"Edward Tufte would have a bone to pick with you."



Thumbs up

I just wanted to say thanks for “Long Exposure” (Sept–Oct/10). Justin Kern’s (AB’04, PhD’10) images made me feel nostalgic because they captured both the physical beauty of campus and the emotions that I associate with those buildings and settings.

Julia Friedman, AB’05
Highland Park, New Jersey


Thumbs down

As a layman business type, I look at these images as I used to look at an Alfred E. Newman comic book—poor or no color corrections, a camera Mr. Kern cannot even hold straight to get the true architectural building lines as they really are, using a wide-angle lens to create silly special effects. All seem like a poor excuse for you to feature this subterranean level of photographic quality. His lack of quality camera equipment certainly contributed to this ghoulish set of images; whereas if he had rented or purchased a simple view camera and used quality professional film (or even a lesser-quality digital back) and lenses, you could have given us some decent images to ponder. Maybe this reflects the “pop culture” of the day, but I think this stuff is photographically pure garbage and deserves to be fodder for the National Enquirer or even Playboy at best. To promote it by putting it on your cover is an insult to the alumni and the University.

Thomas H. Kieren, MBA’68
Jefferson, New Jersey


Thumbs up again

I greatly enjoyed your cover article on photographer Justin Kern. The photos of campus were stunning and brought back a rush of memories from my four years in medical school. Kern expertly captured the unique mood of the U of C—melancholy, yet at the same time warm and welcoming. His photos are awash in the brown/orange colors that dominate my memory of the Gothic architecture of the University. It’s all there: the well-worn stones, the barren trees, the wind-swept courtyards, the suffused illumination of interior hallways, the bright windows crosshatched with dark bars. In a flash I was back on campus re-experiencing the tumult of emotions that were a part of those formative years. I went on to visit his website and was amazed at the variety of great photographs he has taken of the University and the city of Chicago. Thank you for the wonderful article, and thanks to Mr. Kern for so beautifully capturing a very special place.

Jason Nirgiotis, MD’86
Amarillo, Texas


Was the constitution proslavery?

George William Van Cleve, AB’73, in his learned history, A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic (University of Chicago Press, 2010), speaks of the Constitution of 1787 as “proslavery in its politics, in its economics, and its law.” In effect, the Van Cleve account (“The Price of Independence,” Sept–Oct/10) thus challenges the understanding of the American regime offered by Abraham Lincoln, among others.

Lincoln repeatedly insisted that the Declaration of Independence, the founding constitutional document of this nation, was grounded in principles that constantly challenged any permanent toleration of chattel slavery. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of 1863 and his Second Inaugural Address of 1865 provided eloquent testimony to this understanding of the First Principles of the American regime, principles that led to early measures (such as the Northwest Ordinance of 1787) that persuaded thoughtful citizens to believe, as Lincoln would say many times, that slavery “was in the course of ultimate extinction.”

When the would-be secessionists of 1861 undertook to revise the 1787 Constitution to suit their by-then desperate circumstances, they displayed (by many of the changes they made in the original document) what a “proslavery” constitution really looks like.

Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, the vice president of the Confederate States of America and perhaps the most learned expositor of Southern principles during the Civil War, recognized, in a famous address (the “Cornerstone” speech of March 1861), the Lincoln position about the fundamental antislavery position of “the fathers”:

The ideas entertained by [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution was that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature, that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. ... Our new government [of 1861] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.

It is curious, if the United States Constitution of 1787 was indeed as proslavery as Van Cleve seems to suggest, that the politically necessary compromises, for the time being, with slavery in that document, should have been made without once using the words “slave,” “slaves,” “slaveholding,” and “slavery,” of which there are almost a dozen uses in the Confederate Constitution of 1861.

George Anastaplo, AB’48, JD’51, PhD’64


Big states, small states

George Van Cleve’s Slaveholders’ Union indicates that the framing of the U.S. Constitution got caught up with the regional politics of slavery. As such, he reasons, slavery became embedded in the very life of the nation’s governance. For sure that is true. Even such stalwart progressives as Madison and Jefferson were left with the grim evidence of just how powerful slave-holding interests had become by the time of the Missouri Compromise.

However, it is important to understand that the compact of the states that went into the framing of the U.S. Constitution involved other rivalries besides the one between the North and the South. From the very beginning, the rivalry between the large and small states was just as intense. And when the issue of admitting Vermont to the Union arose, Madison was most concerned that a state of such “unimportance” would forever have the same Senate representation as would mighty Virginia. At that time, Virginia still had a claim to trans-Appalachian land extending to the Mississippi. Even Illinois was part of that old Dominion’s claim to 19th-century fame.

Two centuries later, it appears that the issue of slavery has been better solved than has the over-representation of small states in the nation’s upper chamber. Indeed, one could argue that with the rise of mega-states such as California and Texas, the representation of the 20 smallest states in the U.S. Senate is a critical governance issue.

To anyone who witnessed the remarkable influence that such places as Maine, Iowa, and Montana had in the recent national health-care debate, the small-state debate is far from over. One could convincingly argue that the over-representation of the 20 smallest states, by now, is the U.S. political equivalence of Britain’s long affair with the House of Lords. Plenty of history there was with the Lords, but not much modern relevance. For sure we should keep the small states, maybe just allow the largest ten fairer Senate representation. Our national policy process has indeed developed a rather noisy wobble.

Peter Fugiel



Other victims of the revolution

The article “The Price of Independence” fails to focus any attention on the true victims of the new republic’s independence—arrogantly described in history as the nation’s “manifest destiny”—the American Indians. The wrongs committed against the Indians dwarf the injury to black slaves, who suffered grievously at the hands of their captors and their masters.
Of course, the omission of others from the constitutional process should at least be mentioned in passing—indentured workers, women, Catholics, and others considered undesirable or undeserving at the time.

The expansion of slavery did indeed support territorial growth ambitions, but slavery did not equate with the Indian genocide drive that dispossessed them of their land, culture, and life. ... The disparity continues to the present [as] our Indian populations continue to suffer disproportionately. Indeed, racism between whites and blacks has been elevated to a contest of cultures that continues to unfold beyond any foresight of the Founders’ wisdom.

Lou Dudas, MBA’73
Oro Valley, Arizona



Token appreciation

I found the article “The Price of Independence” most interesting. But could you identify the coins shown on page 42? I did not know any coins attacked slavery.

Don Judson, AM’77, AM’89
Wheaton, Illinois

The tokens appear to be a mix of British and American antislavery coins, according to “Hands on Coins” by Thomas Palmieri, Journal of Hand Surgery, 1982. The two fronts shown, of the man in chains and of the two hands shaking, were minted during a British coin shortage between 1787 and 1811. The 1838 American coin was commissioned by the Anti-Slavery Society, largely Quakers.—Ed.



Faculty on the rise, we think

Thanks for the recent article on the increase in faculty at the University (“Opportunity Knocks,” Sept–Oct/10), for which I provided background information.

First, an editorial comment: I’m not too happy with the graph with enrollments and faculty counts. The subject of misleading graphical presentation of statistics is nothing new. Edward Tufte (author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information) would have a bone to pick with you. Because the enrollments and faculty have different scales on the left and right axes, the only content of the two superimposed bar charts is that enrollments rose and faculty numbers were apparently closer to constant. The two scales blur the relative sizes of the movements of the two quantities. The most misleading visual aspect is that the relative heights of the bars is complete nonsense. That is, accurate faculty–student ratios were certainly not represented by the relative heights. Perhaps you’ll hear about this from other alumni. (Let’s hear it for Literacy and Numeracy together.)

As codirector of undergraduate economic studies, I acknowledge that the main point of the graph is important: we have more students but hardly any more faculty. Economics is the largest major, and, like other departments that have large enrollments in their classes (such as mathematics, which has a large number of math majors as well a huge group of nonmajors to teach), it is increasingly pressured by enrollment growth. I am glad that the administration is acknowledging and addressing the pressures of teaching the growing College population with planned faculty expansion. I call on fellow alumni, including those I studied with and the College students I’ve taught, to help raise the University of Chicago’s endowment: we’ve been trying so hard and achieved much more with less than peer institutions. However, after a certain point, less is just ... less.

Crescat Scientia; Vita Excolatur.

Grace Tsiang, AM’83, PhD’91
Senior Lecturer in Economics

We’re sorry that the graph in question was misleading. And in the story’s other graph, we must make a correction: we inadvertently inflated the size of Duke University’s enrollment, which was at 13,662 in fall 2009.—Ed.



Chicago Manual of Style

As has been shown countless times, Magazine readers and University alumni have very high standards and expectations for the University—and for the Magazine, which serves as its proxy.

Sadly, standards in editing and publishing—in “little” details like spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation—have been universally in decline. Also sadly, the University has not been totally immune to this infection—and I do not have only the Magazine in mind when I say this.

Case in point: The piece on Gary Becker   (“A Rational Choice,” Sept–Oct/10) has a little quote above the head: “Economist Gary Becker returned to Chicago because ‘I knew I would be challenged by the faculty, by the students.’” The error here is that such a sentence switches from you as speaker to him as speaker. Try reading it without the quotation marks. This error may be easily rectified by inserting “as he says,” thusly: “…because, as he says, ‘I knew. …’”

In the same piece, Mr. Becker himself, as he is quoted, sadly commits a solecism. He says, “But I began to feel as a young elder statesman.” Mr. Becker should have said “…like a young elder statesman.” I believe the practices of journalism permit the writer to silently repair such an error; or an editor may insert “like” in square brackets.

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



Duck and cover for 2010

The fastest growing industry in the United States today is the fear industry (“Roaming Crusader,” Sept–Oct/10). I am an old man, “alumnus emeritus,” and I find it ridiculous. The people pursuing these careers seem totally oblivious to data; they find a good subject to scare people and run with it. So far there is no conclusive or generally agreed-on evidence that cell phones or other electronic devices have a significant effect on the body—just anecdotal evidence and “statistics.” A few years ago it was electric blankets, or caffeine, or mercury in vaccines; and for years it has been “chemicals.” Calling something a chemical immediately condemns it as hazardous. What is not a chemical? Water, salt, sugar, starch—everything is a chemical. The poisons in molds, in certain plants or animals, are all chemicals, but they are not considered bad because they are “natural”; if it is synthetic, it must be bad. Fluoridation of water is another example of scare mongering; bad teeth cause bad health, but that is irrelevant to people who see a potential danger under every bush.

I am not saying that there have not been horrific mistakes, but many of the “dangers” being repeated over and over again pose less risk than death by automobile or drowning. You want to make people safer? Get them to drive more sanely.

As far as I can see, life is risky, and there will never be an absolute guarantee of safety of anything, but the members of this industry are trying to promote the idea that this is a realistic goal. If everyone in the country were to use product A, and one in 100,000 were to react badly, we would have 3,000 people affected. But we have no problem allowing 40,000-plus to be killed every year on our roads, and millions to be injured.

Werner Zimmt, PhB’47, BS’47, MS’49, PhD’51
Tucson, Arizona


Exaggerated accents

The graphic accompanying “The Accent on Truth” (Fig. 1, Investigations, Sept–Oct/10) is extremely misleading. It suggests a much more dramatic difference in credibility of speakers with foreign accents than the data presented in the article. The reason that the graphic is misleading is because only a small slice of the Y axis was included, displaying only the range between 6.5 and 7.5, so the difference appears extremely dramatic. But the article states that credibility was scored from 0 to 14 and that the range of results was between 7.5 and 6.84.

The difference between the maximum and minimum is 0.66 (7.5-6.84=0.66). On a scale of 0–14, this is just 4.7 percent (0.66/14=4.7) of the 0–14 scale.

The article does not give us enough information to let us judge whether or not the differences reported are statistically significant, but it absolutely tells us that the graphic is very misleading.

Charles M. Cohon, MBA’05
Morton Grove, Illinois


Just a nice story

At age 81 I still remember the Little Black Sambo story as my favorite in the mid-1930s, perhaps because I had an early love of pancakes with butter and maple syrup. Therefore I read with interest (and frequent snickers) Carrie Golus’s piece about the several 20th-century revisions of the story (Sambo’s Subtext,” Sept–Oct/10). Ms. Golus showed great perseverance in plowing through a project that obviously made her wince and writhe her knickers into a twist throughout. She even had the courage to discuss her project with a colleague who probably considered it unthinkable for a politically correct liberal, in academia no less.

In her piece Ms. Golus raised three questions: Why does the story inspire discomfort? Why is it widely considered racist? And, if so, why has it endured? These are easily answered: To the first, because liberals always welcome any excuse to feel uncomfortable; to the second, because a liberal cannot have too many opportunities to level accusations of racism; and to the third, because it is a neat children’s story, combining an exciting adventure (for the little boy), wild animals, metamorphosis (of the tigers), and a delicious pancake lunch.

Bruce W. Tennant, MBA’57
Bluffton, South Carolina



Stereotypes: Global since 1899

I was intrigued by the articleSambo’s Subtext” on the addition of a Little Black Sambo collection to the Special Collections Research Center. The addition will be a valuable asset to research regarding race, children’s fiction, and the Victorian period. However, I was concerned by the article’s implication that Helen Bannerman’s illustrations may not have been drawn from a racially prejudiced standpoint because she was an Englishwoman and not an American.

If Ms. Golus were to study the depiction of peoples of African descent in English advertisements, political cartoons, and artworks from the Victorian period, she would see that stereotypical depictions of black people were not unique to America and that some of the same tropes were used on both sides of the Atlantic. In conservative political cartoons of the time, it was common to highlight the perceived otherness and inferiority of black Britons by depicting cartoonish black characters in outlandishly fancy dress and elevated social situations, a device at the core of the Little Black Sambo story and illustrations. Sambo’s fine dress is a mockery.

To answer Ms. Golus’s question, Helen Bannerman likely encountered racist drawings on a frequent basis. I encourage Golus and others interested in the culture and political landscape that influenced Bannerman to explore books such as Black Victorians: Black People in British Art, 1800–1900, edited by Jan Marsh. Bannerman and her story were a product of her time and environment. As researchers take advantage of the new collection, I hope they keep in mind that antiblack racism is not an American invention and that much of the imagery and language that causes us such discomfort today was also used across the pond.

Candace McKinley, JD’08



Another way to rank

Re: Chicago’s ninth rank in the 2011 U.S. News & World Report (For the Record,  Sept–Oct/10), the September Washington Monthly annually publishes alternative rankings based on “how well individual colleges and universities were meeting their public obligations in the areas of research, service, and social mobility.” Chicago ranks 12th, Harvard ninth, and Princeton 24th.

William Josephson, AB’52
New York



Green again

Alumni letters on the green revolution (Letters, Sept–Oct/10) stirred me to share happy experiences. In 2000, at 85, after years of longing for company to delve into timely issues, I found an eager longtime associate of the late Karl Menninger of the famed psychiatric clinic in Topeka. Other retirees nearby soon joined. We meet mornings, twice a month for two hours or more, rotate in making presentations, and occasionally invite an available guru to lead the discussion. After three years, to preserve the value of lively exchange, we initiated a second group. This activity has changed my life. Others can testify it fills an empty spot in their lives. We now have 17 in each forum. Wives also are welcome to participate. At 95, hearing aids and all, I am ready to start a third.

We’ve tackled many green subjects, including preserving water quality in Lake Michigan; saving our farmland in our rural northern Michigan county, Leelanau, from developers; zero population growth; and addressing gerrymandering, which has destroyed our democracy. Every issue, including hot political ones, is researched. Group discipline gives priority of friendship over heated political expression (it helps that all of us are progressive or moderate). Our group initiated the building of a wind turbine on a high hill nearby, soon to be completed. We gave critical support for a much-needed sewer in our village and on occasion have found other ways to take action.

I encourage other retired Maroons who have a thirst for stimulating fellowship and will be happy to answer questions. This smacks of the U of C, and it will keep you young. And what wonderful friends I’ve made.

Rev. Grafton “Mac” Thomas, DB’48
Northport, Michigan



Future symposium planner

It was with great interest that I read the article “Green Evolution” in the July–Aug/10 issue. It occurred to me that the U of C, noted for its rigorous pursuit of knowledge, is the ideal institution to examine key facets of the green revolution sweeping our country and world. The article mentions Cornell’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2050, and Harvard has pledged to reduce greenhouse (presumably carbon dioxide) emissions 30 percent by 2016.

Chicago, with its famed interdisciplinary approach to major issues, should examine the full role of carbon dioxide in our daily lives and all things living in addition to the impact on climate change that some models predict for coming decades. In fact, Chicago would be the ideal venue to sponsor a scientific symposium examining all the issues promoted by the UN Panel on Climate Change and those scientists who support a different view of all ramifications of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. To my knowledge, two scientists, Phillip Jones and Michael Mann, responsible for editing reports of the UN Panel, have not debated the key issues in an open forum.

The stakes are too high for the world economy and all things living to not have an open, robust debate of the full impact of carbon dioxide in our world and time. The University of Chicago is the venue for this critical enquiry.

Richard C. Janzow, MBA’63
Wilmette, Illinois


Gren suggestions

I felt glad to read Richard Mertens’s article, “Green Evolution” (July–Aug/10), on the University’s sustainability efforts. As a cartoon once said, “So what if we do all this work and find out carbon’s not the cause of global warming? All we have is a healthier, cleaner planet with more jobs!”

I was also intrigued by the question Sustainability Office director Ilsa Flanagan asked: “How can we reach a reasonable goal?” This is a hobby of mine, and the following are my three favorite answers to this question.

I heard one could cut his energy bill in half simply by unplugging appliances at night, or when not in use, so I tried it. Then I came across outlet switches, which do the same thing in inconvenient places. Voila! Half an electric bill.

The second idea involves a new method of marketing solar energy. An ingenious MBA, Jigar Shah, realized no other energy production system required the consumer to buy the power plant, and that solar should not either. He started SunEdison, which negotiates with banks to finance the solar system. The system is then paid for when the consumer pays his electric bill. The system costs the user nothing. Other companies using this model are Sungevity and SunRun.

Lastly, I have just ordered an infrared portable heater from Eden Pure, which claims to pay for itself in reduced energy costs in weeks. I have no results yet, but it is “Bob Vila’s best money saver of 2010.” It cannot start fires or burn babies, and will not rob the air of oxygen (making us sleepy). It comes in sizes to heat 300- and 1,000-square-foot spaces.

Global warming is a daunting challenge, but possible to curb. Americans have risen to such challenges before, as when everyone sacrificed with rationing of food, gas, rubber, and other materials needed in the World War II effort (not to mention sending themselves and their loved ones in harm’s way). We can protect the lives, and quality of life, of future generations. All we need is the will, belief, and action to succeed. And when we do, imagine the movies they’ll make.

Joan Kurtz, AB’73


Such a mensch

I was an undergraduate studying history in the late ’60s in the College. Professor William H. McNeill, AB’38, AM’39 (“A Germ of an Idea,” July–Aug/10), was head of the department at the time. I was not a distinguished student, nor did I have any aspirations of becoming a scholar. But I did love history and had a keen interest in the history of the Middle East and Eastern Europe and their role in developing the state of conflict in the region. McNeill generously agreed to guide me in an independent-study course and showed great enthusiasm and respect for my theories, however ill founded or naive. The most important lesson I learned from him, however, was not about history but that greatness and brilliance are best when tempered with humility. I was inspired once again by this great man when I read your article. Thank you for honoring his vast and varied contributions as a gentleman and a scholar in the true sense of the word.

Niki Guner, AB’70


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


Before McNeil

I am indebted to Robert Goodier’s piece in the Magazine for recalling William McNeill’s Plagues and People because it also brought to mind Hans Zinsser’s delightful and erudite Rats, Lice, and History, first published in 1935. (So much for the article’s implication, never made by Mr. McNeill, that the historical importance of infectious diseases had been previously ignored.) Whereas McNeill dealt with the subject from the perspective of an accomplished historian, Zinsser admitted to being a mere bacteriologist but rejected the “prejudice in America that specialists should not trespass beyond their own paddocks, however interestedly they may look over the rails.” After examining epidemics of the ancient world, including those that contributed to the fall of Rome, Zinsser titled his Chapter VIII, “On the influence of epidemic diseases on political and military history, and on the relative unimportance of generals.”

Richard Newcomb, AB’81
Irving, Texas


Law of life

What took them so long (Course Work, “Legal Practice,” July–Aug/10)? When I was graduated in 1935, it was sink or swim. No information about the nitty-gritties of practicing law. When I raised the question at a Milwaukee alumni luncheon a number of years ago, the response from the visiting faculty member was, figuratively, “What are you talking about?” Yes, I survived, but it would have been so much easier had the corporate lab been available then. Congratulations on getting a little closer to the real world. Don’t get me wrong. I am not denigrating the wonderful education I received. The program has just been made a little better.”

Rubin Sharpe, JD’35


Larger print, please

This note is to inform you that the printed version of the University of Chicago Magazine is almost illegible. The type is too small, and the background makes the reading even more difficult. 

G. J. Wasserburg, SB’51, SM’52, PhD’54
Florence, Oregon


Beach reading

I thought you might enjoy this photo (right) I took containing the Sept–Oct/10 Magazine. The issue was perfect for beach reading on my recent vacation!

Rick Prakobkit, AB’07


On who should teach what

Professor John Mearsheimer’s undergraduate class, Zionism and Palestine, pays “considerable attention ... to the plight of the Palestinians.” Doesn’t advocacy of one view prevent studying “a variety of points of view” and require accepting “a professor’s ideology or else take the risk of challenging a professor, who happens to be the one who eventually will grade them?” I inquired. As Jordan Holliday wrote, “It’s not as though [Mearsheimer’s] thoughts on modern-day Israel are shrouded in secrecy” (August 7 Maroon).

The U of C replied, “We are confident that University of Chicago students have the intellectual maturity to engage their colleagues and their teachers around even the most contentious issues of the day. One of the hallmarks of a University of Chicago education is the ability to think critically and speak openly about arguments from all sources.”

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), “Expressing one’s ideas and entertaining divergent perspectives—about race, gender, religion, or cultural values, for example—can be frightening for students. They need a safe environment in order to feel free to express their own views. They need confidence that they will not be subjected to ridicule by either students or professors. They have the right to be graded on the intellectual merit of their arguments, uninfluenced by the personal views of their professors.”

Student rights don’t infringe on faculty academic freedom. Notes the AAC&U, “In an educational community, freedom of speech, or the narrower concept of academic freedom, does not mean the freedom to say anything that one wants.” The “right way” to build intellectual and personal capacities is “to warn [students] of the inappropriateness and dangers of indoctrination, help them see through the distortions of propaganda and enable them to access judiciously the persuasiveness of powerful emotional appeals.” An educational community that expends “intense collective effort” to formulate “reliable methods for determining whether any particular claim meets accepted criteria for truth ... ensures that no proposal stands without alternatives or arrogates to itself the claim of possessing the sole truth.” In a functioning educational community, Professor Mearsheimer would not teach Zionism and Palestine.

“A respected scholar” who “always limits enrollment in his seminars by requiring instructor’s consent” and “a very popular teacher,” Professor Mearsheimer’s students often agree with him about “modern-day Israel” and welcome reinforcement for their partisan views. But for undergraduates interested in nonpartisan scholarship, Professor Mearsheimer’s class does not offer a “safe environment.”

“The University will continue to defend vigorously any faculty member’s right to publish and discuss his or her ideas,” wrote the U of C. No doubt, ideologues, partisans, and extremists have the “right” to publish/discuss their ideas outside the classroom. But there is no “right” for faculty members to argue their personal partisan ideas inside the classroom. It is the students, whether they recognize it or not, who have the “right” to attend partisan-free classes. The U of C is in urgent need of reevaluating its responsibilities to its students.

Charlotte Adelman, AB’59, JD’62
Wilmette, Illinois


Education or propaganda?

The U of C has allowed itself to stumble into the volatile issue of whether Professor Mearsheimer will be “teaching” a course in Zionism and Middle East foreign policy or in reality serving as a proxy voice advocate of the anti-Jewish, anti-Israel idealogues that seek the final solution of extinction of Israel, the only vibrant, productive, functioning democracy in the Middle East.

Many professors at the University have been identified and honored for their original research and mastery of academic disciplines that enable young minds to understand how modern societies come to exist and students to become empowered to contribute to cultural achievements and the advancement of civilization. I can envisage Mearsheimer serving as thesis adviser for a graduate student writing about the historic return of the displaced, dispersed, and despised Jewish peoples of the world to their little piece of homeland, or about the convoluted politics of the Middle East. A doctoral thesis is a valuable contribution of peer-reviewed original research and new learning. Mearsheimer himself publishes books and articles on his bête noire and is a powerful debater in the public arena of public-policy formation.

But his objectives in the Zionism seminar seem narrowly partisan, predetermined, and political rather than useful and instructive. This is not Galileo lecturing that the sun is the center of our universe or Pasteur demonstrating that microorganisms cause disease. Zionism is a polemical excursion into matters that can never lead to new enlightenment and certain conclusions or common agreement on solutions. For Mearsheimer, based on his writings and public arguments, Israel is always the problem, and the solution is always undoing history.

Academic freedom is the need to permit the expression of controversial points of view. Education is the process by which objective facts and the process of learning are delivered to blank slates. Propaganda is the teaching of the captive mind. Has Mearsheimer actually become not an educator but a “useful idiot” of the enemies of Israel and, for whatever reason, the University of Chicago an unwitting accomplice?

Herbert L. Caplan, AB’52, JD’57


Department of corrections

We apologize for two errors in the Sept–Oct/10 issue. First, in For the Record, the Chicago Booth School of Business’s interim dean is Harry L. Davis. And second, in “Behind the Music” (Chicago Journal), the list of people that curator Deborah Gillaspie, AM’88, met with to update the library’s jazz archive should have included Sem Sutter, AM’73, PhD’82, AM’85, assistant director for collections at the library.



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.