DEPARTMENTS

 
 

Letters

 
 

What the Hull?

I was disappointed to see that your cover story (“Hull House,” Summer 2007) was not about the Hull House, especially when I found no direct reference to the Chicago settlement house in the otherwise inspiring and evocative article about Joe Youcha. This unfortunate, if playful, co-optation of the most famous name in the settlement-house social-reform tradition might have been justified if the article had acknowledged the contribution of Jane Addams and the settlement-house women in this country and around the world.

The first Hull House (1889) on the east side of Chicago, now on the grounds of the University of Illinois, had been the home of Charles J. Hull, a real estate tycoon who left the building and his entire estate to his niece and business partner, Helen Culver. Culver rented three rooms to Jane Addams and friends for what they called their “scheme” and later transferred the rights to the entire building to the Hull House trust. The mission of the Hull House in the United States was exported as far away as Tokyo, where job/work education projects for poor “neighbors” were offered with day-care services and other social/cultural/political initiatives. Youcha’s success today confirms the settlement-house philosophy of community-based education for upward social mobility suffused with respect for all living things as a quintessentially and persistently good idea. There is no “dead wood.”

I learned about Hull House as a student, along with thousands of others of my colleagues in social work, but I credit Sister Anita Talar of Seton Hall University, who researched the details provided here. Credit is due to many women and men for Hull House and its well-deserved, long-lived fame. If you publish this postscript, we social workers and fans of our Alma Mater who taught and supported settlement-house workers throughout the years, even while some lamented the “professionalization” of the settlement-house charisma through higher education, will consider it paid.

Emma Giordano Quartaru ’78SW
South Orange, NJ

Congratulations, the writing in Columbia magazine is no longer wooden. I’d never heard of Alice Neel. There’s a mystery: If she was wretchedly poor, how did she finance Columbia, including law school, for both sons?  

The article on Joe Youcha inspired me to propose to our American Club of Lille a Head Start–like English-education program for disadvantaged local kids. I’ll let you know if it takes off.

Robert Kulp ’59GS
Lille, France  

Both of Alice Neel’s sons attended Columbia College on scholarships.
— Ed.

Lyme and Reason

“Rash Judgement?” (Summer 2007) succinctly lays out the current controversy over the existence of chronic Lyme disease. The new research center at CUMC led by Brian Fallon is a triumph and beacon of hope for both current and future patients.

What may be less evident in your article are the scores of people who have already been helped by the dedication of Fallon and his colleagues. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease 15 years ago. Fallon helped me navigate a system that did not acknowledge my many years of disability. To this day, I struggle to support my family.

Fallon did not ask his patients for recognition or professional advancement. He was among the first and few clinicians to respond to those of us who were very ill and had nowhere to turn. His diligent research has shed light on a formidable enemy — Borrelia burgdorferi — showing it to be far more complex than the prevailing assumptions at the time. This kind of altruism, courage, creativity, and spirit of investigation, free of politics, is all too rare in the medical profession today.

Laura Kyropoulos-van Eyck ’90CC

Richmond, CA

Why France

Thank you for Robert Paxton’s “French Preoccupation” (Summer 2007). I’m particularly sympathetic to your subject. During 1947–48, I earned a master’s degree in history at Columbia and was stimulated by the superb lectures of Salo Baron ’64HON and Carlton Hayes ’04CC, ’09GSAS, ’29HON, who, as U.S. ambassador to Spain during World War II, was instrumental in persuading his coreligionist Franco not to join the Axis. Hayes was a fine performer at the podium — a real actor. He never hinted at his own considerable anti-Semitism, which was expressed by denying visas to Jews who escaped over the Pyrenees from the Gestapo and the Vichy police. Even his textbook, which we were obliged to buy, gave an inaccurate story of Palestinian Jews supposedly denying jobs to immigrating Arabs.

My first of many trips to Paris was during the summer of 1950, comme célibatair noncélibataire.

Readers interested in the Vichy period might consider Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews by David Pryce-Jones, and The Jews of Paris and The Final Solution by Jacques Adler. I’m currently reading Robert Satloff’s Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands to enrich my lectures at Rutgers’s continuing education program.

Jerome Abrams ’48GSAS

Edison, NJ

It might surprise scholars of the French Revolution to hear Robert O. Paxton describe the Vichy years as France’s “darkest moment since the Black Death.” Was the Terror any less dark because it was chosen from within rather than imposed from without?

J. Peter Saint-Andre ’89CC
Denver, CO

Your magazine’s irrelevance in a world at war is proved by the narcissistic piece by Robert O. Paxton. It’s not his fault. You excerpted his I-adore-France essay from a Cornell University Press book. Irrelevant? Yes. Paxton is author of an intellectual tool ignored by you and other fascism-enabling intellectual elites at Columbia. How could you waste several pages of valuable communications space with such irrelevance?

Living U.S. presidents, by their demonstrated illiteracy of Qur’anic law, also haven’t read Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism (2004). Yet you publish Paxton’s writings on Vichy French cowards rather than write about today’s France being politico-colonized by Islamic Fascism. Here’s what anxious Columbia grads need to know from Paxton, as quoted from his book on page 218:

“Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints, goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

This said, Paxton is likely unwilling to turn his analytical skills to teach Americans about Islamic fascism. He’s now shuttling between the Old and New Worlds, both of which are threatened by orthodox Muslims whose ideology makes Hitler and Lenin appear to be amateurs. Ask Paxton, anyway.

Michael L. Shepherd
’70BUS, ’78LAW

Atlanta, GA

Robert O. Paxton responds:
I am glad Michael Shepherd got something out of my fascism book, but I fear that he did not read me very closely. I explicitly reject the term “fascism” for Islamic jihadists on two grounds: (a) they are not reacting against a failed democratic experiment, and (b) they are not coming to the rescue of any one particular nation-state. The term “Islamo-fascism” seems to have been designed for the purpose of transferring the visceral antagonism aroused by the word fascism to Islamic extremists, and even to Muslims in general, which is a Manichaean worldview that seems to me particularly unhelpful. The Islamic jihadists are evil, and we should all want to protect ourselves from being blown up by them, but they don’t fit into the category of fascism very well, unless we redefine fascism as all bad people of every sort.
 

Breaking the Story

Tim Warren’s profile of New Republic editor Franklin Foer (“The Fixer,” Summer 2007) celebrates him as someone who is resuscitating the magazine. If not the most poorly timed article in the history of journalism, the piece is laughable in light of the ordeal inflicted on the magazine by Scott Thomas Beauchamp, its Baghdad fabulist, and the editors’ will to believe him.

Warner attributes the decline of the magazine’s circulation from 101,000 in 2000 to 60,000 before the reign of Foer to disenchantment with the magazine among its liberal readers: “The magazine’s stance on Iraq and its support of Connecticut Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in 2004 brought vehement criticism and open disdain from liberal critics, especially those in the “blogosphere,” who have treated the New Republic as their personal piñata.” Foer notes that the magazine is making up lost ground in its strident opposition to Bush “on a whole array of views.”

Circulation is up to 66,000 since Foer took over. Six thousand new subscribers and another Stephen Glass — remarkable job he’s doing.

Arthur Spector ’68CC
New York, NY

Arthur Spector is referring to three dispatches by Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp that appeared in the New Republic and, after the Columbia article ran, were “found to be false” by an Army investigation. Foer says that TNR “corroborated Beauchamp’s story with five members of his unit and continues to investigate the claims.” — Ed.

Bar None

Samuel McCracken notes in his review of Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City by Michael A. Lerner that the Bureau of Prohibition tried to enlist New York’s finest in Prohibition enforcement with mixed results. I have a story that shows just how mixed the results were.

When I was six, my family moved to Rosedale, Queens. A short time after, my father and uncle investigated a rumor that there was a place in Rosedale where you could get a drink. One Sunday afternoon, they walked over to inspect the establishment. They walked in and found a good sign: a structure that could have once been a bar.

Unfortunately, the place was completely empty. No one, not even a proprietor, was around. They sat down on the barstools and waited. Nothing, no one. After a while they moved the stools noisily to attract attention. The door to the back room opened, and a surly guy in a white apron came in and asked, “What do you want?” When they wondered if they could get a drink, he was surlier. “Don’t you know about Prohibition! I don’t serve alcohol.”

With that, my uncle, a New York City patrolman, took out his police identification. After examining it, the suddenly friendly proprietor said, “Why didn’t you say so in the first place? Come on in the back room.”

Frank Haneman ’50SEAS

Clinton, CT

IRT to CU

“Sentimental Coeducation” by Maritza Jauregui ’92CC (Summer 2007) on the life and experiences of a commuting student brings back memories. For financial reasons, I commuted for the entire period of my undergraduate studies in engineering. I took four subway lines to 116th Street and Broadway from Forest Hills, Queens.

While on campus, I managed to join the engineering school’s student newspaper and became its editor during the riots of 1968. I also became very friendly with the editors of the Barnard Bulletin, and they appointed me at the end of my sophomore year as the first male reporter and theater critic in the Bulletin’s history.

During my years as an undergrad, I enjoyed spending time with my parents, and at the same time, participating in campus life. For example, I worked as a research assistant to industrial engineering and operations research professor Seymour Melman, helping to organize the publication of his seminal book, Pentagon Capitalism. Just prior to graduation, my engineering school classmates elected me to serve as our permanent class president.

There was no stigma attached to being one of the small number of commuters attending Columbia. In fact, the 1969 valedictorian of the College, Michael Brown, was a friend and commuter from my neighborhood.

John Berenyi ’70SEAS, ’78GSAS
Millbrook, NY

Canvassing Opinions|

I was shocked to see the beautiful artwork of Jacob Collins ’86CC so recklessly derided by several letter writers in the Summer 2007 issue. It seems that
creative geniuses often call forth the antagonisms of others less gifted. Among scientists, Galileo was called a “heretic,” Darwin was said to be out to destroy God, Pasteur was called a practitioner of “homicidal medicine,” Einstein was called the author of “Jewish physics,” while Pauling and Oppenheimer were labeled “security risks.”

Collins’s critics would be wise to buy some of his works; I bet they’ll be worth a fortune in the future.
Gerald W. Grumet ’59CC
Rochester, NY

Congratulations to letter writer Yulia Fishkin who apparently grabbed hold of the Weltgeist’s coattails long enough to learn that artist Jacob Collins belongs in the dustbin of art history. Does that put him in the same retro league as, say, David, Ingres, Eakins, Sargent, Close, and anyone else in the past 200 years who ever bothered to paint the human face and body with the same “draftsmanship” and “unequivocal ability to draw and paint” as she backhandedly compliments Collins? Could she not also see the beauty and emotional depth with which his expressionistic, yet thoroughly realistic, portraits, are imbued? Ah, if only she had thrown something in about the war in Iraq.
Robert Meyerson ’66CC
Atwater, MN

Only two words come to mind after reading James Ward’s letter to the editor published in the Summer 2007 issue: “Oh, please.”

Columbia shouldn’t waste readers’ time with this kind of antiquated, self-indulgent, naive whining. It is time for Mr. Ward (and his postal carriers) to accept the fact that the world has progressed.

Moreover, as Mr. Ward brings up the notion of what the cover conveys worldwide about Columbia, it should be pointed out that a large part of the world laughs at the rigid, puritanical views of the United States. I would urge Mr. Ward to stay away from Europe.
God forbid that Columbia’s cover depict a painting of a prone nude woman.

I hope, to paraphrase Mr. Ward, that we can expect better judgment about which letters to print — soon.

Erik S. Gaull ’85CC

Washington, DC

The neotraditional painter Jacob Collins may be interested to learn about my great-grandfather, the neoclassical sculptor Arthur Lee, who was active in the early 20th century. Celebrated for his technical skill and his rigorous updating of the Greeks and Romans, Lee was seen as an important artist in his day. Profiled in Vanity Fair and included in the first two Whitney Biennials, he taught for years at the Art Students League of New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art has several of his pieces in its permanent collection.

During a stay in Paris between the wars, Lee spent time with Picasso and his crowd — and thought they would amount to nothing. Cubism, he said, was too primitive, too crude, and (unlike his own work) not beautiful enough to last.

Collins, I trust, has heard of Picasso, but never heard of Arthur Lee. Life is short, art is long, but some art is longer than the rest. Retreading history is a good way to ensure that’s where your work will be consigned.

Gregory Cowles ’00SOA

Darien, CT

I found the response to Margaret Moorman’s article on Jacob Collins more interesting than the article itself. Platek, Ablow, Fishkin, and Ward expose a more nuanced and varied understanding of the problems of realist art than Moorman does. The tone of the letter writers varies from teary adoration to an intelligent discussion of design in art to all but calling the cover pornography. (In the future, the editor might consider shipping Columbia in a plain brown wrapper so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of the people south of the Mason-Dixon Line.)

If it is true that this magazine is “an internationally respected” journal, why has it become a  soapbox for the revisionist duplicities of Moorman?  The headline claims that Collins “steps outside the art establishment to give a lesson in reality.” It is hardly a step outside the art establishment to paint in a realist style. Realism has been the dominant form of artistic expression in America since the Europeans arrived 500 years ago and bumped off the Native American abstractionists.

In her panegyric of Alice Neel (“Moving Picture,” Summer 2007), Moorman writes of “radical social realism” in her description of Neel’s WPA days. There was nothing radical about social realism. It was a conservative response to the terrors of abstractionism at a time when abstract art was associated with Communism and feared by regional American artists. At its most radical, social realism would have substituted the title “mother and child” for “virgin and child.” The mother would be wearing clothes indicating that she worked in a factory, and the child would be illegitimate. The strain (or stain) of realism that runs through American culture is akin to the stain (or strain) of fundamentalism that runs through American religion and politics. American realism fears the same things Christian American fundamentalism does: all progressive developments from the mid-19th century on — Darwin, Wegener, Stravinsky,Wright, Stein, Picasso, Lenin, the Mothers of Invention, the Gorkys, Lycra, Stephen J. Gould, and everything else that gives hope to peaceful coexistence in our troubled world. It is a scandal that Columbia magazine has been co-opted by Moorman’s kind of personality-driven art criticism, which is really a form of advertising for an artist.
Tobias Mostel ’75GSAS
Madison, FL

Many thanks to Margaret Moorman for her interesting article on Alice Neel. But who wrote the little blurb over the title: “Alice Neel made art on her own terms; but as a new film by her grandson…suggests, her family paid a price”? Nothing in the article supports this description of the movie or of Alice Neel. Instead, the kicker seems to be revisiting retro ideas about a woman’s place being in the home and the belief that a woman cannot have a career and a family without wreaking ruin on her husband and children. I wonder if Moorman was as surprised to see such a summary attached to her article as I was to read it.
Janine Beichman ’74GSAS
Tokyo, Japan

Sick Critics

I was dismayed by the letters attacking Gary Sick’s excellent article on Iran and your magazine for publishing it (“The Great Game,” Spring 2007).

 These critics seem to feel that it’s acceptable to abuse those who do not adhere to the party line — the Republican Party, that is. Given the spectacular recent failures of a foreign policy that seeks to isolate and demonize Iran, it hardly seems unreasonable to suggest a more moderate approach. 

Furthermore, it is the responsibility of a university magazine to offer a forum for opposing points of view, especially those that are not already fully represented by Fox News and other organs of the Murdoch empire.

Janet Maker ’67SW
Los Angeles, CA


 
 

Key to Abbreviations: Each of the following school affiliation abbreviations refers to the respective school's current name; for example, GSAS — for Graduate School of Arts and Sciences — is used for alumni of the Graduate Faculties, which became GSAS in 1979. The only code not associated with a particular school is HON, which designates that person the recipient of an honorary degree from the University.

Code
BC
BUS
CC
DM
GS
GSAS
GSAPP
JRN
JTS
KC
LAW
LS
NRS
OPT
OT
PH
PRM
PS
SCE
SEAS
SIPA
SOA
SW
TC
UTS

School
Barnard College
Graduate School of Business
Columbia College
College of Dental Medicine
School of General Studies
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
Graduate School of Journalism
Jewish Theological Seminary
King's College
School of Law
School of Library Service
School of Nursing
School of Optometry
Programs in Occupational Therapy
Mailman School of Public Health
School of Pharmaceutical Sciences
College of Physicians and Surgeons
School of Continuing Education
The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
School of International and Public Affairs
School of the Arts
School of Social Work
Teachers College
Union Theological Seminary