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Spring 2004

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Who, What, When

Centennial spotlight

On campus

Faculty focus

Arts on view



Class notes



Putting education, not hockey, first

Don't spoil the fun of college

Worth and waste


Death penalty is murder

My heart goes out to the families of murder victims, but the question remains: Does the death penalty deliver justice? [See winter Scope.]

In the only industrialized nation that still kills alleged murderers, we’ve seen DNA evidence prove the innocence of many death-row inmates (to say nothing of the general prison population). Moreover, prisoners of all kinds are disproportionately nonwhite and poor or working-class. Consider the “war on drugs”: although drug use is prevalent across demographic boundaries, it is not Skidmore students and alums who end up on probation or in jail for partying. So first we must address the racist and classist nature of our criminal justice system.

To me, the death-penalty conference at Skidmore, while obviously well-intentioned, comes across as another liberal whitewash. If you really believe in “diversity” as a living creed, why not insist that we start with the justice system—meaning that you or your children may be sent away after the cops swoop in to bust a dormroom party.

Or invite parents of those wrongly executed to tell you where they find solace. They’re also survivors of murder victims—the difference being that state-sanctioned murder is far more dangerous to a supposedly free society than the constantly publicized random killings that keep so many people paranoid and fearful.

David Baroff ’83
Portland, Ore.

Putting education,
not hockey, first

It really irritated me when I read the four letters to the editor [winter Scope] complaining about the proposed elimination of ice hockey at Skidmore. Do you recall when Skidmore faced the difficult decision to eliminate its nursing program? Although I was not a nursing student, I was proud that it was one of the best programs in the country. It was very disappointing that Skidmore ended the program, but it decided it could no longer enroll enough high-caliber students, and I understood.

This whining about ice hockey [reflects society’s misguided priorities:] In Houston we have three brand-new sports arenas, while the arts and education are totally left out.

I’m very proud that Skidmore still views liberal arts education as its primary goal.

Emily Pavlovic Chiles ’74
Houston, Texas

Don’t spoil the fun
of college

I read with interest the article “Getting Serious” [fall Scope]. As a gray-haired alum, I recall Skidmore as a deeply serious institution, where social life was something we giddily associated with the Scribner Library checkout desk and the dormitories pulsed with the rhythmic flipping of textbook pages. It is a shock to learn that godless rowdies have lately infested the campus with liquor and pot. Oh, wait a minute. Now I remember.

The truth is, Skidmore in the 1970s offered a great stage upon which to act out our youth, learn about life, and take classes. I don’t recall administrative expectations ever spoiling my fun, and I don’t recall my fun ever spoiling my education, though it came close a couple of times.
My education included getting traction on the real world—not the world of high school, homework, and mommy; the world where you have to get a life—and developing my mind, learning to hold my focus in a world rich with distractions, temptations, and the timpani-like throbbings echoing last night’s excesse. I know people who went to bleaker institutions and were twisted out after four years like cubes from an ice tray, emerging with chockablock brains and stunted personal skills, prepared to spend their lives dully rechewing borrowed thoughts. I see them all the time: life’s straphangers.

In my middle age I find myself surrounded by people whose kids are looking at colleges. Generally they’re looking for “value”—a school that fits the pocketbook and a diploma that offers a career with a predictable cash return. I don’t hear them dreamily discussing a college experience that offers a priceless life.

My eldest child has just been accepted at Skidmore. He’s a smart young man and will probably do well there. But if his grades end up weak,I hope, at least, that he will have wasted his time wisely. That doesn’t mean with drunkenness, drugs, or reckless sex. But I hope he recognizes enlightenment, opportunity, humor, and the sure truth that he won’t learn many of his most important lessons in the classroom. I hope he knows that college is not supposed to be drudgery, or preparation for life as a drudge.

Nor is college all about the “academic vision” cited in the Scope piece, whose “four Cs” (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, citizenship) sound like a catchphrase for some sort of Stalinist five-year plan. College shouldn’t just kindle intellect. College, like life after it, should be a blaze of colors and the syncopation of a thousand voices. At least until 10 p.m. (midnight on Fridays), when color and music ought to be turned off as a courtesy to dormmates.

Art Richardson '77
Seoul, South Korea

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Worth and waste

It was interesting to read the feature on student culture [“Getting Serious,” fall Scope] as I waited to hear from graduate schools.

After spending time in North Carolina and Ohio last year, I was back on campus in January, and I found the students really white and really rich—and really young. Given the youth, partying seems inevitable, and not quite as offensive as I’d thought while I was a student. But what adds a layer of strangeness is how well off the people are who do the partying. I think wasting $4,000 to go to Ohio State and be in a frat is one thing, but paying $40,000 to bust windows seems weird and pathetic. People with that much money don’t deserve to bother the people who are studying because college is a chance for them to jump up, rather than jump parallel.

I worked as hard as I did not only out of pride, ambition, and pure interest in my field, but also because I had a precarious financial stake in what I was doing: I took on enormous debt to go to Skidmore, and for me to compete in such an economic bracket was a form of upward class mobility. I think an aura of privilege pervades the campus, and maybe [less privileged] people work harder because they know they need to be self-reliant.

When I returned to Skidmore, I was also struck by what a beautiful campus it is, how great the support staff is, and what wonderful opportunities can be found in each faculty member’s office. The longer I’m away from my professors and their classes, the more I realize what an incredible experience Skidmore was. Worth, as they say, every penny.

Justin Rogers-Cooper ’03
New Vernon, N.J.

Do the write thing
Scope welcomes letters to the editor. Send your viewpoint by e-mail to srosenbe@skidmore.edu, fax 518-580-5748, or write to Scope, Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.


© 2004 Skidmore College