Review, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA
The Review welcomes letters from readers and will print as many of them as space permits. Letters may be edited for brevity and clarity. Unsigned letters cannot be used, but names of the writers may be withheld on request.
Fairness Fairly Represented?
Steve Landsburg and I have disagreed on many topics since we were freshmen together in the fall of 1970, living across the hall from each other on Morgan Five. I was delighted to see the excerpt from his book on fairness in the SpringSummer 1998 Rochester Review and not surprised that, even after almost 30 years, we still disagree. He discusses the importance of symmetry in fairness and then points out that landlords and employers are not allowed to discriminate based on race, but renters and employees are. He argues this is asymmetric and unfair. He calls this sideways discrimination and paints a terrible picture of future fairness regulation governing all life decisions, including marriage.
His argument violates one of his own premises: "the requirement that people in analogous situations should be treated analogously." He seems to assume that being an employer is analogous to being an employee and being a landlord is analogous to being a renter. Of course they are not. Imagine a survey of randomly selected people which asks whether they would prefer to be an employer or an employee, a landlord or renter. Steve seems to believe preferences would split roughly 50-50. I believe most would prefer to be relatively rich and powerful.
The other weakness in his argument is that he ignores harm to others as a basis for fairness. The antidiscrimination laws, which Steve touts as unfair, were passed, not to make everyone treat everyone fairly in all contexts, but to address real harms caused by discrimination against disadvantaged minorities in the employment and housing markets. The laws do provide for symmetric fairness by providing that all tenants and employees be treated fairly, without regard to race. In addition, if the United States ever becomes a society with lots of minority employers and landlords, those people, like their white counterparts, will be prohibited from racial discrimination. Thus, contrary to Steve's argument, these laws satisfy his fundamental requirement of symmetry.
Steve closes his article by arguing that in a pluralistic society, we should be tolerant of other people's right to be intolerant and bigoted. At last a point we agree on! But our agreement is limited. Steve seems to suggest that if we don't tolerate even the most unsavory, we risk becoming Nazi Germany. I would argue that the tolerance of any civilized society is tempered by the recognition of harm caused by the bigotry of others. Contrary to Steve, I don't believe bigots should always be treated "fairly," i.e., like non-bigots. When their beliefs cause them to injure others through murder or assault, I would treat them differently. I can tolerate the values of a psychopathic killer until the killer acts on those values. The law does not seek to prevent people from believing whatever they choose to believe about people of different races; it merely seeks to reduce the harm resulting from such beliefs. When people act in such a way to cause substantial harm to others, the law should act, to punish and restrict such harmful behavior. The law does this symmetrically and fairly by regulating the conduct, whether caused by an honest belief that racial discrimination is appropriate, or for some other reason such as carelessness or a lack of concern. Steve is right that fairness is important, but fairness should concern not only symmetry, but harm to others as well.
Ross Petty '73, '74S (MBA)
Landsburg claims that on the basis of fairness the law ought not to hold, for example, landlords and employers to a higher moral standard than those who seek housing and jobs. He argues that because laws prohibiting racial discrimination by employers and landlords are inherently asymmetrical between tenants and job seekers on the one hand, and landlords and employers on the other, they are unfair.
I will not dispute Landsburg's assertion that symmetry is essential for fairness. However, a claim of symmetry must depend on the social, economic, political, and historical context in which the relationship between the parties exists. The sort of anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action policies to which Landsburg and others object are put in place to insure that typically scarce and necessary resources are not withheld from particular segments of the community.
Those seeking shelter and employment need shelter and employment in a way that is not symmetrical with their bargaining partners. Employers and landlords have capital that may be liquidated, and so are not generally taken to be at the mercy of tenants and employees. This may be empirically false at particular times, but it surely forms the basis on which such laws and policies are to be defended as fair.
We all hope that as children grow they will develop a broader appreciation of context, and consequently fairness. We call this maturity. Whether it is reasonable to have such hopes for some economists remains an open question.
John W. McNeill '81 (PhD)
Fairport, New York
Your article about Ana Hubbard's experience as a dorm counselor to men-only (SpringSummer 1998) really struck a chord with me, because I, too, was a dorm counselor to men-only at the University, in 198182.
We lived on Gilbert 1-short, 18 men and myself. I had a single at the end of the hall, just across from the men's bathroom, so I always had a lot of "foot traffic"! We had a lot of activities, more than I can remember, but including weekly study breaks, a trip to the symphony (rule: you may sleep, but no snoring), a floor hockey team, and several parties.
I guess we're the forgotten pioneers because nothing went wrong. I remember the residence hall director telling me that I could probably handle the job because I had five brothers and was a veteran of three years in the Navy. In any case, I have very fond memories of that time, and I read the magazine carefully for news of "my guys."
Carolyn J. O'Hara '82
Kids Are Important, Too
While I very much liked your reply to Mr. Johnson and his complaint about birth announcements in Class Notes (Spring-Summer 1998), an alternative viewpoint seems called for.
Despite all the clichés about drooling parents festooning the world with baby pictures, I happen to believe children are important. While many choose or are dealt a life without progeny, those of us fortunate enough to be parents know the experience is at least as important as the latest career move. In fact, our parental status often determines our career status. It may even be our sole occupation.
In my case, having five children who were born at home and whom we home-school, my family is the most important thing in my life. While I enjoy work as associate librarian at Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh State University, the fulfillment I derive from my work, as fulfilling as I find it, pales in comparison. Despite recently having written several successful grant proposals and having made great progress in making our library service available online, what I am most proud of is our five children, ages 5 through 18.
Announcements of the arrival of classmates' babies are important enough to warrant obesity in the magazine, should it come to that.
Wayne L. Miller '71
North Bangor, New York
If you don't want to read birth announcements, skip them. Each child born heralds a huge change in the parents' lives --as much as a marriage, and more than a new job, a paper, a performance, a move. Don't you want to know what's really happening in your classmates' lives?
Education is not wasted on parents! It certainly helps me do a better job, whether I'm parenting (teaching) my child, working at the computer, performing for pay, or aiding in the classroom.
Mary Helen Weinstein Connor '76E, '77E (MM)
Mountain View, California
Restoring the Palestra
I have read with great interest accounts of the planned renovation to the University's athletic complex. I know that most of these renovations have been long awaited and will make fine improvements to our facilities.
I am, however, quite unhappy with the decision to remove the Palestra's "beehive." I say this as someone with a long history of loyal support of our basketball teams. Indeed, I don't think I missed a home game (and few locally played away games) before I moved to Washington 11 years ago. Since then I have returned to the Palestra on a few occasions to support our teams and have even traveled to New York University and Johns Hopkins to see our teams play there. From these travels and from the myriad other gymnasia I have visited I can say with certainty that the beehive is unique. It is as much part of the character and charm of the Palestra as are the bleachers and the stairs leading up to the locker rooms. This is not something to be tossed aside lightly. In fact, I would change none of those features.
I understand that the rationale behind the removal of the beehive is to allow the expansion of the playing court to a size required for NCAA post-season play. I would ask if the loss of the beehive is worth possible post-season play. Despite my long-standing support of both our basketball teams I would have to answer in the negative. Let's be truthful. In order to host an NCAA game a team must have no more than three or four losses. The men's team hasn't had a record like that since 1992. The women's team not since 1985. Changing the Palestra's character in such a fundamental way isn't worth the once- or twice-a-decade chance at hosting post-season games, no matter what the financial or publicity benefits that hosting might bring. I strongly urge the University to reconsider this decision. I would much rather we take the money that would be spent enlarging the court and spend it on a modern game clock suspended over mid-court.
Bob Dardano '77
As described in Rochester In Review, the University is indeed undertaking a sweeping renovation of the entire sports and recreation complex. The Palestra itself will be restored rather than simply renovated--that is, the character of the "old-fashioned architecture" will be revealed once again.
At the same time the court will be lengthened to bring it up to NCAA III standards. The removal of the "beehive," a small seating area at the south end of the court favored by the most ardent Rochester fans, is the only feasible way to do so. But the architects assure that there will still be plenty of choice seating for Yellowjacket supporters. Although we greatly value the devotion of loyal 'Jacket fans like Bob Dardano, we beg to differ with him on one point: He may be willing to predict that winning seasons (and post-season play) will be few and far between, but his University isn't--Editor.
I read with interest the article about WRUR turning 50 in February 1998. It is nice to know that it is still there.
During my freshman year (196970), the station received a permit to broadcast at an effective 20,000 watts. Unfortunately, no one had considered what 20,000 watts of RF current would do in close proximity with some of the spectrographic equipment in the chemistry department next door. The result was catastrophic. In addition, the administration was not overly enthusiastic when they realized that the "Student Voice of the University of Rochester" could be heard as far away as Syracuse. An unhappy compromise was reached wherein the station broadcast at substantially reduced hours and reduced power.
By 1972 the local public broadcasting television station was looking for a companion radio station and eyeing our frequency with interest. Tom Dray '74 and I were by then station manager and business manager respectively. We spent the summer working out a proposal for a more permanent solution. Neither of us could type, nor spell, so the reduction of the proposal to an approximately 12-page typewritten document, in the days before word processing, was slow and painful. Somehow we prevailed, and the administration did not send the station's license back to the FCC postage due.
I graduated before anything was finalized, but was later told that our plan had been the basic framework that settled the problem. (Of course, the fact that the chemistry department had, conveniently, moved to a new building some distance away improved the atmosphere.)
It was, for me, a watershed event. The challenge of trying to figure out the FCC regulations and figuring out the art of the possible had been a great experience. I realized that this was probably the sort of thing that lawyers did all the time and that I ought to become a lawyer. Eventually I did. When I noticed your article, however, I realized that we never celebrated the 25th birthday of WRUR. I am glad the station has made it to middle age.
F. Michael Friedman '73
Those who attended the University in the mid-1970s might be interested to hear news about an assistant professor who taught creative writing courses remembered fondly by several alumni. Charles Flowers recently wrote A Science Odyssey: 100 Years of Discovery, a companion book to the PBS series that aired in January 1998. When we were his students, I don't think Professor Flowers saw anything creative in science (and he couldn't fathom how I could find my biology classes as inspiring as English literature). As I read his book, though, I could tell that he's come to realize how creativity plays an integral role in scientific discovery.
I remember that the English department offered separate creative writing classes for short stories, poetry, and drama. We took turns bringing in a bottle of wine to share as we critiqued each other's work. (During those years, of course, the legal drinking age was 18, and we could freely enjoy an alcoholic beverage on campus. In that bygone era, cigarette smokers freely lit up during class, too.)
Sometimes, after we read a classmate's literary creation, the discussion stalled. To elicit comments, Professor Flowers would ask, "Do you care about these characters? Did reading this [story, poem, play] change your life?" I don't know if anyone's masterpiece-of-the-week changed our lives, but the class itself steered some of us toward writing and related fields.
Craig Wolff '79 went on to become a sports writer for The New York Times, and now he teaches journalism at Columbia University. James Sherman '79 did some stand-up comedy and acting in New York City. Scott Brown '80 went into legal publishing, then to law school, and now his practice includes cases in entertainment law. Mark Miller, who transferred to Syracuse after sophomore year, wrote screenplays in Los Angeles before he and his wife formed Famous Frames, an agency that represents storyboard artists. Dainis Hazners '80 is a poet and bookstore owner in Story, Wyoming. And I'm a freelance science/medical writer in New York City.
Linda E. Ketchum '78
New York City
Tribute to Phil Meyers
It was with great sadness that I read of Professor Philip Meyers's death in the latest Rochester Review. As an M.B.A. student in the Simon School, I had the pleasure of being in an accounting class taught by Professor Meyers. His down-to-earth approach to life and teaching was evident the first day of class. In his classroom, he was Phil, and when most gave out office phone numbers and office hours, Phil gave us his home phone number and told us to call anytime. He did add that if it sounded like he had had a little too much to drink--just call back at another time! Phil Meyers, along with many other fine faculty members, including Richard Niemi (who finally taught me how to write after 15 years of schooling), Cliff Smith (who taught all of us about finance), and Peter Regenstrief (who taught us to watch TV a little differently), made the Rochester experience truly memorable.
Craig Mondschein '88, '89S (MBA)
Merrick, New York
And to Frank Dowd
I was saddened to learn of the death of retired administrator Frank Dowd '48, '57 (MA) in the Spring Rochester Review. During my undergraduate years I wrote a humor column for Logos that skewered various administration officials, faculty members, and even some of my fellow students. In my senior year my friends and I put on a show based on those columns, "Unrestricted Donations," which included a few barbs at Mr. Dowd's expense.
What I remember, more than 20 years later, is that he was one of two administrators to actually attend the show. Both he and Don Hess brought their wives along, and even offered to buy the cast a round of drinks in the Rathskeller afterwards.
Frank Dowd showed he could laugh at himself, a virtue that I have since learned is all too rare in the "real world" outside of college.
Dan Kimmel '77
Longevity and Milan Yancich
As one of Milan Yancich's former students, I would like to call the attention of Rochester alumni to his retirement from the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in July 1997. A month earlier--at the International Horn Society's annual international workshop, held at the Eastman School--he and Morris Secon, another former RPO hornist and Eastman faculty member, received the Punto Award in recognition of their outstanding careers.
Mr. Yancich played for 40 years in the orchestra (195460; 196397). As remarkable as his longevity was, what really stands out is that he continued playing until the age of 75, and despite a serious cancer operation over 20 years ago.
Perhaps his most important achievement is the 33 years he spent teaching at Eastman (195689). The majority of his students have gone on to successful careers as performers, teachers, and administrators, among them James Undercofler '67E, the new director of the Eastman School.
What I'd like to highlight, however, is his willingness to accept for lessons any liberal arts students at the River Campus. During my time at the University (196266), practically every hornist in the concert band and certainly everyone in the Baroque Ensemble was his student: Jim Smith '64, whom I played horn with in the Troy, New York, high school band and who first sang Mr. Yancich's praises to me; Chris Morgan '66; Mark Horowitz '66; Hal Seifried '68; Kathy Olsen '69; Bill Eckert '69; and Mike Malone '70.
As a professional hornist who at one point in his career had to drive a taxi in order to survive, he understood that we liberal arts graduates wouldn't be playing anywhere for pay, but would be performing in community orchestras and bands, perhaps teaching horn at a local school, and someday sitting on the boards of local music organizations. Thus the ripple effect of his influence was increased exponentially, and all of us who were lucky enough to cross his path were the richer for the experience.
Harrington Crissey '66
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
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