Press Releases | Core Curriculum

Distinguished Scholars Join Group Opposing Curricular Cuts at the University of Chicago

Mortimer Adler and Robert Bork Coordinate with ACTA to Call on University Trustees to Impose a Moratorium on Proposed Changes
May 25, 1999

WASHINGTON, DC—Distinguished educator Mortimer J. Adler and former judge Robert H. Bork today called on University of Chicago trustees to delay proposed changes to the curriculum that would cut the University’s acclaimed core curriculum by a third. They have joined Scholars for the University of Chicago, a group of alumni and former faculty, who have protested the cuts. The board is scheduled to meet on June 4.

Ten distinguished scholars last month launched the group and outlined their views in a letter to President Hugo Sonnenschein and the board of trustees, opposing changes which would dilute academic standards and increase the size of the student body.

The proposed curricular changes will reduce the core curriculum from 21 to 15 courses, eliminating specific existing requirements in mathematics and languages and reducing the total number of classes required in humanities and civilization studies.

According to the letter, the university is lowering standards in order to attract less intellectual students. A university administrator is quoted as saying, “I don’t know how many students we can attract if we go after those who only seek the life of the mind.”

“Making academic decisions on the basis of marketing is itself a crime against the mind,” the letter said.

Coordinated by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a national organization that promotes academic excellence, Scholars for the University of Chicago has doubled in size since it was announced in mid-April. The group includes Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow, Harvard social scientist David Riesman, Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, University of Pennsylvania history professor Walter McDougall and UCLA professor James Q. Wilson.

“The support of Mortimer Adler is particularly significant,” said ACTA president Jerry L. Martin. “Adler is a living legend. He was a mentor to Chicago president Robert Hutchins and intellectual godfather of the core. When Adler speaks, the board should listen.”

Expanding enrollments may result in more classes taught by graduate students, the letter also said. As of 1997-98, “only 40 percent of classes in the social science core were being taught by regular faculty and 43 percent in the humanities core.”

The following have joined Scholars for the University of Chicago:

Mortimer J. Adler, educator and editor-in-chief, Great Books of the Western World, chairman of the board of editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, co-founder and chairman, Center for the Study of The Great Ideas

Saul Bellow, Nobel Laureate and University Professor, Boston University

Seth Benardete, Professor of Classics, New York University

Walter Berns, University Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University

The Honorable Robert H. Bork, former judge and former Alexander M. Bickel Professor of Public Law, Yale Law School

John D. Fonte, independent scholar and former senior researcher, United States Department of Education

Michael Allen Gillespie, Professor of Political Science, Duke University

Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Robert Goldwin, former professor, Kenyon College

Ruth Grant, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Duke University

Paul Gronke, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Duke University

Gertrude Himmelfarb, Professor Emeritus of History, City University of New York

Charles Horner, former faculty member, International Institute of Strategic Studies and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service

Robert Lerner, former assistant professor, Syracuse University; faculty associate, Johns Hopkins University

Michael J. Malbin, Professor of Political Science, SUNY at Albany

Walter A. McDougall, professor of history and international relations, University of Pennsylvania

Robert Michaels, former Dean, Cornell College Medical School

Althea K. Nagai, independent scholar and former Visiting Lecturer, Smith College

Daniel Pipes, Director, Middle East Forum and editor, Middle East Quarterly

David Riesman, Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences Emeritus, Harvard University

Stanley Rosen, Professor of Philosophy, Boston University

Robert B. Rosthal, professor emeritus of philosophy , University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Eric Schopler, professor of psychology and psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

John C. Weicher, former professor of economics at The Ohio State University and the University of California at Irvine

James Q. Wilson, James Collins Professor of Management, University of California at Los Angeles

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonprofit organization of alumni and trustees from over 200 colleges and universities across the country based in Washington, DC.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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