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Incidents on 57th Street

"It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation." Such was how President Obama urged the numerous universities without Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) to reinstate the program. For years, schools like Harvard and Columbia have refused to offer the program that allows students to receive scholarships in exchange for military service after graduation. The rationale evolved from the Vietnam War protests to a disapproval of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. With DADT soon to be fully repealed, these private universities have lost their excuse to bar military recruiters and ROTC. So President Obama, while giving unfortunate credence to their complaint, did the right thing in urging the end of ROTC and recruiter bans. Our elite universities should not dissuade the best and brightest from defending this country across the globe. They should not further the segmentation of the civilian elite and our military. They should welcome those in the most honorable line of work to their campus, in part to demonstrate to the rest of their students what honor looks like. These are among the reasons to reinstate ROTC at every campus where it does not exist, including the University of Chicago. To be fair, the U of C does not cite DADT as the cause for its lack of ROTC. Rather, lack of interest in 1936 sent ROTC away, and those interested can travel to IIT or UIC for the program. We should co-host a program with IIT or UIC so that our ROTC students are a presence on this campus as well. The University has a long tradition of service to the nation in a time of war, especially in research and development for the military. The United States, make no mistake, is at war; the University should remain in service.


With Richard M. Daley declaring an end, or perhaps just an interruption, to his mayoral dynasty, Chicago was overtaken by a swarm of candidates running for the Democratic Party's nomination. With Republicans in elected office rarer than ketchup on a hot dog, the Democratic winner will be the certain successor to Mayor Daley. Three main candidates emerged: former Senator Carol Moseley Braun, former Daley advisor Gery Chico, and former White House Chief-of-Staff, Congressman, and dead fish shipper Rahm Emanuel. And since this is Chicago, the ethnic politicking began. Candidates' strategic attendance at ethnic restaurants, churches, parades, and other venues reminded us of William F. Buckley Jr.'s 1965 campaign for mayor of New York City. Refusing to attend the Pulaski Day Parade, the campaign wrote the following to a bureau of Polish citizens: "I hope you will understand his policy: it is to treat the voters of New York as responsible adult-individuals and not as members of monolithic voting blocs."


Fun, as we are well aware at the University of Chicago, eventually dies. That's what the Illinois political establishment is now learning. Illinois is in the most dire fiscal situation of any American state, and Chicago the most dire of any major city. Illinois looks like it will be the first state to have a bankrupted public pension fund and, when it does, it will take a quarter of the gross state product just to make up the gap. Chicago has its own pension problems. It will also go bankrupt later this decade, at a cost of over $40,000 per household. Not only is the horizon dismal, but in the here-and-now Illinois has a record $13 billion dollar deficit. The hard choices have already begun, with the state slashing funding for programs for the disabled and raising the state income tax by 67%; yet the dent in the deficit is miniscule. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels recently rejoiced at the prospect of employers leaving his poorly managed neighbor for his superlatively managed state, saying, "We already had an edge on Illinois in terms of the cost of doing business, and this is going to make it significantly wider." Governor Pat Quinn and the next mayor of Chicago will continue to be in an unenviable position. Emanuel, we should point out, is Hebrew for "God is with us." Let's hope so.


One of the peculiarities of our lexicon is how the word "charity" is so frequently substituted with "social justice." In the former, good deeds are done for the destitute because of a merciful heart and a compassionate soul. In the latter, the deeds are done out of an ideological commitment derived from a broader, oft-utopian, social and political vision. We were reminded of this discrepancy when, on January 22nd, the University Community Service Center (UCSC) hosted a "Social Justice and Activists Conference" entitled "Relationship, Strategy, Solidarity: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally." The event featured a speech by the self-described Marxist author of A People's History of the Third World and workshops led by SDS and Southsiders Organizing for Unity and Liberation. The UCSC should be helping to facilitate students' local good works. By funding an event like this, the UCSC injects radical ideology as the basis for such student efforts. Not only is this the wrong basis, but it narrows the appeal of community service. Helping the community should have no implicit ideology.


Once upon a time, long before the idea or phrase "sensitivity training" was born, college students in a heterogeneous university had developed a strategy for getting alone with one another. It was a strategy based on civility and prudence. Civility, prudence, tact, and the inevitable social repercussions of the lack of such traits keep our conversations as appropriate and constructive as they need to be. The University obviously doesn't think so, as it has created the category of "bias incidents," loosely defined as prejudiced behavior toward a variety of classes. Campus free speech is constrained, therefore, by the subjective implementation of these vague codes by the Bias Response Team. This is the subject of a recent report on the University of Chicago's speech codes by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that gave the U of C FIRE's lowest grade. The Chicago Maroon defended these policies in an editorial as necessary to stop speech that "stifles productive discussion." What constitutes productive discussion is just as vague and subjective, just as the origin of the authority to make such pronouncements about what is and is not productive. Perhaps we can just avoid this Orwellian rigamarole and accept that life in a democracy implies a willingness to be offended.


It is more common that the "The City that Works" doesn't than the powers that be would like us to think. But nature has a way of humbling our best-laid plans. The city of Chicago, far too proud of its snow removal capabilities in past years, seemed rather helpless in the face of the roughly two feet of snowfall in early February, shutting down non-emergency transit for roughly twenty-four hours. As much as it always wishes it is, the University of Chicago was no exception. Indeed, the administration displayed a bizarre determination to keep classes open even in face of this storm. It wasn't until almost 2 AM the day of the storm that the University finally decided to cancel classes, over 12 hours after Northwestern had made the same decision. Certainly, classes shouldn't be canceled willy-nilly, but putting off this decision to the last minute holds the student body hostage. And even when the blizzard ceased, the University of Chicago did not immediately return to normal. Even over a week later, the buses, so crucial to innumerable students' transportation, were reduced to one, infrequent line. Still, the rarer-than-a-blue-moon day—a University of Chicago snow-day, let alone two days—will be a standout memory of our four-years. Midterms can wait when there's a snowball fight in front of Swift Hall with hundreds of your fellow Maroons.