May 24, 2007
Vol. 26 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://www-news.uchicago.edu/.

    When working memory stops working

    Sian Beilock

    Sian Beilock, Assistant Professor in Psychology and the College, was featured in Crain’s Chicago Business Monday, May 7. The article noted that Beilock is a young researcher whose work is providing important insights into working memory and performance in work and academics. Beilock’s research on people’s performance during high-stakes testing and other high-pressure situations has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Forbes.com, noted the Crain’s article. Her work has shown that people’s working memory, which is used to reason through and solve problems, can be impeded if high pressure or negative stereotypes about one’s ability are introduced. The pressure or stereotype triggers worrying, worrying uses up working memory, which in turn results in poor performance. The article also quoted Nicholas Epley, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science in the Graduate School of Business, who has covered Beilock’s findings in his classes. “One of the profound messages from this work is that your expectations, your beliefs create reality. That is stunning,” said Epley, pointing to the study in which stereotypes introduced to women taking a mathematics test negatively influenced their performance.

    Realigning hypertension

    George Bakris, Professor in Medicine, was interviewed about a study he led that showed that a chiropractic realignment of a specific neck vertabra, called the Atlas, or C1, can reduce blood pressure. According to the Tuesday, May 8 Chicago Tribune article, the mean blood pressure of those who had the adjustment was 147 systolic before adjustment and 129.8 systolic after. The mean diastolic reading was 92.5 before adjustment and 82.3 after. A normal reading for an adult is under 140 for systolic and under 90 for diastolic. Bakris, who directs the hypertension center at the University Medical Center, noted that for years, anecdotal reports have linked blood pressure and neck pain. “Even back in the 1960s and ’70s, neurosurgeons and some specialized chiropractors knew that things change when you realign C1. But there has not been the rigor of the scientific method applied to see what’s going on. We wanted to find out if this effect lasts longer than a week or two. We were shocked to find out that we got more than double what we expected in blood pressure reduction,” and the effect lasted for months, sometimes allowing patients to stop taking medications for hypertension.

    The Chrysler buyout

    James Schrager, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management in the Graduate School of Business, discussed the planned buyout of Chrysler by Cerberus Capital Management on the ABC World News Tuesday, May 15. “They’re going to walk in and offer Chapter 11 as a worst case, and no one’s going to want it,” Schrager said. “They’re then going to offer something to the unions better than Chapter 11 but much different than the current situation.”

    Within the city limits

    Terry Nichols Clark, Professor in Sociology and the College, was quoted in a Sunday, May 13 Chicago Tribune story that reported on the growth in non-profit arts organizations in the city of Chicago and the suburbs over the past 15 years. Compared to the number of organizations in the surrounding region, the city’s growth in arts groups has outpaced suburban growth—especially in the most recent years. Clark, who was a contributing editor to the book, The City as an Entertainment Machine, published in 2004, cited a new economic model for major metropolitan cities, the article reported. “Amenities attract smart people. Smart people create jobs. The old model was people move where there are jobs.”

    Shakespearean sparring

    Richard Strier, the Frank L. Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, was quoted in a Monday, May 21 Chicago Tribune article that reported on a debate between Strier and Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt, which was published in a recent New York Book Review issue. The two scholars disagree on William Shakespeare’s attitude toward political power, Strier believing that Shakespeare’s works show resistance against established authority. “The question of what a subordinate was to do in the face of wickedness on the part of his social or political superior was one of the hottest political issues of the day,” wrote Strier. “Shakespeare took the position that a subordinate was required to intervene in such situations, regardless of status. Even ‘a peasant’ is required to ‘stand up thus.’ The whole play of King Lear insists on the duty to intervene, on what I call ‘virtuous disobedience’ and what it calls proper service.”

    Public to private

    Steven Kaplan, the Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance in the Graduate School of Business, was quoted in a Thursday, May 17 Wall Street Journal article on why so many public companies are going private. One driver of this trend, he said, is the growing pool of talented, proven chief executives who prefer private-equity owners to public shareholders. Not only are shareholders more aggressive and directors less friendly than in the past, but also private equity can be more lucrative, the article said. “CEOs understand that when they go to run a private-equity-funded company, they have more upside,” said Kaplan. “Private-equity owners really pay for performance.”

    Keeping it personalized

    Ted O'Neill
    Photo by Jason Smith

    Ted O’Neill, Dean of College Admissions, was featured in a Chronicle of Higher Education story that appeared Friday, April 27. The article focused on O’Neill’s influence in college admissions, as one of the admissions deans in higher education who is shaping the field. The article noted O’Neill’s success in preserving the University’s personalized admissions approach, while also expanding the applicant pool. Part of that personalized approach involves him in doing some of the prospective student interviews each year. “They don’t all work,” said O’Neill, “but the reason they’re so good is that they’re so human.” Another personalized element in the process is Chicago’s quirky essay questions that are asked on the application. “One of our issues is to keep this a human and small-scale enterprise.”