Tired of passing (off)

I hope Aina Hunter's "Busted for Blackness at Middlebury" [June 1-7] causes an outrage. People should know that this "guilty-till-proven-innocent" BS isn't just happening at Gitmo; American citizens whose ancestors have fought in every war since the (so-called) "civil" one are still being treated like this. This is only a more obvious case like many that happen every day in which educated black folks trying to make their lives better are halted by a pervasive distrust, mainly of their skin color. I know this because I too am black. And I'm tired of trying to pass off similar kinds of shady shit as anything other than pure and pugnacious racism.

A.J. Peters
Des Moines, Iowa

Starbucks and (record) hutch

Re Andy Gensler's "One More Cup of CD for the Road" [June 1-7]:

Starbucks brews shitty coffee, but I don't really see how the chain's moving mega units of lukewarm-ish "lifestyle" music is going to put the whomp on electro-acoustic geeknoise or Brazilian disco or the latest Conor Oberst love-slave confessions to arrive on the shelves of some downtown hipster record hutch. I love p.c. hysteria as much as the next Voice reader, but this froth is weaker than a double decaf latte. Isn't there a war on?

Steve Dollar
Park Slope

Coffee and chichi

While most of Gensler's article is interesting, I sense a streak of classism when he calls baristas "higher-paid fast-food workers" who would have no chance of being able to describe what a band sounds like. Many of us (sadly enough) are college graduates, and in my store, we're pretty engaged in the music we're hearing and selling. I attribute the general lack of knowledge about the albums to a lack of training, not a mental capacity incapable of understanding and describing the music.

C.J. McCormack

Shill stick with Starbucks

The Starbucks cover story is one prolonged whine. The music store business model has been in meltdown for years; Starbucks' outmaneuvering record shop owners by releasing music is just one step toward its dissolution. Also, Gensler states that Starbucks employees are little more than fast-food workers, while grudgingly conceding that they have access to 401(k) and other benefits.

Although I have wanted to patronize the neighboring mom-and-pop coffee shop—the kind of underdog place sentimentalized by Gensler—it is unfortunately not very clean and the employees seem clueless. I am not a shill for Starbucks, but I see nothing wrong with the company's offering CDs along with coffee.

Caroline Ely

Suspension, not expulsion

If Aina Hunter's story "Busted for Blackness at Middlebury" [June 1-7] were an accurate report of what actually transpired here, it would indeed be cause for concern. But it is not an accurate reflection of the conduct involved, the penalty imposed, or the nature of the process that resulted in the imposition of a penalty.

Middlebury College did not summarily expel a student on the basis of race: Two separate panels composed of college faculty and fellow students found the student in question responsible, after extended hearings, for an offense that they deemed serious enough to warrant a temporary suspension from the college. The student subsequently pursued legal action against the college in an effort to void that suspension and graduate this year, but the Addison, Vermont, Superior Court denied that request for immediate relief. The college's suspension is not permanent. Middlebury will welcome the student back if he completes the terms of the discipline imposed for the offense in question.

It is indeed unfortunate that Hunter failed to include comments from college officials that would have provided some balance to a very one-sided, distorted account of what happened. Instead, she chose to listen only to the suspended student's lawyer's claims of racial bias. The student in question was brought to Middlebury through the Posse Foundation, given a full scholarship by Middlebury, and offered special academic and social support as a student identified by Posse as an outstanding candidate for success. It is absurd to suggest that Middlebury College would expel such a student on the basis of nothing more than race. Unfortunately, it appears that Hunter did not want to hear or include in her story anything that would undermine the inflammatory theme she apparently had in mind for her article.

Timothy Spears
Dean, Middlebury College
Middlebury, Vermont

Aina Hunter replies: In my lengthy phone conversation with Mr. Spears, he conceded that Walker was suspended indefinitely for allegedly crashing on the floor of another kid's room—and nothing more. Although Mr. Spears was not party to the judicial hearings, he said he had faith that there was strong enough evidence presented to warrant this action. None of Middlebury's evidence subsequently presented in Superior Court would seem to warrant his good faith.

False pride

As one of O'Neil Walker's lawyers (my son Nolan is one of his best friends), I want to say that Hunter's article is a great first step in exposing an incredible problem that exists on most New England private-college campuses. These privileged white kids believe that they are hip and liberal but have never been exposed to the urban black population. When they arrive they have an incredibly difficult time accepting the African American community. They take great pride (as do the colleges) in the fact that there is "diversity" on campus but that's usually as far as it goes. It's time that these bastions of the privileged elite take major proactive steps to integrate these minority students into the college community.

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