Forum: September-October 2004

October 1, 2004

 

Same-sex Scholars

The creation of the Baldwin Scholars program is just the latest bit of evidence that Duke has lost its way in attempting to create a consistent social policy ["Gazette," May-June 2004]. How can a university that has made liberal use of the word "diversity" defend this isolation tank of a female study program? Donna Lisker attempts to answer this question with her assessment that the class of Baldwin Scholars will be "diverse in myriad ways, including by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status," but her comment only proves that, for some, diversity is in the eye of the beholder. If we first exclude gender as a component of "diversity," then what†do we exclude†next?

Perhaps I am in no position to voice my criticisms. After all, the "students said they want this." In response, Lisker is going to give those students an "alternative social environment" where they can become leaders and "have more influence than they have now." It sounds as if the administration is building a sandbox in which the kids make the rules. How many such sandboxes is the administration willing to build for the sake of being sensitive and P.C. (i.e., Politically Chaotic)? By these actions, the university is in danger of becoming a web of compartmentalized programs, diverse in the aggregate, yet homogenous in the small scale.

The Baldwin Scholars program will at best only temporarily solve the problems of young women by giving them their own sterile micro-universe, lacking the deplorable social attitudes of others. I believe the true pioneers will continue to be those students who "chip away at the social norms" from within the current system, and I will be interested to see how well the Baldwin Scholars get along when playtime is over and they are forced to step out of their sandbox.

Ronald Lewis McNeill II '99
Arlington, Virginia


The Right Thing

What a hoot to read the story about the academic diversity campus discussion on one page, and then see that Madeline Albright, the former Clinton administration secretary of state, is the commencement speaker on another page ["Gazette," May-June 2004]. This after George Soros made his appearance at Duke to share his anti-American screed. A fair and balanced campus life is proven once again.

A question: Who is the last conservative speaker Duke has invited to address a graduation ceremony? Has there ever been one? I guess all the conservatives are too stupid to speak to Duke graduates and their families.

Evidently, the administration would prefer to imply that conservatives do not exist or are at best unworthy of addressing the school in any forum. Far better to just let them lead the real-world organizations that will likely employ them, rather than risk exposure to their dangerous traditional ideas in the Gothic realm.

Jim Anthony '76
Raleigh, North Carolina

Recent commencement speakers have included Senator Elizabeth Hanford Dole in 2000, former president George Bush in 1998, and columnist George Will in 1991. In May, U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson was the keynote speaker for the law school's commencement exercises.

Your article "Debating Party Parity in Faculty Population" brought back the memory of a comment I received on an economics paper back in 1972: "You're one of those rare birds--an intelligent Conservative." While I was pleased with my grade, I didn't know whether to be complimented that Professor Bronfenbrenner considered me intelligent or embarrassed at being labeled a "conservative."

Thirty-two years later, in a culture that has raised the pursuit of diversity to almost a sacred level, a faculty overwhelmingly composed of male, Caucasian, heterosexual, Protestant Christian scholars would be dismissed as clearly unacceptable for a major university. (Duke certainly appears to consider diversity objectives in gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion to be important in making faculty appointments--in addition to "quality of ... scholarship and the strength of ... teaching.") However, based on your article, rationalization of an overwhelmingly "liberal" Democratic faculty appears to be well under way. If diversity is a worthwhile goal, isn't exposure to diverse political thought, values, and perspective important? Yes, those rare birds--intelligent conservatives--do exist. I would hope that my alma mater would give not only a thoughtful, but honest, objective response to this question.

I. Marie Thomas Hyder '73
Charlotte, North Carolina

I read with dismay in the article on faculty political affiliations the quote by Robert Brandon and his quote of John Stuart Mill that there will be lots of conservatives Duke will never hire ["Debating Party Parity in Faculty Population," Gazette, May-June 2004]. His arrogance even was quoted in the Limbaugh Letter magazine. I recommend, at the very least, relieving him of his chairmanship of the philosophy department, plus, a very thorough scrutiny of Duke's hiring process.

I am appalled that there is even the tiniest hint of elitism in the faculty ranks. I also do not appreciate Michael Munger's quest to rid conservative students of their "hypocrises." He should not be allowed contact with students! That is not the purpose of a college--but instead to foster honest debate and to allowing students to reach their own conclusion--not to indoctrinate. I am mortified that Duke has such narrow-minded people as department chairs who think nothing of overstepping their boundaries of influence.

Elaine Uchiyama Brunjes B.S.N. '71
Weatherby Lake, Missouri

Sad Again

Although the letter of Trish Youngs Myers ["Forum," May-June 2004] includes an acknowledgment that "Duke is first and foremost a community of academic rigor and reason-based decision making," she makes no attempt to show how these qualities were evident in the acceptance of the lesbian and gay agenda.

If "research data is (sic) very clear that sexual orientation is 'hard wired' by genetics and the brain's biochemistry," why not give readers the benefit of these clear data? As a scientist, I have watched for reports on the subject in major journals and remember no such clarity of data on the origin or causes of homosexuality.

As an academician, I have been greatly impressed by the advancement of the homosexual agenda as a classic example of the triumph of the political over the rational process. If Duke, or any other institution, developed a "research-based decision" in its response to the demands of the lesbians and gays, it would be quite newsworthy and enlightening.

Providing a "safe, secure, and supportive environment in which to learn" does not seem to be an appropriate response to the nationally established images of gays and lesbians that are regularly released by the media. Duke seems to be coddling and promoting the preferences of specific individuals in order to keep them pacified. A great institution is being abused.

Joseph B. Harris Ph.D. '59
Washington, Georgia

When I arrived on West Campus in 1946, all I had in the way of finances were the promises of the G.I. Bill. All I owned in the world was either on my back or in a barracks bag "borrowed" from the Army. Although I was decidedly the pauper, I was treated like the prince, so I still wear my Duke ring, although the lettering on it is barely visible.

In those days long past, the Chapel was the centerpiece of the campus. Both Old and New Testament were required courses taught by learned and devout men. Now, however, with the treasures of the past considered no more than historical oddities and the requirement that Bible be taught no longer valid, Duke is a changed place for me. I believe that the school has lost its way morally.

The noise we hear is that of the Duke founders turning in their graves at the news that you have established a refuge for sexual perverts. These are people who have willfully denied scriptural insights and conventions in the pursuit of the "forbidden fruit."

I realize that I am attempting to swim upstream against a fierce current laden with stones determined to interrupt my progress, but my conscience would forever trouble me if I did not express my opinion.

I realize that I have never joined any alumni organization and that my only contributions to the university have been anonymous, but my plans to establish a memorial endowment are now forever canceled.

My eyes will remain as wet as those of our ancient ancestors weeping for the lost security of Mount Zion.

Ross O. Bridewell '49,
A.M. '60
Wilmore, Kentucky

Regrets or Self-interest?

A friend of mine sent me a copy of your recent article on the sorry state of public apologias ["We Apologize," May-June 2004]. You had a lot of interesting insights, but I was a little puzzled about the last paragraph. Were you presenting the Fiji Islanders' celebration of contrition as an example of true repentance and remorse?

I'm thinking back to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Despite all that Scrooge goes through when forced by the three ghosts to review his life, the one thing that finally turns him around is direct confrontation with his own mortality. Sure, he feels bad about all the sorrow he's caused other people and himself, but only when he sees his own gravestone does he at last fall to the ground and beg for a chance to change his ways. It's not true remorse that does it: It's the prospect of his own death and is, therefore, ultimately a selfish reclamation.

Seems to me it's much the same way with the Fijians. Wasn't the trigger for their apology a desire to end the "extended run of bad luck," and wasn't it therefore their self-interest that was really in play here? If life had been luckier, it seems doubtful their very public contrition would have taken place at all.

Regardless, thanks for a most thought-provoking essay.

Lee Gruenfeld, via e-mail

I was quite surprised that Mr. Bliwise did not analyze the apology of the Duke medical team concerning the death of their teenage heart-transplant patient.

Beth Yontz Marcadis
B.S.N. '58
West Palm Beach, Florida

"We Apologize" is a timely and well-written article, well worth the time I spent reading it. I am not familiar with Frank Rich and did not read his article in The New York Times. I think it should be noted that Justin Timberlake apologized only after denouncing Janet Jackson and blaming her for the whole fiasco. Moreover, he had received much flak from African-American artists in the music industry for the role he played, denouncing Jackson, and trying to appear blameless.

Elizabeth Burton
Huntersville, North Carolina

Up With Which He Will Not Put

I was excited to see that outgoing President Nan Keohane was honored with a University Medal at the Founders' Day celebration. In my mind, no amount of praise or recognition will ever be sufficient to thank this great lady for everything she has done for Duke during her tenure. It was my honor to meet her briefly during my twenty-fifth reunion in April 2001, and I was always flattered at her responses to my e-mails throughout the years. She never failed to take the time to write back, because that's just the kind of lady she is.

I must say, though, that I cringed at the wording of the citation as, I imagine, would our new president. Mr. Brodhead. Welcome to Duke, the best four-letter word we know! Perhaps with your background in English, you can have Ms. Keohane's citation corrected to read "...or the ever-enhanced facilities in which they live and learn...." As reported in the column on page two of the January-February '04 issue of Duke Magazine, it read, "... or the ever-enhanced facilities that they live and learn in...." As homage to my dear mother, who taught high-school English for thirty years, I must remind you all that one should never end a phrase with a preposition!

Only the best for you, Nan--at the risk of insulting you, you leave behind very large shoes to fill. We are indebted to you for dedicating your past decade to our great university!

Skip Heyman B.S. E. '76
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Addition and Omission

I have just received another fine edition of Duke Magazine. On page 14 are some interesting data on the Duke class of 2004. It is stated that there were 1,563 undergraduate diplomas, 754 for women and 810 for men. However, 754 plus 810 is 1,564, not 1,563. Did I miss something--or did you?

More significant than that arithmetic glitch is what seems like a large number of double and triple majors. I don't know whether national figures on such accomplishments are available, but I am impressed by the high proportion of undergraduates who complete two or three majors. Perhaps this phenomenon is worthy of a Duke Magazine story sometime.

Jerrold H. Zar
DeKalb, Illionois

I read the Biotechnology for Business article ["Biotechnology Boot Camp," May-June 2004] with interest as it gives no reference to a similar program started at Duke some twenty-nine years ago by my father, Charles K. Bradsher, which is still running as Chemistry for Executives. It's great that the theme is growing, and I'm sure many executives in other fields could benefit from a short "re-education" in the field that they find themselves working.

Marien Bradsher '68
St. Paul, Minnesota

Reviewing the Review

I was gratified to see in Duke Magazine (July-August 2003) a review of my book The Treatment: the Story of Those Who Died in the Cincinnati Radiation Tests (Duke University Press, 2002); but it is sometimes difficult to recognize in Jeremy Sugarman's report the book I actually wrote.

Dr. Sugarman says he can reach no conclusions about what happened in Cincinnati and relates none of the basic facts of the case; but perhaps some of your readers would wish to know these facts.

From 1960 to 1972, 90 percent of cancer patients were irradiated over their whole bodies, or sometimes half their bodies, in a lead-clad radiation room of the University of Cincinnati. Doctors funded by the Department of Defense wanted to see what would happen to troops on an atomic battlefield. The patients thought they were being treated for their disease. Few had been acutely ill, yet twenty-one died within the critical first month. They suffered severe intestinal and other effects and became mentally deranged. Many "went steadily downhill," as the doctors put it, and succumbed to infection in the end, in the classic period of radiation injury.

There are many kinds of evidence that cancer was not the object of the study. In eleven years, the researchers produced only one brief report on cancer, but voluminous studies on radiation injury. They chose patients with the solid tumors least likely to be helped by whole-body radiation, and administered it in one continuous dose, as if a nuclear blast.

When the tests became partly known back in 1972, military funding was withdrawn. No cancer agency offered support, and the radiations ceased.

Dr. Sugarman feels that The Treatment is "unclear" about what the patients would have consented to. The doctors themselves report that early patients were told only that "they were being treated for their disease." Consent forms were eventually introduced, but they never stated the real risk--a one-in-four chance of death within a month.

The Treatment examines not just the DOD reports, but the complete hospital records released through the lawsuit of 1994, 5,000 pages of back files from the University of California College of Medicine, and all the deliberations on the case, published and unpublished, from Clinton's Advisory Committee of 1994-95. As it happens, both Dr. ugarman and I were involved with the committee. I was sent the draft chapters on Cincinnati and sent back my suggestions and corrections of fact. The committee's final report issued a strong indictment, but one limited by Chair Ruth Faden's ruling that no study could be made of hospital records or individual injuries or deaths.

Dr. Sugarman does not mention the outcome of the legal action. The case was settled in 1999 for more than $5 million by thirteen researchers and three institutions. A Republican judge, Sandra Beckwith, compared deeds of the researchers to the deeds condemned by Nuremberg.

Dr. Sugarman is interested, he notes, in human rights, and I hope he will join me, and Duke University Press, in helping to make known the basic facts of the Cincinnati experiments.

Surely it is better to know, than not to know, what has happened to us.

Martha Stephens
Professor of English Emerita
University of Cincinnati