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“Lab report,” “Afterlife,” “Campus coyotes,” “Church and state,” “Benefits program,” “Newsworthy”
Re “Early Risers” by J. M. Berger (Summer 2012): It was great to see Boston College Magazine focusing on the research of our new Sloan fellows. Liane Young’s work on social cognition is helping to pinpoint the core components of moral reasoning that are universal and those aspects that are culturally sensitive. Her work is also breaking new ground in our understanding of the neural and cognitive deficits in autism spectrum disorder.
Professor of Psychology
I was delighted—for a moment—to read the description of Liane Young’s work on moral intuition. Boston College seemed to be continuing the tradition of asking the Big Questions, as did Jesus, Aquinas, Kant, and all those moral giants we were introduced to in philosophy and theology classes. But my hopes were dashed when I found that Young is approaching the problem with the tools of neurology, not philosophy. If her work proves accurate, we will know that things happen in the RTPJ section of the brain when you judge someone. Exactly where will that get us in answering the Big Question she asks at the end of the piece—”When someone has a different set of intuitions, how do you know who’s right?”
We need separate criteria for what is right and for deciding what neural correlates happen when we make a moral choice. As Tom Stoppard put it in Jumpers, “There is more in me than meets the microscope.”
Richard Barbieri ’66
Because teaching and research are intermingled on the Heights, our undergraduates learn directly from practicing scientists in the lecture hall and, importantly, in the laboratory, where most of us oversee research teams composed largely of scientists-in-training, including undergraduates working for experience, credit, or in completion of an honors thesis. Becoming a scientist is exactly like becoming master of a trade—didactic training alone cannot replace a hands-on apprenticeship, designing and executing experiments, interpreting data, and acquiring technical and professional skills.
Associate Professor of Biology
Re “Upward Bound” by James O’Toole (Summer 2012): I felt a sense of sadness as I read that Fr. Gasson left Boston College in January 1914 after only seven short years as president. The article reports that he went to a rest house in Maryland. Since he lived another 16 years, it is probably safe to assume that there were no health issues. Why would he not stay on as president? Why put such a talented man, only 54 years old, out to pasture? He worked so hard and passionately in securing a new location for Boston College, and he never got the opportunity to see further growth.
Gerald T. Mahoney ’72
James O’Toole replies: From our perspective, it does seem odd that a successful university president would move on so quickly, but in Gasson’s era this was entirely normal. Until the 1950s, the presidents of all Jesuit colleges and universities held the position because they were the rector of the Jesuit community residing there. And the rules of the Society of Jesus strictly limited the term of rector, usually to six years. In part, this helped reinforce the idea that a member of the Society should be prepared to go anywhere at any time. Gasson went first to Maryland—he wasn’t sick; he was just taking a breather—and later went on to run a retreat house on Staten Island and eventually a high school in Montreal. He died in Canada but came back to Massachusetts in death: He is buried in the small Jesuit cemetery on the campus at Holy Cross.
Re “Top Dog” by Ben Birnbaum (Summer 2012): At the School of Theology and Ministry (STM), the coyotes had starring roles in a short video advertising our Eschaton Week—a series of game nights, barbeques, and other social events to pass the time in May between final exams and graduation. The video also features cameos from Dan Harrington, SJ; Dick Clifford, SJ; and other faculty members.
And no, we weren’t responsible for the disappearance of Wile E., nor its subsequent reappearance at STM graduation festivities.
Jeremy Zipple, SJ, ’00, M.Div.’13
Your articles in the past few years concerning the Catholic Church in the 21st century have really interested me. But last night the coyote story just tickled my fancy. Good job.
Peggy Baumgartner, M.Ed.’76
Church and state
Re “What Right?” by William Bole (Spring 2012): It was dismaying to see the two letters you published concerning the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ reaction to the Administration’s attempt to curtail the freedom of religion of the Catholic Church. Both letters sided with the government.
The Church cannot bend or be bent to the whims of society.
Prudence Young Darigan ’65
Re: “Way Station” by Thomas Cooper (Summer 2012): There are two places you can discuss the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Boston area: the Spirit Bar in Cambridge and, more enjoyably, Gasson 101, among Eagle members of the Iowa-Nebraska Luncheon Club. Beyond the sports talk, the chance to see your home- state mates, and the access to enough roast beef sandwiches to feed you for a semester, what makes the club truly special is having a private audience with Fr. Neenan. There is nothing like travelling 1,500 miles from home to rebuild your life in Chestnut Hill and finding that one of the highest ranking University officials not only knows, but has a pocketful of personal stories about, your high school.
Ana Lopez ’12
“News of the World” by Reeves Wiedeman (Summer 2012) underlined a key charm of college newspapers: that their scope is decidedly narrow. The content is a reflection more of the community than of the times. During my time on the Heights, fellow editors and I would loftily question whether the “big issues of the day”—the latest Senate race or presidential address—could take editorial precedence over the fall concert review. The conclusion was always the same, and the fall concert always ran on page 1.
Michael Caprio ’12
Providence, Rhode Island
The writer was editor-in-chief of the Heights in 2011.
In the early-to-middle years of the last decade, I led a seminar at Boston College entitled “The Editorial Process,” and in so doing came to know many Heights men and women, including Mr. Wiedeman. Like those who came before them, these reporters, photographers, designers, and editors covered their home base fully. Be it sports, the arts, the administration, food, tuition, or the Jesuits, if things happened, the news belonged in the Heights.
Here’s a hope that situation will continue to obtain in a hectic academic world of getting-aheadness, where the wonders of 21st-century technology make local news coverage seem quaint as the Pony Express; and where only large thoughts about big issues count for anything.
Thomas F. Mulvoy, Jr. ’64
The writer was the managing editor of the Boston Globe from 1986 to 2000.
Reeves Wiedeman mentions that I wrote an article for the December 12, 1942, issue, and he describes me as “a columnist.” Actually I was editor-in-chief, and the article must have been published in 1941, as I graduated in May 1942. I also taught the Morse code class mentioned (I passed the FCC ham license test in December 1941), and several of my classmates who attended it told me the training helped them obtain “more challenging” assignments in the various services.
Ed Weiss ’42
Mr. Weiss is right, of course, about the date of his article and his title. BCM is grateful for the corrections.
Like Wiedeman, I found myself curious to revisit my own writings, and I immediately searched for my dating commentary called “Good Ravioli Is Hard to Find and so Is a Man.” And, yes, like Wiedeman, I realized it may be embarrassing to revisit the published thoughts of your college years. I also remember how our editorials critiquing the lack of a rape hotline and the administration’s refusal to recognize LGBC led to positive changes at the University. As an independent college newspaper, the Heights staff maintained the freedom to publish what they wanted—a fact we all relished and took full advantage of—whether it was something important, controversial, or silly.
Michele Meek ’94
Providence, Rhode Island
The writer was editor-in-chief of the Heights in 1993.
For my classmates, the Heights archive will surely serve as a welcome time capsule by which they can recall their four years as students. But for Heights staffers, it is much more than that. The Heights was our lives.
Pilar Landon ’09
The writer was editor-in-chief of the Heights in 2008.
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