Letters to the Editor

Readers write about the similarities and differences between hateful words and hateful actions, the lower tuition rate needed for study abroad programs, older PeaceCorps and AmeriCorps volunteers, and the life span of free parking.

Are hateful words and hateful actions similar?

In response to Jonathan Zimmerman's Sept. 27 Opinion piece, "Hateful speech isn't hateful action," Mr. Zimmerman is correct.

There is a vast difference between hateful words and hateful actions, and, in a democratic society, the former should be allowed to be voiced, especially in an academic forum. Twentieth-century history, however, has taught us how fragile the membrane is between hateful words and deeds. It takes true wisdom to know when that boundary is at the verge of being breached. Hate needs to be handled carefully and wisely.

Seymour Kessler
Berkeley, Calif.

Regarding Zimmerman's Sept. 27 Opinion piece: Although I agree with the principle of free speech, that right can be curtailed under certain circumstances, such as the making of a direct threat.

Not all acts of direct aggression are physical. For example, if one of my co-workers began making direct verbal threats against me, that would clearly be unacceptable; it would be an act of aggression and would constitute harassment.

The noose in the tree probably constituted, to the black students anyway, a direct threat, something like, "Watch out or this could happen to you." Although nonverbal, the symbolism of lynching is too obvious to miss, especially in a Southern town that might possibly have had a few lynchings in its own past. It's true that it's unsportsmanlike for six kids to gang up on one, so, yes, everyone should be punished. But the gravity of the act of hanging a noose should not be downplayed.

Rebecca Firestone
San Francisco

Lower tuition for study abroad

In response to the Sept. 27 article, "Schools scrutinize and promote study abroad": There is nothing noble or generous about a private American university "enabling" its students to study abroad for the same costs as they pay to study in the United States. In fact, private colleges and their intermediaries must make out like bandits when they charge their home tuition fees to send students abroad, since their obscene base-fee rates of $40,000-plus far exceed the fees levied upon foreign students by almost any foreign university program. So forgive my cynicism when I view this "commitment" on the part of these universities as just another example of the greed that has pervaded so many of our institutions of higher learning.

Sadly, the whole study-abroad issue is just one more example of the haves gaining even more advantages just by virtue of their deep pockets, while the have-nots and the in-betweens struggle to keep from falling further behind as they accumulate ever more debt to pay for the same opportunities.

So much for higher education leveling the playing field.

Sarah Schinis
Ansonia, Conn.

Older volunteers in Peace Corps

Regarding the Sept. 19 article, "Peace Corps recruits older volunteers": My spouse and I recently returned from 27 months in Ukraine with the Peace Corps. We had such a great time, we decided to extend the adventure and signed up for AmeriCorps/VISTA here in the US! We are both well into our 50s, and though we spoke of taking the Peace Corps plunge much earlier in our lives, we both agree that our skills and work experience, coupled with the joys of a full, rich life and parenthood, enhanced the entire Peace Corps adventure.

Thank you for publishing this wonderful article and reminding your readers that they can and should participate in life!

Virginia J. Pulver
Santa Fe, N.M.

Free parking is here to stay

In response to the Sept. 24 article, "He tallies hidden costs of free parking – one space at a time": The efforts of professors trying to count America's parking spaces appear desperate.

The real quest, of course, is to convince the soccer mom that life should be less convenient at Safeway. Despite the decades-long efforts of activists to demonize the automobile, they haven't succeeded in restoring their "romantic city," complete with street-car-supporting density and forgotten poverty and pollution. Therefore, the next planning fashion appears to be the vilification of free parking. Inconveniently, nearly everyone likes free parking.

The parking-space counting exercise is a logical step that follows Donald Shoup's claim that parking is wildly subsidized. Yet the conclusions from the "parking guru" are unconvincing because of his unreasonable estimates of external social costs, which he compares to the cost of Medicare and national defense. In addition, Prof. Shoup ignores that the cost of free parking at the store is paid indirectly by customers. Without being hassled by a parking attendant, the driver pays the market rate in a nonintrusive way.

If professors are teaching that exorbitant parking fees will make people take bicycles to Home Depot, perhaps they should first take a drive and see the real world that others live in.

Gregory Cohen
Washington

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

Mail letters to Readers Write and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to OpEd.

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