November 17, 2005
Vol. 25 No. 5

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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/. News clips may be sent to ldavis@uchicago.edu.

    J. Mark Hansen, Dean of the Social Sciences Division and the Charles L. Hutchison Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science and the College, was interviewed for a Q&A piece published in the online edition of The Wall Street Journal Friday, Oct. 28, following the indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former Chief of Staff and assistant for National Security Affairs to Vice President Dick Cheney, for his role in the leaked identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The piece addressed the scandal and its effects on the Bush administration as well as the effects of earlier presidential scandals that occurred during the Clinton, Reagan and Nixon administrations. Asked how past presidents handled situations similar to that of President Bush’s, Hansen said: “Traditionally, presidents have dealt with scandal by focusing on foreign policy. But for this particular president, that might be tougher. The options in foreign policy are enormously constrained by what is going on in Iraq. So I don’t know if he can look elsewhere to deal with the difficulty of advancing his domestic agenda.” The scandal’s impact on Bush’s legacy depends on the outcome in Iraq, added Hansen. “This case is a piece of the Iraq puzzle and what he has done is cast an even more intense spotlight on the circumstances of how that intervention was planned and sold to the American public.”

    Cass Sunstein, the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor and the Fried Teaching Scholar in the Law School, Political Science and the College, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 1, Washington Post. Sunstein studied the more than 240 opinions of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito’s judicial record, noting that, “the most illuminating may well be his 41 dissentsÑopinions that he has written by himself, rejecting the views of his colleagues.” Sunstein outlined many of Alito’s dissents, such as when “a local zoning board imposed land-use restrictions on a Hindu temple. The court ruled that the restrictions were arbitrary and unlawful. Alito concluded that they were legitimate.” In another case, “two parents brought a wrongful death action against a college, arguing that the risk to their son from an athletic event was foreseeable. Alito concluded that the facts on which the parents relied were ‘insufficient.’” In conclusion, Sunstein noted, “it is possible to learn a lot by seeing where a judge dissents from his colleagues. On issues that divide people along political lines, he has rarely been more liberal than his colleagues. But on numerous occasions, he has been more conservative.”

    Sir Peter Crane, current head of the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in England, former vice president of academic affairs and director of the Field Museum, and former Professor in Geophysical Sciences and Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology at Chicago, will return to the University as the Marion and John Sullivan Professor in Geophysical Sciences and the College in July. Crane’s return to the University was featured in stories that appeared in the Saturday, Nov. 5, Chicago Sun-Times and the Monday, Nov. 7, Chicago Tribune. David Rowley, Chairman of Geophysical Sciences, said of Crane’s appointment: “Peter is among the top evolutionary paleobiologists and biologists in the world. He simply brings an expertise in plants that is unmatched by anyone.”

    Angela Olinto, Professor and Chair of Astronomy & Astrophysics, commented in the Thursday, Nov. 10, Chicago Tribune on the Auger Observatory in Argentina and its search for the source of cosmic rays that collide with molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, producing energies similar those that existed following the big bang. “We want to understand how nature reaches these energies. The energies of the particles that we’ll be observing with this detector are millions of times more powerful than we can produce with particle accelerators on Earth. In principle these particles will give us the possibility of testing physics that we can’t test in our laboratories. What happened at the beginning of the universe is the same that you could try to probe by reaching higher and higher energies.” The idea for this large cosmic ray observatory was initiated by James Cronin, University Professor Emeritus in Physics and the College.

    Locke Bowman, Lecturer and Director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the Law School, who is representing Ramon Ayala in a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department, described in the Thursday, Nov. 3, Chicago Sun-Times the department’s new policy of telling witnesses they have a right to leave during questioning as “too little, too late.” Ayala alleges in the case that police held him against his will for two days because they thought he had witnessed a murder. Bowman said the department should be barred from forcing witnesses to go to police stations for questioning and barred from holding witnesses against their will.

    The research of David Galenson, Professor in Economics and the College, was described in a Wednesday, Nov. 2, Financial Times article that explored his theories and those of the polymath physicist Theodore Modis. Both scholars have studied the cycles of creativity in the lives of artists using the tools of their respective fields of study. Galenson challenged a long-held belief by art historians that “creativity cannot be quantified” and found “clear and systematic patterns in the lives of art’s geniuses.” The results of his study were published in a 2001 journal paper and the subsequent book, Painting Outside the Lines. His latest work on the subject will be published in 2006 in Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity. Galenson has concluded that artists are either experimental innovators, whose masterpieces typically come later in their lives, or conceptual innovators, who formulate new ideas at an early age and produce their best work while young.

    Michael Conzen, Professor and Chairman of Geographical Studies, was interviewed for a short feature on Chicago’s alleys in the Chicago Tribune’s Tuesday, Nov. 8, Tempo section. Conzen, who lives in Hyde Park, noted that he likes the alley behind his home, and said alleys are where “the routine aspect of daily life in all its cultural richness takes place,” noting that much can be learned by surveying such spaces. Pointing to one neighbor’s lot, Conzen noted, “You could read all sorts of social geography into the fact that these people have their fence all the way out to the edge of the property. They grabbed as much as they possibly could.”

    The Washington Post interviewed Supreme Court historian Dennis Hutchinson, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the College and Lecturer in the Law School, for a story that reported on Samuel Alito’s nomination to the court. If confirmed, Alito would add to the court a fifth justice who practices the Catholic faith. Hutchinson discussed how a majority of justices who practice Catholicism would not necessarily create either a conservative or liberal majority because religious affiliation has had little influence on the court’s decisions. “We’ve learned that Catholics can be conservative or liberal, and that in terms of judges, ideology trumps any sort of presumption about church doctrineÑand that’s true whether the justice is a Protestant, a Catholic or a Jew.”

    Two University students, second-years Padraic Bartlett and Mariel Fernandez, were quoted in a Saturday, Oct. 15, New York Times article that described how many colleges and universities have peer ministers who serve as spiritual counselors for fellow students they live with in campus dormitories. Both students are affiliated with the University’s Episcopal group based in Brent House. “Being a peer minister here isn’t about tallying up baptisms or proselytizing the incoming freshman on the way to chem lab. We don’t bellow, Cotton-Mather-style, the perils of damnation at our classmates,” said Bartlett. More commonly, the article noted, peer ministers lend an open ear to classmates who are discovering their spirituality.