Letters to the editor

Author: Readers

Editor’s note: Letters that appeared in the summer print issue are marked with a double ##.

Dick Conklin

##Thank you for the warm remembrance of my father, Richard W. Conklin (“Of putative interest”). It reminded me of a moment from my dad’s funeral, when an older gentleman said to me, “Dick Conklin was someone I wish I could have known longer and better,” and I heard myself reply, “Me, too.” Although I had assumed a certain fluency in my father’s contributions to Notre Dame, I had no idea until reading your portrait that he was also one of the magazine’s founding fathers. As someone who has contributed to these pages myself, I once benefitted from his editing skills when, after working as a production assistant on Rudy, I was commissioned to write a behind-the-scenes article. My father returned my first draft drenched in red ink with one spoken directive: “Marc, they want an article about the movie, not you.”

Dick Conklin did indeed love Notre Dame, but I think he loved the magazine most of all — seeing it as the greatest fulfillment of Father Hesburgh’s vision of the University as “the place where the Catholic Church does its thinking.” His life was not only of putative interest but of great interest. Thank you for sharing a piece of it with your readers and for giving me yet another precious piece to its colorful mosaic.

Marc Conklin ’91
Saint Paul, Minnesota

The cost of education

##James Lang’s piece (“Is College Worth It?”) was one of the most biased and misrepresenting pieces I have ever read — particularly when he gives a completely illogical explanation of why tuition rises. He even gives wrong information, claiming tuition has only risen as much as health care. College tuition has risen 439 percent since 1982, versus health care at 251 percent (energy has only risen 108 percent in that time). But the answer to the question is very clear: It depends on your major. If your major is engineering or finance or pre-med or certain scientific disciplines or any degree that leads to law school, the cost-benefit analysis of most universities shows they are worth it. But if your degree is in arts and letters and similar disciplines, the answer in this economy is “no” — especially if you have to foot the bill and go on to grad school. Tech schools and community colleges are far better options.

Ryan Lynch ’04
Fargo, North Dakota

##Is college worth it? No. And that “no” is applicable to Notre Dame and almost every other private institution of higher education. Is it worth it for a family to spend as much to educate one child as it would to purchase a home? No. Is it worth it for a family to take on so much debt for one undergraduate degree that is still being paid off 10 or 15 years after graduation? No. Is it worth it for a family to incur five-figure debt that is only one step in the higher education continuum? No. Higher education has become a narcissistic racket that enriches only those firmly entrenched at the “best” colleges and universities.

J. Sean Keenan ’67J.D.
Canton, Ohio

##Any system will succeed or fail in relation to its input and output. If the value of the output exceeds the value of the input, the system will thrive. Until recently, the money spent on a university degree would translate into a net financial gain. But now, because of the astronomical increase in the cost of higher education, this is a questionable proposition. If the cost of an undergraduate degree at Notre Dame ($240,000) were to be invested in the stock market for 47 years (age 18-65), at an 8 percent rate of return, the result would be $9.9 million. Even a 6 percent rate of return would yield $3.9 million. Does a Notre Dame degree produce an income stream of $4 to $10 million over a working lifetime?

For the highly intelligent, the truly motivated or the intensely focused, an undergrad degree, at ND’s prices, may still be worth the cost. For the rest, the input will not be worth the value of the output, and the result will be the destruction of generations of middle-class wealth, a life of debt peonage or both.

Guy Wroble ’77
Denver, Colorado

##Kerry Temple’s article (“Much More than School”) notes that affordability is perhaps the most pressing issue in higher education. This issue, however, has wider and profound implications for our society, the economy and public policy. What is the impact on recent graduates regarding family formation and child rearing? Does affordability exacerbate the unequal distribution of wealth our society suffers from? Should different finance models be considered? I encourage examination of this subject more fully in future editions.

E. Owen Donnelly ’62

##I enjoyed Michael Molinelli’s Molarity cartoon. It hit the bull’s-eye with what is terribly wrong with colleges today better than any 2,000-word academic article.

Joe Anderson ’67
Amelia Island, Florida

##In the article “Much More than School,” the average debt of a Notre Dame graduate was listed as $30,200 compared to $28,000 for graduates from other four-year private schools. When citing the borrowing of students, it is imperative that a common definition of debt be used to create an “apples to apples” comparison. Using the most recent data for 2010-11 graduates provided by the College Board, the indebtedness of Notre Dame graduates was $30,225 compared to the national private four-year colleges of $29,900. This shows a much closer gap than appeared in the published article. This definition includes institutional, state, Federal Perkins, Federal Stafford Subsidized and Unsubsidized, and private loans certified by the institutions. The University’s Enrollment Division continues a commitment to package students with responsible loan amounts. The average debt represents roughly 12 to13 percent of the cost to attend Notre Dame for four years. In return, students benefit from a select grouping of the highest retention, graduation and placement rates in the nation. When comparing the multiple investments made by an individual throughout his or her life, it is clearly evident that a Notre Dame education is one of the most valued.

Thomas E. Bear
Executive director of Student Financial Strategies
University of Notre Dame

##The concluding paragraphs in “Much More than School” indicate that there is value in a Notre Dame degree beyond what can be measured in economic terms. I believe this is a critical point that did not get adequate coverage in the broader “Is College Worth It?” discussion. When I consider whether to encourage my daughters to apply to Notre Dame, first and foremost in mind will be the “whole-person educational experience” to which Kerry Temple refers, along with overall values that the University espouses. As I follow the articles, letters to the editor and class notes in the magazine, I remain concerned about the emphasis among Notre Dame alumni on “getting ahead.”

Mike Tranel ’81
Skagway, Alaska

“Is College Worth It? by James M. Lang provides a good example of the failure to distinguish between correlation and causality, a failure pervasive even among college faculty. Data: the typical college graduate will earn over her lifetime about half a million dollars more than the typical high school graduate. But did the college education cause the difference? Or might the difference have something to do with the implicit division of the sample population into two groups, one of which is on average smarter, harder working, graduates of better high schools, and comes from wealthier families than the other? And will that half million differential not be more than eaten up by providing a quarter million dollar college education for each of her children? I value and believe strongly in college education (including my three degrees from Notre Dame and my wife’s six degrees) but not for its monetary value.

Patrick J. Roache ’60, ’63M.S., ’67Ph.D.
Via email

As a young college professor who recently completed school himself, I was very interested in seeing what James Lang had to say about the relevance of a college education in today’s society. After reading the article, I feel that Lang raises pertinent issues surrounding the fate of higher education. The institution where I teach, a selective liberal arts college, has been facilitating ongoing discussions amongst the faculty and staff on these very topics addressed by Lang. From my own institution’s discussions, and the one here raised by Lang, it is refreshing to see that many in academia are trying to break free from the traditional classroom model and plot a new innovative path for colleges and universities to ensure their significance and necessity in the future.

The last part of Lang’s article discussing innovative practices is what really resonated with me because I am using the flipped classroom approach in a multicultural film course that I teach. I have seen firsthand how students engage in deeper and more personalized discussions about themes raised in the movies as they analyze and discuss scenes that are of interest to them after having viewed the movie outside of class. In a traditional classroom where we would watch the movie in class, the students don’t engage in as deep of conversations. With such innovative practices, the students can use class time to discuss with their peers on a deeper and more personal level, allowing them to hone and solidify critical thinking skills that will serve them in any post-collegiate career or graduate program. I received a lot of positive feedback about this on student evaluations, so it is confirmation for me to keep up this practice.

Recent data from the Association of American Colleges and Universities also confirm that employers seek college graduates who have developed these critical thinking skills, and if schools adopt these innovative practices, they will be helping to show families that these skills can be learned with fellow students on a campus, and not in a MOOC where there is no genuine interaction with other people. The one thing, however, that Lang should mention to assuage the fear of rising costs is that many colleges and universities are still able to provide competitive financial aid packages to students who would normally be turned off from hefty higher education fees. Schools are also getting more innovative in terms of how they look for funding for students, whether it is money to study abroad, intern with a particular company, or do research on campus with a particular professor. Such practices also help students develop necessary skills for future careers that are not easy to find by oneself, and when families see how schools are looking to provide students with these services, then the price again is worth it.

Dr. Michael Foster ’05M.A.
Via email

Your article “Is College Worth It?” failed to discuss the huge cost and shallow return of “research.” The dedicated cost of research (faculty, equipment, and patents) when balanced against the grants and income that research produces does not add up. At one time industry supported research but now it is almost exclusively the purview of the federal government. Now that money is drying up. It is time for universities to access the “value” of research as a core part of their educational mission.

James Lynch ’65
Via email

James M. Lang’s cover story (“Is College Worth It?”) is both timely and engaging. As a college teacher, I am generally sympathetic to Lang’s view that teaching is an artisanal profession that cannot be judged simply by productivity measures and that learning is a personally motivated activity that cannot be judged adequately by prescriptive standards. That said, I found a couple tensions in his article that cut against the overall thrust of his argument.

First, Lang repeats the common argument that college is worth it because those having a college degree can expect to earn, on average over a working lifetime, two to three times that of those having only a high school diploma. College graduates, moreover, experience lower unemployment rates than non-college graduates. The operative term here is “on average.” Kiplinger’s Magazine recently reported on the “ten worst college majors for your career.” That list includes several majors (e.g., English, philosophy, and art) that fit the profile Lang promotes — learning guided by the student’s own questions. Current graduates in such majors can expect significantly higher unemployment and lower earnings relative to not only their college peers but also the national median. The financial investment argument is thus least compelling for those majors in which learning is mostly student-question driven. To properly assess the “worth” of college, we need to maintain the ancient wisdom that some goods — the intellectual and moral virtues — are worth pursuing regardless of monetary advantage.

Second, in advocating that the academy take seriously the emerging phenomenon of “uncollege” or “eduhacking,” Lang cites the rise of MOOCs as an avenue for education outside the formal academy. Yet a MOOC, in which one teacher instructs thousands of remote students at once, is just the sort of assembly-line format that Lang had earlier dismissed as being incompatible with the artisanal excellence of the teaching profession. I agree that we need to experiment with educational alternatives outside the formal academy, but I would emphasize that we do so while retaining the personal dimension of both teaching and learning.

Darrin W. Snyder Belousek ’98Ph.D.
Via email

The “Is College Worth It?” article reflects a complete difference in the basic thinking of our nation. When discussing why college costs so much, the explanations logically assume the validity of the academic elite much in the same way Plato envisioned a universe where philosophers were the rulers of the world. Of course any excessive cost is justified because, after all, our teachers are worth it.

Let me take you back to the year 1954. I was assigned to lead an eight-man group project as part of our ND class in economics. We were to consider the question: Should the federal government provide aid in education? After about three weeks analyzing this topic, including how it would affect school desegregation, rich states vs. poor states, etc., we came to some unexpected conclusions.

First, we voted not to use federal money for education. The effect of federal grants would have too many strings attached; it would triple the salaries of college faculties in a short time with no improvement in the quality of their services. In the longer time frame, government aid paid for through increased taxes would place a terrific burden on any student who had to pay his own way without external assistance.

We did not foresee the massive government loan programs which place even a greater debt on middle-class families. In our day, student loans were no available. You had to say you couldn’t enter ND without a loan to be considered. The four-year cost to go to ND was about $8,000. In 1972, my projections for how much college would cost in the 1976 to 1981 time period were double or $16,000 each. Government subsidies, however, had already begun to inflate costs to about $40,000 for four years at top schools. All of a sudden, middle-class families were up against a brick wall. Years of saving and frugal living would result in virtual bankruptcy once the new higher college expenses for the children were paid.

You had to make less than $15,000 a year in family income to make your children eligible for the variety of available college scholarships based solely on need, not academic ability. People who worked little, spent everything on themselves and didn’t care about their children’s future made out like bandits. Their kids got free rides while we all struggled. Government subsidies became the way to destroy the nation’s middle class and to buy votes from those who didn’t need to spend for their children’s education.

When the article compares education expenses to those in the medical field, it does a disservice to the country. We spend 17 percent of our gross national product now on medical expenses. That’s because since 1939, when Blue Cross insurance first became available, various health insurance programs have made it about 100 times what it cost for a 1954 office visit, and between 200 and 500 times the cost of one day in the hospital. That’s insane! The government pushes these programs again to buy votes and to stay in office.

The United States is still a great nation. Somehow we will manage to overcome the damaging effects caused by lobby groups in the fields of medicine and education. I may not live to see this happen but wish us luck in returning those parts of the economy to reasonable and efficient operations.

Fred Danner ‘55
Fort Mill, South Carolina

Abuse and the Church

##John Salveson’s article certainly should wake us up that the main thrust of the Church in addressing abuse is risk management. There are obvious financial fears, but the principal effort has been to develop “rules and regulations” to control the situation. Yes, there have been some pastoral approaches and outreaches but not enough as cases continue to be uncovered. Hopefully, Pope Francis will succeed in his attempt to appoint bishops who have had considerable pastoral experience rather than men who have only bureaucratic backgrounds.

Deacon Larry Hammel ’57
Sterling, Virginia

##I raise some questions not to be critical but to add to what we should learn. Why did Salveson, and many others for whom he speaks, report the priests’ crimes to the bishops rather than to the police? If I saw a Jesuit robbing a gas station, I would call the police, not the provincial superior. If I had evidence that the postman was sexually abusing my child, I would take it to the police station, not the postmaster. I appreciate that it may be difficult for young people to tell anybody, but should we not give them emphatic guidance on whom to tell? There may have been an attitude fostered in the Church that priests are beyond the law. If there is such an attitude, perhaps we should concentrate on changing that instead of continuing to castigate the bishops.

James J. Rakowski
ND professor emeritus
Bremen, Indiana

##After reading John Salveson’s article, I felt my usual admiration for the courage of the magazine to run this informative and heartfelt personal story about the Church sexual abuse scandal. Then I read Kerry Temple’s article, “Reconciliation,” wondering what anyone could say after reading Salveson’s detailed explanation of how the Church has done nothing but refuse to acknowledge its criminal responsibility for sheltering abusers from prosecution and try to shield its bishops, priests and its millions and millions of dollars. Was the reconciliation article written before the latest revelation about Cardinal Dolan trying to shield millions of dollars from lawsuits by abuse victims by getting the pope’s permission to move these funds to the accounts for maintaining cemeteries? It looks like Temple’s article was trying to soften the blow of Salveson’s revelations. I usually defend Notre Dame as a beacon of thoughtfulness and rationality. I am utterly disillusioned.

Gail M. Martin ’75M.A.
Nashville, Tennessee

In your summer 2013 issue I read a letter from a man who, as a young man, had been abused by a priest. This occurred when Pope John Paul II was pope and did nothing about all the abuses. Now they want to make him a saint???

Nancy Lindon
Via email

John Salveson’s article (“I Was Once a Victim Too”) was a call for hierarchy accountability, which will never happen. In spite of all the pious pronouncements about new charters and rules, and special new offices for child abuse victim complaints, the hubris continues. I applaud your guts to print Salveson’s decades of frustration to raise awareness of the absolute insensitivity of Church leaders. When I hear some Church apologist proclaim that the percentage of pedophile priests was only 4 percent (which I say is too low), I immediately answer that the real number is more than half — because the Dallas Morning News estimated in June 2002 that 111 of 189 dioceses had at least one pedophile priest case that was not handled properly. That makes more than half the bishops at that time who were guilty of cover-up and criminal conspiracy in not reporting the abuses to civil authorities.

John Minck ’52
Palo Alto, California

There are two articles in the Summer 13 issue I’d like to comment on. The first is Liam Farrell’s article, “The beauty behind numbers.” What I found interesting is how different the Math Department apparently was in 1978 than 10 years earlier. The article says that in 1989 almost no students had gone on to grad school in over a decade. In 1964 well over a hundred guys came to ND wanting to be math majors. By 1968, when I got my BS in math, there were 12 of us remaining. If memory serves me right, 10 went on to grad school. I believe almost all of them got a PhD. While I was at ND it seemed the sole mission of the department was to prepare guys for grad school. In my four years there were literally hundreds of guys who had to drop out of math because there wasn’t a curriculum for those who did NOT want to go to grad school. When I graduated the only way to be a math major was to plan to go to graduate school, and work one’s tail off accordingly. ND’s math curriculum was more rigorous and complete than a lot of graduate schools’.

The other article I want to comment on is John Salveson’s “I Was Once a Victim Too,” and Kerry Temple’s response. In Salveson’s article I hear anger that for so long the Church deceived and that there is still much to be done to ensure justice for victims. His last sentence is not one of reconciliation, not one saying the issue is behind us. But the tenor of Temple’s response is exactly that: much has been remedied; it’s time to put this behind us. I was confused whether the response was meant to be a rebuttal, another perspective or in some way an affirmation. My own feeling is someplace between the two, but with dioceses and orders just now finally giving up their secret records of mal- and misfeasance, I don’t think the situation is as benign as Kerry Temple holds.

Ken Kast ’68
Huntington Beach, California

It is beyond disingenuous to point out that the sex abuse rate for priests is somewhat better than for the population in general. I do have to wonder what age groups and genders that population includes. Four percent of priests compared to some slightly greater percentage of exactly what group? Most of the abuse was “more than a decade old.” Since the time period considered was more than five decades in length, well, what would one expect? But any such statistical comparisons are meaningless anyway. Does the general population consecrate and consume what I was taught was the actual substance of God each day? The claims of the Church could not be more profound. Ought we not expect more?

To begin actual penance I suggest the Church welcome women priests and married priests.

Richard Mendola, ’74
Via email

Mike DeCicco

A Mike DiCicco story: I fenced as a sophomore in the 1966-67 season, won a monogram by one bout, then didn’t return to the team. It was a perfectly forgettable athletic career.

Twenty-seven years later, I was in the bleachers with my family watching Illinois and Notre Dame fence. A high school student I had coached was on the Illinois team. Mike DiCicco was directing a bout when he turned and spied me at the other end of the gym. When the bout finished I took my family down to the floor. Coach extended his hand, called me by name, turned to my two young daughters and said “This guy was one of the best fencers we ever had at Notre Dame.”

William B. Rose ’69
Urbana Illinois

Not a fan

I am embarrassed by ND’s magazine. I have children who went to Villanova, BC and Cornell so I receive their monthlies. Each of them is far superior to the deadly dull product that you are producing. Your articles are unbearably long. Your pages are boring and bland. Even your typeface is off-putting. . . . It needs a total overhaul.

John McCarthy ’58
Via email

Spilled coffee

BRAVO on the summer edition of this year, p. 20, Tim Judge, in particular, the coffee ring.

Brother Joseph Dougherty, FSC
Ozamiz City, Republic of the Philippines

You faked me out with the coffee stain on page 20. I was about to give my wife crap. Great story on Father Corby. I live in Reading, Pennsylvania, and have been to Gettysburg battlefield over 20 times. I love the place and it gives me chills every time. 150th anniversary last week. Thanks for a great magazine.

Kevin Calabria ’74
Alvernia University

Outdoor weddings

In “The Wedding Priest,” Tara Hunt quotes Father Joe Carey, CSC, describing the Basilica as “a sacred space and on sacred ground. This isn’t a beach in Hawaii. A wedding here makes it so very special and so spiritual.”

With all due respect to Fr. Carey, I disagree. Having experienced both a Basilica marriage in 1980 and a wedding on a Maui beach in 2001, I can honestly say that my second wedding in Maui was infinitely more special and spiritual than my wedding at the Basilica. I never felt the presence and blessing of God so much as I did on that beautiful March day in 2001 when I married my best friend, Jay Kraeszig. Our minister was a very spiritual person, and she incorporated a reading from 1 Corinthians 13 that we selected. Jay and I carefully chose the location for our ceremony based on how it made us feel close to the Divine. Our ceremony was personally meaningful to both of us, and we were both deeply moved by the celebrant’s blessings. We felt at one with each other, God, and the universe in that beautiful and serene place that was sacred to us and formed by the hand of God.

We have since revisited the site where we made our vows, and rather than memories of temporal things like the flowers, attendants or a wedding gown, we truly have a sense of what it means to be one with God and His glorious earth. A roof does not a temple make, and God’s blessings are not confined to the interior of a building. I hope that my daughter will find a place equally close to her heart, where she also feels surrounded by the Divine, when the time comes for her to be married.
The Basilica is very beautiful, but it is a man-made structure inspired by — but not made by — the hand of God. To each their own, Father Carey!

Mary McCauley Kraeszig ’81
Via email

Actor honors Fred Syburg

Fred Syburg was definitely a “Man for All Seasons”. A compendium of theatre lore and dramatic literature, from ancient storytellers and religious rituals to absurdist plays, agit-prop and burlesque; he taught a reverence for the history of the medium, but wasn’t averse to creating some history of his own.

I played Capt. Starkey in his production of We Bombed in New Haven, which he chose to produce at Notre Dame, barely a year after its premiere, and during the height of the Vietnam conflict. It was only with his support and guidance that I was able to perform that role.

He also had members of the cast visit classes to initiate dialogue with our fellow students. And he convinced different members of the faculty from all disciplines to play the Golfer and the Hunter at each performance, to make the play even more immediate and relevant.

It was an experience I’ll never forget, and Fred Syburg is likely to blame for me choosing acting as a profession. Despite that he is certainly missed.

Richard Riehle ’70
Via email

Basilica mystery

I was at a loss to understand the missing Basilica on page 16, until I saw what had happened to it on page 33 [top row].

The photo on the back cover has the best night-lighting I have ever seen, considering the almost unreal problems. Just fantastic.

Emmett Cater ’52
San Antonio, Texas

Civil War

I enjoyed the Father Corby Civil War article. I would suggest to anyone who has a further interest in the Civil War to read the books by Bruce Catton. I especially liked the book titled A Stillness at Appomattox.

Terry Sullivan
Via email

Environmental issues

I read “Saving Planet Earth” by Kerry Temple in the spring issue and thought it was a moderate presentation of current environmental issues. I was floored by some of the responses to that article in the Letters to the Editor in the Summer issue. At first, I thought the responses were facetious but then remembered that statistics can generally be used to support any position and that there are lots of educated people who lack simple common sense.

Andrew Crowe ’82
Via email