March 4, 2011

Zimmer talks India, Rahm

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President Robert Zimmer discussed the University’s local and global expansions with students at an open “Coffee & Donuts” forum Tuesday in the McCormick Tribune Lounge.

Zimmer began by announcing plans for a Center in New Delhi, similar to the University’s Centers in Paris and Beijing, and elaborated on the University’s commercial developments around East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue. He also fielded student questions on the University’s political stances, the University’s response to the blizzard, and plans for working with mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.

“We’re in the state now of looking for sites in India,” Zimmer told the 25 students in the audience. An ad hoc faculty committee on India submitted a proposal for the Center last February, detailing the need for such a Center and the goals it would have.

“A University of Chicago presence in India might contribute to the intellectual, political, and cultural life of India,” the report reads. “The process may open our campus and our faculty to new voices and insights from India.”

Zimmer added that the success of other University Centers, which include the Booth School’s presence in Singapore and London, makes administrators optimistic about a similarly sized Center in India.

He touched upon the University’s development along East 53rd Street, including a Hyatt Place hotel in Harper Court, slated to open in 2013. Other development initiatives have included a Five Guys restaurant, a five-screen movie theater that was announced last Thursday, and other commercial stores that will be announced in the coming months.

“We’re hoping to see a mixed use environment in the effort of creating a more active street in Hyde Park,” Zimmer said. “It’s a work in progress.”

Zimmer commented on the University’s emergency reaction to the February blizzard, saying that a formal review is underway. He added that the lateness of the 3 a.m. e-mail notification sent out to the student body could have been improved.

On Emanuel, Zimmer was optimistic that the University will maintain its good relationship with the city, mentioning that he spoke with Emanuel that morning. “We have talked to him about more ways of being involved with the community...our relationship with the city will continue to evolve and get better,” he said.

Graduate student liaison to the Board of Trustees Jordan Phillips (A.B. ’10) questioned Zimmer about the Kalven Report, a faculty-written document that affirms the University’s neutrality on larger political issues. Phillips is a first-year in the Committee on International Relations program.

Zimmer has cited the report in the past when asked to comment on issues like the University’s stance on undocumented student immigrants.

But he added that there are gray areas in determining where to apply the report, citing the University’s decision to openly support financial aid as an example of “supporting our University’s direct academic mission” through specific political stances.