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May 2008 Archives

May 2, 2008

I pledge allegiance...


Early American citizenship was about more than formally separating from England, argued Stanford professor and president emeritus Gerhard Casper Thursday at the Law School’s annual Fulton Lecture in legal history. Rather it represented “a renunciation of the old monarchical world in favor of a new order.”

In his lecture, “Forswearing Allegiance,” former Law School Dean and University Provost Casper discussed the complicated history of American immigration law and concepts of citizenship. The Founding Fathers were anxious about incorporating European immigrants, long the subjects of sovereigns, into the republic. While Thomas Jefferson, for instance, “had a dim view of integrating” foreigners, Casper said, pamphleteer Thomas Paine “believed democratic principles of American government [would] take care of heterogeneity.” Consequently, for more than 200 years naturalization laws have required new citizens to “renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty.” Such requirements, Casper noted, no longer make sense in an age of increasing cosmopolitanism, globally shared values, and dual citizenship.

In a question-and-answer session, Casper remarked that his talk had a crucial autobiographical component. Born in Germany in 1937, Casper came to the United States in 1964. He waited many years to change his citizenship, not for lack of feelings for America, he said, but “because Germans of my generation have such a difficult time with national identity.” They “identify as citizens of the world…not detained by national elements.” Casper naturalized in 1979, when he became dean of what he called one of the country's "premier legal institutions.”

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photo: Former Law School Dean and Provost Gerhard Casper addresses friends, former students, and the curious in the Law School's Kirkland Courtroom.

May 4, 2008

Invitation to help


Setting up a tent on the Quads for three days last week, Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) closed out April—Sexual Assault Awareness Month—by giving away water bottles, popcorn, copies of the Women's Guide to the University of Chicago, and blue ribbons for passersby to honor victims they've known.

"A lot of people stop by and say, 'I never knew you were on campus,'" said RSVP peer educator Emily Tancer, '08, who staffed the booth with fellow fourth-year Liz Litchfield on Wednesday. The tent, Tancer said, helped spread the word about the organization, housed in the Administration Building basement as part of the Vice President and Dean of Students in the University's office. Professors, staff, and students had all stopped by that day.

Tancer and Litchfield attended a weekend training retreat earlier this year and now give workshops on "acquaintance rape and rape culture," Tancer said, for houses, RSOs, and other groups. Part of the reason for the tent, she said, was to recruit more peer educators for next year.


Photos: The RSVP tent offered both popcorn and blue ribbons; images in popular culture, Tancer said, often portray women's bodies as objects and men as "hypersexual aggressors."

May 7, 2008

Pond patrons


Brisk winds and cloudy skies were not enough to deter a few dozen guests from gathering to dedicate Botany Pond this past Friday. Acknowledging Julie and J. Parker Hall III’s (X’54) support to restore the pond to its original marsh-like splendor, a new plaque stands at the pond’s north side. President Robert J. Zimmer read the inscription to the crowd: “Botany Pond and Hull Court Restoration / In Grateful Recognition / Julie & Parker Hall / May 2, 2008.”

Joined by family and friends, the Halls were on campus to receive the University of Chicago Medal for distinguished service of the highest order later that evening. The family has a history of service to the University: Parker Hall is a life trustee, his father (PhB'27) served as University treasurer, and his grandfather was the first full-time dean of the Law School (1904–28).

In addition to serving on several campus boards and committees, Julie and Parker Hall have made gifts to the Division of the Humanities and the Laboratory Schools and established the James Parker Hall distinguished service professorship in law and the Julie and Parker Hall endowment for jazz and American popular music.

Through their botanic-garden endowment fund, the Halls supported Botany Pond’s restoration, which began in 2004. Now visitors can enjoy a pond similar to the one seen in pictures from 1910, when it served as an outdoor classroom and laboratory, in addition to being one of the most tranquil and picturesque spots on campus.

Charlotte Robinson

Photos: Parker and Julie Hall enjoy the dedication on Friday; Botany Pond in 2006; The pond in 1910.

Top two photos by Dan Dry; Bottom photo courtesy Special Collections Research Center.

May 9, 2008

The wonderful wizard of Scav


If it's the Thursday before Mother's Day, it must be Scavenger Hunt. The 2008 version of the University tradition got under way at midnight when team captains "ransomed" their Scav Hunt lists. As the May 6 Chicago Maroon reported, "[E]ach team was given a list of demands to be fulfilled, including bringing the judges a black light, a toothpick, and a hula skirt. After each five-minute lapse, the judges burned a page of the list." Not to worry: the first pages contain the standard rules, and the list is online.

As usual, competing teams have until Sunday afternoon to produce as many of the list's 260-plus items, each with its own point value, as they can. They'll also participate in Friday night's Scav party and Saturday's Scav Olympics—where the sporting events range from "1. Finnish style wife-carrying competition. Must provide certified married couple (bonus points if marriage is still on after the race!)" to "11. Knife skills! Bring your Top Chef with a good set of cooking knives, and get ready to slice, dice, mince, and prance."

As usual, there's also a road trip. This year's (Item 23) twisted the Frank Baum classic:

“'Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more.' No, but you will be before the end of the day. At 9:00 AM Thursday in Hutchinson Courtyard, present your team of Wayward Sons: Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Bat. They must be ready to travel over the rainbow in a flying house featuring a storm cellar door, chimneyed roof, picket fence, and the legs of that wicked witch you just ran over... ."

In a new twist, Item 20 commanded the teams, "Have your pre-selected Scav Warrior outside the Reynolds Club at 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning. They must be alone and they may not have any extraneous packages, bags or accessories. And, since it will be late into the evening, the attire for this event is evening-wear. Evening-wear with a bathing suit underneath." The solo warriors—who also were asked to come with IDs and $200—were blindfolded and driven to O'Hare, where they were presented with a ticket to Las Vegas—and a 46-item "ScavAir Addendum: Vegas, baby. Vegas."


Photo: With shoes painted red, this Dorothy is ready to follow the Yellow Brick Road, as the Scav Hunt road trip heads to Kansas. Photo by Lloyd DeGrane.

May 12, 2008

The gift of books


By 2010 the University will have a new library just west of the Regenstein, thanks to a $25 million gift from Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto, AB’78, MBA’80, and his wife Rika, AB'91. Patrons will read and lounge beneath an elliptical glass dome reaching 35 feet high, while millions of printed volumes will live 50 feet underground, called up by an automated retrieval system.

The Mansueto Library, announced yesterday by President Robert J. Zimmer, provides space for the University to keep its ever-expanding collection local—and for the collection to grow another 22 years, says library director Judith Nadler. The Regenstein reached capacity in 2007, and while universities such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Brown have moved materials off-site, Chicago went a different route, maintaining its entire print collection on campus.

Designed by Chicago-based architect Helmut Jahn, the Mansueto Library will contain a conservation and preservation facility; an area for Special Collections staff members to pick up requested materials and bring them back to the Reg's Special Collections Research Center; an 8,000-square-foot reading room; and the capacity for 3.5 million volumes of print material. Library users will request a source through the online catalog or search engine (Lens), and a robotic crane will retrieve it within a few minutes.


Photo: An architect's drawing shows the future Mansueto Library from the south; a cross-section rendering shows the automated shelving and retrieval system.

Images courtesy Helmut Jahn.

May 14, 2008

The art of the rewrite


Writing, Jonathan Harr explained to the two dozen students and faculty gathered in Rosenwald 405 Tuesday evening, "is, thankfully, one arena in life where you can perform badly and then take it all back and do it again. It's not done until it's done."

That moment of completion, it seems, can't be rushed. It took Harr, an author, journalist, and the University's 2008 Robert Vare Nonfiction Writer in Residence, eight years and five publishing-contract extensions to finish his first book, A Civil Action (Random House, 1995). When it finally came out, his account of a Massachusetts town's legal showdown with industrial polluters won a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award—and spent two years on New York Times best-seller lists. In 1998 it became an Oscar-nominated movie.

At Rosenwald, Harr read a few scenes and vignettes from a partially written New Yorker article. This past fall he spent six weeks in eastern Chad, along the Darfurian border, where tens of thousands of people fleeing violence and genocide have settled into sprawling refugee camps. Harr talked to international aid workers from Africa and beyond, refugees living in a camp called Farchana, and missionaries and residents in towns nearby. The story he ended up with, he said, is "a jigsaw puzzle" that he's still trying to shape into a coherent whole. Every few weeks he receives an e-mail from his New Yorker editor: "Any progress?" Harr's answer so far: "It's not done yet."


Photos: Jonathan Harr (photo by Sandro Cutri); a refugee camp in eastern Chad.

May 16, 2008

Cast in stone


Growing up in Kenwood, young Walter Arnold roamed the University of Chicago campus to admire the gargoyles. Now, when Hyde Park visitors stroll by the Laboratory Schools' Kovler gymnasium or the Medici's facade—note the coffee-drinking and pizza-eating figures—they can see Arnold's stone-carved grotesques. As part of the annual Festival of the Arts—a ten-day, student-run event that transforms the campus into an art gallery and performance space—Arnold gave a talk in Bartlett on gargoyles, followed by a three-hour stone-carving demonstration on the main quads.

Arnold started sculpting in stone at age 12. At 20 he apprenticed in Italy, and upon his return to the States he worked for five years on the Washington (DC) National Cathedral before returning to Chicago to start a private studio and gallery in 1985. Spending part of each year in Italy and part at his Fox River Valley (Illinois) studio, Arnold often shares his craft with the U of C community: in 1993, for example, he demonstrated Egyptian carving techniques for almost 600 people during June's Oriental Institute/Smart Museum Family Day.

Festival of the Arts 2008 runs through Sunday.


Photos: Top: Walter Arnold whittles a grotesque in a stone-carving demonstration; his wife and business manager, Fely (bottom, in beige blazer), leads onlookers through a photographic tour of Arnold's work.

May 19, 2008

Fly marks the spot


Etched in each of the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s urinals, just to the left of the drain, is a black housefly, noted Richard Thaler Friday during the GSB’s 56th Annual Management Conference 2008 keynote address. The reason? It gives men a target. Since its introduction, restroom spillage has decreased 80 percent.

While dirty bathrooms may be a relatively minor issue, said Thaler, the Ralph and Dorothy Keller distinguished service professor of behavioral science and economics, the etching illustrates a "nudge," an environmental feature that attracts attention and spurs a particular behavior. In his new book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Yale University Press), he and his coauthor, longtime Law School professor Cass Sunstein (who's bound for Harvard this fall), argue for policies that guide people toward making decisions that serve their self-interest while preserving their ability to make a choice.

For instance, the book advocates that companies automatically enroll employees in retirement-savings plans unless they opt out. In companies that have such programs, enrollment has jumped 40 percent. “Humans are imperfect,” Thaler said. “We need all the help we can get. Choice is good … but the idea that people will always make the correct choice is ridiculous.”


Photo: The housefly etched in an Amsterdam airport urinal gives men a target.

May 21, 2008

Expanding rates


Even though the price of a first-class stamp rose to 42 cents in early May, you might want to consider buying some one-cent stamps—to use with the 41-cent stamp that honors U of C alumnus Edwin Hubble. Ninety-nine years after Hubble, SB'1910, PhD'17, helped the U of C capture a national basketball championship as a third-year physics major, and 85 years after he proved the existence of galaxies outside the Milky Way, the U. S. Postal Service unveiled a stamp in Hubble's honor in early March. At the astronomy & astrophysics department's weekly colloquium on April 30, James Mruk, public-affairs manager for the postal service's Great Lakes area, presented Rocky Kolb, the department's chair, with an oversized reproduction of the stamp, one in a series honoring four American scientists.

"Hubble’s accomplishments in the field of extragalactic astronomy make him the greatest American astronomer of the 20th century," Kolb told the gathering of faculty and students. "About the only thing Hubble didn’t do in astronomy is to construct the Hubble Space Telescope."

Hubble's discovery that the Andromeda Nebula was actually the Andromeda Galaxy profoundly changed cosmologists' understanding of the universe, and today no fewer than ten astronomical concepts bear his name. Perhaps most famous is the Hubble Constant, a measure describing the universe's age and expansion rate. After his studies at Chicago—where he not only played basketball but also was a gifted boxer and high jumper—he took a job at California's Mount Wilson Observatory, where he worked until his death in 1953.


Photos: The Edwin Hubble commemorative stamp; James Mruk (left) presents the stamp to Chicago astronomer Rocky Kolb.

Photos by Lloyd DeGrane.

May 23, 2008

The dig in the White City

Rusty nails, white plaster, and bits of glass: potentially dangerous debris to most of us, but this past Saturday such materials constituted buried treasure to a group of undergraduates excavating in Jackson Park near the Museum of Science and Industry. Conducting the first archaeological dig of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition site, the students may have found evidence of the buildings that formed the White City—and bottles of soda or beer that visitors consumed.

Back in a University lab, the students—taking part in the College's Chicago Studies Program—will further examine the artifacts, which also include bricks, ceramic pieces, and a streak of black soil that may be a foundation's decayed remnants. Teacher Rebecca Graff, AM'01, an urban-archaeology graduate student, is writing her dissertation on 19th-century American tourism habits and consumption, using the Columbian Exposition as her prime example.

Graff and the undergraduates hope to add to existing knowledge about the fair, which comes from photographs, pamphlets, and souvenirs. "We have the plans for the fair, for instance," she said, "but we don't have a map that shows exactly where the buildings were. This will give us some idea where they were actually built."

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Photos (left to right): Students dig right outside the Museum of Science and Industry; they arrange and record some of the recovered materials; this piece of glass may have been part of a tonic bottle.

Photos by Dan Dry.

May 28, 2008

Breath of fresh air

When The First Breeze of Summer premiered in 1975, it was the one of the first Broadway shows performed by an all-black cast. Since then few companies have produced it—"there simply aren’t enough venues that consistently produce African American playwrights," said playwright Leslie Lee in an interview with the Court Theatre's director of marketing and communications, Adam Thurman. But this spring the Court stepped up to the challenge.

In First Breeze, which runs through June 15, three generations of an African American family navigate racial and sexual boundaries. Gremmar (Pat Bowie), the family matriarch, looks back on her youth in the segregated South, where she was known as Lucretia (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams), and her affairs with three different men, including the white adopted son of her employer.

The Tony-nominated play is "semi-autobiographical," said Lee. "The character of Lou [played by Calvin Dutton] is loosely based on me. My grandmother had children by different men. It was a family secret that went hidden for years."

As the Court's 2007–08 season concludes, First Breeze continues the theater's tradition of "taking risks to make the theatre evening special," says director Ron OJ Parson in his director's note. Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones writes that, at the same time the play embraces the forced, obvious family conflicts of the typical 1970s sitcom, Parson also provides a "a richly complex experience that sparks a lot of different feelings in the viewer."


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Photos (left to right): Lucretia with one of her lovers, Sam Greene (Taj McCord); Gremmar (middle) with the family's minister, Reverend Mosely (wearing the suit), and Gremmar's son Milton Edwards (A.C. Smith); Milton and his wife Hattie (Jacqueline Williams).

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

May 30, 2008

The city that never sleeps


From the turn of the century through the 1930s painter John Sloan captured Manhattan’s mundane occurrences: a housewife hanging laundry out to dry, a couple sunbathing on their roof, a subway updraft lifting a woman’s skirt. Part of the Ashcan School of realist artists, Sloan based his work on observations—from the street and from his Greenwich Village studio’s windows.

The Smart Museum’s new exhibit Seeing the City presents that work alongside the artist’s diaries and letters to explore how Sloan made sense of his rapidly evolving city. In a 1922 diary entry about The City from Greenwich Village he wrote, “Looking south over lower Sixth Avenue from the roof of my Washington Place studio, on a winter evening. The distant lights of the great office buildings downtown are seen in the gathering darkness. The triangular loft building on the right had contained my studio for three years before. Although painted from memory it seems thoroughly convincing in its handling of light and space. The spot on which the spectator stands is now an imaginary point since all the buildings as far as the turn of the elevated have been removed, and Sixth Avenue has been extended straight down to the business district."

Curated by the Delaware Art Museum, the show is the first major traveling exhibition of Sloan's New York images. Seeing the City runs through September 14 at the Smart Museum, stopping next at Winston Salem, NC's Reynolda House Museum of American Art.


Photo: John Sloan, The City from Greenwich Village, 1922, Oil on canvas. Courtesy the Smart Museum of Art.

About May 2008

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in May 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2008 is the previous archive.

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