JUNE 5, 2019 TENTH WEEK VOL. 131, ISSUE 42
EDITOR’S NOTE This University can be atomizing. From the moment you step onto this campus for the first time, to long nights in Harper, to job fairs where you’re eyeing your classmates who are eyeing the recruiters, you can feel alone and disconnected. Success, too, can be isolating. We want to take this issue to reflect on the other moments—the ones of collaboration and solidarity that have defined our collective experience here. Our graduation issue this year is a little different. Flip
to the back cover and you’ll see that we’ve appended ongoing coverage of Graduate Students United’s strike. As white tents went up on the quad this week ahead of Alumni Weekend, many graduate students stopped their teaching and research and took to the quad in an attempt to gain the University’s recognition of the work they do as instructors, writing instructors, and researchers. Campus has looked different. Classrooms in many buildings have stood empty. The absence of graduate
students has been palpable. This week has shown that it’s impossible to disentangle the work of any one subset of the University—professors, lecturers, postdoctoral fellows, researchers, staff, graduate students, and even undergraduates—from the functioning of the University as a whole. Typically, our “Grad Issue” celebrates degrees awarded to students for their individual achievements. For this year’s issue, we want to celebrate collective achievements.
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Take a Look Back at the Last Four Years of News By MAROON STAFF Compiled by TONY BROOKS 2015–16 College to Implement CTA U-Pass Program in 2016 (April 24) Student Government (SG) announced that full-time undergraduate students will receive bus and rail rides on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) system in a new U-Pass program. Supporters of the program explained that it was an opportunity for students to explore Chicago in depth, while critics argued that the $250 annual price tag was expensive and unrealistic. Gun Threat Cancels All Class and Activities (November 29) All classes were canceled after an individual posted a shooting threat online on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, allegedly in response to the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. The University employed extra security and worked with the FBI to investigate the threat. By Monday afternoon, a University of Illinois at Chicago student was arrested and admitted to post-
ing the threat. No guns were found in his apartment. Classes resumed on Tuesday. UCMC to Bring Adult Trauma Center to Hyde Park Campus (December 17) After five years of protests, UChicago Medicine (UCM) announced that it would open a Level I adult trauma center. Community activists demanded that UCM create the facilities to help accommodate trauma victims on the South Side, a historically underserved area for medical care. The protests picked up speed in 2010 when one young community organizer was shot three blocks away from UCM, but died en route to Northwestern Memorial Hospital downtown. The trauma center opened in 2018. Speaker Driven From IOP by Black Lives Matter Protesters (February 19) A group of approximately 35 protesters interrupted a seminar held by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez at the IOP, causing Alvarez to stop the event after 20 minutes. According to a press release from Black Lives Matter Chicago, the protesters accused Alvarez of perpetuating “state violence against Black and brown people in the
City of Chicago,” not holding police officers accountable, and being criminally negligent to the well-being of Chicagoans. This protest has served as the basis for ongoing debates about free speech and disruptive protests on UChicago’s campus since then. Obama Returns to Law School to Discuss Supreme Court Nomination (April 8) Former President Barack Obama came to the Law School to discuss his nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Responding to an audience question regarding criticism that the Court’s vacancy could have been used to increase its diversity, Obama stated that he does not scout demographics to find candidates. “At no point did I say, ‘Oh, I need a black lesbian from Skokie,’” Obama said. “Yeah, he’s a white guy, but he’s a really outstanding jurist.” Despite his nomination, Garland never served on the Supreme Court after Senate Republicans refused to confirm him before the end of Obama’s term in office. President Donald Trump successfully nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat instead. College Council Passes Resolution Recommending Divestment (April 15) College Council voted to pass a resolution urging the University to divest from 10 companies said to enable Israeli human rights abuses in Palestine. Discussion took place before the vote in a crowded room in Stuart, with supporters waving signs and Palestinian flags and opponents wearing t-shirts that read, “Yes to peace, no to divest, no to BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions].” The vote proved controversial, with UChicago Coalition for Peace and J Street UChicago posting lengthy statements opposing the decision online. Kissinger Receives Probation, Will Graduate Tomorrow (June 10) On the eve of his graduation, then-SG president Tyler Kissinger was placed on disciplinary probation for using his title to allow protesters into the fifth-floor lobby of the University president’s office. Nearly 200 professors, 3,276 students, and a tweet from Senator Bernie Sanders voiced support for Kissinger, who graduated on-time the next day. 2016–17 Jackson Park Selected as Obama Library Site (July 27) The Obama Foundation announced that Jackson Park will be the site of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). Aside from the
former president’s personal involvement with South Side community development, considerations in the decision included the park’s proximity to Lake Michigan and to the Museum of Science and Industry. The project has encountered resistance from some community members concerned about potential gentrification of the surrounding neighborhoods, and a lawsuit led by Protect Our Parks is currently arguing that the OPC should not be built in Jackson Park or on any public lands. University to Incoming Freshmen: Don’t Expect Safe Spaces or Trigger Warnings (August 24) A letter was sent to all incoming students in the Class of 2020 that expressed the University’s commitment to freedom of speech. In the letter, Dean of Students in the College Jay Ellison wrote that the University does not condone “trigger warnings” or “safe spaces” that may shield students from exposure to ideas they do not agree with. This statement was released in response to the previous year’s disruptive protests, which interfered with multiple IOP events. The University received nationwide media attention for its stance on the issue. Faculty Senate Creates New Disciplinary System (May 23) The Council of the University Senate passed a revised disciplinary policy on disruptive conduct in a private meeting. Disruptive conduct includes actions like obstructive protests and silencing speakers on campus. The updated policy includes warnings, probation, and, in the most extreme cases, expulsion as punishment for its defined range of instances of disruptive conduct. 2017–18 GSU Celebrates Win, Admin Says Legal Fight Continues (October 19) Graduate students voted to unionize after years of organization, with 1,103 “yes” votes and 479 “no” votes. After beginning the process of legally certifying the union through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), GSU eventually withdrew their petition of representation, citing concerns that the NLRB under the Trump administration would roll back pro-grad union precedents. GSU is currently seeking recognition outside the NLRB process with a labor action. Pearsons, Who Pledged $100 Million CONTINUED ON PG. 3
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Four Year Retrospective
UChicago’s trauma center in April, 2018, one year after opening. jeremy lindenfeld CONTINUED FROM PG. 2
to UChicago, Want Their Money Back (March 5) Brothers Timothy R. and Thomas L. Pearson donated $100 million on behalf of their family in 2015 to found the Pearson Institute, which would have hosted research on global conflict prevention. But in February of this year, the Pearson Family Foundation filed suit against the University for the $22.9 million it had already given, alleging that the University had not been meeting its obligations for developing the Institute. Then in April, the University denied the Pearsons’ allegations and filed a countersuit. Pearson family attorneys recently sent Euirim Choi, the lead reporter on the story and former Maroon co-editorin-chief, and The Maroon subpoenas for documents in the ongoing lawsuit. UCPD Officer Shoots U of C Student Wielding Metal Pole, Smashing Windows (April 4) UCPD Officer Nicholas Twardak shot fourth-year Charles Thomas in the shoulder while responding to a report that Thomas was using a metal pole to break windows in an alley between South Kimbark Avenue and South Woodlawn Avenue. Body camera footage released by the University sparked debate and on-campus protests over Twardak’s and Thomas’s actions, especially after individuals close to Thomas said he was likely having a mental health episode. Thomas has since been released from the hospital, and is currently under house arrest awaiting trial on eight felon charges for assault and property damage. 2018–19
UChicago Allegedly Favored Donors’ Children for Internship Funding (March 15) Amid a national scandal on college admission at elite universities, The Maroon received older emails from a UChicago Career Advancement employee in which another staff member asked the employee to contact students that the office called “Special Interest Cases” (SIC). The messages, sent in 2016, said that “many of [SIC students’] parents are important supporters of Career Advancement,” both financially and by connecting students to organizations. Trader Joe’s to Open in the Old Treasure Island Storefront (May 13) Seven months after Treasure Island’s sudden closure, the University and Trader Joe’s announced that a new Trader Joe’s would move into the storefront. The announcement came after months of public discussion and debate over what to do with the empty space. This location will be the company’s sixth location in Chicago, and the first on the South Side. UChicago Expands IME to School of Molecular Engineering with $100 Million Gift from the Pritzkers (May 28) The newly named Pritzker Molecular Engineering (PME), previously the Institute of Molecular Engineering, will become the first graduate school of molecular engineering in the country. The school is established with a new donation of $75 million from the Pritzker Foundation, in addition to $25 million the Pritzkers had granted the IME earlier. PME is the second University school named after the Pritzker family, after Pritzker Medical School.
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
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the chicago maroon — JUNE 5, 2019
On Images: The Deceptive “Objectivity” of a Photo The Framing of a Photo, However “Candid,” Is Rife With Subjectivity. Photojournalism Isn’t as Objective as It Might Seem. By ZOE KAISER When The Maroon updated its bylaws in my third year as photo editor, I noticed something troubling in the proposed revisions. The Photo and Video sections were to be classified as Production, not Editorial. This struck me as altogether strange, as I see photographs as editorial content in visual form. But clearly, others saw photographs as nothing more than material that makes up a newspaper; journalists might have to wrestle over the wording of a headline or the framing of an article, but a photograph was something as neutral as ink. This sidelining of photography on the grounds of its “self-evidently objective” qualities isn’t new. But it poses a serious
problem for journalistic practice, both on college campuses and in professional newsrooms, especially as we head into an increasingly visual age. In her article, “To Tell the Truth: Codes of Objectivity in Photojournalism,” Dona Schwartz writes, “Since the introduction of photography viewers have invested the medium with a level of authority and credibility unparalleled by other modes of communication.” There is a general perception that photographs have a special relationship with reality, that a photo shows you something just as it is, as it was, as it happened. This unmediated relationship with reality has been the professed goal of journalists who claim the title of “objective.” But, given that we do not actually see the
Lee Harris, Editor-in-Chief Elaine Chen, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Deepti Sailappan, Managing Editor Peng-Peng Liu, Chief Production Officer The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the editors-in-chief and editors of The Maroon.
Tony Brooks, editor Miles Burton, editor Daksh Chauhan, editor Camille Kirsch, editor Caroline Kubzansky, editor Madeleine Zhou, editor VIEWPOINTS
Meera Santhanam, editor ARTS
Zoe Bean, editor Perri Wilson, editor SPORTS
Alison Gill, editor Brinda Rao, editor DESIGN
Jessica Xia, head designer Francesca Chu, design associate Michelle Liu, design associate Bridget Patterson, design associate
Mohammed Bashier, copy chief Olivia Shao, copy chief Kuba Sokolowski, copy chief GREY CITY
Caroline Kubzansky, editor Anant Matai, deputy editor BUSINESS
Michael Vetter, chief financial officer Brian Dong, director of marketing Gianni LaVecchia and Kelsey Yang, co-directors of marketing Alex Chung, director of development Jennifer Phu, director of operations Editor-in-Chief: Editor@ChicagoMaroon.com Newsroom Phone: (312) 918-8023 Business Phone: (408) 806-8381 For advertising inquiries, please contact Ads@ChicagoMaroon.com or (408) 806-8381. Circulation: 2,500. © 2019 The Chicago Maroon Ida Noyes Hall / 1212 East 59th Street Chicago, IL 60637
world through a rectangular viewfinder, photographic claims to an unmediated presentation of reality are deceptive. For photojournalism, which gains legitimacy from its double gloss of presumed objectivity, this false notion of objectivity is thus especially relevant. When I trained photographers new to photojournalism, I would stress to them that photojournalism differs from the “artsy” photos of Instagram. Photos are candid, not posed. We do not crop out information that would change the meaning of the photo. All photos come with written captions to provide context. In this way, I fell into the trap of portraying photojournalism as a uniquely honest medium. Yet both historical and current uses of photojournalism tell a different story. Jacob Riis, working in the early 1900s, is hailed as one of the earliest photojournalists. Making use of the newly invented flash photography, he aimed to shed light (literally!) on the social conditions of urban slums in his work. In this, he was no neutral observer, but a reformer-journalist—with his photographic collection How the Other Half Lives he sought to shock viewers and jolt them into combating poverty. A quick glance through Riis’s most iconic photo-
graphs makes one thing clear: The viewer is peering into a world of poverty and pain. This feeling of peering into a world assumes the viewer lives and moves outside of such a world. Between the perspective (often looking up at or down at, but rarely at eye-level) and the use of hard, intrusive flash rather than a long exposure, the taking of the photograph defines the sensibilities and narrative of the photo. A hundred years later, Tonika Johnson’s photographs of Englewood, one of Chicago’s highest-crime neighborhoods, deliberately oppose the kind of narrative seen in Riis’s “shock and reform” photos: “She brings the lens of an insider…who isn’t there just to extract the value of shocking photographs to sell to an exploitative, voyeuristic public,”City Bureau co-founder Bettina Chang said of Johnson’s photography in a Columbia Journalism Review article. “She doesn’t turn away from the signs of poverty and other misfortune in Englewood, but she also isn’t solely looking for those types of photographs.” In one photo, two boys face the camera, perched casually on a park bench. We look at them from eye-level, the lighting bright and welcoming, and even the caption, which specifies continued on pg. 6
the chicago maroon — JUNE 5, 2019
“These critiques of the cult of objectivity are more nuanced than the current fake-news hysteria.” continued FROM pg. 5
that they are brothers, speaks to a potential intimacy between viewer and subject that is not present in photos by Riis that label his subjects by their ethnicity or gang affiliation. These two examples underscore the fact that photographs are not inevitably artifacts, faithfully rendering a world that never alters, but rather, the product of choices, conscious or unconscious, made by the photographer. Different choices can create a radically different impact on a casual viewer. The journalistic community has increasingly recognized the ways that a journalist’s own subjectivity can influence his or her stories. These critiques of the cult
of objectivity are more nuanced than the current fake-news hysteria, pointing out that journalists and their editors make choices daily about what stories to report on and what information and voices to foreground in their stories. If a newspaper has no sources in a particular community, then journalists may miss a relevant story or fail to give voice to an important perspective on another story. Journalists pride themselves on fact-checking, while often missing the potential for misleading narratives to do harm in the same way as erroneous facts. The framing of a narrative is not objective: Rather, it is a subjective choice informed by a journalist’s (and their editor’s) values. This is even more so in the case of imag-
es. The hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown was used to criticize how newspapers either unthinkingly or maliciously propagated negative stereotypes of murdered Black men in their photo coverage. A 2011 case study examines the use of photographs to build visual narratives and argues that the 2009 “crime waves” in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City were narratives constructed by selective visual coverage “reliant on negative narratives and stereotypes about places and people, not upon reality.” Precisely because we are prone to perceive photographs as unmediated truth, they pose an even greater danger of cementing biased or misleading narratives. In an increasingly visual age, we need
to be aware that photographs shape narratives as much as, if not more than, words do. In the end, after objections raised by the Photo and Video sections, Multimedia was accepted as Editorial, and not Production. But this hardly solved The Maroon’s blind spot toward photography, as the photo incident last quarter made clear. Any photojournalism convinced by the myth of its own objectivity is one that becomes unaccountable, irresponsible, and reckless. Moreover, any journalism that cannot comprehend the power of images is one that will inevitably abuse that power. Zoe Kaiser is a fourth-year in the College and a former Photo Editor.
Viewpoints Needs Its Independence A Former Head Viewpoints Editor Reflects on His Four Years on the Section and the Challenges It Faces Going Forward By COLE MARTIN I was the editor-in-chief of my small high school newspaper back in Georgia. It was an uneventful, quiet role—one that allowed me to write my feelings without the risk of anyone actually reading them. I expected the same anonymity when I joined the Viewpoints section of The Chicago Maroon. Oops. When I was selected to be an associate editor at the beginning of my first year, I didn’t know about The Maroon’s largely unfavorable campus reputation, or the particular rage with which people respond to subpar Viewpoints columns. I simply knew that I liked to write and edit. I was otherwise shy, only recently out of the closet, and unsure of my place at an elite university I didn’t think I was smart enough to attend. That year, I considered quitting the paper multiple times, but for whatever reason—some combination of admiration for my writers and co-editors, and also some Stockholm syndrome—I stayed long enough to get promoted to head editor. I remained in that position for three years. I edited and published hundreds of articles over those years: some mundane, some funny, some harrowing (and yes, some re-
grettable). I’ve written editorials about federal tax law, the Obama Presidential Library, and Trump administration interns. I’ve received more belligerent e-mails and Facebook messages than perhaps any other person on campus (besides maybe a College Republican or two). People have e-mailed me about the grimmest moments of their life, and I’ve helped them find the best way to articulate lessons for others or fiery rebukes of those who wronged them. Most other editors knew me as the guy who remained silent during Editorial Board meetings and who left the office as quickly as possible during production nights, but I was okay with that. I had my friends on the Viewpoints section, and that was enough. This separation from the rest of the paper was no accident. Everything I’m proud that Viewpoints has done was made possible by the section’s historical independence from the News section and the editors-in-chief. Different leaders have agreed on different rules, but for the majority of my time on the paper, Viewpoints has made final decisions on which op-eds get published and which don’t. The editors-in-chief—most of whom have risen up the ranks of the News section—have rarely enjoyed or understood
this arrangement. But if Viewpoints weren’t independent from the rest of the paper, it couldn’t publish the many necessary op-eds it has. For a brief review, Viewpoints has argued for the anonymity of those writers who would feel endangered if their real names were released publicly. Viewpoints published a piece about a professor sexually harassing a student—a story the News section was reluctant to report on. Without input from the new editors-in-chief (who were eventually aggrieved by our decision to publish), Viewpoints published an op-ed that prompted law school professor Geoffrey Stone to stop using the uncensored N-word in class. Most notably, when the editors-in-chief decided to publish an ethically unjustifiable photo of a young black man apprehended on campus during a lockdown, the Viewpoints section gave disgruntled editors the chance to reprimand their bosses. Sustained opposition from The Maroon’s rank and file is the principal reason the new editors-in-chief decided to take down the photo. I quit the paper at the end of winter quarter for a myriad of reasons, but partly because the Viewpoints section’s longstanding independence was no longer being respected. It’s understandable for
editors-in-chief to want some control over op-eds published in the paper they manage. But if editors-in-chief have the unilateral power to reject op-eds they don’t like or edit controversial ones until they’re pointlessly banal, Viewpoints couldn’t publish many of the pieces it does. Writers couldn’t criticize the editors-in-chief. Other essential perspectives would be silenced, too. It’s hard enough to write for Viewpoints. Contributors share their deepest thoughts, most strongly held opinions, and hardest memories, all for anonymous profiles named “just another man” or “Satan” to comment that the writers have irredeemably embarrassed their grandparents. Add in arbitrary, last-minute feedback from editors-in-chief unversed in the nuances of op-ed production and unfamiliar with the needs of specific writers—and submitting to Viewpoints might just not be worth it. Joining the Viewpoints section may have been one of the more naive decisions of my life, but it’s not one I regret. I’m proud of the work I and the dozens of Viewpoints contributors have done over the years. I just hope future Viewpoints editors have the same chance to make a difference as I did. Cole Martin is a fourth-year in the College and a former Head Viewpoints Editor.
the chicago maroon — JUNE 5, 2019
UChicago’s Small-Minded Activism The Recent Dialogue About Reproductive Justice Shows That Students Must Learn to Be Activists in Their Broader Communities By QUDSIYYAH SHARIYF My four years at UChicago have been full of organizing, advocacy, and activism. I’ve worked to commit myself to principles of equity and justice through my extracurricular pursuits and academic explorations. I tried to dedicate myself to fighting for change both on and beyond campus for marginalized communities and oppressed peoples. From my position as Class of 2019 College Council representative, to my work with Students for Justice in Palestine, and then my role as a founding member of UChicago United, I strove to help empower my peers and create lasting change on campus. My passion for justice expanded to include reproductive autonomy after I received Metcalf funding to be a summer intern with the local abortion fund in Philadelphia and then became a volunteer with Planned Parenthood of Illinois. But as I learned more about the conceptual framework and history of reproductive justice, I began to realize there was little to no discussion of the topic on UChicago’s campus. The only existing organization related to reproductive rights or justice was located within the Law School and specifically about reproductive justice in law. I wanted to bring discussions of reproductive justice to the greater UChicago community, and I wanted to position the discussions within a model that emphasized the need for advocacy and action beyond our campus. In the spring of 2017, I circulated a Google form to gauge interest in forming an organization on campus around reproductive justice, and I was pleasantly surprised that more than five people on campus even cared about the issue area. Then, in the fall of the 2017–18 school year, Project Reproductive Freedom was founded. We were officially granted RSO status in the winter of 2018, and since then we have hosted a teach-in about reproductive justice, quarterly Paint Your Orgasm study breaks, and fundraised hundreds of dollars for the Chicago Abortion Fund.
Our biggest project took place this month from May 20–24: a full week of events that explored different facets of reproductive justice, uplifted the work of local Chicago organizations, and fundraised over $2,000 in support of reproductive justice. Going into this month’s Reproductive Justice Week, the members of Project Reproductive Freedom were nervous but eager to highlight so many incredible organizations and increase our presence on campus. Given the recent attacks on abortion access and bodily autonomy throughout the United States, we felt like our week of events would provide a great opportunity for people who wanted to learn about and fight against these attacks to get introduced to our group’s work. Then, on Tuesday, May 21, with the introduction of a College Council (CC) resolution that aimed to restrict College Council funds from paying for abortions, we witnessed an uproar on campus about abortion rights and access. Although it was clear there were some anti-abortion folks, the vast majority of those that packed Reynolds Club on Tuesday evening stood staunchly in opposition to the proposed resolution which, if passed, would have prohibited the Emergency Fund from using Student Life fees to provide money for abortions. As the event created to rally people at the College Council meeting was shared across social media platforms, I was surprised to see hundreds of students so vocal about their outrage and expressive of their support for abortion rights and access. It was exciting to see so many people on campus rallying for something I am so passionate about, but I couldn’t help but feel confused and frustrated. Where was all this support for abortion access when we were fundraising for the Chicago Abortion Fund, which provides financial assistance for people in and traveling to Chicago for abortion care? Where has this support been around the Reproductive Health Act and repeal of the Parental Notification Act in the Illinois legislature? Who were all these people standing in the
name of bodily autonomy, abortion rights, and marginalized people? It seemed to me that most of the UChicago students were primarily outraged because theirs and their peers’ access to abortion was being threatened. Abortion rights are a hot topic in the national news right now, and showing up to the CC meeting in the name of abortion rights was a sexy and on-trend way to perform progressive activism. As someone who is genuinely committed to organizing and advocating for the reproductive rights and freedom of all people, I felt insulted by this performance. It was disappointing to see that there are so many people who support reproductive choice but just are not interested in being a part of something sustainable that would not directly implicate their own freedoms. However, as a seasoned student organizer and activist on this campus, I wasn’t surprised to see students acting simply within their own self-interest. Time and time again my experiences on this campus have shown me just how little students here seem to really understand and value organizing. Organizing is about building power through mobilizing
people and resources. Performative activism that doesn’t do anything to create change is not activism. Project Reproductive Freedom aims to build power by leveraging our position and resources as UChicago students to uplift and support local and grassroots reproductive justice organizations in Chicago. We are working to make reproductive activism accessible on campus beyond the occasional polarizing outburst. I am hopeful that this campus’s tradition of performative, reactionary activism can change—in all my years on campus, I’ve seen a level of organizational and radical imagination that is truly inspiring. But we will never be able to embody the kind of change we endlessly theorize about in classrooms if we don’t organize beyond our own elitist, ivory-tower self-interests. To my fellow graduating fourth-years and my younger peers: Don’t forget to situate yourself in this world, in this city, and in this neighborhood. You are privileged. You have a voice. Use it for someone other than yourself. Qudsiyyah Shariyf is a fourth-year in the College.
Tebrikler Kardelen Biricik Kardelen, Tebrikler basardin! Seninle çok gurur duyuyoruz, çünkü sen muhteşemsin. Bu mezuniyet hayatindaki en önemli günlerden biri ve sen bunu çok hakettin. Seninle her zaman gurur duyuyoruz ve seni çok seviyoruz. Mama & Baba
the chicago maroon â€” JUNE 5, 2019
the chicago maroon â€” JUNE 5, 2019
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Seven Times Over: Life Along the Way to a Ph.D. Organizer and Professor Receive Their Doctorates Fifty Years After Starting By CAROLINE KUBZANSKY Grey City Reporter
Not everyone who comes to the University of Chicago for a degree leaves with one. Marilyn Webb, founder of a women’s literary collective, onetime mayoral candidate, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, and author of the 1997 book The Good Death, is one of those people. Cheryl Dembe, head of the chemistry department and 34-year faculty member at Diablo Valley College in California, who authored the book The Choice of Happiness: Glimpses from an Extraordinary Ordinary Scientific Mystical Life, is another. Webb left the University of Chicago after sexual harassment by two professors whom she had asked to serve on her dissertation committee. But 52 years later, she’s back to receive her doctorate with the class of 2019. Dembe is returning to campus after 48 years to celebrate completing her degree, for which she had conducted research with Nobel Prize potential. Her adviser died just after they had completed her research and she was beginning her thesis, but the professor whose research was most similar to Dembe’s said that he did not want a woman in his research group. Both women had asked the University about the possibility of receiving their doctorates since they left, but this was the first time the institution listened. Webb and Dembe will receive their degrees at Convocation in educational psychology and chemistry, respectively—52 and 48 years after leaving the University. Webb and Dembe both attribute the University’s decision—at least in part— to the #MeToo movement, which has brought attention to the stories of women
who have been victims of gender-based assault or discrimination. Webb referenced it in her initial correspondence with the University. “In light of [Harvey] Weinstein, maybe it’s time for Chicago to make changes,” she wrote. Shortly afterward, Webb heard from Bridget Collier, the associate provost for equal opportunity, as Dembe would as well after she contacted the University, and a series of “fairly amazing unfoldments,” as Dembe put it, began to take place—events remarkable for their impacts on Webb and Dembe and the change they represent in the University’s culture. When she arrived at the University in 1969, Cheryl Dembe was one of 46 graduate students beginning the chemistry Ph.D. program, of whom 23 completed the first year, including one of six women. The intense program was a good fit for Dembe, who described herself at the time as “an ambitious young woman [and] a serious student.” One of the reasons she came to Chicago was her wish “not to be a housewife in Cleveland.” “I was dating a really nice guy—I really loved this guy and I knew I couldn’t break up with him and I knew I was in the wrong place,” she said. “Chicago was just far enough.” Dembe embarked on her Ph.D. process in a pre-computer environment, and recalled to me how she did her calculations with a slide rule and typed her notes on a typewriter, pausing to write in equations by hand. In a time before copy machines, the ditto machine was the way to make duplicate documents, and instead of digital files, stack upon stack of punch cards containing data sat all over the department. It made research a labor-intensive process in a completely
different way than it is today, and facilitated much smaller volumes of data for collection than a typical Ph.D. candidate would accumulate today. When she requested another chance at a Ph.D. in 2017, Dembe provided her entire data record to the department via scan as material on which to base their recommendation. When she sent the notebooks, Dembe was unsure if they would satisfy department standards. “As a grad student you really have no idea how to evaluate the caliber of the work you’re doing,” she said. Chemistry professor Philippe Guyot-Sionnest was one of the people tasked with this recommendation, following Dembe’s most recent outreach to the University in 2018. He said that translating these notebooks of a doctoral candidate in 1971 into a recommendation for 2019 was a challenge, and he was initially skeptical that Dembe could get a Ph.D. 50 years after the fact. It wasn’t the lack of automation, he said—computers don’t generate knowledge—but Dembe had “no thesis, not even a manuscript of a thesis,” and besides, obtaining a doctorate in three years is virtually unheard of. “I expected there’s no way. I don’t believe anybody would give a Ph.D. to a person in two and a half years,” he said. But after finding that Lothar Meyer, Dembe’s adviser before his death, regularly graduated students in three years and looking at the work he and Dembe had pursued, Guyot-Sionnest’s skepticism began to fade. “It was an experiment that could be very, very cool. She was working on cooling liquid helium-3 to the lowest possible temperatures not knowing what they could expect to find but looking for the lowest temperature and some properties
of magnetization. So they developed the technology and you could see in the notebook, the progression of the experiment, and it was clear they were making progress,” he said. A year after Dembe dropped out of UChicago, a Cornell team working on the same problem got what Guyot-Sionnest described as an “exciting result,” for which it later received the Nobel. Dembe wasn’t far off from the same result when she stopped her research. “Had she been able to work a few more months, it would have not only been good for her, but good for Chicago,” Guyot-Sionnest said. However, the level of departmental support for someone in her position was nowhere near what Dembe needed, especially in the week of her adviser’s death. “In the same week as my adviser died, I was assaulted in my apartment in the middle of the night,” Dembe said. “The department sent me flowers for being assaulted, but they never gave me any counseling.” CONTINUED ON PG. 11
Marilyn Webb at the Beginning of her career. photo courtesy of marilyn webb
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
“I was like, ‘I was robbbed,’ and their response was, ‘we understand.’” CONTINUED FROM PG. 10
Although Guyot-Sionnest was conscious of the circumstances under which Dembe left the University, he was wary of contemporary academia’s consciousness of gender. “We are in a field that deals more with numbers than social issues. Smart people of any kind can get into this field, they just have to prove they are smart enough to make it. When I came here, I didn’t sense there was as much emphasis on it then as now, but I’m not sure the trend is such a positive one,” he said. “This #MeToo thing was not what motivated us. We were not trying to right the wrong from society, but evaluate whether her research at the time led to a Ph.D. she deserved.” Dembe, for her part, wonders whether the attack she experienced contributed to her isolation after Meyer’s death. “It might have created an atmosphere where men were terrified of interacting with me,” she said. “There was no way to talk about assault.” Actually, there was no way to talk about any gender-based problem, even the less graphic ones. Dembe was on campus during the beginnings of second-wave feminism, but these were
events occurring outside Dembe’s life, albeit very nearby. “I wasn’t political—I was just working extraordinarily hard,” she said. Among the women in her program, she said, there was no consideration that they might have similar experiences working to prove themselves, or that others might have had similar experiences to her assault. Dembe told me about taking a class for which linear algebra was an unlisted prerequisite, which she hadn’t known she needed. So, she was taking the class and teaching herself the math simultaneously, thinking she was the only person doing so. But when she mentioned her predicament to another woman in the class, Dembe found out she wasn’t the only one playing catch-up. “I thought it was just me who had a problem—she said she was doing the same thing. Whatever was asked of us, we simply did,” she said. “There was a way of not even questioning [our experiences]. I never would have considered that I had any rights— [there was] the feeling that I needed to prove myself every moment. It was almost a gift for us to be allowed to be there,” Dembe said.
Webb holds a sign at an anti-war march staged by a set of women’s peace groups in January 1968, just after leaving Chicago. photo courtesy of marilyn webb
Title IX, which prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender, passed the year after Dembe left Chicago. Dembe “did not watch or notice at all” as the legal breakthrough took place. Webb also did not question the culture she entered at Chicago. “Everything was men. It never dawned on me until later that this was wrong. There was no way to report [assault]…it was all hush-hush,” Webb said. Besides, most of Webb’s learning was taking place off campus. With Vietnam War protests and the acceleration of the civil rights movement in the background, Webb jumped into community organizing in Woodlawn, getting involved with a University program called SWAP, which tutored high schoolers from the area. This led to discussions with the students’ parents about what other resources were missing from the neighborhood. “The mothers of the students…said they wanted to organize a preschool. I thought I could do that; and I started this preschool with essentially welfare mothers…. This was before Headstart. They gave us $10,000 to run the school from the start and had a lot of excitement,” she said.
Dembe with friends in front of Kent Hall.
It was a time when different kinds of activism were colliding and merging with one another. Webb ended up being the director of both the preschool she had started as well as another, started by the Woodlawn Organization under legendary organizer, activist, and University alumnus Saul Alinsky (A.B. ’30). Webb didn’t have much to say about University-specific features of her time in Chicago. Her life revolved around the volatile politics of the era and her work in Woodlawn. “My excitement was with the Woodlawn mothers,” she said. “The people I hung out with were all political people. Everything was just starting. SNCC [the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights organization] was happening, Mississippi freedom summer…. It was all happening. It was a changing time.” The feminist movement was emerging—but not quickly enough for Webb. “My case was probably the cusp of the beginning [of the] change,” Webb said. “It was very difficult to be in the middle of it.” The difficulty emerged as Webb began to try to assemble a dissertation commitCONTINUED ON PG. 12
photo courtesy of cheryl dembe
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
“It was almost a gift for us to be allowed to be there.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 11
tee. Webb realized that her work in the preschools could contribute to her Ph.D., and by 1967, she was ready to start the dissertation process, which she envisioned would revolve around comparing the two preschools. So, she started scouting for thesis advisers, beginning with a mentor of hers. He offered to serve on the committee in exchange for coming to her apartment and bathing her. The next person who Webb asked pinned her against a wall and tried to kiss her. “I cannot for the life of me remember how I got out of that room. He said it was quid pro quo,” Webb said. After these experiences of harassment, Webb abandoned the idea of doing her doctorate at UChicago. She moved to Washington, D.C. instead, and became a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, which marked the beginning of her career in women’s organizing and media. Over the years, she tried several times to contact the University about her incomplete degree, but before 2017, these efforts were unsuccessful. The University refused to take her story seriously, effectively saying they would side with the professors, and told her that her seven-year window to get her degree was long over anyways. “I had called and they said, ‘It’s his word against yours—and besides, the seven years are up,’” she said. Finally, she said in 2017, “I was like, ‘I was robbed,’ and their response was: ‘We understand.’” Professor Kathleen Cagney, who served on Webb’s dissertation committee, agreed with Webb’s assessment of the climate for women in academia at that time. “I think it’s terrible that it happened. Was I surprised? Probably not so much,” Cagney said. While the sociology department can’t fix what happened in 1967, Cagney said, they were able to make sure Webb got the part of her Ph.D. on which she missed out the most, including the experience of assembling a dissertation committee. This time around, Webb successfully assembled a doctoral committee, comprised of Omar McRoberts and Kristen Schilt as well as Cagney.
Webb will receive a Ph.D. in education, although UChicago’s education department disbanded in 1997. She used her 1999 book The Good Death as the starting point for a dissertation that ended up being 800 pages. “Marilyn was so into it,” Cagney said. “She really liked thinking about the theory that could be brought to bear on her work and she was open to thinking about modifying it and updating it; she had a really lively mind.” Unlike Dembe, whose notebooks were the entire basis for her degree, Webb and her faculty members worked together extensively to develop her thesis out of The Good Death. Cagney said that this faculty-student interaction was essential to give Webb the kind of experience she didn’t get in 1967. “The thing she lost on was having commentary…. She deserves to have her work read and discussed and developed. And so we wanted to make certain of that,” Cagney said. Making sure Webb had a quality doctoral process despite the unusual circumstances was at the forefront of her committee members’ minds, Cagney said. “How do we make sure we do right by her? How do we make sure that somebody gets a degree from a department that doesn’t exist anymore? How do we create the bridge from the coursework she did some years ago to contemporary research? How do we make sure she has the right kind of intellectual experience?” Cagney asked. Webb sees the University’s action as “major,” and representative of a paradigm she hopes is shifting. “A whole wave of women in my generation have not had their degrees because of sexual harassment,” Webb said. “This is a really cutting-edge thing they’re doing.” Dembe, for her part, said that she had “nothing but gratitude” regarding what she referred to as the “fairly amazing unfoldments” of the past months. “I have no anger at all. I look at every situation in life as providing a great gift along my path of life. I think I’ve ended up far more balanced,” she said. “If I could pick any life in creation, I would be picking my own.”
Before coming to Chicago, Cheryl Dembe (far right) worked in industry. She’s pictured here with several colleagues. photo courtesy of cheryl dembe
We sent our son John across the country for college -a boy without a compass. As parents we were excited for him, but worried he would be lost in the masses. Very quickly, we learned that UChicago is not just a university, but a community in every sense of the word. We cannot express enough gratitude to the faculty, counselors, and staff members who guided his ship; the fellow students who became his extended family; the campus police who kept our minds at ease and those in food service who kept food warm in the odd hours. We will forever be indebted to UChicago for not only helping John to craft his compass, but for pointing him True North. We couldn’t have done this without you, UChicago! - The Naumovski Family
the chicago maroon â€” JUNE 5, 2019
the chicago maroon — JUNE 5, 2019
Gillian K.J. Moore is graduating from the University of Chicago with
an exemplary academic record that has put her at the top of the Dean’s List and has won her distinction in both of her majors, Philosophy and Visual Arts. During her undergraduate years, she studied French art, literature, and history in UChicago’s 2015 Paris Program; spent the summer of 2016 at the Michelangelo Institute in Florence studying Italian and learning Renaissance painting techniques; was chosen to be UChicago’s sole study-abroad student at Cambridge University during her 2017-18 junior year, where she took an intensive regimen of philosophy courses at Trinity College and rowed for the Trinity women’s crew; and did a rigorous graduate-level 2018 summer painting course at the Royal College of Art in London. Gillian’s paintings have been included in numerous gallery exhibitions—in Florence, London, and Chicago—and she did an extra-curricular dissertation in meta-aesthetics under the supervision of the renowned philosopher Simon Blackburn while at Cambridge University. Gillian intends to go on to graduate school and has long-term ambitions to triangulate between the disciplines of art, philosophy, and environmental studies so as to use her art to cast a critical eye upon the environmental degradation with which her generation must grapple. Before continuing her studies, however, Gillian will be spending the coming year as a U.S. Forest Service wildfire fighter on an engine crew based in Crescent, Oregon. As she insists, both art and philosophy are toothless when done in a vacuum. To make them powerful tools of change in the world, the artist and thinker must contribute to, and be part of, that world.
Congratulations Gillian on becoming a world-changer!
CONGRATULATIONS ROSANA, WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU! ”There is no magic to achievement, it’s really about hard work, choices and persistence.” Michelle Obama WITH LOVE, MOM AND DAD
the chicago maroon — JUNE 5, 2019
Your creativity, strength and compassion inspire us. Our wish for you is to find what speaks to you most, embrace it and build a life around it. We’ll proudly be behind you every step of the way - love you to Infinity and Beyond!! Mom & Ray, Dad & Mary
Congratulations Bryan we are all so very proud of you!
Congratulations John!!! We are so proud of you! Good luck in your next adventure!! We love you, Mom and Dad
Hooray Jacob Pierce!!! May you always enjoy the climb as much as the summit. Carpe diem! Love Mom, Mark, Alex and the crew
“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed ... equally well.” - J.S. Bach
the chicago maroon â€” JUNE 5, 2019
HUSSAM ALAZZAWI To my Pride And Joy, Congratulations on your great achievement dear Hussam. You have made it on your own, and you should be so proud of yourself, as we are all so proud of you.
We are all very lucky to be your family. Youâ€™ve grown up so fast my love, and you were so peaceful throughout your successes like a cool breeze, you always maintained a magical smile, and you cared for every one of us in your own way. You have been a great mentor, and an idol for your siblings, and forever will be. We wish you a prosperous and bright future in Wall Street, and wherever your steps will take you. Forever keep smiling dear
the chicago maroon — JUNE 5, 2019
congratulations mason bernstein Class of 2019 Love, Mom, Dad & Aurora
You’ve listened. You’ve learned. Now get the T-shirt. UChicago’s Big Brains podcast gear now available in the bookstore or online at uchicago.bncollege.com
SUBSCRIBE ON OR WHEREVER YOU LISTEN
the chicago maroon — JUNE 5, 2019
congrats!! Well done!! bravo!!
REID MARTIN Graduation 2019 Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Policy
“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end, it’s right... I hope you had the time of your life.” - Green Day
the chicago maroon â€” JUNE 5, 2019
Katrina Danielle Williams We are so proud of you and all of your amazing accomplishments. We are so happy God blessed us with you.
Love, Mom, Dad, Cassandra, Kristin, Andrew, Grandmas, and Grandpas
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
ARTS juhiguptaandherbizarreartpolitic.pdf By ALEX DALTON Arts Reporter
Juhi Gupta graduates next week with a dual degree in visual arts and public policy studies. An active member and leader of University of Chicago Student Action during her time at the university, her art and activism are closely linked. She sat down with The Maroon to talk about her experiences at the University of Chicago, her personal development as an artist, and her plans for the future. As Gupta sees it, art and politics will always be inseparable. She recalled an incident when one of her professors asked a classmate, who had produced a set of white T-shirts, “What is the politic to this?” The classmate responded that he saw his work as apolitical. “She was like, ‘That is just not possi-
ble,’” Gupta said. “‘You’re not functioning and you’re not making artwork in a vacuum. Once [your work] enters into the world, it has these social implications and you're expected, as the artist, to have thought about those before you do that.’” For a class last year, Gupta created “the first piece that felt like it was part of my current artistic trajectory.” Titled “A History of Counterculture,” the exhibition compiled television advertisements stretching back 60 years, each of which appropriates the anti-establishment motifs of the day to sell a product. The imagery of hippie culture was repurposed to sell Levis in the ’60s; Subarus were described as the punk rock of cars when the ’90s zeitgeist demanded it; Pepsi infamously presented a sanitized, apolitical version of today’s protest movements in a 2017 Kendall Jenner ad. Playing simulta-
Congrats, Isa B! You are on your way!
Dad, Mom and Ivy
neously on three adjacent monitors, the exhibition is undeniably eerie. It illustrates a fundamental artist’s anxiety to which Gupta has devoted much thought. “My nightmare is to have my work used in a way that violates my political values,” she said. Gupta brought up examples of high-profile artists attempting to “reclaim control” over misappropriated works, including Richard Prince’s decision to disown his portrait of Ivanka Trump. “These attempts are so feeble, so futile,” she said. “No one gives a fuck anymore.” Artists can only watch as capitalism twists their creations beyond their control. Along the way, Gupta has wrestled with the question of where art fits into the broader political struggle to make the world a better place.
Gupta’s organizing background has taught her to think in terms of “very concrete, tangible things that we can achieve.” And so the idea of art as activism raises difficult questions: “Can art do any of those things? What is the role of art in the legal process? Is it irresponsible for someone to consider themselves an activist [if] they’re only making art?” Her answer, or “working thesis” as she put it, comes from her reading of Herbert Marcuse: Art can alter the parameters of human imagination, making people more prepared to be politically active. This year, she participated in the Smart Scholars Program, researching the work of American conceptual artist Adrian Piper. Among other things, Piper is known for her confrontational anti-racist street performances. GupCONTINUED ON PG. 21
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Internet-based media provide a solution to Gupta’s fear of misappropriation CONTINUED FROM PG. 20
ta greatly admires Piper’s work and her bravery, but differs in her understanding of the goals of political art. While Piper frequently dealt with politics in terms of abstractions, Gupta prefers to deal with societal problems head-on. As part of her final presentation at the Smart Museum, Gupta created a series of GIFs that incorporated photos, news clippings, and animated clip art to confront the issues of the University’s political microclimate, like the UCPD’s record of racial profiling in the surrounding neighborhoods. Internet-based media provide a solution to Gupta’s fear of misappropriation. Since they can be made freely available online, digital works of art can never be hoarded by the powerful. Although she has yet to use it in a show, one of Gupta’s favorite of the artistic ideas she has come up with consists of
a toy Elmo doll riding atop an off-brand Roomba, equipped with a speaker. She gets a kick out of the idea of gallery attendees being confronted by the odd little contraption as they wander around looking at art. It also offers an opportunity to explore the interplay between the tangible and the mimetic, “piecing together this human experience using these symbols that we only know about from, or that we have only reckoned with, in this digital way.” The bizarre idea captures Gupta’s sensitivity to the little absurdities inherent to life in the Internet age, her sense of humor, and her commitment to breaking down the barriers between “high” and “low” art. She told a story about another classmate who asked about one of her works, “Is there a reason why that circle isn’t a perfect circle?”
Gupta has no formal artistic training and has no time for such questions. “Hating the art world and fine art and high art” is a pillar of her artistic philosophy. She cited the works produced through San Francisco nonprofit Creativity Explored, which gives artists with developmental disabilities the means to create and share artwork, as an example of art that manages to be powerful without perfect craft. This summer, Gupta plans to participate in a residency at the Chicago Artists Coalition before heading home to San Francisco. She is considering continuing her education with either an MFA or a Masters in Urban Planning. In the long term, she’s setting her sights high. “I want to be a famous artist,” she said. Whether or not she succeeds, however, she plans to remain artistically and politically active.
Gupta’s exhibit at the VA Show. courtesy of mike grittani
Ricky Novaes Doesn’t Want To Write The Next Harry Potter By ALINA KIM Arts Reporter
When it began in the fall quarter of 2017, the creative writing major was one of the newest majors to be offered as an undergraduate concentration. Blending literature with the opportunity to share original creations, students in the field enjoy workshops, seminars, and projects considering contemporary culture. Fourth year Ricky Novaes, a poet and typewriter-owner, declared his major in creative writing after treading the waters and falling in love with the artistic freedom encouraged by the program. The Chicago Maroon sat down with Novaes to discuss his time at UChicago, his inspirations for his B.A. thesis, and his hopes for the future. Chicago Maroon: First off, congratulations on completing your creative writing major here at UChicago! Creative writing was a newer department around here, so what attracted you to the major? Ricky Novaes: Coming to Chicago, I wanted to study English. I took a bunch of English classes to feel it out. I mean, I love English, but I felt a lot of the time
that I was really being led certain directions with whatever book we were reading. The professor would ask questions knowing what answer they wanted. And then it felt sometimes I couldn’t give my full reading of a book. I’ve always liked to write, and I am a journalist. I felt like I wasn’t really doing what I wanted to do. [Writing] massive analytic papers that are scrutinizing different parts of what we read didn’t really appeal. I just wanted to write whatever I wanted to. And at this time, when I was a second-year, creative writing was a minor. So, I wanted to try out something in the minor. The end of my second year, they created the creative writing major. So, I took Beginning Poetry Workshop as my first class. Just to feel it out. And I loved it. The professor was amazing, the class was amazing, and the books we were reading made me want to write. CM: Was there anything special about the creative writing program that stood out to you, besides the fact that it gave you more freedom to write whatever you wanted? RN: Each class is small. Like, dramatically small. UChicago likes to talk about
small class size in general, but creative writing classes are like, eight people, 10 people max. And you really get to know every single classmate, not just from being with them weekly, three hours at a time. Just from the act of writing and sharing with other people, you get to know everyone really well…. I also like how the classes are structured. Half the time [is] about what we read, what the author intends, why what they are doing is good. The other half of class, we share our own writing…. There’s so much freedom. I very much felt self-motivated too, and got back a lot of strong criticism…. There was a self-guiding voice always leading me, telling me to do my best and accept the feedback, take time to grow. It’s a major that is driven by passion. I’m also a political science major—which is super different, I know. Political science is for employment reasons. Nobody does creative writing for a career! [laughs] Joking. Really, though: It’s about wanting to write better, just doing what I love. CM: What was the hardest part of being a creative writing major? RN: I always had to structure my class
schedule around what creative writing classes were on the catalog. One or two required creative writing classes were always there, and there were workshop requirements and tech seminars. But there’s usually only one workshop and one tech seminar per quarter. There’s not a lot of classes to choose from yet, and I can’t just say, “This sounds interesting, I’ll take it later,” because I didn’t know if there was a “later.” Whatever is offered, I’m taking. So, I’d be like, “OK. This is the class I need to take. I need to pivot the rest of my schedule around this.” I really wanted to study abroad, and I did, but I ended up doing it over the summer. So yeah, it’s definitely a bit rigid. CM: Were you at the Expose Art Fair? RN: I was! I was doing my own thing, as I always do. I wrote a B.A. thesis for creative writing, which was a collection of poems I’ve written over my time here. The thesis itself was 10 poems. I made small booklets of my poems, around four in each. I also have a typewriter, so I was writing poems for people on the spot. CM: What drew you to poetry? Do CONTINUED ON PG. 22
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
“Poetry, it’s about certain lines, certain words.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 21
you have any inspirations? RN: The first poet I remember being inspired by was Walt Whitman. I read him in fifth or sixth grade, during a poetry unit. I think my favorite poem from him was “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” For as long as I can remember, I could recite the last line of the poem. That’s the beauty of poetry. Other writings, you have to see the whole picture to understand it. You’ll have to remember characters, plot lines, and everything. Poetry, it’s about certain lines, certain words. I enjoyed writing, like in journals, and writing how I felt—being creative and making something out of it. That really led to poetry for me. There are only two poetry majors in creative writing! We each have to choose a track: poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. There’s 40 or so of us graduating this year as seniors. I guess everyone else wants to write the next Harry Potter. [laughs] CM: Are there any specific lines that you loved in your B.A. thesis, like, “This is the most fucking awesome thing I’ve ever written!” RN: I never thought about that! I wrote a haiku after my adviser suggested it, to tie everything in my thesis together. I loved writing it. The title is “Return with Flowers.” There’s not a
lot of talk about flowers in the overall thesis, but it really made sense in that poem specifically. The last line is “And everyone you pass on the street.” A lot of it is about simultaneity, how living in the city with other people is like living your own life, but a life with everyone in the same space, when you’re reading, listening to music, in class. How do you find your own life when everything else is going on at once? Looking back at the thesis, I liked different parts of it, and they’re all flashing at me now. But I was happiest with that haiku. CM: What was the focus of your B.A. thesis? Did you just write about whatever came to mind? RN: The poems come from all throughout the creative writing major. There’s a poem in there I wrote my second year. There’s a poem I wrote this quarter in there. But the main theme was modern life and what it is like to live in the city. There’s a lot of meditations, like “On the Bus,” which was me commuting from work to home, seeing a homeless guy in the back of the bus, what it means to live and work, what it means to have people always surrounding you. I write a lot about music, and I love to weave it into my works. A poem called “Earworm” is all about how a song that is stuck in my head is a memory that is trapped in my head that loops and re-
peats. I started off with talking about the city in my thesis and moved later to more personal reflections on family and family life. I tried to bring that all together with a sense of the modern world and its hectic and crazy features. There are many things that return me to the same feelings, and I tried to write in a way that you can return to that moment. Amidst all the chaos, I ground memories in writing and music. CM: What advice would you give to creative writing majors? RN: Don’t hold back with your writing. I think a lot of the time, I felt the need to write a certain way, or be the next Walt Whitman. I need to be this grandiose. Or, stuff like Instagram poetry, which my sister sends me all the time. It’s stanzas like “We drank whiskey/ and I knew pain.” God, that’s so lame! So boring! So, part of me thought I realized that I need to be dense and write about intelligent things. But then other times, I feel like I’m trying too hard to sound like Walt Whitman. The ultimate goal in writing is to find your own voice! That’s really hard to do. The best way to keep approaching this is to just write the first things that come to mind. Write down all the thoughts you have and go back to it and edit. Always be writing! I write on my phone a lot on my notes app. I always wrote on the bus ride down-
town, the bus ride home. I walk around and write; in my free time I write. Just jot things down! Two lines, three lines. Words that you really like. I did that for an entire summer while staying in Chicago and continued all quarter. One of my finals in a creative writing class was a 20-page assignment of literally anything. It sounds daunting, but I took what was in my notes app and just pasted it. It was 30 pages long. Of course, after some editing and taking out all the dumb stuff, it became 20 pages. It all just sprung from my spontaneous writing, writing in the moment on my phone. To new writers out there, make writing your life. CM: Have you thought of your future as a creative writer? RN: Yeah! I’m going to be in Teach for America next year, as a creative writing and English instructor! I’m teaching 12th grade English, which I don’t feel qualified for. But that’s OK. I’m so excited for it. And the creative writing class was totally unexpected. I knew I was going to teach English, but they also threw in creative writing. I think I’ll teach for two or three years, and then decide if I want to go to law school or get a creative writing master’s degree. We’ll see. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Sarah Saltiel is a Renaissance Woman By JAD DAHSHAN Associate Arts Editor
Sarah Saltiel, who also goes by Sam, is a graduating English, visual arts, and creative writing triple-major in the College. The Chicago Maroon recently sat down with Saltiel to discuss her time spent as an undergraduate, including her work for the recent B.A. Thesis Exhibition, the growth of her poetry practice, and how her foray into the world of game design has opened up a whole new career path for her. CM: Can you talk about your B.A. theses? And how they tie to each other? SS: I did two B.A. projects, one for the visual arts (V.A.) department, and
one for the creative writing department. The V.A. one was a transmedia art installation about the intersection between femme identities and mental illness. It was designed in order to produce feelings of calm and catharsis so people can better approach really difficult or uncomfortable topics. There were ways to engage with the space that talked about how gender and mental illness interact. I ended up interviewing about 50 people who either are currently femme-identifying or were at some point or have some connection to femme-ness as a gender identity in general. I interviewed them about their experiences with gender identity and mental illness and then did portraits
of each one of them. The creative writing thesis was similar topically. I act, and in fall quarter I was Lady Macbeth in CES’s [Classical Entertainment Society] rendition of Macbeth. When acting, the director asked, “What do you think is going on with the character behind the lines? What’s not in the script?” And I thought about how Lady Macbeth is generally portrayed as this power-hungry, one-dimensional character. She’s definitely one of Shakespeare’s more interesting women characters, but she’s not really seen as having much motivation behind her actions. So I imagined that King Duncan was her uncle—not canonical, at all! [Laughs]
Duncan was also abusive to her, so she grew up not having a language to speak about abuse because that wasn’t accessible at that time. So I think my version of Lady Macbeth tries to act against this abuser. And her trajectory in the play is toward realizing that the men around her are all going to dictate her fate. And so I ended up writing my creative writing thesis as a modernized retelling of the story of Lady Macbeth, a semi-autobiographical story about an abusive relationship. It’s about gendered violence, cycles of abuse, and rage, and how they interact. CM: In the V.A. thesis exhibit, what did you do to facilitate the calming CONTINUED ON PG. 23
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
“I don’t think the question of what is and is not art is interesting.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 22
effects to encourage people to engage with the difficult topics your work is concerned with? SS: I was trying to channel a calming and comforting vibe through music, coloring, furniture. I think I faced a lot of pushback, because you’re, like, okay, so what, it’s calm? But that wasn't really the point—I wanted people to be more able and willing to engage safely with really uncomfortable and hard material. It was a means to an end; it wasn’t the end itself. CM: How did the interviews feed into the portraits, and what was the process of creating them? SS: I think consent is really crucial to a lot of the things I think about, especially because I generally involve other people in the art-making process. So I would ask every person at the end of the interview if they had preferences about what they wanted with their portrait. If they didn’t have any preferences, I
would go through their interview for certain ideas that I could easily transform into a physical representation. I wanted these to be representational of the interviews, so they’re not just lifelike portraits. I wanted them to show the content of what we talked about to get a truer essence of what came across in the interview. CM: And how had your previous coursework built up to this? SS: I’ve been in several classes with Amber Ginsburg and I think those classes particularly have helped me flesh out exactly what it is that I’m interested in because I have very strong ideas about what sort of art I want to create. I don’t think the question of what is and is not art is interesting. But I have very strong opinions about the type of art that I’m interested in—which is generally socially engaged. And I’m very interested in the body as a topic of art, which expands to mental illness and ideas of intersectional feminism, but I’m very interested
Sarah Saltiel’s V.A. thesis exhibit. courtesy of sarah saltiel in what it means to be a body in space. I do a lot of different art forms; I do more traditional visual arts like drawing and painting; I do installation work; I write prose and poetry; I do game design, and I dance, and I act. With all of those, I
think there is a very core and central interest in the body. I think Amber’s class has really helped me flesh those out. This interview was cut for print. Read the full article at chicagomaroon.com
SPORTS More Than the Performance By DANIEL ZEA Sports Reporter
With the end of any collegiate season, athletic programs experience turnover; no team escapes the process of welcoming new athletes and bidding farewell to graduating veterans. While the Maroon track and field teams will undoubtedly recruit a number of excellent competitors next year, they will surely miss the contributions of fourth-year co-captain Ben Chaimberg, whose excellent collegiate career helped push the team to new heights. A recipient of numerous University Athletic Association (UAA) designations and a UAA Champion in the 2017 indoor 4x400-meter relay, Chaimberg boasts an impressive athletic resume. Equally focused on his responsibilities as a student, Chaimberg also earned a place on the UAA All-Aca-
demic Team for three consecutive years. While Chaimberg could certainly bask in the success he’s enjoyed throughout his collegiate career, in reflecting on it, Chaimberg displayed a team-first mentality, often using “we” instead of “I.” He certainly could have cited a number of achievements when asked about the athletic highlight of his four years here, however; Chaimberg instead emphasized the efforts of this year’s 4x400-meter relay team, stating, “The time that we put up in the relay this outdoor season was very unexpected. I think that in terms of one accomplishment, that time means a lot. We’re second all-time with that time for the University.” Later discussing his biggest takeaways from his four years as a member of the track and field team, Chaimberg continued to exude appreciation for his
peers. In fact, Chaimberg remarked, “The teammates that I had taught me so much about work ethic, about what’s important, how you prioritize, but also about friendship too, about how you come together as more than a group of individuals who run, but really as a whole family.” Reiterating the importance of this dynamic, Chaimberg shared, “Our cheer for the team is ‘Team, Family.’ That’s who we are.” More than just representative of the team’s character, that cheer also characterizes Chaimberg’s approach to the sport. While admitting that “track is an individual sport 95 percent of the time,” Chaimberg also asserted that “if you spend enough time with people working towards one goal, you’re going to create a great community, and that community can allow you to do so much more than what you could on your
own.” Focused more on comradery than results, Chaimberg maintains a unique viewpoint on a sport many would not consider team-oriented. To Chaimberg, however, the concept of team adds immense value to track and field. According to him, “It’s so much more to me than just the performance.” Finally, offering some advice to his teammates as a departing co-captain, Chaimberg emphatically stressed, “Take care of your family, man…. They will have your back no matter what.” Additionally, Chaimberg urged his teammates to maximize their time on the team. Reflecting on his own motivation, he stated, “I feel like I’m here at this school to get everything out of it.” Passing this on to his teammates, Chaimberg said, “Just make the most of it, enjoy it.”
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Co-Coach of the Year: Kate Robinson, Lacrosse By ALISON GILL Sports Editor
Kate Robinson almost didn’t come to UChicago. After helming the inaugural seasons at Whitman University, she hoped to avoid the stresses of beginning a program again, stating, “It’s hard to start a program—there are a lot of challenges, and it takes a lot of time and patience. So, after the last time, I said I was never doing it again.” Fortunately for the UChicago athletics department, Robinson relented, pointing to the potential the university’s unique combination of academics, rich athletic history, and location provide. “I really enjoyed working at higher academic, Division III institutions because of all the benefits that you see with the type of student-athletes that go there… As far as UChicago itself, with the conference affiliation and our NCAA region, I could see us as a program being a powerhouse in the Midwest in the first few years of its existence. That was exciting to me and an exciting challenge to me,” she said. In its first season, Robinson’s team certainly announced itself as a program to
watch. The team went 15–3, including an undefeated record at home, and finished runner-up in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), narrowly missing out on an NCAA berth. Throughout the season, the Maroons dominated its competition, averaging 16.44 goals per game compared to 8.17 goals against per game. Robinson coached three first-years to All-Region recognition, among them first team midfielder Karina Schulze, who was also honored as CCIW Offensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. For her efforts, Robinson was named the CCIW Co-Coach of the Year. Despite the team’s lack of experience, Robinson’s philosophy centered on growth and learning fostered a team environment that encouraged collaboration and competitiveness. Taking the lessons she learned from her time at Whitman, Robinson understood that “this first year is just so important with bonding, connecting, and growing as an unit… In this program, we did it exceptionally well, and it was reflected in our success in terms of wins and losses.” A former multi-time All-American lacrosse player and basketball captain at the
Catholic University of America, Robinson reflects on her own experience in order to guide her athletes. She understands what they’re going through and seeks to make their athletic involvement “as beneficial as possible.” She balances the desire to win and grow with the need to “love doing what we’re doing.” “Before every game, I want us to have some fun. If we’re not having fun, then what’s the point?” Robinson explained. Beyond the on-field accomplishments, it’s the relationship between players and coach that sets apart Robinson, in part due to her fun-loving attitude. Robinson describes her players as “goofy, extremely hard-working, passionate, coachable, extremely invested in all that they do” and repeatedly says “I love them.” And to be around the lacrosse players is to hear them reciprocate these same sentiments. The players gush about Robinson, telling stories about how she supported them or helped them adjust or, simply, made a funny joke in practice the other day and repeatedly stressing how much they love her. “She is honestly the best coach I’ve ever had,” said first-year attacker Lally Johnson.
With the entire starting line-up returning and another strong recruiting class entering, Robinson and the team have their sights set high for next year, hoping to replicate and improve upon the success from the past season. “We were very close to doing it this year, and winning the CCIW championship next year is number one on our goals. If we win that we go to the NCAA tournament, and we’d love to see how we do there against some of the more established programs,” Robinson explained. As for longer term goals? Robinson doesn’t shy away from lofty expectations: “I think any coach here would say that they want to win a national championship, and I think that we are equipped to do so at this school. I am excited for that future.” Robinson believes that, as long as her expectations and communication aligns with the team, “it will happen.” She sees the motivation and commitment in her athletes, and, with her combination of strategic knowledge, attitude, and personal experience, Robinson is the perfect coach to build and lead the lacrosse program to impressive heights.
Athlete of the Year: Agnes Lo, Diving By DANIEL ZEA Sports Reporter
As one of the University of Chicago’s most accomplished student-athletes, thirdyear diver Agnes Lo has been named The Maroon’s Athlete of the Year. Turning in a phenomenal season, Lo owns an incredible record of achievements. This year alone, Lo was named All-American in both the oneand three-meter dives. Winning the NCAA regional championships in those events, Lo qualified to compete at the NCAA Division III National Championships in both, placing second in the three-meter dive with a score of 486.35, while earning third in the one-meter dive with a score of 468.45. Lo also emerged victorious from the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships in both of her events, setting school, pool, and UAA records in the process. However, not content to simply excel in her athletic endeavors, Lo earned a place on the
UAA All-Academic Team as well. More than just her accolades, Lo’s work ethic also merits praise. In fact, fourth-year teammate Anna Girlich said of Lo, “Agnes is one of the hardest working divers I have ever met. She is always looking for different ways to improve…and it has really showed in her performances this year.” Not content to relish in the multitude of accomplishments from her first year, which included another pair of All-American designations as well as numerous broken records, Lo continued to develop her skills, allowing her to continue raising the bar this past season. However, her time spent honing her skills in the practice pool would amount to little without the ability to perform when it matters, a skill Lo possesses. According to Girlich, “She handles high pressure situations so well, which you don’t often see in a diver, and some of the biggest meets have been her best performances.” After asking Lo about her approach in these moments,
she responded, “I like to not have expectations ever. I don’t think about results; I don’t think about what could go wrong.” According to Lo, “You take it one dive at a time.” While Lo could easily bask in her myriad accomplishments, she stays humble. Lo attributes much of her success to the people around her, especially her teammates and coach Becky Benson, who recently received the honor of NCAA Division III Women’s Diving National Coach of the Year. In discussing the highlights of the season, Lo immediately mentioned regionals; however, she focused on something other than her victory, speaking about the way in which she and her teammates spent the meet dancing and cheering, lightening up what was otherwise a tense and stressful atmosphere. Glowingly, Lo remarked about her team, “We love each other so much. We want each other to succeed.” As for her coach, Lo said, “You could do however
badly at meets and she would still love you just as much. She’s the best coach I’ve ever had in my life by far.” Later discussing what motivates Lo to keep pushing when many athletes quit, she quickly answered: “my team and my coach.” Finally, discussing her biggest takeaways thus far in her collegiate career, Lo quickly responded, “I have so many answers for this.” Narrowing it down to one, Lo stressed the importance of learning “how to tough it out.” Explaining further, Lo remarked, “Diving is such a mentally demanding sport.” According to her, “Diving is 90 percent mental,” and consequently, “you can overcome things that you didn’t think you’d be able to before.” With her fourth and final year upcoming, Lo will certainly look to continue her high level of achievement. However, when asked about her main goal, she smiled and said, “Try to have even more fun than last year.”
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Co-Coach of the Year: Becky Benson, Diving By SHANYU HU Sports Reporter
When Becky Benson got the opportunity to come to Chicago to continue coaching collegiately last year, she took it. Being the UChicago head diving coach and assistant director of aquatics, she works with an enormous team, but mainly focuses on a very small microcosm of that team: the divers. Benson says, “University of Chicago is like no other university I have ever worked at, and I mean that 100 percent in a very encouraging, positive, and vibrating energy.” She fits into the department nicely, with athletic director Erin McDermott and swim coach Jason Weber providing her with an environment in which she can succeed and do what she does best, which is helping young athletes become better both inside and out. As a former athlete, Benson states, “Diving for me has been a very personal journey, mirroring my life in terms of
events, growth, and friendships. Essentially, you start out not knowing anything like a novice, just like you are in life. With good training and coaches who care about you, you can go as high as you are physically and emotionally able to go in the sport.” Benson has found the encouraging environment and support of the team to be incredible: “We just have a lot of fun; we work very hard. There is discipline, respect for me, there is self-respect and in that though, we have learnt about each other. And learnt how to support and help each other. And we laugh an awful lot of the time.” This year, the women’s diving team had an amazing season. The entire team qualified for the NCAA. Benson took four girls and had them compete for the limited number of places in which to qualify for the championship meet. Given the hard work, dedication, and commitment of the athletes and Benson, the four girls all placed in the top five and qualified. Benson recounts,
“My image of them, hugging each other, just standing in front of the results board, with their fingers up with the place they came in was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Because it was a team goal and team achievement.” Reflecting on her time coaching at UChicago, Benson comments, “What I think is very important is that I am at a university, in an athletic and recreation department that values ethics and integrity to the utmost, that follows [its] philosophy without [deviating] from it. For the kids, it is going to be something magical and for the staff, it’s going to be a really nice place to come every day. Also, thanks to Jennifer Coleman and her game operations staff for their enormous support. Without them, the swimming and diving meets do not get set up.” As a first-year coach, Benson has allowed the team to get to know her and trust her. Through this, she has formed a vision for the team. Benson says, “I told them at
the beginning that we are going to jump off the current train we are on. It’s plateaued and we need to exit. We need to jump on a whole new train.” Just like Benson hoped, they did. They swept the conference. They scored the most points of any UChicago diving team at the national championships. They all became All-American. After this successful year, Benson highlights, “My goal for the next year is simply to build that powerful foundation, and that is continuing to help [my athletes] believe in themselves in all aspects of their lives.” This not only includes diving, but also academics and future careers. Benson has high hopes for the future of the team. She notes, “There are two young men coming and they are very good. That dynamic of men and women diving together is going to just spark us, again. What I see for the following year for the diving team is more fun, more laughter, and again, great success.”
Team of the Year: Men’s Tennis By MATTHEW LEE Sports Reporter
The 2019 season proved to be an excellent one for Maroon tennis. Over Memorial Day weekend, third-years Erik Kerrigan and Ninan Kumar performed brilliantly for the University of Chicago at the NCAA Division III Singles and Doubles Championship, winning two matches—first against Claremont–Mudd–Scripps, then against the University of Redlands—to qualify for the semifinals. There, the Maroon duo fought valiantly against Bowdoin College, seizing the first set and losing the second before ultimately falling in a nail-biting 6–4 third set. Despite the heartbreaker suffered by men’s doubles, Maroon men’s tennis had much to celebrate over a storied year. A Maroon doubles team made it to the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Singles and Doubles Championships: no small accomplishment at the invitation-only tournament to which six Maroons were afforded invitation. The Maroon roster was bestowed with three All-Americans honors: one for Ninan Kumar, in doubles, and two for his duo partner Kerrigan: one
in doubles and one in singles. And the fact that the Maroon men made it to the semifinals of the NCAA Championship last week before falling to Claremont– Mudd–Scripps is worth celebrating as well. Returning to the regular season, the Maroon men recorded a fantastic record: 20 victories to three losses. But perhaps more importantly, the Maroons have much to celebrate as they prepare to bid farewell to a stalwart set of three fourth-year performers. Men’s tennis prepares to first bid thankful farewells to Max Liu and Jonathan Li. The pair proved effective on the tennis court, with a 22–9 singles and a 20–9 doubles record and a 11–3 singles and 2–1 doubles record, respectively. Both were also excellent students, making UAA All-Academic every year they were eligible. Yet out of all of the team’s accomplished Class of 2019, the leader is undoubtedly Charlie Pei, who, over a four-year career, amassed a deeply positive record: 56–22 in singles and 48–20 in doubles. Yet, numbers alone fail to tell the whole story. His skill on the tennis court meant he was honored as a UAA Athlete of the Week multiple times, and, as a third-year, Pei was further select-
ed as Second Team All-UAA and given an invitation to the UAA All-Tournament Team. A prolific student as well as an athlete, Pei was named UAA All-Academic Team every year he was eligible. He was further honored as an ITA Scholar-Athlete as a third-year, cementing his status as a model Maroon student-athlete. Perhaps stronger than the inevitable bittersweet emotions of farewell, however, are the joys of anticipation and hope. Maroon men’s tennis leaves the 2019 season with an accomplished and battle-tested cast. This year’s two All-Americans and the Maroon’s top performers at both the NCAA Championships and NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, Kumar and Kerrigan, are only third-years. If these third-years’ excellent season is anything to build on, the Maroon’s opponents have much to worry about come 2020. Further down the roster, promising young Maroons await their turn to dominate. Second-year Jeremy Yuan was named First Team All-UAA in singles this season, an honor that sits high among others: ITA All-American in doubles; NCAA national qualifier in single; three-time UAA Athlete of the Week; ITA Central Region doubles
champion; and ITA Central Region singles finalist. Also exciting was first-year Alex Guzhva’s inaugural season for the Maroons: 21–7 in singles and 4–2 in doubles, a performance that won him Second Team All-UAA in singles. And if Guzhva proved a singles phenom, fellow first-year Joshua Xu matches his skill in doubles, winning 25 of 31 of those matches with partner Pei. For good measure, Xu also won 18 of 22 singles matches. For his performance, Xu was named Second Team All-UAA in both Singles and Doubles and was named UAA Rookie of the Year. As these already-accomplished first and second-years matriculate, one expects that they can only grow deadlier, making the Maroons even more potent than they were this year. Though successful in its own right, the Maroon men’s tennis’ 2019 season was most exciting for the promise it foresaw. If ascendant first, second, and third-year Maroons continue their rise—and if next year’s first-year class is as good as this year’s—the 2020 season may end with the Maroon men mounting the top step of the podium at the NCAA Division III Championships. Such an honor is one long awaited, and now, at last, it seems within reach.
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
“So the point of unionization is to rectify this imbalance in the bargaining space.” CONTINUED FROM PG. VI
mentioned long-term erosion of working conditions. So, the point of unionization is to rectify this imbalance in the bargaining space. Instead of thousands of individuals facing a single university, a single union is able to negotiate at parity with a single university. When the negotiation is at parity, we should expect to see pay and working conditions keep pace with living costs. If the university and the union negotiate oneon-one, each is equally capable of walking away from the bargaining table. As a result, workers can genuinely threaten the function of the university in the same way that the university can genuinely threaten the continued function of workers’ lives.
This represents equality in a negotiation and does not unduly grant extra power to the university in its negotiations with its workers, resulting in the most economically efficient and fair outcome. As a small aside: The fact that graduate students can meaningfully threaten the function of the University by going on strike (as 2019 Class Representatives Brett Barbin and Bruce Li helpfully pointed out in their letter to the editor, “GSU: Striking May Negatively Affect Graduating Seniors”) strongly suggests that graduate students are workers who deserve an equal negotiation. Notably, the quality of current working conditions does not play a role in the issues surrounding how current negotiations are set up. By arguing that the problem of poor
LET’S FLIP FOR IT By MAROON CROSSWORD
19 22 30
34 37 40
12. Shady tree 17. Loaded 18. Where you might go
67. Ingredient in many lotions 68. Linguist Chomsky
43. Exercise bike with an accompanying social network
working conditions does not exist, and thus graduate students should not try to unionize, Pavlou is attempting a cheap bait-andswitch. She would like you to think that unionization is something that should be prompted by coal miner–like working conditions, rather than an unfair bargaining position. They are presumably doing this because it is very hard to argue that individual graduate students are actually able to negotiate on an equal footing with the monolithic University administration. Meanwhile, it is very easy to throw up a confusing smokescreen of “tuition waivers!” and “others have it worse!” The endpoint is a shifting of the goalposts such that anyone who both advocates for changes to the status quo and is also not dying of black lung
Across 1. Fail to mention 5. Walkway 9. Fill up 13. Trends 14. One, in Osaka 15. Owner of Winn-Dixie 16. Knock that sucker out? 19. Chia __ 20. Abbreviated disclaimer after a spelling mistake 21. Frat on campus 22. Specialty 24. Muddy Buddies ingredient 26. Denial of service? 30. Unearth a skeleton? 33. Snoop 34. Important or cherished, slangily 35. Snapchat your house on fire, maybe? 37. “Wow. Scary” 39. São Paulo salutation 40. Bend your knees and drink a soda? 46. Alum donor Cathey 50. World Cup participant 51. Use a cold pack—but you should really see a doctor! 53. Buy alternative 55. Wacko 56. Go on and on and on
disease is silenced and delegitimized. Obviously, this creates a sort of loop. As noted above, uneven bargaining spaces tend to erode working conditions. If one loses the privilege to an even bargaining space somewhere above “dying of black lung,” any gains in working conditions from an even bargaining space is an argument to make the playing field unfair all over again. The natural extension of Pavlou’s argument is to keep workers trapped in a cycle of barely making subsistence wages. When President Robert Zimmer is paid $3.2 million a year, one does not have to think hard about who stands to gain from permanent, minimal subsistence for graduate workers. Davis Larkin is a fourth-year in the College.
and on 57. Buttery spread that isn’t butter 59. Protuberance 61. Titration measurements 62. Promote an agricultural disaster? 67. Ingredient in many lotions 68. Linguist Chomsky 69. ___ Romeo (sports car) 70. Quick punches 71. Entry fee 72. Stand up to Down 1. Use as tribute 2. Bichon Frise relative 3. Conjugal words 4. General ___ 5. Spitball slinger 6. Bavarian “Oh!” 7. Italy, Germany, et al. 8. Nexus 9. Prefix for 5-Across 10. The Problem with ___ (2017 film) 11. Torque, symbolically 12. Shady tree 17. Loaded 18. Where you might go to get some sleep 19. Goalies’ needs 23. Sailing
25. Shrimp, at a sushi restaurant 27. Relaxing place 28. Twist the wrong way 29. Seedy loaf 31. Cover letters? 32. Possible res. of a left hook 36. Linger 38. Fundraising gp. 40. Mrs., in Madrid 41. Proof letters 42. Fermi paradox resolution 43. Exercise bike with an accompanying social network 44. Oklahoma Indian #45. Speech sound #47. Jump (from) 48. Quotidianly 49. Commonplace zippers 52. Tweeter’s sufficient 54. Stirs 58. Italian volcano taller than Mount Vesuvius 60. Strike, in Scotland 62. C ___ 63. ___ mode 64. Steal 65. Bowler, e.g. #66. Bullfight cheer
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
“Unlike many in the working class, Ph.D. students have numerous opportunities to receive additional training, experience, and compensation, even if the stipend provided to them already fully supports them.” CONTINUED FROM PG. V
nicate appropriately within a network of administrative staff, to be informed about the procedures and offices available to us and to understand the structure of a higher education institution at a professional level, is a life gift that one can only embrace. In all of these, no oppression or exploitation of any sort is ever present, and work
hours are vetted by the dean of students for each student to ensure a good working hour schedule and success in their programs of study. The essence of graduate experience should focus more on developing these skills and less on being disoriented by arguments of oppression and victimization. Again, if I, with my background, was able to find all of these opportunities and
thrive at a university like UChicago, then most definitely other students can. By any sane metric, therefore, elite Ph.D. students are just that: elite, having earned admission into the very best Ph.D. programs in the world, pursuing the highest research degree that universities confer. The vast majority of elite Ph.D. students understand this, appreciate the
opportunity, and are humble in the recognition of their own privilege and accomplishment. We who have and have had this opportunity have no right to claim we are exploited or oppressed: to do so would be to commit oppression appropriation. Natalia Pavlou graduated in 2018 with a Ph.D. in linguistics.
Supporting GSU Is Economically Logical Arguments Suggesting That Graduate Students Are Not Sufficiently Oppressed to Unionize Are Not Only Mistaken, But Also Completely Irrelevant By DAVIS LARKIN In an article published in The Maroon on June 1, Natalia Pavlou argued that the unionization drive by Graduate Students United (GSU) is an appropriation of real oppression (“Graduate Students Are Not Oppressed”). In her article, she defended the claim that graduate student workers’ agitation for a union is unnecessary, as graduate workers are not sufficiently oppressed to need a union. The motivating idea for this op-ed appears to be that, if you’re already well-off, demanding more is unbecoming and “appropriative” of real oppression. That idea is maybe fair in general, and extremely irrelevant in the particular case of GSU. At worst, it is a clever trick meant to distract from the reasons why graduate workers would want a union. Namely, workers are not bargaining on equal footing with the University, and a union is the simplest and most efficient way to restore parity to negotiations. Basic economic intuition can explain why graduate workers absolutely should unionize, and why they should go on strike if the University continues to refuse to recognize GSU. Whether conditions are good or bad is largely irrelevant to whether workers can bargain equally with their employer. Before getting into the main point of this op-ed, I want to very briefly point out some of the more egregiously bad takes of the author. First, regardless of the amount of pay or waivers, one of GSU’s major points
of concern is that the University often fails to pay on time. This is flagrantly abusive and can be the difference between paying rent and being evicted. Frequent complaints to the University have not fixed this unacceptable, repeated offense. Action, even based solely on this issue, is necessary. Second, on the topic of pay, Pavlou’s vaunted minimum pay package comes out to approximately $17 an hour. This is somewhat ridiculous, when a similar job like a private SAT tutorship can easily make double that number, and an LSAT tutorship can often make triple that or more. $17 an hour also barely covers the yearly costs of living in Chicago, and that’s if one’s employer deigns to actually pay on time. Subsistence wages (for skilled labor, no less!) are not grounds for workers to settle down and shut up. Third, Pavlou points to the ostensibly generous tuition waivers, despite the fact that you can neither eat nor live inside of tuition waivers. Fourth, she then mentions the insanely low compensation for University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) students, which meets barely half the cost of living in Chicago. To be blunt, worse conditions for UIC graduates just suggest that they should unionize so they can bargain more fairly with their administration. It is not an argument for UChicago graduates to quiet down. In short, these are nonsensical administration talking points. However, I do not really want to belabor the point that Pavlou’s article presents misleading facts. My main argument is that
all of these claims, right or wrong, are irrelevant. You should ignore Pavlou’s article entirely, because what it discusses has exactly zero bearing on whether a group of workers should unionize. The point of unionizing is not to improve working conditions if and only if conditions descend to coal-miner status. The point is to put the workers and the employer on even ground in their negotiations. GSU is not going on strike for improved conditions; it is going on strike for an equal negotiating space for workers. Generally speaking, there is a major imbalance in the negotiations between a graduate worker and their university employer. For starters, the market of university employers is often not even remotely perfectly competitive, as graduate workers face high barriers to changing employers. If a graduate worker does not like their working conditions (or arrives to find out that the university regularly fails to pay on time), they have to apply to other programs, and then probably move across the country, uprooting their entire life. These are significant barriers to mobility—and there are more than just these examples—which seriously distort the labor market in favor of employers. Meanwhile, if the university loses a single graduate worker, it can generally move hours around or hire someone new with relative ease. A university losing a graduate worker causes much less disruption for the university than it does for graduate workers changing universities themselves.
As a result, graduate students are generally stuck negotiating individually with the university, and only the university. This is a deeply unequal situation. As the university can walk away from negotiations much more easily than a single graduate worker can, the bargaining space is set up to create a “race to the bottom.” Each individual worker is incentivized to lower their standards for what conditions they will accept, as they are competing with every other individual worker for scarce jobs. When all the workers are engaged in a race to the bottom, we should expect to see terrible conditions like those experienced by graduate workers at UIC in the long run. This bargaining space is designed to erode conditions over time, to the university’s benefit. We should also expect to see workers unable to respond effectively to changing market conditions and collectively demand increased pay when, say, the rent goes up. The inability to negotiate collectively means workers bear all of the brunt of increased costs of living. In a perfect market, these costs would be, in part, passed on to the employer, as workers would be capable of seeking other options if an individual employer did not pay for part of the increasing costs of living. The lack of either a perfect market or a means of negotiating collectively in this case ensures that the university can stonewall each individual worker facing increased costs of living. This is one of the main factors that contributes to the aforeCONTINUED ON PG. VII
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Graduate Students Are Not Oppressed The Life of a UChicago Graduate Student Is Not Characterized by Exploitation and Oppression By NATALIA PAVLOU What could add to the moral outrage we rightly feel at the sufferings of an oppressed minority or person? The appropriation of that oppression by someone who has not suffered. Pretending or claiming to have suffered the same as an actual victim of oppression, discrimination, exploitation, or harassment rightfully offends our sense of moral justice. Yet recent examples abound. Why was Rachel Dolezal vilified for her claim to be Black? Why were so many people outraged when charges were dropped against Jussie Smollett, who falsely claimed to be the victim of a homophobic and racist attack? And why are so many faculty, students, and alumni like myself so skeptical of the claims of oppression or exploitation made by privileged Ph.D. students at elite universities such as Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, including Graduate Students United (GSU), which is calling for picketing starting Monday? There are terrible facts of oppression, discrimination, or exploitation of many groups: of women, of homosexuals, of racial, linguistic, or religious minorities, of workers. Then there is someone who has never experienced those injustices taking up the mantle of those who have and claiming victimhood. The mayor of Chicago gave a scathing assessment of Smollett’s self-serving behavior, saying that Smollett “used the hate crime laws to advance his own career and he got caught…. This is what is upsetting people in the city and around the country…. That’s wrong.” The mayor was right that Smollett’s appropriation of others’ oppression amounts to a “moral violation.” Smollett committed oppression appropriation. This is an ethical wrong on its own, and doubly damaging in that it makes real victims of such oppression less likely to be believed or sympathized with. Exactly the same kind of oppression
appropriation is exhibited in the overblown rhetoric of certain Ph.D. students at elite universities pretending that their cause is similar to that of exploited workers, now or historically. While unions have played important roles in securing fair pay, good hours, and safe working conditions for workers in a large number of industries, it is simply ludicrous to claim, as some elite Ph.D. students in graduate student unions have implied in member meetings I have heard about, that their situations are in any way comparable, for example, to that of the coal miners George Orwell described so vividly in The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937. I finished my Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 2018. Like most of my peers, I counted myself among the most privileged students in the world: We enjoy immense resources (libraries, laboratories, time, and access to experts), we are selected from a huge number of qualified people who wish to pursue such degrees (admissions rates for elite Ph.D. programs are around 5 percent), and we are paid by the University to pursue our studies: The minimum compensation package next year is $35,398 per year for five years, including fully paid health insurance, access to dental and vision plans, the $60,300 annual tuition fee waived, and additional funding available for research expenses, including travel, and for childcare. In other words, each time the University admits a Ph.D. student, it is making an enormous investment in the student: more than half a million dollars over five or six years. For people who are not in academia, this may seem like a most luxurious position: take classes, learn, read, talk to other very informed people, and write a dissertation on a topic of your choosing, immersing yourself in a world of research that no other kind of institution but universities supports. The situation of graduate students at many state universities, both M.A. and Ph.D., bears little resemblance to this heaven. At the nearby University of Illinois
at Chicago, Ph.D. students come onto campus and from day one are expected to teach their own courses, with up to 45 students each, for $18,065 per year. But at an elite program like the University of Chicago’s, my experience was typical: Like most typical humanities or social science Ph.D. students, my Ph.D. program required me to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for three quarters and to teach just one course during the entirety of the first five years. I was also able to TA another course outside my department for additional compensation. During most of my time at the University, in other words, I, like most of my peers, was neither a TA nor an instructor at all. Modern mine workers in developing countries like Zimbabwe, like the coal miners Orwell lived among and wrote about, work and live under conditions that unions can do much to alleviate. For privileged Ph.D. students to compare themselves and their situations to such workers is not just ridiculous, but offensive: It is attempting to appropriate those workers’ exploitation and suffering. The life of a Ph.D. student at an elite university bears no relation to that of a miner. A small number of elite Ph.D. students seem to wish they had the legitimacy of grievance that Orwell’s mine workers had: It would further their fantastical stated belief that they belong to the working class. But the fact is that scholars in training at elite universities in the U.S. can hardly be called working class. They are masters of their own fate, almost entirely deciding (in consultation with their advisors) what to study, what to research, what to spend their days thinking about. They are well compensated for this training. Yes, at some universities undergraduate students have to pay huge tuitions and some of them end up with unmanageable debt as a result: Let me repeat that the University of Chicago and other elite universities do not charge any tuition at all in their Ph.D. programs, but rather actually pay Ph.D.
students to pursue their degrees. I was able to finish my degree without taking out any loans at all, and I know of no one in my program who had to take out loans. As someone with a number of intersectional identities shared with people who have actually faced discrimination and obstacles to academic success (I was a first-generation student, an immigrant, a woman, a non-native-speaker of English, and from a working class family with no ability to support my study for a five-year Ph.D. program in the U.S.), I found and still find UChicago to be a heaven of access and opportunity. Unlike many in the working class, Ph.D. students have numerous opportunities to receive additional training, experience, and compensation, even if the stipend provided to them already fully supports them. Various opportunities for campus employment through graduate student internships are offered on a yearly basis. For example, the Higher Education Administration internship offered me the opportunity to explore administration in higher education institutions by working at campus offices, like the International House. Moreover, the Graduate Global Impact Internship Program further assisted me in securing a paid internship with an academic, nonprofit organization in Europe, which was a truly generous support in the summer of my fifth year. Writing and speaking consultant positions at the Writing Program and the UChicagoGRAD office allowed me to develop my own tools for effective use of these skills, and teaching consultant positions through the Chicago Center for Teaching trained me for a lifetime of teaching. The gain from all of these, of course, extends beyond any compensation as the experience a Ph.D. student gets opens new possibilities for future employment after graduation. Learning to plan and implement programs and events, to organize career workshops, to give feedback to our peers, to commuCONTINUED ON PG. VI
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Picketers outside Harper Memorial Library. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
Members of GSU’s roving “energy team.” ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
Picketers outside Hull Gate. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
Union organizer Anthony Jackson. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
Picketers outside Cobb Hall. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
GSU supporters gather at 8 a.m. Monday to organize picket lines. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Graduate Students United Pickets Campus Buildings CONTINUED FROM PG. II
workers at the Chicago Nabisco plant. Jackson told gathered protesters that his support for GSU is in part due to the fact that Joseph Neubauer, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, also serves on the Board of Directors of Mondelēz International, the parent company of Nabisco. “In Neubauer, we have a common enemy,” Jackson told The Maroon after he spoke. Throughout the day, the admissions office continued to hold tours for prospective students, even as graduate students picketed outside Rosenwald Hall, the building that houses admissions. Some visitors were unfazed by the protests: At one point in the afternoon, three parents of prospective students joined GSU picket lines. According to GSU organizers, the University’s response to the second day’s protests was more coordinated. “The deans were reacting yesterday, but today they seemed to have more of an agenda. We were hearing the same sound bites [from intervening deans] over and over,” Natalia Piland, the general secretary of GSU and a Ph.D. student on the Committee of Evolutionary Biology, told The Maroon. Piland said that on Tuesday, deans repeatedly summoned University police officers
to picket lines, involving campus police even as protesters demonstrated peacefully. Coming Up on Wednesday GSU will continue to picket for the whole day on Wednesday. At 4 p.m., GSU will hold a rally in front of Cobb Hall. Members are hopeful that turnout will be high since the Sanders campaign advertised the rally to supporters and labor organizers across Chicago. GSU members will then hold a union-wide vote on Wednesday night to decide whether they will extend or stop the labor action. The administration has not shown any indication that they will recognize GSU. Faculty members have requested to discuss graduate student unionization with administrators; next Tuesday, the Council of the University Senate— the deliberative body of faculty members that advises administrators—will hold a meeting specifically to discuss the topic. Adrián Mandeville, Matthew Lee, Caroline Kubzansky, Miles Burton, Oren Oppenheim, Elaine Chen, Deepti Sailappan, and Lee Harris contributed reporting.
Undergraduate activist third-year Marly Santora looks on at GSU’s Monday rally. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
Alderman Jeanette Taylor speaks to GSU supporters. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
Chicago Communist Party USA activist Bea Lumpkin, right, and GSU co-president Claudio Gonzales, left. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
Illinois Federation of Teachers president Dan Montgomery speaks as UCPD officers look on. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE
THE CHICAGO MAROON — JUNE 5, 2019
Hundreds of Graduate Students on Strike By MAROON STAFF Graduate Students United (GSU) is taking industrial action this week. Many graduate students in GSU have stopped teaching and researching, and formed picket lines around central campus buildings in the hope that the University will voluntarily recognize the union and begin negotiating labor contracts for graduate students. On Monday and Tuesday, over 200 protesters—comprising GSU members, University faculty, and undergraduates—gathered at 8 a.m. and protested throughout the day. The strike is ongoing, though it could potentially be called off Wednesday evening when members will vote on whether to end labor action. Lead-Up to the Strike Graduate students voted to unionize by 1,103 to 479 in October 2017. The University has, thus far, not recognized GSU as a union. Since the vote, GSU has continually called on the administration for recognition through vocal social media posts, a walkout in the fall, and most recently in a May Day labor march. On May 20, GSU voted to authorize industrial action by a vote of 1,134 to 112. Ahead of the strike, multiple administrators sent out mass e-mails. In the week before the strike, Dean of the College John Boyer e-mailed graduate students, urging “graduate-student members of our teaching community” to honor their “instructional responsibilities to students in the College.” Boyer also e-mailed undergraduates and their parents, telling students to continue attending classes and to report instructors who do not respond to e-mail. One day before the strike, Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen reiterated the University’s free speech policy, emphasizing that while the University encourages “open discourse,” it does not tolerate “threatening and harassing behavior.” Rasmussen referred to the University police’s number for reporting such behavior. Since the strike began, administra-
tors have largely remained silent. There have been no University-wide emails. Strike By 8:30 a.m. on Monday, many buildings in which GSU members teach and conduct research—Cobb, Harper, Stuart, Eckhart, Ryerson, Pick, and Haskell Halls, and the School of Social Service Administration (SSA)—were under picket. By mid-morning, the SSA was deserted, with only a handful of staff members left in the building. Other buildings, including Saieh Hall for Economics—just steps away from heavily-picketed Eckhart Hall— were largely unaffected by the demonstrations. Many protesters’ signs were creatively themed around graduate students’ work at the University. Ben Blanchard, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology program, researches ants and runs a blog on myrmecology. Several signs were written in letters composed of tiny ants. “THEOREM: Our union is well-defined. Proof: graduate students = workers,” another sign read.
Ben Blanchard. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE At 1 p.m. on Monday, picket lines converged in front of Levi Hall for a
GSU supporters gather at 8 a.m. Monday to organize picket linesw. ADRIÁN MANDEVILLE rally. Levi Hall houses administrators’ offices, including the Office of the President. 20th Ward alderman Jeanette Taylor, 13th District of Illinois state senator Robert Peters, Illinois Federation of Teachers president Dan Montgomery, and longtime Chicago Communist Party USA activist Bea Lumpkin, were among the speakers. In mid-afternoon, the Bernie Sanders (A.B. ’64) campaign e-mailed Chicago-area supporters an invitation to rally with GSU on Wednesday. “After other Illinois graduate workers [picketed], their unions were recognized,” the e-mail reads. “Now UC graduate workers are doing the same.” This isn’t Sanders’s first show of support for GSU: He sent a letter to the union ahead of their October 2017 vote, encouraging them in their “efforts to create a democratic workplace where your voice can really be heard,” and then wrote to President Zimmer a month later urging him to let the vote results stand. Several local businesses and community institutions weighed in on the strike. The food truck Mediterranean Express offered GSU members free sides and drinks. Divinity School coffee shop Grounds of Being announced that it will be closed for the duration of the strike, in solidarity with protesters. On Tuesday, True North Cafe announced that anyone wearing GSU gear would receive a 50 percent discount on coffee and tea. First Unitarian Church on 57th and South Woodlawn Avenue posted a sign in support of GSU and, like Sanctuary Cafe in University Church of Chicago
next door, held several undergraduate classes for professors who moved class so that students wouldn’t have to cross picket lines. The faculty of the anthropology department issued a statement of solidarity on the department website in the afternoon and urged faculty members in other departments to join them. As the first day wound down, GSU announced a solidarity fund, saying there have been threats that “members in at least one division might be docked pay.” Later that night, Graduate Council voted to recognize GSU. Student representatives from all graduate schools, including students at professional schools who aren’t eligible for GSU membership, comprise Graduate Council. On Tuesday, protesters were on the main quad again by 8:30 a.m., this time also picketing Hull Gate and other major arteries of campus traffic. At a midday rally on Tuesday, protesters heard from more speakers. English professor Elaine Hadley, a representative of the UChicago chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the “enlistment of graduate labor [is] a cover for the reduction of tenure security,” adding that she “urge[s] faculty to take a moment to look at their roles in the larger corporate structure that has become UChicago.” Another speaker at the rally was Anthony Jackson, a labor organizer with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union and one of 277 laid-off CONTINUED ON PG. III
JUNE 5, 2019 TENTH WEEK VOL. 131, ISSUE 42
Hundreds of Graduate Students Strike Through Rain and Shine
Grad^2 Issue: Graduation 2019; Graduate Students Strike