New N.Y. Times Policy Requires All Letters to Be From Single Brown Professor (UPDATE)

New <em>N.Y. Times</em> Policy Requires All Letters to Be From Single Brown Professor (UPDATE)Remember that time you got all riled up over a story in the Times and spent hours perfecting a letter to the editor, and then omigod omigod they published it? Highlight of your year.

Brown professor of philosophy Felicia Nimue Ackerman is not impressed.

For academics, the pressure to publish is relentless — but this is ridiculous. Ackerman has landed 23, count ‘em, twenty-three letters to the editor in the New York Times since January 2005. The woman is unstoppable. She’s tagged the Arts and Leisure, Book Review, Editorial, Escapes, Financial, Science, Style and SundayBusiness desks, on topics from euthanasia to yurts. Two were published on the same day. (Complete anthology of Ackerman’s letters after the jump.) How does she have any time left to publish, say, “‘Always to do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succor’: Women and the Chivalric Code in Malory’s Morte Darthur” in Midwest Studies in Philosophy Vol. 26?*

While we’d like to label Ackerman crazy, or at least underemployed, the thing is … she’s kinda good at this.

To the Editor:

It’s nice that Ben Stein has so many blessings to count (“First, Tame That Envy. Then Give Thanks,” Everybody’s Business, April 9). But I doubt that the one-size-fits-all advice, “Instead of thinking about what you don’t have, think about what you have,” would have the intended effect on someone who does have cancer and doesn’t have health insurance.

Editorial page snap! For the Times, we can imagine that FMA would be hard to resist, with that catnip “The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University” tag and a middle name straight out of “Whale Rider.” Or maybe Ackerman’s secret is that she just doesn’t care — this prof’s been published in better places. Like Playgirl.

*[Note: This is the first academic paper half of us has ever seen. Do they all begin with limericks about how Sir Lancelot "couldn't keep it in his pantsalot"?]

UPDATE Nov. 27: We search Nexis like Kuala Lumpur populates its slums: poorly. Thanks, commenters — we looked up different variations of Ackerman’s name and found some 130 letters dating to 1987. Let’s go ahead and dial back that restraint on using the word “crazy,” above.

November 15, 2006 Wednesday
The Storm in the Mind of a Child
To the Editor:
I was interested to see that symptoms of mental illness in children include
“does not seem to listen when spoken to directly”; “often leaves seat in
classroom or when sitting is expected”; “argues with adults”; “skips school”;
and “often stays out late at night despite parents’ rules.”
Perhaps if children had as much clout as parents and teachers, symptoms of
mental illness in parents and teachers would include “expects attendance and
attention during boring speeches and lessons”; “expects unquestioning
obedience”; and “makes unreasonable rules about staying home at night when
there are more interesting things to do outside.”
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., Nov. 11, 2006

October 22, 2006 Sunday
On Nonentities
To the Editor:
As a middle-aged literary nonentity who occasionally writes book reviews, I
was taken aback by the Pulitzer Prize-winner Franz Wright’s remark, “I cannot
bring myself to believe that I am the only serious follower of contemporary
poetry who is getting sick of reading reviews by young literary nonentities
posing as Randall Jarrell” (Letters, Oct. 8). I cannot bring myself to believe
that I am the only serious reader of book reviews who cringes when an
established writer is snobbish and meanspirited enough to sneer at the obscure
for being obscure.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

October 20, 2006 Friday
ROUGHING IT IN A YURT
To the Editor: David Franklin and Christa Coggins may like to think they are
“Keeping Life Simple at a New Mexico Yurt” (Oct. 13), but showers that require
“hauling water in a large tank from a well” sound pretty complicated to me, as
do “clearing brush and chopping firewood.” I prefer the simplicity of turning
up my thermostat and turning on the faucets in my shower.
FELICIA NIMUE ACKERMAN
Providence, R.I.

September 17, 2006 Sunday
Staying Alive
To the Editor:
Jonathan Rauch’s review of “The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media,
the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life,” by Ramesh Ponnuru (Sept. 3),
endorses Ponnuru’s claim that because “abortion-rights absolutists … would
allow abortions even in the latest stages of pregnancy … their position gives
them no firm purchase from which to oppose infanticide.” This overlooks a point
routinely made in introductory philosophy courses on moral problems: Having a
right to life does not entail having a right to everything one needs in order to
stay alive. If it did, sick people would have a right to blood transfusions and
bone marrow transplants from unwilling donors and everyone would have a right to
whatever medical care he needed in order to stay alive, making the Republican
Party the party of death for opposing national health insurance.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

August 27, 2006 Sunday
Pedophiles, Gathering Online
To the Editor:
The pedophiles depicted in “From Their Own Online World, Pedophiles Extend
Their Reach” are indeed scary, but so is Bill Walsh’s claim that the pedophiles’
desires are “illegal.”
He is a former commander of the Crimes Against Children Unit for the Dallas
Police Department, not a former commander of the thought police. So he should
realize that actions can be illegal, but desires are, and ought to be, beyond
the reach of the law.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., Aug. 21, 2006

July 23, 2006 Sunday
Left, Right and Cinema
To the Editor:
Re “An Uprising on the Right in a World That Leans Left” by John Anderson
[July 16]:
The director Wash Westmoreland suggests that conservative documentaries
cannot be interesting because “the origin of the word conservative is about not
changing, accepting what is.” But he overlooks the fact that conservative now
refers to a specific set of doctrines, including minimal governmental economic
regulation, restrictions on sexually explicit art, opposition to abortion, etc.
A conservative documentary can rebel against the changes liberalism has brought
to our society. As a lifelong liberal, I would find it refreshing to see a
documentary whose politics I oppose.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

June 27, 2006 Tuesday
I’ve Got the Clone Right Here
To the Editor:
Your Side Effects columnist, James Gorman, says that “if you are anything
like me,” you “instinctively cheer for the natural mules” over the cloned
ones (“Belmont. Schmelmont. You Ought to See a Cloned Mule Run,” June 13).
Well, I’m not and I don’t. I cheer for the cloned mules and for the triumph of
human ingenuity.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

June 9, 2006 Friday
Opus Dei Practice
To the Editor:
Paul Fortunato’s claim (“Opus Dei’s Box-Office Triumph,” Op-Ed, June 2)
that “one key element behind corporal mortification is to feel solidarity with
the poor and the suffering” makes me wonder how taking on a physical state that
the poor and the suffering wish to escape can possibly promote solidarity with
them.
If I were poor or suffering, I would rather that Opus Dei worked to relieve
my plight than adopted it.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., June 2, 2006

April 16, 2006 Sunday
Have or Have Not
To the Editor:
It’s nice that Ben Stein has so many blessings to count (“First, Tame That
Envy. Then Give Thanks,” Everybody’s Business, April 9).
But I doubt that the one-size-fits-all advice, “Instead of thinking about
what you don’t have, think about what you have,” would have the intended effect
on someone who does have cancer and doesn’t have health insurance.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., April 11
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

January 16, 2006 Monday
Bragging Rights
To the Editor:
Re “My Parents Are the Best Braggarts Ever” (letters, Jan. 10):
The article and the letters about parents who brag about their children
remind me of one of my mother’s favorite sayings: All ordinary children must be
orphans, because no parent ever admits to having one.
And speaking of bragging about one’s relatives, my mother is now 93 and
still mentally sharper than most of my fellow academic philosophers.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., Jan. 10, 2006
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

December 13, 2005 Tuesday
All About Mother
To the Editor:
Re “Live Longer With Evolution?”: Information about the varying
Christian, Jewish, Confucian and Taoist attitudes toward greatly increased human
longevity and even earthly immortality is interesting. But it is irrelevant not
only to all of us nonbelievers but to public policy in any country that has a
separation of church and state.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.

November 27, 2005 Sunday
Getting In, Getting On
To the Editor:
David Brooks’s criticism of the view that “academic merit” should be the
dominant criterion for college admissions, in his review of “The Chosen,” by
Jerome Karabel (Nov. 6), cries out for critical examination. He writes, “Those
old WASP bluebloods may have been narrow and prejudiced, but they did at least
have a formula for building character.” But what kind of character did they
build? A narrow and prejudiced kind, maybe?
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.

November 6, 2005 Sunday
That Job Offer From a Competitor
To the Editor:
“A Recruiter Is Calling. Should You Answer?” (Oct. 16) offers the
undoubtedly practical observation that a company may question the loyalty of
workers who try to negotiate pay increases by getting better offers from
competitors.
But how can a company expect loyalty from employees to whom it may not offer
loyalty in return? How many companies offer such loyalty these days?
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., Oct. 17
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

November 6, 2005 Sunday
Something to Live For
To the Editor:
I hope that “The Pablo Picasso Alzheimer’s Therapy” by Randy Kennedy
[last Sunday], which showed that Alzheimer’s patients have reserves of thought
and feeling far beyond what most would expect, will make people less inclined to
believe that such patients have nothing left to live for and should be “allowed”
to die when life-threatening illness strikes.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.

October 30, 2005 Sunday
Nothing Wrong With the Net
To the Editor:
What is striking about the parents who “fret that dialing up interferes
with growing up” is the weakness of their arguments. The claim that “long,
sedentary hours spent in front of a computer may lead to weight gain” could as
well apply to long, sedentary hours spent reading. And the claim that “an
excess of instant and text messaging comes at the expense of learning
face-to-face social skills” invites two objections. First, skill in instant and
text messaging is itself a useful social skill for the third millennium. Second,
what is so terrible about spending one’s leisure time having fun rather than
“learning skills”? If “talking about nothing” amounts to “a waste of time,”
how many conversations that lack a specific practical purpose would escape this
criticism?
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

September 25, 2005 Sunday
No Pandering
To the Editor:
Re “Bill T. Jones Is About to Make People Angry. Again” by Ginia
Bellafante [last Sunday]:
When I saw the headline, I thought, oh, no, not another ultra-conventional
artist who treads the safe path of keeping his leftist audience happy by making
rightists angry. But I underestimated Bill T. Jones. A gay man who publicly
ponders the question, “Why do I think it’s O.K. to lay with another man but not
to sleep with my sister?” and who says: “I’m the child of potato pickers. I’m
happy to join the middle class” can hardly be accused of pandering to his
audience.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.

September 6, 2005 Tuesday
Planning to the End
To the Editor:
Although the writer claims that his mother “was liberated when she was 80′
‘ by the death of his controlling “patriarchal” father (Cases column, “One
Last Recipe From Mother), this claim is belied by his statement that his mother
preferred to die rather than “to cause her family any inconvenience.”
Any woman who deems her life less important than her family’s convenience
has hardly been liberated from the traditional view that women should be willing
to sacrifice themselves for their families.
The contention that a terminally ill person owes her loved ones “a good
death” even at the price of forgoing a chance to prolong her own life has it
backward.
When a mother who has spent her life caring for her family becomes ill, her
children owe it to her to reciprocate the care she gave them and to have the
simple human decency to assure her that their convenience is far, far less
important than her life.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.

June 12, 2005 Sunday
Work and Gratitude
To the Editor:
Just think how much worse American society would be today if labor leaders
had taken the column’s advice to “be grateful you have a job” instead of
organizing against brutal working conditions. And think how much worse it would
be if blacks had accepted the advice and not fought racial discrimination in the
workplace.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., June 6
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

May 31, 2005 Tuesday
Overcoming Needle Anxiety
To the Editor:
The writer’s statement that the death of his father from a sudden heart
attack at 73 “was the envy of all his friends” (“Anti-Doctor and Anti-Death.
What’s a Guy to Do?”) invites a natural question: How old are his father’s
friends?
As a 57-year-old with a 92-year-old mother, I don’t regard any death at 73
as enviable. Unfashionable as it is to admit it, I bet lots of old people share
my wish to live a long, long time.
An enviable death?
How about Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at 122?
FELICIA NIMUE ACKERMAN
Providence, R.I.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

April 19, 2005 Tuesday
Need an Organ? On One Condition
To the Editor:
Re “In a Judgmental World, She Was Ashamed of Getting Sick” (April 12): It
is hardly surprising that “in a judgmental world,” there is a widespread
belief that people with drinking-related liver damage should not receive liver
transplants.

This belief is not only mean-spirited but illogical, unless it is extended
to apply to everyone whose illness came about through preventable
self-indulgence.

How many people would deny liver transplants to those whose liver damage
resulted from contracting hepatitis through recreational travel to an area where
the disease was known to be rampant? Very few, I bet.
FELICIA NIMUE ACKERMAN
Providence, R.I.

April 17, 2005 Sunday
‘Fat Girl’
To the Editor:
How refreshing to find someone who acknowledges that “as the ‘obesity
epidemic’ receives endless press . . . fat haters coast under the radar as
do-gooders” (from Jane Stern’s review of “Fat Girl,” by Judith Moore, March
27). But as a former fat person, I would welcome the long-overdue acknowledgment
of another unpopular truth — not every fat person fits the stereotype of coming
from a “miserable” family “that created a hole” in her soul “that she tried
to fill with food.” I came from a happy family. I overate for the deep
psychological reason that fattening foods taste terrific and eating them is
delightful.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.

March 13, 2005 Sunday
Ethics and Euthanasia
To the Editor:
Re “When Torment Is Destiny, Euthanasia Is Defended” (news article, March
10):
I would like to know why so many of my fellow bioethicists are so ready to
say that someone else’s life is not worth living.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., March 10, 2005
The writer is a philosophy professor at Brown University.

January 16, 2005 Sunday
What Friends Are For
To the Editor:
The idea that people like to buy products from people they know may be the
basis for many in-home shopping parties (“So Glad You Could Come. Can I Sell
You Anything?” Dec. 19). Frankly, I’d rather buy from strangers and not have to
worry about what is it that my friends value about me: my companionship or my
money.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I., Dec. 19
The writer is a philosophy professor at Brown University.

  • zoner

    Playgirl is a good start. Who reads the Times anymore?

  • zoner

    Playgirl is a good start. Who reads the Times anymore?

  • rich

    I was horrified by an issue of Playgirl I happened across as a child. It looked like a mail order banana catalog. I felt emotionally scarred.

  • rich

    I was horrified by an issue of Playgirl I happened across as a child. It looked like a mail order banana catalog. I felt emotionally scarred.

  • Yix

    Damn, I thought my five in the Dallas Morning News was good.

  • Yix

    Damn, I thought my five in the Dallas Morning News was good.

  • blarg

    Damn, and I thought my five in the Dallas Morning News was impressive.

  • blarg

    Damn, and I thought my five in the Dallas Morning News was impressive.

  • ex-journalist

    She used to be fat sooo… there was this Oprah show (http://www.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/200610/tows_past_20061024.jhtml) about people who used to be fat and once they lost the weight they found something new to obsess over like sex, alcohol, seeing their name in print.

  • ex-journalist

    She used to be fat sooo… there was this Oprah show (http://www.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/200610/tows_past_20061024.jhtml) about people who used to be fat and once they lost the weight they found something new to obsess over like sex, alcohol, seeing their name in print.

  • Brown student

    you didn’t look back far enough. check lexis-nexis; she has the world record — 133 letters, last I checked, over the last 18 years.

  • Brown student

    you didn’t look back far enough. check lexis-nexis; she has the world record — 133 letters, last I checked, over the last 18 years.

  • Too Many Magazines

    She doesn’t just write letters to the NYT. She wrote a bunch to Lingua Franca, too, and many others. I used to marvel that she had letters in nearly every one of the too-many journals I read.

  • Too Many Magazines

    She doesn’t just write letters to the NYT. She wrote a bunch to Lingua Franca, too, and many others. I used to marvel that she had letters in nearly every one of the too-many journals I read.

  • Too Many Magazines

    Oh, and one more thing: at some point, she changed her name from Diana Ackerman to Felicia (maybe the ‘Nimue’ arrived at this point, too).

  • Too Many Magazines

    Oh, and one more thing: at some point, she changed her name from Diana Ackerman to Felicia (maybe the ‘Nimue’ arrived at this point, too).

  • Mike

    Yes, all of her papers, and a good number of her classes, start with quotes from La Mort d’Arthur.

  • Mike

    Yes, all of her papers, and a good number of her classes, start with quotes from La Mort d’Arthur.

  • Mike

    Oh yeah, and if she’s 53, I’ll eat my shoe.

  • Mike

    Oh yeah, and if she’s 53, I’ll eat my shoe.

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