LETTERS: 3.8.2013

Providing context

I have been moved to write by recent pieces in the News by Alejandro Gutierrez (“Easing the transition to Yale,” Feb. 19) and Michael Magdzik (“Who belongs at Yale,” March 5) about the academic preparation of Yale students who may have attended poorly resourced high schools. Both pieces were well-written and well-argued, in my view. Among the large number of comments they have provoked, however, I have seen some that criticize Yale for admitting such students. These comments rely on a seriously mistaken assumption about our selection process. We know, of course, that students who have attended underresourced schools may face a challenging transition at Yale. However, we evaluate all candidates by the same criteria. That is, we only admit students who have truly excelled at an extraordinary level within their own contexts, whatever those contexts may have been. In terms of distance traveled, leadership initiative demonstrated, personal determination, use of opportunities, and yes, sheer academic potential, students from schools with fewer resources often stand head and shoulders above students who have had the good fortune of better instruction. In short, a preparation deficit by itself is not a disqualifier for these remarkable candidates. We know that once they fully engage the limitless opportunities here at Yale, they are as likely as anyone else to continue doing the incredible things that earned them admission in the first place.

Jeffrey Brenzel

March 5

The author, the master of Timothy Dwight College, is the current dean of undergraduate admissions.

 

Hidden costs in Singapore

The “Yale-NUS Fact Sheet” released on Wednesday proclaims many policies that will have considerable impact on Yale College, yet the Yale College Faculty as a body — as the collegium of Yale — has had no role to play in the development of these policies. The YCF has had no opportunity to vote on any of these policies, nor even to be involved (again, as a body) in their formulation. Only individual faculty members, those who have chosen to collaborate with Yale-NUS, have had a say. This is in keeping with the conduct of the administration throughout the process of developing Yale-NUS.

Moving forward, the YCF — which alone is qualified to assess the impact of this venture on Yale College — will have no role to play other than listening passively to occasional “updates.” The body doing the evaluating will be the Advisory Committee, created to oversee Yale-NUS and not to protect Yale College. So there will be no independent assessment of the impact of Yale-NUS on Yale-New Haven.

There is another cost of Yale-NUS here in New Haven, as yet undisclosed: course relief (a rare commodity at Yale) for “consulting faculty” who remain in New Haven but work part time for Singapore. Faculty serving as consultants for Yale-NUS are reportedly teaching fewer courses in New Haven, thus increasing the losses to this college.

Consulting faculty with course release and visiting faculty gone to Singapore (in addition to their regular leaves): this means that in New Haven, courses will disappear, advisors will be unavailable, senior essays will not be possible. Undergraduates should ask questions now.

The real and complete costs of Yale-NUS to Yale-New Haven remain hidden.

Christopher Miller

March 8

The writer is the Frederick Clifford professor of African American Studies and French.

 

The Whiffenpoofs’ warrants

Brandishing the sword of equality, that weapon that Yalies heed without question, Ms. Hendel attacked the all-male Whiffenpoofs as ruthlessly and needlessly discriminatory by virtue of their not admitting females (“Let’s hear it for the girls,” March 4). She is completely right that the Whiffenpoofs, if they bar women categorically, are unequal; however, her cries of injustice do not follow her claim of inequality.

Though the Whiffenpoofs argue that they did consider women who auditioned, such an argument is not necessary to justify their barring of women from being accepted. The Whiffenpoofs are an all-male a cappella group. Ostensibly they have two requirements to join: 1) sing a cappella well, 2) be a male. Ms. Hendel says that she did not choose to be a woman and thus is only barred from the Whiffenpoofs because she does not “have the correct plumbing.” What of the person who is rejected because he cannot sing? Similar to Ms. Hendel, they had no control over a natural quality of theirs (their vocal ability) that happens to be a requirement to join the Whiffenpoofs. They treat singers unequally, yet I doubt any would make the case that such unequal treatment is unjust.

Now, is there something qualitatively different distinguishing between men and women as opposed to distinguishing between levels of talent? I see no reason to think so. Both qualities, of sex and talent, are unchosen, and both are arbitrary qualifications. Could the Whiffenpoofs admit bad singers? Sure, if they wanted to sing badly. Could they admit women? Sure, if they decided to be a mixed group. The point is rather that they have legitimate reasons to remain an all-male group. They could rightly acknowledge that all-male groups sound different from mixed groups, they could wish for the Whiffs to remain a fraternal institution, or they could mark the fact that the all-male singing of the Whiffenpoofs is traditional. Seeing as these reasons are not arbitrary, their decision to bar women is far from unjust.

Alec Torres

March 4

The author is a senior in Trumbull College. 

 

Don’t ignore stress

In my opinion, the views expressed by President-elect Peter Salovey and his collaborators in the study to be published in the April edition of the Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences, reported on by Emma Goldberg in Tuesday’s edition that “stress can be good,” are one-dimensional and ignore the well-documented fact that stress causes physical damage to the health of those who experience it (“Stress may cause workplace benefits,” Feb. 26).

Stress can be beneficial to productivity, but that is a short-term view. The long-term negative impact on health has been documented in numerous studies. The linkage of stress as a causative factor in heart disease, alcoholism and mental health is unquestionable.

Concluding that stress is good and can be dealt with simply by working to change student and employee attitudes toward stress is shortsighted. I submit that the long-term impact of stress on the health of students and employees, and the resulting loss of study and work days due to absences, has a negative impact on both performance and productivity when viewed at the macro level by institutions and employers.

The scope of studies, such as this one, needs to be enlarged to look at all outcomes, both long- and short-term. The authors might benefit from looking at studies performed by health insurance companies, the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Labor, before grandly concluding that stress is good.

As the spouse of a Yale employee, I am concerned that these conclusions by President-elect Salovey will be used to empower the Yale administration to ignore the stress.

Michael Kaufman

Feb. 27

The author is the spouse of a Yale employee.

 

Comments