Chapel Hill: Opinion

August 12, 2014

Your letters, Aug. 13

As a loyal Tar Heel alumnus of the Class of 1950 and former varsity athlete, I write to express my utter dismay with the approach of current UNC leadership to “shoot the messenger” when confronted with harsh truths about our athletic program.

Chasing the money

As a loyal Tar Heel alumnus of the Class of 1950 and former varsity athlete, I write to express my utter dismay with the approach of current UNC leadership to “shoot the messenger” when confronted with harsh truths about our athletic program.

Instead of seeking every opportunity to discredit the reputation of Mary Willingham, why couldn’t our leadership acknowledge that her message is being taken seriously and that it understands there is a broader issue beyond the immediate one involving the African American Studies Department? Within the past week I had the opportunity to meet and hear Willingham’s side of the story. I found her to be believable, honorable and acting out of great respect for our university. I believe fair-minded persons would agree.

What is so disheartening is the unwillingness of those in positions of responsibility, e.g., trustees, chancellor, leading faculty and academic administrators, to grasp the corrosive influence of big-time athletics and its insatiable need to win at all costs, especially at the expense of underprepared “student athletes” and the reputation of the entire academic enterprise.

Where are the educational giants like Frank Graham, Bill Friday and William Aycock? It would appear that we are surrounded by midgets when we desperately need giants. No one is courageous to speak the truth about the pact with big money, a pact that has been growing more insidious for over one hundred years.

As one who championed the prestige and glamour of NCAA Division I Athletics as a college president 30 years ago, I know how easy it is to be sucked into the nasty game of chasing after more money. I cheered for Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice and his gallant teammates in the late ’40s, not understanding that, even then, we were part of a monster that was gradually eroding the credibility of athletics as part of the academic enterprise.

Soon, our beloved Carolina must make a choice: either abandon the myth of the “student athlete” and all that’s associated with it, recognize that we are in the entertainment industry and become professional OR withdraw completely from this crazy enterprise and take the lead in reforming college athletics as the Ivy’s did many years ago. Perhaps there is still hope that wise heads and hearts will step forward.

Samuel Hays Magill

President emeritus

Monmouth University

What price advantage?

The issue of collecting sales tax for online purchases is not as simple as some would have us believe.

The so-called price advantage is more than offset by packaging and shipping costs, which are not a concern for local storefronts. For example, I just ordered grill parts online and paid $6 shipping compared with the approximately $1.40 sales tax I would have paid locally.

What price advantage? Even when shipping is “free” you know the cost is rolled into the item’s price.

More important to me and many others are service and item availability. We recently needed new towel racks for two bathrooms and went to a local home improvement store. We found a design we liked, but they didn’t have all the items in stock. A visit to the other large home improvement store also failed to provide what we needed. All that time and driving, for nothing. Once I got home, I found all the items online within 15 minutes and they appeared on my doorstep a couple of days later.

Equally important is the sheer impracticality of an online retailer collecting tax for all 50 states. Not only are there 9,000-plus different tax jurisdictions (based on state, county, and city), there are also differences regarding which items are taxed. For example, some jurisdictions tax groceries at the regular rate, some tax them at a lower rate, and others don’t tax them at all. The same is true for nonprescription drugs and clothing. What a nightmare trying to accurately calculate the proper tax for sales all over the country!

Perhaps the best idea is to get rid of sales taxes altogether and replace them with some variant of a value added tax, or VAT. With a VAT, taxes are paid by the manufacturer or importer of an item and the tax is wrapped into the item’s price from the very start, whether it is finally sold by or your local hardware store. A VAT is not a panacea, but it could provide governments with needed revenues while getting rid of all the complexities and unfairness of our current sales tax system.

Peter Aitken

Chapel Hill

Basic human rights

Israeli weapons have killed roughly 0.1 percent of the population of Gaza, mostly children, in the past month while three civilians, or 0.000001 percent of (non-Palestine) Israel civilian population have died.

I am not sure if I am more upset about the terror, which has been compared to apartheid in South Africa, with millions of civilians trapped in Gaza while they are bombarded by American made planes/bombs, or about America media’s imbalanced reporting of these events. Reporters are shown on news broadcasts standing in outside what most would consider the war zone, discussing the “dangers” of rockets that have not much more technology than back yard fire works and rarely hit targets, while Israel planes, drop thousands of bombs on dense populations of civilians with no place to escape.

We can either speak out against the travesty, or we become guilt of participating in it. This is not a story about anti-Semitism, Jewish suffrage, or geopolitical issues, it is a story about basic human rights.

Brian Johnson

Chapel Hill

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