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August 2004 Archives

August 2, 2004

Which dorm will it be?

The incoming class of 2008 sits on pins and needles, waiting to see what luck their housing assignments will bring. Will they be placed with roommates who are tidy, quiet, and unfazed by late-night parties and study sessions? Or will they spend ten months stuck with monsters?

On the class’s password-protected online discussion forum, incoming students share roommate horror stories, handed down from older friends and siblings. One girl claims to know a Boston University student who roomed with a murderer. Another has heard of roommates who bring home different strangers every night.

Then there are newcomers such as Hilary Lee, who fears she will be denied a roommate entirely. Lee doesn’t want to be placed in Broadview, she admits. She would rather be placed with a socialite or a murderer, she says, than live alone.

Soon the class will wonder no more. The Office of Undergraduate Student Housing mailed out room assignments Friday, and the luckier students have already received theirs. Incoming first-year Caitrin Nicol is thrilled: although she doesn’t know her roommate, she did get placed in her first-choice dorm—the Shoreland's Dudley House. Dave Franklin, meanwhile, is slightly more apprehensive: he preferred Palevsky East but will live in the dorm’s west wing.

Although students’ satisfaction with their housing assignments may vary, there’s one point on which they agree: they’re glad the wait is over.

Leila S. Sales, ’06

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August 4, 2004

Meaty movie


Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, cowritten by Hayden Schlossberg, AB’00, has more meat than a standard stoner flick. Chronicling two pothead roommates’ Friday night quest to curb their Castle cravings in New Jersey, the film hits on such social ills as racism and workplace stereotypes about Asian Americans. Confronted by career anxiety, bigoted bullies, and pushy parents, Harold and Kumar—an investment banker and a med-school applicant—end up finding themselves (as well as those small, square sliders).

Schlossberg penned the script while in the College with high-school bud and University of Pennsylvania grad Jon Hurwitz, basing the main characters on friends. “There’s a huge population of college kids who get high, who are on track in life,” Schlossberg told the Washington Post. “Or who are working at jobs…not really sure they are into it. They come home from work, they get high and think, ‘What are we going to eat for dinner?’ That’s people’s daily lives. We take that and blow it out to epic proportions.”


August 6, 2004

Fun as an art form

A sunny, deserted island spotted with tall palm trees; flowered meadows illuminated by the moon; schools of fish darting through ocean currents. These scenes aren’t typical of the Chicago landscape, particularly this past week’s rainy days. Rather, they come in the imaginations of the kids visiting the Smart Museum on Wednesday afternoons, capturing their own conceptions of beauty through art.

The Smart’s Art Afternoons offer workshops each week to community children and adults. Starting with six attendees per week in 2001, the program has grown to a peak of about 140 participants in a given week. College students assist the workshops, as groups practice techniques such as clay sculptures, fish-tank gravel mosaics, and paper weaving. In a museum scavenger hunt, the children look for different shapes and styles in the art collection.

But it’s the hands-on component that often inspires the most excitement. Many participants hailed a past session, where they made sponges out of paper, expanded them with water, and then painted with them, as the coolest workshop yet. “I loved making the sponges,” said Nzaari Kaepra, 8, while weaving multicolored patterns out of construction paper with her home-schooled classmates. “It was really interesting to learn that paper can make sponges. We made different shapes, and I painted flowers in the nighttime.”

The College assistants also enjoy the workshops. “Art Afternoons are my favorite parts of the week,” said third-year Kristin Love, who works at the Smart as part of the College’s Summer Links community-service program. “There are always a lot of familiar faces, and the adults enjoy it too.”

Sean I. Ahmed ’06

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August 9, 2004

All the courtyard's a stage

“I think of The Winter’s Tale as a fairy tale,” wrote Susanna Gellert, AB’99, in her director’s notes for University Theater’s (UT) Summer Shakespeare in the Court. “In this world nothing—however terrible or delightful—is a dream.”

Gellert and her design team created such whimsy through Ásta Hostetter’s (AB’04) costumes—oversized skirts, colorful fabrics, wing-like sleeves, and enormous sparkling-twine crowns—Scott Zielinski’s dramatic lighting cues, and Mark Winston’s (AB’04) melodic score, performed by a student string quartet. Last night the spectacle drew a few dozen audience members to this epic story of love, loss, and renewal.

The actors too—students, recent alumni, and children who attended the University’s Summer Drama Workshop—helped transport the audience to Shakespeare’s fanciful world. After the performance Gellert, who participated in UT as a student and now attends Yale University’s School of Drama, marveled at the actors’ enthusiasm for embedding themselves in the text and characters. And working with the young campers, she said, “put into context what the show is really about”—creating theater the entire Hyde Park community can enjoy.

Each year’s Summer Shakespeare play is the only UT mainstage production performed in Hutchinson Courtyard. Meredith Ries’s (’05) stage design made use of what Gellert called the “ambient world of the courtyard”: the actors took over the area, playing to audience risers on three sides of the elevated stage—impermanent structures funded by the Arts Planning Council and the Women’s Board—and periodically splashing through the courtyard’s fountain.

Summer Shakespeare, like the season itself, is fleeting: The Winter’s Tale continues its run this Wednesday through Saturday before disappearing as quickly as a Shakespearian tragedy’s entire family lineage.

Leila S. Sales, ’06

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August 11, 2004

Before you vote for George or John . . .

If the political bug hasn’t bitten you yet, perhaps the right reading materials will inspire your passion for the democratic process. The University of Chicago Press has compiled its “latest and best books for the election season”—required reading for critical thinkers including The Almanac of American Politics 2004, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, The Votes that Counted: How the Court Decided the 2000 Presidential Election, and neocon figurehead Leo Strauss’s Natural Right and History. The Press’s Web site also links to election-related book excerpts and interviews, plus candidate, party, and news home pages.

By A.L.M.

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August 13, 2004

Bright lights, big station

The big switch came May 30. The next morning you could see it in the commuters’ faces. As they stepped off trains that just the day before had made their official Hyde Park transfer stop at the 59th Street station, the Metra Electric and South Shore commuters—a usually somber lot—were pleasantly surprised by the bright 57th Street station.

In contrast to the dingy, graffiti-marred, and sometimes malodorous 59th Street location, the new station meets with approval from the 500-plus weekday rail riders who board Metra Electric and South Shore lines in Hyde Park. “It’s so clean,” says Renette Davis, a Metra rider and the head of Regenstein Library’s serials & digital resources cataloging. “And it’s quicker to get to work too.” The more centrally located station also features amenities such as elevators for handicapped passengers.

Input from a series of community meetings helped drive the transfer point’s switch to the 57th Street station. Funded by Metra, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Illinois Department of Transportation, the stop has only some minor work—punch-list items—yet to be completed, according to Metra spokesman Dan Schnolis.

Not only passengers appreciate the upgrade in surroundings. “I love it. It’s such a change,” says ticket agent Launie Rae Scognamiglio, a 31-year Metra employee who transferred from the 59th Street station. “I actually get sunlight now. My plants are thriving.”


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Photos by Joy Olivia Miller.

August 16, 2004

Wonders of the ancient world


Only three people show up for the third and last installment of “Lunchtime in Another Time,” the Oriental Institute’s free Friday gallery tour series. But docent Joseph Diamond, AM’56, seems unfazed by the turnout, noting with a shrug that other tours this summer have attracted dozens of people. He says that the topics may drive attendance—while this week’s focus is the Persian gallery, past tours of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian rooms proved more popular.

Taking advantage of the low tourist to docent ratio, the audience members engage directly with Diamond, answering his questions, asking their own, and admiring aloud the pottery and ornaments. Diamond—and ancient Persian culture—has their full attention. They lean in to get a closer look when he pulls a stamp and clay lump from his pocket, demonstrating the ancient use of seals.

Diamond claims he can’t remember when he began working at this Near Eastern museum. He thinks it’s been four or five years but points out, “Time takes on a different meaning here.” With an Assyrian dictionary that has been in process for 80 years and artifacts that date to 3500 BC and earlier, Diamond says that the Oriental Institute makes a couple years here or there seem insignificant.

Leila S. Sales, ’06

August 18, 2004

Get to the point

On any given warm and sunny day, scores of Hyde Parkers grab beach towels and make their way on bike, rollerblade, stroller, or flip flops east to the Promontory Point. Though the Point, a broad swath of grass and trees whose revetments jut into Lake Michigan between 55th and 54th streets, remains open to pleasure seekers, a battle between neighborhood activists and the city is smoldering. In 2001 city planners, as part of a larger effort to renovate Chicago’s lakefront, proposed replacing the blocky shore and its eroding supports with concrete steps. Many community members objected to the plan, citing aesthetics and water access as main concerns, and negotiations have been ongoing ever since. The latest news, posted online by the Promontory Point Community Task Force (the organization behind the white-on-blue “Save the Point” stickers dotting Hyde Park bumpers), is a report from former mediator Jamie Kalven arguing in favor of preservation-minded restoration.

With construction delayed until at least 2005, this summer the Point continues to operate as Hyde Park’s swimming hole, sports field, jogging track, bike path, beach, and backyard.


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August 20, 2004

Drinking in knowledge

What book made headlines in California in 1989 for condoning alcohol use? What is the name of the pickled ginger served with sushi? What car company originated the electric starter?*

If you know the answers to those questions and are looking for a little extra pocket change check out the Pub’s Trivia Tuesdays. Organizers and Pub employees Gerra Bosco, Amy Herrick, AM’01, and Vanessa Davies, AM’03, the self-titled “Trivia Goddesses,” were looking for a way to lure in more customers. This being the University of Chicago, they thought, how about a trivia contest?

Here’s how it goes: Working in teams of two to six people, participants answer four rounds of ten questions with each correct answer worth one point. The bonus fifth round questions feature Chicago- or alcohol related answers worth two points. The $3 entrance fees are placed into a kitty and split 70/30 between the first- and second-place teams. This week’s winners, the “Vultures,” took home $101, with second place “Thundercats” nabbing $43.

Alas, the authors, with the help of two friendly Pub-goers, Marcia and Zohar, and $1 Huber beers, answered none of the above questions correctly. Marcia, a Brazilian who works at Survey Lab, and Zohar, a sociology grad student from Israel, have played several times. They both admitted to having a less-than-deep reservoir of knowledge on American pop culture—though let's just say the "The Golden Girls" theme song was familiar to all.

Registration for the weekly games is at 7:45 p.m., games begin at 8. For more information sign up for the Pub’s listserv.

*Respectively: Little Red Riding Hood, gari, Cadillac.

Johanna and Jeff Jay, AM’98

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August 23, 2004

Back to sports


It may not be Athens, but Stagg Field and Ratner are getting their own piece of the action this week. Almost 200 students moved into Max Palevsky Central on Sunday—though autumn quarter doesn’t start until September 27—to prepare for the fall athletic season.

Practices began today for the soccer, cross-country, football, and volleyball teams, whose first competitions come early next month. Hopes are high especially for the Maroon women’s soccer team, which lost last year’s NCAA Division III championship game in overtime. While football and soccer took breaks between their morning and late afternoon sessions, the volleyball players lifted weights at Ratner.

Sean I. Ahmed, ’06

Photo: the Maroon volleyball team works out in the Ratner weight room.

Photo by Anthony Decanini.

August 25, 2004

Reading, writing, and regulation


Though nearly all industries are government regulated, “colleges are among the most extremely regulated institutions in the nation,” said University vice president for administration and chief financial officer Donald Reaves. “I cannot think of any part of this institution that is not already regulated heavily.” He made these comments at a “town hall meeting” lecture series designed, according to associate vice president for human resources Chris Keeley, “to incorporate staff as a more knowledgeable and active participant in the life of the University.”

To demonstrate the costs of regulation, Reaves gave a modern-day adaptation of the Noah’s Ark tale, drawing laughs from the U of C–employee audience as he described a world in which zoning, waste management, and workers’ rights regulations prevent Noah from completing his ark on time.

But regulation burdens are not always laughing matters. Reaves bemoaned the strained relationships that can develop between administrators, who must enforce the rules, and faculty members, who find the medical, ethical, and environmental restrictions intrusive. And the monetary cost of compliance, while impossible to calculate exactly, approximates $20 million, Reaves said, or about 5.5 percent of every tuition dollar.

Still, he doesn’t doubt regulation’s necessity. “We do know that risks exist, and they must be managed,” he summed up. “We understand that the stakes are so high that regulations and lawyers will surely be with us forever.”

Leila S. Sales, ’06

August 27, 2004

Head of the class


University undergrads may claim “where fun comes to die” as their unofficial social-life slogan, but their academic experience is thriving, according to new college ratings.

Princeton Review has named Chicago numero uno for academic experience in its latest survey—one of those highly publicized lists that have become synonymous with the college-application process.

Among national universities the U of C also tied Cornell and Johns Hopkins for 14th in U.S. News and World Report’s top-schools category in its 2005 rankings. Harvard and Princeton came in first.

To rate colleges and universities, U.S. News groups schools with their academic peers and gathers data in areas including graduation and retention rate, faculty resources, and alumni giving. Based on those indicators, schools are given a weighted composite score.

While earning high marks is a plus for recruitment efforts, many administrators discredit the rankings, arguing that a school’s quality is beyond measurement.

But such scorings have a strong foothold in the American marketplace, and U.S. News’s annual ratings, which debuted in 1983, now share the limelight with other lists including Princeton Review’s.

Needless to say, Chicago didn’t sweep every category. It was, for example, absent from U.S. News’s list of schools with the most athletic scholarships. Maybe next year.

This item corrects the 8/27 original posting--8/31/04.


August 30, 2004

Summer ceremonies

Since its 1893 founding the University of Chicago has celebrated 478 convocations, most of them following formats similar to Friday’s: the Student Marshals and graduates processed through Rockefeller Chapel; Dean Alison Boden offered a prayer; Angela Olinto, chair of astronomy and astrophysics, delivered a short address; the student choir sang an anthem; President Don Randel awarded degrees; and everyone who knew the lyrics sang along to the Alma Mater. The most noticeable difference between Summer Convocation and the graduation exercises held earlier this year wasn’t the ceremonial proceedings; it was the 90-degree temperature in Rockefeller.

Well-dressed audience members fanned themselves with Convocation programs. The musicians quietly asked their director for permission to perform from the chapel’s ground level rather than in the elevated, overheated choir loft. The graduates wiped their brows, finding no respite from the heat in their floor-length black and maroon gowns.

But when President Randel called forward the graduating students and decreed, “By virtue of the authority delegated to me, I confer to you the degree of Bachelor of Liberal Arts, and I welcome you to this ancient and honorable company of scholars,” the years of education and the half-hour of suffering through the weather suddenly seemed, to the graduates and their guests, time well-spent.

Leila S. Sales, ’06

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About August 2004

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in August 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2004 is the previous archive.

September 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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