Good for... Canada?
The Vermont Public Service Board is currently deciding whether a proposed international electricity transmission line and natural gas pipeline are for the public good [Off Message: "Protest Disrupts Pipeline Work," June 18]. The public good entails private sacrifice, such as rights-of-way for interstate highways and land clearance for flood-control reservoirs, both locally opposed before they were built.
Vermonters nowadays are considering the public good versus private sacrifice in development of electricity transmission lines, natural gas pipelines, solar farms and industrial wind turbines. All are proposed or owned by international corporations and governments, including Canadian-owned Green Mountain Power and Vermont Gas, majority-owned by gouvernement du Québec, sole owner of Hydro-Québec.
Vermont's energy future now is Canadian-owned. Whether this is for Vermonters' public good now is academic. The outcome is the western New England electricity corridor, floated by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Vermont Public Radio in September 2013, possibly paralleled by a natural-gas pipeline financed by electricity ratepayers — a scenario envisioned in a January 2014 Portland Press Herald article about New England governors' plan to cut power costs.
Pot Won't Pay
[Re: "Entrepreneurial Dream Team Sets Sights on Marijuana," April 15; Feedback: "Capitalizing on Cannabis," June 17]: Of the "multiple bottom lines" — social, economic, environmental and quality products — that have been advanced for legalizing marijuana in Vermont, none is convincing. Marijuana is a needless, mind- and behavior-altering drug.
Let's take the arguments one at a time. Legalization would:
"Increas[e] entrepreneurial opportunities." There are so many more constructive and positive ways of doing business. In addition, unless our neighbors legalize it, it would be a felony to export it out of Vermont. And lenders are reluctant — if not flat-out refusing — to finance or accept accounts tied to these "businesses."
"Creat[e] more jobs." Do we need more low-paying agricultural jobs that don't confer benefits and are likely to employ migrant labor? And how would these "jobs" qualify anyone for serious employment elsewhere?
"Provid[e] greater access to the medical and health benefits of cannabis." Buzzwords all. The only real knowledge we have so far is based on medical marijuana. As of now, the beneficial ingredient — cannabinol — occurs in such minute quantities in raw marijuana that smoking is not a recognized form of treatment. The feel-good aspect of smoking pot has no medical basis.
Guarantee purity. Colorado's state lab has found molds, dirt and dust in loose marijuana. The public cost alone of collecting and analyzing samples would be prohibitive and probably ineffective.
Foster a "thoughtful approach" to educating the young. In the case of marijuana, this is an oxymoron. All marijuana laws prohibit use by minors. But the young see their trusted adults using it, so where's the danger?Hopefully, as the warnings continue to mount, legalization will be revealed as of dubious value on every level.
In Defense of STEM
As a liberal arts graduate and current engineering graduate student, I have had the benefit of experiencing education in the humanities — and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, aka STEM. I have always agreed with the concept that our institutions of higher learning should offer a range of fields of study and not just those that are financially viable. Thus I am in agreement with the majority of Judith Levine's article [Poli Psy: "UVM: At What Cost STEM?" June 17]. But her sensational, oversimplistic conclusion detracted from the overall argument.
Are engineers and physicists who design renewable energy devising better ways to kill? Are artists who create war propaganda searching for alternatives to war? Levine's simplistic categorization of the STEM fields and humanities is not only intellectually offensive, it is personally offensive.
To make a sensational conclusion much in the same vein as the article: George W. Bush majored in history at Yale University, so, for democracy's sake, we should be wary of all history departments?
Levine's final paragraph implies that people with a humanitarian education are the only ones who can keep people with STEM degrees from running amok with unethical and possibly lethal technology development. I do not believe, and I doubt any research suggests, that humanities degrees naturally confer their pupils with superior moral attributes. In fact, the belief that one field is unquestionably the moral superior should be viewed as "a dangerous thing."
[Re: Poli Psy: "UVM: At What Cost STEM?" June 17]: In a university-wide essay two years ago, I noted: "Liberal education today integrates the great issues of the day with qualitative and quantitative analysis and reasoning ... It prepares our students for a life of understanding trends, uncertainties, ambiguities, cultures and complexities of the world."
Again last fall, I defended the value of liberal arts and humanities in another essay, writing that the "purpose of higher education should be to expose the student to thinking broadly and deeply about our collective knowledge and new discoveries while fostering critical and analytical thinking that connects intellectual curiosity and careful reflection."
I further observed this spring that education and research "of a qualitative nature plays an equally important role in our universities and at UVM."
UVM continues to invest significantly in liberal education and its values through the new Humanities Center; the newly acquired Taft School to house our Department of Art and Art History; and renovations this summer to Royall Tyler Theatre and the Music Recital Hall. When we complete the STEM facility in 2019, it will complement "a rich, qualitative appreciation of humanities, the arts and social services" on campus, as we noted at the groundbreaking in May.
Finally, UVM's new initiative-based budgeting model is the result of three years of campus-wide consultation — 286 meetings with 200 faculty, staff and students. In the end, it is about humanities scholars, artists, scientists, engineers and medical professionals working together to advance UVM's success as an institution of consequence where talent, learning and scholarly contributions flourish for the advancement of society.
Sullivan is president of the University of Vermont.