The University of Chicago Magazine February 1996
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The Magazine invites letters on the contents of the magazine or on topics related to the University. Letters for publication, which must be signed, may be edited for length and/or clarity. To ensure the widest range of voices, preference is given to letters of no more than 300 words. Address letters to: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5757 Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. The Internet address is:

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Tense situation

The December/96 Magazine story by John Boyer, "Drafting Salvation," describing the work of the Committee to Frame a World Constitution following the end of World War II, prompted me to dig into my files for a pertinent item.

At a 1978 meeting in Chicago of the World Federalists Association, Leon Despres, PhB'27, JD'29, told a story going back to the workings of the committee. It seems that Antonio Borgese (Despres used his middle name rather than his first name, Giuseppe, favored by Boyer) and Richard McKeon had a feud going and were on nonspeaking terms. So Mortimer Adler served as go-between, carrying messages back and forth even though their offices were just down the hall from each other. On one occasion he delivered a message from McKeon that made Borgese very unhappy, and he responded, "Oh, Mortimer, do not have said that!"

This grammatical construction was immortalized among members of the committee as the "Borgesian past imperative."

Seymour Meyerson, SB'38
Gary, Indiana

SSA journal pops out of obscurity

An open letter to Harper L. Hutchins, who reviewed most of the University's student newspapers in "Issues of the Day" (December/95):

Alas, it seems those of us who attend the School of Social Service Administration continue to labor in obscurity, despite the fact that our labors take place in a glass building. You neglected to mention our humble quarterly student journal, The Advocate's Forum, now in its second year of publication. We'd normally be really peeved at the oversight, but then we realized we were guilty of being mired in the old U of C ways of writing about the obscurities of a particular profession and neglecting to inform our readers of what goes on outside our ivory--er, fogged-up-with-hot-academic-air--windows. Forgive us, our issue this term suffers an embarrassing dearth of references to Playboy, O.J., or swivel chairs...and the coffee in our snackbar, frankly, sucks.

Obviously, we also suffer from lack of attention (or publicity--hey, we're social workers, we don't blame you). But all that will change with next issue's hot investigative feature, "SSA: Sex in the Stacks," featuring an all-new, glossy, pullout photo section and an innovative pop-up page! Be sure to get your sizzling copy of the next issue and see what sexy surprises will pop up in our pages! We hope it gets your attention.

In the meantime, with customary social-worker forgiveness, happy reading!

Eric Lock

The Advocate's Journal is published quarterly by SSA students to "provide students and alumni with an opportunity to debate and discuss relevant issues while also sharing news and resources for the benefit of anyone interested in issues of social justice." Write: Editorial Board, The Advocate's Forum, SSA, 969 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637.--Ed.

Where in the world is geography?

I really enjoyed the article on Fred Ziegler's Paleogeographic Atlas Project ("Mapping a Planet's Restless Past," December/95). It only saddens me that there is no longer a full geography department at the University of Chicago to enlighten that work.

Adena Schutzberg, AB'86
Melrose, Massachusetts

Although Professor Ziegler teaches in the Department of Geophysical Sciences, it is true that, faced with a declining number both of faculty and of positions available for its graduates, the Department of Geography was succeeded in 1986 by the Committee on Geographic Studies, which oversees geography courses in the College.--Ed.

Academic funding is the issue

I was struck by Tim Andrew Obermiller's interview with John Wilson, the author of The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education ("Chicago Journal," October/95).

As the recipient of a generous scholarship from the U of C, I view the recent attacks on higher education as denying access and funding to students. Eliminating (or significantly reducing) state and federal grants and scholarships to deserving students is a sure way to create a divided America.

This trend, although popular among conservatives, is by no means a conservative call to arms. Our state governments, which bear the burden of smaller budgets and resources, are struggling to keep afloat their public institutions. What role do we, as citizens, play in determining the future of higher education in our country? The trend to cut education budgets is encouraged by our political leadership in our state and federal governments on both sides of the aisle. To view the attack on higher education as an attack on "academic freedom" is to miss the bigger picture. Without students, what purpose does "academic freedom" play in our nation's universities?

The issues of "political correctness" and protecting academic freedom are related but not interdependent. I view the notion of "political correctness" as a form of control and therefore, "part of the intolerance of different viewpoints, not part of the solution."

Wilson rightly worries about the lack of "space for debating these issues in public: having different people with different views hearing each other. Instead, the response tends to be indifference--or denial." This lack of public discourse is at the core of our national state of denial. Higher education is being attacked and underfunded. This, I suspect, is the result of a lack of real public discourse about our nation's future, not a distinct "conservative attack on higher education."

In themselves, neither the academic left nor right has the answers or owns the rights to "correctness." We as a nation need to listen and "hear each other" more carefully than ever before. As we do this, together we can look under the rocks of denial, clear out the weeds of "correctness," and sow a better harvest for our future.

"Political correctness" has prevented many people from speaking freely. When that happens we have no real public discourse. Although we can and ought to be sensitive to others, let's move beyond simplistic phrases and find solutions to our decaying public schools and the narrowing access to higher education.

Rachel Cunningham, AB'89
San Rafael, California

Musical chairs

On page 7 of the December/95 issue, a picture shows the Guildhall String Ensemble with its instruments in playing position. The text states that "with the exception of its two cellists, it performs standing up...." But the only musicians seated are the bassist and one violinist. Both cellists are standing.

I have seen many concerts and played in one or two orchestras myself, and I have never seen a cellist play while standing. Nor have I ever seen a bassist play from a fully seated position like the one in the photo--who would have to extend her left arm as high as she could to finger the notes. Might they possibly be putting us on?

Skip Livingston, AB'62
Hopewell, New Jersey

The Guildhall Ensemble's company manager says the pose "represents the imagination and creativity of the photographer." The cellists play seated; the bassist stands.--Ed.

Plainly, Keynes reigns again...

The report on the latest Nobel ("Economics Dynasty Continues," December/95) indicates that the "Chicago School of Economics" has endured as long as the New Deal--the popular liberal government that lasted from 1932 to 1952 but which has since fallen from grace in many quarters because of its Keynesian policies.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's message that government is the solution (to economic problems) has been replaced by Ronald Reagan's message that government is the problem--and the Nobel Prize Committee has been strongly suggesting that the "Chicago School of Economics" is the answer.

Yet, like Chicago's weather, things change. Just as the 20-year reign of the New Deal did not prove Keynesian economics to be right, the 20-year dynasty of the Chicago School does not prove free-market economics to be the last word.

Future prizes may go to those who show how governments can benefit societies by getting involved in economics. The New Deal did a lot of good--proving there is a way. "The hard problem" is to rediscover that way, and go where no one has gone before--where FDR and Keynes left off!

Kenneth J. Epstein, SM'52

Going against type?

I was a student at the Lab Schools from 1946 to 1948. A letter in the December/95 issue brought back memories. Pecking out this letter brings to mind my days in Miss Merrick's typing class, where we learned to type on the Dvorak keyboard.

Only after I left the U of C did I discover I had learned a skill that must be unlearned to get along in a "qwerty" world. There must be a useful lesson in this. The mind rushes to consider the value of standardization, even at identifiable costs as compared to something "better" but not standard. Perhaps Sony could tell us something about that in connection with the VHS vs. Beta videotape battle.

I confess I feel somewhat abused by the well-intentioned effort to use us Lab students as guinea pigs in the Dvorak experiment. I learned to type again only four years ago, to use a personal computer. This time I had an amazing teacher: a computer-based system suggested by one of my sons.

Curiosity about the new technology drove me to it. If some of that curiosity came from the Lab Schools experience, then I guess the trip was worthwhile.

Melvin Gray, U-High'48

Ten-point questions

The nation's oldest high-school quiz program, It's Academic, celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. There are It's Academic alumni in every U of C class since 1963. We're trying to reach each contestant to learn his or her current position, address and phone number, and the school, city, and year in which he/she competed on the show. Please write to: It's Academic, P.O. Box 4, Washington, DC 20044.

Sophie Altman
Washington, D.C.

The Magazine invites letters on its contents or on topics related to the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for length and/or clarity. To ensure the widest range of voices, preference is given to letters of fewer than 300 words. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5757 Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail:

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