NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

University Of Chicago Upholds Standards

June 8, 1999

The outcome of a battle at the University of Chicago holds important implications for higher education throughout America.

The conflict revolved around an attempt by President Hugo Sonnenschein to water down the school's preeminent academic standards in an attempt to attract a less academically inclined group of students. Maintaining high standards won out when Sonnenschein submitted his resignation on Thursday, observers say.

  • Critics charged that under Sonnenschein's six-year presidency decline and politicization had overtaken Chicago's core curriculum.
  • The effort to market the school more widely was seen by many as an affront to an institution that boasts 70 Nobel Prize winners -- more than any other school in the world.
  • "Every college administration has been put on notice: alumni, faculty and trustees will challenge any attempt to undermine academic standards," said Jerry L. Martin, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, whose group gathered signatures on a letter calling on the school's board of trustees to reconsider its decision to cut the highly respected and rigorous core curriculum.
  • Protesting students also played a part in Sonnenschein's resignation -- at one point donning T-shirts that read, "Hugo or I go."

Sonnenschein will remain as president until June 2000 and then become a professor in the economics department.

Source: Andrea Billups, "U. of Chicago Rejects Efforts to Dumb Down," Washington Times, June 8, 1999.


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