May 11, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 16

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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/. If you are aware of news articles that feature the University or its faculty, students and/or alumni, feel free to bring them to the attention of the Chronicle editor to be considered for In the News. News clips may be sent to ldavis@uchicago.edu.

    New research by the University’s Daniel Margoliash, Professor in Anatomy & Organismal Biology, and Howard Nusbaum, Chairman of Psychology and Professor in Psychology and the College, conducted on European starlings has revealed that these birds are capable of distinguishing between patterns of complex sounds. The research team found similarities between the way humans create new and grammatically correct meanings by inserting words and clauses in sentences—a characteristic called center-embedding or recursion—and the way European starlings can accomplish the same language organization task. The birds were trained to distinguish between two sets of bird songs and were found to be capable of distinguishing between different patterns even when presented with entirely new sequences of sounds. “We don’t claim that starlings are talking to each other the way humans do,” said Margoliash in the Thursday, April 27 Chicago Tribune. “We understand that language is remarkable and unique. But we now have a good animal model for the first time to investigate language at a neurophysiological and neurobiological level.” Articles on the research, which University of California, San Diego, professor Timothy Gentner led, also were published in the Thursday, April 27 Chicago Sun-Times and the Tuesday, May 2 New York Times.

    Locke Bowman, Lecturer and Director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the Law School, was featured in a profile that appeared in the Thursday, April 20 Chicago Tribune. Through the center’s resources, Bowman has fought many legal battles in an attempt to right some of the wrongs that have occurred in Illinois’ criminal justice system; including the cases of Darrell Cannon, who allegedly was tortured into making a false confession, and Corethian Bell, who, after serving 18 months in prison, was released when DNA revealed another person had committed the crime. Bowman also has challenged death penalty law; gunmakers and distributors; the poor treatment of mentally ill inmates at Tamms Correctional Center; Chicago Police Department practices in holding witnesses for questioning; and the government’s denial of court access for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay military base. Described as fierce in a courtroom, yet humble about his accomplishments, Bowman credits others who guided him toward civil rights law. His colleague, Joseph Margulies, Lecturer in the MacArthur Justice Center in the Law School, noted about Bowman: “There are plenty of egomaniacs in this work, and ego takes the place of monetary reward in progressive causes, but Locke’s not like that. He deserves a much bigger ego than he has.”

    Cheng Chin, Assistant Professor in Physics and the College, was photographed and featured in a Chicago Sun-Times column that appeared Wednesday, April 19. Chin discussed current research he and other physicists conducted that resulted in a surprising discovery. Working with ultracold temperatures in a vacuum chamber, the team was able to convert three atoms into a new state of matter. The new state of matter behaves like the Borromean ring, a symbol of three interlocking circles that is used in physics, chemistry and mathematics. “This ring means that three objects are entangled. If you pick up any of them, the other two will follow,” Chin said. “However, if you cut any one of them off, the other two will fall apart. There is something magic about this number of three.”

    Edward Snyder, Dean of the Graduate School of Business and the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Economics in the GSB, was quoted in a Friday, April 28 story published in the Chicago Tribune. Snyder commented on Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who visited campus Wednesday, April 26, and spoke at the GSB. Klaus, who considers Milton Friedman, the Paul Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Economics, a major influence, has moved the Czech Republic to a market economy, and he views Brussels’ influence on business in the European Union member states as too regulatory. Snyder praised Klaus for his determination in moving toward the market economy. “What I think is remarkable about Mr. Klaus’ leadership is that he had the foresight to move quickly,” said Snyder.

    Cass Sunstein, the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, was quoted in a Chronicle of Higher Education article that reported on how the media often use as sources a select group of university professors across the country for their expertise in their fields. Sunstein, who is one of the most quoted and interviewed sources for both broadcast and print news outlets, recalled the time he got his dog, Perry, on CNN. Sunstein agreed to do yet another interview—after the many he had already done about the Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton scandal—only if his Rhodesian Ridgeback could appear with him. CNN complied and Perry appeared on the news program with Sunstein. “He was a big TV star,” said Sunstein, and the experience was “the highlight of my television career.” Wonbo Woo, a producer for ABC’s World News Tonight said he calls Sunstein often because of his thoughtful approach to sharing information about the law with an audience that does not necessarily understand it. Sunstein is, said Woo, “ideologically balanced” and “not easy to dismiss.” The article also quoted Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School.

    The research of Jill Mateo, Assistant Professor in Comparative Human Development, was featured on the television program Animal Planet on Wednesday, April 26. Mateo studies squirrel behavior and has discovered that they use smell as a means of recognition among themselves.

    A study on Chicago Public Schools graduates that was released by the University’s Consortium for Chicago School Research was the subject of several newspaper articles and television and radio news reports that appeared Friday, April 21. Co-author Melissa Roderick, Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, and a research team found that of the 80 percent of CPS students who say they expect to graduate from a four-year college, only one third enroll in a four-year college within a year of high school graduation. And only 35 percent of those who do enroll receive a bachelor’s degree within six years. The study revealed that low grades and low test scores in high school are creating significant barriers for college-bound students. African-American and Latino boys have lower test scores and grades than other students with 50 percent having grade point averages of no more than 2.0. “Clearly, high schools are not engaging boys in ways to get them the grades they need,” said Roderick in the Chicago Sun-Times. Co-authoring the study with Roderick were Jenny Nagoaka and Elaine Allensworth. News reports on the study were reported by WBBM-AM, WBEZ-FM and WGN-AM radio stations; WMAQ-TV-Channel 5; the Chicago Tribune and Education Week.

    Bernard Harcourt, Professor in the Law School, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Thursday, April 20 Los Angeles Times in which he argues that the “broken windows” theory of crime prevention is not convincingly supported by any evidence and is a waste of money. A meeting of police chiefs from major U.S. cities was convening the same day the op-ed was published. Harcourt, whose own research measured the effectiveness of the theory—cracking down on misdemeanor crimes, such as graffiti writing, and other forms of public disorder deters violent crimes—urged top police officials to reconsider implementing this method of policing. Los Angeles, Calif., Police Chief William Bratton, a strong supporter of broken windows policing, has criticized the academic studies that have shown the theory’s ineffectiveness and has claimed those doing the studies have an anti-cop bias. “The question the top cops need to address at their San Francisco meeting is how to allocate scarce street-crime-fighting dollars in a new policing environment that is focused more and more on international terrorism. The answer to this question is clear—and it has nothing to do with graffiti, trash removal or being anti-cop,” wrote Harcourt.

    Susan Gzesh, Director of the Human Rights Program and Senior Lecturer in the College & the Center for International Studies, was recently interviewed for a news reports on the pending U.S. immigration legislation. Gzesh appeared as a guest on WBEZ-FM radio’s World View program Tuesday, April 4, to discuss U.S. immigration legislation and policy in the context of U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations. During the month of April, Gzesh also appeared several times on Chicago’s Univision TV-Channel 44 as a legal commentator on the pending legislation, and discussed immigration policy on WGN’s Extension 720 radio talk show on Monday, May 1.

    Albert Alschuler, the Julius Kreeger Professor in the Law School, was quoted in a Chicago Sun-Times Friday, April 21 story about former Gov. George Ryan’s lawyers and their search for criminal records on jurors who served for the Ryan trial. The controversy that began when U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer dismissed one juror from the case, has spurred Ryan’s lawyers to look into the past for negative information on other jurors they had wanted excluded. “It is a game that somebody ought to put a stop to—trying to get dirt on jurors,” said Alschuler. “We shouldn’t be asking about 40-year-old arrests. Why do we need it? So these lawyers can play all of these strategic games?”

    Abner Mikva, Lecturer in the Law School, was interviewed by WLS-TV-ABC-Channel 7 about the latest jury revelations in the wake of former Gov. George Ryan’s conviction on multiple corruption charges. Mikva said: “People are guaranteed a fair trial; not a perfect one.”