Forum: January-February 2004

January 31, 2004

 

Latin America Laments

As usual, I found my May-June 2003 issue of Duke Magazine interesting and informative. Due to my personal involvement in business activities in Mexico, I was especially attracted to the items about Latin America ["South American Start-Up," May-June 2003]. During my seven years of travel to Mexico, I have come to appreciate the similarities in the dreams of their developing middle class to our own, while noting the huge difference in their graciousness as hosts--for example, how many times would a U.S. host apologize for his poor quality of Spanish?

However, in response to a long-ago question of whether I could live in Mexico, I had to be honest. The level of poverty and corruption was too much for me to handle on a permanent basis.

The corruption seems to go hand-in-hand with bureaucracy. This was clearly identified by Mr. Bauder and discussion of the tramitÈs, but there is a bigger distinction from our standards than the punishment. A young Mexican law student explained to me: "In Mexico, we also consider it wrong to accept bribes. The difference is that we don't see offering one as bad." Even though the current government is strongly pursuing a reduction in both of these problems, they need a societal change to overcome the attitude that bargaining with a policeman is a coveted skill.

As to the poverty, progress is being made. However, the change will be slow. I am fearful that Mexicanos are too impatient and don't see the level of improvement that has allowed Mexico to keep a relatively stable peso during some tough economic times. The complex challenge for their federal government involves the practical efforts of increasing the variety and stability of Mexican industry, while overcoming the continued partisanship of a society founded on a multitude of fractional interests. Unlike the limited number of technical personnel mentioned in Bolivia, much of Latin America has a well-educated work force. The problem is the limited number of positions.

As U.S. citizens, we need to recognize that Latin America offers more than resort areas and cheap labor. These people are both our neighbors and brothers. As we continue to investigate options for a widened trade region, we need to realize that stabilizing our own economy will require strengthening these potential markets. We also need to recognize that our efforts to raise the quality and production standards in Latin America don't need to stifle the creative nature that could be the source of innovation.

Tom Marks '79 (via e-mail)

 

Team Spirit

I thoroughly enjoyed Jim Young's article on Duke football ["Blue Devil Football: First and Long," July-August 2003]. I entered Duke in September 1937, so you know that the next four years were the golden years of Duke football. And to have been there when Bolo blocked the punt that beat Pitt. And the fact that the 1938 team was unscored on. Unbelievable! My father and I even came back after I'd graduated to see the 1942 Rose Bowl game in Durham.

My wife and I lived in the Wilmington, Delaware, area, where I worked with DuPont and where many Duke alums also settled. I always enjoyed introducing two of our closest friends to strangers as "a couple of dumb football players from Duke," both CEOs of major chemical companies. Werner Brown ['42] majored in chemistry (as did I) and became CEO of Hercules Chemical. Bob Barnett ['42, J.D. '48], after the war and a law degree, became CEO of Imperial Chemical Industries America. They are still in the Wilmington area, and we still keep in touch.

You will not find my picture with the 1941 basketball team in the Hall of Fame under the stands at Cameron. I've been trying to get the athletics department to put a note saying: "Bob Moyer was in chem lab when picture was taken." No luck so far.

Bob Moyer '41
Durham, North Carolina

 

The article by Jim Young, "Blue Devil Football: First and Long," and the letter from Gael Marshall Chaney '73, "ACC Asides," are very germane, as we begin another fall football season.

As a kid in the Philadelphia area, I remember with anticipation the start of the football season, since members of my family and father were "Penn men," and they all had season tickets to Franklin Field. In those days, Penn did very well on the gridiron, even playing Duke during the year that I was at the Wharton Graduate School.

At Duke, as an undergraduate, I recall anticipating the football season and all it entailed, and it was again brought to the surface--the excitement, the after-game dates and frat parties. Under Wallace Wade and Bill Murray, we were not winners all the time, but there was an atmosphere that does not exist with the present Duke football regime.

Why can't Duke attempt to leave the ACC and apply for membership within the Ivy League of Dartmouth, Cornell, Harvard, Penn, Brown, etc.? I think schedules in this league can also include crossovers with the Navy and Army, among others. This relationship would no doubt lead to a more competitive season, and fit into the academic requirements of the university. Also, Penn on the football field would be no pushover.

Of course, what this would do with the other sports programs such as basketball might create a problem. But students come to Duke for the academics, not the sports, anyhow.

Joseph S. Cooper '50
Fearrington, North Carolina

 

I hate to write to you with a complaint, but the recent article on Duke football really disturbs me. To give up on football and suggest that we leave the ACC and move to a conference where we can compete just disturbs me. If Wake Forest can compete in the ACC, why can't Duke?

The thing that disturbs me the most is that, with this article, it would appear that our alumni magazine is promoting such a move and using a political science professor who obviously knows very little about the sport to make the case for such a move. I know that we have to suffer through all of those games we are losing, but to throw in the towel and say we can't compete! I can't imagine our great university taking such a position; even if some liberal-arts professor thinks that, it doesn't mean the alumni magazine should lend him credibility by quoting him. Did I miss something? Maybe the next article will be more positive and constructive.

Reggie Chapman B.S.M.E. '56
Greensboro, North Carolina

 

The article on Duke football in the July-August issue was interesting and well-balanced, but it failed to address one important issue. That is--the number of football-scholarship recipients who are thereby taking places of more qualified students (even children and grandchildren of alumni).

William G. Bowen and Sarah Levin's book Reclaiming the Game: College Sports and Educational Values points out this importance to smaller elite institutions. Swarthmore recently dropped football for just this reason.

We'd like to see a poll of alumni.

Kay Dunkelberger Hart '43, A.M. '50 and Tom Hart '44, J.D. '50
Redding, Connecticut

 

Having experienced Duke basketball back in the short-shorts, mid-Eighties before Dickie V turned it into a three-ring circus, I can attest to the unifying power of sports on a college campus where nearly everyone had their pet cause. It always appeared to sports-minded students like me that suffering through bad football was the penance to be paid for competing at such a high level in basketball.

We understood that it took only fifteen or so scholarships to field a top-ten team, or twenty to field an excellent soccer team, and so on. Furthermore, most of these guys seemed to be able to hack it academically, albeit with help from academic "advisers." But did we really want seventy to eighty football players, eating up gobs of scholarships and funding and taking many slots from the academically or artistically gifted? This is why Duke fought the ACC expansion. They know it is impossible in the long term to compete with the Miamis and State U's without seriously compromising the university's mission.

But, at least in the short term, there will be an effort to save face and compete, while trying to work out some agreement with other selective, smaller universities who are also playing homecoming escort-service roles in their respective conferences. A Division 1-AA schedule makes too much sense not to pursue for the Dukies of the college football world. This alumnus would rather be competitive and win football games at a slightly lower level while not sacrificing the academic and cultural standards that Duke has worked so hard to achieve.

Jon Simmons '87
Indianapolis, Indiana

Sad

I was saddened to read that the Oak Room was closing after all these years--it holds many fond memories for me, as a Duke graduate and mother of three Duke students. What saddens me most of all, though, is the fact that it's being turned into the new home for the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life, to give the LGBT center a more prominent place on campus.

I find myself wondering where the Christians are, those believing in biblical Christianity. Have we all been silent so long that our deeply held beliefs are considered irrelevant? Of course, I know Duke has long been a center of "political correctness"--

I guess it just is hard to miss, how deeply the roots of this "political correctness" go, when the aforementioned center replaces a nostalgic place like the Oak Room! I mourn for the traditional Christian principles upon which the university was founded.

Janie Risch Fortney '61
Southport, North Carolina

The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture is moving into the Oak Room's former space. The Center for LGBT Life is moving into the Mary Lou Williams Center's former space, in the basement of the Union Building.

Voice of Reason

I just finished reading "L'Affaire Pre-Blair" ["Under the Gargoyle," July-August 2003]. It's a great piece and recalls for the university community something it needs to remember: [former Vice President for University Relations] Bill Green was and is a remarkable man. I remember so many times during my time as board chair when Bill's quiet words and considerable wisdom kept me from falling deep into some boiling kettle.

Neil Williams '58 (via e-mail)

The correspondent is a former chair of Duke's board of trustees.

Ruling on Rules

Upon opening Duke Magazine today, I was troubled by the first thing I read there ["Quad Quotes," July-August 2003]: associate professor Ruth Day's comment: "Rules? Pah! Rules are like wishbones: Break them and the magic begins."

I would hope that the comment was made in some sort of creative context, as in "Think outside of the box, people." It seems unlikely that Ms. Day would consider it "magical" if her students threw water balloons in her classroom, or if she collided with a vehicle whose operator arbitrarily chose to drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Still, in an era when lack of personal discipline contributes heavily to the failings of our secondary schools, and liberal, anti-authoritarian thinking prevails on campuses today, it is disheartening to contemplate just how eager young minds might interpret and embrace Ms. Day's apparent nonconformist philosophy.

Furthermore, it strikes me that leading off your magazine with her remark is tantamount to endorsing it.

Phil Clutts '61
Charlotte, North Carolina