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We appreciate the concern for our safety you showed in your March 5 staff editorial, "Clean the River Now." While there is no question that the Charles River has pollution problems, we feel that your call for us to stop rowing is premature.
Your editorial was based on the revelation that two freshmen came down with blood poisoning after getting river water on open sores. While we find this incident regrettable, and wish our teammates a speedy recovery, we are hard pressed to see how this is a major health crisis.
Consider the numbers: there are approximately 200 athletes on the mens' squad. We conduct practice five to six days weekly from September through early June, for two-to-six hours a day. This adds up to about 162,000 man-hours of rowing per year.
If an activity, to be interpreted as unacceptably dangerous, necessitates one UHS visit for every 81,000 man-hours, then we will have to accept a few other lifestyle changes. For example, we should stop going to class: stress surely sends more than the crisis-standard level of 31 students to UHS each year. Even more disconcerting will be the need to stop eating in the dining halls, since more than 6 undergraduates come down with food poisoning each year. While it is sobering to think of the risks we take every day--rowing, doing our work, eating our food, crossing the street--they are risks we choose to take.
Again, we think your concern for our welfare is admirable, but we feel that the evidence you cite fails to justify throwing away the six months of hard work we have already spent preparing for the spring racing season.
As such, we will return to the Charles River and enjoy the rest of our spring. We wish you the best with yours. --Douglas Goodman '97, for the Harvard University Boat Club (Har- vard Heavyweights) Chris J. Sims '98, for the Harvard Varsity Lightweights
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