Readers appreciate a peek inside a cloistered religious order; a glimpse of retiring library director Judith Nadler’s career; the courage of the late George Anastaplo, AB’48, JD’51, PhD’64; the academic freedom of Milton Friedman, AM’33; the comfort of common cause against liberal bias; and more.
Have read through the May–June/14 issue of the alumni magazine three times already, and maybe three more times might “do it.” Shared several of the articles with friends and relatives. Being introduced to the poetry of Maureen McLane, PhD’97, was sufficient, right there (“What to Make of It”). Hope you and the staff keep up the good work.
Received an MBA degree in 1955 in the business school downtown and regretted not being on campus. Am now retired at age 91 and one of the lucky ones with no serious disability. My wife has fared as well.
Patrick J. Colombo, MBA’55 Clarendon Hills, Illinois
Abbie Reese’s (MFA’13) article “Ordered Lives” in the May–June/14 edition was quite an eye-opener to a very different world than any of us probably has ever had a glimpse of.
Here is quite an admirable combination of transcendence, visualization, commitment, and self-reflection that is hard to imagine that any human being can sustain in a cloistered, monastic environment over time and still have the stamina and interest in carrying out the daily chores on their property.
Although there are ascetic monks and priests from various religions who proclaim to have similar lifestyles, I don’t think, at least in my lifetime, that we have had a public view of these largely hidden but beautiful people.
Expanding the heart through extensive prayer undoubtedly takes exceptional courage, humility, and generosity where one puts oneself totally in God’s hands. How long these individuals can sustain this kind of withdrawal from society is an open question beyond the scope of this article. The level of turnover of these people (coming and going) over time is a curiosity of mine as some must recirculate back to “regular” society. Maybe not?
I thank the photographer for giving us a candid view of some of those within the walls of this particular monastery.
Thomas H. Kieren, MBA’68 Oak Ridge, New Jersey
Although our contact was so brief, Judi Nadler’s life and career and her contribution to the library of my alma mater have been an inspiration to me (‟Speaking Volumes,” Glimpses, May–June/14). Her interest in Special Collections, to which my wife, Barbara, and I have made a small contribution, will always remain a special memory. Her role in the construction of the Mansueto Library will be a permanent monument to her leadership, and it was my privilege to watch it grow literally from the ground up.
Barbara and I wish Judi well in all her future endeavors, and it is our hope that our paths will cross often in the future.
William M. (Bill) Yoffee, AB’52 Silver Spring, Maryland
The best word I can think of to describe George Anastaplo, AB’48, JD’51, PhD’64 (Deaths, May–June/14), as I knew him in the 1980s during my tenure at Illinois State University, is gracious. I was especially impressed by his warm spirit of hospitality following conferences downtown when a good number of us would be invited to his Hyde Park home for little receptions.
I was never one of his students, but I was well acquainted with his books and articles in my field (political philosophy) and admired his combination of scholarship and piety. I’m sure George could barely recognize me, and yet he treated me as one of his own, right along with alums who had been in his classes and were old friends.
John Gueguen, PhD’70 Kirkwood, Missouri
Richard Timberlake, PhD’59, deservedly a proud Miltonian economist, points out (Letters, Mar–Apr/14) that none of the 18 speakers (both Democrats and Republicans) discussing the 2008 financial crisis at a symposium, reported on in these pages, disagreed or criticized the government remedy of spending programs. He correctly takes issue with all the speakers and explains why. His last sentence laments: “Where are you, Milton, when we need you most?”
Indeed! You don’t have to be a Friedmaniac to take Timberlake’s analysis one step further—a Friedmanian would suffice. Had Milton Friedman, AM’33, been around, he would have explained why 18 speakers from both parties agreed with the government position by pointing out that most, if not all, have served in the administration.
A clueless journalist once asked Milton, “If you’re so smart and so right, why aren’t you in the government?” To which Milton responded by explaining that once you join the government you’re part of a team and lose the right to express yourself independently. He ended with something like, I believe I can be more useful serving the country better by thinking and expressing myself independently.
Sol S. Shalit, MBA’65, PhD’70 Lee, Massachusetts
Beyond the pale
I am writing about Donald L. Meccia’s (AB’85) letter in the May–June/14 issue entitled “Divine Origins.” I am dismayed that it was published in the Magazine, given your usual high standards of thoughtful discussion. I don’t always agree with the viewpoints expressed in the letters section, but that’s fine—indeed part of the fun. However, Meccia’s letter was beyond the pale.
I certainly understand the value of having an open airing of ideas from various perspectives. After I received my SM in physics at Chicago, I went on to a PhD in philosophy at the Johns Hopkins University, with a specialty in philosophy of science, and have recently retired after a long career teaching philosophy—an area where the airing of various points of view is indeed strongly encouraged. And I always encouraged such exchanges in my classes. However, one thing I did not encourage was ignorant, unintelligible, and mean-spirited criticisms of opposing views.
I have no problem with a careful comparison of religion and science in various issues of public concern—in particular the place of humans in the universe. But Meccia’s letter is rudely dismissive of science, while egregiously misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting current developments in cosmology, and an excuse for him to simply state (his own version of) the view of the Catholic Church regarding what cosmological research has shown about our place in the physical universe.
The clincher was the forthcoming “documentary” to which Meccia refers, The Principle, which he urges us to watch when it is released. It is a slick creationist rant, complete with the usual tricks of false claims, quoting scientists out of context, etc. Those who doubt this can judge for themselves. Just Google “The Principle” or watch the trailer. It is not much different than some of those nasty negative political campaign ads we are all too familiar with.
I hope that the University of Chicago Magazine will in the future ferret out the nonsense (and worse) in the various points of view being proposed for airing in the letters section. Science is now under attack in many quarters—evolution, climate change, vaccination, etc., and I would hope that the Magazine does not inadvertently play into that, the way the mass media often does with the false “fairness” of presenting all points of view as if they were all equally deserving of serious attention.
Marshall Spector, SM’59 Setauket, New York
I’m very sorry that Donald L. Meccia didn’t learn any science in the College, but I’m even sorrier that he is so lacking in Google skills. If he had Googled the documentary he touts, he would have learned what various authorities interviewed by the filmmakers said.
Max Tegmark says, “They cleverly tricked a whole bunch of us scientists into thinking that they were independent filmmakers doing an ordinary cosmology documentary, without mentioning anything about their hidden agenda.” George Ellis (who, by the way, was awarded the Templeton Prize for his “contributions to the dialogue between science and religion”): “I was interviewed for it but they did not disclose this agenda, which of course is nonsense. I don’t think it’s worth responding to—it just gives them publicity. To ignore is the best policy. But for the record, I totally disavow that silly agenda.” Lawrence Krauss said he had no recollection of being interviewed for the film and would have refused to be in it if he had known more about it. Michio Kaku said that the film was likely “clever editing” of his statements and that it bordered on “intellectual dishonesty.” The producer, Rick DeLano, claimed that Krauss signed a release form, but he refused to show a copy to Popular Science.
I conclude that DeLano and the rest associated with this production had to resort to trickery to try to support their nonsense.
Robert Michaelson, SB’66, AM’73 Evanston, Illinois
I read the synopsis of the Mahoney/Liebman study on federal year-end spending with interest and a sense of déjà vu (“Surge Protection,” Fig. 1, UChicago Journal, Mar–Apr/14). As a budget analyst, then resource manager, of a federal organization for over 20 years, I had on more than one occasion wished for multiyear funding to relieve the use-or-lose pressure on year-end operations and maintenance funding. While Mahoney and Liebman correctly point out that some IT funding is already multiyear (as is some for R&D and construction), there is still a long way to go.
The only caveat I would add to their analysis is that year-end funding is not always forced to be spent on “lower quality projects.” Most federal agencies have program/budgeting feedback throughout the year and determine priority funding requirements for any year-end funding that may be available. Many of these are quality of life issues that during the year cannot compete for funds held in reserve for operations (which can be anything from overtime for civilians to unexpected equipment expenses or increases in necessary supplies/utilities costs). Nevertheless, it is a good debate to pursue.
Scott Sunquist, AM’80 Mons, Belgium
Recent discourse about returning veterans (Letters, May–June/14) would not be complete without mention of a sorry moment in our university’s history. In December 1944 Robert Maynard Hutchins wrote in Collier’s magazine about the threat to American education posed by the GI Bill, a noble effort to assist our troops and improve our society.
“Colleges and universities,” he wrote, “will find themselves converted into educational hobo jungles. ... Education is not a device for coping with mass unemployment.”
It is shameful that Hutchins would openly express an elitist attitude such as this. And doubly so for targeting veterans who were on the verge of securing our nation’s survival in the largest conflict in human history.
Frederick A. Lehrer, MBA’64 Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania
I read with great interest the letter in your May–June/14 issue from Thomas Rodgers, AB’76 (Class of 1968). In it he decries the liberal bias he believes exists at the University of Chicago, and I was somewhat relieved to learn that others hold this view.
As a student at SSA from 2003 to 2005, I experienced firsthand a large dose of that bias. The day after the election of George W. Bush in 2004, I went to class as usual. We were greeted by an obviously angry professor who spent the entire class period of 90 minutes ranting about the evils of the Republican Party. I suppose being a Republican would have been insult enough, but I had paid quite hefty tuition for that class and was appalled to have to listen to someone else’s political views for 90 minutes. When I suggested as much, I was subject to name-calling by fellow students, which was certainly not discouraged by the professor.
I wish I could say this was an isolated event, but the lack of “independent thinking” was pervasive.
As a result of my experience, I’ve made the decision to not financially support the University. I wonder how many others have made that same decision.
Pamela J. Cook, AM’05 Chicago
Confucius on campus
I am writing to express an opinion on the matter of the Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago (CIUC). As a China scholar and a University of Chicago–trained anthropologist, the issue at hand is extremely important to me. I love the study of China and have made it my career; it is for these reasons that I see the potential for the CIUC to be discontinued as a very positive development. (See “Rejecting Confucius Funding,” Inside Higher Ed, April 29, 2014.)
Instituting a Chinese government–sponsored operation on campus has harmed the reputation of the University. No organization whose goal is to achieve direct or indirect political influence over how China is studied and/or taught should be allowed to continue. The University should not have allowed its reputation as the preeminent independent research university to be compromised in this way. This damage, originally allowed by a well-meaning search for funding sources, can now start to be repaired.
Kevin Caffrey, AM’97, PhD’07 Cambridge, Massachusetts
With the grave harm already done to the University’s integrity and reputation, it is heartening that more than 100 faculty signed the petition to discontinue the CIUC. Installing such a Chinese government–sponsored outfit has tainted the University whether or not the Chinese government actually achieves any direct or indirect influence over how China is taught and debated (as everyone should expect is indeed the long-term goal of inserting these institutes into host institutions instead of renting a building downtown). The University of Chicago should never have allowed its standing as an independent research university to be compromised in this way, carrots or no carrots.
For many of us, the petition raised the distinct possibility that the U of C is still special somehow, as I for one once thought that it was. And that something (the integrity and self-respect of a place for serious inquiry) might still be possible to rekindle, if the CIUC is terminated so that the damage can begin to be repaired.
Magnus Fiskesjö, AM’94, PhD’00 New York City
As this issue went to press, no decision had been announced regarding the renewal of the Confucius Institute’s contract, but the University affirmed that the faculty are responsible for all academic programs, saying, “Authority for making these academic decisions is widely distributed. A key part of the culture, history, and processes of the University are that faculty need to be free to pursue research, collaborate on research, recommend faculty appointments, and decide on academic aspects of implementation of educational programs without the oversight of the faculty from outside their areas. Two faculty committees reaffirmed this position in 2012.”—Ed.
I’m looking to connect with people who knew my parents, Anita (Kieras) Yurchyshyn, AB’67, and George Yurchyshyn, JD’65, MBA’67. I’m writing a family memoir and am researching this period of their lives. If interested in sharing any info you may have, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Anya Yurchyshyn Brooklyn, New York
The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters about its contents or about the life of the University. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space, clarity, and civility. To provide a range of views and voices, we encourage letter writers to limit themselves to 300 words or fewer. Write: Editor, The University of Chicago Magazine, 5235 South Harper Court, Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60615. Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.