IMAGE:  June 2004
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Does the Greek letter chi stand for Chicago?

Distracting appeal
We are not contributing to the College Fund this year.

We received three mailings this past fall emphasizing the efforts of the College in enhancing extracurricular activities. The last, from former Dean Wayne C. Booth, AM’47, PhD’50, suggests that if “life outside the classroom” were “less dry and dull” there might not have been the “sequence of sit-ins” in the Sixties.

Not only is this view of history absurd, it is insulting to those of us who lived through the period with a mix of what we thought was conscience and concern. Both of us taught at the University of California during many of those years. Many University of California students, at no small risk to themselves, participated in various political and academic actions even though they surely had no lack of extramural diversions.

Any university that needs extracurricular activity in the name of distractions will not be needing financial help from us. There are too many other institutions, academic and otherwise, that deserve our sympathy and support.

Murray M. Schacher, SB’62, SM’63, PhD’67
Los Angeles

Lance W. Small, SB’62, SM’62, PhD’65
Del Mar, California

Wayne Booth replies:
The letter from Murray Schacher and Lance Small is one of several I’ve received expressing deep annoyance with my clumsy letter of solicitation. As I reread my appeal now, I regret that it seems to blame students for having “plagued”—a terribly wrong choice of words—my years as dean. I don’t blame the students. What “plagued” me was the war that led to the protests. And I was wrong in suggesting that all students were bored with “life outside the classroom”; the protesters were not bored but angrily and rightly engaged with serious issues. That’s why I was usually on their side.

Though I wish I could cancel my letter and write another one, the writers do misread one main point. Having left the College five years before I became dean, they mistakenly say that I think the cause of the sit-ins was that “life outside the classroom” was “dry and dull.” What I hoped to say, when talking of the neglect of “fun” outside the classroom, was that we did too little to stimulate genuinely engaged discussions of all important issues: that kind of intellectual fun. My guess is that the College is far livelier in that respect now than it was then.

If they had been around during my five years, they would never have read the letter as suggesting that if “life outside the classroom” had been “less dry and dull” there might not have been the sit-ins in the Sixties.

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters on its contents or on topics related to the University of Chicago. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space and clarity. To ensure the widest possible range of views and voices, we ask readers to limit their correspondence to 300 words or less.

Please send letters to: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5801 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail:



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