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Advice for the Phils, wrong turn in the Crimea.

As a Penn alumnus and a long-time Phillies fan, I enjoyed reading the recent article on Dave Montgomery [“Squeeze Play,” July/Aug]. In general, I agree that Montgomery’s strategy of building a young nucleus of talent is far more likely to yield success than a few free-agent signings. However, the model for franchise success seems to be the likes of the Yankees, Indians and Atlanta Braves, who have combined both approaches to become contenders year after year. Living in Baltimore, I can readily attest to the fact that spending $80 million on player salaries will not guarantee success. However, the converse is not true: not spending money is not a realistic way to contend. The problem is, consistently spending $30 million will assure a team of mediocre status–they may win one year by good fortune or chance, but, by and large, they will have a lot of .500 seasons.
    We can only hope that a new stadium will generate enough revenue to make the Phils’ brass a little more daring when it comes to adding additional players, as well as being competitive when their own home-grown talent hits the free-agent market. Otherwise, players like Rolen, Abreu and Mike Lieberthal will seek greener pastures, and we will become the equivalent of Montreal and Pittsburgh–glorified AAA teams who periodically send their talent off to the powerhouses of baseball. 

Alex Hoffman

In “Ranking Cars and Colleges” [“Alumni Voices,” July/Aug], Mark J. Drozdowski makes the same mistake as many others, including university administrators: viewing students as consumers. The mistake lies in that–at least according to my observations–students are not consumers but fall into two categories. In the first category, K-12, students represent raw material, so to speak. During that period, basic skills useful, or necessary, in contemporary society are inculcated. In the second category, post-secondary education, students represent investors investing in their future–an investment that goes beyond the basic skills, skills which are nevertheless needed in order to benefit fully from the investment.

Leon W. Zelby
EE’56 Gr’61
Norman, Okla.

In the article “Fathoming the Mysteries of the Black Sea” [“Gazetteer,” July/Aug], the author misidentified the famous archaeological site Khersonesos (in the Sevastopol city area) as “what is now Russia.” Sorry, wrong country. Currently called Khersones, it is situated in the Crimean peninsula, which is part of Ukraine. Check your maps! 

Larissa Onyshkevych
Lawrenceville, N.J.

As someone who was born and grew up on the shores of the Black Sea, I was excited when I saw the article about Professor Fredrik Hiebert’s archaeological project in this area. After all, my first visits to the ruins of the ancient Greek cities of Tira and Khersonesos produced some of the most powerful memories of my childhood. All the greater was my dismay when I found that the article contained virtually no factual information about the project, but in the process supplied the reader with erroneous (and, to some, offensive) statements concerning the present-day situation of the Black Sea region.
    The article refers to the Greek city of Khersonesos as being situated in “what is now Russia,” while it is located in Ukraine, and also refers to the Russian-Ukrainian dispute over the fate of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet as something that made it “look it was going to be World War III in the Black Sea.” Since gaining its independence in 1991, Ukraine certainly has had more than a fair share of problems, but one of its greatest achievements is that, in contrast to Russia and some other states of the region, it managed to avoid violent clashes and tensions, even though the Crimean peninsula, where Khersonesos is located, is unfortunately a volatile region due to its tragic 20th-century history.
    Yes, archaeologists by definition deal with the distant past, but this does not excuse them from making major errors in dealing with the present. No wonder Professor Hiebert’s efforts to start excavations on the “Russian” side failed: I would not be surprised if all this time he was contacting Russian officials for permission to do research in Ukraine, which makes about as much sense as asking the French government to allow a dig in Sicily. 

Vitaly Chernetsky
G’93 Gr’96
New York 

Senior editor Samuel Hughes, who wrote the article, responds: The geographical error was mine, based on my misunderstanding of a remark by Professor Hiebert. No affronts to the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine were intended by either of us.

In the Final Report of the Working Group on Alcohol Abuse that accompanies the “From College Hall” column in the July/August issue of the Gazette, the section headed minimizing risk leaves the following questions: What constitutes “registered undergrad events”? Are fraternities included? What constitutes a “third-party vendor event?” How will the age requirement for beer purchase be enforced?
    Many anxious parents of candidates for admission to the University will want these answers, please. 

Robert C. Bechler
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

My wife and I have been very active in an organization (Community Action on Substance Abuse) concerned with prevention of substance abuse of any kind, including alcohol, by the students of Ann Arbor public schools. Our history, activities and a directory (put together by one of our members) of organizations which can provide help for problems of substance abuse can be found in our Web site:
    President Rodin’s article, “Culture Change Needed on Alcohol” in the Gazette pertains equally at the high-school level and perhaps also at the middle-school level. The Final Report of the Working Group on Alcohol Abuse has many points which could well be the basis for recommendations to the local school board. 

Dr Melvyn I. Gluckman
Mrs. Muriel S. Gluckman
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Thanks to Andrew Bender for the article on Nora Magid [“Alumni Voices,” May/June]. Nora was also my mentor. In the fall of 1976, in my senior year, Nora changed my life when she wrote on my first paper, “Ms. Arond, where have you been all my life?” From that moment on, classes with Nora, who not only appreciated good writing but thoroughly enjoyed stimulating, provoking, encouraging and engaging her students, became the high point of my Penn experience.
    Nora and I kept in touch, until her untimely death in 1991. She was an enthusiastic sounding board as I developed my career and she made sure to keep me updated about the accomplishments of my peers. She often asked me to meet with students of hers who were interested in entering the field of journalism, and I was happy to do so. Over the years, I’ve met many Nora-ites and there’s always a bond between us. After all, we all had good professors at Penn but no one was like Nora. She truly cared what happened to you once you were graduated and helped to make it happen. She gave me the confidence to pursue my career in journalism and for that I will always be grateful.

Miriam Arond
Pleasantville, N.Y.

I loved Andrew Bender’s recent tribute to Nora Magid. Though I thoroughly enjoyed classes in my major, American civilization, it is Nora Magid’s expository-writing class that I recall most vividly from my days at Penn. Through her class and the encouraging comments on my assignments, I was imbued with a sense of self-discovery and self-worth. I was very easily intimidated by professors and by the institution during my first years at Penn, yet Nora was never intimidating. She became my friend.
    I became a Nora groupie and frequently trudged up the stairs to her third-floor Bennett Hall office for a quick chat, a critique of some recent Polaroid snapshot, some gossip–a Nora “fix.” I was always amused by her collection of tchocthkes, which included porcelain kitties and hippos, tacky souvenirs and ashtrays full of Dunhill butts.
    After my graduation from Penn in 1980, my relationship with Nora was enhanced through a lively correspondence. Some 40 of her letters and cards passed through the U.S. and Canadian mails. Those missives took on a life of their own. Nora’s “stream of consciousness” letters frequently began mid-sentence and related stories about bureaucratic red-tape at banks, institutions and Penn, crime in West Philadelphia, weddings and funerals of former students, characters in her classes, former students now journalistic luminaries, food and restaurants, cooking and baking bread on the floor of her home, travels to New York, Tampa and her native Montreal. Nora loved hippos and flowers and “Pussy Mewkins” and children and big dogs and New York and ice-skating and Thai food and photography and bakeries and cold weather. Most of all, she loved her students and she was not afraid to reveal it.

Janie Weiner Libanoff
C’80 Gr’80
Cooper City, Fla.

I am continually amazed at the postmortem outpouring of praise for Nora Magid. Perhaps no one remembers the class I took: demoralized students in tears in the hallway; narrow scholars encouraged to harp on subject matter rather than style; and a frazzled, lipstick-impaired teacher, obsessed with magazine scent-strips and subscription cards.
    I was lucky. In the first assignment, I correctly used with hopein place of the common hopefully and won her attention and affection for the semester. The eccentricity inspired me; I still write. But I always wonder about those who do not. 

Meira F. Zucker
Sylvania, Ohio

Thank you for your wonderful article on “The Children’s Crusaders” [May/June]. The piece was the best I have seen on the subject. It is refreshing to see that experts are finally realizing that the best interests of children are not always served by the immediate return to unstable and oftentimes dangerous homes. I hope the country and the great minds at work on this matter will continue the discussion so that we can have a new era of child-welfare reform that works for our precious little ones. 

Evangelia Biddy
Jersey City, N.J.

In her response to “Travels with Tarzan,” Elise Auerbach makes sweeping generalizations characteristic of animal lovers who have no experience training, caring for, exhibiting or competing with animals [“Letters,” July/ Aug]. Although I have not worked with elephants or lions, I have raised, trained and exhibited horses most of my life. Horses are a major investment, whether they are used for competition or recreation, so humane transportation, careful feeding, watering and housing, plus excellent veterinary care are economic necessities. If circus animals were handled as irresponsibly as Ms. Auerbach envisions, they would not be able to perform at all, and most circuses would quickly be out of business.
    Anyone who has ever tried to force a 1,000-pound horse to do something it does not want to do knows that the end result is, at best, an impasse; in the worst case, the outcome is a fight resulting in injury to horse, trainer or both. Training requires patience, understanding of animal psychology and mutual respect, not cruelty. Although there are trainers who use crude (and sometimes, outright cruel) methods to achieve quick results, they produce animals that perform without spirit or are so stressed that they eventually refuse to perform at all.
    I find it hard to imagine that any animal, let alone one as big and intelligent as an elephant, could be trained to perform by “beatings and jabbing with meathooks.” Circuses and rodeos come under the close scrutiny of humane organizations. Ms. Auerbach might be surprised at the extent of the oversight to protect animal performers.
    I wonder how Ms. Auerbach knows that the circus animals “lead sad, lonely lives and die prematurely.” Such statements need to be backed up with data, not sentiment. Contrary to what she appears to believe, performing animals can and do enjoy their work, just as my dog Bonnie enjoys retrieving her Frisbee. In fact, Bonnie initiated the game, and it often seems as if I’m being exploited to provide her with cheap thrills. 

Judith Miller Feller
Saylorsbury, Pa.

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