The Unfair Sex

In Nat Hentoff's November 14 column about Columbia's Sexual Misconduct Policy ["Columbia University's Star Chamber"], he printed a repugnant quotation attributing to the group Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) the assertion that women are "fragile" in nature. The quotation—although it was printed inaccurately—was taken from a New York Post op-ed article by Jaime Sneider, a Columbia student not associated with SAFER.

As it appeared in Hentoff's column, the quotation from Sneider reads: "The campaign for the policy has been spearheaded by Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER), who claim that 'the fragile and sensitive nature of rape cases and women demand a nonadversarial approach.' " The statement in Sneider's article reads: "The campaign for the policy has been spearheaded by Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER). This fashionable group claims that the fragile and sensitive nature of rape cases and women demand 'a nonadversarial approach.' "

Despite the fact that the quotation is mangled in Hentoff's column, the statement in both versions presents the argument that women are "fragile" and thus need nonadversarial disciplinary options in cases of sexual assault. These words were never stated to Mr. Sneider by any representative of SAFER, and in no way constitute any part of SAFER's position on Columbia's policy. The policy was not enacted to help "fragile" women, but rather to empower victims of sexual assault to seek help, whereas under the previous policy they were in many cases unable to find it. SAFER's position is clearly outlined on our Web site at www.columbia.edu/cu/safer/backlash.

It should be noted that no material from either the extensive interviews I had with Mr. Hentoff or from the thick packet of written materials SAFER transmitted to him made it into his column. Instead, Mr. Hentoff printed an inaccurate quotation that suited his perception of campus sexual assault activists—a misconstruing of facts generally representative of the recent criticism of Columbia's policy.

Sarah Richardson
Students Active For Ending Rape
Columbia University

Nat Hentoff replies: The fragile and sensitive nature of anyone's defense against serious charges that may endure throughout that person's life demands basic fairness, which is not in Columbia's policy. This is detailed by Columbia law professor Vivian Berger in my column in this issue. The material Richardson sent me was thoroughly read and helped me clarify SAFER's indefensible but deeply felt position.

Redneck Logic

The Florida voting debacle, with conflicting rules that permit hand counting of ballots but don't allow sufficient time to count them, reminds me of a statement made by a slick Southern politician in the Orval Faubus tradition: "Y'all can vote on these ballots, but there's nothing that says we have to turn the lights on!"

Michael J. Gorman

Sax Discrimination

Thanks for printing Lara Pellegrinelli's article on sexist hiring practices by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra ["Dig Boy Dig," November 14]. Sadly, it is not the only jazz organization that excludes female musicians. Among others, the Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, and Woody Herman big bands were all closed to women.

The fact that Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, did not recognize the names of female jazz musicians in the current scene does not surprise me. There seems to be a media blackout on bands led by female horn players, bass players, and drummers. Only the "appropriate" female positions get press (e.g., conductors, composers, pianists, violinists). After touring internationally and leading groups locally for the past 15 years, I have noticed that I get much more press in Europe and elsewhere outside of the United States. What's up with that? Many times when I perform in this country, with Burning Spear, Maxi Priest, and my own group, Liquid Horn, people approach me and say they've never seen or heard of a female sax player before.

Maybe the reason Wynton Marsalis doesn't seem to know of many female jazz musicians is because we don't get much press. The Village Voice might help remedy this situation by featuring more female instrumentalists in reviews.

Jenny Hill

Depressed Clips

Cynthia Cotts, in Press Clips ["Take a Shill Pill," November 14], includes Paxil on a list of pharmaceuticals that she asserts are "not used to treat life-threatening conditions." This is inaccurate. Paxil is an antidepressant, used to treat clinical depression, which is a life-threatening condition. Clinical depression is an illness—one which increases the sufferer's risk of suicide to 20 times that of the general population. At least one person in five with clinical depression will attempt suicide.

Besides this deadly risk, there is increasing evidence that untreated clinical depression takes a mortal toll on health generally. Rates of heart disease are at least 40 percent higher for those with untreated depression. The risk of stroke escalates. Certain cancers may be far more common among those who are depressed. The emerging findings continue to implicate clinical depression in many deadly health problems. In addition, more than 50 percent of persons who have depressive illnesses abuse substances during some time in their lives, probably in an effort to "self-medicate" their symptoms.

Antidepressants such as Paxil are not "lifestyle" drugs for frivolous displeasures but life-saving drugs, which are used for serious disorders.

Amy C. Russell
National Foundation for Depressive Illnesses

Cynthia Cotts replies: For some depressives, Paxil is a lifesaver. However, SmithKline Beecham also markets the drug as the only FDA-approved treatment for "social anxiety disorder." This is a serious condition. But according to Michelle Cottle ("Selling Shyness," The New Republic, August 2, 1999), social anxiety disorder is a heavily promoted "hot diagnosis" that may not be as widespread or worthy of steep Paxil prices as its makers would have us believe.

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