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Digital Divide

Kudos on your article on retiring AD Steve Bilsky [“Passing the Baton,” Sept|Oct]. I’m a former WXPN sports director and was the broadcast partner of Jon Bart, who is quoted in the article, at WXPN in 1977 and 1978—so he was quick to share the article with me as soon as it came out.

I did notice that Steve mentioned the Ivy Digital Network as one of the crowning achievements of his tenure. What the writer of the article, Dave Zeitlin, may not have realized, and certainly didn’t ask Steve about, is the fact that despite the fact that the Penn Sports Network sells an iPad app for PSN and the Ivy Digital Network, about half of the live broadcasts from other Ivy schools are not accessible via iPad because they are streamed using flash video, and flash is incompatible due to the long-running and still-unresolved Apple vs. Adobe feud. (This is not the case for my son’s alma mater, Cornell, which has been ahead of Penn in broadcasting all its events over the web.)

Therefore, about half of Penn’s league road games cannot be viewed live, but only after they are archived. I have raised this repeatedly with the folks at PSN, who really do not seem to care. If we are touting the web availability of Penn’s athletic events as a recruiting and fundraising asset, maybe someone wants to try to fix this.

Stan Lane C’78 Pleasantville, NY

Stop Watching

It has yet to be proved that it is morally justifiable to treat sentient beings as commodities, as we do in various contexts, like circuses, agricultural operations, and zoos. (In fact, the converse has been proven: there is simply no moral justification for subjecting sentient creatures to harm merely because we can. Indeed, “because we can” can never hold its own in a philosophical debate in consideration of the myriad things we can, but should not, do.)

Zoos have been equated to prisons for animals, except the analogy isn’t perfect: the animals have neither been accused of, nor prosecuted for, committing a crime. Zoo animals have been relegated to a life behind bars, not as a punishment for an action, but because we humans have determined that it is entertaining to watch and learn about animals who are intensively and unnaturally confined.

I was thus dismayed to see such glowing coverage of the Philadelphia Zoo in “Watching the Animals” [Sept|Oct]. As the article (and its title) made clear, one of the most important considerations in the construction of a zoo is that the animals are housed in a way that enables maximum visibility. Being in full view of humans at all times is obviously completely counter to what the animals would experience in the wild, and it is highly unnerving. Being constantly in the gaze of humans and the experience of being intensively confined result in extreme stress and high mortality rates. To be sure, compare the life expectancies of animals in captivity to those of their free counterparts—the numbers are staggering.

The article’s author highlighted research that indicated that animals “deserved bigger and more realistic renditions of their natural habitat” and that they should be given “the chance to make choices.” But what followed was a list of “accommodations” the Philadelphia Zoo was making for its ill-disposed nonhuman inmates.

Any truly empathic individual would conclude that animals, held captive against their own free will, deserve their actual natural habitat (not renditions thereof). And if given a choice between living in considerably claustrophobic enclosures with hundreds of humans gawking at them all day and living in the wild, engaging in natural behaviors like gathering food and socializing with peers, what do you think animals would choose?

Otherwise grateful for your excellent publication.

Dara Lovitz C’00 Bala Cynwyd, PA

At the Zoo, 50 Years Ago

Watching the Animals” reminded me that the relationship between Penn and the Zoo goes back further than the article covers. When I was a grad student at Penn between 1964 and 1969, my co-sponsor in the Department of Biology was W. John Smith, who studied animal behavior.

Although I didn’t participate, he had students—I think both graduates and undergraduates—make regular behavioral observations on the prairie-dog colony at the Zoo. So Penn faculty and students were watching the animals at the Zoo nearly 50 years ago.

Henry A. Hespenheide Gr’69 Los Angeles

Modesty Shows Quality

I am a non-native-English-speaking proud mother of one of your graduated architecture students. I enjoy reading the Gazette as often as possible. I especially enjoyed “Critical Reading,” the essay by Rachel Del Valle [“Notes from the Undergrad,” Sept|Oct]. The essay was written with such modesty and no use of arrogant vocabulary, which felt like a personal letter.

This reminds me of the late Penn English professor, Paul Fussell, who would tell his students, “Don’t use a big word when there is a short word that is just as good.” I hope writers are encouraged to follow this direction. I believe modesty always shows quality. And I loved the essay’s ending.

Marshad Salek, parent Los Angeles

More on Grayevo

Michael Levin’s article, “Work in Progress” [“Alumni Voices,” Sept|Oct] was fascinating. A few comments:

1. Grajewo is not a village, but a town of about 22,000 people today.

2. Its Yiddish name is not Grayevo, which is just a respelling of the Polish name, but Grayve (in the local Yiddish: Grayvi), the spelling in the memorial book notwithstanding.

3. In addition to the Grayevo Memorial Book, the town has been immortalized in the collections of Yiddish humor printed in English letters by its native son, the folklorist Immanuel Olsvanger (1888-1961): Röyte Pomerantsen (1947) and L’Chayim (1949), both published by Schocken.

Paul (Hershl) Glasser C’79 Westfield, NJ

Once on North Brother Island

One Small Corner,” the photo essay by Christopher Payne described as documenting the “last unknown place in New York City” [“Elsewhere,” Sept|Oct], triggered an old memory relating to one of my maternal great-grandfathers, the Rev. Annesley T. Young of the Episcopal City Mission Society of New York City.

Not specifically mentioned in the Gazette essay was the fact that lepers were once temporarily housed at New York City’s Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island before being transferred to “Government colonies in the Gulf of Mexico.” Born in England and ordained in the United States, Rev. Young spent the years between the two world wars in New York City where he ministered to “the unfortunate women in Bedford Reformatory; to the lepers in the State Hospital; to the immigrants at Ellis Island.”

An article in the Saturday, August 21, 1926, edition of The New York Sun about his work with the lepers concludes: “Chaplain Young has provided a phonograph and records, a radio to bring in the outside world, magazines, of course, but, especially himself in the manifestation of his concern and sympathy, to emphasize the spiritual side of life with its strength and hope. The New York quarters for its leper colony are located on North Brother Island in the East River, opposite 140th Street.”

How moving to see photos chronicling the abandonment and decay of a place once so full of life and pathos.

Tom Davis C’70 Carnegie, PA

Product Placement?

It seems as if “Lose your Illusion” [“Expert Opinion,” Sept|Oct] was an “info-mercial.” Although very informative, Ira Weissman’s article/essay was more than a little self-serving.

Similarly, 1965 alums Iris and Howard Burkat wrote a chatty update with the phone and email contacts for their travel company [“Alumni Notes,” Sept|Oct].

Will you monitor this trend and edit out the free ads masquerading as news? Or charge to place a paid ad.

Madeleine McHugh Pierucci W’60 Philadelphia

Pardon Denied for New Construction

New buildings for the campus of the University of Pennsylvania?

No one can expect another Parthenon or even another Pantheon to be built. But why are the new buildings for the most part so mundane, so usual, so run-of-the-mill? Buildings that are not distinctive to the colonial history of Philadelphia and thus could be buildings anywhere in the world!

That photograph in “Pardon Our Appearance” [“Gazetteer,” Sept|Oct] of the buildings in front of the law school where I spent three years in Georgian splendor have no place in a university but rather belong in some corporate park in anywhere United States!

The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, the Neural and Behavioral Science Building, and South Bank featured in Proudly Penn 2014-2015 [a supplement that was mailed with the Sept|Oct issue] could be hotel buildings for all the inattention to what once was academic architecture as found in the older Penn campus.

The new buildings are slick, as if higher education is about slickness. Precise when education is not about precision. Glittery when study is far from glittery. Remote for being cool when study is supposed to be warm and comforting. Brilliantly lit—but the search for truth is often by flickering lamp!

When I think of a university I think of the ancient ones, Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, Bologna, Madrid, Coimbra, among others that center us. Yes, we must advance with the times. That is called progress. But at least in some of the new construction the powers-that-be should offer us something that is traditional university architecture that seems to make time stand still while the students and professors inside reach for the stars.

Historical presence has its place! Not everything can be future oriented! We do need roots!

Stephen Schoeman L’67 Westfield, NJ

Reader Suggestions Are Welcome

Some time ago I wrote to you to suggest that the Gazette do an article on the Penn Farm Project at Bartram’s Garden. I was absolutely delighted to read the excellent article in the Sept|Oct issue [“Gazetteer”], which I feel really captures what the farm is about. These kinds of projects are popping up around the country, and I really wanted Penn alumni, family, faculty, and others to know that Penn is in the forefront of this movement and doing an exceptional job as well.

Thank you so much for following up on the suggestion.

Diane J. Fuchs, parent Philadelphia

Lucky Man

In my eight years as a full-time college student (1961-5, bachelor of arts, Penn; 1965-9, master of science, master of arts, Syracuse) I only had four female teachers: literature professor Mary Marshall at Syracuse, and at Penn chemistry professor Madeleine Jouillé G’50 Gr’53, philosophy professor Elizabeth Flower Gr’39, and a graduate teaching assistant in French named Virginia Anding—Dr. Virginia Anding La Charité Gr’66, whose “Alumni Note” I saw in the Sept|Oct issue.

Reading her catalog of achievements (professor for 30 years, founder of a “journal francais” called French Forum, writer of mystery novels and cookbooks), I was proud of her success. But Gini was more than a talented academic. She was absolutely beautiful, sweet, sympathetic, friendly, and caring. Often I would sit opposite her at Van Pelt Library and neither of us would get any studying done. I had a crush on her, but she had a fiancé, also a grad student in French, to whom she’s been married for 48 years. Raymond La Charité is so lucky.

Rick Rofman C’65 Van Nuys, CA

New Name Needed

Thank you, thank you! Ever since the term Native American arrived on the scene, I have been annoyed about it. Horrendous mistake! Just as bad as the first mistake, calling them Indians. Of course we needed to do something about that term, but this is just as ambiguous and just as erroneous as before! (As Mr. Grosser so bravely points out, they weren’t native, anyway [“Letters,” Sept|Oct].)

When I was in the fourth grade (in 1956!), the class used a history book with a chapter on “The Amerinds,” or “The Amerindian People.” I thought, “Oh, obviously we can’t go on calling them ‘Indians,’ so this is going to be the new term.” And then I never saw it again until maybe five years ago. I’ve seen it maybe five times since. I have read that the term was invented by Western explorer John Powell in 1900. It was a good idea then, and it still is. But we need someone in the right field to lead the way with it. Are you listening, anthropology, archaeology, and history departments?

Russell Hastings C’69 Warren, MI

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