Great Debacle . . . for Whom?
We alumni now know that a Steinberger v. Horowitz debate last November disintegrated into a series
of charges and countercharges [“The
Great Debacle?,” Winter 2006]. What we, who were
not there, do not know is what arguments Peter Steinberger made in support of his position. I am
familiar with and generally supportive of David Horowitz’s writings on academic bias and the
irresponsible left. There is no doubt that academia is heavily tilted to the left, and there are
plenty of leftist frauds on college and university faculties, e.g. Ward Churchill.
According to Reed magazine, Steinberger claims he was tough, not disrespectful. Yet in the story,
Steinberger is said to have opened with a 40-minute(!) opening statement, and called Horowitz a “political
pornographer” (respectful?), prone to “citing technical truths in order to tell substantive
lies” (huh?).Come on, Steinberger must have made some substantive points in 40 minutes. What
were they? How about letting him speak for himself in the next issue of Reed.
Albert Himoe ’59
I was astonished to read that Reed invited David Horowitz to speak. Horowitz is not a provocative
thinker with an interesting point of view. He is a well-funded force for the suppression of academic
He has operated a website which invited visitors to vote for the "most dangerous professor" in
America from a list of names in his book The Professors. He recently said on Pat Robertson’s
700 Club that there are more than 50,000 “radical professors who want the terrorists to win.”
Living on money provided to him by hard-right foundations, Horowitz’s life work is to intimidate
faculty members by forcing the firing or denial of tenure of named individuals whom he has targeted.
His goal is the purging of left and liberal faculty from American universities. He is the author
of a number of truly despicable books, including one with the repulsive title Hating
Whitey and Other Progressive Causes, and another titled The Hate America Left (described on his website as “blow[ing]
the lid off of the network of academics, lawyers, fundraisers, and professional agitators providing
aid and comfort to the enemy”). He maintains a McCarthyite guilt-by-association website called
www.discoverthenetwork.org/, which insinuates nonexistent relationships between academics, terrorists,
and communists such as Fidel Castro. His lies are too numerous to mention, but two serious ones,
involving repeated misrepresentations of statements made by allegedly biased professors, are described
at this website: http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/01/11/retract.
In the introduction to a collection of “reports” of campus opposition to the Iraq War
that he titled “Campus Support for Terrorism,” Horowitz wrote: “It is our hope
that these reports will alert others to the dangers this campus juggernaut represents. It is time
for the academic world to take its head out of the sand and join the rest of the nation in its efforts
to defend itself, or for the rest us to take steps to see that it does.”
Horowitz is an enemy of Reed and everything it stands for. He has every right to express his hateful
views, but the college does itself harm when it provides a platform to those who would destroy it.
Joseph L. Ruby ’79
Silver Spring, Maryland
I have heard and read so much about the Steinberger v. Horowitz great debate, that I am now curious
to learn what the principals actually said while standing at their podiums. Is any transcript or
other record of the words actually spoken by the debaters available? This would allow those of us
in the Reed community who missed the live action to decide for ourselves who was provocative, who
was a pornographer, and who was telling substantive lies. I would like to avoid the obfuscation and
understand the basic facts of who said what.
Middletown, New Jersey
Editor’s note: A complete audio
recording of the debate between Reed Dean of Faculty Peter
Steinberger and author/lecturer David Horowitz can be found on the Winter 2006 magazine article;
scroll to the bottom of the page to download the audio.
We were most impressed by the article on Rachel Altmann ’88 and Tyler Morrison ’90 and
their family’s battle with Fanconi anemia [“One
in 360,000,” Winter 2006]. Not
only was it an engaging profile of a remarkable family, it got the science about Fanconi anemia right.
We found it particularly impressive that an institution of your comparatively small size produces
as high-quality a publication as Reed magazine.
We would like to reprint and distribute the article to further our fundraising efforts here in
Canada to support medical research into Fanconi anemia.
President, Fanconi Canada
I just wanted to say what I’ve been thinking for many months, namely, that the Reed alumni
magazine is of superior quality. I would defy any other college to do any better. I always find myself
reading it from cover to cover. And though I graduated many moons ago, I always find the content
of interest and the photos and graphics eye-catching.
Esther Hyatt Wender ’58
Gail Kelly, a Bully in the Class?
I found the letters about anthropology professor Gail Kelly ’55 [Winter
2006] to be doubly
interesting—first, as one of her former students, and second, as a quintessentially Reed exchange
in its brutal honesty, but not malice, in seeking the truth.
I do see a larger issue here that is not unique to Reed, but is important at Reed: Some professors
evolve into classroom bullies. One of the letters mentioned John Hancock; his colleague, Marsh Cronyn,
also fit the mold. Professors have the upper hand in knowledge, power, position, and experience,
and a few use this to bully students. Perhaps it is to prove their superiority; perhaps to deal with
students who can be annoying, difficult, and even threatening in their abilities; or perhaps just
because there is no check on this behavior and it is easy to fall into.
Some students accept this treatment as deserved, as a rite of passage, or as evidence of the professor’s
awesome superiority. Much as a cult leader might abuse followers and be rewarded with loyalty and
cash, some students even seem drawn to mistreatment. Personally, I think it is poor teaching, and
as unacceptable in the classroom as it would be in any other setting. Making students cry, publicly
humiliating and insulting students, and similar tactics serve no benefit, and I cringe to think of
the modeling that the victims then take to their later teaching adventures and students.
Excellent teachers I have had at Reed and elsewhere (e.g., David Griffiths, Hugh Chrestensen, David
French, and my biology professors) showed me that the best teaching comes with respect and good humor.
I would suggest that it is a role of the institution to check abusive behavior that tries to pass
as pedagogy. I’m delighted to hear of grateful students of Gail Kelly, but I wonder how many
more students she might have reached and inspired if she herself had been held to a higher standard
Frank Selker ’81
I never took a class from Gail Kelly, but I remember her very well. We never exchanged a word, but
I felt that we were friends. We would smile at each other on the paths between classes. She wore
the greatest clothes I have ever seen. Do you remember her enormous blue-green sunglasses and her
plastic raincoat that looked like a zebra? Whenever I see a real zebra, it surprises me that they
are not black and white like her raincoat, but dark brown and beige.
Lisa Davidson ’71
Sierra Madre, California
After reading the Endpaper [November
2005] about Gail Kelly by Alex Golub ’95, I was somewhat
surprised that such a controversial professor would have remained on the faculty for so many years.
As a member of the Class of 1955, I have to admit that I only vaguely remember Gail Kelly, and this
was probably because of name recognition only.
Although Professor Kelly stimulated Golub to make anthropology his career, one has to wonder how
many students were so “humiliated” by her that their careers at Reed were altered in
a very negative fashion. The professors that I remember favorably, at Reed or later in my four years
at the University of Oregon Medical School, were those who could stimulate their students, but who
treated the students with respect. Professor Kelly’s teaching techniques may well have been
stimulating to a few, but probably not to the majority of her students.
John W. Thompson, M.D. ’55
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Help with Reed History
From the late 1950s through the 1960s, Reed history professor Dorothy Johansen was apparently writing
a book-length biography of Cornelia Marvin Pierce. I have found a couple of references to this project
in the unprocessed papers of Cornelia Marvin Pierce held in the Reed College Library Special Collections
and Archives. Apparently the book was never published. I am interested in locating Reed students
or others who might have worked with Johansen on this project, in an effort to discover what ultimately
happened to this book. If any Reedies have information about this, I would be very grateful if they
would contact me.
Cheryl Gunselman MALS ’00
Washington State University
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, Washington 99164-5610
We received this letter from Robert J. Palladino, former calligraphy instructor at Reed,
regarding the use of a new logotype on the cover of Reed magazine.