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.
Emergency Room 'Abuse'I read with great interest the article [Fall 1998] about Julius Goepp and his views on the problems poor people face in getting adequate health care, especially if they seem to be "abusing" the emergency rooms of hospitals.
I faced a similar predicament in attempting over many hours during a summer weekend to make contact with my children's doctor on a matter of some urgency. It made me realize it's not just the poor who are being badly treated. The situations described in Mr. Rickey's article could happen to any of us.
My first point is that many people would not have been as persistent as I was. Many people in this country do not speak English as well as I do, and would not have been able to navigate through the repeated phone calls necessary to speak to a doctor. If you don't understand a language, the phone is the hardest tool to use, and it's much easier to make contact face to face (the emergency room?) to get your point across.
My second point is that I am covered by an HMO, I have a good paying job, and yet I receive this unsatisfactory level of health care. Is it because doctors can't afford good help because their other bills are too high? I don't know. But I do know that it's not just the poor who are receiving poor service from the health care community. We're all suffering, and something needs to be done.
I applaud Dr. Goepp's efforts, and hope that his work will awaken many in the medical community to the true state of affairs in patient/doctor relationships.
Yvonne Caruthers '74E
Campus Times at 125Thank you for the article about the Campus Times on its 125th anniversary. The clippings reminded me of my year as circulation editor in 195657. Long before computers and data bases, I typed the address labels by hand and tried to keep the subscription list up to date. How much easier it must be now!
Nancy Bates Carlman '59
Vancouver, British Columbia
The Evidence on Class SizeI would like to point out two problems in Eric Hanushek's article "The Evidence on Class Size" [refuting the point that smaller is better, Fall 1998].
The study he mentions in the article compares a "small" class size of 13 to 17 students with a "large" class size of 21 to 25 students. At least in California, the class size we are attempting to reduce is 30 to 34 students. It doesn't take much imagination or common sense to know that a teacher will have more time to teach if the size of the class is reduced from 34 to 20 students. The time saved in discipline alone would allow more teaching in a more relaxed atmosphere! This can only benefit both students and teachers.
Dr. Hanushek states, "The largest impediment to any constructive change is that no one in today's schools has much of an incentive to improve student performance."
This is simply not true and is a gross simplification. One of the largest impediments to any constructive change is that students do not have much incentive to improve their performance. Even at the college level, when a student fails a course, he is allowed to retake the course and the first grade is dropped. I know college students who have taken the same course three or more times and yet they have no failing grades on their transcripts.
Teachers do have an incentive to improve student performance--besides
personal pride, of course. I watch these teachers every day. They care about these children; they are dedicated to these children; they love these children. In many cases the teachers have children of their own and most of them live in the communities in which they teach. They are creating the future of their community and they are very aware of it. They are creating the future of the nation and they are aware of that. They take tremendous pride in what they do and constantly work together to improve their teaching and the learning of their students.
If you want to improve education, then empower teachers, realign schedules, remove students from the work force, and make them responsible for their education. We all bear the responsibility to work together and do our part.
Sara Brown Bostley '64E
The 'Exclusivity Pact'
Regarding Provost Charles Phelps's comments in the most recent issue of Rochester Review (quoted from the Chronicle of Higher Education), though it's likely that, as with innovative ideas throughout history, the move toward alternative means of publishing will be met with resistance in academic and other quarters settled into habitual modes, I applaud the plan by Phelps and his colleagues to encourage such a change. Obviously, the reduction in printing would help preserve our forests and cut down on industrial pollution. And if mindfulness of natural resources did not alone provide ample justification for adapting to electronic publishing, I would readily add that to my lights the "publish or perish" scenario has always been a flawed notion of the means by which the quality of a teacher's scholarship might be evaluated.
Having spent more than a decade editing scholarly texts for museums, university presses, and other educational and cultural institutions, I would cast my vote for the development of alternative criteria if only out of respect for the English language. Without exaggeration, the volume of gobbledygook (parading as the best writing of academia) that has crossed my desk since the early 1980s would be sufficient to spill out of my office and fill the other five rooms of my home were it not for the blessing of recycle bins.
With notable exceptions, the academics I've worked with have been so far removed from the ordinary world that they've forgotten (or never knew) how to write accessibly, no less correctly, a task that would
be far from impossible if today's teachers (and, indeed, all persons in positions of social responsibility) were expected, as in earlier times, to be as literate as they are knowledgeable.
Thus, illiteracy is a far more pervasive problem than that created by poverty and discrimination. It has insinuated itself even into the highest levels of teaching and learning by virtue of diametrical forces: (1) the decline of academic standards for competency in the use of our language, and (2) what I would call the "exclusivity pact," that is, the unspoken but purposeful exclusion of us commoners from the world of academia by perpetuating the illusion that, if a piece of writing sounds sufficiently intimidating in tone and vocabulary, it must be the work of a superior mind. This duality results all too often in writing that is overblown even as it is riddled with errors in syntax and grammar--and thus doubly incomprehensible.
Unfortunate are those among us who haven't had at least one teacher (in or out of the classroom) who could mesmerize us no matter what the topic, speaking plainly and animatedly without dumbing down the material. The Rochester Review itself recently devoted several pages to an article on Professor John Mueller and his ability to galvanize his students, whether engaging them in a discussion of political science or of the dance. That, after a quarter of a century, one of my closest friends from the University still speaks to me of him as extraordinary is not because of any leaning toward pontification but because Mueller loves his subjects and relishes opportunities to commune with students.
Perhaps some of the best criteria for tenure evaluation would be to observe teachers teaching, and to ask students under whose tutelage they learn well and not so well, and what it is about their teachers they feel helps or hinders them. This, I believe, would do more to elevate the art of teaching than Provost Phelps's suggestion of looking to "a method of certification of scholarship by a panel of experts."
Robin Jacobson '75
San Anselmo, California
Applauding AstronautsThe article about the University of Rochester astronauts [Jim Pawelczyk '82 and Ed Gibson '59, Fall 1998] was outstanding. It was of particular interest to me since I spent 20 years with NASA beginning in early 1959 and was present when the first seven astronauts were introduced to the public. I knew them all well, particularly Senator John Glenn, who at 77 is going up again.
On another subject--extended Rochester families: The Pauls have had three generations attending the University during this century. My father, Carl F. Paul, was '05; my class was 1932; my brother, Kenneth Wagner Paul, was Class of 1933; and the youngest of my four children, Cynthia Marie Paul, was Class of 1985.
Carl F. Paul '32
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Favorite ProfessorsIn response to your request for stories about favorite professors:
For many of us in track and cross-country, Head Coach Tim Hale is an unforgettable figure. Coach taught us the willingness to reach for goals that seemed well beyond reach; the value of detailed plans and strategies (our training program!);
the importance of following through on commitments; the discipline needed to accomplish a goal; and the humor and perspective to enjoy our efforts and not take ourselves too seriously.
Coach's program produced benefits in weeks and months, creating a microcosm for the skills needed to succeed in class, and later, in life. I have enduring memories of the lessons learned and the humor and enjoyment that Coach Hale brings to his athletes.
Whether at practice or holding court in his office, Coach had real enthusiasm for our personal and team goals, and seriousness if we fell short.
Through it all, we pushed ourselves hard, learned to reach for the highest goals, laughed a lot, and built enduring bonds with each other and our coach. Thanks, Coach.
Glenn Lamb '83
When I was a pre-frosh in summer '82, I went to a poetry reading in Havens Lounge given by Thomas Gavin. From the first moment I heard his voice I knew I wanted to learn from him. He read, among others, Anne Sexton's version of "Snow White" in Transformations and "Elegy for Jane" by Theodore Roethke.
I have not been in Havens Lounge for many years, but cannot think of it now without thinking of Professor Gavin's reading. Nor can I read those two poems (including a Hebrew translation of the latter) without hearing them in his voice--which I miss. When I lost the container of my possessions at sea, one of the losses that grieved me most was that of my books, including an autographed copy of Professor Gavin's second novel, The Last Film of Emile Vico.
I heard that Professor Gavin retired recently in order to concentrate more on his writing. I wish him all success with all my heart. At the same time I'm sorry for all the students who will now be missing out on a great learning experience with a wonderful teacher. I was lucky, and I know it.
Regarding Professor David Richman:
In a play we acted in the spring of '86, we had to act in a small open space about eight feet off the ground. I hesitated. I was afraid of making a false step. Professor Richman said to me, finally: "I'm blind and I can do it! And if I can, you can!" I did it. And I will never forget that incident, or Professor Richman.
About Professor Russell Peck: Once in Chaucer class he declaimed for us the ballad "Old Hogyn's Adventure," on which one of the spicier Canterbury Tales appears to be based (anyway, it's pretty close in basic plot). His face was red, he was smiling, and the class was laughing so hard we nearly fell off our chairs. And with all Professor Peck's vast expertise, never once, not for a moment, did any of us ever feel looked down upon or intimidated, to the best of my knowledge. I retain that picture of Professor Peck, bouncing around the front of the classroom in rhythm to the ballad and its nonsensical refrain. I still hear it: "Hum, ha, trill go bell."
Robin Jaskow '86
Remembering Harm PotterAs a long-time friend and classmate, I should like to take this opportunity to express my highest regard and admiration for Harm Potter '38, who died this past July.
When Harm joined the "Blue Ribbon Class" in 1934, his leadership qualities, friendliness, optimism, and commitment to serve and help others were clearly apparent from the start. He was a class officer for each of three years, president of the Student Association, a member of various campus committees and honorary societies, and manager of the basketball team. In 1938 he received his degree, cum laude, with a major in economics.
During World War II, Harm served with distinction in the greatest navy in the world aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Essex. He was awarded nine combat stars and a Presidential Unit Citation.
Following the war, Harm returned to the University to begin a series of appointments extending over a period of more than 45 years. He was successively an assistant director of admissions, the first director of alumni relations, secretary of the University, and, in semi-retirement, special assistant to the director of development. Harm recognized the important role alumni and alumnae could play in the future of the University and he established 36 alumni clubs nationwide. He was an incredible fundraiser who made donors feel good about their gifts. Through Harm's efforts millions of dollars were given to the University. Upon his retirement the University honored him through the establishment of the Harmon S. Potter Scholarship Fund.
Harm's high emotional investment in the University of Rochester was exceeded only by his love for his family. No other graduate served the University in more capacities and for so many years. Harm Potter was indeed "Mr. University of Rochester."
Norm Ashenburg '38, '51M (MD)
I have always loved Rochester Rainbows. I grew up in hilly country where you only saw a small rainbow between the tree-covered hills. Here in Rochester after a shower, the Rochester Rainbows cover the sky with happiness and hope.
Harm Potter was like that in many ways. His ready smile always spread good cheer wherever he went. Sometimes from a distance with a friendly wave or, more generally, with a hearty handshake, warm words, and an even more hearty laugh, he brightened our campus with his visits. He was without peer in helpfulness to friends and to his school, and we will all miss him greatly. He was truly our treasured friend. I'm lucky to have known him.
I will always think of him when I see Rochester Rainbows.
J. Ty Dibble '73
Learning for LifeIn the June 6, 1998, edition of The New York Times I learned that a day earlier, at the time I was attending the annual University Garden Party for donors, an 89-year-old graduate had received his master's degree in history from the University.
What a story. When most 89-year-olds are either not of this world or trying gamely to stay here, Joseph DiFede '33 returned to Rush Rhees Library for the pleasant experience of being cross examined by University history and political science professors to determine whether he had a sufficient grasp of the Taft-Hartley Act to support his thesis and qualify for his master's.
The story resonates for a number of reasons. First, other than for the sheer desire to complete a course of study, there appears to be no practical gain to the exercise. This is in marked contrast to the widely held, if not predominant, view that a college education is primarily a means to obtain or enhance one's livelihood. Second, there is the not uncommon notion that education--and examination--are terminated simultaneously with graduation. This notion is perfidious and self-defeating and is contradicted by the real-life experiences of most college graduates, regardless of their post-graduate endeavors. Third, mastering a field of study--any field--gives or should give its possessor not only knowledge and power but also great personal satisfaction and joy.
I remember that when I graduated from law school I was bursting at the seams to become engaged in the "real world" and wrestle with "real world" problems after spending what seemed like an eternity studying and being examined quite frequently about all manner of things that had no real consequence to me. While this pent-up energy would prove a useful tool in dealing with my post-graduate work, I soon realized that continuing education, for want of a better expression, was critical to any success I was to enjoy.
Mr. DiFede's recent experience also brought back memories of the time in 1955 when as a Rochester senior I traveled to the Prince Street campus (where the women resided in olden days) to take my orals in history honors. It was the practice then (I know not what it is today) to invite distinguished professors at other universities to trek to Rochester to interrogate students at the conclusion of their honors programs and decide what, if anything, they really knew after two years of attending weekly seminars and writing weekly papers and doing research in the cubicles of Rush Rhees like a mole.
While my pre-inquisition uncertainty was great, I vastly enjoyed the intellectual give and take and the exploration of the questions posed by the lively professors sitting behind the long table some 20 feet in front of me. That two-hour-plus session was then a novel experience for me. Little did I realize that much of the work I was to do thereafter in New York was but a variation on that theme. The players and the subject matter would be far different, but the ability to think on one's feet and respond promptly and coherently to all manner of people in a way that was meaningfully comprehensible to them was central to "passing the tests" which I was given each day and often several times a day by colleagues, clients, judges, administrative personnel, and, of course, opposing counsel.
Mr. DiFede may be exceptional in many respects but he is not alone. Since we are all tested all the time, formally and informally, let us hope that we are up to the challenge until we are 89--and beyond.
Erwin Cherovsky '55
Englewood, New Jersey
A graduate of Harvard Law School and a New York City lawyer for over 30 years, Cherovsky prepared this piece for publication in connection with his 40th Harvard reunion --Editor.
Attention, Eastman ComposersWith the 150th anniversary of the University of Rochester coming up in the year 2000, now is the time to start thinking about writing works for the occasion. If you are interested in doing so, please contact me and we will discuss the feasibility of having such works performed either in or out of Rochester.
For those of you whom I have not yet contacted, please send a complete list of your compositions, preferably with timings, to me at 7439 Elizabeth Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027-3322, or phone at (215) 782-8213. Thank you.
Harrington E. Crissey, Jr. '66
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
Correction: A moment of editorial oblivion while transcribing a Crissey letter for the Fall issue of this magazine caused us to misspell the name of former horn professor Milan Yancich. We regret the error--Editor.
Vocal Point ConcertHello, Rochester alumni! As you may know, Vocal Point is the University's only all-female a cappella group. This is a particularly special year for us because we are celebrating our thirtieth anniversary.
We are marking this occasion with a Vocal Point Alumni Concert on March 19, and many former members from around the country and even overseas will be coming to sing with us. We would like to ask all of our alumni whom we may have lost track of to contact the College music department and let us know how to get in touch with you. The invitation to attend extends to any former Rochester students who would like to hear some good music and see some familiar faces.
Everyone is welcome--we want to share this exciting event with as many people as possible!
Sarah Kane '00
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