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Letters to the editor


Alumni assert their support for our Cornell Tech partner 

In her letter to the editor, Diane Adkin ’71 asks Cornell to cut ties with Technion– Israel Institute of Technology because of its “direct link to the Israeli military” (Correspondence, September/October 2013). Other alumni have sent letters on the same subject. Before anyone else disparages Technion, please look at its funding sources and projects. The Technion funding list ( displays an impressive breadth of projects in fields such as agriculture, aquatic sciences, cyber protection, earthquake preparedness, environmental protection, health, medicine, and renewable energy. Technion is as much a “true science and education” institution as Cornell.


David Levine ’78 
St. Louis, Missouri

Diane Adkin’s suggestion to cut ties with Technion isn’t an option, as Technion and Cornell submitted a joint proposal for the applied science and technology campus on Roosevelt Island. One of the reasons why that bid was accepted was the strength of the Technion in many areas of applied science, including biotechnology, robotics, nanotechnology, and computer science. Adkin’s comment that Technion is a direct link to the military is misleading. It is true that, as the major engineering school in Israel, some of its graduates work in military industries and some staff members work as consultants for military projects. But the military has no control over what is taught there or what research projects are initiated by its staff members. As in the United States, the military may sponsor research, and individual researchers are allowed to submit bids for doing the work if they are so inclined.  

It is an unfortunate fact that Israel has required a strong military to withstand the continuous attempts to destroy it. We only have to look across our border with Syria to understand what would be in store for us if we lower our guard. For this reason, most citizens of Israel realize that a strong military is vital for our survival. One of the most well-known military projects in Israel is the Iron Dome anti-missile system that was developed with the aid of many Technion graduates. During a recent barrage of rockets fired on southern Israel from our neighbors in Gaza, many of them were destroyed in mid-flight, saving countless lives.

John Wolberg ’57 
Haifa, Israel

Ed. Note: Wolberg, who holds a PhD from MIT, is professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at Technion–Israel Institute of Technology.


On Target

Thank you for the article “It’s Complicated” (September/October 2013) about Duncan Watts, PhD ’97. For my field, I can say that his research is right on the mark. I’ve worked in the media for about twenty years, mostly as a journalist, but currently as a public relations consultant in the arts. In the contemporary art world, the success of an artist primarily depends on the PR, image, and “branding machine” behind him or her. Yes, there has to be a basic level of quality—but once there is a critical mass of key people on board, those opinions will drive the rest of the herd to follow.

John Varoli ’90 
Prague, Czech Republic


Missing with MOOCs

Re: “Forward into the Past” (July/August 2013). I have read several other articles on this subject, and I am sure that students who now or later use MOOCs will sadly miss the personal contact with the professors involved. This contact is needed and may bring satisfactory experiences that they have not had. There is a saying in Spanish: “Algo es algo peor es nada,” which translates as “Something is better than nothing”—but this is hardly a consolation.

Gustavo Vollmer ’42 
Miami, Florida


Corrections—September/October 2013

Currents, page 36: In “The Unkindest Cut,” we reported that Tobe Levin, PhD ’79, teaches at “Maryland College”; the correct name of the school is the University of Maryland University College (UMUC). We reported that she gave birth to a daughter in 1984; the correct year is 1987. Also, in the photo caption, we misspelled her first name as “Toby.” Our profound apologies to Prof. Levin for these errors.

“The Buck Stops Here,” p. 52—Sharon Tregaskis ’95 wrote that the population of white-tailed deer in the U.S. was “on a par” with that of people. That’s off by a factor of ten; the correct number for deer is approximately 30 million and for people 300 million. Our thanks to Peter Howard ’72 for pointing out the error.