January 24, 2005

Mini Moneybags
David Amsden paints a disturbing but accurate picture of the New York teenager with money [“The Teenage Economy,” January 17]. Give your child a budget; if culture is important in the family, suggest that some money be set aside for tickets to plays or concerts or even an evening of hip-hop. If parents are giving allowance as a means to teach money management and budgeting, then using values-based priorities and sticking to them will help the process.
—Judith Stern Peck, Manhattan Director, Family Wealth and Family Life, Ackerman Institute for the Family

No matter their economic strata, parents who begin teaching their children—as early as kindergarten—the important truths about managing, saving, and budgeting their money, whether they have $5 or $300 to spend, will be instilling good financial sense that will last a lifetime.
—Diana L. Taylor, Manhattan Superintendent of Banks, State of New York

Of Victims and Culprits
Your January 17 cover [“Teens & Money”] features a young woman holding a credit card in one hand and pointing to the words “Jewish Problem” with the other. What a sad stereotype.
—Jason Fox, Brooklyn

Regarding Jennifer Senior’s “Columbia’s Own Middle East War” [January 17]: Let’s put this into perspective. Imagine a professor espousing the cause of the Ku Klux Klan in class, and asking a black student, “How many whites did you mug today?” He’d be thrown out in a second. Yet, when it comes to bullying Jewish students, “free speech” suddenly gives a green light to any abusive form of teaching.
—Larry Gevirtz, the Bronx

The controversy over Columbia Unbecoming does not surprise me. I found my professors at the university to be obsessed with attacking the U.S., its military, and anyone who disagreed with what a classmate of mine called the “anti-Establishment Establishment.” The arrogance and intolerance of my professors turned this kid from Co-op City into a Republican by my sophomore year.
—David Shimkin, ManhattanColumbia College ’93

As I read the article on Columbia University, I felt a strange sense of loyalty, then a surge of anger. As a former graduate student at Columbia, I can attest to the prevailing attitude of many professors (and some administrators) that if you don’t agree with them or conform to their version of what’s “right,” you are made to feel like some sort of outcast, or—worse—a conservative. The Ivy League is supposed to foster independent thinking, exploration, and leadership. It is unfortunate that a wonderful school like Columbia seems to have a substantial amount of people who have forgotten that.
—Jaime Herndon, Blackwood, N.J.

More upsetting than the article is its cover headline, “Columbia U’s Jewish Problem.” That, in addition to comments by professor Rashid Khalidi (“There’s no reason for a person who’s Jewish at Columbia to feel persecuted”), is turning this into a religious issue, which it isn’t—it’s an academic one. The problem here isn’t whether Jewish students feel comfortable on campus or even who is right or wrong in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s whether certain professors at Columbia have used, or rather abused, their position to promote their own one-sided, often hate-filled, political agenda and in doing so have intimidated the students they are charged with educating.
—Marc S. Arkovitz, Manhattan

The term you use in your cover headline, “Jewish Problem,” is reminiscent of “Final Solution.” A climate in which unilateral hatred is tolerated runs counter to the traditions and teachings of our great institutions of learning.
—Alan Sperber, Manhattan

Bright Eyes, Big City
I enjoyed your article on Conor Oberst’s migration from the “beautiful gloom” of Nebraska to the big city of New York [“The Culture Pages: New Kid on the Block,” by Paige Williams, January 17]. Nonetheless, you omitted any reference to his tour supporting the Kerry campaign with Bruce Springsteen, who released the ultimate “beautiful gloom” record, Nebraska.
—Larry Trenk, Rockaway, N.J.

The Maximalist
The photographic spread of Richard Avedon’s “space” [“The Interior World of Richard Avedon,” by Wendy Goodman, January 10] validates the notion that more, if properly used, is never de trop. His judicious juxtapositions did not detract from each item’s uniqueness. So often, New York apartments are shown shorn, bland, and chillingly sterile. Avedon’s was livable, with richness of taste and content.
—Joan Mary Macey, Binghamton, N.Y.

The Atonement
Boris Kachka’s article on Louis Auchincloss [“Books: Old School,” January 10] was an interesting reminder that one need not go to the Museum of Natural History and its dioramas to see extinct mammals. If Mr. Auchincloss does in fact suggest that warm thoughts about Martha Stewart signal a moral lapse, it is only because he is an immoralist parading as a moralist, which makes his position utterly reprehensible. The proper understanding of justice is no longer the biblical eye for an eye, nor a medieval sense of might makes right. Justice has become the enforcement of laws tempered by mercy, and our society holds that one is absolved of guilt through the acceptance of punishment. Martha is doing her time, and therefore anyone who celebrates justice should welcome her back. Was Mr. Auchincloss dozing off in his law-school classes during the Progressive era?
—Joan Traffas and Eric Berman, Memphis, Tenn.

Free the Coiffeur
I saw the December 20–27, 2004, cover [“It Happened This Year”]. Whoever is coloring Martha Stewart’s hair in the Big House is doing a far better job than the fellow who colors my wife’s at Neiman Marcus.
—Grant Kramon, Armonk, N.Y.

January 24, 2005