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Thanks to MacKenzie Scott for expanding Habitat for Humanity | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
 
Site supervisor John Mezzacappa, with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, prepares a home at 441 Cypress Street to be dedication on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, for one of the affordable housing nonprofit’s new homeowners, Hannah Eddy, in Tarpon Springs. The nonprofit is expected to receive an $11 million gift, part of a $436 million contribution to Habitat for Humanity International and 84 of its U.S. affiliates, from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
Site supervisor John Mezzacappa, with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, prepares a home at 441 Cypress Street to be dedication on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, for one of the affordable housing nonprofit’s new homeowners, Hannah Eddy, in Tarpon Springs. The nonprofit is expected to receive an $11 million gift, part of a $436 million contribution to Habitat for Humanity International and 84 of its U.S. affiliates, from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published March 27, 2022

A win all around

Habitat for Humanity get millions | March 23

Talk about a win-win! The news that a surprise $11 million will be going to Pinellas/West Pasco Habitat for Humanity with $7.5 million going to Hillsborough Habitat for Humanity is a big win for affordable housing in the Tampa Bay area. Author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, after her divorce from Jeff Bezos, was in control of a huge fortune and decided to give it away, but with an overriding responsibility to do as much good as possible. Talk about a great job description! She’s able to do great things with her fortune, the Habitat organization can extend its reach, and the resulting additional housing will go directly to helping alleviate the critical shortage of affordable housing in our area. That’s a win-win-win! We all win! Thanks, MacKenzie!

Jon Crawfurd, Gulfport

Help where it’s needed

USF works to close learning gaps for male students with mentorship program | March 19

In reporting on USF’s mentoring program for males, the Tampa Bay Times made a perplexing choice in leading its article with an anecdote about a male engineering major who presumably is benefiting from the extra support provided. Among State University System bachelor’s degree engineering graduates in 2019-20, only 23 percent were women. That is, men outnumbered women by more than three to one. At USF, only 22 percent of bachelor’s degree engineering graduates were women.

The situation is similar in computing, in which only 18 percent of 2019-20 of SUS bachelor’s degree grads were women (USF’s percentage was identical). In physics, 23 percent of 2019-20 SUS bachelor’s degree grads were women, while the percentage was 18 percent at USF.

Because there are so few women majoring in these subjects, they face obstacles that men in the same fields do not. For example, in a recent national survey of undergraduate women majoring in physics, 74 percent reported that they had experienced sexual harassment in settings related to their study of physics. For this reason and others, women majoring in physics frequently struggle with the feeling that they do not belong in the field.

If USF is going to provide extra mentoring support to students in engineering, computing and physics, the institution should probably focus its efforts on women and other students underrepresented in those fields.

Paul Cottle, Tallahassee

The writer is a physics professor at Florida State and was chair of the American Physical Society’s Committee on Education in 2013–2014.

Good news in the bad

2.5M students use tobacco products, survey finds | March 21

With all the bad news occurring in the world right now, the Tampa Bay Times missed an opportunity to emphasize some very good news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported 2021 survey results that indicated only 1.9 percent of American high school students had smoked cigarettes in the previous 30 days, and less than 0.4 percent smoked regularly (on 20-30 days). These are record low smoking rates. By comparison, the high school smoking rate was over 22 percent in 2002 and over 15 percent just ten years ago. Vaping of e-cigarettes also dropped down to 11.3 percent from a peak of 27.5 percent in 2019.

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The Times article reported only the combined rates of vaping plus smoking and other tobacco product use, which ignores the scientific consensus that vaping is substantially safer than smoking. Unfortunately, the media has failed to communicate this, and the public is generally unaware of the distinction. Nevertheless, some teens appear to have replaced highly dangerous smoking with much safer vaping. And earlier concerns that vaping would be a gateway to smoking have not played out in the data. There is still work to be done toward the ideal of zero nicotine use by teens, but let’s take a moment to congratulate our teens for making wiser choices that exclude smoking.

Thomas Brandon, Tampa

The writer chairs the Department of Health Outcomes & Behavior, and Director of the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Looking out for seniors

In favor of Medicare Advantage

As the CEO and president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I consider it one of my prime responsibilities to keep tabs on the interests, concerns and general well-being of communities here in Florida.

For those groups that come from underserved populations, including our seniors, I take this responsibility even more seriously. Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve dedicated my time and attention to ensuring seniors are having their health needs met. This is also why I have become such a proponent of Medicare Advantage, which is the highest-quality, most affordable health care option available to seniors.

When living on a fixed or limited income, as most seniors are, every cost is important. That’s why Medicare Advantage is such an essential service for the millions of seniors who are enrolled — with the cap on out-of-pocket costs and the consistently low premiums, seniors don’t worry about the cost of their care. Especially with rising inflation, consistent affordability is more important than ever. Add to that the extensive benefits and services it provides Medicare Advantage really does encapsulate the full package of quality health care.

I’m glad to see that both Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have signed on to past Medicare Advantage support letters and continue to be advocates for this program in Congress.

Julio Fuentes, Wellington