The University of Chicago Magazine

August 1996

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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Ancient treasures in good hands?

Stolen treasures?

Regarding the article on the Oriental Institute ("The Museum Is Now Closed," June/96), it's ironic that for 27 centuries the great Assyrian bull survived intact in the desert climate of northern Iraq, but now, after some sixty-odd years, this magnificent creature is crumbling in Chicago. Is anyone listening to what this tells us? You talk about " kinds of research on the basis of new scientific possibilities...." But something more basic is missing here. Morality. The justification that a naive and corrupt government allowed American archaeologists to steal (perhaps you have a more polite word) a country's treasures for so many years, is no justification for grave robbery. Of course, grave robbery is an ancient tradition, going back centuries, so perhaps we should not get too excited about academics giving it an honorable veneer. But what I find galling is the statement that"we have the entire record of where these things came from, what their archaeological context and associations were...." Don't you think that if they had been left there, some inkling of their "archaeological context and associations" would be apparent? I suggest that the best thing to do with the great bull is to give it back to Iraq, and apologize for taking it in the first place. Or, are "those people" too untrustworthy to guard their own heritage?

Thomas P. Glynn, AB'58
Brooklyn, New York

William M. Sumner, director of the Oriental Institute, replies: Mr. Glynn is perhaps unaware that the Oriental Institute excavations at Khorsabad were authorized by the Department of Antiquities of Iraq, which also gave the bull to the Oriental Institute Museum as part of a division of the discoveries of the 1928-29 season. Other sculptures, including nearly identical human-headed winged bulls, were also excavated by the Institute and are now among the objects displayed in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. The bull was removed from a palace courtyard, not a grave, and its very existence, not to mention its archaeological context, would be unknown if it had not been excavated and carefully recorded by archaeologists. We are glad to report that the bull is in excellent condition and is not now "crumbling"; our climate control project is designed to assure that it will not crumble in the future, thus preserving a wonderful part of our shared cultural heritage for generations to come.

The OI's closed, but the Web is open

Readers of "The Museum Is Now Closed" might also be interested to know that the Oriental Institute has been in the forefront of comparable institutions in presenting material on the Internet.

Through the home page of the Institute-- is possible to view a large collection of documents and images relating to its archaeological and philological projects, and, indeed, it is now the only way to view the galleries of the Oriental Institute Museum:

Additionally, the Oriental Institute Research Archives maintains the Abzu project, which collects indexes and presents in a lucid and convenient manner all the materials currently available anywhere on the Internet that relate to the study or presentation of the Ancient Near East.

Charles E. Jones
Research Archivist-Bibliographer
The Oriental Institute

Taking the pledge

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, I pledge my heart to greater loyalty, I pledge my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world." As an elementary-school teacher working with the local 4H, I stared at a poster listing this pledge. It is exactly what my students needed to hear about.

It was encouraging to see an intellectual like Jean Bethke Elshtain taking a stand on morality and virtue that is not based in the clouds ("The Trials of a Public Intellectual," June/96). Our children need to be a part of a "we," not just one more "I." Schools and other social organizations can help to foster the "we," but the family is still the basic unit. When it falls apart, children often lose that idea of community which involves, like it or not, individual rights coupled with social responsibility.

Jackie Barge, AB'82

To the point

Your "Investigations" piece, "Kids Having Kids," which reported on the work of Joseph Hotz, Seth Sanders, and Susan McElroy (June/96) was a fine piece of journalism. Not only did it make the findings of a politically significant study quite accessible, it also provided a context so the reader could understand the study's broader implications. For those of us who work with urban kids, this study's findings are critically important in counteracting the punitive tendencies of the morally highminded.

Ann F. Cook, AM'66
New York City

What point?

I have read and reread "Kids Having Kids" and cannot find the basis for "Motherhood can instead be a rational response to a difficult situation."

If "the gulf between his study's findings and the popular wisdom took Hotz by surprise," how can it seemingly be postulated that these young women have somehow divined a rational response to a difficult situation? What difficult situation?

I am baffled. Where did that comment come from? Upon what is it based?

J. Curtis Kovacs, AB'63, MD'67
Huntsville, Texas

Professor Hotz replies: Our study compares the outcomes of teen mothers with women from comparable backgrounds but whose teen pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. We found that the consequences of teenage childbearing are not nearly as dismal as "conventional wisdom" has concluded. In fact, we found that teen mothers would end up earning less in the labor market, on average, if they postponed motherhood. While we don't claim to know all the factors these women considered when they decided not to delay, our findings are consistent with the view that they do consider the economic consequences of the alternatives they face. It is in this sense that our results suggest that these women's behavior might be seen as a rational response to their circumstances. Further, the fact that we fail to find substantial costs to teen mothers may be an important reason why teen pregnancy-prevention programs have had a tough time convincing many at-risk young women to postpone motherhood.

Ulterior motives

It's distressing that you printed Dean John Boyer's comments about waiving the application fee for children of alumni (June/96) without comment. Isn't it the case that alumni families donate more to the U of C than do other students' families, so that if more alumni children are admitted, their relatives would be more likely to donate and to donate sooner than otherwise? It's not just its desire for a "community of learning and friendship" that encourages the College to make this regressive offer: In any case, membership in the College community would extend to anyone who enrolls, as would the so-called "practical" consideration of saving the applicant money. Fees should be waived instead for applicants who cannot afford to apply; children of alumni already know of the University and can probably afford to apply. Can you say "self-serving?"

Eyal Amiran, AB'81
Raleigh, North Carolina

First, it is important to note that the College regularly waives its application fee for all applicants who cannot pay. As to alumni parent giving: In 1995-96, 103 of the College's 211 alumni parents--or almost 50 percent--contributed to the Parents Fund, compared to an overall parents' giving rate of 30 percent. Yet the College doesn't see its recent decision to waive the application fee for alumni offspring as a development ploy, but rather as an admissions ploy--reasoning that if children of alumni apply, they are more likely to be admitted, to attend, and to feel a part of the community. The University is, of course, a community that honors and encourages philanthropy in its members.--Ed.

Not just a rhetorical question

The Chicago Debate Society is trying to get in touch with alumni who participated in debate during their years at the University. We would like to start a small newsletter for our alumni and host some alumni debates. Currently, the Society is composed of about 25 members who gather together twice a week to hone their rhetorical skills and to practice for intercollegiate tournaments.

If you're interested in receiving an alumni newsletter and getting in touch with some past and current debaters, please write: Chicago Debate Society, c/o Donald Caster, 1005 East 60th, #214, Chicago, IL 60637; email:

Donald Caster, '97
President, Chicago Debate Society

The people's choice

Instead of a bunch of tax pundits speculating on a gallimaufry of tax theories that may or may not achieve their stated goals ("Is This Tax a Candidate?," April/96), why not poll the people who pay the taxes? Then the theorists would have hard data on which to disagree!

I'm not proposing a statistical sampling, either. Rather, I'm proposing that when all businesses and individuals pay their final taxes for calendar or fiscal year 1996, that they also are requested, or are required, to fill out two or more simplified, non-binding tax forms based on tax systems proposed by politicians, business owners, or anyone else.

The taxpayers then would be able to compare their actual yearly tax burden with the proposed tax systems. Taxpayers also would have ample opportunity to suggest changes or to comment.

After data analysis, the tax proposals would be modified, and the whole process would be repeated yearly until a viable tax plan emerged. Then, at least, any major revisions in the federal tax laws will have been based on informed and non-binding trial and error.

James Garden, Jr., AB'51
Clairton, Pennsylvania

One of Ours: The June/96 "Investigations" story on cord-blood banking neglected to note former U of C Medical Center fellow Burton E. Appel's Chicago degree: MD'90.

The Magazine invites letters on its contents or 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, 5757 Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail:

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