, Yale relief concerts), she is in fact questioning investment in the arts themselves.

Perhaps funding music students’ tuition does not directly contribute to a more equal world distribution of goods (food, medicine, etc.), but does this really signify a “disconnect” between Yale and the rest of the world? I find this response indicative of an all-too-common utilitarian ethos that degrades any benefit of the arts as intangible. Humanitarian needs certainly merit our attention, but the arts should not be sidelined as mere excess.

Someone should ask Lee if the proper steps toward a stronger connection between Yale and the world would entail disbanding the Yale Corporation, liquidating all funds (including her tuition) and donating them to relief agencies, and putting all capable hands at the service of current humanitarian relief efforts. However, it stands to reason that there are many worthy ways to contribute to the health of our global society, including the arts, and that these need personal effort and attention — not just sums of money thrown their way.

John-Michael Muller MUS ’05

Oct. 31, 2005

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