Forum: March-April 2009

April 1, 2009

Your recent article on crime at Duke ["Crime Happens," November-December 2008] documents well the changes to security occurring on campus since the violent tragedies at Virginia Tech and other U.S. campuses last year. I appreciate the open discussion of crime at Duke and the challenges in making it safer.

However, a fully honest discussion of campus crime would have to include sexual violence, which, with the exception of a mention of the lacrosse scandal, was glaringly absent here. Several acts of sexual violence against students occur on and around campus each semester (ten in 2005, according to Duke's Annual Crime Report). By excluding sexual violence, your article perpetuates the silence that so often surrounds this crime, silence that keeps many of its victims from coming forward and seeking help.

Joel Sholtes '04, Carrboro, North Carolina

Editor's note: A cover story focusing on sexual assault on campus, "The Silent Epidemic," ran in the March-April 2005 issue of Duke Magazine.


Ms. Booher states that "back then," things might not have been as safe as now. I was at Duke in a back-then period, '52 to '56. Things were very safe. No dorm doors were locked; books, coats, umbrellas, and anything else that you left in the dining halls were safe until you retrieved them.

There were beer parties, usually at a gate, and parties on weekends, seldom campus cops, and never locals, and I am not sure what a bacchanalian free-for-all is.

Mark P. Johnson Jr. '56, Charlotte


Precision Relative

I laughed when I read that Dr. Scott Huettel [Ph.D. '99] is attracted to economics because of its "precision" ["Let It Ride," November-December 2008]. The world's economic systems are failing, the markets are in turmoil, the best brains are clueless (other than the Democrats' certainty that it's all Bush's fault), and he likes it because of its precision. What a wiggly world psychologists must live in.

Bob Anderson '55
The Villages, Florida




Funky Times

The Big Funk photo [Register, November-December 2008] made me smile. It was taken in October 1969. I missed the photo op by a few minutes but enjoyed seeing many old friends. Just to let you know, the fellow in the upper left corner was Hutch Traver '71, the student-body president.

Harold Stull '70
Kensington, Maryland


As one of the proprietors of Big Funk, it was sweet to see my old friends, living and dead, at that wonderful moment so many years ago, and I send them kisses and love because they all deserve it. I hope to see at least one or more of them before I die. By the way, who took that picture? He knows who he is.

Art McTighe '70
Hightstown, New Jersey


I hope you don't mind hearing from one of the ne'er do wells from the Class of '71 who didn't make it to graduation.

The turmoil of the 1960s interrupted my Duke education, so the memories I have are all too fleeting. An original print of the "Big Funk" photo hangs framed on my wall as a reminder, however, and I challenge any one of the alumni of those years to see me now and then identify me in that photo!!

The spirit of those times is still not winning the battle, but it should add some perspective to today's overwhelming problems, as the downfall of corporate greed echoes through the upcoming months. The incoming administration stands on our shoulders, and as we work through the difficulties facing us, remember that our children have the same dreams that we once had.

Jonathan Stein '71, Philadelphia


In Search of Knowledge

Regarding Reynolds Price's comments in Under the Gargoyle ["Teaching Milton," November-December 2008], if Duke students have read "so little of anything," why are they admitted?

Jack Brown '69, Terrace Park, Ohio


Here is a suggestion as to why Duke students have read so little: Elaborate "bias and sensitivity guidelines" now govern textbook production for public schools.

The scope of this self-censorship is detailed in New York University education historian Diane Ravitch's widely acclaimed The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (2003).

At the elementary level, moreover, public schools avoid teaching basic information children will need to comprehend more difficult material in later years. I recommend E.D. Hirsch Jr.'s new book, The Knowledge Deficit. From the press release: "Our children ... are subjected to a watered-down curriculum that fails to build the background knowledge essential to reading comprehension ... by fourth grade, students' deficit in background knowledge trips them up ... [leaves them] starved for facts—facts about history, geography, science, literature, mathematics, music, and art. Because of their knowledge deficit, students cannot comprehend the texts they are asked to read in fourth grade and beyond."

Schooling in America is, in effect, a protected monopoly of state and local governments. It's time to rethink that arrangement. 

Tom Shuford, B.S.M.E. '68, Lenoir, North Carolina



Letters and More Letters

It's hard to believe that a Duke graduate such as Jim Robinson '75 would question the theory of evolution [Forum, November-December 2008] in this year, which marks the bicentennial celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin and 150 years since the publication of his On the Origin of Species. I believe there are no reputable biologists who currently question evolution by natural selection as the explanation of species change. Did Robinson graduate without taking any biology or zoology courses? Or did he just not believe what his professors tried to teach him?

Erdman Palmore '52, Ph.D. '59, Chapel Hill

The correspondent is a professor emeritus of medical sociology at Duke.


I am writing in response to a letter printed in the November-December Forum. I want to thank the editors for publishing this rant written by Rita White. Ms. White mocks the "gay people literature" supplied to incoming freshmen of Duke University and "wonder[s] where the heterosexual meetings [are] being held."

Many Americans, including myself, were raised in cities or areas within cities that are extremely homogeneous. Incoming freshmen and parents should view the university experience as an opportunity to broaden their horizons and use the university's resources to educate themselves not solely on topics pertaining to their majors but also open their eyes to the greater world. Our global society requires future leaders who embrace those who are both similar to and different from themselves in terms of socioeconomics, politics, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, and even sexual orientation.

Certainly Ms. White has the right to voice her opinion, but in doing so, she unintentionally communicates an argument that counters her own. Her ineloquent letter of ignorance further illustrates the need for literature educating and promoting tolerance. I commend Duke for its efforts to create an awareness of diversity on campus and promote feelings of equality for its student body. 

Kelly M. Caprio D.P.T. '06, New York


In the wee hours of a Sunday morning in my junior year at Duke in the late 1960s, several inebriated fraternity brothers beat on my dormitory door and yelled an anti-gay slur, perhaps perceiving that I was different from them in ways that even I didn't realize at the time: an independent living in an on-campus fraternity and a financial-aid student grappling with his sexual identity.

Fast forward forty years after a career in education, journalism, and public relations, and Rita White P '10 wants to know "why it is that these [LGBT] people feel they have to announce their orientation to the world."

Reading this letter from a Duke parent, I felt both revulsion and pity—not unlike the feeling many people today might have looking at the photographs of white boys and girls spewing hatred toward the black students who were integrating Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. For Mrs. White, it seems that gay men and lesbians are "those" people, "others" who have these peculiar "life styles" and who are demanding "special" rights. You see, she suggests, they are not like you and me: "these people" should remain invisible, just as African Americans were invisible in 1968, when I wrote a class paper on the desegregation of television commercials.

Gay men and lesbians cannot afford to be invisible when in 2008 a fifteen-year-old boy can be killed for presenting a valentine to his same-sex classmate, or when our loving relationships are not recognized in a legal document. We must speak up to change ignorant and prejudiced opinions and attitudes. We must come out of the closet to combat stereotypes and to affirm our common decency and basic humanity. All I want for LGBT students is what Mrs. White wants for her son and daughter: to have meaningful, caring, and supportive relationships that will help them lead happier and more productive lives.

Pender M. McCarter '68, Washington


Defending Werber's Memory

I read with some dismay the recent reply to the Bill Werber article posted by Professor Emeritus Klopfer [Forum, January-February 2009]. While certainly not defending those actions of Mr. Werber, I cannot help but wonder why so many expect persons of Mr. Werber's era to accept social change so easily, yet these same individuals refuse to acknowledge the social climate in which Mr. Werber and many of his generation were raised. [It was] a totally segregated society, and these values remained with them for life. The sudden and caustic changes of the 1960s disturbed the world in which they were raised, and many reacted in inappropriate measures by our standards of today.

The letter by Professor Klopfer mentioned his libel suit, supported by the university president. This action does not surprise me. While I would most likely have done the same, it strikes me as rather interesting that the university president who supported the suit was the same one responsible for the early retirements of legendary coaches Vic Bubbas and Bill Murray…. 

I am glad that Mr. Werber did not have to pay damages since damage by Professor Klopfer could not be substantiated, and it is unfortunate that donations to the university fell off as well.… I would refrain from directly blaming Mr. Werber for the decline in alumni gifts: It was most likely in response to the changing social climate of the time. Sadly, a similar climate of professors still exists at Duke—professors with a mindset against athletes and athletics.

I also wonder how many students Professor Klopfer was responsible for bringing to Duke. I seriously doubt it was as many as Bill Werber was responsible for [attracting].

Sadly, Professor Klopfer's letter appeared just days after Mr. Werber's passing, and I found the letter in poor taste. The original article was meant to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Mr. Werber, who until his death, was the oldest living former major-league baseball player, and Duke's first basketball All-American.

To his family, my condolences and apologies for the poor timing of Professor Klopfer's reply. To the professor, kudos for standing up for his rights, but this was neither the time nor the place to bring up old wounds. The letter was written with malice over the past, and I would have hoped that both of these Duke men could have moved on.

Thomas Dorsey A.M.'00, Greenville, North Carolina