Saving the Children

Your conveniently timed cover story, "Saving the Children" [winter 2001], tries to paper over Bernardine Dohrn’s horrid background by painting her as a modern-day saint, struggling against all odds to rescue "kids who do really bad things" but who aren’t "irredeemably bad."

This piece of puffery fails to mention that Dohrn and her husband, Bill Ayers (who teaches across town at the University of Illinois at Chicago), were members of a ’60s terrorist group, the Weather Underground, and allegedly organized the bombing of the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

Quite a few of my alumni friends want some questions answered before we give or bequest any more money to the University. Why, especially when we are at war with terrorists, does Northwestern continue to employ an openly unrepentant terrorist? How does employing a person of Dohrn’s character (obviously not sufficient to allow her to be a member of the bar) and brazenly displaying her to our alumni and the public as someone we’re all "proud" of fit into Northwestern’s campaign for greatness?

Having seen this same sort of embarrassing nonsense at Berkeley and other politically correct schools in the past, a sizable number of us are paying attention. And we’ve had enough.

Dwight Erskine (SCS73)
Effingham, Ill.

I’m sure that the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern law school’s Bluhm Legal Clinic is successful at what they do. Why they would have Bernardine Dohrn as director and have her as a faculty member in any capacity makes me angry.

I would hope that after some soul-searching, and it shouldn’t take much, Northwestern University would admit they made a mistake and do the right thing.

Bernardine Dohrn has no place at NU.

B. Thomas Smith (CB71)
Bayside, Wis.

It is both disingenuous and hostile to your own alumni to print the valentine to Bernardine Dohrn in the winter 2001 Northwestern. It is dishonest in the extreme not to mention the alumni outcry against Dohrn’s faculty position at the law school or her nefarious past with the Weathermen.

Many Americans feel that with the rise of juvenile violent crime and homicide rates in the 1980s and early 1990s, these "children" who rape and kill belong in adult court. Forty-seven states have amended their laws to make it easier to try these offenders in adult criminal court with adult sentences.

Dohrn’s background and position are deeply disturbing to many of your alumni — the least you could do is mention them.

Deborah J. McNear (M82, GME85)

Was it mere oversight or (as I suspect) a conscious editorial decision to withhold the background of Bernardine Dohrn?

Though she has never taken responsibility for her own criminal conduct, apparently the University condones this behavior in faculty members. Would the same standard be applied to students and prospective students?

F. Harold Entz (WCAS63)

I was so pleased to see that your lead article was on the Children and Family Justice Center. I came to the law school largely because of its clinical program, and once I was enrolled in the clinic, it quickly became the place where
I spend most of my time.

As a student at the clinic I’ve had the chance to counsel clients, conduct investigation and research, and argue in court — in short, to develop all of the skills I will use as a practicing lawyer.

But the real gift the center offers its students is the opportunity to watch, work with and learn from the amazingly talented lawyers who staff the center and the clinic.

Much of the good that the center has done, for students and clients alike, is due to the leadership of its director, Bernardine Dohrn. I was particularly glad that this article was published at the same time that Professor Dohrn has been coming under fire for her past activities and associations. In light of this criticism, several current and former students, myself included, have wondered how we might best share with the public the many positive contributions she has made and continues to make as a scholar, an administrator and a well-respected teacher. By highlighting the work of the center, this article has done just that.

Carolyn Frazier, law student
Northwestern School of Law

I first met Bernardine Dohrn when, as a second-year law student and president of the Public Interest Law Group, I asked her to speak to a group of students. She proceeded to inspire all of us as she discussed the work of the Children and Family Justice Center and the plight of the young people it served. Ever since then I and others have looked to Bernardine as a mentor, as someone who has a passion for protecting the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society and a sensitivity to the issues and challenges confronting young lawyers.

I have devoted my career since law school to the representation of low-income children and continue to talk to Bernardine on a regular basis. In my opinion she embodies the best of the law school faculty, a teacher who continues to cultivate the learning process that only begins during the three years we are in school and continues throughout our professional careers.

As a teacher and an advocate, as a peer and a leader, Bernardine makes profound contributions every day to the work of child advocates and the lives of those we serve. I am proud to be a graduate of a university that has sense enough to employ her and courage enough to defend that decision.

Andrew K. Block Jr. (L94)
Legal director,
Just Children, a Children’s Advocacy Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center Charlottesville, Va.

I was fortunate to work with Bernardine Dohrn during my prelaw days while working on the Court Improvement Project, which had been created by the presiding judge of the Cook County Juvenile Court.

The project involved Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago (where I was working) and the Children and Family Justice Center of NU School of Law. The insights Bernardine brought to the table, in terms not only of the law but of how that law impacted families, were much needed. And due to the respect she has earned in the juvenile justice community, those insights and the findings of the project were listened to.

In my opinion, the impact that Bernardine has on children in Cook County and the education of many NU law students has been and continues to be enormous.

I doubt many of her alumni detractors have had the opportunity to personally judge her "remorsefulness," her "rehabilitation," her "fitness" to be a part of the NU legal, political or any other community. It might be worthwhile to consider that Northwestern is not alone in deeming her a valuable member of the community. Her expertise is sought, despite her well-known, well-publicized past, by government and charitable agencies on the local, state and national levels.

Maria J. Minor (L98)

Wild about Weil

I was delighted to read the article about professor Irwin Weil ["Moscow Knight," winter 2001]. How I wish I could be a student again in his Russian music course.

Maybe I could just sit in on the lecture on the riot in Paris when Igor Stravinsky’s had its debut? Or perhaps the lecture on the relations between composer Dmitry Shostakovich (H73) and Josef Stalin?

A quick addendum: I’m with National Public Radio, and I’m sure he would be glad to know that it can now be heard in Moscow.

Jeff Rosenberg (S67)
McLean, Va.

Awash in Memories

I was a classmate of Hal Christopher (Nav41) [mentioned in "NROTC Stays the Course," winter 2001, and killed at Pearl Harbor]. Hal was everyone’s favorite, and we were all proud that he was awarded the class sword.

Stanford G. Lehne (McC, Nav41)

I related to the article on NROTC and V-7 [a wartime program at Abbott and Tower Halls] because I was in both. I was surprised to see that the unit emblem, which I designed in 1940, is still in use 62 years later!

By the way, the photo of Capt. Jeffrey Keho, the NROTC commanding officer, appears to have been reversed. Campaign ribbons normally are worn on the left breast.

Retired Capt. Donald R. Gustavson (WCAS46)
Richland, Wash.

Over the years Northwestern’s NROTC has earned a reputation in the fleet for producing the highest-caliber officers for the Navy and Marine Corps. Much of the credit goes to professor emeritus Richard Leopold, whose strong and consistent support of the unit through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s made our success possible.

Capt. William O. Glass Jr. USNR (J, Nav 76, GJ81)
Wilton, Conn.

I was in the V-12 unit at Northwestern. The V-12 did not merge with the NROTC units during the war, as indicated in the article. We were quite separate.
William V. Victor (EB46)
Northridge, Calif


In Northwestern’s winter 2001 issue Redmond Prindiville Hogan III (WCAS60)
of Indianapolis was listed as deceased. It was his father, Redmond Prindiville Hogan II (WCAS32) of Evanston, who died last May.

In the same issue Medill senior Emily Gorovsky was incorrectly identified as being in Weinberg, and Valerie Stark was labeled a Speech junior when she is actually in the School of Education and Social Policy. We also failed to mention two other campus leaders in their organization, Natural Ties: Weinberg seniors Gretchen Barnes and Bianca Jay.

Northwestern regrets the errors.