Chauvinism, male and cultural … and more

 

Article on Sweat Doesn’t Smell Right

I read with interest your article, “Something in the Armpits” [“Gazetteer,” July/August]. It is indeed intriguing that male perspiration affected mood and luteinizing hormone (LH) patterns in ovulating, heterosexual women. However, it is misleading and—may I suggest—irresponsible for the Gazette to summarize any research without noting its limitations, particularly when the results have significant implications for 51 percent of the population.

Briefly, one cannot conclude that male perspiration affects mood and LH patterns in women until it is also demonstrated that female perspiration does not induce these effects. Until that time, it is unknown whether it is perspiration that causes these effects or male perspiration per se. If it were demonstrated that female perspiration also induced these effects, the conclusions drawn from the data would be quite different and less titillating than those heralded by the Gazette. Furthermore, the study was conducted on a sample of 18 women. Due to this small sample size, the ability to generalize these findings is seriously limited. The Gazette should have noted limitations such as these, as I am sure the investigators did in their published journal article.

Finally, the Gazette article mentioned that this line of research could lead to
the development of a “better male odor«” one that can presumably manipulate women’s mood and reproductive hormone cycles. Am I the only one disgusted and a bit alarmed by this prospect? May I suggest a different follow-up study? How about examining whether “defective«” or “impaired” male perspiration patterns cause negative mood states in women?

Deidre B. Pereira C’91 Gainesville, Fla.


Strike Out on China Baseball

Label me unpatriotic but watching a baseball game is the last thing I want to do while in China. Granted, I’m no baseball buff to begin with but Craig Simons C’96’s “Away Game” [“Alumni Voices,” July/August] is written with a tone of condescending imperialism I find all too common among American expatriates. His article leaves me doubly frustrated at the patronizing review of Chinese youth baseball skills and, more importantly, the lost opportunity to focus on the more important truths behind his frivolous anecdote.

As one who has recently returned from his own year of English teaching in China I am uplifted to hear of any Chinese children who have the opportunity to participate in league sports. Most, and by this I mean 99.8 percent, do not. So, if the fielding is bad and they rarely hit past the pitching mound, who cares? At least they’re getting the chance to play anything at all.

I am disappointed at this Penn alumnus, and the magazine that ran his article, for not taking the time to craft a more powerful piece infused with the kind of important lessons of cultural difference and understanding that keep society informed and primed for progress.

Harry Alverson C’01 McLean, Va.

 

Tutu was “Disturbing” Choice

The University’s decision to honor Desmond Tutu as the featured speaker at this year’s commencement exercises is disturbing. Tutu has shown himself on numerous occasions to be racist, bigoted, and anti-Semitic. He has a history of publicly repeating untruths in order to increase animosity between groups of people.

I would have hoped that Penn would choose a speaker whose beliefs and remarks are not insulting and offensive to so many members of the graduating class, so that they could fully enjoy their big day.

Susan (Jellinek) Moses C’76 Philadelphia

 

Remembering the Maestro

My late father, John F. Austin C’39, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania long before Maestro Lajos Csiszar arrived in Philadelphia [“Sports,” July/ August]. Like his successors, my father also fenced at Central High School and at Penn. He continued to participate in this sport in a competitive fencing club in Philadelphia. Maestro coached this club.

As a child, I remember frequent stories about Maestro and his dangerous escape with his family during the Hungarian uprisings. When we were taken to meet this “great man” (as my father deemed him), I remember being awed and honored. He set his standards high and expected all of his fencers to compete at the peak of their ability. His English was broken but he spoke beautiful French (the language of fencing).

My father looked up to few people during his lifetime, but Maestro was always at the top of his list. Thanks for reviving some wonderful memories.

Judith Austin Kunkel CW’65 Paradise Valley, Ariz.

 

Isn’t It Meeces?

I should like to invite your attention to an error that appeared in “A Rosette by Any Other Name ÷ “ [“Window,” July/August]. The accompanying text refers to “these distinctive honorary insignias.” Merriam Webster and the OED agree that the plural form is insignia and that the singular form, though rarely used, is insigne.

Insignias is comparable to geeses or mices—or, since goose and mouse are from Old English, perhaps memorandas and datas are better analogies. During a long but undistinguished career in various components of the Army, I heard insignias many times, as in “Getcher insignias on straight there, Lootenant!” I have heard even colonels and generals utter that barbarism, but militarese, a wide-spread dialect of North American English, is full of barbarisms. An Ivy League publication ought to do better.

Despite the slip, I shall try to remember to stop in at the Sweeten Alumni House to look at the collection the next time I am on campus.

James M. Mallinson C’70 WG’76 Paoli, Pa.


Fifty-Three Forgotten?

Having attended the 50th Reunion of the Class of 1953, I was anxious to read about the entire reunion in the July/ August edition of the Gazette.

It was somewhat of a surprise, as I turned the pages, not to see any mention of the Class of 1953. Not even a picture denoting that the Class of ’53 was present.

From the several calls at my home from the University hoping for my attendance and a financial contribution, yet no mention of the total Class of ’53 gift. While not overwhelming, nevertheless a very credible effort by the Class of ’53 to be remembered.

To be a part of a 50-year Celebration is a milestone by most standards.

I’ll hope that the Class of 1954 fares better.

Wallace R.G. Langben C’53 Spokane, Wash.


Annenberg Once Trained Students to Work in the Media, Not Study It

Your article on Annenberg’s new dean [“Gazetteer,” July/August] talks of An-nenberg’s world-class faculty in political communications, health communications, and cultural communications.

But when I came to Penn in September 1961, the then two-year old Annenberg School of Communications (not for Communication) had a different emphasis. Walter Annenberg W’31 Hon’66 owned The Philadelphia Inquirer, TV Guide, WFIL radio and TV stations, Seventeen magazine, and The Racing Forum. The Annenberg School trained its students to work in the media.

Along with Dean Gilbert Seldes (The Public Arts) were faculty such as Robert Lewis Shayon, media critic of The Saturday Review; filmmaker Sol Worth; and Charles Hoban, a distinguished audio-visual research scholar who was equally knowledgeable in technique.

But within three years a new dean, George Gerbner, introduced a research emphasis, everything from communications models devised by Bell Labs and Stanford’s William Schramm, to his world-famous tabulations of violence on television. And in Los Angeles there are scores of College and Wharton grads working in TV and film (a la Robert Cort C’68 G’70 WG’74, [the film producer whose novel was excerpted in the July/ August issue]), while the only Annenberg person I know is a medical communicator.

Why did Annenberg undergo such a great transformation 40 years ago?

Richard Rofman C’65 Van Nuys, Calif.

 

Kors’ Attack on Hackney Shows
His Double Standards and Hypocrisy

Although a historian, Alan Kors fails to give relevant historical context to the Water Buffalo case in his diatribe against Sheldon Hackney [“Letters,” July/August]. But the reasons for that failure are clear. Kors was a strong protagonist in the culture wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and his record in those struggles was not admirable. He was an active member of the conservative National Association of Scholars (NAS), a group that allegedly fought for “rationality,” free speech, and standards of quality in education, but in reality worked to impose a “conservatively correct” political agenda. NAS members claimed for years that “tenured radicals” dominated the universities, and the universities were their enemy and target. Kors himself described Penn as a totalitarian “University of Peking.” As Penn was in fact remarkably free, and certainly never interfered with Kors’s frequent wild denunciations of his academic home, we can understand this as reflecting the fact that there was too much freedom for his enemies at Penn.

During the Reagan era the freedom-loving Kors was appointed to a consulting position at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) by Lynne Cheney, who was famous for explicitly politicizing the NEH, denying grants to folks who didn’t meet her political standards, and attacking the National History Standards developed by numerous historians and teachers under NEH auspices for lack of sufficient positive and patriotic quality. Although not a historian, Cheney felt qualified to dictate proper standards for the profession. Kors claimed he was helping keep political criteria out of NEH grant-making, but this was a remarkable self-delusion, based on his apparent identification of his own (and Cheney’s) political beliefs and principles as unquestionable truth. Cheney assailed the Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution for its texts on the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, which led to a Senate resolution that specified the “truth” about Enola Gay. The NAS and other culture warriors of the right didn’t object at all in this case where politicians defined historical truth—because it was the approved truth.

The NAS and Cheney have always given the impression that it was the multiculturists and the left who were pursuing a culture war, while they bravely manned the barricades in defense of truth and freedom, but as historian Joan Wallach Scott has stated, while the conservatives “offer themselves as apostles of timeless truths, in fact they are enemies of change.” The changes that have upset them were the feminist movement and pressure for equality for women, the black and other minority struggles against discrimination, and the vestiges of left thought and opinion still active on campuses. These movements and tendencies led to various efforts to strengthen women’s position, protect women and minority students from harassment, and bring about curriculum change. These involved conflict, struggle, and sometimes minor abuses, but were really internal problems of the schools and were usually worked out in give-and-take bargaining. But the culture warriors of the right tried hard to use these conflicts to reverse these tendencies altogether and crush their enemies, including the university itself. They seized upon every multiculturist proposal or demand and speech code controversy, many of their incidents untrue or inflated, to manufacture a non-existent revolution-in-process. (For an excellent account of the fraudulence of the claim that “speech codes” were any kind of free speech threat on campus, see chapter four of John K. Wilson’s The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education, published by Duke University Press.)

The culture battalions of the right were successful in this war because they had wads of money from the Olin Foundation and other conservative foundations and thinktanks, and could exploit the basic anti-intellectualism of the public and media. This “political correctness” frenzy peaked in 1993, the year in which the Water Buffalo case came into prominence. It fit the frenzy of the times well, and Kors used it aggressively to get the Penn-vilification message across in friendly vehicles like The Wall Street Journal editorial page, The New Republic, and elsewhere in the corporate media. The culture warriors of the right usually sneer at the “victim” complaints of minorities, but how well Kors has exploited and grieved over the victimization suffered by Eden Jacobowiz, “guilty of being white”! And how effectively he has used the case to denigrate Penn, Hackney, and his other enemies here.

Edward S. Herman Emeritus Professor of Finance


Let the Water Buffalo Graze in Peace

The Fascist Big Brother overtones of the “USA Patriot Act.” An unconstitutional preemptive war against Iraq founded on lies from the president on down. Genocide in the Congo. Nuclear bombs on the Korean peninsula. Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda on the loose. American soldiers dying daily in Iraq. And the focus of the intellectual elite at the University of Pennsylvania is ÷ a 10-year old story of noisy celebrating students who were called “water buffalo?” Come on, people.

When I was at Penn (1969-73) the central issues were literally about life or death—the Vietnam War, and those of us (the males) subject to the draft. (Note to [July/August letter writer] Cenk Uygur W’92: I was also resoundingly booed at a microphone near the stage at Irvine Auditorium when I voiced an unpopular opinion on the Vietnam War —so some things never change.) We were also concerned about the education at the institution, and educational reforms were adopted which markedly moved the University from the Preppy 1950s into the social consciousness of the late ’60s and early ’70s. So I was really embarrassed for my alma mater a decade ago when I had to suffer through the national press coverage of the water buffalo incident and the mass seizure of The Daily Pennsylvanian edition with an editorial some students found offensive.

Thirty-some years ago, when we had debates in our dorm rooms, the topics were frequently those which were central to America and the world at large. And yes, in our day we had those few who lacked common courtesy—the famous screamers on the Quad or those who turned their stereos up loud at night, which prompted the ritual ripostes shouted through open windows of “Shut the f*** up!” Of course, race and religion weren’t the issue—we didn’t care who was making the ruckus, we just wanted to study or sleep in peace.

So to Alan Kors, Sheldon Hackney, and all those in the Penn community with intellectual ability and advanced degrees, I have one simple request: please address your talents and your eloquence to things that matter in the real world: black males dying from homicides or disproportionately facing death sentences because of their race; genocide; tyranny; corrupt administrations sold to the highest bidder (including both Clinton’s and Bush’s). Let the water buffalo graze on the veldt in peace and focus on rolling back the current U.S. administration’s assaults on freedom, on the international rule of law, and on the American people. Thank you.

James Finkelstein C’73 Albany, Ga.


Trustees Must Act in a Crisis

The most important matter in the “water buffalo” incident has been ignored in all the discussion and letter writing appearing in recent issues of the Gazette: the fundamental concern in this tragic episode is the responsibility of the trustees.

The responsibility for oversight of the University’s affairs, then as now, is in the hands of the trustees, and that fact should be underlined in this or any substantive matter. Trustees must not be standing passively in the shadows in any University crisis, deferring to the actions and conduct of their appointed officers and employees. Their fiduciary duties as set forth in the governing Charter of the University demand more assertive visibility up front. The Penn family must always expect as much, especially now that the trustees will be seeking a successor to President Rodin [see page 24] within the coming year—hopefully a leader who will continue to restore civility, academic priorities, and national responsibility on campus.

Robert R. Hunt W’41 Seattle, Wash.


May/June Issue Was a Keeper

What an issue! From the cover and cover story [“The Immeasurable Curiosity of Edward Peters”] to “Reinventing Iraq” [“Gazetteer”] (I was in Jordan as the war began) to “An Unexpected Unity,” concerning Ground Zero, and even to some of the shorter articles like “Hooked on Glaciers” [“Alumni Profiles] (I recently visited Jack Kohler’s hometown of Tromso, Norway), this issue seemed to touch me on every page. As for Dr. Hackney’s article, I can only say that people who view an accident from different directions will come to different conclusions.

When I pass away, my children will wonder why I kept this particular issue. It is because it reflects the diversity and depth of a great university.

Ellwood B. Jacoby Ed’50 GEd’51 GrEd’66 Monroe Township, N.J.


© 2003 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 09/02/03

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