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May 2006 Archives

May 1, 2006

C change


Recent campus visitors may have noticed something missing: the foliage that formerly secluded the C-bench. Last week the thick greenery disappeared, replaced by a neatly manicured lawn clearing the view from Cobb Hall to Swift.

The changes, says University Planner Richard Bumstead, "are part of the overall campus upgrades that are underway." The arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'nigra') evergreens that formerly surrounded the bench "were in decline after last year's drought," Bumstead says, "and we were having a difficult time finding large enough specimens to match the existing shrubs." Those shrubs arrived in 2000, transplanted from the Jean Block Garden behind the Reg to accommodate the Palevsky Residence Halls. Before 2000 the C-bench "was surrounded by an old planting of burning bush (Euonymous alatus), which had become very leggy and was dying out."

The new plants, he says, "will include a row of Viburnum plicatum 'wantanabe,' which will remain much shorter than the arborvitae, and will be underplanted with Siberian iris 'butter and sugar.'"


Photos: The C-bench before (top) and after (bottom) the recent pruning.

May 3, 2006

One nation under God


Yale religious historian Harry S. Stout’s most recent publication, a 576-page reckoning of religion and morality during the Civil War—and its present-day cultural echoes—began as “a title in search of a book,” he told the audience on Swift Hall’s third floor Monday afternoon. Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War takes its name from a phrase used in wartime letters to the families of fallen soldiers. “I hit on the title,” Stout said, and the rest was “an odyssey of discovery.” What he discovered was that “the Civil War bequeathed to Americans the idea of America as a redemptive nation, that a ‘civil religion’ was incarnated in civil war.” From blood sacrifice, he said, rose a sacred devotion to nation, freedom, and their symbols. Even today, he said, that devotion informs moral justifications for war. Dissecting political speeches, newspaper editorials, letters, and diaries—and recounting incidents of devastating carnage—the book asks whether the Civil War was a “just war.” Stout’s answer: not entirely.

The Jonathan Edwards professor of American Christianity at Yale, Stout is a visiting fellow in the Divinity School’s Jerald Brauer Seminar, an annual program in which ten students and two faculty members discuss and write on separate topics with a common theme. This year’s focus: “religion and violence in American culture.”

At Monday’s event, a panel of three Divinity School professors—W. Clark Gilpin, AM'72, PhD'74, Martin E. Marty, PhD'56, and Catherine Brekus—offered critical synopses of Stout’s book and posed a few questions: Why not use slaves’ voices in the book? What was Abraham Lincoln’s role in convincing Americans that 600,000 Civil War deaths were “inevitable”? How were African Americans and Native Americans left out of the nation’s newly “consecrated land”? In what ways did the South win the war? Calling Lincoln an “emergent character” in Stout’s book, Marty said he wanted to know more about his “ethos, pathos, his logos.”

Audience members came with questions too, and for more than half an hour Stout and the panelists discussed Civil War nomenclature, the South’s “lost cause,” national memory and mismemory, and the definition of moral history. “Would it have been better for the country if the Confederate generals had been put on trial for war crimes and executed?” Stout asked listeners. “It’s almost impossible to imagine.”


Photo: Stout and the panel address the Swift Hall crowd.

Photo by Terren Ilana Wein

May 5, 2006

Deadline stress

Ever wonder how the University of Chicago Magazine gets out? The four editors and designer work happily and steadily along for a few weeks—and then deadline hits. Currently on deadline for the June issue—the Magazine's pages are due at our prepress house today and at final press next week—our desks are messy and minds flustered—er, focused.


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Photos (first row): Associate Editor Lydia Gibson uses a complicated post-it note system while editing the "Investigations" section

Alumni News Editor Brooke O'Neill reads carefully each word of Class Notes.

Graphic Designer David Duncil ensures every word and image are in the right place.

Second row: Diet Coke fuels Editor Mary Ruth Yoe as she finishes her feature story.

Our highly technical editing system involves printing out pages and placing them on a window sill for others to read.

May 8, 2006

Adventure venture

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Last Thursday some lucky students traversing the quads scored a free bag of M&Ms, courtesy of a new student Web site, Experience Chicago. Students handed out the candy, which came attached to a brightly colored flyer advertising information on restaurants, museums, shopping, health, movies, dance, and more, all contributed “For students. By students” and run by the Office of the Vice President and Dean of Students.

Covering 15 neighborhoods from Rogers Park to South Shore, the site scopes out the easiest public-transportation routes from campus and offers a brief description of each area. Site visitors can pick from four activity categories—sustenance (restaurants, coffee houses, bakeries, etc.), revelry (bars, nightclubs, etc.), civilization (museums, art fairs, etc.), and vanity (gyms, salons, etc.)—and log in with their CNet ID to add their own suggestions. Links to Metromix, Time Out Chicago, and the Chicago Reader provide additional activity options. Check it out to discover, as the site promises, “where University of Chicago students go, how they get there, and what they say about it.”


Photo: Experience Chicago's home page offers a map of neighborhoods and categories.

May 10, 2006

The black-white education divide


From the 1940s, when the census began including education data, through the 1990s, black Americans grew closer to white Americans in education equality. A decade ago that progress hit a wall, and Derek Neal wants to know why. Presenting his paper, "Why Has Black-White Skill Convergence Stopped?" (pdf) at Tuesday's inaugural Committee on Education workshop, Neal charted the statistics behind the trend—using test scores, graduation rates, and income levels—then ventured into the possible reasons.

Several economists blame the skill gap on a self-fulling prophecy, said Neal, economics department chair and director of the Chicago Workshop on Black-White Inequality. They assert that "blacks expect employers will not reward them for skills," so they don't invest in education. "Employers," he said, "if they expect that blacks will not invest in skills, will be confirmed in their prejudice." Neal doesn't buy this argument because it's a "tricked-up, fancy" explanation rather than the obvious answer that "because of historical discrimination...there are existing wealth discrepancies that make it more costly to become skilled if you're black than if you're white." Further, he notes, this scenario doesn't explain why the progress has stopped.

Marshaling more charts and graphs, Neal dismissed two other proffered reasons for the disparity. Although America's labor market changed in the 1980s to further separate skilled and nonskilled workers, that shift is not the reason. "Not that the labor market is fair," he noted, or that blacks "know there will be no reward for investing in skills." And schools? "There is no evidence that black kids fall farther behind white children after 8th grade."

A possible reason, Neal proposed, is "going to have to be a family story." In 2000 one in ten black children lived with neither parent, he noted, and in the past 20 years black family income has fallen relative to whites. Economists argue that "the adverse shock to black family income comes in part from the change in wage structure in the '80s," he said. "Then if the wage structure stabilized it would be a temporary shock" and black families would recover in the future. "More troubling to me," he said, are parenting style differences (see third image at right). "Is there a cultural difference," he asked, causing "even black and white families that have the same opportunities to have different preferences in parenting styles? I don't know."

After Neal spoke, psychologists Susan Goldin-Meadow and Susan Levine explained their own research on early language and math skill development. They are following 60 Chicago children, from different demographics, throughout their educations. As Neal later noted, if Goldin-Meadow and Levine "can define parenting styles that are effective and then look at different groups," there may be a way to explain whether resource discrepancies explain such preferences "or if it's culture." And that, he said, "is where we can be interdisciplinary."


Photos (top to bottom): Neal gestures as he explains his paper (top); Susan Levine discusses how her research relates to Neal's; Neal believes parenting-style differences may be a factor.

May 12, 2006

Scavengers in the mist

Chicago’s 20th annual Scavenger Hunt got off to a soggy start Thursday morning as students took to the quads with carnival games, musical instruments, second-hand wares, and beat poetry to recreate the Near West Side’s Maxwell Street Market. Some participants huddled under umbrellas, but most resigned themselves to the rain. “Fresh fruit! Luscious fruit!” fourth-year Aaron Levine called out to passing pedestrians, while teammates Meade McCormick and Hilary Komlanc juggled on the sidewalk.

Circling the quads in a judge’s T-shirt and studying each team’s performance, Sara Rezvi, a fourth-year and former Scav Hunt contestant, felt a twinge of yearning. “You miss the blood,” she said. “You miss the hunt.”

A four-day competition six months in the planning, Scav Hunt this year sends ten teams searching for more than 300 items, compiled by the judges. Students wear themed costumes, decipher abstruse clues—some written in Arabic or acronyms or as chemical and mathematical formulas—and embark on a three-day road trip to pick up as many points as they can. This year’s list (pdf), kept secret until midnight Thursday, requires teams to drive to the Arkansas Ozarks to snap a photo of Eureka Springs’s Christ of the Ozarks statue, to “inquire about a tractor,” and to seek out “fragments of the Iron Curtain.” The Scav Hunt list also asks students to produce a wood-powered refrigerator, an upside-down sand castle, a diorama of “William Rainey Harper’s personal Hell,” and a hot-air balloon “made to Montgolfier specifications.” An item worth 24 points instructs contestants to pick up an armadillo from the side of the road (“random guy in armadillo suit not permitted,” admonishes a footnote), and “prove that he’s a criminal, a la Encyclopedia Brown.” For two points, students can “throw a snowball at outgoing president Tony Randall.”

The hunt concludes Sunday morning—on “Justice Sunday”—with an 11 a.m. judging ceremony at Ida Noyes Hall to pick the winners.


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Photos (row 1): Meade McCormick (left) and Hilary Komlanc juggle; Liz Litchfield is "just your local belly dancer"; Julia Rotondo (in blue) squirts red liquid at a photo of President Don Randel.

Row 2: Anne Heminger tends the grill so her team can keep warm with marinaded chicken; Tric Dwyer begs people to buy "a kiss for a quarter"; Dwyer (right) wrestles with Erica Kaitz.

Photos by Dan Dry

May 15, 2006

Tribal talent


At last Friday’s gender-studies brown-bag lunch, assistant anthropology professor Jessica Cattelino traced the Florida Seminoles’ “princess pageant” from its 1950s origins to the present, explaining how it evolved from a conventional beauty competition to an exercise “defining, celebrating, and disciplining Seminole nationhood.” In 1972 swimsuit contests gave way to competing lectures on sewing patchwork clothing and tanning deer hides. Looking pretty, said Cattelino, grew less important than looking native. During pageants, “there’s lots of talk of ‘passing down,’ lots of linking to authoritative knowledge and claims to cultural continuity.” The competitions highlight Seminoles’ “overlapping citizenship” in their indigenous nation and America, a duality Cattelino described as “imbricated” rather than simply “a coexistence or a rivalry.”

The pageant’s cultural evolution coincides with the tribe’s foray into casino gambling and the establishment of constitutional governance for Florida’s six Seminole reservations. Once crowned, Miss Seminole carries out a host of diplomatic duties, attending pow-wows, meeting with political officials (both Indian and American), and presiding over civic functions. In the days leading up to the pageant, Cattelino said, contestants are drilled in public speaking, proper comportment, and tribal politics.

A masculine parallel to Miss Seminole can be found in war-veteran groups. Noting that American Indians serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than any other ethnic group, Cattelino said Native American ideas about what it means to “be a man” often lead to the armed services. “There is an indigenous attachment to the land—and to defending the land—no matter who owns it.” For Florida Seminoles, a tribe that considers itself unconquered because its leaders never signed a peace treaty with the U.S. and its people fended off expulsion from Florida, “the warrior legacy is strong. … And if you want to be a warrior, you can’t really do that within the tribe.” Veteran status also gets many former soldiers elected to tribal offices. “Military prowess translates into political eligibility,” Cattelino said. She closed the lecture by fielding questions about the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act—which granted blanket citizenship to the country’s Native Americans—Seminole names, and the tribe’s custom of tracing heritage along matrilineal lines.


Assistant professor Jessica Cattelino (top). A Seminole veterans' color guard (bottom).

May 17, 2006

You are what you read

“We are turning the entire campus into an art gallery,” fourth-year Claire Mazur, executive director of FOTA 2006, told the University of Chicago Chronicle. “You just can’t avoid the art. It’s everywhere.” The Festival of the Arts, which runs from May 13 through Sunday, May 21, hits all of your major art forms: photography, sculpture, music, dancing, fashion, photography—and cooking.

On Monday morning the Culinary Club took to Bartlett Quad to hold the Chicago version of Books2Eat, a petit amuse modeled on the International Edible Book Festival. Held on April 1 since 1999, that worldwide event “unites bibliophiles, book artists, and food lovers to celebrate the ingestion of culture and its fulfilling nourishment. Participants create edible books that are exhibited, documented, then consumed.”

Using saltines, graham crackers, peanut butter, licorice sticks, bananas, and of course chocolate, students made sandwich-sized replicas of texts and then ate their words.


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Photos by Dan Dry

May 19, 2006

The art of appreciation


Cookies, cheese bites, and 20-percent-off coupons greeted University employees Thursday and Friday at the U of C bookstore’s Faculty and Staff Appreciation Days. Held three or four times a year, the event this time coincides with Friday’s faculty book-order deadline for autumn quarter. Staff members stopped by a front table decked with free treats to chat with bookstore workers, pick up flyers on store services ranging from dissertation binding to catering, and score instant wins from a prize bucket. The most common jackpot giveaway? A free cup of coffee or tea from the café.


Photo: Bookstore staff man the staff-appreciation table.

May 22, 2006

Fiddle dee dee


Strings filled Hutch Court Sunday afternoon as fiddlers, guitarists, banjoists, and harmonica players jammed on folk tunes—"Rocky Top," "Louis Collins," and other standards—at the U of C Folklore Society's Fiddler's Picnic. Beginning at noon, the event featured students performing a traditional rapper dance, involving flexible swords, and old-time fiddlers performing. Listeners, meanwhile, laid blankets on the grass or sat at tables to chow down home-brought picnics, while the Folklore Society offered a catered spread. At 4:30 the group—grown cold on the sunny, 50-degree day—moved inside the Reynolds Club's Hallowed Grounds Coffee Shop to hear local bluegrass band Devil in a Woodpile cap off the harmonious affair.


Photo: One group plays near Mandel Hall while another jams in the center of Hutch Court.

May 24, 2006

Lettice entertains us


For its final production of the 2005-06 season Court Theatre has chosen Peter Shaffer’s Lettice and Lovage, a 1987 British comedy that celebrates the power of theater to “enlarge, enliven, enlighten.”

The motto comes straight from the figurative escutcheon of Lettice Douffet. Played by Patricia Hodges in half-dotty, half-grande-dame style, Douffet is a woman with a theatrical past and an expert on medieval cuisine (the lovage of the title is an herb used to "enlarge, enliven, enlighten" food and drink) and medieval weaponry. Douffet is also tour guide at Fustian House, a stately home in Britain where nothing ever happened. Then she begins to embellish her tours, with dramatic—nay, fustian—accounts of what should have happened there.

Sent by the Preservation Trust to investigate, Charlotte Schoen—Linda Reiter as bottled-up bureaucrat—is not amused and fires her. But the two women share a passion for larger-than-life people, stories, and buildings, and a larger-than-life friendship is born.

As a play celebrating the power of the theater should be, the Court production is an engaging and entertaining romp. Directed by Lucy Smith Conroy, Lettice and Lovage runs through Sunday, June 11.


Lettice (Patricia Hodges) strikes a pose before a sympathetic audience: Charlotte Schoen (Linda Reiter).

Photo by Michael Brosilow.

May 26, 2006

Old-school ties

Solemnly dressed and grazing on grilled kebabs and bite-sized eggrolls, University faculty members gathered at the Reynolds Club Wednesday evening to bid farewell to outgoing President Don Randel and present him with a gift: a framed drawing from architect Bertrand Goldberg’s plans for a never-built ABC tower in New York. Goldberg’s son Geoff, AB'77—who recalled his father as a friend to the University and the parent of two graduates—unveiled the drawing before a grinning Randel. “Everybody knows I’m an architecture junkie.”

Sociology professor Andrew Abbott, AM’75, PhD’82, who helped organize the event, recounted a few Randel-era triumphs—an invigorated Graduate School of Business and Biological Sciences Division, a strong bid to retain Argonne National Laboratory, new community ties, and a journey through the “wilderness of an arduous development campaign ... now within full sight of the promised land”—but most of the talk was about Randel’s administrative aplomb. Jim Chandler, AM’72, PhD’78, English professor and Franke Institute director, recalled that in the “scores” of times he’d heard Randel speak, he’d never seen him refer to any notes. “And never have I seen him stumble or lapse into cliché—well, almost never,” he said. “Who but a jazz musician could cultivate” those improvisational talents? Philosophy professor Ted Cohen, AB’62, played clips of Randel’s performances in Quadrangle Club faculty and staff Revels skits. “It is a shame and a waste,” Cohen said, “now that he has mastered the Chicago song on the flugelhorn, that he will move to New York. … If you can’t get a gig in New York—or even if you can—you are always welcome to come back and play with us.”

Offering thanks, Randel reprised a few favorite lines, declaring Chicago “the greatest university in this or any neighboring galaxy,” and insisting he’d be in touch from time to time. “I have a professor emeritus ID card, and I have investigated thoroughly the benefits that accrue to such a person,” he said. “Thank you for your friendship.”


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Photos (left to right): Randel, University CFO and VP for Administration Donald Reaves, and Kenneth Warren, English professor and deputy provost for research and minority issues, laugh along with the speakers; self-professed “architecture junkie” with his new Bertrand Goldberg drawing; Randel and Andrew Abbott.

Photos by Dan Dry

May 31, 2006

Viewpoints reloaded


University of Chicago students may be opinionated as a whole, but the Chicago Maroon's "Viewpoints" staff of editorial writers take pontificating to a whole new level. Writing twice a week wasn't enough for three "Viewpoints" veterans, who this month started "The Editors Blog," an extension of the newspaper section. On the blog fourth-year George Anesi, 2003–05 Viewpoints editor; third-year Andrew Hammond, 05–06 editor; and second-year Alec Brandon, the current section head, share their opinions on topics including the Middle East, the Apple and Enron court cases, and European ski slopes.


About May 2006

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in May 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2006 is the previous archive.

June 2006 is the next archive.

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

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