February 3, 2005

Letters to the Editor

Radio Frequency Identifiers

I give my thanks to the Maroon for its coverage of Radio Frequency Identifiers ("RFIDs Offer New Technology for Access, Monitoring," 2/1/05). I covered the worldwide unveiling of RFIDs for the Chicago Independent Media Center in September 2003. The unveiling took place here in Chicago at a symposium at McCormick Place, and was accompanied by a protest of some 30 people at the time who expressed concern over the role RFIDs could play in eroding privacy rights and civil liberties.

Since then, RFIDs have become more widespread, but so have many problems connected with the technology. In 2003, RFIDs had an estimated failure rate of some 20 percent; estimates have since doubled at least. The costs of RFIDs haven't come down as much as earlier anticipated, dashing hopes to quickly tag every item on Earth with RFIDs. Indeed, activists sat in on planning meetings where the fate of RFIDs was being shaped among corporate planners, and in another instance activists were able to extract confidential documents about the intended fate of RFIDs by simply typing the word "confidential" in a website search engine.

The widespread potential of RFIDs, for good or bad, deserves greater awareness and consideration, and I'm glad the Maroon is helping to give the issue more of an airing.

Mitchell Szczepancyzk

Chicago, IL

Ideological balance

I couldn't help but be amused at columnist Barney Keller's comments on the necessity of "affirmative action...in pursuit of a semblance of ideological balance" with respect to faculty hiring decisions ("It's Not Easy Being a Conservative Teen," 2/1/05). I never expected someone who has very loudly voiced his opinion on the "failures of [race-based] affirmative action" ("Racial Divide in Education Must be Addressed," 4/6/04), to use language so like that of the proponents of that policy.

In his new article, he says it's good to "[have] people of different backgrounds to bring different ideas to the table," and he criticizes the dangers of "uniformity." The parallel is obvious, and I wonder how exactly Keller would square his new slant on faculty hiring with his views on race-based affirmative action.

Harry Schmidt

Third-year in the College

Sex Education Activists

As a member of Sex Education Activists (SEA), I would like to clarify some of the information in your January 7 article, "Activists Teach Students About Sex."

Contrary to what the title of the article implies, SEA does not condense all of the sex-related information that high school students should know into a 45-minute presentation. Rather, the goal of our presentation is to make students aware of the inadequacy of the "abstinence-only" programs that many schools currently use. We also want to give students the resources they need to become activists themselves so that they can improve the sex-education programs at their schools. Unlike what the article indicated, SEA has not yet presented at any high schools, but we hope to do our first presentations some time in the coming month. Also, since the publication of the article, SEA has succeeded in becoming a Registered Student Organization.

A recent survey sponsored by NBC News and People Magazine reveals that many teens are becoming sexually active at very young ages. Last month, Representative Henry Waxman released a report on "The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs," which revealed scientific inaccuracies embedded in many of the programs. The problem of inadequate sex education is becoming increasingly urgent. Anyone who has any interest in the subject should join SEA at our meetings every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Hutch. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact tamayo@uchicago.edu or sexedactivists@gmail.com.

Alexa Webster-Clark

Sex Education Activists