Letters for June 25 

Readers sound off on Tom Orloff, the Asian language cuts at Cal, Reginald Ray-Savage, the Mind Power Collective, and, yes, John Yoo.

"A Savage Dance," Culture Spy, 5/28

Show a Little Love to OSA

Thanks for the great article about Ray Savage's dance company. You did a great job of capturing the spirit of a man who is already an Oakland institution. However, I was surprised to read an article about him that made no mention of the amazing work he is doing as director of dance at OSA (Oakland School for the Arts). Considering that he's there five or six days a week mentoring and teaching, it is hard to believe that he didn't mention it to the writer and in fact after speaking to Ray myself he was equally as surprised it was left out. Is this another example of anti Jerry Brown-ism (OSA was and still is his baby) that seems to be so prevalent in the local press? Probably not, but I would encourage anyone to attend a performance by OSA students and witness for themselves the incredible work that Ray Savage (and others) is doing with middle schoolers and especially the high schoolers. I guarantee you will be moved to tears. This seems to me such a huge part of what Ray Savage is about that I'm perplexed by its omission and can only wonder if it was in any way deliberate.

Small rant coming up: As a parent of a teen who attends OSA I for one am tired of the negativity directed to the school. My sophomore daughter loves OSA dearly and Ray Savage is the reason pure and simple. Furthermore, talk to any of the kids about him and you will get the same response. So please show a little love to OSA. It's part of the new face of Oakland. Now all we have to do is wake Dellums up from his coma.

Stephen Duffy, Oakland

"Proposed Budget to Gut East-Asian Languages at Cal," News, 5/28

Cut Ethnic Studies Instead

The fact that 45 percent of the students are from East-Asian groups seems irrelevant to cutting these departments. I hardly think Chinese students are going to Berkeley to learn how to speak Chinese. They're more likely going for business, computer science, and engineering. The number one target on any cut list ought to be that intellectual wasteland known as "ethnic studies." The various programs in that department allow for the least rigorous forms of scholarship and writing you will find at Cal. I personally mentored a young student who shared her senior paper with me. I hit the alarm button, trying to tell her the writing needed major improvements before submission. She ignored my advice and submitted this simply awful paper. To my shock, she got an "A." I seriously doubt any other department that still respects academic rigor and quality needs would have given her anything above a "D."

Manuel DePiedra, Castro Valley

The Language Caste System

As a lecturer at UC Berkeley for seventeen years, teaching language and literature courses, I would like to correct a remark in Anna McCarthy's article on the cuts in East-Asian languages at Cal. "Many language lecturers at UC Berkeley are forced to become lecturers instead of tenured professors because they don't have Ph.Ds."

This is not quite the case. I have a Ph.D, as do quite a few other lecturers. Before the last three decades or so, people could be and were hired into tenure-track positions to teach languages and literatures. Since then, tenure-track faculty has ceased to teach languages, and language lecturers, with or without Ph.Ds, comprise another, distinctly disadvantaged class in the university. Lecturers are paid per course, rather than on a regular salaried basis. Three courses per semester equals "full time," but when departments need to cut their budgets, language courses are cut, because they can be, and lecturers' salaries plummet overnight from already meager levels. Lecturers enjoy no sabbaticals, few of the perks of regular faculty, and retirement benefits that are considerably less generous. Lecturers do occasionally voice dissatisfactions to their superiors, and invariably are told, "Well, you knew the system when you took the job — and no, it isn't fair, but there's nothing I can do about it." All true.

For years, I have kept a list of all the things I love about teaching at UC Berkeley; the wonderful students; colleagues I respect and like; the stimulating environment of a top university in which impressive scholars do outstanding work on important subjects. The list is lengthy, but the status of lecturers, whether in language or other subjects (a status which is little different at other universities, by the way), doesn't appear.

To give only one example of the general attitude toward lecturers at Cal, a friend (with Ph.D) who came as a visiting scholar to teach a literature class several years ago, and offered to teach a language class as well, was told by one of the tenured faculty members, "No, no — faculty members never teach languages. We have language lecturers to do that."

This fall, we will have fewer of them.

Susan F. Kepner, Kensington

"County's Top Cop Is a Scofflaw," Full Disclosure, 6/4

Do More Research

Mr. Gammon should do more research before he blasts the district attorney's office. People, like Ms. Backers' witnesses, who have problems with "Muster Magic" should have disclosed what they called the "Skirts" parties. That was where the women got together outside of the office and did not invite the men, giving them access to the female supervisors in the office. As for women being promoted because of this lawsuit, nothing could be further from the truth. Tom Orloff made it a goal to diversify this office from the moment he became district attorney. I should know. I am a female prosecutor in Alameda County who has been treated only with fairness by the man Mr. Gammon chooses to slander in his article. I am proud to be a member of this office. We dispense justice fairly and with great integrity. That is something the office strives for and it starts at the top — with Tom Orloff.

Joni Leventis, Oakland

I Expect More of the DA


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