Letters from the Issue of December 20, 2001

Eduardo Padron: Call Him Emperor
And call those around him academic boot-lickers: Gaspar González's article about Eduardo Padron's reign as president of Miami-Dade Community College ("Fear and Loathing in la Escuela," December 6) highlights how the time-honored goals of the educational process -- namely, the ceaseless, enthusiastic quest for and transmission of knowledge, first for its own sake and then as a source of manpower for society -- have been corrupted in the name of personal aggrandizement.

What better way to stifle innovative, constructive, and above all fearless thought within the academy than by allowing sycophancy to encapsulate those traits deemed to constitute an employee's true merit. What has transpired at MDCC illustrates what can happen when education is allowed to fall into the hands of trendy lightweight educationalists rather than true educators.

During the Eighties, while serving as U.S. Secretary of Education, William J. Bennett addressed the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and observed that serious academicians "are being drowned out by the trendy lightweights in our midst. If their agenda is allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, if at this moment in the academy's life its more responsible members choose to look away and avoid the struggle, higher education will be irreparably damaged." In 2001, as Mr. González's article revealed, little if anything seems to have changed. Rather there seems to be an ever-growing abundance of low-level administrators eager and willing to toe the line for the all-powerful emperor.

Sy Pollock, professor emeritus
Miami-Dade Community College
Miami Beach

Eduardo Padron: No Pressure
Let me repeat -- I was not pressured: Gaspar González's article is inaccurate concerning the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and the quotes attributed to me. First, HACU does not offer and has never offered "doctoral dissertation" fellowships. Thus the contention that HACU withdrew such a fellowship from professor Clifford Young is false. It is also false that Eduardo Padron, president of Miami-Dade Community College, "berated" me or anyone at HACU for offering a policy fellowship (not a doctoral one) to professor Young of MDCC. Obviously Mr. González is a man with a mission to distort facts and misquote people, not to provide information.

Mr. González even takes journalistic liberties to characterize my telephone conversation with him as "recitations." I had no idea what he wanted to talk about when I took his call, and to suggest that I recited something implies I prepared something in advance. I do recall, however, that Mr. González tried unsuccessfully to put words in my mouth.

For instance he repeatedly asked if Dr. Padron had pressured or intimidated me to withdraw Young's participation in the HACU fellowship program. The answer was repeatedly "no." I went on to explain that HACU is an association of institutions whose CEOs are the official representatives in the membership. As such HACU seeks the endorsement of its member institutions through their CEOs or their designees for applicants to HACU's fellowship, scholarship, or other institutional-representative types of programs. I indicated to Mr. González that professor Young did not have the institutional endorsement of MDCC and therefore could not be included in the HACU fellowship program.

As a brand-new HACU program that year and under the direction of a fairly new employee, program development and implementation errors were bound to be made. Not securing in advance the institutional endorsement of every applicant was an honest human error. We have striven to immediately correct this and any other processing and selection discrepancies in subsequent years. I personally explained to professor Young the situation and took full responsibility for the error.

While I cannot question the validity of the rest of Mr. González's article, the fact that he recklessly distorted my open and honest comments to him makes me wonder about his true journalistic mission. His section on HACU is a disservice to our association and to the journalistic profession.

Antonio R. Flores, president and CEO
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
San Antonio, Texas

Gaspar González replies: My article fairly presented Mr. Young's and Mr. Flores's competing versions of the event in question. Rather than attempting to put words in his mouth, I gave Mr. Flores the opportunity to respond to Mr. Young's account. His response was accurately reported.

The Sunny Side of the Bleat
C'mon, guys, put on a happy face! If there was one big lesson to learn from the tragedy of September 11, it was to look at the positive side of situations. Apparently both Brett Sokol and Ray Lata have much to learn as one whines and the other writes about it. I refer to Mr. Sokol's article "Where Have All the Models Gone?" (December 6).

As president and director of the Green Agency, a nine-year Miami Beach-based model and talent agency, I too have seen, lived, and worked through the crackhouse-to-boutique remake of South Beach. And I continue to live and work in a vital, creative, growing community that supports many models, booking agents, stylists, and production crews.

When my clients talk about rising hotel rates, I introduce them to hoteliers who offer special deals to production crews. When my clients talk about the cost of models, I offer local models they can book time and time again. When my clients talk about permit fees and production costs, I introduce them to those companies and people who embrace Miami Beach by thinking of ways to keep the quality of production high, the costs reasonable, and the work in town.

It is just a different way of working. And I can tell you firsthand, a positive outlook works well. I concur that revenues are down, but so are revenues in the entire country. Therefore I have chosen to be proactive and support my production community and many friends in the business with a positive spin on South Beach whenever I can!

Regarding the meetings between city officials and representatives of the Beach's modeling agencies that generated "few tangible results," my partner and I found them to be a great opportunity to shake hands with our competitors and talk about the health of the industry. After the series of meetings, we found lines of communication open among former adversaries. We applaud city officials in their proactive approach to industry needs. We also know that there is no quick fix, but we're talking about tangible solutions, and that too is a good thing.

So, Brett and Ray, why don't we get together and toast the beauty of Miami Beach, with its beautiful locations and talented production teams. We'll toast with glasses that are half full!

Tammy Green
The Green Agency
South Beach

Momma's Boys
They won't be going home anytime soon: I have enjoyed New Times's fine investigative journalism for some time, but Kirk Nielsen is a shoe-in for a Pulitzer Prize based on his November 22 article "Mother Knows Best." I sleep much better at night knowing that the locally convicted Cuban spies have "a lot of nice friendships" in prison.

I can't believe Magaly Llort's son was "unable to contact her by phone or mail until two and a half years after his arrest." Surely this qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. Something about these spy moms complaining that their sons didn't get a fair trial rings true. I mean, isn't it obvious to everyone that only justice Fidel-style is truly blind?

Llort said her son and his chums "wouldn't be capable of committing a [harmful] act against anybody, including the North American people." Thank God we got that all sorted out. Now we can send these innocent men home to their commie mommies.


Henry Gomez


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