Quintans, Sanderson duke it out over upcoming stairclimb

By Usman Ahmed

Allen Sanderson and José Quintans, professors in the economics and biological sciences departments, respectively, have joined more than 175 University students, faculty, and staff in an effort to raise funds for victims of last December’s South Asian tsunami. On April 16, they will summit the Sears Tower with approximately 500 participants from the University and other Chicagoland universities.

The Skyscraper Challenge project, founded and overseen by University students, is organizing and coordinating the event. The fundraising group, according to its webpage, aims to empower its participants by giving them the opportunity to make large-scale impacts on charitable causes. Requesting at least $70 dollars from each climber, the project organizers hope to contribute a substantial amount of money toward rebuilding a health center on India’s Nicobar Islands, which was devastated in the tsunami.

While many participants have relied on their moral compasses to raise funds, some of the new challengers have received less traditional inspirations.

Sanderson, a senior lecturer of economics in the College, said that he decided to climb the Sears Tower after he “received an e-mail message and a dead fish wrapped in a copy of the Maroon from Professor Quintans.”

The dead, and presumably fetid, fish was soon forgotten by Sanderson, who chose to take the high road in explaining his reason for climbing: “The giving of oneself in either dollars or time is admirable and important,” he said.

Quintans, professor of pathology and master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division, said he was not especially perturbed by Sanderson’s odd allegation. He suggested his challenge to Sanderson should be rationalized as a defense of the biological sciences. Quintans said that he contacted Sanderson because of “disparaging remarks [Sanderson] made about biologists in one of his economic courses.”

“First, I considered challenging him to a duel in the Quads but, fortunately for him, the Sears Tower climb opportunity came up, and I settled for it after consulting with my team of Autotrophic Vegans,” he said.

Quintans and his “team of Autotrophic Vegans” had an alternative explanation for their participation in the climb. “Biologists are energetic people who like to burn ATP freely for the good of humankind,” Quintans said.

According to Sanderson, although the differences between the social and biological sciences may have fueled the challenge, each discipline has a unique advantage in the race. “I think it’ll be a good challenge,” Sanderson said. “After all, as a professor in the Biological Sciences Division, [Quintans] had good access to steroids, whereas in economics I’ll be able to pay someone to climb for me.”

Sanderson may not actually choose to pay someone to climb for him, but he has made efforts to have others pay for themselves, by actually signing up to climb, or to pay other climbers by sponsoring their efforts. Sanderson circulated an e-mail in the economics department asking for volunteers. “In addition to it being a worthy cause (or set of worthy causes), it could actually be fun—for those of you/us who survive it,” he wrote.

With only a little more than a week until the climb, both academics have been busy training for the event in the hope that they can indeed survive the climb to the top of one of the world’s tallest buildings.

“I have set up a hyperbaric chamber in the BSLC [Biological Sciences Learning Center] where my teammates and I spend the night exercising and monitoring our hematocrits. We are in incredible physical and mental shape, the epitome of mens sana in corpore sano,” Quintans said. “Nonetheless, we have made arrangements with the UC Hospital mobile Cardiac Unit, just in case the economists need help.”

The biologist may have a slight advantage, since Sanderson’s training regimen leaves much to be desired. “I have been eating a lot of donuts, figuring that the rounder and softer I get, the more cushion I’ll have when I collapse,” he said. “Plus I’m going to wear a helmet.”