April 24, 2007

Letters to the Editor

U-Pass is a good idea for College

I was shocked to read the recent editorial regarding the U-Pass referendum (“Let Students Say No to the U-Pass,” 4/17/07). The charge that every student “would be forced to shell out about $200 more each year—even if he never sets foot on the [Chicago Transit Authority]” is deeply misleading, since it does not address the method of payment and fails to frame the issue in the larger context of University funding. It’s fine that the editors voice their opposition, but not that they deliberately distort the argument to serve their ends.

First, the editors are intentionally vague about how the University will collect this money from students. Brian Shaw isn’t going to knock on your dorm room door with a piggy bank, asking you to “shell out” cash. The money will be charged to a bursar bill. Like most students, I have never seen a bursar bill in my life. I’m sure if I took the time to look, I’d be more concerned with the five-digit figure than the three-digit one for the U-Pass. But if saving students money is indeed a concern for the Maroon, its efforts in opposing the U-Pass are misplaced. Even students who ride the CTA just once per week will pay an amount comparable to the student activities fee, which provides us with things like James Carville, make-believe Darfur camps, and public squabbles over private e-mails, rather than unlimited transportation.

Both the editorial and “SWUUBI: Students Who Understand U-Pass is a Bad Idea,” a Facebook group, claim that the U-Pass program will be unfair to students who do not use the CTA since everyone will be charged the fee. What neither mentions, however, is that the University currently subsidizes six unprofitable CTA routes in Hyde Park. Even the brave few willing to trek five blocks home from campus pay for this service through their tuition and fees. Surprising? It shouldn’t be, since the University uses collective funding to pay for nearly everything. When it spent $51 million on Ratner, I suspect the Board of Trustees knew full well that some students wouldn’t use it. Where was the economic crusade then? And why does the Maroon remain silent about funding given to the Office of Minority Student Affairs, the LGBTQ Programming Office, and the hundreds of other services that not every student uses? Don’t we “shell out” money for those things, too?

The University spends $1.8 million annually on the subsidized bus routes, money that would be largely absorbed into U-Pass fees, and a whole lot more on other services. It’s ridiculous to think that everyone who sends in a check will use all of them. But if the Maroon editors want to apply this standard, they’ll need to fight bigger battles than this one.

Charlie Rice-Davis

Class of 2007

Maroon fails with Virgina Tech story

Ideally, journalists should try to avoid sensationalist and gossipy tripe to give the readers the stories that realistically most affect their world. In that respect, the Maroon failed its readers. The article on the Virginia Tech campus shooting (“Administration Issues Response to Virginia Tech Shootings,” 4/17/07), which killed 33 people and shocked the nation, was insultingly brief, while the top story, an article about Chicago receiving the U.S. bid for the 2016 Olympics, could probably matter less to the students and staff of the University right then.

I do not know the thought process or preparation that went into the layout of that front page, but given the results, the news section and the editorial board as a whole dropped the ball in giving minute coverage to this horrific event. I understand there may not have been enough time to get reaction from the administration and faculty to make the deadline for production, or the board reasoned most students were looking online for news about the shooting. But one thing I know about U of C students is that they discuss, decimate, and debate national and foreign issues, and the Virginia Tech massacre probably fomented hundreds of thoughts and arguments. Students from Virginia have possibly been affected by this. But the Maroon has not recorded any of their reactions yet.

Location could not have been a factor; the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and even The Daily Northwestern all printed somber and respectful articles about the shootings on their front pages. Senator Barack Obama, pictured in a celebratory and somehow distasteful headline, canceled a foreign policy address in Chicago. Testimony from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Capitol Hill was postponed out of respect to the victims. Chat rooms and comment pages are filled with messages pontificating about gun control laws, gun rights, mental health issues, the nature of evil, the separation of church and state, and even immigration reform, while still giving respect to those killed in the Virginia Tech shootings. Life will go on, in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and even in Blacksburg, but for this moment, the nation stands still in grief remembering the victims. Most likely, students and faculty at the U of C are giving their respects as well. It has just not been observed by the Maroon.

More outpouring has come, and there will be enough time to focus on how the tragedy reverberates on campus in the News and Viewpoints sections. But to deny the fears, thoughts, and repercussions a campus shooting of this magnitude has on the University of Chicago is inane and irresponsible. As Elie Wiesel said, “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”

Joel Lanceta

Former Maroon Associate News Editor

A.B. ’06

University should work with Woodlawn

Having read the recent article concerning the Grove Parc housing complex, we, on behalf of the Southside Solidarity Network (SSN), would like to provide a statement about the role of the University in the neighborhood.

SSN is a Registered Student Organization that supports the development of mutually beneficial relations between the University and the surrounding communities. One of SSN’s functions is to serve as a channel for communication between the Grove Parc tenants and the University community. We support the Grove Parc Tenants Association’s struggle to gain an equal role in shaping the future of their community. The University of Chicago’s influence on the future development of Woodlawn is undeniable, a fact demonstrated by the appearance of another article on Tuesday’s front page about Chicago’s winning bid for the 2016 Olympics (“Chicago, U of C Celebrate Olympic Nod,” 4/17/07). In that article, Adrian Florido writes: “The University, which has worked closely with the Chicago 2016 committee to secure the bid, will continue to develop plans for neighborhood development.” From this assessment, it is clear that the University clearly has a hand in the development of not only the Hyde Park community, but surrounding communities as well.

This should not be surprising for anyone familiar with the University’s urban renewal campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s. Despite claims to the contrary, it is evident that the “racist and insular policies” of that era are still very much alive today. African-Americans currently make up 91 percent of the Woodlawn population, and the neighborhood median income as of the 2000 census was $18,266. By supporting the economic “development” of Woodlawn, the University is quite literally forcing out the current residents, most of whom cannot afford the rent hikes and tax increases that gentrification necessarily entails. Whether or not the University has racist reasons for pushing out the neighborhood’s current population, in practice the policy is one affecting primarily, if not solely, African Americans.

It is problematic that many members of the University community remain unaware of the struggles their neighbors face. Furthermore, most are ignorant of the influence their own investments in the University have on these struggles. We thank you for printing an article about the Grove Parc Tenant Association’s fight, and we hope the Maroon will continue to keep the University community informed about the important human rights violations going on in our own neighborhood.

Daniela Petuchowski

Class of 2008, SSN member

Henry Mann

Class of 2010, SSN member