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Setting the Record Straight

Exchange: To and from the editors

Letters in Print, Spring 2004

Olmsted in Amherst, Too
In response to the review of Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England, I need to point out that not only is Olmsted famous for his work in New York City, he’s also important to the town of Amherst. Austin Dickinson, who was instrumental in the landscaping of the town common and Wildwood Cemetery, consulted Olmsted about the Amherst College campus and was influenced by Olmsted’s work when landscaping other areas, such as the Evergreens.

Marcy Tanter ’86 ’96G
Stephenville, TX


A Nation of Citizens, Not Tribes
Betty Shamieh’s “evidence” that her rights were trampled when theater festival funding for her play was withdrawn is without merit. Writers get the rug pulled out from under them all the time, no matter their ancestry. The truth is everyone in America experiences setbacks. That’s life.

If I’d just lost a loved one in either of the World Trade Center attacks, in a Pennsylvania field, in Mogadishu, on the USS Cole, or in any attack against the United States, I couldn’t wait to see a play about the sister of a murderous thug. How does Ms. Shamieh spell sensitivity? Doesn’t she know that the ultimate discrimination is taking an innocent life?

The obvious has eluded Ms. Shamieh, Christopher O’Carroll, the article’s author, and the staff of UMass Amherst. Ms. Shamieh has a platform. No, she has a stage and a paying audience. That’s called success. She bewailed her downtrodden state on campus and in the pages of this magazine. That’s called free speech. And a pity party.
Finally, Mr. O’Carroll, in describing Ms. Shamieh as “an Arab in America” errs by elevating ancestry over citizenship. Ours is a nation of citizens, not tribes. If Ms. Shamieh traveled to the Middle Eastern country of her parents’ birth, she’d realize she is no more an Arab than Mr. O’Carroll or I. Nor would Ms. Shamieh enjoy the free speech she now takes for granted.

Paula L. Messina ’73
Revere, MA


Baker Mixup
Regarding Brendan Whittaker’s letter in the last issue of the magazine, he has the story backwards as to which Baker recommended the other to the Amherst scene. As Professor Rand clearly relates in his book, Yesterdays at Massachusetts State College, it was Ray Stannard Baker (who came to Amherst in 1910) who suggested to the trustees that he had a brother Hugh P. “who would make a good college president.” Hugh took over as president of the then Massachusetts State College in February 1933.

Myron Hager ’40
Falmouth, ME


“Emily, Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda?”
Historian Ruth Owen Jones believes that the first president of Massachusetts Agricultural College may be the mystery man in Emily Dickinson’s Master letters. Based on the flimsiest of evidence she’s willing to argue that she’s right. She asks, “That’s what scholarship is all about isn’t it?” At many universities, scholarship is not taking a wild guess about something, presenting scant evidence that it’s true, and posing as an authority on it. A case could be made that the mystery man was a master herdsman from the farm up the road who did Emily a kindness one day when he delivered a container of milk, extra rich in butterfat, with a nosegay attached to it. It makes as much sense as her theory. Jones is probably better suited to writing for a sitcom like “Seinfeld,” the “show about nothing.” She could call it “Emily, Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.”

Arthur J. Stevens Sr. ’62
Stratham, NH


Turtle Tale Hits Home
I have hosted and produced a public access show for over 10 years dealing with children, animals and environmental welfare issues. The fall issue included many interesting articles regarding grads and their work with animals. We just returned from Cozumel, Mexico, an island where the locals are doing their best to protect species of turtles that inhabit the surrounding waters and lay their eggs on the beaches. The article by Charles Creekmore ’95 describing Robert Prescott’s ’73 efforts to help struggling sea turtles was most heartening. Prescott’s role as director of the Mass. Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary gives him this unique opportunity to work with his volunteers in a humane effort. It was interesting to note Cape Cod Bay’s geological role in creating a natural hazard for the turtle’s migration south. I believe that since man has interfered so negatively in ill-advised and ill-fated wildlife management activities we can contribute to balancing that score. Kudos to the Cape Codders (my Mom and brothers live in Hyannis).

C. Veronica Guerra-Varno ’80
Groton, CT


Guns and Geese
On Veteran’s Day weekend as I was leaving the Campus Center, the sky suddenly filled with squawking geese. When I reached the Campus Pond, someone told me that ROTC students had just fired cannon shots across the water. Eventually, the geese returned.

Please tell us why, at a university with wildlife and biology programs, anyone should disturb wildlife with guns? Or, is this the UMass way to clear the pond of unwanted guests?

After receiving my Ph.D. from UMass Amherst, I taught, published research and did service related to marketing research communications. Now an emeritus professor I provide advice about consumer marketing. In my opinion, if UMass teaches about wildlife, and provides a pond for same, it should not communicate a lack of consideration for wildlife on that pond by shooting over it—unless UMass communicates a convincing reason for doing so.

Pat Anderson ’74G, ’77G
Madison, CT

Editor’s note:
The Veteran’s Day salute has been fired from the pond location for over a century. Experts at the departments of UMass Wildlife and Mass Fish and Wildlife expressed the opinion that the waterfowl and other campus species might benefit from dispersal. An unnatural concentration of large numbers of birds on a small body of water has serious deleterious effects on the aquatic ecosystem and promotes the transmission of avian disease within the duck and geese population. Happily, in the case of the Campus Pond, tradition and wildlife coexist.


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All the letters all the time

Exchange: To and from the editor

Letters in Print, Spring 2004

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