Letters to the Editor

Family Ties

First, I want to say a word about how much I am enjoying the magazine. The Spring 2008 issue with the Holocaust memories [“In the Face of Destruction”] was very personal because of the real Vanderbilt people involved. The story of Montgomery Bell [Southern Journal, “Best Laid Plans”] was fascinating. I am still reading the summer issue but was glad to see Ray Waddle’s article, “Chancellor Checkmates Bishops” [Collective Memory], about the famous trial. My father, Littell Rust (BA 1904, JD 1906), talked about it, but his details were not clear. I have always wanted to know.

How can I purchase a copy of Co. “Aytch”: First Tennessee Regiment or a Side Show of the Big Show, edited by Ruth Hill Fulton McAllister, including the recently found handwritten manuscript [Summer 2008 issue, The Mind’s Eye]? Sam Watkins became part of our family history when his daughter, Virginia (Jenny), married my grandmother’s brother.

Vanderbilt has always been dear to my heart.

Emmaline Rust Henry, BA’42
Carmel, Ind.

[Editor’s Note: Co. “Aytch” may be purchased at retail stores, or you may contact Providence House Publishers at 615/771-2020 or visit www.providencehouse.com.]

Plagiarism as Disempowerment

As a teacher of English as a second language (in Africa, the South Pacific and the Middle East), I read with interest the article by Michelle Miller Sulikowski, “Copy, Paste, Plagiarize” [Spring 2008 issue, VJournal]. It is especially encouraging that an instructor in a subject like chemistry is thinking about how to deal with a problem that is all too often perceived in universities to be the sole responsibility of language teachers. I am also interested to see that plagiarism appears to be just as much a problem for first-language users of English at Vanderbilt as it is for the ESL university students I teach.

There are two kinds of plagiarism: willful and unintentional. The first needs to be severely dealt with; penalties should be applied consistently and forcefully in some of the ways Sulikowski suggests. But students, especially freshmen, often are unaware of what plagiarism involves and why it is a serious infringement. Mastering a discipline involves not just acquiring knowledge and skills; it also entails a familiarity with how the subject is practiced and the conventions through which communication between scholars is conducted. These insights cannot be assumed. They have to be taught and learned.

Before we “police” plagiarism, then, we have a responsibility to make sure students understand, for example, when a source needs to be cited, what can and cannot be assumed as “general knowledge” in an academic field, the distinction between reporting and using information, etc. In the end, plagiarism is wrong because it is a kind of disempowerment. When students plagiarize, they are being used by rather than using their sources. Even freshmen are members of an academic community, albeit novices. And like all novices they need to learn appropriate behavior. But by beginning to see their written assignments and research essays as unique contributions—however humble—to an ongoing discourse among scholars in their field, they are likely to develop an intellectual self-respect that should equip them to resist what may initially appear to be the temptations of plagiarism.

James Moody, BA’61
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

Echoes of the Holocaust

Keep up the good work! There’s nothing like sitting down and reading—anything—whether it’s your magazine, a good book, whatever. Please don’t go electronic on us. And the story about the Holocaust survivors at Vanderbilt [Spring 2008 issue, “In the Face of Destruction”] struck quite a chord and was among the best stories I’ve read in the magazine.

Jody Collins Bronstein, BA’82
North Miami Beach, Fla.

I just had to write and tell you how much I enjoy the articles in Vanderbilt Magazine. It keeps getting better and better. I especially enjoyed “In the Face of Destruction” and reading about all that the refugees and survivors went through to get an education. Thanks for your tireless efforts.

Nancy Holt Garver, BA’56
Richmond, Va.

The Lawson Affair

Vanderbilt Magazine changed drastically for the better a few years ago when there was an article about a shameful event involving the expulsion of a seminary student [James Lawson] who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement in downtown Nashville [Fall 2002 issue, “Days of Thunder”]. The article held me spellbound, as did the other stories and all the issues since that time. Each one is a “keeper.” I share them with friends over and over.

Olwyn K. Carpenter, BA’48, MA’48
Suwanee, Ga.

Close, But No Cigar

The magazine has really improved over the years. It’s not yet the Atlantic Monthly, which is still my favorite, but some of the in-depth articles are right up there. Keep up the good work.

Scarlett Weakley Martin, BA’88, MBA’92

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