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Letters to the Editor


Published March 9, 2011 at 5:11 a.m.

St. Michael’s Responds

In his Blurt post about the suicide of a St. Michael’s College student, “Another Campus Death Raises Questions About the S-word Taboo” [February 28], author Ken Picard wrote, “And once again, another respected institution of higher learning in Vermont sidestepped an opportunity to speak frankly, publicly and without euphemism about a major public-health crisis plaguing this country: teen suicide.”

I disagree with Mr. Picard’s assertion that St. Michael’s sidestepped the opportunity. St. Michael’s explained to the media that a student took his own life, but did not use the word suicide immediately, at the request of the family. “Took his own life” is in fact exact and specific, and not at all a euphemism.

On February 22, six days after Jordan Porco’s death, the Rev. Brian Cummings, St. Michael’s director of campus ministry, gave the funeral liturgy for Jordan at St. James Church in Manchester, Conn. In one small part of his liturgy, Father Cummings said, “We may ask why Jordan took his own life and there will never be an answer that truly satisfies our questioning.”

Father Cummings said further, “There is no glory in taking one’s own life. What is only left are unanswered questions and grieving loved ones.”

The Sunday after students returned from President’s Day break, the Rev. David Theroux gave the homily at Mass in the Chapel at Saint Michael’s College. He said, “The tragedy of suicide is always that of someone who makes a very permanent decision about what is often a very temporary problem…”

In an email to the entire college community on February 28, dean of students Michael Samara wrote, “When suicide occurs, our lives can become unsettled and dominated by questions…” He then spelled out where and how students could get counseling or personal support and from whom, and he listed phone numbers. He closed with, “I urge you to continue to take good care of one another and call us immediately if you’re concerned about yourself or a friend.”

These public statements have been accompanied by comprehensive, dedicated outreach by counselors, professors and priests on this campus, working in small groups and with individuals to help grieving students. Sadly, ironically, extensive antisuicide counseling programs had been put into effect on this campus prior to Jordan’s death.

Picard might have written differently if he had, in fact, known of the clarity with which St. Michael’s College addresses the problem of suicide. As he pointed out, this is a very difficult problem.

Buff Lindau


Lindau is director of marketing and communications at St. Michael’s College.

Comic Relief

Just read [Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: “What’s the Story Behind the Ice Dicks?” February 16]. Saw it on my daughter’s Facebook site — hilarious article!! Well written and entertaining. Thanks for the laughs!

Jane Collins

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Organic vs. Organics

Granted, this is a very complicated issue, but I found the title of your March 2 article, “Should Bioplastics Be Banned From Organic Compost Heaps?” to be misleading. This isn’t about the National Organic Program’s composting rules, or even about what’s compostable. It’s about CSWD’s proposed ban on loads of 100 percent compostable material called polylactic acid. PLA is a natural substance made solely from plants and is designed to have a life cycle, not a life ending in a landfill. The proposed ban is regressive because it jeopardizes green programs in many schools, restaurants, hospitals (FAHC is a national leader in “green” hospitals) and earth-minded cafés. I oppose this ban because I feel strongly that anything that can be composted should be composted.

The reason for the ban is CSWD’s decision to make only certified organic compost. The problem is that there is no alternative facility that will take the banned material. All the local composters are similarly single streamed and organic certified. But unlike CSWD, it isn’t their mission to reduce waste. This community needs a composter of organics first, a producer of certified organic compost second. The good news is that both are achievable.

With all due respect to CSWD staff and management, the solution lies in a dual-processing stream with two recipes. As a community with progressive values, we shouldn’t take “I can’t” for an answer. If you make compost wisely and with love, it’ll be top quality, with or without the organic label. So make both, wisely, and with love.

Holly Rae Taylor


Grandma Likes Mardi Gras

[Re: “Is the Mardi Gras Parade Too Rowdy for Burlington?” February 16]: I have attended one or two of the previous celebrations, but with my kids and grandkids, not as a college student. We had a wonderful time, survived the cold and really appreciated the efforts of the “float” folks to make it a fun event!

Please explain how funds reach the Women’s Rape Crisis Center from this event. We paid nothing to attend, bought nothing with explanatory signage. Did we miss an opportunity to do a good deed? Were the leprechauns watching out for us?

Connie Carpenter


Editor’s response: Burlington’s Mardi Gras raises about $30,000 for the Women’s Rape Crisis Center. About one-third comes from bead sales; the rest, from a combination of float fees and fundraisers by local businesses. In February, Northfield Savings Bank donated $5 to the WRCC for everyone who “liked” the bank on Facebook. Artist Jim Pollack, who does artwork for Phish, created a print that sold for $40 apiece, with all proceeds going to WRCC.

Why Guest Workers?

Thanks for your investigation of the labor practices of award-winning Vermont restaurateur Fuad Ndibalema [“Why Four Peruvian ‘Workers’ Couldn’t Wait to Leave Vermont,” February 2]. True, some of the blame accrues to American Work Experience of Greenwich, Conn., which is obviously profiting from a federal immigration loophole. But Ndibalema has been caught with his hand in the guest-worker cookie jar. Anyone who cares about our 20,000 unemployed Vermonters should ask, why does Ndibalema need to import guest workers? If he can’t find local workers for $8.15 an hour, all he needs to do is offer higher pay and perhaps charge his customers a bit more.

For an analysis of why federal guest-worker programs are so often abused, look up the Southern Poverty Law Center on the Internet and download its report “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States.” These programs need to be reduced and ended, and employers who routinely violate labor laws should go to jail.

David Stoll


Stoll is a professor of anthropology at Middlebury College.

Winning Treatment

What a delight it was to read Pamela Polston’s perceptive article “Jock Doctrine” [February 16] about an art exhibit presently on view at the Middlebury College Museum of Art. As the author observes, art and athletics are not words usually associated with each other. But if it is that combination of words that grabs our attention, it is the complex social issues that lurk beneath the surface of the male athletic universe that give this exhibit staying power. And Polston does a great job of reminding readers that male athletes are not the one-dimensional beings to which some aspects of American society reduces them.  

Seven Days readers are fortunate that Polston is around to help us grasp difficult subjects and do so in a way that is thoughtful and engaging.

Richard Saunders


Saunders is director of the Middlebury College Museum of Art.

Taxing Problem

Judith Levine’s “Poli Psy” of February 2 is right on the money. I believe in the “Raise My Taxes” campaign. By the way, I’m a retiree with Social Security and a partial educator’s pension for me and my wife. To support our Vermont community, we need to pay for it.

If Gov. Shumlin and the legislature will not raise taxes, I have a proposal: Those of us who want to support state government should be able to make an “earmarked” contribution to state agencies of our choice. Should an agency receive more than the state budget allotment, the agency should keep the money, for that would be a show of support for the agency.

Dave Rosen


Watch Your Language

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot: I’m curious whether Seven Days writer Ken Picard or president of Norwich University’s Applied Research Institute Phil Susman invoked the “war games” metaphor with regard to NUARI’s efforts to “protect” Wall Street from cyber crimes [“Norwich University Runs Cyber ‘War Games’ Exercises With U.S. Financial Markets,” February 23]? My question seems logical given Seven Days’ penchant for using military rhetoric whenever it reports about Norwich University.

Regardless of whether it was Picard or Susmann, let me assure you of the distance (like at any university) between what happens in the classroom and the institution’s posture to market itself. For instance, in the English classroom in which I teach, whether it’s through Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est” or Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, students engage with the serious plane upon which war takes place. Killing humans is killing humans in all of its totality. There’s no denial and, hopefully, as the instructor, I’ve raised the gravity of such confrontation. I am a teacher who has seen two of my former students killed in Iraq. I am the daughter of a World War II disabled American veteran who during my entire life suffered with a 100 percent VA rating of combat fatigue, now called by the acronym PTSD. 

As a professor of English, I must insist, regardless to whom, that war is war and cyber crime on Wall Street is cyber crime on Wall Street. The two are not the same. Mind your use of the language.

Patricia J. Ferreira


Ferreira is an associate professor of English at Norwich University.

Global Worming

Mayor Kiss wants Burlington to work with the “Carbon War Room” to solve the problem of global warming [“Up in Arms,” February 9]. Richard Branson, the billionaire who thought it up, made his money with Virgin Airlines, but his most intriguing venture is space tourism. Branson is developing rockets that can fly tourists up into orbit, at an estimated cost of $200,000 per traveler. He hopes to have hundreds of thousand of customers. A space-shuttle flight uses about 11.5 million pounds of fuel. Maybe Branson’s spaceships will use less, but even a couple of million pounds of fuel times a hundred thousand trips is a lot of energy. So this is what Branson is up to: millionaires in space who can look down on us as we unplug cellphone chargers and change lightbulbs, vainly hoping to offset the energy being squandered as the “visionary” Branson gets even richer.

The Lockheed Martin product most familiar to those living near the Burlington airport is the F-16 fighter planes that we hear taking off with a deafening roar. These burn about 120,000 pounds of fuel per hour. The mayor uses the expression “beating swords into plowshares,” but nobody is going to beat fighter planes into hybrid cars and windmills. Branson and Lockheed Martin will continue making huge profits by contributing massively to the problem of global warming, and they want to toss a tiny portion of those profits to us so we will thank them as benefactors. Are we really that gullible?

Peter Lackowski


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