Feedback: Readers Weigh In on the Science of Sleep, Systemic Racism, a New Campus Building
The Science of Sleep
In “The ‘Bizarre’ Biological System of Sleep” (Spring–Summer 2022), [BU neuroscientist Laura] Lewis is quoted as saying that she doesn’t have a good answer for how to sleep better. The good news is that sleep medicine professionals, such as psychologists and doctors, do have answers! Sleep hygiene and interventions for sleep disorders, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), can make a big difference in sleep and quality of life.
Sheina Godovich (CAS’14)
I was surprised that Jessica Colarossi’s article on sleep did not distinguish between nightmares and night terrors, since the distinction is not particularly new. I also found the small number of participants—19—in the study using virtual reality to help subjects reperceive and manipulate simulated dominance images (the things that scare us in dreams) odd. The number of participants whose depression or anxiety was minimized is vague at best, and outcomes do not take into account the possible placebo effect. Just using a newish technology for such seemingly intractable problems can make it more likely to be seen positively and even fun. Don’t mean to dampen support for a potential solution to the problem, but scientific method seems to have fallen a bit by the wayside.
Lenny Granger (GRS’83)
Columbia Falls, Mont.
A Long Way Past Systemic Racism
In the “Feedback” column (Spring–Summer 2022), Scott Cotenoff suggests that “a key role of a university is to…stimulate discussion and solution-building for our society’s most significant challenges—chief among these being historic, systemic racism.” I have not yet heard a clear and concise definition of “systemic racism.” So, I will join the discussion and offer a definition.
Systemic racism is an organized structure of laws, rules, regulations, and institutional practices that enforce racism throughout the entire society. We have none of that today.
Instead, we have systemic antiracism. There is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, fair housing laws, and a line of court cases exemplified by Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and Shelley v. Kraemer, striking down racist discrimination. Shelley v. Kraemer nullified racist restrictive covenants in deeds by forbidding state courts from enforcing them. That was in 1948. Most people alive today were not even born then. We are a long way past any systemic racism.
Tom Stahl (LAW’82)
In the previous issue (“Feedback,” Spring–Summer 2022), it was suggested that my “screed against the thinking and scholarship of Ibram Kendi” was both ironic (as Kendi had recently received a MacArthur “genius” grant) and “disingenuous at best” in considering Kendi’s writings as “anything other than insightful, well-reasoned and an important contribution to
conversations about race in the US….” Scholarship? Well-reasoned? Really?
Let’s examine Dr. Kendi’s “thinking and scholarship,” shall we? Let’s begin with his definitions. In How to Be an Antiracist, he writes that, “Definitions anchor us in principles. This is not a light point. If we don’t do the basic work of defining the kind of people we want to be in language that is stable and consistent, we can’t work toward stable and consistent goals.”
Sadly, Kendi’s definitions are anything but “stable” and are “consistent” only in their instability. They are, instead, vague, imprecise, and quite frankly, nonsensical. For example, he defines “racism” as “…a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities.” Also, as “A powerful collection of racist policies that leads to racial inequity and is sustained by racist ideas.” He defines a “racist” as “…someone who is supporting a racist policy by their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.” Does anyone other than myself see a problem here?
All of Kendi’s definitions seem to suffer from the same grammatical malaise. Are these the well-reasoned underpinnings of a MacArthur “genius”? If his bedrock definitions are so substantially flawed, does it not reasonably follow that his core principles are similarly adrift? I very much doubt that Kendi’s “scholarship” would ever have survived under President Silber’s scrutiny, yet somehow BU was convinced that supporting this charade was a good idea. Kendi’s narrative is angry and divisive. It is not a roadmap that leads to unity but to distrust and division. People of goodwill can do better. BU can and must do better.
Anthony M. Santoro (DGE’69, CAS’71)
“Irrational” Cost of College
Just finished reading the Boston Herald’s article of May 17, titled “Classy! Boston University tuition hike exposes ‘irrational’ cost of college.” I have to say that I agree with everything the article said. I find it hard to believe that any professor should be making a seven-figure salary and that some of BU’s administrators are making between $500,000 and $900,000. I will be thinking long and hard before I make my next donation to my alma mater. I understand that scholarships are plentiful, but the thought of tuition being over $60,000 per year is just eliminating many deserving students with or without a scholarship. I, for one, know that there is no way that I would ever ask my family to spend that kind of money for my education.
Robert Apter (COM’68)
Which Side of History?
In the last issue of Bostonia, Joe D. Marlow appears to complain about BU’s divestiture from fossil fuels (Spring–Summer 2022). More specifically, he objects to this decision having been expressed as being on the “right side of history.” Fair enough—although, to put it another way, there’s no doubt that continuing to fund 19th-century technologies such as fossil fuels is clearly the wrong side of history. Furthermore, a recognition that we’re experiencing a climate emergency can indeed legitimately be considered “moral superiority” over those that prioritize short-term financial gain over the future habitability of planet Earth. And you know what? I’ll go there: those who understand the scientific reality of the climate crisis over those who refuse to understand it can also claim intellectual superiority.
Richard Weinstein (SDM’83)
World’s Ugliest Building?
In seeing photos in the Spring–Summer 2022 installment of Bostonia, one wonders if Boston University, through the Center for Computing
& Data Sciences, recently succeeded in erecting the world’s ugliest building (“BU’s Center for Computing & Data Sciences Is Taking Shape”). And an enormous one at that, right at the heart of campus on Commonwealth Avenue, no less.
On a smaller scale, we might imagine it as a child’s playtime with blocks, and when his mother called him to lunch he bumped the structure, causing different levels to go askew.
We know that architects are eager to make their own mark in the field, but just as a cat on the piano keys may produce a sound different from what we’re accustomed to listening to, it doesn’t render it good music.
It would make sense for architecture to be of more pleasing effect. One surprise is that the city of Boston actually approved of the monstrosity.
Peter Benson (Questrom’79)
Valley Center, Calif.
The article on BU’s Center for Computing & Data Sciences describes the building as “designed to resemble a slightly askew stack of books.” Most people, upon seeing a slightly askew stack of books, will feel compelled to straighten it. In any case, it seems to have been designed with complete and utter disregard for where it is situated. Compare this with the Federal Courthouse in Springfield, Mass., built in 2008, which has a dramatic design to accommodate two large, beautiful old trees, has a contemporary look, and yet still complements nearby buildings. The Data Center is an eyesore, joining the ranks with Boston City Hall and BU’s own LAW Tower.
I am glad to know that it will be energy-efficient and sustainable, at least.
The debate continues!
Ann-Marie Messbauer (CAS’88)
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