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Too Politically Correct

I read the article on the Native American Voices exhibit at the Penn Museum [“Know That We Are Still Here,” July|Aug]. I am somewhat puzzled by the use of the term Native American.

I live in Palm Desert, California. Much of the land in the Coachella Valley is owned by several Indian tribes and many homes and golf courses are on long-term land leases. Almost every day I drive by the offices of the “Agua Caliente Band of Indians.” I have asked many tribal members what they preferred to be called and without exception they said that they were Indians and should be referred to as such. They are very active in the community and are very philanthropic. The same applies to the Morongos and some smaller tribes. If an Indian tells me to call him or her an Indian, that is what I will do. I think that we are being too politically correct.

In any case, they are also immigrants to North and South America as much as we all are. The only continent to validly claim to have a “Native” population is Africa. The rest of us, all of us, are descendants of 100 or so people that moved out of Africa 45,000 years ago or so.

Richard C. Grosser W’60 Palm Desert, CA

Yield Is What Counts

Admissions Dean Eric Furda’s explanation of Early Decision is good as far as it goes [“Five I’s, Four C’s, and the Right Road to College,” July|Aug]. But he omits crucial information about selectivity and yield. Although the two terms are related, there is a distinct difference. Selectivity measures how often a school rejects students. Yield measures how often students accept a school—if they’re admitted.

Like all schools, Penn loves Early Decision because it simultaneously improves both metrics. But it’s the yield that is most important. No school wants to offer admission to a student but be turned down. Early Decision avoids that possibility because students are committed to attend once accepted.

Willis Stetson GEd’71, who was dean of admissions from 1978 until 2007, used Early Decision to help Penn climb the ladder in the rankings. In 1983, when U.S. News and World Report published its first list of top schools, Penn was not ranked. In 2000, Penn was tied with Stanford for No. 6, which put it ahead of Dartmouth, Columbia, Cornell, and Brown in the Ivy League.

These are facts that parents and students need to know in this ultra-competitive world of college admissions.

Walt Gardner C’57 Los Angeles

As was noted in the article, Penn’s yield rate of about 65 percent has remained stable over the last decade, while its overall selectivity has gone from accepting just under 21 percent of applicants for the Class of 2009 to about 10 percent last year for the Class of 2018. With regard to their relative importance, while institutions may value a high yield rate, what matters most to students and their families is having the option of attending the school of their choice—that is, getting in—and not how many of their fellow acceptees will end up choosing a different college or university.

Penn has never made a secret of its position on Early Decision. Back in 2006, in the midst of a flurry of announcements from schools abolishing their early-admissions programs—since mostly restored, incidentally—the University released a statement that read in part: “We like admitting students who select Penn as their first choice. Our student body is very happy to be here and it makes for a better student experience.”—Ed.


Too Much Talk

Your article on admissions is a lot of verbiage.

Ben Franklin wanted to prepare students for both an intellectual world and a practical world. This much verbiage is not compatible with either. Usually, a person churning this amount of verbiage just impresses himself.

And, with all the rigmarole, Penn admits too many who should not be there at all. One only has to read The Daily Pennsylvanian to see that.

I just hope that things are not this way at the Penn graduate schools and the professional schools.

Supat Jumbala ChE’80 Bangkok

Getting Beyond He and She

English is pretty much a genderless language, but still is not for first-person singular or, in other words, individual persons. One solution to the problem of ascribing gender through choice of pronoun is to use they, them and their as was done in the article on admissions.

Another solution is to copy the Uralic languages—which include Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian, among others, spoken by about 25 million people—and use one word for he and she. Personally, I like the word it. I even use it when referring to the Deity. That way people do not think I am calling it either male or female, just a little bit eccentric.

Daniel Nussbaum II C’63 Rochester, New York

On Paternalism

I have a few remarks regarding Dr. Barron Lerner’s essay, “On Doctoring” [“Alumni Voices,” July|Aug]. I agree entirely with the concluding sentiment of his timely essay (“Doctors should get to know their patients as people … To do anything less is an abrogation of duty”), and I learned that when I graduated from what I consider to be the world’s finest school of medicine.

But I find the author’s treatment of medical paternalism rather ambivalent, as is the subject itself. My father, like Dr. Lerner’s, was a physician. He was a small-town surgeon who chose that place to practice because he thought that “the poorest county in the state might need a good doctor.” I spent hours waiting in his old Dodge coupe while he made house calls. There was immunization for only one infectious disease (smallpox) and no antibiotics were available for the treatment of infections. Aspirin and kindness and paternalism were the main treatment for medical illnesses.

I once asked my dad how doctors made money. “Stannie,” he said, “if you take good care of patients, they will take care of you.” I have not had special training in the field of medical ethics. But in more than 50 years of practice, I have treated US Army and VA patients, patients in several university hospitals and in a large charity hospital, taught clinical medicine in a school of medicine, and practiced in a large multi-specialty private clinic. I have interviewed young doctors for clinical positions and have been astonished by those whose main interest seemed to lie with income, call responsibility, vacation, and personal issues. I did not recommend these otherwise competent physicians.

Returning to the matter of paternalism, I admit that I have a paternalistic auto mechanic, tax attorney-accountant, and investment manager. A paternalistic physician manages the myasthenia gravis that I developed a couple of years ago. Patients deserve a confident, knowledgeable physician who is also kind and compassionate and, perhaps occasionally, even a bit paternalistic.

Stanton P. Fischer M’56 Houston

Musical Memories

I particularly enjoyed the article, “It’s About the Music,” by Diana Burgwyn [“Arts,” July|Aug]. I grew up in Brattleboro, Vermont, and my father was comptroller at Marlboro College and for the Marlboro Music School and Festival in the summers. Every weekend, we would go to the concerts. Also, my father was able to bring my sister and me to spend one day of our summer vacation at the college. I remember being surrounded by beautiful music all day long. I also remember seeing Pablo Casals perform at one of the concerts.

I would like to add further to the history of the Marlboro Music School and Festival. It was founded by Rudolf Serkin, but also by Blanche Moyse, her husband Louis, and Louis’s father, Marcel, and by Adolf and Hermann Busch. Blanche also began the music department at Marlboro College, and headed it for 25 years.

Also, Frank Salomon has been a co-administrator of the Marlboro Music Festival for 50 years along with Anthony Checchia. He has also guided the Musicians from Marlboro national touring program since its inception in 1965-6.

Thanks for taking me down memory lane of so long ago.

Rita A. Burrell, parent Southington, CT

Snail Mail by Mule

The post office referenced in “Postlandia” [“Elsewhere,” July|Aug] as being on the floor of the Grand Canyon is actually in the Havasu Canyon, which is outside both the boundary and jurisdiction of the Grand Canyon National Park. The Havasupai (the People of the Turquoise Waters) govern the village and life there.

Of more interest is the method of transport used to bring mail eight miles into and out of the Havasu Canyon: mule train twice a week. At least that was the case when I backpacked into the canyon in 1992.

Wanda A. Davenport CW’67 Ridgewood, NJ

Defining Extremism’s Forms

I hope Henry Sweetbaum’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, described in “Radical Threats, Studied Solutions” [“Alumni Profiles,” July|Aug] contributes to peace studies and rehabilitation. The terminology presents a problem, in my opinion. Terms such as extremism, radicalism, or terrorism have meaning only if they apply to both sides in a dispute when aggression is an issue.

The Israeli writer Amos Oz, in How to Cure a Fanatic, takes a singularly sensible approach to this, by simply avoiding us versus them judgments, when they are inauthentic in regard to facts showing both sides have been equally guilty.

The following are all examples of “extremism in all its forms,” which the article quotes Sweetbaum as saying the center is mandated to examine: suicide bombing; targeted drone assassinations and their “collateral damage”; missile attacks on cities; “shock and awe” (thus starting a war before the casus belli has been proved); ambushing of public transportation; force feeding of hunger strikers by restraint and tube-feeding; public stoning of dissidents; declaring an area a war zone and treating citizens therein as enemy combatants if they do not vacate on command; kidnapping rival soldiers; water-boarding and the other forms of torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Jay A. Gertzman Ed’61 Gr’72 Edgewater, NJ

Football’s Future

I was impressed by Lawler Kang’s “Advice for the New AD: Cut Football” [“Letters,” July|Aug.] While I agree with his suggestion, I believe it will not happen. I do believe football will atrophy dramatically over the next 20 years as parents realize the deleterious effects of football and forbid their boys from playing.

Paul W. Zerbst W’65 WG’66 Teaneck, NJ


Due to a bit of clumsy cutting-and-pasting in the editing process, we referred to Penn’s former athletic director Steve Bilsky W’71 as Dave in the July|Aug “Letters.” Our apologies to Mr. Bilsky—who, correctly named, also features prominently in this issue’s cover story—and to the letter-writer, Lawler Kang WG’96, for introducing the mistake into his text.

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