"Structural Racism" at the University of Rochester

K. Thomas Noell

Editor's Note: The letter below is written by a longtime NAS member to the University of Rochester's Dean at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. The letter explains his disagreement with the school's decision to change its name after pressure from campus and online activists.

Dear Dr. Taubman,

I write to protest in the strongest possible terms your denigration of Dr. George H. Whipple, the School of Medicine’s founder, recruiter of its initial faculty, and its first Dean. Erasing him from the School is not just foolish; it is vicious and vindictive while currying favor with your in-house activists, beings of little present or future consequence.

Whipple was a most honorable man, an eminent medical scientist whose diligent work on anemias made the lives of millions of humans of all color better, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. You, sir, are small fry in comparison.

It is scurrilous for you to assert that he practiced ‘structural racism’ without providing a shred of evidence. You write Whipple did so “until he was forced to do otherwise”. “Forced” by whom? You write further, “even then, he complied by admitting the bare minimum of black students”.  What minimum was that? Who or what body set that minimum standard?

And what were the results of said “forcing”?

I received my M.D. in 1967. There was only one black in our class, a Nigerian who’d graduated from Oberlin, and none in subsequent classes as best I recall.

So where were the blacks in the School of Medicine a generation after Whipple was first “forced” to admit them?

It seems clear to me that you are ignorant of American 20th century history. The great black migration from the South to the North only began in the late 1920s, and they did not flood into Rochester or Upstate NY. They moved to the industrial Midwest. Where was Whipple supposed to find these (able) black students? Were they unadmitted Ivy League undergraduates? Or at the U of R?

Your letter is repugnant and untruthful. 

Strike me from your list of potential donors.


K. Thomas Noell, M.D.

Image: Urjeff at the English Wikipedia, Public Domain

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