Letters to the Editor

FATHER FIGURE

To the Editor:
Regarding "The Sacred and the Profane" (RFT, June 9), authored by D.J. Wilson:

Just one question: How much is the airfare to the planet Kim Tucci lives on?
Rita T. DeFilio

To the Editor:
I was somewhat horrified by D.J. Wilson's article about the corporate, "schools for sale," administrative thinking that is going on down at SLU. But I'm even more horrified by Kim Tucci's quote: "The people you're going to get that (criticism of the administration) from are the literati. You get tenured professors to speak against him. I don't believe in tenure. It's the biggest joke in the whole world ... You have to be a team player, and that's it." I was so sorry to read this quote since I am a 16-year product/teacher/team player of Jesuit education. I will always believe in the true, centuries-tested (not corporate-missioned) statement of Jesuit ideals; I was also, as a lifelong St. Louisan, a true believer in the Pasta House Italian salad; however, as a result of Mr. Tucci's quote, my family and I will never enter a Pasta House establishment ever again. The Jesuits of 20 years ago literally formed my life (especially since I was the son of an essentially single mother); they taught me the value that all things under God's kingdom were worthy of study; they taught me the values of dissent from the cultural norms of the day. This tradition is why I have shaped my life as it is. To be attacked as a tenured literati who dares disagree with SLU's most recent (June 11, 1999) corporate mission is an insult to the tradition of Jesuit education I grew up with.

Mr. Tucci says, "It's nice to disagree, if you do it the right way." I don't know if I can, in the Jesuit tradition that I was trained by, support this new position. But we also know, according to Time's recent article, that "Schools Are for Sale." Given the long history of private education in St. Louis, it's a shame to know that the administrative boards that run such institutions are thinking in such overwhelmingly corporate and such underwhelmingly educational ways about St. Louis' primary institutions of Jesuit education.

Mark Cummings

To the Editor:
In 1994, as a prospective freshman, I was excited about my decision to matriculate to St. Louis University. I believed I was attending a university that aspired to be something more -- that had an identity that demanded it be something more. I hoped I would be something more than another number in a diploma mill, an individual in a community governed by ideals that necessitated respect.

Nonetheless, during my SLU experience I realized this community was not bound by a sense of SLU's religiously inspired identity but by a state of alienation -- brought about by the administration's consistent disregard for the university's stated ideals. This, coupled with the realization that we, the students, were not important individuals but were big fat cows with dollar signs instead of spots. And over the loudspeaker of this exploitative animal farm, we were being told about the greater glory of God. It was not just the students who had been duped; the faculty and staff even started to feel as though the administration saw SLU's purported identity as more of a marketing tool than anything else. "But the alumni love the place and Biondi," we were told. One could respond, "But they no longer deal with the university as a regular member of the community but as visitors. They don't deal with the university in the present but relive the university of the past -- only with a fancier veneer." But honestly, what isn't to like from that perspective? Now the U. is rich and fancy, and one knows that its idealistic identity is the same as that of the past -- it even says so in the alumni magazine. Well, the identity, the nobility, is gone. Even Biondi's supporters implicitly recognize this fact. They credit him with being a great businessman and getting things done. They say he is being questioned on issues of style. I think they might as well say that the ends justify the means, even if those means include sacrificing the fundamental values of which SLU is supposedly a paragon. Values that would make SLU a worthy object of loyalty, of admiration, and of the God it seeks to glorify.

While I do not feel that my SLU experience was reflective of its purported values, I know that SLU used to be about its values. I hope it can be that way in the future. Biondi has returned SLU to strong economic viability. However, it is time for someone to restore SLU's nobility. To make sure that its religious identity is not a corporate gimmick that uses God as an advertisement but as a force of guidance.

Greg Vinson

To the Editor:
Thank you for unveiling the reality of St. Louis University. There is no denying the success in Father Biondi's beautification of the campus, but at some point he revered the beauty of the statues more than the qualities of the individuals who are a part of this community. Throughout many years at SLU, wearing many different hats, I remained horrified as a Catholic by Biondi's childish, unprofessional and mainly un-Christian ways. This is most recently evidenced by the stripping from campus of all (copies of) The Riverfront Times shortly after their arrival featuring his article. Biondi, students make better bed partners than your high-pollutant allies. We're SLU's future alums. Kim Tucci, what have you done for the students lately?

Karen Lucy

To the Editor:
I graduated from St. Louis University in May with a degree in theology. It is about time someone told the entire Biondi story! This man does not care one bit about the students for whom this university exists. I say that with firsthand knowledge. Walking to campus from parking one morning (on a crosswalk during a red light, mind you) I looked up to see a black Lexus coming toward me. It stopped about 2 feet short of hitting me! When I looked to the driver of the car for an apology, I immediately recognized Father Biondi. Needless to say, I received no apology, only a sour look as if to say that I had gotten in his way!

The students are not asking for much. All they want is respect, a chance to be involved in the decisions which affect them. The university, contrary to popular belief, is not a business. It is an institution which functions or should function in service to education and the Catholic Church.

Rebecca Bowie

To the Editor:
I can't quite figure out what this article is about. Is it an expose about a priest who drives a Lexus? Boy, that's some real dirt! Look at the registration of that Lexus; I'll bet it belongs to St. Louis University.

Could there be some salacious innuendo about a priest who sleeps in a house by himself? Wow, big news! Better call the archbishop to have him warn all his parish priests sleeping in those parish houses by themselves to be on guard, because the RFT is watching.

Then there is the golf cart. This is scandalous stuff about a guy who is too lazy to walk but not too lazy to work 18-hour days to help put St. Louis on the map again.

The final blow to Father Biondi's reputation is giving his dog an Italian name. Certainly a condemning point because, after all, it is un-American to give anything a foreign name. When all else fails, fall back on xenophobia.

This is all cat food. Stick to the issues that matter. This picky bit of journalistic trash writing does not meet the standards to which I have known Ray Hartmann and the RFT to aspire.

Anna Forder

To the Editor:
Your article on Father Lawrence Biondi captures the essence of St. Louis: Let's attack anyone who challenges us to be world-class and causes us to change how we've always done things. Perhaps this very attribute is the reason that most of the corporate headquarters have moved (or been moved) out of St. Louis and why there have been 17 "plans" for downtown and no tangible progress.

It is interesting that the unnamed critics quoted in the article are attacking the style and personality of Father Biondi. There is obviously no quarrel with the magnitude of achievement that has occurred under his leadership. His ability to understand the "business" side of higher education is precisely what has led to increased salaries and benefits for faculty and staff, a significantly improved physical environment, and resources to pour into scholarships and student facilities. These critics might be more comfortable in a university that strives to be mediocre, where they are not challenged to be the best and deliver the best programs for the students.

I am very proud to be the parent of a student at St. Louis University who is receiving an excellent education both in and outside the classroom. And, yes, I am also one of the "unqualified administrators" (with only 25 years of experience in my field and an advanced degree). Believe me, I have told Larry Biondi many things that he has not wanted to hear. I do not fear for my job as long as I do it well and always keep the interests of St. Louis University higher than self-interest.

It has been a privilege to be part of the magnificent renaissance occurring at St. Louis University under Father Biondi's leadership, which builds upon the legacy of the other great Jesuit presidents.

Kathy Hagedorn

FEEDING FRENZY

To the Editor:
I thoroughly enjoyed Jill Posey-Smith's lusty decapitation of Romo's in the June 2 issue ("Civilization and Its Discontents"). It's refreshing to read a restaurant review that is not merely a congratulatory slap on the back with the usual perfunctory, placid admonitions for improvement. I'm surprised by the petty indignation expressed by some readers. Contrary to what they seem to think, a restaurant review need not be a humdrum, one-dimensional treatment of whether the ice cubes were cold enough. Cooking can be a highly detailed, creative process requiring imagination and intelligence. It's unfair to take after a food writer who invests her work with those same qualities. I'm looking forward to more of her informative and engaging views.

Christian S. Saller

To the Editor:
Many St. Louisans frequent Soulard not only for Mardi Gras but also for the nice taverns and restaurants that add to Soulard's flavor. I was shocked to see an article bashing one of the latest additions to Soulard, Romo's, by the RFT, a paper known for its advocacy of the city and especially Soulard. My shock dissipated while my horror increased once I realized that the food critic had no business in that position, due to her admitted lack of taste, love of the irrelevant, obvious agenda and strident bad attitude.

Jill Posey-Smith, in all her hyphenated glory, undermines her credibility early in the alleged review by detailing the company she keeps. She states that her "confederates" sustain themselves on Spam, macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables and Cheetos. Apparently Posey-Smith has no experience with hyperbole, or she would realize that friends who do not eat good food cannot recognize it. I presume from her foul style and abusive tone that she is trying to state that her friends have bad taste and have found something worse than their usual fare. Whatever her intent, the point is made that she is part of the canned-greens, Spam-swilling company she keeps, incapable of enjoying real food.

Enjoying real food entails actually sampling some of the fare, which the author refuses to do. I have always assumed that a food critic was to at least sample the food presented. Posey-Smith was not doing her job, as evidenced by her failure to try the chips, salsa and refried beans, all of which are rather good. Our reviewer keeps company with those who "divine a sustaining virtue in many a noxious foodstuff," so how can we listen to her opinion?

Unfortunately, we were forced to listen to her many irrelevant musings on pop culture, her dubious definition of civilization and her extreme views of television. Posey-Smith often mentions the TV programs on, further explaining her bad attitude and lack of focus. She takes us on a tour of prime-time television more than a tour of the restaurant.

The bad attitude in this article is pervasive. Posey-Smith has a chip on her shoulder and apparently loves to snipe at whatever target is available. She is a bitter person, and had I been the bartender on duty, I would be shocked that such a surly person would be staying for dinner. I am sure that is what went through the bartender's mind when this abrasive person stormed in, determined to ruin someone's day, if not the life of a restaurant.

Cynthia Sensabaugh
Manager, Romo's

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