Letters to the Editor

Facilitating discussion, overcoming stereotypes

As students of religious studies who studied abroad in Muslim countries, we feel compelled to support professor Vernon Schubel's article "Misunderstanding Islam" ("Ten Burning Questions," Spring/Summer 2006). The article received a number of responses, two of which did not directly address professor Schubel's argument but, instead, carried pointed accusations. We believe that whatever one's conception of Islam, it is important that an open dialogue be fostered at Kenyon and in the wider Kenyon community. While radical fundamentalism cannot be ignored in a discussion of contemporary Islam, it certainly should not frame the conversation. As professor Schubel's article points out, there exists in Islam (as in all religions) a diversity of opinions and beliefs. The American media often ignore moderate Muslim voices in favor of the radical minority. This approach has led many in the country to view Islam as an inherently violent religion and to ignore the cultural, scientific, and literary contributions that have come, and continue to come, from Muslims. We encourage the Kenyon community to take the time to explore these other aspects of Islam in addition to the historical events that have given rise to the current wave of Islamic fundamentalism. Hopefully, this will facilitate an informed discussion of these issues instead of a continued reliance on misconceptions and stereotypes.

--Archita Jha '07, religious studies (Fall '05, Turkey)
--Deanna Lesht '07, religious studies (Spring '06, Oman)
--Andrea Shinbach '07, international studies (Spring '06, Jordan)

Cover to cover

The Bulletin is absolutely first-rate--and about the only magazine that I read cover to cover, even the news of people I don't know. It all goes such a long way to keep us moldy "older-than-you-think" graduates connected.

--Jim Reisler '80

One for the ages

I received the alumni magazine yesterday and felt compelled to tell you what a wonderful job you and your staff did with it. ­As former president Rob Oden would say, "It was one for the ages!"

Everything was excellent--the writing, design, and photography. I even told my daughter to read the story in which your professors share their ideas on what works with their students. She is in her first year as a third-grade teacher in the Granville, Ohio, schools and enthusiastic about learning more about how great teachers teach. Keep up the outstanding work!

--Jeff Bell (Jeff Bell is a reporter for Business First in Columbus, Ohio, and the former news director at Kenyon.)

A significant first for Kenyon

Your Fall 2006 edition had a lengthy obituary for Arthur Jackson 1969, describing his many accomplishments. However, it omitted one of his significant accomplishments that occurred at Kenyon. I believe that Arthur was the first African American initiated into the Kenyon chapter of Alpha Delta Phi. I asked his sophomore roommate in the East Wing (who is now secretary of Kenyon's board of trustees) whether he could confirm my recollection of this accomplishment of Arthur's. He said that he couldn't, since he and Arthur never discussed it. That is as remarkable as the actual fact of his initiation; by the time that it occurred, it was no big deal. As I write this letter to you, the undergraduate president of the Kenyon chapter of Alpha Delta Phi is also an African American. That is also no big deal, since he was the obvious choice of his brothers, having been a very competent treasurer. Yet for those of us who attended Kenyon in the 1950s and earlier, it is a big deal that neither event was a big deal. If they gave it some thought, our College and fraternity have reason to be very pleased with themselves. That is the way America should work.

--Robert S. Price '58

Exhilaration and agony

Many a Kenyon graduate has likely been thrust into an ad hoc teacher/lecturer role, either by executive order, in a corporate classroom, or by personal choice in a university environment. My own experience in such milieus produced both exhilaration (at having stimulated brisk classroom discussion) and agony (at an inability to spark such a response).

Early on in teaching forays, one grasps that expertise is not enough. Other skills are essential. This was demonstrably exhibited in "Class Acts" (Fall 2006), wherein four Kenyon professors shared gems about the education process. English professor Deborah Laycock figures out ways to make Addison and Steele interesting. Political science professor Fred Baumann discovers the vice of overprepration. Spanish professor Linda Metzler, sensitive to student anxieties, finds ways to boost her students' confidence. Music professor Ben Locke notes that humor can become "an unexpected muse."

Reflecting on those and many other insights in "Class Acts," in the context of my own days as a student on the Hill many years ago, I concluded: "Tis a far, far better . . . ." Bravo to all.

--John L. Harman '47

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