Current Issue


Borderlands story

As the father of one your alums and one who greatly appreciates both your wonderful institution and your quest for real life as represented by the hands-on Mexican border experience [“Brownsville or Bust,” summer 2005], let me correct your facts and inferences regarding maquiladoras. I am a principal owner and managing director of the U.S. company making most of those novelty glow necklaces and light-sticks you see around. We manufacture them — over 50 million items per year — in Matamoros, Mexico, in our maquiladora factory just the other side of Brownsville (the same Brownsville as in “Brownsville or Bust”). By the way, before I go on, let me say that your class is most welcome to put this on their itinerary for a visit — we would be happy to have you tour. Now for some info: Our factory meets or exceeds U.S. standards for safety, hygiene and anything you can think of. It is a healthy, immaculate environment. The wages we pay line workers average about $19 per day (not $5 to $6 per day as your article suggests). Supervisors get about $30 per day, and office worker salaries are about 35 percent of their U.S. equivalents. These include fringe benefits and payroll taxes. In Mexico, fringe benefits include many things U.S. employees must pay for themselves, such as retirement benefits, union dues, health and welfare. In addition, our company pays overtime religiously, has U.S.-style paid vacations, provides work clothes, picks up the bill for parties and special events and has a resident doctor in the factory. There is an employee cafeteria, and every inch of the facility is air-conditioned. Please understand that the maquiladora culture is one of the bright spots for the Mexican workers and their families. It is anything but the sweatshop environment suggested in your article. Maquiladoras are our continent’s bulwark, to the extent we have one, against real abuses of cheap and child labor elsewhere. I praise your program and the daring of the professors and students who participate. There is no substitute for hands and eyes on, but let’s get at least this one issue right.

Stan Holland
Managing Director, ROG division of Omniglow Corp.
Novato, Calif.

Branding challenge

I read in your magazine [DU Welcome, summer 2005] that good ol’ DU remains identity-challenged after all these years and has “appointed 10 teams of faculty and staff ” to help with some “branding” so that we can speak with “an intelligible voice” and find an identity “clear only when all of us accept ownership.” I do not know what all that means, but I do know the cause of the consternation: DU’s unfortunate, eternal (and unnecessary) envy of its prestige-y, snooty and wealthy eastern counterparts with their hoity-toity institutional images. Image schmimmage. Truth be told, DU hasn’t had an image since “Tramway Tech,” which, let’s face it, was a pretty good handle: catchy, appropriate, workable and still fondly remembered after all these years. I respectfully suggest that we simply re-brand as Tramway Tech and let those 10 teams of faculty and staff get on with what they’re supposed to be doing. Stop trying to dress up DU — history shows us that it won’t work — and just let it do what it does best: teaching.

Clark Secrest, BA ’59
Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Binge drinking

I was taken aback by the binge-drinking article [“The Binge Drinking Battle,” spring 2005]. The way this issue is being handled is backwards, to say the least. As one who attended San Diego State University’s Graduate Department of Public Health with an emphasis in behavioral psychology and who applied the scientific method to human behavior, it is apparent that the appropriate contingencies are not being considered or put in place in order to address the problem. May I suggest: 1) There is to be NO alcohol in frats/sororities, no matter if all residents are over the legal drinking age. Any infraction equals a one-semester dismissal with no refund of fees. 2) Anyone who is over the age of 21 who gives alcohol to or purchases it for someone underage is dismissed from the University. 3) There should be an instituted “three strikes” policy for infractions other than those named above. This would include such actions as mandatory alcohol classes. 4) Peers make the biggest impression. Institute a public health unit at the Student Health Center that trains peers to do in-class presentations, frat and sorority presentations and promote fun, on-campus events that don’t include alcohol. This tactic has been used in universities throughout the nation and has proven effective in decreasing drinking. I encourage DU to look at utilizing well-established public health models that are currently employed at many other universities across the nation.

Barbara DaBoll, MA ’77
La Crescenta, Calif.

General Casey

I wanted you to know how very much I enjoyed your kind words and Larry Getlen’s wonderful article about my son, George Casey [“Our Man in Iraq,” spring 2005]. Recently I was privileged to hear a splendid lecture by international studies Prof. Jonathan Adelman — the best in all the years we have belonged to the World Affairs Council. I am so grateful that George was able to receive his graduate degree from DU under the guidance and tutelage indicative of your high caliber faculty. I know the lessons he learned at DU have been very beneficial for his mission in Iraq.

Elaine Casey Murphy
Colorado Springs, Colo.

In response to your editorial [“From the editor,” spring 2005] touting Condoleezza Rice and Gen. George Casey as alumni who have achieved “the pinnacles of their fields,” does it matter what one is achieving or how damaging it is, or does it only matter that a person arrives at the pinnacle of their success? In the same issue of the magazine, Chancellor Ritchie stated, “Of everything our students learn here, ethics and integrity matter most.” The statement that you made that their “achievement reflects favorably on us all” is questionable. The United States’ imperialistic foreign policy and the war in Iraq violate all standards of ethics and morality. By your standard, Hitler arrived at the pinnacle of his success as well as Stalin, Pinochet and so on. Would you laud them if they were alumni?

Elizabeth Berg Aley, BA ’45
Paonia, Colo.

In memory

I was saddened to read of Prof. Thomas Whitby’s death [“In memoriam,” summer 2004]. I took more than one class with him. Mr. Whitby was a great teacher with wide and human vision. I recall his patience and care for foreign students, who faced language and cultural adoption problems. He urged them to socialize themselves to American culture and people and sometimes attended their gatherings. He believed in dialogue and cooperation between civilizations — not clashes. I will not forget his sense of humor, which he employed to convey his ideas to students. He joked about himself and his permanent problem of misspelling certain English words. During one party he brought a dog, which he called “Librarian” because it was too curious about everything. My study in the United States was one of my best experiences.

Saleh Abdullatif, MA ’77
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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