April 13, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 14

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    Committee on the Future of International House formed to hear, respond to concerns

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    In a letter sent via e-mail to faculty and students, President Sonnenschein announced the appointment of a Committee on the Future of International House.

    The committee was formed in response to concerns over the future of the residential community in the wake of the decision to close the International House building as a student residence on June 30.

    “I appointed this committee to solicit the widest possible range of opinions from people who have concerns about the continuing vitality of the International House community,” said Sonnenschein. “The committee members are listening to the ideas of all interested parties with regard to the future of this community.

    “This process may have been less painful if the University community had received opportunities to express their views earlier,” Sonnenschein added. “But the committee now exists for just that reason, and I am confident its members are listening with very open minds.”

    Richard Franke, University Trustee, and Edward Cook, Associate Professor in History and Secretary of the International House Board of Governors, are Co-chairs of the committee.

    “We have a desire to speak with anyone who feels strongly about giving us input. We are limited by a short time frame, but we are making ourselves available to listen,” said Franke. “We care, and we are very serious about bringing together the disparate voices. Whether their concerns are architectural, financial or programmatic, everyone has an opportunity to express themselves.”

    Sonnenschein has asked the committee to:

    • Consider the role within the University of International House programs, including residential alternatives and services for international students

    • Recommend an appropriate plan for meeting the long-term needs of those programs

    • Suggest strategies for maintaining the International House programs during a transitional period

    “The programming and the residence of International House are integrated, and so we are trying to find out, for example, whether it is better to renovate the present building or to seek another building,” said Cook, noting that the committee function is not to challenge the June 30 closing but to consider the longer term. “Through the committee, we are giving those people who are upset by these changes a constructive process for channeling their concerns. Anyone can come and talk to us.”

    Other committee members include Stan Christianson, president of the International House Board; Andreas Glaeser, Assistant Professor in Sociology; Neil Harris, the Preston & Sterling Morton Professor in History; Rashid Khalidi, Professor in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and History and Director of the Center for International Studies; Russell Miller, doctoral student; Kamal Sadiq, doctoral student; Steven Stigler, the Ernest DeWitt Burton Distinguished Service Professor in Statistics; Lorna Straus, Professor in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division and Organismal Biology & Anatomy and member of the International House Board; and Paula Wolff, University Trustee and Chairwoman of the University Hospitals & Health Systems Board of Trustees.

    Hank Webber, Vice President of Community Affairs, is staffing the committee.

    Interviews have been scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. The committee expects to have met with approximately 100 people by the end of this week.

    Franke said the committee also has contacted the individuals who have assisted in the decision-making process for International House.

    Modern when it first graced the Midway in 1932, I-House––as it is often referred to on campus––was built with funds provided by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and offered housing and activities to international students, staff and visitors.

    Unlike the perennial youth of the building’s residents––graduate students who move onto their careers are replaced by new student residents––the building itself has continued to age and must undergo a major renovation if it is to reopen under any circumstances after June 30.

    Franke noted that the committee’s process, which has no predetermined outcome for what should happen to the building and its programming, allows its members “to determine where we are now and that, in turn, will allow us to go back to the President with what we think he should be considering.”

    To contact the committee, please call (773) 834-3534 or send e-mail to ihouse-future@orgs.uchicago.edu.