Principled stand or pathetic defense? Readers weigh in on a cover controversy and its implications.
Provocation Is Important
Wishing I’d emailed before the letters in May|Jun were published—so many against the amazing cover and photo content by Mariette Pathy Allen [“Beyond the Binary,” Mar|Apr 2019], and I’d kept my amazement, delight, and gratitude to myself.
I’ve children aged six and two, and in this digital era, there are fewer opportunities for kids to stumble across images they can touch, examine closely, and question—images that pique their interest because they’re different from what’s ever seen before.
People, especially young ones, don’t always question what they see every day. Provocation is important—so they can ask questions of others, and of themselves. What do they think about this? And why?
I purposefully left this issue out for my kids to find. These days, our family is living in a pretty homogeneous city. I want my kids to know the world is more open and diverse than the one they see, that there are endless roads to find your true self, and that once you get there, the journey is always worth it.
Jennifer Dowling Urenia C’95, Knightdale, NC
Continue Wide Coverage
Some of the letters to the editor in the Pennsylvania Gazette never cease to amaze me. Specifically, I couldn’t help but wonder at the people who asked to be removed from the mailing list of the magazine due to the content of the Mar|Apr issue.
As the editor accurately noted, the “ideology [of the Pennsylvania Gazette] guiding editorial decisions is a commitment to highlighting a variety of interesting, inspirational, thought-provoking, and otherwise significant lives and work of Penn alumni, students, and faculty.”
That exposure to people, places, and ideas that you might not otherwise know about is one of the main tenets of a Penn education. Personally, I did not find the cover story in question to be of very much interest, but there were other articles in the magazine that were.
Why people who chose to shut themselves off to their own echo chambers where they simmer in their own values, without exposing themselves to unique or contrary thoughts, philosophies, and ideas, is something I can’t understand after going to Penn.
One of the main traits I hope I took from my education at Penn is the ability to think and function independently. If there’s a topic like the cover story that doesn’t interest me, I choose not to read it or investigate further and move on. Conversely, if there’s an article that does spur my curiosity, then I do. If I’m not exposed to new or different or even controversial topics, though, I can’t make that choice.
Hopefully, this exposure and subsequent expansion, or at least consideration of another’s viewpoint, is part of the lifelong pursuit of education that many readers share. I hope the Gazette continues to cover a wide variety of people, places, and things.
I may not like
every story, or even every issue, but I will always love the wide range of
subject matter that it tries to cover and offers us insight into on every page.
You’re the National Geographic magazine of the Penn community.
Bill King C’93, Collingswood, NJ
Unworthy of the Title Editor
Please remove my name and address from the Gazette’s distribution list. I will also get my name removed from all departments soliciting funds for any other part of the University of Pennsylvania.
Your incessant pushing of an extreme political agenda has resulted in the Gazette having virtually nothing to do with education. You have done a disservice to the University, and your pathetic “defense letter” in the May|Jun edition proves you to be a close-minded dogmatic ideologue unworthy of the title editor.
Kim Nill WG’86, Mankato, MN
Congratulations on your principled stand supporting the Gazette article on the photographer who documented the transgender community despite criticism and subscription cancellations. This community remains one of the most abused, neglected, and discriminated against despite advances in medical and psychological understanding of transgender individuals and proven honorable military service to their country. I have directed my Penn donation this year to support the Gazette—a principled, informative, and entertaining news source.
Kenneth Rosenbaum C’64 M’68 GM’72, New York
Please take me off of your distribution list for the Gazette and any fundraising solicitations. You may count me among the ranks of those turned off by your political bias and choice of content.
Randi Tera Perry W’83, Southamptpon, NY
Penn Has Never Been Very Left of Center
Making a post to the editor invites a debate. Asking to be taken off the mailing list gives you the last word while leaving your opinion untested. As far as I can tell, Penn has never been very left of center. The assertion that Donald Trump should have been on the cover reduces the sum of civilization to a tweet. Coming to understandings of the plurality of the human condition was always part of the learning process at Penn and nearly every other educational institution. The college experience was intended to make us open to opinions and lifestyles that may be different than our own. Comments like the Pennsylvania Gazette “no longer seems to reflect the Penn college experience that I knew” can only be true if you closed yourself off from the community around you. The comment that “I must admit that there exists a vast unnavigable gulf between my alma mater and me” is a self-reflective fact. Respect art, culture, science and seek to understand the human condition.
Thomas Singer C’82 GAr’85, Millburn, NJ
Courageous and Interesting Selection
I also have never been more amazed by the cover of the Gazette than I was after seeing the Mar|Apr 2019 cover—never more amazed at what a courageous and interesting cover story selection was made. I can also say that I saw very positive feedback about it on Facebook from a friend of mine who was two years ahead of me in the College. Take this as two alumni (me and Captain Anonymous C’98, Location Withheld) voting in favor of what we both thought was a really great cover article selection.
Alex Marchut EAS’00, Philadelphia
Over the Top Bias
Please remove me from the Gazette mailing list.
Every Gazette I receive demonstrates over and over again an overwhelming political left/liberal bias, and, quite frankly, the Mar|Apr edition was over the top. How the editors chose to put that particular story as the cover while at the same time ignoring what so many other graduates are accomplishing, and contributing to society simply astounds me.
Just because we don’t necessarily share your political ideology does not make the contributions and successes any less meaningful or impactful.
For whatever the reason, you can’t seem to take off your liberal lenses for a moment to see the world of Penn alumni for what it really is—representative of a population and a nation that holds vastly different views and positions on societal issues; and unfortunately, you choose to only select those stories that reflect, and confirm, your own bias.
How disappointing from a University that is supposed to embrace and respect the exchange of different viewpoints.
Andrew Basile WG’08, Douglassville, PA
Thank you for taking a stand in support of highlighting the diversity of our alumni experiences. The world is changing and that troubles some people, I know, but I think refusing to publish stories about transgender people would be marginalizing and the antithesis of what I believe the University stands for.
Ayanna Taylor C’94, Warren, NJ
Thanks for Introducing Allen’s Work
Alerted by the negative letters you’ve published, I’m writing simply to support your decision to publish and showcase the story on Mariette Pathy Allen’s transgender photography.
While some readers apparently take offense at merely representing the existence of trans people, I am concerned that you are not hearing from the many other alumni who support the appearance of this article on this topic. Unlike one of your more delicate readers, I’ll “actually leave this magazine out” for my colleagues and students, a number of whom will certainly appreciate the images, people, and history the article depicts.
Thanks for introducing Allen’s work to the Penn audience.
Jeffrey Masten Gr’91, Evanston, IL
Appreciation for Affirmation
I am writing in response to the many letters you received regarding Mariette Pathy Allen’s photography of transgender life. I appreciated the article for the angle it offered on a long-suppressed cultural history, the creativity and bravery shown by Allen, and the affirmation offered to people such as my own child who are questioning the binary.
Judith Lebow CW ’74, Arlington, MA
Appropriate and Much-Needed
Thank you for your Mar|Apr 2019 publication, with its most appropriate cover and Molly Petrilla’s much-needed article, “Beyond the Binary,” featuring “Mariette Pathy Allen GFA’65: Pioneering Photographer of Transgender Life.”
we humans are ever to bridge what one letter-writer terms “a vast unnavigable
gulf,” we do not necessarily need to accept differences—our own and everyone
else’s. We do, however, need to learn how to live with them.
Linda Hoffman Sikes SW’66, Dixon, CA
Sorry Not Sorry
What a bunch of … snowflakes. These male alumni who got their feelings and their manhood hurt by one cover photo of a transgender person are an embarrassment to Penn and higher education in general.
It’s a disgrace that in 2019 you even had to receive one complaint (let alone a porn claim sent to USPS) about such an innocuous cover.
Perhaps these alumni preferred their college glory days when marginalized groups had no voice or public media presence and such invisibility made life comfortable for these alumni, who could go about pretending everyone was just like them.
not sorry that life isn’t so convenient for you any more, snowflakes.
William Porter GEd’02, Cleveland Heights, OH
Disagree, But Why Cancel?
I read with dismay the letters from alumni requesting removal from the Gazette mailing list. I understand the potential of the material to offend the hardened sensibilities of some in the alumni base. I remember arguing passionately against the Apartheid in South Africa in the late 1980s with some of my classmates on what now seems like a pretty clear issue.
What I do not understand is the request to cancel the subscription. I typically read the Gazette from cover to cover. The articles are stimulating, the longer format allows greater detail than we typically receive now in our online-parsed media consumption, and, most importantly, I always learn new things I would not have if I had self-selected for a defined interest publication.
This is why as a small town kid in 1985 I chose Penn and its One University approach. The education opened my mind to so much, as did my classmates. I was in a fraternity, NROTC, and served in the Navy. I cherished the Gazette delivered to me on the ship to read new information and experiences from far and wide. And I feel I have continued to learn with a flexible and open mind that Penn helped to train. Opinions I had 30, 20, and even five years ago have been rolled aside with new information (and I read news sources from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times and the Economist to the New Republic).
How could you decline to keep an open mind at the accelerating rate of change we are experiencing? I remarked to a friend this morning as we discussed our impending 30-year reunion how different the world and technology is today. And lest we think the pace of the last 30 years was insane, wait until we experience the next 10!
So just now, I donated for the first time to the Gazette in the 30 years since I graduated. I’m almost ashamed to admit it. But that shame pales in comparison to what I feel when I see the reactions from Penn alumni to a single article on a subject they feel offended by. Despite the fact that it was not pornographic (unless you just arrived from the middle of the last century) and describes the lives of brave people who are just different from you and the pioneering photographer who is brave enough to tell their stories.
hope that you will print this, and keep performing the service of opening
alumni minds. I also appeal to like-minded alumni to give some money to fund
your work. It’s at least worth what you pay for the other magazines that come
to your home every month.
Chuck Billups C’89, Ann Arbor, MI
I read the first four alumni letters you chose to print in the May|Jun Gazette issue … and your lengthy, tone-deaf response.
These alumni letters convey some of my feelings as well regarding the apparent narrow ideology and rigid beliefs that guide what you and your staff choose to publish.
This publication needs to represent the entire University family and consistently embrace a full spectrum of views.
You clearly do not.
Your inability to even recognize your persistent bias speaks for itself.
Kindly add my name to the list of those who request their
names be removed from receiving all future issues of the Gazette.
Craig R. Stokely WG’69, Wayne, IL
If That’s Leaning Left, Well Done
If the school is bending “increasingly to the left” by recognizing the accomplishments within the transgender community, then I say well done. The issues of racial, gender, and religious tolerance have moved on in our society. Diversity truly marks the greatness of our culture, and incremental steps of recognition are to be congratulated. You may double my subscription to the Gazette.
Anthony Haftel M’71, Palm Desert, CA
Their Choice and Their Loss
I really enjoy the Pennsylvania Gazette. In just about every issue I find articles that are interesting, enlightening, and worth sharing.
And while I understand that this was not your intention, good job in flushing out a thankfully small number of homophobic alumni and dropping them from your mailing list (at their request) with your Mar|Apr 2019 cover story.
Maybe a future cover story will similarly offend and alienate racists or xenophobes. I hope so.
I am mostly proud of my association with Penn, and of the accomplishments of my fellow alumni, with a few notable exceptions. I value diversity, inclusion, and reasonable discourse. And while I don’t think we should shun alumni who appear not to respect these values, they are free to disassociate themselves from Penn. That’s their choice and their loss.
up the good work.
Mike Arsham MSW’81, New York
View From a Hammock
You may have interest in hearing from a reader who does not view the world through political and cultural filters 24/7—sadly, a diminishing minority of the US population and, sadder still, perhaps of Penn alumni.
Admittedly, I am a layman insofar as assessing journalism, photography, art or design. But here’s what I took away from the Mar|Apr issue:
• The cover was—interesting. Had to look a few seconds to interpret what I was seeing. Isn’t that type of interpretive challenge considered to be a feature of a good magazine cover?
• The article on transgender life that upset a number of fellow alums? Well, I skipped it. Art and photography stories aren’t my thing. And, really, I haven’t had time to read a full-length Gazette feature story since like the day after graduating. But the point is—never underestimate the power of skipping that which bores (or annoys).
• The stories about Penn’s Final Four run were a delight. Such fond memories. Granted, I was a high school senior trying to determine what school to attend. But after watching the Quaker’s March Madness, well—Hail, Pennsylvania!
• And, in between, I read, as I always do—and shed a tear or two, as I always do—about a student, alumni, or faculty member whose journey through life the Gazette shared with me, and which touched me profoundly. In my opinion, this is consistently the best material the Gazette offers up. And you can’t even tell if they’re Democrats or Republicans.
So, from a guy who just likes to read the Gazette
on a Sunday in the hammock, I offer a simple—but sincere and heartfelt—“keep up
the good work!”
Matthew Arbit C’83 G’83, Highland Park, IL
Laughable to Deny Leftist Bias
I laughed out loud when I read your response to the Letters to the Editor in the May|Jun issue of the Gazette. You stated, “I also have to push back on claims that we are pursuing a political agenda in the stories we run.” That is hilarious. In fact, I cannot recall an issue where I have not shaken my head at the leftist bias of the stories in the Gazette. I sometimes wonder if I wasn’t somehow sent Pravda by mistake.
Yes, the views of the Gazette, the alumni it profiles, and the Penn administration are highly skewed toward the left. Yes, there is political bias. Even in stories that otherwise seem balanced/non-biased, the writers often find a way to mention the political or ideological leanings of the subjects, which are on the left. In just the May|Jun issue alone, consider the following:
• “Lessons from the Shatterzone,” page 19 [“Expert Opinion”]: I “learned” that Trump properties “relied heavily on Russian money … and whose campaign benefited from Russian support.” Further, I “learned” that “were Trump not constrained by Congress … he would most likely pursue this role as a broker between Russian and US business interests, with his family as the key beneficiaries.” Those are some pretty serious left-wing conjectures that are stated as fact.
• “The Iranian Revolution at 40” page 27 [“Gazetteer”]: I “learned” that it was the US-backed coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddegh that put the Shah in power that ultimately “drove opposition parties to abandon liberal constitutionalism in favor of varying shades of Marxist, Maoist, and Islamist ideologies.” A roundabout way to blame the US—as the left is fond of doing—for the human rights violations that ensued under the Ayatollah Khomeini.
• “Off-Off-Off-Broadway,” page 43: The author of this interesting and otherwise apolitical article couldn’t help but mention, of the article subject Jonathan Rand’s brother, “(Doug, who had landed a job as assistant director for entrepreneurship in the Obama White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, had even less time to devote to the business.)” This was a completely unnecessary detail to add—as evidenced by its inclusion only as a parenthetical—and yet, the Gazette felt the need to highlight the political leanings (since it was on the left) of one of the articles’ subjects.
• “Life Saver,” pages 70–71 [“Alumni Profiles”]: I learned about an alumnus working to prevent the execution of undisputed murderers, such as a man who was in prison for a triple homicide and who then “killed a prison guard with a baseball bat, shattering his skull.” (Nice guy.) Working against the death penalty is another cause célèbre of the left. Why don’t we ever seem to read profiles of alumni who are working to promote causes embraced by the right?
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy and look forward
to reading the Gazette. I find the stories well-written and informative,
and it is fun learning about the paths and lives of my fellow Penn alumni. But
make no mistake, there is a decidedly leftist skew and political bias to the
magazine and to the profiles it chooses to run, and to suggest otherwise is
Laura Guimond W’97, Henderson, NV
University Education Should Open Minds
I was sorry to see several alumni letters requesting that their subscriptions be terminated because of the Mar|Apr cover and article on transgender individuals. A university education—any university education—should open minds, not close them, so Penn seems to have failed them in a way opposite to their reasoning. How one writer interpreted the story as a “political statement” is beyond me. It is true that some groups have politicized sexuality, but as a biologist, I would demur. The primary reason, then, for my letter is to praise the Gazette, not to bury it.
As an ancient alumnus (Gr’69), I enjoyed two articles in the May|Jun issue. Marian Sandmaier’s uplifting piece on interviewing Dick Van Dyke [“Alumni Voices”] was of interest partially because she was a rising junior (CW’71) at the time of my graduation. Those alums terminating their subscriptions because the Gazette’s wide interests exceeded their narrow ones missed a good thing.
Another good thing was the article on Claire Sliney C’21’s Oscar [“Gazetteer”], and I would offer a comment. Another student at the time I was at Penn was Candice Bergen CW’67 Hon’92. The article on Sliney said she was “the first Penn student to ever win—or even be nominated for—an Academy Award while still in college.” True, but Bergen was nominated later for an Academy Award after she left Penn.
I am not a good Penn alumnus. Having taught in
universities for more than 35 years, I have the attitude that “I gave at the
office” and don’t attend reunions (this year was my Penn 50th, Duke 55th). As a
mediocre professor, my financial situation is very modest (further reduced by
divorce), and so I also don’t donate to my alma maters. But I will send a check
in support of the Gazette. Keep up the good work.
Henry A. Hespenheide Gr’69, Hermosa Beach, CA
President Is “Thought-Provoking”
I write to say that I too agree with one and all of the letter writers Post, Holtz, Costigan, and Hewitt [“Letters,” May|Jun 2019] regarding the Mar|Apr cover and contents. I could not have said it better.
In your reply, you wrote, “The only ideology guiding editorial decisions is a commitment to highlighting a variety of the interesting, inspirational, thought-provoking, and otherwise significant lives and work of Penn alumni, students, and faculty.”
of course when the name is Trump. Our President may be many things, but if he
is not “thought-provoking,” I don’t know who is.
Tom Unger C’76, Chantilly, VA
Outraged Emails Not New
Over the many years since my graduation, the “Letters” section has been interesting, if not difficult, reading. Facts were disconcerting to many. Trends in the world did not sit well with some; and always a few Republican alumni requested to be taken off the list. Fifteen to 20 years ago any mention of GLB (forget TQ) led to a barrage of outraged emails. While many of the more conservative writers were alumni from the 1950s and ’60s, it was not always the case.
I assume we will be seeing more of these cancellations, as the chasm grows between the lies and half-truths spread by right wing media and science-based knowledge. Penn is an exemplar of the Enlightenment tradition, based on scientific method and truth based on provable fact, not power. Certain alumni want more coverage of a certain alumnus, W’68, even though it is documented that he has pushed over 10,000 lies in two years as leader of our nation.
I think the staff of the Gazette do a terrific job of covering people and topics, letting us know about so many alumni and staff doing amazing things. Please do not cancel my subscription.
Harlan Levinson W’80, Los Angeles
Connect to Shared Humanness
One of the most important lessons I learned at Penn came from former provost Vartan Gregorian Hon’88. He often talked about the danger in an “us versus them” mentality, and implored us to consider the values and experiences we all share in simply being human.
No us/them. We.
Mariette Allen’s transgender portraits give us We. They invite us to connect to our shared humanness and embrace our differences. They expose the constancy of human nature, defying time and place.
These photos are the essence of We, fostering compassion for some of the most marginalized and vulnerable among us. In that spirit, they share the spotlight with Dorothea Lange’s portraits of the Great Depression or Diane Arbus’s of the developmentally disabled. These photographers—cultural anthropologists, really—understood that a stark black-and-white photo could reflect and change our perceptions of people different from us.
I was shocked to read the outrage from many alumni upon seeing a transgender person on the cover of the Gazette. One angry alumnus asked how it is they have yet to see a story on the only Penn graduate to become president. Maybe when said graduate starts showing some humanness—some We—instead of making fun of disabled and other vulnerable people, he’ll make the cover of the Gazette.
Joan Harrison C’81, Los Angeles
Please understand as editors of our alumni magazine that everything you do now is overshadowed by the ridiculousness of not writing about Penn’s first ever president of the United States. It is a monumental Penn achievement, but your failure to acknowledge it has made it into a political statement. There is no other logical explanation for such a glaring oversight. Isn’t your job as our alumni magazine to report on alumni? Please stop this absurdity, do your job, and let us decide whether to read it or throw it away.
Elise Brownstein Hutner C’89, Great Falls, VA
I was sad to read the letters objecting to your Mar|Apr 2019 cover. It’s not that I didn’t know that too many Penn alumni missed the point of a college education, or majored in subjects that kept them at a distance from arts and humanities, or don’t bother to research unfamiliar subjects. That they should think that transgender identity is a political or ideological point of view and not a biological/psychological one means they couldn’t spare the time to read a Wikipedia entry about it. Paying tribute to a gifted photographer alumna seems to be something they can’t fathom. I did know that such people graduated from Penn, but it is disheartening to be reminded of that
I do agree that the current president is a gifted achiever—telling 10,000 lies, disdaining the Constitution, the environment, the emoluments clauses, campaign finance laws, and supporting murderous dictators, practicing nepotism, bigotry, and adultery (whew! I’m too tired to go on) are, indeed, amazing achievements of a certain kind. One thing I’m glad and grateful about is that the Gazette will not put him on its cover. For an institution of higher learning, that would be genuinely inappropriate. So thank you!
Rusty Unger CW’66, Chapel Hill, NC
I totally agree with so many others that cover and story on trans life was unnecessary, of no interest, and actually pretty pathetic. Come on … you can do a lot better!!!?
David Goldberg W’77, Avon, CT
Look at the World from Others’ View
I invariably find something intriguing in each Gazette. Such was the case in the Mar|Apr 2019 issue.
I was struck by Neal Hunt’s “Letters” contribution—“Practice the Golden Rule”—and how it connected to the article, “Beyond the Binary,” about Mariette Pathy Allen. Together they reminded me that the Golden Rule is a good rule, but the Platinum Rule (not my creation but discovered during my career as a human resource consultant) is even better.
As a reminder, the Golden Rule is: Do unto others as you (emphasis is mine) would have them do unto you. The Platinum Rule is: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. The Platinum Rule changes the focus from you and your world to them and their world.
A personal example may illustrate this difference in perspective. I am an enthusiastic hugger—of men, women, and kids. I love to be a hugger, but not everybody wants to be a “huggee.” Through my experience as a hugger and many other interactions, I’ve learned that I should be a lot more sensitive to the other person’s needs and interests and not assume they somehow mirror my own.
In relation to the “Beyond the Binary” article, I particularly noted the following quote about Allen’s introduction to the transgender/other than binary world: “And it was through meeting that one person that I entered this whole other world.” Allen recognized that this is another world whose members have very different experiences and expectations than hers, and she has worked hard for years since her introduction to understand this world—from their perspective.
This need to look at the world—not from my own point of view, but rather from that of the person with whom one is dealing—lead me as a consultant to coin the word “empaction,” the combination of empathy and action. I was leading a selling skills workshop for colleagues and “empaction” was the essence of what I had to say. As consultants, whether selling the firm’s services or persuading a client to accept its recommendations, it’s important to:
• Empathize: do the necessary preparation/homework to really understand where your client as a person is coming from. How does she or he see the situation you’re in?
• Take appropriate action to capitalize on your increased understanding of the client’s perspective. What points should be emphasized and how should they be presented?
And empaction is not just about a consultant effectively selling services or ideas. It’s about all of our human interactions—being a parent, a spouse, a friend, a stranger, and—very importantly in these days of increasing tribalism—a person whose beliefs are quite different from our own.
Let us all have more empaction in our lives.
Jim Waters WG’71, Pearl River, NY
Suggested Cover Quotes
Thank you for your cogent and direct response to the several alumni who wrote to protest the publication of an article about an artist’s work with which they disagreed and for which they expressed animosity, disgust, etc. I was particularly interested in the expressed wish by one writer to have Donald J. Trump’s portrait printed on the cover of the Gazette.
I could half-heartedly support this, but only if a couple of Trump’s infamous quotes were included with his portrait, such as “I am incredibly intelligent, have a great brain” or, “I don’t need to listen to advisors, I’m my best advisor” or “grab ’em by the p—y,” for starters.
The probability of your publishing my letter is very low, and that’s fine. I just needed to have my say on this topic, since I kept silent when the original angry bombardment lambasted you for not immediately devoting the Jan|Feb 2017 issue to this purpose.
Joan Bowers Nu’61 GNu’62, Seattle
Herringbone, Not Houndstooth
In Marian Sandmaier’s piece “Still Life with Dick Van Dyke” [“Alumni Voices,” May|Jun 2019], the editors missed her description of Mr. Van Dyke in the hotel lobby “wearing a black turtleneck under a houndstooth sports jacket.” In the photo, taken at that time to accompany the piece, he is wearing a herringbone jacket.
John J. Sakoff WEv’76, Wenonah, NJ
We apologize for the error.—Ed.
Travesty of Justice
I enjoyed reading this article by Julia Klein regarding Nicholas Christakis’s new bestseller, Blueprint [“Good By Design,” May|Jun]. It was of particular interest to me since I am a graduate of Silliman College at Yale, Class of 1969. Nicholas and his wife, Erika Chistakis, served as Masters of Silliman College until they were run out of town as a result of a small group of students upset about Erika’s comments about Halloween costumes. To me, that was a travesty of justice for these two as well as for Yale and the rest of the students at Yale and elsewhere.
It was just another stake in the heart of freedom of speech and thought at a once great academic institution. (By the way Penn Law School had its own smackdown of perfectly rational free speech exercised by a law school professor, coming from the Law School dean and her faculty colleagues.) To me, these represent tragic trends in what great academic institutions are supposed to embrace—academic freedom, unfettered freedom of speech and thought, total diversity of ideas, and robust and civil debate absent threats and shout downs.
David F. Tufaro GCP’72 L’72, Baltimore
Penn Athletes in Asia, Earlier
I applaud the recent visit by the Penn football team to China and the good will I am certain it engendered [“Gazetteer,” May|Jun 2019]. However, I must point out that this was not the first time that Penn athletes have traveled to compete in Asia. The first of these, to my knowledge, was in December 1981 when the Penn basketball team traveled to Japan to play in a short-lived tournament called the Suntory Ball in Tokyo. The opponents were to be Louisville, a recent national champion, and Oregon State, first ranked in the country at the time. I had just been assigned to work with Athletics when we in the Development Office learned of this upcoming trip. I was assigned because in a previous Penn life I had managed the J.William White Training House at Franklin Field and had been a graduate student in Japanese history. I offered my assistance to the athletic director as a Japanese speaker, but was told that all was in hand and no problems were expected. The Development Office, however, decided that we should be represented on the trip, so along with myself, Bill Owen W’42 GEd’67, Vice President for Development (former Dean of Admissions and University Secretary) should accompany the expedition. I was designated to leave a week ahead of the travel party to help plan some kind of University event while we were all in Tokyo.
Three days before I was to leave I dropped by the Athletics Department to see if there was anything further. In passing, the AD at the time handed me a manila folder and asked me to see what I could do with the contents. The envelope was full of passports and visa applications. He had “lost” them on his desk. Panic mode! The special visas required for anyone involved in a public event like sports usually took weeks, if not months, for Japan. I traveled to Washington, DC, the next morning and managed to negotiate a 24-hour window. Someone else had to travel down to DC to pick up the completed documents. There was another complication. The basketball captain was actually a citizen of Jamaica, and his Jamaican passport had expired while he was still in junior high school! Fortunately there was a staff member at Penn who was not only also a Jamaican by birth, but who knew someone at the Embassy in Washington. A new passport was done in a day, visa applied soon after. All good!
When I arrived in Tokyo I made a visit to the offices of the organizers, only to discover that the whole enterprise was on the verge of collapse. Not enough sponsors had signed up to fully fund all the activities, so many associated events had already been cancelled. I asked the organizers to wait before doing anything else, and I went off to contact the heads of the Penn Club of Japan and the Wharton Club. Within 24 hours almost everything was back on, as Penn alumni in Japan stepped up to fill the void.
Two other incidents are of note. Each university was to bring along six cheerleaders and recorded music of their fight songs. It had been two decades since there had been a recording of Penn fight songs, so a special session was needed to make a cassette. This was later to lead to the first Penn Band record in a generation sponsored by the late Ed Lane W’49. In the event, the cheerleader entrusted with the cassette left it sitting on her dorm room dresser, so we were the only school without music. At the welcome reception after the other schools music was played, and it was evident that their players, coaches and supporters could not even mouth the words of their fight songs, it was the Penn turn. All Penn alumni were asked to stand and sing “Drink a Highball” and “The Red and The Blue” It seemed that more than half the audience stood and a capella sang both songs. The local media came over and asked how this could possibly be, although they understood when I told them that we had two alumni groups in Japan, and our alumni numbered over a thousand! Penn alumni are, after all, loyal, and they know the songs!
One of the other events that had been cancelled was a meet and greet with the governor of Tokyo. Our group, however, had carried a gift for the governor from Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, so I arranged a meeting. (I had known the governor for over 20 years, as I had been an undergraduate exchange student with the Governor of Tokyo as my sponsor).
Later in that same decade, from 1989 to 1991, the Ivy League had an agreement to send graduating senior members of the eight Ivy school football teams to Japan to play an All-Star team of Japanese football players in the Tokyo Dome, the event to be called the Epson Ivy Bowl. Each year a different football staff would coach the Ivy side. As I recall these wound up being Dartmouth, Yale, and finally Harvard. If the event had gone longer, the next staff would have been Penn.
I returned to Japan in early 1989 to work, so I decided that there ought to be some way to welcome the Ivy players, after nothing had taken place during the first year. So I got the representatives of all the schools together and we sponsored a welcome reception, Penn alumni taking a leadership role. The Penn Club also invited our own group of players out to a restaurant for dinner.
Having run the Training House I knew that nothing less than an “all you can eat” would do, so that was the kind of restaurant chosen. After two years that restaurant stopped being “all you can eat”! There are always Penn students studying in Japan, so they were always invited as well. The final game of the series was a serious blowout, and I suspect that discouraged the locals from continuing the series. 73-0 as I recall.
So, these half forgotten moments when Penn athletes participated in their sports abroad should be remembered, and appreciated.
Thomas T. “Tim” Winant Gr’69, Port Saint Lucie, FL