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Bostonia: The Alumni Magazine of Boston University

Winter 2008 Table of Contents

Letters To The Editor

Bostonia welcomes readers’ reactions and encourages expressions of opinion,
pro and con. Submit your letter below.

Radio Boston

Chris Berdik’s “Think Radio” (Fall 2007) is well written and presents an open and accurate, if somewhat limited, overview of WBUR’s glories and troubles.

I have two quibbles. The Connection’s “huge national following” is an overstatement. That phrase should be reserved for two programs produced at WBUR: Car Talk and Only a Game, both of which are carried on hundreds of stations. On Point is not there yet, and The Connection never came close. (Note: I have served as interim technical director for each of those programs.)

Regarding former general manager Jane Christo, there is no mention of WRNI, a huge oversight. WRNI is the major component of the station’s debt to Boston University as well as the proximate cause of Christo’s departure.

Thank you for an interesting article.

George B. Hicks Technical Director-Producer, WBUR Special Projects/Inside Out Documentaries Boston, Massachusetts

Hovering Parents

“The Really Long Good-bye” (Fall 2007) was a great article. I am a president of a midsized company, and we get “helicopter” parents calling our HR department, demanding to know how their child did on interviews or why they didn’t get hired.

One of my VPs recently told me that the mother of a newer employee called him. Her son seemed to be terribly stressed out. Her son just wasn’t used to working forty-hour weeks, and the company seemed so terribly demanding toward excellence. He told her to have her son talk to his supervisor and that she should “get a life” and allow her son to grow up. I received a letter about a week later from the mother, complaining about the rudeness of my VP.

Sandy Fitzgerald (GSM’77) Aurora, Colorado

While college is meant to be a growth experience as well as a learning experience, as the parent, I am footing the bill. My children will have a large say in their college careers, but not a complete say.

In 1980 (my sophomore year), I remember confronting a political science professor about his abuses in regard to the books we were required to purchase. The majority of the books were never assigned for class and were purchased for the benefit of this professor’s peers, who were their authors. In my confrontation with the professor, I was not taken seriously. In my meeting with the dean, I mentioned responding responsibly to me or dealing with my father. The bookstore refunded the money paid for these unnecessary books. The dean and I were on a first-name basis during my remaining years at Boston University.

While I expect my kids to correctly challenge inadequacies they may find in their professors and deans, assume that I will be hovering somewhere in the background to be of assistance, if needed. So, independent, smart, grown young adults, absolutely — but know that Papa and Mama Bear ain’t too far away. And you really do not want to mess with the Bear family.

David Saroff (CAS’79)Williamsville, New York

Visiting Hours

Thank you for providing an update on the guest policy implemented at BU this past semester (“CommonWealth,” Fall 2007). As a former resident assistant at Shelton Hall, I can attest to the restrictions the previous policy placed upon the students. In particular, my fellow RAs and I would constantly field complaints from residents about the need for a chaperone to host a member of the opposite sex. I commend the committee for finally bringing the policy up-to-date, and I’m sure the current RAs are thrilled not to have to defend an archaic policy anymore.

Jessica Stein (CAS’07)New York, New York

Another Profile in Courage?

In “Home of the Brave” (Fall 2007), Bostonia lauds the courage of several “seldom remembered” U.S. presidents. You should have included President Andrew Johnson. Who else could, or would, have prevented the radicals of the day from a permanent division of the United States?

Randolph Phillips (SED’76) Panama City Beach, Florida

Rock of Boston

Bostonia needs to get its story straight. I was surprised to see an article in a recent edition celebrating how much Boston rocks (“Boston Rocks,” Summer 2007) after a very disrespectful “Retro” in the Fall 2004 edition claiming that Kenmore Square was a better place now that the Rat had closed (“Kenmore Square Squared”).

Although it’s true that the city of Boston rocks, Boston University is an institution responsible for the repression of this musical expression. I’m sorry, BU, but you can’t take credit for the quality of music that your students have created, especially when you’re so happy that they’ve all been “pulling out their Mohawks” since you closed the Rat.

Maybe somewhere, someone is choking on a silver spoon.

Dan Pascucci (COM’01) Dublin, New Hampshire

Understanding Autism

No one would argue that there aren’t significant benefits to early identification and intervention for children with developmental disabilities, including autism (“Reaching In, Reaching Out,” Summer 2007). Nor would anyone suggest that the ability to communicate is not essential to social relationships. But we seem to be increasing the number of children labeled with autism without increasing our understanding.

Yes, we are starting to label children earlier than three years of age, but then parents were telling us years ago that there was something wrong or different about their children as we figuratively patted them on their heads and told them to wait and see. In a sense and to some degree, professionals are now playing catch-up with the parents.

Yes, we now understand that neurology plays an important role in autism, but our view of the person with autism has changed little over the last half century: aloof, inaccessible, uncaring creatures who need repetition or force to come into our world. What do we really know about them?

The emerging understanding of the difficulties in autism received scant attention when behavior modification became popular in the early seventies. Then we believed you didn’t have to understand behavior; you could just change it.

In my thirty-five years of professional service I have tried to look at people with autism through a wider lens. What I have learned is that the real triad in autism is sensory, motor, and anxiety. I continue to look, listen, and learn.

More recently, psychologist Phil Teitelbaum has reviewed videotapes of infants later diagnosed with autism for asynchrony in movement in the first year of life and has shown motor challenges that place children at high risk on the autism spectrum. He would not rush to a diagnosis of autism in children better labeled high risk. His work should be considered by those diagnosing children with autism. We need to revise our theories and our views of individuals with autism so that we can see that they do care, struggle with motor, sensory, and anxiety challenges, and can best succeed when we persist in seeking to support them by better understanding the nature of autism.

Barbara C. Cutler (SED’91)Arlington, Massachusetts

Speaking for Cuban-Americans

I am writing on behalf of myself and a few fellow Hispanic BU alumni, to respectfully comment on Sociology Professor Susan Eckstein’s remarks on Cuban-Americans and Castro’s quasi-monarchical government (“Explorations,” Summer 2007). Although she is entitled to her biased opinion, we feel hurt by her cynical statements. And for the sake of full disclosure, I attended BU four decades ago while proudly hauling garbage and pumping gasoline and learned English with a Boston accent.

Regrettably, Eckstein errs in what she enunciates, and worse, what she omits. Her baffling statement that recent Cuban refugees are not as interested in political freedoms as the exiles of previous decades smacks of the stereotypic “Ugly American” that we learned at BU to challenge. Ironically, her argument parallels that of extremist xenophobes. She depicts a caricature of the dissidence and diaspora that Castro’s oppression has generated in a country with no history of massive emigration.

Saying that recent Cuban escapees are equivalent to the economic emigrants from other countries parrots Havana’s contradictory propaganda. Cuban émigrés send aid to relatives because Castro’s wretched rule fails to provide a quality life. Cuba is another example that communist systems germinate widespread misery everywhere they are imposed, as noted recently, for example, by Khrushchev’s own granddaughter, now a professor in the U.S.

We strongly resent the insulting reference to “strident anti-Castro” exiles, another favorite Havana slogan. One gathers that Paul Revere, Lincoln, FDR, Mandela, Golda Meir, JFK, and BU’s Martin Luther King, Jr. [GRS’55, Hon.’59], would also be called “strident” by that (slippery) yardstick. Moreover, it is ludicrous to expect refugees who risked their lives on makeshift rafts to become a fifth column for the self-perpetuating gerontocracy that prompted their abandoning their homeland.

Add to this the tens of thousands who have suffered prison and/or death under the Castro brothers, who a few foreign intellectuals still love to paint as both victims and heroes. But ask our own Red Sox’s Mike Lowell why his and his wife’s families fled Cuba, and why those who stayed were jailed by Castros’s “socialist” dynasty, which has dispatched troops to prop up bloody dictators in Africa, sponsors terrorism throughout Latin America, and wages hate-mongering against all liberal democracies.

Just about everyone agrees, though, that Cuba is changing as Castro has taken ill. But the goal should be a free society from which no one has to escape in order to lead a decent life — the original expectation of the 1959 revolution. I suggest that the next time Bostonia publishes a piece on a Hispanic minority — or a Latin American country — be aware that we are part of the BU family. There is also a vibrant community of Cuban-American Bostonians who expect due respect, even if a few of them have become, presumably, “wealthy and educated.”

 My wife, María (who also attended BU and now teaches college), and I confess being astounded at Eckstein’s insensitivity. We invite her to further research other Boston connections with Cuba’s past — such as the Paul Revere Mall, once called “Paseo,” as it was modeled after Havana’s “Paseo del Prado.”

Again, the professor is entitled to her biases, but she is supposed to follow responsible professional ethics and portray complete truths, not opinionated pontification that typecast and demean a segment of our population. Based on its Methodist foundation, BU used to be at the vanguard of fostering pro-liberty thinking. Has it changed? Whatever happened to “Learning, Virtue, Piety”? If Eckstein’s distorted ideas represent what is now taught — unchallenged — at our alma mater, one wonders if the “capitalist” high tuition it charges today is worth it.

Anthony Genaro Martin (MET’67)President, BU Latin American Club, 1965–1966 Mullica Hill, New Jersey

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