The University of Chicago Magazine

August 1997


In the public interest

I have just read Kimberly Sweet's article ("Theoryin Practice," June/97) about the Law School's Mandel Legal Aid Clinic.The article focuses on the efforts of a group of U of C law students toobtain a transfer from prison for one of the two boys who killed a youngerboy by dropping him from a 14th-story window. The older boys' reason forthe killing, according to news reports about the case, was the youngerboy's refusal to steal candy for them.

The article categorizes the work of the clinic as "publicinterest law." Apparently, these law students' concept of the publicinterest differs from mine and, I suspect, from that of most Americans.I think the public interest would best be served by keeping this youngkiller confined under the greatest security available as long as he isphysically capable of harming another human being-presumably, for the restof his life.

Samuel Livingston, AB'62; Hopewell, NewJersey

Those who love it

Andrew Abbott's letter (June/97) should be "must"reading for all alumni. The issues he raises have been items of great concernto many alumni, and John Boyer's anemic response does nothing to alleviateour concerns. First, the increase in the size of the College and in individualclass sizes should be of great concern to all of us. Two reasons I valuemy College education so greatly were the small classes (seven to 25 students)and the opportunity to interact closely with faculty of extremely highcaliber, such as Norman Maclean and Wayne Booth. Dean Boyer's statementthat Chicago will remain committed to small classes is open to interpretation,as many universities define "small" differently than Chicagohas. For example, when I took one of my nieces to Northwestern (a schoolshe was considering), we were told that she would be in many "smallclasses" with only 60 or so students!

Second is the issue of lowering of academic standards.This has already happened to some extent. Whe another niece graduated inthe early `90s from Chicago, my husband and I noted that 50 percent ofthe class graduated with "honors" of some sort. This certainlywas not the case when we attended. However, Chicago is still tougher andmore challenging than most academic institutions, and it should be. "Dumbing"down the curriculum and standards is offensive in the extreme. Grade inflationat Stanford and many Ivy League schools has significantly lessened thevalue of those degrees. Chicago is a school for individuals who are seriousabout their education. When I was considering going, my father, who hadattended in the Hutchins era, told me, "It's an intellectual sweatshop."He was not trying to discourage me, but he wanted me to realize the levelof challenge I would find.

Third is the issue of need-based financing. My familywas definitely "low income." Without Chicago's need-based system,attending the University would have been impossible. In this age of constantreduction of financial assistance, policies such as Chicago's are the onlyway for low-income individuals to obtain an education of this caliber,and ultimately the University benefits as we prosper and share with theUniversity so that others can have a similar opportunity.

Under its current president, the University seems obliviousto the concerns of many alumni. If these proposed changes to the Collegedo occur, we the alumni need to take action. One solution might be to placethe funds we would normally donate to the University into an escrow account,to be held in trust until the University once again becomes the institutionso many of us value and honor.

Susan Z. Diamond, AB'70; Bensenville,Illinois

The Magazine also received a letter-signed byH. Adrian Cho, AB'87; Janine M. Lanza, AB'87; Gregg Michel, AB'88; DorotheaIsrael Wolfson, AB'88; Michael Breen, AB'89; Susan Matt, AB'89; ChristineY. Todd, AB'89; and Mario Longoni, AB'96-expressing their "profounddismay" at plans to increase the College's size. While lauding "anumber of the recent `quality of life' improvements (such as the ReynoldsClub renovation)," the writers argued that "when curricular changesare proposed, they should be designed to enhance the intellectually rigorousnature of a Chicago education rather than merely to improve the school'sbalance sheet," ending their letter with a call for the preservation"of the singular education offered by the College."-Ed.

Boundary Waters and bureaucrats

As a native Northerner who witnessed the creationof the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), I was as offended as John Callister("Letters," June/97) by your April/97 article on Barbara J. West,AB'70. Like Callister, I never attended a beer party on an island, butI did witness the smug, self-righteous, and arrogant conversion of thewilderness to a playground for yuppies. Livelihoods and recreational opportunitieswere destroyed for those who had grown up there, while only the big landownersand resort owners were compensated. The chief benefactors were the opportunisticand highly mobile newcomers and developers who flooded into Grand Maraisand other tourist towns-and of course the urban vacationers who had alreadydirtied their own backyards. The BWCA and Voyageurs Park effectively becameoff limits to those who lived in northern Minnesota.

I have nothing against canoes, but they are hardly anendangered species. Rather than preserving a wilderness, the federal governmentconverted one to a highly structured camping "adventure" forthe financially secure from the cities, suburbs, and stylish coastal cultures.Meanwhile, my daughter, with a Ph.D. in ecology, works with her grandmother'speople, on the Bad River Reservation (Great Lakes Indian Fish & WildlifeCommission), trying to reconcile the needs and rights of those who camefirst with the politically inspired dictates from our federal and stategovernments.

It is disturbing that a federal agent and graduate ofthe University of Chicago, which has long tried to attract rural as wellas urban Midwesterners as students, is so callous of rural values. Althoughthe values of Up North are no longer politically correct, they were onceand they may become so again. When we were taught about the origins ofstate bureaucracy in Sumeria, it was said that a bureaucrat was an agentof the city, beholden only to the city and not to the people he/she "served"or ruled, and moved often enough that the state's agent could not gainunderstandings of, or ties to, the locale. Let us hope that Ms. West soonmoves on from northern Minnesota.

Thomas F. Lynch, AM'62, PhD'67; CollegeStation, Texas

Worth copying

Iwas saddened to read in the June/97 Magazineof the demise of Herman Fussler. I worked for him during my student years(1944-1947) in the microfilm lab in the basement of Swift Hall. It wasa part-time job during the school year but I worked there full time onesummer.

The equipment, except for the cameras themselves, wasall designed by Mr. Fussler. We photographed complete issues of many newspapersand sold copies to libraries around the country. Reading accounts of theCivil War and Lincoln's assassination in the Louisville Courier Journalas I copied them was a riveting experience. The Back of the Yards Journalhad its own stories that opened up the totally different world of the Chicagostockyards-whose aroma occasionally wafted its way as far as 59th Streetin those days.

The efficiency of the small operation-just a few roomsand about five or six full- and part-time workers-was impressive. The annualgross income was about $100,000, quite a large sum at that time. Besidesphotographing newspapers, we also did work for the campus: hospital recordsand doctoral dissertations. It was in the days before photocopies and wecould make prints from the microfilm for copies that did not require amicrofilm reader. Much of the material made fascinating reading-books fromthe rare book collection in Swift and other campus buildings as well asfrom other libraries in Chicago and elsewhere. On occasion, we even didsome contract microfilming for the Library of Congress. Their own microfilmdepartment was not as productive as the small operation in Swift Hall.

I had not known about Mr. Fussler's later career at theU of C, but I was not surprised to find out about his continued serviceto this institution. .

Charlotte Glauser, PhB'47; Camp Hill,Pennsylvania

Weaver teaching writing

I hope that alumni remember one of the great teachersin the College during its formative Hutchins years--Richard M. Weaver,who spent from 1944 to 1963 teaching freshman composition.

I am writing a dissertation about Weaver's teaching. Althoughhis writings ranged across rhetoric and into what now might be called culturalstudies, I argue that his devotion to teaching undergraduate writing meritsparticular attention and that the use of his methods in today's classroomswould greatly improve writing instruction. To prove that hypothesis, Iwould appreciate any information about Weaver's pedagogical styles andprinciples from alumni who had him for a teacher. Copies of Weaver's syllabus,outlines, course assignments, and the like would be especially welcome.Please write me at 400 E. Hillcrest, Suite 100A, DeKalb, IL 60115.

Charles L. Fierz; DeKalb, Illinois

Lives of the adopted

My wife and I are adoptive parents, and I am compilinga short biographical directory of adoptee role-models: adoptees who have"made it" as adults, in any and all spheres of endeavor, fromany country and any time period. I am also including ex-foster childrenand children brought up for substantial periods in orphanages or otherwiseraised by people other than their birth parents. I am including traditional,non-historical figures, but not fictional characters, and at present havealmost 300 names.

I have pretty well exhausted the printed sources availableto me, and am asking whether Chicago alumni could help, by giving me names(and brief details/bibliographical references, when possible). Feel freeto nominate yourself, if you fall into my categories, or others. I willnot include any people in the directory who are still living unless theirstatus is public knowledge or I have their written permission-not evenmy own cousin, or my next-door neighbor, who would both otherwise qualify!

So far ten installments of the list have been publishedin a British journal for adoptive parents, Adoption UK; back issues ofthe list are available from the publishers. There is currently no planfor further publication. Please write: Roger Fenton, Cul-Ffordd, 2 RhesSant George, Llangawsai, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 1 HE, UK.

Roger R. Fenton, AM'74 Aberystwyth, Wales

The Magazine invites letters on its contentsor on topics related to the U of C. Letters must be signed and may be edited.Preference is given to letters of fewer than 300 words. Write: Editor,University of Chicago Magazine, 1313 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL60637. E-mail:

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