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Letters: July 29 - Aug. 5

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AUGUST 05, 2012

Alternate rail plan is in order

Meg McCabe’s piece “California high-speed rail project will benefit state, study shows” (July 26) was fair but won’t satisfy those like me who supported Plan B long ago as our Plan A. Plan B is a multipurpose upgrading of existing Bay Area Peninsula and LA Country railway to be safer and a bit faster with some electrification. The Amtrak San Joaquin route between Sacramento and Bakersfield could likewise be modestly upgraded and leave only the complicated Bakersfield-Los Angeles track segment to complete an effective high-speed rail line. The wee bit slower Talgo-type hybrid locomotive and trainsets are more applicable to U.S. passenger-rail corridors than the marginally faster Acela-type trainsets. The Talgo LA-to-Las Vegas line, with a hybrid locomotive, could one day reach Salt Lake City and Denver or Portland. I’ve been on both and prefer the Talgo for ride comfort and amenities. Planning rail travel a bit slower builds a lot more track quicker.

— Art Lewellan
Portland, Ore.


Admission of former Penn State football player is flawed

I was deeply disturbed by the admission to undergraduate status of Khairi Fortt, a Penn State football player, only a few days before the new term opens. From all indications, he was “admitted” by the Athletic Department, without application or the critical vetting that thousands of other would-be undergraduates went through nearly a year ago. Many who were fully qualified for entry to UC Berkeley were denied admission because of budgetary constraints and enrollment limitations. Now, in August, a kid who was already enrolled at a major university is permitted to take precious space at UC Berkeley solely because he has some athletic talent.

What a perversion of the entire admissions process! Were I a legislator instead of just a Cal alumnus, I would demand a thorough investigation. Were I a parent of a rejected student, instead of of a grandparent of one who was admitted to a UC campus, I would sue.

It is true that the NCAA’s sanctions on Penn State allowed ball players to transfer immediately without a loss of eligibility. But the NCAA had no authority to waive Cal’s strict entrance requirements, nor did the Athletic Department have such authority. We had no obligation to Fortt. He could have played, and should have played, this season at Penn State. The NCAA did not ban football there, only postseason games. If Fortt wanted to leave Penn State to play elsewhere, he ought to have gone to the state university where he lives. UConn is noted for its athletes who are not interested in graduating. The NCAA recently sanctioned the school for that.

I doubt that Fortt has any interest in getting a degree from Cal, but I don’t know that. At least in the statement released by his family, the only comments were about playing football. Just what does Fortt intend to major in at Cal?

My family has contributed $75,000 to academic scholarships at Cal over the past two years. We are committed to almost as much in future years. That money helps our undergrads meet the rising cost of tuition. Somewhere out there is a youngster who might have received help from our scholarship money, but he or she was denied admission to Cal when decisions were made last spring. Obviously, there was room for one more. Too bad it had to be a kid whose sole interest is playing football.

— Ralph E. Shaffer
Covina, Calif.

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AUGUST 07, 2012