The Depression through red-colored glasses

The Depression through red-colored glasses

Posted by: on Jun 14, 2014 | No Comments

In the early 1920s, the Russian futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky was so awestruck at the sight of Brooklyn Bridge that he wrote a 4-page poem about the experience.

Ben Shapiro on name-calling, racism and ‘check your privilege’

Ben Shapiro on name-calling, racism and ‘check your privilege’

Posted by: on May 27, 2014 | 3 Comments

Ben Shapiro, conservative commentator and radio host, explained last week how he believes rational argument in political debate has been overtaken by attacks on the character or morality of the opposite side.

Bands reflect on NU’s music scene, or lack thereof

Bands reflect on NU’s music scene, or lack thereof

Posted by: on Mar 21, 2014 | No Comments

Perennially sitting in the shadow of the Bienen School of Music, Northwestern’s rock groups know NU doesn’t have the most lively band scene. But whether they experienced their dreams here or not, recent graduates can still look back and say that it put them in a good place today.

A brief history of college protests

A brief history of college protests

Posted by: on Mar 20, 2014 | No Comments

The students standing in a rough semicircle before Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Friday shouted to claim the attention of the hundreds of donors filing past on their way to the kickoff of Northwestern’s “We Will” fundraising campaign.

Two distinct sisters, united in music

Two distinct sisters, united in music

Posted by: on Feb 14, 2014 | No Comments

 

Take a moment and think about the difference between two of Mozart’s most famous pieces; for example, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” versus The Magic Flute’s “Queen of the Night.” There is a great deal of difference between the two pieces, even though many might find themselves at a complete loss to describe exactly what.

So, at first, is the case with twins Bryce and Maris O’Tierney, two sisters who are both heavily involved in music at Northwestern.

They come from the same place, pursue similar goals, and in passing you might even confuse one for the other.. But beneath the similarities are two vibrant and highly driven personalities, one strumming, and one fiddling.

“I’m someone who’s three majors: vocal performance, art history, and political science,” said Maris. “And the reason for that is when something inspires me, I dig into that.”

If you think she sounds busy enough, she also left out classically-trained guitarist and active singer-songwriter.

Her sister is no slouch either. On track to finish her dual degree program, Bryce majors in both violin performance and creative writing, all while sustaining a variety of other endeavors.

The poetry editor for Prompt Literary Magazine, Bryce also puts words to music in her own style of songwriting. This combination comes naturally, since the words feel to her like an extension of the music already going through her head. She even goes so far as to write out her drafts on musical manuscript paper.

“When I’m working on a poem it feels like a familiar environment,” she said, “because I’ve thought through it already on the violin. It’s more translation than anything else.”

“What constantly amazes me about Bryce is the way she translates her musicianship to collaborations beyond music,” said Maris.

Currently in the thick of a choreographed music and dance project with Danceworks, Bryce agreed that she works best when working with others.

“This year I just started taking some classes in the dance department,” she said, explaining that it was her violin that first got her involved with the project.

“I always have my fiddle on my back,” she said. “It’s just always with me. So I had it on my back and the instructor said, ‘Well, why don’t you play for us?’ And that’s how it got the ball rolling for this collaboration now.”

This summer saw another similarity emerge between the two, at least on paper. Both spent the summer abroad, Maris in Barcelona and Bryce in Co Clare, Ireland.

After graduation, both sisters have an eye to return to their summer research destinations—Maris for more research and Bryce for graduate school—and both are in the final rounds of selection for the Fulbright grants that would help bring those goals to life.

“If that falls through I could see myself staying in Chicago, and even doing more collaborative work with dance,” Bryce said, adding that she could see herself “working for the dance department here and playing for classes.”

“Artistically I like Chicago a lot,” said Maris. “It feels really good that there’s music that I’d love to share with people and that there’re people that want to listen to it and want to support it.”

She mentioned an interest in starting a band with her twin and a few others who share their goals and dedication.

“If it turned into a record deal that would obviously be amazing,” she added, but it’s the
travel and collaboration that really gets her excited about this idea.

Both sisters gave the impression that while the location is important, and the   recognition is nice, the music itself generates the real force that keeps them going. “I don’t think about backup plans,” said Maris, “but music is like the continuous thread that after I graduate I’m going to keep booking gigs and keep pushing for that until something really sparks.”

“There’s nothing that helps me stay grounded like music will.”

Why one prof wants to cut law school by a third

Why one prof wants to cut law school by a third

Posted by: on Feb 14, 2014 | No Comments

Steven Harper, litigator of 30 years and adjunct professor at Northwestern University Law, isn’t a fan of law school.

Well, not all of it, anyway. Harper is a prominent advocate of eliminating the third year of law school.

The author of  four books and the award-winning blog “The Belly of the Beast”, Harper also teaches what he calls ‘10 weeks of reality therapy’ for undergrads in the legal studies seminar called “American Lawyers: Demystifying the Profession.”

“There has been a recent disconnect between expectation and reality,” Harper remarked. “Students need to know what’s going on in the profession.”

As an outgrowth of the undergraduate course he teaches, Harper wrote “The Lawyer Bubble – A Profession in Crisis,” where he recounts the wrong approaches he believes law schools have taken in creating an oversupply of lawyers and high employee
unhappiness.

“These are the problems that can be seen, but no one wants to talk about them,” Harper said.

Despite President Obama’s recent endorsement of eliminating a year of law school, Harper thinks the third year won’t disappear anytime soon. Harper explained the first year is about teaching prospective attorneys to think like lawyers and the second covers basic legal areas, with the most relevant training occurring outside the classroom under practicing attorneys. Even though many prospective lawyers develop specialties, these don’t result from taking courses during the third year of law school.

“If it’s really not essential, then why should there be a third year and why should 85% of students come out of law school with hundreds of thousands in debt?” Harper asks. For him, law schools are run as businesses, maximizing short-term profits.

“Defenders of a third year of law school will always be deans and law professors,” Harper said. “Deans will always dislike the idea because of cut revenues.”

In addition, he said US News Rankings have created perverse incentives: the more a school spends on students, the higher its ranking.

According to Harper, the US News Rankings have caused a “vicious circle of stupidity in terms of the way both students and deans are responding, developed by someone who isn’t even a lawyer or holds any sort of legal degree.”

“Undergrad students now sacrifice independent judgment in favor of flawed rankings,” Harper added. Like many for-profit universities, law schools seem to only see students as dollar bills.

“Law schools’ high tuitions will persist, student debt will grow, and job prospects will
remain bleak,” Harper wrote in his article “Obama’s Good, and Hopeless, Idea for Law Schools.”

He believes that the continuing law school model requires maximizing revenue and filling classroom seats, regardless of student employment prospects at graduation, since only half will find jobs requiring a JD.

So what does the future hold for the law profession? Harper seems optimistic. “As long as people make an informed decision about entering law school, schools will continue to attract great people who will do things with a law degree. I think in the long range it’ll sort itself out.”

Photo Gallery: Deering Lights

Photo Gallery: Deering Lights

Posted by: on Jan 18, 2014 | No Comments

 

Artist Marco Rotelli lit up Deering Library this past week with his project Rage Against the Dying of the Light.
The project’s name is drawn from the first verse of the Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The illuminations themselves are taken from the works of various famous poets, such as Dickinson and Shakespeare.

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Meet the President of NU’s First Group for Women in Philosophy

Meet the President of NU’s First Group for Women in Philosophy

Posted by: on Jan 13, 2014 | One Comment

 

I met Isabella Copeland my first year at Northwestern, when we were in the same freshman seminar: “Art vs. Philosophy” (or something of the sort). Philosophy has never been my strong point; I spent most of the class daydreaming and doodling in my notebook while Isabella was driving the discussion with thought-provoking philosophical questions.

So it’s no surprise to me she is now president of WiPhi, or Women in Philosophy.

Proof of Isabella’s love for philosophy: kissing the grave of Sartre and de Beauvoir in a Parisian cemetery

 

I recently sat down with Isabella at Farmhouse Evanston to hear about her recent rise to philosophy-fame, and to find out what really goes on in WiPhi meetings.

“I’ve been a philosophy major since we took that freshman seminar, so WiPhi was presented to me just through the department,” Copeland explained to me. “There was a different president every year, and last year one of the fabulous presidents graduated and asked if I would be interested in taking over.”

WiPhi has only been around since 2011, so don’t feel too bad if you haven’t heard much about it. Copeland’s main task this year is to make this club a larger presence on campus, and make its members proud of their commitment to philosophy.

“It shouldn’t be thought of as a nerdy group. We’re women with interests and critical thinking skills, and it’s really just a place to foster a female voice. It’s important for females to get together and just encourage each other and remind each other that we’re actually super smart, and that our arguments matter,” said Copeland.

When I imagine a philosophy club meeting, I picture everyone sitting around a dimly-lit room in large leather armchairs debating philosophical ideals, possibly in British accents. But WiPhi isn’t nearly as intimidating. They meet twice a month and give members the chance to talk about Northwestern-specific problems as well as hypothetical situations in need of a philosophical answer.

Isabella at WiPhi’s Halloween Potluck Party

 

“It’s not totally structured, but I think I like it better that way. You come in, feel out the vibe. If everyone is super tired, we just chill, eat our pizza, relax and be women in philosophy. But if we’re feeling feisty, let’s go into it, let’s destroy something.”

When in need for something to “destroy,” Copeland mentioned that she often uses “The Ethicist,” Chuck Klosterman’s ethical advice column in the New York Times, as a base for discussion.

“He has random people write in about their moral dilemmas, and he offers a solution. Sometimes it’s spot on, but when he presents an argument that’s sort of shaky, that’s when we have the best times. It’s like ‘What?? How could you say that?! That doesn’t make any sense! What would Kant say??’”

I had to ask if boys ever came to the meetings, or if they were even allowed. Copeland made sure to point out that WiPhi is very non-exclusive. Yes, their name only says “women,” but guys are always welcome (even though none have attended yet).

“I get a lot of guys who say, ‘This is ridiculous! You can’t exclude men, that’s not philosophical!’ And it’s a huge thing that is misunderstood about the group. It’s really not an exclusionist group, it’s just women in philosophy, it’s a minority group period. At the end of the day, that’s just how numbers fall,” said Copeland. “It’s an all-female initiative, and it’s not about the exclusion of males, it’s about supporting a female presence in a male-dominated field like philosophy.”

For the philosophy-challenged like myself, the philosophy department will soon be offering a mini-lecture series open to anyone, taught by different professors on their area of interest or expertise. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a working knowledge of existentialism?

Make sure to watch out for WiPhi’s greatest claim to fame, which is happening at the end of this quarter: The Gertrude Bussey Lecture.

“Gertrude Bussey was the first male or female to graduate with a philosophy degree from Northwestern, but she was a woman! So that’s great. We have a lecture every year in her honor, where we bring in a philosopher just to give a lecture and have dinner with students.”

This year, the featured speaker is Dr. Julie Driver, and the lecture will take place on March 6 at 5PM in University Hall Room 121.

If you are interested in attending a meeting or finding information on events, you can visit WiPhi’s Facebook page.

Northwestern, Way Back When

Northwestern, Way Back When

Posted by: on Dec 13, 2013 | No Comments

 

No one can deny New Year’s is a time for looking forward (or, for some, drinking to forget the year before.) But it can also be a time for looking back. In honor of this other aspect of New Year’s, The Chron, in collaboration with Head Northwestern Archivist Kevin Leonard, is giving our readers a short look into a few small pieces of Northwestern history. In each picture shown, take a look at not only the subject, but also at the scenery around it. You might be hard-pressed to recognize the Northwestern you pass by every day. But stop for a minute and try to understand the people and the sentiment behind each photograph; you may find yourself closer to home than you first thought.

 

 To begin, one activity which will likely find its way into most students’ winter quarters is a round of ice skating (click on photo to enlarge), though sometimes it can be hard to find a place for it. In the past, this was less of an issue as students found entire frozen lakes on the north end of campus that could be put to good use for a game of hockey. Just as interesting on the turn-of-the-century Evanston campus was the prominence of non-frozen water. The waters of Lake Michigan were visible from a number of different venues in Northwestern’s past, as the campus shoreline ran a much different path in those days.

 

For instance, if you visited Dearborn Observatory back in the early 1900’s, you could certainly get a closer look at the stars above.  However, you would also be close enough to observe the waves on Lake Michigan, as the building was originally situated on the beach of  orthwestern’s pre-lakefill shoreline. But the shore wasn’t the only thing that moved. The observatory itself was completely uprooted in 1939 to make room for the construction of the Technological Institute. “It was moved about a hundred feet or so,” according to Leonard. “They had to separate it from its foundation, and used a winch and horses to drag the building to its new location.”

 

Moving south, if you  thought that Northwestern’s animal life was always limited to the skunks, rabbits, squirrels and raccoons that skitter and roam around campus these days, you might have been surprised in the early 1900s to see the campus cow grazing on the grass of what we now call Deering Meadow. “There’s your milk delivery system,” said Leonard, only half-jokingly. According to him, “at least one of the presidents had a cow,” and it sometimes wandered its way onto the minutes of the Board of Trustees. It may seem odd to find a small pond where Harris Hall and West Fairchild stand today.

 

Before Harris Hall was constructed in 1915, Lake Atwell sat murkily in its place. Named after Charles Beech Atwell, a science and botany professor here, “it assumed that name at some point in history and has since been drained away.” “There wasn’t much to it,” continued Leonard. “It would be a site, if you ever did this in high school, where you’d go out and get some pond water and look at it under a microscope.”

 

The Rock, originally a gift of the class of 1902, also sits in its original location in this picture. Once a fountain incorporating a small retaining pool of water, after the construction of Harris Hall, students couldn’t walk straight out of Harris and into University Hall without running right into the Rock. But the Rock was shifted to its current location, a fountain no longer, and the trees around it continue to change colors nearly as much as the Rock does. The footprints, however, are a thing of the past. When you enter the west side entrance to University Hall, you might see something else that has been moved. An old, engraved board that reads “Old College” rests in the side vestibule of the main entryway, leading many students to believe that University Hall once went by a different name. Not true. “I don’t know who did it, I don’t know where it was kept over the years,” Leonard said of the sign. “It has nothing to do with the building in which it now reposes.”

 

Old College was actually the first structure ever built on Northwestern’s land, and yet another participant in the grand NU tradition of uprooting entire buildings (and fountains) and moving them somewhere more convenient. Originally located on the site of the Davis Street Fish Market (you can find a plaque on the wall marking the exact location, the next time you feel in the mood for North Shore seafood), the building moved first to the current location of the Fairchild dorms, and finally settled near where the the McCormick Tribune Center stands today.

Old College ended with a lightning strike and a sprinkler malfunction in 1973. “It was not meant to last,” Leonard said. “It was a modest wood-frame structure when the university was a new institution. When Northwestern had the money to build more grandly, it went with stone.” This grander style can be seen, somewhat poetically, just outside the display that holds Old College’s most iconic remnant: in the white stone architecture of University Hall.

A National Trend: The Rise of the Student Voice in the Classroom

Posted by: on Dec 12, 2013 | No Comments

 

Four years ago, student opinion in teacher evaluation wasn’t on anybody’s radar. The influence of students extended only to their test scores and how others interpreted their progress. But now, across the U.S., the tide is turning in support of a student voice in the form of student surveys as a constructive form of teacher evaluation.

“If you ask them in the right way, the students have the most insight into the performance of teachers,” said David Parker, a senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  According to Parker, the foundation allotted $50 million for one of the largest education research projects ever created, the Measures of Effective Teaching project. He said the project aimed to find a “360 degree view of teacher practice.”

Other advocates, such as youth-run organizations, haven’t wasted any time as the surveys they support have launched into the limelight. Aaron Feuer, CEO and founder of Boston-based Panorama Education, runs one of the largest student survey companies, serving 4,000 schools across the country. A 2013 Yale graduate, Feuer built his company’s product after lobbying on behalf of student surveys in California’s legislature.

“There’s a policy that people want,” he said. “The only thing stopping them is technology.” Feuer founded Panorama Education, which recently raised $4 million for its K-12 survey from various organizations including Mark Zuckerberg’s Startup: Education
and Google Ventures. Even with this success, Feuer sees a daunting challenge for his team, in scaling up their operations.

“We run a lot of the major student survey work in the country,” he said, but added that they still face substantial challenges. “1 million students is only 2% of the total,” he said. Different models and organizations hold sway in various locales and provide a variety of propositions. Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) used public policy to influence Chicago’s student survey landscape; working with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers’ Union, VOYCE helped Chicago to start issuing student surveys over the next two years.

Across the country, support for student voice in teacher evaluation is growing. However, students and companies both still face obstacles, largely due to perceptions of student surveys that hinder further progress.

“Surveys can provide information not only for teacher evaluation systems, but also formative information for teachers about how to improve their practice,” said Parker. He believes, however, that oftentimes people only recognize the former. In attempts to counter this perception, the Gates Foundation released a white paper on the MET website outlining how to effectively implement high quality student surveys.

Backed by practice and research, the market for student surveys across the country has exploded over the past four years. Once an underappreciated aspect of teacher evaluation, it is now finding advocates in both community organizations and the private sector, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.