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vol. cxliv, no. 98 | Tuesday, November 3, 2009 | Serving the community daily since 1891
Breathing life into a storied instrument ‘Peeping
tom’ suspect awaits trial
organist and instrument curator. The Kansas native also teaches music theor y, offers organ lesShortly before midnight on Satur- sons to three Brown undergraduday, cavernous Sayles Hall echoed ates and serves as organist and with the chatter of students in Hal- choirmaster at St. Paul’s Church loween costumes. Lumberjacks, in Wickford. He also cares for the organ in police officers, fairies and hunSayles — no small task, given the dreds of others packed the hall, instrument’s age and complexity. and some even lay down on Sayles’ hardwood floor. The prized Hutchings-Votey As the clock aporgan — the largest of proached midnight its type in the world — FEATURE and the lights dimmed, arrived in Sayles Hall grim-faced pallbearers marched in in 1903 following a donation from with a coffin. The room cheered Lucian Sharpe, an 1893 graduate, as Visiting Assistant Professor of according to the University. The Music Mark Steinbach, dressed as organ fell into disrepair during the a vampire, emerged and swooped 1980s because of hurricane damup the stairs to the hall’s large age to the roof of Sayles, Steinbach balcony, where he played Bach, said, but it was partially restored Chopin and “Monster Mash” in in 1992. The current console — a favorite Brown tradition — the where the keyboard and other conmidnight organ concert. trols are located — was installed But setting the mood for Hal- around the same time and is the loween and the other three “scari- third in the organ’s life. est nights the year” — the nights An organ can be thought of “as before first-year orientation and architecture — representing its each finals period — is only part continued on page 3 of Steinbach’s job as University By Hannah Moser Senior Staf f Writer
By Ben Schreckinger Senior Staff Writer
Nick Sinnott-Armstrong / Herald
University organist Mark Steinbach plays Sayles Hall’s Hutchings-Votey organ, the largest of its type in the world.
Pre-registration waiver will still benefit hundreds By Mark Raymond Contributing Writer
The University expects about 300 students to benefit from the recent extension of a policy that will allow students to pre-register for classes next semester even if they have large unpaid tuition balances, according to Elizabeth Gentry, assistant vice president for financial and administrative services. Pre-registration this week will
mark the third straight semester in which the normal rules will be waived. Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 first announced the temporary policy a year ago in response to the economic crisis and its effect on students’ families. Typically, all undergraduate, graduate and medical students are blocked from pre-registering for classes if they owe the University more than $1,000. “We thought that there was a lot
of uncertainty about the economy, and we knew that many families were feeling anxious,” Kertzer said Monday. “We wanted to be helpful, and that’s why we temporarily relaxed the policy.” In concert with the rule waiver, the University has allowed financial aid counselors to work closely with certain students and find solutions to keep them enrolled. “We always have families that struggle,” Gentry said, “and that’s
why we work closely with families to address their needs and give them as much help as they can.” About 360 students benefited from the waiver when it was first instituted a year ago, The Herald reported in January. Gentry said she did not know offhand how many students took advantage of the waiver during pre-registration in April for the current semester. continued on page 2
Justin Alvarez, the Woonsocket man arrested in September for allegedly trespassing on University property, is being held at the Adult Correctional Institutions while he awaits trial, according to court records. Authorities suspect Alvarez, 20, is responsible for at least two other incidents that occurred in University dorms last spring — in one case, a man brandished a knife against a female student in a Sears House shower; in another, a man attempted to photograph a female student in a shower in Diman House. Alvarez was arrested by a Department of Public Safety officer in Andrews House on Sept. 3 after a Brown facilities manager made a report of suspicious behavior in Goddard House. The records also indicate that bail was set for Alvarez in September but evidently has not been posted. Since his most recent arrest, according to the publicly available documents, Alvarez has appeared for five pre-trial conferences — in which attorneys for the defense and prosecution review evidence and discuss plea bargains without a judge present — at the 6th District Court in Providence. Another is scheduled for Nov. 10. He is charged with willful trespass, disorderly conduct and impersonation of a public utilities employee — all misdemeanors. Alvarez allegedly posed as a utilities worker to gain access to University buildings.
Blighted Thayer spots may be filled soon By Sydney Ember Senior Staff Writer
Kim Perley / Herald
A new business will soon move into the shuttered corner storefront once occupied by Roba Dolce, according to the property manager.
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Several new businesses are slated to open on and around Thayer Street in the next few months, promising an influx of restaurants and shops in previously empty storefronts. Better Burger Company, at 215-217 Thayer St., is set to open during the first week of January, according to owner Andy Mitrelis, who also runs Cafe Paragon, Spats Restaurant & Pub, Andreas Restaurant and five burger joints throughout New England. Renovations on the consolidated space, which used to house Yang’s and Morrison Office Supply, began last week, Mitrelis said, adding that the space “is going to be gorgeous.” The restaurant will offer wireless internet and stools in the front window, and
will serve burgers, sandwiches, pizza slices, tacos and falafel, he said. “I know the business,” he said. “You can only be successful if you know what customers want.” Though Thayer Street already has restaurants offering similar foods, Mitrelis said he is not concerned about the competition. “We’ll complement each other,” he said. “There’s room for everyone to make a living.” Better Burger was originally scheduled to open this summer. But despite the delay, Mitrelis said he is excited to add another dining establishment to his Thayer collection. The strip “is becoming a place to go,” he said. Meanwhile, the corner storefront at 178 Angell St. — which has been shuttered since the Italian cafe Roba Dolce was evicted Feb. 16 for four months of negligence in rental pay-
ments — will have a new tenant in the next few months, said property manager Kent Stetson ’01. Stetson, who answered the phone at the number listed on the “for rent” sign, said the space next door at 233 Thayer St., previously occupied by the sandwich shop Geoff’s, will also soon have a new occupant, though he did not provide further details. “Unfortunately, I can’t release any information at this time,” Stetson said. “It’s such a high-traffic area, there’s so many people, of course I’ve received interest.” The former Planned Parenthood clinic, which Stetson also manages, will have a new tenant — a clothing and accessory store for men and women called Jac’s, according to Stetson. The space should be occupied by next month, he said.
you said it A spoken-word poetry event kicked off Asian/AsianAmerican history month
i love college College enrollment among Americans is at an all-time high, a study shows
money not well spent Sex Power God needs to be a safer experience, says Ethan Tobias ’12
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C ampus N EWS news in brief
Simmons discusses higher education, diversity on PBS show President Ruth Simmons appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show on PBS last Thursday night to discuss higher education and the challenges of leadership, basing her comments on her experiences as a black woman in a leadership position. During the 24-minute segment — which was taped while Simmons was in Los Angeles for another event — the president talked about her education and upbringing as one of 12 children in Texas, before going on to detail the challenges she and other women face in pursuing education. “I frankly held myself back, because I thought that the boys were supposed to be the first in class,” she said. “In our community, we still have problems with women achieving.” But Simmons said boys face their own set of challenges, and that the American education system is “antithetical to the way boys are socialized.” “It’s easier for girls to go through that process and to succeed — and colleges reward good behavior,” she said. “Good behavior is testing well, making As. … Colleges reward people who are fast developers, and often boys, as we know, develop more slowly than girls.” Simmons also discussed other challenges and opportunities for education, specifically higher education, to serve traditionally underserved groups. She described African-American studies programs as “very valuable” and discussed the importance of historically black, hispanic-serving and women’s schools. “What has been great about our education system in this country is that it’s diverse,” she said. “We can be different and still be unified.” Simmons also outlined the importance of education for low-income students in the context of Brown’s need-blind admissions initiative. “This is one of the great responsibilities that nations have,” Simmons said. “Everybody that was born in this country should believe in their heart of hearts that with the right amount of work and the right amount of help, they can do anything. … So we very much wanted at Brown to make sure that this idea of rich schools not being for poor kids was eliminated.” Smiley also asked Simmons about her high approval rating among students. “It’s not approval that’s important to me — I want to do something that’s meaningful,” she replied. “I seek to be courageous enough to do what’s difficult.” — Ellen Cushing
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
“I seek to be courageous enough to do what’s difficult.” — President Ruth Simmons
Poet kicks off Asian history month By Warren Jin Contributing Writer
What if the world were tailored toward five-foot-two, tattooed Asian females? Award-winning spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai asked her audience that question in Salomon 101 Monday night as she recited her poem “Self-centered.” The performance was part of a kick-off event for the Third World Center’s annual Asian/Asian American History Month. Born in Chicago to Taiwanese parents and now based in Brooklyn, Tsai has given more than 375 performances internationally and appeared in three seasons of HBO’s “Def Poetry,” according to her Web site. The poems she recited at Monday’s event spanned several topics, including identity and race for second- and later-generation Asian immigrants, feminism, politics, hiphop music and family relationships. She drew heavily on her personal experiences, including those of growing up in Chicago, and conversations with family members. Cheers, claps and laughs from the nearly 50-member audience peppered Tsai’s per formance, which was a blend of humorous, satirical and occasionally poignant poetry. In a poem dedicated to her grandfather, Tsai explored the hardships suffered by the Chinese who were exiled to Taiwan and the divide that exists between Chinese immigrants and their Americanborn children. “Did Mao experiment on your family to create a better world?” Tsai asked. “Did you know communism is not a theory for everyone?” The event also featured performances by WORD! members Phil Kaye ’10, Kai Huang ’11 and Franny Choi ’11, a Herald editorial cartoonist, as well as Brown’s Archipelaga, a group of Filipina students who perform spoken word.
Kayleigh Butera / Herald
Spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai performed Monday in Salomon 101, kicking off Asian/Asian American History Month.
The theme of this year’s Asian/ Asian-American History Month is “Remade in America,” a phrase that refers to the way immigrants reshape their identities in the United States. Many audience members said they identified with Tsai’s per for mance. Rob Ren-Pang ’11, who is also a spoken-word artist, said “I thought it was very close to home … it was very true.” “She was ver y approachable,” Sonia Kim ’11 said. “She talked about the issues, but from a per-
spective that college students can understand.” “She was extremely sincere,” John Oakey ’10 said. The event also attracted students from neighboring Hope High School. “I’m not Asian, but it felt ver y comforting to me,” said Mike Tillinghast, a senior at Hope, who said he enjoyed the event as he would a “home-cooked pie.” Other upcoming events for the month include a “Remade in America” photo competition and a “What is Asian” panel later this week.
Pre-registration rule waiver extended again continued from page 1
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Although the normal policy has not been enforced since pre-registration for the fall 2008 semester, it will likely take effect again when the economic situation improves, Gentry said. “I don’t believe it’s going to become a permanent policy,” she said. “It’s going to be something we work with semester to semester.” Kertzer said administrators understand that the economy is poor and that a balance needs to be struck between paying the bills and helping
those in need. “It’s in the interest of the institution for the tuition to be paid on time, but these uncertain times called for a different response for families having difficulties,” he said. He added that it was impossible to be absolutely sure what measures may be necessary for the next registration period in April, even though the economy is showing signs of a rebound. “We’re dealing with it one semester at a time,” he said. “While many people are already breathing a sigh of relief, many families are
still struggling.” Administrators will assess whether or not the lenient policy is still necessary next semester based on the state of the economy and feedback from families, he said. Fortunately, Gentry said, there appear to be fewer students taking advantage of the relaxed policy. She said it was possible that even fewer than the estimated 300 students will need to take advantage of the waiver. That would be an “encouraging” sign that fewer families are struggling to pay tuition this semester, she said.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009
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“It’s like driving five cars at the same time.” — Rosanne Hui ’11, on playing the organ
Students ‘hooked’ on playing Sayles organ continued from page 1 time,” Steinbach said, adding that few Hutchings-Votey organs remain unaltered. Yale had a HutchingsVotey that they kept adding to, which was like “painting over a painting,” he said, but Brown’s has not been “mucked with.” Organs are the oldest keyboard instruments and even appeared at gladiatorial games in Ancient Rome, Steinbach said. Back then, air was hand-pumped through the organ, but Brown’s has an electric system that pumps air through a maze of tubes into the more than 3,000 musical pipes — the tallest is 16 feet, according to Steinbach. The console is daunting — it boasts three keyboards as well as foot pedals that control the organ’s largest pipes and resemble giant wooden piano keys. The organ also has nearly 70 “stops,” knobs that turn on and off sets of pipes that mimic distinct sounds, including flutes, trumpets and even the human voice. “Think of it (as) being a synthesizer hundreds of years before the synthesizer was invented,” Steinbach said. Doors in Sayles’ balcony allow access into the hidden chambers where tiny metal pipes are lined up in sequence by height and tone and huge wooden square pipes loom. You could fit several small children in the pipes, Steinbach said. The organist must pull a stop, lining up a set of pipes with a source of air, so that the keyboard can produce sound. Touching the keys then sends an electric signal that opens the pipes, allowing air to rush through and generate the desired notes. Most of these pipes are housed in nearly air-tight rooms whose slatted walls can swing open at the push of a pedal, creating a crescendo. “I like to talk about it in terms of food,” Steinbach said. On the Boston-made Hutchings-Votey, he has American food and spices at his disposal, he said, but to translate
from a French score he needs to adapt his ingredients — adjusting the stops to open new sets of pipes — to produce something similar to the piece’s original flavor. Organ pieces call for multiple stops to be open simultaneously, and depending on the piece of music, these stops may need to change multiple times within the piece. To do this, the organist can designate “presets,” which cause multiple stops to pull at the push of a button. Organ music is composed of three staffs: one for each hand and one for the keyboard at the feet. With over 3,000 pipes available, an organist’s mind and body are kept busy — they wear special shoes whose soles are designed to slide across the pedals. “It’s so physical. It’s like exercise to me,” Steinbach said. “I can’t sit still anyway.” Steinbach first took up the instrument in his youth. A piano player from a young age, he switched to organ in sixth grade, he said. He started playing in his small town’s church, and drove to Wichita, Kan. for lessons. “I guess I got hooked,” he said. After earning a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Kansas, Steinbach continued to pursue music as a graduate student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where he was one of about 40 students focusing on organ performance. Besides being able to play the colossal instrument, organists study the theory and history of music, in large part so that they can accurately interpret the pieces they perform using their knowledge of specific composers and historical periods. Steinbach is mainly a musician and teacher today, and he said that one of his titles — instrument curator — is a bit of a misnomer. He manages the cleaning and tuning of the organ in Sayles and the organ and piano in Manning Chapel, but can’t really help students who e-mail him for help with their trumpets, which he said happens occasionally.
Nick Sinnott-Armstrong / Herald
Noble Macfarlane ’10 plays Sayles’ organ, a complex device with three keyboards, pedals and nearly 70 knobs.
Organ curator would probably be a more accurate description, but “people who decide titles got nervous with that,” he said. The three students Steinbach teaches each meet with him for an hour a week, and they also take occasional field trips to play organs at other schools and churches. One of those students, Noble Macfarlane ’10, grew up in San Francisco, where he and his parents sang in an Episcopal church choir. Like Steinbach, Macfarlane began playing the piano as a child. But when he moved to a new town in middle school, he couldn’t find a piano teacher and took up the organ instead, he said. Now Macfarlane sings in the
choir at St. Stephen’s Church on George Street and practices on the church’s organ. The math concentrator has taken more classes in the music department than in math, but “the organ is all about physics, which is why I love it,” he said. In his lessons, Steinbach helps Macfarlane examine the historical context of pieces and develop an accurate interpretation. There’s a saying, he said, that “the beast never breathes” — it takes a conscientious organist to make the instrument mimic the natural phrasing of a singer’s voice. Putting together an entire piece is a long process of synchronizing a composition’s separate layers. Mac-
farlane said first he learns to play the pedal part, then the left hand’s part. Then he puts the two together before learning the right hand, continuing to practice the piece with different combinations of the various layers. He tries to practice every day, he said, sometimes skipping a day and making up for it later. Rosanne Hui ’11 has been taking lessons with Steinbach since the spring of her freshman year. “I feel like I moved to Sayles after I started playing the organ,” she said. “It’s like my home.” Hui said she likes the instrument’s dynamic and theatrical qualities, which make playing it quite an experience. “It’s like driving five cars at the same time,” she said.
H igher E d
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009
“What we are witnessing is Title IX ‘backfire.’” — U.S. Commission on Civil Rights probe on admissions gender bias
higher ed news roundup by ellen cushing and sarah husk
|senior staff writers
Two-year colleges drive enrollment spike
Probe targets gender bias in admissions
College presidents’ pay rose in 2007-2008
College enrollment among the nation’s 18- to 24-year-olds has reached a record high of 39.6 percent, or 11.5 million young adults, enrolled in a two- or four-year college, according to a Pew Research Center report released last week. Both the number and percentage, which have risen consistently over the past several decades, are their highest ever, the Pew study reported. It cited data from October 2008 — the most recent available — provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and several other government agencies. The study identified a recent leap in community college enrollment as the driving factor in the overall increase. According to census figures, enrollment at four-year colleges did not increase between October 2007 and October 2008. During the same period, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds attending community college rose from 3.1 to 3.4 million, and by last fall, 11.8 percent of young adults were enrolled in two-year college programs. The study attributed much of the increase to the economic recession, a correlation that had been observed in previous studies, according to Pew. The report posited that community colleges are increasingly attractive options for young adults, who face particularly high tuition rates and increasing unemployment. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cited in the Pew study, September 2009 marks the lowest percentage of employed 16- to 24-year-olds since 1948, the first year such data were collected. Alongside increased joblessness, the study pointed to steep tuition hikes at four-year schools as another reason for the rise in popularity of two-year colleges, where students pay comparatively lower tuitions for a shorter period of time. The report also noted that increased enrollment in college is most likely driven by a record-breaking 84.9 percent high school graduation rate among the nation’s 18- to 24-year-olds.
On Friday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights launched an inquiry to examine whether college admissions officers are discriminating against female applicants as they work to correct an increasingly female-skewed gender imbalance on college campuses. The probe comes amid increasing questions surrounding the way colleges and universities treat male and female applicants. In recent years, the number of female applicants to colleges and universities — particularly at liberal arts schools — has outstripped the number of male applicants. In an attempt to avoid a student body that is too heavily female, some schools have publicly admitted to accepting a lower proportion of women. Though private institutions are exempt from the admissions provisions of Title IX, and are therefore legally allowed to pursue these practices, public colleges and universities are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender in admissions. “The accusation is that women applicants are being discriminated against in order to prevent the schools from becoming ‘too female,’ ” said the commission’s project proposal, as reported yesterday by Inside Higher Ed. “Indeed, some commentators have called this an ‘open secret’ and suggested the same may be occurring at state schools too (where it would be illegal).” Moreover, Title IX prohibits all schools from offering unequal athletic opportunities to males and females, but Gail Heriot — the commissioner who proposed the investigation and a law professor at the University of San Diego — suggested that some schools may be avoiding adding mens’ sports teams because doing so would mean having to add additional women’s teams. “It is possible that what we are witnessing is Title IX ‘backfire,’” the Commision’s proposal read. The commission has subpoenaed admissions records at a sample of schools in and around Washington, D.C., according Inside Higher Ed.
The median pay for presidents of private colleges and universities increased by 6.5 percent to $358,746 for the fiscal year 2007-2008, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual executive compensation survey. The Chronicle’s data, which were released Monday in a report, come from federal tax documents from 419 private colleges and universities. The report found that over the past five years, the inflation-adjusted median presidential salary at large private research institutions increased 19.6 percent to $627,720. Presidents of small, liberal arts colleges earned significantly less, with a median salary of $366,606. The highest-paid private-college president is Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, whose pay package totalled $1,598,247 for fiscal year 2007-2008. Jackson is one of 23 university or college presidents who earned more than $1 million. President Ruth Simmons earned a salary of $636,158 and an additional $182,304 in benefits in the 2007-2008 fiscal year for a total of $818,462, The Herald reported earlier this fall. This places Simmons’ salary about $200,000 above the median salary for presidents of private research institutions and among the 110 presidents earning more than $500,000. The reported salaries were earned before the worst of the economic downturn. Many schools have since frozen salaries, and some presidents, including Simmons, have taken voluntary pay cuts. In a press release, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa — a ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and a longtime proponent of belt-tightening in academia — criticized the salary increases. “The fact that these salaries are growing right now is out of sync with the reality for most parents and students who are trying to pay for college in the midst of high unemployment and after savings for education were either wiped out or greatly diminished last year due to the stock market falling,” Grassley’s statement said.
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Proposal would consolidate R.I. cities and towns By Alicia Dang Staff Writer
Would the smallest state in the union be better off doing away with some of its even smaller municipal borders? One state senator thinks it would. Frank Ciccone III, D-Dist. 7, plans to introduce a bill in January to consolidate Rhode Island’s 39 selfgoverning cities and towns into just four or five counties in response to the state’s mounting fiscal problems, he announced last month. The state is currently geographically divided into Providence, Washington, Bristol, Kent and Newport counties, although there is no government currently in place at the county level. Under Ciccone’s plan, only four of those counties might be recognized. “It’s about the geographical potential of going back to a county-type system,” he said in an interview last week. The proposal would help generate “significant cost savings” by regionalizing all municipal services, including education, public safety and public works, he said. The consolidation would save resources by cutting down bureaucracy, Ciccone said. The bill also makes provisions for a full-time legislature to govern each county. “This proposal is not very political because it is eliminating the individual
identities of mayors and town managers,” Ciccone said. Though still in its preliminary stages, the proposal raised doubts with at least one town manager. “At this time I have not seen anything the state has done in the best interest of the taxpayers or the communities,” Glocester Town Council President Kevin Walsh wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “So I would not support any proposed legislation without knowing the financial ramifications to the Town of Glocester.” Ciccone said unions representing municipal workers are likely to oppose the proposal because it may decrease employment. He is still in the process of putting the bill together and has been discussing it with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Daniel DaPonte, D-Dist. 14 and Senate Majority Leader Daniel Connors, D-Dist. 19, he said, as well as collecting public comments. “We can no longer exist the way we are existing,” Ciccone said. “We need to eliminate bureaucracy and plan for the future in order to take Rhode Island from the bottom to the middle or the top.” Mayor of Providence David Cicilline ’83 has also drafted a proposal to merge municipal services in seven metropolitan areas in the state to deliver them in a more cost-efficient way, Cicilline said.
“We need to eliminate bureaucracy and plan for the future.” — Frank Ciccone III, RI state senator, D-Dist. 7 Tuesday, November 3, 2009 | Page 5
Task force calls for urban school reform By Bradley Silverman Contributing Writer
The Rhode Island Urban Education Task Force, created by Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 in January 2008, released its final report last week, outlining proposals for raising student achievement and improving the quality of urban education. The report gives recommendations in seven key areas of student achievement and school improvement. Specific proposals include the implementation of statewide pre-kindergarten education, development of a comprehensive early literacy program with emphasis on teaching English to non-native speakers and expanded curricular offerings — including Advanced Placement courses, courses offered at nontraditional times of the day and partnerships with adult education programs. Before mapping out the recommendations, the group held community forums across the state — many of them in Providence — to get input from many different stakeholders in the education system, said Warren Simmons, chair of the task force and executive director of Brown’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform.
“It was a conversation about how the state as a whole could work together to improve urban schools,” Simmons said, adding that over two years, the task force heard from educators, labor leaders, superintendents and parents — especially those of minority students. The task force also heard presentations from a number of experts on education reform. Now that the task force’s report has been released, Simmons said the next step is to determine which recommendations can be implemented and how they should be funded. “We’re going to have a dialogue about the process for the foreseeable future,” he said. “This is a political thing.” One source of funding will be institutions such as the American Federation of Teachers, which has already committed seed money to begin teacher-quality assessments, Simmons said. Rhode Island, he added, will seek grants from the Race to the Top Fund, a $4 billion program created by the federal stimulus bill and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education to reward innovation and accomplishment in education. Elliot Krieger, a spokesman for
the Rhode Island Department of Education, said the department does not have an official position on the report, but is ready to implement the measures that are ultimately given the green light. Krieger said the task force included Department of Education representatives, who expressed the department’s perspectives and concerns. Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Carcieri was enthusiastic about the report’s proposals. At least one future discussion about the report’s implementation will concern the creation of an urban education consortium to ensure that the goals and benchmarks set forth by the task force are met, Kempe said. She said two of the task force’s recommendations — the extended school day and a statewide prekindergarten program — have already been implemented in pilot programs in Providence. Kempe said she does not expect unanimity on many proposals, but believes that all sides will come together and find common ground. “At the end of the day,” she said, “ever yone agrees we need to reform urban education.”
Brook St. hotel proposed again By Max Godnick Contributing Writer
Providence real-estate mogul Ed Bishop ’54 P’86 P’91 wants to build a $35 million luxury hotel on Brook Street with easy access to campus and Thayer Street businesses and is attempting to get his proposal approved by the Providence City Planning Commission. Creating a large hotel on College Hill has been a “dream of mine for 40 years now,” Bishop said, adding that “Brown is the only Ivy (League university) without a luxury hotel on its campus.” Before he can move forward with the plan, the commission must allow zoning codes for a stretch of houses that he owns on Brook to be converted from residential to commercial. Bishop had planned to present his proposal at the commission’s October meeting but was not given space on the agenda, he said. He hopes to begin discussions at a future meeting. Members of the planning commission did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In addition to expanding the hospitality market during University events such as Family Weekend and Commencement, the hotel would provide rooms for visiting and prospective faculty, he said. “Every faculty member who comes to the Brown community needs a place to stay, and they want to be in walking distance of their respective department,” Bishop said. The new hotel would provide an alternative to
the Saunders Inn at Brown in Gregorian Quadrangle, he added. Bishop emphasized the potential commercial advantages of the hotel for Thayer Street businesses. The hotel and a 125-car parking garage that is included in the plan would draw more people to the area and allow businesses other than restaurants and bars to succeed, he said. The hotel would also help stimulate the city’s lagging economy by creating 50 new jobs and increasing tax revenue, Bishop said. “The city is broke, like it or not, and we don’t have a job base anymore,” he said. This is not the first time Bishop has made such a proposal. In 2004, the College Hill Neighborhood Association, of which Bishop is now a member, voted 6-2 to oppose a similar plan for a Brook Street hotel, he said. Concern among community members has been a recurring issue, said Antoinette Breed, a local resident and former treasurer of the neighborhood association. “My concern is that Thayer Street has no access to a highway, so all construction vehicles would have to pass through the neighborhood,” Breed said. “Once construction ended, there would still be service vehicles and cars of guests that passed through the neighborhood.” Bishop said he expects to bring his proposal before the commission in the next few months, and does not expect approval to come easily. “This is a war that is just about to
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The Rhode Island General Assembly has sent Governor Donald Carcieri ’65 a bill that would require that U.S. Senate vacancies be filled by special election rather than gubernatorial appointment. We believe Carcieri should sign the bill, though it could be improved. The ratification of the 17th amendment to the federal constitution in 1913 was a critical step in America’s growth as a representative democracy. The amendment mandated that senators be elected directly by voters, rather than state legislators. However, the amendment also allowed state legislatures to grant the governor the power to appoint a senator in the event of an unexpected vacancy. Now, though, several recent appointments — especially the Blagojevich fiasco in Illinois — make it clearer than ever that the 17th amendment’s mission will not be complete until all senators are elected by the people. Simply put, no governor should be able to appoint someone to complete a term. The bill that is headed to Carcieri’s desk would be a step in the right direction, but it’s not perfect. For one thing, the bill does not specify a period of time in which the special election must be held. To minimize the length of time a state will be underrepresented, the legislature should propose a reasonable timeframe that would still give candidates enough time to campaign. Moreover, the legislature should make provisions for a genuine emergency, like a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C., or a natural disaster in the state. Some constitutional scholars have therefore recommended that governors should be allowed to appoint senators if the president declares a state of emergency or if the number of senators falls beneath a critical threshold. This sort of trigger would ensure that each state has two senators in the event of a true crisis.
More importantly, we believe the state should pick a system for filling Senate vacancies and stick to it. In recent years, the Massachusetts state legislature has undermined its own legitimacy by its unprincipled and blatantly political handling of Senate vacancies. In 2004, when Democratic Senator John Kerry was running for President and Republican Mitt Romney held the governor’s office, the state legislature stripped the governor of his appointment power. This year, with a Democrat back in the State House and a Senate closely divided over health-care reform legislation, Democrats felt they needed every single vote, and the Massachusetts state legislature restored the governor’s power to make a temporary appointment to fill the seat held by the late Ted Kennedy. The Massachusetts legislature’s actions in this area give Rhode Island an example to be avoided. Even now, with both of Rhode Island’s senators serving competently and in good health, we worry about the appearance of a Democratic legislature stripping a Republican governor of his appointment power. That’s why we believe Senator Russ Feingold’s proposed constitutional amendment — which would end appointments and require special elections in all states — is the right long-term fix. There is never a good time for a state to see its representation in the Senate diminished. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s untimely death shows that Senate vacancies can sometimes be extraordinarily inconvenient. Nevertheless, political exigencies can never justify the circumvention of basic democratic principles. If Rhode Island is going to change its method of filling Senate vacancies, it must remain consistent in the decades to come. Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Opinions The Brown Daily Herald
Tuesday, November 3, 2009 | Page 7
What delusive dreams may come Jared Lafer Opinions Columnist A recent Herald article (“A spirited tour of the East Side’s major haunts,” Oct. 30) reported on two local organizations: the Providence Ghost Tour and the Providence Ghost Walk. These groups give regular tours of Providence and its allegedly supernatural hotspots. They pass the time with historically informed, creepy stories about people and events in this city’s past, and of course, complete nonsense about the supernatural. I have no quarrel with this first activity in principle. History is valuable when it is accurate, and if the tour companies are spouting factual tales, then they should be commended. In fact, the Herald article says that both companies have delved into the Rhode Island archives for material, and so all the more power to them. But the latter activity really strikes a nerve. Even if the companies’ stories are inaccurate, the resulting damage would be insignificant in comparison to the damage caused by their shameless promotion of the existence of the supernatural. I don’t hate to break this to you: The supernatural does not exist. I assume most Brown students are of a like mind, and I’m not going to bother dignifying the people who believe otherwise by explaining why this is the case. I will say, however, that if you do believe in the supernatural, I chal-
lenge you to present one piece of evidence obtained under controlled scientific conditions in support of your point. Call up your God and tell him Jared’s on the other line. That people have this ridiculous belief in the first place, however, is troubling. I presume the appeal of ghosts, and perhaps the appeal of all supernatural fantasies, is the idea that there is something beyond our physical world. “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,” Hamlet says.
accept a bad explanation we simultaneously deprive ourselves of a true explanation, and we should not develop our minds on a substrate of false beliefs. Moreover, the lower we set the bar that we use to determine whether to accept an explanation, the more likely we are to accept bad explanations in general. By accepting supernatural explanations, we set the bar really low and therefore are more likely to accept bad explanations, which just feeds the original point.
I don’t hate to break this to you: The supernatural does not exist.
Indeed, we take solace in the delusion that there are dreams to come (in this world and the next), dreams that enchant us away from the hard truths of reality. But, as I stated earlier, supernatural fantasies are false. And they are not innocently false — believing them to be true can be harmful for at least two reasons: 1) They offset our honest intellectual growth (i.e. gaining true knowledge about the world). Supernatural explanations are bad because they are false, and thus when we accept them, we do so for bad reasons (e.g. faith). But, accepting them counteracts our honest intellectual growth, for when we
2) Supernatural beliefs often lead to bad decision-making. We act in large part based on what we believe. If what we believe is just plain wrong, then more often than not the outcome of our actions based on those beliefs will not be favorable. Should we, for example, play the stock market based on psychic reasoning? Should we play it because God will protect us from financial ruin? Should we play it because there is an afterlife and no matter how badly we do, it will be insignificant in the scheme of our eternal lives? These would probably all be bad ideas. Note that the consequences for these
harms can be devastating. It certainly doesn’t actively help us as individuals or as a society if we’re perpetually intellectually stunted and bad decision makers. Add up all the people who have been killed in the name of the supernatural, and I think you’ll catch my drift. Now, the problem with ghost tours, and all things that profit from the exploitation of the supernatural, is that they reinforce the harmful belief that the supernatural exists. This reinforcement preys on two types of people in particular: People who already believe in the supernatural and could always use a little more belief validation, and people who don’t believe in the supernatural, but might believe in it if they had a reason to do so (the ghost tour people say it exists). The majority of people, unfortunately, fall into these two categories, and so the damage supernatural-exploiting groups do is extensive. In an ideal world, all talk of the supernatural would suddenly cease and memories of it would be wiped from our minds. This world is not ideal. Instead, the least organizations like Providence Ghost Tours and Providence Ghost Walk could do is warn their customers that what they say should be taken with a grain of salt. I would have them stop operations entirely, but I do not deny that there is fun to be had in silly notions like ghosts, and we shouldn’t deny our communities their entertainment.
Jared Lafer ’11 is a philosophy concentrator from Manhattan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safe Sex Power God Ethan Tobias Opinions Columnist Outside of these gates and far away from College Hill, Brown has received plenty of attention from the media these past few years. Who can forget how the decision to rename Columbus Day “Fall Weekend” caught national attention these past two years? Or two years ago, when a student threw a pie at New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman? Among these past incidents, none was more embarrassing than Bill O’Reilly’s segment on Queer Alliance’s annual party, Sex Power God. This Saturday night’s SPG marks a turning point for the University. None of the students who will attend, apart from a few ’09.5ers, were here back in the fall of 2005 when an undercover reporter taped students at the dance. That year, a record number of students were EMSed due to intoxication, and the University was publicly embarrassed. Since then, the QA has gotten a lot tighter about security: Only Brown and RISD students can purchase tickets, and students are checked at the door to make sure they do not bring in any alcohol or enter visibly intoxicated. While these policies have been useful in making SPG a somewhat safer environment, there is still a lot more that can be done.
The problem of safety stems from the culture that surrounds SPG. Before I ever came to Brown, I had heard about this wild, crazy sex party. At the time, I had no interest in ever attending, but now that I am on campus I am constantly surrounded by students who want to go just one time — to see what it is like. There is a certain mystique to SPG: those who would never attend a “sex party” are drawn to take part. The myth of SPG leads students to be-
the emergency room and a reliance on substances for enjoyment. Furthermore, poor judgment in combination with lack of clothes sets the prime conditions for spread of disease. In the age of H1N1, where coughing in someone’s general direction is grounds for angr y stares, I would hope that students take their health seriously and limit their exposure to other people’s bodily fluids — not an easy thing to do at a party like SPG.
Shelling out twenty bucks for a naked, drunken sweat-fest that I don’t even plan on remembering is not my idea of money well spent. lieve that they are completely unaccountable for their actions. This fantasy should have been safely shattered four years ago when anyone’s face could have ended up on national news. Just because you are wearing less clothing doesn’t mean that the consequences are stripped down, too. Many people I have spoken to have told me ver y explicitly that there is no way that they would go to SPG without being intoxicated. Since the party forbids alcohol, many people binge drink right before entering, risking their health and judgment. The net results are excessive trips to
There is a proper place on campus for parties like SPG. If you truly enjoy naked parties and have no inhibitions about exploring sex and sexuality at a party like SPG, go for it. I agree that SPG ser ves a purpose for those students who choose not to abuse it. There are plenty of other ways to spend twenty dollars. The Latin American Students Organization is having a party the same night as SPG at the bargain rate of only three dollars. Call me stingy, but shelling out twenty bucks for a naked, drunken sweat-fest
that I don’t even plan on remembering is not my idea of money well spent. In these tough economic times, spending such a ludicrous amount of money on one party might as well be downright shameful. Besides, SPG is not the only party where students make out and dance provocatively. In the scheme of things, it is just a more expensive, more scantily clad version of any other party. Yet in order to justify spending twenty bucks, many students disregard basic safety to have the quintessential “wild sex party” experience. The high price leads to high expectations. It is time that SPG be a safe space for students to explore and enjoy themselves. Right now, the culture around SPG encourages binge drinking, unsafe sex and poor decision making. When O’Reilly ran his report four years ago, one of the most stunning images was of a naked student being placed into an ambulance. That event was a wake-up call for the University and for the QA to change the culture that surrounds SPG to one predicated on self-respect and safety. While O’Reilly’s segment has been eclipsed in the interceding years by plenty of other newsworthy events at Brown, its legacy lives on.
Ethan Tobias ’12 had to see what it was like to experience writing this column, just this one time. He can be reached at Ethan_Tobias@brown.edu
Today The Brown Daily Herald
Spoken word Salomon
Sex Power ... not worth it
comics Dot Comic | Eshan Mitra and Brendan Hainline
Hippomaniac | Mat Becker
c a l e n da r Today, November 3
Wednesday, November 4
7 pm — “Ethics and Animals: Where We’ve Come From, and Where We Need To Go,” lecture by Peter Singer, MacMillan 117
6 PM — Screening: “The Greatest Silence, Rape in the Congo,” Wilson 102
8 pm — “An Oak Tree,” Performed by Tim Crouch, Leeds Theatre
8 pm — Rhode Island Chamber Music Concert, Alumnae Hall Auditorium
menu Sharpe Refectory
Verney-Woolley Dining Hall
Lunch — Linguica Sandwich, Tempeh Fajitas with Pico de Gallo, Red Rice
Lunch — Shaved Steak Sandwich with Mushrooms, Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sandwich, Baked Potato Bar Dinner — Pot Roast Jardiniere, Vegan Rice and Beans, Oven-Browned Potatoes
Dinner — Orange Turkey, Acorn Squash with Curried Rice and Chickpeas, Herbed Turnips
to m o r r o w
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49 / 36
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Classic Deep-Fried Kittens | Cara FitzGibbon
Classic How To Get Down | Nate Saunders
Classic Deo | Daniel Perez