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Letters to the Editor (4/20/16) 

He's a Hero

I am writing to voice my opinion about Tom Murphy's battle against bullying ["The Good Fight," March 30]. It's wonderful that he is willing to help with such a big problem in America. Some people may feel that he is merely doing this for publicity or money, but I believe that is far from the case. Murphy visited students at Williston Middle School and openly admitted to all the children that he "hates fighting." He's a very big role model to many kids, and his words are very influential. That he is willing to help find a resolution to such an enormous issue makes him a hero in my eyes.

Tara Ouimette


Counting Teachers

[Re "Dean's Wish List," March 30]: In your article about Dr. William Falls, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Vermont, I was quoted in my role as president of United Academics saying that there has been a 12 percent decrease in the number of part-time faculty teaching this year and a 30 percent reduction in the number of credits taught by part-time faculty. The article then states: "[UVM Provost David] Rosowsky disagrees with the United Academics numbers on reductions in part-time faculty."

This is confounding. United Academics arrived at its numbers by simply counting the number of part-time faculty teaching each semester, summing the number of credits they teach, and calculating an average between the fall and spring academic semesters. (Under the university's so-called incentive-based budgeting model, there are built-in incentives to hire fewer part-time faculty in the fall than in the spring.) The data we used are compiled by UVM itself and transmitted to the union each semester as required by the collective bargaining agreement we have negotiated together.  

We look forward to working with Provost Rosowsky and other members of the UVM administration to ensure that part-time lecturers continue to make their contributions to the university — and to ensure that students continue to have access to the often specialized and unique courses these colleagues teach.

Thank you for your interest in these issues.

Felicia Kornbluh


Kornbluh is a UVM professor and president of the executive council of United Academics, the decision-making body of the UVM faculty union.

For the Birds

[Re "Not Your Grandpa's Birding," April 13]: I'm excited about a new generation of birders — I'm a 34-year-old one — but I'm disappointed that your article doesn't recognize elders and ancestors. My favorite birding friend is twice my age, and we inspire each other to learn more through our trips and stories. As far as ancestors, don't we owe a thing or two to people like John James Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson and countless others who transmitted their love of the avian world so that we could have a leg up on our own wondrous journeys?

Technology was pumped up a great deal in the article, but there was no mention of ethical use. In the world of new apps, for example, there's a whole new generation of birders who don't know that playing audio files of birdsong from their iPhones can cause birds a great deal of stress. I would like to encourage new birders to consult the American Birding Association's code of ethics.

For me, birding's significance isn't about growing the "life list" of birds I've seen; it's about connections — intergenerational and interspecies. Young and old should approach this practice with deep respect and reverence.

Barry Wyman


Discriminating Against Mormons?

The article "Wealthy Mormon Buys Up Vermont Land for Massive Settlement" [April 5] is troubling, not because of the plan of "wealthy Mormon" David Hall (an American citizen with deep Vermont roots) to buy central Vermont property, but because of the reactionary response to it.

Seven Days reporter Alicia Freese ominously refers to Hall's "under-the-radar acquisitions" of land, law professor John Echeverria describes Hall's plan as "uniquely worrying," and state Rep. Sarah Buxton frets that "no one is in charge of monitoring land purchases to identify these types of trends." Their concerns reveal totalitarian and bigoted tendencies.

Vermont already has restrictive land-use laws. These xenophobes now want to control not only how private property is used but who can own it. They want to bar Mormons, at least wealthy ones, and presumably people of other unapproved faiths, from legally buying property in Vermont. Sounds unconstitutional.

If the same anxiety were expressed about just about any other religious, racial or ethnic minority, there would be a justifiable outcry. What is there to worry about with Mormons? Stereotypes, even positive ones, can be dangerous, but based on my admittedly limited personal experience, Mormons are successful and productive citizens. A quick web search produces several articles on the successes Mormons have achieved. The only genuine worry is that they might vote the town dry.

As Vermont's recent history shows, with the 1960s to 1970s left-wing invasion and takeover of the state, local cultures can change quickly. Isn't change what progressivism is all about?

Sheldon M. Katz

South Burlington

Don't Sensationalize Springfield

Hannah Palmer Egan did a complete job of describing the details, benefits and challenges of raising animals as a business ["Pigs of a Feather," March 30]. However, her introductory paragraph was absolutely unnecessary! Did she have to open her story with such a dismal description — a cheap shot of a town, among many Vermont towns, that has had its challenges? We live, work and volunteer in this community, and our children went to school here. Is the story about rusted buildings and suicide? Should one open a story about Burlington with a reference to police shootings, to "junkies" walking past the lovely shops with their pants falling down? Thefts on Church Street? Of course not. Life is complicated enough! Stick to your subject, don't sensationalize and don't disparage our community.

Diane Kemble


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