Good Thing She Had Insurance

magazine-14.jpg How many of us have been asked by our doctors, “Do you have pharmacy insurance?” before they write prescriptions for what they know will cure our ailments? What would have been the outcome for Fei’s baby if she did not have the insurance plan she did? Would Mila have received less expert care? In “The Toddler Behind the Talking Point” (Spring 2015), this sentence should stab our human consciences and create the sharpest pain imaginable: “But the kicker, Fei says, is that the words [of AOL’s CEO] reduced Mila’s existence to profit and loss.” In an era when we are bombarded by tales of the wonders of technology and the virtues of STEM education are being touted to produce those who will continue that technological development, how can we conscionably sit by and not do anything about a health care system which as much as says, “In this life, if you can’t pay, you can’t stay”? 

We need to have some brain work done—convene a multidisciplinary consortium of doctors, scientists, economists, ethicists, anyone who can think clearly—to come up with some way to ensure that the marvels of technology will be available to all human beings. After all, for what end is all technological development pursued if not for the betterment of humankind? 

I am fairly certain that there were many complicated pieces of machinery employed in affording Mila a chance at life. Are they to provide little more benefit to humankind as a whole than they would if they were placed in museum display cases? 

Jay M. Freyman ’64 

Reisterstown, Md. 

The People in the Photos

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After reading the spring issue of Amherst magazine, Dave Simpson ’54 wrote: “I am no doubt the 167th person to identify the undergraduate on the left in the picture on page 53 as (despite his attitude of repose) the peripatetic Frank Randall ’52.” In a class note in that same issue, Randall wrote about his recent tour of Saudi Arabia. 

Bob Dwyer ’69 recognized Kirk Conover ’69 (back row, at right) and Dwight Golann ’69 (front row, second from end) on page 71 of the spring issue. Dwyer writes: “Judging by the fresh (and short) haircuts and the short-sleeved shirt on the boy who is front row right, this must be the start of freshman year in the fall of 1965.” 

Larry Abrams ’68 identified another student in that same photo: Robert Hilliard ’68 is in the back, wearing glasses and a jacket. 

Abrams writes that Hilliard served in the Peace Corps and was later “among a number of law students at SUNY Buffalo who worked on the Attica Brothers Legal Defense team. For the past 30 years he has been an immigration attorney.” 

Jonathan Gross ’77 noticed his daughter Rachael Gross ’08 on page 101 of the spring issue. The younger Gross (at right in the photo) says it was probably taken during first-year orientation, because she’s holding the Oliver Sacks book that had been assigned to the entire class. Jennifer Ho ’08 is next to her.

A Healthy Dose of Affliction

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I always enjoy Amherst magazine, both for the warm remembrances it evokes and for the inspiration it provides as I learn about the vital work taking place on campus. The Spring 2015 edition was no exception. 

As with many initiatives Amherst has undertaken in recent years (aggressively pursuing socioeconomic diversity in the student body, encouraging cross-disciplinary teaching and learning, and articulating a reasoned alternative to other institutions’ enthralled embrace of the MOOC),“Crossing Rough Terrain, Together,” about the Day of Dialogue on race and racism, reinforced my pride as an alumnus. As events in our nation continue to remind us, the racial divide still poisons our culture 150 years after the end of the Civil War and seven years after the election of our first African-American president.  

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It has been said that the role of social activism is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Amherst remains, despite its considerable efforts and laudable progress, a bastion of the comfortable, with much of its student, adult and alumni population (myself included) drawn from privileged segments of our society. This dynamic is only a problem to the extent that those of us who have benefitted from our privilege refuse to engage in dialogue and action regarding the persistent inequities in American life. 

The sole discouraging note in this stirring article, therefore, was that only “51 percent of the student body, 63 percent of the faculty and 27 percent of the staff” attended the Day of Dialogue.  I worry that the 49, 37 and 73 percent of those groups who absented themselves may have been the ones most in need of what this experience had to offer: a healthy dose of affliction.

Matt Micciche ’93  

Baltimore

Fulbright and the Pentagon Papers

Rand Richard Cooper ’80 writes of “the critical and dissenting patriotism of …Sen. J. William Fulbright” (Amherst Creates, Spring 2015). I greatly admired Sen. Fulbright during the Vietnam atrocities. But I didn’t know then that he’d spurned Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, about the smokiest of smoking guns in human history, and precisely the evidence one would have thought Fulbright most wanted and needed to support his dissent.

I suspect that even for Fulbright, the strength of his misplaced loyalty to the Old Boys’ network (“proper channels”) outweighed truth, legality, morality, prudence, common sense, human compassion—even when all those desiderata were on his side of the confrontation.  

Joe Morton ’57 

Towson, Md.    

A Glen-Lieber Connection

There is a point of connection in the Winter 2015 issue between the profile of Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen ’88 and the review of Ron Lieber ’93’s The Opposite of Spoiled. Ron spends a few pages of his book discussing Manhattan Country School, a private elementary school located at the border of the Upper East Side and East Harlem. In the book and a previous New York Times article, Lieber discusses the school’s commitment to social justice and ethnic and class diversity, including trips that students make to each other’s homes to see how life is lived at other income levels. 

Alicia Glen is a graduate of Manhattan Country School. Whatever positive values an Amherst education reinforced, for Glen (and for me), learning to be an upstanding citizen of the world began in kindergarten at MCS.

Dan Levinson Wilk '95

Brooklyn, N.Y. 

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