April 29, 2004
Vol. 23 No. 15

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    In the News

    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/.

    Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Assistant Professor in Political Science, was featured in a Chicago Tribune Tempo section article published Tuesday, April 20, that described her research on African Americans’ political opinions and attitudes about American culture, and the places where they share those thoughts with each other. Her work culminated in her book, Barbershops, Bibles and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. “I am trying to give voice to ordinary black folks,” said Harris-Lacewell. “There is something important about saying these everyday, ordinary people and everyday places deserve the same kind of attention and scholarship that we give to the French Revolution and biophysics.” The article also quoted Harris-Lacewell’s colleague Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science and the College. “She is saying to the discipline that you have to broaden your understanding of where politics happens,” said Cohen. “She is suggesting there are multiple places where the social sciences can look to understand black public opinion.”

    Austan Goolsbee, Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Monday, April 12 New York Times. Goolsbee wrote that although Americans love rankings and use them for choosing restaurants to graduate schools, a problem with their validity can be found in a statistical analysis of them over a period of time. “The average person who uses these rankings may not understand basic statistics. If he did, he would know that even if all the right variables were included, once he got past the top spots, the distinctions between schools (or restaurants or places to retire) are often meaningless,” said Goolsbee. He described the U.S. News & World Report school rankings as being “extremely sensitive to small blips.”

    Members of the Law School faculty, Abner Mikva, Joseph Margulies and Geoffrey Stone, who have been trying to secure the constitutional rights of foreign detainees being held at the U.S. Navy prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were part of a story published Wednesday, April 21, in the Chicago Sun-Times. Mikva, Director and Senior Lecturer in the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the Law School, signed a friend-of-the-court brief with other former federal judges urging the Supreme Court to allow hearings for the detainees. Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, earlier filed a brief on behalf of Fred Korematsu, who had been imprisoned for refusing to cooperate with authorities during the internment of Japanese Americans at the time of World War II. Margulies, Visiting Lecturer and Trial Attorney in the MacArthur Justice Center at the Law School, is one of the lawyers representing the detainees. “In both this situation and Korematsu, the government in time of crisis has taken action against individuals that would violate their civil rights,” said Stone.

    Marvin Zonis, Professor of Business Administration in the Graduate School of Business, wrote an op-ed that was published Friday, April 9, in the Chicago Tribune. Zonis wrote that the violent uprisings in Iraq and the military’s actions to control the violence “show a disquieting parallel to the 1968 Tet offensive in the Vietnam war.” Zonis argued that the Tet offensive was a psychological blow to the American military in 1968; it turned the American public against the war; and resulted in Lyndon Johnson’s loss at the polls in the following presidential election. Zonis wrote that the Bush administration’s attempts to control the uprisings in Iraq would require sending more troops into the region; however, American troops already are spread too thin. “The Sunnis and many of the Shiites appear set to thwart the June 30 takeover by the Iraqi Governing Council or some other Iraqi authority,” wrote Zonis. “Their next goal will be to prevent the re-election of President Bush. Keep the 1968 Tet offensive in mind.”

    Two University professors were quoted in a front page Thursday, April 15 Chicago Tribune article about a recent study of chimpanzee behavior. Because chimps are genetically closer to humans than any other animal and because they also are part of complex social groups, observing their behavior offers a window into human behavior. Child psychologist Susan Levine, Professor in Psychology and the College, and primate researcher Dario Maestripieri, Associate Professor in the Committee on Human Development and the College, both commented on research by the University of Minnesota’s Elizabeth Vinson Lonsdorf, who observed young female and male chimps in Africa’s Gombe National Park. Lonsdorf found that young female chimps learn behaviors from their mothers, such as fishing for termites, earlier than young male chimps—and they learn the skill with the same exactness that their mothers display. “We know with human children that girls at an early age have superior fine motor skills. They are better at manipulating objects with their hands, and they learn to say first words a little earlier. The parts of the brain that control hand movement and speech sounds are very close together,” said Levine.

    News reports about University scientists’ analysis of a meteorite that hit the village of Park Forest, Ill., on March 26, 2003, were broadcast on WBBM-TV Channel 2 News and carried by the United Press International newswires earlier this month. The researchers, including Lawrence Grossman, Professor in Geophysical Sciences, and Steven Simon, Senior Research Associate in Geophysical Sciences, determined that the meteorite weighted at least 1,900 pounds before it broke up in the atmosphere. Their study is published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.