Thumbs Down on Homeless Headline
I am writing to express my dismay with the cover of the December 2017 issue of Prism, particularly the use of the phrase “Design for the Down and Out” that accompanies an excellent article by Jennifer Pocock. The phrase “down and out” was actually first used in the 1880s to refer to a boxer who went down in a fight and stayed down until the match was called in favor of his opponent. As Pocock’s article makes clear, homelessness can occur for any number of reasons. Ken Martin is quoted as saying “you don’t have to be uneducated or a ne’er-do-well, an alcoholic or a drug addict or anything like that to be homeless.” In using the phrase “down and out,” I believe you are reifying exactly what Juan Lucena and Jon Leydens seek to remedy in their engineering students: their tendency to ignore homelessness as a problem worthy of their attention and their assumption that homeless people are homeless due to their own inadequacies. I appreciate learning more about the innovative programs that are developing technical solutions to the concerns of the homeless, but I believe it is the responsibility of the magazine not to undercut those programs.
Julia M. Williams
Cross-Cutting Programs and Emerging Opportunities and Professor of English
Rose-Hulman Institute Of Technology
‘Foreign born’ are Important to the Economy
John H. Johnson’s article (Last Word, Prism, January 2018) is interesting and simulating for the mind. Nevertheless, he used the words “foreign born” several times—six times to be exact—and mentioned “international students,” “international graduate students,” and “international faculty” only two or three times in total. “Foreign born” doesn’t have the same connotation as “international,” nor are they synonymous. A foreign-born university student could have come to the United States as a baby, child, or young adolescent, been raised here and become a naturalized citizen. He or she would then have the same rights as any other U.S. citizen except the right to seek the U.S. presidency. Werner von Braun, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, and many others who made a significant contribution to our country were not born here but received a red-carpet welcome. If all the “foreign borns” in U.S. industries and in academia stop working, our country’s economy will simply collapse.
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez