Letters To The Editors
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Looking Back at Room 222
I met her as a fellow student at Robert Lowell’s small class on poetry, which I attended along with my good friend Bill Barker in 1958 or 1959, I believe. Bill and I graduated in 1960 with degrees in English literature.
Bill was registered for the class and invited me to monitor it, which I did. Lowell never seemed to care who came to his class, which I believe was held in Room 222. I went by the room a couple of years ago when I gave a talk at BU on my book The OSS in World War II Albania. It brought back memories.
Sylvia Plath was also in the class. I don’t remember George Starbuck. Both Anne and Sylvia clearly were favorites of Lowell’s, and both at the time had small but growing reputations as poets to watch. Sylvia had already been published. She sometimes came to class with her husband, a good-looking English writer named Ted Hughes. We wondered what he saw in her.
Anne Sexton was different. She was a willowy, dark-haired, sexy woman who smoked the French cigarette Gauloises in class, lighting up one after another. Not only did Lowell allow smoking, he frequently lit one up himself. Rumor had it that Sexton was separated or divorced, which made her all the more intriguing. I tried my best to get to know her. On at least two occasions I invited her for beers at the Dugout across the street, but she blew me off, wisely no doubt.
Lowell did not finish the class that year because he had a nervous breakdown. His wife, the novelist Elizabeth Hardwick, took over for him, but it was not the same. I stopped going.
Bill became an English professor and I became a newspaperman.
Peter Lucas (CAS’60)Westford, Massachusetts
Howard Zinn Remembered
Howard Zinn was one of my most influential professors — not in a career sense, but in a day-to-day, how-I-live-my-life sense (“CommonWealth,” Winter-Spring 2010). I greatly admired his consistency in speaking up for those who were traditionally not heard. I learned that it was OK to examine your deep beliefs and see if they held up under academic scrutiny. And that you can still love your country (deeply), yet oppose its government’s actions. Dr. Zinn was always accessible to chat after class or in office hours. He was a true scholar and a man with deep integrity. I will miss him.
Sue Pursell (CAS’84, MED’90)Newburyport, Massachusetts
The adulatory article on Howard Zinn presents a portrait that unfortunately avoids some very unpleasant truths. As one of the few conservatives at the College of Liberal Arts during the late sixties, I attended some of Zinn’s lectures. Any attempt by me or others to present another point of view was met by derision from Zinn and worse from his followers. His lectures were unabashedly anti-American, both in tone and content.
In response to the Zinn-approved (if not incited) takeovers of campus buildings by Students for a Democratic Society radicals, I organized the collection of over 10,000 student and faculty signatures on a petition demanding that the administration take “immediate and decisive action” to stop any demonstrations that interrupted the classes we were entitled to attend. President Arland Christ-Janer accepted our petition on behalf of the trustees.
In his book, A People’s History of the United States, Zinn dwells upon the brutality of the white settlers to the indigenous tribes, dismissing the entire forging of America as “an exercise in greed and profit,” as was the Civil War. In other writings and lectures, of course, he had no qualms about extolling the virtues of the most murderous totalitarians of the twentieth century, such as Mao and Castro, who literally enslaved their people. He was, above all, a Marxist ideologue who yearned for the destruction of objectivity and the rights of the individual — the American ideal.
The article in Bostonia gives the reader the impression that Zinn was, and is, universally beloved on campus; nothing could be further from the truth.
Keevin Geller (CAS’69)Sharon, Massachusetts
While I was briefly a naïve freshman political science major in the College of Liberal Arts in 1974, Professor Zinn forever validated, and more important, changed, my way of thinking about our role as citizens in matters of cultural change and the actions of our government. He taught me that every citizen had a right and an obligation to openly question the actions of government and to take an active role in fostering change where warranted. He was a brilliant educator and human being because he practiced what he preached. His teachings had a particularly profound impact on me, an African-American. I will always remember him.
Duane Turner (SMG’78)Largo, Maryland
In new student’s orientation, there should be a discussion of sexual assault on campus that would include whether consent can be given when the woman is intoxicated, the reporting process, obtaining rape kits, and preserving evidence (“Keeping Quiet,” Winter-Spring 2010). Let’s be proactive here. I think everyone needs a clearer understanding.
Pat LaskowskiPlymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania
A Word of Thanks
Thank you so much for faithfully sending me Bostonia. I enjoy reading it cover to cover as soon as I get it. It reminds me of my happy days while I was working full-time as a nurse at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and going to school at BU for my R.G.N. [registered general nurse].
I graduated in 1961 cum laude, but I understand the School of Nursing is now discontinued. If not for my R.G.N., I would not have been qualified and hired as a school nurse for Department of Defense schools, where I worked for twenty-two years. I traveled all over the world, and now I am enjoying my benefits.
Caridad Pineda (SON’61)San Diego, California
Sexuality and the Bible
It is interesting to have Jennifer Knust inform us (“Explorations,” Winter-Spring 2010) that “Augustine read [the Bible] in Latin because his Greek was kind of crummy.” She also lets us in on the secret that “he was reading crummy Latin translations.” Very interesting!
Malcolm J. McVeigh (GRS’71, STH’71)Whiting, New Jersey