A misdirected criticism

The author of the column on Directed Studies (“Misdirected Studies,” Nov. 5) might have considered looking at the D.S. syllabus before rushing to judgment that the program ignores the “transnational” and “multiethnic” sources of the Western tradition.

Even the most superficial perusal of the D.S. syllabus shows that this complaint is badly “misdirected.” In the autumn semester, the history and politics section reads Maimonides and Al-Farabi to bring out the great Muslim and Jewish interpreters of the classical canon. The philosophy section reads Averroes as a central figure of the medieval philosophical tradition. The Hebrew Bible read in the literature section is a product of a Near Eastern civilization on the periphery of the European world. I should also add that Saint Augustine, a leading interpreter of Christianity, was from North Africa in what is now Algeria. A certain multiculturalism is baked into the very foundation of the course.

D.S. cannot be all things to all people, but one thing that it does attempt to teach is to read and think before criticizing.

Steven Smith

Nov. 5

The author is the Alfred Cowles professor of government & philosophy and an instructor for Directed Studies.

Yale’s engaged with New Haven

Contrary to Justin Elicker’s view (“Candidates discuss Yale’s involvement in city,” Oct. 29) Yale students are encouraged to engage with the city, beginning with their arrival in New Haven. During orientation week, all freshmen are invited to attend Discover New Haven, an event during which they actively explore and get to know New Haven.

Throughout the year, thousands of Yale students, faculty and staff are engaged in New Haven through a myriad of programs sponsored by Yale.

Examples of these include the Yale President’s Public Service Fellowship, which places up to 35 Yale undergraduate, graduate and professional school students at nonprofits and civic organizations for up to 11 weeks each summer; the Dwight Hall Urban Fellowship where students work with New Haven community organizations to address challenges of urban living (i.e. economic development, community building, family empowerment and public health); the Public School Intern program where students serve as liaisons between Yale volunteers/organizations and an assigned New Haven public school to ensure that the needs of each school are being met and that volunteers are being used effectively; and the HAVEN Free Clinic, run out of the Fair Haven Community Health Center, a student-run clinic that offers free primary care services.

Nearly half of undergraduates volunteer in community service activities in New Haven. Because Yale encourages and supports this student engagement, it responsibly reminds students of the rules of personal safety they should follow in any city in the world, including Yale’s host city.

Tom Conroy

Oct. 31

The author is the University press secretary.