Letters to the Editor, September 1995

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 address all correspondence to: Editor, Columns Magazine, 1415 N.E. 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98105. You may send e-mail to griffin@u.washington.edu on the Internet .

June 1995 Columns

A Seed Bears Fruit

Thank you for two especially stimulating articles this past year. The 25 Years of Top Teachers [June 1995] brought back memories of wonderful mentors. Like many, I thank Henry Buechel for triggering my commitment to economics. The article on the freshmen seminars ["Eye to Eye," Sept. 1994] described the UW's attempts to draw new students into the academic life of the University and to provide a forum for sharing ideas outside the traditional classroom. I believe that the key functions of a university are to nurture creativity, stimulate critical thought, strengthen communication skills and promote a sense of community. While a one-credit seminar is not going to be able to accomplish all these tasks, it can certainly support the goal of helping students with their transition to college life.

The article reminded me that for many freshmen, a university is the largest city in which they have ever lived! If we appear to be part of an impersonal institution, students will have a difficult time finding the niches which can help provide meaningful experiences on campus. ... The UW seminars sound great. Our college of business at the University of Florida had modeled a similar set of offerings for our freshmen--thanks to the seed planted by your article.

Professor Sanford Berg, '66
University of Florida
Gainesville, Fla.

The Power of Teaching

I am reacting to the article "25 Years of Top Teachers" [June 1995]. I am submitting the names of three professors I had as an undergraduate whose teaching skills justifies their being recalled after half a century. The three men are:

Arthur Lorig of the business school, who taught accounting. It was a difficult course, facilitated by a caring professor with knowledge and a knack of guiding students through it.

...George Taylor, who taught a fascinating and important course on the history of the Far East. He ranks among the two or three best teachers I have ever had at both undergraduate and graduate levels. ... I retain a copy of notes taken in his classes to this day.

Linden Mander taught a course in international relations which had a profound influence on me. I have since served in the Department of State and specialized in international economics. I think it correct to conclude that he foresaw U.S. involvement in a major war in the Far East and a pattern of international strife. His course made a strong internationalist out of me.

I strongly commend the University for recognizing good teaching in an age and environment that tends to slight the activity. Socrates left behind not a single written word, but his dialogues among the youth of Athens got him into a lot of trouble with the ruling powers of Athens.

Joseph Hasson, '43

Rockville, Md.

Misguided Plans

I've been in shock since reading about the plans to abolish the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at the UW in the March 1995 Columns, Units Considered for Closing Due to Cuts. Discussions with "Russianologists" (former Sovietologists) here in D.C. have confirmed my view that such plans are misguided. The department is viewed as one of the top national centers, and its Russia House is renowned. When I was at UW in the 1970s and early 1980s, it was a pillar of what became the Jackson School, and it's hard to believe that such is not still the case. Russian language studies were also significant because of the proximity of the Pacific Northwest to the Russian Far East. Aren't there also undergraduate and graduate studies on Russia in political science and other departments that would rely on training provided by Slavic languages and literature? A glance at any newspaper indicates that knowledge of Slavic languages remains important, whether to comprehend events in a volatile Russia, conflict in former Yugoslavia, or Ukraine's progress in nation-building. Russian language remains the "lingua franca" in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus. For these reasons, I think elimination of the department would be a mistake.

Jim Nichol, '79, '82
Washington, D.C.

Editor's note: The department has been spared elimination, see Applied Math, Slavic Languages Saved From Closure.

Mercer's Last Stand

I would like to thank Jon Marmor for the article concerning Asa Mercer in the June 1995 Columns, Our First President. The article caused me to take my family and find Mercer's grave. If anyone else would care to make the pilgrimage, the cemetery is more than a mile directly north of Hyattville, Wyo., to the west of the gravel road.

... I do believe Asa Mercer deserves more recognition. The controversial book which Mercer wrote concerning the Johnson County "War" was The Banditti of the Plains. The book was an exposé of the Wyoming Livestock Association's involvement in the brutal lynching of Ella Watson (Cattle Kate) and Jim Averill on the Sweetwater in 1889 and of the association's involvement in the Johnson County War in 1892.

The association represented the influential grazing interests, contained more than its fair share of racketeers and thugs, and ran Wyoming to suit itself. ... Mercer was so outraged by the atrocities perpetrated by the association (murdering and terrorizing homesteaders) that he published the book and brought the wrath of the association upon himself. The association had Mercer jailed on false charges, destroyed his business and livelihood, and threatened his life.

They tried to totally eradicate the book. (Nothing hurts like the truth.) One account states, "Even the copyright copies disappeared from the Library of Congress." This was essentially the end of Asa Mercer's public life. This courageous man died in obscurity for having the nerve to stand up to the wealthy grazing interests in Wyoming. I recommend that anybody associated with the UW read The Banditti of the Plains. I had to become a Wyoming resident before I understood what a noble man he was.

Brian Hennagin, '69, '77
Casper, Wyo.

Insensitive, if not Insulting

I found Valerie Chapman's flippant article Below the Belt,. on the prostate insensitive, if not downright insulting. How does she know what men talk about in locker rooms or whether prostate exams cause only mental discomfort? I suggest she confine her writing to subjects better suited to her talents--like parking lots or bowling balls.

Robert F. Peterson, '61, '64, '65
Reno, Nev.

Superb, if not Outstanding

The article on Robin McCabe The Real McCabe was outstanding as was the choice of the professor to write about. My wife and I ... have seen Robin perform in Seattle, Victoria, Spokane, Tacoma, Olympia, Corvallis, Orcas Island and other places too numerous to mention. I tell you this only because it lends credence to the fact that we really know what an outstanding young lady we are talking about. We have never known anyone so superbly qualified in so many areas. ... Robin has so many talents at her disposal that if anyone can be successful as the director of the School of Music, she certainly can.

J. Mack Koon, '38

Letters to the editor are encouraged. Brief letters are more likely to be published; longer letters may be edited due to lack of space. To send a letter to the editor, try griffin@u.washington.edu, and please include a daytime phone number to verify authorship.

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