The Colgate Scene
May 2001
Table of contents
Letters
The Colgate Scene invites responsible letters, addressed to the editor, regarding any subject that may be considered of interest to the Colgate community. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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Credentials?
. . . As the grandson of Jared S. Nasmith, who graduated from the old seminary, and son of Augustus I. Nasmith '04, who served as a Baptist missionary to China for more than 40 years, I am curious as to the theological credentials which caused you (and other national newspapers) to report in the March Scene that "the Rev." Al Sharpton gave a lecture in the chapel?

GUS NASMITH '39
Sun City West, AZ


DUI expulsion
. . . It's been more than a month since I read about the terrible tragedy involving Colgate students and drunk driving. In the emotional aftermath, one decision that was made still concerns me. Creating a rule that calls for a student's expulsion from school for receiving a DUI is not a `punishment' that I would expect from an institution whose mission is betterment through education.

     I absolutely believe taking away education is a serious crime. Two wrongs do not make a right. What scholar thinks withdrawing education is a wise solution? Are we knee-jerk politicians or thinkers? Do we actually think this punishment will better the student's future decision-making or society? No, this is mindless punishment. Wouldn't a more effective `punishment' be a mandatory additional alcohol-related thesis, project, community service, MADD activity, etc.? Withdrawing education is a good idea? Would you give an alcoholic more free time on his own . . . or send him into rehab?

     I am sincerely disappointed by the school's decision and if others agree with me, I ask they voice their concerns so more level heads can prevail. Thank you.

DOUG WATT '80
Novato, CA


Distorted thinking
. . . Professor Nigel Bolland's letter in the March Scene reflects much of the distorted thinking about campus culture that has led to the virtual abolition of what has always defined the school and makes it distinctive and memorable. Professor Bolland cites a "history of tragedy . . . incidents that have included fights, destruction of property, rape and death." Later in the letter he indicts "the fraternities and the hyper-macho culture may be linked to . . . aggression, binge-drinking, gang-type loyalty, homophobia and misogyny."

     I challenge several of Professor Bolland's assertions, in particular his indictment of any institutions which emphasize "a hyper-macho culture," whatever that is. In my experience as a varsity athlete and student, sports teams, both male and female, represented the very best of the university. Interestingly, in the same issue of the Scene Dean of Admission Gary Ross notes that hockey "Coach Don Vaughan . . . is the owner of a 100 percent player graduation rate through the Class of 2000." Isn't it possible that hockey, presumably one of the darkly misogynistic sports deplored by Professor Bolland, showcases student-athletes at their finest? John Feinstein, in his The Last Amateurs: Playing For Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball, suggests during his visit to Hamilton that Colgate and the Patriot League represent all that is right with the troubled world of big-time college athletes.

     Finally, the entire tone of Professor Bolland's letter indicates a suspicion that traditional Colgate culture is a malevolent force to be investigated, rooted out and then captured for posterity. Presumably a trained sociologist would look at the Greek system -- sororities and fraternities -- varsity athletics, spirited drinking and conviviality as the apotheosis of evil. At the least, certain faculty members could sit in their ivory towers and deplore the very soul of the university as a Neanderthal remnant of an earlier era. Moreover, with troublesome independent institutions such as varsity sports removed, the faculty could move on to re-educating the students and molding the New Colgate Person.

JEFFREY K. SWANSON '90
Ft. Collins, CO


A grandson answers
. . . I am the grandson of Dr. George Barton Cutten and son of William F. Cutten, Class of 1932. While I am not an alumnus, I feel I am nevertheless connected to the campus in some degree because of my family. I am writing to express my opinion concerning, as the Maroon News calls it, "a rather controversial issue." I would like to confront the controversy surrounding Cutten Complex and the attempts by Mr. Mac Barrett and the Students for Social Justice to have its name changed.

     It appears Mr. Barrett feels that Dr. Cutten was a racist and a bigot. He bases his beliefs on a quotation attributed to the former president of Colgate at Ellis Island.

     I have a great number of my grandfather's speeches that cover a span of some 35 years. I have been reading them again to find any other examples, any hint that Dr. Cutten had any particular prejudices. I have concluded that, in fact, Dr. Cutten had many strong and ardent points of view. He detested alcohol and voiced his opposition to it strongly, he disliked laziness, spoke out about the ills of borrowing money and he spoke out against Communism. He was an in-your-face, full steam ahead, mover and shaker.

     The words Mr. Barrett is referring to are: race, white race and race power. In today's context those words would undoubtedly imply bigotry, supremacy and racism. The implications of their meaning are abhorrent to me and to most people. But their use today derives a meaning different from what they meant in the 1920s and 1930s. This was a different era in our country's history and if Mr. Barrett has read any of Dr. Cutten's other speeches where he used the term race, he would find that the use of the term race was meant as a reference to mankind or the populace. Time and time again Dr. Cutten spoke out about race and what he perceived as threats to race. The threat of leisure, the threat of Communism, the threat of idleness, the threat of government and the threat of complacency were hot buttons for him.

     Why did he feel threatened? He felt that all of these examples would weaken the individual, the nation and the university. One should realize that Dr. Cutten's era was one of experiencing a world war, going through an economic depression and foreseeing another world war that was so close at hand. These were hard times, when the country was weak and some individuals were weaker. His use of race was a general term to describe all the people. It didn't matter to Dr. Cutten what color, race or religion you were. However, if you were not an achiever or a strong individual, you were a burden to someone or something in his mind. This man challenged himself, he challenged individuals and he challenged Colgate. He didn't want leaders of industry and government to be weak; he didn't want educators who would not turn out qualified graduates who had to face tough challenges in their future. He was a tough, puritanical man with strong feelings and strong convictions, but he was not a racist.

     I would like to inform Mr. Barrett and the SSJ why Dr. Cutten's name was placed on those buildings. For one, Cutten Complex might not be part of the campus today because from 1922 to 1942 the campus increased in size from 275 acres to 1,000. Your school was in debt for 28 years. Dr. Cutten changed that situation almost overnight and made the campus fiscally sound during his tenure as president. At a time when the country was in an economic depression, Dr. Cutten's efforts paved the way for students such as Mr. Barrett and his fellow SSJ members to have a university to attend.

     Perhaps Dr. Cutten's biggest accomplishment can be attributed to what he did for education in general. Dr. Cutten devised a system, which was implemented in 1928, called the "Colgate plan" of education that divided the university into seven schools. Students took basic, general courses in varied fields and then were allowed to specialize in their particular field of interest. Sounds a little to me like the basis for a liberal arts education that university students all over the country are working at today.

     George Barton Cutten's efforts produced a solid foundation for Colgate to be a leader in college education. He demanded of himself results, he succeeded in his efforts and he was rewarded for his lifelong commitment to your university. To remove his name from the campus would be to deny accomplishments of this man that allow your school to exist today. Mr. Barrett, Dr. Cutten was a lot of things, but he was not what you make him out to be.

DAVID S. CUTTEN
Skaneateles, NY


Changes
. . . In his comprehensive interview as reported in the March Scene, John Golden very properly observed ". . . we older Colgate graduates cannot impose our remembrances of what was right for Colgate in the 1960s, '70s and '80s on today's generation." And then I read the anti-Greek tirade Ms. Nye '82 wrote to denigrate the fraternity system, which had been previously defended by John Little '54 in an earlier edition as ". . . an important part of college life."

     As an elder alumnus, I would like to point out the obvious -- Colgate has changed, as has our culture -- and I deeply resent any implication that in my era our undergraduate body, the great majority of which joined fraternities and/or the Commons Club, was comprised of offish, self-centered, male chauvinists.

     Checking my Salmagundis, I found there were 181 seniors in the Class of 1942, of which 156 were fraternity members. Of the 13 in my class who gave their lives in WWII, nine were members. Last, but not least, in 1942 no fewer than 50 of the faculty were Fratres in Facultate.

     The customs and mores of Colgate have and will continue to change. Fraternity members of my era thought it quaint that in the early 1900s the agenda of their meetings included extensive discussions on literature, philosophical subjects, political developments and social problems. Likewise, the undergraduates of this millennium have mixed feelings about our pre-Pearl Harbor lifestyles.

     Mobility has certainly contributed to the big difference. In the late 1930s and early '40s off-campus weekends were relatively infrequent because very few undergraduates owned cars. In that era our activities were concentrated at three locations: the library, the gymnasium, and Shine State's Theatre.

     That we were privileged to be undergraduates at Alma Mater was broadly -- if tacitly -- acknowledged. Our relationship with the Colgate community (then known as Town and Gown) was constructive and mutually respectful. Undergraduates have to accept their responsibilities for the quality of campus life. I submit that in other eras when fraternities were predominant at Colgate, the recent violence and tragic consequences of irresponsible actions that have disgraced our campus would have been unthinkable.

JOSEPH W. DEBRAGGA '43
Islip, NY


Alleged failures
. . . Professor Byrnes' article (March Scene) was disappointing to me because there was so little reference to the several alleged failures of the Florida election procedures. Did no student ask, if the Clinton/Lazio election had been as close as Florida's Bush/Gore, would New York's procedures have more precisely identified the true winner? Would have Illinois', where Chicago's then-Mayor Daley reportedly finagled Kennedy's win over Nixon? Any other state's? The Florida example reflects the wide gamut of variables in voting, from ballot design, reliability in designating and in counting, to the apparent malfeasance of election officials in disenfranchising some minority voters. Also, while some of the media have apologized for their contributions to the confusion, I've seen or heard no further reports of the need for much greater precision in the election process if it is to produce more accurate results.

     Aside from these evidently deliberate or careless actions, there are other factors that must be considered. In the '50s when I was moderator of our small town (then 1800 voters), I was responsible for monitoring elections, local and national. Our voting procedure was quite simple -- one's choice was made by pencilling an "X" in the appropriate box. Even so, the conscientious counters would ask my judgement of clearly mis-marked ballots. I know now that these were mainly signs of arthritic fingers, failing vision and of early senility (Alzheimer's was not well known then). I recall that then we had no authority to offer assistance to a puzzled voter, if such were requested, but none was.

     I sympathize with the Supreme Court's adjudicating the "hot potato" given it, the impossible task of reaching an accurate electoral decision based on such imprecise information, and no way to improve the imprecision. I understand that there are a dozen or more bills in Congress and many more in the state legislatures, but none in my view take a holistic approach to the problem. I would prefer that Congress or the president appoint a Federal commission to analyze the states' present voting procedures to develop a Recommended Practice for Presidential Elections. I think this should not conflict with the states' constitutional rights to manage same. It's probably impossible to "make every vote count," but surely we would improve precision to the point that accuracy of the result would be broadly accepted. Finally, were there no math, physics or chemistry majors in POSC 201 who could speak to the difference between precision and accuracy?

GEORGE W. INGLE '38
Hampden, MA


The Best
. . . Plans are in the works for the next "KOM Tee With the Best" Memorial Golf Tournament! 2001 will mark the sixth tournament held in memory of Kyndle Mongeon. Kyndle was attending Colgate when he was killed in April of 1993.

     Many friends and family members gather each year in Bakersfield, VT, to celebrate Kyndle's life. We play a little golf, have a lot of fun and enjoy reminiscing with old friends and meeting new ones.

     Attending from Colgate in June 2000 were Todd Baldanzi '96, Jim Egan '95, Jeff Wall '96, Mark Garcia '95, Chris Farrell '95, Chris Lane '94, Terry Toal '94, Jeff Cooper '85, Tory Mongeon '83, Colin Cooper '88 and Dr. Michael Schnell MA'68.

     This year's tournament will be held on Saturday, June 23, 2001. Come join us for some "fun in the sun" and get an early start on your golf game. If you're a beginner, our "best ball" format makes it easy for you to learn the game.

     The Mongeon family would like to thank Colgate and its alumni for their continued support. We are looking forward to seeing many old friends and meeting new ones. Come share the spirit of Kyndle! For more information, visit our website at www.komthebest.bizland.com or contact Heidi at 614-895-1631 (email hgilley@ee.net).

     Go 'Gate!

THE MONGEON FAMILY

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