Congo needs to make it on its own

I enjoyed reading your articles on the Congo ("The calm in the eye of Congo," May 7, and "Who needs Madonna when you got Lingala?" May 9). They point to two different aspects about the Congo.

At the cultural and traditional level, the music stars of Congo seem to be well-connected with the people and their supporters. They don't need Madonna as long as the electrifying Lingala music is there.

Not so with the politicians. President Joseph Kabila and his predecessors have always been detached from the "masses" in this former Belgian colony. They have always depended on foreign forces to run their country with the attendant disruptions. Democracy will come as a gift to the Congolese people when conditions are ripe - so we are told. But President Kabila must understand that democracy is a process, not an end product.

Alexactus T. Kaure Yonkers, N.Y.

'Antidrug misfire' is right on target

Thank you for astutely noting the inherent flaws of the new Higher Education Act of 1999 ("An antidrug misfire," May 7 editorial). It denies student loans to those who have any kind of drug conviction on their record, even simple marijuana possession.

At Florida State University in Tallahassee, student activists inform us that marijuana arrests by campus police dropped from over 1,200 during the 1999-2000 school year, to a grand total of 11 so far this academic year.

This is creating more than idle speculation that FSU regents are asking police to deemphasize drug law enforcement. Such a move could be deemed prudent in order to preserve federal loans that would be lost due to arresting more than 100 students monthly on simple charges. Once again it would seem there is far more brain power at your average university than in Washington.

Stephen Heath Clearwater, Fla. Drug Policy Forum of Florida

Getting to the source of cheating

In her May 17 opinion piece, "When students cheat, don't blame the Internet," Debra Bruno implicitly excuses behavior students learn before they arrive at college. Large, impersonal college classes are part of the problem, but cheating starts earlier than freshman year, and unfortunately reflects a culture that offers no shame for cheating, dishonesty, and fraud.

I usually teach 70-person sections, and I pride myself on knowing student names and a bit of their background. Knowing the student does not prevent cheating when the behavior already exists. Unfortunately, I have had to deal with cheaters and others expecting me to only slap them on the wrist. Standards and expectations regarding honor codes and plagiarism must be clearly stated and then enforced. Blaming a system of depersonalized relationships is not the answer. Pointing to personal accountability is.

Darren Purcell Tallahassee, Fla. Florida State University

Give a little bit of paint away

In her April 24 column "Drowning by quarts," April Austin despairs of a satisfactory way to dispose of small amounts of paint left over from her efforts to find the right color for her walls.

I suggest she offer this surplus to a local theater group; 3/4 of a quart of paint might just cover an area on a stage set. Community theaters often depend for survival upon donations of material goods, money, and labor. If they're lucky enough to have storage space (perhaps donated, as well), they can gratefully accept items that are no longer useful "in the real world."

Trudy Niederbrach Jonesboro, Ariz.

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