“I dated a very hot math major named Fred D. ...”

Civil discourse

Having read the mini-bio of Professor Janet Rowley, U-High’42, PhB’45, SB’46, MD’48 (“Honor Bound,” Nov–Dec/09), I would be interested in knowing of her dispute with Professor Leon Kass, SB’58, MD’62. I’ve known Professor Kass and his focus on science and faith, as well as the laudatory comments (on both sides of the aisle) of his chairmanship of the President’s Council on Bioethics; your reporter should have realized that it is important to address this issue. Also, it would be interesting to discover where your reporter got the information that those opposed to Kass’s worldview were pushed off the council. Leon Kass has brought great honor to the University. Is this how he is to be treated because somebody doesn’t like Kass’s concept of science and faith-seeking truth?

Edward Lewis, MBA’71
Richardson, Texas

The 2005 Nature Medicine article cited by the Magazine was one of several sources reporting that some stem-cell–research advocates, though not Rowley, were replaced.—Ed.

Lasting impression

I read the Legacy article by John Soennichsen (Nov–Dec/09) about J Harlan Bretz, PhD 1913, with great interest. I remember a trip my family took in the mid 1950s, when I was about 13, that included Missoula, Montana. We stopped for a picnic lunch near Missoula, and my father (former dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences H. Stanley Bennett) was expounding on the discovery that, at the end of the most recent ice age, an immense lake had filled the valley we were in. He even pointed out terraced ridges on some hills around the valley that he said were ancient shorelines of the lake—now known as Glacial Lake Missoula. My untrained eye was unable to discern these terraced ridges at first, and only after considerable staring did I notice them.

Your readers might be interested in reading further on these floods. I recommend: Bretz’s Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World’s Greatest Flood, also by John Soennichsen; Glacial Lake Missoula and its Humongous Floods by David Alt; and On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods by Bruce Bjornstad. Finally, the November 23, 2009, High Country News contains an article by Eric Wagner, “After the Floods: Unraveling the Mystery behind the Northwest’s Scablands.”

Henry J. Bennett, SB’65, SM’67
Portland, Oregon

Boo for no kazoos

I read happily through Luke Fiedler’s (’10) article about the new Maroon marching band (“Band Aid,” Chicago Journal, Nov–Dec/09), waiting all the while for the inevitable reference to the fabulous entertainment that enchanted us all in the 1970s, the world-renowned Chicago kazoo marching band. But alas, perhaps Mr. Fiedler is simply too young to remember: there was no such reference. How could anyone write about the tradition of football entertainment at Chicago without mentioning the kazoos? Surely I’m not the only one who loved these folks.

Virginia Blanford, AM’73, PhD’86
Hartsdale, New York

More than possibly

Sometimes things slip through even in an informative, well-written piece. This is from a nice summary by Brooke E. O’Neill, AM’04, of Yang Yang’s analysis of cohort data on happiness over the past four decades in the United States (“Happiness on the Horizon,” Investigations, Nov–Dec/09). Beware the weasel words “possibly” and “typically,” which possibly and typically add to the fun in such cases.

“...[T]he gender gap began to shrink during old age, possibly an effect of widowhood, which typically affects more women than men.”

By the way, I expect my wife’s widowhood to affect me fairly significantly too.

Dan Sumner, AM’77, PhD’78
Davis, California

Off the chart

Your sharp-eyed editors and proofreaders seem to have been too interested in the substance and not enough in the form of the box on the effect of cable television in India (“Remote Control,” Fig. 1, Investigations, Nov–Dec/09). The ordinate of the chart is labeled “Percentage who report...” but the actual values are “Fraction who report....” It does make a difference, by two orders of magnitude, I think.

Werner Zimmt, PhB’47, SB’47, SM’49, PhD’51
Tucson, Arizona

Mysterious math hottie

I must rebut the “too hot to play a math student” assertion about Jake Gyllenhaal (Lite of the Mind, “That’s sΘ Maroon,” Nov–Dec/09). In 1981 I dated a very hot math major named Fred D. Briefly, so there’s no photographic proof, either of the dating or his hotness. You’ll have to take my word. He was hotter than Jake. Taller. Cuter. We shared a locker in Regenstein. Sigh. ...

Lise Hauser, AB’82

From UIUC to U of C

Although not an alumnus, I am a proud father of one (Erica Pohnan, AB’07). One delightful benefit is the opportunity to read the musings of “the self-absorbed eggheads” who contribute to this publication.

To that end I found the Nov–Dec/09 Lite of the Mind both original and stimulating, but I noticed a serious omission. The graphic failed to include Dr. R. Chandra from 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Chandra’s (Bob Balaban) connection to the University is established the first time we see him (scene 5 on the DVD), walking to his office; the sign where he uses his handprint to gain access reads, “University of Chicago Computer Lab.” He is also wearing a University of Chicago sweatshirt, and there may be a University of Chicago coffee mug on a table. This scene leads up to his discussion with HAL 9000.

In the original 2001, Chandra’s affiliation is ambiguous. The script establishes that the HAL Laboratory is in Urbana, Illinois. I do not recall the University of Illinois mentioned in any dialogue (though in a disturbing coincidence, in 1969 there actually was a computer-science undergraduate at the U of I whose last name was, of course, Chandra). Perhaps he started out at the U of I, but by 2010 had moved on up to the U of C faculty.

Chandra’s devotion to learning the truth, and truth itself, not only saves HAL 9000 but also the entire mission. As such, I would suggest the graphic include Chandra on its next revision, giving the character a low enough value of r as to make theta meaningless.

It was still fun to see such a clever graphic.

Bill Pohnan Jr.
Streamwood, IL

Not sure how we missed that one

Although I enjoyed the Nov–Dec/09 Lite of the Mind, I was sadly disappointed at the glaring omission of Professor John Lerner (Maurice LaMarche) from the 1997 “Arrowhead” episode of King of the Hill. It was, after all, Peggy Hill’s laudatory praise of Professor Lerner’s U of C credentials—“The University of Chicago, that’s one of the finest schools in the country”—that led to Hank Hill’s immortal (and accurate-enough-for-a-cartoon-character) utterance, “School? They don’t even have a football team.” Straight-man to the ultimate U of C compliment, the character Professor Lerner deserves mention.

Richard Gordon, AB’72

Friedman myths

Darrell Dvorak’s letter (“Chicago Boy Myths,” Letters, Nov–Dec/09) nicely debunked the myth that Milton Friedman, AM’33, caused Chile’s troubles. When that myth first started, Friedman told our class that the advice he had given in Chile was the same advice he always gave to anyone who would listen (on both sides of what was then an Iron Curtain): government restrictions on freedom are frequently bad, both for those restrained and for society as a whole.

Given that core belief of Friedman’s, it was ironic to read the nearby letter from Robert Weiss (“When Market Solutions Don’t Fit”), claiming to have heard Friedman supporting a volunteer army “because it was ‘cheaper.’” In fact, Friedman’s opposition to the draft was due to its conflict with his core beliefs, because a draft was “inequitable, wasteful, and inconsistent with a free society” (There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, 188–89).

As to Friedman’s argument that the draft was inequitable, the point is that although the draft looked cheaper in our budget than a voluntary force, that budgetary illusion didn’t justify the huge and inequitable silent tax on the poor people who got stuck with involuntary servitude (and it was overwhelmingly the poor sent to die in wars, because rich kids tended to get college deferments). Of course the slave-labor wages we paid drafted troops had to be raised when we began recruiting volunteers, which meant higher taxes for society as a whole, but that solution is more equitable than the confiscatory taxes we had implicitly levied on the poor draftees. That was Friedman’s foremost reason for supporting a voluntary force; its lower total real cost is just the icing on the cake.

Sheldon Kimmel, PhD’80

More on Friedman and the draft

Robert Weiss wrote of a meeting in which Milton Friedman advocated a professional army in lieu of universal service or the draft because it was “cheaper.” He had his way, Mr. Weiss states, and in consequence we have traded “duty, honor, country” for bumper stickers that say, “Support our troops.” The simple rejoinder to this is that we also have an army that has performed capably on the modern battlefield and has at least grappled honorably for a way out of the morass it found itself in following the famous proclamation of “Mission Accomplished.” And the regular (and until recently shamefully surreptitious) arrival of flag-draped coffins at Dover Air Force Base is proof that members of this generation are no less endowed with the concept of “duty, honor, country” than were their fathers.

In fact, the question of who should serve and why is more complex than Mr. Weiss’s letter implies and one that deserves scrutiny as the nation plans for extended warfare in Afghanistan. First, universal military service as a fundamental duty of citizenship is an attractive notion with strong historical roots but so remote from practical reality as to qualify as a romantic myth. During the “total mobilization” of World War II, Selective Service registered 49 million men, of whom only 19 million were deemed eligible to serve, and 16 million—10 million of them draftees—donned uniforms. With lower manpower needs after the war, the quixotic nature of the selection process became increasingly apparent and, as the Vietnam venture lost public support, politically explosive. Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign promise that he would end the draft was an act of political expediency but, in light of what has followed, has the appearance of historical necessity. (The politics and logic behind Nixon’s gesture are described in admirable detail by Temple University historian Beth Bailey, AM’81, PhD’86, in America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force.)

If Friedman believed an all-volunteer army would be “cheaper,” he may have included as a cost of conscription the “virtual tax” imposed on the 18-year-olds unlucky enough to serve as poorly paid conscripts when they might otherwise have been earning good civilian wages or enhancing their economic potential with higher education. This libertarian notion figured prominently in the thinking of free-market economists pushing for a nondraft military. In terms of actual government expenditures, of course, the all-volunteer army has turned out to be expensive indeed, so much so that expansion of the force much beyond current numbers would quickly become unaffordable.

The “virtual tax,” by the way, has not entirely gone away. A comparable burden falls on the families of those Reserve and National Guard soldiers who have been overtasked in recent years to provide more boots on the ground at less cost to the taxpayer. In that sense Mr. Weiss is not entirely wrong in suggesting that the burden of going to war is not being evenly shared.

Thomas W. Evans, AM’53, MBA’70
Mundelein, Illinois

Unintended meaning

I was disappointed to see the Magazine publish Dorothy Weil’s letter suggesting that free-market economists are “teabaggers” at heart. It was not so much her argument that bothered me but rather her usage of the crude sexual slur co-opted by some opponents of the Tea Party movement with the aim of denigrating the protestors. Members of my generation know exactly what that slur means and understand how shocking and vile it is to use it against a political opponent. I might forgive Ms. Weil her usage on the assumption that her generation has only heard it repeated by Anderson Cooper and the Huffington Post (who, I suspect, knew full well what it meant), but I cannot extend the same latitude toward a professional editorial staff with student interns, a wider understanding of slang and cultural phenomena, and access to UrbanDictionary.com. Allowing published letters to toss off accusations of sexual deviancy does a great disservice to the spirit of academic discourse that Chicago celebrates and demeans the publication that hosts their insults. I hope this does not mark a new editorial policy.

Brian G. Hinkle, AB’07

Although the editors knew the slang meaning of the word, we printed the letter sincerely believing it had become an acceptable term for Tea Party activists. We apologize.—Ed.

Levitt’s cred

I was astonished by the thinly veiled criticism of Steven Levitt in the Sept–Oct/09 issue (“Sumo Wrestlers are Big, but Are They a Big Question?”). It is one thing to be jealous of Levitt’s book royalties and popular fame; it is quite another to challenge the value of his contributions to economics. To cite just one example, Levitt has done research of great importance on crime and has given impetus to economic studies in this area, after the seminal work of Gary Becker, AM’53, PhD’55, and others like Richard Posner and Bill Landes who pursued and extended Becker’s themes. Levitt’s article with John Donohue on the effect of abortion on crime is breathtaking and, to me, very persuasive, even though it offended certain religious and ideological groups (I am told that the authors have received death threats). I have seen no serious empirical study that finds flaws in this work.

Levitt’s work on cheating, whether by sumo wrestlers or teachers coaching students on standardized exams, was innovative and of obvious importance and has application beyond the subjects of those studies. So much of the work at Chicago—in economic analysis of law, the economics of the family, health, the history of slavery, sports, and other areas—has, by extending the boundaries of economics, enriched the methodology and analysis in the fields that were entered, and in doing so was met initially with hostility and ridicule before becoming part of the mainstream, universally accepted canon of economics. I see Levitt’s work as being an important part of this Chicago tradition. His books for a general audience follow the examples of Milton Friedman, AM’33; Paul Samuelson, AB’35; and other great economists who did not think it was beneath them to increase public awareness of economics. Levitt’s work will survive long after the carping of his critics is forgotten.

Stephen Spurr, AM’82, PhD’86
Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Struggling services

Regarding the Sept–Oct/09 article “On The Line,” the lead-in reads, “For agencies serving the poor, the recession took a double toll: just when need rose, funding began to fall.” At Jewish Vocational Service the toll was more than double. Ours is an agency serving 10,000 clients annually through publicly and privately funded programs. Our clients are located throughout the city and suburbs and are of all ages, cultures, and demographic backgrounds.

The challenges of managing in this environment are not just increased demand for services (especially for an agency focused on job-placement services) while funding is curtailed. Add to that the slow payments from government agencies with an additional toll of the seizing-up of credit markets. Even when we have contracts to provide services, our payments come late, banks are slow to extend credit to make up the shortfall, all while our endowments are taking the same hit as everyone else’s investments.

The road does not promise to get smoother. The environment for managing a nonprofit takes more careful oversight and financial planning than ever before. The frontline workers in nonprofits all deserve recognition for finding ways to do more with less.

Gail Luxenberg Gruen, AB’79, MBA’00
Executive Director, Jewish Vocational Service

How lists feed history

The account of Ulrike Stark’s research into the Naval Kishore Press (“India in Print,” Sept–Oct/09) was fascinating. The article notes that British colonial archives were invaluable for identifying texts published in India from the 1860s on, and it suggests that the cataloging of Indian publications was a government-driven effort to understand—or perhaps better control—the remote colony. Although understanding and control may have resulted from such meticulous lists, I would submit that the immediate impetus for producing them was a desire to increase the holdings of the British Museum Library.

Under the leadership of Anthony Panizzi, keeper of printed books (1837–56) and then principal librarian (1856–66), the British Museum Library grew from approximately 235,000 volumes in 1838 to more than 1.1 million volumes in 1872, largely due to Panizzi’s efforts to enforce its status as a copyright-deposit library. The 1842 Imperial Copyright Act required publishers to deposit one copy of each of their works directly with the BML within three months of publication; it also stipulated that the BML was entitled to one copy of all works published in any other part of the British dominions within a year.

After ensuring that U.K. publishers were complying with the act, Panizzi turned his attention abroad. In 1857 he wrote to Henry Labouchère, secretary of state for the colonies, requesting that the Colonial Office help gather official documents and periodicals. The office became a vital channel for the BML’s acquisition efforts, forwarding materials and lists of local publications. The lists were used to select texts for collection—texts that, ironically, were often purchased; it was generally cheaper to buy them than to enlist legal aid to enforce the deposit requirements.

In his Biographical Sketch of Sir Anthony Panizzi (1873), librarian Robert Cowtan noted: “No man was more keenly alive to the importance of the national library containing all the ephemeral literature of our vast Colonial dependencies. He knew how valuable it would be to the future historians of those distant parts of our great Empire, ‘upon which the sun never sets,’ that the pamphlets upon local government, and that the statistics of population, education, crime, &c., should be carefully stored among our national archives” (page 53). Professor Stark’s research is further testament to Panizzi’s foresight.

Solveig C. Robinson, AM’87, PhD’94
Tacoma, Washington

The fighter responds

I wanted to express my gratitude to the Magazine, Jason Kelly, and Dan Dry for the time, enthusiasm, and effort with which they approached my story (“The Fighter Still Remains,” July–Aug/09). Since the article was published, I’ve received notes, e-mails, and phone calls from friends, former colleagues, even alumni I’ve never met. Most importantly, the article has allowed me to help others more than I might have in the past.

For the reader who commented on the semantics of Alcoholics Anonymous (Letters, Sept–Oct/09), including Ruttenberg’s and my role in speaking with the Magazine being inappropriate and out of the form with our fellowship, I would question his own understanding of the program. The flexibility and “suggestive” nature of our steps and traditions are what encourages the skeptical, fearful, and obstinate to first walk into the rooms of AA. It is the openness and willingness to help, to be flexible, that helps me and others remain a part of the AA program.

The most important thing in any alcoholic/addict’s life is his sobriety. The key to keeping this is our willingness to share our experience with others—that is our service to those suffering inside and outside the rooms of AA. That is our duty and lifeline to staying clean, as well as a major reason for my agreeing to be interviewed. I have a hope that the AA member/anonymous alum might see this now—that my sharing is an offering of my service to others who might not know or are too afraid to inquire. After all, it was the willingness and forthcoming nature of my first meetings and those initial AA personalities that set me on my path six years ago.

I’d also like to respond to those who commented about publishing the article and putting me on the cover. At first I too questioned what that might mean when Dry and Kelly first told me that they would push for this to be a cover article. They obviously felt that this was a story worth telling as it related to the University, and so have your readers, based on some of the letters to the editor.

Our college experience, at an undergraduate or graduate level, is a journey of growth, isn’t it? To say that this growth is purely intellectual or educational is wrong, so why shouldn’t the focus of the University magazine be one of growth in another form? Here is a story of growth from one of your alums, maybe grimy and covered in mud at times, but still one of personal transcendence. Isn’t that why we come to the U of C? We expect growth, change—usually with the expectation that it come on our own predefined terms. I did. And however many years later, whether at graduation or the celebration of an achievement, we realize in how many more dimensions we changed compared with those expectations. This is partially what Kelly tried to convey in his article, that there is more to this University than the status quo achievements, free-market debate, and Common Core.

Is this just the story of an outlier amidst a school population where I remember us all feeling like outliers at some point? Isn’t that part of what attracts us to come here? Even among higher-education institutions, isn’t that what has always separated us, in fact what the University markets to prospective undergrads? It was for me—and I would be happy to read more about those unsure and persevering personalities (maybe even see more of their handsome faces on the cover). Maybe it’s my own lack of emotional fortitude, but I’d rather be connected on the same level with those parts of my alma mater instead of looking up at it all the time.

Plus it hurts my neck, and we already know how often I get hit in the head now, don’t we?

Mark Allen, AB’01

Nobel numerology

I wish the officialdom at the University would stop its nonsensical prating about “85 Nobel laureates associated with the University.” This number is bogus, pulled out of the air, since nowhere did the compilers of the list define what it means to have been “associated with the University.” Thus the list includes Julian Schwinger, who spent all of two months on campus in the summer of 1944 working for the Manhattan Project, doing no teaching, no independent research, and having virtually no interaction with others at the University. On the other hand, the list omits Max Born who, at the invitation of Albert A. Michelson, was visiting faculty in the summer of 1912—among other things he taught a course on relativity. Nor does it include Alexander Todd, a visiting professor in 1948 who made many important contacts, including Konrad Bloch and Frank Westheimer, both on the Chicago faculty at the time.

The only sensible thing would be to start from the beginning with a rigorous definition of “associated with” and then develop a Nobel list. As it is, the University of Chicago continues to look ridiculous with its Nobel obsession and bogus lists.

Robert Michaelson, SB’66
Evanston, Illinois

Protest the protests

If U of C students cannot protest Ehud Olmert in a civilized way (placards, flyers) but insist on preventing him from speaking, it is a black mark on the University. ... Do not talk about free speech. Talk about civil behavior. Talk about shame. There should be teach-ins about what the U of C is about and what is acceptable behavior.

Eric Zornberg, SM’63, PhD’69

In October former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was part of a Harris School of Public Policy Studies lecture series. Protesters shouting as he tried to speak were warned and/or ushered out, prompting complaints about freedom of speech. President Zimmer and Provost Rosenbaum responded in a letter to the campus community.—Ed.

He’s alive

The obituary the Magazine published for my former wife, Antonia Orfield, reported that I had predeceased her (Deaths, Nov–Dec/09). This rare editorial error might have concerned some of my old classmates. I am happy to quote Mark Twain’s immortal words—“The rumor of my death has been greatly exaggerated.” I am very much alive, enjoying becoming a grandfather, teaching at my sixth great university, and codirecting a large civil-rights research center.

Gary Orfield, AM’65, PhD’68
Los Angeles

Department of corrections

Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Professor Tao Pan earned his PhD at Yale, not at his undergraduate alma mater, Germany’s University des Saarlandes, as we reported in “Eureka Moment” (Investigations, Nov–Dec/09). We regret the error.

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters about its contents or about the life of the University. Letters must be signed and may be edited. We encourage writers to limit themselves to 300 words or fewer. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 401 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60611. Or e-mail: uchicago-magazine@uchicago.edu.

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