2000: Departments (print version)
hope I'm not seen as slipping into creeping fogeyism
if I lodge a small complaint concerning your cover choice for the April/00
magazine. It seems to me that when a U of C icon like Edward Levi dies,
the least we can do is put his picture on the cover of the University
magazine. Levi was no "ordinary" U of C president--he WAS the university,
for so many long and distinguished and at times tumultuous years, that
it is virtually impossible to separate the U of C's unique ethical and
intellectual identity from that of Edward Levi, as Mary Ruth Yoe's excellent
obituary so eloquently argues. So why not an old black-and-white photo,
conveying a sense of his long history, perhaps from his law school days,
of this legendary leader of Chicago?
Abel's back-page cartoons are great; keep 'em coming! But trumping Ed
Levi? Come on!
L. Simons Jr., AM'68, PhD'72
Goth! You would have readers accept the assertion ("Chicago
Journal," April/00) that the design of the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center
"...echoes Gothic architecture in its use of light."
the University's trustees believe what their renowned architect told
them, or is it your job to convince alumni that the emperor does, too,
have clothes on?
Simek Wendt, AB'48
more than meets the eye
article in the April issue concerning the June 30 closing
of International House ("Chicago Journal") neglected to mention something
that by now is well known to everyone on campus, and probably many other
readers as well: namely that the University's decision has created not
only an enormous controversy, but an extraordinary effort to save this
building by large numbers of hardworking people who represent a broad
spectrum of the University and Hyde Park communities.
loss of this institution would be a tragedy, all the more tragic because
it is completely avoidable. The financial arguments made by the administration,
and reported in the April issue, would seem to leave little alternative
but to close the building. In fact, however, these issues are extremely
complex and many sided, and knowing the details often casts them in
a rather different light.
1994, Holabird and Root, the building's original architects, came up
with a renovation plan, in conjunction with student input. For a cost
of $14 million [at the time], that plan provided for all necessary repairs
and a change from the current room configuration to about 200 dormitory
rooms and 150 either private bath or bath suites, larger rooms sharing
a bathroom with one other student. This plan would have gone a long
way towards solving the "turnover" problem--the small rooms are fine
for a year, but those of us who are here for the long haul tend to need
more space and privacy.
then, the larger figure? When the I-House Board approached the University
for a loan in 1996, the administration insisted on revisions to the
renovation plan that brought the cost up to $20 million--in current
dollars, around $25 million. This second plan--which is not only more
expensive, but also less desirable from the point of view of students--was
forced on I-House against its will, simply because the administration
felt that in 50 years all students would insist on having their own
bathroom. It was a very shortsighted decision--for one thing, making
all rooms have private baths left the rooms themselves rather cramped.
Students here value space far more than a private bathroom. Now, more
than ever, this decision, and a very sound original plan, need to be
it would still cost $13-15 million to rehab one proposed alternative,
the abandoned phone switching building at 6045 S. Kenwood Avenue. That
building, however, would only have 150 rooms--versus approximately 330
rooms for a renovated I-House--not to mention that the "alternative"
is vastly inferior in location, facilities, and appearance.
rental income generated on the additional rooms is, conservatively,
$600,000 a year. Which is more likely to be able to repay the capital
costs--especially given that refurbishing the 61st Street location would
require a two-year hiatus, with the existing community dispersed and
no rental income coming in at all?
every way, this controversy has been plagued by incomplete information.
Take, for example, the issue of fund-raising. From the beginning, according
to an I-House development officer, the University tied the hands of
the I-House development office, insisting that the central administration
alone had rights over wealthier (over $25K potential) donors. The University
did not, to say the least, make International House a priority in its
own fund-raising efforts.
it asked I-House to submit a list of potential "seed" donors for a capital
campaign, which it then winnowed down drastically. We understand that
the President made overtures to only three donors.
egregious example of widespread confusion resulting from incomplete
information is the fire alarm issue, which has been used to support
closing I-House ASAP. Contrary to what is reported in the April issue,
the City never cited International House for a "violation." These are
the facts. City codes changed in the 1990s, requiring an expensive upgrade
to the alarm systems--individual room "rising heat sensors"--in all
dorms and other Single Room Occupancy buildings. The University came
to an agreement with the City that they would do this over a period
of years. Currently, not only I-House, but Max Mason and the Shoreland,
have to have, by law, such systems installed; one and probably both
of these undergraduate dorms will not do these upgrades until the summer
of 2001. The cost for the installation of such a system in I-House is
$1.1 million--but for a fraction of that, in the interim period during
renovations--I-House could have a system identical to what is currently
in those dorms.
what is to be done? The University needs to slow down and take stock,
and not make any irreparable decisions that we would all deeply regret
later. One thing, however, that it should not do is continue what it
has, for some time now, been doing: conducting confidential negotiations
with the Business School for the sale of the building and the land to
them for a paltry $2 million. The probable result of such a transaction:
the demolition of this architectural landmark which has graced the Midway
for 70 years, to be replaced with modern luxury apartments for GSB students.
None of this can be allowed to happen, and indeed the Illinois Landmarks
Commission is looking into the matter.
must be resisted above all, however, is any idea that the "institution"
can be separated from the "building." With its lovely courtyard, elegant
public spaces, and distinctive U of C gothic architecture, this building
was designed for its use and is irreplaceable. As any of the thousands
of alumni who lived here understand, the building and the institution
are inseparable; close one and you kill them both. The proposed alternative--any
proposed alternative--cannot be taken seriously.
renovated and wisely managed, International House can continue to serve
the University for another 75 years. We hope that alumni will urge the
University to give the future of International House its full support.
Those who want to find out more should go to www.save-ihouse.org.
Mr. Hand notes, the City of Chicago did not order the June 30 closing
of I-House, as was reported in the April issue. The lack of a fire-alarm
system, however, does keep International House from being in compliance
with the city's fire code. Please see "Chicago Journal," page 14,
for a report on the future of International House.--Ed.
have been disappointed to hear of the proposal to
demolish the University of Chicago International House. I-House
offers the University a long tradition of housing students, both international
and domestic. I-House also remains the last recognizable center for
informal international cultural exchange on the University campus. How
many friendships have been formed between students, faculty, and staff
from countries far and near?
International House provides a welcoming site for international film,
dance, national holiday celebrations, presentations, and forums. Without
the troubles of organizing interdepartmental sponsorships and turf wars
that sometimes plague the best plans to bring international students,
scholars, and families together, I-House has consistently offered a
congenial atmosphere for free exchange.
the trouble stems from dwindling numbers of residents, the answer is
to upgrade the facilities. The rooms are indeed out of date. And the
food service indeed served unappetizing and costly fare. Modestly refurbished
rooms and an attractive, appropriately ambitious cafe will bring students
back in droves from the tight Hyde Park housing market. I-House's service
to the University community is invaluable.
in the facilities, and the International House will bring rich returns
to the new administration.
Hsu, AM'88, PhD'98
the I-House building, and the I-House program in a way that
fully maintains the residential interaction between Americans and international
students. Remodel the facility as necessary to improve functionality
and residential comfort, expand the role of the GSB if necessary, but
retain the ability of any graduate student at the U of C to stay
there, alongside international students studying/working in Chicago.
structure is a remarkable landmark at 59th Street, and it contains some
notable facilities, despite the aging internal mechanisms and the small
residential rooms. The building's historic value is more than adequate
to merit changes to the residential sections, and refurbishment of the
internal mechanisms, so that it can continue to have a functional role
in the life of the University.
residential program I experienced at I-House was just as vital as my
graduate program--in some regards, more so. Since I left Chicago at
the end of 1987, it has been the friends at I-House--nearly all from
Europe, in my case--who have remained a part of my life. When I am on
campus, I choose to stay at I-House. When I talk with friends from Chicago
days, we easily return to discussions of I-House experiences.
any notion of turning the building (or the razed property) over for
exclusively GSB housing, I would consider this a sad, serious mistake.
From my own experience in 1985-87, the international students of the
Law and Business schools comprised a major component of the I-House
population. The American GSB students were challenged and broadened
by meeting individuals from throughout the world, who held views remarkably
different from those often found in MBA students.
I consider the best plans to be those which retain the building, the
residential programs for graduate students at the U of C (including
the GSB), and international students studying or working in Chicago.
trust that future issues will feature more balanced
of the intense campus debate over the future of International House.
Your short report reproduces administration press releases, without
mentioning the letter of protest over the proposed closing of I-House,
signed by 70 faculty members. It makes no mention of I-House residents'
protest rallies, marches, and fund-raisers, nor does it report on their
planned class-action suit (presumably announced after your deadline).
As the best campus reporting has stressed, the University community
is upset by the administration's apparent lack of transparency as well
as by the decision itself. Only ten years ago, I-House was sufficiently
popular to operate at full capacity, with a waiting list for students
unable to be accommodated.
to adopt an unpopular and expensive meal plan, the house began to lose
residents, yet it still runs at a profit. Mandated by John Rockefeller's
original gift to watch over I-House interests, the administration seems
in retrospect to have failed this duty. While I-House has solicited
University assistance in planning long-term structural improvements,
and in launching a fund-raising campaign, the University appears to
have planned the building's closure, perhaps even negotiating with the
Graduate School of Business over a future sale of building and land
(for the ridiculously low sum of $2 million). The administration claims
that it is impossible to raise the $25-$30 million needed for major
infrastructural improvements, and that even to spend $1-2 million for
a fire-alarm system would be wrong at this point, yet they offer $12-$15
million to renovate a much smaller replacement building, which would
house less than half the students that the present building contains,
and whose location (on 61st Street) is so marginal that most people
would be afraid to walk there at night. At the same time, the administration
plans to spend $500 million on campus-wide capital improvements (from
new dormitories to recreational facilities, including bowling-alley
and skating rink) aimed primarily at improving the quality of undergraduate
life. Given the lavish scale of these plans, the zero-sum arguments
about I-House seem highly inappropriate, and the apparent lack of interest
in the needs of foreign graduate students is striking.
sever the International House program from the building conceived for
it is to weaken the chances that, in the long run, either will survive.
The administrators seem to have no sense of the symbolic and practical
importance of public space; they act as if they are only getting rid
of an old dormitory. Although they now claim there is no immediate threat
to the building, they have not committed themselves to preservation
either (and some scenarios for selling and reusing the land clearly
presuppose razing instead). Over the 20th century, the city of Chicago
failed to preserve an extraordinary number of extraordinary structures:
the small remaining fragment of Louis Sullivan's Stock Exchange behind
the Art Institute should remind us of the folly of an earlier, raze-and-rebuild
mentality. The University is an institution in part dedicated to the
preservation of the past; it must not repeat the city's mistakes.
building with I-House's historical, architectural, pedagogical, and
sentimental significance should not be under threat, nor should the
architectural integrity of the Midway it helps to anchor. The National
Trust for Historic Preservation considers all these aspects crucial
ones for making preservation decisions. In other words, an older building
that is architecturally striking (even if not, in itself, a masterpiece),
that forms part of an architectural ensemble, and that has been part
of the fabric of the community for a long time should rightly be considered
a landmark, and as such, protected from demolition or disfiguring reusage.
facade, the exterior friezes, the silhouette, the extraordinary windows,
and perhaps above all the ground floor interior, with its magnificent
courtyard, remain choice period pieces; on other campuses, a building
like this would be considered irreplaceable, esteemed as an architectural
centerpiece, and used for ceremonial purposes. (Think of the reverence
with which the University of Pittsburgh treats its Cathedral of Learning
or Indiana University its Memorial Union.) If I-House goes, no feasible
replacement could ever duplicate its strengths: the international student
community, and the University community at large, will never get this
kind of space again.
best way to insure the survival and preservation of I-House is to see
that it continues to be used for the purposes for which it was built.
This structure and this institution represent an important, early attempt
to expand the University's international presence and impact. At a moment
marked by (often opportunistic) rhetoric about globalization, the preservation
of International House and its mission seems to us a major symbolic
and practical priority for the University. It is hard for us to believe
that I-House alumni would be unwilling to contribute to a University-led
campaign to ensure its renovation and survival as a center for international
student life. Surely the thousands of U of C students who, since 1932,
have lived, made lifelong international friendships, or simply attended
cultural events at I-House would be extremely sorry to see this institution
Maxwell, AM'71, PhD'76,
Professor of Germanic Studies,
and the College,
University of Chicago
too late to save I-House?
was shocked and grieved to learn of the proposed
closing of International House. I also am angry that I
heard nothing of this until so late in the process. While I never lived
at International House, many of my friends did, and the whole campus
benefited from the cafeteria and the gracious public rooms. It was a
haven for older students who did not want to live in dorms and could
not afford apartments. It also was a great place for foreign students
graduation, I have stayed there when I returned to the U of C. As far
as I know, it is the only lodging for visitors that is at all convenient
to the campus. I also have benefited from its relationship with the
I-Houses at Berkeley and Columbia. It would be a tragic loss for the
U of C if this building, with its history, were to be closed.
the years since my graduation I have supported the annual U of C fund
drives as best as I can. I, and I am sure many others, would gladly
help a fund to save I-House. I am not the "Big Donor" supposedly sought
for this purpose, but many smaller donors can produce amazing results--if
they are asked. I have zero interest, however, in providing real estate
for the Business School.
reconsider this closing of a beloved institution.
Brundrett Jefferson, AB'54, AB'55, AM'57
April Magazine ("College Report") claims that
Off-Off Campus was founded in 1986, "when Second City co-founder
Bernard G. Sahlins, AB'43, challenged students in his improv comedy
course to revive the tradition on campus." Please allow me to correct
this misleading statement.
Campus was founded by me, then director of University Theater, and the
late Prof. Frank Kinahan, then UT's faculty director. It was our idea
to establish a campus comedy troupe; we asked Bernie Sahlins to lend
his name to the enterprise because we knew that his association with
Second City would get people's attention. The only thing Bernie did
was to "teach" the "improv comedy course" that we arranged for him,
in which he traveled to campus to watch the students rehearse their
sketches. And yet whenever the subject comes up, Bernie, and Bernie
alone, is always cited as the founder of Off-Off Campus. (E.g., on the
Off-Off Campus home page.)
mention this not only because it annoys me, but also because it may
be a matter of interest to historiographers. Why does such a distorted
view of history carry the day? Three reasons occur to me. First, it's
simply unwieldy to cite a trio of founders. Much easier to boil us down
to one; and that one, of course, must be the one whom the members of
Off-Off Campus would prefer to consider their founder--reason
No. 2--because through him they can trace a connection to Second City.
Third, the situation seems to be governed by a fundamental rule of American
celebrity culture: The best-known person in the vicinity of an event
tends to receive a grossly disproportionate share of credit or blame
guess I shouldn't complain. Frank and I made a deal with the devil when
we used Bernie's name to advance our project.
in the world is the editor?
for your profile of geographer Gilbert
F. White, SB'32, SM'34, PhD'42, in the April/00 issue ("Gilbert
White watches the world's water," page 43). We hear too little about
practitioners of geography, a discipline that analyzes the relationships
between society, environment, space, and geographical information. I
am not surprised that you neglected to mention that the Chicago administration
did away with the geography department in the 1980s. What potential
research worthy of the National Academy of Sciences' highest honor is
not being done thanks to a short-sighted decision by the University's
at the risk of supporting the common misconception that advanced work
in geography consists of elementary-school level memorization of place
names and locations, I can't resist pointing out that geographical literacy
at the University of Chicago is in a sad state since the demotion of
geography to committee status: The same issue ("Lecture Notes," page
36) also covers the use of the Buffalo Creek mining disaster as a Law
and Society case study "in which a large settlement was procured for
residents of Buffalo Creek, Virginia, after a mine collapsed...." First,
the deadly disaster was not a mine collapse but a flood following the
failure of a tailings dam. Second, Buffalo Creek is located in, ahem,
E. Clark, AM'89
Stuff sends wrong message?
am a staff member at the Regenstein Library, and
was flipping through your magazine for the first time when
an advertisement caught my eye. It is for "The Right Stuff" dating service
and the advertisement's first line reads, "Date someone who knows that
Kofi Annan is not a decaffeinated brew." The ad then suggests that one
use the dating service to meet people from 12 Ivy League and just-under
Ivy League schools. While not a graduate from any of those schools,
I am college educated and very much aware of Kofi Annan and his position--and
found the ad unbelievably offensive.
implication cannot be more clear: people who did not attend one of the
schools listed are ignorant. How can you allow such ridiculous, mean-spirited
arrogance and snobbery in your magazine? Is this the way you really
feel about the relative greatness of this school--that its students
are of a higher class than the great majority of the people in this
country? This school (as I have realized over two years of dating my
boyfriend, a student here) already has problems with unjustified arrogance
and being overly class-conscious.
behalf of all the brilliant, motivated, creative students and college
graduates who didn't have the money or even the desire to attend an
Ivy League school, I demand that you discontinue advertising with this