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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Winter 2003 > Letters

Letters

Honor where it’s due
The news of Doug Wilson’s retirement as editor of the Amherst magazine was not a complete surprise. During Doug’s 25 years as editor, I confess to being one of those faithful readers who have taken the excellence the magazine as a given. I feel compelled to write now in thanks for the seemingly effortless way information of the college and its graduates has appeared through the good offices of Doug. The variety of articles, the breadth of coverage, the balance of tradition and change: all these have been woven together in readable (and visual) fashion by the often-invisible intelligence of Doug Wilson ’62. Without pushing any specific agenda, Doug has sought, captured and presented the essence of the college. His success can be measured only in that almost everyone has found something of value and interest in each issue of the Amherst magazine; it has been a source of pleasure and information, an easy way of keeping in contact with Amherst.

Doug’s love for the college, and the number of other hats he has worn at Amherst, will undoubtedly keep him active on campus. I hope that the success of his wonderful tenure will continue to reflect back on him in his retirement. I am grateful for the effort he has made for all of us during his years as editor.

Sam Ellenport ’65
Belmont, Mass.

Defending diversity
I read with interest J. Ashley Ebersole ’01 ’s letter regarding a “politically homogeneous faculty” at the college, and was shocked at the implication that Amherst would not be bothered by the loss of a professor such as Hadley Arkes. I do not have enough information to jump onto a bandwagon that assumes systematic screening out of differing viewpoints, but I do agree that the presence of such viewpoints, well presented, is essential.

I took Professor Arkes’ course “Political Obligations” and still speak of it as one of the best courses I took at the college. While my classmate who recommended the course pointed out that Arkes and I would probably not agree on anything, I was surprised to find out that on occasion we did. But, most important, any viewpoint was acceptable if thoroughly supported and cogently argued.

When friends ask me why I chose Amherst College, I tell them it is where I learned how to learn, and I often refer to Professor Arkes’ course when elaborating on that statement.

Flora Stamatiades ’88
New York, N.Y.

The rarity of conservative professors
It is unfortunate that so few intelligent and well-educated people become conservatives. During the ’60s and ’70s, colleges and universities were stunned to find that so few African-Americans had chosen to go on to graduate school and thus be qualified to teach in higher education. But that was a function of opportunity. That only a paltry number of conservative professors exists cannot be attributed to economic deprivation.

I do not recall that Professor Packard’s lectures on the Battle of Jutland suffered from his having voted for Adlai Stevenson in 1952, or that Professor Ziegler’s analysis of Marbury vs. Madison was tilted by his liberalism. I do recall reading Russell Kirk’s admirable The Conservative Mind in Professor Sherman’s class on political philosophy. I can also remember reading great conservative writers like Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson in English classes that, I suppose, were taught by Democrats.

Mr. Ebersole’s nostalgia for “the philosophy of this country’s founding” echoes that of Allan Bloom, William Bennett, William F. Buckley and George Will. We should not forget that while “all men” were considered to have been created equal, women were not included within the embrace of that equality, and that, according to the Constitution, slaves were worth three-fifths of a vote. The progressive vision of the Constitution—that it is a flexible document capable of being interpreted and amended to incorporate concepts and events undreamed of in the late 18th century—has fortunately prevailed against the doctrine of “original intent” espoused by Judge Bork.

In this country, the liberal idea has resulted in antitrust legislation, the Food and Drug Administration, the direct election of U.S. senators, the right of women to vote after some 140 years of exclusion, the right of workers to unionize, the minimum wage, the GI Bill (in conjunction with the American Legion), the overturning of the separate-but-equal provisions of Plessy vs. Ferguson, civil rights and voting rights, Medicare, Head Start, the school lunch program and Upward Bound. Each of these programs or decisions had to withstand a strong conservative attack before being realized. Where is a comparable list of conservative contributions to the well-being of our society?

I suggest that those who wish more conservative professors at Amherst go instead to Grove City or Bob Jones or Oral Roberts or Liberty or Pepperdine, or that they surrender their chance at becoming wealthy, go on to earn their Ph.D.s and become that rare item, that virtual oxymoron, a conservative professor.

H. R. Coursen ’54, Ph.D.
Brunswick, Maine

A level playing field
As a conservative-leaning Republican I certainly agree with Ashley Ebersole ’01 (Fall 2002) that intellectual diversity would be improved if Amherst’s faculty had a more balanced liberal-to-conservative ratio than 174 to 1 and that the issue is worthy of attention by the president and the trustees. However, I would object if the remedy “their gumption and wit” would enable them to craft were to include the adding of 20 points
to the evaluation score of Republican applicants.

Peter Ivy ’43
Pelham, Mass.

A hamster is born
The hamster mindlessly scurries on its metallic wheel. Caught in a cycle, caged in between four walls, the hamster longs for its freedom. We tame hamsters and make light of their monotony. We laugh at their pointless tasks: water drinking, food gathering and endless hours of sleep and play. Hamsters amuse us as pets while they simultaneously reinforce our notion of human control. However, we are more similar to the hamster than we would like to admit.

Here at Amherst, we are also caught in a wheel, reeking of the same monotony that hinders the freedom of the hamster. But we like to see our daily activities as different and greater than the hamster’s. The Amherst Hamster aims to turn normalcy upside down and to put a spin on the everyday conventions of Amherst life. Using humor and satire to heighten intellectual stimulation on campus, the Hamster will be the starting ground from which people challenge and reconsider their social perceptions. For at The Amherst Hamster, nothing is immune and nothing is sacred. Prepare for the ride.

Visit our new Website at www.amherst.edu/~tmjeffer/the_amherst_hamster. For subscription inquiries, send an e-mail [via the website]. The Amherst Hamster, Amherst’s Journal of Satirical Thought.

Jonah Ansell ’03
Amherst College

Amherst

 
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