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Previous issue's letters | Jan/Feb Contents | Gazette home



Cover complaints, and more.

 

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS

As a journalist of, perhaps, too many years standing and as an alumnus of two other Ivy League universities that send me their alumni magazines, I should like to congratulate you on the candor and the breadth of your review of the past. Above all, for the straight reporting and the candor, which I have never seen matched.

Robert Elegant C’46
Todi, Perugia
Italy

 

DEFACING BEN

A number of readers didn’t care for the treatment of Penn Founder Benjamin Franklin on our November/December issue cover, and wrote to say so.

It was with raised eyebrow that I looked upon the cover of The Pennsylvania Gazette with its supposedly multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-whatever visage of
Ben Franklin.

It’s too bad you didn’t distribute this issue in time for Halloween: if I’d pasted the cover up in my window, trick-or-treaters would have run screaming from my porch.

Here was a perfect example of a glorious idea gone horribly wrong. You didn’t want to take a current image of Franklin and make him look like a cross-dresser, so instead you pasted together elements of different faces to give him that “multicultural” look. It should have worked.

It didn’t.

Ignoring the basic rules of portraiture, cover artist David Hollenbach has created a sinister patchwork that fails to express the graceful blend of ideas, cultures, and races that the University of Pennsylvania is today. Ben’s “Changing Face” appears as if it’s molting into heaven knows what, and the viewer doesn’t want to stick around to see the final product. (Very likely we’ll see it as a mini-series on the SciFi Channel.) I don’t doubt that this cover has made more than one alumnus wonder what the hell is going on at his alma mater.

As a portraitist, I know that unions of mixed ethnicity can produce some of the most beautiful facial features. Tiger Woods is a very good example of such offspring. Why shouldn’t the union of so many different features and ideas create a more beautiful Franklin and not one whose eyes are too small (even for Asian ones) and whose jawline recedes into nothingness?

If you wanted “changing,” it might have been appropriate to divide your cover into four and express different parts of the change in different Franklins.

Such artwork would have undoubtedly been much less reminiscent of Dermaplast, and would certainly have gotten your point across.

Sophia Kelly Shultz C’84
Pottsville, Pa.

 

Racial and ethnic diversity in the University population is important, but the way you chose to show this on the cover was in poor taste.

Win Hamilton WG’65
Glenview, Ill.

 

“Penn’s Changing Face” is an enigma. In the editor’s column, we’re told that it is the Gazette’s “multi-ethnic, dual-gender version of Founder Ben Franklin” and that it “certainly overshoots the present reality,” and President Rodin is quoted on the University’s history of “more inclusion and greater acceptance of women, of racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities.” However, no clues are provided on how to fathom this inscrutable painting.

The Franklin cover fails to uplift or enlighten, but even more regrettably it mocks Penn’s outstanding founder and, after Washington, the nation’s most important Founding Father.

Cyrus J. Sharer W’44
St. Davids, Pa.

 

Poor Ben Franklin. I really think that you could have done much better to mark “Penn’s Changing Face” than you did on the cover of the last Gazette. It really upset me. I can’t imagine how old Ben would have felt.

Samuel Kissel D’60
New York

 

The November/December magazine cover, “Penn’s Changing Face,” is ugly and disturbing. Is the face of Penn becoming demented-looking, with unfocused eyes and full of blotches? The faces I saw on campus on a splendid fall day were beautiful, clear-eyed, and full of life. They were like the ones you sprinkled throughout the inside pages of the same magazine. Why weren’t they the basis for your cover?

Lauri J. Kurki Jr. Ar’54
Southampton, Pa.

 

Was it necessary to defile Ben Franklin on the cover of the last Gazette? The ghastly image turns my stomach, and approximates a burn victim after a gas attack. I covered it with a piece of paper to make it palatable. Glad I don’t pay for this publication.

Neil J. Gillespie WEv’88
Tampa, Fla.

 

To present Franklin as a nobody is a disservice to Philadelphia and to Penn. Inclusion is one thing and tradition is something else. I predict compliments for that cover will be few.

As I read and reread references to inclusion in this 100th anniversary issue, logic seemed strained to the breaking point. For example, the editor’s column calls it a “curious fact” that new groups who have made the campus community more diverse have simultaneously created their own groups to set themselves apart. Why is that called a curious fact?

I don’t consider myself anti-anything. But my long life experiences have given me my share of wisdom. Consider this while thinking inclusion in the back of your mind:

Take anybody, take yourself for example, and be honest. Once you’ve got life’s learnings behind you, you’ve done what you’ve done and are satisfied with the results, who do you feel the most comfortable with? Visualize the answer.

Think about skin color, body size, language, religion, political leanings, education, or beauty. You feel your best when you’re with someone like yourself. Right? Otherwise life is just a tad more difficult for any of the above reasons. How about reunions to prove the point? You return to see people you’ve been with and alike for years. The above curious fact found newcomers forming small groups of people with common characteristics. Mike Wallace did a segment
recently on 60 Minutes that highlighted successful black people in an Atlanta suburb. Some interviewed had left the area for economic and job reasons, but came back to be with their own kind. I don’t think they should be faulted for this. Let their own ideas and abilities decide where they want to be. I, for one, envied where they were and what they had accomplished.

When you laud inclusion to 125 countries [“‘Their Homes Encircle the Globe’: Penn’s International Students,” November/December], it will certainly not get unanimous support, especially from the Old Guard, who attended classes in Logan Hall in shirt, tie, and jacket and wouldn’t recognize flip flops and strappy sandals if met straight on. There’s nothing particularly wrong with either forms of dress, but I’ll be honest with you, if I’m in a standup party I’ll probably gravitate to the Wharton guy I remember.

And I if were running the admissions office, I’d make a deal with the students from those foreign countries. Get them to take back the word, if they return to their home countries, that we’re really nice people over here and deserve some international love from those students we’re educating.

Ray Petit W’49
Cape May, N.J.

 

DEPRESSING LITANY

The piece on campus diversity [“Safe Places,” November/December] offered a depressing litany of anti-academe as embodied by group-rights activists demanding this or that for women, gays, blacks, or whoever.

By the way, the page 27 photo of Bob Schoenberg over the cutline reference to Penn’s “mind boggling changes in 20 years” almost puts one in mind of the shocked stare produced by prolonged exposure to the horrors of military combat! Small wonder.

Phil Baker W’52
St. Louis

 

Request granted.
Photo by Candace diCarlo.

RETAKE REQUESTED

I enjoyed the article in the Gazette that discussed Bob Schoenberg’s successful and groundbreaking work at Penn. I was, however, dismayed at the photograph that was included in the article. Bob is great-looking, funny, and extremely photogenic, and the photo hardly did him justice. People who know him didn’t recognize him, and it would be great to see a more characteristic and happy (or at least smiling) photo of him in your publication. Thank you for your consideration.

Etienne Phipps Gr’80
Lafayette Hill, Pa.

 

VILE STATEMENTS

I hope you will stop giving page-time to people who advocate genocide, as in the
article, “Evangelically Speaking” [“Notes From the Undergrad,” November/December, which quoted the subject, Brother Stephen, as saying that “all homos should be executed”]. It was distressing to read. I am sure you would have hesitated to include such vile statements, had the interviewee advocated anti-Semitic or white-supremacist genocidal goals. If anything, you should have given equal time to those who advocate the execution of all Christians, should you be able to find any.

Harlan Levinson W’80
Los Angeles

 

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS FOR ALL,
EXCEPT EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS

I have never been motivated to write a letter to the editor before, but your November/December issue really struck a nerve.

The article “Evangelically Speaking,” by Greta Pane C’02, would never have been published if it had been about any other religious or social-activist group. You feel perfectly comfortable printing a one-sided, antagonistic, insulting portrayal of a Christian activist, but I would bet my Penn degree that you would never print anything close to that kind of story about gay-rights activists, abortion crusaders, Zionists, or pagan witches, no matter how obnoxious they may be in the spreading of their message. It seems that political correctness applies to everyone except evangelical Christians on the University campus these days.

While I may not agree with Brother Stephen’s techniques, I can see from the rest of your magazine that the Penn students could use some moralizing. A significant number of the interviews with the new freshmen [“2006: A Penn Odyssey”] referred to the large number of students getting too drunk to function from Thursday to Sunday, blowing off classes, and generally wasting their $30K tuition. Clearly, many are exhibiting what the Bible says they have (sin) and lacking what the Bible says they need (salvation).

Carol L. Nolan GCh’75
Warwick, R.I.

 

UNFORGETTABLE HEADLINE

David Porter C’82, in his article entitled “Miracle on 33rd Street” [“Sports,” November/December] describes the incredible 1982 Penn-Harvard football game, in which Penn, behind 21-20, missed a field goal as time ran out. Fortunately for the Red and Blue, however, a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave Penn a second chance, and that successful effort resulted in bedlam throughout Franklin Field.

As memorable as that moment was, I will never forget the headline in the sports section of The Philadelphia Inquirer the next morning. Taking a page from the famous Yogi Berra quote, it read: “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over … And Even Then It Isn’t Over.”

Edward M. Rose W’60
Chapel Hill, N.C.

 

WONDERFUL MEMORIES, BUT WRONG PHOTO

David Porter’s recollection of the incredible Penn-Harvard game in 1982 brought back a host of wonderful memories. I was the sports editor of the DP that fall and watched with great joy, then horror, then joy during that rollercoaster ride of an afternoon at Franklin Field. After David Shulman’s final kick sailed through the uprights, I jumped for joy—the only time, I swear, that I violated the unwritten rule (or maybe it is written somewhere) of “no cheering in the press box.”

Adding to my glee was winning $60 in the press box “guess the attendance” pool (I came within 200 of the announced crowd of 34,746), which went to good use that night at Smoke’s.

I should point out, however, that the team photo on page 59 was not that of the 1982 Ivy League Champion Quakers. It appears to be a later varsity team (or perhaps the 1982 frosh team). Number 11 in the first row is QB Jim Crocicchia W’86, who led Penn to Ivy titles later in the 1980s. But nonetheless, thanks for the memories.

Bryan Harris C’83
New York

The photo was provided by the athletic department.—Ed.

 

WHAT STEREOTYPE IS THAT?

In the November-December 2002 Issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette, President Rodin is attributed with stating that incoming Executive Vice President Clifford L. Stanley (Major General USMC Ret.) defied the “traditional military stereotype” [“Gazetteer”]. I have served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for 20 years and have personally interacted with hundreds of sailors, Marines, soldiers, and Air Force personnel that make up our culturally diverse armed forces. Among our nation’s warriors, I have consistently encountered the “stereotypical” attributes: honor, courage, and commitment. Certainly, Dr. Rodin was not implying that General Stanley defies these qualities.

Patrick J. Keenan C’82
Panama City, Fla.

The context for the attribution was a discussion, at the press conference announcing General Stanley’s appointment, of his adjustment in moving from the military world—commonly perceived as being one of “spit- and-polish,” strict discipline, and top-down command structure—and into the university environment, which is commonly perceived as, well, not like that.—Ed.

 

BEING A JEW IS A CHOICE

I wonder how Sheldon Waxman or the authority he is citing can assert that a Jew who denies God’s existence “does not cease to be a Jew” [“Letters,” November/December]. The individual determines what he is. A Jew who rejects the god that Jews worship, possibly because he has converted or become an atheist, is rejecting what Waxman refers to as “the essence of Judaism” and is therefore a non-Jew. To insist that a denier “does not cease to be a Jew” insults the individual who made the choice. In effect, Mr. Waxman or his source is denying that the individual even made one.

Don Z. Block Gr’77
Malvern, Pa.

CORRECTION

On page 25 of the November/December issue, the name of Shalini Dev Bhutani GEd’86 Gr’94, director of the international students and scholars program in the Office of International Programs, was misspelled throughout the article, “Their Homes Encircle the Globe,” on Penn’s international students. Our apologies to Dr. Bhutani.


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Copyright 2003 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 01/05/03

 

 

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