The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Commentary December 15, 2006


To the Editors:

I am writing in response to the letter sent by the Student Finance Committee.

First, let me say that I deeply admire and respect the work that SFC does. It is never easy to make decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources. The members of SFC approach their work diligently, and try to the best of their ability to serve the interests of the student body. They deserve the utmost respect and the College’s gratitude for their service.

However, I am concerned about several statements made in last week’s letter. Simply put, I believe these statements are misleading, if not downright facetious. These concerns surround the statements made about the availability of SFC’s policies, and about the availability of SFC’s records. The members of the committee stated, “SFC policies and procedures are available on the web and all SFC records are available for review by the student body.”

SFC does publish polices and procedures. These documents are made available on the SFC website at However, SFC follows the trend of many other organizations on campus involved in student governance and does not publish its bylaws — the actual rules in their entirety that SFC creates and adheres to when making allocation decisions. Further, using the SFC website to find and understand all its allocation polices is a maddening process.

Additionally, many of the stated policies that SFC follows are, at best, unclear and vague to the point of sheer contradiction. For example, an organization cannot ad-hoc for additional funds for separate events if they “max out” their budget but are allowed to ad-hoc for more funds for an already budgeted event if they come across an unforeseen expenditure — even if their budget has been “maxed out.”

SFC can and should make clearer and more consistent policies for their allocation decisions, make all the policies that govern the organization available to the student body, and their website should be made more user-friendly so more persons can easily review their polices.

SFC does publish some of its allocation decisions. But, to maintain that SFC publishes all its records and makes these records easily available to the student body is simply not true. On no part of the SFC website has SFC published its final budget allocations for this year. On no part of the SFC website has SFC published its ad-hoc allocation decisions — ever. And on no part of the SFC website does SFC display the detailed budget allocations for any student organization, available for review by the student body. Students should be able to see how the allocation decisions of SFC are actually made in regards to every organization, and SFC should be held accountable for these allocations. Again, SFC can and should make all this information available to the student body. SFC can easily post on their website the final budget appeals allocations, the ad-hoc allocations it makes and can use campus resources to make individual organizational budgets available to the student body online. SFC can post individual budget allocations, by simply scanning copies of budgets — with the allocation decisions marked on them — and posting these documents on an ERes account.

Again, I do not mean to degrade the work of the Student Finance Committee. They are an extremely admirable institution. However, I do think that this organization can be more accountable, and more open to the student body.

–Benjamin Klebanoff
Student Senator
College sophomore

To the Editors:

Having attended Eva Green’s EVAlution photographic exhibit, I was curious to read Melissa Wolfish’s review. I was quite surprised to discover that almost a quarter of her review was devoted to the boots and scarves we wore, the better than average wine we drank and the “ultimate accessory” the jazz quintet we listened to. These observations might have been noteworthy had they had any connection whatsoever with the writer’s opinion of Green’s efforts. Instead, the paragraph simply hangs unconnected to anything other than to contrast the reviewer’s knowing, bitchy writing style hipness with the “mini Soho” “hipster heaven” hipness evident at the showing. The superficiality of that opening paragraph nicely mirrors her opinion of Green’s work.

Thankfully, the balance of the review is actually devoted to reviewing some photographs and whether one agrees or disagrees, the reviewer eventually does share some illuminating observations. Assuming that the reviewer aspires to something more than one page profiles in People magazine, her assessment of Green’s work is also a fair critique of her own (Wolfish’s) writing style — “her work so far shows that she has quite some evolving to do before she creates something new.”

–Nina Firisen
New York

To The Editors:

Milton Friedman’s recent death is an excellent opportunity to reflect on his legacy as an economist and as a public intellectual. That legacy is more complex than indicated by Jonathan Bruno’s Dec. 1 column — and, I believe, less tainted by his association with the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet than Steve Volk’s letter of Dec. 8 would suggest.

Friedman was clearly a great thinker, and unquestionably one of the most influential economists of the 20th century.

As Fed chair Ben Bernanke put it in a 2003 speech, “His thinking has so permeated modern macroeconomics that the worst pitfall in reading him today is to fail to appreciate the originality and even revolutionary character of his ideas, in relation to the dominant views at the time that he formulated them.”

This is not to say that he was right about everything, which he was not. Friedman’s proposition that higher inflation does not lead to a permanent reduction in unemployment has gained near-universal acceptance; but his monetary policy prescription of strict adherence to money targets has been largely discredited.

Friedman was also misguided in clinging to the idea that free markets inevitably lead to political freedom. His thinking was that the “bottom-up” nature of market economies would eventually undermine “top-down” totalitarian governments, leading to greater freedom.

While equating political and economic freedom made sense in the Cold War context, the link breaks down when confronted with countries like China and Pinochet’s Chile.

And this brings up the awkward question of Friedman’s involvement with the Pinochet regime. Along with several other University of Chicago economists, Friedman traveled to Chile in 1975 at the invitation of the Universidad Católica to deliver a series of lectures on Chile’s economic problems, which had continued unabated during the first two years of Pinochet’s government. (The inflation rate at the time was approaching 400 percent per year.) At some point during the visit, Friedman met with Pinochet and used the opportunity to argue for free-market reforms, which had not yet been adopted.

Initially, Friedman’s ideas were not embraced: Pinochet reportedly told C.L. Sulzberger of The New York Times that “the Friedman philosophy cannot be applied effectively here although many of his suggestions to us were interesting.”

Facing a continuing economic crisis, however, Pinochet turned to a group of young Chilean economists trained at the University of Chicago under Friedman and Arnold Harberger; these “Chicago Boys” devised the free-market economic reforms subsequently adopted by the Pinochet government.

Friedman himself was not directly involved in advising the Pinochet regime, other than the audience with the dictator in 1975. In fact, the government’s fixed exchange rate policy is one which Friedman would likely have opposed, having always been a staunch proponent of a freely-floating exchange rate.

It is, as Professor Volk says, ironic that many of Friedman’s economic ideas were put into practice under a military dictatorship. And while I would not describe Friedman’s meeting with Pinochet as giving the regime his “blessing,” it is deeply troubling that Friedman’s free market evangelism led him to turn a blind eye to Pinochet’s appalling human rights record.

Friedman’s economic legacy in Chile is more positive, however. In describing the civilian government’s policies as “modified Keynesianism,” Professor Volk loses sight of just how deeply Friedman’s views have been incorporated into the mainstream.

Chile owes its economic success to liberal trade policies, the free flow of capital, a balanced government budget and a monetary policy committed to the sole objective of price stability — all policies tirelessly advocated by Friedman.

To paraphrase Richard Nixon: “We are all Friedmanians now.”

–Kenneth N. Kuttner
Danforth-Lewis Professor of Economics

To the Editors:

Greetings to all as we move into this holiday season and 2006 comes to a close. The end of the year is generally a very hectic time for everyone between the shopping, celebrations and parties. Not unlike the seasonal changes of winter, Oberlin College will also be seeing changes in the near future with the arrival of a new college president.

I extend a heartfelt thanks to President Nancy Dye from the Alumni Council’s Conservatory Committee and me personally for her incredible tenure at Oberlin College. President Dye’s legacy will contribute to the development of Oberlin College as it moves fearlessly into the next several decades of this millennium.

Let me briefly mention our visionary dean of the Conservatory of Music. Under Dean Stull, Oberlin’s Conservatory of Music has raised its already high bar with regards to student achievement in performance and scholarship.

David Stull has selflessly championed the cause of the Conservatory of Music both internationally and domestically. The Oberlin Orchestra’s five-city tour to China was an unparalleled success. An ensemble of 66 musicians performing nine concerts in 13 days was an unbelievable experience for all.

A little more than a year later, Oberlin’s gifted young musicians will perform on one of the most famous stages in the entire world — Carnegie Hall in New York City. I cannot stress enough the magnitude of this event.

With all of the amazing historical achievements in Oberlin College’s history, this will surely be at the top.

Under the direction of our innovative and distinguished alumnus, Robert Spano, OC ’83, these talented students will be making their debut at a place reserved for legends.

Performing at Carnegie Hall is the pinnacle of unparalleled artistic achievement. I encourage each of you to come out and support this landmark concert on Jan. 27, 2007. For more information, visit

2007 will also see the groundbreaking of the long awaited facility for Jazz Studies. Oberlin’s much heralded Jazz Studies Program established by Professor Wendell Logan is one of the world’s finest jazz programs.

Under the brilliant leadership of Professor Logan, the program has produced a staggering amount of extremely prodigious and internationally renowned artists. The incredibly generous gift from Donna and Stewart Kohl, OC ’77, will yield another nationwide first of its kind, the Phyllis Litoff Building.

This coming year will also see the debut of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music’s record label.

The label will showcase the extraordinary talent of Oberlin’s faculty, alumni and students. One of the first CD releases will be from performances by the Oberlin Orchestra while on tour in China. The next CD will feature the Conservatory’s illustrious jazz faculty.

My hope is that all of you have a warm and family-filled holiday season. Keep Jan. 27 marked on your calendar and plan to attend the fabulous concert by the Oberlin Orchestra under the baton of Robert Spano.

–Leon Dorsey, OC ’81
Conservatory Committee Chair
Oberlin College
Alumni Association


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