Letter: Admin defends Summer Links

By Letter to the Editor

I commend the Maroon’s recent editorial, “Broken Links Can Be Mended” (2/4/14). I agree with the message of transparency and communication regarding the changes to the Summer Links program. Open communication is central to successful programming and is a hallmark of the University Community Service Center (UCSC). We also value the rights this University protects in its pursuit of free expression—namely the right to disagree, to talk openly, and to engage in dialogue.

Over the course of its history,  the UCSC has become a home for social justice and the exploration of societal inequities. And while this is significant, I believe it’s even more significant that the UCSC continues to be responsive to influences both within our student body and in the communities that surround UChicago. This passion for social justice—and the capacity of our students to be agents of change—is unrelenting and a unique characteristic of the University that makes me proud.

The UCSC is currently reviewing the 112 applications that have come in for Summer Links 2014. These applicants represent a diverse group of students with a wide range of experience and interests, and a cohort of incredible individuals eager to experience this excellent program will be selected from them. I believe in the passion and dedication demonstrated by the alumni of the Summer Links program and hope that the next cohort will be energized with the same feelings.

As an alumna of the College, I hope students who care about social justice issues will embrace our university’s tradition of driving change through constructive dialogue, rather than confrontation that does not seek to build greater understanding. Our mutual commitment to Summer Links can help fuel that conversation. Every Friday during the program, our Summer Linkers engage in dialogue on the larger social justice issues that inform the experience of all of the students in the cohort. Dialogue is a cornerstone of Summer Links, and I hope our students do not miss an opportunity to use this powerful tool after their participation in the program.

As the Maroon’s editorial pointed out, simply “because Summer Links has thrived doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved.” The thoughtful changes that have been made to the program will only enhance its focus on social justice as new internships are added to the existing cadre, ensuring that students can approach social justice from multiple perspectives. This will strengthen the program because a diversity of experience and opinion will cultivate a richer conversation about the challenges, complexities, and opportunities related to social justice.

The mission of the UCSC remains unchanged, as does Summer Links. Engagement and participation from Summer Links alumni are important to building connections between the cohorts—both old and new—and we look forward to discussions that explore this program, which is valued by so many.

—Eleanor Daugherty, assistant vice president for student life, class of 1997.