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The distinguished alumni listened politely as English Professor Peter Conn described women tearing apart cows with their bare hands. They hardly flinched when he told them about a mother carrying her slain son's head by the hair. And as Conn detailed other grisly scenes from The Bacchae, a Greek tragedy that was required reading for all freshmen this year, the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Overseers reacted much as their undergraduate counterparts had, with a mixture of debate and disgust. Gathered at the University for their semiannual meeting last week, the overseers capped two days of discussion about the College's future with a seminar about The Bacchae. As Conn explained to the 35 overseers, administrators assigned the play to give all incoming students a common intellectual experience. But after listening to the graphic plot outline, Overseer Morton Kornreich, president of the United Jewish Appeal, questioned the choice of the play. "Of all the books, why would you pick this one?" he asked. Conn said the Euripides tragedy was chosen because although it is part of the literary canon, it questions many values considered traditional. Board members also discussed the play's image of divinity and issues of gender it raised. Chairperson Natalie Koether described herself as a moderate feminist and commented on the portrayal of women in in the play. "The women, as usual, have no control over what happens, but they are held responsible," she said. Earlier in the day, the overseers, whose job is to advise the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, met with Dean Rosemary Stevens. It was Stevens' first meeting with the overseers since she assumed the dean's post in September, and she used the session to introduce her goals for the school to the board. According to Koether, an attorney, discussion focused on the public perception of the College and the need to develop pride among College students. Many board members said they were excited about Stevens' appointment, both because of her 12-year affiliation with the University and her because of her progressive stance on issues tying the University to the community. NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, a member of both the Board of Overseers and the University's Board of Trustees, said she was pleased with Stevens' selection. "She expressed a strong interest in things that have great importance to me -- recruitment of women and minorities," Mitchell said. "What will clearly have great value to the faculty is her scholarship." Overseer Michael Crow said the board intends to take a heavily participatory role in its advice. He added that members of the board offer variety of non-academic perspectives on solutions to the College's problems. "We're not surrounded by the academic environment all day, every day," he said.

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