Criminology isn't 'CSI'
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Getting out the vote
We have recently learned that we have two employees and one graduate student whose names appear on the Megan's Law list for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Megan's Law is a federal statute that requires persons convicted of a range of sexual offenses to register with the state police. Those persons who register are listed on a Web site which identifies offenders by name, address, and zip code.
Not safe enough
A necessary separation
Out of context To the Editor:
Objectivity To the Editor: I am writing out of concern for the objectivity that you display your news. Your recent article on a British author ("Author says Britain has become a jihadist hotbed," DP, 11/15/06) had a front-page teaser that read, "A cultural assault." But an earlier headline of a speaker giving a talk at the Muslim Students Association read, "Israel media bias?" The question mark says it all. The reader is lead to accept the validity of an extremist position while questioning one that has more merit, and one which you have ironically aided in its support. Secondly, I am appalled that a speaker such as this could be brought to speak on campus and be met with agreement. Asserting "Western civilization" should suppress Muslim immigration is disturbingly white supremacist, and is akin to reasoning that we in the United States should ship all black people back to Africa because they don't assimilate into mainstream society and are a "hotbed" of criminal activity. How dare anyone insinuate that the presence of an entire group of people poses danger to a society when in fact we all know that every West Philadelphian we meet is not a murderer, nor are such miscreants only blacks.
Disingenuous To the Editor: The Daily Pennsylvanian's most recent editorial ("Putting PR Above Safety," DP, 11/22/06) is an incredibly disingenuous and sensationalistic statement that has had the unfortunate effect of obfuscating the substantive issue involved: victim privacy. The editorial staff claims that, by not providing victim status - i.e. student, staff or faculty - "the Division of Public Safety . is making you less safe," one of several vacuous and socially unscientific conclusions drawn. DPS officials have shared with the DP the reasons for not including specific victim status (beyond affiliation or non-affiliation with the University), which stems from an effort to protect crime victims from harassment and further trauma recreated by the press. As per all legal reporting requirements, the DP has always had access to comprehensive incident-specific information 24/7 via our information kiosk or in person. The real PR machine here stems not from Public Safety but from the DP editorial staff, whose campaign has only served to generate misinformation and ill-will. DPS will now provide student, staff and faculty affiliation with the University. We challenge the DP to use this information responsibly and in a manner that respects the privacy and emotional safety of all crime victims, irrespective of their affiliation within the University.
Misplaced loyalty To the Editor: Adam Cohen's column ("The future is bright for a Democratic America," DP, 11/16/06) is laced with the same brand of ignorance and partisan rhetoric that permeates contemporary politics in America. First, he lists recent ethics scandals - interestingly omitting Democratic ones. I find it hard to forget Democratic Rep. William Jefferson's $90,000 stash in his freezer. He then ignores the role of Congress in foreign policy, as if this Penn Law student has forgotten the Constitution, specifically Congress' power to declare war, ratify treaties and confirm presidential appointments. (Does the name Bolton ring a bell?) More disgusting, Cohen suggests that Democrats should abandon efforts to deal with the situation in Iraq, as to not put the Democratic Party in a precarious situation. With his hideous Titanic analogy, Cohen disregards the lives of Americans and Iraqis, not to mention the conflict's regional implications - all in the name of party loyalty. He then follows with an unusually optimistic - and likely unrealistic - analysis detailing how Democrats may remain in power. Cohen's position is a pristine example of what's wrong with American politics: loyalty to a party instead of loyalty to America.
More than modest To the Editor: I was disappointed to see you call President Amy Gutmann's donation to the University for financial aid "modest" yesterday ("Gutmann chips in for student aid, DP, 11/14/06). While it is, indeed, less than George Weiss gave to the University, it is still notable and is a good percentage of Gutmann's income. As noted in an earlier issue of the DP, Gutmann makes a mere $675,000. $150,000 is a pretty good percentage of that income, and if every alumni or friend of the University gave a similar percentage, we would not whine and complain about not being able to keep up with the other top Ivies. Every gift and every donor truly counts, from George Weiss' to a recent graduate's to Gutmann's. I wish that your publication was not so discouraging about $150,000. I wish you luck in trying to raise similar funds for your class as it graduates.
Slavery cartoon To the Editor: A recent cartoon, drawn by artist Abdi Farah, ("Opinion Art," DP, 11/6/06) depicts Uncle Sam and a college professor, accompanied by a chained African American slave, glaring at Amy Gutmann. Uncle Sam points and says, "We knew the always progressive Penn would eventually support terrorism!" In the forefront, Amy Gutmann stands confidently, while a benevolent Ben Franklin comes to her defense. "At least we never supported slavery," Ben says. The cartoon is obviously referring to Gutmann's controversial Halloween picture in relation to Brown's recently discovered slavery ties, but the cartoon is historically misleading. Benjamin Franklin was at one time a slave owner, just like the Brown family. He owned two slaves named George and King, and his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, regularly ran ads concerning the sale and purchase of slaves in Philadelphia. Franklin eventually freed his slaves and became a prominent abolitionist, but the cartoon neglects the fact that even Franklin at one time supported the institution of slavery. I hope your opinion artists are more considerate of history the next time they use our founder's image as a promotional tool.
I took a photo, too To the Editor: I am writing to acknowledge that the photo I took with a student at the annual Halloween Party ("Controversy erupts over student in terror garb," DP, 11/3/06) has caused a kind of wounding to some in the Penn community. I did not immediately associate what I saw of the student's costume with the kind of gear worn by a suicide bomber. In the seconds between the student tapping me on the shoulder under that very crowded tent and asking me to take a picture with him, my agreeing to do so and asking his name, I did see his headband and the toy gun. I am dating myself, but what I thought of was the movie action hero Rambo. I didn't see the fake waistband of dynamite until after the picture was taken. At that point - in a matter of a few seconds - I put all of the pieces together in my mind of what the whole get-up was meant to symbolize. All of that now, of course, is history - and several Web sites and Internet web logs gone. The wounding, however, remains for some, and I am eager to address it in any way that I can. To be sure, I would not intentionally set out to hurt anyone, nor do I take lightly symbols that are particularly painful to anyone or any group. In the meanwhile, the photos have taken on a life of their own. They are subject to all kinds of interpretations. Those interpretations are determined by the images in the pictures, how the pictures are presented, what the images mean to different people and the intentions of the persons responsible for displaying them in a particular frame, setting or environment. For me, this aspect of the power of an image is connected with something I learned out of my own African American preaching tradition: "A text taken out of context is a pre-text." My hope is that the insensitivity and offensiveness of the images will not be the final word that defines anyone's perspective of the community at Penn.
Apology owed To the Editor: I just wanted to congratulate President Gutmann on an interesting choice for a holiday picture pose ("Controversary erupts over student in terror garb," DP, 11/3/06). The body language certainly is telling; naivete meets duplicity (I'll let you determine which is which). Once again, academia demonstrates just how out of touch it is with the real world. For Gutmann to believe that such a pose is nothing more than fun, a moment in the spirit of the festivities goes beyond insensitive - it borders somewhere between cultural uncouthness and political correctness run amok. Had this costume been worn by a blond Anglo student, it would still have been insensitive, but slightly less politically charged. For Saadi to don such an outfit simply shows his willful disregard for victims at the hands of cold-blooded killers and a blatant disrespect for a conflict that is enveloping the world. I don't deny Saadi's right to be so unashamedly offensive. However, what I do object to is an (alleged) respected academic being such a puppet. If Gutmann doesn't believe this picture, and others from the party, won't make the cyber-rounds and have some effect on current ideological and political conflicts, then she is even further removed from a realistic understanding of current events. Gutmann, you owe a great many people a tremendous apology.
Stringent security To the Editor: Rene Alvarez's opinion article, ("Students' Fears of Crime are Largely Unfounded," Daily Pennsylvanian, 10/3/06) made some very interesting and valuable points on crime in West Philadelphia and its effects on Penn students. However, we must fundamentally disagree with Alvarez's main point that Penn's security measures are too stringent. The violent crimes around Penn's campus last year (including the shooting of a student) prove that these concerns, in fact, were not unfounded. Penn's implementation of its $5 million security plan is clearly working, as the area has experienced a large drop in crime. Lastly, we would like to refute Alvarez's statement: "Isn't this show of force really just there to reassure Mommy and Daddy that their little darling from the lily-white suburbs is safe in the big, bad city?" We would like to remind Alvarez that not all Penn students are sixth-year Ph.D. candidates bordering on their 30s. Many students are, in fact, 18 and 19 year old girls. Clearly, Alvarez can comprehend the increased threat "the big, bad city" poses to a young girl, as opposed to a large, grown man, such as himself. Maybe if Alvarez were more in touch with Penn's general demographics he would better understand.
Real violations To the Editor: I was walking to campus and I happened to see one of those sticky mouse traps that a Penn kid had let lay by his trashcan. I wouldn't have thought twice about it, but the mouse was moving. It had its face ripped off and was in extreme pain, and some Penn student had left it there to die a very slow death (it takes them days to starve, and they're known to chew through their feet to try to escape). I had to beg someone off the street to step on it. The poor thing was so scared and in so much pain and I can't get its writhing body or its eyes out of my mind. I just can't believe that students from Penn, supposedly some of the most enlightened minds from across the country and the world, can't take 20 seconds to do the right thing and step on a mouse or drop a book on one.