May 29, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 17

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    Chicago in the News

    The Chronicle’s biweekly column Chicago 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://news.uchicago.edu.

    Economics institute sparks interest
    The Wall Street Journal announced the University’s plans to establish the $200 million Milton Friedman Institute for the study of economics in a Thursday, May 15 story. The center is named for the longtime University professor and Nobel Prize winner, who died in 1976 at age 94. It aims to encourage interaction among scholars in different area of economics and related disciplines and aid recruitment and retention of faculty. Edward Snyder, Dean of the Graduate School of Business, said “that’s going to be an important factor, for people to say, ‘That’s where I want to be, this is the center of the universe for economics.’” The announcement also appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and foxbusiness.com.

    Professor votes against park move
    A University professor was one of only two dissenters in the City Council’s vote on a proposed $100 million Children’s Museum in Grant Park, a debate which was reported Friday, May 16 in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Preservationists argue that the proposal violates legal precedent barring certain structures in the park. Doris Holleb, Professorial Lecturer Emerita in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division, said she didn’t like the location’s distance from public transportation. “It’s too far for tots to walk, it can only be approached comfortable on rubber wheels,” Holleb said. The council determined, though, that the proposal met zoning and lakefront protection requirements.

    Michael Dawson

    Game imitates life, but it’s not art
    The Root published a Thursday, May 15 article written by Michael Dawson, the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science and the College, examining the video game, Grand Theft Auto IV, as art. Dawson, a longtime gamer who fondly recalls the “Star Trek” strategy games from the 1970s, teaches a popular course on “Democracy and the Information Technology Revolution.” He found that despite Grand Theft Auto IV’s attempt to tone down racial stereotypes, it maintained misogynistic overtones and an absence of consequences. He concluded that “because great storytelling generally involves moral choice and the consequences that follow from one course of action over another, [Grand Theft Auto IV], no matter how magnificently realized, cannot be considered art.”

    Students dig deep at Fair site
    Rebecca Graff, a graduate student specializing in American urban archaeology, has been leading a class of 20 undergraduates into Jackson Park to excavate a portion the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. The Chicago Tribune covered the project in an article on Sunday, May 18, detailing Graff’s hopes for examining the tourist experience through the buried remains of the six-month fair. “This was an event that introduced to the world many long-standing products, like Wrigley Juicy Fruit chewing gum, Aunt Jemima pancakes, Vienna Beef hot dogs, Cracker Jack. But we know peddlers were also sneaking their goods into the fairgrounds all of the time, and maybe we will see some of those things too,” she said. The article also quoted Shannon Dawdy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the College. The Daily Herald also reported on the project.

    Economists tackle mortgage crisis
    Amir Sufi, Assistant Professor in Finance in the Graduate School of Business, told economists at a recent Federal Reserve conference in Chicago that the mortgage crisis in America was the result of money being handed out more freely in lower-income areas. The story appeared in the Thursday, May 1 U.S. News and World Report. He drew on a paper he authored with Atif Mian, Associate Professor in Finance in the GSB, that tracked lending by ZIP codes, Sufi said those risky loans forced home prices to rise artificially—more so in lower-income areas than affluent ones. He compared several South Side working-class areas to affluent Wilmette and Lincoln Park. “In 1996, a lot of people applied and couldn’t get loans. All of a sudden, in 2001 to 2005, a large number in the same ZIP codes could get mortgages.”

    Food stamps a ‘social safety net’
    Food stamp use has hit record levels in Illinois, but it isn’t all bad news because many people who need help are actually getting it, said Evelyn Brodkin, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration. “It’s a reminder that economic shifts can spread vulnerability everywhere, and it’s a reminder of the crucial need for a social safety net,” Brodkin said. According to the Friday, May 16 Chicago Tribune, 1.3 million people in Illinois are relying on the program. The increased demand has thinned local pantry inventories, as people have donated less due to tightening spending habits. A total of 592,390 households in Illinois received food stamps in March, up 3.7 percent from March 2007.

    Study finds curative power of mind
    A University study on the power of placebos was the subject of an editorial in the Sunday, May 11 Chicago Tribune. Researchers reported that nearly half of Chicago doctors responding to a survey reported they handed out dummy pills or other placebo treatments because patients believe placebos will work by harnessing the body’s natural power to heal. One of the study’s authors, Rachel Sherman, a fourth-year medical student, found that “division between mind and body is not distinct, that they’re inherently interrelated and a placebo is a way to trigger this relationship.”

    Alum draws on Chicago past
    History writer, blogger and University alum Rick Perlstein (A.B.,’92), whose work renewed scholarship on the 1960s, was the subject of a Saturday, May 17 article in the Chicago Tribune. Perlstein came to Chicago in 1988 to study history and joined the proud leftist intellectual crowd, including Thomas Frank, and began writing for The Baffler. Perlstein said he owes many of his ideas about the ’60s to his experience in Hyde Park. “We had fun tweaking the Chicago School, but it was really enriching to be in an ideologically diverse environment,” he said. Perlstein and his newest book, Nixonland, also were the subject of stories in the L.A. Times, The New York Times and Chicago Reader.

    Healing AIDS, HIV
    A Sunday, May 11 article in Chicago Tribune Magazine detailed the struggles of a generation growing up with HIV and how the University Comer Children’s Hospital and the University Medical Center helped many patients get well. Linda Walsh, Nurse in Infectious Diseases, said patients are “often are left to handle their HIV on their own and carry around this unseen burden that most people don’t know about.” The article features a number of teens who were among the 6,000 or so in the United States to receive the AIDS virus from their mothers at birth. With advances in prescription drugs and treatment programs, the number of babies born with the disease are dropping and those with the disease are living normal lives. John Marcinak, Associate Professor in Infectious Diseases, at the University, also was quoted in the story.