LETTER OF THE WEEK
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.
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?
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.
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 shopthe kind of underdog place sentimentalized by Genslerit 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.
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.
Dean, Middlebury College
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 roomand 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.
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.
Hunter apparently saw fit to represent the Middlebury student body with one quotation: "This place is apathetic as shit." The same person who supplied that quote, Nolan Weltchek, also supplied the accompanying photograph, and his father supplied another quote. Questioning the way Hunter presents what happened is not a red herring. Racism (clearly the charge implied) should be treated seriously, and as 2003 graduate and a concerned citizen, I'm hurt by Hunter's portrayal of the college on more than one level. I can only disagree with Mr. Weltchek's assessment. I have one voice, as does he; I wish Hunter had sought more.
Also, Hunter's description of the accuser as "athletic-looking, blond" is confusing and disturbing. What do you mean by athletic looking? Are athletes racist? Are blonds racist? With an article titled "Busted for Blackness," I do not think I am reading too much into the intent. The left-of-center viewpoint of the Voice is important; I think that believing poor journalism to be a useful way to advance a serious cause is a mistake.
As a student at Middlebury, I was surprised that Hunter didn't mention the honor code. Our community is based upon trust, honesty, and individual integrity. For example, students are not policed during exams or in residential life. However, when the community finds that an individual does not fulfill the spirit of the honor code, there is little leniency. To many who do not have an understanding of the honor code, it may seem that the judicial board acted in an inequitably severe manner. I am sure the committee used the same standards for Mr. Walker as it did for any other student.
Peter Cooper Village
Then he was a she (or was he?)
Re Michael Musto's mention of Lucky Cheng's hottie Codie Ravioli's sex change operation [La Dolce Musto, June 1-7]: I was at Boy Bar (now an F-ing condo) that night, my God, like 12 years ago, when Codie Ravioli, fresh from a supposed sex change operation, debuted her new chocha quite persuasively, if not all that imaginatively, with a performance of "I Am Woman." So, um, if, as Musto reported, she's still raising money to pay for a sex change operation, well, whose pussy was she wearing that night at Boy Bar?
Upper East Side
Michael Musto replies: I'm not so sure Codie was flaunting an actual sex change back then. In 1992, I reviewed a performance where Codie "unzipped her pants to show either an operation or a tucked penis (only her hairdresser knows for sure)."
The photo on page 44 of last week's paper was not of Aliada. The correct photo appears on our online edition.
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