Published the week of September 13-19, 2000

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It's about time Dennis Spellmann was exposed for what he really is ("The Talented Mr. Spellmann," RFT, Sept. 6). His interests have nothing to do with higher education. He is a ruthless businessman and is ruled by the almighty dollar. He is referred to as a visionary, but his vision is motivated by greed and profit. He associates accomplishments with numbers and is without concern for the quality of the education of the Lindenwood students.

His newest project is a $12 million building named after him while his faculty is overloaded, underpaid and working with inadequate classroom supplies and equipment. They are exasperated with the system at Lindenwood and helpless to fight against their dictator. How is it that the "team players" in an educational institution are ruled by the greed of a profit-driven businessman without regard for his teammates or for the intent of its founders?

We need an academic Robin Hood to take the university and give it back to the faculty and students for the purpose it was meant to serve.
Rebecca Kaiser

I was a student at Lindenwood for one year, during 1998-99. During that time I lived in Cobbs Hall and in the trailer park on campus. Those two buildings were major reasons why I left that school and now attend Maryville University.

The housing at Lindenwood does not come anywhere near the level that other colleges in the area set. There were no amenities in the dorm buildings or the trailers. Items that are standard at other colleges are nonexistent at LU.

Internet, e-mail access and cable TV were not available in the dorms. Cable was available in the trailers, but the students were held responsible for the bill. And I know of some instances of coaches paying for the cable of some of their players. The Internet has become an important factor in education today, so when we needed it, we would have to go to the computer lab. The computer lab was a room with 25 or so computers, and at any given time only about 10 or 15 were functional.

You guys can say all that you want about Dennis Spellmann improving the school financially, but he has turned the school from a university into a glorified high school. Student life on campus is part of the college experience -- except at LU.
Kevin Halley

It's good that the city is finally thinking about getting people to want to live in the city and especially downtown ("True Believer," RFT, Aug. 30). If the city really wants to get people to live there, it should do other things besides just keeping buildings residential. Who's going to live in urban areas that lack shopping, eating and entertainment?
Mike Chesnut

The story about the Barikzy family showed a different side of the war that usually isn't shown to Western eyes ("The Torture Place," RFT, Aug. 9). I am actually happy that article came out to show the injustice given to the people who supported the communist movement in Afghanistan. But Barikzy and, I have noticed, many Westerners in general seem to judge Islam by its people. I firmly believe religion should be judged by its scripture. There is no verse in the Holy Koran or in Sahih Bukhari Hadith that ever states to torture your enemy for more blessings; these are innovations (bidah) that people associate with Islam.

These country boys (the Taliban) do not have any awareness of Islamic teachings or principles, so they make up their own rules and force it among the helpless people. Although growing a beard like the Prophet Mohammed is following the footsteps and counts as ajir (reward), it never was forced and can't be forced on the people. Women and men are equal under Islam and share the same rights; (women have) more rights then men in many respects, but sadly this isn't the case in almost any Islamic country. In Islam, women must cover their hair and bosom and be covered from their wrists to their ankles; most any style of clothing can compensate for this requirement.

The Taliban, however, use their own culture that existed in the small villages they were raised in to say that women must cover from head to toe and cover the face as well; this is not Islam but innovation. These are just two examples of innovation, and it's limited not to Afghanistan but to every Islamic country in the world. When a country has been in war for over 20 years, educational facilities are lacking and certified teachers are almost unheard of, and this is when the problem starts. Although the article did point out the ground realities of Afghanistan, it failed to prove how the tortures related to Islam but rather proved how little so-called Muslim Afghans know about Islam.

Mr. Barikzy stated that he has seen "the terrible face of Islam." Before Mr. Barikzy defines what Islam is in his book, he should separate Islamic truth from the innovations Afghans have made on Islam. I have not heard anyone claim, after U.S. dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that they had seen the "terrible face of Christianity." Furthermore, Mr. Barikzy did not mention where the Afghans had learned these torture tactics. Most of these torture tactics were used by communists on the helpless Afghans.

After almost dying two times myself before I hit the age of 3 at the hands of the Soviets, and not to mention the stories my mother has told me about the cruelties of the communist regime -- the sleepless nights she would cry through when they would pound villages to rubble, kidnap young boys for training to become communists, the murder and rape of civilians in drunken insanity by communist forces, the cruelty performed by Najibullah the puppet communist leader -- I can tell you that we are very grateful for escaping when we had the chance.
Wahid Amerkhail

When it became public that Schnucks might have to close some stores due to the increased cost of the new labor contract, I happened to be in the Hanley and Clayton store at about 6 a.m. In a joking way, I asked, "Are you gonna close this store?" A manager said, "In three years, when our lease is up." She then went on to say that two in the city "are gone (because) customers are stealing them blind."

If stealing is a problem -- and I'm sure it is in every store -- it can be dealt with. Carts could not be taken out of the store, a good reason to buy less and a good reason also to do less volume.
Noland Peskind

In response to Chris Jackson's recent letter deriding theater critic Sally Cragin ("Letters," RFT, Aug. 30), I would like to express my support and appreciation for her presence on your staff and in the journalistic and artistic environment of St. Louis at large. Cragin is the best thing to happen to St. Louis theater in years! She is honest, intelligent and eloquent, and her writing reveals that she possesses a strong aesthetic sense. And best of all, she is one of the only reviewers in recent memory to concentrate not on the literary history of the play or "that really great performance of it I saw in New York by the Royal Shakespeare Company 10 years ago" but on the performance at hand, here and now, noting the discernible highlights and flaws of the event. This results in less neutral writing and focuses the attention to the production itself rather than the critic. We are blessed to have a critic the caliber of those writing in Chicago, New York and LA in our midst, and we should do everything we can to keep her.

I have always found Cragin's reviews insightful and accurate. This isn't to say I've always agreed with her. Nor do I expect to always see eye-to-eye with her, or any critic, for that matter. So she's opinionated. So she has a preconceived notion of what quality theater is. Who cares? I thought that's what she was paid for. It is refreshing that a critic in St. Louis finally speaks her mind. Her candor raises the bar for companies to produce better work and to carefully consider the type of art they choose to present to the St. Louis public. And if Cragin's reviews stir up a little debate in the community, then that is a valuable side effect. It forces us to reconsider what we think is good art or not. The critic's job is not to say that everything in St. Louis theater is peachy keen. There is some godawful shit out there! And it's about time someone said so. In the past, I have seen too many critics kowtow to public opinion and "soften" their reviews to avoid any kind of controversy or letters such as Jackson's.

Also, I don't view Cragin's reviews as "attacks," as Jackson calls them, no matter how harsh they are. Read Frank Rich's or Bob Brustein's reviews, for God's sake! Jackson's comments are no less "nasty, catty, bitchy and cruel" than anything Cragin has written. By his own admission, he is uninformed about a play whose very premise, let alone its title, is saccharine enough to give Hansel and Gretel a toothache. Were a young Tennessee Williams to come along, I have faith that Sally Cragin would recognize his budding talent. Kitchy Kitchy Koo is hardly Not About Nightingales. In addition, the fact that Jackson sinks to immature gibes regarding her personal appearance ("ol' gray-haired Sally Cragin") only makes his "thick skin" more transparent.
Robert Neblett

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