Week of September 7, 2005

Ranken Rankled
Must've been the fart joke: I was disappointed to see the August 31 Unreal item mocking our billboards. It's unfortunate given that this ad campaign has been one of our most successful to date, generating significant interest in the technical programs we offer. Enrollment is at an all-time high for Ranken Technical College. This campaign was specifically designed to speak to students who are looking for successful but untraditional career paths.

Our graduates are proud of their education; many launch very lucrative careers. In fact, Ranken has been developing skilled technicians and supporting the bi-state region's workforce since 1907. The fact that our graduates can secure a job within six months of graduation, potentially earning $30,000 to $45,000 per year, has strong appeal for our students.

In some respects, we're flattered that our ads caught your attention: Our goal was to create buzz. And to that end, the college has "experienced success."
Elizabeth Keserauskis, director of admissions
Ranken Technical College
St. Louis

Haus Rules
What's in a name? I read Rose Martelli's August 31 review of St. Louis Pizza Haus, and I really was offended by the remarks she made about the Beauboeufs' heritage. I don't understand what the heritage has to do with their food or their place of business. Does Rose think Italians are the only people on Earth that can make a good pizza? How ignorant. The Beauboeufs and Stevensons are a group of great people that are running a business. I don't understand why race has to become part of the conversation.

I especially was upset with the remarks about their surnames. Most African-Americans were given their surnames by their slave masters. Now centuries later the Stevensons have to be made fun of because they were victims of such injustice. Rose actually thinks African-Americans should only own soul-food businesses. Rose wants Afro-Americans to only serve chicken, grits and watermelon. Her comments are racist. This review made me realize I do not want to give my business to your type of publication.
Tiffany Cobbs

Cheese fried: Enough already, Rose! We all know of your utter disdain for Provel cheese and St. Louis-style pizza. You don't need to keep throwing your little insults every time you review a pizzeria.

There is a reason it is called St. Louis-style pizza, you idiot. Most St. Louisans love this style of pizza. Have you forgotten that you are reviewing St. Louis restaurants for people who live in the area? Stick to the task at hand. Nobody cares about your dislike of certain foods or what kind of oven they are cooked in.

As the general manager of one of the most popular St. Louis-style pizzerias, I take great offense in your constant berating of the "square"-cut pizzas. And no, it isn't Imo's or one of the other chains. Please! People often ask me why I don't ask the RFT to have Rose review my restaurant. The answer is simple: It would be like asking a vegetarian to review a steak house. Instead of talking about the food itself, Rose would carry on about our choice of cheese and how she hated it. She would try to make the reader feel like a moron for liking such a thing.

Rose, put aside your personal bias and review the restaurant for what it is, not what you wish it was. If the food isn't cooked right or looks bad, fine, then say it. But quit telling your readers that they are idiots for liking pizzas made with anything other than your precious mozzarella cheese.

I won't disclose the name of my restaurant because I don't want to give Rose a chance to do a hit piece. Let's just say that her favorite pizza place would kill to do half the sales we do in a year. That's a lot of cheese, honey.
Jim Coe
St. Peters

Mascot Mayhem
All about the Billiken: Thanks for highlighting the racist connotations underlying some college mascots in the Unreal parody "Bench the Billiken" [August 17].

Racial protests stemming from a mascot are the societal burden of two groups: sports spectators and school administrations. Let's give school administrations the initial benefit of the doubt and assume that they pay homage to historical, demographic or otherwise anthropologically reminiscent icons with good intention. Is it reasonable to expect the general sports-spectating public to be intrinsically motivated to educate themselves adequately on the meaningful background of these symbolic sports mascots? Likely not.

The burden of ensuring that demographic groups are not significantly offended by the mascots falls on school administrations that should consider either 1) actively educating the public on the background of the mascot, or 2) adjusting the icon to minimize its offensiveness. Those unwilling or incapable to do either are not socially responsible enough to deserve to symbolize that demographic group.

Since 1910-11, Saint Louis University and Saint Louis University High have used the Billiken as their mascot, described on SLU's Web site as "a chubby...Asian figure...with pixie ears, fat cheeks and an ear-to-ear grin." Certainly, SLU made strides in the early 1980s by adjusting the original caricature, but the unedited Billiken statue on campus indicates that SLU administrators still lag behind in cultural sensitivity. Plans under way for a new basketball arena could serve as an appropriate time to consider a more meaningful mascot.

More shameful is SLUH, unapologetic in making zero effort to adjust the original, arguably racist Billiken; its administrations could stand to begin opening their eyes.
C.M. Hsieh
St. Louis

Last week's review of the St. Louis Pizza Haus failed to note that St. Louis Pizza Haus owners Sande and Julian Stevenson paid a franchising fee to the owner of a similarly named Jefferson City establishment.

On a related note, Sande Stevenson and letter writer Tiffany Cobbs feel the review invoked racist stereotypes in discussing the owners' heritage. That wasn't our intention; our apologies if it came off that way.

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