Whos on welfare?
Sometime in the past couple of years, Im sure I read that
the majority of welfare recipients were white (Is Welfare
Working?, April/99). Now, has the situation really changed
that much, or has Health & Human Services deliberately lumped
categories to obscure reality and sustain the racist association
most people make between welfare and minorities?
If no one group still constitutes a majority, lump the two largest
if you like, but not the two brownest, unless they are the largest.
That sort of unexplained twiddling with statistics ought not to
go unchallenged in this magazine. It is at best sloppy, at worst
dishonest and vicious. What are the data?
Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, SM74
Rylaarsdam is right that the description given in the Magazine
is misleading, but the fault belongs not to the Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS), but rather to the Magazine. According
to HHS data at the time the story was written, the welfare percentages
were: African-American, 37%; White, 34%; Hispanic, 22%; and Other,
7%. What the Magazine published was a misleading representation
of the statistics, and we apologize.Ed.
And why and for how long?
The article by Charlotte Snow, Is Welfare Reform Working?
seemed like a good survey of the studies under way by different
parts of the University. But the articles concluding paragraph
was so jarring that I had to reread the article more carefully.
Ms. Snow wrote, judging from the questions raised by these
Chicago researchers, the latest welfare reform law does indeed need
to be reformed. What questions? All I saw were a bunch of
unexamined assumptions about publicly funded child care and education,
minimum wage increases, targeted tax credits, and wage subsidies
and income inequality.
Welfare should not be a lifestyle, yet many of the questions
raised in the article can only come from the assumption that government
welfare programs should be a permanent part of peoples lives.
For instance, researcher Julia Henley seems to deplore her finding
that about four-fifths of the low-income mothers she studied relied
on relatives and friends for childcare. Well, whats wrong
with that? I interpret it to mean that these women have figured
out ways to help themselves so they can get and keep jobswithout
an expensive and probably second-rate government day-care program.
Robert Goerge thinks that stricter work will affect an individuals
parenting and result in physical abuse and neglect of a child. Thats
not a welfare issue; thats a parental fitness issueand
a red herring, Im sure. The research projects of Waldo Johnson
and James Heckman can be more usefully cast in terms of the devastation
caused by family breakups and of mediocre public education, rather
than of welfare reform.
What Ms. Snow and the researchers need to grasp is this: People
(that is, we taxpayers) are very willing to provide temporary help
to the needy. The problem with the Great Society welfare programs
is that they created a large and almost-permanent welfare-dependent
group, with membership that passed from generation to generation.
For the welfare-dependent generations, its clear those massive
welfare programs, well intentioned as they were, did significant
harm. Change was an imperative.
Instead, nearly all of the researchers cited by Ms. Snow seem
to regard welfare as a highly desirable social engineering project.
In their view, welfare reform, by definition, must be a bad thing
because it deliberately seeks to make government welfare a time-limited
safety net. Im hoping the research continues, and Im
sure these people can get the job donebut I surely dont
want them setting public policy.
Craig D. Elderkin, MBA78
Park Ridge, Illinois
The old Chicago in a new century
The article in the April 9, 1999, issue of Newsweek about
the admissions process at the U of C puts to rest any lingering
doubts about the quality of incoming students. Despite increasing
the size of the Class of 03 over its predecessors, by all
objective standards this will be the finest incoming class of young
scholars to grace the Midway. And the account of the rigor of the
subjective process of admission gives one confidence that the applicants
admitted will make even finer students than the objective data reveals.
The bar has not been lowered. It has been raised and we have every
reason to expect great things from those who have made it over for
the coming academic year.
Fearing change of the Common Core is to be expected and is healthy
to a point. We need not fix what is not broken. But we should not
cling to what worked well in the past simply because it worked well
in the past. That is the way of dogmatism, totemics, and fundamentalism,
not the way of liberal, critical inquiry. As Dean Boyers exposition
(Three Views of Continuity and Change at the University of
Chicago) to friends of the College shows, the
revisions of the curriculum adopted by the faculty are modest and
The recent press attention given to these two issues and the spirited
debate among alumni gives friends of the College much to cheer about
in my view. I am looking forward to waving the flag for old Chicago
in the next century.
Jeffrey S. Rasley, AB75
As a poor graduate student, I was planning on saving my money for
mundane necessities. However, upon reading multiple letters on the
recent changes to be made to the Common Core, I decided to reconsider.
As I understand it, those who oppose these changes do so mainly
because these changes would lead to less common ground among undergraduates
and a diminished sense of the distinction the College enjoys as
one uniquely committed to the tradition, in the words of Dean Boyer,
of a generalist teaching ethos. As an alumnus, I obviously share
their desire to prevent the College from becoming a watered-down
version of the truly intellectual community I experienced. And my
first instinct was to write a letter in defense of keeping the Common
Core intact and leave it at that. However, after having read the
documentation on the history and debate surrounding these changes,
it has become obvious that curriculum improvement is not the only
impetus for this reform. I realize that alumni support is crucial
in allowing the College to continue to uphold its tradition as an
excellent liberal arts college with small class size and an emphasis
on a comprehensive Common Core.
So, I pledge my hard-earned money to the College in the hope that
it will help, albeit in a small way, to encourage the College to
look increasingly to the alumni as a source of revenue instead of
carrying out tactics which compromise the academic rigor of the
Eunpa Chae, AB97
New York City
Jimmys and the life of the mind
While I was at the University (19501952), Jimmys Woodlawn
Tap was a focus for me and many of my graduate friends. In the back
room at Jimmys, we participated in seminars, often led by
University professors, on topics that knew no discipline, that were
not politically correct, sometimes not socially acceptable, and
there were some on topics not suited for the classroom. It was those
seminars in the back room at Jimmys that caused this country
boy to realize there were different ways of thinking about a given
topic. I have great regard for the University of Chicago, and even
though Jimmy is no longer with us, I will always consider Jimmys
to be an integral part of the University.
John M. Ball, SM52
The University, which is the buildings landlord, is working
with former employees of Jimmys on a plan for needed physical
renovations and believes that the Tap will reopen in the fall.Ed.
So when did Clinton get tenure?
I had been led to believe that convocation addresses at the University
of Chicago were given only by members of the faculty. I always liked
that idea. Convocation would be a special celebration led by Chicago
faculty, and it would be yet another opportunity to mark the importance
of shared intellectual inquiry. Further, the celebratory commemoration
would not be distracted by overtly political posturing or the fatuous
ramblings of some famous yahoo. Now I worry that I was misledor
(perhaps worse) that the newer, sunnier University of Chicago is
also more keen on politics and fame for its convocations. Perhaps
you could tell me why President Clinton was addressing the College
graduates this June.
Eric Brown, AB91, AM93, PhD97
Bill Clinton did not give the convocation address; that honor
went as usual to a University professor. See Chicago Journal.
Bring back the campus concierge?
The February/99 Magazine has a letter from Thomas K. Franklin,
AB86, on marketing the College. Mr. Franklin writes, Is
the amazing city of Chicago and all that it offers truly available
to the University of Chicago student? In a city of innumerable options
do students feel that their school is helping them to take full
advantage of what the city offers? I gather from him that
the University is now not very helpful in this regard. But once
When I came to the College in 1945, the building at the northwest
corner of Ellis and 58th, across from what is now the Administration
Building (but was then an empty space) housed the Bursars
Office on the first floor. Also in that room was a desk presided
over by a man named Hans Hoeppner, and his job, which he did very
well, was to do exactly what Mr. Franklin suggests needs doing.
He was an effervescent man, and when you approached him he boomed
out, MAY I HELP YOU?!
He had information on what was playing at the theaters, Orchestra
Hall, and anything else around town. And when you told him youd
like two tickets for the Erlanger for a week from Saturday, he would
tell you what was available at what price, and hed get them
for you. He was enormously helpful. I dont know if he was
a U of C employee or an independent broker, but I was very impressed
that the University provided such services. My best recollection,
though I am not certain, is that he died and was not replaced.
I understand that the maid service we had in Burton-Judson is long
gone and probably not on anyones revival agenda. But perhaps
this position of guide to the city can and should be revived.
Gerald Handel, AB47, AM51, PhD62
Scarsdale, New York
The politics of food consumption
I appreciate Paul Rozins explanations for the psychology
of disgust (Arbiter of Taste, April/99). However, his
condemnation of Americans food fears results from fuzzy thinking,
careless overgeneralization, and a surprising lack of interest in
how politics shapes the information people receive.
He blames Americans for spoiling eating
by thinking of their blood cholesterol. The blame is
not theirs. Federal officials who propound our countrys official
dietary wisdom always speak of reducing fat and cholesterol and
choosing more fruits and vegetables. These dicta require that each
individual first play amateur nutritionist and analyze his or her
own baseline diet, then make the appropriate adjustments.
Because each persons baseline diet is different, it is easier
for people to use the good/bad heuristic Rozin describes and simply
ban certain foods.
The blame for food panic should lie primarily with the powerful
meat, poultry and dairy industries and their supporters in the Federal
government. These industries promulgated the old Four Food Groups,
ended Senator McGoverns career when he stood up for better
nutrition advice, and fought against the new Food Pyramid. Federal
officials could eliminate this fear of eating, where it exists,
with a simple and easy-to-follow positive message: a low-saturated-fat
vegetarian diet is healthier than the standard American meat-based
The American Dietetic Association, no fringe organization, holds
that a well-balanced vegetarian diet is compatible with excellent
health. Culpable to some extent is marketers exploitation
of the medias focus on the gee-whiz science of individual
dietary components. Consumers have been told theres some virtue
in oat bran, and red wine, and walnuts, and should be forgiven for
accepting marketers image of these foods as medicinal rather
than as sources of pleasure in their own right.
This nonsystematic and medicalized method of presenting nutrition
science to the public benefits large corporations like those Rozin
advises. They promote their products as part of a sensible
diet: that is, a diet whose guilty exceptions are reserved
for their products. Given each individuals constantly adjusted
baseline and the absence of a clearly defined, healthy target
diet, its no wonder many people view indulgence in high-calories
foods such as chocolate as falling off the wagon.
All these componentswimpy government officials, meat and
dairy industry, food marketers and shallow science reportingdo
not explain the cultural component to the food fears of some Americans.
In general, Americans value self-improvement over pleasure. We value
the new over the old, the scientifically validated diet over the
traditional diet. Its unrealistic to expect us to think about
food the way the French do. What could change this cultural predisposition
to medicalize diet?
Certainly not admonishments like Rozins, which only succeed
in making people resent their self-deprivation in not eating high-fat,
high-calorie foods. The lighter California-style diet is becoming
more common nationwide, and if a habit provides pleasure with less
guilt. The Slow Food movement espouses pleasure in eating and locally
grown, high-quality products, but in this country its a movement
for the elite. Poorer people wont spend extra money on food
unless its really good. Expanding Farmers Markets and
markets for locally grown products would help poor people choose
better-tasting food, as would added research funding for organic
Finally, Americans will never be able to eat for pleasure like
the French or Italians simply because most of us know we wont
burn it off except by special efforts to exercise. Theres
no fun in that.
Danila Oder, AB82
Its a dorm, get a life
I object strongly to the use of (so you keep telling us) limited
resources to personally inform Woodward Court alumni about the impending
change of use. [At the end of March, former residents of the
residence hall received a letter from Dean of Students Edward Turkington,
outlining plans to tear down the outmoded building.Ed.]
I am also embarrassed to be part of a group that would, after umpteen
years, have strong emotional attachments to what is, aside from
being quite ugly, no more than cinder blocks and cement.
Get real guys! Lets save our emotional attachments for family
and friends, save our concerns for those less fortunate than ourselves,
and save our donations for improving the University!
Benjamin L. Nathan, AB78
Pinner, United Kingdom
Slipping standards everywhere
I will try to believe that the Collegemy College, 19411942,
19501960, and 1992is not going to Hell in a handbasket.
But what of the Magazine itself? One can understand your
decision to let stand as her own authentic voice an alumnas
statement that I am still one of those lawyers who want to
be a writer (Class News, April/99), but why highlight
it and thus cruelly expose the gap between her aspiration and her
And how could the problematic math of the 1931 New Plan (Another
Chapter in the Life of the College, April/99) escape your
keen editorial eye? [F]our year-long survey courses in each
division adds up to sixteen, a mind-boggling curriculum to
be encompassed along with free electives in the first
But then there were giants in those days. (You can take the English
teacher out of the classroom, but you cant take the red pencil
out of his hand.)
Homer B. Goldberg, AB47, AM48, PhD61
Setauket, New York
The editors plead guiltybut not quite as charged. On the
first count, the alumna had her grammar right; we changed it in
an attempt to correct it. On the second count, the sixteen
courses that the Another Chapter in the Life of the College
timeline seems to suggest, we were trying to say that there were
year-long survey courses in each of the four divisions, plus a year-long
course devoted to English composition and writing. With three quarters
in a typical academic year, that adds up to fifteen general-education
Eat less, drive more
On several recent trips to Europemainly the United Kingdom,
France, Spain, and pasta-loving ItalyI have observed less
obesity, on the average, than one sees among Americans. As a participant
in a travel convention to France of 250 tour agents from all over
the world, the American contingent of 50 contained the only fatties
in the lot! French cuisine is rich, but portions are smaller, they
take longer to dine and usually have wine, but only with meals.
Also if our gas cost $5 to $6 per gallon, wed likely walk
more, as Europeans tend to do, which has got to help the weight
Charles W. Sexton, AB56, AB57, MBA57
His French connection
It was with much pleasure and celebration that I read about the
Colleges expanding dedication to its study abroad program
(All the Worlds A School, April/99). I was one
of the first students to study away from the quads (The first foray
for Chicago in Europe was in Paris in 1983 and was conducted in
conjunction with Sarah Lawrence), and the College has indeed come
along way since those days. However, there is one unsung hero in
your article who needs mention: [Professor in Romance languages
& literature] Robert Morrissey, our liaison to Mr. Sinaiko.
Without his assistance, my life in Paris would have been considerably
Phillip M. Semrau, AB85, AM85
The case of the missing The
What has happened to the definite article that used to precede
the name of my alma mater: The University of Chicago? In the latest
Magazine I find it present in some places and absent elsewhere.
Present: page 4 in ad for the Graham School, page5 in ad for Associates
Capital Bank, page 17 in the 1958 viewbook, page 40 in the ad for
a book, page 44 in the subtitle of the piece and on back cover twice
near the bottom. Absent: front cover, pages 6 and 7 in ads for Wooded
Isle and Montgomery Place, page 18 in 1970s viewbook and 1985 viewbook,
page 36 in dating-service ad (interesting concept), and on the back
I always thought the The sounded elitist, coming from
a university that did not append the article to its name. Maybe
there is a Magazine story here about the rise and fall of
the The. By the way, my 14 June 1974 diploma has the article firmly
Michael D. Sublett, PhD74
Although the Universitys legal name is The University
of Chicago, the Magazine follows Chicago Manual
of Style style and leaves the definite article uncapitalized.
We do not, however, require that our advertisers (or other publications)
do the same.Ed.
Football players, call home
Saturday, October 16, is Homecoming at the U of C. This year well
celebrate the 30th anniversary of footballs return to the
Midway, and the Department of Physical Education and Athletics is
inviting all former football players to return for a pre-game picnic
and to be introduced during halftime festivities.
So, football playersparticularly those in the Class of 1969dont
hesitate to send me your current address to ensure that you and
your families receive an invitation to this great event. Please
contact me at email@example.com;
at the Department of Physical Education and Athletics, 5640 S. University
Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637; or at 773/702-7684.
Director of Athletics
The stories you can tell
I am working on an oral history of Hyde Park and the University,
and am interested in talking with alumnifrom all years, schools,
and divisionsabout their experiences here.
I plan on using this information for my masters project
at the University of Illinois at Chicago. If youre interested
in participating, please contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or drop me a note at 5457 S. Blackstone Avenue, #1-B, Chicago, IL
Max Grinnell, AB98
A memory runs through it
I am writing a biography of Norman Maclean, PhD40, and would
like to hear from his former students, colleagues, friends, and
neighborsanyone in the U of C community with memories of him
to share. You can reach me at email@example.com;
at 538 Castalia Avenue, Athens, GA 30606; or at 706/613-8710.
Rebecca Roberts McCarthy
As others see us
Excerpt from Far Afield, by Susanna Kaysen (Vintage Books,
1994): When the hero, Jonathan Brand, discovers he is not the only
anthropologist currently on the Faroe Islands, his thoughts about
his rival are as follows: He was bound to be a live wire from
the University of Chicago, tough, self-sufficient, inured to the
rigors of fieldwork from undergraduate stints in jungles with his
I highly recommend the book even without a reference to the U of
Josephine Shafir Young, AB50
invites letters on its contents or on topics related to the University.
Letters must be signed and may be edited. Write: Editor, University
of Chicago Magazine, 1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail: