Letters to the Editor

The Bulletin welcomes letters of three hundred or fewer words. Letters to the editor may be used for publication unless the author states the letter is not to be published. Letters may be edited for style, length, clarity, grammar, and relevance to Kenyon issues. Please address submissions to: Editor, Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin, Office of Public Affairs, Gambier, Ohio 43022. Letters may also be submitted to alumni@kenyon.edu or through our online feedback form.

Photographic blunder
Your fall 2011 cover story (“Jubilant Jump”) celebrated the success of the $240 million “We Are Kenyon” campaign. The moment was captured with a photo of eleven ecstatic students cheering on the steps of Rosse Hall. As one of Kenyon's proud African-American alumni, I was hurt, embarrassed, and angry when I noticed that none of the celebrants was a person of color. The College is reportedly much more diverse today than when I graduated in 1983. One wouldn't know from the cover photo. “We Are Kenyon” refers to whom? A little forethought could have avoided this photographic PR blunder. Kenyon deserves better.
Jeremy V. Johnson '83

An iffy question
In the Fall 2011 Bulletin (Letters), Megan B. Pomeroy '90 corrected an error regarding “if Kenyon wasn't” versus “if Kenyon weren't.” However, she mistakenly said that the word if “always takes the subjunctive.” This applies only when the statement is contrary to fact: “If I were the editor of the Alumni Bulletin, I would have caught that error.” However, there are many cases where “if” can be used with statements that may or may not be true, and in those cases “was” is appropriate: “If I was overstepping my bounds in pointing out this additional error, then I am sorry.”
—Joe Stollenwerk '95

A sentence beginning with “if” takes the subjunctive only for conditions contrary to fact. For conditions that exist or may exist, the subjunctive should not be used. “You wouldn't be reading this magazine if Kenyon wasn't special to you” is entirely correct: it is a safe assumption that readers of this magazine have special feelings for Kenyon.
Julie Kuzneski Wrinn (married to Steve Wrinn '91)

editor's note: We are happy to know that we didn't go grammatically astray. But we still appreciate Ms. Pomeroy's reminder to write with care. And, of course, we do hope that Kenyon is special to our readers.

Tattoo traditions
I was troubled by the letters in the last Bulletin variously referring to the tattoos of Kenyon students as “depraved,” “disreputable,” and acts of “debasement,” and suggesting that tattoos are “hallmarks of gangs and criminals” and indicative of “psychopathy.”

The fact is that tattoos no longer carry the stigma they did for earlier generations. As a student at a prominent law school, I found that tattoos were common among my peers. At the Silicon Valley law firm where I represented startups and tech giants, tattoos could be spotted beneath the business casual attire of my colleagues and clients. And now as a law professor, I note that both students and faculty members, like me, are among the growing ranks of the tattooed. Very few of us, I assure you, are gang members, criminals, or psychopaths.

The history of tattoos did not start with Hitler and end with the Hells Angels. This culturally blinkered account neglects rich traditions outside of our own. The word “tattoo” entered our language after Captain Cook's voyage to Tahiti, where the locals had practiced the art for generations. After Cook's return to England, something of a trend emerged in British high society, with no less than Edward VII and George V embracing the art form. That is to say nothing of Japanese tattooing, which dates back to the paleolithic era. Humility suggests we hesitate before dismissing a practice that emerged and thrived independently across these diverse cultures.
Aaron Perzanowski '01

Memories and joy
Every issue of the Bulletin brings great memories of the past and joy at the present and future! Thank you very much.
John L. McKenney '48

Back to Top

Del.icio.us DeliciousFacebook FacebookStumbleUpon StumbleUponDigg Diggreddit reddit