Daily Herald the Brown
vol. cxlv, no. 5 | Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | Serving the community daily since 1891
R.I. Haitians help, pray, wait for news
Haitian librarian joins JCB
By Caitlin Trujillo Senior Staff Writer
By Alex Bell Senior Staf f Writer
Pictures and fliers line the walls of the hallway at Elmwood Avenue Church of God in Providence. There are photos of the congregation as they sing, pray and participate in other church and community events.
game, and finally, last semester, was flown to the taping in California. “I hadn’t been expecting it one way or another. I kind of forgot about it actually, but it was really exciting when I found out,” Maxfield said. The college championship
Patrick Tardieu, the chief conservator at Haiti’s oldest library — the Bibliotheque Haitienne des Peres du Saint-Esprit in Port-au-Prince — is the John Carter Brown Library’s newest visiting scholar. Tardieu arrived in Providence Monday morning after a two-week stay with family in Montreal, where he sought refuge after the earthquake in Haiti. But Tardieu’s responsibilities and status at the librar y remain unclear after the rush to get him here. Tardieu managed to escape Haiti to Montreal on Jan. 15 on a Canadian relief plane’s return trip, he said. A colleague of John Carter Brown Librar y Director Edward Widmer put him in touch with Tardieu, Widmer said. “He’s not a refugee if he has a home,” said Widmer, motioning to the library. “A network of people is coming together now that has never even existed.” Tardieu is living in housing provided by the library for its visiting
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METRO Among these photographs and posters, though, one letter stands out. It relays the news of the death of Elysee Joseph in the earthquake that devastated Haiti last month. Joseph had been the coordinator of poverty relief efforts in Haiti for the Church of God, a Christian denomination to which Elmwood belongs. In his life, Joseph had visited the church — which serves 400 members of the Haitian diaspora in Rhode Island — on multiple occasions. As the largest Haitian congregation in the state reels with the rest of Rhode Island’s Haitian community at the unfolding crisis, many are finding ways to move forward with relief efforts for their home country. Yet even as the Elmwood Church takes in donations of food and clothes for the survivors in Haiti, Rhode Island’s Haitian diaspora must deal both with the relief efforts for those overseas as well as their own private feelings. The Rev. Gerard Rhau, a preacher with the Church, was in Haiti when the earthquake struck, according to his nephew John Wagnac. While there, Rhau filmed everything he could capture on his video camera. Rhau is staying in Haiti to help with relief efforts, but upon his return to the United States he intends to edit the footage into a DVD for the congregation to watch, Wagnac said. For Wagnac, who says he “cannot count how many” aunts, uncles and cousins he has in Haiti, getting in touch with Rhau and his friends and family members who live there — including an aunt who was visiting for her daughter’s engagement party — proved to be a frustrating and frightening challenge. “The worst thing is I couldn’t get them on the phone,” Wagnac said, adding that he had no calling card and had to make the international phone calls with his cell phone. Wagnac, who has been with the Elmwood Church since he moved to the United States in 1993 and serves as its sound engineer, said if he was unable to contact anyone at all, he was going to book a flight to Haiti,
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News....1–3 Nation.....4 Metro........5 Editorial..6 Opinion...7 Today........8
Courtesy of Jeopardy! Productions
Rebecca Maxfield ’13 competed in “Jeopardy!”’s college championship tournament, which will air Feb. 3.
Freshman’s ‘Jeopardy!’ bid airs Wed. By Ashley Aydin Contributing Writer
Rebecca Maxfield ’13 has always been a fan of “Jeopardy!,” but she never thought she would actually compete on the show. She finally got her chance in a show taped this winter and airing Wednesday night at 7:30. Maxfield competed in
“Jeopardy!”’s latest college championship tournament, which included participants from many universities around the nation. To get on the show, Maxfield said she first had to complete an online test. After scoring high enough, Maxfield advanced to an audition in Boston, where she had to complete another test. Soon after, she practiced how to play the
Prof ’s book tells the story of a cat’s eerie sixth sense By Lindor Qunaj Contributing Writer
When Oscar the cat first came to Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the summer of 2005, he wasn’t particularly friendly. He lived on the third floor unit, where the vast majority of patients are critically ill, often in advanced stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. He did his own thing — hiding behind medicine cabinets, sitting on windowsills and just generally keeping to himself. According to Executive Director and Administrator Julie Richard, he was not the “type of cat you curl up with as you read a book.” But a couple of months later, when Jack McCullough came to visit his gravely ill elderly mother, Oscar was sitting there, right by her side, just a few hours before she passed away. The cat made national headlines after Assistant Professor of Medicine David Dosa published an ar-
ticle about him in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007. Oscar has since appeared in a wide range of publications and television broadcasts. And now, Dosa is set to release a new book entitled “Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat” Tuesday. The book’s title alludes to Oscar’s ability to detect when patients are nearing death. Oscar keeps these patients companyin their rooms for their final hours. While Dosa said he was somewhat skeptical when he first heard about Oscar, it soon became clear to him and to the staff at the nursing center that Oscar was unique. Richard further explained that the situation became apparent soon after the stray cat was brought in from a local animal shelter. “Once in a great while, Oscar would basically position himself nearby or at someone’s feet,” she said. “We knew it was more than continued on page 2
S l immin g d own
Nick Sinnott-Armstrong / Herald
As promised, pedestrians can now walk through a narrower passageway under Faunce Arch.
The blog today
AIDING HAITI WBRU spun the tracks, listeners gave the cash
’TIL DEATH DO WE PART R.I. domestic partners can now make the necessary arrangements
AN AmAZONIAN LAW Yue Wang ’12 doesn’t want to pay RI sales tax on her online textbooks
JWW GETS A NICKNAME Pop culture ruins yet another American institution
195 Angell Street, Providence, Rhode Island
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
C ampus N EWS
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
“I’ve always been a huge nerd.” — “Jeopardy!” contestant Rebecca Maxfield ’13
Providence’s Oscar the cat comforts the dying continued from page 1 just typical catlike observation. It was an uncanny ability to be around at the right time ... and we noticed that at those times, the patients were always at the end of life.” Though fascinated by the story from the start, Dosa said that writing about his experiences with Oscar was “a spur-of-the-moment decision.” After initially writing the shorter article in 2007, Dosa began receiving calls about Oscar from all over the world. He was “originally reluctant,” but Dosa ultimately decided to write the book. “One striking thing about all the publicity was that there was this sense that Oscar was really unusual (and) I thought it would be a nice idea,” he said. “It was worth writing about it amidst all of the sound bites.” Patients’ families have had a largely positive opinion of Oscar’s presence, Dosa said. Though many of the 41 patients at the home have lost the ability to communicate and express their opinions about the cat, their families enjoy the company Oscar provides. “My fear initially was that there would be a mass exodus, but the converse is actually true,” said Dosa. “People find his presence important.” Oscar was present during the final days of both McCullough’s mother and aunt. “When you’re going through the grieving process, it’s interesting how you’ll accept anything that gives you comfort,” said McCullough, who used to work at Alpert Medical
School. “So when something as gentle as a kitty cat comes over, you go ahead and accept it.” And even though the patients may not be able to verbalize their thoughts, McCullough said that his mother — along with other patients — loved Oscar and the other cats that call Steere House home. Richard stressed that the cat’s ability is not strange. “Oscar is not a harbinger of death and it is not some bizarre mythical-like ability,” she said. “That is totally false.” Aside from the great amount of comfort Oscar brings to patients and their families, both Dosa and Richard said there is other significance in Oscar’s story and the book that has now been published to recount it. “Twenty years ago, no one would ever have an animal companion in a nursing home,” Dosa said. “We’ve come to grips with the notion that animals are important and lots of study on animals in health care institutions has been done.” Richard added that the book and the story it tells will get people “to talk about an aspect of care in this country that many people don’t want to talk about.” She explained that institutions like Steere House are “not about a procedure or some fancy clinical intervention but rather about good, old-fashioned care.” But for McCullough, the book means something different. “Reading the chapter about my mother and aunt became a catharsis for me. It helped me to heal.” If the book helps another reader find hope, “then I know I did the right thing by telling my story,” he added.
Courtesy of Quyen Ngo
Gospel DJs with the 360 Degree Experience in Sound spin their records during a fundraiser at WBRU Jan. 24.
Show raises funds for Haiti By Anita Mathews Contributing Writer
As most Brown students were just returning to campus for a new semester, the 360 Degree Experience in Sound on 95.5 WBRU hosted a pay-by-play fundraiser for Haiti Jan. 24. All donations went to the church-based organization Providence-Haiti Outreach. The event — which began at 6 a.m. and lasted for 20 hours — raised over $5,000, with the majority of callers pledging between $10 and $20, said Programming Director Quyen Ngo ’12. Listeners also donated clothes and shoes, including “a lot of Nikes,” said 360 staff member Henr y Kerins ’11. Toward the end of the fundraiser, shortly after one DJ made a remark about a need for tents in Haiti, one caller donated a 4-room, 10-person tent. “We didn’t have a lot of time
to advertise,” said Urban Promotions Director Peter Drinan ’11. He added that 360 was worried that people would already have donated as much as they were willing to the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon, which involved dozens of celebrities and non-profit organizations and aired just two days before. But their concerns quickly dissolved as WBRU’s listeners exhibited a generosity that impressed the staff and volunteers. One listener called repeatedly to make $50 donations before making a final $500 contribution, Kerins said. “The response was inspirational,” said Drinan. Over the course of the broadcast, listeners heard from Francis Guidice, executive director of Providence-Haiti Outreach, and others involved with the organization who had been in Haiti recently. “We didn’t want to have a radioa-thon without a voice for the or-
ganization we were funding,” Ngo said. Providence-Haiti Outreach rebuilds schools in Haiti and helps displaced children, which Ngo said she thought encouraged listeners to pledge. “That’s the good thing about having a local organization be the focus,” she said. “Our station caters to the huge community connection.” As the 360 staff works on transferring the clothing donations to Providence-Haiti Outreach, they will continue to update listeners on the ways in which their donations are helping the earthquake sur vivors, Ngo said. “Our station’s efforts for Haiti reflects some of the changes in terms of (the media’s ability to) mobilize people,” said Ngo. “Our duty is to use the apparatus that we have to help in whatever way possible.”
Student competes for $100,000 prize continued from page 1
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tournament, created in 1989, is part of “Jeopardy!”’s new initiative to open their contestant search process to a wider range of people. “Since online testing began in 2006, more than half a million people have taken the test online, and helped expand “Jeopardy!”’s contestant pool to include more women, minorities and students,” wrote Jeff Ritter, senior publicist of “Jeopardy!,” in an e-mail to The Herald. The tournament included 15 students from universities including Penn, Yale, Columbia, the University of California at Los Angeles and other prestigious schools competing for a $100,000 cash prize. Maxfield said her experience wasn’t intimidating at all because she had competed in Quizbowl in high school and still participates in Quizbowl at Brown.
“I’ve always been a huge nerd,” she said. Bella Maxfield P’13, Rebecca’s mother, was present in the crowd while Rebecca played. She said that Rebecca was always interested in trivia throughout middle school and high school. She added that Rebecca had experiences participating in trivia competitions such as aired Quizbowl challenges against other academic teams in high school and the New York state geography championship, in which she earned 11th place. “She loves that stuff,” Bella said. Maxfield said she didn’t study intensely for the competition. “I’m always on sporcle.com, a trivia quiz site — which is what I’m on right now actually,” said Maxfield. She said she has always been a fan of “Jeopardy!,” but she did not
get to hang out with Alex Trebek. “He’s strange off-camera. While they were filming for the commercial breaks, he would just talk to the audience,” she said. Bella, who received the phone call before Rebecca did, informed her daughter that she was going to be on “Jeopardy!.” “I thought it was incredible,” she said. Bella said she was very excited to be in the audience. “You’re at the edge of the seat the whole time because it’s not really like any one person dominates for the whole. It was lots of fun,” she said. The tournament’s quarterfinals will air from February 1 to 5 at 7:30 pm on CBS WPRI-TV. Maxfield will be on the February 3 show at 7:30 p.m. The tournament will run until February 12 when a winner will be announced.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
C ampus N EWS higher ed roundup by heeyoung min senior staff writer
Obama proposes Pell grant boost during overall spending freeze President Barack Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget blueprint for 2011, released Monday, proposes a $17 billion increase to the Pell Grant program, the main federal program to aid low-income students, which would expand the program’s rolls by a million students. The budget also proposes to increase the maximum annual grant from $5,350 to $5,710. The higher grants and expanded eligibility would almost double the overall spending on grants from $18.2 billion in the 2008 fiscal year to $34.8 billion, according to Inside Higher Ed. The administration also proposes to make Pell grants an entitlement, making the program’s funding mandatory so that every qualifying student is guaranteed a grant every year, according to the budget. The budget includes a three-year spending freeze on non-security discretionary spending, and identifies 126 duplicative, ineffective or outdated programs to terminate or reduce — but proposes to increase overall education spending by $2.9 billion or 6.2 percent, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said in a White House press release.
Burglary at Columbia compromises 1,400 Social Security numbers An office break-in at Columbia resulted in the release of the Social Security numbers of about 1,400 people, the Columbia Daily Spectator reported Friday. Three password-protected laptops that held the Social Security numbers of more than 1,000 current and prospective students, past and current employees and alumni were stolen, Columbia spokesperson Robert Hornsby wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. Affected individuals were notified of the incident by e-mail and regular mail, and have been offered identity theft protection services, Hornsby wrote. The New York City Police Department and Columbia Public Safety are conducting an investigation of the crime, he wrote.
NYU bans smoking within 15 feet of all entrances New York University will prohibit smoking around university building entrances and ventilators beginning next fall, NYU spokesperson John Beckman wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. The amendment to the current smoking policy — which bans smoking in all university buildings — was adopted after the Office of Compliance received about 2,000 responses to an e-mail describing the proposal last October, Beckman wrote. About 80 percent of the e-mails were “supportive,” and “some people asked us to go farther,” he wrote. The proposal came about after a lit cigarette butt started a fire in a library stairway, Beckman wrote. It was also prompted by faculty and student complaints about cigarette smoke that traveled into office and dormitory spaces, sometimes through outside air vents, he added. Though NYU public safety officers will remind smokers of the stricter restriction, enforcement will depend largely on compliance from smokers, Beckman wrote. “Once the (no smoking) signs are up, I suspect there are members of the NYU community who may take it upon themselves to remind smokers of the policy,” he wrote. Smoking is banned in Brown residential and dining facilities, according to the smoking guidelines for Brown facilities.
“I was thinking about preserving the memories.” — Haitian library conservator Patrick Tardieu
Haitian library creates link with JCB continued from page 1
scholars, he said. Widmer said Tardieu will likely receive a modest living stipend, though Tardieu has not asked for such an allowance. “He’s not in any sort of known category of visiting scholar here,” Widmer said. Tardieu said he hopes to study the collection of Haitian history at the librar y and at other libraries in New England, which he said tend to be rich in Haitian documents because of the strength of the abolitionist movement in the region during the colonial period. Tardieu also said he wants to help raise money for relief in Haiti, especially among scholars who have an interest in the area. Widmer recently established a fund called Saving Haiti’s Libraries, he said. The connection between the two libraries, Tardieu said, seemed almost too perfect. Tardieu has been working to digitize his own library’s collection, just as the John Carter Brown Library is beginning its own project to digitize Haitian documents. Tardieu, operating without highquality scanners and software, taught himself to become proficient in rotating, cropping and adjusting scans of texts on the computer to make them as readable as he could given financial constraints. With documents that are more legible, he said he uses optical character recognition software, which creates computer-readable text from images of the documents. Tardieu said the damage to his librar y is extensive. Though the library is still standing, he is concerned the coming rainy season will bring strong winds and rain, which can damage the books. Widmer said librarians around the world had been waiting on edge to hear scattered reports after the earthquake on the condition of the “very well-regarded” collection Tardieu manages, which focuses on colonial slavery, Widmer said. In the days after the earthquake, Tardieu said he lived and slept outside of his house in a group of 30 people, including neighbors and newborns. “In the moment, it was like nobody felt emotion,” Tardieu said. Tardieu said that he was disturbed by how numbed he felt by the over whelming presence of death, which led him to focus on the fate of his library’s collection in the days after the earthquake. “I wasn’t thinking about the deaths,” Tardieu said. “I was think-
Alex Bell / Herald
Haitian library conservator Patrick Tardieu leaves the John Carter Brown Library Monday.
ing about preser ving the memories.” But Tardieu said he is now more immediately concerned with people than with books. Though he will return to Port-au-Prince this week to examine potential options for relocating his librar y, he empha-
sized that now is not the time to focus on a long-term solution for his library. “The moment now is to give food, to care for the person in the hospital,” Tardieu said. “What will be the message to save books when we could save people?”
World & Nation The Brown Daily Herald
Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | Page 4
China surges in dino research By Eric Adler McClatchy Newspapers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lost in time, hidden beneath the earth for millions of years, dinosaurs aren’t creatures that reveal their secrets quickly. Yet two new and surprising dinodiscoveries recently have come out of the University of Kansas. Not surprising, both have emerged from fossils found in a nation that in the past decade has risen to utterly transform the study of the prehistoric past. More than ever, this is the age of the Chinasaurs. “Whether you are looking for marine reptiles or birds or dinosaurs, or whatever, China is developing so fast right now it is staggering.” said Philip Currie, professor of dinosaur paleobiology at the University of Alberta and vice president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. “I’d say that right now it is number one in the world for most major fossil finds.” The first KU discovery, announced in December, looks at fossilized teeth of a nasty turkey-sized dinosaur to show that some meat-eating dinosaurs not only clawed or chomped their victims, but also oozed venom from glands in their mouths like cobras or Komodo dragons to poison their prey.
The second finding, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is sure to reignite the ongoing fight over the origin of flight. Paleontologists David Burnham and Larry Martin and animal flight expert David Alexander — all with KU — worked with Chinese scientists to create a model using bones cast from a 125-million-year-old, four-winged gliding dinosaur named microraptor to show that the pheasant-sized critter probably did not run on the ground, as many scientists contend. The scientists instead present evidence suggesting that the sharptoothed carnivore, an ancestor of modern birds, always lived in the trees, spreading its wings and coasting from branch to branch. The paper is a direct challenge to the “ground up” notion of flight, the theory that modern birds evolved from feathered dinosaurs that first ran on the ground before evolving the ability to take wing. “With 7-inch flight feathers on its feet, it was implausible that it would even walk,” Burnham said. To be sure, for nearly 130 years — ever since the late 1870s, when great long-necked dinosaurs were discovered in the American West —
the United States reigned supreme as the site of new dinosaur discoveries. But in the past five years, China has usurped North America in a dino-race that, to the extent it exists, is as collegial as it is competitive. In paleontology — whether the focus is dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, 500-million-year-old sea creatures or even early humans — China is now ranked first among fossil-hunting sites. “It’s not just dinosaurs, but fossil mammals, too,” said famed dinosaur hunter Bob Bakker, curator of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. “They have great stuff: complete saber-tooth cat skeletons, three-toed horses. The Chinese have magnificent fossil rhinos.” As far as dinosaurs go, University of Pennsylvania paleontologist Peter Dodson keeps a running tally of the number discovered in different countries. “I knew China had been close to the United States,” he said. “I discovered to my surprise, chagrin, amazement that as of last summer, China not only had already surpassed the United States, but shot past it. I honestly didn’t think we would ever relinquish our position, but things have happened so fast in China.”
Metro The Brown Daily Herald
“It was a disaster before the disaster.” — Marie Gabriel, of the Haiti Charity Hope Foundation, on Haiti Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | Page 5
Domestic partners gain funeral rights By Rebecca Ballhaus Contributing Writer
The Rhode Island General Assembly voted last month to override the veto by Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 of a bill that will allow domestic partners to make arrangements for each other’s funerals. The bill defines domestic partners as those in an “exclusive, intimate and committed relationship,” in which the couple lives together and is financially interdependent. Sen. Rhoda Perry P’91, D-Dist. 3, whose district includes College Hill, said the bill makes it “crystal clear” that domestic partners are on “the same tier” as spouses when it comes to funeral arrangements for loved ones. “I wish it hadn’t been necessary,” Perry said. “I am glad that we had at least one bill last year that helped a struggling community, a community that has to fight for all of its civil rights. From that standpoint, it’s good policy.” As one of the two sponsors of the bill, Perry said she was inspired by the tragic story of Mark Goldberg,
who, after his partner of 17 years committed suicide, spent over a month trying to recover the body and bury it. “He called me personally to let me know all the problems he was having with the Department of Health and the coroner’s office and the funeral home and the crematory, so I became very acutely aware of his problem,” Perry said. Of the legislature’s override, Perry said, “It’s hard to be elated over a right that is almost a civil right as far as I’m concerned — being able to bury the man or woman you love without having the bureaucratic nonsense.” The House voted again to approve the bill, 67-3, and the Senate did so, 29-3, easily providing the two-thirds vote necessary to override the veto issued by Carcieri last November. Carcieri’s press secretary Amy Kempe indicated the bill was superfluous, citing an “existing process prescribed by law to allow two individuals or an individual to name another individual to oversee funeral arrangements.”
Following criticism of last November’s veto, Carcieri indicated his openness to reciprocal rights legislation that would extend benefits not only to gay and lesbian couples, but other types of committed relationships as well. Kempe cited elderly individuals “living together and sharing resources for financial reasons” as another group that would benefit from such legislation. “It’s as simple as filling out the form which is available on the Department of Health’s Web site. It doesn’t require special legislation for a group of individuals,” Kempe said. “This bill is important — if it weren’t, the governor would not have made the decision to veto it,” said Linda Zang ’10, the advocacy chair for the Brown Queer Alliance. She called his veto “unconscionable” and an “attack on the human dignity of gays and lesbians and Rhode Islanders in general.” Zang called the override a “great victory.” “It shows just how tough the struggle for equality is,” she said.
R.I. Haitians offer hope, help for home continued from page 1 which he has not visited since 2002. He has his own family here, but his aunts and uncles in Haiti were the ones who took care of him when his parents moved to the United States in the 1980s and he stayed in Haiti until they could send for him. Fortunately for Wagnac, his visiting aunt was able to call the church and let them know she was fine. Other friends and family members in the United States told Wagnac that they had made contact with his loved ones in Haiti, though he has not been able to talk to them himself so far. But even knowing friends and family are alive, the situation for Rhode Island’s Haitians remains distressing. Marie Gabriel, the founder and president of the Rhode Island-based Haiti Charity Hope Foundation, said she has siblings in Haiti now sleeping in the streets. The house her sister lived in was damaged in the earthquake. Although it has not collapsed, Gabriel said her sister feared it was not safe. A school next to the site where some of her family members live did collapse in the earthquake, leaving all of the children buried inside. Gabriel said reports from Haiti indicated that rescue workers had yet to search the rubble. The Haitian government, Wagnac and Gabriel both said, is corrupt and has failed its citizens by not creating the infrastructure needed to deal with a disaster of this caliber. Haiti had been struggling with poverty and corruption before the destruction wrought by the earthquake. Though Wagnac and Gabriel both praise the international relief efforts, both expressed their belief that Haiti’s inability to cope with the disaster is a consequence of the country’s preexisting circumstances. “Way before that earthquake, we
needed help,” Wagnac said. Gabriel expressed a similar sentiment. “It was a disaster before the disaster,” she said. Wagnac expressed concern that although the aid that is now pouring in is welcome, it is not getting to the people of Haiti. He recalls being confounded by an incident reported on CNN in which the medicine at a Haitian airport sat around without being distributed to the sick. Gabriel feels the international aid efforts could be better organized, including the different local groups that are trying to help but should, in her opinion, collaborate instead of working alone. “It’s wonderful to see how many countries are willing to help Haiti,” said Gabriel, “but we don’t know who’s in charge.” Still, Gabriel emphasizes that the aid is “a blessing,” and Wagnac said he is pleased to see so many parties working together. Their own groups — the Elmwood Church and Gabriel’s foundation — are putting together efforts to aid Haiti. Wagnac spent last Saturday morning and afternoon collecting all of the donations that have poured in from other churches and organizations, who have dropped off food and clothing with the Elmwood Church. However, he still needs another container for storing all of the donations that have poured in, and someone to handle the items’ shipping. Gabriel, for her part, is concerned that the necessary resources are not available to continue building — or to reconstruct — the foundation’s projects in Haiti, including an orphanage for children. She and the foundation are organizing fundraising events — including one with the Elmwood Church over a week ago — and she is working to put together a plan to visit Haiti in late February, with at least two mission trips planned thereafter.
But there is hope for Haiti, Wagnac and Gabriel said, to come out of the devastation of the earthquake stronger than before. Wagnac hopes international help will spur the institution of better building codes, marked streets, and improved phone service on the island. Wagnac said with improved regulations and more construction hopefully will come more jobs to stimulate the economy. It will take time, both said, but they remain adamant that the people of Haiti have the resolve. “It could take us a long time, but we will get out of it because we are strong,” Gabriel said. “We have faith.” Wagnac and Gabriel say they are driven by faith and religious determination, even when faced with the denouncement of fellow Christians. Neither of them heard Pat Robertson’s remarks that Haiti was suffering as a result of long ago signing a “pact with the Devil” directly, though they have heard the general idea. Wagnac said he found the remarks tasteless. “I’m not saying he’s lying about it, I’m not saying he’s making it up,” Wagnac said, “but this is not the right time to say those things while people are hurting, and it might prevent certain people from helping out.” Wagnac does, though, maintain that God works in “mysterious ways” and should be a source of comfort for those grieving. “We have no right to question him,” he said. “By praising and worshipping him, we find joy even with this disaster. That’s what God’s there for — to give you joy.” Gabriel said they must learn to forgive Robertson for his “ignorant” remarks, saying they were inappropriate coming from a fellow Christian. “Why don’t you go give people the gospel?” she said. “We need support. We need prayer.”
Assembly thwarts 27 Carcieri vetoes BY Claire Peracchio Senior Staff Writer
Rhode Island’s General Assembly began its 2010 session last month by overriding vetoes of two important electoral reform bills — one allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote and the other mandating special elections to fill U.S. Senate vacancies. The state’s legislators have overturned several of the 27 vetoes issued by outgoing Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 at the close of the 2009 legislative session. The veto overrides represent the convergence of Democratic political clout in the General Assembly and of the imminent departure of a Republican governor, said Wendy Schiller, associate professor of political science. “Because Rhode Island is an overwhelmingly Democratic state, the legislature will almost always win,” she said. Schiller attributed the “cycle of veto and overturn” to the relationship between Carcieri, who is prohibited by term limits from seeking reelection, and a Democratic legislature emboldened by the governor’s lame duck status. Democratic support for the preregistration bill was strengthened by new evidence linking youth mobilization to votes for Democrats, Schiller said. Also a factor for the support for the Senate vacancies legislation was a rumor that when Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates resigns, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., will be a favorite to take his place, according to Schiller. Rhode Island legislators would like to avoid the messy and protracted Senate vacancy struggles like those that took place recently in Illinois and New York, she said. Ari Savitzky ’06 — the chairman of FairVote Rhode Island, an organization that supported both electoral reform bills — hails their recent passage as “a great thing for Rhode Island’s democracy.” Being registered to vote is one of the most important determinants of electoral participation, especially for young people, and
incorporating voter registration into civics classrooms in Rhode Island public schools offers an opportunity to further swell the ranks of participating young people, Savitzky said. Savitzky credited the bills with having “broad bipartisan support,” and he cited the help of the Brown Republicans during his own time at Brown in advocating for the voting reform bill that allows preregistered teenagers to automatically be eligible to vote once they turn 18. Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Dist. 3, whose district includes College Hill, also supported both bills. “I think it is always a good idea to have people in an electoral district choose (their representatives) rather than having the governor appoint someone,” she said of the Senate vacancies bill. Perry attributed the overrides largely to the Democratic majority of supporters in the legislature, but she stopped short of defining the pre-registration bill in strictly political terms. “I look at it not as a partisan issue but as an education issue,” she said. Rep. David Segal, D-Dist. 2, lauded the changes for “encouraging people to engage in the political process throughout their lives,” though he recused himself from voting on the reform bills due to his prior work on behalf of FairVote at the national level. The pre-registration act had passed in the General Assembly multiple times in past years, but until recently, had always been killed by a veto, Segal said. Opponents of the legislation were concerned that allowing pre-registration would add a new category of voters that could be manipulated for the purpose of fraud, according to Segal. But the positive results of similar legislation in states such as Florida, North Carolina and Hawaii have largely assuaged those fears, he said. “On the whole, the reforms should encourage people’s faith in governance structures and encourage participation,” Segal said.
Editorial & Letters The Brown Daily Herald
Page 6 | Tuesday, February 2, 2010
l e t t e r to t h e e d i to r
Bookstore not to blame for textbook prices To the Editor: Though textbook costs are absurdly high, Mike Johnson misplaces blame (“Can’t buy me...text,” Jan. 27). A Herald article from 2006 (“Publishers source of rising textbook costs,” Dec. 7) says the Brown Bookstore usually has a profit margin of around one percent, which I can’t imagine this economy has improved since then. Most of the fault — and your money — accrue to publishers, which the article says have been raising book prices at more than four times the inflation rate.
Amazon can often offer lower prices because it doesn’t provide the convenience of a store where we can browse textbooks and easily return the ones we decide against. I don’t blame anyone for checking book prices with online retailers. But when the price difference between the bookstore and Amazon is 10-15 percent or smaller — as it is much of the time — I am inclined to support one of the last independent university bookstores. Nick Hagerty ’10 Jan. 28
E R I K S T AY T O N A N D E VA N D O N A H U E
In a column in Thursday’s Herald (“In defense of Ruth,” Jan. 28), an incorrect value was given for the losses to the Brown endowment over the course of the current financial crisis. In fact, the endowment lost $740 million over the 12 months ending June 30. An article in Monday’s Herald (“Open mic raises thousands for Haiti,” Feb. 1) incorrectly stated that “kembe firme” means “stay strong.” In fact, it is “kenbe fem.” A Web version of an article in Monday’s Herald (“In troubled economy, students turn to unpaid internships,” Feb. 1) incorrectly identified Willy Franzen as Willy Frenzen. The Herald regrets the errors.
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Syllabus day The last time the Brown community broached the subject of holidays, the University eliminated Columbus Day amidst fierce debate and controversy. We are certain, though, that Columbus Day enthusiasts and detractors alike will appreciate our new recommended tradition. We propose that Aug. 27, 2010 — five days before the beginning of shopping period for the Fall 2010 semester — be declared Syllabus Day. To honor Syllabus Day, the administration should mandate that all professors upload their course syllabi to the Web by this date. This simple measure will directly benefit both faculty and students. Professors are currently encouraged to upload their syllabi to courses.brown.edu, the University’s online course database. We applaud recent efforts undertaken by the Provost, the Dean of the College and the Undergraduate Council of Students to increase faculty participation. However, The Herald reported last week that just over one-third of the courses offered this semester had syllabi on their Course Preview Pages at the beginning of shopping period. A new, University-wide mandate would be no more than a minor inconvenience to professors. Syllabi are likely completed a week prior to the beginning of the semester, and many are recycled from year to year. Uploading these syllabi electronically should take no more than a few minutes. As students and professors have noticed once again, the first week of classes is often wasteful. Overstressed students rush to classes without knowing what will be covered. Professors, perhaps frustrated because they are not able to begin teaching immediately, frequently focus the most of the first class meeting on the content of the syllabus. Because the first meeting of class tends to be simply an exercise in syllabus distribution, students are forced to delay their final registration and attend another class to get a feel for the professor’s teaching style. As a result, students often leave classes
dissatisfied or more uncertain than when they came in. Furthermore, the large crowds of students attending some classes are often forced to stand or sit on stairs in auditorium halls, creating discomfort and even fire hazards. Making syllabi available online ahead of time can alleviate many of these problems. If the University adopts our proposed suggestion, then next fall students will be expected to have read syllabi prior to the first class meeting. This measure will make students’ shopping decisions more informed and allow professors to change the usual first day routine. We hope professors will take advantage of this opportunity to commence teaching — or at least previewing in detail — course content right away. Since the first day’s attendance will more accurately reflect the likely class size, professors will also be able to make more informed judgments about rooms, sections and TAs. And instead of listening to logistical information they could have easily read on their own, students will be able to focus on the material and determine whether the professor’s teaching style appeals to them. As the online system develops, we hope the Course Preview Pages can also become an extensive database of syllabi from past semesters. For students deciding whether to take semesters off, study abroad or just planning in advance for concentration requirements, perusing syllabi from previous years can be tremendously useful. Access to old syllabi will also aid students embarking on independent research. We don’t expect that Syllabus Day will elicit the same kind of camaraderie as other days Brown students are fond of celebrating (like Spring Weekend and April 20). But we do think that a few minutes of professors’ time can go a long way in making a noticeable, positive difference in academic life at Brown. Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald. com.
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Opinions The Brown Daily Herald
Tuesday, February 2, 2010| Page 7
Our say in academics SARAH YU Opinions Columnist
During a reception for international students at the Faculty Club last month, Vice President for International Affairs, Matthew Gutmann, was questioned by concerned students about why the Watson Institute has not yet taken to starting programs on contemporary China and Southeast Asia. I had to agree with the need for such a question — after a browse of the “People” page on the Watson Institute for International Studies website, I found that out of all the distinguished scholars and faculty members, there is only one professor each to list as a part of his or her “Areas of interest” China and Asia-Pacific. In fact, in my six semesters at Brown, I remember only one course with Southeast Asia in its title or description ever being offered, and a quick search of Mocha now shows that even this course is not in the curriculum at all this academic year. I use the examples of contemporary China and Southeast Asia on the basis that these regions seem to be increasingly important in both a global academic perspective, and in that increasing numbers of Brown students have personal ties to them. With this background explaining the areas’ growing significance to the Brown community and to academia, it is logical that subsequent increasing attention
should be paid to ensure that more opportunities in these areas exist. Also, for the purposes of students coming from international backgrounds, the University’s keeping a diversity of regional academic foci in mind allows better facilitation of advising honors programs, student projects and initiatives, and rapport between faculty and students. Gutmann replied ver y simply to this student’s query: the lack of these specific programs can be attributed to the fact that
clare ourselves as a liberal higher education institution, the highest achievement of students’ initiatives. Yet the idealism doesn’t seem to cut it — there is still a nagging feeling in me that these concerns cannot possibly be so easily solved. Very few of us have attempted to undertake the task of setting up a formal academic program before, and those of us who have tried to fill the gaps between what we have been learning and what we would like to learn have most probably been redirected to the path of
Without the initial steps and guidance that will lead students on a transparent and supported path to attempt to deal with such administrative questions, our liberal dreams cannot be realized. students, even if interested, had never developed this interest to actively make them be a reality at Brown. He implies, I assume, that if one or more enthusiastic students decided to devote time in presenting their ideas for a brilliant plan to increase Watson’s Asia capabilities, then the realization of desired East and Southeast Asia foci at Watson would become a priority for the faculty. Gutmann’s words should have left us with a sense of idealistic hope, a real liberal attitude towards how we, as students, can cause change in our own academic administration. This idea is possibly the best true way to de-
proposing an Independent Study Project of some kind. The first subsequent question that should pop into a Brown student’s head when facing this important task should be the question of who to talk to for such a project. Who do we talk to, if we believe that Brown should hire a new faculty member who specializes in an area not already represented, or if we have a suggestion to improve Brown’s image and standing as a cosmopolitan research institution? Which administrator, dean or advisor should we approach if we want to get further than just being encouraged to take advantage
of the independent study opportunities? Who is someone we perceive to have power, and at the same time, with whom we can feel comfortable enough to discuss these questions? It is no doubt fantastic that students can take a class for course credit on virtually anything we want, and that we are encouraged to develop our own independent curricula. But these opportunities can by no means make up for students’ suggestions that Brown can do more administratively. Without the initial steps and guidance that will lead students on a transparent and supported path to attempt to deal with such administrative questions, our liberal dreams cannot be realized. Perhaps the solution can be to develop a more established system of communication about academic programs between students and faculty — a process of academic advising for faculty and administrators from students. Students can address deficiencies and suggest academic programs we would find beneficial to Brown and its community. An organized body could provide the messenger channel to those who make decisions and provide the necessary information and resources to students wanting to effect more meaningful change. Who knows, this might be the next revolutionary step to reaching our ultimate open curriculum.
Sarah Yu ’11 is an international relations and history concentrator from Sydney, Australia. She can be reached at xia_yu@ brown.edu.
Repeal Rhode Island’s Amazon tax YUE WANG Opinions Columnist Between the two sure things in life — death and taxes — Amazon.com seems determined to eschew at least the latter in many places in this country. Collecting sales tax on Amazon. com was a largely ignored issue because, in most states, the online store has no legal obligation to collect taxes if it does not have a physical presence or “nexus” in one state. This issue gained public attention, however, when a new law in North Carolina started to require online stores like Amazon.com to charge sales tax this year. Amid the publicity and controversy this move engendered it is time for Rhode Islanders to ponder the consequences of a similar law that came into effect here a few months ago. Sour at the huge pricing advantage local companies lose to online retailers and allured by the prospect of a new source of state revenue in these difficult fiscal years, Rhode Island passed a law a few months ago to force e-retailers that have local business affiliates to assess sales tax on goods sold to Rhode Island residents. Fair as it may sound to Rhode Island businesses, I would clap my hands on this action of state government if it were really helping local businesses and increasing government’s revenue. But the new law has so far achieved little of its aim and even hurt Rhode Island business. Rhode Island was bound to lose her battle with Amazon over taxation from the very beginning. Unlike big states such as New York where marketing affiliates play a vital role of Amazon’s sales performance, Rhode Island,
with the nation’s fourth-smallest state economy, could not really use Amazon’s local affiliate program as leverage to pressure Amazon. As a matter of fact, when Amazon promptly cut off all of its marketing affiliates in Rhode Island last summer to avoid charging Rhode Island sales tax, it had little to lose. Consequently, the new law failed to bring any relief to Rhode Island’s strapped finance. From the beginning the most vocal proponents of the new state law have been local retailers who demand a level playing field for big, national e-retailers and honest, tax-paying Rhode Island businesses. So the Amazon tax
operational scale. While not charging sales tax affords Amazon a small boost, in the final analysis the economy of size is its decisive advantage. Separately, those local companies that were previously Amazon affiliates would find it harder to survive after suddenly losing what they used to rely on. Companies will collapse and jobs will vanish. The consequence of the new law would substantially hurt the already feeble local businesses and terrible economic performance of the state. Notwithstanding the long odds small states face in battling big corporations, can the Amazon tax be justified on the moral ground that
For states like Rhode Island, whose unemployment rate tops 12 percent, the most urgent need is to create jobs by building a more favorable climate for businesses to come and stay instead of chasing elusive tax revenues. was supposed to help their situation because the tax could make the Amazon price less competitive and help the local businesses in the process. Has that happened? Suspending the Amazon affiliate program in Rhode Island has hardly hurt Amazon’s allure to Rhode Island consumers, to whom Amazon continues to offer the most competitive price. Had Amazon chosen to keep the affiliate program in place, however, small Rhode Island businesses would continue to face fierce competition from online retailers. Even if Amazon ended up paying taxes in Rhode Island, it still possesses a huge advantage over small local businesses simply due to its overwhelming company size and
it restores some measure of tax equitability between customers with different shopping habits? It is certainly true that fairness and equality are indispensable virtues in levying taxes. But taxation is also a powerful tool that serves other purposes such as redistributing wealth, discouraging unwholesome consumption or spurring innovation and production. Because of this, states are usually discriminating in creating and eliminating taxes. Therefore, states may choose to provide tax incentives to businesses to attract investments and stimulate the local economy. Prudent use of taxation is vital to the health of the whole economy. For states like Rhode Island, whose unemployment rate tops 12 percent, the most urgent need is
to create jobs by building a more favorable climate for businesses to come and stay instead of chasing elusive tax revenues. Ultimately, the Internet economy, rapidly growing in size and diversity, probably requires us to think of new ways of coping with it. Whereas Amazon.com began selling CDs and books, its future growth may well depend on sales of digital materials like MP3 music downloads or electronic books delivered directly to Kindles. Economic transactions that take place on the World Wide Web may prove ever more elusive to local authorities’ intent on taxing those economic activities. The way the Internet economy can enlarge the treasury of Rhode Island may thus be an indirect one: by encouraging local businesses to work with it. The fiscal health of the state may be restored if the local businesses can enrich themselves through it. On the contrary, the fiscal health of the state may deteriorate if it chooses to shield local businesses from the virtual economy. Therefore, we should repeal our Amazon tax in Rhode Island. The state government’s proclaimed principle of equitable taxation is at the very least misleading when the new law is doing nothing to address the most serious problem of the state’s economy. At the same time, the state government misdiagnosed the real situation and put local businesses at stake by shortsightedly attempting to increase tax revenue on the very business it should keep.
Yue Wang ’12 is a political science and German studies concentrator from Shanghai. She can be contacted at yue_ email@example.com
Today The Brown Daily Herald
NYU bans smoking near entrances
c a l e n da r tomorrow, February 3, 2010
6:00 P.M. — Zugunruhe Lecture Series: The Trouble with Nature, List 120
4:30 P.M. — Effective Interviewing with Professor Barbara Tannenbaum, MacMillan 117
7:00 P.M. — RI Philatelic Society 125th Anniversary Celebration, John Hay Library
comics Dot Comic | Eshan Mitra and Brendan Hainline
7:00 P.M. — “BLAST! The Movie,” Barus & Holley 168
menu Sharpe Refectory
Verney-Woolley Dining Hall
Lunch — Chourico with Potatoes and Onions, Linguini with Tomato and Basil, Chocolate Oatmeal Squares
Lunch — Tomato Quiche, Italian Vegetable Saute, Coconut Crescent Cookies
Dinner — Carne Gizado, Vegetable Frittata, Honey Batter Bread
Dinner — Chicken Pot Pie, Rice and Orzo Pilaf, Chocolate Oatmeal Squares
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Today, February 2, 2010
to m o r r o w
Assembly overrides governor’s vetoes
t h e n e w s i n i m ag e s
Cabernet Voltaire | Abe Pressman
crossword Excelsior | Kevin Grubb
Hippomaniac | Mat Becker
STW | Jingtao Huang