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Investment question, pro and con on drinking age, upset over census.
WHERE WAS WHARTON?
I was appalled to see that Penn's endowment has been saved by John Neff, a financial wizard with only an honorary degree from Penn, which boasts one of the top business schools in the country if not in the world ["An Eye For Value," March]! How is it that of all the geniuses who teach at and graduate from the vaunted Wharton School, none participated -- in either preventive measures that would have obviated financial salvation, or in rescuing Penn's endowment when the inevitable was realized. What gives? Are all those jokes we in the College told about Wharton really true after all?
Your story on John Neff's contribution to the success of Penn's endowment was interesting and informative. I was particularly intrigued by the evolution of the fund from 1979, when Neff took control, to its current allocation.
YES, LOWER THE AGE
My congratulations to Paul Christner for the article, "Lower the Age, Not the Boom" ["Notes From the Undergrad," March]. When the drinking age was 18, Hamilton College had a campus "Pub," and no drinking and driving problems. The current drinking age of 21 turns the police into the enemy, and encourages young people, who almost universally have been introduced to alcohol, to disrespect the law because, as the motto on the seal of our University says, "Leges sine Moribus Vanae" -- freely translated, "Law without the force of custom is in vain."
Professor of Economics, Emeritus
NO, LOWER THE BOOM
I read the article, "Lower the Age, Not the Boom," advocating a lower drinking age as a way to combat binge-drinking. It is not the responsibility of the citizens of the Commonwealth to change the legal age for drinking to accommodate the college student.
One hears repeatedly about the necessity of saving to pay for the college education of children and grandchildren. What is contributing to this rising cost of higher education? Is it the tuition, books, board and room, or is it the cost of drinks, parties, spring breaks, security?
When I was in undergraduate school, at my parents' expense, I hadn't funds for a soda. Later on, attending on the G.I. Bill, I was certainly old enough to drink, but I couldn't afford it. And I graduated debt-free.
The fraternity houses are responsible for the activities under their roofs. I am responsible for having a safe environment for my guests, including their drinking. Why not the frat houses and the administration?
Control the amount of liquor available, appoint a "designated" monitor and foster a program of personal responsibility.
You, too, can make a difference.
ESTHER MELLOTTE NELSON
SOMEONE WHO PROBABLY
WON'T BE RESPONDING
[This letter arrived via e-mail, with the text of an article from our March "Alumni Profiles" section attached. The article, "In Search of ... Penn Quakers," reported on the alumni census mailed to all alumni in late-March. -- Ed.]
First we have to fill out an obtuse form, then we have to pay $59.99 for the directory?? That's the @%#^$*(! Penn that I remember with such distaste -- a snotty attitude and a hand out for more money. I have given for specific projects but NEVER, NEVER unrestricted funds, and I certainly will not shell out $60 for a directory -- let alone one that will be out of date before ink even hits paper. And given the obtuse BCHarris Web site, and the fact that the return envelope is not even business reply mail, I doubt that you'll get much worthwhile information. (Like the addresses of all those rich Wharton alumni, right ... )
Boy, Penn has certainly stirred up all those rank old feelings again.
ERIC J. BRUSKIN
WHY CAN'T JUDGES SPECIALIZE
IN SCIENCE CASES?
The thought of judges and juries making decisions about science-related issues is, to me, disquieting at best, indefensible at worst ["Science Meets Society," February]. Putting a spin on what are purported to be valid data is tantamount to perjury. But when millions and even billions of dollars are at stake, the greed factor makes it mandatory that experts earn their keep by applying the kind of spin required by their masters.
There are two points I would like to address. First, when there is no hard, indisputable evidence in a particular case, the case should not be adjudicated. Tying the courts up with "he-said, she-said" cases inevitably leads to very expensive protracted litigation and interminable appeals. Where no significant cause-and-effect relationship(s) exist, there is no basis for any kind of sensible, unemotional settlement. Properly applied statistics don't often lie at the 95 percent confidence limit.
Second, it is criminal to have scientifically-naive (ignorant? inept?) judges and jurors make decisions in cases about which they haven't the foggiest clue. We have patent lawyers versed in both law and science; why can't we have judges with scientific backgrounds? Is this asking too much, when reputations and literally billions of dollars are at stake? Is there some reason why judges with degrees in physics, chemistry, biology, etc. can't be cultivated? If doctors and scientists can have specialties, why can't judges?
According to many observers, our legal system is in dire shape. Isn't it time someone did something sensible about it?
CELEBRATE THE TRADITION
OF LITERARY SOCIETIES,
BUT BEWARE COMPLACENCY
I read with a great deal of pleasure your article in the February Gazette about the Philomathean Society, "High Above College Green, Close to the Stars." It is wonderful that Penn has kept alive the tradition of the undergraduate literary society, which was a central part of college education before the Civil War. Orations to the Society, as to other literary societies such as Phi Beta Kappa, provide an important window into the life of the mind.
They stretched from Ralph Waldo Emerson's radical 1837 American Scholar to the conservative address by James Cornell Biddle to the Philomathean Society. They were also celebrations of the role of education in shaping American thought.
I hope that as we celebrate the role that literary societies can play in the life of the mind that we also remember that they can become institutions for self-congratulation. A great many of the lectures to ante-bellum literary societies, moreover, emphasized the role that educated people played in opposing such "ultraisms" as abolition of slavery. I am proud that Penn is educating its undergraduates to think deeply instead of complacently preparing students for the high place in society that their degree will grant them. I hope to hear much more about the Society in the future.
ALFRED L. BROPHY
Associate Professor of Law
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma City, Okla.
WHO DISCOVERED AMERICA?
If the Philomathean Society "helped launch the American Civilization department in 1960," what was my major when I studied with Department Chairman Dr. Robert Spiller and Drs. Anthony N.B. Garvan and Murray Murphey in 1957 and 1958?
JUDITH GOLDMAN ZALESNE
Bryn Mawr, Pa.
A letter to the editor (commenting on an item that appeared in the October 1997 issue, "At 85, Alumnae Association Assesses Its Future,") and the editor's note following it in our December 1997 issue were both mistaken in stating that Bennett Hall had once served as a residence for women students. Bennett Hall was the administrative center and home of the College for Women, but never a dormitory. We regret the error, and thank Rose Thompson, CW'48, for pointing it out.
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