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APRIL 2000: CAMPUS NEWS (print version)


U of C group builds new homes worldwide
> > College students traded mental toil for physical labor during winter and spring breaks, working for Habitat for Humanity in the United States and Central America.

Every spring break, students cooped up in dorms and classrooms throughout the Chicago winter head south. While many look forward to simply getting a tan, others have something more constructive in mind. During nine days in March, a group of 30 College students rented vans and drove to Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina to build affordable homes for needy families.

This is the seventh year the University's Habitat for Humanity chapter has arranged for students to help others through Habitat International's Collegiate Challenge program. This year, the "alternative" spring-break trips were filled within a week.

Students who signed up expected to do a range of construction work--from laying foundations to roofing to putting up drywall--at sites in Albany, Georgia; Fairfield, Alabama; or Morehead City, North Carolina. "It's about making a difference that you can tangibly see," says volunteer coordinator Cynthia King, a third-year economics concentrator.

Based in Americus, Georgia, Habitat was founded in 1976 as a nonprofit, ecumenical ministry to provide the working poor with decent and affordable housing. The organization has built some 50,000 houses worldwide, working with more than 1,200 U.S. affiliates and 200 international ones.


The University of Chicago chapter of Habitat for Humanity

One of 600 campus chapters nationwide, the U of C group formed in 1989 as a loose affiliation of students. Now a recognized student organization, it has a ten-student board and more than 130 participants--a number it expects to double next year. David Grainger, a campus minister and the director of the United Protestant Campus Ministry at the U of C, serves as the group's faculty adviser. "The students of the Habitat chapter respond to the problem of affordable housing with efforts to bring some correction to the problem and to learn more about the systemic reasons for the problem," he says. "Their efforts take them into our neighborhoods and allow them to become better neighbors. They dare to take their learning to the streets."

In addition to the spring-break trips, the chapter also organizes Saturday work projects on the South Side. So far this academic year, more than 100 members of the University community--mostly undergraduates--have spent some 600 hours on various improvement efforts, gutting buildings with crowbars and scraping paint from walls.

Because Habitat does not have a city affiliate serving the South Side, the U of C chapter has developed its own relationships with community organizations. The group has been helping the Matthew House social-service center rehab a building that will provide transitional housing for 20 homeless men. This past fall, the chapter began rehabbing the headquarters of the Midwest Workers Association (MWA), which advocates on behalf of low-income workers. U of C students have also worked on St. Luke's Place, a residential-service facility for people with HIV or AIDS, and at projects led by Woodlawn Development Associates.

"It's important for students to see the surrounding neighborhood and try to become a part of that community even in a small way," says MWA project leader Nick Robinson, a second-year concentrating in political science and Law, Letters, & Society.

The U of C chapter has also sought to take part in Habitat's global initiatives. Over this past winter break, it organized its first international work trip, traveling to Nicaragua. There, 13 College students and one medical student helped construct ten homes in Diriamba, a small town southwest of Managua that had been devastated by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998.

The students worked through last summer and autumn to raise the $21,000 needed to pay for the trip, holding a silent auction, soliciting grants, and contributing $500 from personal resources. After being briefed in Chicago by a worker for Habitat's Nicaragua chapter, Grainger and the students headed to Managua. They met with local college students and attended orientation seminars on the country's history and on sustainable development at the Augsburg College-affiliated Center for Global Education.

In Diriamba, they mixed concrete, transported 120-pound limestone quarry rocks, wrapped rebar, and smoothed sand floors alongside families whose homes had been destroyed by the hurricane. Four Spanish-speaking U of C students served as translators on the ten-day trip. Away from the construction sites, the students stayed in a local pension and attended community festivals and picnics. One night they loaded up their vans with about 30 locals and drove some 20 kilometers to the Pacific coast for a swim and sing-a-long.

"The trip was more than I hoped it would be," says trip leader and fourth-year geophysical-sciences concentrator Scott Strawn. "We were greeted with such a feeling of friendliness, and we had such a great opportunity to learn firsthand about the history of the country and what the people have gone through." In the future, King says, the chapter hopes to host talks by urban-policy experts, add more local projects, and make the international work trip an annual event.--C.S.

Off-Off Campus hosts a revolutionary 40th revue
> > The comedy troupe's 13th generation keeps improv tradition alive.

In its 40th quarterly revue, members of the Off-Off Campus comedy troupe chronicled the adventures of a fictional family rock band. Their improv antics in The Amazing Lipnicki Revolution cracked up Blue Gargoyle audiences on Friday nights during the second half of this past winter quarter.

The show's seven cast members relied on audience feedback, character development, and pre-plotted story lines as they improvised their way through scenes pitting the Lipnickis against evil villains trying to thwart the band's musical message of peace and love.

One night, for example, the five Lipnickis confronted a thumbless cyborg and his henchman; on another they faced a half-squid, half-human bad guy and his evil sidekick. Not surprisingly, all the shows--except for one where the band temporarily broke up--had the happy endings expected of a sitcom-like performance.


Off-Off Campus

The Revolution featured the "13th generation" of Off-Off Campus: second-years Maya Ganguly, Robert Kennedy, Melanie MacBride, and Chandrika Rajan; third-years Avram Klein and Justin Seidner; and grad student Joachim Riesthuis. Cast at the end of the 1998 autumn quarter, they spent the following quarter in training before performing a different flagship revue in each quarter since. The first generation of Off-Off Campus dates back to 1986, when Second City co-founder Bernard G. Sahlins, AB'43, challenged students in his improv comedy course to revive the tradition on campus.

The Lipnickis were dreamed up over a summer break by fourth-year anthropology concentrator Megan Biddinger, who directed the show with fourth-year biology concentrator Beth Adams. Heavily influenced by Nick at Nite reruns of the Partridge Family and Beatles movies like Yellow Submarine and Help!, the Revolution revue was picked by troupe members to follow autumn quarter's Last Things First, a show about the drama and humor in daily life.

Biddinger points out that Revolution is not a "revue" in the traditional sense of a performance grounded in loosely connected, scripted scenes. Rather, she describes it as an improv piece based on the commedia dell'arte tradition, relying on plot skeletons, or scenarios, presented to actors in outline form only. The scenarios typically revolve around the familiar narrative devices of star-crossed lovers, mistaken identities, or sibling rivalry.

For each performance, Revolution cast members traded off the roles of the same stock characters: a widower, a heartthrob brother, his idealistic sister, their crafty younger brother and innocent younger sister, a bus-driving manager, a villain and his henchman, and a character free to change his or her role based on the action. (Two cast members played double roles.) The troupe worked in rehearsal to develop characters "so rich and like an actual person that you would know what drives them instinctively," says Biddinger.

Audience suggestions made in response to questions like "What's my favorite food?" kept the story moving. And in a new twist added this year, a live band provided accompaniment. Though the band had prepared music, the songs sung by the cast members--like one about yoga--were based on what the audience threw out.

This spring, the torch passes to the 14th generation, who plan to perform a more traditional, scripted revue poking fun at society's manners and mores.--C.S.

Cultural Studies
> > These campus dance groups keep College students on their toes:

Underground Tap Movement
Tap. "We once were the Tip Top Tappers, but felt a name change was overdue after tapping in the basement of Cobb Hall for the past couple of years," quips Alex Jacoby, '00. "We see ourselves as a rather social group, and this year we've got quite a mix: faculty, students, and Hyde Parkers who just like to tap."

UC Dancers
Modern. Established 20 years ago, UC Dancers continue to meet regularly to dance, discuss works-in-progress, and choreograph and rehearse for the group's annual spring concert, held at Mandel Hall.

Chicago Swing Dance Society
Swing. "Our goal is to promote and spread the joy of social swing dancing as a cross-cultural, cross-generational pastime," says Young-Jin Kim, AB'97. "Our instructors are known nationally, are regarded as some of the best instructors in the Midwest, and have taught more than 2,500 people how to swing dance."

Troupe Palymyra
Middle Eastern. "The dancers specialize in Turkish, Egyptian, Lebanese, Persian, and Moroccan styles," says director Johanna Krynytzky. "Middle Eastern dance is an expression of the individual, an expression of joy that is then related to the audience. This dance originates from within, and is accessible to any age, gender, skill level, or physical condition."

U of C Fusion Performance Group
Modern. Produced by artistic director Douglas Wood, a senior research scientist in molecular genetics & cell biology, the group's spring performance, FUSION 2000, will feature dances influenced by other fields, including playwriting, painting, music, and molecular biology.

Lecture Notes
> > Gerald Rosenberg gets down to the day-to-day of law

In examining the nexus of courts, law, and society, Gerald N. Rosenberg, an associate professor of political science and a 1993 Quantrell Award winner, emphasizes the practical realities of law rather than official interpretations.

The reading list for Rosenberg's Political Science 225: Law and Society, taught this past winter quarter, included the professor's own offering, The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change? (University of Chicago Press). In it, Rosenberg discusses the monumental decisions Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade, theorizing that only with political backing and public support can the court system effect real change. Lani Guinier, Michelle Fine, and Jane Balin's Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law School, and Institutional Change (Beacon) explores the attitudes toward women in law school and the gender gap in grades, achievement, and careers at the country's elite schools. Gerald Stern's Buffalo Creek Disaster (Vintage) examines a case in which a large settlement was procured for residents of Buffalo Creek, Virginia, after a mine collapsed, killing workers and damaging houses. Taken together, Rosenberg's readings are meant to show that law--as practiced in society--differs greatly from law as preached in schools, appellate cases, and textbooks.

"Law pervades all aspects of society in the United States," explains Rosenberg. "There is, of course, the formal legal system of laws and lawyers, judges and courts. But how does law work in practice? This seminar explores the informal, unofficial elements of the law that surround, supplement, supplant, and complement the official, formal elements. In exploring issues such as legal consciousness, judicial biases, and legal education in the legal profession, students develop a more sophisticated and subtle understanding of the place of law in U.S. society."--B.B.

On The Quads

New registration system
This spring, students can sign up for their fall 2000 classes on-line. The new College registration system relies on a special algorithm giving weight to both class year and the order in which a student submits course choices--a feature the College hopes will result in more students getting their first-choice classes. Students will also be able to note their course preferences for winter and spring quarters via the Internet, allowing the College to better assess and plan for demand. Previously, students handled registration logistics through their College advisers, who are now expected to have more time to spend on other student concerns.

Future world leaders
Nearly 200 U of C students and alumni gathered at Chicago's Palmer House Hilton February 4-6 for the 12th annual Model United Nations of the University of Chicago (MUNUC). The conference is intended to educate high-school students about the mechanics of the United Nations and about contemporary world affairs. This year's conference attracted some 2,153 students from across the continent, including two schools from Canada and two from Mexico.

Suggestions to dine on
First-years have Orientation, third-years Taking the Next Step, and fourth-years Senior Week. Now second-years have a program of their own: the new Second Year Dinner Series. Every second-year will be invited to attend a dinner with College administrators during the 11-week run of the series. Held in Harper conference rooms, the College-sponsored dinners host no more than 50 students on a given night and are intended to give second-years a chance to share opinions about their experiences at the U of C.

Physical Education

Men's basketball stands tall
The men's basketball team made it to the NCAA Division III championship sectionals, ending its run with a 63-49 loss on March 10 to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The Maroons earned a bye in the first round of playoff action and advanced to the national round of 16 after a 75-68 win over Ripon College. The team clinched its third UAA title in four years, finishing 23-4 overall and 15-0 in the UAA. Named the 2000 UAA player of the year, first-year Derek M. Reich broke Chicago's scoring record.

Women's b-ball shoots for All-UAA
Four women's basketball team members, fourth-years Kate Hemker and Amy Gleisner, third-year Dana Allison, and first-year Rachel Thompson, were chosen to the 2000 All-UAA team. Chicago wrapped up the season with a loss to Washington University on February 26, posting an overall record of 14-11 and a 9-6 mark in UAA play.

Maroons stroke to UAA honors
Chicago third-year Karen Chuang and second-year Jeremy Lankford earned All-UAA recognition at the 2000 UAA swimming championships, held at Emory University in February. Chuang, a second-time All-UAA honoree, placed third in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:15.96, and Lankford placed second in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of :52.51.

Wrestlers take down opponents
Three Chicago wrestlers won UAA titles at the 2000 UAA wrestling championship, hosted by Johns Hopkins University. Third-years Anthony Calcagno, Steve Mlynarczyk, and J. R. Moore captured conference titles at heavyweight, 133 pounds, and 141 pounds, respectively. As a team, Chicago placed third of fourth, behind New York University and Case Western Reserve University.

Tennis coach to serve last round
Bill Simms, head coach of the men's and women's tennis teams since 1979, will retire at the end of the 2000 season. He began his Chicago career in 1967 as a gymnastics coach.

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