Forum: September-October 2005

October 1, 2005

German Lesson

It is always a pleasure to see aspects of German culture featured in your magazine. Your brief appreciation of Winckelmann in the July-August issue [Biblio-file, "Passionate Prose,"], however, is not entirely accurate.

Winckelmann's dates are 1717-1768, not 1717-1752. His Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums is certainly the first modern history of art, but not simply because it "introduced the practice of dividing art into periods and describing how one period relates to the next chronologically." Unlike predecessors such as Vasari, who had largely limited themselves to chronicling important names, dates, and places, Winckelmann presented an analytic, interpretive account of his material--in that sense, a theory of the nature of art and its development. Nor is his History "the first internationally acclaimed German language work." Earlier examples (confining ourselves only to the age of print) include Sebastian Brant's Das Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools), an international best seller in the 1490s; Luther's Bible translations of the 1520s and 1530s, by far the most important source for the emergence of the modern German language; and the Historia von D. Johann Fausten (Faust Book) of 1587, to which, directly or indirectly, all subsequent versions of the Faust story trace their origin.

Michael Morton
Durham, North Carolina

The correspondent is an associate professor in the Germanic languages and literature department at Duke.
Editor's note: The sentence should have read "among the first...," which got lost in editing (not in translation).


Printer's Ink

This letter is in response to Bob Ashley's comments about the "previous management" of The Herald-Sun ["Forum," May-June 2005].

I am proud to have worked with one of the most talented and dedicated management teams in the newspaper industry. As president and publisher, I was ultimately responsible for all results--the good and the bad. Those results included, in addition to the recent financial performance, success in pushing back a major frontal assault from the much larger News & Observer, making The Herald-Sun one of the best local newspapers in the country, making the company an industry leader in the optimal integration of print and online publishing, and achieving very healthy financial results during the five years leading up to the recession.

Our resource allocation decisions were based on the assumption that this is an unusual newspaper market, with far greater potential and challenges (and need for media resources) than commonly associated with markets this size. I believe that the foundations for new revenue growth we had put in place last year, combined with the natural efficiencies and synergies that can come from group ownership, made possible a return to healthy profit margins this year without taking measures that would undermine the paper's legacy of aggressive journalism, quality, and generous community service.

Then came the change in ownership on January 3. The way loyal servants of the paper and community were treated that week was unconscionable. It is also unfortunate that the new managers have refused to acknowledge the accomplishments of the organization that preceded them. And now, as evidenced in Ashley's letter, they are trying to distort the record of their predecessors. Most disturbing is their suggestion that the employees' pension fund had been mismanaged. For the record, the pension fund had always been funded in full compliance with FASB, GAAP, and IRS rules.

It is disgusting to see the new management trying to bring legitimacy to actions that were an affront to this community's sense of decency.

David Hughey '75
Durham, North Carolina
The correspondent was president and publisher of The Herald-Sun from 1996 to 2005.


Battle Stars

I very much appreciated your recent article in Duke Magazine ["The Warriors," May-June 2005]. I am a Duke law '03 graduate; I am now an infantry platoon leader at Ft. Hood in the 2nd platoon, Bravo Company, 3-67 Armored Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. I will be leaving for Iraq in November, and will command this platoon for my entire one-year deployment.

I felt very alienated as a prospective member of the Army while at Duke. Mostly due to the military's "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy, I felt relentless hostility from fellow students and professors. Very few people acknowledged the sacrifice I was making to go to war for my country in lieu of making a six-figure law-firm salary. Your article is one of the few times I have felt appreciated as a Duke graduate and member of the Armed Forces.

I found your article to be well written and well balanced. Thank you for bringing Duke graduates' military service to the attention of the broader Duke community and for making us feel welcome again.†

Eric Spencer J.D. '03
Georgetown, Texas


For years, campus media everywhere have denigrated the military and, by extension, those who serve therein. Mostly because the writers disagree with the policies set down by elected officials. This displacement of their resentment and anger at those policies onto the shoulders of our young (and not so young) men and women who serve so selflessly has always been shameful.

Saying that, I have to thank Robert Bliwise for his insightful and candid report, showing the horror of war, and the honor of service, and separating his disagreement with the political leaders from the heroic actions of those who stand on that thin line protecting our citizenry from the many evils of the world. Again, I say thank you.

Scott A. Akers '86
Former QM2, U.S. Navy
Bothell, Washington


Just got my recent issue of Duke Magazine. I really enjoyed the article on Duke grads and military veterans doing service in Iraq! All conservative or liberal politics/agendas aside, at a time when not much attention is being paid to the people over there, it's inspiring to see the Duke community putting a human face on the war in a unique and thought-provoking way.

Kirk Kicklighter '86
U.S. Marine Corps 1986-91


Regarding the "Between the Lines" column in the May-June issue of Duke Magazine: Marine officer Matt Lynch '01 demonstrated in his brief life an admirable patriotism and gratitude for his own freedom, all too seldom seen in today's youth, as well as a deep loyalty to and sense of responsibility for the men under his command, exemplified by his willingness for a third tour in Iraq with those men when he could have been stationed stateside instead.

Duke alumni of any age should feel a great pride in such character and dedication to duty, God, and country shown by "one of our own" and pay tribute to his sacrifice by supporting the Matthew D. Lynch Memorial Scholarship. I wish to do so, but, unfortunately, your message failed to give the mailing address for such a memorial gift.

I do hope you will do honor to the young man and the scholarship in his name by publishing the information: The 1st Lt. Matthew D. Lynch Memorial Scholarship Fund, Alumni and Development Records, Box 90581, Durham, N.C. 27708.

Sally McWhorter Spears '50
Durham, North Carolina


Second Opinions

My wife and I have been long-time supporters of Duke since our daughter attended and graduated in 1984. I was chagrined to find in your Q & A ["Malpractice, Insurance, and the Feds," May-June 2005] a one-sided analysis of the medical malpractice problem in our nation.

The problem is multifaceted and difficult. Come to South Florida where neurosurgeons have left. Here obstetricians are unable to obtain adequate insurance at any price and $250,000 coverage costs upwards of $150,000 per year. Certainly a lawyer sitting in Durham, North Carolina, can't know all the answers. Why don't you balance your coverage of this very important issue? One-sided coverage is not good journalism.

Robert Grenitz, M.D.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The correspondent is a retired obstetrician.


I totally agree with Professor Sloan's final statement that "we need to consider the issue from all perspectives." I strongly encourage Duke Magazine to devote time and space to doing just that, since Professor Sloan did not. To cite only a few examples:

The opening premise that "frivolous lawsuits" are medicine's reason for the current malpractice crisis is a straw man. The real issue is fair compensation of injured patients and what fraction of that compensation should go to lawyers and to non-economic (punitive) damages. In states with tort reform, like California, lawyers get less and plaintiffs more, because lawyers' contingency fees are limited to a reasonable portion of the judgment, and punitive damages "capped" at a fixed dollar amount--$250,000 in California's case. In spite of these provisions, there has been no reduction in the number of lawsuits filed in California when compared to other states.

He suggests that physicians' malpractice insurance premiums might be 25 percent too high, which wildly understates a problem that has many physicians paying $100,000-250,000 per year.

Citing the very sympathetic example of a brain-damaged child who "needs therapy" and "money to take care of myself" badly confuses economic damages (on which "caps" place no limits, and would be covered in a judgment) and non-economic damages. Furthermore, a bad outcome, as in the case of a brain-injured child, does not necessarily mean malpractice.

Finally, the idea that doctors are coming into high-liability-cost states as fast as they are leaving is not borne out by a quite recent Health Affairs article and doesn't explain why there are no longer any neurosurgeons in West Virginia and that there are very, very few OB/GYNs practicing in South Florida, and fewer and fewer in Pennsylvania.

I'm told there is an "old saw" taught in law school that if the law is on your side, pound the law; if the facts are on your side, pound the facts; and if neither are, pound the table. I fear Professor Sloan is busy at his table.

James T. Hay '68, M.D.
Del Mar, California


Rugby Pride

Thanks for a wonderful article on the Duke Rugby Football Club ["'Gentleman's Game': Rough and Rugby," May-June 2005]. The sport I was introduced to at Duke in 1980 remains a passion a quarter century later. I'd add one piece of information, though. Duke RFC is not the only rugby club on campus. Fuqua RFC, made up of graduate and professional students and Duke employees, has been playing in the men's senior club division of the North Carolina Rugby Football Union since the early 1990s, when it was also known as Duke Graduate School RFC. The International MBA Rugby Tournament, probably the premier graduate/professional student rugby tournament in the country, is hosted by Fuqua RFC, having been lured away from Wharton over a decade ago.

Brad Torgan '83
Los Angeles, California
The correspondent, a former Fuqua RFC coach, is secretary of the Southern California Rugby Football Union.


Thanks for your article on the Duke Rugby Club. As a former player, co-captain, and president of the club, it was a pleasant surprise to see our nonscholarship sports club recognized for its valuable contribution to the overall Duke experience. Looking back on the days I spent at Duke, my involvement with rugby always stands out as the most influential choice that I made outside of classroom studies.

As an officer of the club, I was involved in budgeting costs and organizing fund-raising activities, interaction with school administration, scheduling teams from other universities and nonacademic clubs, and coordinating with rugby union officials and referees. While some of our players were just looking for an athletic outlet, most were eager to participate in the overall aspect of bringing a team together to maintain continuity of the efforts and provide a legacy for Duke students to follow.

I have to admit that I still feel a sense of pride at winning two consecutive North Carolina Collegiate Championships (beating the Tar Heels at any sport feels good). The postgame parties brought a fair share of enjoyment, too. Good luck to the Duke RFC, now and always.

George Farber '81
Belmont, California