November 21, 2003

Letters to the Editor

*SCRS article misleads*

As a psychiatrist at the Student Counseling and Resource Service (SCRS) since 1994, and as someone who has worked at other university counseling centers since 1990, I was dismayed by Isaac Wolf's misleading article in last Friday's Maroon ("Student's Return Postponed After Suicide Attempt," 11/14/03). It conveys the impression that our mission at SCRS is to extrude suicidal students from campus. In fact, our objective is quite the opposite, to treat students who present with psychiatric symptoms in order to restore them to their previous high level of functioning. This enables students to resume optimal functioning as scholars and to enjoy the benefits of the university community. Suicidal thinking is a not an uncommon feature of many psychiatric disorders, and its presence does not necessarily suggest that a student should leave school. Sometimes, suicidal thinking is so urgent that more intensive treatment or hospitalization is warranted. This is not a matter of University policy, as Karen Ward, Julie's attorney, alleges, but rather a standard of good psychiatric care, intended to minimize the risk of self-harm. The intent of recommending hospital admission is never punitive.

Wolf alleges that at SCRS, "the degree to which confidentiality is honored is limited." This is an untrue and destructive statement. He writes that, "students experiencing suicidal sentiments should expect their confidentiality to be breached." In actuality, we at SCRS uphold the Illinois Mental Health Code, which requires strict adherence to confidentiality unless there is imminent risk of harm to self or others. These laws are specific and narrow. We do not routinely share information with parents or with university administrators, not only because we are legally prohibited from doing so without the patient's explicit written consent, but also because this is sound clinical practice. The students who feel unable to trust that we will honor their right to privacy and confidentiality will feel unable to talk candidly about their concerns.

My major concern about Wolf's unbalanced article is that students will accept these unfounded and untrue allegations, and be deterred from seeking help at SCRS. Ward suggests that the punitive "university policy" may make students reluctant to seek help for their distressed and suicidal friends, for fear that their intervention will result in that student's expulsion. Many students burdened with depression or anxiety are already struggling against cultural and familial prohibitions against mental health treatment. It would be tragic if University of Chicago students, who have access to excellent care, were inhibited from seeking treatment by this inflammatory and inaccurate article. This article is an affront to those of us who are committed to providing outstanding care to students. More grievous is the disservice you have done to your readers, if vulnerable students will be less likely to avail themselves of needed care.

Elizabeth Steinhauer, MA,


Staff Psychiatrist, SCRS

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

University of Chicago

*Monitoring Middle Eastern studies*

So Uncle Sam wants to begin monitoring U of C classes to make sure supporters of U.S. Middle East policy are "adequately represented" ("Bill May Affect Curriculum," 11/14/03). I am reminded what the late, great Richard J. Daley said during the Democratic Convention of 1968: "The police are not there to create disorder, but to preserve disorder."

John K. Taylor

A.B. 1968

Near Eastern Languages and


*53rd Street is certainly not unknown*

Imagine my surprise to open my electronic-Maroon on November 14 and to read an item of interest titled "The Unknown Virtues of 53rd Street." First of all, I was shocked to learn that there were businesses on 53rd street. I had always assumed it was sort of a no-fly zone for University folk like me. So, intrigued, I took a walk down this "53rd Street" the other day and HOLY SHIT! It's lined with student-friendly retailers! In other news, are you kidding me? Nothing about 53rd Street is a secret or a mystery or filled with the magic healing power of blue-collar people. Yes, it's a lot different from campus. Good one. Obviously I'm painting in broad strokes here but seriously: the unknown 53rd Street? Are you kidding? Are people actually not going to 53rd Street because the six-minute walk is getting to them? What about the nine million (my estimate) students who live at 54th and Woodlawn? Do they just do all their shopping at Ford City or something? No. How can you claim that 53rd Street is under-publicized? It was in Chain Reaction! Remember the part when Keanu Reeves makes friends with a bum while hiding from the cops in front of a church: 53rd Street. You can see the Radio Shack. Star power.

A U of C sociology student wrote a rather well received book about the community at Valois about 10 years ago, so it's hard to consider the restaurant an unknown anything. Even regardless of that, the restaurant has been serving Hyde Parkers for god knows how long, and it's sort of (or extremely) myopic to act like breakfast at Valois is some kind of thrilling day trip to a magical blue-collar wonderland. I don't even have a Ph.D. and I know that. That's true of almost every non-chain on 53rd Street, including the ones left out inexplicably, like Dr Wax and Maravilla's. I don't mean to pick on anybody who meant well, but come on. We're past being scared of 53rd Street. Articles like that are the reason a lot of Hyde Parkers aren't that fond of the U of C, because it imports hundreds of yutzes who spend years being afraid of 53rd Street because it's a little rough around the edges. Printing pie-eyed stuff like that is just the slightest bit inconsiderate to students who engage with Hyde Park, and more so to Hyde Park and Hyde Parkers, speaking as someone who has done his share to alienate all sorts of people while writing for the Maroon. Stay strong.

Pete Beatty

AB '03

Editor Emeritus, Chicago Maroon

*Concert security*

When quickly glancing inside of people's bags, our primary goal is to prevent people from bringing recording devices and cameras into the concerts we present. We are required to do this by our contracts with the performing artists—failure to comply could get us sued. Although we post signs outside of the show saying that there are no cameras allowed, we still come across cameras in peoples' bags, and so we cannot rely solely on trust. While we are looking for cameras, etc., we also look for food and drinks because we would rather spend student activities fees on great concerts than on cleaning services, and we do not personally enjoy cleaning up spilled soda or picking candy off of the seats of Mandel Hall.

The Major Activities Board