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Letters: “This might not be surprising coming from, say, Madonna...”

More U Of C players in Girls Rock!

As an occasional volunteer with Girls Rock! Chicago, I was delighted to see the cover-story cartoon in the Nov–Dec/07 issue. I just thought other alums and readers would like to know that four of the organization’s cofounders are Chicago alums—board president Emily Easton, AB’01, AM’01, marketing outreach coordinator Melissa Oglesby, AB’02, and former board member Erin Debenport, AM’99, along with camp director Renee Neuner, AB’06, who was featured in the cartoon. The Girls Rock! Chicago team also includes new workshop coordinator Miriam Beyer, AM’05.

For more information, about Girls Rock! Chicago, visit the group’s Web site,

Sarah Yatzeck, AB’01

Core value

I have just read the Fall/Winter 2007 edition of the Core  [edited by Laura Demanski, AM’94, and published as a supplement to the Nov–Dec/07 Magazine] and am writing to say how very much I enjoyed it. I think you have developed an excellent communication tool for the College. The articles reflect accurately the curriculum and the diversity of the students and their interests and activities. They are well-written and lively; its appearance piques one’s interest; and, of course, Dan Dry’s photography is outstanding.

 Thank you so much for this wonderful addition to the University’s publications.

Marlene F. Richman

Gender-bias alert

It is great to hear about significant contributions to expand the faculty such as the Neubauer Family Foundation grant (“Chicago Journal,” Nov–Dec/07), which will eventually fund 20 new assistant professors. I was in a competition for 15 new junior faculty positions in the Seventies.  There were 750 candidates, 25 finalists (of which I was one), and 15 appointments—all male.

I hope the University takes this opportunity to enhance the “true Chicago spirit” to be both excellent and fair. Research shows that implicit and unintended bias is behind finding mostly men more “excellent” than women. There are ways to compensate for bias, and I hope the selection committees are guided to them. Chicago and other institutions are producing plenty of qualified diverse graduates. There is no excuse for unquestioned and continued patterns of discrimination in faculty selection.

Chicago will not be great, nor good for its female community, until it consciously works toward fair faculty hiring.

Ruta Pempe Sevo, AM’70, PhD’76, AM’78
Fairfax, Virginia

Accelerated costs

In the “Fermi’s X Factor” article (“Chicago Journal,” Nov–Dec/07), Zak Stambor quotes a price tag for the International Linear Collider (ILC) between $15 and $28 billion. The $15 billion price tag can be obtained by taking the official value estimate by the ILC of about $5 billion and converting it to U.S. accounting standards and inflating it for a construction period starting around 2012 for ten years. I have no idea where the $28 billion comes from and have never heard this number, even though I am involved in the ILC. It would be good if these things were explained a bit better, instead of leaving large numbers like this floating around without an explanation.

Hendrik Weerts
Director, High Energy Physics Division
Argonne National Laboratory

Weerts caught a typographical error that the editors should have. The correct price estimate for the ILC, according to a Fermilab spokesman, is $15 billion to $20 billion; the spokesman added, “We hope to have a firm price by 2010.”—Ed.

Bright lights, big worries

At a time when the planet appears to be melting and when our over-lit night skies cause other ecological problems, should we really be installing any lights anywhere (“Chicago Journal,” Nov–Dec/07) that are not absolutely necessary? We should be taking down lights. And don’t get me started on fusing mice and rats (“Citations,” Nov–Dec/07).

Jennifer P. Willis, AB’84
Cincinnati, Ohio

In the etymological dark

I was jolted by a bizarre gaffe in the article “Through the Glass” (“Arts & Letters,” Nov–Dec/07). The author wrote: “...yehi or —Hebrew for ‘let there be light’and the root word for Torah.” Since a phrase cannot be a root word, the author must mean to claim that or, the word for light, is the root word for Torah. This might not be surprising coming from, say, Madonna, but, in fact, there is no basis for it. While there are indeed traditional comparisons between Torah and light (as well as between Torah and water and various other items), etymologically this is utterly baseless.

Gideon Weisz, SB’60, SM’61, PhD’66
Boulder, Colorado

Weisz is correct: Torah stems from the Hebrew root yara. Originally a verb meaning to throw or to shoot, it also means to lead, to guide, to teach. As Weisz suggests, it can be argued that the phrase yehi or, “Let there be light,” is the root, or source, from which the Torah flows.—Ed.

Focus on essentials

I very much enjoyed the article about the Odyssey scholarships (“Epic Quest,” Sept–Oct/07). However, the last paragraph took me aback—that a potential recipient would value the money as enabling him to move to an apartment more expensive than a dormitory and allow him to purchase a dog! I can hardly imagine that the donor saw this as a justifiable use of his gift.

As the recipient for four years of full scholarships with room, board, and tuition, without which I could never have afforded the education received at Chicago, I could not imagine using the money for anything other than the essentials of education. Perhaps the screening of applicants for the scholarships should have a better assessment of their needs, or the money applied directly to the students legitimate bills rather than left to the student’s discretion.

Robert A. Moody, AB’55, SB’56, MD’60
Waverly, New York

In fact, according to the Office of Student Aid’s guide for prospective College students, “[t]he total cost estimate for an off-campus resident is approximately $1,905 less than that for a University housing resident because the costs for off-campus housing are typically lower than those for the University House System.” No matter what type of housing a student chooses, both parental and student contributions are determined in the same manner. “Therefore,” the guide continues, “because the University of Chicago grant is the last type of aid awarded, students who reside off campus will receive approximately $1,905 less than those in the University House System or International House.”

Off-campus residents are billed only for tuition and fees (i.e., activities, health service). If credits (e.g., University grant funds, outside grants and scholarships, student loans) exceed charges, students receive a refund to help pay for rent, food, and other living costs. According to the guide, “Because the Office of the Bursar does not bill for room and board costs, some parents of students who move off campus will find that they owe the University less than they did when the student resided in the University House System. After parents pay the balance that is due to the University, the remaining amount of the parental contribution can be used for the direct assistance of the student in the payment of rent and other living expenses.”—Ed.

When I-House opened its doors

When an institution hits a milestone anniversary, as International House does in celebrating its 75th anniversary this year (“Gained in Translation,” Nov–Dec/07), it is always interesting to look back and see how the institution was viewed at its founding. With that goal in mind, I went to the Magazine archives (bound volumes can be found in both the Alumni House Library and the Regenstein Library’s Special Collections Research Center) and sought out issues from the era.

There on the cover of Volume XXIV, Number 9 (Midsummer, 1932) was a photograph of International House, “appropriate at this time,” the editors noted, as “[t]he doors  of this student home will be opened in the Fall, and residents are assured that they may enter by the first of September.”

The accompanying story introduces the building on a note of high purpose: “As you walk down the Midway toward it, you are reminded of a fortress, solid and secure against attack. ... International House is in a sense a fortress, a strong defense against the powers of darkness and ignorant unfriendliness. Its inhabitants will be fighters for peace.” Its inhabitants were also afforded the creature comforts, with “charmingly furnished” rooms, a “really beautiful” dining hall, and “strikingly modernistic” coffee shop: “Indeed, in the completeness of equipment and self-containedness of the House as a living unit, one is reminded again of the medieval castle, a complete city under one roof.” But it would not be a castle unto itself: “It is inconceivable that such a group of students, and such an institution as International House can fail to influence directly attitudes and ideas in Chicago.”

One tempus fugit footnote: The descriptions of I-House’s goals still ring true, but the caption accompanying an illustration of the Assembly Hall enthuses, “This little theatre is completely equipped, both for legitimate drama and for projecting pictures with sound.”

Roy U. Thamyer, X’56

Poetic champion

I read recently a Web piece by Richard Mertens on Hayden Carruth, AM’47. (“Lives of a Poet,” April/05) and wanted to tell you and Mr. Mertens that it seems almost a touchstone on Mr. Carruth’s life. I have bookmarked it for future reference. It is pitch-perfect, deeply empathic, and conveys the kind of strong feeling that infuses Mr. Carruth’s poetry. I hope you can forward this note to Mr. Mertens, with my suggestion that in his spare(?) time he might think about writing the biography.

Many thanks,

Joel Ray
Ithaca, New York

Have tattoo, will travel

Thank you so much for sending the two tattoos (“Lite of the Mind,” May–June/07). My wife and I are both graduates, and I think we used them to great effect on Halloween.

We dressed as a biker couple with the tattoos, and I wore a mortarboard and a leather vest that said “Road Scholar” on the back. The joke was greatly appreciated, right down to the fact that alma mater is Latin for Mom! Kudos to the tattoo designer.

Richard C. Baker, AM’73
Shirley K. Baker, AM’74
St. Louis

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: