Feb. 15, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 10

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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://www-news.uchicago.edu/.

    Black youth raise red flags

    A national study of black youths’ opinions, attitudes and beliefs about a number of political and cultural issues—led by Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science and the College—was the foundation for an article that examined the opinions of some local youths about rap and hip hop music. The article, published in the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday, Feb. 1, found that while 58 percent of black youth listen to rap music daily and nearly half watch music videos, a majority of them also believe the videos contain too much sex and violence, and portray African-American females “in bad and offensive ways.” “At one point, we asked, ‘Why don’t you just stop listening to it?’ And they said, ‘Well, there’s not much else. This is what’s been given to us,’” said Cohen, principal investigator. The Associated Press also reported on the Black Youth Project survey results and quoted Cohen. In it, she noted that young people’s views about the government and how they, as young African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities, believe discrimination holds them back from achieving their highest potential. “It’s a red flag, prompting us to talk about what needs to happen in this country to bring about true equality for young people in general, and especially vulnerable young people,” said Cohen. The Washington Times, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Defender and the Chicago Tribune also reported on the study.

    Medical morality

    Farr Curlin, Assistant Professor in Medicine, and John Lantos, Professor in Pediatrics and Medicine, co-authors of a recently published ethics study, were photographed and interviewed for a Thursday, Feb. 8 Chicago Tribune article. The study, surveyed 1,144 doctors about whether their personal beliefs and value systems affect their medical decisions and advice to patients concerning legal but controversial procedures. Fourteen percent of physicians saw no obligation to discuss such controversial options as birth control for minors, abortion or sedation of a dying patient. “Patients have to be aware that they may not get all the information or treatments they’re legally due,” said Lantos. Added Curlin, “Even after we controlled for religious characteristics, women physicians were substantially more likely to say doctors must give all the information and refer patients for controversial procedures.” The story also appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times and was covered again in the Sun-Times with follow-up responses from readers.

    Considering good inequality

    Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics and the Graduate School of Business, was interviewed for National Public Radio’s program All Things Considered, which aired Thursday, Feb. 8., on the subject of economic inequality in America. Becker explained that inequality in earnings is not necessarily negative, if one considers that more rewards go to individuals with more education, more skills and more ability to create value in the world. And while some people do get left behind, some poor people also learn that in order to get ahead, they need to acquire more skills and education, which is directly positive for society overall, said Becker. “It’s unfair, but I mean, it’s the accident of birth, the accident of the genes we have, the accident of parents we have. It is unfair,” he said.

    Window of opportunity

    Edward Snyder, Dean of the Graduate School of Business and the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Economics in the GSB, was quoted in a Reuters newswire story published by MSNBC Sunday, Jan. 28. The article described how increasing consumer and corporate awareness about energy consumption in the United States is creating conditions that “appear to be ripe for policy change.” Snyder said the government could take advantage of a short window of opportunity—10 months until the 2008 presidential election cycle is in full swing—to make policy changes. “There may be some common ground between the Republican White House and the Democratically controlled Congress, and energy policy is an area where they seem to have some runway,” Snyder said. “The political consensus is coming together, but we’re still a ways away from good policy,” said Snyder, who wants to see a carbon tax. “Tax it, and let the market work.”

    Panel of Six Tiles, ca. 1540, Iznik, Turkey

    For the 'love of ornament'

    The “love of ornament” is expressed in the Smart Museum of Art’s latest exhibition of Islamic art, “Cosmophilia: Islamic Art from the David Collection, Copenhagen.” The collection of 123 objects is a natural fit on the Chicago campus, because of the University’s strong academic reputation for near Eastern studies, said Time Out Chicago in an article on Thursday, Feb. 1. “There is a lot of academic expertise we can tap into to enrich the show further,” said Anne Leonard, curator of the exhibition’s installation at the Smart Museum. One of the show’s centerpieces will be an April symposium for international scholars.

    Balancing dissent, majority votes

    Geoffrey Stone, the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School and the College, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 6 Chicago Tribune. Responding to a comment made by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a recent Chicago appearance, Stone argued that Roberts’ idea of a well-functioning Supreme Court—one that decides cases narrowly—“leaves the rest of society and the legal system in the dark.” Making dissenting opinions public, argues Stone, ignites a “more robust discourse about the merits of competing positions. This ongoing debate ultimately strengthens the court’s work and enlightens public understanding.”

    Creativity's quirks

    David Galenson, Professor in Economics, and Joshua Kotin, a doctoral student in English Language & Literature and Editor of the Chicago Review, co-authored an op-ed that was published Tuesday, Jan. 30 in the Los Angeles Times online. The op-ed highlighted some of Galenson’s quantitative analyses regarding conceptual and experimental artists, who reached creative success either quickly, at a young age, or later in life, after years of perfecting their art. Galenson noted two contemporary, experimental artists, film director Clint Eastwood, 76, and sculptor Louise Bourgeois, 95, who both have gained recent success—Eastwood for his blockbuster films and Bourgeois for her gallery exhibitions and the sale of one of her sculptures for $4 million. “Is such creativity in old age rare?” asks Galenson. “Eastwood and Bourgeois often are considered anomalies. Yet such career arcs—gradual improvements culminating in late achievements—account for many of the most important contributors to the arts,” wrote Galenson. “That our society does not generally recognize this fact suggest that we’re missing a key concept about creativity.”