A report from the University of Wisconsin-Madison claims that 26.1% of its female students have been sexually assaulted, paralleling findings from an earlier survey study in 2015. Missing from some of the university’s summaries and from some of the news coverage is a key piece of information found in the detailed report: Only 20% of those surveyed responded. That 26.1% is the proportion of survey respondents who reported sexual assault, not the proportion of students who experienced sexual assault overall. Recognizing this distinction is key to being able to respond to the findings sensibly.

Consider an alternative wording for the same data: 5.2% of women who were sent the survey reported that they had experienced sexual assault; 14.8% reported that they had not been sexually assaulted; 80% had nothing to say.

Of course, we don’t know how many of the nonresponding 80% have experienced sexual assault, so we can only guess at the true incidence — that 5.2% is a minimum. And, of course, even 5.2% is 5.2% too many. But it’s going far beyond the data to claim, as the Star Tribune Oct. 15 online headline proclaimed, “Survey: Quarter of women at UW-Madison sexually assaulted.”

The full report is worth reading, because it also addresses concerns about reporting sexual assault and about the support available to victims.

Dale Hammerschmidt, Minneapolis


Gazelka’s praise is ill-considered

State Sen. Paul Gazelka’s essay expressing his great appreciation for the tremendous job the president is doing (“I’d like to expand on my thanks to the president,” Oct. 15) shows how many people truly believe that Donald Trump is making America great!

Gazelka thanks Trump for rolling back regulations that hindered job creation. In the long run, I don’t know if rolling back Environmental Protection Agency regulations to the point of endangering our environment and wildlife is worth the cost of a couple thousand mining jobs. We need to think about the planet we are leaving for future generations. Gazelka also praises Trump’s commitment to protecting the American worker by making better trade deals. I think farmers may question whether the trade war with China is beneficial to them.

Most disturbing about Gazelka’s essay is his description of Trump coming to power in 2016 as the right leader for our unique time. The phrase “coming to power” refers more to the rise of a dictator than the election of a president.

What I find most ironic is that a member of the Minnesota Senate dismisses Congress as untrustworthy. Last time I checked, the legislature was a necessary branch of our constitutional democracy.

Gazelka, like most of Trump’s base, excuses the president’s abusive behavior toward Congress as a show of strong leadership. While the senator admits sometimes Trump’s actions can be outrageous, he’s picking substance over style. This is just another way of saying that the ends justify the means. To me, this is more Machiavellian philosophy than democracy in action.

Patrick Tierney, Minneapolis

• • •

On Tuesday, I read Gazelka’s commentary and learned Republicans believe high school students should demonstrate basic knowledge and skills before receiving a diploma. On Thursday, I read Trump’s letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and learned that Republicans apparently do not believe the same threshold applies for one to be a Republican president.

Jerry Johnson, Eden Prairie


Let’s work with what we have. We have to pay for it regardless.

Several years ago, my neighborhood tried to coordinate our trash collection with one hauler. Although we reduced the number of haulers significantly, we were not successful in reaching our goal. There were personal relationships and preferences at play.

Please consider: Is the current St. Paul coordinated trash collection system perfect? No. Does the current contract stand? Yes (“Yes vote or no, city must pay haulers,” Oct. 17). Will our property taxes go up if we vote “no”? Yes. Is the city working to improve the current contract? Yes.

The yes’s count. Let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face. Let’s use our collective power to further transparency and promote justice issues like climate change, affordable housing and education. Vote yes.

Joan Haan, St. Paul


Air out options, status quo included

Journalists and other Democrats vying for president repeatedly question Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the cost of her health care plan to provide a version of Medicare for All. The questioners (both in the media and her opponents) are either ill-informed or disingenuous. Critics of Medicare for All policies offer us no information on what their alternatives will cost — yet they are rarely questioned about these costs or of doing nothing. True comparisons of costs need to take into consideration the costs of often-high deductibles, copays, surprise out-of-network costs and procedures/visits denied for specious reasons.

Comparisons also need to include estimates of what current insurance costs people — that includes the value of insurance employees get as part of their pay through employers. Insurance coverage reduces cash wages that people receive. And in most cases, employees have very little choice in what that coverage will be — their employer decides, based on trying to keep costs low. So there is rarely “choice.” Other costs that must be included in true comparisons are the costs of deferred doctor visits because the out-of-pocket costs are unaffordable and the amount of productivity lost (leisure or otherwise) to research coverage, contest denied payments, and find doctors/clinics that take one’s insurance coverage.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg both offer versions of a public option plan, and both were critical in sound bites against Warren in the debate. Those may indeed be viable plans — but they are not telling us what they will cost or how they will be paid for.

When we add up the entire cost of the current system, which relies heavily on private insurance, and look at the true lack of choice and lack of coverage in it compared to a Medicare for All system, we can then make more informed choices about which is better. Candidates will continue to focus on sound bites in debates, but journalists should dig deeper into these questions, rather than parroting the attacks that focus solely on Warren.

Linda Bosma, Eagan


Get them off the sidewalks

Hurrah for the article in yesterday’s paper about the lawsuit filed by Noah McCourt concerning electric scooters in Minneapolis (“Scooters prompt disability rights suit,” Oct. 17). I live in downtown St. Paul and I have seen very few scooters on the streets — they are mostly on sidewalks, often weaving in and out between pedestrians. Of course, people (probably old people) will be hit eventually. If I decided to stop or turn suddenly — maybe I forgot something at home I needed — and I didn’t hear the scooter right behind me, what would happen? I hope there would be some friendly people nearby who would help me up from a fall and possibly call an ambulance if one was needed. Would there be another lawsuit?

It would be an improvement over the current arrangement if the scooter companies even made it very clear on the scooter itself that it is illegal to use the sidewalks while driving a scooter. Please!

Connie Nardini, St. Paul

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