Letters to the Editor

June 2000

Cover of March 2000 Columns

Charm Offensive

As a 15-year resident of the University District, 1988 graduate of the UW, and current president of the University District Community Council, I read "Breaking Down the Walls" [March 2000 Columns] with some interest. In my view, the sweeping assertion that "years of rancor, mistrust, and suspicion seem to be subsiding" is belied by the reality of ongoing tensions between the University and its neighbors.

The piece heralds the "stunning resolution of a potentially nasty situation" in a compromise over the construction of a new indoor practice facility. However, it also glosses over the fact that the UW only made the decision to change the design in the face of concerted community opposition.

Contrary to the impression given in the article, the suggestion to move the stations for the Sound Transit line west of 15th Avenue N.E. (which would have displaced the Malloy Apartments and numerous Ave. businesses) was a late one, and one that was primarily pushed forward by the University, not Sound Transit. The voter-approved transit plan, which the UW purportedly supported, had long proposed stations on University property.

It remains a fact that the UW continues to expand into the surrounding neighborhood, usually to the detriment of surrounding residents and businesses. ... New plans to bring 10,000-plus new students and staff to the main campus (a figure which the UW only recently began to acknowledge) will further exacerbate the U District's housing and transportation problems, and are likely to result in substantial new construction that encroaches further on the University's southern and western borders.

According to the City-University agreement, the City University Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC) provides community input to the master plan. However, unlike previous master plan processes, the UW decided that CUCAC would only be able to consider the form of proposed development, not its function. The actual use of new construction, CUCAC is being told, will be left to the budget process to decide. Will CUCAC members be allowed to carpool to Olympia with the UW's paid lobbying staff, too?

Indeed, many of the ideas mentioned in the article now being floated as part of the Master Plan process are going to generate community opposition. The proposed lidding of Pacific Street will worsen an already intolerable traffic situation, but most citizens are still unaware of this plan. The relocation of traffic to one side of Campus Parkway does nothing to "improve traffic and circulation"—it makes it worse. However, it does improve the development potential for the University in the lots near Condon Hall (soon to be abandoned for a new law school building - another unpopular UW construction project).

Most of the people I've spoken with think the recent charm offensive on the part of the UW has a lot more to do with public relations than with really building a better relationship with the public.

Matthew Fox, '88, Seattle

A Most Precious Asset

I enjoyed reading your recent article, "Breaking Down the Walls," but could not help but feel that an important viewpoint pertaining to the physical future of the Washington campus was underrepresented. On a recent trip to New York City, and more specifically the NYU campus, my appreciation for the UW campus' beauty and traditional campus character was greatly enhanced. During this visit I was confronted with a fine university which had lost its campus identity amidst urban encroachment, and abruptly realized that such a "campus" is neither a place I would enjoy spending four years or be willing to send my 18-year-old son or daughter. On this same visit, I additionally attended a lecture at Columbia University and witnessed a school which had managed to maintain its campus feel and beauty independent of its vast urban surroundings, much as the University of Washington has successly done to date.

To sacrifice this campus feel by tearing down the very barriers which allow the Washington campus to maintain a feel and identity independent of the U District, such as the retaining wall along 15th Avenue N.E., would be a serious mistake in judgment. Such alterations to the campus peripheries may also lessen the ability of campus planners to control pedestrian traffic on campus, leading to increases in wear, litter and damage to the campus. Perhaps it is true that the University of Washington is merely here to provide education, and should not be looked at as a national park, but given the choice between a national park and an extension of the view from University Way N.E., I will take the solace of a national park in every instance.

It is my feeling that the natural beauty of the Washington campus, and its refreshing sylvan feel, is one of the University's most precious assets, and should not be compromised lightly. In this instance, while I recognize the importance of good University-community relations, I believe it is in the best interest of the UW and its future students to maintain the separate identities and feel of town and gown.

Tim Lewis, '98, Iowa City, Iowa

A Paid Political Announcement

The Columns article "Breaking Down the Walls" was a paid political announcement for the UW. The University Park community does not agree with your biased assessment of UW-community relations. Except for Barbara Hedges, the hierarchy has consistently expressed to our community that they can't (or won't) follow through to support our UW student-related issues and concerns. That's the rest of the story.

Douglas K. Wills Jr., 64, Seattle

A Commuter Sacrifice Zone

For the 50,000 members of the alumni association your magazine helps to inform, it would be helpful if you made a better effort to tell the stories accurately. Your March issue's "Breaking Down the Walls" story was laughable.

As a graduate of the University of Washington, resident and owner of property in the Brooklyn neighborhood, president of Friends of Brooklyn, and a life long resident of the Seattle-Puget Sound community, I find the piece a very poor public relations effort with very little basis in fact.

The bottom line is that the "University's relations" with its neighbors has had to have been very bad in the past in order for it to be considered good now.

When I attended the University, its central theme was as an institution with a purpose to seek "truth." If Marmor had done just the minimal amount of investigative research, he would have found that the immediate neighborhoods, those most impacted by University development and programs, are not real happy with the treatment they have been getting.

The University of Washington has been missing most of the opportunities to bring the "Town and Gown" together in a harmonious and mutually supportive manner for many decades. The fact is that the many wonderful academic, arts and cultural programs that might make contributions to the surrounding community are more often than not oblivious to the surrounding neighborhoods—and most of the negative impacts of University programs and development are being felt acutely by the community.

The most glaring example of University poor planning is the behind-the-scenes agreements and disagreements with Sound Transit. Recently the University together with Sound Transit arranged, without notice to the surrounding neighborhood, the excavation of dirt and mud from the four Sound Transit elevator shafts to an elevated conveyor system running through the neighborhood. This may be the best solution to the issue of how to remove all the soil from the tunnels and the shafts, but we will never have the opportunity to ask the questions which would have given us some answers. Sound Transit and the University thought it best not to notify any of the residents, including many students in student housing immediately adjacent to the conveyor system.

We have no idea how much noise, dust and other forms of pollution we are going to get from this conveyor system. The people surrounding Portage Bay have many unanswered questions about this conveyor system and the associated barging of soil. We were never given the chance to ask the questions.

The alignment of the Sound Transit rail system that the University has acquiesced and agreed to is in the wrong place and, sadly, in a place neither the University nor the community desires. In the long term it will hurt the business community of the Ave.

The first choice should have been under University Way N.E. with a state-of-the-art mezzanine system. Second choice should have been up under 11th Avenue N.E. or Roosevelt Ave. N.E. where high density, commercial zoning was recently recommended. It would have helped to have the stations designed in conjunction with the West Campus development near Terry and Lander Halls and closer to the west Brooklyn and Wallingford communities near I-5. This alignment would have worked well into the routing of traffic east/west along a reopened N.E. 40th St. corridor and the potential transit oriented development north of N.E. 45th St. Either of these alternative alignments (the Ave or 11th Avenue N.E.) would have helped support the revitalization of businesses along the Ave by bring the pedestrian traffic flow through the business district instead of leaving the traffic on the edge of the UW campus, where most of the passengers will be headed.

Now that the University seems to have accepted the alignment on campus, it is missing the leveraging opportunity to help the surrounding community by insisting on a mezzanine configuration for both the N.E. 45th and N.E. 43rd Street (station) platforms and pedestrian improvements to the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhood. ... The UW's acquiescence to Sound Transit and its lack of concern for the vitality and livability of the Brooklyn neighborhood is shameful. Brooklyn has become a commuter sacrifice zone. The University's lame effort to prevent the complete paving over of the main campus, (e.g. "Red Square" style), is forcing its development and expansion into the neighborhoods surrounding it. The plans now are to develop an additional 8 million square feet, mostly in the Brooklyn Neighborhood to help accommodate the additional 11,000 students and faculty that have been authorized by our Legislature.

The Office of the Vice President for University Relations did the community no service by hiring our own legislator, Ed Murray, to lobby the neighborhood on University positions.

During the last four years of my more active involvement in the neighborhood it is evident that the University does not do the planning and research that it needs to do for its growth plans to fit in well with the community. The current or most recent past leadership at the University has assumed a position that, "It is so, if the University says it is so!"

Your article makes it sound as if it was the University's idea to reconfigure the indoor practice facility to make it more compatible with the community when in fact it was only after an outcry from the community did the University bend and consider the needed changes.

While the University would like to lid Pacific Avenue N.E., a plan which will not solve any traffic problems but will cost the taxpayers a small fortune, it is not prepared to do anything about the poor traffic circulation it has created in the neighboring community, especially in south Brooklyn. The north end of the University Bridge is a joke when it comes to pedestrian access. One must walk 100 feet into traffic to get from the north end of the bridge to the 11th Avenue N.E. sidewalk, crossing two lanes of traffic.

All the University's plans for development in the West Campus area ignore or do not deal legitimately with the issue of traffic flow to and from the west and southwest campus areas. ... The UW proposal to remove the trees and vegetation from Campus Parkway to allow for a consolidation of traffic to one side is not going to benefit either the traffic issues or the neighborhood and is absurd. This consolidation would allow the UW to build a wall of buildings like the ugly current law school, Condon Hall, on the consolidated land along N.E. Campus Parkway, resulting in bulk, light, glare, reduced natural light and wind shear for the residential neighborhood.

The UW's plan to lease out Husky Stadium to the Seahawks while the Seahawks' new facility is being built will bring in a stream of substantial revenue for the UW (estimated at $7 million to $8 million a year) however nothing has been done to mitigate the negative impacts of traffic, litter, increased pedestrian safety issues in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Brooklyn is at the epicenter of activity for Seahawk fan pre-game and post-game activity (restaurants, buses, access to I-5, etc.) and it has received nothing in the way of mitigation.

The desire of the University to build a new law school in the northwest parking lot near the soon to be expanded Burke Museum, has caused many problems for the community, not the least of which is the displacement of parking for bus layovers into the neighborhood. The architectural drafts for the new law school show a wall four stories high with the law school's back to the community. The University has done nothing to help restore the Washington State/King County Metro funding of an off-street transit layover facility or to find a solution to the air pollution or safety problems associated with the neighborhood street layover of buses.

These are only a few of the issues that speak to the absurd notion that the University is in good standing with the community. I hope these serve to make the point that the Town and Gown are not getting closer but in fact we are not hearing each other's voices at all these days.

Brian Ramey, '71, Seattle

Ideas Illuminated

It was good of you include a story about President Odegaard's leadership ["Master Builder," March 2000]; however, I believe some significant achievements were left out.

At the very beginning of his tenure, circumstances forced him to help the University recover from its recent insult to physicist and nuclear weapon pioneer J. Robert Oppenheimer—he had been invited to speak, and then, because of Cold War hysteria, uninvited. The resulting fallout from this act of rudeness and intellectual McCarthyism nearly destroyed the University's reputation around the world. Obviously, the other achievements which your story describes went a long way to help its recovery.

Also early on, Odegaard instituted a policy that urged departments to have beginning and even freshman courses taught, not only by graduate students, but, as well, by mature professors. As a freshman in 1959, I was the beneficiary of this policy. In a series of amazing courses I took from people I regard now as brilliant professors, I saw the world of ideas illuminated, so much so that I changed from someone with very little vision of what I wanted from college to a person whose life and career path—research and college teaching—was decided by the UW model I was so well educated under. Three courses still stand out for me: Donald Taylor in English composition, Giovanni Costigan in English history, Bertrand Jessop in beginning philosophy (and everyone who lectured in the magnificent intellectual history course called, curiously, "Social Science.")

As a longtime department chair and now a mature professor myself, I have always made good teaching for beginning classes a priority—indeed, this current semester I am teaching freshmen in a beginning course and a graduate seminar. I would mention that some of the students in my current graduate seminar became majors and now graduate students because of my freshman teaching, so Dr. Odegaard's policy has also affected their lives.

Professor Marc Arnold, '63,
University of Arkansas-Little Rock,
Little Rock, Arkansas

Fitting Tribute for Man of Vision

It was a joy for me to read your excellent article in the March Columns, "Master Builder: Remembering Charles Odegaard." As a former secretary to faculty committees, it was my privilege and pleasure to see some of the groundwork being laid for the remarkable achievements of President Odegaard's 15-year term. I recall the day he set forth a long-range plan, including an undergraduate libarary. Then my career took me to California. Upon my return, I was delighted to learn that indeed the University had an undergraduate library, and that it carried his name! This seemed to be a very fitting tribute for this man of great vision.

... Thank you for your remarkable compilation of the events and achievements of the Odegaard era, which enriched our beloved alma mater.

Marjorie Palmer Passler, '56, Issaquah

From Uncivil to Disrespectful

Having just read the letters (March 2000), I was impressed and pleased by your readers' additions to the "100 Alumni of the Century" list. These stories provide us with inspiration and encouragement. The 100 profiles represent one cross-section drawn from the thousands of people who have attended the UW. I was left feeling a mix of sadness and disappointment upon finishing the responses chastising the editor's choices. The tone of several varied from uncivil to disrespectful. Alumni of this great University received an excellent education, and I expect my fellow alumni to be articulate, insightful and, above all, courteous in discussions over differences in opinion. Let's set good examples for our peers and children. Reflecting upon the energy this topic has unleashed, I found one thing we can agree on—all of us can do better.

Kerry R. Peterson, '85, Seattle

Choosing Crew

[In hiring] Rudy Crew, we could have done a lot better. I have [read] numerous articles ... regarding Dr. Crew's performance as chancellor of New York Public Schools. It appears that the UW has selected a person that did not complete his New York contract, cancelled meetings and had numerous conflicts with the mayor of New York and others. After reading about Crew's New York activities I find it hard to believe that he can truly "help these leaders elevate every level of public education" as executive director of the new UW Institute for K-12 Leadership, as stated by UW President Richard L. McCormick.

Bruce Thornton, '62, Portland, Ore.

Getting It Right

Congratulations on the March 2000 issue. The cover is lively; the insides have a lot of color variation; there is a good mix of text and illustrations; the space is well filled. ... It's good to have a feature on Charlie Odegaard, the great rarity of a scholar-and-intellectual as head of a state university. Some broken-down "pol" or general usually gets the job, whereas Odegaard made it look and feel like a real think tank. Also good stuff—"Northern Exposure," "Tool Time" and the football story. Alumni notes do get six or seven pages, but they seem to be somewhat selective instead of just providing free publicity for lesser brothers and sisters.

You're on the right track and as a supporter who wants us to look big league rather than small time, I am pleased. I feel that you've got us on the way toward being a Harvard Magazine-type of publication, and I think that's what we may legitimately aspire to.

Professor Emeritus Robert Heilman,
UW Dept. of English

Remembering Stockley

Thanks for noting the passing of Tom Stockley in Columns. You got it right: a fine man, a kind man, a giving man and a graceful and skilled writer. He allowed me to tag along to some wine tastings when I was in college, writing a campus gourmet column, and I was looking forward to renewing our friendship when I move back to the Pacific Northwest in a few years.

Tom and Peggy visited me in Germany years ago, and I took them to a small wine fest in a village near Worms. Though not known internationally, or even regionally, for its wines, the village stages an invitingly romantic little fest. Tom later wrote about the fest, and captured the atmosphere of a gemütlich (cozy and friendly) summer evening at a cobblestoned German village wine fest better than I could ever have hoped to. I salute him as a writer, and as a human being.

Ruhe sanft, Tom. Rest in peace.

Michael Mowrer, '69
Heidelberg, Germany

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