As an undergraduate student at the University of St. Thomas from 2000-2004, I can vouch for the Rev. Dennis Dease's list of Catholic-identity accolades (Opinion Exchange, Dec. 11).

St. Thomas has indeed done much to promote and preserve its Catholic identity.

But in responding to Kathleen Kersten's Dec. 6 column, neither Father Dease nor Archbishop Harry Flynn addressed her central concern: How is the university's Catholic identity preserved by a change in the bylaws that removes the sitting archbishop as chairman of the board of trustees?

Archbishop Flynn promised in his letter that the board would always include bishops or priests. But unless this promise appears in the bylaws, it's only as good as his five-year term.

As a proud graduate of St. Thomas, I am deeply concerned for the university's future as a Catholic university. Like Kersten, I believe the preservation of the university's Catholic identity is key to maintaining a true diversity in education.

No list of accolades, and certainly no word-of-mouth guarantee from an archbishop with a coadjutor, will assure me that St. Thomas won't cave in to secularization. Until I see the sitting archbishop written back into the board's bylaws, any guarantee of the university's continued Catholicity to me seems ill-founded, inaccurate and ludicrous.

FRANZ S. KLEIN, LA CROSSE, WIS.

Snow angels in blue, except in Minneapolis

I read with interest Nick Coleman's Dec. 14 account of the woman who asked to borrow a snow shovel to free a bus stuck in the snow. A Minneapolis police officer refused to allow her to use the shovel, and when she took it anyway (and helped free the bus) was given a citation.

Contrast that with the TV news report of four Boston police officers who, on foot during a snowstorm, escorted a truck carrying a woman in labor through traffic to get her to a hospital.

I guess it's not Minnesota nice anymore!

TIM WHITE, MINNEAPOLIS

Amendment may deserve acclaim and approval

Prof. John Adams' call for the creation of a State Balance Sheet by the legislature to assess our state's principal assets of human capital, the built environment, natural environments and institutions (Counterpoint, Dec. 9) is truly compelling. Such a balance sheet would inform us all of the condition of these assets and make us realize how important it is to maintain and improve them. As Adams notes, "Assets depreciate. Business and homeowners know this, but the state conveniently forgets." Disregarding the very real and very large costs of such depreciation is indeed fictitious accounting on a massive scale.

Imagine a future for Minnesota that was shaped by a recognition of the tangible an intangible value of its principal assets. Panels of experts, appointed jointly by the governor and the Legislature, could assess the condition and maintenance needs of these assets every few years. Those panels could submit their recommendations to the House, Senate and governor as input to the state budgeting process. If their recommendations were implemented, Minnesota would become the envy of the nation for its farsighted husbandry of its precious resources, infrastructure and quality of life. It would not have major bridges collapsing, or polluted air and water, or inadequate educational institutions.

While amendments to the state Constitution are rarely justified, building the mechanism to establish a State Balance Sheet into the Constitution could be justified. Visionary leadership by all of our elected officials could make this happen.

JERRY KEMP, ORONO

Boen the motivator

Jim Boen, possibly "the oldest living quadriplegic" ("Disabled, yes, but never crippled, Dec. 13)) died this month. Among Jim's talents, he was a conditioning coach. In a conversation, I told him that even though I exercised extensively, I doubted that I did anything right. He said (way before Nike did), "Just do it."

LOU HARRIS, MINNEAPOLIS

Downtown living has its disappointments

We moved into the North Loop area within easy walking distance of downtown shopping, restaurants and theatres. For a couple of years it was interesting and entertaining but as time went on we became disillusioned by the numbers of questionable types inhabiting the sidewalks and some of the skywalk areas and the litter and unsightly sidewalks lessened the pleasure. Much of the available shopping is not keyed to our lifestyle or budget, so all combined, our trips to downtown Minneapolis have diminished to virtually zero. We're within minutes of the surrounding suburbs where we find the stores we like, have easy parking, don't have to carry purchases for blocks and most of all we feel comfortable in the surroundings.

R.A. THORNTON, MINNEAPOLIS

Tarnish sports heroes

The baseball steroid scandal will continue to have a ripple effect for generations to come. I awakened one recent morning to find that my 9-year-old son had taken down all but one of his sports posters from his wall.

He didn't want any supposed steroid users hanging up in his room -- and the Tori Hunter poster had to go since he is no longer a Twin. The only poster that made the cut was a picture of a dog. Man's best friend triumphs through it all!

WENDY CALDWELL, EDEN PRAIRIE