FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Giving vegans a bad name: I agree with your comment in "Diet From Hell" (Ray Stern, May 10) that, maybe, a worse problem in the United States than starving your children is feeding them nearly to death.
You see a lot more odiously fat kids at the mall than you do painfully skinny ones.
Obviously, Blair and Kimu Parker went too far with their veganism thus, giving that kind of diet a bad name but there's nothing wrong with sane people cutting out meat and milk products from their and their children's diets. Any doctor will tell you that those who avoid such food are healthier. The problem with the Parkers was that they limited the quantities of food their children consumed, right?
The reason I mention this is that I can already hear the "supersize me" crowd bellowing: "See, I knew all along that it was better to eat like we do than to eat like those sissy veg-heads! Large fries all around!"
Liz Dawson, Phoenix
Acting like children: I am offended by the responses ("Critic's Critics," Letters, May 3) to a valid review by Robrt L. Pela ("Crashed Diet!, April 26), and feel I must write in defense of critical opinion.
Having known a few theater critics in my time, I have found that, by and large, they are a rather self-important group and hardly need my help in pointing out the usefulness of their chosen vocation. That being said, as one of the poor schmucks who actually paid for her ticket to see Diet! The Musical, I feel that my ticket price entitles me to give an opinion, and give it I will.
I completely agree with Mr. Pela: Diet! The Musical is, well, crap! That is my opinion, not a value-judgment on the people involved in the production as human beings.
To those at North Valley Playhouse and to "professionals" everywhere, I say: Not everyone will love your work. Not everyone will think your child is exceptional. And, yes, sometimes those pants do make your butt look big.
One of the qualities that marks a professional is the ability to take criticism, and take it with good grace. If you cannot do this, you are in the wrong business. Ladies and gentlemen, the theater is a school of hard knocks; it is not a school that subscribes to the Montessori method. You don't get a gold star for just showing up.
Now, what truly offends me about Diet! The Musical is not the two-dimensional stereotypes or even the derivative score (that stuff just bores me), it is the childish reaction of its authors and cast to a bad review.
Admittedly, Pela can be a bit more harsh on performers and directors who are not in his "five." Consider his standing love affair with Stray Cat Theatre (whose work I find self-conscious and contrived) or his slobbering over Ron May's directing skills (which I consider mediocre, at best). But, kids, that is the nature of the beast. Take your lumps like big boys and girls and move on!
Diet! The Musical husband-and-wife team Susan Simpson and Kenneth LeFave decided to take a different approach. They took the low road and fired off a couple of petulant volleys, which amounted to nothing more than a tantrum. And, though the LaFaves may or may not have raised valid points, their argument was destroyed by taking a cheap shots at Pela: The wife's poisonous and juvenile attack on Pela's private life and the husband's launching into slanderous hearsay.
And one of them is an ex-critic!
The LaFaves should be ashamed of themselves, and I am embarrassed for them.
Claire Henderson, Scottsdale
Mincing words: I want to thank everyone for their support, and I would like to thank Robrt Pela for what I consider high praise. He could have said my character, Freddie, in Diet! The Musical, was the same old, tired, flaming queen done on Will & Grace, Saturday Night Live and MADtv, and in The Producers. But he didn't.
With all that competition out there, Mr. Pela deemed my character "so odious, so repulsively hateful in its depiction of homosexuals . . . the most repulsive gay stereotype to mince across a stage in decades . . . a profoundly vile impersonation of what people used to think of as a typical homosexual, all limp wrists and lispy, eye-rolling huffiness. It was a display [that] set the gay rights movement back 50 years."
Wow, to be able to stir that kind of passion and fervor in less than four minutes of stage time!
Mr. Pela, it is evident that you were deeply and passionately moved by my performance as Freddie. And although you did not mean it as such, I choose to accept your words as praise, and I am highly honored.
Mark Shannon, Phoenix
Bigger not always better: After reading Megan Irwin's revealing article ("ASU Inc.," April 26), I felt a renewed sense of hope about the future of higher education in the Phoenix area and a certain sense of vindication that, at long last, someone had shed light on the disgrace to universities everywhere that is ASU.
As an avid believer in the power and possibility of education and a recent ASU graduate, Irwin's article was particularly poignant for me (I graduated from ASU in December '06 with a post-baccalaureate degree in secondary education - English).
Through my educational journey, I attended one community college, two small private schools and two large state universities. Without an ounce of English-teacher hyperbole, I can honestly say that ASU was the worst excuse for an educational institution that I have ever experienced. My poor wife is in need of hearing aids after listening to three years of my grumblings about misguidance from ASU's "guidance professionals" (which cost me thousands of dollars in unnecessary coursework and time), graduate students teaching classes they were unqualified to teach, supersized classes, dilapidated buildings and a general feeling that my fellow Sun Devil strangers and I were merely cogs in the 60,000-student Crow machine.
It is not all doom and gloom, though. There are some amazing professors at ASU, who, despite the current climate, still view teaching (not just research) as their primary initiative and who believe that students are, first and foremost, individual human beings, not dollar signs. They, unfortunately, are the exception at ASU.
I believe that at the heart of Crow's so-called New American University is an ideology that actually corresponds with what is wrong with much of American culture: the disastrous belief that bigger is better. The same misguided mentality that brought us the Hummer, 80-ounce Super Big Gulps and 5,000-square-foot suburban homes. One need only take a peek at America's ever-growing pollution problem and Americans' waist sizes to realize that bigger ain't always better.
Until things change, I will consider it my duty as an educator and lifelong learner to persuade my students to avoid ASU like warm dung on freshly shorn grass.
Peter H. Nelson, Phoenix
Kathryn Milun responds: After reading about my case in New Times, some people have contacted me to find out more about the EEOC charge filed against ASU on my behalf.
But first, let me commend Megan Irwin for this important story about the structural problems in ASU's administration. She accurately describes instances and effects of bullying and mismanagement by administrators.
Before I explain the current status of the EEOC claim, let me clarify a few statements in the New Times story. Readers should know that I do not go around the country giving talks about maternity issues for the American Association of University Women. I will, however, be speaking at that group's annual meeting this July in Phoenix, and I will be speaking about my case against ASU.
Second, it is inaccurate to say (as the article does) that I expected "extra time" to complete the tenure process at ASU.
Tenure-track faculty can use university policies that "extend" their tenure clock for specific and legitimate reasons, but this should not be considered "extra time." Maternity is a legitimate extension.
The university's policy states: "ASU does not deny employment because of pregnancy. Maternity leave is provided through sick leave policies that apply to women employees who take time off for pregnancy, childbearing, and/or related conditions . . . ASU does not penalize women in terms of conditions of employment because of pregnancy and childbearing."
This policy was in place when I was hired at ASU and it was in place when I was fired from ASU.
I was fired (given a terminal contract) from ASU in 2003 during a review of my first three years of employment. This was at the beginning of Michael Crow's administration for the "New American University." Since my three previous annual reviews were all in the range of superior and excellent, I had no idea there was a problem. But David Young, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who had recently replaced Gary Krahenbuhl, saw things differently. In his review of my file, he overturned the departmental decisions, and wrote: "[Milun's] scholarly record is simply not sufficient to warrant recommending a regular or conditional contract, especially for a faculty member who is ten years past her Ph.D." Indeed, I had completed my Ph.D. 10 years earlier, but during those years, I had had three children.
When I informed the dean that, given my maternity extensions, he had miscalculated the years comprising my scholarly record, he turned around and issued me a conditional contract calling for nearly twice as many publications as specified in my department guidelines for tenure. And he demanded that I complete these conditions in one year.
What happens when this kind of administrative decision-making is supported all the way to the president's office? David Young is now senior vice president of academic affairs.
And what happened to the people who supported me when I spoke out about being fired or about being handed an unfair conditional contract? One person was promptly removed from the position of chair. Dean Young hand-picked a new chair without the customary faculty vote. This new chair would eventually review my tenure file. This is not an unusual action in the New American University.
When I did get a lawyer and was finally allowed to go forward for tenure review, the university-wide promotion and tenure committee voted (in majority) that I should be tenured and promoted to associate professor. The P&T committee noted the strengths of my scholarly record as well as "the dean's bias."
But, in the end, Michael Crow denied me tenure.
What has happened since I was forced out of ASU? I was fortunate that my colleagues organized a legal defense fund.
I was fortunate to live in a place where Mike-Crow-managed decisions can be reviewed by a federal agency. I filed with the EEOC.
After an eight-month investigation, the EEOC told ASU "there is reasonable cause to believe that there is a violation of Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] in that [ASU] denied [Milun] tenure and terminated her employment because of her sex . . . and in retaliation for complaining about employment discrimination."
The EEOC has sent the case on to the Department of Justice to consider pressing charges.
Here is a colossal waste of taxpayer money. ASU had many chances to fix these problems. Instead, it only protected a corrupt administration from facing public scrutiny.
Kathryn Milun, Tempe
Editors note: The preceding letter appears in abbreviated form because of space limitations. See the full text of Milun's missive in the online Comments section following Megan Irwin's "ASU Inc."
Welcome to the family: This article is like "join the club" for me.
Back in the late 1990s, I accepted a job with a major large-machinery manufacturer in the East Valley. In my interview, I was told that the president of the company wanted all prospective employees to know that family comes first to him. Company officials proudly showed me the latest company newsletter, where the CEO wrote glowingly about the importance of family.
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I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
I had a healthy commute to what I thought would be a dream job, and I shared with the interviewer and the person whom I would be working with that I had a young son I wanted to be home with in the evening. I said I would be happy to come in early if there was a special project but that I was very happy to have the opportunity to leave at 5 p.m. to be with my family.
You guessed it. My boss turned out to be one of those people who comes in at 7 a.m. and doesn't leave until after 6 p.m. Eventually, he fired me because I wasn't a "team player" (translation: I didn't stay until he was ready to close the door).
It confirmed my suspicions: Any company (or university) that goes overboard trying to make you think they are family-oriented, is not.
B. Carol, formerly of Phoenix