Editor’s note: Letters appearing in the winter 2015-16 print issue are marked by a double ##.
The autumn issue
##Thank you, Notre Dame Magazine, for the confidence you place in us, your readers. Like the psalms, you lead us into uncomfortable territory.
The autumn issue was particularly challenging and thus appreciated. We might have expected a great article on Pope Francis and his encyclical, and we got one with “A Canticle for Planet Earth.” But how many alumni magazines would also take us deep into the Ebola crisis in such gut-wrenching detail or offer a long report on prostitution in Philadelphia? How about that unvarnished report on concussions in football, the sport which has defined us? We got a lovely story about the basilica’s new organ, but also an honest assessment of the racial divide that continues to haunt our country.
We alumni are among the world’s most privileged people. It would be easy for Notre Dame to play to our good fortune and satisfaction with softball stories and candy columns. You’ve done the opposite, which is what a great university should do. Keep it up.
Jerry Brady ’58
##Wow, this latest issue really should have been dubbed “the –isms issue.” Seems like every article in this magazine has an –ism or three. Saddest part was that the only mentions I noticed of Catholic-ism painted it in a rather bad light, at least when compared to the praises accorded to much more fashionable –isms, like environmentalism and feminism. Maybe we should really change our alma mater’s name to The University of Our Neuroses, instead of Our Lady.
Lisa Bergman ’96
##While it would be difficult to end the football program at Notre Dame (“Assessing the Damage”), another program may be even more damaging to student brains. The Bengal Bouts are a high-risk sport whose objective is to hit your opponent as hard as you can in the head. The sport is attractive to men too small to play football but who want the thrill of macho contact. I am in this category, having fought as a student myself. The thrill of wearing the letter jacket with the Champ glove patch does not compensate for the cognitive problems later in life. Notre Dame should end the bouts and find another way to support the Holy Cross missions.
William Freidheim ’63
Women at home and the office
##If Heather Treseler (“Anything You Want To Be”) is discouraged by the ill treatment of women she has witnessed and experienced in academia, might I suggest another line of work entirely? I’ve spent my entire career in the for-profit world — largely a meritocracy lacking the security of tenure. There, the behavior she describes would not stand. Her colleagues’ comments, denigrating another’s focus on family life, would not just be insensitive, they would be grounds for severe corrective action, if not dismissal. A senior manager who behaved in the way she describes would likely get miserable 360-degree reviews and be quickly sidelined. Corporate America has made huge strides in hiring and promoting women. It appears academia has not. Perhaps that’s the price you pay for having a tenure system.
Lara Walters Hoffmans ’97
Correcting the pope
##Nothing could be further from the truth than Celia Deane Drummond’s assertion (“A Canticle for Planet Earth”) that “Pope Francis sides with science.” He is siding with the alarmist proclamations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which masquerades as a scientific forum when it is, in fact, an ideologically driven political body. When the pope says “most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases . . . released mainly as a result of human activity,” he is talking out of school. He is not a scientist and not qualified to make such a dogmatic assertion. While there is consensus that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that the climate is changing, there is no agreement on how strong a driver of climate change carbon dioxide is, or even if it is a significant player at all. By aligning himself with the small but powerful group of dishonest scientists and politicians who are using climate change alarmism for their own self-aggrandizement, the pope has damaged his own credibility and effectiveness as a source of moral guidance.
Michael Freeman ’64
##Professor Deane-Drummond’s near-rhapsodic review of the pope’s encyclical completely ignores the population explosion, an “elephant in the room” if ever there was one. But there is virtually no mention of birth control, contraception, population or birth rate, although “frank” and “respectful dialogue” is called for often. And yet the pope’s representation of non-Church positions is hardly respectful. He writes, “Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate.” He and I must read different sources on environmental issues. I have never read a source that proposed only a reduction in birth rate. His statement cartoons the perspective and position of thoughtful people, and turns any prospect for dialogue into mere debate.
Not every inconsistency, evasion, self-delusion or lapse from dialogue into authoritarianism deserves the harsh word “hypocrisy,” and I will not assert it here. But by mostly ignoring the “elephant in the room” and dismissing those who take it seriously, Pope Francis opens himself and our Church to such accusations.
Patrick J. Roache ’60, ’63M.S., ’67Ph.D.
Socorro, New Mexico
The story on race
##Don Wycliff’s relationship with so many good people striving to make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged provides real hope and optimism that the challenges can be met. While the reader can tell that Mr. Wycliff has disappointments and struggles with America, he leaves one feeling more positive than negative. I commend him for setting that tone.
The letdown in his piece falls on the use of Edward Baptist’s book to claim that “slavery is the foundation of white privilege.” Baptist actually attempts to make the case that slavery is the foundation of American capitalist development with white privilege one of the offshoots. And Mr. Baptist’s economic numbers have been easily refuted by peer-reviewed data. I cannot let one facet of the article diminish the positive impact it had on me, and I pray that more people of good character and morals embrace Mr. Wycliff’s underlying message.
Dennis Regan ’81
Newport Beach, California
I just finished reading Don Wycliff’s thoughtful article, “Matters, in Black and White.” He captured well the joint realities that much has been accomplished and much remains to be done in our country concerning race relations. From my vantage point at one of thev 30 Cristo Rey schools described in his article, I can see both sides of this coin. Like all Cristo Rey schools we limit our enrollment to students from low-income families. Poverty, of course, impacts all racial and ethnic groups. But it is found in disproportionately large numbers in Black and Latino communities. This is a big challenge, but it is not an insurmountable one. A quality education has always been the best hope for economic and social advancement in this country. That was true for many first-generation college students who attended Notre Dame with me in the early 1970s, and it is no less true today. Cristo Rey offers low-income students living in failing urban school districts a chance for a college-prep education as good as any affluent suburban district or prestigious private school. The genius of the work-study program is not just the crucial financial support it provides. Four years of work-study experience in professional settings like law, medicine, accounting, banking and insurance allows Cristo Rey students to dream of careers they might not have imagined were possible for students in their circumstances. And as importantly, these jobs teach them that education, hard work and professionalism are necessary to be successful in their careers.
Our country must and will continue to make advances on matters in black and white, and Cristo Rey graduates will be a vital part of that progress.
F. James Foley ’74, ’77J.D.
President, Cristo Rey Columbus High School
Don Wycliff’s article, “Matters, In Black and White,” provides a tremendous opportunity to have a dialogue about race. We as ND graduates and as members of one human family need to recognize the racial disparities that still exist in the country. And we need to make personal and institutional changes to achieve racial equity.
Michael Bleeg ’68
Rochester, New York
Kerry Temple’s essay, “The Book Keeper’s Wish,” is a bittersweet song of downsizing that most of us of a certain age have heard sung in the stacks of our house and mind.
So many of the writers you cite I first encountered in the shelves of Brother Conan’s keeping. In the second half of the ’50s, a new, greatly enlarged Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore established and expanded its second floor, softcover shelves. The so-called paperback revolution was just beginning on college campuses, demanding display space that previously had been devoted to semester-seasonal textbooks. Here on a space topping the first floor sweatshirts and Fighting Irish memorabilia, specially designed book shelves introduced Salinger, Kerouac, O’Conner, Mailer and Tom Dooley. Fat and flashy volumes of Ayn Rand demanded top shelf billing with bulky salvos of James Jones. Classic series imprints found Plutarch and Homer jousting for face out display with Bronte, Twain and Conrad.
As a student employee of the bookstore, I had for four years a foot soldier’s role in this pulpy revolution supporting existing publishers as they expanded their monthly offerings both in physical size and numbers issued. Watching new publishers break through wholesale distribution barriers: Penguins finding New Directions under City Lights.
Books were affordable and, therefore, collectible. Few seniors left Notre Dame without Bantams, Signets, Mentors and Dells crammed in boxes that once carried textbooks, those hard-covered behemoths sold soon before departure to rover buyers from Barnes and Noble, Nebraska Book Company and Follett.
The soft-covered survivors heralded the slick beginnings of personal book collections, glossy-sided gypsies that followed early wonderings through first jobs and graduate schools. Faithful shipmates who were content to wait in bedrooms boxes, while civilian sleeping quarters were traded for the gray bunkhouses of mandatory military service.
And 50 years later when new deployment was demanded, these old tattered, broken-bound friends were the last to be set adrift in the perilous waters of downsizing. Thanks for reviving their noble memory.
Thomas L. Bonn ’60
Ithica, New York