Nov. 7, 2002
Vol. 22 No. 4

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    Chicago Society forums encourage interaction

    By Carrie Golus
    News Office

    Members of Chicago Society (left to right) Jamie Stevens, President, Ian Desai, Chief Executive, and Alonso Bustamante, Vice President, are bringing together students and faculty in a forum setting to engage in discussions. There goal is to cover a diverse range of topics that reach across all of the disciplines at the University.

    Earlier this year, more than 500 students crammed into Hutchinson Commons to hear three highly respected scholars–John Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science; Rashid Khalidi, Professor in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations; and Charles Lipson, Associate Professor in Political Science–debate the possibility of war in Iraq.

    The teach-in, organized by the Chicago Undergraduate Political Science Association, was co-sponsored by Chicago Society, a new and active student organization. According to its mission statement, Chicago Society “seeks to promote interaction and exchange between our University’s students and the most intelligent, vital and influential figures in the American academic and political worlds.”

    The group’s motto, adapted from the first line of Plato’s Phaedrus, “My friend, where have you been, and where are you going?” demonstrates not only the members’ inquisitiveness but also their desire to connect with others to solve problems.

    “Our goal is both to give students access to the most dynamic thinkers in the academy as well as to provide a basis for improving student-faculty relationships at the University,” said third-year Ian Desai, the group’s executive director.

    “By bringing such people together, we hope to achieve a more comprehensive and meaningful understanding of the problems facing the globe as well as closer knowledge of each other.”

    Tonight at 8 p.m. in Hutchinson Commons, Chicago Society will sponsor a panel discussion on economics, politics, terrorism and corruption in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world. Speakers include Indonesian presidential candidate Sjahrir, Professor Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University and Professor Dwight King of Northern Illinois University.

    The Chicago Society members are anticipating a turnout of 300 people.

    Chicago Society, which became a recognized student organization in May, was founded last spring by Desai and third-year Jamie Stevens, the group’s president. Directed by a board of 10 undergraduate students, Chicago Society also has several faculty advisers, including Allen Sanderson, Senior Lecturer in Economics and the College, and Douglas MacAyeal, Professor in Geophysical Sciences and the College.

    “Basically, we started the organization to fill a certain gap that I found to be missing from my Chicago experience,” said Stevens. As a second-year, he worked with the World Conference Group to organize a panel featuring Brunson McKinley, former ambassador to Haiti; Ivan Eland of the Cato Institute; and Mearsheimer.

    Stevens found the opportunity to converse with these three accomplished individuals one that all University students should have available to them. “I realized that experiences like that were lacking from the general set of experiences at the University. My personal goal is to bring this type of open discussion to everyone possible.”

    While many of the events so far have been political in nature, “Chicago Society’s ultimate goal is to connect students and faculty from every and all disciplines,” said Desai. “Our scope is as broad as all of the fields at this institution.”

    Later this quarter, the group plans to sponsor an event on the global water crisis, led by MacAyeal, who also is helping the group shape a series of programs on the sciences. In addition, Chicago Society is collaborating with the Human Rights Program on a conference, which will be held in Winter Quarter, about Columbia’s role in global security policy. Another proposed event is a series on South Asia, exploring such issues as the population explosion, the HIV/AIDS crisis and the struggle over Kashmir.

    For more information on Chicago Society, visit http://chicagosociety.uchicago.