Letters: Summer 2010


Just a brief shout-out to all of you hard at work on the Davidson Journal—great work on an exceptional new design and some solid articles, particularly “Is This the Face of Davidson?” and “The Evolution of Enlightenment.” Keep up the good work!

F. L. Parker Dixon ’03
New York, N.Y.

Congratulations on the makeover of the publication. The layout makes it much easier to read, with straight columns uninterrupted by graphics. The move to non-slick paper and soy ink is also commendable. I am associated with another publication (The Presbyterian Outlook) which has, in January, begun publishing its redesign, with similar paper, soy ink, four color, with printing costs lower than before. The only other comment is that small white print on colored background is harder to read (e.g., the masthead on p. 2; the orange/tan insets on p. 4 and p. 16). Keep up the good work.

John B. H. Caldwell, M.D. ’59
Richmond, Va.

On the whole I find the redesigned Davidson Journal visually attractive, but I confess that when I started to dig in and read it, I found that some of the font sizes and text/background color combinations made for difficult going.

Although I have a long way to go before I join the college’s Avant Garde, I’ve nevertheless had my share of eyesight difficulties in the years since I graduated. Now, thanks to a cornea transplant almost a year ago, my right eye can read again—but I still have to work hard to see small print and print where there’s little contrast with the background.

Therefore I have two specific requests:  would it be possible to avoid these color combinations in future issues?

  • white and pale green (worst on pp. 50, 70–72)
  • black and dark blue (box on p. 29)
  • others someone may dream up in the future that also don’t come across well on the printed page

And would it be possible to increase the font sizes at least slightly, especially in the class notes section? I recognize the need to hold down printing and mailing costs by minimizing the number of pages—but when the text size approaches that of the Oxford English Dictionary and you have to send a magnifying glass along with each copy that’s going a bit far.

More broadly, when composing future issues, please consider the appearance and readability of each section of the Journal—not just how it looks on the computer screen as you’re designing it but also how easy it is to see and read on paper.

Since the purpose of the Journal is to communicate with all of the college community, it’s important to present it in a readable format in order to make that communication effective. Then it will be accessible to more than just those whose eyesight corrects to 20/20.

Sarah Nock ‘83
Via e-mail

My husband, Bobby Allen ‘72, encouraged me to look at his copy of the newly redesigned Davidson Journal. I’m glad he did—it’s stunning. The design is beautiful and compelling, innovative, and still true to what I have come to understand (as the wife of an alumna) is special about Davidson. Your content is remarkable too, finding the balance between what’s important to the Davidson community while also of interest to a wider community that appreciates Davidson’s commitment to transforming young people’s lives.

Allison Adams, Media Relations Director
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
Chapel Hill, N.C.

I am a 2004 alum and I love the new commitment to sustainability and new design of the Davidson Journal. One thing I miss in print, however, is the expanded Faculty Notes section. I found the content online, but I was reminded today as I cleaned out my desk of how much I like it in print. This morning I found a clipping about Dr. [Keyne] Cheshire’s book Alexander the Great from an old issue. I had written a note to myself on it—“birthday gift for Anne?”—as he is one of my friend’s favorite professors. It is the Faculty Notes section that often prompts me to sit down and write a letter congratulating a former professor on an award or accomplishment, often giving us a chance to catch up after these five (almost six!) years. I am likely in the minority here with my sadness over the loss of this printed section, and I certainly understand why for sustainability purposes it makes more sense to move that content online. I just wanted to share my opinion. Thanks for all you do.

Anna Mallett Stewart ‘04
Lexington, Ky.

I am in my second year of medical school at the University of Utah. I read the latest Davidson Journal, and was delighted to see the articles on the last Alumni weekend and all the diversity initiatives happening on campus. When I was a student, I was active in both OLAS and the BSC. “Engaging Alumni of Color” has reignited my faith and support in the college. Diversity at Davidson is extremely important and I am encouraged by the fact that the whole issue of the Journal was dedicated to this topic. I also noticed one of the figures on the cover was drawn in a wheelchair, and I think it’s excellent to include disability issues in diversity and inclusion discussions (I am also disabled).

My mom and I would like to make a donation to The Davidson Trust Scholarship for minority students mentioned in the article.

Marie (Sharp) Flores ’01, Ph.D., MPH
Salt Lake City, Utah

Thanks for all you do for Davidson. Just got the Journal today. Some corrections. The women on page 30 attended in 1970–71, not the following year. The photo is taken on the porch of Grey House where I lived 1972–73. Women arrived as freshmen in fall 1972 and dormed in Richardson.

The photo of Coach Fagg on pg. 18 is not 1970. Those were not the helmets we wore in ‘70. In 1969 the team had decals “100” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of college football. Furthermore, the helmet stripes are white/red tape. We never used tape on our helmets 1969–72. So my hunch is that the year is 1968, maybe a freshman game. Moreover, Coach Fagg started to grow more hair in the years 1970–73 at the insistence of Barbara. So this must be pre-1970.

I arrived in 1969. We had two African-Americans in our class: Reggie Kennedy, with whom I roomed in East 301, and somebody named Odell [Odell Kerns ‘73] who lived in Watts. There was racism. I never heard it on our floor, but I heard it around campus and on the football team from time to time.

Bruce Becker ‘73
Bellingham, Wash.

From College Archivist Jan Blodgett:

The photo is 1971–72. In the fall of 1972, one young woman, Karen Husted, arrived as a freshman; she was admitted as a niece of a faculty member (Sandy Kemp). Ten other women transferred in (but not as freshmen). They lived in Little, according to the student directory. The first women who came in as regular four-year students (not transfers or under the relation exception) came in the fall of 1973.

I’ve looked at yearbooks and media guides. Dave Fagg’s hair was pretty much the same length ‘68-’70. I can’t tell about the tape. Note that yearbooks are now online, so readers can check things out. It was fun to come across a picture of Richard Nixon in a media guide—proclaiming the 100th year of college football.

I enjoyed Issac Bailey’s “Is this the Face of Davidson?” Davidson talks a lot about diversity, but articles like this can change minds and perceptions about what diversity really means to students, professors, and alumni. And I love that Davidson is opening up the term diversity to include not only race, but gender, religion, socioeconomic conditions, etc.; that discussion hasn’t happened enough. This conversation continues quarterly in the Davidson Black Alumni Newsletter, which you can find online.

Amoura Carter ‘07
Charlotte, N.C.

First, congratulations on the new look of the Journal that you and your colleagues came up with. It’s a refreshing change.

I’m sorry to say that “Reasonable Doubt” in this spring issue left me with indignation and disappointment. It is regrettable that Davidson College gave Cpt. Scott Prince a free forum to speak to audiences of students and faculty.

I feel so strongly about Prince’s position that I have to write to rebut him. He is so wrong in so many ways that it’s hard to enumerate them. But I’ll try.

It’s pretty clear that Prince has bought wholeheartedly into the claims of the political left and mainstream media that interrogation of Muslim terrorist detainees is “torture.” He said, “When you ‘disappear’ somebody for five years and subject him to water-boarding and God knows what… .” Prince surely has a good knowledge of facts about interrogation procedures—that they are strictly limited in what can be done; that they are closely supervised; that they are even used in training American military personnel; that water-boarding, the most criticized practice of all, was used only on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a very few other detainees; and, very importantly, that use of those procedures produced hundreds of valuable intelligent reports that enabled U.S. forces to catch other terrorist leaders and prevent a number of planned terrorist attacks on the U.S.

If somehow all of that has escaped Prince’s attention, a good source for him to look into is Courting Disaster by Marc A. Thiessen (New York, Regnery 2010).

Prince shrugs off the military justice system as “an imperfect tool developed…to meet wartime expediencies.” Years ago when I was on active duty in the Army, I was regimental defense counsel in special court martial cases. What I learned from that experience was that military trials provided more protections to the accused than civilian courts do.

Prince read the Qur’an to learn about the tenets of Islam and searched for similarities with Judaism and Christianity—and, lo and behold, he found “some equivalencies” and “some areas where we can reach agreement.” Now, isn’t that just like a lawyer? Where Islam teaches its followers about a harsh God and demands death to unbelievers, Christianity teaches about a loving God who forgives sin and provides redemption. Where are the equivalencies?

Prince may think and say whatever he pleases, but when the college invites him to speak on the campus to students and others, it effectively gives him the college’s imprimatur and identifies the college with what he says.

In that, Davidson College and I part ways, because I believe that Islamic terrorism is the most dangerous threat to the United States since World War II. Also, because I know from personal experience that the work being done by the U.S. Intelligence Community is vital to the safety of the country, and if certain interrogation procedures are necessary for that, I’m all for them.

For Prince, I think, national security is a legal chess game, an intellectual exercise, nothing more.

Gabriel Lowe ‘50
Fort Collins, Colo.

I was troubled by the subtitle of the piece titled “Crime and Punishment” in your latest issue, which reads, in relevant part: “The accused has confessed…”  I believe that it is inaccurate and misleading to say that Mr. Mohammed has “confessed,” given that the “confession” was almost certainly the product of his torture at the hands of the U.S. government, as noted by Mr. Prince in the article immediately preceding. It is abhorrent for us as a people to torture a man, then proclaim that he has “confessed.”  Under federal law, a coerced confession is invalid. Whether the procedural safeguards of the Constitution apply to Mr. Mohammed is a separate question, but the fact remains that his illegal torture renders his “confession” extremely suspect.

Chad Diamond ‘01
Raleigh, N.C.

My Davidson Journal arrived today. I know you decided to stop sending it {to alumni outside the U.S.}some years ago and it has been a disappointment to not be kept in touch. I am glad that I received this edition. It looks great.

Alistair Summers ‘84
London, United Kingdom

Regarding Scott Prince’s remarks as deputy chief defense counsel to detainees held by the American military in the spring issue, I admire Mr. Prince’s integrity, equanimity, and nuance in confronting such daunting legal, ethical, and emotional issues. His advocacy for reclaiming the rule of law in the “war on terror” reflects a voice of restraint amid so much neo-imperial propaganda. But even a rare man of conscience can slip into dangerous errors, and Prince gives the Journal’s readers false comfort and false concern at once. First, Prince calls the U.S. justice system the “envy of the world.” But that system is broken and corrupt at every level, as countless studies attest every year. If “the world” envies our shattered legal system, juridical order, and jurisprudential standards, they must not know about its rates of incarceration, its radical capitalization, and its classism, racism, and sexism. Researchers have shown that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo are natural extensions of the brutal and boundless use of force against marginalized citizens whose guilt or innocence is trivial to their captors. Second, Prince claims “an understanding of the Bible is necessary for understanding Western civilization…as a source of values.”  On the way to Iraq, similarly, he felt he had “to study Islam,” not least the Qur’an. It is good to note that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share theological “equivalencies” that may provide “areas where we can reach agreement.” But then Prince instructs us that, “The civic center of gravity in our country is the courthouse. In the Muslim world, it’s the mosque. When things go wrong, we don’t pray. We sue somebody. We go to the courthouse. They go to the mosque.” This recalls Americans’ buying the Qur’an to make sense of 9/11; endearingly curious but instinctively misled. It is still common to say that Islam “explains” Muslims in ways no one would dare say Judaism or Christianity explains Jews or Christians. The distinction comes from the myth that only Islam fuses religion and politics. But Islam does not determine its adherents’ actions or ethics. Political experience, social resources, and institutional opportunities define the Islamist movements most of us care about, especially militant strains. The Qur’an cannot predict what Muslims will do; the effects of secular state coercion and occupation can. Invoking discredited cartoons like “the Muslim world” and “Western civilization,” Prince gives us the courthouse/mosque dichotomy. But “we” pray more than go to court (American litigiousness is a neo-con, tort-reform bogeyman). More to the point, Muslims have many modes of conflict resolution beyond “the mosque.” Reducing Islam or Muslims to “the mosque” is perilously misleading, no matter how progressive and liberal it feels to “respect other cultures.” Whether “the Muslim world” with some coherent social-theological identity even exists remains highly contested among scholars. Prince nevertheless divides the “west” and “Islam” as the basis for then reconciling them. So the “west” and “Islam” must be different but also the same. Prince “is anxious to look for similarities rather than differences” but he assumes that mosque-minded Muslims and court-minded “we” (“westerners”?  Christians?) differ essentially in social-civic cognition. He seeks commonality but depicts a “Muslim world” that is fundamentally alien. Readers may be forgiven for thinking that Prince derives the commonality from his ideology but the incompatibility from his experience and study. Either way, Prince reiterates the quintessential dichotomy that Edward Said associated with “Orientalism” and that imagines an Orient wedded to religion and culture and an Occident beholden to reason and the rule of law. As [Edward] Said, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many deep critics of American hegemony stressed, as long as liberals and conservatives agree that radical differences persist across “races,” “cultures,” “civilizations,” or “religions” and disagree only on the prospects of overcoming or “understanding” those differences—then it is the antagonism of difference that triumphs. Finally, author John Syme comes back around to the greatness of Davidson whose progressive wisdom helped Prince to this conclusion: “We just need to understand these people. We need to tell the good guys from the bad guys.” Note the Manichean mantra, the cowboys-and-Injuns orthodoxy dragged from Wayne to Bush to Obama, who all believe in good guys and bad guys. Resist what accompanies it: liberal toleration, from within “our” legal-rational Western civilization, for “their” religious-communal “Muslim world.” This tolerance invokes what it claims to disavow, and exacerbates conditions in a political climate defined by American dominance. It is hardly “progressive” to accept, tolerate, and understand a fabricated “Muslim world” in order to facilitate an illegal, barbaric, and unaccountable “war on terror.” What does it say about us that “we” at the core of the U.S. global regime understand the world of “the bad guys” in such antiquated, racial, and antagonistic terms in the specific name of peaceful reflection?

Sayres Rudy ‘86
Visiting Professor, School of Social Science
Hampshire College,
Amherst, Mass.

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