Last week, Southern Oregon University expelled Eliza Schaaf from a ceramics class she was auditing. Why? Strip away the bureaucratic language and the reason was simple: Eliza has Down Syndrome.

In the past, SOU has been flat-footed in its community relations. Evicting the annual Holiday Crafts Faire was inconsiderate. Now our higher education leadership has gone beyond insensitivity. They appear to be downright mean.

SOU President Mary Cullinan and Dean Alissa Arp may have met their match in Eliza Schaaf. With help from her family, friends and the community, Eliza has consistently zoomed beyond society's expectations for a young person with Down Syndrome.

Last spring, Eliza earned her diploma from Ashland High School. This past summer, she addressed a crowd of 400 at the Buddy Walk, an event that supports Down Syndrome children and their families. Now she's determined to attend college.

I expect that she will fulfill her ambition. Neither SOU administrators nor any other doubters will stop her.

Some of Eliza's fellow SOU students held a campus rally to protest her expulsion. Her many friends in Ashland and elsewhere are rallying via a website: www.elizaschaaf.com. If you share their admiration for Eliza's courage and determination, I hope you will join them. — Diarmuid McGuire, Ashland

A land donation to the Medford School District comes with a $2 million tax write-off for the owners. The county has the land valued at $238,000.

This deal is in the interest of the school district and landowners at the expense of the taxpayer. Is it legal to inflate the gift value to $2 million for the purpose of an inflated tax write-off?

If the school district takes advantage of this land-use law and other school districts follow suit, this will be a huge loss of revenue for the state. This deal is a one-time chance to enhance the value of property they haven't farmed for years. They should be reasonable and not have the taxpayer pay for the land through the tax write-off.

The district needs a legal ruling on whether it has the power to inflate a gift value from its present value to what it may be in the future. State elected officials need to explain if they expected the taxpayer to pay through inflated values for tax write-off. If so, it defeats the purpose of the law. I am in favor of the land deal but without a cost to the taxpayer. — Gene Johnson, Central Point

It is not a pretty story. Nor does it offer much hope for a happy ending. It's nothing less than the gradual and seemingly inevitable decline of civilization, paving the way to the virtual extinction of life as we know it. It would be the ultimate climax of the deep unemployment recession of 2000, from which we couldn't recover.

The thinking is in terms of centuries, somewhere between two and four.

Potentially fatal environmental dynamics are under way — ocean pollution and climate change, amplified by population growth. Conservative ideology and kookism are driving both politics and economics at a time of crisis with a monstrous debt and near-permanent 10 percent unemployment.

If ocean pollution continues at the present rate, by 2300 AD all of the oceans would be a dead sea (without the oxygen necessary to support life).

Estimates of population growth are highly conjectural. The U.N. does not make estimates, it makes projections. For 2050 the medium projection is 8.9 billion. Present population is around 6.8 billion, meaning a probable increase of about 2 billion in 50 years. Nearly all growth is in the lowest income countries, least amenable to control.

There it is. Is there a way out? — Harry L. Cook, Ashland

The Boston Tea Party was in response to the East India Company's (corporation) monopoly on tea trade to the colonies. King George's monarchy (government) granting favors to a corporation in return for power. Sound familiar?

Funny how the goals of today's tea party align with today's corporations' desires. For example, the cruel corporate health insurance — companies want the stupid employer-based health care system, so they have control over you. Want to leave your job to start a new business? You lose your health care if you do, so entrepreneurs are discouraged.

Yet you still want to repeal health care reform. If you were living in 1773 you would be marching for the East India Company and against the real Tea Party.

You can want health care and still hate liberals, you know. It is possible, no matter what Sean Hannity says. — Wesley Brown, Medford

The Fullerton family would like to thank the Jackson County Sheriff's Department and Search and Rescue volunteers who on Nov. 7 located Brent Fullerton after he called 9-1-1 while hiking near Ashland. We are deeply grateful for the superb coordination and perseverance of the teams of volunteers who undoubtedly saved Brent's life.

Emergency boxes are strategically placed along Mount Ashland's trails. After tramping through the snow in the dark, Brent, wet and dangerously cold, arrived at one of these stations. Here he used a hyperthermia blanket, water, food and matches to make a fire. Around 10 p.m. he saw the headlights of a rescue vehicle and welcomed the compassionate staff who took him to the safety of his familiar surroundings.

We believe this story could have had a different ending without Jackson County's well-thought-out rescue program. Considering current budget cutbacks, their performance is especially remarkable. Again, sincere appreciation to the sheriff's department and the selfless volunteers who continue to give their free time and energy to help others. Brent and all the Fullerton family will never forget their hard work, courage and humanity. — Nita and Rod Fullerton, Denver

A belated thank you to everyone who attended the Jacksonville Heritage Society's Farewell Party for Peter Britt!

And a special thank you to our sponsors: the Jacksonville Inn, Frau Kemmling's Schoolhaus Brewhaus, Valley View Winery, Ray's Market, Priscilla Weaver and Artistic Piano.

All proceeds are going toward the ongoing costs of the historic Jacksonville buildings that we have inherited from SOHS. The event raised enough money to cover basic expenses for two months. Other individuals have offered their skills, services and labor. This buys additional time to explore ways we can ensure that these historic buildings remain vital community assets.

The courthouse complex, Beekman House, Beekman Bank and Catholic Rectory are key pieces of Southern Oregon history and essential parts of the community. It will take a communitywide effort to preserve, restore and maintain them, and with the support of community-minded individuals like you, we will make this happen. — Carolyn Kingsnorth, president, Jacksonville Heritage Society

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