UM youths betrayed ideal of fraternityAs a member of Omega...

the Forum

June 07, 1993

UM youths betrayed ideal of fraternity

As a member of Omega Psi Phi for 53 years, I am disappointed, saddened, distressed and embarrassed to have our fraternity's reputation tarnished by young men who have sworn to uphold the lofty ideals of our brotherhood ("24 in UM fraternity charged with beating pledges," May 27).

If the men are guilty of the violence they have been accused of perpetrating, they have acted on their own and not in accordance with the strict rules, regulations and procedures of the organization with regard to pledging and initiation.

Physical and mental brutality, unfortunately, have been a part of the history of many fraternities. But the public needs to know that all Omega men and Omega chapters have been instructed to strongly oppose any form of physical, mental or emotional duress.

Each year during the past two decades the rules have become more stringent. So any violators have acted according to their own code rather than the fraternity's.

Although I have great sympathy for the young men who are charged with the brutality (and their families), if they are guilty they should receive the full measure of punishment that fits their criminal behavior. Some people learn only by painful experience, so severe discipline may be appropriate for the situation at College Park.

The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, which claims such national and local luminaries as Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, Benjamin Hooks, Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson, Walter Amprey, Osborne Payne and Marcellus Alexander, does not condone the acts reported to have been committed in the name of our organization.

Our mission is one of uplift rather than destruction. I am confident that thousands of loyal and law-abiding "Ques" will join me in repudiating those who dishonor our brotherhood.

Benjamin Whitten

Baltimore

Fuzzy thoughts

Our thinking remains fuzzy about health insurance. Insurance is to spread the risk of an uncommon occurrence that we cannot afford.

Health maintenance is not an uncommon occurrence, and we all need it and have to be able to afford it -- at least collectively. This last part is thankfully what Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to accomplish.

However, the first part -- spreading the risk -- is where the traditional role of insurance becomes obsolete, once we all become recipients of mandated health care by whatever mechanism of reform this administration uses to implement it.

Of course, we will need administrators of plans, such as HMOs or managed care. But these do not need to be insurance carriers -- as the insurance model no longer fits.

Besides, the insurance companies are more than administrative. They are traditionally costly luxuries we can no longer afford, at least according to Paul Starr in "The Socialization of American Medicine." He cites an overhead for Blue Cross for groups in the 1950s of 7 percent, going to 22 percent for individual policies.

By contrast, commercial insurers retained 50 percent on individual policies, about as much as they had for industrial life insurance.

That insurance companies will only be administrators is misleading. They will also layer in their profit. They would be foolish not to. And I don't criticize them for making money, as they would be in a large sense the facilitators if not the providers.

Here is where our thinking remains fuzzy, if we consider this as insurance. Perhaps we shouldn't even have insurance companies involved in the process at all.

Evenly administrating health care delivery is our need, no matter who pays for it. The present system of multi-payer is clearly too expensive, costing most of the one-half to one-third generally accepted cost approximation for "paper," including computer billing and changing forms and codes of too many plans.

Indeed, eliminating multi-payer alone would accrue sufficient savings to pay for health care for most of the 37 million Americans who are without coverage.

To capture the largest savings, we need to eliminate multi-payer, as it is most of the cause of paper cost.

Then, unless we remain fuzzy-headed about this, insurance for health care becomes obsolete as we all plan to have health care. Fortunately, multi-payer means insurance. So, in eliminating one of them, let's make sure we get both, or we will be holding on to untenable costs.

R. Ben Dawson, M.D.

Baltimore

Changing needs

In the good old days when men were men and women were women -- and the lady of the house was its creative director and not the child's bad dream, a working mom -- a visionary named Thomas R. Marshall made this perishable comment, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar." (Was it Kipling who said a good cigar is to a man what a good cry is to a woman?)

Now that the sweet smells of success long associated with cigar smokers have faded and lost their appeal, one might add another desideratum to the list of urgent national needs.

What this country needs today is less hand-shaking and more performance, fewer salesmen and more repairmen.

Wells Mears

Baltimore

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