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Letters: “…gather up whatever is lurking in boxes, or bookcases….””

Full of wonder 

I returned from my first day at the University on the other side of 60 years ago to report to my mother that everyone there was smarter than I was and they knew about things that I had never heard of. This wonderful issue of the Magazine (July–Aug/07) has reaffirmed my original estimate of my status in regard to everyone else at the University! Thank you. I think. Or perhaps that should be to the University: “Thank you, I think!”

June Arnold, AB’46, MBA’61
Indio, California

Epic tuition?

In “Epic Quest” (Sept–Oct/07)
the University claims it wants “to ease the burden of undergraduate debt.” That’s nice, but the University creates “epic tuitions” in the first place by its profligate spending. Perhaps it has finally realized the disaster it has created. But this article pretends the sole answer is raising more money—what about lowering real costs?

Tuitions are not determined by costs, they are determined by demand. The more money a college or university has, the more it will spend with no thought of the impact of higher tuitions on students, families, or society. The increase in tuitions has been probably the most massive reallocation of society’s resources from one group (students and parents) to another group (college teachers and administrators) in the history of this nation. Colleges and universities simply spend billions beyond what is necessary to educate our children. ...

The operating policy of the elite schools is to accept a student body in which about 50 percent of the students can fully pay full room, board, and tuition and then allocate “financial aid” to minority students, proclaiming their commitment to diversity, and saddle the middle class with the maximum amount of debt. If you’re a white coal miner’s daughter from Kentucky, you are out of luck.

American colleges and universities lost their religious roots in the 1970s. They went from being student oriented to being faculty oriented. Their goals of maximizing revenue by any means possible won out over serving the needs of their students and the greater society.

The inherent conflict between maximizing revenue and attracting the best student body with the widest selection of students can only be accomplished by having zero tuition at a private colleges and universities.

Endowment income should pay for faculty, staff,  and upkeep, while students pay only room and board, if that. This is certainly within the financial reach of many of elite institutions, but not until they realize that their current tuition policies are a destructive, not a positive, force in our society.

Paul Streitz, MBA’71
Darien, Connecticut

Streitz is the author of The Great American College Tuition Rip-off (Oxford Institute Press, 2005).—Ed.

Israel and discrimination

In a letter to the Magazine (Sept–Oct/07), Anthony Edwin Nahas, MBA’99, criticizes President Zimmer for speaking out against the decision by the United Kingdom’s University and College Union (UCU) Congress to encourage its membership to consider a boycott of scholars based at Israeli academic institutions. Ironically enough, just about as Nahas’s letter was appearing, the union itself announced that, after consulting with lawyers, it had concluded that such a boycott would probably violate British anti-discrimination laws as well as the union’s own guidelines.

Nahas charges that “Christian and Muslim Palestinians…are the subject of constant discrimination at all levels of academia” in Israel. Based on personal experience as one who served on the faculty of one of Israel’s leading universities for 11 years and chaired my department’s admissions committee, I can affirm that his charges are not only baseless but scurrilous.

Mr. Nahas offers no specific details to support his charges. His anti-Israel rant and support of such a boycott betray not only a warped view of the Israeli reality but an attenuated commitment to basic academic principles. The letter by President Zimmer to which he is reacting, in contrast, was a forthright and commendable expression of those principles. President Zimmer is to be applauded for having spoken out in such a fashion.

Michael C. Kotzin, AB’62
Highland Park, Illinois

Some years back I had the privilege of spending a few months at the University of Chicago as a visiting professor from Israel. I left as an admirer of a truly great institution. I was therefore particularly surprised that the University of Chicago Magazine chose to publish a letter, by Anthony Edwin Nahas of Paris, justifying the boycott of Israeli universities by the British University and College Union (UCU). Mr. Nahas alleged that “the entire academic system” in Israel “highly favors Jewish citizens at the expense of Christian and Muslim Palestinians who are the subject of constant discrimination at all levels of academia.” This is not an opinion but a groundless misstatement of fact.

I refer you to an article by Thomas Friedman in the June 17, 2007, New York Times, which he wrote after attending a PhD commencement at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Mr. Friedman noted the number of Arab students. “These were Israeli Arab doctoral students—many of them women and one of whom accepted her degree wearing a tight veil over her head. Funny—she could receive her degree wearing a veil from the Hebrew University but could not do so in France, where the veil is banned in public schools. Arab families cheered unabashedly when their sons and daughters received their Hebrew U. PhD diplomas, just like the Jewish parents.”

I would like to add that there is nothing unique about the Hebrew University in this regard. All Israeli universities are the same, governed by the same rules and regulations. Noting human-rights abuses in Syria and Sudan, Mr. Friedman concluded that “to single out Israeli universities alone for a punitive boycott is rank anti-Semitism.”

Interestingly enough, the legal advisors of the UCU agree with Mr. Friedman. On September 28 the UCU announced that, “after seeking legal advice, an academic boycott of Israel would be unlawful and cannot be implemented. … The legal advice makes it clear that making a call to boycott Israeli institutions would run a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation.”
So it would seem that on legality and discrimination, the shoe is actually very much on the other foot.

Asher Susser
Waltham, Massachusetts

Susser, the director of the Moshe Dayan  Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, is currently a visiting professor at Brandeis University.—Ed.

I was outraged by the open letter to President Zimmer from Anthony Nahas, claiming that “within Israel…the entire academic system highly favors Jewish citizens at the expense of Muslims, who are subject to constant discrimination at all levels of academia.” This is a lie of gigantic proportions. In fact, Tel Aviv University has recently endowed a $2.2 million scholarship fund for the exclusive use of its 1,500 Arab students. There are a similar number of Arab students enrolled at each of the seven Israeli universities, where they experience no academic discrimination whatsoever. Quite the contrary. Arab students enjoy the benefits of affirmative action by the admissions committee and the scholarship committee at each Israeli university.

Nahas also claims that the Israeli “legal, judicial, and property system highly favors Jewish citizens at the expense of Christians and Muslims.” The complete falsity of this claim can be seen from the following facts: Arab judges (both Muslim and Christian Arabs) serve on Israeli courts at all levels, including the Israeli Supreme Court; every day, more than 1,000 Arab lawyers represent clients (both Jewish and Arab) in Israeli courts; fully 11 percent of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) are Arabs; and Israeli Arabs are not subject to any property restrictions whatsoever (my city of residence has an 8 percent Arab population; my daughter’s neighbor is an Arab).

In conclusion, I join the other letter writers in congratulating President Zimmer for “his defense of basic principles of academic freedom and integrity.”

Nathan (Wiser) Aviezer, SM’59, PhD’65
Professor, Bar-Ilan University
Petach Tikva, Israel

Anthony Nahas’s charge that Arabs are discriminated against in Israeli academia is utterly false. Thousands of Arab citizens study and teach at all the country’s universities and colleges on exactly the same terms as all other Israelis—indeed, in some instances, special help is extended to them—and many Arab university graduates have gone on to success in the larger Israeli society—in law, medicine, education, business, government, and, indeed, in the academic world itself.

Nahas’s claim that “this is even more sadly the case regarding Palestinian academic institutions within the Occupied Territories” is laughably false. Before these territories came under Israeli administration as a result of Arab aggression in 1967, there were no universities in those territories, because the previous occupiers, the Jordanians, did not want them. It was Israel that made them possible. However, now that these territories are largely under the rule of the Palestinian Authority (and no longer “occupied”), the freedom of speech they formerly enjoyed is gone, a fact often (if not always publicly) bemoaned by Palestinian intellectuals.

Michael Swirsky, AB’63

Self-sustaining typo

I was astonished by an historical inaccuracy in “From Our Pages” (Sept–Oct/07). Enrico Fermi’s first artificial, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction took place on December 2, 1942 rather than, as you reported, December 12, 1942. In confirmation of my assertion, I refer you to the inscription on Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy sculpture, located on the east side of Ellis Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets: “On December 2, 1942, man achieved here the first self-sustaining chain reaction and thereby initiated the controlled release of nuclear energy.”

As an undergrad I was honored to be the guest of Dr. Robert L. Platzman [SB’37, SM’40, PhD’42] at the unveiling of Moore’s sculpture on the cold afternoon of December 2, 1967. The sculpture was unveiled at precisely 3:36 p.m. I must admit that I’ve long suspected that Dr. Fermi’s true purpose in undertaking that memorable experiment was simply to heat his makeshift lab under the Stagg Field grandstand!

A. Keith Brown, SB’69
Boulder, Colorado

Two stories, two questions

In “From Our Pages” (Sept–Oct/07), Esperanto is called an “artificial” language. Other than grunts and groans, is there such a thing as a “natural” language? A natural grammar or vocabulary?

I remember George Washington but not the Washington Promenades (“Lite of the Mind,” Sept–Oct/07).  Our big dance was the Sadie Hawkins Day Dance, but who today remembers Sadie Hawkins, Li’l Abner, or their creator, Al Capp—who attended our dance one year and drew caricatures? And when did this event cease?

Norman L. Macht,  PhB’47
San Marcos, Texas

Julia Gardner of the Library’s Special Collections Research Center reports that the answer appears shrouded in the mists of history: “I have not been able to find any information indicating when this dance stopped being an annual event. ... I searched through the yearbooks, and while these included pictures of the Washington Prom, I did not find any images from Sadie Hawkins dances in the early 1940s or in the 1950s (we do not have yearbooks from the war years, the first post–WW II yearbook being 1953).” Readers, can you help?—Ed.

The tug of memory

I always enjoy reading the University of Chicago Magazine. I spent many happy years on the campus during college and medical school, including two years in the ASTP during World War II. I wonder, however, if the tradition of the tug-of-war between the freshmen and sophomore men across Botany Pond still exists. I remember ending up in the mud and having to borrow a pair of trousers from Brandel L. Works [PhB’44, MBA’46] to get home to the North Side.

Ernst R. Jaffé, SB’45, MD’48, MS’48
Port Washington, New York

The tug-of-war lives on, we think, in an altered form: the Inter-House Council’s Homecoming tug-of-war features dorm teams of up to 14 residents, with equal numbers of men and women pulling for each side. Of, course, as tradition demands, we expect to be corrected.—Ed.

Haiku resurface

I finally had the chance to visit the Magazine Web site and read the many haiku submitted for last spring’s contest (“Lite of the Mind,” Mar–Apr/07). It was great fun to participate and to read what others wrote.

I was reminded of another rule of haiku writing—not only do they generally not have titles, as contest judge John O’Connor, AB’86, MAT’87, pointed out, they also normally contain an image from nature and use it to explore a human quality or response. Clever wordplay to fit the syllable count is fun, but, I kept thinking, “don’t go calling it haiku.”

Years ago a Chicago alum quoted some sage whose name I can’t remember as saying that a good haiku writer wrote one great haiku in his life and a great haiku master wrote five. In short, they may be short but they are not “lite.”

Martha Hoffman, AB’87
Brooklyn, New York

Readers wishing to try their luck at another contest should turn to page 80.—Ed.

Plastic wrap rapped

I regularly receive and enjoy the University of Chicago Magazine. I am somewhat disturbed, however, that the Magazine comes wrapped in plastic, which is not recyclable. I receive numerous other periodicals that are not plastic-wrapped—why is this one?

It’s small things like this that can help us reduce the amount of resources we use and waste we create on a daily basis. Please either stop using this wasteful practice, or remove my name from your mailing list.

Monica Brisnehan, MBA’97

Each year several issues are poly-wrapped with other publications from the University—the Alumni Association’s annual guide to alumni services and the Core, the College’s new semiannual magazine; the other issues are mailed without wrapping.—Ed.

Hotel plan doesn’t check out

I was greatly surprised to find a student intern at the Magazine writing as if plans for a hotel(s?) on Stony Island north of Vista Homes had been signed off on and delivered without any more community input (“Chicago Journal,” Sept–Oct/07). The idea that the University’s hospital complex—which has already absorbed an incredible amount of territory (and homes) near or on campus—has to have a hotel for its customers on Stony Island is not by any means a done deal so far as the Hyde Park community is concerned.

There are many unanswered questions and concerns about the U of C’s plan to allow an alum to build two ugly skyscrapers across from the Museum of Science and Industry and turn Stony Island into a commercial strip without adequate parking. Any hotel serving the hospitals belongs at the other end of the Midway, most probably in Woodlawn where there is still plenty of room for development.  

A smaller version of their grandiose scheme—to provide two hotels, a ballroom, three restaurants, and a conference center that used the historic Illinois Central Hospital—would be one thing. But their current plan is overkill. If they had to have all that stuff (for the Hospitals?), they should have planned on using the Midway itself, or perhaps like the mayor, taking over Jackson and Washington parks. 

Maryal Stone Dale, AM’57

Doubt and discipline

James Stuart’s response (“Letters,” Sept–Oct/07) to your article about our preaching seminar (“The World Made Fresh,” July–Aug/07) points to the challenge—and the promise—of teaching and learning the art of preaching in the context of a divinity school located in the heart of a vibrant university. In our university setting, claims to truth and assurances of certainty must always be subject to respectful but thorough examination and vigorous questioning, with the expectation that more authentic theory and more relevant practice will result from our careful scrutiny. While students who are preparing for ministry at our Divinity School often experience such inquiry as existentially demanding, they also come to recognize that their consequent experiences of “struggle, uncertainty, and doubt” are quite like those of their theological antecedents in the church and in the academy, from the apostle Paul and St. Augustine to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Tillich, and Martin Luther King, all of whom sought to understand the meaning and import of the gospel, with its good news of the resurrection, for the social and political realities of their times.

It would be a joyless preacher who wasn’t constantly wondering about her theology of the resurrection—one student’s question about another’s theology of resurrection being a worry of Mr. Stuart’s—and an irrelevant (or oblivious and dishonest) one who didn’t make reference to the suffering of the world out of and for whom he preached, even if those circumstances include a political quagmire, or an unpopular war. Ministry students are more mature persons of faith, better apologists for their respective traditions in a skeptical world, and more adept and sensitive caregivers when they’ve wrestled with important questions and come to know that doubt and faith are not opposing tendencies but, in fact, both universal and complementary human energies.

Countless Divinity School graduates, as well as the congregations to whom they preach on a regular basis, have expressed their gratitude for an education that shaped in them this habitus of intellectual curiosity and courage, and find in these disciplines both soulful solace and radical hope in a climate of brittle and often dangerous certainties.

Cynthia G. Lindner, AM’80, DMN’99

Lindner is director of ministry studies and clinical faculty for preaching and pastoral care at the Divinity School.—Ed.

Light vision

Regarding the generous gift—state-of-the art artificial turf and illumination to Stagg Field [see page 24]—from Bernard J. DelGiorno, AB’54, AB’55, MBA’55:

Some say light is a particle.
Others say light is a wave.
At the University of Chicago we know it’s DelGiorno.

Joseph A. Morris, AB’73, JD’76

Wanted: your ’60s memorabilia

The ’60s and ’70s were turbulent times in this country and for the University.  During our 40th class reunion this past June, a class member discovered that the University has fairly complete archives covering its history but that there is a decided dearth of material from a student perspective related to the ’60s. This spawned an initiative to remedy the situation—an initiative to gather up whatever is lurking in boxes, on bookcases, in scrapbooks.

We’d like to call on all alumni from the ’60s and ’70s who have such material (or want to write reminiscences) to send them to Dan Meyer, AM’75, PhD’94, University archivist, in the Library’s Special Collections Research Center at arch@uchicago?.edu. Memorabilia can be about sit-ins, protests (e.g., against sending class-ranking reports to draft boards; against meal-contract changes for Woodward Court) or more mundane events—or even something humorous, like how protesters stole the 1964 Washington Prom queen’s roses and ate them!

Thanks for helping us retrieve and preserve the history of the ’60s.

Deanna Dragunas Bennett, AB’67
Palm Harbor, Florida

Heather Tobis Booth, AB’67, AM’70
Washington, D.C.


If the tattoo fits...

I just wanted to share a funny photograph of my son with the tattoo you sent in the University of Chicago Magazine (“Lite of the Mind,” May–June/07) . Darian loved the tattoo. He ran all over the house without his shirt and showed it to everybody at kindergarten.

Thank you for the gift—small things can make memorable moments.

Jaime Weisser, MBA’95
Mexico City

Department of corrections

In “Bookends” (“Chicago Journal,” Sept–Oct/07) we misstated the age of the American Historical Review, published by the University of Chicago Press. The AHR began publication in 1895. We regret the error.

The Magazine wel-comes letters about its contents or about the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited. We encourage letter writers to limit themselves to 300 words or less. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 401 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60611. Or e-mail: