Letters to the editor

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Intellectual laziness leads to misinterpretation

The article “Administration whitewashes ‘threat’ ” in last week’s issue of The Tartan shows an example of a threat to free speech which is both subtle and, unfortunately, common on the Carnegie Mellon campus. That threat is intellectual laziness.

Perhaps intellectual laziness is the last thing most would expect of the Carnegie Mellon community, given our academic reputation, but it exists nonetheless. The mechanism is simple: One person reads something with half an eye, and incorrectly gleans from that work a message which he or she finds abominable above and beyond any legitimate tastelessness in the message itself.

“MEXICO. No illegals, no burritos; you better think twice, America.” The message is not obvious, but neither is it dense. It’s not exactly high satire. Is it offensive? Probably. Is it profane? Yes. Is it stupid? My sources say “yes.” But to read into that message a threat against illegal immigrants is not only to add a non-existent context to the message but to reverse its entire meaning.

This offended party’s disgust is transmitted, and nobody bothers to reread the work with an eye toward judging context, if they bother to read it at all. Higher and higher offices are petitioned, and soon action is taken to destroy the offensive but benign speech, rather than to engage in the positive discussion which is the valid answer to speech one finds objectionable.

Certainly this pattern and this problem are not limited to the Carnegie Mellon campus. Individually, it is understandable and excusable, but when larger numbers of people are involved, there’s no reason why this should occur at Carnegie Mellon at all. We’re smarter than that.

Paul Combe
SDS 2010

Rent-A-Dog raises spirits, awareness

How much is that doggie in the window really? According to reports, a dog will run you somewhere from $500 to 3000 for the first year, and about half of that for every other year. I don’t know about other college students but that is not an expense I can afford while paying about $50,000 a year for an education. I can, however, afford $5 to dedicate a half hour of my time to a homeless animal that I think needs a little more affection than traditionally given.

Last week’s article “Rent-A-Dog offends” didn’t cover the whole story. Granted, the execution of the event wasn’t without error and I believe the campus community can agree that no event performed at Carnegie Mellon is ever flawless, but to say that it was “offensive and ultimately pointless” is going a little too far. Is the editorial board trying to insinuate that paying attention to an animal, even for 30 minutes, is in no way beneficial? I am inclined to disagree with that position. Any attention paid, whether to a dog, parakeet, or ostrich, leaves some impression of care and generosity. I ask the readers to envision an instance in which someone paid extra attention to them. Perhaps a teacher staying after school to help with homework, your parents or friends listening to you vent after a rough week, or maybe even your beloved household pet lounging beside you in appreciation for your love toward it. If your pet’s displays of love toward you left an
impression, who’s to say your affection toward it won’t also produce some response?

As far as the price tag and time limit set for the event, I agree that it presents a different message than what the Humane Society’s true goals were trying to achieve. Again, however, I ask that you remember there is no such thing as a “free lunch.” Sadly everything has a cost and that includes bringing dogs to Carnegie Mellon and supporting them at the kennels. If you stop and think about where that money may actually be going you will realize that in order to maintain the dog’s temporary home funding is necessary. If my $5 in any way aids in keeping those animals from being truly homeless then I’d pay 10 times that much.

As previously stated, the event had some flaws. It would have been better if there had been no price tag, but let’s assume it’s going to a worthy cause. The advertisement of volunteer positions and donation opportunities would have been a good idea as well, but we can’t dwell on the past. Let’s instead try to get more activities like this one at Carnegie Mellon and fix the oversights that arose in the last event because every animal needs love, if only for 30 minutes. Those who jumped at the idea that these animals were being devalued and that no college student wants a dog may be surprised at how many students do want a pet to care for but just weren’t aware of the opportunities available. Now, due to this event, they are.

For more information about the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, visit their website at for volunteer, adoption, and donation opportunities.

Robert Meehan
MCS and SDS 2009

Decreasing meat consumption decreases suffering

In response to your article “Adjusting our extremist attitudes,” I would like to compliment Steve Weinberg for discussing the ethics of conscientious consumerism. If every American were to cut their meat consumption by half, as Weinberg suggests, billions of animals would be spared a lifetime of being forced into tiny cages and slaughtered for food. Not to mention, our impact on the environment would be significantly less, since a recent United Nations report showed that animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than all of the cars, trains, boats, and planes combined!

Certainly the reasons are there to want to pick vegetarian and vegan dishes, whether it is out of health concerns, in response to the environmental destruction of the meat industry, or of course cruelty to animals. Most people are horrified to discover that animals killed for food often have abuses inflicted upon them that would warrant felony cruelty to animals charges if they were done to dogs or cats. On today’s factory farms, chickens have their beaks sliced off, cattle and pigs are castrated with no painkillers, and many are even skinned and dismembered while still fully conscious. This is the product of an industry that refuses to make even the most basic changes in the way they raise and kill their animals.

With so many delicious vegetarian and vegan options, including many that are designed to the taste like meat, such as barbecue “riblets” and vegan pizza, there’s simply no excuse for continuing to support these horrific industries. For more information, visit to request a free vegetarian starter kit, as well as stickers and a DVD.

Ryan Huling
College Campaign Coordinator