Tuesday, January 02, 2001


Here's an archive of quotes I've had up on the blog over the years.

Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.
--Rabindranath Tagore, "Fireflies" (4/30/09)
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1/19/09)
You gotta feel it
Yes, you gotta feel it
To get it right, even one time
You gotta feel it
Don't take notes
Just clear out your mind
Let go your pride
Feel it inside
-- Spoon (10/19/08)
I'm knocking on the doors of ya hummer hummer.
I'm knocking on the doors of ya hummer hummer.
-- M.I.A. (6/15/08)
We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the Gross National Product. For the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. ... It grows with the production of napalm and missles and nuclear warheads.... And if the Gross National Product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. ... It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America -- except whether we are proud to be Americans.
-- Robert F. Kennedy
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
-- John Crum
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
-- Leonard Cohen, 'Anthem'
You know you're my cookie baby and you're too smart
I can see it in the lines of your school art
True heart, I mean courage, expressed with care
Go on draw them superheroes with the curly hair

You're my daughter, my love, more than kin to me
This for you and the woman that you finna be
Tell that boy he's wrong Girls are strong
Next time at show-and-tell play him our song
-- The Coup, 'Wear Clean Draws'
Please, please, kids, stop fighting. Maybe Lisa's right about America being the land of opportunity, and maybe Adil's got a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.
-- Homer Simpson
Oh-oh-oh come take my hand,
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
-- Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road
is the creation of the devil.
a rebel, I'm bringin' food to the people like a widow
bringin' flowers to a grave in the middle
of the city. Isolation is a riddle
to be surrounded by a million other people
but to feel alone like a tree in a desert
dried up like the skin of a lizard
but full of colour like the spots of a leopard
drum and bass pull me in like a shepherd
scratch my itch like a needle on a record
full of life like a man gone to Mecca
sky high like an eagle up soaring
I speak low but I'm like a lion roaring
baritone like a Robeson recordin'
I'm givin' thanks for bein' human every morning.
-- Michael Franti, Stay Human
And it's so sad to see the world agree
That they'd rather see their faces fill with flies
All when I'd want to keep white roses in their eyes
-- Neutral Milk Hotel, Holland 1945
They hang the man and flog the woman
Who steals the goose from off the Common,
But let the greater criminal loose
Who steals the Common from the goose.
-- Traditional (English)
A long time ago, I left my home, For a job in the fruit trees
But I missed those hills with the windy pines, For their song seemed to suit me.
-- Gillian Welch, "One More Dollar"
It's all about strikes now, so here's what's striking me
That some punk could argue some moral ABCs
When people are catching what bombers release.
Well I'm on a mission to never agree...
...here comes the argument.
-- Fugazi, "The Argument"
Facts are simple and facts are straight. Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view. Facts don't do what I want them to
-- Talkingheads, "Crosseyed and Painless"
An inter-stellar burst! I am back to save the universe! -- Radiohead, "Airbag"
Godspeed to all the bakers at dawn, May they all cut their thumbs
and bleed into their buns, 'til they melt away. -- the Shins, "New Slang"
On the margins, in revisions,
where we both first learned forgiveness
By the moonlight, in the forest,
where our laughs spread out before us
It was always ever gonna go too far,
til someone turned the lights out at the bar
Accept no imitations, baby,
catch a collapsing star,
but it's our limitations that make us what we are
-- The Mendoza Line
When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them
When I sitting heard the astronomer
where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself
In the mystical moist night-air,
and from time to time Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars
-- Walt Whitman
If the children don't grow up, Our bodies get bigger, but our hearts get torn up.
We're just a million little gods causin rain storms turnin every good thing to rust.
I guess we'll just have to adjust.
-- Wake Up, The Arcade Fire

Monday, January 01, 2001

Fortress Chicago

[reposting an old article of mine from the U. of Chicago Free Press, originally published May 2001.]

Fortress Chicago
By Timothy Donaghy

The University of Chicago has, over the course of its 110 years, staked out a reputation as an intensely academic and scholarly institution: an austere ivory tower, not without a certain conservatism, but devoted to the ideal of “academic freedom”. This devotion is articulated in the 1967 “Kalven Committee: Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action” (online: http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/07/pdf/kalverpt.pdf). This brief, three-page document has formed the ideological basis for every University action since, and President Randel has recently reaffirmed its importance to the University. In a sense, the Report has been the Administration’s last line of defense against student and community demands, from the South African divestment campaign to current struggles over sweatshop apparel. Yet, despite its singular importance, the average U of C student has probably never heard of the Kalven Report.

The committee, headed by Professor Harry Kalven, was formed in February 1967 by then President George W. Beadle to prepare a “statement on the University’s role in political and social action.” That “statement” was a ringing defense of free academic inquiry, coupled with the observation that, while the University should support a great diversity of viewpoints, it should itself remain neutral whenever possible. In their words, “the university is home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic,” and the university is “a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives.”

But in the real world the university does take collective action every single day. For example, the University invests its endowment in various sectors of the economy, the University contracts with corporations like Barnes & Noble and Citibank to provide the student body with textbooks and banking services, and the University hires and writes paychecks for thousands of employees. In each of these dealings, the collective University has very real impacts upon people, and upon the “issues of the day”, that cannot be sidestepped by simply proclaiming neutrality. Although the Administration would not like to admit it, investing millions of dollars in irresponsible corporations or purchasing licensed collegiate apparel made in sweatshop conditions by Mexican workers, does have an impact on people’s lives and is therefore an inherently political act. This goal of complete neutrality is lovely in principle, but is not an excuse for the University to avoid responsibility for the consequences of its collective actions. The University has used the Kalven Report and this ideal of neutrality as a fig leaf to mask the political decisions it does make on a routine basis.

The Report does tentatively mention the possibility of university activities being “incompatible with paramount social values”, and that this might require “careful assessment of the consequences.” This carefully worded paragraph describes a possible justification for the university adopting a collective stance. However, this is seen as an “extraordinary instance” and indeed the University has been historically unwilling to act, even on issues that are clearly of paramount social value.

During the 1980’s there was a movement in the United States led by Randall Robinson, and supported by the African National Congress, to boycott and divest from corporations that did business with the apartheid regime in South Africa. The divestment campaign gained a lot of momentum on college campuses across the country. Between 1977 and 1993 over 100 colleges and universities, including Michigan State, Columbia, Minnesota and Stanford, decided to drop some or all of their South African investments, many citing the need of universities to develop ethical standards governing their investments. This pressure from American activists was a major factor in isolating South Africa from the international community and eventually bringing down the apartheid government. The University of Chicago, citing the Kalven Report as a guiding principle, did not divest from corporations doing business in South Africa, presumably to avoid making a collective political decision.

More recently, the nationwide student movement against sweatshop labor has compelled over 70 colleges and universities to join the Workers Rights Consortium (workersrights.org), a non-profit organization for monitoring and verifying compliance with University-chosen Codes of Conduct in the apparel industry. Furthermore, many other schools have joined the Fair Labor Association (fairlabor.org), a similar, although corporate-dominated, organization. Despite four years of pressure from student activists in the Anti-Sweatshop Coalition, the University of Chicago has joined neither, again citing the Kalven Report and the need to refrain from making political decisions. During last year’s debates on joining the WRC, University General Counsel Arthur Sussman stated, “to join with other institutions to support a 'proper' code of corporate behavior would be inconsistent with the Kalven Report." (Chicago Alumni Magazine, June 2000)  In recent discussions with President Randel and Dean Turkington, the Coalition was informed that the University would not join either the WRC or the FLA since “we as a university do not join things”, and that to do so would violate the academic integrity and free choice of the individual members of the university.

Furthermore, even within the narrowest definition of the word "politics", the Kalven report principle that the University should not endorse political positions, no matter how popular, has not been strictly followed. For example, a University regulation specifies on which days the United States flag will be raised in the main quad. A pacifistic scholar who does not recognize the legitimacy of Memorial Day, for example, is, by any reasonable reading of the Kalven Report, implicitly censured by the University when it mandates that the flag be displayed specifically on that day.

Most other American universities do not take such an extreme stance as that outlined in the Kalven Report. For instance, at this past weekend’s “Global Labor Justice Conference”, Robert Durkee, the Vice-President for Public Affairs at Princeton University, voiced criticism of the Report, saying “we must set our own houses in order” and that global labor issues are “not simply academic issues.” In fact, many American universities have managed to achieve the ideal of academic freedom, while still recognizing that the university has responsibilities beyond the academic sphere. The distinction between political involvement and academic freedom is by no means as binary as the Kalven Report claims. However, in a few instances the University of Chicago’s position has influenced other colleges. Administrators at McMasters University and, recently, the University of Rochester have both quoted the Kalven Report in formulating their policies on divestment and the Workers Rights Consortium.

Ultimately, the ideals that lie behind the Kalven Report are very admirable. The University should certainly keep as its primary goal “the discovery, improvement and dissemination of knowledge.” But we need to recognize that to truly achieve this lofty ideal of neutrality requires providing answers to difficult moral and ethical questions about our relationship to the rest of the world. Neutrality is certainly not achieved by a default acceptance of the status quo. These difficult questions must continually be brought up for debate among the entire academic community, rather than relying on “tradition” or some musty thirty-year old document to guide us.

Additional Sources: