Less is More

In the Jul|Aug issue, the article “Getting Engaged” goes on for 12 pages. Three, maximum, would suffice. “Park of a Thousand Pieces” could have been dealt with by the diagrams and a couple of paragraphs.

A suggestion: why not confine articles to a more reasonable length and post the rest on the Internet, where those deeply interested could pursue the subject further and spare the rest of us while saving untold tons of valuable paper?

A final note. The Gazette is intended primarily for alumni. While we alumni are vitally interested in the doings of staff, faculty, and students, there are undoubtedly many interesting stories to be told about alumni, for no other reason than there are so many more of us. The legwork necessary to develop these stories would undoubtedly be greater, but I suspect the effort would be worth it.

Congratulations on a wonderful magazine and keep up the good work.

George M. Fern C’51 Menlo Park, CA

We do publish many articles on alumni, both features and in the “Alumni Profiles” section in each issue—not to mention the fact that most of the students profiled in “Getting Engaged” were seniors and have now joined that august group!—Ed.

Ideas and Energy

I am truly surprised to be sitting here in California emailing my distant alumni magazine. Perhaps, this fact is a product of President Gutmann’s efforts in her article [“From College Hall,” May|Jun]; and indeed, somehow representing the quixotic “public good” generated from her discourse and the surprising surge of replies I read in the Jul|Aug Gazette. Briefly, please allow me to “weigh in” at this late date. 

I found encouraging the passionate thoughts expressed from left and right perspectives. However, certainly there were plenty of examples of toxic opinions, far from the territory of compromise. For me, the most important point made by anyone was the president’s mentioning the constant existence of campaigning. About 10 years ago, by chance I was fortunate enough to cross paths for a couple of days with Granny D., the octogenarian who walked across country for campaign reform. In general, I enjoyed hearing the ideas and energy generated by the Penn community.

Charles Pappas C’69 Berkeley, CA 

Not Bland, At Least

Having attended three universities and taught at several schools and colleges, I see a variety of alumni journals. Most are bland public-relations rags published as an adjunct to the development office with fundraising as their main reason for being. They paint a picture of campus life that borrows from Owen Johnson and Booth Tarkington with a bow in the direction of political correctness and diversity.

How I cherish the Gazette. My interpretation of President Gutmann’s column had more to do with the contrast between governing and campaigning than the specifics of any party’s program. As of this writing, the contest over the debt/deficit problem has become a venue for staking out a position to be used in the 2012 election with short shrift given to finding a solution to the problem. President Gutmann’s point that governing is incompatible with campaigning is well taken.

However, I commend the Gazette for publishing dissenting letters, even if the authors, from my perspective, miss the point.

Fight on, Pennsylvania!

David R. Connor C’60 Washington, NC

Speaking of letters, one in particular—written by Laurie Endicott Thomas C’83 G’85, which we headlined “Column Shows ‘Centrist Bias’—prompted some sharp responses from the right, which follow.—Ed.

Don’t Blame Conservatives

I have read in the media that the right are cannibals, hostage holders, terrorists, starvers of senior citizens, racist, delusional, ignoramuses, destructive, extremists, baby killers. Conservatives were blamed for the Arizona massacre. And yet, Thomas claims that the “ugliness of our political climate is coming almost entirely from the right.” I guess the protests and death threats by the Wisconsin union thugs—and yes, they are thugs—were very pretty to her.

I wish conservatives could only be half as expert, educated, and benighted as she.

Steve Blumberg W’66 L’70 Victoria, BC Canada

Agreed: No Comparison

As Laurie Endicott Thomas’ letter shows, the problem in America’s political discourse is not that liberals and conservatives disagree with each other, or even that they both feel that they’re right and the other side is wrong; it’s that the two camps don’t even comprehend the same reality. The political scene looks so entirely different to me than it apparently does to her that I can scarcely believe we’re looking at the same thing.

And so we have Ms. Thomas complain that the left-leaning news media has become “effectively marginalized,” apparently unaware of such nonentities as CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and nearly every other national news organization save Fox News. She bemoans the influence over textbook content wielded by the “right-wing ideologues” of the Texas State Board of Education, completely overlooking the similar influence held by their leftist counterparts in that big state over on the West Coast. And I certainly wasn’t aware that the right’s “phony-baloney think tanks” have come to “dominate … our national consciousness.” (I imagine they would be pleased to find this out!)

But what really takes the cake is Thomas’ assertion that a comparison between the Madison protests and the Tea Party rallies proves that the supposedly “obnoxious” right is the more “ridiculous” side. Oh, really? Here’s how I see it: on the one hand, we have a group of loud, angry, spoiled, entitlement-mentality-addled protesters who, when the decisions of their democratically elected leaders didn’t go their way, sought to bring the government to a halt by occupying their state’s Capitol and issuing threats against those with whom they disagreed—a response nothing short of totalitarian. On the other hand, we have a polite, respectful group who is doing nothing more fearsome than peacefully petitioning our government to live within its means and adhere to the Constitution as written. Simply put, there is absolutely no comparison whatsoever.

It certainly doesn’t help the cause of civil dialogue that some on the left (typified by the words and the tone of Thomas’ letter) believe themselves to be greatly superior to those of us on the right. To be sure, given that she sees us as “the plutocrats and the theocrats and the racists and the misogynists,” I can certainly understand why she’d be less than eager to find common ground. 

Her solution is to have “genuine experts … get off their butts and involved in the movement to reform our media and educate our benighted people.” To which I can only say, as respectfully as possible: no, thank you. I would prefer to remain “benighted” rather than be “educated” by someone who holds me in such utter contempt. Indeed, to paraphrase the late William F. Buckley, I would rather be led by the first 500 names in any Red State phone book than by the likes of her.

Glenn Hoge W’88 Ellicott City, MD

The Mark in the Mirror

The comments by Ms. Thomas that “Many Americans are shockingly ignorant of important facts…” and “they don’t know how to hold a serious conversation about anything important. They become easy marks for propagandists” are alarmingly true. Her letter itself is a wonderful example.

William R. Greene WG’68 Milton, WI

I Am Sorry (Not)

I thought we just disagreed about the best policies to achieve a bright future for our country. Now I understand that “obnoxious,” “benighted” people like me are responsible for “ugliness.” I am sorry. I will try to change. Can you afford Thomas a larger future forum so that I may be more fully instructed in the ways of civility?

Dan Fox WG’82 Chagrin Falls, OH

One Man’s Utopia is Another’s Gulag

While I’d agree American public education leaves something to be desired, I question whether Thomas really thinks Americans are too easy to propagandize or too hard. After all, one man’s socially just Utopia may look very much like another’s Soviet-style gulag-state; rather than being inadequately educated, it might just be that Americans understand the progressives’ vision for their country quite clearly and think the one touted by the likes of Rush Limbaugh is better aligned with their God-given right to pursue a happy life. One thing’s for sure: those hoping the Tea Partiers are going to disappear any time soon are bound to be disappointed. As I write on the Fourth of July, I’m reminded that we live in a nation founded on the radical notion that average men should be free to manage their own affairs—a cause many Americans consider as worth supporting in the Era of Experts as it was in the Age of Kings.

Catherine Ross Wajda C’87 Schenectady, NY

Repair Our Morality

I offer the following “serious conversation about something important” to Laurie Endicott Thomas’ observations.

I read her letter to the editor and was disappointed that a person with her academic pedigree could not address the current state of our society with objectivity. The under-educated or mal-educated population she refers to has made considerable contributions in the arts, science, business, and, yes, to the written word during her lifetime.

If it disturbs her to see a hard side of political discourse in this country at present she should acknowledge that the cures that were put before us in 1932 have not had a sterling performance to say the least. One glaring example is the securities acts of 1932 and 1933, followed by Bernie Madoff and the wild speculation undertaken by banking leaders—many of whom got their grammar-polishing and higher education at Ivy League universities.

Yes, the political left and right are angry—and for good cause. Things are a mess, and it is not due to lack of education.

The masses in this country are dominated by a majority of well-educated homo sapiens. It is time for us to repair our morality.

Walter L. Zweifler W’54 South Orange, NJ

Forceful Critique, Not Class Warfare

In the Jul|Aug issue Letters,” Leonard M. Guss characterizes my letter in the May|Jun Gazette as “spews of hatred and class warfare,” “embarrassing” to “President Gutmann with her obviously unrealistic call for civil discourse” and a demonstration of the Gazette’s inability to “practice what she preaches.”

My letter—a condemnation of right-wing and Republican economic policies, including their efforts to ruthlessly crush labor unions and shred the social safety net, while fiercely defending corporate welfare and high-end tax loopholes—may have been strongly worded, but it was hardly spewing with hatred. It was, rather, an insistence on accountability and responsibility for American conservatism’s reckless, irresponsible, unjust, and counterproductive set of ideas and policies that privilege the interests of the super-rich while dismissing the needs and struggles of the middle class and working poor.

Those who label a principled and forceful critique of the right’s callous and regressive economic agenda as “class warfare” and “spews of hatred” and suggest it is unsuitable for publication in the Gazette are not engaging in a serious debate of substance—they are shutting it down.

While Guss included some legitimate disagreements with portions of my letter, he dedicated most of his letter to attacking me personally—“we all know that people like Hinkle exist” (??)—and questioning my right to be published in the Gazette. He failed, however, to respond to or address the main premise of my letter: the Republican Party’s determined efforts to transfer our nation’s wealth to the super-rich, and keep it there, are decimating America’s middle class, impoverishing our working class, and condemning our future.

Ricardo Ashbridge Hinkle C’86 EAS’86 New York

A Mystery

After a long career in journalism, I find the present-day Gazette’s graphic presentation outstanding and its editing generally first rate, but not captioning photos is an egregious mistake for any periodical, and for an alumni publication to show grads, undergrads, faculty, and guests without identifying them is simply incomprehensible. What can you possibly be thinking?

Bradley Hitchings WG’60 Rye, NY

Our rationale for not captioning photos in stories such as the ones on Alumni Weekend and Commencement in the Jul|Aug issue (or Homecoming, usually covered in Jan|Feb) is that our main purpose is to give a flavor of the overall event, rather than single out particular people. This is not to say that individuals don’t matter; only that, in this particular context, the significant thing is where they are (that is, on campus, participating in one of Penn’s signature annual celebrations), not who they are. Other photos do include identifications or other captions, except where the subject seems very clear from other information on the page.—Ed.

Give Credit Where Due

Trying to relax in the hot, hot, hot, weather, and the article, “Artist with a Syringe,” about Eric Finzi [“Arts,” Jul|Aug] caught my attention. The image of the couple at a bar on page 67, with a man who is peering over the booth, and her reflection in the mirror, reminded me of a very famous photograph that I saw years ago by Brassai. I looked it up on Google images, and lo and behold, the color graphic in the Gazette was practically identical to the black and white photo from 1932. Somebody was not honest—either the author of the article, or the artist. For sure, credit should have been given to the long-ago photographer.

Edgar P. Davis C’49 Bala Cynwyd, PA

Perhaps we should have cited the specific Brassai photograph referenced in Finzi’s artwork, but the article did note that the artist sometimes employs his distinctive technique of epoxy resin in “‘copying’ well-known works of art.”—Ed.

Weekend Getaway

Outsourcing National Security” [“Gazetteer,” Jul|Aug] reminded me of the trip I made through Reagan National Airport in June. While waiting in the security lines to get to the departure gates, I overheard a woman say, “It’s Thursday afternoon, and they only have two lines running,” referring to the X-ray machines and metal detectors. When I asked why additional capacity was needed on Thursday afternoon, she said, “That’s when the contractors go home.”

That comment seems to say it all.

David B. FitzGerald WG’80 Gainesville, FL 

Keep the Name

I read with anguish your article on the new name of the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania [“Gazetteer,” Jul|Aug]. As a graduate of the College (1949) and the School of Medicine (1953), I have been very grateful to the University for the education and monetary help it provided me—which I have replaced 50-fold with contributions. I can no longer contribute to the University of Pennsylvania or the Perelman School of Medicine, realizing my contribution is minimal compared to the Perelmans, as are my finances.

I think it is wonderful that the Perelmans are philanthropists and have ample funds to draw on to help the School of Medicine, but true philanthropists do not have to have their name applied to the school. I think it is gross to change the name of this medical school, which has for years been prestigious as the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania.

Richard P. Gotchel C’49 M’53 Woodbury, NJ

Shared Passion

Your article, “Passion Play” [Mar|Apr] on Marty Seligman’s bridge prowess brought back a flood of memories from my years at Penn, when playing bridge in Houston Hall was very popular. Unfortunately, some students knocked themselves out of school by developing such a passion for the game that they played right through classes. The back room in Houston Hall where bridge was played initially barred women when I arrived in 1958, but that barrier was broken down shortly thereafter by members of our class.

I was a member of the bridge club, and the first (I believe) bridge team. I recall traipsing over to Princeton for a match (perhaps Marty was there then).

One of our bridge group was Mark Blumenthal, who in 1973 became a member of the Dallas Aces, representing the US in the Bridge World Championships.

Mark Ominsky C’62 Indian Land, SC

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