College? Not Unless You’re Rich

Marble, Colo.

Liza Featherstone’s “Out of Reach: Is College Only for the Rich?” [June 29] spoke to me in a very personal way. I will soon turn 21, but due to illness I have completed only one year’s worth of credits for my BA. I will have to spend the next fourteen months working and saving in order to afford to return to college in the fall of 2010. I am so frustrated by my inability to afford higher education, which I believe is a vital part of our democracy and should be accessible to all citizens. Until everyone has access to college, our country will not break down the barrier between the wealthy and the underprivileged.


Centerport, N.Y.

I graduated from Brooklyn College when it was free. Otherwise, my parents could not have afforded to send me to college. That has made all the difference in my life, enabling me to get a well-paying job and continue to graduate school rather than having to resort to welfare when my husband left me with a 2-year-old and pregnant.

My father, the first in his family to attend college, graduated from City College at the height of the Depression. When CUNY decided to charge tuition, I wrote a letter in opposition. They told me that since middle-class students were attending free, poor taxpayers were subsidizing them; it would be more equitable to charge tuition, which the middle class could afford, and provide scholarship aid to poorer students. Predictably, tuition continued to increase and scholarship aid declined. If New York City could provide free, quality higher education during the Great Depression, surely it is time to return to that practice now.


Princeton, N.J.

Liza Featherstone notes that students are largely resigned to increased college costs. Others have observed a similar quiescence on the part of labor. It looks like many of us still hold ourselves responsible for success or lack thereof. The Horatio Alger myth was alive in the Great Depression, but so were street actions and sit-down strikes. It was popular militancy, after all, that enabled FDR to push through the progressive legislation of the mid-1930s. Americans, especially students, should take to the streets.


Dr. George Tiller


In his article “A Culture War Casualty” [June 22] Eyal Press underscores the truth that those who use hateful invectives should not feign shock or dismay when their message produces murder and violence. This article, however, like the majority of others I have read following the death of George Tiller, MD, is fixated upon the abortion debate and neglects to recognize the real tragedy of Dr. Tiller’s loss, to the profession of medicine and to the American people.

As a practitioner of maternal fetal medicine, I referred two patients to Dr. Tiller because he was one of the very few physicians in the country who, because of both permissive Kansas state law and his desire to give compassionate care, provided late-pregnancy termination services. Both of my referrals were carrying infants with birth defects that were incompatible with survival. One fetus had anencephaly, a condition where a large portion of the forebrain is absent; the other, a syndrome called the pentalogy of cantrell, characterized by multiple midline defects, allowing vital organs such as the heart and the abdominal structures to lie outside the fetal body. Dr. Tiller accepted my referrals graciously and cared for these women skillfully. By so doing, he ended their risk of further complications.

The clamor of the “abortion debate” has overshadowed the essence of the medical issue: how to provide the best care to our patients. In all my years of medical practice, I have never met a patient who was glad to terminate a pregnancy; they did so only because of a natural and admirable sense of self-preservation after becoming aware of danger to themselves.

The assassin’s bullet that killed Dr. Tiller ended a productive and honorable life. Moreover, we are all victims of this terrible, heinous crime. Although the beliefs of those on each side of the abortion issue will never be resolved, we must all stop the strident name-calling that has so divided our society. We must follow President Obama’s suggestion to come together and devote our efforts to decrease the number of abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies. This approach will not only end much hatred and violence; it will greatly contribute to an improvement in the physical and mental health of all Americans.


Make That 1,501!

Silver Spring, Md.

As a frequent letter writer to newspapers and magazines (about 13,000 in twenty years and about 8,000 in the last decade), I can only envy Cy Shain’s record, thirty-nine letters published in the last decade in the New York Times [David Margolick, “All the Letters Fit to Print,” June 15]. However, an important statistic was omitted: how many letters he wrote to the Times. If his percentage of success with this prestigious newspaper was 50 percent I stand in awe; if 5 percent, impressive but not earth-shattering. A 2 percent success rate of being published in major newspapers is standard for me, with lesser media at 10 to 15 percent. This means 1,500 published letters for me over the years, but certainly a far cry from the success of Cy Shain in the Times.


Vulcan Mind Meld

Santa Monica, Calif.

Dude, this version [of Star Trek] was awesome. Who’da thought that a concept from before I was born could keep me in my seat for longer than ten minutes! I need at least ten explosions, twenty lens flares and ear-crunching sound to overcome my Halo 3 ADD. Not that I missed a theme or anything. I got it, dude–make lots of money for Paramount. Sweet! [Stuart Klawans, “Live Long and Prosper,” June 15].

My sister reads, and she said for me to read Where Angels Fear to Tread by Yolanda Pascal–sci-fi for Star Trek lovers. I actually read it. It was awesome. But it didn’t have any music, so I had to run Ludo on my iPod. Tight!

Live long, dude, whatever.