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LYFT PROGRAM NOW AVAILABLE ALL NIGHTS

NOVEMBER 17, 2021 EIGHTH WEEK VOL. 134, ISSUE 8

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Recent UChicago Graduate Shot and Killed at 54th Place and Ellis Avenue By YIWEN LU | News Editor A recent graduate of the University of Chicago was shot and killed at about 1:54 p.m. Tuesday afternoon at 956 East 54th Place. The victim, Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, was struck in the chest, according to the police scanner Rangecast. An email from President Alivisatos said that Zheng graduated from the University with a masters degree in Statistics this summer. He lived in Hong Kong prior to coming to UChicago. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) confirmed that the victim was on the sidewalk when the offender exited a dark-colored vehicle and demanded property from him. The offender then shot the victim and fled the scene in the vehicle. The victim was transported to the Uni-

versity of Chicago Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:13 p.m. The incident is different from the nearby shooting at East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue around 12:10 p.m., which was reported to the University of Chicago Police Department and communicated to students in an email. No casualties were reported in that incident. The University did not respond to immediate inquiries at the time of publication. Update, November 9, 4:40 p.m.: This story was updated to include new information from the University and the Citizen app. Update, November 10, 5:15 p.m.: This story was updated to include new information from the University regarding the victim’s identity. Correction on Nov. 9, 2021, 4:41 p.m. CST:

The scene of the shooting. COURTESY OF NIKHIL JAISWAL A previous version of the article incorrectly referred to the victim as a UChicago student.

The victim was a recent graduate of the University.

Congressional Candidate Jahmal Cole Shot At on 53rd Street in One of Three Violent Incidents in Hyde Park on Tuesday By YIWEN LU | News Editor

Congressional candidate and South Side activist Jahmal Cole. COURTESY OF JAHMAL COLE

ARTS: The Blue Man Group is back and bluer than ever. PAGE 13

VIEWPOINTS: Students should explore beyond Hyde Park.

Congressional candidate Jahmal Cole was shot at during an exchange of gunfire on East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue around noon on Tuesday. The gunfire happened in the 1500 block of East 53rd Street, according to Block Club Chicago. Cole was not hit during the incident. This was one of three incidents that resulted in injury or fatalities in Hyde Park on Tuesday. At 6:34 a.m., a 31-year-old male died after being stabbed in the right leg in what police called a “domestic incident.” At 1:54 p.m., a recent graduate of the Universi-

ty was shot and killed during an attempted robbery at 956 East 54th Place. Cole is the founder of the activist organization My Block, My Hood, My City and is running for Illinois’s First Congressional District seat in 2022. On Tuesday afternoon, he posted on social media that the incident on East 53rd Street was the second time he had been shot at in recent months. According to Block Club, the incident happened around 11:55 a.m. while Cole was crossing 53rd Street at South Harper CONTINUED ON PG. 2

SPORTS: All-star chess looks ahead to the upcoming season.

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Avenue. He was close to Virtue restaurant when he heard the shots. “I knew it was an automatic rifle,” Cole told Block Club, adding that he heard more than 20 shots. With very few exceptions, automatic rifles have been banned in the United States since 1986. Cole then ran past Harper Theater for cover and dove beneath a car. “Today, I thought I was going to die because I saw blood coming from my neck, thinking I was shot. Fortunately, it was a scrape from

diving under a car,” he wrote on Instagram. At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Eric Heath, associate vice president for Safety and Security, sent a security alert to the University community about shots fired at 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue by the Polsky Center and Harper Court, around the same area Cole was shot at. According to the email, the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) found multiple shell casings at the scene and observed damages to a nearby business and parked vehicles. According to the Hyde Park Herald, the

incident involved multiple shooters. The offenders fled in a gray Honda, which was reported stolen to UCPD on November 8. Cole said it was unclear whether he was the target of the gunfire on Tuesday or if the incident was a random shooting. The University has not specified if the reported incident was the same one that Cole described. While Cole was not hit during Tuesday’s incident, he said on social media that he was wounded during a separate incident earlier this fall. Cole told Block Club that a bullet

pierced his left arm on September 29 in an incident at East 69th Street and S. South Shore Drive. Cole said he previously did not disclose the first incident because he “wasn’t ready.” However, he chose to bring his experience to public attention after the Tuesday event since he wanted “every elected official–and every person in this city–to understand how urgent this crisis is.” Eric Fang contributed reporting.

Alivisatos, Lee, and Heath Describe New Safety Measures in Webinar By ERIC FANG | News Reporter New safety measures, including surveillance cameras, more police patrols, and more transit options for students, will be implemented in Hyde Park according to a public safety webinar on Thursday afternoon. The event was hosted by University President Paul Alivisatos, Provost Ka Yee Lee, and Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Eric Heath, following a string of violent incidents in the neighborhood this week. For University students, the Lyft Ride Smart Program will be available after 9 p.m. every day until November 24, instead of only Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. During O-Week this year, the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) adjusted the UGo Shuttle System to connect campus to several locations along Garfield Avenue, including CTA stations and UChicago’s Arts Block, Heath mentioned. Heath also said that the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) and Chicago Police Department (CPD) would

temporarily increase the number of patrols on and near campus and install additional CPD Police Observation Devices (POD cameras) starting next Tuesday. CPD already utilizes a number of POD cameras that, Heath claimed, they use to deter crime, identify suspects, and make arrests. According to Heath, CPD Superintendent David Brown committed a “significant” number of officers to patrolling the campus and the surrounding communities. UCPD and CPD will collaborate on training exercises and traffic enforcement in areas with high pedestrian traffic. In addition to these temporary measures, Heath described how the University would work with local aldermen and CPD to develop long-term strategies for implementing permanent crime-deterrent technology within Hyde Park. “Over the next two weeks, CPD will be developing a long-term strategic plan to address the rise in crime, including gun violence plaguing the community

surrounding our institution,” Heath said. “The Department of Safety and Security will be included in that planning process. I am confident that the City of Chicago and the Chicago police department are taking these incidents very seriously, and I look forward to working with them on these issues.” Alivisatos expressed his condolences to the family of Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, a 24-year-old recent UChicago graduate who was shot and killed during an attempted robbery at 956 East 54th Place. He emphasized cooperation between the University, South Side residents, and elected officials in addressing security concerns. “Like so many others in Chicago and across our nation, violence has left our local community and our South Side neighbors shaken, seeking answers, and demanding a solution,” Alivisatos said. “Violence today is on the same scale as a public health crisis and requires a response.” Heath said the University does not have any information indicating that Zheng’s shooting was racially or ethnically moti-

vated, a concern that he added has been raised by international students in the community. Alivisatos plans to keep working with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to improve safety within the Hyde Park community. He promised to hold a “campus discussion” that would include a member of senior leadership from CPD in the next week. Next, Lee pledged to share information regarding ways the University could honor Zheng within the next few days. “In addition to being a University alum, he was a loving son and a caring friend for many in our community and many more around the world,” Lee said. The Chinese American Association at Greater Chicago organized a GoFundMe fundraiser that will go towards Zheng’s family’s travelling and legal expenses. Since being created on Thursday, the fundraiser has already exceeded its goal of $25,000, with 776 donors contributing $49,090 as of Friday night.

18-Year-Old Charged with Murder of Shaoxiong Zheng; Community Responds to Recent Violence By YIWEN LU | News Editor The Chicago Police Department (CPD) announced murder charges against 18-year-old Alton Spann in con-

nection with the fatal shooting of recent University of Chicago alum Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng on Tuesday.

Spann was arrested and placed into custody on Friday, NBC 5 Chicago reported. He was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, and two counts of unlawful use of weapons.

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County medical examiner determined the primary cause of the victim’s death to be a gunshot wound to the arm. Surveillance camera footage showed that Spann then fled westbound as a passenger in a Ford Mustang. Officials said that the police have not made an arrest associated with the driver of the vehicle. The homicide case was still under investigation. The string of violence around campus in the past week prompted responses from the University, city officials,

and local businesses. In a public safety webinar on Thursday, Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Eric Heath said that CPD Police Observation Devices will be installed in Hyde Park temporarily. On Wednesday, a day after the fatal shooting, Aldermen Sophia King (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) called for more police presence and more collaboration between the local community and the government during a press conference, Block Club reported. “If we have those cameras, we can see the license plates,

we can see who these people are,” Hairston said, emphasizing the necessity of adding surveillance cameras to 53rd Street, one of the busiest business and residential areas in Hyde Park. On the same day as the shooting that killed Zheng, congressional candidate Jahmal Cole fled gunfire at East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue. Cole was not shot but injured himself while running from the shooter. King said during the conference that the intended target of the shooting was not Cole. The shooting incident on 53rd Street

damaged two businesses, including local ice cream store Kilwins on 53rd Street. Owner Jackie Jackson, whose two other Kilwins stores were also affected by crime in the past, decided to close the store through 2021 for her mental well-being, she told Block Club. “I’m just tired and I had to make a decision,” she said. However, Jackson said that she didn’t want to give up on the community and echoed City officials’ call for community collaboration amidst violent crimes.

University Extends Lyft Program to Seven Days Per Week Following Violence in Hyde Park By MICHAEL McCLURE | News Reporter Beginning tonight, the University’s Lyft Ride Smart program will be extended to cover Lyft rides seven nights a week between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. the following day. This extension will last until Wednesday, November 24, according to an email sent to University students by Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Eric Heath and Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen. All currently enrolled students are eligible for the program. The regular schedule of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights will resume on Thursday, November 25. Heath and Rasmussen wrote that the program

would be assessed at the end of autumn quarter and further changes communicated before the start of winter quarter. According to Heath and Rasmussen, the extension comes “in light of yesterday’s tragic events and input from students.” Tuesday’s events included a fatal stabbing in the 5300 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue, an exchange of gunfire at East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue, and the fatal shooting of a University graduate at East 54th Place and South Ellis Avenue. A bomb threat to several University buildings was also posted on Twitter, though an email from Heath yesterday afternoon confirmed

the threat as a hoax. Heath and Rasmussen wrote that the adjustment incorporated input from students and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). In a statement posted on Instagram, Thrive Slate members Parul Kumar, Natalie Wang, and Marla Anderson wrote that USG remains in contact with administrators, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of Student Life to address yesterday’s incidents. College Council will meet in Stuart Hall on Monday, November 15, at 7:30 p.m. to discuss student safety, transportation options, and emergency communication from the University. Announced over the summer and implemented on September 29 of this year,

the Lyft Ride Smart program allows students to take 10 standard Lyft rides for free each month provided the cost of the ride would not otherwise exceed $15. For more expensive rides, the program acts as a credit toward the cost of the ride. Eligible rides must begin and end in the UGo NightRide Shuttle service area, which spans the region bounded by East 48th Street, South Lake Shore Drive, East 63rd Street, and South Cottage Grove Avenue. Heath and Rasmussen encouraged students to direct questions about the Lyft program and other University transportation initiatives to bus@uchicago. edu or to the Dean-on-Call, who can be reached by calling (773) 702–8181 and leaving a 10-digit callback number.

Harris Student and Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Samantha “Sam” Burton Passes Away at 23 By RUBY RORTY | Editor-in-Chief Samantha “Sam” Burton, a 23-yearold master’s student at the Harris School for Public Policy, passed away on November 3, according to an email sent to the Harris community by Dean Katherine Baicker. Burton, a second-year student at Harris, died at Northwestern Memorial

Hospital following a sudden illness. Burton grew up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and graduated from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2019 with a degree in political science and a minor in social justice. There, she received the school’s presidential scholarship for all

three years of her attendance, along with the Eliza A. Drew Prize for Best Essay in Political Science. She also worked as a research assistant on a project assessing pedagogy and educational equity. Following her graduation, Burton was invited to stay on the project and received notice in the days before her death that a paper she coauthored, “High

impact learning practices: leveling the playing field or perpetuating inequity?,” had been accepted to Teaching in Higher Education. Burton was passionate about access to reproductive health resources, studying the political implications of anti-abortion protests as an undergraduate and taking courses on reproductive CONTINUED ON PG. 4


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rights at Harris. During winter and spring 2019, she worked as a legislative intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota. In addition to coursework at Harris, Burton worked as a teaching assistant (TA) in Pandemics, Urban Space, and Public Life and Sustainable Urban Development, two environmental and urban

studies classes taught by professor Evan Carver. She started as a TA during her first quarter at Harris and impressed Carver so much that he hired her to TA for every term that followed. Baicker’s email quoted Carver as saying, “Throughout this time of stress and improvisation, Sam demonstrated a poise and composure without which I, and espe-

cially our students, would have been much worse off…The university community has lost a bright young mind and a dear soul.” These quotes were excerpted from a longer email that Carver forwarded to The Maroon in which he also said that Burton “exuded a quiet confidence that one could attribute to Upper Midwestern matter-of-factness but which actually

spoke of her deep character and a maturity beyond her years…Sam was steadfast, reliable, a very quick study, modest, and, above all, kind.” Baicker’s email also praised Burton’s “down-to-earth demeanor, bright smile, and especially her determination”. Her academic advisor, Eman Alsamara, recalled how Burton “ended most advising meetings by saying, ‘I got this.’” Per the email, Burton was an advocate of organ donation, and her family has donated Burton’s organs to save the lives of other patients. In the email, Burton’s family extended its gratitude to the medical team at Northwestern Hospital who worked to save her life. According to an obituary on the Chippewa Valley Cremation Services & Celebration of Life Center website, Burton is survived by her parents, Sarah Fisher and Chad Burton; her two sisters, Alexa and DeAnna; and many friends and extended family members. Burton’s loved ones have set up a memorial fund to fund legal support and education for immigrants in the Eau Claire Area School District, where Burton herself attended school. Additionally, there will be a celebration of Burton’s life at The Brewing Projekt in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, from 4–7 p.m. on Saturday, November 13. The obituary requests, “Please don’t show up wearing all black; if you knew Sam, she would absolutely hate that.” The Harris School will host a memorial at Bond Chapel for students to honor and remember Burton on Friday, November 12, at 4 p.m. At the memorial, which is open to everyone, community members will be invited to share memories of Burton with those gathered. Additionally, Carver said in an email he shared with The Maroon that the Program on the Global Environment, which hosts the undergraduate courses for which Burton was a TA, would also like to find a way to honor Burton’s memory. Baicker invited members of the Harris community to send condolences to Burton’s family addressed to the Fisher Family, 642 South 57th Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54703. Editor’s note: Counselors at UChicago Student Wellness are available by phone at (773) 702–3625.


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Threat of Bombs in Buildings on Campus Confirmed Hoax By NIKHIL JAISWAL | News Editor and ADYANT KANAKAMEDALA | Managing Editor University officials informed the student body last Tuesday that a bomb threat made on Twitter this afternoon was a hoax. “This afternoon the University received what was determined to be a hoax bomb threat made via Twitter,” said an email from Eric Heath, associate vice president for Safety and Security. The incident follows a series of similar threats made at various other universities in the past few days, including Brown, Columbia, and Cornell University. Heath noted that the threat was “similar to false threats made against a number of other universities nationwide in the last week.” At 3:47 p.m., an individual with the username “Liam Yousri” tweeted that he and his girlfriend had placed impro-

vised explosive devices (IEDs) at various locations on campus. The threat leveled at Columbia University was made from a Twitter account with the handle @JiaNakamura, according to the Columbia Spectator. The account has since been suspended. According to an email sent to Housing and Residence Life staff, “UCPD is completing checks of all named buildings and the CPD and FBI have been informed. Authorities have no reason to believe this threat is credible.” Some professors chose to cancel class in light of the tweet. One student leaving Logan at about 5 p.m. said their professor decided to end class early after a student brought the threat to her attention. Harper Café tweeted that it was also closing in response to the threat.

Harper quad. COURTESY OF ERIC FANG

President Alivisatos Urges Cooperation With Community Leaders to Improve Security By ERIC FANG | News Reporter Newly inaugurated University President Paul Alivisatos addressed a spate of recent violence in Hyde Park during an Institute of Politics (IOP) event with institute director and political strategist David Axelrod on Tuesday night. The event was also livestreamed and recorded. Alivisatos’s talk came only a few hours after Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, a 24-year-old recent UChicago graduate, was shot and killed during an attempted robbery in the 900 block of East 54th Place. Earlier that day, gunfire on East 53rd Street led to injuries for Congressional candidate Jahmal Cole as he dove beneath a car to avoid getting hit. Additionally, a 31-year-old man unrelated to the University was stabbed to death in his home on the 5300 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue earlier that morning. Alivisatos said his office is currently working with local law enforcement

around these events. He also emphasized the importance of working with city and community leaders to improve campus safety. “We had a very productive discussion to try to see how members from our nearby communities and the University can work together,” Alivisatos said, referring to a conversation he had with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Bronzeville community leaders on the morning of November 9. “We wanted to see how we can be supported by our city officials and by the state and by the federal government,” Alivisatos said. “I just want the people here to know that we’re going to do everything we can to try to achieve the public safety that we all need in order to be able to engage in our work here and do the amazing and important work that we do.” When Axelrod asked about the Uni-

versity’s history of separating itself from the local community, Alivisatos encouraged forging partnerships with local leaders and condemned the University’s past isolationist policies as “not the right approach.” Alivisatos and Axelrod, who graduated in 1981 and 1976 respectively, attended the College after the University had invested in urban renewal, which indirectly isolated it from the surrounding Hyde Park community. The Hyde Park– Kenwood urban renewal project seized old buildings using eminent domain and replaced them with new housing, displacing approximately 4,000 mostly Black families who could no longer afford to live in the neighborhood. “We have a creative, resilient community around us,” Alivisatos said. “They want to be partners with us, and we want to be partners with them.” Though overall crime is lower compared to last autumn, Chicago has witnessed a recent rise in homicides, shootings, and sexual assault. Alivisa-

tos described an “epidemic of violence” and an “ongoing public health crisis.” He spoke with Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday and said he looks forward to working with a broad coalition of local partners, including city officials, community organizations, nonprofits, and private companies, to improve the safety in the surrounding community. Alivisatos promised he would present specific measures to improve security soon. “We need to do things in the short term to help us address the security situation, and I will be coming back to the community to describe a number of steps that we will be taking on that front,” he said. “We need to mobilize the resources, and we will put a lot of effort into this.” After commenting on campus security, Alivisatos spoke with Axelrod about topics ranging from his childhood growing up both on the North Side of Chicago and in Greece, his past and ongoing research on nanocrystals, and the enviCONTINUED ON PG. 6


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ronmental implications of his work. He said that the collaborative approach he outlined for violence in Chicago could also be effective in tackling climate change, income inequality, and issues of democracy. Alivisatos and Provost Ka Yee Lee released a joint statement Tuesday night describing the day as “deeply painful” for both the city and the University. The

statement outlined plans to work alongside Lightfoot, Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown, and local aldermen to craft short- and longterm public safety strategies. They also affirmed their support for the safety initiatives outlined in the provost’s August message on public safety, including increased transportation, personal safety classes, and the Safety Ambassador Program.

“The University and the Hyde Park community make up one of this City’s great neighborhoods, and we are fully committed to doing more as a University and as an anchor institution on the South Side,” they said in the statement. “This includes developing comprehensive efforts to reduce violence, and supporting Chicago’s communities in securing a safer future.” Alivisatos promised to share specif-

ics regarding the public safety strategies that the University is working to develop in conjunction with the city. He ended the message by encouraging students to support each other and to reach out to counseling resources as needed. Counselors at UChicago Student Wellness are available by phone at (773) 702–3625.

Student Wellness Partners with UC Med for Expedited Symptomatic Testing By PRANATHI POSA | News Editor According to the UChicago Forward update sent on November 12, there have been 48 new cases of COVID-19 this week and 211 close contacts, bringing the campus positivity rate to 0.34 percent for this week. Three of these cases were found through surveillance testing. There are fewer than five students isolating on campus and 16 isolating off-campus. “Student Wellness has partnered with the UChicago Medicine to streamline and expedite COVID-19 testing for students

who are symptomatic,” according to the update. Symptomatic students can call UChicago Student Wellness at (773) 834– WELL to schedule an appointment for testing. This phone number can also be used by students to ask questions about testing. The University has also rolled out PCR testing for members of the University community who are exposed to COVID-19. Testing will occur at the Walker Museum and the Gleacher Cen-

ter. Previously, any exposure testing was conducted through UChicago Medicine or another testing provider. Appointments can be scheduled through my.WellnessPortal and will require the completion of the Voluntary Surveillance Testing consent form if the individual was not previously enrolled in the Mandatory or Voluntary Surveillance Testing Programs. The UChicago Forward website has more information regarding symptomatic and exposure testing programs. The update also included guidance

regarding flu season and holiday travel requirements. The University recommends that anyone feeling symptoms of either the flu or COVID get tested for both viruses. Individuals who require proof of a negative COVID test prior to travelling internationally can obtain a test at no cost through the University’s testing program. COVID-19 vaccination booster shots are available for booster-eligible students through UChicago Medicine and Friend Health, in addition to the Walgreens and CVS locations near campus.

The People and Planning Behind President Alivisatos’s Inauguration By NIKHIL JAISWAL | Deputy News Editor Last Friday, the 14th-ever inauguration of a University of Chicago President took place at Rockefeller Chapel. Before a virtual audience and an in-person crowd of invitees in the Chapel, Paul Alivisatos (A.B. ’81) officially became President of the University of Chicago. Alivisatos served as UC Berkeley’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, a position he held from 2017 to 2021, and as the Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory between 2009 and 2016. “Welcoming a new president is an af-

firmation of all that we have achieved, but really marks the beginning of the next stage in the University’s growth as a place where people, ideas, and scholarship are brought together to expand knowledge, debate issues, and make the world a better place,” chair of the Board of Trustees Joseph Neubauer said in his induction speech. “A goal of the inauguration is to create a sense of inclusiveness among the various parts of the University community, and to provide an opportunity for faculty, students, staff and the sur-

rounding community to feel a part of the celebration,” Senior Associate Vice President in the Office of the President Megan Harris told The Maroon. In an interview with The Maroon Executive Director of the Office of University Events and Ceremonies Barbara Siska, Harris talked about what it was like to plan such a unique event. “Thankfully, since it is a convocation, we do have past playbooks to guide us. We did a lot of research on the 2006 inauguration of past president Zimmer, and that helped give us a framework to how we approach what we do for this event,” Harris said.

When asked about the content of the ceremony, Harris said, “Inaugurations are a little bit bespoke. They are customized for the person who’s being inaugurated, and so while I think there are some traditional aspects that we certainly wanted to include, because they’re part of the character of the University of Chicago, a lot of the content was developed in consultation with President Alivisatos.” Harris also mentioned the numerous groups that advised on the planning of the inauguration. The team received input from a faculty advisory commitCONTINUED ON PG. 7


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tee, a student advisory committee, and a steering committee. Ultimately, according to Harris, President Alivisatos wanted a ceremony that reflected the unique and varied aspects of the University that make it the institution that it is. When asked about how the University selected which vendors to work with

for the inauguration, Siska said, “We are working with some of our triedand-true vendors who we work with on convocation each year. We are working with a woman-owned South Side business to produce some of the elements we are giving away, a food item, as part of a thank-you to the guests. So, we were able to branch out a bit in that regard.

Some of the vendors that work on convocation for us were a natural fit due to their experience level, knowing the University and spaces that we’re using for this event.” Planning the inauguration was an all-around University effort. “We have an incredibly long list of lovely volunteers. University staff in other depart-

ments that just reached out to us asked how they could help or how they could be of assistance,” Harris said. “Something like this is really singular. In many of our times here at the University, we will not experience another. I think being open to accepting help and to those partnerships has been really gratifying.”

“Permanent Emergency”: Governor Jay Inslee Discusses the Climate Change Challenge at IOP Event By ERIC FANG and ZACH LEITER | News Reporters Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) joined the Institute of Politics (IOP) to speak with students about climate policy at the Keller Center last Thursday. In a talk moderated by longtime climate change journalist Amy Harder, Inslee emphasized the importance of quick and decisive action on climate change. Fourth-year Indi Khera, the outreach director for UChicago Women in Science and a co-founder of the Scatterbrain podcast, introduced Inslee to the audience. Inslee is the longest-serving gubernatorial member of the United States Climate Alliance. During his eight-year governorship, Inslee established a number of clean energy goals for the state of Washington, such as making Washington 100 percent dependent on clean energy by 2045. Khera started the event by emphasizing the importance of dialogue on climate change, given rising global temperatures and rates of natural disasters. “Our conversation here tonight is foregrounded by factors that are impossible to ignore,” Khera said. “The average temperature on our planet has risen 1.18 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. The rate of global sea level rise has doubled in the last 20 years. We have witnessed extreme wealth events across the world.” The speaker event occurred one day

before Inslee’s departure for the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. Inslee began his talk by affirming concerns that world leaders may not be pushing for strong enough climate policy and encouraged improvement on the summit’s end resolutions. “Every single criticism of the Glasgow process will be valid,” Inslee said. “Because no matter how fast they’re going to be able to go, we should be going faster. The science is that demanding. So to the youth of the world, I say have at it. We need to be more ambitious. We need to be more aggressive in terms of the timeline, the numbers, the investment, everything.” In response to what he views as unambitious climate goals from several countries within COP26, Inslee pledged to unite several states and provinces around the world in a joint effort to reduce carbon emissions and invest more in green energy than what the summit ultimately agrees upon. “We will be more aggressive on the percentages of improvement, more aggressive on the timeline, more aggressive on the regulatory investment position,” he said. “So we want to encourage the federal governments to move as fast as we can, but then, even if they cannot, we intend to carry the ball.”

Upon arriving in Glasgow on November 6, Inslee did in fact join leaders from the Pacific Coast Collaborative to launch the Low Carbon Construction Task Force. The states of California, Oregon, and Washington; the province of British Columbia; and the cities of Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles came together in a joint effort to invest in the innovation and development of low-carbon construction materials. Although Inslee praised President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, he stressed state governors’ unique ability to actualize effective climate policy on an accelerated timeline. Governors face reduced political barriers and can leverage executive powers, according to Inslee. “The UN calls us [governors] subnationals, but we’re supernationals because we can move faster than the federal government,” Inslee said. Inslee also highlighted the importance of looking at climate-related issues from a social justice perspective. He described encountering a young girl whose community, situated near a high-emission factory, experienced high rates of asthma as a result. “We look at [everything] through an equity lens to make sure that overburdened communities are not experiencing the pollution,” Inslee said about Washington state policy. “People in poverty and BIPOC communities have

historically had to breathe that pollution.” Despite two failed initiatives to price carbon, Inslee feels optimistic about the future of his state’s green energy initiatives. These include statewide statutes to reduce emissions by 95 percent by 2050, requirements for electrical grids to be carbon neutral, and a clean fuel standard. Given that several statewide elections occurred two days before his talk, Inslee also spoke on the electoral implications of the climate change issue. He believed many politicians had not effectively leveraged climate change as a front-and-center issue. He argued Democrats would see greater electoral success by sharply contrasting Republican climate policies against their own. In her final question to Inslee, Harder asked the governor about the effect of the pandemic’s high energy prices on Americans’ perceptions of clean energy. In response, Inslee said that transitioning to clean energy carries positive implications for both the planet and the profits of energy companies. “If you want inexpensive, clean energy that you can depend on at a stable price, using only fossil fuels is probably the most ridiculous plan you could possibly have,” Inslee responded. “There is no reason we should have a vision where we intend to be addicted to Saudi Arabian oil for the next 100 years and be a CONTINUED ON PG. 8


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victim to whatever price-gouging system the industry exposes us to.” After his discussion with Harder, Inslee answered questions from UChicago students on issues ranging from the environmental effects of cryptocurrency

to the ethics of limiting the industrialization of underdeveloped countries to the sustainability of Amazon’s packaging and shipping processes. In an interview with The Maroon following the event, Inslee discussed his 2020 campaign for the Democratic

presidential nomination. He believes his strategy of contrasting his climate policy with that of other politicians allowed climate change to become a greater topic of conversation among the Democratic candidates. “I think it was helpful in raising the

profile of the issue on the campaign trail,” Inslee said. “It created a position that I think many of the candidates wanted to rise to, and I saw them rising to that level, and it’s a small world, and I think that run did play some positive role.”

Class of 2025 Share Gap Year Experiences and How It Helped Them Adjust to College Life By ARIEL SHIH | News Reporter Of the 2,511 students accepted into the Class of 2024, only 1,848 were officially enrolled in the 2020–2021 academic year, a significant decrease from the enrollment numbers in years past. Considering how the COVID-19 outbreak drew significant attention to the option of taking a gap year, The Chicago Maroon interviewed some first-year students who took a gap year in the 2020–2021 academic year to learn more about their gap year experiences, and to see how they have been adjusting to in-person campus life.For first-years Eric Fang and Yaser Tahboub, their gap years gave them an opportunity for self-discovery.“I had a lot of time to think about what I want to do, academically and professionally,” Fang said. “I applied for a lot of jobs, got rejected from most of them, but it was an experience in and of itself.” Fang is a reporter for The Maroon. He spent his gap year working at a local newspaper and interning for his local Democratic Party, where he wrote articles and designed graphics on COVID policies. During the summer after his senior yearof high school, he took summer courses at both Harvard Extension School and here at UChicago. Fang considers his overall gap year experience very fulfilling and beneficial to his current college studies. “I became more mature in terms of work ethic, in terms of how I view things, and how I tackle problems, and this mature mindset has helped me a lot incollege so far,” he said. Due to the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent transition from in-person to remote work, Tahboub had difficulties with his internship at a local prosecutor’s office during his gap year. “It was kind of hard to do anything with COVID restrictions. There was only so much I could

do from my laptop, and work also kind of fell through because of COVID,” he said. Nevertheless, he noted that his gap year was still productive. “The gap year in general was more like a real world experience. I had all this free time, besides going to work and having [more real-world responsibilities] on my shoulders, and it was helpful to learn how to spend my time wisely, which probably helped me a lot for college. It was an overall positive outcome,” Tahboub said. First-year Rachel Liu was hesitant about enrolling for the then-upcoming 2020–2021 year, due to all the opportunities and experiences that would be lost with a year’sworth of remote learning. This thought eventually persuaded her to take a gap year.“I don’t think anyone was seriously planning to take a gap year, but it was always something that was in my mind as an open option,” she said. “With COVID it became reality, and I was thinking very seriously about what I wanted out of my year. If I can’t get the well-rounded college experience, I don’t think there is any point in being in online school.” Liu, who had an internship at a publishing firm, noted that the experience opened her eyes to aspects of the industry she otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. She also spent the majority of her time traveling around China with friends and family, working on personal projects, and learning how to relax and do nothing.“The first thing I had to learn was how to have free time and how to waste it, which is such a big thing because people are so centered around productivity and working on something at all times. I learned how to chill, and that’s a really important skill,” Liu said. “If you know that’s what you want out of a gap year, it’s okay not to do anything,

it’s okay to just use the gap year time for yourself.” First-year Micayla Roth decided to take a gap year for similar reasons. “I wasn’t initially planning to take a gap year,” she said. “But then I thought, if I don’t get to have the [college] experience that I really wanted, I would consider taking a gap year.” During her gap year, Roth participated in a discussion-based learning program online as well as a global book club with members of the program. Additionally, she worked with a local nonprofit to mentor middle and high school girls in building confidence and leadership skills and traveled to Israel in the spring. Roth felt that her gap year helped her enter college more rested and mentally prepared.“It’s definitely an adjustment to go back to school again, but I’m a lot less burnt out than I would’ve been if I had just continued rushing into college as I rushed through high school,” she said. “I also now have a clearer perspective of what’s important to me. Taking the time to not do school was also

Hull Gate. COURTESY OF UCHICAGO

helpful in recognizing my mental needs and how to take care of them. ”First-year Cissy Choy shared this sentiment, especially since she came from a high school with a highly stressful and goal-oriented environment.“I feel like if I came directly into college, I’d be a lot more stressed out than I am right now,” she said. “I just feel like the relaxing was a big part that I did not consider before taking a gap year, but I really did like taking this year off.” Choy spent some of her time tutoring students across China and working on an education-related start-up with her friends and used her downtime to travel with her family and learn Japanese. “A lot of people tried to persuade me out of [taking a gap year], but I realized that if the competitive mentality from high school carried over into college, it would become more harmful to you when you come to college and realize you can’t do everything at the same time,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to chill!”


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Physics Professor Yau W. Wah, Recently Inducted Into the American Physical Society, Reflects on His Research and Academic Career By NIEVE RODRIGUEZ | News Reporter Prof. Yau W. Wah from the Department of Physics was one of three UChicago professors inducted into the American Physical Society (APS) this October for his notable contributions to the fields of quantum and particle physics. According to the APS, professor Wah was inducted for his “leadership in the experimental study of rare neutral kaon decays, in particular, the search for KL to pi0 nu nu-bar, the so-called ‘golden mode’ of rare kaon decays.” University of Chicago Professors Liang Jiang and Aashish Clerk of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering were also inducted as fellows into the Society. The fellowship recognizes scholars who have made exceptional contributions to physics research, applications, leadership, service, and education. The fellowship is extremely selective, awarded to fewer than 0.5 percent of APS members. Wah’s research on the study of rare neutral kaon decays was conducted in Tokai, Japan, as the accelerator needed was not available in the United States. “The experiment itself is something to do with studying symmetry in the physical world. Basically, we are trying to study a very particular kind of broken symmetry. The technical term is Beyond Standard Model CP Violation,” Wah told The Maroon in an interview.

Wah was elected as a co-spokesman for the experiment by his peers and was tasked with allocating financial resources for it while also participating in the experiment. “The leadership part is straightforward. The hardest part of an experiment is finding out what the questions are,” he explained. Wah noted that his research required a lifetime of dedication and deep personal interest. “There are textbooks that are really well-written, but if you question more about what you are learning in a textbook, most of the time you hit a brick wall. It is not clear what the solution is, and it takes a lifetime of work. It’s very personal and dependent on taste and tenacity. [The experiment] wasn’t some awakening moment at all.” Wah credited his fellow researchers for the success of the experiment. “I enjoyed it and liked [the nomination], but it wasn’t some awakening moment. It’s nice to be appreciated by my peers, but I think that the [fellowship] isn’t for me actually, it’s something for the whole research group. Because in the experimental world, it’s a very collaborative effort, and I cannot do it alone,” Wah said. “We need a research team and many good collaborators, and I want to share this fellowship with my collaborators.”

Looking back on his career in research and academia, Wah provided insight into his interest in physics and why he chose to pursue it. “For me, [physics] was an accident. I have to say, I had a very excellent high school physics teacher, who presented the most confusing and difficult subject [in] the simplest and most elegant way,” Wah said. “In the big wide world

of physics, the knowledge is so detailed, to pursue it you need to go to graduate school. You need to pick something that you think is worthwhile to spend all this time on and have the focus to continue.” According to Wah, the most important aspect of studying physics is “finding out what the questions are, rather than the answers to the questions.”

Professor Yau W. Wah. COURTESY OF UCHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS

Navy Pier’s Crystal Gardens to Be Replaced With a “Digital Entertainment Experience” By CHIRAG KAWEDIYA | News Reporter A plan to replace Navy Pier’s historic Crystal Gardens with a “digital entertainment experience” called the Illuminarium has drawn backlash from Chicago residents.

For more than 20 years, Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier has served as a space where native Chicagoans and tourists could immerse themselves in a tropical environment. The one-acre garden

is free to the public and houses over 80 palm trees, accompanied by a wide array of greenery under a 50-foot arched ceiling. The Gardens’ recent closure follows revenue losses during the pandemic, which Navy Pier’s president described as

“devastating.” In 2021, the pier operated with a $20 million projected deficit and closed temporarily. A Navy Pier spokesperson told CNN “It’s incumbent upon the organization to develop attractions that support the maintenance, viabiliCONTINUED ON PG. 10


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“The Gardens offer a chance to interact with nature and increase your appreciation for the natural world.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 9

ty, and programmatic offerings of Navy Pier.” Their solution: the Illuminarium, a 32,000 square-foot “entertainment experience” that uses theater, cinema, and special effects to allow participants to immerse themselves in a variety of synthetic environments. Specifically, it can simulate different environments and locations, allowing participants to interact with these simulations. It operates as a venue, exhibiting multiple shows and environments for different events. Unlike Crystal Gardens, the Illuminarium will likely require an entry fee, similar to an existing Illuminarium in Atlanta

that charges $30–$50 per customer. Chicagoans like Celine Wysgalla are mourning the loss of Crystal Gardens, feeling stripped of a place that gave them joy and happy memories. Wysgalla is also an activist advocating for the Crystal Gardens to stay. To her, the Gardens are vital, as they are one of the three largest indoor green spaces in Chicago. She explained to The Maroon that she’s working against “decreased access to green space, especially during the cold weather months when being outdoors in parks is difficult.” She also fears a “decrease in the accessibility of the Pier to residents and visitors, especially those

from low-income communities.” Wysgalla worries about the impact of replacing a green space. “The Gardens offer a chance to interact with nature and increase your appreciation for the natural world. There is nothing like the Crystal Gardens in Chicago, and it is one of very few free indoor green spaces available to the people of this community,” she said to CNN. “There should be room for an Illuminarium elsewhere on the pier…There is no reason Illuminarium and Crystal Gardens can’t coexist,” she told The Maroon. On September 16, she started a petition to save the gardens; it amassed

nearly 23,000 signatures by November 7. A spokesperson from Navy Pier responded to Wysgalla’s concerns about deprioritizing nature, writing to The Columbia Chronicle that Nav y Pier still manages the Polk Bros park, demonstrating its commitment to nature. Alan Greenberg, CEO of Illuminarium Experiences, has promised “socially conscious and educational, immersive, digital spectacles.” The fate of Crystal Gardens seems to be in jeopardy, but only time will tell what happens. For now, Navy Pier plans to open the Illuminarium in 2023— without the Crystal Gardens next to it.

Study Abroad Programs Resume for the 2021–22 Academic Year By JANICE CHO | News Reporter In September, UChicago Study Abroad announced the resumption of most of its faculty-led and direct enrollment study abroad programs for the rest of the year and beyond. The College suspended all undergraduate study abroad programs in response to the pandemic. According to Director of Study Abroad Sarah Walter, the plans to resume programs were developed by the Study Abroad Office with guidance from the University’s Pandemic Travel Review Committee. Through a continuous process of evaluation, the office had to consider the program type, local COVID-19 restrictions, and travel conditions to determine the feasibility of each program within its respective location. As a result, the majority of programs have resumed, except for those in Hong Kong and mainland China due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. To accommodate students who were unable to participate in their canceled study abroad experiences last year, the Study Abroad office offered added capacity for certain programs this year. Walter

stated in an email, “I can confirm that we added new Civilizations programs in Paris and Barcelona this winter, and we made available any other open spots in existing programs to students whose programs were cancelled last year.” During the study abroad application process last winter, students enrolled in the Autumn 2021 programs also faced uncertainty over whether their programs would get cancelled. Third-year Fiona Brauer is currently studying in Scotland through the University’s direct enrollment program with the University of Edinburgh. “It was made pretty clear when you were applying that your program might get cancelled or might get delayed,” she said of her application process last year. Walter explained that, due to the unforeseeable future of the pandemic, the Study Abroad Office must still continually monitor conditions in study abroad locations to ensure their safety. “Our hope is to continue operating as many programs as possible this year and beyond, though we have learned through experience

that circumstances are always subject to change,” she said. In the case that circumstances do change, the office must adjust programs accordingly. Walter stated, “Adjustments could be as modest as altering programmatic activities in response to local pub-

lic health restrictions or as significant as relocating a program, or moving it to a remote format. Of course, we hope that the more significant changes will not be necessary.” Applications for 2022-23 study abroad programs will open in mid-November.

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Golden Corridor A step off campus is a step toward a deeper understanding of our community and your place in it. By MAYA ORDONEZ A few mornings ago, I biked to Promontory Point in hopes of catching the sunrise. Although I missed the exact moment the sun breached the surface of Lake Michigan, I arrived when the world was illuminated orange, aflame in the morning light. As I continued my journey north to downtown Chicago, I was struck by how the light fell upon my path. The sunlight hit the deep orange and red hues of the

turning leaves, creating a golden corridor out of Hyde Park. UChicago can at times have an claustrophobic atmosphere: As campus becomes my entire life, one small inconvenience can make me feel as though my whole world will collapse. This is simply not the case. The city of Chicago is expansive, holding an abundant supply of sights, experiences, and people. Now that COVID-19 restrictions are (somewhat) lifted, it’s crucial to treat our city as if you were

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a first-year (especially if you actually are)—to find novelty in the old, to say yes to exploration, and to harbor a curiosity for all things not UChicago. There are a plethora of new sights and experiences that lie just outside Hyde Park. This past Sunday, I biked to Lincoln Park with just a bottle of water and a camera. I had no expectation that a simple ride through a neighborhood could sever my thoughts from the anxieties provoked by school. Yet as I passed the yellow ash tree–lined streets, I quickly became attuned to my environment and forgot about the pressures of school. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue, mirrored beautifully by the crimson-framed windows of the residences around me. Focusing on the present moment and on small things like whether my camera was set to the right exposure drew me away from my stresses. I cared not about my upcoming midterms but about how the shadows were cast across the street. Stress about my paper due the next week fluttered away with the red leaves in the sun-soaked streets. Honestly, I probably looked funny, stumbling around, my gaze insatiably hungry for the sights around me. Yet in that moment, I didn’t care. Unlike on campus, where I can’t walk across the quad without recognizing at least one person, everyone was a stranger. The world felt so much bigger and less suffocating. Leaving Hyde Park can help you make a friend out of

ZACHARY LEITER an acquaintance—or even a stranger—and allow you to bond in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. I attended a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert with a girl by whom I’d been intimidated for most of college. I had always looked up to her and we had always been friendly, but I never spent much time with her outside of track practice. We discovered in each other a mutual desire to explore Chicago and its cultural gems, so when I asked her to accompany me, she was quick to say yes. As I listened to the conversations between the high treble of the violins and the deep bass of the cello, I thought of the harmony between myself and someone I now consider a close friend. Had I not gone to the symphony with her, I would most likely have spent my Saturday night surrounded by people with whom I had already developed deep connections, wallowing in my room, or even studying in the Reg alone instead of

developing new jokes, memories, and stories. On campus, I took her acquaintanceship for granted; being surrounded by and occupied with other people prevented me from dedicating the time I should have to developing our relationship further. Outside of this environment and without the constant reminders of what else I had to do, I was solely in tune with our conversation. Additionally, leaving campus puts you in a position to see unfamiliar faces and hear stories that differ immensely from your own. This past week, I biked along the lakefront with J., the owner of the bike shop Tamago. Although the topics we discussed were somewhat random— the purpose of aquariums, the effects of poverty on the developing brains of children, the rationale behind why cycling is a male-dominated sport—they reminded me of how important CONTINUED ON PG. 12


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“Taking a step off campus is a step in the right direction.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 11 it is to break the perpetual fixation on classes into which many students (including me) fall. Small, seemingly irrelevant conversations help me to take a step back from the constant noise of comparison. Breaking

these cyclical thought patterns has allowed me to focus on my own studies, not on whether I was doing enough compared to my peers. Finally, leaving campus has an immense subconscious effect on your brain. Experiencing new

things can improve memory retention, promote learning, and increase motivation—all of which are helpful for upcoming midterms. Seeing and hearing new things can even form new neural pathways, which increases creativity. Taking a

step off campus is a step in the right direction. The pressures of the quarter can act as a lasso, making it feel as though it is impossible to leave campus. These past two years, I’ve left campus only a few times. But this year, I’ve journeyed

down the golden corridor and transformed my relationship with our surrounding city for the better. Maya Ordonez is a third-year in the College.

Fairies, Friendships, and FOMO First-years still finding their place on campus and forming their friend groups don’t need to feel pressured by what they see on social media. By IRENE QI Fairies. Angels and devils. Princesses. Fairies again. Pirates. More fairies. (What is up with the fairy costumes this year?) Besides the overwhelming dread of catching up on schoolwork after a weekend of spooky fun, post-Halloween brings another task to the plate: drudging through a slew of Instagram photo dumps. Scrolling reveals picture after picture of group costumes with sexy butterflies, Disney princesses, or something in between. The costumes are stunning, the angles perfect, the editing masterful. Even I attempted to contribute to the onslaught of posts: I carefully selected the best photos out of the hundreds my friends and I had taken throughout the weekend, ran them through filters, and lowered exposure levels, before posting with an inside joke as my caption. And the first Instagram slide? Just like everyone else: fairies. Carefully crafting and presenting our best lives on social media is nothing new. Whether they’re “spontaneous” photo dumps or modeled photoshoots, we know that the posed photos on Instagram or Facebook don’t necessarily reflect reality. Nonetheless, it’s hard to remember this as we’re thrust into a new environment and expected to adapt—especially

for first years and students new to campus. That is to say: If everyone else is a fairy, you start to think, “maybe I should be a fairy too.” In an already unfamiliar setting, the pressures of social media add to the expectations that we must have as much fun as everyone’s posts lead us to believe. On weekday nights, doing “homework” in my dorm with my roommate and our one other close friend, I scroll through ensembles of downtown dinners and Wicker Park thrifting and think: “where’s my big clique of friends to do fun city activities with (and how are they finding the time between midterms to do so)?” Maybe everyone posing together are all genuine friends—in which case, good for them—or maybe they secretly can’t stand each other. I can never tell, and regardless, it’s futile to engage in the picking apart of various groups on social media or to believe that they set the standard for social situations. It’s crucial that we remember the realities behind Instagram posts and stop trying to play catch up. The romanticized world of Instagram places pressure on us to immerse ourselves in the community as rapidly as possible, often quicker than we may be comfortable with. Despite only being in week seven of my first quarter of college, I feel the need to have al-

ready-cemented support networks built out. Whether through various RSOs or Greek life, I grasp for a sense of community and expect an already-developed network of friends at my disposal. I hear my parents and teachers reminisce about college as the place where lifelong friendship groups are formed, and I desperately reach for that standard. It’s unrealistic, however, for everyone to have already found the core groups that will last them years beyond college. The process of developing said relations is never as easy as Instagram wants you to think, either. When we’re dropped into a large campus where schedules barely align, and we’re all running off to our next class or study group, maintaining friendships and social lives becomes a separate Google Calendar. The excitement and fun of meeting new people does not translate into actually deepening your connection with them. How are we supposed to find our future bridesmaids if we talk with someone once during O-Week and then never see them again? Although forming meaningful relationships will hardly be completely natural and easy, we don’t need to buy into the publicized, barely formed ones splashed across Instagram. Feeling jealous or experiencing FOMO is inevitable as

STELLA BEVACQUA first-years and newcomers, but letting go of these mindsets can only benefit us in the long run. Latching onto people you don’t enjoy being around, just because you feel you should, prevents you from discovering the real friendships that may take root in the most unexpected of places. We could all benefit from redirecting the focus from the supposedly packed social calendars we see on Instagram to ourselves and our place on campus outside of social media. While the clichéd I-met-my-best-friends-during-OWeek story may not come true,

perhaps someone you sit next to in your winter quarter Core Bio class might just lead to a new best friend. There is more behind group photos than the glitz and glamour of Amazon-bought Halloween costumes. Social media leads us to believe that everyone has their flourishing social lives and perfect, fairy-costumed friend groups in the first quarter of a new school year. It’s okay if we don’t—and it’s okay to stop pretending we do. Irene Qi is a first year in the College.


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ARTS They’re Back, Blue, and Better Than Ever By JORDAN GOODWIN | Arts Reporter “Will you let me know why they’re blue?” That was the most common question I got when I told people I was going to see the Blue Man Group perform at Briar Street Theatre and attend a post-show Q&A. Turns out, one of the creators of the Blue Man Group used to imagine he had a blue imaginary friend as a kid, which was one of his sources of inspiration for the Blue Man Group. The more you know. After the show, I had the opportunity to speak with Tom Galassi (Blue Man captain), Brett Presson (stage manager), and Jeff Quay (associate music director and band member). Most of my questions focused on COVID-19. To the question, “was it difficult coming back from such a long hiatus?”, the answer was an unequivocal yes. But Galassi, Presson, and Quay were quick to note that audiences need shows like the Blue Man Group as a source of positivity after quarantine. For them, this makes the COVID-19 safety adaptations to the show worth it. The band members all wore masks, which Quay noted made it more challenging for him to play the drums given how physically taxing performing already is. When they go into the audience, the Blue Men also don plastic face shields and hand out face shields to the participating audience members to wear over their masks. The three men said that when planning for their return, they went through their catalog of stunts and pieces to see which could be adapted to create a safe

but still entertaining show. Even with such limited parameters, the show never felt repetitive. The show struck a balance by assembling a medley of acts that showcased each of the members’ talents. Every drum piece felt unique, and I was especially impressed by how they made the performances both visually and auditorily captivating. In the opening number, the Blue Men poured glow-in-the-dark paint on large bass drums so that vibrant yellow and pink rocketed upwards with each beat. Communicating clearly when the cast is not allowed to speak is a challenge, which is why it’s understandable that the Blue Man Group’s message at points came across a bit muddled at some points in the show. In between the drum performances and the audience engagement, there were graphics on the screen warning against the allure of social media and smartphones. Even though I agreed with these messages, they felt jarring alongside the musical and comedy performances with no segue. The Blue Man Group fosters a sense of community within the audience, so I could infer that they were warning against the superficial social media connections that have replaced real interpersonal communication. However, leaving the burden of making this connerction entirely up to the audience made the message feel forced. It is already impressive that the Blue

The Blue Men poured glow-in-the-dark paint on large bass drums. COURTESY OF NYC GO AND OFF BROADWAY WEEK

Men are musicians as well as actors, but that they convey so much through facial expressions, body language, and instrumental music makes the show even more entertaining to watch. They played a variety of percussion instruments throughout the show, but one of my favorite parts was when they assembled their own instrument on stage. It was a collection of tubes that they shortened or elongated to change the pitch of the note as the tubes were struck. The beat was catchy, and it was engaging to see the instrument grow more complex as more and more tubes were tacked on. The Blue Men were also perfectly in sync with each other. They have to anticipate the actions of the others and react in real time without any verbal cues, but despite this their actions felt fluid and natural.

As an audience member it never occurred to me that not being able to speak to one another was a hindrance, but I’m sure it is a huge obstacle to overcome for incoming Blue Men. Sitting in front of me during the show was a mom and her young kid. It struck me about halfway through the performance that, due to COVID-19, this was probably the kid’s first ever concert. The Blue Man Group is an amazing first concert after over a year of quarantine; they are whimsical, engaging, and funny. Maybe I’m less critical because I was so happy to hear live music and comedy again, but the Blue Man Group perfectly matched the uplifting tone I was hoping for as life begins to return to “normal.”

“Survivor: Chicago”: Surviving More Than Just a UChicago Education By NATALIE HOGE | Arts Reporter I sat down with Callie Rosenzweig, a second-year in the College and the co-founder of Survivor: Chicago, on a Thursday afternoon. Compared to her COVID-tarnished first year, Rosenzweig’s autumn quarter began with a bang. Last spring, she sent out a Facebook poll asking for student submissions to participate in a UChicago game of Survivor. She received over 50 applicants for the cast, and ultimately accepted 17 players who she thought “wanted to win.” Over the summer,

she and a small group of students planned the game’s logistics. What started as a click on Facebook became a fully-formed film production. Between cast and crew, the first season of Survivor: Chicago has 25 members. Rosenzweig’s rediscovered her passion for Survivor over quarantine, when she interrupted the banality of life in isolation by binging old seasons. She knew that College Survivor existed and that if she wanted to play at UChicago, she would have to start it.

Callie is one of the game’s hosts, a role she’s not naturally suited for (she’s a self-described introvert) but has grown into. Along with her co-host Rishabh Raniwala, she oversees the two tribes, Shinju and Medici. The format of the game mirrors the official version: Players compete in challenges, film “confessionals”—segments in which they explain their gameplay strategy to the camera—and vote each other out at tribal council. Players strategize over text, between classes, at apartment parties, and anywhere else a UChicago student might

find themself. Maya Paloma, a fourth-year in the College and one of the producers of Survivor: Chicago, told me that the crew struggled to preserve Survivor’s competitive essence while translating the show to an “itty bitty budget.” The crew has adapted, though: At the time that I wrote this essay, the most involved challenge the players had completed was a 24-hour scavenger hunt in which they had to find and complete 51 tasks scattered around campus. The film crew, too, has embraced the CONTINUED ON PG. 14


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“The players have really adopted the cutthroat nature of the game.” CONTINUED FROM PG. 13

challenge of scaling down the scope of the show. Macallister “Mac” Rescorl, a thirdyear in the College and cinema and media studies major, is the leader of the film crew. She told me that piloting a mostly inexperienced crew has been hard but enjoyable. It’s made her proud to see members of her crew transition from never using a camera before to being able to capture live action. The film crew has been uniquely challenged while filming Survivor: Chicago. They’ve had to create cinematic shots while capturing the spontaneous, gut-wrenching moments that make Survivor special. Much to the producers’ delight, the players have readily adopted the cut-throat nature of the game. Alex Torres, a third-year in the college and player for the Shinju tribe, says that he loves that Survivor: Chicago gives him a space to scheme. He also has been happy to meet new people, a sentiment echoed by every person I interviewed. In Torres’s own words, “Last year was garbage.” So starting this year playing an intensely social

game has been “so worth it.” Another player, Bella Howard, explained that playing Survivor: Chicago is like “good stress.” As opposed to worrying about future employment or how their P-set scores compare to those of their peers, students playing Survivor: Chicago can focus on what’s right in front of them. Paloma explained to me that she’s been gratified by how involved each crew and cast member has become in the project. She credits some of the game’s success to the pandemic. She told me that she’s been “relieved” to work with other students again, and she thinks that losing almost every aspect of in-person social interaction for 18 months allowed participants to shed their trepidations and embrace an “all-in” attitude about the game. Why worry about what people will think about you when you’ve been alone for over a year? For Paloma, parts of this project still don’t feel real. She remembers the first challenge: the sun was setting on the Midway, members of the film crew were holding boom mics and monitoring cameras on tripods,

The logo for the “Survivor: Chicago” game. COURTESY OF CALLIE ROSENZWEIG Rosenzweig and Raniwala were standing in their host positions, and the players were waiting in nervous anticipation. To her, the moment felt like a dream. She had never known participating in a student project could feel so rewarding. Rosenzweig echoes Paloma thoughts: “Sometimes I just start smiling uncontrollably,” she told me. “I’m just like so happy that we get to do this.” After living through a worldwide quarantine,

the cast and crew of Survivor: Chicago have learned that happiness is not something to be shirked. The cast and crew of Survivor: Chicago are excited to share the first season of the game with the greater UChicago community. Rescorl and her crew will be editing and uploading the footage to YouTube sometime in 2021. In the meantime, you can find Survivor: Chicago on Instagram and Facebook.

SPORTS Rhythym and Groove: Profile on Olympian Liza Merenzon By HASSAN SACHEE | Sports Reporter Both a member of the U.S. Tokyo 2020 Olympics team for rhythmic gymnastics and a third-year at UChicago, Liza Merenzon is one of UChicago’s most impressive students at the College. Merenzon was born in Ukraine, where she, at the age of five, began practicing rhythmic gymnastics. The sport, which is extremely popular in Europe, involves a team of gymnasts who have two and a half minutes to perform their set. After moving to Chicago at the age of six, Merenzon carried on with rhythmic gymnastics at a gym called North Shore Rhythmics Center, which is located in Prospect Heights. The gym has remained Merenzon’s main base, and the coaches her supporters, for the whole of her gymnastics career. Throughout high school, Merenzon maintained an impressive schedule to perfect her skills. For six days every week, she

would leave school and go straight to North Shore Rhythmics for four hours of training. On top of this, due to many of the competitions being located in Europe, she would often have to miss school. In an interview, Merenzon stated that this schedule taught her the value of time management and how to stay as organized as possible. After being accepted into UChicago, Merenzon thought she might retire from rhythmic gymnastics. At the time, she did not want to take three years off from studying, which she would have had to do had she embarked on Olympics training. However, Merenzon quickly realized that “it was hard to see [her] teammates still progressing towards the ultimate goal” of the Olympics. By the time her first year at UChicago was over, she had changed her mind, electing to take a two-year leave of absence to fully concentrate on preparing for the upcoming

Tokyo Olympics. And though the COVID-19 pandemic thrust her and her team into much uncertainty regarding their gymnastics and the status of the Olympics, it disguised a blessing for Merenzon: she would able to take her second year at UChicago online and would not be forced to take a third year off from university. The training that Merenzon and her team did over these years resulted in the ultimate payoff when the U.S. rhythmic gymnastics team qualified in June 2021 for the Tokyo Olympics. A foot injury that she picked up this spring during training prevented her from stepping onto the carpet and performing in Tokyo. Nevertheless, Merenzon was there to support the rest of her teammates at the games, where they finished 11th. Now, Merenzon is permanently retired from rhythmic gymnastics and currently finishing her final two years at UChicago. However, she is still involved in the sport, acting as a group representative for the U.S.

team to help and inspire the next generation of gymnasts.

Liza Merenzon with the Olympic Rings in Tokyo. COURTESY OF LIZA MERENZON


THE CHICAGO MAROON — NOVEMBER 17, 2021

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Going the (26.2 Mile) Distance

Brinda Rao ran the Twin Cities Marathon earlier this quarter. COURTESY OF BRINDA RAO

By BRINDA RAO | Sports Reporter On October 3, I ran the Twin Cities Marathon. This race was my first marathon, launching what I hoped to be a lifelong dedication to marathon running. When I crossed the finish line, I felt ready to keep going and to run immediately into my next races. Days later, I registered for my second marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon, scheduled a mere six weeks after the first. I was eager to return to the infinite feeling of running for hours on end and to continue the euphoric feeling of my first marathon. Within three weeks, I deferred my registration for the Philadelphia Marathon. For the first time in my life, I developed a case of runner’s burnout, losing the exuberant sense of flying that accompanied every one of my runs. My runner’s burnout was defined by a physical and mental sense of “being grounded,” unable to reach the same triumphs I had in my race and the four months I spent training.

In the months leading to my marathon, I pushed myself past physical and mental limits. Every Saturday, I began running at 6 a.m., eager to avoid the dreaded summer sun beating down on the Chicago Lakefront Trail. I learned to pace myself, to know my body, and to love the thrill of reaching a new distance on the trail. Every week, I encountered a new site: the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier, water lapping against my shoes on the Oak Street Beach path, and the thrill of running mere feet away from cars racing down the Gold Coast. In the weeks following my marathon, I pushed myself past physical and mental limits. Eager to return to the thrill of weekly long runs, I ran a half-marathon two weeks after my first marathon. Mentally, I was at a standstill, unable to enjoy one of my favorite activities, let alone sink into the ease of a runner’s high. Physically, I felt sluggish, unable to take flight into my run. Although

I held my pacing, I finished those 13.1 miles feeling detached from every step. For the first time since I started marathon training, I was unable to enjoy a run. In the months leading to my marathon, I overcame every complication through a lifetime of loving and knowing myself as a runner. Weekday runs in sultry Chicago heat waves were resolved through my recognition of how to pace myself. During my one-month study abroad in Florence, I threw myself into the Florentine running community, learning the tricks and running routes from locals and joining them for weekly long runs in the Parco delle Cascine. Two days before my marathon, I lost my voice and was unable to speak during the 48 hours leading into the race. Despite my fear and panic, my love for running guided me through the four hours of my race. In the weeks following my marathon, I found myself unable to recognize myself as a runner. Half-marathons were no longer breezy. 5Ks were no longer my morning

wake-up. My running shoes didn’t seem to bounce like they used to. As I struggled to prepare for my next race, I realized that I was not equipped to undergo three more intensive weeks of maintaining my physical and mental endurance. As athletes, we push ourselves toward the image of the athlete we want to be. Two years ago, I wanted to be a runner who could run a half-marathon. Last year, I wanted to be a runner who could run a marathon. This year, I wanted to be a runner who could run multiple marathons without feeling the impact of 26.2 race miles and hundreds of training miles on my body and mind. I’ve learned to reconcile that I cannot be the runner on a pedestal, as in my head. Rather, I can be a runner that recognizes that my mental and physical health come hand in hand with running. While I won’t be running my second marathon this year, I know that I have a lifetime ahead of me to redefine and love myself as a runner.


THE CHICAGO MAROON — NOVEMBER 17, 2021

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Bona-FIDE Success: UChicago Chess Club Looks Ahead to Promising Competition Season By EVA MCCORD | Sports Reporter After a year defined by Zoom breakout rooms, a virtually held simultaneous exhibition with a five-time U.S. Champion, and a seemingly endless supply of Diamond Chess. com accounts, Chess Club president Praveen Balakrishnan tempered his expectations for the RSO’s first in-person meeting since March 2020. Having joined the club during the pandemic himself, Balakrishnan thought he knew the weekly routine well: the same time, the same Zoom link, and the same 10 or so students (on a good week). In reality, upward of 40 students packed into the Reynolds Club to participate, and the first meeting of the year brought an unexpected milestone—the club ran out of boards. “The turnout was extraordinary,” Balakrishnan said. “We had to get more equipment—we hadn’t seen this kind of turnout even before the pandemic.” Though the newfound enthusiasm from his peers was a pleasant surprise, Balakrishnan is no stranger to both the rush and camaraderie inherent to chess. After he was gifted a chess set by moving neighbors and taught how to play the game by his parents, five-yearold Balakrishnan quickly became interested in winning victories over not just his family members, but also other players. Today, the second-year is one of two Grandmasters at the University of Chicago—the most ever attending the College at one time—and just one of approximately 1,700 Grandmasters worldwide. “I’ve been playing [chess] for over 14 years now,” Balakrishnan said. “And I actually ended up getting the [Grandmaster] title this

summer. I went to Italy, played some tournaments there, and was able to get my final norm. It’s definitely my best accomplishment to date.” With an eye to the future and the club’s direction over the course of the new academic year, Balakrishnan is hopeful that the game’s surge in popularity will incite players of all skill levels and backgrounds to grab a board and make their first moves. “It seems like a lot of people picked up chess as a hobby during the pandemic, and more people were interested in joining the club because of that,” Balakrishnan said. “From beginners to Grandmasters, we pride ourselves on having a very casual, friendly atmosphere. Everyone is welcome.” From across the globe in Hungary, Balakrishnan’s predecessor William Graif echoed his sentiments regarding the potential expansion of the club—all while sporting a “UChicago Chess” letterman jacket, a remnant of the successful fundraising efforts that characterized his year of leadership. Graif also led the club through various volunteering initiatives to teach chess to Chicago-area students. “I always imagined I would be leading the club, but it was not something I imagined I would be doing through the pandemic,” Graif said. “I will say ironically that I think [the pandemic] was actually very good for the popularity of chess. Tournaments were canceled, you know, but that only affected people like me. But there was just an explosion of interest in people watching online chess streamers and playing online, which is, like, super ac-

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cessible to do. That also coincided with The Queen’s Gambit, which brought chess more into the mainstream. I think it was certainly a quarantine hobby that a lot of people picked up, liked, and continued.” Graif, a public policy and data science double major with just one more quarter of coursework required in order to graduate, has opted to leave Hyde Park for the duration of autumn quarter in the pursuit of greener—or rather, checkered—pastures, as he competes at chess tournaments in Rome, Armenia, and Budapest. “This way, I have three more months of people not asking me what I’m doing after college,” Graif joked from behind his webcam. Like Balakrishnan—who he, incidentally, played against in tournaments during their respective high school chess careers—Graif has been serious about chess for his entire life, learning the rules from his parents at just three years old before developing an insatiable appetite for increasingly difficult games of strategy. “My older sister was always at kindergarten, and with my dad off at work, I always just wanted to play Connect Four with my mother,” Graif said. “Except it wasn’t just that I liked Connect Four—I wanted to play it 12 hours a day. And when my mother wouldn’t play with me, I would play against myself. And we only had three literal puzzles, so I would just disassemble them and reassemble them faster. So maybe I was inadvertently trained for the pattern recognition [of chess].” Graif went on to begin coaching chess professionally at 15-years-old at Hunter College Elementary School in Manhattan. The opportunity to pass down both his love for and the lessons learned from chess to his students is what he points to as the role’s greatest reward. “Consoling kids after losses is actually something that sticks with me,” Graif said. “You don’t necessarily play the game for the shiny piece of plastic, the trophies, or whatever. The point of what I do isn’t to train the next national champion. It’s to improve the kids’ lives via the game.” Both Balakrishnan and Graif expressed excitement for the year’s competition season, with two Grandmasters—including the Class of 2025’s Awonder Liang—spelling likely success for the chess club.

“Every year, we send teams to the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championships, where we compete with multiple other schools and try to place [against] a lot of schools that are also known for their academic talents, but also multiple schools that are known specifically for recruiting chess players,” Balakrishnan said. “This year, our team is stronger than ever, so I’d say we have a good shot.” As someone who has played both roles of coach and competitor, coupled with his experiences at tournaments such as the Canadian Junior Championships, Graif emphasized how the strategy game demands not just immense mental wherewithal, but also physical stamina, with the RSO’s hour-long meetings paling in comparison to the lengths of the most intense matches. “It depends on the tournament and what’s on the line—some games can be five, six hours,” Graif said. “Basically, you want to prepare for the game, you want to research your opponent, and you want to come to the game well-rested. You want to try not to be focused on anything other than ‘doing.’” When asked what he hopes others will take away from his journey and story, Graif seized on the opportunity to reflect upon how much his perspective on his own performance and talent has changed in just a few years. “A handful of years ago, I would have said, ‘work hard, and you’ll achieve your dreams of being a national champion’ or whatever, right?” Graif said. “Now, it sounds cheap, but if you don’t enjoy the process of what you’re doing, you’re going to fear the outcome a lot. And you’re probably not in it for the right reasons.” As for Balakrishnan, the answer came immediately. “I imagine [chess] will be a part of my life for many years to come.” Balakrishnan said. “One of my favorite tournaments that I’ve played was the World Youth tournament, where the United States would send a team to a different country to compete with players of a similar age group from other countries. And you were constantly meeting people from other countries who speak different languages [than you] and have different interests [than you], but you share one common thing. And that’s chess.”


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