September 11 and the Gift of Music
I intended for this letter to be about music, and by the end, I hope it will be. Wish me luck.
But first, a word about a day that has become such a presence in all our lives that not to acknowledge it would seem somehow disrespectful. I'm sure you can recall where you were on the morning in question. We all have that little second eyelid, like a cat's, over our mind's eye, and in the presence of horror it blinks and then there's that little feeling of numbness, of walking in the dark. But it's really more like the shutter of a camera blinking, the way the eyepiece goes black for an instant when the shutter clicks and burns an image permanently into our brains.
I was in my car, coming in early to work on something that seemed rather urgent at the time--I really can't recall what. But I remember clearly that I'd been driving in blissful morning silence until I turned onto College Avenue. Then I flicked on the radio to check out the news. I ended up sitting in my car for a half-hour, parked in front of Alexander Hall, as the news grew more unbelievable. Then I headed back home to watch CNN.
Click. Visions of that morning will be with me until I die.
Something similar, I'm sure, happened to you. And I'm sure we'll be sharing these stories many years from now, wondering at the permanence of that white-hot slice of time in all our minds.
Since then, we've all had strange decisions to make. Little choices--like whether to go to the movies or whether to fly home to visit Grandma for the holidays--have taken on an odd new weight. In a changed climate, businesses have had to decide whether it's okay yet to advertise. Southwest Airlines' wonderful old slogan "You're now free to move about the country" has turned into a cautious "When you're ready to fly, we're there."
I had a decision to make as well. Whether to go ahead with my plans for this music issue of the magazine or push it back and devote an entire issue to what happened on September 11. There were a number of things that went into that decision. In part, the issue in your hands is a conscious act of normalcy. But it's more than that. In the end, I came to the conclusion that music was the best thing we could offer you in times like these.
There is a reason why music is an integral part of all our ceremonies and rituals, from weddings to funerals. Of all the art forms, it is music that plays most directly upon our emotions. As a teenager, I remember that dark, ingrown adolescent funk that seemed to know no bottom, and I remember how music--in particular, I seem to remember singing along with a slightly scratchy Jesus Christ Superstar in a darkened bedroom--helped me exorcise and survive it. And even now, when we need comforting, when we're restless, when we want something to give our spirits a lift, how many of us turn first to the stereo?
So I think it is entirely fitting that in this time of uncertainty and upset, as we comfort each other and weigh our futures, we at Pomona College Magazine offer you this small but enduring gift of Pomona music.
Reactions to "Healers"
PCM Fall 2001 was a good issue. It covers many areas in medicine that are unjust and having a great impact on American medicine and, more importantly, our patients. Thanks.
Incidentally, the story of Mrs. Edith Gillis, the patient we treated at Yale University [see page 51, "Sagehen Healthcare"] illustrates well the issues we face with managed care. She is one of 25 million Americans with rare disorders who are really impacted by these matters. Managed care has no way of linking these individuals with caregivers and does everything in its power to preclude out-of-network referral.
--Bob White '59
The Fall 2001 "The Healers" edition of PCM was refreshing and insightful. Between Bob Tranquada's poignant call for universal access to medical care in "My Brother's Doctor" and Marc Micozzi and Dick Levinson's sage and sensible assessments of complementary medicine in their "Rational Medicine, Medical Rationing," you cover the waterfront for sane and humane medical futures in America.
Before I retired from Pitzer College in 1995 I participated in establishing an undergraduate external studies program in Shanghai, China (now in Beijing), predicated on a healing paradigm. This program in area studies, language and traditional Chinese medicine and qigong admits students from Claremont and throughout the U.S. It provides them with an intercultural experience cutting across many of the points your articles touch upon. At the same time, these undergraduates are presented with a unique opportunity to learn about traditional and modern China.
All of the stories in the Fall edition were timely, candid, intriguing and informative. Thank you.
--Carl Hertel '52
Redondo Beach, CA
I enjoyed reading "Medical Futures" by Adam Rogers, but he missed the mark about alternative medicine. "Western medicine usually works better"?!? That subjective statement belongs in an editorial. Most of us don't use alternative methods because of the article's four cited reasons (lower cost, less complexity, face-time with practitioner, and feeling cared for)--we searched for new methods because Western medicine couldn't solve the problem! If I'm injured or acutely ill, I head to my Western doctor, but I use acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, diet and a positive lifestyle to keep healthy--without the negative side effects of pills!
--Monica Holland Hagen '85
Dearth of Alumni Coverage
Today Janie and I received the Pomona Medical Journal masquerading as the Pomona College Magazine, Fall 2001 issue. The coverage of the medical profession was well done. The coverage of alumni activities and support from this critical constituency was incredible in its absence.
We were dismayed to find NOTHING about the April Alumni Weekend other than a passing reference and short article about the World War II Symposium. Perhaps the "Memories of War" article was the result of an inadvertent exposure to one event on an Alumni Weekend otherwise considered boring by the magazine's editor.
There were no pictures of reunion classes, no listings of classmates attending their "every five year" reunion events, no pictures of the Parade of Classes, no pictures of other events showing alumni enjoying their reunions, no pictures or words about the two Alumni Distinguished Service recipients, no mention of the Class Gifts and the 50th Reunion Class' achievement (not to be broken soon) including mention of the endless hours spent by Phil Swan for the record class gift. There was no mention of Alumni Day as an event other classes might wish to attend in the future.
We were very curious about the selection of the class notes from eight members of the Class of 1951, two of whom were not at the April reunion. The Lookbook for the class contains writings from over 120 members, many of whom enjoy national and international reputations. Why were not some of their comments worthy of publication in the magazine? Was it too much trouble for the editor?
If the annual alumni reunions and the attendant fund-raising do not merit coverage in PCM, then maybe the reunions are not important to the College at all. If so, why bother holding these events?
We are certain that the apparent lack of interest in Alumni Reunion activities lies elsewhere than at the Alumni Office's door. The support the entire class received from Nancy Treser-Osgood and her crew was exemplary--clearly beyond the call of duty. The support experienced was definitely the best received over the 50 years of our chairing our class reunions! This superb support made our job very easy.
--John '51 and Janie Pendleton '51
La Jolla, CA
I was charmed and intrigued by your article on Pomona's organic garden and stopped by today to check it out. I had the pleasure of meeting Geordie Schurmann '00, one of those quoted in Cynthia Peters' article.
With a 5-acre (certified organic) date garden in Thermal, CA, I may be one of Pomona's few peasant farmers. I invited Geordie down to check out our farm. I would like to see if there is any way it might serve the needs and interests of Pomona students.
--Doug Adair '64
Pato's Dream Date Gardens
You and your staff are to be congratulated for the interest and sparkle you put in the PCM. I refer to the Fall 2001 edition.
The article "An Organic Community," with the delightful picture, is especially interesting. However, is not something missing? Who is the lovely young woman in the picture on page 6? No mention in the article. I happen to know who she is, because she is our granddaughter, Johanna Zetterberg '97, who has been one of the moving participants in the Organic Farm. She is a graduate of Pomona College; her father Alan Zetterberg '68 is a graduate of Pomona; and Connie and I are both graduates of Pomona. Also, the widow of the late William Platt of our college class recognized her, because Johanna has visited with the Platts.
Who else knows who she is? Certainly her fellow members of the Organic Farm project. Don't you think it would be appropriate to have let the readers know who the star is in your photo of the organic community?
--Stephen I. Zetterberg '38
I was sorry to read Nate Johnson's misinformed article titled "Frats With a Difference" in the Spring 2001 issue of PCM. Johnson unabashedly parrots the fraternities' point of view that they offer "good times" for all. He appears to have taken the comments of a few current fraternity members at face value, ignoring the more controversial and unsavory aspects of these frats' history. During my years at Pomona, there was a steady debate among students and faculty about the merits of the fraternities. Some aspects of fraternity life irritate students. The loud noise from weeknight "pubs" held in the social rooms was a plague to those unlucky enough to live in the dorms nearby. Also, the presence of gender-exclusive groups at a college like Pomona, which otherwise espoused gender equality, bothered many students. More disturbing was the well-known practice called the "minutes"--a written record of fraternity members' sexual exploits, available to all members (past and current) of one of Pomona's remaining all-male fraternities. We were often assured by members that this practice was harmless and that many members abstain out of regard for their girl friends' reputations, but I know of at least one instance where it may have led to a case of sexual assault.
Had Mr. Johnson looked a little further in his research, he might also have learned about the reports of death threats received by one of the people involved in the vote in the Student Affairs Committee to force the fraternities to share their rooms on campus. It is important to note that this legislation had not, in fact, challenged the right of the fraternities to exist, simply their right to have exclusive use of the social rooms on campus. It passed, but at the time of my graduation, eight years later, one of the same fraternities sporadically refused to share the social rooms it regarded as its own. It decorated the room to its specifications and kept its own copy of the key to the room, which mysteriously disappeared when other groups needed to access it.
Many colleges like Pomona are restricting or eliminating Greek life altogether. Even Dartmouth, long a celebrated center of fraternity power, recently censured one of its fraternities for a publication that named women who were purportedly sexually involved with members of the fraternity. Ring a bell? Dartmouth banned the fraternity permanently when it learned of the practice. What has Pomona done to discourage such behaviors? Nothing. For years, the administration has resisted addressing the fraternity issue openly, fearing that powerful alumni members of these fraternities--several of whom sit on Pomona's board of trustees--will curtail their generous donations to the College. Johnson suggests that Pomona is intelligently allowing the "discussion" over fraternities to continue, but I wonder how he reached that conclusion, since to my knowledge there has never been a public, ASPC or administration-sponsored debate over the presence of fraternities on campus. Discussion only occurred when enraged community members spoke up to protest fraternity-sponsored petitions or actions that violated the rights of other groups or individuals on campus. If Pomona's administration truly wants to foster discussion about fraternities, they should begin the process by holding a series of public debates culminating in a referendum. Single-sex fraternities have no place at Pomona and are an embarrassment to the College community. The College will be a better--and safer--place to live and learn when the all-male fraternity tradition is ended.
--Amy Motlagh '98
El Cajon, CA
Reply from Ann Quinley, Pomona College Dean of Students:
I would like to assure Amy that the debate about the role and value of fraternities in a liberal arts college is alive and well. There are the same complaints about noise and discussion about the merits of gender exclusive organizations that she recalls from her time here. However, over the past 10 years, I have observed a reduction in interest in fraternities and a growth in the number of students not affiliated with them.
It does seem to me, however, that the most serious criticism that Ms. Motlagh levels at fraternities is not at all reflective of the current fraternity scene at Pomona. The debate over the fraternity rooms in the basement of the Clark residence halls took place more than 10 years ago. If that discussion caused people to feel that their lives were threatened, that was and is unacceptable in the extreme. However, in the 10 years that I have been at Pomona, I have not been aware of and have not had reported to me any threats or acts of intimidation. It is also not the case, to the best of my understanding, that any of the fraternities has a key to "its" room or that there is any restriction on other members of the campus community in getting access to the former fraternity rooms. With the advent of the Smith Campus Center, more parties and social activities take place there, making the rooms under the residence halls less attractive.
Again, in contrast to Ms. Motlagh's recollection, I recall a number of public conversations about fraternities over my years here. Early on, the student government held an open forum about fraternities on campus. At that time, I thought that the sentiments expressed were fairly evenly split between supporters and detractors. Since then, we have talked about the ability of the fraternities to make use of an alcoholic party fund that student government established. There were several well-attended open forums on that issue and ultimately it was decided that because fraternities did not have open membership they could not have access to the fund. The Student Affairs Committee is currently discussing whether a fraternity that was removed from campus for disciplinary violations can receive a new charter and resume operation. That the issue of fraternities at Pomona College is not discussed more frequently has much to do with the range of other concerns that populate the life of the campus.
In the absence of serious disciplinary or other problems, I do not believe that "the administration" or at least the Office of Student Affairs has reason to try to eliminate fraternities. If students or a group of students feel that fraternities no longer have a role at Pomona, I would certainly support them in their efforts to generate public discussion of the issue.
Dean of Students
Remembering Mort Beckner
Though he died some months ago, I didn't dream about my father [former Pomona Professor Mort Beckner] until very recently. My mother, sisters Holly and Victoria, wife Sylvia and I were all traveling together by car somewhere in the West. We had stopped near an isolated house and stepped out into ranchland country that evoked the spare landscapes Dad grew up in. Beneath our feet was a giant scale model of the United States, and we were exploring the continent as we looked down, walking across mountains and plains. I stood astride the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, with little streams furiously flowing over gorges and waterfalls in miniature between my feet.
As I looked up the stream, about 10 feet away, there appeared a lanky young man, brown-skinned, with a friendly face. We faced each other in the bright light, and he said something about the country around us, gesturing with enthusiasm, and with a wry grin pointed down to his feet, clad in new cowboy boots. He seemed to take a simple delight in them.
"Look," I said to my companions, "Dad's got some new cowboy boots!" It was indeed my father, Morton from the old photographs before he had a family of his own, young and strong, charming in his unassuming, laconic way. We all recognized him, yet he was a stranger we were meeting for the first time. We knew we would always remember this encounter. We also knew he would not be coming with us.
I awoke feeling glad to have seen him again, since I had no chance to say goodbye before he died suddenly on a hot Saturday morning in Claremont. He had so many interests, such depth of knowledge, that despite having known him all my life, I feel I had just scratched his surface. He derived such pleasure from learning and passing that knowledge along, especially about the beauty and complexity of the natural world around us. I wish I had more time to learn from him.
But the overwhelming feeling from the dream was the simple joy of his company, his easy humor, the veiled sadness and distance behind it, the safety I felt in his presence. I have so many wonderful memories of my Dad: showing me Paramecium under his old microscope when I was five, going deep-sea fishing, riding on his broad shoulders in the college pool, our recent trip together to the Galapagos Islands. But I would give anything just to be with him one more time on the back lawn with mockingbird song overhead, hearing him say, "Hey, kiddo, go climb that tree and pick a few avocados."
Goodbye, Dad. I have always been proud to be your son. I miss you terribly. For the record, I never once saw him wear cowboy boots. After all, it was just a dream.
San Francisco, CA
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