Being Grateful

Monday’s article (“Rethinking Johnson’s Gift,” Oct. 7) suggested that Charles Johnson’s ’54 extraordinary gift could have been better spent. Offering the example of a Filipino businessman who gave millions to USC instead of his own country’s cash-strapped schools, the author implied Johnson’s gift could have gone to better use at institutions with “fewer and less noteworthy donations.”

However, in suggesting other possible outcomes of the donation, the author conveniently ignores one — the gift not being made at all. Indeed, instead of donating $250 million towards Californian universities, inner city schools or Malaria nets, Johnson could have kept the money for himself; he was under no strict obligation to do otherwise. In fact, when wandering around Yale’s campus, it’s almost miraculous to think that all these beautiful courtyards and gothic cathedrals were given by individuals who could have just as well built themselves a great estate, increased their children’s inheritance or bought an NBA team. It’s hard to believe how Yale alumni, far from their college days, have been willing to give so much in the name of recipients they don’t personally know — including those who might challenge them for doing so — and facilities they won’t ever get to use. Somehow, the Yale cause is so dear and compelling for these alumni that it supersedes all else.

While the author reserves the right to question Johnson’s gift, he seems to take it for granted. Giving to Yale is not utilitarian calculus, or about where it would do the most good. It is about recognizing what Yale has given to each Yalie, and trying to give back in whatever way one can. We and future Yale students are the beneficiaries of Johnson’s generosity. While we may not agree with his political views or pecuniary choices, we should express our gratitude in the only way we can — by saying thanks.

Zach Young

Oct. 7

The author is a freshman in Silliman College.

Unsatisfied with Orgo

Last Friday’s article (“Keep calm and Orgo on,” Oct. 4) argued that students who are required to take Organic Chemistry should not gripe about the difficulty of the class.

I was in the same Organic Chemistry class as the author, but it was a failed experiment for me. Most of the students who take the class do so to fulfill the prerequisite for their major — as I did — and so have minimal interest in the material itself.

Because the course is required and the material does not immediately make itself relevant to students, grades become the major driving force behind the work. There was very little attempt to relate the relentlessly technical material to the larger concepts that usually appeal to students — I could recite two ways of synthesizing epoxide, but I did not know what epoxide was. Now, months after I took my last Orgo exam, the grade is all I remember from the class.

For many, Orgo is a means to an end. That I arrived at Yale with a love of chemistry, and finished fall semester resenting it, made the class nothing more than a notch on my academic bedpost. I am sure some premeds loved Orgo, but for others who dislike the class, it will be years before they can go to med school, become doctors, and eventually do what they love. That, in itself, deserves complaint.

A great class should be an ends in itself. We should redefine success to focus on learning rather than grades. I don’t know what success is, but I have a feeling that it looks like the food writing class that I love, or that hieroglyphs course that is a fascinating end in itself.

Spencer Bokat-Lindell

Oct. 7

The author is a sophomore in Morse College.