Honors Commons a fair reward for students who participate in rigorous study

To the Daily:

I am disgusted that the Daily would write the editorial, Coffee talk (03/07/03), against the opening of the new Honors Commons. It is about time this University rewarded and praised academic excellence! Honors students (who represent roughly the top tenth percentile of the school) face tougher academic requirements, such as maintaining a minimum 3.2 grade point average to stay in the program and a more intense workload. Each semester, they must take a minimum of two Honors classes, which entails not only extra but more challenging work. In the last year of the program, they must compose a lengthy Honors thesis to graduate with honors.

As an Honors student, all of my papers are graded harder and I am assigned more thought-provoking work. Even with these greater expectations, I love the Honors Program because my professors lead discussion sessions rather than GSIs and I have the opportunity to meet visiting scholars from all over the country each month. It is a learning community within this large university that is not isolated but incorporated into the University’s programs. We are not secluded students who associate only with ourselves. Rather, Honors students are some of the most active, who are able to balance schoolwork with chapter meetings, political rallies and theater rehearsal.

If the Daily is so upset about Honors students receiving a study room to use, then I expect to see the Daily argue against the use of a special dining room that serves better food for football players or an Olympic-size swimming pool for the swim team that is not open to other students. What the University has done is reward those who are exceptional in their field. Get over it.

Yasmin Naghash

LSA freshman

Editorial reveals a complete misunderstanding of Honors Commons’s purposes

To the Daily:

We write as two members of the LSA Committee whose proposals led to the creation of the Perlman Honors Commons, which the Daily criticized in a March 7 editorial (Coffee talk, 03/07/03). We would like to correct several misunderstandings.

First, however, we want to respond to the editorial’s implicit charge of elitism. The Honors Program is one of several “learning communities” that “make a large university small” and enrich the University overall. Its special mission is to provide an especially intensive intellectual experience to LSA undergraduates who are ready, willing and able to take advantage of it. Elitism in the pejorative sense, we believe, is leaving the most demanding liberal arts education to wealthy private institutions.

The Perlman Honors Commons is not a student “lounge.” The space includes four alcoves in which Honors faculty can meet office hours with their students. It is located next to seminar rooms so that Honors faculty and students can continue conversations interrupted by the end of class. It will be the site of a series of regularly-scheduled discussions and other intellectual and cultural events, such as a “philosophy cafe.” And, we hope, it will encourage the serendipitous conversation between students and faculty, and among students themselves, that can significantly deepen the Honors experience. It is not, therefore, a cushy perk: an “uppity measur(e) reminiscent of Princeton’s eating clubs.” It is rather a place where faculty and students can pursue the activities that can make the Honors Program more of an intellectual and cultural community.

Although other learning communities like the Residential College and Lloyd Hall Scholars Program have dedicated common spaces, the Honors Program has had none. When the Daily asserts that “only a small group of students will be able to take advantage of this facility,” it may not realize that the Honors Program includes some 1,800 students. We believe that LSA and the University as a whole are enriched by a strong Honors Program, and we are very grateful to Rick and Judy Perlman for making the Perlman Honors Commons possible.

Gwen Arnold

LSA senior

Stephen Darwall

University professor of philosophy

Unconditional support of war in Iraq ‘dangerous,’ war ill-advised, too risky

To the Daily:

It has been suggested in letters to this publication that we should not object to the actions of the U.S. government regarding Iraq. First, as a citizen in a democracy, I consider this sentiment and the sentiment that we must unconditionally support our troops in the event of war to be dangerous to the democratic process.

War is a terrible thing, and should not be entered into without exploring all other options. A war in Iraq could lead to thousands of civilian casualties, mass hunger, a refugee crisis, attacks on the Kurdish people from Turkey or even further wars in the region.

But the problem is much wider than Iraq. As French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin noted last Friday, the world remains preoccupied with the dangers of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, North Korea, and Kashmir. These problems will continue to plague the world after Iraq even as others will emerge.

By pursuing its aggressive policy towards Iraq, the Bush administration has deeply divided the UN Security Council, the NATO alliance, and the rest of the international community. As the United States pushes for a vote on a resolution that would quickly lead to war, we risk turning a disagreement over Iraq into a new divide in international politics. The United States appears to be willing, even eager, to face a lawless world, devoid of effective multilateral institutions, where U.S. military prowess is the solution to every problem. Such a world is not even in our own interests. I applaud France and other nations for courageously confronting this very real threat.

Eric Moberg

LSA sophomore

SAFE shows true colors by inviting controversial scholar Finkelstein to ‘U’

To the Daily:

I am disgusted and disheartened at the temerity of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality leaders (‘Negative reaction’ to Finkelstein, SAFE distorts words, facts, 03/07/03). Not only have they unapologetically brought the leader of Islamic Jihad in America (Sami Al-Arian), to campus, but now they are bringing Norman Finkelstein to our campus. Norman Finkelstein has praised Hezbollah and he has said about the Holocaust that “If everyone who claims to be a survivor is one, who did Hitler kill?” He also has said, “I sometimes think that American Jewry ‘discovering’ the Nazi Holocaust was worse than its having been forgotten.”

Does this sound like a serious Holocaust scholar to you? Furthermore, it is ludicrous for Eric Reichenberger and Ashraf Zahr to declare that “perhaps the greatest living authority on the Holocaust, Raul Hilberg, has repeatedly praised the Holocaust industry.” Who are Reichenberger and Zahr to be declaring who is a Holocaust scholar? Once again, with the arrival of Finkelstein on campus, SAFE has exposed itself as a radical hate group whose agenda is merely to hate Jews, whether they are living today or perished 60 years ago in the Holocaust.

David Wolkinson

Law student

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