Previous issue's letters | May/June
Contents | Gazette home
over Jerusalem panel,
answering Accurso, and more.
unusually large volume of mail about the March/April issue, and the bulk
of it was on two subjects.
number of readers wrote in to protest what they regarded as inaccuracies
and an overall anti-Israel bias in the panel discussion on Jerusalem at
the Merriam Symposium on ethnopolitical conflict held on campus in November,
which was the subject of last issues cover story, Blood
Feuds. Several writers also felt that the Gazette erred in
its reporting of the panel, primarily by not disputing statements made
by the panelists.
item that prompted multiple letters was itself a letter,
written by Kathleen Accurso C90, in which she described as a disgrace
the Universitys decision to accept a $2-million gift toward renovating
the Carriage House as a new home for Penns Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender
(LGBT) Center. Here, too, the magazines actionthe decision to publish
the letterwas questioned.
On the first
issue, our senior editor, Samuel Hughes, who wrote the symposium story,
offers a response below. As to the second, in my judgment, its generally
better for opinions to be heard than not. Alumni do have a right to disagree
with University decisions, and to respond to material they read in the
Gazette. Some writers saw the letter as a personal attack on the
donors, which would at the very least complicate the question, but that
was not my interpretation, and I dont believe it to be a necessary one.
All that said,
please read on. And I know youll let us know what you think.Ed.
SYMPOSIUM PANEL ON
JERUSALEM, AND REPORTING OF IT,
BY BIAS AND INACCURACIES
section on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in your article on the Merriam
Symposium on Ethnopolitical Conflict [Blood
Feuds, March/April] was particularly disturbing to me. Right at the
beginning of the section, Mr. Hughes states: The panel examining the
current strife had a somewhat Israel-centric focus, not because the two
speakers were overly supportive of the 52-year-old nation-state but because,
in their opinion, only Israel could make certain changes needed for peace.
How about even a tiny squeak in support of Israels right to exist? Certainly
not from the Palestine National Councils Muhammad Hallaj. Among other
lies and distortions, he maintains that he was born in Palestine and
Jerusalem was our capital city. I dont know where or when he was born,
but there was never a country called Palestine, and Jerusalem was never
the capital of any independent country since the last time it was the
capital of the Jews in the year 70 of the Common Era.
Then you have
the other side, in the person of Dr. Ian Lustick, a professor of political
science at the University. His largest absurdity is his statement that
most Zionist leaders of the 1920s and 1930s didnt want Jerusalem to be
the capital of the Jewish state. Sources, please! Other than the discredited
idea of creating a Jewish state in Uganda, no other place in Eretz Yisrael
was ever considered as a capital for the Jews. As can be readily ascertained
from a look at any Jewish prayer book, and in the writings of the Jewish
prophets, Jerusalem is the city yearned for by Jews in widely scattered
places all over the globe for 2000 years. You wont find a single mention
of Jerusalem anywhere in the Koran or Islamic prayers.
Then you have
Dr. Joseph Montville [director of the Preventative Diplomacy Program at
the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington] adding
his two cents that Israel is a product of the Jewish experience in Christian
Europe, with the articles author incorrectly stating that this point
is seldom made in discussions of the regions problems. Nonsense. The
Arabs have tried to make this point consistently for the past 53 years
as part of their ongoing program to delegitimize Israels right to exist.
All in all, the
Gazette has performed quite a journalistic feat. It has presented
an article that promises to examine both sides of several conflicts, and
at least in the case of one of them, loads all the blame on one side.
One final point:
PNC member Hallaj veers considerably from the Palestinian consensus, and
could appear to be a rabid Zionist in comparison to the Palestinian Mufti
of Jerusalem, when he states that Jerusalem has religious and emotional
importance to Jews. If he were to repeat this on the floor of the PNC,
which he wouldnt, he would be lucky to just be stripped of his post.
For the benefit of your readers who dont know otherwise, the repeated
Palestinian/Muslim position is that Jerusalem, and indeed, the whole Land
of Israel, has no connection to the Jewish People. This lie has been stated
repeatedly by religious leaders and leaders of the intifada.
Mr. Hughes might
consider this the next time he tries to figure out why the conflict hasnt
Sheldon R. Waxman W72
conflicts are indeed unsolvable as long as both sides dont simultaneously
lay down their own myths in order to compromise for a better common future.
The academically sanctioned finger pointing at Israel is written in such
startlingly biased fashion I hardly know where to start and indeed dont
know if more blame for this hokum lies with Penns pointy-headed, ivory-tower
professors or the irresponsibly lazy journalist who didnt find any need
to actually check for accuracy the B.S. he was spoon-fed.
In short, everything
Mr. Hallaj has to say is utter nonsense. There was never, in the history
of the world, a country called Palestine and certainly not with its capital
being Jerusalem. Also, Jerusalem is Islams fourth holiest city (indeed
Muslims living in Israel turn their backs to it in order to face Mecca
while praying), while it is Judaisms holiest city.We also saw recently
how well the Palestinians protect Jewish holy sites, with their desecration
of Josephs tomb and their wholesale bulldozing of ancient Jewish artifacts
underneath the Temple Mount.
As far as Dr.
Lustick, how can such a seemingly intelligent man be so totally wrong?
The current broad-based unity government in Israel was forged by Mr. Arafats
war, a cynical exercise in denying his historic mandate to compromise
in order to reach peace. Logically, how can the ethnopolitical strife
in the Middle East be due to internal Israeli political strife in light
of the fact that the Palestinians hatred has caused the Israeli Left
and Right to join ranks in response to the existential threat the Arabs
pose? The Israeli Left has woken up to the sad fact that there is no Palestinian
Left, and therefore no one to talk to on the other side.
As for Dr. Montville,
telling half a truth is the same as telling a lie. Israel is not only
a product basically of the Jewish experience in Christian Europe as
he states. Israel is also a product of a continuous presence of Jews in
this area that goes back at least 2,000 years and no less significantly
of the Jewish experience in Muslim countries, where they were tolerated
as second-class citizens, but never fully accepted, and often persecuted.
The large Sephardi population (and smaller Ethiopian contingent) remember
fully well how they were treated in their previous homelands. The talk
of the refugee problem in this area almost always ignores the forced
flight of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Muslim countries, almost
always with little or no personal belongings.
The core of the
Arab-Israeli problem is the choosing, by the Arabs, to use violence to
achieve their ends and to deflect popular disenchantment with corrupt
and non-democratic governments. The Taliban of Afghanistan are an example
of the extreme xenophobia which many Muslims still adhere to. While the
Taliban destroyed great artwork, the Palestinians dream, along with the
Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, and many others, of doing likewise to a people
and religion which is intolerable to them just for existing.
I would expect
a higher level of political debate and journalism from Penn and the Gazette.
Mark L. Bailen C81
obvious errors from the March/April issue need correction. First, while
the article on deep-brain stimulation
[Gazetteer] was very interesting, you erroneously describe Parkinsons
Disease as a result of a deficiency of the dopamine enzyme. Dopamine
is the neurotransmitter whose deficiency is responsible for Parkinsons
Disease, it is not an enzyme.
Blood Feuds you describe Jerusalem
as the cradle of the worlds three great monotheistic religions. Nothing
could be further from the truth. While Jewish life has centered on Jerusalem
for three millennia and Christianity arose there, Islam arose in Mecca
and Medina. Islam arrived in Jerusalem as part of the wave of Arab conquest
late in the seventh century, and was already a fully formed theological
entity by that time. While I found the entire section on Jerusalem highly
biased, you are clearly entitled to your editorial opinion. However, you
are not entitled to alter facts as part of that editorial opinion.
Mark E. Braun C75
was with great sense of anticipation that I began to read the March/April
article Blood Feuds in the hope that
there might be some elucidation of the vexing problem of ethnic conflict
going on around the world. In fact, the opening section that dealt in
generalities was most thought-provoking and illuminating.
as I turned to the section about Jerusalem, I was first appalled and then
saddened to see the pages of this journal filled with more of the fabrications
and one-sided views posing as facts that I have come to expect in the
sound-bite journalism of the mass media.
Jerusalem is not and never has been the cradle of Islam. It is not even
mentioned in the Koran. It is a most holy site for Muslims and should
be revered and protected as such but it was never the central place of
Muslim devotion nor was it ever the chief city of any of the Muslim empires
that ruled it for centuries. Mr. Hallaj refers to Jerusalem as the historic
capital of Palestine as if there had been a Palestinian state that was
swept away somehow. Jerusalem was the seat of government for the administrators
of the British mandate, but never a capital in the modern period until
the establishment of the state of Israel.
than the factual errors though, are the opinions posing as facts that
appear throughout. Dr. Lustick is quoted as saying that it is a misconception
that a unified Yerushalayim under Jewish sovereignty has always been
a powerful and central element in Zionism. Perhaps the pragmatic leaders
of 20th-century Zionism were willing to forgo Jerusalem because they were
either forced to by facts on the ground or even their own sentiments,
but Israel was not built by the rank-and-file of the Mapai (now Labor)
party. It was the fulfillment of a dream shared by countless Jews from
Europe and the Middle East, many of whom had never heard the word Zionist
when they came to settle in that land. Jerusalem was the heart of Eretz
Israel (the Land of Israel) to these people, not Tel Aviv.
In the same vein,
Mr. Hallaj states that Israel was established on 80 percent of Palestinian
historic homeland. In fact, when the League of Nations created Palestine
out of the Ottoman Empire, it included the area that is today Jordan.
In 1923, Britain gave the Emir Abdullah, one of the desert chieftains
who had helped the British during World War I, three-quarters of the mandate
territory, to create the Emirate of Transjordan.
Over the last
one hundred years, a combination of events, culminating in the 1948 and
1967 wars, have helped sharpen the nationalistic focus of the Arab residents
of the area, both of the native population as well as the sizable numbers
who immigrated into the land during the early parts of the 20th century.
There is now a real sense of nationhood that needs to be addressed but
not at the expense of an equally valid sense of nationhood expressed by
the Jewish population.
I realize that
the Gazette was only trying to report on a conference held on campus.
Its just so tragic, that a meeting that was supposed to help build bridges
was monopolized by those who seek to lay blame on one side alone of this
terrible conflict and that the Gazette feels it is entirely legitimate
to record these views without challenging either their assumptions or
Hillel Zaremba C77
has been the capital of the Jewish people since the time of King David.
It has had an historical religious role since. The Temple has been destroyed
twice. The remnants of the Second Temple remainthe Western Wall. The
Jews were driven out of the old City of Jerusalem during the 1948 war
by Jordanians. During their control, old historic Jewish cemeteries and
synagogues were destroyed, and access to holy Jewish sites was denied
by the Arabs.
There has been
a Jewish presence in Jerusalem in the Common Era except for a brief time
during the Roman occupation and the Crusades. In fact, in the 18th
century, out of a total population in Jerusalem of 20,000, there were
8,000 Jews. At the beginning of the 20th century, out of a total population
of 65,000, Jews numbered 45,000. Since this time, the Jews have been in
the majority. So it is hard to buy the thesis of Muhammad Hallaj of an
occupied people by an occupier in Jerusalem.
To answer Dr.
Joseph Montville, Zionism is an ongoing process since the Roman expulsions.
Jewish persecution and humiliation in Muslim lands has occurred intermittently
throughout the ages, which has stimulated emigration to Israel. Through
the centuries Jewish writers have expressed the longing for return to
Zion. Certainly, Christian persecution that has persisted even after the
Enlightenment has given the final impetus for the Return. Maybe the good
and just Doctor should also extend his sense of guilt to the Jewish people
as well as to Muslim Palestinians. Also I would like to ask what are the
Israelis to do now?
I do not see
any easy answers unless the Arabs recognize Israels right to exist.
Arthur Perelman C48
fundamental problem with the symposium on Jerusalem is that the Palestinian
Authoritys rejection of the Camp David Proposals made it abundantly clear
that only Israels destruction would be acceptable to the Palestinian
Authority, and the terrorism launched by Arafat and the PA shows that
terrorism, including murdering babies, which Arafat has not condemned,
is an acceptable means to achieve their goals.
Dr. Lustick and
Dr. Montville both show an extraordinary naivete about the goals and the
aims of the Palestinian Authority and are dealing with compromises that
do not take into account that the Palestinian Authority has shown through
their actionsfrom naming a square after the engineer of the 1996 bus
bombings, Yeyha Ayyash, to school textbooks that do not show the existence
of the state of Israel, to their television shows that praise suicide
bombers, to the very emblem on their letterhead that shows a map of Palestine
over the entire state of Israelthat they want to see Israel destroyed.
Israel dividing Jerusalem are history and were never acceptable to the
people of Israel and the PAs support for a so-called right of return
(a right Montville astonishingly believes Israel should apparently acknowledge)
is a euphemism for a call to destroy Israel by other means. (How else
can one explain a demand for these Palestinian Arabs to live in Israel
and not in some created Palestinian Arab state, when these same Arabs
make it clear they want Israel destroyed.) The Palestinian Authority showed
their sensitivity to Jewish concerns when they acquiesced in the destruction
of the two Jewish holy sites in their domain, namely Josephs Tomb and
the Shalom Al Israel Synagogue in Jericho. Its unfortunate that the Merriam
Symposium did not include anyone who really understands the situation
in the Middle East that could tell the audience that there is no solution
to a conflict when one side, namely the PA, views the destruction of the
state of Israel as the only and final solution.
Farley Weiss C 85
am compelled to respond to several statements made by Muhammad Hallaj
in presenting the Arab case in the conflict over Jerusalem, because of
their gross inaccuracies.
1. Hallaj maintained
that Jerusalem is more important to the Palestinians than it is to the
Israelis. Yet nowhere in the Koran is Jerusalem mentioned; in the Torah
there are more than 600 references to Jerusalem. During the 19 years (1948-1967)
that East Jerusalem was under Arab (Jordanian) rule, its holy sites on
Haram al-Sharif (the Jewish Temple Mount), the Al Aksa Mosque, the Mosque
of Omar, were never once visited by Arab rulers, notably the keepers
of the faith King Feisal of Saudi Arabia and Hussein of Jordan.
2. Hallaj stated,
I was born in Palestine and Jerusalem was our Capital City. Wrong. There
was never a sovereign, Arab Palestinian nation, never. Depending on his
age, he was born in the British Mandate Palestine (most likely), or (if
he was born before World War I) in the Palestine section of the Turkish
3. Hallaj stated
territorial concessions by Palestinians is not feasible in Jerusalem
since Israel was established in 80 percent of Palestinian historic homeland.
Wrong again! More than two-thirds of British Mandate Palestine was severed
(territory east of the Jordan River) in 1928 to create a new Arab (Hashemite)
nation, Transjordan, which achieved independence from Britain in 1946.
Israel was established in 1948 (when Britain relinquished its mandate)
in that small remnant after the unsuccessful 1948-49 war against the infant
nation by multinational Arab armies. However, resulting from that war
was the annexation of the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem by Transjordan,
which became Jordan. During its 19-year occupation by Jordan, the Arabs
were kept in wretched refugee camps, and Jews were expelled from
East Jerusalem, whose synagogues were destroyed, and access to the
Western Wall and Temple Mount denied to all Jews.
Reaching a compromise
agreement on Jerusalem, essential to a final peace agreement between Israel
and the Palestinian Arabs is a difficult, complex process. Perpetuation
of myths and historical inaccuracies such as attributed to Hallaj is counter-productive.
N. Harry Gartzman C41
Merriam Symposium on ethnopolitical conflict was impressive in its even-handedness.
On one side we have a Muslim, Muhammad Hallaj, who feels that the conflict
over Jerusalem can be solved by more Israeli concessions. On the other
side we have a Jew, Ian Lustick, who feels that the conflict over Jerusalem
can be solved by more Israeli concessions. To round things out, we have
an American diplomat, Dr. Joseph Montville, who feels that Israel should
make a formal declaration of recognition of the original sin of 1948
inherent in Israels existence.
presentation allows patent absurditieslike Hallajs assertaion that I
was born in Palestine and Jerusalem was our capital city. There was no
Israelto go unchallenged. There has only ever been one country, and
only one religion, that considered Jerusalem its capital.
Sid Gordon EAS 79
Hughes responds: For the record, I found the Jerusalem panel pretty
one-sided myself, and thought it would have benefited from the presence
of at least one thoughtful expert outlining what the Palestinians should
do or stop doing to help bring about an equitable peace. But I did not
pick the panelists, and I felt that my role at that long and complex symposium
was to report what was said, not what was not said. Nor did I have
the space or authoritative standing to critically analyze the panelists
remarks. Muhammad Hallajs assertion that he was born in Palestine and
Jerusalem was our capital city is certainly ripe for exegesis, butgiven
the complexity of the post-World War I history of the regionso are broad-brush
dismissals of that assertion.
Finally, I agree
with Mr. Zaremba and Mr. Braun that cradle is an inaccurate word to
describe the original status of Jerusalem for Islam, though it has been
an important city for that religion for more than 1,300 years.
OF INSTINCTAND CHOICE
things struck me about the Merriam Symposium on ethnopolitical conflict.
As an anthropologist,
I was surprised and troubled by [Emory University professor of anthropolgy
and associate professor of psychiatry and neurology] Melvin Konners evocation
of instinct as an explanation of ethnic conflicts, as well as his rhetorical
question: If we are not by nature violent creatures, why do we seem continually
to create situations that lead to violence?
It seems to me
that this is an unwarrantedly broad generalization, given that during
countless interactions every day, human beings create situations that
do not involve or lead to violence. Much of our behavior expresses altruism,
solidarity, generosity, and cooperation. Human nature is tremendously
flexible, and its expression takes many diverse forms. Professor Konner
seems to be using a fashionable but highly debatable set of assumptions
based on a reductionist, narrowly deterministic model of biology. I dont
believe this model is very useful in resolving or preventing human conflicts.
On the contrary, it encourages a fatalistic acceptance of contemporary
societys worst characteristics.
As a feminist,
I was disappointed to see 19 men quoted in Blood Feuds, and only two
women. The conclusions and tone of the symposium may have had something
to do with its overwhelmingly male composition. Surely in this day and
age, the organizers could have found 10 women experts to discuss this
subject. And why werent relief workers, theologians, and human-rights
advocates included in the panel? Their expert opinions would have added
much to the proceedings.
Linda Rabben CGS74
HARMED, NOT HELPED
any further justification were needed for turning the Carriage House into
a new home for the Universitys Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center,
we can think of none better than the sentiments expressed in a letter
in the March/April Gazette. For a century, a favorite canard of
homophobes was that homosexuals practiced unfettered promiscuity. Now
that many lesbians and gay men have come out as members of long-term,
committed relationships, these same bigots decry gay unions as divisive
and fret that traditional families are under threat. How is that, exactly?
In a sense, the
Gazette has done the Penn community a service by revealing prejudices
among us, and we respect the magazines right to make its own editorial
decisions. We are disappointed, however, that a magazine published by
the same alumni society of which we are an official part should choose
to print an attack on the only two alumni whose homosexual union was
mentioned specifically in the article, and by extension on thousands of
LGBT alumni, in relationships or not.
community should applaud David Goodhand C85 and Vincent Griski W85 for
their generous gift and the Rodin administration for its willingness to
provide a new home for the center, developments that are true to the historical
continuum of the University. Penn has stated once again that all are welcome
in its house and that those among us who may feel threatenedamong them
undergraduates struggling to come to terms with their sexualitycan find
a safe space when they need one. The entire Penn community will be welcome
at the Carriage House, and we believe the common understanding this facility
is designed to foster will do much to dispel the ugly sentiments most
recently expressed on these pages.
Elizabeth B. Cooper C83
Robert E. Shepard C83 G83
Co-chairs, University of Pennsylvania
Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association
response to Ms. Accursos letter in the March/April 2001 Gazette,
the disgrace is that an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania could
express such uneducated, antiquated viewpoints that disclose her homophobic
biases. As a graduate of Penn, in a relationship for the past 27 years,
as a fairly active member of the community, and as a teacher/administrator
at the elementary level in the public-school system, I assure you that
all the alumni are not hurt by the University promoting homosexual unions,
but hurt only by such comments. Ms. Accurso, such sentiments hurt a country
based on equality and freedom.
George W. Vollano C70
Accurso needs to get her facts straight (excuse the pun): 1) The incidence
of HIV among lesbians is so low that the Centers for Disease Control does
not even keep such statistics for this population; and 2) as a heterosexual
female, Ms. Accurso is in the highest risk group for HIV infection.
I applaud Penn
for having the courage to recognize that all families are important, and
that all individuals in committed long-term relationships should share
the same benefits enjoyed by the heterosexual community. After all, the
biggest threat to American families and children is the 50 percent divorce
rate among straight couples.
Ms. Accurso needs
to return to school for a good statistics course, and needs to clean up
her own house before attacking mine.
Debbie Greenstein C82 GEd90
Accursos letter reflected the failure of a liberal-arts education at
Penn. Her comments reflect both bigotry and ignorance about homosexual
House can become a center for support of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered
students and faculty, and a source of education for the larger Penn community,
if unimpeded by the kind of ill-informed, superficial judgments that were
evident in Ms. Accursos diatribe.
Kenneth H. Mayer C72
would like to thank Kathleen M. Accurso for so vividly demonstrating the
point that ignorance, intolerance, and discrimination continue to haunt
gays and lesbians daily, not just from reactionary hate groups, but from
our own alumni. Im sorry that a Penn education did not serve to raise
her above hatred and intolerance; clearly the University failed her in
this respect. Her letter has prompted me to give my alumni donation this
year (and hereafter) to the LGBT program, whose work is still clearly
needed. Thank-you to David Goodhand and Vince Griski for setting a shining
example, and thank you to the Gazette for publishing Ms. Accursos
David Toccafondi C95 CGS99
Ive always prized the diversity of opinion that I encountered at Penn,
and I strive to be tolerant of the divergent views of those around me.
However, I cannot sit idly by without responding to the incendiary letter
written by Kathleen Accurso and published in the March/April Gazette.
In my opinion,
the announcement of David Goodhand and Vincent Griskis gift was very
positive for the University and for the student body at largenot just
those taking part in activities at the center. Ms. Accurso not only tries
to defile this announcement, but she also presents grave and prejudicial
inaccuracies. She immediately equates gay with AIDS, a connection that
I find offensive. And she promotes what I consider a very antiquated view
of the family.
writes, By promoting homosexual unions, the University is not helping
the community, rather it is causing division and problems, such as diseases
and unhappiness. In all that Ive read of the Goodhand/Griski gift (in
The New York Times, as well as in University publications), I have
seen no mention that this gift is earmarked to promote homosexual behavior.
Whats more, my hope is that the very public and continuing presence of
the LGBT Center will work toward the eradication of prejudices such as
Ms. Accursos that potentially lead to the unhappiness that she fears
in the lives of Penns lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered students.
Stephanie M. Margolin C91
American Psychological Association maintains a database of empirical studies,
from 1972 to the present, about gay parents and their children. The results
of these studies indicate that these children develop patterns of gender-role
behavior and social relationships like those of any other children, that
the great majority of the children describe themselves as heterosexual,
and that the belief that the children of gay and lesbian parents suffer
deficits in personal development has no empirical foundation.
and problems that Ms. Accurso refers to are probably caused by the spread
of misinformation and fear. The Universitys support of the Carriage House
renovation and gay unions promotes the spread of understanding and compassionsomething
that both children and adults need.
Jonathan Kessler C88 GEd89
Elk Grove Village,
Accurso used the Gazettes coverage of the Carriage House project
as a springboard for an ignorant, lie-ridden diatribe against LGBT Penn
students, faculty, staff, and alumniand really, the Penn community as
is not promoting homosexual unions nor is it promoting straight ones,
nor should it be in the business of regulating who falls in love with
whom. Ms. Accurso infers that the University is encouraging diseases
and unhappiness in its acceptance of LGBT members of Penns community.
In fact, the Universitys actions only serve to cure the diseases of
homophobia and intolerance and to end the unhappiness of the closet
in which too many of us have lived at one time in our life. Some are still
The only thing
that hurts the whole University and all the alumni is intolerance, ignorance,
and hatred. I am extremely proud of the University and the decision it
has made to value all members of the Penn community.
Matthew Brown W87 G88
the letter on the Carriage House project from Ms. Accurso: While individuals
may need to be smart to graduate from Penn, this letter reflects that
they can also be ignorant.
Stephen Hochheiser C76
am a post-secondary educator hailing from the Great White North, and am
filled with pride when telling someone that I am a graduate of the University
of Pennsylvania. I have neither friend, nor colleague, within conversation-over-dinner
distance who has had the tremendous privilege of an education at Penn.
For this reason, I enjoy a particular connection with the many enlightened
individuals who offer intelligent and informed opinions on all manner
of subject in your excellent publication.
I was, therefore,
saddened to read the letter submitted by Kathleen Accurso. Such a hard-line
and ill-informed opinion can only drive societal wedges deeper, effectively
marginalizing a population and promoting a malignant and alienating environment.
I hasten to add
that we in the heterosexual realm can hardly be held up as shining examples
of enduring and trouble-free unions (see any current divorce statistics)
or of partnerships that raise misfortune-free kids. In either life-partnership,
or parenting, were all just plugging along daily trying to keep our relationships
happy and healthy and our kids safe, well-adjusted, and sober behind the
wheel. What makes a community great is the capacity of its members to
make room for one another.
Carol Barr Overholt DH82
was disappointed to read Kathleen Accursos illogical and backward statements
about homosexual unions. It is a disgrace that you published this inaccurate
and irrelevant piece.
Ellen Bass EAS/W83
I was dismayed to see that the Gazette printed in its March/April
issue a deeply offensive letter claiming that Penns alleged encouragement
of homosexual unions was harmful to students, alumni, and the community.
The letter made various ignorant claims that dont bear repeating; they
are familiar libels on gay people and their lives. Why was this letter
printed? The editors were under no obligation to do so, and presumably
they decline to print other offensive letters that attack individuals
and categories of people. Would the Gazette have published a letter
that made similarly disturbing claims about African-Americans? Would a
letter that claimed that interracial unions bred disease and social division
be printed? Would a letter that claimed that having a building for Hillel
on campus created division be tolerated? Publications make reasoned judgments
about what constitutes constructive expression of dissentand what is
merely hateful utteranceall the time. This was a letter that ought to
have been discarded.
CLOSE TO HOME
some reason when I saw your March/April cover I immediately thought about
the practice of partial-birth abortion in the United States. Perhaps it
is easier to discuss the atrocities on other continents than face up to
the killing fields right in our backyards.
John H. Smith W62
found the juxtaposition of the cover story, Blood
Feuds, and No Other Life, by Gerald
Early, in the March/April Gazette to be rather ironic; Blood Feuds
examines the causes of international ethnopolitical conflict while Mr.
Early describes just such conflict in the context of the Philadelphia
neighborhood where he grew up. Much can be learned about the former from
Mr. Earlys childhood
recollections of growing up African-American in the predominantly Italian-Catholic
neighborhood of South Philadelphia are tinged with a hostility toward
that community that is reminiscent of the tensions in ethnic hot spots
such as Jerusalem, Kosovo, Kashmir, and Rwanda described in Blood Feuds.
Much as the ethnic groups featured in Blood Feuds, Mr. Early adopts
the rhetoric of generalization and condescension in describing his perceived
antagonists, and thus perpetuates what is essentially a childs understanding
of complex interactions between urban Americans of differing race and
ethnicity. By doing so he has squandered an opportunity to put events,
which took place in an insular community almost 40 years ago, into a broader
and more instructive context.
This is particularly
disappointing in that we have lost the chance to bridge a chasm of misunderstanding
and move beyond the negative stereotypes, gross generalizations, and misconceptions
that are at the heart of racial and ethnic conflicts in America and throughout
John Polise C85
of the perks of being a rapid-transit conductor is finding all sorts of
free reading material. Last week, I was fortunate enough to find the March/April
issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette.
writing! The especially great piece was Gerald Earlys No
Great Job! Keep
A. J. Geddes
SOLVE SOCIAL PROBLEMS IS WRONG
DiIulio C80 G80 may be commended for his commitment to solving social
problems, but any approach that further entangles government and religion
will harm, not help, this country [Gazetteer,
March/April]. In leaving his faculty position at Penn and accepting a
post as head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives,
he has become a partner in the conservative agenda to reduce government
responsibility for social services. Its ironic and hypocritical that
he now serves an administration promoting the very economic policies that
result in the growing gap between the rich and the poor in this country.
DiIulio is also now a partner in efforts by the religious right to make
this a Christian nation; he may verbally distance himself from these
evangelicals, but this office and his service in it furthers their theocratic
The United States
Constitution specifically prohibits government funding of religious organizations.
I am appalled that my tax dollars are currently supporting offices in
the White House and other federal departments to overtly erode the Constitutional
separation of church and state. It is an outrage that taxpayer funds may
be given to religious organizations that are free to discriminate in hiring
against people with other beliefs; free to fire people for legal behavior
such as divorce; free to communicate negative, oppressive messages about
women and gays/lesbians; free to coerce the vulnerable and desperate into
worship before receiving their meal or their cot for the night.
that 95 percent of the religious sector currently involved in delivering
social services wouldnt do such things. Yet he offers no evidence for
this estimate, which acknowledges that at least 5 percent would do such
things. And, he has no idea how the population of religious social-service
providers will change if taxpayer dollars are given to groups whose true
mission is proselytization and conversion, not social service.
not regulate religion. Neither should it distribute public funds without
public accountability, and that requires regulation. You cant have it
both ways. DiIulio may be well-meaning, but sacrificing Constitutional
protections to solve social problems is wrong.
Leslie Allison SAMP79
PERFORMERS TO PLAY,
IF YOU WANT TO BE HEARD
would like to suggest that the Gazette ignore the request from
the music department for a profile of their department [Letters,
March/April]. Penns music scholars are a well-kept secret entirely
by their own insistencethey refuse to teach anyone to perform music,
theirs or anyone elses. Please note how Professor Tomlinson speaks rather
proudly of Penns lack of performing musicians, right before he asks for
your free advertising.
Imagine a medical
school where people only studied and wrote about medicine, and trained
no one to practice it on people. What would be the point? Unfortunately,
this is how our music department is set upno one bothers to take care
of reaching out and getting the compositions to people who might hear
and benefit from them. Composers, perhaps unhappily, need to recognize
their dependence on performers for connecting with the public. If the
Penn music department wants their music, some of which is indeed wonderful,
taken off the paper and out to people where it belongs, they should bring
in and teach performers to play it, instead of asking more people to write
Tara Yaney C89
FOR WORLD WAR II INTERVIEWS
want to second Robert R. Powells suggestion in his letter
in the March/April issue to interview World War II veterans as soon as
possible. Although I was only 11 on V-J Day, I had thought I knew a lot
about the military experience of that war since both my brothers and my
husband all served in the armed forces. However, as an interviewer with
the GI Oral History Project of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York,
I recently had the opportunity to conduct a number of in-depth video interviews
and thus to gain a much greater understanding of the experiences of the
men and women who served.
I would be happy
to send a list of sample questions to anyone who wants to interview a
friend or family member, or wants to start such a project in a school,
museum or historical society. Just e-mail me at <SallyWendkosOlds@compuserve
.com>, or send a stamped, self-addressed #10 envelope to me at
25 North Washington Street, Port Washington, NY 11050.
Sally Wendkos Olds CW56
letter decrying sparse obituaries [March/April] was brought home
to me when I got to the listings in that issue. As a freshman in 1954-55
I was housed on the fourth floor of Thomas Penn, which adjoined Graduate
in the Quad. Those mostly GI Bill residents took us under their wing in
providing guidance in many important non-academic subjectslike poker
and obtaining beer in paper cups in Camden bars after Pennsylvania closing
hour. Two of those residents were listed:
Tom Ryan WG56 and Dr. Irv Reid D57. Not having seen or heard about these
two friends since then, I was left wondering about their paths over the
Ed Livingston W58
SUITED TO A CORPORATE TRAINING
PROGRAM THAN A UNIVERSITY CLASS
was astounding to note that there was only one letter in the March/April
2001 issue of the Gazette assailing one of the classes on globalization
in the proposed test curriculum [This
Is Only A Test, January/February]. This kind of class is more suitablein
my estimationto a corporations training program than to one in an educational
institution, even in a junior college, much less a university. Such an
approach, trendy as it may be, fails to fulfill the function of education,
which is, at least, twofold: acquisition of some basic skills and background
and development of criticalthat is, analytic and logicalthinking, coupled
with learning how to continue learning.
Most of the basic
skills, such as reading and understanding what one reads, a modicum of
elementary mathematics, and some background in history, geography, and
environment should be part-and-parcel of K-12. Post-secondary education
should hone some of these skills and broaden the background and understanding
of the different cultures, environmental impacts, and structure of markets
rather than that of individual manufacturing establishments. The most
difficult aspect of this level of education is that of the development
of the ability to continue learning, an ability which is currently much
more important than it has ever been.
Leon W. Zelby EE56 Gr61
THE GUISE OF CRITICAL THINKING
about globalization by checking out off-shore clothing in department stores
under the guise of critical thinking is more of contemporary touchy-feely
nonsense which in reality reduces the students to foot soldiers in an
instructors or professors activist agenda.
The real tragedy
for education and learning at Penn is that department heads, the administration
and the board of trustees sanction this stuff (a polite word) and in
so doing encourage more of this agenda-izing of classes and programs at
the expense of genuine learning and intellectual curiosity which lasts
far longer than this years hot activist-agenda item.
I suspect the
reason colleges and universities push this stuff is because theyre
afraid that if they gave the students a chance to really learn how to
think critically theyd rebel against junk academics and force the faculty
to really work and teach. After all, how hard can it be to grade reports
about clothes at Target, K-Mart, and Wal-Mart?
Lewis R. Elin W60 ASC61
CASE OF THE MISSING
LAB NOTEBOOKS, CONTINUED
whats with you guys? The three gentlemen who wrote in defense of Hilary
Koprowski whose letters you just published, were his funder, his lieutenant,
andhimself! Nuff said [Letters,
March/ April, January/February;
But if the editor
wants to go on with this, about Hilary and the Case of the Missing Lab
Notebooks, I did in fact say that the stuff was 40-year old sludge from
the back of the fridge. Nice consonance of sludge and fridge
there, dont you think? With a taste of onomatopoeia in the sludge,
a hint of hyperbole, and now a dash of catachresis.
If I had majored
in Classical Studies at Penn, I would be in a position to tell these gents
that I was just engaging in a bit of epiplexis, asking questions in order
to chide, or to inveigh. So, Hilary, whered you say the notebooks went?
I chid, rhetorically.
But, I didnt;
I majored in biochemistry, and had the immensely rewarding experience
of doing some really interesting and fun research at our Universitys
biophysics department, working on oxidative phosphorylation and electron
transport in yeast, working under and along with some of the top researchers
on this earth, one professor in particular who took his notebooks at the
end of the yearevery yearand had them hardbound in leather. So I guess
you could say that makes me an expert on what you could do, or should
do, with your notebooks.
Maybe I shoulda
stayed at Penn, at the biophysics department, and published a few more
fascinating papers with the Boss and gotten a higher degree. Instead I
struck out for Berkeley and took up virology. A few years into it, when
I found out what Koprowski and the virologists of his day had done, and
what we were still doing, and when I realized what I was about to do,
I shrank in horror and took a hike.
Richard Katz C70
LIMIT BAN TO
RESEARCH ON HUMANS?
March/April Gazette includes a short article describing an investigation
[by the Food and Drug Administration] of research practices at Penns
Institute for Human Gene Therapy [Gazetteer].
According to the article, if the investigation concludes that Dr. James
Wilson, the institutes director, failed to follow established medical-research
protocols, he would be banned from testing new drugs on humans.
As the article
explicitly mentions humans, does this mean that even if found guilty
as charged, Dr. Wilson would be free to continue testing on animals? Is
it Penns policy to permit unqualified researchers to conduct experiments
Marc Bedner C71
WISDOMOF IAN McHARG
of Ian McHargs passing [Obituaries, this
issue] releases a flood of memories. Here is one no one at Penn would
know. In 1987-88 my campus, the University of California at Davis, was
in an uproar over environmental-design issues, very much as Penn was in
the mid-1960s. McHarg was on sabbatical at Berkeley, 75 miles away, and
it occurred to me to invite him here to speak. He came. His public lecture
was held on our main quad on a glorious, sunny day. Fortified by lunch
at the open-air campus pub, McHarg began by saying: An architects job
is to take a beautiful, harmonious, well-integrated landscape and disrupt
it with garish and poorly sited buildings. Then he paused and looked
around at the chaotic hodge-podge of architectural styles on view from
the podium. I see there have been architects here.
He will be missed.
Arthur M. Shapiro C66
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