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Letters to the Editor

June 2005

Dream Weaver

Severance Pay
I thought [former Football Coach Rick] Neuheisel was fired for conduct unbecoming to the University and a football coach. On what basis did the UW and the NCAA agree to pay him $4.5 million? Two million dollars by the NCAA, a half million by the UW, and a $1.5-million loan by the UW, which he gets to keep without repayment: This is very good severance pay. Apparently it was all just a big mistake by the UW and the NCAA, for which Neuheisel is to be recompensed. It seems to me the UW has some explaining to do.

Dale L. Jensen, ’56
Lawndale, Calif.

Bad Guys Always Win
I’m writing just to let you know the very outrage I’m experiencing regarding the Neuheisel trial and outcome. It is a disgrace, a terrible message for young people and an example of bad guys always win.

Kathy Linnell, ’84
Normandy Park
Editor’s note: For more on the Neuheisel lawsuit, please see “UW, NCAA Settle Lawsuit Over Neuheisel Firing.

The Right Man for the Job
I was delighted to learn more about the new coach [Playmaker,” March 2005]. Within hours of the announcement of Ty Willingham’s appointment as head coach, my Bay Area son called to relate an incident he had witnessed that spoke volumes of the quality of this man.

My son was doing a track workout at Stanford Stadium and passed by Coach Willingham engaged in a “discussion” with one of his Cardinal players. Apparently the player had taken issue with a directive to run the stadium steps (a long-established tradition on “The Farm”). As he passed the pair, my son overheard the player suggesting something to the effect that the coach couldn’t do whatever it was he was asking the player to do. As he proceeded, my son glanced over in time to see Coach Willingham remove his cap, throw it to the ground, strip off his shirt, and escort the player toward the stairs ... where he proceeded to “run the guy into the ground.”

We have the right man in the job. Godspeed, coach. Go Huskies!

Linda Albo Denton, ’67
Marysville

Bringing Issues to Light
I have been reading … your excellent article on Dr. [Henry] Lai’s experience with the cell phone industry [Wake-up Call, March 2005]. I have been following the politics and science of this issue for four years, looking at it from a variety of angles, and talking with people across the globe involved in every aspect of it. I can only applaud you for bringing this issue to light in your publication. Nothing is more critical—and more overdue—for the public’s awareness and debate.

Marne Glaser
Chicago

Do We Need Columns?
With store racks jammed with magazines, do we need Columns? Yes, we do when there are articles like “Wake-up Call.”

Walt Smith, ’64
Bellevue

Cell Phones Not So Hazardous?
Apparently the article published in the last issue [Wake-up Call] featuring Dr. Henry Lai and his research on radiofrequency (RF) energy was triggered by media articles reporting DNA breaks by the REFLEX program (Verum Foundation, Germany). Lai stated that the REFLEX results confirmed his research findings published about 10 years ago. This claim deserves some scrutiny as the in vitro REFLEX study (yet to be published) used cell phone signals whereas Lai exposed animals to radar-like pulses and continuous wave fields; both types of fields are uncharacteristic of cell phone signals. Furthermore, independent research that endeavored to confirm Lai’s results in animals found no DNA effect of RF exposure (Malyapa et al., Radiation Research 149:637-645, 1998; LaGroye et al., International Journal of Radiation Biology 80:11-20, 2004). At least 10 in vitro studies also did not find DNA breaks.

While at the City of Hope National Medical Center, I participated in a collaborative study involving Lai’s laboratory and a second independent lab to determine whether cell phone signals can alter DNA in rat brains. The results (announced but awaiting publication) showed no effect on DNA breaks from RF exposure.

The UK National Radiation Protection Board stated that, “the results presented in the REFLEX project need to be considered in the context of existing published studies. It is well accepted from the totality of the available evidence that RF fields do not possess sufficient energy to cause direct damage to DNA. Many research groups worldwide have investigated the molecular and cellular effects of RF fields using in vitro cell systems. After reviewing the available evidence, the independent Advisory Group on Non-ionizing Radiation in a report to the Board of NRPB (AGNIR, 2003) concluded that ‘although there has been a wide range of diverse exposures and biological models investigated, no consistent pattern has emerged from the cellular studies of RF exposure.’ It was noted that positive findings have not been confirmed by other independent studies, similar experiments fail to confirm each other or may even show contradictory results. Overall it concluded that, ‘In aggregate the research published since the IEGMP report does not give cause for concern. The weight of evidence now available does not suggest that there are adverse health effects from exposures to RF fields below guideline levels.’ ” (see UK National Radiation Protection Board Web site, Dec. 22, 2004; IEGMP is the UK Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones).

In other comments on the REFLEX Program that employed both RF and power line frequencies, “Michael Repacholi of the World Health Organization in Geneva questions how standardized the experiments were and says the results are far from conclusive. In one experiment, he points out, two groups reported that very low-frequency radiation (which is emitted by power lines) could produce double-stranded breaks in DNA—something most scientists consider impossible—while another group had the opposite results” (New Scientist, Dec. 25, 2004).

Chung-Kwang Chou,’75
Plantation, Fla.
Professor Henry Lai responds: Dr. Chou of Motorola did not say in his letter that most of the studies he mentioned that showed no DNA damage were supported by the cell phone industry or Motorola. Also, part of the REFLEX study has just been published in the April 30th edition of the journal Mutation Research: “Non-thermal DNA breakage by mobile-phone radiation (1800MHz) in human fibroblasts.” Recently, Aitken et al. published in the International Journal of Andrology that exposure to radiation from cell phones induced DNA damage in the sperm of mice.

A Sense of Belonging
I enjoy my copy of Columns every time I receive it. I find all the articles interesting and informative. I’d never given much thought to whether I was an alumni association member or not until I read the article in the March 2005 edition by John Buller [“Why You Should Join Us … Today”]. Even though I know I’m a member, the article brought to light the reason for my membership.

My mom, who attended the UW from 1948-49, bought a lifetime membership for me when I graduated from the University in 1976. At the time, although she never graduated, being a member would have been something she would have liked. My mom passed away in December. She was a very important person in my life and I miss her greatly. So when I looked at my mailing label on my Columns as instructed to do in the article, I saw that I was a “proud member” and instantly remembered the reason. As I’ve experienced over the last several months, here was yet another positive way for me to remember my mom. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’m proud to be a member in honor of my mom.

Sheri Ryan Scalzo, ’76
Snoqualmie

How One Prof Changed My Life
For days I had struggled with aborted attempts to write a term paper on the novel Anna Karenina, assigned by Slavic Languages and Literature Professor Willis Konick. At 23, I was a newly married transfer student, working full-time to pay tuition, learning how to be a pastor’s wife, and racing to put myself through university before life’s obligations got in the way. I was hardworking and idealistic, and in no mood to feel sympathy for the protagonist of the novel who wrestled with issues I found so black and white. With the deadline looming, I cried uncle and scheduled a meeting with Professor Konick.

In the years since then, I’ve forgotten just what we discussed, although I’m sure it changed my life. I remember crying, so overwhelmed by juggling my job as a social worker, my marriage, and my studies—but even more overwhelmed by the crashing of my hopes and ideals against the harsh realities of adult life. During that hour or two, using Anna Karenina as a springboard, Professor Konick listened to my concerns and challenged my thinking. We discussed each character in the novel, what I perceived to be his or her strengths and flaws, and why. Little by little I softened and developed a small measure of sympathy for the protagonists … but not much.

Maybe it’s time to read the book again. I’m 22 years into my marriage, mother of two teenage girls, in possession of two degrees and a résumé that reflects many lessons learned along the way. Shades of gray color my opinions. I think I might understand Anna and Vronsky a bit better today. Incidentally, I never did get that paper written. I passed the course, though, with an A, as a matter of fact. Apparently, sympathy and generosity were not abstract literary concepts to Willis Konick.

Kimberly J. Hurst, ’87
Bluemont, Va.

Lot’s the Spot
In the March issue article “Mystery Mansion,” Karen Johnson states, “The President’s House sat at the end of what would become the University’s quadrangle, the site of today’s Music Building.” Not true. The President’s Home/Music Building was located across from Hall Health in what today is the HUB parking lot.

John Gibbs
UW Music Librarian

More President’s House History
I so much enjoy the “Our Back Pages” feature in Columns, and especially appreciate Karen Johnson’s profile of the old Music Building. The building was a copy of William Seward’s mansion in upstate New York, thus providing the rationale for its representation of that state during the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exhibition. Before Thomas Kane became the first university president to reside there, the President’s Mansion was located at the present site of the Best Western University Tower Hotel on Brooklyn Avenue N.E. and N.E. 45th Street.

The article contained some slight errors and omissions which perhaps need some clarification. The old Music Building was not located at the site of the present Music Building. Professor Emeritus Vilem Sokol taught music appreciation classes on the ground floor of the old Music Building and distinctly remembers the structure occupying the space which is now Parking Area N22 just north of the HUB.

... Johnson’s contention that the old Music Building was demolished in 1950 raises some questions. The print of the very photograph of the building’s demolition used in the article from UW Special Collections bears the date of Feb. 20, 1952. Although this date could be incorrect, it is likely that the old Music Building was not abandoned until the new Music Building, which opened in 1951, was completed. Old campus maps confirm that the site of the present Music Building had never been occupied by another structure, even during the exposition.

Finally, it is unlikely that President Matthew Lyle Spencer ever resided in this building during its waning days as the President’s Mansion. Following President Henry Suzzallo’s departure, David Thomson served as Acting President for the remainder of the 1926-27 school year. Unlike the majority of the University’s presidents in the 20th century who were not hired on an interim or “acting” basis, Spencer was already on the University’s faculty at the time of his assumption to the presidency in 1927, having served as the dean of the School of Journalism since 1919. He thus already had a place to live. Seattle city directories from 1925 to 1931 list his address as a house in Laurelhurst, where he undoubtedly lived until moving into the Walker-Ames Mansion.

… No building on the UW campus bears Spencer’s name, a dubious distinction which he shares with only three other UW presidents in the past century: Raymond B. Allen (1946-1951), John R. Hogness (1974-1979), and Richard McCormick (1995-2003).

Gregory Dziekonski, ’85, ’89
Seattle

Corrections

In the March 2005 issue, we inadvertently left off one name on our list of UW alumni currently serving in the Washington State Legislature. Brendan Williams, a 1997 graduate of the UW School of Law, is a representative for the 22nd District, which serves Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey.

Letters to the editor are encouraged. Brief letters are more likely to be published; longer letters may be edited. Please include a daytime phone number.

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