Chapel Hill: Opinion

Your letters, Sept. 24: Karen Booth, Betsy Kempter, Jim Duffett, Marilyn Hartman

Trivializing the issue

Re: “Sex Does Not Follow A Script” (CHN, )

Social and natural scientists, even those most partial to “biologist” explanations of human behavior, decades ago rejected the argument that humans have little or no control over our sexual desires and their expression. Nevertheless, popular perceptions that men “naturally” can’t resist and that only women can “prevent rape” by constantly monitoring themselves (and that those women who “fail” deserve “what they get”) are continually reinforced by essays such as this one.

In addition, the attempt here (I think this is the writer’s claim) to label racist the expectation that potential sexual partners can and should unambiguously assent is fundamentally illogical and without basis in either evidence or in the writer’s own non-sensical presentation. The assertion that all those who have reported (let alone experienced) sexual assaults on this campus are white women is simply factually untrue; white women are not even disproportionately represented in this group. Men of color are not disproportionately represented among the accused, either. Such claims trivialize both the very real racism and sexism (and the very real and multiple ways in which they do intersect) on this campus and in this country.

Karen M. Booth

The writer is a faculty member of the UNC Task Force on Sexual Assault.

Consent can be sexy

Dhruva Sen's Sept. 17 guest column “Sex doesn't follow a script” (CHN, makes a few bizarre arguments against UNC’s new sexual assault policy and then wanders off on a tangent about interracial dating. Even if the latter part were true, it has nothing to do with the culture of implied consent and the difficulty some face in saying “no” when they are uncomfortable. As such, I don't believe it warrants a response.

Peer pressure, among other factors, can make it hard to set limits. College students want to find their place among a new set of friends. At a school like UNC with many smart kids, you can bet there were many who found themselves labeled as nerds in high school and want to change that, thereby compounding the problem.

The new UNC policy is a culture shift, and those are never easy. For decades we’ve seen movies and TV shows that propagate the myth of “’No’ means try harder and ask again.” That is not the world I want my daughters to grow up in and I, for one, am glad for the change. Consent can be sexy, and anyone who says differently may need more sexual experiences rather than the abstinence Dhruva advocates.

Adam Singer

Chapel Hill

More testing needed

A few points of clarification regarding your article on the town’s large coal ash dump at the police station on MLK Boulevard in the middle of Chapel Hill (“2nd Chapel Hill coal ash test finds no contaminated water,” CHN,

It is premature for this newspaper or town officials to conclude that one round of groundwater testing proves that a large, unlined coal ash dump sitting on the banks of Bolin Creek for decades has not contaminated groundwater or the creek. We are concerned that the public is not being given a full account of the situation.

First, the town is ignoring the findings of its own consultant, Falcon Engineering. Just last year, the consultant’s first report stated plainly that “Groundwater sampled at the site has been impacted from leaching of the fly ash” and that this groundwater “appears to be impacting Bolin Creek” due to “environmental contamination above established action levels.” Yet the town now claims there is no impact.

Second, we urged the town months ago to test the sediments in the bottom of Bolin Creek to determine the extent of the impacts. Duke University scientists have shown that coal ash pollutants settle into the sediments at the bottom of waterways and may not show up in surface water testing. These metals and other pollutants continue to impact the ecosystem and could be released any time the creek is stirred up by heavy rains or children playing. Yet the town has never done this testing, and has not announced any plans to do so. It needs to be done.

Third, there have been three rounds of groundwater testing at the site, not two as the article’s headline states. The first two rounds of groundwater testing showed very high levels of toxic, cancer-causing coal ash pollutants, including arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, and thallium (a substance formerly used in rat poison). The town is now claiming that a single result from the third round of testing, that of filtered samples from just two wells, shows there is no problem. At best, that filtered sample provides a partial snapshot that does not look at the whole site, nor does it monitor the site over time. We also question why filtering is needed; if the monitoring wells were properly installed, filtering should not be necessary.

The town needs to test the creek sediments, acknowledge its own consultants’ findings, and not jump to the hasty conclusion that it is acceptable to leave a large coal ash dump in the middle of Chapel Hill.

Betsy Kempter

Friends of Bolin Creek

Editor’s note: The length limit was waved to allow a fuller response to the article.

Tillis Ignorance Tax

Gene Nichol’s recent op-ed regarding why North Carolina must expand Medicaid couldn’t be any clearer (N&O, The regressive and mean-spirited political actions by Speaker Tillis and Gov. McCrory blocking expansion in hopes to secure votes this November is reminiscent of the politics of George Wallace.

The moral imperative of saving thousands of our neighbors’ lives that are now dying shows that you truly value life. Denying access to health care to 500,000 North Carolina citizens who are our waiters and waitresses, who look after our children, and provide other valuable services is reprehensible.

The economic imperative is also a no-brainer. Other states have reported saving hundreds of millions of dollars, stopping hospitals from closing – that affects us all, finally ending the $1,000 per family cost-shifting hidden tax (higher insurance premiums to pay for uncompensated care), and the economic benefit list goes on. This cost-shifting tax should now be called the Tillis Ignorance Tax.

We all remember the picture of Gov. Wallace standing in the doorway of public schools denying educational access. Now we have a new picture: Speaker Tillis and Gov. McCrory standing in the doorway of public hospitals blocking access to 500,000 North Carolinians. Shame on you!

Jim Duffett

The writer for 26 years was the executive director of Illinois’ largest health care coalition, Campaign for Better Health Care.

‘Saggy Pants’: The response

Editor’s note: Mary Carey’s debut My View column, ‘Saggy pants,’ (CH, about her fears her black son will be judged by his appearance, generated several online comments on, including.

Marilyn Hartman: Thank you, Mary Carey, for writing this heart-breaking piece. I don’t imagine that one person reading it would insist that s/he doesn’t sometimes make snap judgments about “different” people. If you’re praying hard, Mary, I hope it is for those of us who trip into that low bucket of our otherwise wholesome selves.

Tony Pugh: I wish this was a common perspective.

Renié Palmer: Be grateful that your young black son doesn’t also have dreadlocks.

Amy Trojanowski: So well said!