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Colgate’s decision; panhandling debated

Readers feedback 6.9.04 

SWASEY LIBRARY MUST BE SAVED

The Ambrose Swasey Library of the ColgateRochesterCrozerDivinitySchool is a treasure known to many in the Rochester Community. Unfortunately, it has not yet been discovered by many more. It's located at the chapel end of Strong Hall, the "castle" on the hill at 1100 South Goodman Street.

            I work at the "front desk" of the library as the circulation-interlibrary loan coordinator. I am often the first staff member people see when they enter, and the last to whom they speak when they leave. Several times daily I am witness to people finding books in the stacks that they marvel over, and hear praise for the library's skilled and dedicated staff. My advice to anyone who has "always thought about visiting": better do it now!

            On June 15, the board of trustees for CRCDS will vote on a contract to "merge" the Ambrose Swasey Library with the University of Rochester Libraries. The only thing that will prevent the removal of the entire bound journal collection and nearly 90 percent of the books will beif the trustees vote no to that contract.

            They would be acting against the recommendation of the administration, not a characteristic thing for them to do. Still, my hope is that they will not acquiesce, but challenge. They have an opportunity to champion the innovative plan put forth by students, a plan to obtain donations providing a library budget for a year. The plan would allow time to implement a forward-looking creative solution, to not only sustain the library in perpetuity, but allow it to flourish in the community.

            The administration's proposal forfeits the school's heritage by sending the 187-year-old collection to the campus of the University of Rochester. Because of statements made by the administration to the media, the merger has been portrayed from the beginning as inevitable, thus preventing any outcry against it from the larger community. Might not financial support have followed were the community given the option to step forward and help prevent this loss? There are precedents that show it can be done, and has been done.

            A "yes" vote to the contract will bring about major changes to the nature and mission of the Ambrose Swasey Library, resulting in insufficient staffing, a minimal collection, greatly reduced service, grave inconveniences for students, and increased cost to the community. The removal of the collection will be, on a practical level, irrevocable.

            It's apparent that the contract in its initial state will be very general, leaving the details to be worked out by the administration. The details will then be dictated by the budget, not based on functionality or need.

            A "no" vote would allow time to formulate an innovative solution to support the library's budget that would help to alleviate the fiscal crisis of the school. The crisis is very real and not to be underestimated, but the detrimental long-term effects of transferring the school's heritage to the UR campus are surely not justified by a $200,000 - $300,000 per-year cost savings. Although the administration views this merger as a measure that must be taken to save the school from its financial crisis, many students, faculty, staff and community members see it as a fatal blow.

            Dismantling the library of ColgateRochesterCrozerDivinitySchool and absorbing it into the University of Rochester, an institution with an entirely different culture and set of values, is ill advised. The reality of it being a virtually irreversible change is alarming.

            The administration touts increased enrollment as an important part of their five-year plan for a balanced budget. They will be competing for graduate students, expecting to attract them to a school whose "real" library is frustratingly difficult to access on an undergraduate campus two miles away. Many current students at CRCDS cite the Ambrose Swasey Library, its staff, and collections, as the very reason they chose this school, and some may leave because of the loss.

            I have been at Colgate for less than three years; I worked in the University of Rochester Libraries for over 20 years before I came to Colgate. My angst is not over losing my job, although it's a job I've loved and will never be sorry for accepting. It is for the sake of next year's students, the next decade's students, and the community members who have not yet visited this gem of a library that I must continue to raise my voice and beg for a more creative solution.

            My nature would not allow me to be silent even if by protesting I end the possibility of a future for myself at CRCDS. In the same way, if I am to stay, my nature dictates that I will continue to dedicate myself to providing the best possible quality service.

            It's not over till it's over; stay tuned.

            Evanna DiSalvo, ColgateRochesterCrozerDivinitySchool, Rochester


NOT THE SAME

"Book Drop" (May 19), on Colgate Rochester Divinity School's plan to merge its library with the University of Rochester's Rush Rhees Library, mentioned that Union Theological Seminary entered into a similar agreement with Columbia University.

            That is correct, with one big exception. The library at Union, one of the finest religious resources in the world, did not move! Columbia is operating the library, but the books remain in the same place they always have been. Students at CRDS will have to travel to have access to their library. In addition, the religion department of Columbia is moving to the Union campus.

            Both of these facts make for quite a different situation than that confronting CRDS.

            Bob Kaiser, Churchville (Kaiser is a Union Theological Seminary alumnus.)


BLEEDING HEARTS

It's hard to imagine an article that could highlight the problems in modern liberal thought better than Jennifer Weiss's "Will Work to Pay Fine" (May 26), which quotes critics of the city's new panhandling legislation.

            1) Everything is free speech: begging is "an important element of public discourse." News flash: A 6-foot-5, semi-deranged panhandler cornering a 5-foot-1 woman in an empty parking garage is not free speech, it's intimidation.

            2) More government spending will help panhandlers: we "need a true task force to study why people are begging for money" (stupid conservative's guess: they don't have any money) and "how to get people the help they need." Translation: more tax money is needed to help the poor.

            3) We're not giving enough to the poor: "public assistance is already a meager amount of money." Again, more tax money needed to help the poor.

            4) We need government-funded "free" enterprise: "create cooperative businesses" that "could be funded through grant money and supported by local neighborhood associations." Yet again, more of my tax money going to the poor.

            5) It has to do with the "rich": "The poor beg, the rich advertise." It has nothing to do with the rich; it has to do with panhandlers physically intimidating people. I've never seen an advertisement corner a person moving down the sidewalk.

            6) We are "criminalizing people for what they say," which is fundamentally un-American. City Council's legislation isn't criminalizing people for what they say; it's criminalizing people for what they do: blocking, following, and intimidating people they hope to get money from.

            7) And, as with anything bad in the world, it's Bush's fault: "keeping with the spirit of the Bush administration."

            I once heard that a liberal is a person who gives a dollar to the homeless person outside his building every morning, and complains that it is because of conservatives that there is a homeless person outside of his building.

            Being an enabler to panhandlers won't solve the problem; it will just create more panhandlers.

            Chris Fischer, Rochester

By passing the new "aggressive panhandling" legislation, Rochester has taken a step, for good or ill, toward addressing a number of social issues. But City Council has not heeded an age-old proverb: "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." When you have a long a way to go, you have to start somewhere.

            City Council --- and this country, for that matter --- has a long way to go on issues of homelessness, poverty, drug abuse, and mental illness, but no one knows the destination of that journey. Even though concerns are rising as the panhandling problem grows, Jennifer Weiss points out in her article that Governor Pataki is moving in the opposite direction by steadily cutting social-assistance programs and funding statewide. No one seems to know what we want to do with the poor, and in passing this legislation, City Council has taken a blind first step.

            Will this be the first step, or the only step? Legislators are notorious for not spending time pondering serious issues because it cuts into campaigning, fundraising, and placating constituents. So most often, they choose to act quickly and move on. At every level of government, once legislation is passed to address an issue (look at the Clean Air Act), it takes years, and several changes of the names on the roll, before legislative bodies are willing to reconsider serious social issues.

            Rochester's City Council is no exception. Council members were unwilling to pass Tim Mains' sunset amendment or to wait for more intensive studies into the causes of the panhandling epidemic, as Adam McFadden suggested. This "sweeping under the carpet" attitude allows Council to placate a vocal, influential minority for whom this is an issue.

            Sure, this legislation will generate some sort of change over the next year, but I do not see it having the trickle-down effect Councilman Brian Curran suggested. (Trickle-down economics is bad enough; trickle-down legislation is downright terrifying.)

            Enforcement will begin to wane as more pressing issues come before the police. And without further investigation, involvement, and strategy addressing the deep systemic causes of this problem, in 5, 10, 20 years we will face another panhandling epidemic, and another City Council will take a look at the issue and decide if there is need for a new law to replace the three that now exist.

            William Owen, East Avenue, Rochester


JUDGE'S ORDERS

I think you're missing a broader implication of the crack-mother ruling ("Born to a No-Parent Family," May 19). If judges can cite the cost to society of an unfit mother's having a baby, they might also deem it appropriate to say when a fit mother must carry her baby to term. In other words, if judges can rule who should not have children, might they also rule who should?

            "Sorry, miss, but you are a healthy female of child-bearing age, soon to graduate from college. We estimate your earning potential, and that of the fetus' biological father, to be sufficient to financially support bearing and raising said fetus to adulthood. Statistics have shown that the cost to society include not only the immediate cost of the abortion, but the additional cost of fertility treatments for the person trying years later, past the optimum biological point of fertility, to conceive. Your petition to abort your first conceptus is therefore denied in accordance with Federal Law XY, which requires two healthy offspring from a woman before allowing that woman any abortions."

            Send that one to the ACLU.

            Joe St. Martin, Penfield


STOP WHINING, START WINNING

When a nation enters into a war, the best laid battle plans are subject to unforeseen twists and turns requiring rapid accommodation and course corrections. And while we can hope and pray that the lessons learned will be as bloodless as possible, hard lessons are inevitable. The trick is to learn from them, recover quickly, and to continue to move forward. The truly successful commander is the one who is able to roll with the punches, minimize losses, deftly adjust the battle plan as needed, and to move steadily on toward victory.

            With regard to our battle plan in Iraq, when one adds nation building, the defeat of terrorism, acute cultural differences, and a highly charged stateside presidential election to the equation, is it any wonder that getting from point A to point B is anything but smooth?

            I remain impressed by the Bush administration's adept handling of this complex and difficult conflict --- an undertaking unlike any the civilized world has ever experienced.

            Wallowing in self-reproach, opportunistic and demoralizing political rhetoric, and sophomoric wishful thinking will render us defenseless against one of the most insidious and determined enemies in our nation's history. If we believe our enemy's murderous pronouncements, isn't it time for us all to place our political palaver on the back burner, and to throw our unswerving support behind our nation's war effort?

            For the sake of our children and loved ones, let's commit ourselves to winning and not whining.

            Jim Delaney, Images Way, Greece


WRITING TO CITY

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: themail@rochester-citynews.com or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester14607.

            Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than once every three months.

  • Colgate’s decision; panhandling debated

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