“My all-time favorite U of C men’s room graffiti...”



Black marks

Despite my best efforts to give Maggie Anderson, JD’98, MBA’01, credit for noble motives, I just can’t convince myself that the Empowerment Experiment is anything but a fundamentally racist act (“In the Black,” Mar–Apr/10).

A commitment to subsidize only black-owned businesses is, by definition, also a refusal to subsidize white-, Asian-, and Latino-owned businesses for no reason but the race of their proprietors. And isn’t that the very definition of racism? Maggie Anderson is, sadly, correct that there are “a lot of poor brown people.” But there are a lot of poor people of all skin tones. If, as she hopes, the experiment turns into a “true national movement,” how many struggling white-, Asian-, and Latino-owned stores in black neighborhoods will be driven out of business because their patrons, on learning the race of the establishments’ owners, stop shopping there? And how, precisely, would that “benefit America as a whole”? The whole thing is quite repugnant.

If Ms. Anderson’s goal were to help build communities by favoring local small businesses owned by struggling entrepreneurs of any complexion, I would applaud her. But, sadly, that approach might not be quite controversial enough to earn a book deal.

Steve Crutchfield, MBA’09


Would you publish an article by a person who was urging people to only buy at white businesses? Why not?

Sandor Shuch, AB’56


Missed opportunity

Former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke spoke several years ago to a black economic-development conference. Brooke urged blacks to control an industry. Once the industry reported a profit, the owners could lend money to black entrepreneurs who would create businesses in the black community, such as restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores, hardware stores, banks, and dry cleaners.

Someone asked Brooke what business blacks should control. Brooke thought for about a moment and said fried chicken. A heavyset black woman loudly laughed; several other women joined in. The room fell silent. The women succeeded in cutting off any discussion of Brooke’s idea.

Brooke, however, was right. The fried-chicken industry is a multibillion-dollar-a-year enterprise. Brooke was right on another point. Indians control Subway sandwich shops and Dunkin’ Donuts stores; Greeks control restaurants; Koreans control dry cleaners; and the Vietnamese control nail salons. Indians lend money to other Indians to start businesses, and Greeks lend money to other Greeks to start businesses.

Blacks have the dubious distinction of controlling the nation’s unemployment lines. The seasonally adjusted February unemployment rate for black men 20 years and older was 17.8 percent. More than 1.4 million black men were jobless, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The black community lacks businesses that will hire blacks because middle-class blacks like me frequent stores that love our money but despise us as customers. Treating black men like criminals is a standard retail practice. We need more than a one-year buy-black experiment. We need a permanent mass movement.

Frederick H. Lowe


One thumb up, one thumb down

Your magazine is one of the few I read with great interest and respect. The respect comes from your constancy in publishing both sides of an issue, especially in your Letters pages. So here I go again.

I warmed greatly to your page on the beautifully unselfish and valuable life of Carol Ruth Silver, AB’60, JD’64 (Glimpses, Mar–Apr/10). If only there were more Americans, and humans, like her, our country and world would not be in the tragic situation of viciously destructive and murderous wars, brutal discrimination among groups, and extremely harmful criminal and civil laws.

I was particularly interested to see her most recent work with the drug-legalization movement. I have spent a great deal of time on this, in particular as a member of the local bar association, which sponsored the King County [Washington] Bar Association Drug Policy Project. This project used lawyers and members of local and state agencies to research federal and state drug laws and came up with a report available on the King County Bar Association Web site. This report has been adopted by major national and local organizations in efforts to reform our drug laws, changing them from severely punishing drug users to providing treatment for their drug problems. …

An article I take issue with, however, is the one on James Swanson, AB’81, who wants to make Abraham Lincoln a saint (“Full Measure of Devotion,” Mar–Apr/10). I suggest that your readers go to their libraries and get The Real Lincoln by Thomas J. DiLorenzo for a truer picture of Lincoln. He was a very practical man who got us into a war that killed and wounded more Americans and did more financial damage to us than any other American war...and that violated what America has been preaching worldwide ever since, i.e., let parts of nations that want to go free do so, such as in Yugoslavia, Russia, China, and the Middle East. …

And look at what America has been preaching and doing to help many parts of other countries from becoming separate, even when it meant freedom from poverty, and even practical slavery, to most citizens, i.e., by supporting vicious dictators in Latin America to protect the financial interests of American corporations.

Bert L. Metzger Jr., JD’61


Legacy program

I was so very pleased to read about the University’s Lisa Verber Pediatric Immunization Program (PIP) in the Magazine (“Immune System,” Chicago Journal, Mar–Apr/10). Lisa Verber and I went way back; we were co-workers at the local, now defunct, Phar-Mor in the 1990s, and we kept in touch over the years while she worked for the University. Lisa fought her cancer bravely and would be tickled pink that the Pediatric Immunization Program has been named after her. The work that outreach workers do is so important to the health of our city and to the health of the babies and toddlers who need their immunizations—something I am even more keenly aware of as I listen to the rhythmic breathing of my six-month-old as she falls asleep on my shoulder before I lay her down for bed every night. Thanks for the article.

Jennifer Dohm, AM’96
Oak Lawn, Illinois


Inspiring visitor

In the Mar–Apr/10 College Report, the Magazine included an important article (“Reason for Passion”) featuring international human-rights leader and lawmaker Albie Sachs, the Richard and Ann Silver Pozen visiting professor in human rights. I am inspired and very thankful to see that Mr. Sachs’s important work toward the provision of basic human rights, including his work in dismantling apartheid in South Africa and his role in writing the post-apartheid South African constitution, is serving to provide historical and educational development to the Chicago community of scholars. Sachs’s commitment to human rights of both body and mind is deep and complex, and his historical significance as an international human-rights leader would warrant an exceptional cover story for a future Magazine.

Maya Stovall, MBA’07
Birmingham, Michigan


Another path to school reform

Schools are being attacked left and right (“Book Learning,” Chicago Journal, Mar–Apr/10). They are being manipulated, tinkered with, and basically misunderstood. Some people fail to understand that a school is no better or worse than the people in it. A school is people: students, teachers, and parents interacting with each other. These three groups engage in the educational process. This process is neither rocket science nor a mystery.

Combining students who come to school prepared with parents who have instilled a desire for learning and teachers who motivate and inspire is a simple recipe for success that works like a three-legged stool. The proper blend of student, parent, and teacher is seen in schools where achievement levels are high.

The student is the most important part of the educational process. A student who comes to school unprepared will have trouble catching up and may always lag behind. Does this mean this child cannot learn? Absolutely not. With good teaching, gains and progress can be made.

Parents who send their children to school unprepared are products of a society where many families have deteriorated, where babies are having babies, and poverty and unemployment abound. They are probably doing the best they can with what they have.

In the meantime schools are asked to rectify all of these social illnesses. Our teachers do a magnificent job of working with students with all kinds of problems under trying conditions where they are maligned if certain levels are not attained—and all of this in an environment where students’ respect of teachers has waned.

All teachers are not the same. They differ in skill and capacity to teach and motivate. Those who lack these skills need to be weeded out. This is where principals come in. They are the managers of the educational process, setting the pace and tone for the students, parents, and teachers to interact. In most situations they do not choose their students or parents. They do, however, play a decisive role in identifying and attracting good teachers to their schools and retaining them.

Is the situation in our schools hopeless? Of course not. We just have to be realistic and not expect our schools to solve all of the problems thrust upon them by society.

Ned L. McCray, AM’61
Tinley Park, Illinois


House proud

I read in the Mar–Apr/10 issue about the first annual so-called Chairman’s Cup broomball tournament between Alper House and Crown House (On the Quads, College Report). Pitting their respective houses against each other on the ice, Mr. Andrew Alper, AB’80, MBA’81, and Mr. James Crown created a contest between two of the dozens of campus houses. Why did these two houses deserve a space in this tournament, replete with food, music, a huge trophy, and personally organized by the dean of student housing? They had the good luck to be named after wealthy, still-living UChicago affiliates. When I lived in campus housing, I was proud to live in a house named for an academic, James W. Thompson, and not merely a person who was able to accumulate and donate enough money.

I never met Thompson, as he died more than 40 years before I was born (and about 20 years before Pierce Tower, home of Thompson House, was built), but I’d like to imagine that the historian and scholar—no Wall Street businessman, he—would not have used our house and my housemates to play out his (however friendly) rivalries with other Board of Trustees millionaires.

You would think the University would be opposed to this sort of favoritism. Not all houses are lucky enough to have patrons eager to pit them against other houses.

Ezra Deutsch-Feldman, AB’09

The match, according to Katie Callow-Wright, director of the University housing system, was open to all and organized by students and staff of the two houses, with Callow-Wright providing direction and support. The goal was to create a new tradition for the two houses, similar to Dodd-Mead House’s George Herbert Mead dinner each February and Breckinridge House’s Sophonisba Day each spring.—Ed.


Languages lost

As a linguist, I was very interested in Ethan D. Frenchman’s (AB’08) Investigations piece (“Word Endings,” Mar–Apr/10) on Lenore Grenoble and her work among the Evenki in Siberia.

Unfortunately, languages are dying all over the world, as the article acknowledged. To use a personal anecdote: when I visited Cancún, my airport van driver was an ethnic Mayan. He told me that his grandparents spoke Mayan, his parents less, and he himself not at all; he spoke only Spanish and English.

Linguistic colonialism/imperialism can be seen from a linguistic atlas: a narrow stripe across Siberia showing Russian amid the indigenous Asian languages corresponds to the route of the Trans-Siberian railroad.

In the United States we have not been better than the USSR was in our attitudes toward indigenous peoples and their languages. Native American children were removed, by coercion, from their families and sent to schools where they were forbidden to speak their native languages. And missionaries have been guilty as well: they typically imposed their language as well as their god upon the peoples whom they were evangelizing.

Something of an exception is the Summer Institute of Linguistics, an arm of the American Bible Society. They have analyzed many obscure languages and devised writing systems for them, with the ultimate goal of bringing the Bible to those peoples. Linguistics should not be done with an ulterior motive, but these people have done sound and valuable linguistic work.

As to Greenland, I must comment on the statement that the speakers of Greenlandic are adaptable. The reason the Viking colonies there failed was precisely because the Vikings were not adaptable. The indigenous people stood ready to teach the Vikings to hunt for food in that climate, but the Vikings were not receptive, instead trying to live in their accustomed way, by agriculture.

Richard S. Stein, AM’64
Oak Lawn, Illinois


Set the hero bar higher

I read your account of the return of your colleague’s misplaced bag and its contents from a St. Xavier student (“Superheroes,” Editor’s Notes, Mar–Apr/10). It seems excessive to call such a civil act heroic, let alone superheroic. The returner was certainly kind and apparently thoughtful—all wonderful human characteristics. But such random acts should neither restore our faith in humanity, nor should the lack of such an act cause us to lose our faith. It is my hope that our faith in humanity can withstand much greater perturbation.

John Zao, MBA’91
Waukesha, Wisconsin


Bathroom humor

Bathroom humor

Quinn Dombrowski, AB’06, AM’06, has indeed recorded bathroom graffiti that only could have been composed by the geeky (I would have said intellectual) minds at the U of C (Peer Review, Mar–Apr/10). However, my all-time favorite U of C men’s room graffiti was in the old music building just north of Rockefeller Chapel. Above the urinal was boldly written, “The effete place to excrete.” This poetic phrase always seemed emblematic of the University to me. Still does.

David Joel, AB’72


Haiti’s personal toll…

Just last week I was flipping though some old albums being moved because of home remodeling, and I came across this photo. It shows Andrew Grene, AB’87, in the title role of the late 1980s University Theater production of The Alchemist, and me, as Dol Common, apparently throttling him.

It was with great sadness that I learned of Andrew’s untimely death in the Haiti earthquake (Deaths, Mar–Apr/10). Although we had not been in touch for great many years, I mourn his great, generous, vibrant, funny, and fun-loving spirit that is now gone.

My heartfelt condolences to Andrew’s family and to all who knew and loved him.

Justyna Frank, AB’87, AM’87

For more on Andrew Grene and University community members who witnessed the Haiti earthquake and its aftermath, see “At the Epicenter,” page 28.Ed.


…And global effects

To follow up on the proposal (Letters, Mar–Apr/10) to teach critical thinking in business schools, Haiti should be a case study.

The media seized on the tragedy; the usual cast of fundraisers did their best; millions of dollars have been raised; $1 billion has been pledged, leaving always the question of how effectively funds are spent.

Certain facts have yet to be advertised; for instance, in 2008 a study of more than 100 countries found that Haiti scored in the top ten for corruption (the Statesman, 2010). What are the implications?

Some other facts are worth noting: In 1950 about 25 percent of Haiti (which is the size of Maryland) was covered with forest. By 1987 it was 10 percent. By 1994, 4 percent. Current estimates range from 1.4 percent to 3.8 percent.

From 1984 to 2004, 60 million trees were planted in Haiti, but the poor chop down 10 to 20 million trees each year to heat homes and cook meals. Seventy-one percent of energy used in Haiti comes from charcoal. The population continues to grow. One result of this deforestation is desertification, which means soil erosion, which means rainfall runoff that means lowered water tables, which means added stress on farmers. It can even mean less rainfall. Any long-term solution for Haiti must fix this forestry situation. It may take generations.

In any critical thought, facts must be gathered and presented. The tendency to look for immediate and short-range “solutions” can overlook considerations more vital. In the case of Haiti—only a rowboat away from our shores, and with more than six million people involved—depth of thought is essential.

Lenore C. Frazier, AB’47
Winchester, Massachusetts


Marvel of a man…

I was taken aback by the two opinionated letters published in the Mar–Apr/10 issue relating to the Jon Marvel (AB’72) article (“True Grit,” Jan–Feb/10). I found the article a fair and accurate description of what one man has done with his life and for the betterment of the world. He has accomplished more than you covered in the article, and I recommend a visit to his Web site, for a comprehensive idea of the technical basis of the organization’s biological and environmental work to save the public ecosystems of the West. As the article points out, people who have lived there all their lives have never known “what their own wilderness is supposed to look like.”

A fact: in Florida or Louisiana, a cow can live on two acres. In the dry West, it needs as many as 100 acres to forage. And these 100 acres are public land owned by you and me, which are then totally ravaged. Buffalo are far less destructive. There are many other unchallenged facts in the article.

Good for you, the article, and Jon Marvel for seeking the good.

Carole Tyl Lewis, AB’59
Ketchum, Idaho


…Or a marvel of a pain

The cover article on Jon Marvel was too nicely summed up in the fourth paragraph as “…the most tenacious antigrazing activists in the West.” Coming from central Montana, I would have more descriptive words that cannot be used in polite company. The article tried to be balanced and failed miserably. Not all publicly managed public lands are as decrepit as Marvel or the writer make it appear. Did the author look anywhere else? Did she examine other locations or talk to other more neutral and knowledgeable scientists? Obviously not! Come out here, we will show you some well-managed lands.

As a Montana state game warden for 30 years, with a degree in wildlife biology, and having been stationed in Lewistown, Montana, since 1985, I worked thousands of acres of BLM-, Forest Service–, USFWS-, and state-managed lands. As any large land mass, some is well managed, some poorly, and some in between. Recently Marvel [has] decided the public lands here are in horrible condition and has made legal action to stop grazing up here also. As a hunter and outdoorsman, I have watched the lands up here prosper and improve over the years, most with assistance of the leasee, i.e., landowner. Water tanks, fenced-off riparian areas, rest rotation, and a decrease in AUMs have all been accomplished here. In fact, in many areas I have found better bird hunting on some BLM lands where the cattle have grazed than where it was rested.

Part of my problem with Marvel and his ilk is they have no solution for families that have used the public lands for generations and have set up their ranching program to use public lands. Where do they go? Where are their animals to graze? Do they not have a right to fight for their survival? Do they go out of business, lose their livelihood because an architect has a problem with land management because he perceives it looks bad? What gall. Yet what sacrifices has he made? It has always been interesting to see people like Marvel raise millions of dollars to have offices in eight states, a team of attorneys, and a board of advisers, but how much goes to actual work on the ground? Do they help the rancher with labor, material, or money to make his leased land or, for that matter, his own property better? I bet not. Instead of dumping the $5,000 on that table, put it to good use by organizing groups and individuals to do the dirty work. Heck, our Boy Scouts put wire around cottonwood trees to protect them from beavers and other pests. It cost little in money and sweat, but we did more than it sounds like Marvel and his bunch of bandits have.

I would also like more information on his assertion that only 3 percent of the cattle in the U.S. are on public lands. I wonder if the number includes the thousands of animals shipped from here to the Midwest for feedlots. Does one not know that the removal of 3 percent of the cattle can cause an increase in the price of beef? Now that will affect the know-it-alls that don’t live out here, tell us what to do, yet want to have cheap food.

You make him out to be some sort of hero; you are wrong. He is how you should have described him at first: an activist who uses emotion, threats, and the courts instead of his own back and hands to solve the problem. Right now so much money and resources have to go into fighting his lawyers that less is being allowed to be done in the field. Instead of saving the land, he is hurting the people and the resources that use it, and you are proud of that?

Jim Conner
Lewistown, Montana


The music takes him back

Many thanks for the folklore review (“Folk Roots,” Chicago Journal, Jan–Feb/10). I was a member of the U of C Folklore society, and I have recently been sorting out and copying tapes recorded, mostly for WFMT. I also found an old video of an Ida Noyes hoot—no sound; sound must be imagined.

Cal Herrmann, AB’51, SM’56
Richmond, California


Background reading

The importance and lasting value of the Mapping the Stacks project (“Black Re-Renaissance,” Investigations, Jan–Feb/10) is strongly confirmed through several of the puzzling story lines in Sara Paretsky’s (AM’69, MBA’77, PhD’77) latest V. I. Warshawski novel, Hardball.

Baruch Boxer, AM’57, PhD’61
Palo Alto, California


It’s not all happy talk

The Jan–Feb/10 issue tells of drug addiction on page 42, suicide on page 48, suicide again on page 53, crack addiction on page 54, and meth addiction on page 55. And I haven’t even finished the issue! Go Maroons!

David John Frank, AB’85
West Hollywood, California


So we’re not perfect

This letter is in reference to the Jan–Feb/10 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine. I could pull the “I’m not an alumnus but am the proud [relative] of one,” which, as in the case of Bill Pohnan Jr. (Letters), is true, but I won’t for now. …

Although I have lots of nits to pick with you this month, readers such as myself, Werner Zimmt, and Brian G. Hinkle (Letters) wouldn’t bother to complain if we didn’t think that the Magazine was worth reading in the first place. I’ll list the errata in the order I encountered them, which should be easy to follow, as I read the Magazine from cover to cover.

I suppose congratulations are in order for the two-page advertisement from the Italian Government Tourist Board and the Italian American Committee on Education. Given the high level of writing in the Magazine, I was dismayed to encounter an ad that contains so many spelling, grammar, capitalization, spacing, and language mistakes. I encountered 13 errors by the time I had finished reading the ad for the second time. Perhaps you don’t see it as Magazine policy to proofread advertising copy. I can understand that. On the other hand, you are under no obligation to accept an ad written in English so poor that it reflects negatively on the Magazine.

In “Life after Poverty” (Arts and Sciences), Carrie Golus writes, “…she is the child of a Korean mother and African American father; the family was Jewish.” Did you not think of asking Ms. Golus for a little more detail following such a surprising sentence?

In Cultural Studies, there are pictures of Ryan Gogol blowing “smoke from a Camel Red 100” and Juliana Locke rolling a cigarette “from a packet of American Spirit tobacco.” Did the Magazine at least receive money for this blatant use of product placement?

If you think that I’ve just spent a few valuable hours going over the entire Magazine with a proofreader’s eye, trying to catch you out, you’re mistaken. These are the errors I found during a normal reading.

Daveed Shachar
Dimona, Israel

The author also cited infelicitous use of language in Alumni News penned by alumni, so at least the editors are in good company.—Ed. 


Department of corrections

The Mar–Apr/10 Arts and Sciences headline “Military Psychologist” mischaracterized Judith T. Broder’s (SB’60, MD’63) work with the Soldiers Project. Broder is a physician and a psychiatrist. Also, her husband served in the military during the Vietnam War but was never in Vietnam. We regret the errors.


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 for space, content, or personal attacks. We encourage writers to limit themselves to 300 words or fewer. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 401 North Michigan Avnue, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60611. Or e-mail: uchicago-magazine@uchicago.edu.