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Bostonia: The Alumni Magazine of Boston University

Winter-Spring 2011 Table of Contents

Letters To The Editors

Bostonia welcomes readers’ reactions and encourages expressions of opinion,
pro and con. Submit your letter below.

Wages of Love

My husband and I both graduated from BU about 10 years ago—attending four different schools and collecting five different degrees between the two of us and somehow managing to squeeze in a wedding in the middle of our collective learning experience. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article on dual career couples having happier marriages (“The Wages of Love,” Fall 2010) and could not agree more. We currently have four children aged five and younger, and we are both happily working in our respective fields. Our running joke in the house is that money can’t buy love, but it can buy a babysitter (or two) and a nice dinner out, and that certainly makes for a happier home. Thanks for the great article.

Erin (Wall) Brighton (CAS’98, SPH’01) Charlotte, N.C.

Teaching Tool

I am almost finished with The Warmth of Other Suns (“Someplace Better,” Fall 2010). It is a fascinating, revealing portrait. I’m a teacher and many of my students have family who emigrated from the South, so I am going to encourage them to read about their heritage. Would love to hear from the author and to hear from the children of Ida, George, and Robert. This history is more dramatic than any work of fiction available on this subject. I can see it as a feature film. Beautifully written.

Susan J. Hopkins Grand Rapids, Michigan

Firehouse Mural

I was so glad to read that such an ambitious project (a mural and six portraits painted at a Boston firehouse) was completed by students of the College of Fine Arts (“A Firehouse Mural for the Fallen,” Fall 2010). I wish you all the best in continuing your careers as artists. We all know that it is not easy to do so. Your work is quite impressive, and I am certain that others will soon realize how talented and hardworking you both are. After years of teaching art, I will soon retire and hopefully paint (www.veranikiforov.com) more and more as time goes on.

Vera Nikiforov (CFA’67) Madison, Wisconsin

Wrong Kind of Energy

Your portrayal of Jim Gordon’s odyssey to power Cape Cod with windmills in Nantucket Sound gives a false impression about what efforts like his are really about (“Five Ways to Get There,” Fall 2010). While we are all in favor of a cleaner environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, installing windmills in the ocean is not “green” and creates more of an obstacle than a solution to our economic and energy needs.

First, windmills are about three times as costly as other sources of electric power and can be installed only with massive public subsidies. In the case of the small wind farm proposed for Block Island, it would have resulted in an excess cost charged to electric ratepayers of $400 million over the life of the project. In the case of Cape Wind, that excess cost has been estimated at around $4 billion. That’s a lot of money to take out of the economy to mainly create some jobs overseas, which is where the windmills will likely be made.

Second, windmills do not reduce dependence on foreign oil or any oil. Electricity is not made with oil; it’s made primarily by coal, natural gas, hydropower, and nuclear power. And because the wind is unreliable, windmills do not allow a single plant to be shut down.

Third, windmills are not “green.” Because their production is tied to the mood of the wind, not demand, the plants that are curtailed are not coal-powered, but gas and hydro, which is cleaner, but more flexible to operate than coal. And ramping production up and down causes more pollution than steady, predictable operation.

Finally, they are not environmentally friendly. They seriously mar the landscape and oceans and pose a serious, unfunded decommissioning liability when they wear out.

Ben Riggs (DGE’66, CAS’68) Newport, Rhode Island


When my wife, Diane (SAR’71), receives Bostonia, I am usually the first to read it. Your articles on science, history, literature, politics, and education are invariably informative and easily match the quality of their counterparts in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, which I receive. Boston University can be justly proud of its alumni magazine.

Stewart A. Levin Centennial, Colorado

Street Medic

I am appalled that any student who has engaged in violent protest against our way of life would be featured in your magazine (“Street Medicine,” Fall 2010). Also, to have a BU advisor state he is a mature man is the wrong message.

I hope his scholarship is removed. I will not contribute any money or support to BU in the future.

Frank Arthur (DGE’53, SMG’55) Largo, Florida

Football Never Dies

I find it rather ironic that a university that disbanded its football program should be doing these studies (“Game Changers,” Fall 2010). Perhaps a study should be conducted to see if football should be brought back as well.

Martin V. Smith Parent of Michael P. Smith (CGS’91, CAS’93), former BU football player
Sea Bright, New Jersey

Boston University must resurrect its football program. Nearly a decade and a half has transpired since that fateful day in 1997 when former Chancellor John Silber and the Board of Trustees abolished the program in one sweeping motion. Although the arguments made by the proponents of the decision were projected as cogent and compelling at the time, the passage of time has exposed those arguments as ill-advised and contrary to the long-term interests of Boston University.

The reinstatement of football at Boston University could be used as an excellent recruiting tool in terms of attracting new students to Boston University, thereby expanding and diversifying the applicant pool. This would facilitate more academic competition and enhance its scholarly rating and formal recognition in key publications, such as Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges and U.S. News & World Report. Regardless of whether one concurs with the methodology of the aforementioned publications, the fact of the matter is that they are a major force in influencing, shaping, and defining the hierarchy of American higher education.

Boston University’s modest success in appealing to the young male demographic is well documented in its applicant pool and student population, particularly at the undergraduate level. The reinstatement of football would be a major step forward in rectifying this situation. It would also help to enhance its image, increase its national exposure, and generate more alumni financial support. Alumni financial support is a key criterion used by U.S. News & World Report in its academic ratings, and unfortunately, one in which Boston University lags behind many peer institutions.

Although the reasons cited for the 1997 decision (e.g., cost, poor attendance, academic integrity, etc.) appear convincing on a cursory level, further analysis belies the contention and refutes the assertion. If the cost were prohibitive, colleges would be abolishing programs left and right. This is simply not the case. Although some schools, such as Hofstra and Northeastern, have done so, this is clearly the exception and not the rule. The reality of the situation is that many schools (e.g., UConn) have upgraded their NCAA divisional status, upgraded their stadium and facilities (James Madison), or are actively exploring doing both (Villanova). The argument that Boston University lacks the same resources of these fine academic institutions is devoid of substance and bereft of validity.

Moreover, on the issue of attendance, Boston University football attendance was comparable to other peer institutions, such as the University of Rhode Island, UMass, and the University of Maine. None of these schools has dropped football. Their stadiums and facilities are similar to what Boston University had then and still does today. Furthermore, if the principle of academic integrity had validity, the Ivy League institutions would have eliminated football ages ago. They have not, nor do they plan to do so.

The landscape of college football is always changing. Nebraska is joining the Big 10. Colorado is joining the Pac-10. There is no reason Boston University cannot be a part of that change. Although some have argued that Boston University should go to the FBS division and join the Big East, this is not a realistic scenario given the stadium size, facilities, etc. However, Boston University needs to revisit the issue of rejoining the FCS division, what was formerly known as I-AA. Nickerson Field and the concomitant facilities would blend in well with the FCS division, which is an important and integral part of contemporary college football. The past two FCS national champions, Richmond and Villanova, have similar stadiums and facilities.

If financial issues are a major hurdle, Boston University could explore joining the non-athletic scholarship Patriot League. If the juxtaposition of a large urban research university like Boston University being paired with the smaller college and universities of the Patriot League proves to be problematic, other scenarios are more than possible. Nevertheless, the fact that Fordham is already giving athletic scholarships in football and the Patriot League administrators are convening to vote on the same issues in December is yet another example of the myriad opportunities that are available, as well as the mercurial nature of college football today.

Boston University once belonged to what was known as the Yankee Conference. It later morphed in the Atlantic 10, which since has been transformed into the Colonial Athletic Association and includes former Boston University football rivals such as Delaware, William & Mary, Richmond, and UMass. These excellent academic institutions often benefit from playing a game each year with an FBS opponent as UMass did with Michigan and William & Mary did with North Carolina this past season. Moreover, Boston University must avail itself of these opportunities as well as others, such as the Colonial Clash between New Hampshire and UMass at Gillette Stadium this past October, a game that drew over 30,000 fans. Why does Boston University shut the door to these possibilities? The inclusion of Boston University in an expanded Colonial Athletic Association would be superb fit for both parties and also revive some of the nostalgia of past competition and rivalries. With the notable exception of Delaware, Boston University’s Nickerson Field is in line with the stadiums of the member conferences.

In addition, Boston University could explore the scheduling of one game a year with an FBS opponent. Other FCS schools in the region have already done it or are exploring the possibility of doing so. For instance, Tom Beckett, the athletic director at Yale, has looked into Yale playing one of the service academies like Army or Navy, yet another example of the pomp, ceremony, and spectacle of college football in our contemporary culture.

The promise, passion, enthusiasm, and excitement of college football are a dynamic element of our culture. It is time that Boston University climbed aboard.

Gani Manelli (CAS’87) Waterbury, Connecticut

Remember History

You featured an interview with Andrew Bacevich (“CommonWealth,” Fall 2010) pertaining to the reduction of our armed forces in the world. I found this shows the lack of understanding of what we as a free nation have to do to preserve the foundation and freedoms we currently enjoy.

First, in the early 1960s an editorial was printed in the Wall Street Journal, in essence stating that we would always be burdened with the patrolling of the hot spots in the world. The editorial stated that if we do not do this, who will? Also, would you like to give our enemies an opportunity to build up to a strength where we would be pulled into another war? Such as allowing Iran to obtain an atomic bomb with the first and foremost target Israel?

Possibly you have forgotten the history of this country prior to World War II, where people wanted to have isolation rather than go to war prior to the buildup of the German war machine. This delayed reaction caused much loss of life, which may have been averted if we have reacted early.

I find Mr. Bacevich’s broad brush opinion that all Boston University students and their families don’t want conscription, which I interpret as that none of the students want to serve their country, hard to believe, as the class of 2014 at West Point had 14,000 men and women apply for admittance, where only 1,200 were accepted. These other men and women who did not make the cut had to enroll somewhere else, possibly even Boston University.

As those who have served will tell you, war is hell. The smell is something that you never forget and the loss of human life is something that you never forget. However, this country may have to go this route to preserve this great country and great schools such as Boston University.

Donald Hill (SMG’61) The Villages, Florida

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