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Conflict over Jerusalem panel,
answering Accurso, and more.

 

We received an unusually large volume of mail about the March/April issue, and the bulk of it was on two subjects.
    A 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 issue’s 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.
    The other item that prompted multiple letters was itself a letter, written by Kathleen Accurso C’90, in which she described as a “disgrace” the University’s decision to accept a $2-million gift toward renovating the Carriage House as a new home for Penn’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center. Here, too, the magazine’s action—the decision to publish the letter—was 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, it’s 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 don’t believe it to be a necessary one.
    All that said, please read on. And I know you’ll let us know what you think.—Ed.

MERRIAM SYMPOSIUM PANEL ON JERUSALEM, AND REPORTING OF IT,
MARRED BY BIAS AND INACCURACIES

    The 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.”
    “Overly supportive”? How about even a tiny squeak in support of Israel’s right to exist? Certainly not from the Palestine National Council’s Muhammad Hallaj. Among other lies and distortions, he maintains that he was “born in Palestine and Jerusalem was our capital city.” I don’t 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 didn’t 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 won’t 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 article’s author incorrectly stating that this “point is seldom made in discussions of the region’s problems.” Nonsense. The Arabs have tried to make this point consistently for the past 53 years as part of their ongoing program to delegitimize Israel’s 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 wouldn’t, he would be lucky to just be stripped of his post. For the benefit of your readers who don’t 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 hasn’t yet ended.

Sheldon R. Waxman W’72
Livingston, N.J.

 

    Ethnic conflicts are indeed unsolvable as long as both sides don’t 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 don’t know if more blame for this hokum lies with Penn’s pointy-headed, ivory-tower professors or the irresponsibly lazy journalist who didn’t 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 Islam’s fourth holiest city (indeed Muslims living in Israel turn their backs to it in order to face Mecca while praying), while it is Judaism’s holiest city.We also saw recently how well the Palestinians protect Jewish holy sites, with their desecration of Joseph’s 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. Arafat’s 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 C’81
Karmiel, Israel

 

    Two obvious errors from the March/April issue need correction. First, while the article on deep-brain stimulation [“Gazetteer”] was very interesting, you erroneously describe Parkinson’s Disease as a result of “a deficiency of the dopamine enzyme.” Dopamine is the neurotransmitter whose deficiency is responsible for Parkinson’s Disease, it is not an enzyme.
    Secondly, in “Blood Feuds” you describe Jerusalem as “the cradle of the world’s 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 C’75
Providence, R.I.

 

    It 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.
    Unfortunately, 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.
    Specifically, 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.
    More troubling 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. It’s 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 their “facts.”

Hillel Zaremba C’77
Merion, Pa.

 

    Jerusalem 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 remain—the 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 Israel’s right to exist.

Arthur Perelman C’48
Summit, N.J.

 

    The fundamental problem with the symposium on Jerusalem is that the Palestinian Authority’s rejection of the Camp David Proposals made it abundantly clear that only Israel’s 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 actions—from 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 Israel—that they want to see Israel destroyed.
    Questions about Israel dividing Jerusalem are history and were never acceptable to the people of Israel and the PA’s 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 Joseph’s Tomb and the Shalom Al Israel Synagogue in Jericho. It’s 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
Scottsdale, Ariz.

 

    I 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 Ottoman Empire.
    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 C’41
Philadelphia

 

    The 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 Israel’s existence.
    This “balanced” presentation allows patent absurdities—like Hallaj’s assertaion that “I was born in Palestine and Jerusalem was our capital city. There was no Israel”—to go unchallenged. There has only ever been one country, and only one religion, that considered Jerusalem its capital.

Sid Gordon EAS ‘79
Raanana, Israel

 

Samuel 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 Hallaj’s assertion that he was “born in Palestine and Jerusalem was our capital city” is certainly ripe for exegesis, but—given the complexity of the post-World War I history of the region—so 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.

 

VIEW OF INSTINCT—AND CHOICE
OF SPEAKERS—TOO NARROW

    Two 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 Konner’s 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 don’t believe this model is very useful in resolving or preventing human conflicts. On the contrary, it encourages a fatalistic acceptance of contemporary society’s 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 weren’t relief workers, theologians, and human-rights advocates included in the panel? Their expert opinions would have added much to the proceedings.

Linda Rabben CGS’74
Takoma Park, Md.

LETTER HARMED, NOT HELPED

    If any further justification were needed for turning the Carriage House into a new home for the University’s 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 magazine’s 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.
    The University community should applaud David Goodhand C’85 and Vincent Griski W’85 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 threatened—among them undergraduates struggling to come to terms with their sexuality—can 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 C’83
New York

Robert E. Shepard C’83 G’83
San Francisco

Co-chairs, University of Pennsylvania
Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association

 

    In response to Ms. Accurso’s 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 C’70
Newtown, Conn.

 

    Kathleen 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 C’82 GEd’90
Wyndmoor, Pa.

 

    Kathleen Accurso’s letter reflected the failure of a liberal-arts education at Penn. Her comments reflect both bigotry and ignorance about homosexual relationships.
    The Carriage 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. Accurso’s diatribe.

Kenneth H. Mayer C’72
Brookline, Mass.

 

    I 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. I’m 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. Accurso’s letter.

David Toccafondi C’95 CGS’99
Philadelphia


    I’ve 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 Griski’s gift was very positive for the University and for the student body at large—not 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.
    Finally, she 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 I’ve 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. What’s 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. Accurso’s that potentially lead to the “unhappiness” that she fears in the lives of Penn’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered students.

Stephanie M. Margolin C’91
New York

 

    The 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.
    The “division and problems” that Ms. Accurso refers to are probably caused by the spread of misinformation and fear. The University’s support of the Carriage House renovation and gay unions promotes the spread of understanding and compassion—something that both children and adults need.

Jonathan Kessler C’88 GEd’89
    Elk Grove Village, Ill.

 

    Ms. Accurso used the Gazette’s coverage of the Carriage House project as a springboard for an ignorant, lie-ridden diatribe against LGBT Penn students, faculty, staff, and alumni—and really, the Penn community as a whole.
    The University 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 Penn’s community. In fact, the University’s 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 in it.
    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 W’87 G’88
Brooklyn

 

    Regarding 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 C’76
Pacifica, Calif.

 

    I 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, we’re 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 DH’82
St. Catharines, Ont.

 

    I was disappointed to read Kathleen Accurso’s illogical and backward statements about homosexual unions. It is a “disgrace” that you published this inaccurate and irrelevant piece.

Ellen Bass EAS/W’83
Atlanta


    I was dismayed to see that the Gazette printed in its March/April issue a deeply offensive letter claiming that Penn’s alleged encouragement of homosexual unions was harmful to students, alumni, and the community. The letter made various ignorant claims that don’t 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 dissent—and what is merely hateful utterance—all the time. This was a letter that ought to have been discarded.

Christopher Looby
Faculty

ATROCITIES CLOSE TO HOME

    For 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 W’62
Maidens, Va.

SQUANDERED OPPORTUNITY

    I 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 the latter.
    Mr. Early’s 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 child’s 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 the world.

John Polise C’85
Arlington, Va.

LUCKY FIND

    One 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.
    Utterly fantastic writing! The especially great piece was Gerald Early’s “No Other Life.”
    Great Job! Keep it up!

A. J. Geddes
PATH conductor
Hoboken, N.J.

SACRIFICING CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS
TO SOLVE SOCIAL PROBLEMS IS WRONG

    John DiIulio C’80 G’80 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. It’s 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 agenda.
    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.
    DiIulio claims that 95 percent of the religious sector currently involved in delivering social services wouldn’t 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.
    Government should not regulate religion. Neither should it distribute public funds without public accountability, and that requires regulation. You can’t have it both ways. DiIulio may be well-meaning, but sacrificing Constitutional protections to solve social problems is wrong.

Leslie Allison SAMP’79
Washington

TEACH PERFORMERS TO PLAY,
IF YOU WANT TO BE HEARD

    I would like to suggest that the Gazette ignore the request from the music department for a “profile” of their department [“Letters,” March/April]. Penn’s music scholars are a “well-kept secret” entirely by their own insistence—they refuse to teach anyone to perform music, theirs or anyone else’s. Please note how Professor Tomlinson speaks rather proudly of Penn’s 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 up—no 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 about it.

Tara Yaney C’89
Pittsburgh

SAMPLE QUESTIONS AVAILABLE
FOR WORLD WAR II INTERVIEWS

    I want to second Robert R. Powell’s 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 CW’56
Port Washington, N.Y.

LEFT WONDERING

    The 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 subjects—like poker and obtaining beer in paper cups in Camden bars after Pennsylvania closing hour. Two of those residents were listed:
Tom Ryan WG’56 and Dr. Irv Reid D’57. Not having seen or heard about these
two friends since then, I was left wondering about their paths over the last 40-
plus years.

Ed Livingston W’58
Flemington, N.J.

GLOBALIZATION EXERCISE MORE
SUITED TO A CORPORATE TRAINING
PROGRAM THAN A UNIVERSITY CLASS

    It 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 suitable—in my estimation—to a corporation’s 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 critical—that is, analytic and logical—thinking, 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 EE’56 Gr’61
Norman, Okla.

“TOUCHY-FEELY NONSENSE” IN
THE GUISE OF CRITICAL THINKING

    Learning 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 instructor’s or professor’s 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 year’s hot activist-agenda item.
    I suspect the reason colleges and universities push this “stuff” is because they’re afraid that if they gave the students a chance to really learn how to think critically they’d 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 W’60 ASC’61
Chicago

THE “CASE OF THE MISSING
LAB NOTEBOOKS,” CONTINUED

    Hey, what’s with you guys? The three gentlemen who wrote in defense of Hilary Koprowski whose letters you just published, were his funder, his lieutenant, and—himself! ‘Nuff said [“Letters,” March/ April, January/February; “Gazetteer,” November/December].
    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, don’t 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, where’d you say the notebooks went?” I chid, rhetorically.
    But, I didn’t; I majored in biochemistry, and had the immensely rewarding experience of doing some really interesting and fun research at our University’s 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 year—every year—and 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 C’70
Berkeley, Calif.

WHY LIMIT BAN TO
RESEARCH ON HUMANS?

    The March/April Gazette includes a short article describing an investigation [by the Food and Drug Administration] of research practices at Penn’s Institute for Human Gene Therapy [“Gazetteer”]. According to the article, if the investigation concludes that Dr. James Wilson, the institute’s 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 Penn’s policy to permit unqualified researchers to conduct experiments on animals?

Marc Bedner C’71
Albuquerque, N.M.

REMEMBERING THE WIT—AND
WISDOM—OF IAN McHARG

    News of Ian McHarg’s 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 architect’s 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 C’66
Davis, Calif.


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