Letters to the Editor Print

MARCH 2007
Living with Murder
I’ve decided to write this the day after the horrendous massacre at Virginia Tech where 33 people died … to briefly respond to your article “Killer Instincts” [March 2007].

In August 1993, my only daughter, Lisa Mulholland, at the age of 19, was murdered in Seattle. This was a random murder, and because no evidence was left at the crime scene, the “person of interest” has never been charged with this crime of rape and murder.

I’ve read Bob Keppel’s books, and understand he is a profiler. People like him are helpful in bringing about justice for victimized people, like myself and my daughter’s mother and our families. For his efforts we’re all thankful.

I would also ask that “students (who) would kill to get into this course” on homicide [Sociology 275], … are also provided additional information about the other types of realities people experience who lose their loved one due to a homicide.

For example, I was not provided any additional support by any agency after her death (minus the small amount from the U.S. Dept. of Justice Crime Victims Fund). It’s important to understand the police are many times helpful to us victims, but they may also further traumatize us. This was true in my case—alienating me with their cold approach, lack of communication and forthrightness.

There is sometimes truth to the notion that, when times are difficult, friends, family members and colleagues shy away. This occurred with me, and I still resent the people I knew in Seattle at the time who did not respond nor come to my aid.

… I have volunteered with Families and Friends of Violent Crime Victims and was co-facilitator of a violent crime victim’s support group here in Bellingham. I wished the article would have mentioned this group at the UW and in Washington state.

I hope Sociology Professor Joe Weis in his class addresses the ‘other side’ of this crime—what happens to victims who lost their loved ones. I also hope this class speaks of the justice system—including the police departments—regarding how they relate and treat us.

Paul Mulholland, ’74, ’79

Crime on the Rise
Professor Joseph Weis and Robert Keppel claim that violent crime is down [Killer Instincts,” March 2007]. I wish they were right but recent facts don’t bear them out and their rosy picture could be counterproductive. The New York Times concludes that violent crime rose by double-digit percentages in cities across the country over the past two years.

On March 10, 2007, also front page of the New York Times, the Federal Appeals Court in Washington D.C. struck down gun control laws in the District of Columbia that bar residents from keeping handguns in their homes. Linda Singer, the district’s acting attorney general, said the decision was a huge setback.  This is likely to lead to a national re-evaluation of the Second Amendment and further rights for gun owners. The initial report on the increase of violence attributed the cause of this in a large part to the easy access of guns and also other factors such as increased poverty, joblessness, growing culture of the use of force to settle conflicts etc.

The crime data collected for the New York Times article came from the Police Executive Research Forum.

We need today’s students to solve the problems of violence in the culture, work on decreasing poverty and improving family cohesiveness, create jobs, work towards peace internationally and nationally, study the laws that are the backbone of a lawful society, stop the recidivism of prison systems. Studying a course which is described as blood and crime is undoubtedly popular and it is only the first step to a deeper commitment to fight crime.

Gudrun Scott, ’61
Andover N.Y.

Deadly Consequences
Thank you for the interesting article on mercury amalgam fillings [“Tooth and Consequences,” March 2007], which was clearly focused on the effects of the fillings on the health of the person in whose body they remain. However, another important aspect of the mercury amalgam debate is what happens to that mercury after the death of that person. If that person’s body is cremated, mercury will be released into the environment.

A study in Switzerland found that cremation released over 65 kilograms of mercury per year as emissions, often exceeding site air mercury standards, while another Swiss study found mercury levels during cremation of a person with amalgam fillings as high as 200 micrograms per cubic meter (considerably higher than U.S. mercury standards). The amount of mercury in the mouth of a person with fillings was, on average, 2.5 grams, enough to contaminate five 10-acre lakes to the extent that there would be dangerous levels in fish.

A Japanese study estimated mercury emissions from a small crematorium there as 26 grams per day. A study in Sweden found significant occupational and environmental exposures at crematoria, and, since the requirement to install selenium filters, mercury emission levels in crematoria have been reduced 85 percent. A study of assessing hair mercury in a group of staff at some of the 238 British crematoria found that the group’s hair mercury was significantly greater than that of controls.

Michael Mueller, ’86

Little Comfort
The March 2007 issue included an article titled “Tooth and Consequences” by Sarah Weerdt.  She states that no long term studies of the effects of mercury on adults has been done, adding that toxicity concerns remain among anti-amalgam groups who “blame dental mercury for autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, immunological problems and a host of other ills.”

The fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration failed to confirm a link between amalgam fillings and serious medical problems does little to comfort or convince me of its safety. As a first year (1946) “boomer,” I have concerns regarding the long-term effects of exposure to low levels of mercury.

Why have no long-term studies been made? Has the scientific community assumed there are no problems because they can’t readily be seen? Certainly the increased incidences of autism and Alzheimer’s cannot simply be dismissed as the result of improved identification methodology.
Will there be a follow-up article concerning this?

As a non-scientific lay person, I also wonder it studies have been done concerning the short or long term health effects of amalgam exposed to low levels of radiation (X-rays)? or regarding the effects of repeated exposure of brain cells to X-rays?

Have you never wondered (even just the least, little bit), while sitting in the dentist’s chair, why the radiation is safe for you, the patient, but not for the technician who moves behind a heavily leaded blanket or wall? Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it’s safe? Thanks for a great alumni magazine.

Richard Daniels, ’70, ’72

Faithful Reader

Thanks for the fine article on UW coaches Willingham and Romar living and demonstrating their faith [“Team Spirit,” March 2007]. I was especially moved by Lorenzo Romar’s realization that he needed to depend on what God had already done for him as a way to become closer to him.

Beverly McCall, ’61, ’66

Belief Systems
Thank you for your informative piece about “Team Spirit.” Many of your readers likely laughed with disdain when they read the quote from UW Men’s Basketball Coach Lorenzo Romar, “I’ve definitely made it clear what I believe. But I’ve never forced it on anyone.” The loudest chortles surely come from those of us alumni from the social sciences or humanities who remember well the many professors who did quite the reverse—they did not make it clear what they believed (most often scientific materialism, postmodern reductionism, Marxism, etc.) but forced it on everyone.

Marshall Sana, ’95
Arlington, Va.

Special Treatment for Athletes?
I am writing in response to the “Team Spirit” article by Associate Editor Eric McHenry concerning coaches Tyrone Willingham’s and Lorenzo Romar’s beliefs and practices in respect to the place of “religion” (which for them means Christianity) in their coaching.

I have shared this article with my close friend and fellow Christian, retired coach Curt Tong. While we applaud the examples these coaches, as men of faith, provide their players, what disturbs us is their appointment of a “team chaplain” to do their preaching (and evangelization?). Do public colleges and universities—even those sponsored by Christian churches—have chaplains for academic departments or science laboratories? To the best of our knowledge they do not. Chaplains named by a university are valuable, but to assign a chaplain—even on a volunteer basis—to a sports team is to suggest that athletes are either getting special treatment or are being directed in a way that denies them a choice and an opportunity to grow in a faith other than that of the Christian coaches.

Rev. Hallam C. Shorrock, Jr., ’46
Claremont, Calif.

Our Greatest Treasures

I particularly enjoyed the article on President Mark A. Emmert’s plans to help those prospective students who are in need of financial aid as well as academic encouragement, especially in the minority population [Minding the Gap,” Dec. 2006].

While attending the UW, I was always concerned that the minority population was very small, except for Asian students, and that so much more needed to be done to attract and encourage more diversity. Both my son and I were fortunate to get into the EOP program, and without the staff’s tremendous help and guidance, we would not have been able to attend a four-year college and successfully graduate.

I hope President Emmert’s dreams and plans to correct this will come to fruition. It is a remarkable plan, and many Caucasian students as well would benefit from its help and encouragement. I recall that at the time, the EOP program was one of just a few in the entire country, and so we felt very fortunate to be accepted. At 40 years old, while employed as a practical nurse at Harborview, I took advantage of the employee benefits for classes at the UW. I told myself if I passed the entrance exam, I would give myself 10 years to finish. I was a single mother of two children. I needed to work full-time and yet yearned to realize my dream of a college education. Obviously, I did pass the exam, with a deficiency in math and language, but was accepted, and thus began a nine-year odyssey.

… In the interim, my son, David, and my daughter, AnnaMaria, were also attending college. … If it were not for the EOP department, the Pell Grants, scholarships and loans, it is doubtful that we would have managed to get our tuition paid and get into student housing. … I also recall being very depressed that my grade point average was so poor some quarters, and wondered what I could do to get more help than was available for tutoring. President Emmert’s plan [Husky Promise] addresses this very thing, and that makes me so happy. Because of my low grade point average, I knew I would never get into grad school and needed to get back to full-time work to sustain myself and help my children. Happily, their wonderful grades made them eligible to get into graduate school, and they both successfully completed their advanced degrees.

We have indeed fulfilled my dream that we would all have at least a college education and be able to contribute to our society. I wish, in retrospect, that we would have had time to participate in the fun things that college life has to offer, but we knew we could not afford that luxury, or, frankly, did we have the energy to participate. Again, this new plan will allow for some of that to take place for future students. I feel we can also learn by socialization and volunteering during our college years.

… This letter is to take a moment to say thank you to the University of Washington, to the alumni association; to your wonderful and insightful president, Mark Emmert; and to all the talented and devoted teachers, who remain despite the tremendous disparity in wages paid them compared to other public universities of similar size and quality. Except for love, wisdom is our greatest treasure. And just as great is an academic institution committed to educating future generations and to having equal access to a good education. … That is a wonderful legacy to aspire to.

Patricia A. de la Fuente, ’86

Letters to the editor are encouraged. Brief letters are more likely to be published; longer letters may be edited due to lack of space. Please include a daytime phone number and send all correspondence to: Editor, Columns Magazine, 1415 N.E. 45th St., Seattle, WA 98105. You may send e-mail to or send a fax to 206-685-0611.