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"If you or someone you know is considering graduate school at the University of Chicago, do yourself a favor and reconsider..."

The Cost of Higher Ed

Re "And All I Got Was This Lousy PhD" by Deanna Isaacs, The Business, May 1

The U of C has always abused graduate students. Less than 1/3 of the famous Civ courses are taught by tenure-track faculty. $3,500 dollars for three months for 40 hours a week teaching? How much will I really give my students in prep and time? As little as possible so long as I can get good course reviews.

Down and Out in Hyde Park

The undergraduates at the U of C are receiving an impoverished education compared to their Ivy League peers. Not only are fewer classes here taught by full faculty, but the competition for limited funding between graduate TAs has left them groggy and de-energized. Even when my TAs seem to be trying their best, they do not have enough time or energy to focus on my education. Making matters worse, the (tenured) faculty at the U of C are predominately older, and they seem complacently ignorant about the problems that this these funding and TA systems have produced. All they care about is their own research.

I should have gone to Brown

This article is just the tip of the iceberg. U of C grad students live in completely unacceptable conditions. For stories straight from students see uofcgradfunding.blogspot.com/2008/02/pennyless-student-stories-4.html.

If you or someone you know is considering graduate school at the University of Chicago, do yourself a favor and reconsider before you end up like us.

Exploited Grad Student

Not Afraid, Irritated

"The Greatest Film Ever Made?: Maybe, but Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad is definitely a contender for most misunderstood" by Jonathan Rosenbaum, May 1

Mr. Rosenbaum mentions that a Fellini fan might be frightened by Marienbad's formalism. My fondness for certain Fellini films aside, Marienbad's formalism does not frighten me. It does, however, irritate me after the first half hour. Had Resnais elected to bypass the feature-length requirement for commercial distribution and focused instead on crafting an art-house short, the film would be one of the world champions in its weight division; akin in stature to Chris Marker's Le Jette. The duration of Marienbad, however, transforms the formalistic exploration into an obsessive-compulsive, ahistorical, mechanization of consciousness; a cinematic presentation of what Sarte criticized as "serialization." I am not surprised to see that the film is being upheld today, mind you. Marienbad is pre-Post Modern, as it were, for its refutation of any sort of organic temporal sensibility, for its reduction of "events" to the reconfiguration of spatial components. The film trades in any sort of ontological point of reference for the advancement of supposedly infinite but actually just redundant angles of incidence. In short, this is film as a turning geometric figure, a rotating diamond. Admittedly, Marienbad is beautiful. Ultimately, though, it is meaningless.

Ben Livant

The Big Deal About the CPD-Latin School Deal

Re "Worse Than We Thought" by Ben Joravsky, The Works, April 24

Ben Joravsky's article on the construction of the soccer field in Lincoln Park by the Latin School is based on totally inept financial analysis. Joravsky conveniently fails to use any discount rate in his calculations thereby grossly overstating the value that the Latin School might receive for its access to the field. Even a first-year finance student knows that when valuing any financial deal, a discount rate must be used. This is forgetting about the fact that anyone who is able to pay for 900 hours up-front would get a huge discount even before any discounting for prepayment for years ahead. The absurdity of Joravsky's arguments are further highlighted by the fact that the Latin School is effectively paying the Park District the equivalent of $2 million cash up-front. I also don't think the issue that needs to be considered is whether other high schools will have significant access to the field, but rather to ensure that they also have comparable facilities if possible. What is extremely important is that any proper financial analysis will find that the Latin School is in reality subsidizing our Park District rather than the other way around. While the Latin School is a private school, we should welcome this contribution back to our community.

Michael J. Szanto

N. Clark

Ben Joravsky replies:

I'd be more inclined to buy the argument that Latin is "subsidizing" the Park District and making a "contribution back" to the community had Latin simply built the soccer field and donated it for public use. But that's far from what's happening in this case. Instead, Latin is essentially paying 20 years of up-front user fees in order to guarantee prime-time use of a state-of-the-art field built on public land. Furthermore, as Park District officials made clear when they approved the deal in 2006, the district intends to rent the field to yuppie social clubs when Latin's not using it.

As for offering Latin a discount rate for providing up-front fees, well, I've run the deal by several savvy real-estate operators—all well beyond their first year in finance—and they all say the same thing: the Park District is allowing itself to get taken. If this were a standard market-rate deal between a landlord and a renter, the Park District would be in the driver's seat because it has something Latin desperately wants—vacant parkland right across the street from the school.

As more than one developer has told me, the Park District would be better off building the field and then charging Latin premium rental dollars to use it (at least far more than the $110-an-hour rental fee Latin will be paying for the next 20 years, if this deal holds). Of course if Latin doesn't want to pay the Park District's price it can always go somewhere else—good luck finding nearby land on which to build a field.

The Park District is basically giving away its land for the exclusive use of a private school while nearby public school students play soccer in the dirt and the mud. I'm not the only one who thinks there's something rotten about the deal. As Judge Dorothy Kirie Kinnaird put it in her ruling last week: "It may be that after all is known and sorted out this Court or a higher Court will find that there is absolutely nothing amiss or illegal here. But right now at this juncture, this Court does not believe it can say that. There is something very troubling about this case."

Scholar Vs. Scientists

The film review of Expelled done by Reece Pendleton (Movies, April 24) is one of the most dishonest reviews I have read in a long time. The review begins by saying "Embracing evolutionary theory will turn you into a close-minded, God-denying Nazi—that's the upshot of this ludicrous propaganda piece." In fact the movie nowhere says or claims this. Rather it is an emotionally charged misread of the section on Nazism. What the film does show is the historically verifiable link between Darwinism and Nazism as argued for by historian Dr. Richard Weikart, department head of history at California State University, Stanislaus.

Instead of honestly reviewing the positions argued in the film by Professor Weikart, Pendleton gives us a ridiculous misread of the film and gives no mention that the ideas in the film are predicated on the serious scholarship of Dr. Weikart.

Americans expect more from the Chicago Reader.

Jaime Licon

Houston, TX

Reece Pendleton replies:

That the Nazis misused Darwin's work to justify their murderous eugenic policies is beyond dispute. If the movie's sole purpose in bringing up the Nazis had simply been to establish this connection, as Jaime Licon claims, then there'd be no argument. But, of course, that isn't what the filmmakers are up to here. The movie raises the issue in order to then impugn the motives and work of current evolutionary scientists through innuendo, something it does repeatedly and blatantly. For more details, I'd refer interested readers to Scientific American's coverage of the controversy, which can be found online at: sciam.com/article.cfm?id=ben-steins-expelled-review-john-rennie.

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