Readers sound off

Readers debate dean of students in the College John Ellison’s letter to the Class of 2020; discuss voter education and the merits of capitalism; share memories of historian William H. McNeill, LAB’34, AB’38, AM’39, track coach Ted Haydon, LAB’29, PhB’33, AM’54, and the beloved T-Hut; and more.

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Fresh air cure

From 1958 to 1959 I was a patient at Walter Reed’s Forest Glen annex, located in Bethesda, Maryland. From Laura Demanski’s (AM’94) description in “Safe Harbor” (Summer/16), I believe it is the same place that she calls the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. There were verdant woods and walkways where patients dressed in wrinkled blue-and-white-striped robes could enjoy the air, sans air conditioning. Building architecture then was novel, picturesque, and beautiful. Weekends occasionally offered military band or orchestra concerts to relieve the tedium. Forest Glen was well insulated from busy Georgia Avenue and Bethesda’s commercial bustle. Even then holistic medicine benefited patients. Thanks for the memory!

Thaddeus Kochanny, MBA’66
Ingleside, Illinois

Speaking of free speech

Grappling with tough ideas is at the heart of the U of C experience—whether that’s understanding a proof in your first math class without numbers or debating the very idea of whether judicial decision making is the best place to make law in a law, letters, and society class. I pride myself on my ability to not take an idea on its merit or on my own preconceived bias but to engage critically and constructively. And yet, the recent letter from dean of students in the College John Ellison to the Class of 2020 did not celebrate those qualities and those challenges, but instead dismissed the notion that an academic institution that values a free flow of ideas and critical debate might have a proactive role to play in ensuring the ability of all students to participate in such debate.

The impact of trauma and the damage that individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder can suffer when that trauma is reexperienced through triggers is medical science. A warning given in the syllabus of a class that subject material will contain discussions of rape or violence against women does not mean such materials should not be read and examined. Instead, a warning provides students whose health would suffer by being surprised by such discussion or material the space, time, and ability to figure out how to be part of the conversation, or if they need to choose not to be.

The University has been criticized for its whiteness and its privilege, and I cannot help but see this letter and these sentiments in the same vein. Protecting free speech and an environment of rigorous debate with ideas different from one’s own does not mean simply allowing all ideas to come forward but rather ensuring that all voices and ideas can be brought forward, and that there is space for them. This debate is one that feels very necessary to ensuring the University and the College continue to be places where vigorous debate from a wide and varied set of perspectives can be held.

Elizabeth Rose Wampler, AB’04
Oakland, California

I am a lawyer by training. I had three uncles who fought in World War II when they were about the same age my son is now. Luckily they all came back. All faced death; one was shot at the Battle of the Bulge, one went down on a ship in the Pacific, and one was shot down in a “flying coffin” over Italy. Our generation was post-Vietnam, and I guess hasn’t faced much by comparison. I am absolutely shocked that these matters constitute a controversy. I feel that the Chicago Tribune editorial page has it right, saying, inter alia, “Students who cry foul over discourse they find objectionable miss the chance to learn. They also, we would add, risk looking like babies.” 

I hope that historical perspective can be brought to bear. Historical references are often distorted and distorting. My son and I have discussed at some length the problem of applying contemporary norms to the behavior and actions of historic figures. Perhaps it is a misnomer to call the WWII generation “the greatest.” But I’m still left to wonder what they would think about what appears to be emerging as the most entitled generation.

It’s especially hard to take from kids enrolled at elite colleges, costing double the total net worth of average families, when wages for the majority of citizens have stagnated for decades, high poverty rates and incarceration rates persist, several foreign wars are under way, and chaos is erupting in the Middle East and Europe. One would think there are many profound and complex issues to sink one’s teeth into these days, having to do with the actual suffering of others and deliberate, seemingly misguided policy choices that have been and are being made, versus selfish elitism and hurt feelings. It seems that there has been an almost total loss of perspective, at least among some.

I do hope the University and other institutions will continue the most strenuous defense of free speech, debate, and inquiry, and I hope that those who seek to limit it will be compelled to consider both how lucky they are and how they and this position look, both to their fellow citizens and in the context of history.

Louis R. Johnson (parent)
Ann Arbor, Michigan

It is unfortunate that John Ellison has taken on the straw man versions of trigger warnings and campus safe spaces, giving them a corporeality they should continue to lack.

Those whose politics back the idea that it’s heterosexual Christian white men who are the true oppressed minority have, in many circles, successfully taken the idea of trigger warnings and turned it into a parody. Trigger warnings are intended to be, obviously enough, warnings—letting people who have suffered trauma know to ready themselves for material that may elicit painful, and distracting, memories. But the right has redefined “trigger warnings” in the public mind as a way for people (implicitly women and minorities) to avoid certain classroom conversations. The deviousness of this redefinition is that it’s not just dishonest, it actually reverses the original intent. By allowing people who have experienced trauma to steel themselves, trigger warnings allow them to take part in the conversation, broadening the discussion. It’s a curious “commitment to academic freedom,” in Ellison’s words, that explicitly refuses to make this (really pretty minimal) effort that may make it possible for more rather than fewer people to participate in the conversation.

The idea of campus safe spaces has been similarly perverted. This term came to the public’s notice around Halloween last year, relating to Yale’s residential college model and students’ personal lives in those residences. It was not Yale that students said needed to feel safe, it was their homes on the Yale campus. Surely we can agree that wanting to feel safe in one’s home is a reasonable desire, but the right has successfully turned this into women and minorities finding oppression where none exists. 

In writing that the University “do[es] not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” Ellison bolsters this invention of the right wing. It may be intellectually free, but it’s equally intellectually dishonest.

Read Schusky, AB’81
Arlington, Massachusetts

As reaction to the recent letter to incoming freshmen has shown, free speech is a huge issue on all campuses today—whether public or private. It’s true that there are greater protections for free speech on public campuses than private, but the principle and importance of freedom of expression remain the same on all campuses and should be encouraged everywhere.

The danger of limiting free speech on campuses is exactly the same as limiting it in society at large. The difference is that the PC police patrolling campuses have actually succeeded quite well at intimidation and censorship. Just look at the shocking number of comments from universities and journalists opposing the University of Chicago’s commitment to free speech.

Above and beyond the principle at stake, one might wonder from a practical point of view what will happen to today’s coddled, feeble-minded college students when they get out into the real world and discover that war, disease, poverty, hunger, racial strife, and crime exist there. Who will protect them then from reality? And did their university education do anything to prepare them for dealing with these unsettling issues, or merely shelter them?

Greg Mantell, AB’93
Beverly Hills, California

Capital thoughts

I think John Paul Rollert, AM’09, has missed the point made beautifully by Richard R. West, MBA’63, PhD’64 (Letters, Summer/16). Free markets do most efficiently distribute the resources of a society and are ethically sound. Although the markets here in the United States are more free than anywhere else in the world, they are not free. Crony capitalism distorts the marketplace. As pointed out by West, this distortion was the fundamental cause of the Great Recession.

Rollert should spend more time investigating the ethics of the marketplace distortions caused by crony capitalism than questioning the ethical value of a truly free market capitalism.

Burton Gombiner, PhB’50, MBA’54
Marina del Rey, California

Richard West’s letter in the Summer/16 issue notes that the growth of subprime mortgages, which caused the economic crisis of the late 2000s, “did not come out of some nefarious, capitalistic plot. It came from Washington, DC, as part of a planned public effort to foster homeownership, especially among the lower classes.” Thus, government is to blame for the crisis.

What West does not ask is why the government was interested in fostering homeownership. The reason is this: because this country has rejected the comprehensive welfare provisions found in Europe, poverty is much higher here than in other developed countries. Officials were trying to find ways to lower poverty, and helping the poor into homeownership so that they could build assets was one such way. We know now the costs of this idea, but at the time it was supported by the left and the right.

Poverty is the flaw that West cannot seem to find in the “integrity of the capitalist system.” If he has solutions to it, they would be welcome. If he does not have solutions to offer, he should join those of us calling for broader welfare provisions to ensure that the sequence that resulted in the recent crisis is not repeated.

Monica Prasad, AM’95, PhD’00
Evanston, Illinois

Of Morals and Markets” (Spring /16) mentions Adam Smith’s claim that individuals who trade freely in pursuit of their own interests are led as if by an invisible hand to benefit society. Its author adds that he asks his students “whether Smith’s vision, or the popular appropriation of it, vindicates any type of self-interested pursuit. Surely the man who steals my car is acting in his own favor.”

Smith’s vision does not vindicate car theft: “There can be no proper motive for hurting our neighbor, Smith writes in the Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). If the “popular appropriation of” Smith’s vision would vindicate car theft, that might argue for education to cure that popular misunderstanding. On the other hand, that cure might only make things worse if business ethics textbooks commonly misrepresent the views of both Smith and Milton Friedman, AM’33 (see Harvey S. James Jr. and Farhad Rassekh, “Smith, Friedman, and Self-Interest in Ethical Society” [Business Ethics Quarterly, July 2000, pages 659–74]). If business ethics textbooks present caricatures of Smith and Friedman as if they were accurate, would that raise questions about academic ethics?

Sheldon Kimmel, AM’77, PhD’80
Washington, DC

A good enough family

As always, the Magazine excels in delivering delights to the mind and soul, not least in the Summer/16 issue with Helen Gregg’s (AB’09) superb piece on John B. Goodenough, SM’50, PhD’52 (“His Current Quest”). On seeing the photo of him, I spied the sparest corner of what I knew to be a Sadao Watanabe print, possibly of the Last Supper. (I have a very small Watanabe on another subject.)

Yet, not until the final paragraph did I put together the pieces: John is the son of Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough (1893–1965), a great scholar of the Religionswissenschaft into which I was initiated as a New Collegiate Division third-year, sitting in on every Mircea Eliade lecture I could access and completing my AB in the history and philosophy of religion with inspiration from Jonathan Z. Smith. Reading Goodenough’s books was almost as fun as the Iliad and Odyssey in Western Civ with Karl “Jock” Weintraub, AB’49, AM’52, PhD’57. And John’s brother, Ward Goodenough (1919–2013), was no slouch; eminent anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania, he lived to be 94 and left a huge imprint.

Wow! “Goodenough genes,” I’d say, and we are all the beneficiaries.

Michael Tessman, AB’70
Wakefield, Rhode Island

What, no T-Hut?

Can’t figure out why you omitted the Tropical Hut (aka T-Hut) from your list of great bygone Hyde Park restaurants (“Top Eight,” the Core, Summer/16).

Connie Bradley, AB’61
Chicago

You forgot to mention the T-Hut. I think it was on 57th. That’s where we went when we were able to splurge.

Harriet Leopold Raphael, AB’52
Walnut Creek, California

The much lamented T-Hut was on 57th Street between Kimbark and Kenwood Avenues. —Ed.

Fond(ue) memories

Like many grads, I read with great interest and nostalgia your article on defunct Hyde Park restaurants. I figured Ribs ’n’ Bibs had to be gone; Lynn Burton for certain would have to be about 103 years old by now. But where else can you get that sauce-soaked white bread under the ribs?

I was sorry you didn’t mention Harper Court—the elegant Hyde Park restaurant in the ’70s. After a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert, nothing better than the beef fondue, cooking your own little slices of beef in the peanut oil and dipping in the various sauces.

P.S. Long live Harold’s Chicken Shack (I hope)!

Paul J. Gudel, AB’70, AM’73
San Diego

A brotherly view

I read with pleasure Carrie Golus’s (AB’91, AM’93) “Peripheral Vision,” about photographer Danny Lyon, AB’63 (Summer/16). While she speaks well of his recent show, Danny Lyon: Message to the Future at the Whitney Museum in Manhattan, words cannot do the exhibit justice. There were 175 photos, some familiar, some less well known, but most very powerful. His unconventional movies underscore his personal closeness to his subjects. The Whitney’s catalog has excellent reproductions allowing you to enjoy his work over and over.

Leonard J. Lyon, SB’58, MD’62
Hillsdale, New Jersey

Danny Lyon: Message to the Future has closed at the Whitney but opens at San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum November 5, where it runs until April 30, 2017. It will then travel to Berlin and Zurich.—Ed.

Vote smart

BallotReady offers hope and change in the current season of political fear- and anger-mongering aimed at our worst selves (“Vote of Confidence,” Summer/16). Best wishes for the success of the UChicago team that has created a means for voters to engage in a rational and comparative evaluation of candidates up and down local ballots. It’s tempting to be pessimistic about how many voters will use the service, but let’s not give in to that temptation and be glad that Alex Niemczewski, AB’09; Aviva Rosman, AB’10, MPP’16; and Sebastian Ellefson, AB’03, have the courage and drive to keep hope alive for a better educated electorate. (I registered and look forward to receiving notice that Indianapolis is within the service area.)

I also very much enjoyed Wayne Scott’s (AB’86, AM’89) piece, “Damn Your Meddling Ways,” for its sweet nostalgia coupled with the unique embarrassment of being father to adolescents.

Jeff Rasley, AB’75
Indianapolis

Thank you for your article on informing voters. The work of Alex Niemczewski, Aviva Rosman, and Sebastian Ellefson is very commendable but is not unique. A similarly ambitious service has been offered for many years by the organization Vote Smart, which records information on 40,000 politicians nationwide and makes it available free to anyone at votesmart.org or 1.888.Vote.Smart.

From Vote Smart you can get information on politicians’ positions, votes, biographies, ratings by special interest groups, funding, and speeches. Included are officeholders and candidates on many levels: president, Congress, state legislatures, city councils, etc. It’s a great nonpartisan service worthy of the attention of voters everywhere. 

Karl K. Norton, SM’61
Bangor, Maine

I read with interest and then with growing dismay the article about BallotReady, a start-up aiming to provide nonpartisan information to voters. While I congratulate the founders on their goal, I regret it didn’t occur to them to investigate the market environment of the product they were about to sell.

If it had, they would have noticed that the League of Women Voters has been providing nonpartisan information to voters in races up and down the ballot since 1920. The League of Women Voters of Cook County cooperates with public television station WTTW in creating and posting a video voters’ guide on which candidates—including those for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District—are able to state their positions and qualifications.

Admittedly the League can and should do a better job of promoting its work, but I must wonder about the research and preparation not only of the BallotReady founders but of the article’s author if none of them so much as asked about the nearly identical work of the League, which is alive and well and living in communities all over the country.

Kelly Kleiman, AB’75, JD’79
Chicago

BallotReady’s voter guides, Alex Niemczewski tells us, are more comprehensive and easier to use in the voting booth than similar guides. She adds that the League of Women Voters is a valued partner of BallotReady. We regret that the story didn’t mention the connection or BallotReady’s other forerunners.—Ed.

Going to bat

I hate to spoil the tribute to U of C baseball in the current issue (“Out of the Ballpark,” the Core, Summer/16), but the sport’s history is incomplete without covering the shameful years when teams spent spring break playing white-only colleges below the Mason-Dixon Line. The fact that there were no black players on U of C teams was no excuse for participating in domestic apartheid. The trips stopped in the 1950s when black students protested. Some in the athletic department resisted, but track coach Ted Haydon, LAB’29, PhB’33, AM’54, wouldn’t stand for black members of his teams being discriminated against. He never took his teams south, and when meets were out of town he called ahead to make sure there were satisfactory accommodations for every team member. I was one of them.

Hosea Martin, AB’60
Chicago

A historian remembered

In William H. McNeill, LAB’34, AB’38, AM’39, the world has lost a brilliant and courteous gentleman (see Deaths). As a young undergraduate history student at an obscure Midwestern university in 1964, I was fortunate enough to win a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship allowing me to attend graduate school at any university in the country. Torn between Chicago and Yale, my decision was made when I received a charmingly misspelled and obviously hand-typed personal note from the illustrious chair of Chicago’s history department, a man we all called “Mr. McNeill” since Chicago was, after all, simply a “community of scholars.”

Modestly noting that I obviously had many options, he simply assured me of a warm welcome should I pick the University of Chicago. As my teacher and dissertation adviser, he generously and patiently guided me through four years of graduate study; two years in the US Army, including a year in Vietnam; a couple of years of intense research and writing; and three years as a junior CIA officer before chairing the panel that approved my thesis and awarded me a UChicago PhD.

Mr. McNeill kindly took over mentorship from other faculty members much too busy with their own projects, patiently and faithfully reviewed my drafts, and encouraged my scholarship when marriage and career distracted me from the elusive doctorate. Always personally gentle and kindly, but straightforward and even blunt in critiquing what he once called my “fairly graceful” writing, William McNeill was a man who touched and helped shape my life and career. He had the same influence on countless others. The world, and the discipline, are better for his life.

Richard Schroeder, AM’65,PhD’75
Washington, DC

Dream on

In Your Dreams” (UChicago Journal, Summer/16), reports that Kelly Bulkeley, PhD’92, in his early study of dreams, focused on the writings of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and other 20th-century psychologists. In Bulkeley’s words, these psychologists were “pretty adamant that dreams were just about personal, individual issues and concerns and have no relevance to bigger social and collective concerns.”

Jung never suggested that dreams were just about personal, individual issues and concerns. Of course, as a doctor, he usually attended to the personal significance of dreams in his efforts to understand the needs of his patients. But since he recognized no absolute barrier to exist dividing and separating the personal from the collective unconscious, dreams could lend symbolic expression to the unconscious dimension of collective events.

In his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Pantheon, 1973), for example, Jung shares a series of terrifying visions and dreams that he experienced beginning in autumn 1913. Then, in June 1914, he dreamed for the third time the same dream: “that in the middle of summer an Arctic cold wave descended and froze the land to ice. … All living green things were killed by frost” (page 176). Less than two months later, August 1, 1914, World War I broke out.

Reflecting back on his life, Jung writes that “the pressure which I had felt was in me [his emphasis] seemed to be moving outward. … The sense of oppression no longer sprang exclusively from a psychic situation, but from concrete reality.”

Beverly Moon, AM’68, AM’73
Austin, Texas

Defended

A quick note to thank you for the excerpt by Ethan Michaeli, AB’89, in the current issue of the Core (“Stick Around for a While,” Summer/16)—I absolutely loved it!

Richard Valelly, EX’73
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Contractual wrongs

The letter from Paul Nachman, PhD’78, on immigrants “[pumping] up the incomes of the relatively few … at the expense of the many” (Letters, Summer/16) misses another elephant in the room. This is the claim of business leaders such as Bill Gates that the United States does not have qualified computer experts and that we need to import specialists from around the world.

I worked in a company that began to fire/forcibly retire experienced employees and replace them with contract employees from India. None were more qualified except on paper. But they had the advantage of working without benefits. Also, when they were done they could be terminated without paying unemployment.

It is my opinion that the specialist category for temporary immigrants is a fraud on the public and possibly contributory to the current paralysis of middle-class advancement.

Jeffrey Fiddler, EX’70
Chicago

Artistic vindication

I am so delighted you had a small item in the Magazine about the Art to Live With program (Peer Review, Spring/16). I distinctly remembered having an original painting by Henri Matisse in my dorm room in 1968, but when I tell friends as much they simply will not believe me. They just can’t imagine a college student having an original masterpiece in their dorm room. (Honestly, I was beginning to doubt it myself ...) Thank you.

Viviana Tul, AB’74
New Fairfield, Connecticut

Corrections

In “Deadly Force” (Fig. 1, UChicago Journal, Summer/16) we incorrectly named Palestinian Islamic Jihad due to an editing error. The sentence should have read “From 1980 to 2003, Pape points out, [the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers] launched more suicide attacks than any other group, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

In “Preserved” (Notes, Summer/16) we misidentified Dinosaur Park, a county park in Laurel, Maryland, as a national park. We regret the errors.

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