Forum: September-October 2003

October 1, 2003

 


Read the May/June 2003 IssueRead the March/April 2003 IssueTimely

I read with interest your article on "Empires" [March-April 2003]. Thanks for such a timely and thought-provoking look at the topic.

I found your choice of cover also quite interesting. At a time when much of the case for the Iraqi invasion has proven to be bogus, your cover illustration of Teddy Roosevelt leading his 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry against the Spanish in Cuba was also serendipitous.

Roosevelt indeed led the Rough Riders to glory in the Spanish-American War, but he did so, with the rest of his command, on foot, since the regiment left its horses stateside. The photogenic, mounted charge depicted on your cover, replete with shell burst only feet away from a nonplussed Roosevelt, never happened. It's jingoistic fantasy, propaganda. It brought to mind a similar illusion, though one even more ironic--President Bush, who avoided the draft during the Vietnam War, looking quite martial in pilot's garb, addressing the sailors and nation aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in May.

Gerald A. Regan '75 (via e-mail)


I was born in the Harding administration, and graduated from the Duke Divinity School in 1949. My wife, Mildred, was manager of the Duke University Bookstore under Mrs. Halloway around 1946 or '47.

I don't have the energy to write neatly, but I had to say the March-April 2003 Duke Magazine is full of so much information, substance, and debate. Oh, including your superb, timely "Imperialism" article. An absolutely magnificent issue. I can't imagine all the work and coordination that went into it.

Jarvis D. Brown M.Div. '49
Fullerton, California

Engineering Diversity

Suzanne Elizabeth Franks Ph.D. '91 reported in a letter in the March-April issue that, as an engineering graduate student at Duke in the late 1980s and early 1990s, she felt unwelcome and unwanted by many male faculty and peers. I suspect she would have a different experience today. Times have changed, attitudes have changed, demographics are changing, and there's a changing face to engineering.

It is clear that the emphasis of engineering is shifting to one that is more focused on social issues such as bioengineering, health care, and the environment, and a study by the National Science Foundation has shown that more women are attracted to engineering when they can align their careers with social issues. Indeed, we are seeing additional women coming into engineering these days. At Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, 32 percent of the Class of 2007 are women, up from 24 percent last year.

We've been particularly aggressive in hiring women faculty. In 1991, there were only two women on the tenure track at the engineering school. Today, we have twelve women faculty members, eight of whom are tenured, and a thirteenth is pending. That's 14 percent of the 2003-04 faculty. The national average last year was 8 percent. This means more women will be available to augment their male colleagues as mentors and role models. This is going to have a very positive effect on women and make Pratt an even more attractive place for women to do engineering.

I want to assure Dr. Franks that we are dedicated to diversity and to being a welcoming place for all our students.

Kristina M. Johnson
Dean, Pratt School of Engineering

Identity Crisis

A clarification, perhaps, on the article "Clarifying Census Figures on Latinos" in the March-April issue. William Darity Jr., professor in the Sanford Institute, was quoted as saying, "many Hispanics in the U.S. are of African ancestry, particularly those from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico...but as a group they rarely self-identify as black." This statement is not quite correct.

Mexicans are by far the largest group of Hispanics in the U.S. and they do not self-identify as black for the simple reason that they are not of African ancestry. Most Mexicans are Mestizo (American Indian/European), and nearly all the remainder are either American Indian or European. The largest contingent in the remaining 5 percent or so of Mexicans is from Guatemala and of American Indian ancestry. Caribbean Islanders often do have substantial African ancestry, but it is worth noting that Cuban Americans are not a random sample of all Cubans. Many have majority backgrounds other than African and have always considered themselves to be Cuban, not black.

Back in the 1940s, when I was an undergrad at Trinity College, there were a number of Duke students from Puerto Rico, Panama, and Colombia, none of whom were considered to be black.

If the majority of Mexicans, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans in the U.S. identify with Spanish-speaking homelands and call themselves Hispanics, maybe they know something a certain Duke professor does not.

Richard L. Sulzer '47, A.M. '50, Ph.D. '54
(via e-mail)

Taking Issue

Regarding "Face Value" [May-June 2003], I am offended by the remarks of Nikki Jusu as written in this issue.

Duke was totally segregated during the years I attended (1950-1954), but we strongly supported change, and wanted Negroes (no African Americans in those days) to have the same opportunity as the rest of us. We voted as a student body at that time to end segregation and allow minorities of all races to attend Duke.

Here we are forty-nine years later having a rising junior telling us the reason she came to Duke was because "Duke offered me the most money." Tell her I feel an obligation to bring a voice of a white person to Duke Magazine in saying I, as a person with the same rights and obligations as she, am totally unimpressed by her desires to be a "black columnist." In my opinion, her attitude is a major reason students at Duke will not extend themselves to her, or any African American with a similar attitude.

Duke continually seeks contributions from me, at my age, or my estate. If this is the way Duke intends to spend its money, count me out. Please remove me from the alumni association records and from the Duke Magazine mailing list.

William H. Wright '54, M.D.
(via e-mail)


So here I am an old guy who went to the school in the Thirties, back when the coeds were not allowed to be cheerleaders because it was indiscreet to show their little panties.

My Duke Magazine arrives with a naked guy on the front page [May-June 2003]. I almost swallow my false teeth. I thought I had cancelled my subscription to Playboy after strong objections from my wife.

But it is only the start. Page 4 features a gal who only came to Duke "because Duke offered me the most money" and finds our campus "monotonous." As former president of the Northern California Duke Alumni Association in the 1950s who had to tell a bunch of highly motivated, enthusiastic kids they couldn't get into Duke, it seems we could have picked someone who is less combative and more grateful to make the grade.

On page 10 I see what I think is a picture of the old Coffee Shop I once waited tables in. It's now to become the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, which will make room for the new home for the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life. Wow! I used to live in San Francisco and I guess my alma mater is way out ahead of even there on political correctness.

Page 16 featured the current President's House. Having fond memories of the beautiful old English Tudor and Virginia brick colonial homes along the drive between campuses, this new one looks like a parking garage. We must have hired the same architect that built that horrible [Bryan Center] student union in the middle of our beautiful Gothic West Campus.

It wasn't until I got to page 58 and its glimpse of the Duke Gardens that I found something I had an affinity to. On page 66 I finally found my place--the obits. But I won't be answering the ad on page 67 for "Planned Giving" to Duke. Duke has left me behind. They can bury me with this old mechanical typewriter.

Theodore M. Robinson '40
Sacramento, California

South American Solidarity

As a long-time resident in Latin America, I enjoyed reading your article "South American Start-up" [May-June 2003]. What the writer calls the ambivalence toward life in Latin America, I would describe as a series of trade-offs.

Strong family ties are the trade-off for the often frustrating inefficiencies found in the work environment. We celebrate relatives' birthdays with family parties, and our two oldest children now study at universities while living at home. Twenty years ago, I remember telling my Chilean bride that I had found a lovely apartment in the Las Condes area of Santiago just a mile away from her parents' home. Her response: Why did we have to live so far away from her mother?

Solidarity is the trade-off for the economic inequality we see around us. For example, most universities organize both summer and winter work projects where students give up their vacations to travel and work as volunteers in extremely poor rural communities. Year after year, students display their solidarity with a lot of enthusiasm. They paint schools and municipal buildings and build needed housing, working intensively for two weeks in difficult living conditions.

Third, there is the paradoxical trade-off between freedom and laws experienced by many U.S. expatriates. It's the feeling of having more personal freedom overseas than in the U.S. because of the excessive laws in the U.S. Although it may be compared to the freedom of the Wild West, it means that one will basically depend on one's own wits to succeed. Best of luck to Se?ores Reale and Vernon.

Paul Fischer '70
Santiago, Chile

Kudos for Museum

The new museum and [Ray Nasher's] sculpture collection look splendid [May-June 2003]. All can rejoice.

When I was at Duke, there was no art on campus and nothing much between Durham and Washington. I took several art classes with my professor grumbling about the lack and also muttering about the pseudo-architecture ("Not just a copy but a copy of a copy"). She showed us slides of the Gothic buildings under construction. Putting chimneys on roofs of buildings without fireplaces was one of the things that riled her greatly.

Now we are going to have a beautiful, contemporary building designed by a major architect and will perhaps have the benefit of an outstanding collection of sculpture. Hooray, hooray!

Dorothy Carrico Wood '56
(via e-mail)

P.S. I like [architect Rafael] Viñoly's World Trade Center drawing better than the one that won.

Good Catch

The caption in the picture on page 19 in the May-June issue has some incorrect math ["Making the Cut on Campus"]. The old sayings are "Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar" and "Shave and a haircut, two bits." If the price of a haircut today is $32, that equates to 32 times 8, which equals 256 "bits," not 128 as stated.

Just trying to keep us alert, aren't you? Probably no one but us "old guys" who remember paying two bits for a haircut noticed.

Jack Ferguson B.S.M.E. '48
(via e-mail)

Correction: The July-August "Campus Observer" identifies the late Frederic M. Hanes as a neurosurgeon. He was a neurologist.