AIDS and Alumni

Anyone who criticizes your AIDS issue risks being identified with discrimination against homosexuals that sometimes has amounted to outright persecution, so it’s not a pleasant task. Moreover, as a cancer patient I see too much suffering and dying in hospital wards and treatment centers not to feel great empathy with AIDS patients. But I have no sympathy with the shameless politicizing of AIDS and the politically correct commentary that permeates these articles. This is not a balanced approach to combatting AIDS.

Michael Foley’s hysterical tantrum (“All I Want Is a Cure and My Friends Back“) is a prime example. “I want to chew nails,” he wrote, “when I hear the religious right talk about AIDS being a good thing … because it kills trash like queers and drug addicts. I want to get five minutes in a room with Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Jesse Helms, Carolyn Cosby and the Maine Concerned Families, and all the other xenophobic idiots and force them to listen to a different angry voice.”

Not being religious, I fail even the threshold test for membership in the “religious right,” but I know and have worked with decent people who do qualify, and I have never heard any of them say anything remotely like that. Frankly, I doubt that Mr. Foley has either, and, if not, there is an ugly term for him. At best this is contemporary liberal McCarthyism, rampant in academia.

Mr. Foley’s vitriol is not unexpected from Bates, “where seldom is heard a conservative word.” He feels free to malign anyone who doesn’t embrace the social and political agenda of gay activists. If those who oppose such things as single-sex marriage are “xenophobic idiots,” most Americans from President Clinton on down are included. As a former Republican counsel to the House of Representatives, I know this to be a particularly preposterous and unfair description of Speaker Gingrich. Publishing such rubbish represents Bates’s obeisance to gay-activist radical chic.

Some of us, regular contributors to Bates, are beginning to ask, “Why should politically conservative alumni contribute to an institution that routinely denigrates our views and trashes our values?” I keep waiting to hear a good answer.

Charles W. Radcliffe ’50
Annapolis, Maryland

The articles by Michael Foley ’89, Erik Mercer ’91 and Whitney Wright ’90 concerning the AIDS pandemic were powerfully well-written first-hand stories about the effect of this virus on people. I am the AIDS program coordinator for the four counties that constitute the panhandle of Florida and have experienced all those emotional roller coaster rides they spoke of.

Florida ranks number three in the nation for total number of diagnosed cases of AIDS (second in pediatric cases, a whole different ball game). Although the panhandle is sort of rural, we have over a thousand confirmed cases, as well as one thousand to two thousand undiagnosed AIDS and unreported HIV-positive cases. A significant number of these cases were contracted in other areas and the clients have elected to return home to battle the illness among friends and family. Our Community Based Organizations are staffed by volunteers who do yeoman work in support groups, meals preparation and serving, counseling and testing, and educational activities in schools, churches, civic groups, and other outreach activities.

Through the various sources of federal and state funding, I am managing an annual budget of nearly $1 million dedicated to AIDS primary care, prevention, education, counseling, and testing. It’s not a great deal of money considering these are the only funds available in the area.

The area I find needing more and more attention is the education of the teens. Here in Florida, fully 20 percent of our diagnosed AIDS cases are aged twenty to twenty-nine. Given the morbidity of the disease, these people are becoming infected as teens. New studies are documenting more sex among ever-younger populations, so this alarming statistic coupled with teen beliefs of invincibility can only generate more cases to clog an already crowded system. I visit area elementary, middle, and high schools and colleges and have spoken to several thousand preteens and teens trying to get them to think about what unprotected sex or needle sharing can do to them.

My congratulations to Whitney, Erik, and Michael. Keep up the good fight.

Lou Riviezzo ’62
Pensacola, Florida

I always read, or at least scan, Bates Magazine — eventually. But I looked at the fall issue when it arrived and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished the series on AIDS. Congratulations and thanks.

How stark and revealing is the contrast between the passionate commitment of those on the front lines of the epidemic and the coolly detached, it’s-an-interesting-job attitude of the laboratory researcher who says that strict competition for appropriately limited funds produces the best science, though slower progress than”some scientists would like” (emphasis added). There is no sense of urgency, plenty of time to play the game of science. But time to wait for a cure is precisely what those infected with HIV don’t have. Inadequate funding of treatment and research is killing them. They, not the scientists, are the ones to decide if progress is fast enough.

Kenneth G. Crosby ’49
Livingston, Texas

I am not prone to writing to editors, but I wish to commend you highly for devoting seventeen pages to subject of AIDS in the fall 1996 issue.

Beckie Bailey ’33
Bethel, Maine

In my opinion your magazine has joined the inchoate and still amorphous movement which could be called “modern left liberalism.” Your theme article on AIDS has all the attributes of this new liberalism: a major piece on a trendy illness, the use of bleeding-heart writing by an AIDS “victim,” the obvious sympathy for those engaged in same-sex relationships, the use of AIDS as a form of class warfare, the inability to comprehend that some AIDS “victims'” picked up the HIV due to dubious sexual practices or drug addiction, and the use of “in” language such as “an African-American person of transgender experience” and “a person of color.”

Perhaps someday your trendy magazine will deign to condescend to prepare a theme article on why some of us who live more conventional lives do not automatically subscribe to your brand of liberalism. Such an article, if there ever is one, will probably be highly critical of those of us who do not engage in free sex and/or use drugs, who try to keep our financial ships afloat, who pay taxes to finance those on welfare and who use governmental funds for treating AIDS, and who do not sign up for every `liberal’ cause which floats by.

How long has Bates been giving out condoms to students?

Fred Mansfield ’52
Champaign, Illinois

Kudos and congratulations to both the editorial staff and the contributing writers to the fall Bates Magazinefor their varied and thoughtful comments on the AIDS epidemic. The articles were both thought provoking and moving.

Thank you for picking this as a topic for the issue. Too many people do not realize the impact AIDS has on our lives.

Peter Kirk ’85
Windham, New Hampshire

Posture Photos
I always wondered why there was so little mention of the “posture pictures” at Bates (summer 1996 issue), especially after the “expose” by The New York Times Magazine in 1995. However, I didn’t expect the recent outcry to focus so strongly on the meekness with which we complied. Those were very different times.

I entered Bates in the fall of 1945. The war was barely over. The academic year could not start until October 5, when the last Navy V-12 unit completed its training. When we finally arrived, freshman week went by in a blur of dos and don’ts. first came the making of a bib, with our name and any other embellishment we wished. This was to be worn at all times and, for what seemed, an eternity. We were tested for placement before being assigned to classes. What anxiety! Of course there was no smoking and no drinking and one always had to sign out and in, observing the 9 p.m. deadline for freshmen. Slacks would not be worn in class unless so proclaimed by the dean of women.

Remember Betty Bates? I honored every bit of those regulations, even taking that cold shower early in the morning before trudging through the snow to the dining hall to set tables for breakfast. I was seventeen, had never been out of New England, was instilled with a true Yankee conscience, on scholarship, and waiting tables. As much as I dreaded the posture pictures, it was just one more requirement to fulfill — similar to the fingerprinting process in high school and the need to bare my leg to the principal to prove that I had my smallpox vaccination.

However, I was not aware that these photos were designed to recognize possible future problems. I am very happy for Caroline Buschmann Barnes ’51 and others who may have received help. How I wish that they had spotted my problems. I inherited very short arms and a back with four extra inches. As a maritime field biologist who worked on boats collecting specimens, I was the only female and determined to prove that I could do my share of the “bull work.” Nepotism ended that job, but, unknowingly, I continued to abuse my back for the next forty years. finally, a therapist, trained in the Feldenkreis techniques, identified my problem, taught me how to avoid added stress, and warned me that I was the opposite of every other back patient she had ever seen. Routine help for others with similar spinal arthritis just leaves me in spasms. (The up side is living in a great retirement home with lots of help, and time to do more rewarding things.”

Joanne Currier Daiber ’49
Cornwall, Pennsylvania

A Worthy Response
Professor Avi Chomsky’s piece on Cuba in the summer newsletter issue is so well presented to — shall I say — generally misinformed North Americans.

It fits in perfectly with what, to my amazement, President Clinton blurted out in the October 6 debate with Bob Dole.

In the complete transcript in the Washington Post on the next day, this is what I could hardly believe my ears on the radio: “Nobody in the world agrees with our policy on Cuba now….” That’s somewhat divergent from Jefferson’s phrase in the Declaration of Independence about the need “for a decent respect for the opinion of mankind”!

U.S. policy is fast becoming farcical after some thirty-seven years, a la Hegel’s famous observation that history repeats itself twice: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

William Worthy ’42
Washington, D.C.

Editor’s Note

During a panel discussion at a recent conference for college magazine editors, a development officer and a magazine editor — from the same institution — publicly berated each other. The issue? How their magazine covered the school’s recently completed fund-raising campaign. The development officer wanted more attention paid to campaign volunteers; the editor chose to focus instead on how the campaign impacted the institution.That’s an extreme example, but natural tensions often exist on campuses when it comes to coverage of fund raising. Development officers need a way to communicate the needs of the institution, to recognize the generosity of donors, and to support the work of volunteers. Meanwhile, editors want to offer candid coverage of on- and off-campus issues, events, and people; they want to avoid turning the college magazine into an infomercial.

This brings us to the recently concluded Bates Campaign, which raised a record $59.3 million in five years, the result of hard work by Bates volunteers and development staff and the unprecedented generosity of Bates donors.

That’s a fantastic achievement, and a story beginning on page 22 discusses the details. To give a bit of color and depth to the coverage, we offer a feature on a reluctant subject — physician and champion Bates fund-raiser Helen A. Papaioanou ’49, chair of the Bates Campaign.

Depending on your era, you’ve seen Helen Papaioanou’s name either hundreds or thousands of times in Bates publications. But though she loves her College dearly, she does not enjoy talking about herself, which is probably why you don’t know much about the challenges she faced during childhood, during her Bates experience, and in her medical career. Dean of the College Jim Carignan ’62 says she “combines a fierceness to implement her vision with a self-effacement you don’t normally see with that kind of person.”

Another profile, of surprise best-selling author Nicholas Basbanes ’65, came to us courtesy of a well-doneBoston Globe feature, and the third, written by Alana Watkins ’99, is an impossible-to-ignore story of the hottest athletic coach at Bates right now — Jim Murphy ’69 — who tried and failed twice before getting hired by his alma mater.

All three profiles share a thread familiar to Bates people — something about the “pluck that shall not fail.”

H. Jay Burns
Managing Editor