@UCSD: An Alumni Publication

An Alumni Publication   Archive vol1no3 Contact
Up Front: Letters to and from the editor
Campus Currents: UCSD Stories
Shelf Life: Books
Cliff Notes: Student life and sports
Class Notes: Alumni profiles
Campaign Update: Imagine the Future
Looking Back: Thoughts on UCSD
Credits: Staff and Contributors

The Long Goodbye
Drawing on Tribal      History
Celebrating Our Sun      God
Ask Jeeves

Making Waves

Iran and Nukes
Cover Up
Tough Toucan
Alient Ant Hitchhikers
Pod People
Reef Relief





Up Front May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2

Raymond HardieYou are speaking and we are listening. The UCSD Alumni Association recently conducted three surveys of alumni and we thought you would be interested in some of our findings.   MORE


Cover image: ERC campus

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Provoking Thinkers
It was a pleasure to read that Professor William O’Brien will be honored with this year’s UCSD Alumni Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award. While I had good teachers at UCSD, none were as exceptional as Professor O’Brien. He was a dynamic, humorous, and thought-provoking lecturer in MMW 5. His passion and depth of knowledge in European history was undeniable and made it a joy to be in his class. My college roommate and I engaged in lengthy discussions about topics and questions from his lectures, something few other professors or classes had inspired.

Furthermore, while UCSD is often credited for its strong research sciences and engineering, it’s refreshing that a Humanities teacher is recognized for his significant contribution to the University.
Elaine Wong, Warren ’02

In your recent interview with humanities Professor Wm. Arctander O’Brien, he stated, “I think neutrality is a myth, just like presenting the ‘truth’ would be a myth.” The hallmark of great teachers, especially at the university level, is their ability to remain objective while carefully holding the tension between conflicting ideas, enabling young thinkers to engage those ideas without having to wade through someone else’s bias. Asserting that “truth” is just “myth” is exactly the kind of bias that distorts learning in the lecture hall.
Terrence Morrissey, Marshall ’02

Professor O’Brien responds: I share Mr. Morrissey’s conviction that a good teacher shows his students without needless “bias” that the world of ideas is one of dynamic and “conflicting ideas.” We disagree about how one goes about this. Mr. Morrissey believes a great teacher can “remain objective” and communicate “the truth.” My experience as a teacher and scholar has led me to conclude that things are not so simple, especially when addressing the kind of complex historical and literary issues that I regularly teach. Here, “objectivity,” like “truth,” becomes a myth—the belief that one can transcend one’s human condition, one’s very subjectivity, and reach the objective truth. Histories
of the same events and interpretations of the same literary works continue to be written precisely because there is no way to be “objective” or to settle “the truth” here. When I walk into a classroom, my goal is to deliver the most penetrating, scrupulous, and comprehensive interpretation I can, and to provide my students with tools for honing their interpretive skills for life. I make it clear that I pretend neither to objectivity nor to any final truth, and I begin every class by inviting questions and comments on the last one. For me, the classroom is a place for interpretation and dialogue. Claims to possess “objectivity” or the “truth” preclude both.
Professor Wm. Arctander O’Brien

Beating the Odds
I was touched by the story, “Beating the Odds.” While my situation was not as dire as those in the article, I still feel that I, too, “beat the odds.” The only child of a single mother, I grew up in low-income housing, spending most of my time in the house alone because the neighborhood I grew up in wasn’t all that great. My mother worked 50-60 hour workweeks to pay the bills. Still there was little extra money for much of anything, let alone, college. From the day I visited the UCSD campus at age 13, I wanted to attend school there. I knew, in my heart, that I would realize my dream. I studied hard, worked part-time jobs in addition to extracurricular activities and was accepted, receiving scholarships and grants to pay for all four years at UCSD. I graduated with a degree in Political Science in 1996 and went on to graduate from USD, School of Law in 2000. Those four years at UCSD were amazing and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I received. Thank you.
Martha Waltz, Marshall ’96

In 1969, having been discharged from the Navy, I was accepted at UCSD. I received no financial aid, just student loans, which I repaid, and the money I made in on-campus, off-campus, and summer employment. My parents provided no aid whatsoever. A college education is not a right, not an entitlement, it is a privilege. If you desire it, go earn it, and stop begging.
Jeff Fried, Muir ’71

Editor’s Reply: The purpose of the article “Beating the Odds” was to celebrate the successes of these young students who are all becoming leaders in their various fields. Their struggles are not dissimilar to your own or thousands of other alumni, and we believe that is something to celebrate. But we should point out that none of them came a-begging. These scholarships are the result of very personal and generous gifts from alumni who came to us, determined to make a difference in the lives of this next generation.




Share your thoughts!

Something on your mind? We want to share with you BUT we also want you to share with us. We invite you to respond to our articles with letters to the editor, either posted or emailed to alumnieditor@ucsd.edu. We also want you to vent, praise or question us by joining in the discussion boards.

We want you to suggest articles or, as in the case of William Brignam, M.A. '83, C.Phil '89 in our Looking Back feature, sometimes to write for us. We also promise to keep you up to date with your classmates in Class Notes.