Higher education's crisis is exaggeratedJoseph T. Durham...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Higher education's crisis is exaggerated

Joseph T. Durham painted an alarming picture of higher education in his Dec. 27 op-ed article. He said campus crime was being hushed up, institutions were secretly investing in (or taking money from) corporations that produced anti-social products and students were dropping out in alarming numbers.

Unfortunately, the picture is misleading, out-of-date and simplistic. Dr. Durham, who is a former president of the Community College of Baltimore and thus should have a better grasp of the issues and problems of post-secondary education, does a great disservice to institutions, students and the state.

He asserted that most institutions are silent about crime on or near campus. That is not true. Since 1992, all colleges have been required by federal law to compile annual statistics on campus crime and provide the information to students and employees.

Referring to the recent tragic killing of a Morgan State University student near the campus, Dr. Durham declares that once every ten days someone is killed near or on a college campus. But the same is probably true about most major hospitals and many churches with large congregations -- for the simple reason that many big churches and big hospitals, like colleges, tend to be located in cities where crime rates are higher.

In examining campus crime reports, the Chronicle of Higher Education pointed out that "most studies of campus crime show that colleges are safer than the communities around them," a fact overlooked by Dr. Durham, who seems intent on frightening students and their families.

He points to the furor over investments in South Africa stocks and student protests over colleges investing in companies that harmed the environment. Student activism, Dr. Durham says, resulted in changed investment policies once university boards realized that students had no intention of ending their protests until more socially responsible investment policies were adopted.

But then the professor crosses the line between fact and innuendo, asking -- in effect -- what other wrongs are being committed by trustees and regents. "How many institutions still hold stock in major tobacco firms?" he writes. Who is investing in companies that sell alcoholic beverages? Who is accepting money for scholarships?

Those are legitimate questions that Dr. Durham should pursue if he feels strongly enough about the issues, but it is unfair to tar all of higher education by implying that trustees and regents are still pouring money into unacceptable investments, especially when information about the investments of public institutions is available for the asking under Maryland's public information law.

Students drop out of college for many reasons. As a professor of education at Morgan State University and a former college president, Dr. Durham surely must know that many students drop out of college because they graduated from high school ill-equipped for college, because they cannot afford college or simply because they decide they do not want to continue. It is unfair to lay the blame entirely at the feet of higher education.

As for graduation rates among college athletes, he has not kept up with current events. The National Collegiate Athletic Association reported last year that graduation rates among athletes at Division I schools have increased steadily since the NCAA set higher admissions standards for athletes.

It all comes down to a simple question: is the glass half-full or half-empty? Dr. Durham contemplates certain aspects of higher education and concludes that the glass is half-empty. Mistakenly, he sees a public crisis of confidence.

The facts are otherwise. In truth, the glass is half-full and the level is rising.

!Patricia S. Florestano

Annapolis

The writer is Maryland's secretary of higher education.

Why Golf Corp. is good for Baltimore city

I was there at the beginning of the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp. In 1984 I was internal consultant at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. Chris Delaporte had just become Baltimore's director of parks and recreation.

One of his first actions was to require an accounting of the revenue and costs associated with each activity under his direction.

Among other things he learned that even without "overhead," the city was losing more than $500,000 a year on its five golf courses. He took the news to Mayor William Donald Schaefer.

The mayor was quoted as saying, "City taxpayers should not be subsidizing golfers." After touring the deteriorating courses and being told of the falling play, he asked Bernard Trueschler, then chairman of BGE, to look into the problem and advise him.

Mr. Trueschler formed a blue ribbon committee of local executives to develop an answer for the mayor. I was on that committee and wrote its report.

The primary recommendation was to create a not-for-profit corporation to take over the golf course operation. That was made because the courses needed to be separated from the city so they could be run like a business.

When the report was approved by Mr. Trueschler, he took it to the mayor. After the mayor approved the plan, Bernie told me to "take care of it."

Shortly thereafter, Bernie and the mayor chose the new corporation's board. They agreed on Henry Miller, a "take-no-crap" vice president at BGE, as chairman. At that time I knew very little of Henry. I was to get to know him very well.

While he and I did not always agree, there could not have been a better choice for the new company. Henry was, and is, tough enough to do the job.

As I learned while working through the takeover, there are lots of opportunities for minor corruption while running a golf course and years of inattentiveness had allowed a lot of rot to get into the system.

A great portion of the financial success of BMGC is due to Henry's character. He would not allow anyone to steal from the company.

The original lease between BMGC and the city called for no "rent." That is hardly surprising based on the widespread expectation that the courses, even under the best of management, would have to run at a loss.

The city entered into the lease hoping for the very benefits that it has derived:

A. It no longer loses more than $500,000 a year on the golf operation.

B. It no longer has to deal with corruption within the golf operation.

C. The courses and facilities, instead of deteriorating, have been put in outstanding condition.

D. Play at the courses has increased dramatically, making the city operation one of the best, if not the best, in the country.

Forgetting for the moment the legal requirements of the lease and the obligation owed by the city to BMGC, Henry, Bernie, Mayor Schaefer and Chris Delaporte, could the city take over the operation and do as well? Not a chance:

1. The isolation of the golf courses as a separate entity significantly improves the ability of management to monitor its operation. The company's numbers would be too small within the city budget to justify the attention it requires.

2. As a city activity, the courses would again become a part of the "one hand washes the other" mentality of government.

How about operation by an outside golf management company? Not a chance.

When BMGC was being formed, American Golf sent me a proposal. They would take over the golf operation and give us half the profits; but all capital improvement would come out of our half. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that any profits would have been siphoned off to California.

Instead of fighting with Henry Miller, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke should be sending him "Attaboys."

Instead of opposing the expansion of the golf operation to a second course at Pine Ridge, the mayor should be supporting it.

An incredible amount of money has been spent to bring professional football back to Baltimore, but the day-to-day benefit of first-rate public golf probably means more to the city than professional football ever will. Moreover, it doesn't cost hundreds of millions dollars, either.

Instead of killing this small golden goose for the eggs he believes are inside, the mayor should try petting and feeding it. It might grow up and deliver still bigger and better eggs.

Joseph A. Schulz

St. Joseph, Mich.

Misleading data on state budget

Recently we have heard of the one-tenth of 1 percent increase in Maryland's fiscal 1997 budget. Only $14 million, so the governor says, the smallest increase in 45 years.

We heard it from the governor in his State of the State message, from the media, his cabinet secretaries and even chairpersons of important committees. Boy, what a great job he has done on us.

Last April, the Maryland legislature approved a total budget of $14.428 billion, which included $250 million for the Rainy Day Fund. Therefore, it really approved spending of $14.178 billion.

The governor has proposed a budget of $14.698 billion for 1997, including only $27 million for the Rainy Day Fund, or net spending of $14.671 billion.

What's the increase? Subtract 1996 spending, $14.178, from 1997 spending, $14.671. If my math is correct, the spending has increased by $493 million, or 3.47 percent. Not one-tenth of 1 percent.

ohn D. O'Neill

Towson

The writer is president of the Maryland Taxpayers Association.

U.S. keeps spending more than it earns

Gerald Ben Shargel (letter, Jan. 27) should realize that Congress is trying to get a balanced budget by the end of the next seven years.

He confuses that with reducing the deficit, which has not been part of what the present Congress is trying to do.

It will be another seven years (at least) of increases to the national debt. So Mr. Shargel's concern about another depression due to any past historical pattern is not pertinent to a balanced budget.

Let's pray that we do not have something worse than a depression (such as a default by the government on debt payment) due to our sick propensity to continually spending much more than we earn as a nation.

Paul M. Schaefer

Catonsville

HMOs taking care of stockholders

In a Jan. 23 column, "Congratulations, Mom! Here's the door," Robert N. Sheff, president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland HMOs, says "to ignore the fact that society has reached a point of limited resources in the delivery of health-care services is denying the very heart of the situation."

One may question whether it is a matter of limited resources or of diverted resources -- diverted to the pockets of stockholders and CEOs.

Mary O. Styrt

Baltimore

Kids shoveled plenty after the big snow

This is in response to the letter "Teens could have been shoveling," by Sue Tustin. She asks, "Where was the sound of your kids and their boundless energy?" I have one answer. Shoveling!

They shoveled every day of the blizzard. I live in Catonsville Manor, where my son and his friends and many other teenagers were out shoveling from the minute the snow stopped and practically every day after. Elderly residents called our homeowners association president to get help from our teenagers, and they were glad to offer it .

I don't think it's right for Ms. Tustin or anybody else to generalize about teenagers. Not all parents were complaining about their kids being bored.

I suggest Ms. Tustin get to know her teenaged neighbors and call on them the next time it snows or, if she has a homeowners association, ask its members for help.

I would like to thank all the kids in our area who got out there and shoveled, paid or unpaid.

onnie Baligush

Catonsville

Probe not worth what we're paying

We, the taxpayers, are paying $20 million to investigate what Hillary Clinton did 11 or so years ago. My goodness!

I want my money returned.

Elaine Layden

Baltimore

Segregation on City Council

Let me see if I understand what's going on in the City Council of Baltimore. According to what I read in The Sun, the 10 black council members held a "black-only" retreat, excluding the eight white councilpersons.

If my mathematics is correct, those present at this retreat constituted a majority and legislation could be passed.

Why is it that, under certain conditions, segregation is desired and should not be questioned, but in other situations should be considered illegal and the wrath of the NAACP and other organizations is released in full force?

Is there any question in anyone's mind what the reaction would be if the white councilpersons had planned a "white-only" retreat? If race relations are going to improve in Baltimore, the council had better clean up its act and start setting an example.

Actions such as "black-only" retreats, even if only at the local level, accomplish absolutely nothing and set back race relations many years.

M. Fritz

Ocean City

Make inspector live in rental home

What a shameful disgrace that Baltimore permitted a known slum landlord to continue as superintendent of inspections for the Department of Housing and Community Development.

The final irony to this travesty should be the immediate termination of Henry John "Jack" Reed III and his being sentenced to live in the deluxe accommodations of one of his own rental properties.

nne T. Freeman

Baltimore

The supply of doctors and American health

I read with interest the Jan. 28 article, "Should foreign-trained physicians be limited in working in the U.S.?"

The medical school deans at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland would have one believe that the doubling of the number of doctors in the United States in the last quarter-century and the subsequent projected surplus of physicians by the year 2000 is due solely to an influx of foreign medical school graduates.

Both are adamant that nothing should be done to decrease the output of physicians from American medical schools.

In fact, in response to a perceived "doctor shortage," from 1965 to 1975 the number of freshman medical students entering American medical schools dramatically increased from 10,000 in to 16,000 by 1975.

This was achieved by increasing class size in the existing 82 U.S. medical schools.

Most interestingly, the additional 6,000 physicians produced each year, multiplied by 20 years, equals 120,000 physicians, almost exactly the number of surplus physicians (100,000 to 125,000) predicted to be in practice in the United States by the year 2000.

The solution to the coming crisis of surplus physicians in the United States is both obvious and gut-wrenching.

Either we follow the recommendations of the 1995 Pew Health Professions Commission report and "reduce the number of graduate medical training positions to the number of U.S. medical school graduates plus 10 percent" and "by 2005 reduce the size of the entering medical school class in the U.S. by 20-25 percent," or we will see a lot of newly minted American medical school graduates $100,000 in debt and driving cabs or waiting on tables.

Leon Reinstein, M.D.

Baltimore

Thanks to our system of superb training, those foreign or international medical graduates (IMGs), who are presumably "not at the same level as those in the United States" (Catherine DeAngelis, The Sun, Jan. 28) are nevertheless trained to deliver excellent health care, to the extent that it even poses a serious competition for our home-grown physicians.

Dr. Neal Vanselow, on behalf of the Institute of Medicine, stated that this "decreases the opportunity for talented young persons from this country to enter the medical profession. . ." (The Sun, Jan. 24).

In a free society with a free market economy such as ours, it seems that the quality of the product or service dictates eventual success.

How can the IMGs, considered inferior by some, pose any competition to "talented," supposedly superior persons? Should these "talented" physicians who lose out even to the "inferior" IMGs, take care of our health?

Unless there are hidden agendas, if the goals of the physicians, the politicians and the Institute of Medicine are the same -- that is to provide the very best in health care -- why curb the open and free competition?

Our citizens deserve, and usually demand and obtain the best, be it domestic or imported. May the finest physicians serve them.

(Abulkalam M. Shamsuddin, M.D.

Baltimore

The writer is professor of pathology at the University of Maryland School of Maryland.

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