Your Turn

Readers write, react, and respond. (May/June 2021)

Larger Than Life
I really enjoyed reading the article about Reggie Williams ’76 [“Blood, Sweat, and Tears,” March/April]. I remember him as a rising star on the football team. He was so dedicated to the sport and being a team player. It wasn’t that he was just very good at playing, he also brought a quiet, humble, and powerful presence that you couldn’t help but admire and notice. Everyone knew he was destined for bigger places than this small Ivy League college and that the NFL was looking for him to join after graduation. 

Maybe that is what made him larger than life—because here we were blessed with the talent of a young man who was basically passing by on his way to the larger, more complex world of pro football. I liked to watch him play because he dominated the field but never tried to draw attention to himself. I was on the sidelines as a cheerleader, and we couldn’t help but get excited when Reggie was running the game and making great plays. 

There were many good athletes on his football team, but he truly stood alone. Thank you for publishing this article about a great, magnanimous alumnus.


Wilmington, Delaware


I enjoyed the well-written and enlightening article about Williams and his tremendous perseverance. He epitomizes the Dartmouth student-athlete who excelled at the College and went on to positively affect others who came in contact with him through the years. Keep on, Reggie! 


Milwaukee, Wisconsin


I would like to congratulate DAM on its fine article featuring my friend and Dartmouth brother Reggie Williams. I was so very glad to read of his lifetime of achievements and success at Dartmouth, in the NFL, and in all his many accomplishments since. I certainly appreciate his shoutout to his Dartmouth brothers as well—the loyalty and strength of his friendship is a treasure.


New York City


Up In Smoke
I am hardly a proponent of smoking, having quit a pack-a-day habit 40 years ago. However, I strongly object to the overreach exhibited by the smoking ban [“Smoke Out,” March/April]. One more example of the overweening, paternalistic, and self-righteous attitude continually exhibited by the administration, it also arrogantly asserts the right to ban smoking within 20 feet of College property. I, for one, look forward to lighting up a stogie in front of Parkhurst and daring some campus cop to arrest me.


Salem, Massachusetts


Herb’s Spirit
The early passing of Herb Hopkins ’74 was jarring to anyone fortunate enough to have known the man, the heart and soul of him, well [“Captain Comeback,” January/February]. Herb and I did not quite overlap at Dartmouth, but we were classmates and became very close while together at Wharton in Philadelphia in the early 1980s. I remember Herb as rough-around-the-edges, good at everything, and athletically imposing. He was tough but a man of character, of honor and integrity, far more fun than most, and one with a certain hard-to-grasp sprinkle of understanding and kindness that ran counter to his physical attributes. The tribute by Joe Gleason ’77 captures the spirit of Herb Hopkins for us all, as if for safekeeping, so that it may never really slip away. It was quite a blow to learn we had lost him.


Greenwich, Connecticut 


Wind Chill
I have been following the controversy concerning the removal of the Baker Library weathervane with some interest. Partisans on either side have generated significant passions and I respect the opinions expressed by both. This demonstrates once again that for our alumni, “her spell on them remains.” I am agnostic when it comes to weathervanes. Nevertheless, I was troubled to read the recent letter by Ken Meyercord ’66 [“Your Turn,” January/February]. Meyercord believes the weathervane should remain, and it is his right to express that view forcefully. However, his solution is to deny his financial support to the Alumni Fund.

I believe this sends the wrong message to the wrong people at the wrong time. In the midst of a global pandemic and financial crisis, this is not the time to withdraw support to hardworking faculty and deserving students. Consequently, I have advised the College that I will increase my regular annual contribution to make up for Meyercord’s reduction. I hope he will reconsider his action. In the meantime, I hope others will increase their contributions likewise.


Tucson, Arizona


I must admit that in four years at Dartmouth and two years at Thayer School I never paid any attention to the Baker Library weathervane. The only significant wind information I processed was a cold, snow-filled breeze, usually blowing in my face. If my architecture course final had asked a multiple-choice question about symbols on the weathervane, I would have selected “rooster.” I thoroughly agree with removal of all racist symbols at my alma mater. However, I believe a better solution would have been to send a welder up the tower to cut off the offensive symbols and replace them with a couple of pinecones or perhaps a keg of Budweiser. 




Fact or Fiction?
Perusing the latest issue of DAM, I learned that the screenwriters of A River Runs Through It took certain artistic license with the facts, inexcusably neglecting to note that Paul Maclean ’28 [“A Tragedy Runs Through It,” March/April] followed his brother, Norman ’24, to Dartmouth, and placing Paul’s death in Montana, rather than in a South Side Chicago alley. 




I want to compliment Richard Babcock ’69 on his story about Paul Maclean ’28. Finally! A whole pile of alumni now will know that Robert Redford’s film, A River Runs Through It, with Brad Pitt playing the part of Paul, is not at all Paul’s true bio. I thought it the best unknown, truth-is-better-than-fiction alumnus story, which I have known since 2013, to be told at reunions. Now the story is really out. 


Penfield, New York


Rankings Rankle
Dartmouth has apparently succeeded in creating enough safe spaces and shielding enough students from controversial ideas to earn a ranking of 52 out of 55 schools (and last among the Ivies) in the 2020 College Free Speech Rankings [“Campus Confidential,” January/February]. Putting together a student body and faculty with different backgrounds and experiences is a goal lots of schools claim they are working to achieve, but that goal becomes worthwhile only if those students and their professors feel they have the freedom to develop, express, and examine ideas as diverse as the backgrounds and life experiences that helped spawn them. 


La Mesa, California 


Things in Hanover seem to be going downhill at an ever-increasing rate. I was disappointed to read that Dartmouth earned low marks in the College Free Speech Rankings. Unless one is at the very end of the political spectrum, that is a sad commentary.

Also in the same issue was an extract from the letter the trustees sent to the swim and dive community. The letter said the decision to cut the teams would not be revisited. Oops, not so fast! Now we learn that the athletics leadership missed some “elements of the data,” according to President Phil Hanlon, and the teams are reinstated until a bevy of lawyers can be engaged to review the data. Probably would have been cheaper to have left the teams in place in the first place.


Middletown, Rhode Island


Dartmouth has apparently succeeded in creating enough safe spaces and shielding enough students from controversial ideas to earn a ranking of 52 out of 55 schools (and last among the Ivies) in the 2020 College Free Speech Rankings. College Pulse, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and RealClearEducation canvassed 20,000 students currently enrolled in 55 U.S. colleges to produce these rankings of student experiences with free speech on their campuses. Putting together a student body and faculty with different backgrounds and experiences is a goal lots of schools claim they are working to achieve, but that goal becomes worthwhile only if those students and their professors feel they have the freedom to develop, express, and examine ideas as diverse as the backgrounds and life experiences that helped spawn them.


La Mesa, California 


Among the informative articles in the January/February issue was the item that noted Dartmouth ranked 52nd out of 55 schools for college free speech and last among the Ivies. It was very disturbing to learn that voices are being suppressed on campus. Can we assume this is being addressed by the administration and that it will receive future attention in the magazine? Who is suppressing free speech and how? Is it across the board or directed at one or more groups or points of view? An underlying tenet of a liberal arts education is an ability to explore and analyze various viewpoints freely. The suppression of free speech can undermine the College’s main purpose and requires more than a cursory mention.


Plano, Texas


Keeping Scores

I am writing to express concern regarding the planned closure of the Paddock Music library as part of the $75-million renovation of the Hopkins Center. I am not primarily a musician—I am an internal medicine physician—but music has played a major role in my life since high school. Hopkins Center opened in 1962, my freshman year at Dartmouth, a real jewel of a facility and the home of a vibrant arts community, whether music, theater, visual, or cinematic. I was a member of the Dartmouth Community Symphony for four years and have frequented the Hop in the years since, attending programs, participating in the pit orchestra for several Moore Theater productions, or taking oboe lessons with Neil Boyer for many years.

I have not been a major user of Paddock but have certainly appreciated it when I needed it and have been able to see how it is a critical part of music department life for students, faculty, and even community members. The thought that it will be closed, with some contents going to a designated area in Baker and the rest (“low usage”) to end up in an off-site storage facility—translation: never to see the light of day—is totally out of character for an institution that until now has presumably been supportive of the arts. My understanding is that no one in the music department was consulted about the plan.

Simply put, the College’s music library belongs in the music department. Musical scores need to be carefully preserved and available to those who need or wish to review them—scores on a computer screen are not a worthy substitute for holding the actual score. Music of lesser-known composers needs to be given weight equal to that of well-known composers. I am hopeful that far-flung alumni for whom the music department and Paddock were important will learn of this plan and weigh in while there is still an opportunity to reverse this decision.


Sunapee, New Hampshire


Ballots Matter

The interview of Frank B. Wilderson III ’78 [“Continuing Ed,” November/December 2020] contained the following statement: “I don’t vote, because I am not interested in the reform of this country. It doesn’t have a right to exist.” If this nihilistic sentiment is discussed at the College, I hope it will not go unchallenged—too many have sacrificed for the right to vote and in recent years Stacey Abrams and others have labored mightily to overcome voter suppression in places such as Georgia.

Last year my class commissioned a bust of Frederick Douglass (now on display in Rauner Library), whose life and works offer a contrasting perspective. Having escaped slavery as a young man, Douglass became one of America’s leading orators and intellectuals and a key figure in the abolition movement. After considering various more radical alternatives, he concluded that full participation in the nation’s political process was the best way to make abolition of slavery a reality and thereafter to promote the interests of former slaves. Accordingly, he supported President Lincoln during the Civil War and remained active in politics for the rest of his life.

Reform through democratic institutions can be slow and frustrating, but history offers few reasons to expect better results from non-democratic alternatives.


Chevy Chase, Maryland


Who’s Watching Whom?

The article about the office of community standards and accountability was all about student conduct [“Look Who’s Talking,” November/December 2020]. Isn’t the faculty part of the community? Does this office address faculty conduct?


Potomac Falls, Virginia


Contrary Views

As an undergrad attending my brother’s Commencement in 1953, I was in the audience that heard President Eisenhower address the struggle against communism and the excesses of some involved in that struggle. He said: “We have got to fight it with something better, not try to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America. And even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them at places where they are accessible to others is unquestioned, or it isn’t America.”

An advertisement in the March-April issue of DAM quotes Geeta Anand ’89, now serving as dean of a prestigious graduate school of journalism, in supporting the Call to Lead as saying, “Disinformation is the biggest threat to democracy” and urging that now is our time to become an informed society. The same issue quotes Maya Wiley ’86 [“I’ll Take the Body Blows”], seeking to become mayor of New York, “Disagreeing politically does not mean good or bad,” and reflecting on discussions with a favorite professor on issues where they disagreed as engaging her mind.

Has free and open discussion and debate of issues, as praised by Wiley, really changed that much at Dartmouth? Has the College, contrary to the urging of President Eisenhower, joined the book burners?


Madison, Wisconsi


Norman Maclean ’24, the Undergraduate Years
An excerpt from “Norman Maclean: A Life of Letters and Rivers”
One of a Kind
Author Lynn Lobban ’69 confronts painful past.
Trail Blazer

Lis Smith ’05 busts through campaign norms and glass ceilings as she goes all in to get her candidate in the White House. 

John Merrow ’63
An education journalist on the state of our schools

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