Ithaca College Quarterly 2005/1  

 

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Deceiving the Public

Editor's Note: In our 2004/3 issue we ran a survey asking our readers for their thoughts on this very issue. It turned out to be a close race, with a little more than half of the respondents expressing a desire to eliminate the "Couplings" (weddings and commitments) photo section from the magazine.

We've been trying to keep the section because we know that seeing these photos in print does mean a lot to many of our readers. But we now must eliminate it, as we have been receiving more photos every issue, with an average of more people per photo, and we simply don't have room for them.

Here's the good news: (1) We will continue to print notice of weddings and commitments; just send us the names of the couple (and IC class years when appropriate), the date of the ceremony, and your phone number and e-mail address so we can verify the information; and (2) you can post wedding photos and other personal photos -- including photos of children, which we do not publish in the print magazine -- online. Just go to www.ithaca.edu/alumni and click on "Online Community." It's easy, free, and more popular than ever.

What a fabulous "Final Word" by Elizabeth Callaghan in the 2005/1 issue [" The Million-Dollar Coffee Spill"] . There have been few articles published that accurately report the facts of the McDonald's lawsuit involving the hot coffee spill by Stella Leibeck.

The insurance industry, chambers of commerce, manufacturers' trade associations, and the rest of corporate America hide behind monikers that, at first glance, would appear to be consumer-friendly groups. In fact, they are front organizations founded to spread lies and propaganda about the civil justice system. Their agenda is to take jury trials and other forms of redress away from consumers and immunize themselves against their responsibility to make safe products, all in the name of profit.

As the federal government continues to dismantle the regulatory system, it is left to the courts to protect the defenseless amongst us. The current administration's push for the misleadingly titled "tort reform" is clearly dictated by corporate America, and the only ones to benefit will be those same special interests. Most of the "outrageous verdicts" and "frivolous lawsuits" that we read about are fiction, or the facts are twisted to turn the public against the civil justice system. This administration and its allies will stop at nothing less than denying total access to the courthouse to all but the wealthiest. Their brand of justice is no justice.

I am sure all our parents taught us that if you do something wrong you should be held accountable. I am also sure that we all agree that there should be no recovery for a frivolous lawsuit. It should then follow that for those suits that aren't frivolous, a jury of our peers should decide what the recovery should be. Thanks, Elizabeth Callaghan, for reminding us of all that's wrong with the rhetoric of the tort deformers.

John Sadwith '72
Denver

In Defense of McDonald's
Comments to Elizabeth Callaghan ("The Million-Dollar Coffee Spill," ICQ 2005/1):

I don't drink coffee; I trade it. In order to brew coffee properly, it's supposed to be brewed at about 180 degrees or higher. That temperature allows the oils of the coffee to be released.

Thanks to this ridiculous lawsuit, all of McDonald's customers will be drinking a poorer tasting coffee. When will the litigation nightmare in the U.S. stop?

The average citizen is probably paying 5 to 10 percent of his income to attorneys' and related fees. I strongly suggest that Ms. Elizabeth Callaghan look at "all the facts" as she suggests in her article!

David Mancini '78
Elmont, New York

Elizabeth Callaghan's Response: Mr. Mancini raises two important and contentious issues regarding the infamous and complicated McDonald's case. The first concerns the coffee temperature. That was just one piece of evidence that convinced the jury to decide in favor of Liebeck. To further unravel the verdict, I asked Cornell law professor James Henderson, a national tort expert who understands all sides of the controversy, to comment:

The attorney made two claims: one, that the coffee was defective because it was too hot, and two, that McDonald's failed to warn its customers. They obviously knew their coffee had produced serious burns. They serve it too hot, they have all the information about how dangerous it can be, and they don't warn us. When people know about the risks, they can act. Under this view, McDonald's fell short here by not warning. The average person compares the case to having coffee at home. But at home the coffee is served at a lower temperature, and they are sitting at a table drinking it. That's a different situation.

Mr. Mancini's second point, regarding the "litigation nightmare," directs our attention to the current legal reform movement. Are we experiencing a litigation crisis? Or has the issue been obscured by a carefully constructed, well-financed, and organized campaign to convince the nation that we need to limit corporate liability? Would placing caps on lawsuits, which can prevent access to the courts for a multitude of legitimate injuries, truly serve the public interest?

More Sports, Please

It seems to me the ICQ should have a section (at least a page) with the latest information on IC's intercollegiate sports teams. The accomplishments of the teams would interest a large number of readers.

Bill Hammes '50
Raleigh, North Carolina

No More Wedding Photos!

I am going to cancel my subscription to the ICQ if you do not stop publishing those wedding photos of alumni. As if this is the greatest accomplishment of their lives -- please! -- it's mortifying. It really underscores Ithaca College's reputation as a party school and place to get an MRS degree.

Susan Ito '82
Oakland, California

All-Around Kudos

What a great issue of the ICQ (2004/4)! The cover feature on the three generations of IC alumni (Three Generations at IC) was most interesting; the story of Burmese freedom fighter Han Lin and his family fascinating; and the "Music Junkie" article as well as the "Pitching In" essay by Henry "Hank" Stark were outstanding pieces of writing.

President Williams's article (The Ithaca Model), on how Ithaca and other "new American colleges" are a model for a higher education movement, was very enlightening and adds to my continuing pride in being an Ithaca graduate. I don't think I can recall a better issue. Keep up the good work!

Jane Young Seaman '44
Los Altos Hills, California


The Ithaca College Quarterly is published for alumni, parents of currently enrolled students, faculty, administrators, friends, and neighbors of the College. Its mission is to offer a candid, accurate, thoughtful, and lively view of College events and people and to stimulate discussion of issues of interest to the College community and the broader readership. We welcome letters to the editor on subjects covered in the magazine and of broad interest to our readership, as long as they are respectful and not insulting to any person or group, and publish as many as we can subject to space limitations. We reserve the right to edit for space, clarity, and style. Send your letters to Editor, Ithaca College Quarterly, 231 Alumni Hall, Ithaca NY 14850 USA; editor@ithaca.edu. Or fill out the online form: Letters to the Editor.

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