Letters: June 5, 1996
I was a lecturer in politics at Princeton from 1989 to 1993. Remembering the university as a place where challenging ideas could be discussed with civility, I was deeply disturbed when I read the intemperate remarks directed by William Rentschler '49 against Professor John DiIulio (Letters, April 17). Rather than attempting to address the torrent of invective in that letter (which comes close to accusing Professor DiIulio of being a racist), I would like simply to put in evidence the one encounter I had with him.
In February, I attended a lecture by DiIulio at Columbia Law School, where I am a thirdyear student. The lecture was sponsored by the Federalist Society, a conservative organization. One would think (if Mr. Rentschler knew what he was talking about) that DiIulio would gratify the conservatives who invited him with all sorts of extremist proposals aimed against blacks. But nothing like that occurred. Instead, he spoke with scorn about politicians who rant about cutting welfare and about conservatives who show a lack of concern for inner-city youth or who make a show of public concern while remaining privately indifferent. He challenged conservatives to "put up or shut up" (his words)-to support those in the minority community who are working to keep inner-city kids away from drugs and prison. He praised the work of organizations that provide big brothers and sisters to inner-city youths, noting how important and effective such personal attention and care can be. Conservatives, DiIulio said, have "a moral obligation" to support these efforts.
These did not seem the remarks of a ringleader of a rightwing, racist conspiracy.
Your publication of William Rentschler's letter renders hollow paw's claim about editing for civility. It is nothing more than a personal attack on Professor DiIulio. When liberals and leftists don't know what to say, they resort to the "R word" (racist) to criticize their opponents. I don't know what is racist about DiIulio's description of youthful offenders, which could also describe teenaged punks here in the Pittsburgh suburbs, where you can walk around for days without seeing a black or Hispanic person.
Rentschler's letter is full of liberal-academic clichés. He quotes "respected" criminal-justice "experts" and tries to impress us with their titles, but they are all from academia, foundations, or policy groups. These organizations not only have a natural leftwing bias, but like the welfare establishment they are dependent on the government trough for funding and would actually be threatened by a reduction in crime.
Rentschler's letter qualifies as a left-wing version of the "hate speech" noted in another letter in the same issue cosigned by Deborah Lipstadt, David Riesman, and William Styron. These critics of Professor Heath Lowry of the Department of Near Eastern Studies admire France for making such speech illegal. The charges in their letter are serious, and their request to create an outside committee to investigate Lowry's possible conflict of interest is reasonable, even though the hypocrisy of these socalled intellectuals is obvious: they only believe in free speech for those they agree with. By contrast, Rentschler's demand for an internal committee to investigate Professor DiIulio has no merit and is pure McCarthyism.
Richard A. Clarvit '83
I worked for 10 years as a probation officer in San Francisco Juvenile Court, dealing day in and day out with everything from battered babies to purse snatchers. I think DiIulio is a breath of fresh air and reality, and I am happy he is at Princeton telling it like it is.
My assistant recently made the difficult decision to accept a two-and-a-half-hour commute because she could no longer stand the sound of gunfire here in Chicago. Recently, a friend, while with her two small children, looked out the window of the local Burger King and saw a gang of teenagers waving loaded guns at each other.
The youthful repeat offenders whom DiIulio accurately describes really are a menace. Innocent lives are shattered by their car-jackings, drive-by shootings, and other violent crimes. DiIulio's tough but necessary remedy would protect the vast majority of good kids I see every day going to school, playing on teams, and working in the community.
Stephen A. Molasky '63
Mr. Rentschler states that "by a wide margin we have the highest rate of incarceration and impose the longest sentences of any industrial nation." We also have the most liberal society and most liberal parents for our children, assuming the parents are identifiable. He should reflect on the many youngsters who run wild and get into trouble. Instead, he would have us build more schools, of which we already have plenty, and tell the little mobsters to be good boys and girls.
Donald D. Johnson '33
Some years ago, my friend George Pitcher, an emeritus professor of philosophy, mentioned that he was taking student volunteers to tutor at the Mercer County Corrections Center but that an hour a week did very little to overcome the illiteracy of many of the inmates. We thought that computer-assisted instruction (CAI) might be useful. When I decided to investigate how CAI was used in prison systems nationally and how it affected recidivism, Professor DiIulio suggested people to contact, and his name opened many doors. Eventually, a committee that included members of the SVC and the staff of the corrections center drafted a proposal for a particular CAI system. Professor DiIulio wrote a long, reasoned letter on the value of this proposal to find meaningful activity for inmates.
I have also heard Professor DiIulio lecture, and I have the highest regard for him as a scholar and a teacher.
Ernest M. May '34
I was astonished by William Rentschler's intemperate and misguided letter. I do not know Professor DiIulio and have not read any of his works, but as a former judge I disagree with Mr. Rentschler's contention that incarceration is "indiscriminate, incredibly costly, and thoroughly inappropriate . . . for all but the truly violent." That is certainly not the case for white-collar criminals. Mr. Rentschler's attack on Professor DiIulio reminds me of his First Person account, published by paw in 1979, about his own 1976 sentencing to a year in prison for making a false statement to a bank. Mr. Rentschler's rehabilitation, along with the rehabilitation of one of my own classmates and a judge I know who were also convicted of white-collar crimes, demonstrates the efficacy of incarceration for such criminals.
My understanding is that only about 10 percent of white-collar criminals are recidivist. In my years on the bench I sentenced criminals for income-tax violation, fraud in financial transactions, and similar crimes of greed. None of those who served time committed such crimes again.
It is unfortunate that we must build and finance prisons for persons who have been convicted of violating our criminal laws, but it is even more unfortunate that persons of good breeding, good education, and wealth commit white-collar crimes no matter what society can do, short of incarceration.
Thomas R. McMillen '38
Judge, U.S. District Court, Chicago (Retired)
JAZZ AT PRINCETON
I would like to add to the comments by Charlton R. Price '48 in his February 21 letter about jazz at Princeton.
The Princeton Equinox Orchestra, led by Wharton "Butch" Green '34 and with Frank Taplin '37 on piano, was much in the limelight in the 1930s. Beginning in 1935, a new group, the Princeton Tigers, came on the scene. At dances in Dillon Gymnasium, the Equinox and the Tigers played opposite visiting orchestras, some of the best of the time, taking turns with them all evening. I recall the Equinox opposite Red Nichols and Ozzie Nelson, and the Princeton Tigers opposite Tommy Dorsey and also Chick Webb with the very young Ella Fitzgerald, whom Princeton much later awarded an honorary degree.
Ralph Hallenbeck, Jr. '35 played first trumpet for both groups. He trained, rehearsed, and led the Princeton Tigers before and during their first engagement-two months at the Buck Hill Falls Hotel in the Poconos in the summer of 1935. With an Armstronglike style, he became a featured trumpet soloist in the HudsonDelange Orchestra, a notable swing band of the day. At the Tigers' piano in Buck Hill was Bill Borden '37, who went on to be the arranger (and substitute pianist) for Claude Thornhill's orchestra, where "cool jazz" had early roots. In July and August 1935, when new developments in jazz were taking hold, both Hallenbeck and Borden were writing arrangements for the Tigers. They were especially influenced by Fletcher Henderson's arrangements on the first recordings of the Benny Goodman orchestra.
The Triangle Show orchestras were also showcases for Princeton jazz. Taplin trained and led the orchestras of 1935 and 1936, achieving precision and expression by mastery and humor, directing singers and dancers as well as the pit musicians (members of the Tigers among them) in performances across the country. Triangle's great songwriter Brooks Bowman '36 chose Taplin to write the musical notations for "East of the Sun and West of the Moon." Bowman sometimes "fronted" the Tigers on engagements at other colleges.
Princetonians in small groups played on ocean crossings-José Ferrer '33, no less, among them. The Holland America Line employed Equinox members for summer cruises in 1934, and it later featured the Princeton Tigers on a Caribbean cruise. Sandy Maxwell '39 was admired for his playing soon after his arrival at Princeton, as was another pianist, Willie Springer '40, whose backing and improvising would have graced any orchestra in the land.
Craig Smyth '38
I enjoyed Jeremy Caplan '97's article on Princeton jazz (On the Campus, November 22). With due respect to the alumni jazz greats mentioned, I am disappointed my name was not included. Although I may be less known due to my behindthescenes involvement, I've recorded or performed with notables such as George Benson, Roberta Flack, Phil Woods, Mel Torme, Dewey Redman, Randy Brecker, Dave Sanborn, Hubert Laws, Toots Thielmans, and Ron Carter, among others, and have been involved with many songwriting, jingle, and scoring projects as a composer, arranger, or producer in the pop, R&B, folk, and rock idioms. Princeton accepted me because of my extraordinary musical abilities, and it should know I've lived up to its expectations.
Mr. Caplan states that a room in Forbes College has recently been used for music practice. Actually, I initiated that concept during my freshman year, when Forbes was still the Princeton Inn. I convinced the resident adviser that I needed a space to further develop my musical talents. I also contributed to campus music life by performing a concert at Alexander Hall which was highlighted in articles in paw and The Daily Princetonian, and by performing often at the eating clubs with great musicians I brought in from New York.
I don't make a habit of tooting my own horn, but I am proud to be a Princetonian and would appreciate being acknowledged as a successful musician who once made noise around Old Nassau.
Terry Silverlight '79
New York, N.Y.
In your issue of April 17, a number of distinguished writers joined the hue and cry against Professor Heath Lowry and now extend it to other historians of the Ottoman Empire. Since I am one of those named, I write to clarify the passage in their letter which concerns me personally.
According to the writers of the letter, I "was found guilty in a French court last August under a French 'hate speech' law for denying the Armenian genocide . . . ."
The facts are as follows: In all, four suits were brought against me in Paris, all arising from an interview in Le Monde on November 16, 1993, and a brief (and abridged) subsequent clarification. Among other matters, the interviewers questioned me concerning the Armenian massacres of 1915. Knowing the hazards of any critical comment on these events, I was not happy discussing them in the narrow framework of a newspaper interview. But the question was fairly put and, having agreed to the interview, I did not feel that, as a professional historian, I could decently refuse to answer a question in my own field of specialization. In this, as in most other discussions of the subject, the question was not whether the massacres took place-this is universally accepted-but whether they took place in accordance with a previous decision and predetermined plan of the Ottoman government. Like many other historians of the Ottoman Empire, I expressed doubt about this and observed that there was no serious proof of such a decision. The attempt to deal with such doubts by litigation and vilification has not allayed them.
These actions were brought by several organizations whose spokesmen found my opinions, or to be precise, my doubts, objectionable and therefore went to court to demand their suppression and punishment. One of the four cases, presumably that referred to by the signatories of the letter, was a criminal action brought under what they call the "hate speech" law making it an offense to deny that there was any Holocaust. The other three were civil actions brought under clauses of the French civil code making it a tort in certain circumstances to cause distress to an individual or group. The verdict in the criminal case was given on November 18, 1994; the verdicts in the three civil cases on March 1, June 21, and July 12, 1995. In two of the civil actions, the plaintiffs were represented by Maître Tremolet de Villers, a lawyer well known for his interest in some legal problems arising from the Holocaust. The criminal action and two of the three civil actions were dismissed by the courts. In the remaining civil action, the court ruled that while it was "in no way established" that I had "pursued a purpose alien" to my "mission as a historian," I was at fault in not having cited, in the course of the interview, "elements contrary to my thesis" and had thus "revived the pain of the Armenian community." For this I was ordered to pay one franc in damages to each of the two plaintiff parties as well as a contribution to their costs. In the other civil actions, the plaintiffs were ordered to make contributions to the defendants' cost.
I hope I may be forgiven for adding one other detail, since it throws some light on the character of the debate. While these proceedings were in progress, I was elected a Correspondent of the Institut de France.
The assumptions that your correspondents and some others have been persuaded to accept are (1) that the Armenian massacres of 1915 and the near extermination of the Jews in Naziruled Europe between 1940 and 1945 are essentially events of the same type, and (2) that any critical discussion of any aspect of the first is equal to the neoNazi denial of the second. Anyone with even a minimal acquaintance with the historical evidence and the scholarly debate will know that both equations are, to say the very least, farfetched.
I have written elsewhere about the Armenian massacres and their historical context. This is not the place to discuss the various interpretations of these events and the varying quality of the evidence adduced in their support. Your readers might, however, ask themselves whether someone who cannot get the facts right about lawsuits in Paris last year can be trusted on the decisions of the Ottoman government in Istanbul 81 years ago.
Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus
TIGERS, RATS, SNAKES
The advent of the "Year of the Rat," with its attendant publicity, made me curious as to when the "Year of the Tiger" might next appear, hoping that it would coincide with the Class of 1949's 50th reunion in 1999. No such luck-we miss by a year-1948 (and the rest of the '8s and '3s) can make the most of the Tiger in 1998. In 1999 we'll have the Year of the Hare-not all that inappropriate for a class as prolific in parenthood as ours.
That in turn set me wondering about 1746, and what that year's designation might be according to the Chinese lunar calendar. I'm sure the university's founding fathers had no idea-and the odds were 1 in 12-but, incredibly they were winners: 1746 was indeed the Year of the Tiger! This association is far more seemly than that of Harvard, chartered in 1636, the Year of the Rat, or of Yale, founded in 1701, the Year of the Snake. (Had the Blues waited five more years, they could have made it to the Year of the Dog and had some valid rationale for their mascot.)
My classmate Al Ling and his wife, Helen, recently returned from China, bringing with them a brochure detailing the characteristics attributed to the 12 animals gracing the Chinese lunar calendar. We Tigers are seen to be aggressive (ah, that Ivy League football championship!); unpredictable (ah, those "Implausible Brats" who upset nationally ranked Penn in 1946!); charming (ah, that Jimmy Stewart '32); as well as carefree and trusting. Depending on your motives, you can see the rat as, among other things, power hungry, suspicious, or generous, and the snake as wise, idealistic, or intensive.
I know how trivial my discovery must seem in our troubled world. But those to whom I've mentioned it invariably find it interesting. And as Princeton celebrates its 250th anniversary, it's exhilarating to know that all those years stand firmly upon our 1746 base, the Year of the Tiger.
Al Kracht '49
I was disturbed by the article on licensing income in the April 17 Notebook. It would be simplistic to judge an academic institution's value to society on licensing income alone. Still, one has to wonder why Princeton, one of the oldest and best universities in this nation, ranks so poorly (67th in fiscal year 1994).
The explanations by the university's manager of technology transfer and trademark licensing offer little consolation. Other schools may have "more mature technology programs than Princeton's," and the big money may be in medical and biotechnology products. But since Princeton had a chronological head start on all but a few schools, when can we expect it to reach maturity? Princeton's 1994 royalties of $359,000 amount to little or nothing, especially if offset against the expense of operating the office that oversees licensing. If, as the manager states, "Princeton hasn't received royalties from most of its inventions during the last decade," couldn't this also be assumed of the 66 schools whose total royalties rate higher than Princeton's?
Princeton's win over UCLA in the NCAA basketball tournament was exhilarating, but its "loss" to all these other schools in the "run for the royalties" is depressing. Is this Princeton in the nation's service?
Sheldon L. Smith '64
Mournful was the news of Professor Maurice Kelley's passing, but it was news that evoked warm memories of a devoted scholar and delightful mentor (Notebook, April 17). He befriended so many undergraduates and alumni down the years! In my family, the friendship started with my brother Godfrey, Class of 1939, and passed down to me, when I served under "Dr. K." in the War Service Bureau. An ardent angler, he used to take me fishing in Stony Brook, and later I was able to reciprocate at our family's camp in New Hampshire. In our camp log book he wrote:
For musing, give them hours still quieter
Than trout pools of silver in secluded nooks,
And thoughts more beauteous than forms
Quick into sunshine, to seize their feath-
Perhaps another member of the English department can tell me whence came that lovely stanza, if not from Maurice Kelley himself. He most deserved such wishes, and I think they came true for that jolly, kindly outdoorsmanscholar.
John M. Kauffmann '45
Mount Desert, Maine
BASEBALL BY THE BOOK
Michael A. Morse '91 ends his April 17 First Person account of umpiring an inner-city public-school baseball game with remorse, since in quitting he feels he is "abandoning" these youths to a moral philosophy he "abhors." It is Morse's air of cultural superiority and paternalism that I find abhorrent.
From his account, there is no disputing that the facilities for the game were inadequate, the home team talent-poor, and their coach prone to overreaction. Based on his description of the star player's behavior, I agree that Morse was justified in ejecting him from the game. I disagree, however, with his assertions that he had no choice in the matter and that the coach's reaction to his decision somehow flouts the rules of baseball, which Morse seems to think are a collection of moral absolutes.
As the umpire, Morse had the responsibility to exercise his judgment (as he did by calling the third strike) when the player threw his bat. He says this was an "instinctual" decision about which he "thinks a great deal" (an oxymoron?), and that he made the decision to toss him out because he violated the rule about inciting the crowd. From his description of the game, I doubt there was much of a crowd to incite; actually, I see Morse's own confrontational actions of removing his mask, stepping forward, throwing out his arm, and shouting "You're gone!" at a high school student as doing more to incite those present. To those familiar with baseball and umpiring, this is known as showboating.
Morse admits that he is attempting to compare high school baseball to the major leagues, while the forfeiting coach compares it to his biology class, where he lets students curse with impunity. I agree with Morse that basic rules of conduct, whether in sport, school, or any setting, should not be changed due to the socioeconomic status of those governed. However, they should-and do-change depending on the age and maturity of the participants. Morse makes his argument from the point of view that baseball's rules are static for all, even though, for various reasons, most high school and youth leagues have modified rules. He contradicts himself by first describing the exception made in high school for playing with eight players, then later stating that baseball's rules "do not contain exceptions." I suggest that high school athletes should also be given slightly more leeway than adult professionals with regard to losing their temper. Morse could have handled the situation differently by immediately but calmly walking to the dugout, warning the coach and team that unsportsmanlike conduct would not be tolerated, and giving the student a second chance. Even if he still chose, justifiably, to eject him, if he did so in this manner it might have helped pacify the situation and allow the game, however one-sided, to be completed fairly. Isn't that, after all, the primary goal of officiating a scholastic athletic contest?
What angered me more than Morse's judgment, however, was his rhetoric attempting to connect race, public schools, and lax morals. The reference to his being the only remaining white person as a "problem" and his vague summary of the coach's argument as one of "the ghetto" are unsavory; so, too, was his stereotypical characterization of the players from the South Side as preferring to participate in the "mayhem" of fielding practice to the structure of the game itself. I am astounded that Morse feels he can make assumptions about the coach's entire educational philosophy based on a comment made while trying to persuade Morse to reinstate his best player! If the coach had happily complied with his decision, would Morse then assume the coach's classroom management to be exemplary?
Also disturbing is Morse's generalizing his experience as "the realities of umpiring in public high schools." Somehow, I doubt he is including wealthy suburban public schools under this blanket statement. In my baseball and education careers, I have played with, coached, umpired, and taught both the wealthy and the poor, and I have found that there are great people and jerks in both groups. Unfortunately, boorish and infantile behavior is rife in athletics throughout our culture, whether public or private, amateur or professional. To insinuate that this behavior is a problem special to public high schools is ludicrous. I have witnessed worse conduct than what Morse described in private-school contests, yet it would be folly to indict all private-school teams based on my own limited experience.
Many of baseball's rules-whether the strike zone, the infield fly rule, or the ejection of a player-are interpretive and situational, not absolute. Morse's attempt to use the guise of his baseball philosophy to patronize and criticize the impoverished culture of urban minorities is unconscionable. Perhaps he should use the $30 he earned to purchase a copy of Ken Burns's video Baseball, where he can learn about such once-deprived inner-city youngsters as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Williams and, especially, Robinson. Then, instead of "abandoning" disadvantaged kids and condescendingly passing judgment on their faults, maybe he could become an umpire who employs patience and teaches by example the value of keeping one's cool. That would be a better call.
Joseph M. Sawyer '90
FOR THE RECORD
Marvin Zim '57, the author of our April 17 feature "Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs," informs us that the article improperly identified him as a member of the Class of 1958. Jack Ballard '50, one of the subjects of the feature "Shorter Careers, Longer Lives" in the same issue, notes that prior to starting the Turning Points Research Institute he was "a somewhat senior executive," but not (as identified) a senior vice-president.
Jim Adams '61 clarifies our April 17 report of fencing results. Max Pekarev '99, he writes, "was only the second sabre fencer to win an NCAA championship. Chamblis Johnston '51 was the first." He also notes that Princeton has had other NCAA champions: "Henry Folwrat '54 won the epee championship and Bill Hicks '64 won the foil. Each won in his graduating year."