To the Editor:
Regarding Amelia Davidon’s excellent and comprehensive April 6, 2021 article (“After controversy, First Women Written History Project to include attribution, reinstate some content”), there is one small problem with ending the piece with a quote of me saying, “It’s been really gratifying … to see this work lead to such a positive resolution.” The problem is that everything is not, in fact, resolved. The March 12 meeting of the Written History Project (WHP) team with the team of four who organized the petition to reinstate the names of authors to their written testimonies dealt only with the anonymization issue. This meeting resulted in the agreement to destroy all anonymized versions and to produce a single public version of “The First Women in Yale College” with names reinstated except for those who specifically choose anonymity.
The restoration of Julia Preston’s original and unedited testimony, which alleged that the late Yale professor Kenneth Mills once forcibly kissed her during a meeting in his apartment, came only after the March 12 meeting, following the communication by the petition organizers to all the letter signers about the successful resolution of what we considered the most egregious problem — the anonymization issue, and a subsequent letter by Preston to the co-editors. Clearly arbitrary and inconsistent editing that is not communicated to nor approved by the authors constitutes another significant and unresolved problem for the WHP, as highlighted by Preston’s situation.
According to the YDN article, the co-editors agreed to restore Julia’s original text based on the fact that the incident she described concerned a former faculty member who had been the subject of a publicly available investigative report by another institution (Choate). The co-editors have not, however, agreed to restore anyone else’s narrative, despite letters that we know have been sent by several contributors, including Dori Zaleznik ’71, one of the four petition organizers. Zaleznik is quite experienced with editing, having just completed the lioness’s share of the editing and proofing as co-editor of the 864-page reunion book, “Yale Class of 1971: Fifty Years Late,” and serving as senior deputy editor of the infectious disease section of UpToDate, a popular website for physicians. Oh, did I mention that in 1969, she became the first woman editor on the YDN? The anecdote that was inexplicably edited out of her narrative — which she wants restored — concerns how in her role as YDN Assistant Executive Editor, she often had to deal with late-arriving copy from Garry Trudeau ’71 ART ’76, the popular creator of the comic strip “Bull Tales” (which has since morphed into the well-known editorial cartoon, “Doonesbury”).
Although all of us are gratified that the WHP team has agreed to reinstate Preston’s original content, it is important that all contributors be given the opportunity to have unacceptable or undesirable edits undone, should they so choose. Zaleznik suggested in her letter to the WHP Project team that they pose another question in their planned survey about whether contributors might want to request anonymity or remove their narrative entirely from the more public and widely distributed version of “The First Women in Yale College.” It does seem relatively simple to inquire whether contributors want their original unedited text restored when their narratives are published in this revised edition, and only respectful to honor their wishes.
LYDIA TEMOSHOK (Yale ’72) was one of the original women elected to the YDN in ’69-’70, soon after sister Petition Team Organizer Shelley Fisher Fishkin (’71, GRD ’74, GRD ’77). As a Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, she has edited/co-edited/authored 16 books or collected works and published over 200 articles. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.