Previous issue's letters | Mar/Apr Contents | Gazette home

Anti-smoking, anti-Palestinians, anti-anti-war, anti-union.



I’m delighted to see the study being done by Dr. Caryn Lerman and company [“Cutting Through the Smoke,” January/ February], while also feeling no little embarrassment that it is so very late in coming. In 1936, I still recall my New Hampshire first-grade teacher telling us that smoking was “bad for your wind” and, as a boy dreaming of future athletics, that simple statement—along with a family of non-smokers and the sight of a weeping old Yankee farmer whose cigarette-caused fire cost him his house-barn and livelihood—was enough to forever keep cigarettes at bay.

In 1957, my first patient as a first-week med student at Dartmouth—where I went for two years before transferring to Penn Med—was a 41-year-old Italian immigrant who worked hard and built up a fine business only to die from smoking three packs per day. The resident then told us that both British and U.S. studies had forever pinned down a cause and effect from cigarettes.

However, it wasn’t until 1962 that the U.S. Air Force, Medical Corps, Surgeon General’s Office (USAF MC SGO) went public and condemned the hazards of tobacco. We even found that one cigarette before takeoff elevated the pilot 4,000 feet over his aircraft, thanks to the carbon monoxide hanging onto his hemoglobin. Finally, in 1964 the U.S. Surgeon General went public, long after the USAF had prohibited the “morale donations” of small cigarette packs that had for years been given gratis to air evacuation patients by tobacco companies. Of course, there was no ulterior motive involved. With all of the excellent medical schools in the U.S., why is this study just now being done? Yes, I know that some of it is “politics,” but it is an embarrassment to see the U.S. public so weakly served in time.

Amos R. Townsend M’61
Lee, N.H.



Gary Rashba’s piece “Doing Time in Armageddon” [“Alumni Voices,” January/February] presents a very incomplete and one-sided view of the treatment of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. Mr. Rashba, who engages in the worst kind of ethnic stereotyping to describe the prisoners at Megiddo Military Prison, implies that all the detainees are held for justified reasons because of what he believes is their direct involvement in terrorist activities. He also states that the prisoners “get their day in court,” implying that they have all been given fair trials by an impartial judicial system. He further describes a prison-camp life so pleasant as to seem like a holiday. Unfortunately, the reality, as extensively reported by respected international human-rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, is much different. It would be hard to determine whether the detainees at Megiddo Prison are truly murderers or accomplices to murder; the vast majority are administrative detainees, swept up en masse in Israeli raids on Palestinian towns and held without charge or trial, or even access to a lawyer for several months at a time. Palestinians who have been detained routinely complain of mistreatment including: deprivation of food, water, and access to a toilet for long periods of time, beatings, and being forced to maintain uncomfortable positions for long periods while tightly handcuffed. Palestinians who are interrogated at Israeli detention centers, including Megiddo Prison, are subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, being violently shaken, and having hoods soaked in urine or vomit placed over their heads. At least one Israeli reservist refused to serve as a guard at Megiddo Prison, preferring to serve a month in prison rather than violate the dictates of his conscience.

There is absolutely no excuse or justification for the suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians. They are to be condemned in no uncertain terms. However, the Israeli government is also obligated to adhere to internationally recognized human-rights conventions which prohibit detention without charge or trial as well as torture and ill-treatment. Whereas not even the most legitimate grievance can justify the deliberate murder of civilians, no security threat can justify the collective punishment and mistreatment of an entire subject population. If there is ever to be a resolution to the grotesque cycle of violence that has destroyed so many lives, both Israeli and Palestinian, all sides must commit to ceasing human-rights violations and negotiating in good faith to reach an equitable peace agreement.

Elise Auerbach C’81



I commend you for your article “Doing Time in Armageddon,” by Gary Rashba [“Alumni Voices,” January/February]. The author describes his personal experiences as a guard of suspected Palestinian terrorists who target innocent Israeli Jews for killing. While he laments the fact that the prisoners are treated so leniently, he appreciates the positive message that this humane treatment sends to the world regarding Israel’s morality. I applaud your moral clarity in publishing this article in which Palestinian terrorists are explicitly called “terrorists,” in the same way that President Bush has referred to killers of Americans on September 11 as “terrorists.” So many articles and news accounts refer to the cold-blooded Palestinian murderers and their accomplices by the terms “activists” or “militants,” so I find Rashba’s article refreshingly direct in how it describes the murderers of innocent people. The ending to the article, that “two years of violence have done nothing to further the Palestinian cause,” provides a simple and sadly correct summary for your readers.

Ronald Ellis, Parent
Newton, Mass.



I write regarding the article “Speaking Out Against War” [“Gazetteer,” January/ February]. Although I have no objection to this type of gathering, it does appear from the article that it was one-sided and of course led by some of the professors. There is no indication that any attempt was made to provide students with contrary arguments. Of course, this is standard fare at most of our universities today, so I am not shocked. However, I am dismayed by the fact that little or no attempt is made to “educate” the students.

As for the professors, no great shock. I heard some of Penn’s “top” professors discuss the outlook for war in Afghanistan after 9/11 at a major gathering here in New York. Again, no shock, they were about 1,000 percent wrong.

Martin J. Milston W’53
New York



Much criticism has been made about our threat to go to war with Iraq if it does not comply with UN resolutions regarding “weapons of mass destruction.” Anyone accusing the U.S. of embarking unilaterally on the effort to disarm the tyrannical leader of Iraq is ignoring the 15-0 mandate from the UN and the commitment of England and other allies in this endeavor.

I also wonder at those who can predict that a war against Iraq will result in the death of “tens of thousands” of Iraqi citizens and thousands of our troops. Desert Storm lasted 100 hours with total allied casualties in the low hundreds. If there is another war, it will probably be over in half that time given the use of smart bombs to destroy their military infrastructure and consequently their ability to fight. The Iraqis are not great soldiers. When they see how overpowered they are, they will surrender en masse the way they did in the last war.

To allow Saddam Hussein free rein to do as he pleases has proved disastrous given his history: warring with Iran; invading Kuwait; and slaughtering tens of thousands of his own people. Dismantle the military might of this man and that country and its neighbors will have a chance to live in peace and prosperity, given the enormous wealth generated by oil production in that region. Regarding another hot spot, if North Korea would stop its military posturing and concentrate on economic recovery, its people could lead peaceful, more productive lives. In turn, we could then dramatically reduce our military presence there.

Contrary to what some believe, we are a peaceful country. However, as long as there are people willing to do us harm, as was made so tragically evident on 9/11, we must be willing to fight wherever and however to insure that a similar tragedy will never occur again. If we assume a posture of complacency in our desire for peaceful coexistence, it is quite likely we will suffer tragic consequences not unlike what happened after Neville Chamberlain waved a piece of white paper replete with false promises from another infamous tyrant.

Sydney P. Waud C’63
New York



“Speaking Out Against War” was a disgraceful exhibition of politically correct nonsense by the latest crop of ’60s recidivists. What a shame that today’s students are deprived of the likes of Professors Kinter and Rubinstein. Once again, inaction and appeasement are offered as a substitute for the traditional liberal democratic principles, which Britain and America symbolize. Who could not but chuckle when reading Dr. Herman’s concession that Saddam has (indeed) “treated his enemies and minority groups very badly.” I would be willing to bet that Kim Jong-il is similarly viewed as only mildly aberrant.

Our global struggle is not just against terrorism, but to promote the freedoms that Western democracy affords. Do we dare not fight for them? I completely fail to understand how multilateralism has somehow supplanted this objective as the primary goal of our foreign policy.

I find Dr. Lustick’s comment that “Every demonstration must have American flags, if only to prevent the cops from beating you” offensive, ugly, and cynical—and I hope that students see it as nothing more than the vitriol of a failed ideology.

Lastly, I would humbly submit that the Iranian people might benefit more from Dr. Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet’s shining example of enlightenment than would the American people.

Ashton Thorogood C’86
Havertown, Pa.



The article on opposition to possible U.S.-led war against Iraq reveals the sadly one-sided and yes—cowardly and hypocritical—approach many of us in academe have taken toward American foreign policy. I, myself, have opposed war for some time now, mainly because I feared for the lives of American servicepeople. And I still do. But the fact is that Saddam’s regime must go. It is not merely another Third World dictatorship, bad though those are. Saddam has systematically exterminated his own people, at one point jokingly referring to chemical agents deployed against the Kurds as “insecticides.” His regime has mocked the UN, blocked inspections at every turn, even threatening the lives of inspectors, and has well-documented ties with terrorists.

I have to wonder, where were all these protesters when American troops were sent to Kosovo and Bosnia by the Clinton Administration? The war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, while terrible, pale in comparison to Saddam’s atrocities. Moreover, Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic neither invaded other nations (as Saddam has done to Iran and Kuwait) nor used weapons of mass destruction (as Saddam has done, both to the Kurds and Iranians). Nor was Milosevic ever accused of developing such weapons. In fact, Milosevic’s cooperation was instrumental in gettting the Dayton Accords passed, which made peace in Bosnia and led to the end of that country’s civil war.

Professor Herman’s statement that Saddam “has treated his enemies and minority groups very badly” is a terrible understatement of the case. It would be like saying that Hitler “treated the Jews badly” or that Stalin “treated his enemies badly.” Mass extermination and torture goes way beyond “bad treatment.” Then Herman goes on to say that just because the U.S. supported Saddam in the ‘80s it is “hypocritical” for us to attempt to overthrow him now. Is it hypocritical to remedy a mistake? Must we be forever prevented from taking action simply because a past administration, acting in a different time and under different political conditions, adopted a different policy?

It’s clear from Hans Blix’s report that Iraq is up to its old tricks of hiding its biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons research. It’s also clear that Iraq has long been a major sponsor of terrorism, whatever its links with Al-Qaeda may be. That mixture alone is a danger, not only to the U.S., but to the world. I am hoping we can avoid war, but we must recognize the point at which war becomes necessary to stave off a greater horror. How will we feel if weapons of mass destruction are unleashed against the world by Saddam-supplied terrorists and we know we could have stopped it? Will all the heroic peace protesters sleep soundly? Since they fail to hear the cries of Iraq’s already terrorized population, I suppose they will.

David W. Kriebel G’86 Gr’00



Given the editorial constraints under which a house organ such as the Gazette must operate, I was hardly surprised to read a one-sided account of the National Labor Relations Board’s decision supporting the right of Penn graduate students to unionize [“Gazetteer,” January/February].

In the interest of fairness, I would have hoped for an article that amounted to more than an unfiltered forum for President Rodin and Provost Barchi to state their expected opposition to GET-UP (Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania). Of course, such disappointment did not stop me from enjoying the irony inherent in their statement that the NLRB ruling “makes no sense” for graduate students at Penn; apparently, democracy has its limits within university walls.

That Rodin and Barchi have weighed in against freedom of association is hardly surprising. However, allow me to offer this balm to their wounded sensibilities: if unionization makes no sense for graduate student employees, the vote will reflect that. As I recall from my undergrad days, grad teaching assistants are smart and savvy enough to determine their own fates, free of the Penn administration’s less than subtle anti-union entreaties.

Whether the grad students win or lose, I challenge the Gazette to provide readers with a more responsible, balanced exploration of workplace issues, both within the Penn campus and beyond.

Larry Dorman C’83
Farmington, Conn.


Last issue’s article was not completely one-sided. It did call the NLRB decision a “major victory” for the pro-union side and also quoted a statement by GET-UP, but its main purpose was to report the administration’s reaction and likely response. A fuller discussion of the issues involved, including extensive quotes from GET-UP representatives, administration officials, and independent observers, appeared on pp. 14-15 of our May/ June issue, following the submission of the case to the NLRB. At this writing, union elections were scheduled to take place February 26-27, after this issue goes to press. We’ll continue to report on this story as it develops.—Ed.



As a Penn alumnus and the father of a Princeton senior, I have been deeply shocked at the behavior of the five students who assaulted the Princeton debate-team member as reported in “Assault Allegations Shock Campus” [“Gazetteer,” January/February].

Expulsion is too good for these individuals. The investigation should clearly extend to the Office of Admissions, to find out why five people like this got admitted to Penn in the first place.

Frederick Littleton M’79
Asheville, N.C.



If the situation weren’t so pathetic (not to mention repulsive), I would be almost amused by the official reaction of President Rodin and Provost Barchi to the assault allegations leveled against five Penn students in November. So, they say, the allegations have “shocked and appalled our community”? Oh, please! Let’s think back. Can you say ATO? Can you say ZBT? How about murder in Grad Towers? (The murder may have been committed by non-students, but as I recall it was heard by members of “our community” who did nothing to investigate the screams.) All this in addition to frequent vandalism, date rape, and such wonderful campus traditions as hazing, the “ho dance,” the annual “Black Bag” party, and others. Appalled? I should hope. Shocked? Hardly! November’s assault is certainly the Penn I know.

Hillary Doerr Engelhart C’84 G’86
Appleton, Wis.



What a nice surprise to see a picture of our “Lancaster Avenue—The Rodeo Drive of West Phila.” sign that Alex Cook C’77 and I installed on our early-1980s real-estate development project in the article on Dr. John Hansen-Flaschen’s photographs [“Learning to See Lancaster Avenue,” January/February]. Dr. Hansen-Flaschen is right: the street can seem, at first, worse than it is. However, I think it is easily possible to see the day when all of the blight is erased. During our ownership, this building was an abandoned gas station, an accountant’s office (he was indicted!), a detective agency, and I believe, even a speakeasy, until we sold it to Mai, who has successfully operated it as a nail salon since the early 1990s.


Hanley P. Bodek C’77


I’m sorry you missed an interesting point in your writeup on Huntsman Hall [“Gazetteer,” January/February]: The construction manager for the project was L.F. Driscoll Co. I am the recently retired board chairman of this company and also a Penn alumnus. I am not sure, but I believe at least one of the partners in the architectural firm for the building, Kohn Pedersen Fox, is also an alumnus of the Graduate School of Fine Arts [A. Eugene Kohn Ar’53 Gar’57—Ed.].

In addition to Hunstman Hall, my company built such other landmarks in Philadelphia as the First Union Center, the Kimmel Center, and Liberty One (the tallest structure in the Delaware Valley).

Edward F. Driscoll C’51


This past football season was as enjoyable as any season could be [“Sports,” January/February]. Having attended half the games this season—including the miserable weather at Yale, the beautiful weather at Princeton, and the horrible weather against Harvard—this year’s football team was as good as there ever was. Going with my friend Jim Love Par’00 Par’04, and occasionally speaking with players’ parents during games, they were amazed that our kids were girls and that my daughter was studying abroad during the semester, and that we still went to all these games. A special thanks has to go to Coach Al Bagnoli, who made this season truly sensational and to the defense that was unbreakable. It also must be noted that Quarterback Mike Mitchell should have been named Ivy League player of the year for 2002, not Harvard’s Carl Morris.

Mark Dicker Par’04
Kings Point, N.Y.



I graduated from the College in 1957. Since that time I have not supported the University in any way, financially. There are several reasons for my discontent. During this past 46 years I have faithfully read the Gazette. Today the epiphany! After reading the angry and emotionally charged letters in your January/February issue from people who were so moved that they had to share their feelings, I realized what a terrific job the Gazette has been doing over these past years. Especially over the recent past. And so I write to congratulate you, and say send me a bill so that I can truly demonstrate my approval.

Ronald Reis C’57
Branford, Conn.



In “2006: A Penn Odyssey” in the November/December issue, you list Desiree Tunstall as a potential “Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics” major. The correct name for the major is “Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.” Professor Samuel Freeman is the director of the program, which is an interdisciplinary undergraduate major at the University of Pennsylvania. It is among the larger majors in the College. The Gazette should check it out!

Gary Hatfield, Faculty
Seybert Professor in Philosophy

Previous issue's letters | Mar/Apr Contents | Gazette home

2003 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 02/28/03




Please address them to: Editor, The Pennsylvania Gazette, 3533 Locust Walk, Philadelphia PA 19104-6226.

You can also reach us by fax at (215) 573-4812, or by email <gazette@ben.dev.upenn.edu>.

Letters should refer to material published in the magazine and may be edited for clarity and length.