“I daresay a typographical error was responsible for this.”




The July–Aug 2010 issue was a pip! I finally got around to reading the issue last night and enjoyed the letters (and responses) even more than I enjoyed the articles. Clearly the alumni are taking part in “an ongoing conversation.”

Ann Lousin, JD’68


That’s a wrap

I found it ironic that my latest copy of your magazine, with the cover story “Shades of Green” (July–Aug/10), came wrapped in a plastic bag. Was that really necessary?

Diane Hill Danbury, AB’87
La Grange, Illinois

This is the second time I’m writing to complain about the U of C’s magazine being sent in plastic. Here the world is swimming in plastic, there’s an area in the Pacific the size of Texas full of plastic bags, and plastic is an oil derivative. Yet apparently the U of C thinks its periodical is so important that not one drop of rain or whatever must mar its splendor. What if every piece of mail we receive were covered in plastic? Hope to see a change here soon.

Maria Metzler Weygandt, AM’72
Coatesville, Pennsylvania

The July–Aug and Jan–Feb issues come packaged with the Core, a supplemental magazine about the undergraduate College. The wrap is recyclable, but we will continue to explore other packaging options.—Ed.


What about Ted?

As an environmental-studies alum, I had never been so excited to open my bimonthly University of Chicago Magazine as when I saw the “Shades of Green” cover. I quickly opened to the article (“Green Evolution,” July–Aug/10) and was simultaneously never so motivated to write a letter to a magazine. I’ve been waiting five years to see the activity around sustainability now occurring at U of C. However, I expect far more from the alma mater I love when writing an article on sustainability at U of C.

Alumni who are proud to see the University of Chicago becoming green should know that sustainability starts and ends on the shoulders of one giant: biochemistry and molecular-biology professor emeritus Ted Steck. Ted was not even mentioned in the article, and yet every other action, person, and the environmental-studies program all can—and do—thank Ted for single-handedly introducing and keeping sustainability alive at the University for almost 20 years. Ted Steck established the environmental-studies program at the U of C in 1993 and spent countless hours writing grants to keep the program running. Ted supported the creation and continuation of multiple environmental organizations on campus. Any article aiming to discuss sustainability should begin and end with Ted. Thank you, Ted, for all you’ve done over the last 20 years for sustainability at the U of C.

Allison Hannon, AB’05

Although writer Richard Mertens interviewed professor emeritus Theodore Steck, Professor Steck preferred to speak on background and provide other sources rather than be quoted in the story. We regret that the story didn’t reference his contributions.—Ed.


City green

In Green Metropolis (Riverhead Books, 2009), David Owen makes a strong case that big cities’ traditional compact urban development is the ultimate “green” because of its lesser adverse effects than contemporary development on consumption of energy, water, local farm land, and other resources; pollution of air, water, and land; and waste disposal.

On that basis, the greenest action ever taken by the University (“Green Evolution,” July–Aug/10) preceded the environmental movement. It was to stay in compact, walkable, transit-rich Hyde Park in the face of neighborhood change rather than resorting to the option once seriously considered of decamping to a sprawling College of DuPage–like campus in the city’s auto-dependent suburbs. Once again, alma mater ahead of the curve.

That makes paradoxical, however, the omission, in the description of the University’s current curricular “greenery,” of the impact of cities and urbanization patterns on environmental quality. This impact is certainly more consequential than using incandescent light bulbs or just one side of the paper. Such omission suggests that students are getting neither the full picture of environmental responsibility nor a basis for making their own decisions on where to live after graduating and especially after having kids.

Were good numbers of its future graduates to opt for the compact hybrid neighborhoods (so named because they save gas like hybrid cars) that I’ve written about instead of suburbs, the University might be doing much more for the future of the planet than it could with a few solar panels on the roofs.

John L. Gann Jr., AB’64
Glen Ellyn, Illinois

As a faculty member at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago, I have seen our new sustainability studies undergraduate major (which combines traditional environmental-studies concerns with a focus on social justice and urban life) grow rapidly in the months since its introduction. Roosevelt introduced the Chicago area’s first BA/BPS program in sustainability studies this year amid strong interest from our students in pursuing a liberal-arts degree in environmental themes. From the introductory course SUST 210: The Sustainable Future (taught downtown in Fall 2010 by me and at the Schaumburg campus in Spring 2011 by Professor Mike Bryson) to the advanced seminars, students graduating with a major in sustainability studies will have a truly interdisciplinary understanding of the varied dimensions of sustainability, both from a local and global perspective; be fluent in articulating how sustainability issues relate to matters of the environment, the economy, and social equity; and demonstrate proficiency in critical thinking, reading, writing, and research skills.

Our seminars take one theme, such as water, and integrate natural-science, social-science, humanities, and policy dimensions of the theme to provide students a broad understanding of how that resource has been treated and ways to improve our use of it. The first offering of the SUST 220: Water seminar this autumn already has full registration with minimal advertising; surely the interests of undergraduates in the College would guarantee strong interest in a degree that brings the University’s considerable faculty talents in the natural and social sciences together in such a way.

Roosevelt sustainability students have already delved into the Chicago area to investigate wastewater systems at Bubbly Creek, wetlands restoration in Lake County, and urban agriculture at the Chicago Avenue Gardens by Cabrini-Green. Given the long history of environmental inequalities on the South Side ranging from illegal dumping of hazardous wastes in residential neighborhoods to the expanse of food deserts, a more sustained approach to sustainability education and research down in Hyde Park would benefit both the University and surrounding communities in ways that could both improve the University’s relationship with its neighbors and make it competitive with existing institutions such as the Earth Institute at Columbia University. I hope the administration will heed Professor Kolata’s call to make such a commitment in the near future.

Carl A. Zimring, AM’93



Pedal to the metal

I read with interest Richard Mertens’s “Green Evolution” (July–Aug/10) and some of the things the University is doing to catch up with other universities such as Yale, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins. Here is a suggestion that will not only reduce the University’s electricity usage, albeit by a modest amount, but improve the health of the students as well.

The idea is quite simple: There are a large number of battery-powered devices on campus, such as laptops and cell phones. Their batteries regularly need recharging, so why not use pedal-powered electric generators mounted on stationary bicycles to accomplish this? I could imagine campus rooms occupied by students on these stationary bikes charging batteries. Battery users would have two sets of batteries: while one battery is being used, the other would be at the recharging centers. Perhaps users of the service (which could include faculty and administrators) would pay a reasonable fee, and this fee in turn could help pay the students operating the chargers, although I would imagine some subsidy might be necessary. There is no reason why one could not also have such machines in dormitories for students who wished to charge their batteries themselves. The stationary bicycles could be equipped with a handlebar tray so the students could study while pedaling.

I’ll leave it to Will Hines, the campus energy manager, to estimate how many kilowatt hours the University would save adopting this proposal. A side benefit would be an improved physical condition of students, resulting in lower medical costs over the long term. If adopted by colleges and universities throughout the country, the energy and health benefits could be nationally significant. It might also result in the invention of more efficient, and hence “greener,” battery-powered devices.

Frank R. Tangherlini, SM’52
San Diego



The McNeill effect

I thought history was dull all through high school and college; the books were boring, and the lectures were dry. But I suspected that something of real interest must lurk in the subject—beyond the dates and facts—in the relationships of cause and effect perhaps, and so after I graduated I decided to give history one more try, on my own. By chance I picked up William McNeill’s The Rise of the West (1963) and couldn’t put it down (“A Germ of an Idea,” July–Aug/10). That was 44 years ago. I have been devouring history ever since..

Brian R. Alm, AM’71
Rock Island, Illinois



McNeill and the military

I greatly enjoyed the article about Bill McNeill (July–Aug/10). One aspect that should have been mentioned is his postwar service to our country. Before, during, and after my grad-student days (in physical chemistry) during 1958–62, he was commanding officer of a U.S. Army Reserve strategic analysis detachment (under the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff at the Pentagon), involved with analyzing Soviet actions and intentions. I served in that unit as an officer and learned a great deal about strategy, which served me well in my subsequent life, both as a person and as a professor at Purdue University until I retired in 2007.

Michael Lipschutz, SM’60, PhD’62
Radnor, Pennsylvania



Not the first germ of an idea

When William McNeill’s Plagues and Peoples was published in 1976, there was much ballyhoo about the originality of centering a historical account on the ravages of disease. But in fact there was considerable precedent; most notable in this respect are Howard W. Haggard’s Devils, Drugs, and Doctors (1913) and Hans Zinsser’s more narrowly focused but equally elegant Rats, Lice, and History (1935). Oddly, there seems to have been no acknowledgment of these precedents at the time and, in resurrecting the ballyhoo, the Magazine does no more justice (July–Aug/10).

But Professor McNeill, for all his unquestioned virtues, seems to get away with a lot. I still remember his tour de force in writing the all-encompassing Rise Of The West without a single mention of any woman—not Cleopatra, not Elizabeth I, not Catherine the Great, not any woman at all.


Lawrence S. Lerner, AB’53, SM’55, PhD’62
Woodside, California



The date half empty

I have never before seen a magazine run an homage to a historian and then proceed to refute much of his work in one sentence. The piece on Professor McNeill notes that penicillin had been discovered in approximately 1876. That would be 23 years before aspirin become available. This would mean many of the serious epidemics the professor discusses in his works could never have happened because penicillin would have prevented them.

Alan Bloom, AB’68
Manhattan Beach, California

In your very interesting article on William H. McNeill and his work on the importance of (infectious) diseases in history, I was startled to read—in reference to the year 1976—that penicillin had been discovered a century earlier. I daresay a typographical error was responsible for this: the word half must originally have stood between a and century. Penicillin was discovered in 1928—and its use on a large scale in the treatment of bacterial infections dates from the latter part of the Second World War.

The following quotation is found in the Wikipedia article on penicillin: By June 1942, there was just enough U.S. penicillin available to treat ten patients. A moldy cantaloupe in a Peoria, Illinois, market in 1943 was found to contain the best and highest-quality penicillin after a worldwide search. The discovery of the cantaloupe...allowed the United States to produce 2.3 million doses in time for the invasion of Normandy in the spring of 1944. (It is slightly ironic that an article on the role of disease IN HISTORY should contain so significant an error in a noteworthy date.)

Howard Stein, PhD’58

Mr. Bloom and Mr. Stein are correct: the story should have read that penicillin had been discovered “half a century” before Plagues and Peoples was published in 1976. The “half,” unfortunately, got lost in the editing process.—Ed.


Just (a) response

In her response to my letter published in the July–Aug issue, Professor Elshtain stated that I had advocated attacking Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I have always advocated diplomacy and justice in place of military action, in sharp contrast to Elshtain. I was trying to employ a bit of irony—suggesting that if Elshtain applied her criteria for “preemptive action” equally everywhere, then she would be advocating such an attack. I can see now that I should have used a slightly different wording, one that would be more difficult to misrepresent or misconstrue.

Jean Athey, AM’71, PhD’76
Brookeville, Maryland


Point by point

Jean Bethke Elshtain’s response to her critics was, frankly, appalling. The most valuable thing I learned during my stint at Chicago was the importance of critical thinking and the avoidance of logical fallacies.

Yet Elshtain claims, for example, that one critic is being “hyperbolic, to put it mildly.” Her support for this assertion is that unnamed personal acquaintances, authorities on the topic, have said so, and that “various international organizations” support what her acquaintances have to say.

She then launches an ad hominem attack on the critic by setting up a straw man. Apparently, when the writer asserts that the invasion and occupation of Iraq hurt the Iraqis more than Saddam Hussein’s regime, that indicates that the critic is naively (or stupidly or purposely) unaware of the damage the regime did to the country. The key word is “more.” And the evidence for the level of damage done by Hussein? A “good friend” of hers.

She repeatedly uses appeals to emotion—the “horrifying” suffering of a friend who suffered “dreadful nightmares,” the “broken” health of a man who spent time in a political prison under the Soviets—all of whom, we are to believe, agree with her opinion; while those who disagree are aligned with the “American white supremacist David Duke,” the whack job currently president of Iran, and the Nazis.

Finally, she attacks by claiming the moral high ground. She wants to engage in serious political discussion, while her critics, apparently, only want to “rush to booming charges.”

If I’d tried to turn in something this ludicrous in graduate school, I would have been laughed out of Chicago. And rightfully so.

Christina Peterson Duchon, AM’84
Tucson, Arizona



Argument against just war

I respectfully disagree with Professor Elshtain’s justifications for the Iraq war (July–Aug/10). United States military spending dwarfs that of all other nations, approaching $700 billion per year [in 2009], about 48 percent of total global military spending. There are now more than 700 U.S. military bases around the world in approximately 60 nations. We’ve been asked to accept preemptive war, the privatization of our military forces, black operations, extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, warrantless surveillance, and torture. We’re fed the Pentagon’s version of reality by our anything-but-independent press on a daily basis. We’re asked to “support the troops” without questioning the reasons given for their deployment. We’ve arrived at the age of American Empire.

The 9/11 attack offered an irresistible pretext for war. We’ve taken back the Iraqi oil reserves, previously taken by the turncoat dictator Hussein, whom we ourselves put in power specifically to serve our interests. The long-term cost of the war, already estimated at over $3 trillion (Stiglitz, 2008), will strain federal budgets for decades. We could choose to recover the cost of the war at the gas pump via a fuel tax, but that might lower demand and profits. Instead, the full cost of obtaining the Iraqi reserves will be borne by taxpayers, keeping demand high and discouraging conservation of a vital nonrenewable resource. Meanwhile, the profits will be capitalized and distributed to shareholders.

Evidence of the human impact of the war continues to surface. Such evidence can be found in the recently Wikileaked Afghan logs (2010), the Lancet surveys (2004, 2006), and the ORB surveys (2007, 2008). The inevitable involvement of an undeserving civilian population in the war increases the probability of future terrorist reprisals.

Neither is the Iraq war just nor its costs and benefits distributed equitably. It is simply colonial hubris exemplified.


Patrick Feehan, MBA’91
Columbia, Missouri



Friedman, Chile, and earthquakes

The barrage of negative letters condemning with equal fervor the Pinochet regime, the University of Chicago Magazine, and Milton Friedman, AM’33, was conflated, misdirected, and unfair (Letters, July–Aug/10). It shows that the writers’ reach of emotional outrage far exceeded their firm grasp of economics. Of course Friedman didn’t save Chile; the Chilean regime did, by heeding Friedman’s advice—the same advice he gave other countries. Chile today is far better off for it, both the rich and the poor. That the Pinochet regime was oppressive and brutal is a serious, but separate, matter altogether. Friedman cannot be blamed for it, nor can the U of C Magazine. As the late great economist once put it: “The role of the economist in discussions of public policy seems to me to be to prescribe what should be done in light of what can be done, politics aside, and not to predict what is ‘politically feasible’ and then to recommend it.

Sol S. Shalit, MBA’65, PhD’70
Stamford, Connecticut

Your July–Aug issue included a number of letters criticizing Milton Friedman’s connection with Chile. The first observation is that the uniform opinions of the letter writers do not reflect the variety of opinions of real Chileans about Pinochet and Friedman any more than a single group of Americans would represent the whole spectrum of opinion on Obama. Note that Pinochet only narrowly lost the referendum on whether he should remain in power, so somebody must have liked him.

Most of us have made the empirical observation that those who most harshly criticize Pinochet can scarcely contain their admiration for Castro, Che Guevara, and every other Marxist murderer. At the same time Spain was trying to extradite Pinochet on principle of uniform international justice, they were also feting Fidel Castro. Give me a break.

It is true that Allende came to power democratically. Big deal; so did Hitler. In fact they both received about one-third of the vote. The truth, usually left unspoken, is that after assuming power, Allende proceeded to rule undemocratically by decree and proceeded to bankrupt the country in record time, while trampling the courts and all other democratic safeguards. The Chilean representative assembly itself called for his removal. The road forward led to a second Cuba.

Friedman defended himself quite ably from the criticism of giving advice to Chile. Bottom line was that he had given the same advice to communist countries without a hint of criticism.

The specific criticism on earthquake standards is answered in the referenced Stephens article [“How Milton Friedman Saved Chile,” Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2010, linked from the March 9 UChicago News for Alumni and Friends e-newsletter and referenced in the July–Aug Letters]. The only conflict between Friedman economics and building codes are the ones dreamed up by the liberals because they are unable to argue with what he really did say. Effective building codes are a function of wealth. We have seen how the structures of Marxist countries like the Soviet Union and China react to earthquakes. An Allende Chile would have been the same.


Doug Wood, MBA’75



Critical of critics

The Letters section of the July–Aug/10 issue reveals a troubling mind-set among some U of C College alums from the ’60s and ’70s. Two attacked the morality of the case that Professor Elshtain made for the second Iraq war, and five others attacked Milton Friedman’s role in Chile. But none of the seven critiques was supported by facts, so Professor Elshtain readily disposed of her critics, and doubtless the late Professor Friedman would have similarly disposed of his. Having been on campus in ’68–’70, I was of course aware of the prevalence of shrill, leftist-inspired ignorance among undergraduates, but it’s disturbing to see it persist among some of them all these decades later. Didn’t the College teach fact-based, critical thinking back then? Does it today?

Darrell Dvorak, MBA’70
Lake Forest, Illinois



Civil dispute

In a brief letter in the July–Aug/10 issue, Sam C. Masarachia states that I made two errors in my letter in the May–June/10 issue, in which I made statements about Lincoln and the Civil War. My letter was in response to an article about Lincoln published in the Mar–Apr/10 issue (“Full Measure of Devotion”).

Mr. Masarachia’s letter, without mentioning what I said in my letter or giving any figures or source references to support his statements, says that:

  1. “WW II was more costly in U.S. combat deaths and wounds than the Civil War,” and

  2. “It was the rebellion by South Carolina and other Southern states that ‘got us into a war.’”

I got my facts from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1979 edition, as follows:

  1. Civil War “dead” were Federal “359,528” and Confederate “approximately 258,000”, for a total of 617,528 dead. WW II U.S. “lives lost…combatants and civilians” were “298,131.” This shows that, contrary to Mr. Masarachia’s letter, the Civil War was more costly in American lives by 319,397, or by more than 200 percent. No figures were given by the Encyclopedia for WW II American wounded, but it gave the figures for Civil War wounded for the Federals and Confederates, which totaled 500,175.

  2. The cause of the Civil War was the “secession” of South Carolina, the first state to “withdraw” from the Union. After such “secession,” “[p]romptly other states of the lower South followed.” “… Lincoln determined that supplies must be sent [to Ft. Sumter in South Carolina] even if doing so provoked the Confederate States [who had already formed a national government] into firing the first shot.” There was no “rebellion,” as stated by Mr. Masarachia, just a peaceful withdrawal from the Federal government, after which Lincoln “provoked” acts in South Carolina, acts which he used to start a war against the Confederacy.

I believe that the true facts about our country’s history are important if we are to learn anything to help avoid future disasters in our country and caused by our foreign policy.

Bert L. Metzger Jr., JD’61


Networking: nature or nurture?

In “Meet and Greet,” (Investigations, July–Aug/10), Ronald Burt, PhD’77, is cited for research showing that business leaders with a broader, far-reaching network are more successful. He ascribes this to the greater communication skills such people develop. Has he considered that maybe it’s just that those people who choose to cultivate a broader network are more creative or proactive, or are more successful because of their intellect and/or personality attributes?

Martin Henner, X’61
Eugene, Oregon

Ronald Burt’s reexamination of what it means to be a good networker was an excellent piece. I think I’ll keep a copy in my briefcase and taped up on my office wall. It was inspiring and gives me another way to approach the networking process without trying to be someone I’m not or using a style that has no meaning to me. His description of positioning yourself to be the bridge between diverse cultures/social spheres and other entities is much more authentic, effective, and well within my comfort zone. This article gave me pause because I have always been the “go-to woman” for information, resources, contacts, etc., at every agency I’ve ever worked for, but never realized that I could parlay this experience into networking on my own behalf. Thank you for this article.

Sandra C. Knox, AB’75, AM’82
Blue Island, Illinois


Remember Haiti

Thank you for your recent article on Haiti (“At the Epicenter,” May–June/10). I appreciated learning about the current situation, that aid to Haiti needs to continue. I was also happy in the July–Aug issue to read another letter thanking you for the article.

Marcia Fernandez, AM’60


Poetic remembrance

I am looking for students of Henry Rago, who taught in the College (and, I believe, in the Divinity School) in the 1967 and 1968 academic years. (I was a student in his Liberal Arts I class in 1967–68.) I would like to name a room in the new South Campus Residence Hall after Mr. Rago, and am hoping to find his former students (and, perhaps, colleagues) who are interested in participating in this endeavor. If you would like to participate, please e-mail me: pbschechter@gmail.com.

P. B. Schechter, AB’73, AM’75, PhD’76


How do I get on that list?

Thanks for the magazine. It’s the first one I’ve gotten in 25 years! I guess it’s because I’m not a contributor to the alumni fund. In any case, I was thrilled to get [the U of C Magazine and the Core]; you really brought something wonderful to a starving populace.

Christina Mungle, AB’71
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Although the Magazine is happy to receive contributions, they are not necessary to get the publication. All we need is a correct address in the alumni database, which received an updated address for Ms. Mungle this summer. To correct yours, e-mail alumni-support@uchicago.edu, or call 800.955.0065.—Ed.


Department of corrections

In the May-June/10 “Editor’s Notes,” the genesis of the Chicago Society’s May 15 conference, “China and the Future of the Global Economy,” was incorrectly detailed. In January 2008, inspired by the success of the 2006 Chicago Society conference “China and the Future of the World,” three Chicago Society members—Marcus Petersen, Lane McIntosh, and Haijing (Crystal) Huang, all AB’10—planned another conference on China, focused on economic issues. In 2009 Huang picked up the conference’s leadership role, supported by a team including, in part, May Chen, ’12, who secured keynote speaker Justin Lin, PhD’86; doctoral student Quan Zhang, SM’08, who invited several private-sector speakers; and David Chen, ’12, who liaised with the University administration, facilitating media coverage and advertising on other campuses. Teng Bao, ’12, did the IT work and designed the conference website.


The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters about its contents or about the life of the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space, clarity, and personal attacks. To provide a range of views and voices, we encourage letter 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.