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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 25, 2008 at 6:24 PM

Darcy Burner’s degree

But he has an A.A.

Now that you have described Democratic congressional candidate Darcy Burner’s Harvard computer science degree, with only “an emphasis in economics,” to be an “exaggeration” in a front page expose, please follow up with a story about U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert’s qualifications based on his Associate of Arts degree from Concordia Lutheran College.

Personally, if I were hiring a U.S. representative and the candidates’ resumes listed a bachelor’s degree from Harvard vs. an A.A. degree from some obscure college that requires Wikipedia research to locate, the choice would be Burner.

— Bill Taylor, Renton

Not an exaggeration

As recent Harvard graduates, we have a shocking revelation we would like to share with your readers: Democratic congressional candidate Darcy Burner may have received a degree from Harvard in 1996, but she was neither a computer-science major nor an economics minor, and she was certainly not both [“Darcy Burner’s claims of a Harvard econ degree an exaggeration,” News, Oct. 22].

The terminology our university uses can be tricky. Graduates of Harvard College (which is part of Harvard University, but actually predates it), receive artium baccalaureus (A.B.) degrees, also known as Bachelor of Arts in English, and instead of majors, we have concentrations. We call teaching assistants “teaching fellows.” And despite last year’s addition of secondary fields, there was and is still nothing called a minor at Harvard.

As her profile on The Seattle Times’ Web site correctly states, Burner’s education is, “Harvard University, B.A. in computer science with a special field of economics, 1996.” And as she explains on her own Web site, at Harvard, Burner “earned a degree in computer science and economics.” There is no contradiction here, no exaggeration, and certainly no lying.

At Harvard, we have joint concentrations, which are like double majors. As of this year, we also have primary and secondary fields, which is like a major and a minor. And to make matters even more confusing, when Burner was at Harvard, the computer-science department required students to choose an area of specialization. Burner chose economics. As a result, Burner completed five upper-level economics courses, in addition to significant course work in computer science and mathematics. Burner’s course of study was almost certainly more intensive than that of the majority of economics concentrators at Harvard.

Voters in Washington’s 8th Congressional District have more important issues to worry about than the terms in use at Harvard. We hope that The Seattle Times recommits itself to investigating issues that really matter as the election draws near.

— Jean Yang, Cambridge, Mass., and Seth Flaxman, Switzerland

Agenda’s blocking my view

Nice scoop.

Let’s put a front-page story on a slight discrepancy in Democratic congressional candidate Darcy Burner’s bio regarding her economics education. We’ll call it an “exaggeration” in the headline and imply some major character flaw.

At the same time, let’s bury a major broken campaign promise from gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi in the Local News section, even though it is one of the major platforms on which he is running. That way you can tilt the direction of both races so it wills out along your endorsements.

Next time you consider placement of your stories maybe you can ask yourselves the question: “Which one will impact our reader’s lives more?” And then try to answer that question honestly without your agenda getting in the way.

— Dave Leitch, Sammamish

Comments | More in Eastside, Federal races

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