“The latest issue ... is beyond contempt.”

Dream workers
Thank you for the recent article about Joshua Hoyt, AM’95 ("Dream Deferred," May–June/11). The piece allowed me to revisit the heady year when I was working on my master’s, when for a stress release I interned at ICIRP (the previous name of ICIRR). My supervisor was Lisa Simeone, AB’90, AM’04. I’m sure that’s just one of many such connections between the two institutions—probably enough for a whole separate story.

Noah S. Leavitt, AM’97
Walla Walla, Washington


Hoyt unchallenged
I have to take you to task over your story "Dream Deferred" by Richard Mertens, which was billed as "Bound & Determined" on the cover. The piece was just short of hagiography, and I found it to be grossly one-sided and overly suggestive. Frankly, the failure to edit this piece properly is appalling.

Initially, a certain group is labeled "illegal immigrants." But more often than not, this group is later described simply as "immigrants." These are two different groups of people. One group decided to observe this country’s laws, the other did not. As a result, the families of these two groups face two very different challenges. The conflation of these two groups is either sloppy or deceitful editing.

I have other problems with the article as a piece of journalism. The author did not "follow the money" and tell us how funding for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights increased from $1.8 million to $7.9 million. Surely, this funding increase was not supplied solely by the sale of tamales outside Cobb Hall.

Eleven million people are not "frozen in third-class status" in the United States. Most illegal immigrants can simply return to the countries where they are already citizens and start the legal process. They are not bound to the United States as is suggested by the barbed wire on the cover. Illegal immigrants have many options. However, Mr. Hoyt, AM’95, uses absolute phrases such as "the only way" to suggest they have no alternative or are trapped. Your publication made no effort to amend or challenge such statements.

Michael Taylor, MBA’86
Stamford, Connecticut


Undocumented v. illegal
I was extremely disappointed in Richard Mertens’s article on Joshua Hoyt, AM’95, and "immigrant rights." The article can best be described as a fawning profile of Mr. Hoyt that at no point takes seriously the arguments of those of us who are sick and tired of the way this state and successive presidential administrations have treated the issue of illegal immigration. In fact, after starting the article promisingly by using the proper terminology of illegal immigrant to refer to immigrants who enter this country by breaking our immigration laws, Mr. Mertens soon falls into the Orwellian word usage of "undocumented"—as in "undocumented student" for "Diana," who is shamefully allowed by the University to attend classes instead of being turned in to federal authorities for deportation.

The simple facts of the matter, which you won’t get from Mr. Hoyt, is that we do have a democracy in this country, and the voters in this democracy get to decide who deserves citizenship and who does not. Unfortunately, we have had millions of Central American unskilled laborers take advantage of lax enforcement of our laws (and business owners colluding with them) to enter this country illegally and drive down wages (cis.org/node/2294), overburden our welfare systems, and help drive the Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate to over 50 percent (cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr59/nvsr59_01.pdf, Table 14)—all plain facts that the Magazine should have presented in any balanced story concerning illegal immigration. Not all the citizens of Illinois, nor all graduates of the University of Chicago, support illegal immigration and the shameful work of Joshua Hoyt.

Jeffrey Singer, MPP’98


Reform v. amnesty
Your article on Joshua Hoyt uses the term "immigration reform" seven times but not once uses the more accurate term "amnesty." "Reform" would imply a change in the existing laws regarding who can enter the country. What is being proposed is amnesty to those who have come here illegally. What other content is there to "comprehensive immigration reform"? Given that liberals also oppose any efforts to halt illegal immigration, will amnesty also be granted to those who illegally enter this country tomorrow?

It is a significant error to presume that those such as Hoyt who argue for amnesty are on a higher moral plane than their opponents. Even the most elementary application of economics would conclude that the 11 million illegal immigrants compete for wages with the lower-income segments of American society and, in doing so, drive down their wages. If liberals really did have the slightest concern for the poor of this country, the first thing they would do would be to shut down illegal immigration.

It is obvious that the liberal support for amnesty is based instead on their greed for power and their perverted racial calculus that tells them that Mexicans can be counted on to vote Democrat in large numbers. Notice the completely different treatment of actual refugees from Cuba, who, having firsthand exposure to the Marxist disease, cannot be counted on to be suckered by liberal propaganda.

Doug Wood, MBA’75


"Rights" v. realism
The proposed Dream Act needs to be considered realistically. This is massive amnesty for all illegal aliens who can claim, even fraudulently, that they entered before the age of 16 and have lived in the United States for at least five years. The proponents assert that illegal immigrants must serve in the military or attend college. This is not true.

The key reason is that any "qualifying" alien gets ten years of legal status simply by applying. Of course, in theory applications can be denied. However, past experience shows that blatantly fraudulent applications will be received in massive numbers and readily accepted.

The next question is what is likely to be the impact of these illegal immigrants on our nation. The results are highly negative:

  • A 1997 National Academy of Sciences study found that each low-skilled immigrant costs $89,000 over the course of his/her lifetime. See bit.ly/98KcJf. [The same study found "that immigration produces net economic gains for domestic residents."—Ed.]
  • There is little evidence that the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of illegal immigrants will do much better. Samuel Huntington looked at this subject in his book, Who Are We. See Table 9.1 on page 234 or bit.ly/foZPxH.
  • The Heritage Foundation found that low-skilled immigrant households impose huge tax costs on Americans. See bit.ly/98MAOo.
  • Heather MacDonald has written extensively on the bleak realities of mass unskilled immigration. I recommend "Seeing Today’s Immigrants Straight" (bit.ly/hl5aZP).
  • Former White House Council of Economic Advisers member [and former Chicago economist] Edward P. Lazear’s National Bureau of Economic Research paper "Mexican Assimilation in the United States" (2007) has a summary quote: "Mexican immigrants assimilate more slowly than other immigrants as reflected in English fluency. They also have lower levels of education, lower wages, and live in more concentrated areas than other immigrants."

Josh Hoyt, AM95, may think he is doing something noble by promoting the “rights” of illegal immigrants. The truth is otherwise.

Peter Schaeffer, SB’74
Sugar Land, Texas


Immigration's ecological effects
The article "Dream Deferred" featuring Joshua Hoyt exemplifies a very narrow and misguided focus, excluding recognition of calamitous ecological and resource problems. It is ever more apparent that this nation cannot now support the needs of our current population, much less millions more due largely to immigration, legal and illegal.

Immigration advocates like Mr. Hoyt need a good course in basic ecology to understand that we have pushed well beyond the environment’s ability to sustain the human enterprise. One is either blind or in a state of cognitive dissonance not to recognize the onrush of severe ecological and economic problems: climate change, peak oil, food shortages, etc., dimming the well-being of our own and future generations.

The immigration question is unfortunately argued on the wrong premises. The pertinent, indeed the only really salient issue, seldom considered, is the ineluctable necessity of living within Earth’s carrying capacity. Many prominent ecologists argue that a sustainable US population should not exceed 150-200 million, and the world no more than two billion people.

Yet the United States is now at 310 million, the world nearly seven billion. The US Census Bureau projects a population of 450-500 million by 2050 if immigration continues at the current rate. To foster and justify further immigration and amnesty on humanitarian grounds is, ironically, a clear prescription for future untold misery—a classic case of thinking with one’s heart and not one’s head.

The late biologist Garrett Hardin, SB’36, said that whenever we take an action we must ask the "ecolate" question: "and then what?" What will be the consequences of our actions? As biologists and educators vitally concerned about a darkening future for all Earth’s creatures, we cannot subscribe to the dead-end dictum once voiced by the HRE Ferdinand I, "Let justice be done, though the world perish." We do not have the right to make that choice for future generations and for our fellow species. An estimated two billion people would like to immigrate to the United States from a hungry world, adding 82 million new residents each year. It is long since time we face reality and set about the tasks of reducing our numbers and consumption and living within ecological limits.

Jane R. Shoup, PhD’65
Stefan P. Shoup, AM’64
Big Falls, Wisconsin


Bias and disappointment
I am writing on a subject that has disturbed me for some time, namely the University of Chicago Magazine’s content and tone. For quite some time it has struck me how blatant and biased some of the major articles have focused on a distinct irreverence for those of us who are still dedicated to the notions of honor, duty, truthfulness, and love of freedom and justice.

It is not merely the adulation, for example, the University has displayed for the Obamas and several of their supportive pundits and acolytes, but the misguidance of positions supporting almost any group perceived to be wronged by the established American ideals or culture.

The latest issue featuring the radical notions of Joshua Hoyt in his support for civil disorder, gutter tactics, and a destruction of America is beyond contempt. Moreover, his invoking of Saul Alinsky, PhB’30, is utterly despicable. The very idea of organizing the gullible and young student body to promote illegal immigration is confounding to me.

I respect the rights of minorities, interest groups, and those whom I characterize as radicals to voice their opinion in a university setting. However, a steady diet of counterculture, which seeks to destroy the very foundations of our country, is something I neither admire nor readily accept.

As the late William Buckley lamented, I too have suffered a supine tendency to simply accept such rubbish as frequently appears in the University of Chicago Magazine. I suppose, like him, that I’m simply getting "carried away."

However, I will confess that I am not proud that I attended the University and indeed will urge my extended family members to avoid the school as their potential choice. At least my wife and I will do our part and disavow our legacy support, which we had planned in our estate trust.

Louis Dudas, MBA’73
Oro Valley, Arizona


Word spread
I enjoyed the article about Ben Zimmer, AM’98 ("Away With Words," May–June/11). However, I was bothered by the way he discussed the spread of words such as unfriend and unfollow. These words immediately brought to my mind such words as unbellyfeel in Newspeak. I am not a word purist. The English language is an inclusive one. However, such words are restrictive, not expansive. In 1984 such words are used to restrict the thoughts of the population. I, however, intend to continue to bellyfeel Oldspeak.

Lambert H. Schoonveld, SM’69
Clermont, Florida


Spell check
It’s ironic that in an article on literacy ("Elizabethan Influences," Original Source, May–June/11), you misspelled "princeps."

Rich Bernstein, AM’71, PhD’76
New York City

Bernstein is correct. The story should have quoted one of the maxims Queen Elizabeth I collected as: "Princeps sine literis—a ruler without learning—'is like a ship without a steering oar and a bird without wings.'"—Ed.


Another view of Piccard
I have just read the article about my grandmother, Jeannette Piccard, SM’19, in your May-June/11 issue (Legacy, "A 'Pioneer of the Skies'"). My sister who lives in Minneapolis forwarded it to me as well as to my siblings and other cousins. We are always gratified to see recognition of "Granny" (she really didn’t like us to call her that, so we did; eventually she became fond of the nickname and enjoyed telling people that little story), but we were disappointed that the author apparently contacted only our cousin Kathryn and that he included her unflattering and judgmental comments in the article. My father is deceased, but my Uncle Donald lives in Minneapolis and remains a high-profile personality after a career in aviation ballooning. He might have provided more reliable insights about Granny’s life and career. She had 14 grandchildren, and she loved them all. She had high expectations of all her children and grandchildren, and perhaps Kathryn perceived her interest and concern as controlling and manipulative, but most of us did not share that perception.

As an ordained minister and pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), I was most disturbed that Kathryn would voice her speculation that Granny would not have been a good pastor. I cannot imagine anything more inappropriate to have been spoken by an Episcopalian priest who (a) would never have been ordained if not for the groundbreaking determination of the handful of women like my grandmother and (b) who, to my knowledge, has never herself been a pastor of a congregation. Granny spent what should have been her retirement years ministering to the poor, marginalized elderly population in her church, and when she died, our family was inundated with testimonials to the blessings she bestowed on them.

Mary Piccard Vance
Tallahassee, Florida

In the story, Kathryn Piccard says her grandmother "would not have been a good priest had she been ordained at the same time as the men her age. She needed more time to mature emotionally and spiritually."—Ed.


Farm raised
At 66 years old, I share farmer/intellectual Fred Kirschenmann’s (AM’62, PhD’64) concern in "Faith in Farming" (Arts & Sciences, May–June/11) that "30 percent of our farmers are over age 65, and only five percent are under 35." Or as another farming author, Kentuckian Wendell Berry, points out,"America needs 50 million more farmers."

I first heard Kirschenmann speak in the early 1990s, while making a transition from college teaching to farming in semirural Sonoma County in Northern California. Along with other agricultural and gardening intellectuals—Wes Jackson at the Land Institute in Kansas and Scott and Helen Nearing of Vermont and Maine—he inspired me to return to the land to work and enjoy it.

My main work for nearly two decades has been organic farming, which I sometimes reflect on in chapters such as "In Praise of Sweet Darkness" in Sierra Club Books’ Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind and "Chicken Wisdom" in Held in Love: Life Stories to Inspire Us Through Times of Change. We need to change our abundant factory farms and industrial agriculture to Jeffersonian small-scale farming.

What I did not know about Kirschenmann, until your article, was that we share the distinction of being Divinity School graduates. Farming can be a spiritual practice; many monks through the centuries have worked the land as part of their devotion.

Grocery store shelves may not always be as abundant as now, I tell those who visit my small farm, which is a learning environment. Prechemical farmers had the highest life expectancy of any job; I consider my farming to be my best health insurance.

Perhaps it’s time to return to the old-fashioned values and habits that I learned on our Iowa family farm in the late 1950s, before electricity had arrived. We had a windmill, icebox, gas lanterns, cellar, wood stove, and outhouse. With farm animals for entertainment and live stories at night, life was good.

W. Shepherd Bliss III, THM’69, DMN’71
Sebastopol, California


Altruism's risks
Catching sight of the word "altruism" in Diane Silver’s article "Elusive Virtue" (Arts & Sciences, May–June/11), I began reading with great excitement, since altruism is one of the subjects of my 1999 PhD dissertation. But my excitement did not last. For, while it is hard to judge Ruth Grant’s (AB’71, AM’75, PhD’84) chapter on the basis of the brief gloss on it that Silver provides, Grant’s use of Shel Silverstein’s tale The Giving Tree as a parable about altruism suggests that something is missing from her analysis. That missing something is risk, without which altruism is indistinguishable from kindness, addiction, competitive gift giving, or, indeed, masochism.

Altruism is not a fixed essence but a thing of degrees: it can and ought to be defined as the risk a person or animal takes to preserve the life or hopes of another person or animal. Altruists, in other words, are not necessarily selfless like Silverstein’s tree, and they make more or less precise (though not always conscious) cost-benefit analyses of the risks they take—sometimes in the act of taking them.

A parable of altruism that makes more sense than does Silverstein’s tale can be found in Thucydides’s account of the plague at Athens. During the plague, Thucydides reports, those who in their goodness tended to their friends died. Many therefore fled sick friends. Many avoided virtue itself like, well, the plague. The most successful altruists in Thucydides’s dying city were those who had recovered from the plague, and who then tended to the sick without fear of death, although not without risking a second, nonfatal bout of disease.

Finally, evolutionary biology also suggests that altruism is calculating: the praying mantis who makes love to a mate who then grabs and devours him passes on his genes, strengthens the mother of his children, and would, in an R-rated Silverstein tale, die happy.

Michael Collins, AM’89
College Station, Texas


Play ball
I was recently surprised and disappointed to read the criticism the Magazine received for printing the article about Craig Robinson, MBA’91, the coach at Oregon State ("On the Rebound," Mar–Apr/11). I found the article both inspiring and enjoyable to read. One of the things I learned as part of my liberal-arts education is that it is important to learn about a variety of topics, not just those you are interested in. (After all, it is a magazine, and you can pick and choose what articles you read.) Please continue printing articles about athletics and all other aspects of life related to the U of C.

Scott Ranges, AB’89
Lugoff, South Carolina


Hoops hoopla
Chester C. Graham, AB’63, surely had some goal in mind choosing the University of Chicago besides escaping athletics (Letters, May–June/11). Most serious students, including student-athletes, have enough focus to ignore hoopla that does not interest them and/or interferes with their academics.

Interesting article about Craig Robinson, MBA’91, trying to make college students and citizens and a winning team out of the leftovers and the damaged goods that losing-record Division I schools are able to recruit.

John Stevens, MD’67
Salem, Oregon


Focus on the home team
The University of Chicago women’s basketball team had a spectacular season this year, winning a school record 25 games (25–4), finishing 14–0 in University Athletic Association (UAA) league play and capturing their second league title in four years. At one point, they won 21 consecutive games! The team advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, losing, unfortunately, to longtime league nemesis Washington University in St. Louis. Various members of the team were recognized on numerous postseason all-star teams, including UAA player of the year Taylor Simpson, ’12, who was named to three All-American teams, the All-Central region team, and All-AAU first team; Meghan Herrick, ’12, who was named Honorable Mention All-American, All-Central region and first team All-AAU; and Bryanne Halfhill, ’12, and Morgan Herrick, ’12, who were both named second-team All-AAU.

Despite this incredible success, the team was given only a scant, two-inch-by-two-inch mention on the bottom of page 18 of the Mar–Apr/11 issue. We were instead treated to eight pages of coverage, including numerous color photographs, of the Oregon State University men’s basketball team, the cover story of the magazine (Mar–Apr/11). I recognize that OSU is coached by 1991 MBA grad (and Michelle Obama’s brother) Craig Robinson, which arguably gives the story some relevance to a University of Chicago publication, but I can’t help but suspect that it’s the University’s love affair with everything Obama that led to this article. I would hope that you would provide your readers with stories of interest regarding the University of Chicago community and leave the political propaganda to the national media.

Frank Devaney (parent)
San Diego


It wasn't a double-a
You owe Richard Robinson an apology (Letters, May–June/11). The issue seems to be a claim in "Battery Power" (Chicago Journal, Mar-Apr/11) that "Argonne’s eventual goal is to create a battery that lasts ten years, costs less than $10,000, and yields 200 to 250 miles per charge with enough power for a four-door sedan," and that "the time line for such a battery ... is far off, says Michael Thackeray [of Argonne]."

Professor Robertson pointed out that the Tesla already comes with battery options of up to 300 miles per charge. And you counter by saying that the Tesla car (not the battery) costs a lot more. You defend the 35-mile-range Chevy Volt over the Tesla by comparing the Volt’s eight-year warranty with the Tesla’s battery that is expected to have 70 percent of its charge after seven years. But that doesn’t mean that the Tesla battery can’t last longer. No battery will retain its full charge for its whole lifetime. So it is quite probable that an existing Tesla battery could last ten years.

Robertson was pointing out that Argonne’s "eventual goal" doesn’t seem so far off given what the Tesla already does. The response he got seemed to be trying to contradict him, but you’re comparing the costs of batteries with the costs of cars, and an expected lifetime with a warranty. That doesn’t seem fair. University of Chicago readers deserve better.

Janice Moulton, AM’78, PhD’71
Northampton, Massachusetts

Based on the information we found (auto companies don’t supply the same data, so it’s difficult to compare apples to apples), the cost of the battery seems to be a large part of what makes the Tesla so much more expensive. We believe that’s what Thackeray meant.—Ed.


We are who they think we are
As expressed by letter writer Seng Yeoh, AB’84, in the May–June/11 Magazine ("The Rankings Game,"), it concerns me as well when any college ranking appears that fails to reconfirm my own experience of what makes an institution of higher learning great, like UChicago. I noted the responsive comments of Steve Koehn, associate vice president for news and public affairs, about the vagaries of "reputational surveys," which often get skewed by the idée de jour or nonacademic factoids.

Assuming there are reliable, available, and objective standards to judge colleges upon the distinction of the education experience they deliver, the University of Chicago should always be in the top percentile. Many UChicago applicants prove to be self-selecting for just that reason: because they have done their homework on what the school has to offer and the rare benefit of being a member of a student body that is a community of high-achieving scholars and fledgling future leaders. Not every high-school graduate may recognize or perhaps appreciate what is being offered, as Othello says, "like the base Indian threw a pearl away / Richer than all his tribe."

If any ranking out there has diminished UChicago, I suggest that it is most likely due to the glossy PR materials that make the College seem more like all its peers instead of one that marches to the beat of its own drum and embraces the Common Core for the wisdom it embodies and concentrates on rigorous analysis and uncovering principles not accumulating isolated facts.

It is my impression that it is actually all those disparate and superficial rankings that have slipped, not UChicago.

Herb Caplan, AB’52, JD’57


Ethics in science revisited
Jeff Levinger (Letters, May–June/11) misinterprets my basic argument. Some have criticized in vitro fertilization as an example of the so-called technological imperative, overriding any ethical consideration, as if might is right. This is to view technology as simply an instrumental means to human fertilization. But with a view of the petri dish (the technology involved here) as constitutive of the knowledge of human fertilization itself, moving from representing fertilization to objectifying fertilization and finally to setting a norm for it by correcting its anomalies, there is good reason to say that, thanks to technology, we can achieve, in this case, human fertilization, because now we know how it ought to be done. It is in this sense that I argue that science is ethically normative, something quite different from arguing that we ought to do something because we can do it.

T. Patrick Hill, PhD’02
Red Bank, New Jersey


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 civility. 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.