Mar. 6, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 11

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    The Chronicle’s biweekly column In the News offers a digest of commentary and quotations by a few of the University faculty members, students and alumni who have been headlining the news in recent weeks. Chicago faculty members are some of the most frequently quoted experts, so space allows publishing references to only selected examples. To read many of the full newspaper articles mentioned in this column, visit the In the News column at the University News Office Web site: http://www-news.uchicago.edu/.

    President Randel was quoted in stories published Thursday, Feb. 20, in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, which reported on the University and other higher education institutions filing a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the University of Michigan college admissions legal case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Chicago was joined by Harvard, Yale and Princeton universities in filing the brief, which supports the right of universities to take race–among many other characteristics–into consideration in admissions processes. “The modern world requires that people of fundamentally different intellectual and cultural perspectives be capable of engaging one another productively,” said Randel. “A university education that fails to take account of this is a dismal failure.” More than 300 organizations have filed more than 60 briefs in Michigan’s favor, asking the Court to continue to permit universities to take race into account in admissions processes.

    Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and the College, was interviewed for a story that appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 25 New York Times. The story described how “nature vs. nurture, genes vs. the environment, culture vs. biology or evolution vs. social construction,” are dichotomies that many researchers believe make no sense, because to explain human nature, or any animal behavior, requires multiple interactions–such as DNA’s reliance on proteins, and proteins’ reliance on cells, for instance. McClintock, who has done research on rat reproduction, said: “There’s a constant back and forth between genes and the environment. It’s important to remember that genes came to be what they are solely because of their capacity to interact with the environment and make the right products in response to the environment.”

    Geoffrey Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, wrote an op-ed that was published Sunday, Feb. 16, in the Chicago Tribune. Stone wrote about a threat to Americans’ civil liberties during wartime (See story, Page 1), a topic he tackles in a new book to be published in 2004. Drawing on events in America’s history, including the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Espionage Act (1919-1920) of the Wilson administration and Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 issued in 1942–which sent more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps–Stone cautioned against harsh reactions that restrict citizens’ civil liberties during times of war and national emergencies. In most cases in the past, he noted, it was only in hindsight that the government recognized its mistakes and followed them with public apologies and reparations. “It is much easier to look back on past crises and find our predecessors wanting than it is to make wise judgments when we ourselves are in the eye of the storm. But that challenge now falls to us.”

    Charles Lipson, Associate Professor in Political Science and the College, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 13 Chicago Sun-Times. Lipson described the tense situation involving the United States, Iraq and the United Nations’ weapons inspections in Iraq and how the situation has played out internationally, as the United States prepares to go to war with Iraq. “It is unclear, in the end, whether France and Russia will oppose the United States despite their hot rhetoric. They hope to avoid war, but, unlike Germany, neither has actually slammed the door shut,” wrote Lipson.

    Diane Chaney, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Emergency Medicine Section, was quoted in a story published in the Chicago Tribune Tuesday, Feb. 18, following the deaths of 21 Chicagoans in a nightclub stampede. The story covered the medical aspects of the tragedy and others like it that began with panic and ended with people being suffocated by the pressure and force of the crowd. “You don’t get oxygen to the brain, and you lose consciousness. You can also get an irregular heart rhythm, and that degenerates,” said Chaney, describing the physical damage that can occur when a person is in such a situation.

    In an op-ed published Wednesday, Feb. 19, in the Los Angeles Times Internet publication, Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor in the Divinity School, described the “just-war tradition” and how it originated with such figures as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. Elshtain wrote that just-war thinkers agonized over the use of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which President Harry Truman did engage after concluding that fewer lives would be lost using the atomic bomb than in invading the Japanese mainland. “It was an understandable decision, but the burden of just-war thinking–now as then–is that use of nuclear weapons against civilian targets is illegitimate. I know of no just-war thinker who believes it was right to kill several hundred thousand Japanese civilians to end the war and thus possibly spare more lives. The known carnage clearly outweighed the hypothetical good,” she wrote. Elshtain also wrote that a strong case could be made to support the U.S. attack on Iraq, but that military leaders must build in restraints on the means they use in such an attack.

    Dietrich Müller, Professor in Physics, was interviewed for a Saturday, Feb. 1 WLS-TV newscast about the pros and cons of sending humans into space to conduct research. Some of his own research was conducted aboard a previous space shuttle mission.

    Ann McGill, Deputy Dean of Full-time MBA Programs and the Sears Roebuck Professor of General Management, Marketing and Behavioral Science in the GSB, was quoted in a Friday, Feb. 14 Chicago Tribune story that reported on business schools’ newest ways of incorporating ethics into their curricula. “Everybody is debating [the best ways to teach ethics],” said McGill. “It’s best that schools are trying different ways.”

    McGuire Gibson, Professor in the Oriental Institute and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, was quoted in a story reported in The New York Times Tuesday, Feb. 25 regarding the physical threat and probable damage to archaeological sites in Iraq that a war in the region would bring. The story reported that Pentagon officials invited archaeologists to meet with military planners and share information about locations of ancient Mesopotamian ruins, which exist throughout Iraq. “We’ve gone about as far as we can go,” said Gibson, who met with officials. “We reminded them that there are no natural hills in southern Iraq, and if you see a hill, in most cases it’s the mound of a buried ancient settlement.”