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(December 20, 2013)

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  • By Brian December 20, 2013
    Many new lectures have been added to OpenCourse Channels! They're very informative videos! Enjoy!
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Fifty years ago, the University of Chicago became one of the first universities in the nation to partner with the federal government on a suite of programs to help high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve academic success.

UChicago and its Office of Civic Engagement recently celebrated the far-reaching impact of two groundbreaking efforts to help low-income, high-potential Chicago students gain admission to, pay for and thrive in college: the Office of Special Programs-College Prep program, which since 1968 has helped more than 3,000 South Side students prepare and apply for college; and the Collegiate Scholars Program, which in the past 15 years has helped 100 percent of its more than 500 alumni enroll in four-year colleges.

“Ensuring that students from all backgrounds have access and the opportunity to succeed in higher education is a vital priority for the University,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “The Office of Special Programs is especially focused on providing a system of support and enrichment for young people in the University’s neighboring communities; such programs help first-generation students succeed while strengthening the colleges and universities they choose to attend.”

One College Prep program alum, UChicago second-year Naa Ashitey, knew she would go to college—but she wasn’t sure how she would get there, or how she would afford it. Her father, a taxi driver, works seven days a week; her mother has always cobbled together multiple jobs to help provide for the family.

As a high school student living in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, Ashitey was eligible for the OSP Upward Bound program, which offers year-round academic support, along with help navigating college admissions and financial aid, to students from four communities and four high schools near campus.

The program, which serves more than 100 students each year, helped connect Ashitey with a full-ride QuestBridge scholarship; she’s now on a pre-med academic track and aspires to earn both an MD and a PhD. “I needed to get into college not only to achieve my dream of being a doctor,” she said, “but also to be able to go back and help my family just like they helped me growing up.”

In addition to academic and admissions help, Office of Special Programs activities include annual nationwide college tours and weeklong live-in programs on campus, as well as field trips to cultural events and research institutions. The program also emphasizes the involvement of parents and guardians in students’ journey to college.

Cultivating the potential of Collegiate Scholars

The Collegiate Scholars Program launched after the UChicago Consortium on School Research found that high-performing Chicago Public Schools students were under-reaching in their college application choices. During the academic year, Collegiate Scholars participate in enrichment activities geared toward college readiness, leadership development, cultural awareness and civic engagement. And during the summer months, they experience life on campus while taking humanities, social science, math and science courses taught by University of Chicago faculty and PhD candidates.

Ninety-three percent of program alumni earn bachelor’s degrees within six years; by comparison, 18 percent of Chicago Public Schools graduates earn a bachelor’s degree within a decade of entering high school.

Collegiate Scholar Raven Galloway, a straight-A graduate of Daniel Hale Williams Prep in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, who’s now a first-year at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, was accepted to ten colleges and received financial aid offers and scholarships totaling more than $1.3 million. “One of the most important things that CSP gave me was an understanding of how college works,” she said. “It felt like we were high school students and college students at the same time—so I got to Rhodes already knowing how to look at my syllabi, how to handle due dates, how to get to know my professors and ask for help when I need it. All of us in CSP matured during the program and were more prepared for college because of it.”

Both programs are part of UChicago Promise, the University’s multipronged initiative offering college resources and scholarships for Chicago high school students; CSP is endowed through the Odyssey Scholarship Program, UChicago’s comprehensive model for dismantling obstacles to education and careers for talented, hardworking students with financial need.

“The enduring partnership between the University of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools has helped thousands of students prepare for and succeed in college,” said Janice K. Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools. “We look forward to building upon our lasting partnership to help students reach their full potential for generations to come.”

—Adapted from a story that first appeared on the Civic Engagement website.

December 31, 1969

Free speech has been an experiment from the start—or at least that’s what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested nearly a century ago in his dissent in Abrams v. United States, one of the first decisions to interpret and shape the doctrine that would come to occupy a nearly sacred place in America’s national identity.

Since then, First Amendment jurisprudence has stirred America in novel ways, forcing deep introspection about democracy, society and human nature and sometimes straddling the political divide in unexpected fashion. In the past 100 years, free speech protections have ebbed and flowed alongside America’s fears and progress, adapting to changing norms but ultimately growing in reach.

And now, this piece of the American experiment faces a new set of challenges presented by the ever-expanding influence of technology as well as sharp debates over the government’s role in shaping the public forum.

That’s why Geoffrey R. Stone, the Edward Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, two of the country’s leading First Amendment scholars, brought together some of the nation’s most influential legal scholars in a new book to explore the evolution—and the future—of First Amendment doctrine in America. 

The Free Speech Century (Oxford University Press) is a collection of 16 essays by Floyd Abrams, the legendary First Amendment lawyer; David Strauss, the University of Chicago’s Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law; Albie Sachs, former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; Tom Ginsburg, the University of Chicago’s Leo Spitz Professor of International Law; Laura Weinrib, a University of Chicago Professor of Law; Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School; and others.

“Lee and I were law clerks together at the Supreme Court during the 1972 term,” Stone said. “I was with Justice Brennan and Lee was with Chief Justice Burger. We have both been writing, speaking and teaching about the First Amendment now for 45 years. This was a good time, we decided, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s first decision on the First Amendment with a volume that examines four basic themes: The Nature of First Amendment Jurisprudence, Major Critiques and Controversies over Current Doctrine, The International Impact of our First Amendment Jurisprudence, and the Future of Free Speech in a World of Ever-Changing Technology. Our hope is that this volume will enlighten, inspire and challenge readers to think about the role of free speech in a free and democratic society.”

Stone, JD’71, has spent much of his career examining free speech—a topic he first became passionate about as a University of Law School student.

The University has a long tradition of upholding freedom of expression. UChicago’s influential 2015 report by the Committee on Freedom of Expression, which Stone chaired, became a model for colleges and universities across the country.

The collection takes on pressing issues, such as free expression on university campuses, hate speech, the regulation of political speech and the boundaries of free speech on social media, unpacking the ways in which these issues are shaping the norms of free expression.

One essay, for instance, explores how digital behemoths like Facebook, Twitter and Google became “gatekeepers of free expression”—a shift that contributor Emily Bell, a Columbia University journalism professor, writes “leaves us at a dangerous point in democracy and freedom of the press.” Her article examines foreign interference in the 2016 election and explores some of the questions that have emerged since, such as how to balance traditional ideas of a free press with the rights of citizens to hear accurate information in an information landscape that is now dominated by social media.

Technology, the editors write, has presented some of the most significant questions that courts, legal scholars, and the American public will face in the coming decades.

“While vastly expanding the opportunities to participate in public discourse, contemporary means of communication have also arguably contributed to political polarization, foreign influence in our democracy, and the proliferation of ‘fake’ news,” Stone writes in the introduction. “To what extent do these concerns pose new threats to our understanding of ‘the freedom of speech, and of the press’? To what extent do they call for serious reconsideration of some central doctrines and principles on which our current First Amendment jurisprudence is based?”

In another essay, Strauss, an expert in constitutional law, examines the principles established in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, New York Times Co. v. United States. The landmark ruling blocked an attempt at prior restraint by the Nixon administration, allowing the New York Times and Washington Post to publish a classified report that reporters had obtained about America’s role in Vietnam. The threat to national security wasn’t sufficiently immediate or specific to warrant infringing on the papers’ right to publish, the Court said at the time.

But today’s world is different, Strauss argues. It is easier to leak large amounts of sensitive information—and publication is no longer limited to a handful of media companies with strict ethical guidelines. What’s more, the ease with which information can be shared—digitally as opposed to carefully sneaking papers in batches from locked cabinets to a photocopier, as military analyst Daniel Ellsberg did when leaking the Pentagon Papers—means that a larger number of people can act as leakers. That can include those who don’t fully understand the information they are sharing, which many have argued was the case when former IT contractor Edward Snowden allegedly leaked millions of documents from the National Security Agency in 2013.

“[T]he stakes are great on both sides,” Strauss writes, “and the world has changed in ways that make it important to rethink the way we deal with the problem.”

Ultimately, the health of the First Amendment will depend on two things, Bollinger writes: a continued understanding that free speech plays a critical role in democratic society—and a recognition that the judicial branch doesn’t claim sole responsibility for achieving that vision. The legislative and executive branches can support free speech as well.

What’s more, modern-day challenges do not have to result in an erosion of protections, Bollinger argues.

“[O]ur most memorable and consequential decisions under the First Amendment have emerged in times of national crises, when passions are at their peak and when human behavior is on full display at its worst and at its best, in times of war and when momentous social movements are on the rise,” he writes. “Freedom of speech and the press taps into the most essential elements of life—how we think, speak, communicate, and live within the polity. It is no wonder that we are drawn again and again into its world.”

—Adapted from an article that first appeared on the University of Chicago Law School website.

December 31, 1969

New research shows that healthy infants have intestinal bacteria that prevent the development of food allergies, findings that could impact the treatment of a disease that now affects 15 million Americans.

Researchers from the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Naples Federico II in Italy discovered that when gut microbes from healthy human infants were transplanted into germ-free mice, the animals were protected from an allergic reaction when exposed to cow’s milk.

Gut microbes from infants allergic to milk did not offer the same protection; mice receiving these bacteria suffered an allergic reaction when given cow’s milk. Cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy affecting children.

The study, published this week in Nature Medicine, also identifies a specific bacterial species that protects against allergic responses to food. “This study allows us to define a causal relationship and shows that the microbiota itself can dictate whether or not you get an allergic response,” said Cathryn Nagler, the Bunning Food Allergy Professor at UChicago and senior author of the study.

Nagler has been researching the physiological origins of tolerance to dietary antigens for more than 30 years. She is the co-founder and president of ClostraBio, an innovative startup company that is working to develop microbiome-based treatments for food allergies.

This latest research, funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is the result of a long collaboration between Nagler and Roberto Berni Canani, chief of the Pediatric Allergy Program and CEINGE Advanced Biotechnologies at the University Federico II of Naples, Italy. In 2015, the two worked together on a project that found significant differences in the gut microbiomes of healthy infants and those with cow’s milk allergy. That eventually led them to ask if those differences somehow contributed to the development of the allergy.

The researchers transplanted gut microbes from each of eight infant donors—four healthy and four with cow’s milk allergy—into groups of mice via fecal samples. The mice had been raised in a completely sterile, germ-free environment, meaning they had no bacteria of their own. The mice were fed the same formula as the infants to help the bacteria colonize properly by providing the same sources of nutrients.

Mice that received bacteria from allergic infants suffered from anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, when exposed to cow’s milk for the first time. Germ-free control mice that were not given any bacteria also experienced this severe reaction. Those that received healthy bacteria appeared to be completely protected, however, and did not suffer an allergic reaction.

“These findings demonstrate the critical role of the gut microbiota in the development of food allergy and strongly suggest that modulating bacterial communities is relevant to stopping the food allergy disease burden,” Canani said. “These data are paving the way for innovative interventions for the prevention and treatment of food allergy that are under evaluation at our centers.”

The researchers also studied the composition of microbes in the intestinal tract of the mice and analyzed differences in gene expression between the healthy and allergic groups. This allowed them to pinpoint a particular species, Anaerostipes caccae, that appears to protect against allergic reactions when it is present in the gut.

A.caccae is part of a class of bacteria, Clostridia, that Nagler and her colleagues identified in a 2014 study that protects against nut allergies. These bacteria produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that previous research has shown is a crucial nutrient for establishing a healthy microbial community in the gut. This suggests that this class of butyrate-producing bacteria provides more general protection against other common food allergies as well. These bacteria or their metabolites could be used as part of biotherapeutic drugs to prevent or reverse other common food allergies.

“What we see with this work is how, in the context of all of the different types of microorganisms inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract, one single organism can have such a profound effect on how the host is affected by dietary components,” said Asst. Prof. Dionysios Antonopoulos, a microbial systems biologist at Argonne and a co-author of the study. “We also get a new appreciation for the distinct roles that each of these members play beyond the generalization that the ‘microbiome’ is involved.”

Citation: “Healthy infants harbor intestinal bacteria that protect against food allergy,” Nature Medicine Jan. 14, 2019. Doi: 10.1038/s41591-018-0324-z

Funding: Sunshine Charitable Foundation, the University of Chicago Institute for Translational Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and the Italian Ministry of Health

—Article originally appeared on The Forefront

December 31, 1969