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Winter 2003

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On campus

Faculty focus


Arts on view

Alumni affairs
and development

Class notes




Who’s judging who?
Erwin Levine’s hidden gifts
Global awareness—and turn off the TV!
Phonics can’t substitute for reading

Who’s judging who?

     Some people are are too self-righteous and quick to pass judgment, [such as those who wrote letters in the fall ’02 Scope arguing against readmitting Gardner Cummings ’02 after his prison term]. Cummings was punished by the laws of New York, but now it seems he’s to be judged by the alumni of Skidmore College. Next time, try “walking a mile in another person’s shoes” before being so quick to criticize, or at least before assigning latrine duty to him.
     I have another pet peeve: threats not to contribute money to Skidmore ever again. Alumni giving is not a control issue; it should reflect a desire to see Skidmore continue to thrive in this very competitive college market. Small minds never have built, nor ever will build, anything of great value at Skidmore.

Jane Roberts Alpert ’70
Newton Center, Mass.

     I was shocked and disgusted to read the harsh letters about Skidmore’s readmission of Gardner Cummings ’02. I view the college’s decision as compassionate and just.
     I was in Gardner’s original class (’01) and served on the All-College Council’s subcommittee on alcohol and other controlled substances. I was one student vehemently opposed to mandatory expulsion for drug-related offenses. Now, in my second year of law school, reading Scope’s report of the effect that the jail experience, boot camp, and readmission had on Gardner’s life, I’m reaffirmed in my belief that rehabilitative programs do in fact work. Everyone deserves a second chance, and if Skidmore had refused to allow Gardner to continue his education, it could have been disastrous. I applaud Skidmore’s ability to accept people and forgive them for mistakes.
     I especially disagree with one reader’s comment that Gardner “sold drugs and ruined lives.” He did not force anyone to ingest anything. People choose to use drugs, and if their lives get ruined, it’s their own fault. Besides, Gardner wasn’t the only dealer in the Saratoga Springs area; if people want drugs, they will find ways to get them.
     I am glad that Skidmore can allow students to learn from their mistakes and not shut them out. The decision to readmit Gardner reminded me why I loved Skidmore—because it was an open-minded college, concerned with the whole individual, and not afraid to take criticism. I am proud to say that I’m a Skidmore graduate.

Erica Baggett ’01
Miami, Fla.


Erwin Levine’s hidden gifts

     I write in response to the memorial piece on Erwin Levine, professor emeritus, in the spring ’02 Scope. [Click here for another story on Erwin Levine.]
     Professor Levine was gifted and compassionate. Scores of students enjoyed his wit and intelligence in the classroom. He also touched many beyond the classroom walls, even those who never took his courses. He gave to the community in so many ways, some which were only known to a small group.
     During my sophomore year at Skidmore, my mother was diagnosed with leukemia and died within seven months. It is always difficult to lose a parent, but the speed and rapid decline I witnessed seemed devastating. I returned to Skidmore less than one month after my mother’s August death, and lost myself in activity. But pain and grief have a way of finding the surface, and just as I felt completely overwhelmed, the Counseling Center told me about Professor Levine.
     For many years following the death of his own son, he offered his home and his care to Skidmore students dealing with the death of a loved one. Most Tuesday nights, I found my way to Erwin’s home. Usually, two other Skidmore students attended, and the four of us talked, listened, and cried together. Erwin’s empathy and compassion were profound gifts. In many ways, he helped me turn a corner and move forward, treasure my memories, and know that others cared about getting me through.
     Erwin touched many lives at Skidmore. He was a great man.

Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky ’92
New York City

Global awareness—and turn off the TV!

     I was proud to learn of Skidmore’s continued involvement in society and people’s growth when I read “Correspondence Course: Scholar Chronicles Personal Discovery in Asian Motherland” [fall ’02]. I recently started a new job in international adoption, which reinforces for me how challenging life can be for many in other countries, as well as for some in our own country.
     I also thank Scope
for the insight in the Periscope column “Homophonophobia.” As an education major and now the parent of a first grader, I too am appalled at the hours and type of television that children are exposed to. It may make me sound old, but I remember limitations on my TV time, and more of my time spent playing with friends and learning to find fun. It is my dream that a heightened awareness of children’s exposure to media and television will alter how information is delivered.
Carol Osborn Richards ’80
Deerfield, N.H.

Phonics can’t substitute for reading

     As director of curriculum for a school district and a high-school English teacher for thirty years, I feel compelled to respond to the Periscope column about spelling errors [fall ’02].
     While I agree with you that the spelling of today’s high-school and college students leaves something to be desired, I was surprised by your admittedly uninformed attack on “whole language” instruction. Television most certainly plays its part in poor spelling, but not simply because of its aural impact on young learners. As television watching has increased, reading has decreased. The nature of written English is such that one must see words in order to learn to spell them. A reading program based solely on phonics instruction will not be any more successful in producing good spellers than a program based solely on whole language. If phonics were the key, then every word would be spelled the way it sounds; homophones probably would not exist.
     Several of the spelling errors that you cited are really errors of perception or understanding. Do you really think that “bond fire,” “defunked,” and “bonafiable” are errors that would be avoided if only students had been taught using phonics?
     Most reading experts who are not also pursuing a political agenda agree that reading instruction needs to be balanced between whole language and phonics. They also agree that children must read and be read to daily in order to develop as readers, writers, and spellers.
     Like you, I will continue to insist on proper spelling from my students. However, I will resist the temptation to blame those who taught them before me, or their parents, or the media who insist on bombarding us daily with grammatical errors and misspellings. Instead, I will teach students the rules, hold them accountable for their errors, and saturate them with good literature that models for them the English language in all its eccentricity and richness.
Carol Stone Luckenbach ’71
Madison, Conn.


© 2003 Skidmore College