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Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
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Misquotes undermine integrity of the Wildcat

I am disappointed in the journalistic practices that went into Monday's article "Students writing own letters of reference." I was "interviewed" for and "quoted" in the article, and my experience led me to understand the lack of journalistic integrity on the Daily Wildcat staff. My "interview" consisted of a Wildcat reporter approaching me as I sat down to lunch on Friday. She proceeded to explain that some students were writing their own letters of recommendation to be sent to graduate schools for admission. She explained that graduate schools don't have a problem with it, and most professors don't mind signing their name to a letter they didn't write. She then asked, "What do you think?" She did not mention that, "Joe Ford, the assistant director of admissions for Michigan State University's school of business, said he highly discourages students writing their own letters." In short, I was presented with a one-sided view of the story, and asked to comment. I answered with, "It seems like that defeats the purpose of a letter of recommendation, but if the schools are OK with it, and the students and their professors are OK with it, then what are you going to do?" I was quoted as saying, "In a sense, it defeats the purpose of a letter of recommendation, but if everyone is OK with it, it is not a problem." Now, I don't feel like I was misrepresented in the quote; it got across the basic idea of what I said. However, if my one-sentence quote given in a two-minute interview is changed for this article, how many interviews of much greater significance with much more content will be misrepresented in articles in the future? Or, perhaps more importantly, how many people have been misrepresented in the Daily Wildcat in the past? Wildcat reporters and writers, please keep this in mind as you seek to present the news to the UA student body: Interviews should be conducted with integrity and professionalism, and quotes should be just that, not a representation of the basic idea you think the person has communicated.

Krista Morrison
mathematics junior

Safe Zone necessary to fight lack of acceptance

In her letter yesterday, staff member Mary Sparks demonstrated perfectly why there is a need for programs like Safe Zone. As she states, the purpose of the program is to train people to be a "source of support and nurturance." Coming from the Office of Residence Life at a public university, this hardly seems to be a radical agenda, let alone "a gay sexual assault against students and employees."

As for claiming that GLBTQ students should not require, or presumably deserve, support because they have "chosen" to be different. Well, that hardly deserves a rebuttal, but I'll provide one anyway. The idea that somebody would "choose" to be gay defies logical explanation, unless you believe that there are people who have decided to invite assault, ridicule, discrimination and bias from the likes of Ms. Sparks.

While she may not especially like the fact there are GLBTQ students who are comfortable with their sexual orientation/gender identity, Ms. Sparks has a personal responsibility to ensure that all students enjoy a safe and respectful environment in the classroom, on the Mall, and in the many campus workplaces where they are employed. Look around the office, Ms. Sparks, and consider that your favorite undergraduate or student worker may have read your letter and now knows that you don't consider him or her worthy of equal treatment on campus.

Finally, Ms. Sparks is absolutely right that the GLBTQ community is demanding acceptance and not requesting tolerance. We demand acceptance of our right to fair and equal treatment, of our right to a safe learning and working environment, and we demand that those who choose to work for the UA remember that they have a job at a student-centered institution, and if they do not like it, then they should find a job in the private sector.

Nick Ray
UA alumnus

Not all Roman Catholics plagued by religious guilt

I feel compelled to write in response to Susan Bonicillo's column, lest the casual reader believe that all Roman Catholics are afflicted with religion-induced guilt. I hope that the reader, realizing that there are about 1 billion Roman Catholics, will reject the notion that such homogeneity exists among us.

I'll offer two examples to show just how diverse (and guilt-free) we are. During high school, when some of my Filipino friends hoped for school-canceling snow, they'd offer an egg to a statue of the Virgin Mary in their yard. It was somewhat facetious on their part, and completely foreign to me. Regardless, they were able to have some fun with the traditions of the Filipino strain of Roman Catholicism.

In my parents' parish, if St. Patrick's Day falls during Lent, then the Lenten season includes a mass with an orchestra and hymns and prayers in Gaelic. The mass is followed by smoked salmon and several kegs of Harp Ale in the church basement. This is all done at the urging of the pastor, an Irish immigrant. Does this sound like a group consumed by guilt?

There is a substantial but subtle difference between a sense of duty and a sense of guilt. I'll admit that some Roman Catholics let guilt define their spirituality and grudgingly try to avoid sin. However, I don't know very many of those. The rest of us recognize that avoiding sin is not the primary goal of our faith. We recognize the importance and responsibilities (e.g. charity) of Roman Catholicism, and we embrace them. And, no, I'm not going to tell you where my parents' parish is.

Joe McMahon
mathematics graduate student

Conservatives value personal responsibility

Being an Arizona native, and having most of my high school friends as students at the UA, I am often kept in the loop as to the happenings on campus. Recently, I was sent a link to Brett Berry's "Talking back: Journey into the mind of an ultraconservative," published Feb. 17 in the Wildcat. I do not know your readership well, but if it is anything like that of my own school, Boston College, I am sure it is eagerly awaiting a thoughtful retort to Mr. Berry's relatively unthoughtful piece.

I was sadly disappointed with Mr. Berry's conception of conservatism. It seemed to me that he may not have ever encountered true conservative thought outside the senseless sound bites that are characteristic of political talk in the media. I was also disappointed that Mr. Berry chose not to engage different strains of conservative thought and point out strengths and weakness. Take, for example, the following: "When discussing poverty and poor people in America, you must understand that the ultraconservative views the poor as being destitute for a reason: laziness." Perhaps it might have been more helpful for your readers had Mr. Berry argued that conservatives tend to believe strongly in individual responsibility, and pointed to some difficulties that can arise as a result of that belief. In any case, it seems clear that Mr. Berry certainly does not know his history or the many examples of how free men and free markets have operated successfully in the past when compared to government control and regulations in more recent times. And, I am sure it must be easy for Mr. Berry to speak of his great liberal fight to alleviate poverty as he sits in his apartment checking his bank statements for daddy's deposit.

Jonathan Riches
Boston College senior

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