Wednesday, December 19, 2012

50th Reunion at Harvard - Class Composition

Note (December 19, 2012): I wrote the following letter to the East Hampton Star in June 2012. I refer to "unconfirmed scuttlebutt" that the Jewish quota at Harvard has been replaced by an Asian quota. The American Enterprise Institute has documented a 14-18% Ivy-wide quota (it certainly appears "as if" they have such a quota).
This is I believe my first-ever link to the AEA on this blogsite. Sunlight is a great disinfectant.  John Tepper Marlin.   

Changing Composition
    June 25, 2012
To The Star:
     Helen Rattray’s report (Connections, June 14) on Chris Cory’s 50th reunion at Yale prompts me to compare a couple of her comments to last month’s 50th reunion at Harvard, which I attended with my wife, Alice.
    It is instructive to watch in the parade of alumni/ae the changing composition of the classes before and after 1962. The 1960s saw a huge disruption in college admissions. In the 1950s there appears to have been a modest push for more Catholics at Harvard, but this is not so visible in the parade. The push in the 1960s for more minorities and in the 1970s for more women caused much more consternation.
    I attended a small Catholic prep school, Portsmouth Priory (now Abbey), having spent three years already at another Benedictine school in England. The Class of 1962 at Harvard included seven graduates of Portsmouth, two of them via advanced placement. Given that the Portsmouth senior class numbered 35 students, the school was pleased.
    Meanwhile, while Yale had two (some say three) African-American students in the class of 1962, Harvard had 11, with a slightly larger class than Yale’s. The 50th reunion attendance in Sanders Theater was 100-percent white, as far as I could tell. One of the Harvard 11, W. Haywood Burns, was elected a 1962 class marshal and went on to become dean of the City College of New York Law School at Queens College. However, he died at 55 years of age in a 1996 Cape Town car crash.
    Once the civil rights era of the 1960s took hold under President Kennedy, affirmative action in admitting minorities became the new goal. But within a few years, the search for gender equality hit Harvard Yard. In 1970, the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving U.S. women the right to vote, was celebrated with a huge parade in New York City that featured both Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. It had taken 50 years between the 15th Amendment enfranchisement of black males until the 19th Amendment. Young women in 1970 were not going to wait that long again to press for equal opportunity in college admissions.
    The story of the struggle at Harvard over Radcliffe admissions during the years before and after 1970 was told in April 2012 by Helen Lefkowich Horo­witz, a college dean, who received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1969. Students and the National Organization for Women campaigned for an equal male-female ratio at Harvard when the ratio of men to women at Harvard was fixed at 4 to 1.
    To understand what the women were up against then, here is what the dean of freshmen, F. Skiddy von Stade, no doubt exhausted by the implications of a rapidly changing composition of the freshman class, had to say about the idea of admitting equal numbers of men and women:
    “When I see bright, well-educated, but relatively dull housewives who attended the Seven Sisters, I honestly shudder at the thought of changing the balance of males versus females at Harvard. . . . Quite simply, I do not see highly educated women making startling strides in contributing to our society in the foreseeable future. They are not, in my opinion, going to stop getting married and/or having children. They will fail in their present role as women if they do.”
    Ms. Horowitz comments: “I’m sure his niece, the great mezzo Frederica von Stade, would have shaken her head at this, if her schedule permitted.”
    The dean of admissions in 1970 issued a report that opposed changing the 4-to-1 ratio. But five years later the Strauch Committee recommended gender-blind admissions and this seems to be, formally, the rule now.
    Are there still quotas at Harvard? Formally, no more. But the admissions office would doubtless be forgiven for keeping on eye on the composition of the class to avoid surprise imbalances at the end of the process.
    The unconfirmed scuttlebutt is that the anti-merit quotas that used to keep out New York City Jewish kids are now most likely to be keeping the numbers down on admitting so many talented Koreans applying from overseas or Korean-American families in the United States. I am pleased to say that a Korean-American from the Harvard Class of 1962 was very much present at the 50th reunion.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Location Hunting in New York City

King Kong Hugs the Empire State Building
I posted something on a hunt I engaged in with Alice and a friend of ours in Paris last year. We were looking for the locations of scenes in "Midnight in Paris". The post has had quite few visits.  But right here in New York City there are so many possibilities for location hunting. I found out that tours are conducted with that theme.

Here are some of the locations that tour groups look for:
- Tiffany's, where Audrey Hepburn decided "nothing bad can happen here".
- The building where Superman rescues Lois Lane
- The Empire State Building, from which King Kong fights off airplanes
- The building from "Friends"
- Central Park where Robert Redford went barefoot
- The place where Spider Man fights the Green Goblin
- The spot where Marilyn Monroe's skirt blew up
- The place where the ghost scare starts in Ghost Busters
- The numerous court buildings around Chambers Street where "Law and Order" is filmed
- Or the Chelsea streets near the "Law and Order" studios where the crimes are tracked down

What's your favorite New York City location?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

IRELAND | War of Independence

Finbarr (Fin) McCabe at the Javits Center
At the BookExpo in New York last week, I met Finbarr (Fin) McCabe. Elsewhere, in my CityEconomist blog, I discuss his views on the future of the publishing industry. My photo of him is at left.

We talked a bit about Irish history in the 20th century. He is an expert on Liam Mellows, a Socialist Irish Republican.  Mellows led hundreds of poorly supplied Republican volunteers in Galway. He was executed by the Free State Army in 1922, after the Irish War of Independence. It was the same year that Michael Collins was killed.

(The Dublin Easter Rising by Irish Republicans in 1916, and the British reaction, turned Irish public opinion towards independence. It resulted in the election of many Irish nationalists, who formed the first Dail Eireann in 1919. British refusal to accept the Dail precipitated the War of Independence, which ended in 1922 with reprisals.)

On the Second World War–what the Irish Republicans call "the Emergency", since Ireland was neutral during the war– Fin recommended F. S. L. Lyons' book, Ireland since the Famine, and Antony Beevor's new 800-page popularized history on the Second World War, focusing on grand strategy in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, and stories of individual soldiers. The Independent's reviewer notes Beevor's extraordinary story of a Korean soldier who is taken by the Japanese, then the Soviets, then the Germans and finally by the Americans in the Normandy invasion. Beevor's story underscores both the chaos of war and how individual soldiers were caught in the vortex. The reviewer thinks that the broad sweep of the new book's canvas diminishes Beevor's scope for bringing home the fascinating details of his earlier books about aspects of the Second World War.

Although Ireland was neutral, Fin makes the point that during Wold War 2 the Republic sent the second-largest volunteer force to join the British Army, after South Africa.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

HARVARD | College Admissions Policy 1958-2012

June 9, 2012 –Attending my 50th Reunion at Harvard last month, and especially watching in the alumni parade the changing composition of the classes before and after ours, was instructive.

It helped me put into perspective Harvard admissions policies. In the 1950s there was a modest push for more Catholics, in the 1960s a stronger campaign for more minorities and in the 1970s an unstoppable opening of the gates for women.

Of these three decades, the biggest impact was the third because it totally changed the ratio of women to men.


When I applied to Harvard in early 1958, the recruiter who came to Portsmouth Priory (now Abbey) School seemed to want to admit as many seniors there as possible. One reason is that some seniors had good scores on the SAT and Advanced Placement exams. But something else was going on. It was before the words "affirmative action" gained currency, but Catholics were sought out in the 1950s.

I was working on hometown news in the Harvard News Office in 1959-62 and one of my stories was about a second-generation Italian-American in the Cambridge high school system who was employed in the cafeteria in Dunster House, where he was discovered by an admissions officer and became a student at  Harvard in 1957.

Portsmouth is a fine Benedictine monastic school that was and is the school of choice for many Catholic parents in the United States, Canada and several Latin American countries. Naturally it was an early target for raising the number of Catholics entering Harvard. Besides me, Harvard admitted six other Portsmouth graduates to the Class of 1962, five of us from the Portsmouth Class of 1958 and two additional classmates via Advanced Placement from the Portsmouth Class of 1959. I speculate that the reason for the new attention to Catholics was the up-and-coming status of a Harvard graduate in Massachusetts, Senator John F. Kennedy, who was being talked about as a possible Presidential successor to Dwight Eisenhower.


But here's the kicker. While Harvard's Class of 1962 includes seven graduates of Portsmouth (which has a graduating class of 35), it admitted - according to a classmate, though I wasn't able to confirm this with data on the distribution of the Harvard '62 class via Google - just eleven African-American students from throughout the United States of America. The Reunion audiences in Sanders Theater were 100 percent white, as far as I could tell. One of the eleven, W. Haywood Burns, was indeed elected 1962 Class Marshal and went on to become Dean of the CUNY Law School at Queens College. However, he died at 55 years of age in a 1996 Capetown car crash.

Harvard no doubt has continued to seek out Catholics in high schools throughout the country that weren't committed to being feeders for the Catholic universities, but once the civil rights era of the 1960s took hold under President Kennedy, activists like Haywood Burns pressed for affirmative action in consideration of African-American students. Never again would Harvard admit so few minorities.


But the civil rights movement for America's people of color was rapidly overtaken in the 1970s by the search for gender equality.  The 50th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving U.S. women the right to vote, was in 1970 and was celebrated that year with a huge parade in  New York City that featured both Gloria Steinem and the late Betty Friedan. It had taken 50 years from the enfranchisement of black males in 1870 with the 15th Amendment to the 19th Amendment. Young women in 1970 were not going to wait that long again to press for equal opportunity in college admissions.

The story of the struggle at Harvard over Radcliffe admissions during the years before and after 1970 was told in April 2012 by Dean Helen Lefkowich Horowitz, who received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1969. Students and the National Organization of Women campaigned for an equal male-female ratio at Harvard. (Until 1962, the women students at Radcliffe took the same classes as Harvard students but were given a Radcliffe degree. Starting in 1963, women attending Harvard classes and fulfilling Harvard requirements started getting a Harvard degree.) The ratio of men to women at Harvard was fixed at four to one.

To understand what the women were up against, here is what the Dean of Freshmen, F. Skiddy von Stade, had to say about the idea of admitting equal numbers of men and women:

When I see bright, well-educated, but relatively dull housewives who attended the Seven Sisters, I honestly shudder at the thought of changing the balance of males versus females at Harvard. ... Quite simply, I do not see highly educated women making startling strides in contributing to our society in the foreseeable future. They are not, in my opinion, going to stop getting married and/or having children. They will fail in their present role as women if they do.
Dean Horowitz comments: "I'm sure his niece, the great mezzo Frederica von Stade would have shaken her head at this, if her schedule permitted."

Harvard's Dean of Admissions Chase Peterson in 1970 issued a report that opposed changing the four-to-one ratio. But five years later the Strauch Committee recommended gender-blind admissions and this seems to be, formally, the rule now. 

The Unabomber,Ted Kaczynski, 
Harvard '62
Thoughtful admissions policies are not just good for the country and good for Harvard–they can also be good for the students themselves. Would Theodore J. Kaczynski have become a serial murderer if he hadn't gone to Harvard at 16? 

He was too young–so was I, and so were probably the other entering Harvard freshmen who were 16, of whom I know a few–and he should have been admitted with a recommendation that he take a "gap year" off to travel or study before entering college. Probably today that is what would have happened.

Kaczynski lists his occupation in the 1962 50th Reunion Class Report (the "Red Book") as "prisoner". Under "awards" he lists are "eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998." 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

19th Amendment Passed Congress in 1919

Garrison Keillor's excellent daily email announces today (June 4) that "On this date in 1919, the 19th Amendment passed the Senate and gave American women the right to vote." Actually, the right to vote wasn't obtained for another year and three months, when Tennessee was the last required state to ratify the 19th Amendment, in August 1920. Keillor's summary is well-drafted:
Susan B. Anthony drafted the original amendment, with the help of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and it was first formally introduced in 1878. It sat in committee for nine years before it went before the Senate in 1887 and was voted down. Over the next decades, several individual states approved women's voting rights, but a Constitutional amendment wasn't considered again until 1914. It was repeatedly defeated, and an anti-suffrage movement campaigned against it, claiming that it was unfeminine for women to venture outside their natural domestic sphere. But in 1918, Woodrow Wilson threw his support behind the suffrage movement. Women had entered the workforce in large numbers during World War I, and in a speech that President Wilson gave in September 1918, he said: "We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of right?" The amendment passed both Houses of Congress the following May.
The question that Keillor does not address is: Why did Wilson endorse the suffrage amendment in 1918? He opposed it in the election of 1916. The suffragists said that year: "He kept out og war, and he kept us out of suffrage." Wilson reversed himself in 1917 on the war, and in 1918 on suffrage. The reason for Wilson's reversal was ostensibly the partnership of women in the war effort. But a more plausible reason is that public opinion had become solidly pro-suffragist because of the brutal treatment of women in the prisons to which they were taken and force-fed after they took up a silent vigil in front of the White House. This vigil in turn was started immediately after Wilson insulted a delegation of women in January 1917 when they came with 250 memorials from women's groups around the country using Inez Milholland Boissevain's death to argue that the President should revisit his opposition to suffrage. More on Inez Milholland at

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Moderate Republicans v. "Reckless" Republicans

I am reading more than usual these days. One reason: several gifts of fine books that kind friends gave me for my birthday earlier this month. One observation I read today caught my attention:
Republicans who have been Republicans all their lives are up in arms [over] the most reckless lawmaking body that ever sat at Albany. It was the first in the history of the United States, to my knowledge, that ever went so far as to attempt to bridle the press. True, the Anti-Cartoon bill was defeated by the Assembly, but the mere fact that such an infamous measure should have been seriously put forward in the name of the Republican State organization and passed by the Republican Senate was enough to damn the legislature for all time.
You may not have heard of an Anti-Cartoon bill, other than in certain countries with large Islamic populations. I should fess up that the comment above was made in an interview on April 29, 1897 with New York City Republican John E. Milholland in The New-York Journal. Milholland was the father of suffragette Inez Milholland, and during the last 15 years of his life was one of a minority of faithful Lincoln Republicans.

But an Anti-Cartoon bill is not stranger than some anti-environmental and anti-women statements in the GOP primary. Moderate Republicans such as William Ruckelshaus, the first federal EPA Administrator, are on record as saying they don't recognize the GOP of today and have endorsed Democrats.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NYPD | Mollen Commission, Police Corruption

L to R: Richard J. Davis, Ross Sandler, Judge
Harold Baer, Jr.
NYC, March 20, 2012–This morning I traveled downtown to Worth Street to hear a retrospective discussion of the work of the Mollen Commission at the New York Law School. (Personal aside: Among the alumni of NYLS is John A. Milholland, Harvard Class of 1914–brother of suffragette Inez, who married my great-uncle Eugen Boissevain.)

The Mollen Commission was formally known as "The City of New York Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Procedures of the Police Department". It is named after former judge Milton Mollen, who was appointed its chair in July 1992 by then-NYC Mayor David Dinkins.

In his introduction, the Director of the Center for NY City Law, Ross Sandler, noted that police corruption seems to surface at regular intervals and that successive commissions have wrestled with how to address it.

In 1972, just 20 years before the Mollen Commission was formed, the Knapp Commission issued its report on a sensational series of revelations about corruption in the NYPD, featuring Robert Leuci and Frank Serpico among others. Books and movies followed – “Serpico” and “Prince of the City”. Michael Armstrong, former chief counsel of the Commission, spoke about this report in a February meeting of the Center for NY City Law; his remarks are tapehere. Ross Sandler comments on the 1972 report:
[It] memorably divided the types of corruption by the epigram of “meat eaters” and “grass eaters”. [The former] aggressively sought out opportunities… while grass eaters, the vast majority of the force, were officers who accepted small gratuities, but did not aggressively seek out corrupt opportunities.
Mollen's mandate was to examine and investigate “the nature and extent of corruption in the Department; evaluate the departments procedures for preventing and detecting that corruption; and recommend changes and improvements to those procedures”. The Mollen Commission issued a report in July 1994. Its conclusion was that the nature of corruption had changed since Knapp Commission days. 
Corruption then was largely a corruption of accommodation, of criminals and police officers giving and taking bribes, buying and selling protection. Corruption was, in its essence, consensual. Today's corruption is characterized by brutality, theft, abuse of authority and active police criminality.
The first of the two speakers this morning, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer, Jr., was a member of the Mollen Commission. He said that the first line of defense against corruption is inside the NYPD, in the form of the integrity control officers who report to the Internal Affairs Bureau. The IAB has a hugely difficult job without outside support. A Commission to Combat Police Corruption was created to monitor the IAB, but Mayor Rudy  Giuliani could not reach agreement with the City Council on the power of the Commission. It therefore became a non-statutory body, appointed by the Mayor.

Discussing the Mayor's Commission was Richard J. Davis, former Chair of the Commission to Combat Police Corruption. He had some simple recommendations for making an investigative committee effective. To summarize:

1.     The Commission should be statutory. The Mayor and City Council must agree on a permanent external monitoring body that can both prod and defend the IAB.
2.     It should have an independent board that is given authority.
3.     In particular, it must have the authority to issue subpoenas. Expecting an agency to respond to investigative questions voluntarily, in a timely way, is expecting too much.  
This was a useful discussion for anyone interested in how to investigate systematic corruption or violation of agency standards. Thank you Ross Sandler, et al. The full record on tape is here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

ELIZ BISHOP | Key West 1938-46

Friends of Libraries USA Plaque.
January 14, 2012 - Yesterday morning Alice and I went to the well-run (privately owned, partly for the benefit of Hemingway’s three sons and their families) Hemingway House. 

In the afternoon I went to pay my respects to Elizabeth Bishop at her house on 624 White Street. 

It was a downer. Alice made the better choice of going to the Butterfly Conservancy, which she reported to me later was wonderful.

The Only Resident in Sight
I was disappointed by the unkempt nature of the Bishop House. The door was wide open and the only living creature at home at 4 pm yesterday was a black cat that barely gave me a glance (see photo at right). 

The most positive thing I can say is that among the overgrown trees and plants and superannuated bikes were signs of equipment for repairs. Could someone be in the midst of making an improvement? 

It was a disappointment because Bishop was such a careful craftswoman. Her reputation, like that of another Key West resident, President Truman, has grown as the years pass.

Front Door (open) at 624 White St.
For example, The Key West Reader [links to a site with free sample pages], edited by George Murphy, is deeply respectful of Elizabeth Bishop's contribution. The editor says that Bishop drew people to Key West just as John Dos Passos lured Hemingway to Key West after Dos Passos made a trip there on a whim in the 1920s on Flagler's newly built railway. He says: 
In the late 1930’s, Elizabeth Bishop, on a fishing trip, found the island perfect for a new home and later, in turn, piqued the interest of other writers (p. 18). 
The Reader includes Bishop’s poem “A Norther–Key West”, which was in her first collection of poems in 1946. The Reader’s editor says that the poem “is, in part, a tribute to Winslow Homer whose painting of the same name graces our cover.” He says Bishop
Do Pipes Mean Repairs on the Way?
is considered the American poet’s poet, a genius, whose pure, inspired, and precise work has greatly influenced many other important contemporary poets. More, perhaps, than any other Key West writer, she fell in love with the tropics and, upon her departure from Key West, moved further out, to Brazil.
The Reader also includes a “Poem for Elizabeth Bishop”, called “something of a love letter from poet-biographer John Malcolm Brinnin who, when he first came to Key West, made a pilgrimage to the house of his friend and found himself inspired – and amusingly mistaken."

Higgledy Piggledy Chairs and Pillows
Another Bishop fan, Professor Barbara Page at Vassar, maintains the Elizabeth Bishop at Vassar College site, which sums up Bishop's reputation as follows:

Elizabeth Bishop now stands as a major mid-twentieth century American poet, whose influence has been felt among several subsequent generations of poets. Highly regarded by critics such as Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler, her rising reputation rests on the admiration of poets, including, among the Americans, James Merrill, John Ashbery and Jorie Graham, and, among world poets, Nobelists Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott. Her place in the canon of American poetry is secure.
Bike, Ladder
For more links and brief excerpts from web sites that mention Elizabeth Bishop’s place in the annals of poetry and her time at Key West, go to the page with her name on my Time Travel site.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Skewed Crime Reporting - Nothing New

The New York Times has a year-end story on the under-reporting of crime. There's a New York City commission at work studying crime reporting. The Times story shows how when someone notifies the NYPD of a crime, the degree of interest shown by the local police precinct can affect what is actually reported.

Time travelers will be interested in some of the antecedents of this story. The FBI processes local police reporting and sets the framework for recording crimes that are summarized in the Uniform Crime Rates published by the FBI.

Back in 1973, the Council on Municipal Performance published a report comparing crime rates in the 30 largest U.S. cities. I was involved in preparing the report, spent some significant time reading about the contemporary variability of crime reporting in big cities, and prepared a report on what the Council learned from its work.

Eight topics regarding crime reporting dominated the report. Only one related to systematic police under-reporting:

1. Systematic under-reporting was found most likely during election years. The cities of Chicago and Philadelphia were singled out as two big cities with big systematic swings in crime reporting. Police chiefs eager to retain their positions would get the word out to precinct captains that lower crime rates would be helpful to the Mayor and therefore to the police department.

2. Crime rates would systematically rise when police budgets were being reviewed. Under-reporting is only half the picture. When police departments were interested in budget increases, crime rates would rise.

3. Grand larceny was an easy number to skew. Back in 1973, the difference between grand larceny (which was reportable to the FBI for the Uniform Crime Rates) and petty larceny was a matter of estimating how much money was stolen. The cutoff was $50. So all it took to reduce reported crime was to raise or lower the bar for deciding whether someone's purse and contents were worth less or more than $50. An issue for the FBI was that state laws regarding the definition of larceny varied (states where the definition of grand larceny was the stealing of something worth $5 or more did not update their laws).

4. Grand larceny had a built-in inflation bias. The $50 FBI threshold for grand larceny had not been changed for many years, so that reported incidents of grand larceny rose steadily every year. This was fine by J. Edgar Hoover, who would intone each year about the gravity of the ever-growing crime wave. Subsequent to the Council on Municipal Performance raising this crime-incident-inflation issue in the press, the FBI raised the threshold. It is now $250. But how does a police officer recording the incident value the loss of, say, a credit card or a car with 150,000 miles on it? There are legitimate definitional questions that are worthy of the attention of the New York City crime-reporting commission.

5. The hardest number to fudge is homicide.  It's not easy to explain away a corpse. The easiest assumptions are accident or suicide, which are not crimes. But except for anonymous homeless people, the police will have relatives following up. So the homicide rate tends to be pretty reliable.

6. Cultural trends influence crime reporting over time. The woman's liberation movement made it much more acceptable for a woman to report being raped. The rise in the number of rapes was most like the result not of an increased incidence of rapes (quite likely the opposite), but of the willingness of women to file reports with the police.

7. Cultural differences affect reporting among cities and neighborhoods. An assault in one part of town might be considered criminal whereas in another it would be considered a crime. Police precincts may vary in how they handle assault complaints. They most likely vary systematically among cities.

8. The best way to ensure uniformity in crime reporting is through internal and external audits. The FBI has its own standards when reviewing city crime reports. In the past it has refused to report city crime numbers that it considered hard to believe or inadequately documented. To ensure credible reports, cities have themselves hired outside auditors to review their crime reporting systems on a precinct-by-precinct basis. Internal auditors should be at work in every big-city police department making sure that the standards for classifying crimes are being uniformly disseminated and applied.