Letters to the Editor

March 1996 Columns

AA or Mickey Mouse?
It looks like Alan Marlatt must be getting another government grant
"Out of Harm's Way,". If the consequences weren't so deadly, it would be humorous to watch academics such as Marlatt racing around, high-fiving each other over schemes that look great in the ivory tower, but bring terrible results in the real world.

The article says "traditional approaches to addictions aren't working." Marlatt is quite right if he's talking about his approaches. In my efforts with numerous Puget Sound area employers over the past 20 years, I have worked with thousands of chemically dependent clients. The large majority of them have recovered. I suppose you could call each of these clients an "anecdote," but I see a large number of recovered addicts using the traditional model of abstinence.

During the past 25 years, Greater Seattle Alcoholics Anonymous has grown from some 50 groups to somewhere around 1,500 groups. This is an example of "not working"? One thing is for sure. These 1,500 AA groups are populated by members who do not use Marlatt's methods.

Certainly you will find an occasional addict who will respond to the harm reduction ideas of Marlatt. If one says "always" about some human response, they will prove you wrong shortly. It is my belief that if 10,000 alcoholics and addicts enrolled in the Mickey Mouse Club, one would thrive. This would not make the Mickey Mouse Club a recommendation for numerous others.

Duane Tolpingrud, '59

Candy, Ice Cream and Drugs
I just finished the article in your last Columns about UW Professor Alan Marlatt. He is quoted as saying that "Nobody wants people to be able to buy drugs like candy and ice cream." I strongly disagree with his implication about the availability of drugs. He should know that they are already as available to the average individual as candy or ice cream.

What I would like to see is a change in our laws that would make them not only as available as they are now (like candy and ice cream) but as safe to use as candy and ice cream. When was the last time that Professor Marlatt worried about contamination of his candy or ice cream by dangerous chemicals or bacteria? When was the last time he was concerned that the contents of the ice cream or candy was different than labeled? When was he worried about developing hepatitis from the candy wrapper or ice cream container?

... I would like to see illicit drugs legalized so they could be controlled and sold in purified amounts. Those who needed them because of addiction could obtain them cheaply, thus sparing the rest of us the constant predation of people in need of large amounts of cash to support an addiction. Marlatt is correct that the present techniques are ineffectual. Drugs are available to those who want them. They are foisted on the poor to support the dealer's avarice or addiction. Drugs are not used by the majority of citizenry--not because they are unavailable--but because we don't want them.

George Rhyneer, '93
Eagle River, Alaska

Presenting Reality
I wish to commend your balanced presentation on harm reduction in your March issue. It provided a fair point-and-counterpoint discussion of the variety of issues around drug addiction. However, the article did contain some inaccurate statements which deserve a printed response.

... First, your [professor] described traditional chemical dependency treatment programs as "confrontational," "punitive" and "inhumane." Nothing could be further from reality. Alcoholism treatment has always used very supportive counseling techniques because as the disease progresses, self-esteem decreases. ... On the other hand, denial is one of the hallmarks of alcoholism and addiction. One cannot treat this illness without first helping the patients see the relationship between their drinking and the problems they are experiencing in their lives. Confrontation with these patients, therefore, involves presenting reality.

Secondly, the statement that people are kicked out of treatment or otherwise punished for relapse is absurd. The purpose of treatment is to help those persons who are unable to quit on their own. In fact, most individuals begin treatment with no intention of quitting their use completely--they think they will use the counseling to "cut down"--and relapse is not unusual in the early stages. In the process of treatment most patients shift to a goal of abstinence, some quickly and others gradually. A local study showed that one year following the first-stage, intensive phase of chemical dependency treatment, 85 percent of patients were abstinent. However, almost one-third of them had experienced a relapse in that first year, prior to establishing the continuing abstinence.

Linda Grant
Executive Director
Wash. Assoc. of Alcoholism and Addictions Programs

Mechanical Failure?
I recently directed a promising transfer student to the UW, so that he could look into the programs and facilities available to him if he chose to attend there. He was specifically interested in the mechanical engineering program.

... He was only able to meet with someone who even now he can't identify as either a program assistant, secretary, adviser, or something else. This person knew very little about the program and was unable to answer any specific questions.

... She took him on a brief tour of what she said were the entire facilities for the mechanical engineering department. This student was appalled at the condition and quality of what he was shown. He was thoroughly shocked that a school of the purported caliber of the UW would have facilities in such disrepair. ... He found the engineering buildings to be of such low quality that he will not even consider the UW further unless someone can show him a reason why he should.

... I was embarrassed and shocked. I know the Legislature cuts funding. But I also know how many millions of dollars it took to build some of the new buildings on campus. Yes, I know the old Physics Building required replacement. Obviously it was allowed to deteriorate for too long. Are we going to be forced to, one by one, replace all the buildings on campus, because we can't keep them up? And how are we to attract quality students, and quality faculty, if the facilities are as poor as was reported to me by one visiting student? I want my alma mater to be more than beautiful on the outside. I want there to be quality inside, because that's what really matters.

... I know alumni support, both monetarily and politically, is needed. But I also believe that money must be spent wisely and responsibly. So far, I don't see that it necessarily is. The UW will lose more prestige by allowing academic programs, especially big ones like engineering, to deteriorate to the point of shame, than it ever will by not going to a bowl game.

Sharon Williams, '90
Port Orchard

Mechanical Engineering Chair A. F. Emery replies: "We receive several hundred requests and applications each year for both the undergraduate and graduate programs. If an applicant wishes to visit, our staff schedules a visit. At the visit, the faculty undergraduate or graduate adviser meets the applicant, discusses their questions, conducts a tour, and arranges for the applicant to meet with faculty in the applicant's field of interest.

In this case a staff member did take time to conduct an extemporaneous tour. Although the staff member was not able to answer technical questions, this should not be expected. That is why we have faculty advisers. To find a busy staff member who makes an effort to help and who disrupts his/her scheduled activity is a positive sign of our interest in students.

The question of space, buildings and facilities is a complex one and I will agree that some of the physical plant is in need of renovation. However, our teaching programs should not be judged by the facilities alone. In Mechanical Engineering, we have excellent programs in combustion, composites, materials, ceramics, manufacturing, robots, fluids--to name a few. Our graduates are highly sought after because of their education and experience. In the last three weeks I have met with industrial recruiters who have specifically targeted the UW for hiring our mechanical engineering graduates."

Little Tongues of Blue Flame
I must add to the "Our Back Pages" article on the Montlake parking lot (March 1996). Even more interesting is the small lot (E-5) to the east of the giant Montlake lot. I discovered this lot when the 25 cents-per-day fee in Montlake got to be too much for my budget. The fee in E-5 was 10 cents and the lot surface provided ample proof that, yes indeed, there was plenty of methane under that ground. This evidence consisted of little tongues of blue flame that one could see licking up through the ground on those cold, wet mornings in the winter of 1969-70 and 1970-71.

Thank you for the article. It reminds me of the exciting times at the end of the 1960s and the completion of my undergraduate degree. The "U-Dub" was a great place to be in those times, as I am sure it is today.

Bruce Wald, '71
Eugene, Ore.

Editor's Note: For more exciting times at the U-Dub in the 1960s, see this issue's "Our Back Pages" .

An Incendiary Graduation
This is the 100th anniversary of the first class to graduate on our Montlake campus. That's when we left the old Territorial University behind and got into a new league. The 34 graduates of 1896 took 30 degrees plus 10 normal diplomas. Oddly, men outnumbered women--not the case in most of the early years.

The baccalaureate sermon was described as "incendiary--allied with the cause of the Internationale." Rev. J.H. Acton of the First Unitarian (naturally) denounced the oligarchs and stated flatly, "We are on the eve of an uprising against the tyranny of money power." Later, a street car bringing celebrants from downtown derailed on Eastlake Avenue.

A member of the 1896 class was my father, James. E. Gould, who taught at the University for nearly 40 years. Among other roles, he was editor of the first edition of the alumni magazine in 1908. Actually, it doesn't seem that long ago.

James P. Gould, '44
New York

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 Street, Seattle, WA 98105. You may send e-mail to columns@u.washington.edu or send a fax to (206) 685-0611.

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