Letters to the Editor

Week of 12-27-2006

Blood on the Streets

The roots of a tragedy: Thanks for A.C. Thompson's lengthy article on the Dernae and Naemon Wysinger murder case ["Bad Blood," Dec. 13]. After the initial splash of publicity surrounding the murders and subsequent arrest of Joseph Stevens, the case all but disappeared from sight in the media. I did a couple of searches over the last year, trying to garner information about the case and trial, but came up empty.

I have a personal interest in the case as a former teacher of Joseph Stevens. I knew him when he was around 11 years old. He was an indescribably cute little kid. He had a tough exterior, but one that was paper-thin. A kind word, a touch on his shoulder, and he would melt. That school year was a rough one for Joseph. It seems that his uncle, Aaron Williams, was arrested in front of Joseph's apartment and allegedly beaten by the police. Whatever did occur during the arrest, the outcome was that Aaron Williams was dead by the time he arrived at the police station. Joseph was a witness to this arrest. I still have this image of him, flashed once again across the 6 o'clock news, in his best suit (perhaps his only suit) on his way to testifying at the police inquiry and again during the subsequent civil trial initiated by his family.

I am not relating this information in an attempt to mitigate in any way what Joseph allegedly did to the Wysingers. It was horrible, heartless, and frightening in its coldbloodedness. However, I have the image of that rather needy, frightened little boy with the eggshell-thin layer of toughness. It seems to me, he was eaten up by his harsh environment, drugs, and anger. The whole thing is just so tragically sad.

Thanks again for printing the article. It really made the situation on some of the tough streets of San Francisco come alive. Thanks for not allowing this story to just disappear into thin air.

[Name Withheld] San Francisco

New College Unlike Any Other

Teacher fails Matt: Has Matt Smith ever attended any courses at the New College? Indeed his statement in "Allegation 101" [Dec. 13], that "[t]his is a place where the ordinary rigidities of college existence — such as strict curricula, grading policies, or even the definition of what a classroom is — have dissolved," insinuates his experience to be quite intimate and extensive, albeit untrue.

As a teacher of writing and composition on campus, I question your decision to publish what appears to be a well-intentioned persuasive essay about sexual assault victims' rights, yet is in fact a lame series of put-downs and poorly writ vignettes based on what amounts to one biased interview and the hearsay of a former lover/teacher at New College.

Rather than serve as yet another venue for slack journalism and shock-value sensationalism, I urge you to enact a more right editorial guidance over a slanderous columnist — if not in the hopes of sustaining a place of higher education like New College (where teachers, students, curricula, grades, and a vast amount of dedication and learning come together to provide an education unlike any other in the country), then perhaps out of a simple respect for the truth.

Christina Fisher

New College

San Francisco

Can't trust the trustees: I'm glad you spoke with Professor Britt, because there are serious students who need a place like New College. I'm one of those who didn't fit in with traditional higher ed., and the work I did there propelled me into international acclaim in my chosen field.

That said, the administration under President Hamilton is a paranoid, power-tripping clique that actively excludes participation by alumni and students in rectifying some of the communication roadblocks they've built between the student body and the trustees. As sycophants of the power clique, the trustees have sadly neglected their duties.

Jay Taber

San Francisco

Your vendetta is showing: I am a student in the graduate psychology department at New College. I know nothing of the details of the subject of your latest article or the previous one about the founder of the school and his misdeeds. I am one of those students who might not have had the confidence to even attempt to pursue a higher education had it not been for people like Harry Britt and a whole lot of other good people down at New College. From my vantage point it is difficult to understand why you are going after the school in one article for something that happened decades ago, which no one can do anything about, and in this most recent article about an incident that ultimately has no bearing on the overall functioning of the institution. Reading your articles one comes away with the impression of a school that is rotten to its very foundations and which offers at best a shoddy education. I for one am saddened by this portrayal, as my experience has been quite the opposite with almost everyone I have interacted with here, whether they be faculty, administration, or fellow students. I have to ask Matt, what's his deal? I mean, are there not enough real scandals out there for him to expose? If I didn't know better, I'd say he had a personal vendetta against the school.

Joshua Wylie San Francisco

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