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Pique Oil

Glyn Vincent’s quoted experts blame the high price of oil on either speculation or the laws of supply and demand. (“States of Dependence,” Summer 2008.) Too bad Professor Paul McNulty, former vice dean for academic affairs, is no longer around to set them straight. Those lucky enough to have attended McNulty’s World Energy seminar at the business school in the 1980s know better. Laws that govern free markets have no relevance for a product controlled by a cartel and distributed by an oligopoly, and the price of oil is wherever OPEC and big oil agree to peg it. Among McNulty’s seminarists, a privileged one or two were invited to Arden House at the end of the course, where McNulty hosted a multiday conference of oil industry executives and academics in a setting of mountain splendor. I asked one of the assembled oil men why it was that if the petroleum market were truly competitive, when the price of the raw commodity rose, oil companies’ profits rose at a proportionate or even higher rate. This is of course exactly what’s happening right now, and I’m still waiting for a credible answer.

Joshua Nossiter ’83BUS
San Francisco, CA

The law of supply and demand still works. The supply of fossil fuels is decreasing every minute; every gallon of oil and every ton of coal burned is lost and gone forever. Every minute the population of the world is increasing. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the population will reach 9.539 billion in 2050 (and still be growing in excess of one-half of 1 percent per year compounded) from the present 6.7 billion. And that prediction takes into account AIDS and the fact that a number of industrialized nations have reduced population growth to zero, or even made it negative.

Nothing can stop the price of oil and all fossil fuels from increasing and increasing at an accelerating rate except to reduce population growth to zero or to make it negative. Nothing can stop the price of food from increasing at an accelerating rate, and with it, starvation, social unrest, terrorism, massive death, and destruction. Voluntary population control will not work, and if it worked, humanity would have to maintain zero growth as long as our species remains on the earth. That will not happen. The only solution is coercive population control.

Jason G. Brent ’57BUS, ’60LAW
Las Vegas, NV

I always find the magazine very stimulating, particularly reading it here in Manila where I have been living for 30 years. From my perspective, the straws in the oil barrel on the cover should have been drawn with different diameters, with a very large pipe for the U.S., and the question in the subheading could have read: “Can the world withstand America’s thirst for oil?” Or you should have moved your excellent line, “Can we survive our addiction to oil?” from the inside to the cover page.

Thank you for sending the magazine.

Dieter Reichert ’68BUS
Manila, Philippines

I must surely have misread your recent headline (Summer 2008): “Can America withstand the world’s thirst for oil?” Shouldn’t that have read, “Can the world withstand America’s thirst for oil?” 

Wayne Paton ’60GSAS
Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK

Our problem with the thirst for oil is that we thirst for more than our global per capita share, and more than our national production.

Eliza Eager ’88CC
Northport, ME

HOPE for Amelia

I never attended Columbia, but I find something of interest each time my daughter’s copy of your magazine arrives. In the Summer 2008 issue, one article was more than just interesting to me, it was directly relevant to my work experience.

“Who Will Tell Amelia?” by Erica Westly, about an HIV-positive teenager, hit home because of similar scenarios in my practice. As a psychologist for over 30 years, I have dealt with HIV issues since shortly after the epidemic was identified.
In reading the article, I got the sense that the treatment team was struggling to find an approach for weighing the risks and benefits of their various options. There is a more effective way to resolve ethical conflicts.

Since 1993, I have been affiliated with Project HOPE of the American Psycho­logical Association. This is a nationwide network of psychologists involved in educating other healthcare professionals about the often-overlooked social and psychological impact of HIV infection. One of our programs, the ethics curriculum, teaches a systematic approach to evaluating complicated ethical issues. It is based on a model developed by Dr. Karen Kitchener. One of the case studies used in teaching this method is very similar to Amelia’s story, except that the person is a young male.

Project HOPE can be contacted through the Office on AIDS of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C.

Bruce Blumenthal

Langhorne, PA

Warming Up to Malthus

James Hansen, a prominent global warming scientist, talked to a congressional committee on June 23. (Science Special: Climate Change, Summer 2008.) He apparently did not discuss the number-one threat to the environment, which is relentless population growth. Until population growth is brought under control, all other measures are just blowing in the wind.

Frederick C. Sage ’51PH
Boulder, CO

David J. Craig, author of the piece in question, replies:

The latest UN reports on this matter actually project that the world’s population will plateau — and then shrink — in the 21st century. This doesn’t change the fact that India’s and China’s emissions will explode in the coming decades, nevertheless.

See Columbia professor Matthew Connelly’s new book
Fatal Misconception for a more thorough exploration of this topic.

The special section on climate makes the usual unsubstantiated assumption that human beings are primarily responsible for harmful climate change.

The authors make no mention of the fact that greenhouse gases are both natural and essential, acting as a thermostat for the earth. If we did not have them, the earth would be too cold for humans to survive. There is no mention that the primary greenhouse gas is water vapor. There is no mention that carbon dioxide, which occurs both naturally and from man’s activity, is only present in the atmosphere in trace amounts, the most recent estimate being about 380 parts per million.

While the article says that “global warming is real and it’s almost certainly caused by pollution,” no one really knows the actual impact of human activities. The earth’s climate is poorly understood, even by the “experts.” A UN study is mentioned, with the claim that there is “at least 90 percent certainty that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of rising temperatures worldwide.” What is the basis for this degree of certainty? Is it based on climate science, or political science?

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by only 80 to 100 parts per million over the last 50 years, and no one really knows how much of that is attributable to man versus natural changes on earth. Nor does anyone understand exactly how carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases interact with abundant worldwide precipitation, or what the net effect is on the earth’s climate. We are still unable to make near-term weather predictions. Yet David J. Craig states that “sea levels are expected to rise one to three feet this century.” He further predicts that “shifting weather patterns are expected to increase precipitation by 8 to 10 percent in New York City by 2080 and hurricanes are expected to intensify.” Such long-range predictions have no scientific basis and are totally absurd.

It is known that cyclical changes in the activity of the sun have affected temperatures on earth for millions of years.
The book to read is Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery. Another good source of objective facts is Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies That Hurt the Poor, by Roy Spencer.

The obsession with man-made global warming is like a pagan religion, with people brainwashed into believing that their cars, fireplaces, and electric power plants are the primary causes of climate change. But natural events on earth and changes in the sun are vastly more powerful than human activities. Perhaps the anthropogenic global-warming priests should be a bit more humble and realistic about the importance and prescience of mere humans here on earth.

James E. O’Brien ’66CC
Maitland, FL

Words often fail in the face of sheer idiocy. Take the global warming scam.

In your last issue, you quote James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who testified before Congress last June: “These CEOs should be tried for crimes against humanity.” Of course he is referring to his “truth” (as in Inconvenient Truth) that human-caused global warming is the fault of the world’s corporate apostates.

This dogma is science? As Rex Murphy, Canada’s journalist laureate, wrote in the June 27 Toronto Globe and Mail, “James Hansen’s words this week were an offense, an offense against inquiry, against science, against moral seriousness. They were a piece of insolence against the idea of debate itself.”

Upon graduation from Columbia, I joined the Goddard Institute as information officer. Its founder and director, Robert Jastrow [’44CC, ’48GSAS], was my mentor and guiding light. His view of science as a search for answers imbued the institute. Astronomy, astrophysics, and geology were linked in an effort to plumb the secrets of the universe. He died at 82 last February, convinced to the end that man-made global warming was a crock. As his colleague, Johns Hopkins research scientist Albert Arking, noted, Jastrow argued that “scientists who warned of a global warming crisis were misattributing nature’s effects on climate to the effects of mankind.” An understatement worthy of a great scientist.

How did the Goddard Institute ever devolve into a rancorous fudge factory of climate change “truth” and go on to issue Nuremburg-style indictments against nonbelievers? Truth is a matter for courts, cults, and Oscar-winning films. The institute is diminished by wrapping itself in its mantle.

Christopher G. Trump ’62JRN
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Age Turner

Geraldine Youcha’s College Walk article, “Red Leather Days,” in the Summer issue struck a resonant chord. It echoed my aversion to ageism in America, however inadvertent. Why the constant emphasis only on the victims of Alzheimer’s in the age group of persons such as Florence Wolfson Howitt? Her story could be mine. (Do you think it was the air at Columbia?)

Florence and I share a name, and we are the same age. (I was born on September 18, 1915.) I got my master’s degree in English (17th-century English literature) in 1936. My outside diversions, too, are doing puzzles and playing the occasional bridge game. (At age 10, I played my first bridge — auction, at that time — game.) My preferences in puzzles, however, are acrostics and ciphers. I do the Times crosswords but rarely finish those at week’s end as the clues get more obfuscatory as the week goes on. They are not true tests of vocabulary. I am not alone in this opinion, and it is not a case of sour grapes.

I also started a PhD in American literature and worked with Professor Ralph Leslie Rusk 1912GSAS on the letters
of Ralph Waldo Emerson. However, I did not continue when I realized that the offer of a college teaching position would not be forthcoming since PhDs at that time were a dime a dozen. Instead, my working life after Columbia was editorial work in magazines and books and, finally, teaching English in the New York City high schools.

As I stated initially, I am offended and appalled by ageism in America and have used my experience to oppose it. I hope you do not consider this egotistical and self-serving. On the other hand, those who are unduly modest have every reason to be so!

Florence Hecht Metz ’36GSAS
Santa Rosa, CA

Wilson Picket

William R. Keylor’s review of David Andelman’s A Shattered Peace (“We Left in Pieces,” Summer 2008) on the 1919 Paris Peace Conference at Versailles, leaves out a fundamental point. The head of the snake of the murderous 20th century was not the conference, bad as its outcome turned out to be, but the American decision to enter the war in the first place, and then to turn its foolish intervention into a messianic campaign to “make the world safe for democracy.”

If Woodrow Wilson had honored his campaign boast that he kept the country out of war, Britain and France, not Germany, would have sued for peace. The three varieties of socialism that led to so much death and destruction — Bolshevism, Fascism, and Nazism — might well have ended up in grubby taverns and garrets, rather than in the corridors of power. Centralization and repression in our own country got a boost from Wilson, the sanctimonious “progressive,” who was not a liberator but a would-be social engineer who would turn the population into so many cogs, a process that has ground on from his day to the present.

Pretermitting the merits of “democracy,” to my mind an odious concept that provides a rationale for unspeakable political vice, the unrealizable but tempting ideals of Wilson’s Fourteen Points helped legitimize every form of political messianism and nationalism — competing programs that led to a century of conflicts that were interminable in principle and remain, in many respects, unresolved.

We are still committing avoidable blunders and raining down death on the guilty and innocent alike in the name of a universalist creed of mass “democracy” and individualist “freedom,” concepts alien and noxious to the traditions and needs of most of the world’s peoples. The center-left in this country has come to style itself “progressive,” a foolish piece of self-delusion in our fallen world.

Now that the statues of the murderers Saddam and Stalin have been pulled down, those of the pious fraud Wilson should be next. Perhaps there is still time for us to learn a bit of modesty and restraint.

David G. Epstein ’63CC, ’69GSAS
Laguna Beach, CA

I was baffled by the photograph accompanying your review of A Shattered Peace. The picture is captioned, “Germans scrap their war machines in 1919 under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.” But in spite of the iron crosses painted on its side, this is a British tank, not a German one.

My uncle ran such a tank during World War I. During the second world war, I remember a modern tank on display in New Barnet, north of London. My uncle amused himself with the crew, explaining that in his tank you could repair the engine without getting out.

John M. May ’50BUS
Margaree Harbour, Nova Scotia

Our correspondent and caption are both correct. The British tank in the photo had been captured and put to use by the German army. — Ed.

Remnants of ’68

As a sociologist, and one who lived through and participated in some of the events of 1968 (though not at Columbia), I found the letters responding to Paul Hond’s article (“Stir It Up,” Spring 2008; Letters, Summer 2008) absolutely fascinating. I’m using them in my seminar on the ’60s at the College of General Studies, University of Pennsylvania, this fall. They make a wonderful case study of the continuing clash of opinions, not just of the Columbia events, but of the ’60s in general. 

Martin Oppenheimer ’53GSAS
Princeton, NJ

It was most interesting to me, if not altogether amusing, to read the letters section of Columbia magazine on the events of 1968. Those who participated and have written about them seem to give to their experience a strong slant of idealism, such as “changed my life forever,” “gave us a voice against the Vietnam War,” “helped sever connections between Columbia and the Pentagon’s Institute for Defense Analysis,” and “did away with the humiliating proposal for blacks to enter the gym through a back door.”

Then there are the letters from those who graduated from the college prior to 1968: “The gym? Military research? Nonsense,” “These students were children of leftist activists . . . conceited, self-appointed dictators,” “Events of 1968 were stimulated by a single stimulus and no other, the withdrawal of draft deferments for college students,” and the like.

I graduated in 1944, and to this day have remained dismayed by the conduct of a group of undergraduates, regardless of their motivations. To see pictures of some snickering while trashing the office of Grayson Kirk and throwing about the contents of his desk for no useful purpose other than to humiliate him, and to see photographs of others laughing while taking over Hamilton Hall gives credence to the idea that their motives were far from the altruism they professed as the inciting factor.

I, and I am sure many, would like to know what became of these students after they graduated and how much of their energies, which they so exuberantly cast on campus, were devoted to securing the aims that they claim were bathed by their idealism. How many found their niches in Wall Street, in corporate America, in multinamed law firms, in defense department contracts, in medical complexes funded by million-dollar payments by Medicare and Medicaid?

Someone once wisely noted, “When anyone says that it is not the money, but the principle, believe me, it’s the money!”

Alfred Hamady ’44CC
Battle Creek, MI

You did the right thing by running so many letters commenting on the Spring 2008 issue’s review of the documentary A Time to Stir. It would, therefore, be entirely reasonable for you to be reluctant to print comments on the comments. Still...

Martin Luther King Jr. described the obligation of all citizens to engage in civil disobedience to change laws and policies they considered unjust, such as the war in Vietnam and the new gym, and to accept the consequences. It was that acceptance that validated the disobedience. Personally, I was very much opposed to the views of the protesters. At the same time, I had — and have — a grudging respect for antiwar activists like draft dodgers who fled to Canada and remain there today as a matter of conscience. So, when I heard of the immediate demand for protesters’ amnesty, and read now that those protesters defend it as entirely justified, it confirms my opinion that the demonstrators were kids salivating for the spotlight like Hollywood starlets.

This is not to say they were insincere about their beliefs, just shallow: kids having one hell of a good time, wrapped in extravagantly lofty rhetoric.

Samuel S. Hurd ’65CC
Cambridge, MA

I applaud your decision to publish so many letters in reaction to your articles on the 40th anniversary of the 1968 protests. You might have been restraining yourself in your editor’s note when you labeled some of them “more nuanced” and others “more dogmatic.” I can do better. Some of them are anecdotal blogs, others state facts.

I did not arrive at Columbia until the fall of 1970, and there were no significant protests on campus during my two years of PhD course work there. I don’t think that the ends justify the means, as some protesters at Columbia may have believed, and certainly our government believed (as it most obviously still does).

A few years ago, in parallel to parts of your articles, a participant of the Isla Vista, California, protests who is now a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, attempted to rewrite history by claiming that the protesters were not sincere and were simply enjoying a self-indulgent moment of rebellion. Of course, some were. The vast majority were sincere in their opposition to an unjust war and were aware that the institutions they attacked were, in various ways, supporting that war mostly for economic gain. Further, the majority who protested the draft, dodged it, or otherwise refused it (preferring alternate service or jail), did a courageous thing, and many suffered for it.

Nobody wants to get shot at, but getting shot at for the wrong reasons is justifiably avoided, as is killing others for the wrong reasons.

Michael A. Jacobsen ’76GSAS
Simi Valley, CA

Thank you for the extensive coverage your magazine has provided on the events of 1968. It is evident from the numerous letters that the feelings engendered among the members of the Columbia community have not mellowed much, even after 40 years. Obviously, each of us who was present as events unfolded has his own perspective. One of Columbia’s strengths has been the diversity of its student body, and consequently, our own backgrounds informed our views on both the merits of the arguments and the fairness of the tactics used to advance them.

As a 13-year-old high-school student in Cuba in 1961, I witnessed how thugs from the Communist Youth Organization (CYO) used sugarcane stalks to beat 13-year-old girls for the crime of being Catholic. The girls, along with the rest of the “counter-revolutionary” students, were expelled from school.

Seven years later, as a refugee and a senior at Columbia, I found it appalling that some students would resort to violence and intimidation to prevent other students from attending classes. The Students for a Democratic Society and Youth Against War and Fascism types looked to me just like those Cuban CYO members who imposed their views through force. Fortunately, the University administration had the courage to involve the New York City Police Department to restore order and evict the trespassers.

Of course, once dislodged, the protesters were excellent at playing the role of victims and complained about police brutality, a circumstance that they had largely brought upon themselves through their lawbreaking actions. Sadly, the prevalent version of events has not been kind to President Grayson Kirk and Vice President and Provost David Truman, who held the high moral ground in the debate, yet were unceremoniously jettisoned by the University in perhaps an attempt to avoid making an inevitable — and necessary — moral determination. To this day, Columbia shies away on occasion from giving strong support to free expression when faced with intimidation tactics by radical cliques.
One seldom-mentioned detail is the fact that the riots and strike jeopardized the educational opportunities for many students of modest resources, to whom a Columbia education meant their one chance at prosperity. I was one of those, and to this day, chastise my classmates who participated in those activities for their selfish disregard of the rights of their fellow students.

Blas E. Padrino ’68CC, ’72LAW
Orlando, FL

During the ’68 riots, I was a student at Columbia, and I traveled from Westchester to 116th Street to deliver a paper I wrote for one of my professors. When I arrived, the building was surrounded by students who refused me entry. I kept pleading, they kept refusing. Finally, I told them that they had a lifetime to achieve their goals, I didn’t. I was older than most of the faculty. They relented, and I ran up the six flights and deposited my paper under the professor’s locked door.

Charlotte Roth Rotkin ’72GS, ’80GSAS
Pelham Manor, NY

I have not seen Paul Cronin’s A Time to Stir, but have read Paul Hond’s article and the letters in the Summer issue dealing with those disastrous days in April and May 1968. Unfortunately, past and present discussion seems to shed very little light on the underlying causes that from 1965 to 1968 led to the takeover by students and to some faculty taking advantage of the situation.

What appears to be overlooked is that Columbia, from the early ’60s on, expanded its faculty and student enrollment dramatically. By 1968, grade inflation was in; some faculty were inciting students against the Vietnam War and the University; henceforth, academic freedom had to take a backseat to the intolerance of a few.

Not that the administration did not play its part as an enabler. Instead of standing up to rabble-rousers, it compromised on principle: ROTC had to hold its graduation ceremonies separate and apart from the main student body; some faculty who were not teaching their subjects, but devoted class time to Vietnam, were not called to account; University telephone services and copying machines were freely available to organize demonstrations; students who physically interfered with military recruiters were not punished; in some departments, pass/fail grades became the norm, more often pass than fail. One has to ask if these students were really served by these tactics and grades. Judging from some of the letters, it would seem not.

To characterize the 1968 events as intellectually maturing, as some have, begs the point. No one should forget or diminish the role played by the leadership of the Communist Party of America and other domestic and foreign radicals who directed some of the demonstrators via two-way radios that the New York City Tactical Police Force could not listen in on, and who taught civil disobedience, how to organize into cells, how to resist arrest or spy on faculty engaged in government research. These leaders were no heroes. When the arrests came, they fled; the innocent and ideologues who thought it all fun stayed behind.

As an ad hoc University liaison to the New York City Police Department, I requested that the campus be in lockdown for all returning demonstrators after their booking (except for resident students). As a result, the protesters (realizing that on the street they would no longer enjoy the same immunity from arrest that Grayson Kirk accorded them on campus) participated in a peaceful demonstration in front of the president’s home. That April day, however, was not the end, but a beginning of the University’s bloodletting to follow.

Robert A. Foster ’60GS
Palm Beach, FL

Having been a doctoral student in social work during the time of the 1968 strike, I have many memories of those days and so I wanted to comment on the three 1968 pieces from the Spring 2008 issue. I was particularly struck by Paul Hond’s article, which conveyed, I think quite accurately, what was happening on campus. Thulani Davis’s Finals piece (“Excerpt from a Hamilton Hall Journal”) is the kind of historical diary that gives life and shape to history.

In reading Professor Wm. Theodore de Bary’s essay (“The Real Heroes of ’68”), however, I was struck by how different his perspective was. He ignored, and continues to do so, even today, the role and meaning of the black students’ role and participation. Sadly, the piece reads as if de Bary were somewhere else during those days. I imagine all three writers are seeing only part of the entire event.

I think it would have been helpful for Michael B. Shavelson to have written an introduction to the pieces, and to have placed them closer together. They really do not stand apart, but are an integral part of Columbia’s history.

David Feldstein ’73SW
Sacramento, CA

Trouble in Eden

In spite of my own involvement in many civil rights and antiwar demonstrations, I feel a bit of sympathy for Wm. Theodore de Bary’s repugnance at certain aspects of the Columbia rebellion. (“The Real Heroes of ’68,” Spring 2008.) The trouble is that he doesn’t say a word about the fact that Columbia was not a university in a vacuum, but was a heavily funded ancillary of a national defense establishment and political system — a system that was going mad well before 1968. The students were reacting to that madness.

De Bary alludes to Lionel Trilling’s ideal university. Had this corresponded to reality, I might have had far more sympathy for it. But as Trilling’s protégé Morris Dickstein writes in Gates of Eden: American Culture in the Sixties, from the students’ point of view, that reality was hardly ideal.

Yet, already a veteran of protests by 1968, I was appalled by the photo of David Shapiro [’68CC, ’73GSAS], that cigar-puffing Che Guevara with his feet on President Kirk’s desk. In a strange way, Shapiro and Kirk seemed to have too much in common.

So where does that leave us? In the face of yet another idiotic war, where are the protests today? In this sense things have changed for the worse, for in so many ways we’ve reverted to the passivity of the ’50s. What remains most noteworthy is that for all their simplicity and naïveté, a bunch of kids stood up 40 years ago and at least tried to create a better world. The lesson has been lost on their counterparts today, as it was on their elders in 1968. 

Jack Eisenberg ’62CC
Baltimore, MD

Professor de Bary’s paean to the “quiet majority” in the Spring issue is an embarrassing defense of bad judgment that could have been written by Grayson Kirk himself.

Vice President and Provost David Truman “had” to call in the police? Perhaps it stands as the single greatest mistake of his career. 

“I felt a contractual obligation to meet with my students at a given time and place”? Some professors defused that issue by inviting students to meet in their apartments at a mutually convenient time.

“The romanticized heroes of the ’68 riots”? The only rioters were the officers of the New York City Police Department.
If Professor de Bary had only concluded his article by saying that after the police cleared the buildings, he had gone down to the Brass Rail for a celebratory beer, his own moral compass would have been clear to his readers.

Karl Maier ’77BUS
Pasadena, CA 

The writer was a student in the School of Architecture in 1967–68.

Snipes at Gripes

Why do you bother printing a letter from someone griping about your grammar? (Vance Weaver, Letters, Spring 2008.) Is it because Columbia, since closing its venerable linguistics department nearly 20 years ago, has forgotten the basic lesson that linguistic norms are sociopolitical constructs that change over space and time? If not, we’d be speaking and writing like Jefferson, Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer, not to mention the poet of Beowulf. As Aristotle knew (On Interpretation, IV), language isn’t logic; even if it were, “a couple years” is no more illogical than “a dozen eggs.” Can we please restore the study of the human language faculty to the University that gave the world Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, Uriel Weinreich, and André Martinet?

At Columbia, I was the last doctoral student of the late William Diver ’54GSAS and possibly the last Columbia PhD in linguistics. I am now associate professor of linguistics in the School of Education at The City College of New York.

Joseph Davis ’92GSAS
New York, NY

Click Here. Soon.

I wanted to send to several contemporaries Paul Hond’s superb feature, “Stir It Up,” but there was no obvious way to forward it directly from your Web site. I had to copy and paste the URL. What the hell is this? In this era, you don’t have links allowing us admiring alums to share with others? What era do you inhabit?

Howard J. Whitaker ’73BUS
Gold River, CA

You’re right: We do need to make the online version of the magazine easier to e-mail. You’ll be seeing these and other improvements soon. — Ed.

Other Side of the Koine

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, a simplified form of Ancient Greek. After two years of Classical Greek at the College of Wooster, studying writings of Xenophon, Plato, and Homer in the original Greek, I had no trouble reading New Testament Greek when I went on to seminary. So I doubt whether Gary D. Chance’s professor told his Greek class that, after taking a course in Attic prose, they “would not be able to read the New Testament” in Greek (Letters, Spring 2008). The professor probably said that students whose sole interest was reading the New Testament in Greek did not need to study Attic Greek, which is grammatically more complicated. Instead, the professor probably suggested that such students transfer to a course in Koine Greek.

Richard Frothingham ’64GSAS
Little Rock, AR

Double Dating?

I am amused by Robert Sloane’s remark regarding the sovereignty of Tibet in which he claimed, “By 1949, however, international law had ceased to regard military occupation as a valid way for states to acquire territory.” (Letters, Summer 2008.) This arbitrary “1949” certainly legitimizes all the land previously taken by the U.S. military in a fashion identical with China’s long struggle with Tibet. It is exactly remarks like these, made by Americans, that anger many Chinese.

Chi-Chao Wan ’69SEAS
Taipei, Taiwan

Robert Sloane replies:
As the quoted sentence in my letter indicates, the year 1949 is when China invaded Tibet; there’s nothing “arbitrary” about it. Nor is it intended to justify previous territorial annexations by any other country, including the United States. The UN Charter, to which China is a party, entered into force in 1945 and prohibits the military force with which China colonized Tibet four years later.

Let’s Get it Right

I read with great interest Paul Hond’s informative article “Revolution, Ink.” (College Walk, Spring 2008.) It is an extremely small detail, but in the interest of accuracy I feel compelled to point out that it was not Arthur Hays Sulzberger 1913CC, the publisher of the New York Times, who was a Columbia trustee in 1968; it was his son, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger ’51CC, who had taken his father’s place as trustee.

Hannah Marks
New York, NY

Columbia magazine welcomes your letters to the editor. We may edit letters for style, length, clarity, and factual accuracy. Please include your full name, Columbia affiliation (if you have one), and an e-mail address or a telephone number. Send your letters to: Letters to the Editor, Columbia Magazine, 475 Riverside Drive, MC 7721, New York, NY 10115. You can also send a fax to 212-851-4160 or an e-mail to

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.


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

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