Debate, don’t demonize, the NYPD

Reading about the New York Police Department’s monitoring of Muslim students’ associations, I find it highly unfortunate that the NYPD found itself in a position where it felt the need to monitor the activities of student groups. However, the reaction here at Yale represents a disturbing misunderstanding of the situation.

Yesterday, Jess Belding (“Stand up for Muslims’ rights,” Feb. 20) and MSA representatives at Yale seem to have abandoned the benefits of a useful dialogue on whether profiling by age and religion is morally justifiable. Instead, they have favored a shrieking reaction that would have been more appropriate if a police department had thrown a student group in jail for no particular reason.

Whether the NYPD was justified in its actions of keeping tabs on the Muslim students’ associations is an important debate that deserves attention. However, hearing the actions of the NYPD characterized as “a violation of our civil rights” and “destroying the very conditions that make Yale a world-class university” by MSA President Mostafa Al-Alusi or “unconstitutional” by Belding is very concerning. No one has a civil right to not have his website monitored or a government file made on him. The Constitution certainly says nothing about the matter. As much as we might prefer otherwise, not all behavior that we believe to be insensitive, hateful or despicable is prohibited by U.S. law or the Constitution.

It is unfortunate that we as Yalies seem to have found no other way to deal with an upsetting political problem than to call its perpetrators criminals or violators of civil rights. I really hope that we can do better.

John Masko

Feb. 20

The writer is a sophomore in Saybrook College.

Revoke asbestos magnate’s honorary doctorate

Stephan Schmidheiny, a Swiss billionaire who was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters by Yale in 1996, was recently sentenced to 16 years in prison and fined tens of millions of euros by an Italian court in Turin.

Schmidheiny is former owner of Eternit, an asbestos-cement company which operated in Italy and 34 other countries through the mid-1980s. The court judged him knowingly responsible for the deaths of over 2,000 people from asbestosis and various asbestos-related cancers.

Yale should take back its degree, which was obviously granted without due diligence regarding the sinister origins of Schmidheiny’s multi-billion-dollar fortune. It would not be unheard of to take back an honor; Fred Goodwin, the CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, recently had his knighthood withdrawn for derelictions much less lethal than those of Schmidheiny.

For more background on this case, readers may wish to consult the recently published book “Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial,” which was released on Feb. 13, the day the Schmidheiny verdict was announced.

Daniel Berman

Feb. 14

The writer is a 1964 graduate of Trumbull College.