October 20, 2005
Vol. 25 No. 3

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    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/.

    Cass Sunstein, the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, was quoted in an article carried by the Associated Press newswire service Friday, Oct. 7. Sunstein commented on President Bush’s nomination of attorney Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor. Miers’ lack of judicial experience has stirred up controversy over the nomination, and Sunstein noted that she does not meet a standard set by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and, most recently, John Roberts. “She doesn’t have anything like the qualifications of recent nominees. They were exceptionally qualified, both by their judicial experience and experience before they were on the court. Those three were a whole different league of qualifications.” He added that Miers lacks the “conspicuous excellence” of these three justices.

    Writing an op-ed on the subject of the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination was Geoffrey Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, whose opinion piece was published in the Tuesday, Oct. 4 Chicago Tribune. Stone considers the Miers nomination nothing more than political favoritism. “From all appearances, this is rank cronyism. Other presidents have appointed their friends to the Supreme Court. But even the cronies were far more experienced and better qualified than Miers,” wrote Stone. Noting that the Court makes decisions on Americans’ fundamental freedoms, Stone wrote, “The goal is not just to vote, but to bring a high level of wisdom, experience, principle and intellect to the process of judging. It is no place for rank amateurs, especially rank amateurs with no record of relevant achievement.”

    Also penning an op-ed on the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination was Gerald Rosenberg, Associate Professor in Political Science and the College. His op-ed also appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 4 Chicago Tribune. Rosenberg wrote that during the confirmation hearings, the Senate has “a golden opportunity to think seriously about the proper role of the Supreme Court,” and rather than attempt to determine Miers’ views on hot-button issues, the senators should question her views on the role of the court in American society. Rosenberg noted that the Rehnquist court has been characterized as the most active Supreme Court in history, having “asserted expansive judicial power. Nothing in the Constitution,” added Rosenberg, “requires the U.S. Supreme Court to play such an active and influential political role.” He concluded that if the Senate ignores the fundamental issue of the court’s political role, that only “ensures that the next time a bare majority of the justices strikes down an act of Congress, our democratic process will be the loser and the Senate will have no one to blame but itself.”

    An expert on Rossini, Philip Gossett, the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor in Music and the College, was quoted in a Sunday, Oct. 2 Chicago Tribune article that featured tenor Juan Diego Flórez. The 32-year-old Flórez, considered by opera connoisseurs as a kind of successor to the 69-year-old Luciano Pavarotti , made his Chicago debut at the Lyric Opera in Rossini’s La Cenerentola earlier this month. In his young career, he has been described as having both vocal virtuosity and a charismatic stage presence. Gossett, noted in the article as the pre-eminent Rossini scholar, described Flórez as “a truly elegant singer, which is rare in any circumstances, but he also possesses physical as well as vocal nobility, and he’s absolutely right for Rossini.”

    Edward Laumann, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology and the College, was quoted in an article published in the Monday, Sept. 26 Chicago Sun-Times. The story reported on a federal study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which surveyed teens and adults about their sexual practices. Laumann, who has researched people’s sexual lives in earlier studies, commented on the importance of gathering such data. “People’s sex lives are intimately related to their emotional and physical well-being, and we can’t ignore that.”

    Bernard Harcourt, Professor in the Law School, was quoted in the Thursday, Sept. 29 Chicago Tribune. The story reported on opposition to the Streamlined Procedures Act, a bill that critics say would severely curtail the ability of prison inmates to appeal in federal court, and which has since been amended. Harcourt said, “This bill is going to keep innocent people out of federal court and send them to their executions or to stay in prison.” He said the bill defines innocence narrowly and raises obstacles to inmates who contend they were wrongly convicted. According to Harcourt and others, the original bill was meant to eliminate frivolous claims, and the amended version, written by Arlen Specter (R.Penn.), has made the rules “brick walls.”

    First-year Andrea Goldstein and second-year Zach Herz were interviewed for an article that appeared in the Sunday, Oct. 9 New York Times. The story reported on a steadily increasing interest in ancient languages, such as Latin and ancient Greek and classical literature. And teens are becoming a leading group to take up this interest, as organizations, such as the Junior Classical League and specialty Internet groups, gain new members. Many of these students promote the preservation of accuracy in adapting classical material into contemporary art forms. Goldstein, 18, is particularly critical of the 2004 movie Troy, starring Brad Pitt who portrayed Achilles. “On an absolute value scale of 10 to 10, this film gets a 7,” she wrote in her high school newspaper. “It’s like a train wreck: you stare in fascinated revulsion.” Second-year Herz described what he and many other young students get out of studying classical history and literature. “What the classics give you is an understanding of our culture as the last expression of forces that have been in play for thousands of years. It makes you a little bit more modest, makes you understand that you’re part of something big, of this great cultural thing that will go on after you’re dead and that started before you ever were born.”