The Colgate Scene
May 2006


The Scene welcomes letters. We reserve the right to decide whether a letter is acceptable for publication and to edit for accuracy, clarity, and length. Letters deemed potentially libelous or that malign a person or group will not be published.

Letters should not exceed 250 words. You can reach us by mail, or e-mail Please include your full name, class year if applicable, address, phone number, and/or e-mail address.

Fred Busch
[Photo by John D. Hubbard]

. . . I was excited and proud to take my daughter to visit the campus on President's Day. A high school junior, she is beginning the process of visiting college campuses. I had been an English major, and had studied with Fred Busch, so I inquired about him after our tour. I was told he was retired, but living near the campus, so I asked for his e-mail address.

I had bought a copy of Mr. Busch's novel, Girls, and before we left Hamilton, I visited the bookstore and purchased two more of his books, A Dangerous Profession and A Memory of War. When we returned home, I put the books on my bedstand and his e-mail address in my wallet, planning to write him over the weekend. That Saturday, I was stunned to read the header, "Frederick Busch, Author of Poetic Fiction, Dies at 64" in the New York Times Obituaries section (see Deaths).

A tireless task-master and a superb word craftsman, Fred Busch was an inspiration to me and thousands of other Colgate students. I am deeply saddened by his passing, and only wish I had e-mailed him earlier so that he would know what a tremendous influence he had on me as a young Colgate student.

. . . Among his many estimable achievements, Frederick Busch, pacem, created the Chenango Valley Writers' Conference at Colgate. This year marks its tenth anniversary. June 18-24 will be a week of deeply appreciative reminiscences of Fred and all that he has meant as a mentor and friend to so many. It will also be -- in precisely the spirit that Fred incomparably fostered -- a week of happily frenetic creativity, and re-creativity, if you will. You alumni can figure out what "re-creativity" might mean with respect to a summertime week on campus, one in which the sun sets long, late, and in full flame each evening.

Please have a look at our website ( and consider being involved in a week of poetry, memoir, or fiction-writing -- or feel free simply to come to be entertained and instructed by daily craft talks and nightly readings. Ours is a conference born of Fred's inimitably generous creativity; this and every year, we will attempt to "go, and do likewise" in the best of his spirit.

. . . I am writing because of the satirical "Colgate Seen" that appeared in my mailbox. I'm a Phi Gamma Delta, and have vivid memories of fraternity days -- some wonderfully fun, some not so wonderful. There were times, when individuals were being harassed in pledging, for example, when I questioned the values of the house, but was never mature enough to speak up. I swam along. But I loved the fraternity, my feelings about Phi Gam are still positive, and my brothers are my brothers for the rest of my life. I would not trade the experience for anything.

But this was in the pre-cultural-revolution days, when there existed genuine elitism in American universities, and in society as a whole. Fraternities were not only cozy clubs for like-minded guys; most also practiced systematic exclusion, and, let's face it, some left cruel scars on young men. I am not a supporter of the radical professors who are now playing out the politics of their youth on America's campuses, but I also cannot fairly place them in the company of administrators who are trying to build new models for university education that recognize changing mores. I think the administration argument that it's time for the Greek system to grow up and join the university is an acceptable one, nostalgia notwithstanding. I agree that their purchase of the housing was conducted in an underhanded way, yet probably within the law at hand.

And what upsets me is the linkage of the Greek question with the lament that Colgate doesn't have more active conservatives. Linking the two places Greek identity into a political category in which it doesn't necessarily belong. Being a solid member of a fraternity or sorority does not make you politically conservative, any more than being on the Frisbee team makes you a liberal. It never did. Although I lament the loss of Phi Gamma Delta as a viable fraternity at Colgate, and although I hate like hell that I can't come back home to the house for reunions, I can find very little in the "Colgate Seen" to hang on to. It doesn't speak for me, and I hope not for the majority of fraternity alumni.

Because -- although the "Seen" makes light of it -- a liberal arts education does lead you to views that are both pragmatic and tolerant, not those that are prone to reaction.

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