Color-contradictions, clarity on Iraq?
Color Blindness Ensures Opportunity For Best and Brightest
President Amy Gutmann’s enthusiasm and her administrative experience appear to bode well for Penn [“Learning and Leading,” September/October]. However, I was taken aback by the contradictions in the quotations from her writings in the article. On one hand, she notes that a principle of democracy is “basic opportunity—the capacity of individuals to live a decent life with a fair chance to choose among their preferred ways of life.” On the other hand, in apparent defense of Affirmative Action, she observes that “Fairness is a fundamental principle of justice and … it is a principle that does not always call for color blindness, at least not with regard to employment, university admissions, or electoral redistricting in our nonideal society. To respond to racial injustice with a color conscious principle or policy is therefore not to commit any wrong at all, provided the principle or policy is consistent with fairness.”
This is academic-speak that denies reality in our nonideal world. Fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is inherently unfair for a well-qualified student to be denied admission because someone else of lesser or even equal qualifications was accepted because of his or her color. The absence of color blindness may create more social problems than it resolves. Color blindness will ensure that the best and brightest will be given the opportunity to develop and make their contribution to the goal of improving our lives, our society, and, indeed, our world.
Jay Shapiro C’57 G’61 Karnei Shomron, Israel
Reject Penn’s PC Label
The inference that my rhetorical question [“Does the choice of a second consecutive female to be Penn’s president endanger the legitimate interests and aspirations of male students and male professors?” in “Letters,” July/August] meant I wanted to bar capable women from positions because of gender is utterly ridiculous. After all, I encouraged my daughter to attend and sail through MIT (after declining her acceptance at Penn and four other schools), and then get her M.D. from Stanford Medical School.
Amy Gutmann’s statement, quoted with disapproval by Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington in his book Who Are We? “that teaching students that they are ‘above all, citizens of the United States’ is repugnant,” is simply wrong. However, I agree with Gutmann that our moral allegiance should be to justice, to doing what is right—as long as students are not taught to dismiss American patriotism.
While most Penn departments are superb, especially all the sciences, Penn has a bad record of enforcing political correctness. This has been criticized in these pages by many alumni. I hope that President Gutmann will reject Penn’s PC label, by inviting speakers from both Republican and Democratic persuasions. Actually, I am quite optimistic from your article, “Learning and Leading,” that she will do this—perhaps by creating, as she did at Princeton, a Penn University Center for Human Values with programs in ethics, public affairs, and political philosophy.
Hearing speakers from both sides of current issues—such as a debate on “Is Affirmative Action (that is, racial preferences) really beneficial and constitutional?”—will stimulate students. President Gutmann must be prepared to insist on proper order, even if radicals try to shout down some speakers. To insist on free speech in Philadelphia, where our founders wrestled with innumerable problems, is extremely worthy, responsible, and necessary.
Howard Greyber Gr’53 San Jose, Ca
O’Leary is Right on Iraq
Brendan O’Leary’s “Hard Questions, Uneasy Answers” [September/October] got Iraq exactly right. Iraq is an artificial state created arbitrarily during the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after World War I (see David Fromkin’s superb book, A Peace To End All Peace). The Ottomans had the sense to minimize intergroup hostility in their very diverse dominions by allowing each group (millet) to run its own affairs, provided taxes and manpower were paid to the central authority. A federated Iraq corresponding to the three Ottoman provinces—Kurd, Sunni, and Shi’a—with substantial ethnic/religious autonomy could work. It is difficult to envision anything else that could, short of the kind of brutal dictatorship we are so proud of having just dislodged. If the neocon ideologues responsible for this mess actually knew anything about Iraq, they would have opted for such a solution from the get-go.
Arthur M. Shapiro C’66 David, Ca
A Must Read
“Hard Questions, Uneasy Answers” is the first rational analysis of the Iraq War I have read and is a must read. Hooray for Brendan O’Leary’s objectivity and thoughtful candor. Wish I were back in school taking a course from him.
Richard Berkowitz W’54 Savannah, Ga
Graduate students wanting to unionize [“Gazetteer,” September/October]! I can’t believe students are still trying and that they believe they should be allowed to unionize. This issue takes me back to the fall of 1962. I had just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and was in my internship year at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. A group of physicians from New York were trying to unionize medical staffs. The CEO of the hospital, Mr. Frank Wilson, dealt with this by calling each of us individually into his office. His statement was simple. We had been invited there to continue our learning and if we were unhappy and demonstrated this by attending the unionization meeting, we could go elsewhere. That was the end of the issue.
Fast forward to the winter of 1968. I was treasurer of the house staff at Cincinnati General Hospital when another group from the East was again talking unionization. An emergency meeting of the house staff officers was called to discuss this issue. Been there, done that, and voted against it. Now, I would do as Frank Wilson did: tell the students to go elsewhere if they are unhappy.
David Apple M’62 Atlanta
Marvelous Article, But Wrong Marshall
Thank you for the marvelous article done on my master’s thesis at Penn in 1963 [“Alumni Profiles,” September/October]. Sam Hughes did a beautiful job of making sense out all the disparate details in the long and complicated story of Prince Edward County Virginia’s five-year long public school closing.
However, there is one small correction which I think ought to be made. The article reports that among those requesting copies of my thesis in 1963 was Judge Thurgood Marshall. To my knowledge, Thurgood Marshall never asked for any copies, but I did learn of a letter at the Kennedy Library at Harvard which indicated that Burke Marshall, Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s Deputy for Civil Rights, did order several copies.
I much enjoy the Gazette. Thanks for all your and your staff’s good work on it.
Edward H Peeples, G’63 Richmond, Va
L.A.’s Lost Teams, Too
If Don Z. Block Gr’78 is so upset about Walter O’Malley moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles [“Letters,” September/October], he can take comfort in the fact that Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country—larger, even, than the Borough of Brooklyn—has not had a major-league football franchise for several years. The Raiders returned to Oakland (home of the former Philadelphia A’s) and the Rams now play near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Richard Rofman C’65 Van Nuys, Ca.
In the September/October “Gazetteer” article “News to Chew On: Weaker Jaws, Bigger Brains?” we incorrectly identified Dr. Nancy Minugh-Purvis as a craniofacial surgeon. She is a craniofacial biologist.