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Town-gown Relations

Local universities and public lecture

From the early days of Oxford and Cambridge, relations between citizens living near a campus (“town”) and students and faculty associated with that campus (“gown” because of their academic garb) have been volatile, often characterized by hostilities. Most present-day universities work hard to ease these tensions. In addition, they accept the charge psychologist Erich Fromm assigned them when he remarked, “Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?”  
For these excellent reasons, the universities in the Chicago metropolitan area all offer concerts, plays, and other cultural events that are open to the public, in most cases for the price of a ticket. Some schools also offer a wide variety of extension classes for adults, again with payment involved. But what virtually all local universities offer to the community without cost are public lectures and seminars, often on stimulating, cutting-edge topics. These talks and workshops present a fine opportunity for continuing education, though finding out about them is not always easy. Most large universities these days are highly compartmentalized, and the left hand does not always know what the right hand is doing. Further, university calendars are daunting, because they list everything, requiring considerable sifting to uncover the public lectures. The process is rather like panning for gold.
As a community service, then, here  is a listing of some of the “gold” available at local universities this spring and in the future: 
The University of Chicago has a variety of lecture series for local citizens. The Compton Lectures handled by the Fermi Institute, focus on developments in the physical sciences. This spring the lectures will take place every Saturday morning at 11:00 in the Kersten Physics Teaching Center, 5720 S. Ellis Ave. Another option is the Smart Lecture Series in the Division of Humanities, which on May 16 will offer Professor Sheila Crane of the University of Virginia talking on “Ethnography and Architecture in the City at War” (4:30-6:30 p.m., Cochrane-Woods Art Center 157, 5540 S. Greenwood Ave.). A stimulating new addition to the university is the Institute of Politics, spearheaded by former White House advisor David Axelrod. The Institute offers a rich program of speakers, often addressing controversial topics, frequently with workshops. All events at the Institute are free and open to the public. Yet another fine resource is the Reva and David Logan Center, the new arts building at the U. of C. that offers numerous literary, dramatic, musical, and cinematic performances, some of which require purchased tickets, some of which are free. Once a month the Center offers a free Saturday afternoon family workshop, such as the one called “Lego Animation” scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on April 27 in the Center’s Digital Media Lab. Further, the Booth School of Business at the U. of C. has the highly-regarded Myron Scholes Global Markets Forum, an on-going series. The series is open to the public, though the coordinators ask for advance registration. Finally, International House at the U. of C. also has a regular series of talks and performances that are free and open to anyone. The U. of C. calendar is available at http://eventuchicago.edu
Northwestern, too, has some notable series for the public. The Klopsteg Lectures focus on science in human culture and feature a number of interesting speakers each quarter. For example, on April 22 Sarah Igo of Vanderbilt will talk on American privacy.  On May 6, Richard Tucker of Michigan will talk about global ecology. Both talks are from 4:00-5:30 p.m. in University Hall, Room 201. The Silverstein Lecture Series is also for the public, focusing on advances in genetics and medical research. In this series, Louis Guillette, Jr. from the University of South Carolina will soon give the lecture twice: April 24 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. in Evanston at the McCormick Tribune Center, and April 25 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Laurie Medical Research Center, 303 E. Superior St. in Chicago.  In addition, at the Block Museum on the Evanston campus, Tim Griffin, editor of The Kitchen, will give the annual Eliza and Todd Warnock Lecture on May 22; his topic is “Compression,” and the lecture is free and open to the public. (The Northwestern calendar, accessible at http://planitpurple.northwestern.edu, lists other options and enables a user to make a narrow search for a specific kind of event.)
Roosevelt University offers some excellent free events right in the Loop. On May 13 the annual Heller Signature Luncheon and Lecture, given by Roosevelt’s Heller College of Business, takes place from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Palmer House Hilton.  This year’s speaker is Jan Fields, former president of McDonald’s USA, who will lecture on “Diversity at McDonald’s and Why It Built Strength and Longevity.” Another opportunity: the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project will sponsor the photo exhibit “Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out.  Photographs by Edmund Clark” at the Gage Gallery through May 4. Information is available at http:// roosevelt.edu.)
This spring Loyola University has some appealing events for the public at the Cuneo Museum and Gardens in Vernon Hills, donated to Loyola in 2010. On April 28 at 2:00 p.m., Theodore Karamanski of Loyola’s history department will give a free lecture on the Chicago and the American Civil War Series. On May 12 the museum offers a Mother’s Day brunch and a program called “Special Exhibition Preview of Martha Weathered and Chicago Couture,” the program free with the purchase of brunch. On June 23 from 1:30-3:30, the museum will feature horticulturalist Regina Cady giving a free Gardening in Containers Lecture. (To register for any of these events, contact agraue@luc.edu.) 
DePaul University has two upcoming special series that are open to the public. From April 17-May 5, Centers and Institutes will feature five different sessions at the DePaul Center on Chicago’s New Eastside Community, all five happening on Wednesdays from 6:00-9:00 p.m.  These presentations will cost $299 for the series of five. On Saturday, May 4 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Loyola will offer A Celebration of Doctor Who in the Richard M. and Maggie C. Daley Building, a day of lectures, discussions, and film clips.  Both of these events require pre-registration. (For further information, check the listings at http://depaul.edu.)
The opportunities listed here merely scratch the surface. Do yourself a favor and allow the local universities to educate you—gratis.

Published: April 15, 2013
Issue: Spring 2013 Issue