Letters to the Editor, June 1999

Do Whatever It Takes

While I was an undergraduate not so long ago, I made the trek across the Quad hundreds of times and never really appreciated how lucky the university community is to have such a botanical marvel in its midst. Now I live 3,000 miles away, and as spring begins to unfold this year, I realize how fortunate I am to have experienced "the Quad" for four years. In my job, I travel to colleges and universities all over the east coast, and I have yet to visit a campus that has anything more beautiful than our Japanese cherry trees. Tom Griffin's article, "Blooms in Doom," in the March 1999 issue alerts us that the Quad as we know it may become extinct in the coming years. This would be a tragedy. The university should do whatever it takes to preserve this special place on campus.

Mark Bunch, '98
New York

Editor's Note: The Campus Landscape Advisory Committee recommends that a nursery start growing replacement trees at once, so that they are the same age and size. Over the next 12 years, as the existing trees show signs of failure, they will be removed four to six at a time. Since all replacement trees will be the same age, the uniformity of the Quad planting will be preserved.

Cherries Older Than You Think

I enjoyed the cover story on the Quad cherry grove, one of the Seattle landmarks that I miss most living in California. The trees are actually a few years older than was suggested in the article, something I was able to document during my thesis research on the Arboretum's early history. The original planting, on the "canal reserve land" that once marked the entrance to the Arboretum and today forms the route of S.R. 520, was made by Works Progress Administration crews in the winter of 1935-36, prior to the receipt of the Olmsted Brothers' master plan for the Arboretum. According to Frederick W. Leissler, Jr., assistant director of the Arboretum at the time, the planting caused quite a stir with the Seattle Garden Club, who had funded the Olmsted plan and wanted to see it exclusively followed. These Yoshino cherry trees, along with several incense-cedars in the same vicinity, constituted the Arboretum's first official plantings, a distinction they carried with them when relocated to the Quad in the mid-60's.

Scot Medbury, '87, '90
Berkeley, Calif.

How to Save the Quad Cherries

I thought "Blooms in Doom" was a very fair, accurate and attractive presentation. Certainly the trees in bloom form one of (maybe the principal) hallmark of the University in the public eye. Invariably, at least once a year, the University makes prime-time coverage on TV and the newspapers. I suspect that there would be a Vietnam style revolt from the student body (and everyone else) if the "Doom" of your article were allowed to take place.

I am glad that you covered the thinking taking place on the campus on how to best handle the inevitable loss of aging trees and their replacement. This, of course, is a critical issue. I'm very sure that the committees and individuals involved will find that the interplanting idea, that seems to be favored, will prove to be next to impossible. I so well remember the great difficulty that (UW Landscape Architect) Eric Hoyte had, that we all shared, in finding a decent spacing for the present trees that avoided the snare of piping, handholes, manholes and cross-walks in the Quad.

It could be argued, I think, that "uniformity" would be fully as damaged by a wide variation in spacing and alignment as it would be by a difference in age. To avoid the age difference as much as possible, cuttings should be taken and rooted at a nursery started right away. If, as you say, new trees will be needed in 10 or 20 years they would be of a good age for transplanting in the Quad. If cuttings were taken from the present trees and grown locally I think it would insure better uniformity in color, bloom time, etc.

Great credit should be given to the contractor for the success, at all odds, of the original transplanting operation in 1961. The fellow that won the bid was new to us-a recent arrival from the Netherlands. He was a very impressive individual but spoke very little English. By the time that all the public works bidding procedure had been taken care of, the Highway Department bulldozers that were digging the bridge approach were but a few feet from the first trees. It was obvious that we'd have to abandon our very detailed and correct specifications and wing it on a near panic basis as best we could.

The contractor kept saying "Let me do it. I can make 'em live-I'll make 'em live." He put a gang of men in the Quad to dig the holes where Eric had staked the locations and a gang of men at Montlake to dig out the trees and prune the roots and crowns-all in freezing weather. You pretty much know the rest. There was a lot of luck involved but I'm sure there was a lot of Old World horticultural feel and skill involved as well. There was certainly a lot of effort put into the work by someone who wanted to prove his worth in his new land.

Fred M. Mann
Bainbridge Island

Editor's Note: Fred Mann was Unversity Architect during the late 1950s and early 1960s and was a key player in moving the trees from the Arboretum to the Quad in 1961.

The Logical Thing to Do

I was reading in your March issue of Columns about the dying cherry trees, oddly enough as I had just planted one in my own yard. It seemed to me that the logical thing to do would be to take cuttings of branch and root, graft them together-or whatever it is that those arbor people do to clone trees-and create a new replacement set of 30 some trees (maybe "store" them at the Arboretum until needed?). The children would all be of the same age, to be substituted as needed as the old parent trees die off. This would solve the problem of replacement trees being of different ages, and preserve the original genetics for posterity.

The clone replacements would be genetically identical to the parents (you could even keep records of which clone came from which tree so that the same tree, when it dies, would be replaced with its clone progeny, which would be the same age and relative size as its siblings, just kept "fostered" elsewhere until the parent dies). Extra clones could be made as spares in case one fails and/or could be sold to help fund the project. Keep a record of where the sold units go for a gene pool.

With all these creative "what-ifs" going through my mind, I ran across an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding a similar problem with the same Yoshino type of cherry trees in Washington D.C. And apparently that is exactly what they're doing as the DC trees are dying off at the ripe old age of 87 plus (Circa 1912).

Phil Julian
Manakin, Va.

A Poem Inspired by "Blooms in Doom"

Skin Color and Brain Power

Why is it that Columns consistently fails to be inclusive when it comes to counting Asian Americans as minorities? I think it is clear: When the data does not support the facts, just ignore the data. I saw this ignore-the-Asians phenomenon once again in your last issue (March 1999). It seems the goal of your article "The Road Ahead" was to lament the under representation of minorities at UW as shown by a table in the article. It showed that blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans comprise 11 percent of the state's population but only 8 percent of the UW student body. The author must have felt a twinge of guilt for leaving out the Asian Americans since their numbers were at least mentioned in the text--albeit in a place they could be conveniently missed. The text stated that while Asian Americans represent only 17 percent of the state's population they represent 27 percent of the student body. If we include Asian Americans as minorities, the table shows that minorities compose 28 percent of the state's population while they compose 35 percent of the students at UW. Of course, this would not support the goal of showing how minorities cannot make it without affirmative action. With the Asian-American data included should we conclude that UW is bigoted in its favoritism towards Asian Americans? Of course not. This is the kind of twisted logic that follows when we buy into the premise that at an institution of higher education a person's skin color matters as much as their brain power.

Social science graduates from UW today may be able to get away with ignoring inconvenient data. I hope engineering school graduates are not allowed to follow their lead--the bridge would fall down!

Scott Wallick, '78
Normandy Park

An Old Policy of Political Correctness

"The Road Ahead" reflects a distressing and sad reality about the UW administration: Their conservative clinging to the decades-old racial constructs of group victimization runs counter to the citizen-efforts to move the University's admissions policy in line with the liberal themes of individual equality of opportunity. And this is done with a seeming racial bias that casually brushes aside the fact that 27 percent of UW students are racial minorities (in contrast to 11 percent in the state's population), doing so by conveniently dropping Asian Americans from the statistics. Are Asian Americans somehow not qualified to be considered a racial minority?

If one needs an example of how this old policy of political correctness hurts students, merely examine the article's quoted comment from student Aaron McCray: "A lot of people are losing faith in the system to look out for those of us who don't have everything." Such an attachment to some paternalistic "system" will not promote maturity, only an unnatural, prolonged, adolescent dependence.

Please, UW administrators, you will better fulfill your legitimate task of leading a great university by stressing academic standards and accomplishments than by devoting your energies to lamenting, as President McCormick does, "I doubt we will ever look back at the passage of I-200 as a good thing," or by using various complicated strategies to subvert the intent of the law initiated and overwhelmingly approved by the people of this state. The authors of the 14trh Amendment (with its equal protection guarantees) would be shocked to see such almost frantic efforts by a modern university's leaders to continue politics which are aimed at promoting racial preferences (except for Asian Americans!).

James G. Newbill, '53, '60

Colleges Are Not Social Institutions

I have just read the article in the March 1999 Columns concerning the passage of I-200. I am appalled at the negative reaction of the University authorities. In my day, all who applied had an equal chance of being admitted to the University, and the University was only interested in providing them with a good education. I agree with Scott Smith, who sponsored the initiative, that "Our colleges are not social institutions, they are academic institutions."

Wallace P. Alm, '48
Salt Lake City

Paving the Road Ahead

In " The Road Ahead" the author presents a very negative picture of future enrollment because of the approval of initiative 200. I believe that most voters supported I-200 because they felt that diversity has its place but not at the expense of others. Diverse groups can enjoy their common bonds through their ethnic, cultural, religious and fraternal groups but not by expecting special recognition and privileges in public institutions and public employment.

Immigrants during the first 200 years of our country were motivated by the desire to be assimilated into the American culture rather than being separate and special. Most of their descendants have supported that philosophy to this day.

The main purpose of the University and all institutions of higher learning is to provide the opportunities for effective training and education. The main goal of every student should be to prepare themselves to qualify for these opportunities by motivation and personal responsibility. Such a combination will "pave the road ahead."

John Johanson, '51
Port Orchard

Ignoring I-200 Will Prompt I-201

The froth over the passage of I-200 in the last issues of Columns raises several issues in my mind. There has been several articles lately concerning the loss of quality faculty. Certainly, the UW needs to recruit and retain the finest minds. The UW is the flagship research university for the State of Washington; we need to support a quality faculty to do world class research and instruction. On the other hand, diversity does not support quality.

May I suggest several reasons why diversity should not be a paramount UW policy? When we admit students who are not academically qualified, the academic quality of the University decreases in the classroom and in research. As a retired professor, I remember with some angst, students in a graduate class (not UW) whose GMAT scores ranged from 300-700. Those students in the former group were unable to grasp qualitative and abstract concepts quickly, if at all. They blamed the course and the professor for their failure. Their self-esteem dropped. One accused the professor of being a racist in the course evaluation. The professor was able to link the student with this specific evaluation because of the grammatical and spelling errors.

There is a myth that diversity assists economically disadvantaged students. In my mind, I would invoke an image of a poor child from Yessler Terrace having the opportunity to attend a great university. However, studies at Cal-Berkeley indicate that medium family income for affirmative action students is $70,000. Also, the same studies indicate that many of these students flunk out, thus wasting taxpayer dollars and costing these students pain and time. Many also matriculate to softer (easier) majors where careers are more difficult to attain in the competitive world.

The state of Washington spends $15,000+ /student. The taxpayers have indicated with I-200 that quality intellects should not be discriminated against simply because they are Asian or Caucasian. I believe that taxpayers will support quality through increased revenues. However W.W. Washburn, the director of admissions, says "Beyond GPA and test scores we will look at students' educational disadvantages, socioeconomic status, cultural diversity, etc." He doesn't get it. This attitude will bring I-201. We already have students seeking legal remedies (law school) because lesser-qualified students were admitted in their place. What is Washburn going to do, circumvent the new law? Would he be personally liable for intentionally breaking the law?

I understand the racism of the past. In the sixties, I was registering black voters in Lee County, Georgia. We had to move from our home because of threats by the KKK. I support scholarships. We (family) are considering funding several scholarships for bright students who might make society a better place. I support outreach programs. If there are students we can assist to qualify for admission we should explore those avenues. I also support quality education. Why don't the diversity advocates complain about the plethora of Asian Ph.D.s in mathematics or the dearth of other minorities in that field?

We want a world class faculty. MIT has a world-class student body where SAT scores are in the 98-99 percentile. We should also want a world-class student body to go with a world-class faculty. It doesn't make sense to me to want both a quality faculty and intellectually disadvantaged students on the same campus.

Dr. Thomas Johnson, '56
Elberta, Ala.

Former Coach Jim Lambright

Weak Excuses for Firing

I am a UW grad (Class of '71), a Tyee member, a season ticket holder, and lifetime alumni member. I most strongly protest the firing of Coach Jim Lambright. The only one that should be looking for a new job is Barbara Hedges. I have read her interview with the press and her excuses are very weak and have absolutely no substance. She has never been true to the University of Washington athletics. She never supported Don James and now she fired a guy who has lived purple and gold for 30 years. Lambo's a great coach. He has had to live through the sanctions that were unfairly imposed on the football program from the Don James era. The sanctions that were imposed on the football program were completely unfair, especially when compared with other national programs and the sanctions imposed on them (Florida State) for much more serious infractions. She never stood up for the program and let Don James take all the shots. Her timing of the firing is suspect as this will kill recruiting for the next several years. I question her loyalty to Washington athletics. The only search that should be underway at this time is for a new athletic director.

Steven B. Westover, '71
Woodbridge, Va.

Coach's Pay Incongruous with University Goals

So let me get this straight: at a time when crucial academic faculty talent is told the University of Washington cannot pay them competitive salaries, the University is going to make their new football coach one of the highest paid coaches in the U.S. This seems incongruous with the goals of the University, but I guess I must be mistaken in thinking that teaching and research is the primary mission. This could be a brilliant move to send those pesky professors a clear message regarding the priorities; yet another explanation is that this is a cry for help from Athletic Director Barbara Hedges and President McCormick. Perhaps they are saying that each needs to spend some quality time out of a job.

Should this travesty truly play out as reported, UW alumni such as myself will think twice about their contributions. The situation is akin to a mother squandering her money on wild partying, then asking for contributions to feed her emaciated child.

Eric R. Raman, '95

Smaller Appetites Wanted

I just read the latest Columns regarding Lambright and Neuhiesel. It was a fair article about the two of them. I'm a Husky alumnus-Tyee and it appears to me that Jim Lambright should have been given an opportunity to show what can be done after the NCAA restrictions were over. At least he should have been given the opportunity to retire and allow for the time to obtain another position. Why would we in our right minds hire a coach who had weathered his own violations at Colorado to come in here and immediately violate the rules? He may have a Clintonese type of charm but that shouldn't charm our athletic director into bringing him on board with a $1 million, seven-year contract. He can't read and she can't read the dollar signs.

Jim is an outstanding individual. He stood by us when Don James left us and Jim took over and brought us six great years. He doesn't deserve this treatment. I, for one, feel we ought to start with the AD, fire her, and rid ourselves of the $1 milllion coach. We should be able to attract someone with a smaller appetite and a better background.

Edward M. Lane, '54

Coach Rick Neuheisel

"Don't Raid Washington": A Fable

A note of explanation is required about the recent dismissal of the University of Washington's head football coach and his replacement by the young, academically well-credentialed coach from the University of Colorado. Presently there is a considerable amount of misunderstanding and erroneous speculation about why these changes occurred. Since most football fans were not privy to the many machinations that brought about these changes, a full account is offered here:

First, these actions had nothing to do with football per se.

Some time ago, University of Washington President Richard McCormick and others in the administration were becoming increasingly alarmed about the "raids" on young, promising University faculty by competing ("peer") academic institutions. These events were recently detailed in the December 1998 issue of the alumni magazine, Columns, in an article entitled, "The Brain Drain." Several examples were laid out showing how our youngest, brightest "rising faculty stars" were being grabbed by hostile academic institutions who were waving dollar bills at them. And, our faculty members were defecting in ever greater numbers. The University of Washington was being seriously wounded.

In response to these disturbing defections, President McCormick called a meeting to address this problem. Present were the Regents of the University of Washington and several department chairs whose programs had been seriously harmed by "raids." At this meeting, President McCormick happened to have inquired about the details of one of the most recent defections, that of the Music Department's Professor Joan Catoni Conlon. She had been "coach" of the UW's choral program for the past 19 years. Her case had also been publicized in the Columns article. In passing, it was noted that she had been taken by the University of Colorado (Buffaloes); they had waved a 30% pay hike at her and, apparently, it was enough.

The suggestion was made at that time that perhaps those institutions who raid the University of Washington should be "sent a message"; a "shot across the bow," concerning their hostile actions. Since the University of Colorado had just been mentioned in the Conlon case, a discussion of a retaliatory "raid" on that institution evolved. Since intercollegiate football is the most visible program at the University of Colorado, as it is at most major academic institutions, it was decided at the meeting to examine the viability of targeting the University of Colorado Buffaloes head football coach in a retaliatory "faculty raid." It was speculated that if such a "counter raid" could be spectacular enough, it would not only produce "the greatest pain" on the offending institution, but also bring about national attention to the problem of "academic raids" on vulnerable universities like the University of Washington.

It was also recognized at that time that the University of Washington could not provide the funding for this particular type of "counter raid" due to the nature of the target; the funding for such an action against the Buffaloes' athletic department would have to come from outside the academic arena. After the meeting, several wealthy Husky boosters and the University of Washington athletic department were approached about raising the funds for a raid, as well as being asked to consider the possibility of having a new football coach. It should be emphasized that these ideas were only considered "trial balloons" at that time and no concrete plans had been formulated.

However, the proposals were surprisingly well-received--some boosters, as it turned out, were unhappy with the fall '98 Husky football fortunes and felt a coaching change was needed anyway. The boosters were also upset by the recent run of UW faculty defections, and they were particularly upset by those faculty who went to schools with more highly rated football programs (e.g., Professor Richard Gonzalez, psychology department, who went to the University of Michigan Wolverines. (It is not known how many UW faculty defections were due to the declining Husky football fortunes.)

With the cooperation of the boosters, and eventually, the UW Athletic Department's Director Barbara Hedges (who at first was very reluctant to consider a coaching change--Lambright had done an admirable job), all the pieces were in place for the retaliatory "faculty raid" on the University of Colorado for having taken Professor Conlon, the University of Washington's long time choral director.

It is hoped that this chronology will finally clarify the events surrounding the recent hiring of football coach Rick Neuheisel and his staff from the University of Colorado and place them in a wider context: it was not Washington who struck the first blow! The raid by the Buffaloes was also on the academic heart of the University of Washington-its faculty. The UW counter raid was on the football program. The students of the University of Colorado will have to decide which was the more lethal raid in the context of the public mission of universities in our society.

It should be mentioned that coaches Tormey and Pinkel, from Idaho and Ohio universities, respectively, could not be seriously considered for the head coaching position at this time, in spite of being excellent candidates, because they were not affiliated with institutions that had raided the University of Washington faculty.

Admittedly, a high price was paid to "send a message" to the University of Colorado Buffaloes and to all those institutions who might (understandably) be coveting UW faculty. However, most of us feel that the effort was worth it; ergo: "Don't Raid Washington."

PS: Few of the events described in this letter actually took place. :-)

Art Rangno

Sacred Cows Munching Grass

It's too bad that the article on the UW's brain drain didn't run in the same issue as the announcement of the hiring of the million-dollar football coach. It's clear that the UW has no committment to educational excellence. It would obviously prefer to be known as a football powerhouse, rather than an intellectual powerhouse.

While it was very sad when Jim Lambright was fired, why was there no similar outcry when MacArthur Fellows Caroline Bynum and Richard White left for more lucrative positions elsewhere? Just what are the University of Washington's priorities? If, in fact, the UW is committed to academic excellence, how come there has been no mention of graduation rates under Neuheisel at his previous schools? Does he produce scholar-athletes, or winning teams? These do not have to be mutually exclusive.

One more thing: I find it interesting that Athletic Director Hedges assures us that Neuheisel's salary will be paid out of "athletic revenues." Notice that she didn't say "football revenues." The NCAA has documented that most Division I football programs consistently operate in the red, and are financed by revenues brought in from other sports, i.e., basketball, which accounts for 80-90 percent of all athletic revenues. While Title IX frequently gets the blame for over-extending athletic budgets, it is frequently the sacred cow of football that's munching all the grass.

Lorraine Berry, '87, '93
Ithaca, N.Y.

Editor's Note: Ms. Berry is in error if she believes the UW football program operates in the red. To the contrary, the UW football program is the source for more than 80 percent of the athletic department operating revenue. Without football, state taxpayers would have to subsidize other UW sports, including those women sports established under Title IX. For more on womens' sports at the UW, see "Fair Play," from our September 1996 issue.

A Slap in the Face

I enjoyed reading the December issue of Columns as a way of revisited my alma mater, and the excellent article, "The Brain Drain" by Tom Griffin. Shortly after that, I read in the newspapers that the University is spending one million dollars buying out Coach Jim Lambright's old contract and has consummated a new contract with the new coach for a million dollars a year for seven years, or $7 million dollars!

Doesn't that sound a little ironic or hypocritical to you? With this action, we deprive the students of needed funds or scholarships, send a clear message to the current faculty that they are of little value, that the alumni financial contributions are not used for the right purpose, and more migration of the brain drain will continue. All of these groups simply received a slap in the face.

Athletic Director Barbara Hedges' inane comments, "Well, that was November, this is December" and "It all comes out of the athletic fund" completely miss the point. I am an avid sports fan myself and like to see the Huskies win, but let's keep it in perspective. Football at the UW is an activity, not a religion or its sole purpose. Hedges obviously feels that academic learning is beginning to get in the way of Husky football and athletics. She is certainly a lightweight person in a heavyweight job.

To go to the Legislature and ask the taxpayers to fork over more money for the UW programs looks incongruous at this point. Most disappointing to me was President McCormick's giving tacit approval to all of this. With alumni contributions down to such a low percentage point, this action will make them go even lower.

It's time McCormick, Hedges and "the powers that be" are reminded that there are other things in life than Husky football and athletics. Two of these are faculty excellence and education. Yes, education, remember?

Eugene N. Soper, '52
Walla Walla

Editor's Note: Lambright's settlement was $276,000. Money to pay coaches' salaries comes from athletic department revenue, not state taxpayer funds. No student was deprived of a scholarship and no alumni contributions were diverted. The University has a strict policy that contributions can only be spent according to the donor's wishes.

Twisted Priorities

It was deeply disappointing to see that the March issue of Columns gave more space to the fact that the football team's helmets are being changed from purple to gold than to Science Watch's ranking of the effectiveness of scientific research at the top 100 federally funded universities ["Milestones," March 1999]. While the latter story did mention that the UW was ranked eighth overall (following Harvard, Stanford, CalTech, Yale, Michigan, MIT and Cal-Berkeley), it omitted the impressive fact that in mathematics, the UW was ranked first, ahead of Harvard, Stanford, CalTech, Princeton, et al. It also failed to mention the other five disciplines in which the UW ranked in the top 10: ecology/environment, clinical medicine, geosciences (ranked third), pharmacology (ranked second) and psychology/psychiatry.

Do you really think that football is that much more important than research?

Professor Robert R. Phelps, '58
UW Department of Mathematics

The Price of Sports

Among the U-Dub football artifacts are old posters still hanging on some dusty beer joint walls, showing Don James and several beefy blockheads all dressed in proper gangster "drag," tooting James as the "Dawgfather."

The current Lambright/Neuheisel flap continues the crappola: Neuheisel's already accused of illegalities and Lambright's said to be about to litigate. So, what was in my undergraduate time called "The University of a Thousand Beers" seems about to become "Sue U."

Theodore Roethke said, "Teaching goes on, in spite of the administrators," and, I add, in spit of the ludicrous, big bucks sports bozos and boosters. But at what cost?

Gordon Anderson, "54, '58

Gold Helmet Won't Win Games

Being at the end of the UW football food chain in Southern California, I was stunned by the firing of Coach Lambright--and I have the feeling this may not be over. Reviewing the Husky 1999 schedule, there is the possibility they will lose their first four games due to "revenge" on Coach Rick by BYU, Air Force, Colorado and Oregon for one reason or another. They may win over Oregon State, but the next six games may be subjected to the same conditions as the first four. The resultant end for the Huskies is 1-10.

I doubt if Barbara Hedges looked at this possibility--the gold helmet won't win games and I doubt Coach Neuheisel can overcome this climacteric move by Hedges. If this picture happens, Hedges should receive her walking papers.

Don Campbell, '51
Seal Beach, Calif.

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