LETTERS

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April 18, 2006

Letters to the Editor

U of C Presidency

I understand that, by its very nature, the Maroon tends to be ahistorical, but there was a great irony in the column by Alec Brandon regarding Larry Summers (“Summers Coup Is a Failure for All,” 3/7/2006) and it needs to be acknowledged. You don’t have to travel to Harvard to find the kind of climate that skewered Summers. A look back at recent history here at the U of C will revea l an all-too-similar and equally ugly scenario.

Hugo Sonnenschein, president of this University from 1992 to 2000, was brought in to make some long-overdue changes. With his provost, Geoffrey Stone, he addressed the moribund college and its curriculum, took on smug tenured professors who believed it their divine right never to have to teach undergrads, tackled urgent economic issues that go to the very heart of the long-term survival of the University, and actually tried to make this a more pleasant place to get an education. This should have been a breath of fresh air for an institution that, perhaps more so than others of its ilk, had too long subscribed to its own mythology. For all of these efforts, Sonnenschein and Stone were targeted by a few influential faculty and their cronies in the press, while the faculty at large cowered in the wings, fearful of the wrath of the few. This was an ugly period in this University’s history. The changes that were accomplished in this administration made this a better institution today. They have been accepted, integrated, and even lauded. But the facts of that period remain.

The truth is that the academic world has become stultified and self-protective; a collection of small fiefdoms in which the resistance to thinking large is perceived to be threatening and unwelcome. The President of the University is a figurehead in only the most banal capacity. It’s his job to smooth feathers and raise as much money as he can. Yes, in an ideal world that truly celebrates the life of the mind, the President of a university would be a curious academic with the best interests of his or her institution taking precedence over all else. This, however, is not the world of academy today. You want a Harper or a Hutchins? Forget it. They wouldn’t last a day.

Myra Levin,

Class of 1963

Uncommon Application

I find it incredulous that the editorial staff of the Maroon seems to think the Uncommon Application is something to be proud of (“The Numbers Game,” 4/11/06). I would ask you to begin by reading the Wall Street Journal article on college admissions on April 5 of this year. Record low acceptance rates at elite universities are being highlighted, yet our own U of C still admits around 40 percent of applicants. Six years ago when I was a student, the acceptance rate was exactly the same. It is an embarrassment. To revel in such because the editors feel some inclination towards becoming martyrs is the kind of attitude that makes high school students leery of applying. I would suggest the admissions office find some ways of increasing the yield number starting by scrapping the Uncommon Application. Like it or not, colleges compete with one another. In this perception is reality world of ours, the metric of admissions acceptance is far too important to dismiss.

Vikram Reddy

Class of 2000