Readers comments 5-12-17

College journalism

Dear Editor:

In the Friday, May 5 edition, COURIER writer Sarah Torribio bravely took on the chore of clarifying the confusion that prevails in today’s ideology-soaked, media-carried, ambiguous political language. She does this by comparing the language of the venerable Pomona College Student Life and the historically more short-lived Claremont Independent, also run by college students.

Ms. Torribio draws on the words of last year’s Student Life editor, Julia Thomas, and this year’s Claremont Independent editor, Matthew Reade.

These two opposing sides can both represent youth. In between them, Ms. Torribio quotes Laura Widmer, executive director of the Associated Collegiate Press. Ms. Widmer blames youthfulness for much of society’s linguistic confusion, so she must be older.

Since I am a really old man, I tend to agree with her and thus choose mainly to criticize the Independent. Let’s first look at its official motto: “Always Right.” This seems a deliberate, paradoxical, maybe playful insertion of confusion into the debate. “Right” can mean “correct,” but it can also mean “right wing.” You can mean it either way or no way. You can use it to praise or condemn. I’m told that those who communicate via Facebook or YouTube love such clever ambiguity.

The Independent—in the worthy cause of opposing racism— assumes racism in giving very detailed attention to a particular hiring decision made by the Pomona College sociology department. Mr. Reade, however, is not a wild accuser. He believes in “journalistic integrity.” He believes in “common sense.” Yet, at the same time, he declares that the Independent’s “mission” is to “save the Claremont Colleges” from what they view as “political correctness.”

The missionary spirit seems evident, perhaps at odds with good journalism. How, indeed, is a newspaper expected to “save” an entire group of colleges? Incidentally, the grammar here seems defective. Does “they” in “they view” refer to the Claremont Colleges or the Independent reporters? Ambiguity designating subjects of sentences is not good journalism.

Mr. Reade perhaps means to change the subject when he accuses some unnamed person of “threatening to seek the expulsion of our staff for writing hard news stories.” This is an accusation he calls “laughable,” which might well be, depending on the hardness of the “hard news story.” The definition of the good and valuable news story may be the central issue in this whole debate. Various talk of “political correctness” can also benefit from careful examination.

After all of this, Ms. Thomas of the Student Life is shown criticizing the Independent very broadly, but incompletely, and noting the importance of generational differences as well. Thanks to a generous fellowship, Ms. Thomas, a Scripps student, will spend next year touring the world to find how journalists in other cultures use and misuse political language. We wish her well and hope the COURIER will be able to publish some of her findings.

These days, there are already books and books on human communication and even books on the pitfalls of “Trumpish” political language. They lead me to conclude by claiming the present relevance for journalistic truth-seekers of an observation by St. Augstine, an ancient theologian-philosopher: “There are three reliable paths to truth: humility, humility and humility.”

Lee McDonald



Single-payer system

Dear Editor:

We appreciate John Roseman’s thoughtful letter (COURIER, April 28)  responding to our viewpoint (COURIER,  April 21) in favor of SB 562, which would establish a single-payer health care system for California. 

Mr. Roseman raises a number of concerns that deserve a response, particularly in light of the renewed effort in the US  Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Number 1: Is a single-payer health care system the same as government-run health care? Mr. Roseman argues it is, because the costs of the system are reimbursed by the state and how those funds are used would be regulated by the state. This is not the same, however, as health care being provided by the state. 

Consider the difference between Medicare and the Veterans Administration. With Medicare, the cost of care is reimbursed by the federal government, which sets standards for allowable expenses. But health care providers do not work for the government. That is different from the Veterans Administration, which is government-run. Single-payer health care for California would, in effect, provide Medicare for everyone in the state.

Number 2: Would the law establish a monopoly “similar to what we have with the water company?” No! Golden State Water Company has a monopoly on providing our water. Just like Medicare, single-payer healthcare doesn’t take away choice of providers. It only centralizes reimbursement.

Number 3: Is the oversight of the program similar to the “nefarious Public Utilities Commission?” Mr. Roseman raises an important concern—we need to be on guard to prevent cozy relations between those providing oversight and the industry they regulate.

The good governance and consumer protections in the bill are an important issue for its sponsors. If any readers have suggestions for improving the language of the bill in that regard, they should send those to State Senators Lara and Atkins.

It should be clear to Californians that we cannot trust the US Congress to protect our health care. We have the opportunity to create a much better system in our state that can be example to the nation.  Please write or call your state senator or assembly member and tell them you support SB 562, The Health California Act. 

For more information, see

Claudia Strauss

Alex Rudolph



Scripps strike

Dear Editor:

This month, the RAs at Scripps College went on strike following the suicide of 20-year-old Scripps woman of color, Tatissa Zunguze. They demanded a restructuring of financial aid, with good reason to believe financial pressure and a lack of mental health resources (also financial) influenced her fate. Last week, disgruntled Scripps student Sophie Mann took to the Wall Street Journal to roast them.

Ms. Mann’s critique is frugal with logic and foaming with hateful punch lines, but I’ll focus on the paramount disgrace of the article: She deliberately omitted Ms. Zunguze’s suicide from the article for framing purposes, because mentioning the tragic death that catalyzed the strike might get in the way of her riveting thesis that every RA at Scripps is a greedy, spoiled brat. She was even so bold as to detail their demand to improve the school mental health policy without a single allusion to Ms. Zunguze’s death.

Why does she think they are so concerned with the mental health policies in the first place? That’s like slamming Megan’s Law without once mentioning what happened to Megan. Shrouding the key cause for the strike so shamelessly is a dead reveal of her intent to scapegoat liberal progressivism without reviewing the facts at hand (a rather popular trend in today’s political climate).

Of all the blunders of radical liberalism that have embarrassed the Claremont University Consortium this year, this is not one of them.

It’s clear in her omission that she either didn’t find Ms. Zunguze’s suicide to be a valid cause for the strike, or she knew her position would crumble if she accounted for it. Perhaps one death isn’t enough cause for change in her view, which would explain her most lamentable zinger: “This is a shakedown over money, dressed up in the language of victimhood.”

To Ms. Mann: Please, look the family and friends of Tatissa Zunguze in their faces and tell them about their phony victimhood, and their obsession with money. And let me know how you feel about yourself afterwards.

Ms. Zunguze’s death could have been avoided, which is why the Scripps RAs put themselves at risk, in honor of any student that may feel the way she did. Ms. Mann seems to think this feat is easy or unremarkable. But what is easy and unremarkable? Standing on the sidelines and writing petty hate mail about peers that are actually trying to make a difference.

It’s sad to see this affront to journalistic integrity given a platform of this magnitude, and growing up around the Claremont Colleges tends to give one a sixth-sense for nepotism, but I won’t make any accusations.

Ms. Mann, in writing this piece, you have not only stuck out your tongue to taunt students who feel less financially or mentally stable than you do—you’ve disrespected the dead.

I hope after you’ve finished reading fan mail from All Lives Matter advocates for your new editorial, you can focus on the subsequent objective of sleeping at night.

Jamie Lawlor



Art near Claremont

Dear Editor:

In regard to columnist Jan Wheatcroft’s May 5 comments about how museums are good places to visit; it is accurate to say that at the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, we are most fortunate to have such quality artwork and many fine museums and galleries within a relatively small area.

It is great to know that Claremont, with museums such as the Claremont Museum of Art, and galleries like The Williamson Gallery at Scripps College and the First Street Gallery, among others, and Pomona’s American Museum of Ceramic Art and The dA Center continue the tradition to nurture art, our artists and diversity in our community.

One lesser-known museum with a fine collection of artifacts is the Petterson Museum of Intercultural Art located on the grounds of Pilgrim Place.

It was started by Claremont’s own Richard Petterson from objects collected over his many years of travels. With this museum’s mission to highlight diversity among cultures from all over the world, it would seem timely in our current national climate to celebrate art and the understanding and tolerance it can bring to us.

Brent Maire




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