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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

USM extends perks to more instructors

The Sun's article about employment benefits for full-time, nontenure-track contractual faculty members at the University System of Maryland (USM) institutions failed to mention some major points ("Perks denied to USM staff," Dec. 17).

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Employees in the category discussed in the article are, by state policy, not eligible to participate in state benefit programs. Nonetheless, six months ago, the USM began exploring how the system could make nonstate-sponsored health care benefits available to these individuals.

As a result of these efforts, most of the 1,700 faculty members in this category (who represent less than one-third of the 5,300 full-time instructional faculty members employed at USM institutions) are now eligible to receive health insurance benefits.

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Of these 1,700, only 47 - less than 3 percent - do not currently have the option to receive such benefits, and those employees will become eligible for them in the near future.

Additionally, a few months ago, the USM began exploring the idea of offering retirement benefits to full-time contractual faculty members who are not eligible to receive these benefits through the state.

Providing retirement plans to such faculty members is a complex question. They do not fall into one simple category across the system. And many are transient, working at USM institutions for no more than a semester or a year.

However, in close consultation with the institutions, the system office is looking into what Maryland state law permits, analyzing options and is on track to make formal recommendations by Spring 2007.

One final, but critical point: The article's subheading, "University lecturers in Md. System get no health, other benefits," is incorrect since the vast majority of these full-time contractual faculty members are eligible to receive health benefits.

William E. Kirwan

Adelphi

The writer is chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

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Low-paid lecturers carry heavy burden

I read with deep personal interest The Sun's article about the lack of benefits for contractual employees at colleges in the University System of Maryland ("Perks denied to USM staff," Dec. 17).

The article did not mention Morgan State University, where I work. But the conditions there are much the same as those The Sun reported at Towson University, Coppin State University and Salisbury University.

Lecturers at all these universities often bear the largest burdens among faculty members, teaching increasing number of underprepared students, in larger and larger gateway classes, without the security of health or retirement benefits.

This year, I had 40 students enrolled in each of my three developmental writing courses.

Not only is it agonizing to be unable to give so many struggling students the attention they need, it is discouraging not to feel support from the administrators and state government officials, who have not recognized - academically or financially - the service we try our best, against increasing, almost impossible odds, to provide.

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Sarah Gearhart

Baltimore

The writer is a lecturer in English at Morgan State University.

Overpaid coaches, underpaid teachers

Reporter Gadi Dechter's article about the compensation of well-educated lecturers is another sign of our society's mixed-up value system ("Perks denied to USM staff," Dec. 17).

The lecturers are training their students to think, question and solve problems while other university employees, who are teaching young adults how to run, throw and catch are grossly overpaid.

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That's a sad state of affairs.

James Hawkins

Berlin

War deaths soon to surpass 9/11 toll

We are rapidly approaching the grim instant when the number of Americans killed in Iraq at President Bush's behest will equal, then exceed, the 2,973 American citizens killed by Osama bin Laden's terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.

What grim arithmetic.

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As Mr. Bush cold-shoulders the Iraq Study Group and the message of the recent election, and contemplates grinding up even more U.S. troops in Iraq, to what distant drummer is our president marching?

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

Ravens don't belong atop the front page

I have had it. On Monday and Tuesday, the most prominent news on The Sun's front page was about the Ravens. And on Tuesday, huge black letters announced - not the death of a famous person or how many young Americans have died in this war or a tally of the Iraqis killed - but "CLINCHED!" about a Ravens divisional title.

Does The Sun not have an entire sports section for such announcements?

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Maybe the paper should have an entire section devoted just to what is happening in the world - for instance articles such as "Gunmen kidnap Iraq aid workers" (Dec. 18), which appeared on page 13 or "Ex-minister escapes Green Zone prison," (Dec. 19, page 18).

Are we getting blind to the fact that people are dying and that so many young people will not be home for the sweetest of holidays - let alone have a chance to sit in the stands and cheer on a sports team?

Many of the people in my family love football, soccer and baseball, so I am not being a Grinch when it comes to cheering on our teams.

I just want to see the news first, and then go to the sports section.

Am I asking too much?

Joan Cantori

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Baltimore

Is racism the reason for focus on brawl?

While watching all the hoopla (pun intended) about the latest pro basketball brawl, I began to wonder if there is perhaps a double standard concerning NBA players and others in the sports arena ("NBA counterpunch: Anthony suspended 15 games," Dec. 19).

There is no defense for any of the bad behavior in sports; however, baseball and football players occasionally fight and in hockey such behavior seems to be the norm.

Yet there is no great wringing of hands concerning the fighting in any of those sports, unlike in the NBA.

Is it possible that some fans and members of the media think of most black NBA players as temporarily reformed thugs from the inner city - and wait to see if the players can overcome what those people think of as their tendencies to revert to thuggery - while the same is not expected of players in other sports, no matter their race or background?

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Sports fans should consider the possibility the next time their favorite team enlivens an infield with punches, or teeth fly through the air in the NHL.

Jack Thomas

Baltimore

Insulting dog lovers wasn't funny at all

In his column "A pack of dog lovers is snapping at my heels" (Dec. 14), Kevin Cowherd referred to dog lovers as "dog nuts," "nutty dog owners" and "pet nuts" at least six times.

He is obviously clueless as to why dog lovers do what they do for their dogs and I won't waste space trying to inform him.

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But if he thought his column was funny, it wasn't.

Mary Sue Rubin

Lutherville


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