The health of Yale science

I am sorry to read that Lily Twining (“Unhealthy Competition,” March 1) has witnessed personal differences among her faculty advisers in the natural sciences at Yale. She insinuates that this amount of personal discord extends to most Yale natural science faculty and that the tenure system is largely to blame for a competitive atmosphere among Yale’s science professors and departments. As a scientist in training, Twining would do well to appreciate the perils of extrapolating anecdotal evidence to draw generalized conclusions. My own experience with science at Yale, which includes four years as an undergraduate student and ten as a rising faculty member, has seen nothing of the kind of strife that Twining depicts.

Twining also misrepresents the Yale tenure system. Non-tenured junior faculty do not compete with each other for tenured slots. I am formally involved with mentoring our junior faculty to help guide them through the tenure process. I received similar mentoring when I was going through the same process. Twining’s misguided assertions about the tenure process, and the accompanying illustration of two caricaturized faculty members “fighting for tenure” against each other, do little to assuage the stress of our junior faculty, who in fact are fighting for prominence only within their own disciplines at other institutions. There are more productive ways in which we can address the needs of natural science instruction at Yale, and in my opinion these are primarily curricular and infrastructural.

David Evans

March 1

The writer is a professor of Geology and Geophysics.

Supporting Yale’s Muslims

I write in the wake of the discovery that the NYPD has been scrutinizing Muslim students at Yale and other colleges to express my sense of horror. To know that you are being followed, observed, judged precisely because you are a member of a minority religious group makes my Jewish skin creep. But more, to learn that the country in which you are grateful to live as a citizen bears a fundamental distrust of you, a fear that finds expression in police actions directed at you, is heartbreakingly sad. I embrace Muslim citizens, residents and visitors, fellow denizens of Yale, in your time of agony. And I hold that the search for security inside a democracy cannot succeed so long as it indiscriminately scatters the seeds of distrust and xenophobia.

James Ponet

Feb. 29

The writer is the Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain at Yale

Leadership at Yale

I agree with Yishai Schwartz (“Enough with leadership,” Feb. 28) that a preoccupation with “institutional ladder-climbing” is both unhealthy and ultimately unproductive. I take exception, however, to Schwartz’s sweeping characterization of Yale as a particularly noteworthy example of this phenomenon. For example, the Yale World Fellows Program — the University’s signature global leadership development program — selects high-achieving individuals not simply for their acquisition of impressive titles but for their commitment to substantive causes, often at the grassroots level and despite great personal risk. Likewise, the dozens of undergraduate, graduate and professional students recruited to participate in the program each year are identified for what we view as a genuine desire to address global challenges in an action-oriented and collaborative way. Rather than dismiss Yale’s “leadership fetish,” Schwartz and others should recognize those initiatives on campus that are effectively inspiring leaders committed to a better Yale and a better world.

Michael Cappello

March 1

The writer is the director of the Yale World Fellows Program

Understanding Singapore

At the end of their manifesto (“Rethinking Liberal Arts Education,” Feb. 29) in defense of President Richard Levin’s Great Singapore Folly, Professors Charles Bailyn, Deborah Davis and Pericles Lewis (none of whom has ever drawn a pay-check in Southeast Asia, let alone actually run anything in this part of the world) peep, “We recognize that Singapore has very different laws and traditions from our own.”

Yes, it does. And the Singaporean state functions as it does for a reason. Yale has now hired itself out to create a new college on the campus of the National University of Singapore. It is therefore incumbent on Yale to develop and demonstrate an understanding of the rationale according to which the Singaporean state works.

No one at Yale involved in this project, from President Levin on down, has ever shown the sophistication or respect for the Yale community to share his understanding of the University’s new Singaporean employers. Woodbridge Hall has offered the Yale community only smug assurances that there is nothing to worry about in Singapore. But Yale’s failure to demonstrate that it has any idea what it is getting into renders these assurances irrelevant.

Bailyn, Davis and Lewis mention a curriculum brain-storming session held at Yale last August. What they do not reveal is that Yale’s Council on Southeast Asia Studies, whose distinguished members include a Sterling Professor and former President of the Association for Asian Studies, was kept in the dark about this session until after it had happened. Little epitomizes Yale’s lack of interest in the Singaporean and Southeast Asian contexts in which it would operate as much as this childish stunt.

A. Douglas Stone

March 1

The writer is the Carl A. Morse Professor and Chair of Applied Physics.