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UChicago Dean’s Message to Students Proves UnSEXessful

UChicago Dean’s Message to Students Proves UnSEXessful

While I may be envious of 18 year olds for their age, I don’t envy the headache of applying to college. Also empathetic to the plight of prospective students, University of Chicago Dean Jim Nondorf sent an e-mail attempting to ease the pain of the application process — and apparently provided a lesson in sex-ed while doing so.

In an effort to entice students and get their creative juices flowing (so to speak), Nondorf sent what he intended to be an inspiring, light-hearted e-mail containing an essay submitted by an applicant accepted in the Early Decision round. In answer to the University’s question “Why Chicago?” the student responded by comparing the school to an elusive, yet tempestuous lover.

“Dear University of Chicago, It fills me up with that gooey sap you feel late at night when I think about things that are really special to me about you,” the student wrote. “Your cup overfloweth with academic genius, pour a little on me.”

While the Dean’s intention was to reduce students’ stress, his message caused a bit of a firestorm among parents, who found the essay too racy, and applicants, who feared their writing wasn’t up to snuff. To quell their concerns, a Chicago admissions officer issued an apology on Dean Nondorf’s behalf. Having been through the application process myself, I understand being upset over an e-mail that exacerbates your anxiety. In terms of Chicago’s branding, however, I think offering an apology was unnecessary, perhaps borderline destructive.

UChicago, and most higher learning institutions for that matter, value envelope-pushing ideas and creativity. They exist to foster and quench the thirst for knowledge. Academics are protected by tenure because it is crucial to be able to speak their minds without the fear of being reprimanded. Not to mention, what the student wrote in the essay wasn’t actually vulgar. There is a difference between sexual innuendo and being overtly crude.

If admissions felt the need to reassure the frightened students, fine, but apologizing for encouraging students to think freely and inventively goes against the University’s enlightened approach to education. My brother, who will be attending UChicago this fall as a freshman, agrees that the uproar and subsequent apology fly in the face of what the school stands for:

Though risqué, Dean Nondorf’s letter inspires: “The sample essay exemplifies UChicago’s eccentric aesthetic.  Applicants and parents needn’t be so doctrinaire,” he said in response to the controversy.  “All their brouhaha belies the school’s bohemian spirit. They say UChicago is where fun goes to die; I say it’s where fun goes to apply.”

What do you think? Was the apology excessive or warranted in this case?

Posted by Abby