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Penn's China "dynasty," condone or condemn,
rats and cats, goalpost gripe.

   Professor Avery Goldstein's comments about China ["The China Syndromes," Mar/Apr] were of great interest to those of us who have a professional and academic interest in that fascinating place. It is also encouraging that the University continues to build upon its tradition of excellence in China studies. For example, Dr. Nathan Sivin [undergraduate chair of the department of history and sociology of science and professor of Chinese culture] is without peer in the world as a historian of Chinese science and medicine, and Dr. Arthur Waldron [the Lauder Professor of International Relations] has an unequaled grasp of China's military and strategic history. But this is what we should expect. A generation ago, when China was an even more exotic subject than it is today, we were fortunate to be taught by Dr. Derk Bodde, [emeritus professor of Chinese studies], one of the greatest sinologists of the century.
   I did not want to respond to any of the discussion of the spring of 1993. However, I am infuriated by the blatant attempt of former University President Sheldon Hackney Hon'93 to rewrite history ["Letters," Mar/Apr].
   As a former executive editor of the DP, I am happy that Hackney now feels that condemning the theft of the newspapers at the time that it occurred would have been a good thing. At the time of the theft, I had a conversation with him in which he said, "I do not condone the theft of the newspapers." I asked him (in my role as a DP reporter at the time), if not condoning the theft would mean that he would do something about it, or go so far as to say that he would condemn the theft. He asked me to elaborate on the difference between the two. I said that to condone something is to treat it as if it is trivial or harmless, while to condemn something is to say that something is wrong and act accordingly. He accused me of playing semantic acrobatics, and refused to answer the question.
   At that time, Hackney did not even wish to say that he condemned the theft of the newspapers, much less to take a stand against it. True, as Hackney points out, the decision not to discipline the students who stole the newspapers was made by others "long after" he had left the presidency. But his lack of action when it was most needed, under such egregious circumstances, was a decision in and of itself. We needed a University president who would stand up for freedom of expression. Hackney was not that person.
   The "resolution" of the spring of 1993, if there can be any, can only come in two forms: by taking responsibility for what we did or did not do at that time, and by recognizing that at a university, intellectual freedom must always take precedence over politics. I am ashamed on Dr. Hackney's behalf that, to date, he has done neither.
C'95 L'99

   I was a resident of Stouffer between 1988-89 ["Letters," Mar/Apr]. What I remember with much dismay are the giant Wet Black Stouffer Rats. At least once a week I would encounter one of these vile creatures thrashing about around the grating and below the grand steps leading up into the Stouffer residences. More than once I fantasized about bulldozing down the entire complex and exterminating as many of those vermin as possible in the process. I for one am all for destroying the whole decrepit and ugly triangle.
Concord, N.C.

   I disagree with Dr. Alan Mann's estimate of 30 million pounds of "usable meat" from 3 million unwanted cats ["Don't Worry, This Won't Be on the Exam," Mar/Apr]. I know he was only trying to make a point, but even if those 3 million cats and kittens could be available for rendering, you'd be lucky to wind up with 3 million pounds of meat, not 30 million -- the average cat containing three pounds of bone, two pounds of sweetmeats, two-to-three pounds of fat, a couple of pounds of skin, viscera, blood, urine and stool, and a couple of pounds of piss and vinegar.
   But, maybe the question should be: Does it make sense, from an energy point of view, for an omnivore to raise and consume a carnivore?
Durham, N.C.
   Kudos to Matthew D. Arbit for his letter about Penn's women's studies 25-year celebration ["Letters," Mar/Apr].
   I remember my dear late mother being a high-school teacher. After the general faculty meetings, the principal would point to a corner and announce: "Will the teachers of the solid subjects meet me here." One day she asked the principal, "Do you want to talk with the teachers of the pithy subjects?"
   Let's face it: high-school art, music and physical education are marble, granite and obsidian to the P.C. pith described by the Jan/Feb Gazette article.
Pittsburgh, Pa.
   The artwork that accompanied the cover story of the March/April issue was wonderfully captivating in its ethereal vividness. (I'm tempted to cut it out and frame it!) I hope we see more of Liz Pyle's work in future issues.

   It brought back memories when I read about the winning exploits of our Quaker football team in "These Championship Seasons?" ["Sports," Jan/Feb]. However, it pained me to read about and see the accompanying photograph of the boisterous crowd tearing down the goalpost in celebration of the Ivy League title in order to dump it in the Schuylkill River.
   What concerns me -- aside from the obvious waste of money, pollution of a natural resource and negative image this "tradition" sends -- is the danger posed whenever football goalposts are uprooted from a stadium's floor. If my memory serves me correctly from the early 1980s rejuvenation of Penn football, at least one student received a serious head injury in the melee created in a similar attempt to extract a Franklin Field goalpost.
   At the risk of ruining the team's fun, I implore the Gazette and the administration to prevent future injuries by neither glorifying nor permitting this juvenile activity.
Pittsburgh, Pa.
   I was fascinated with the article on Spanish flu ["The Flu of 1918," Nov/Dec 1998]. It came as my mother marked her 110th Christmas. She contracted Spanish flu in India in 1920 and was put on a ship with the prediction that she would die before the vessel reached Boston. At the same time my father got over the flu in Boston's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.
   In contrast to some, I shall always be indebted to Penn. I came from a very restricted religious background which was suspicious and condemning of secular education. The University revived my mind and spirit. My Penn experience continues to nourish me. If I had chosen a profession which rewarded me with great wealth, I would certainly share it with Penn, even though I wonder about its corporate spirit and ties.
Woodstock, Md.

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