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Daily Herald the Brown

vol. cxlv, no. 11 | Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Serving the community daily since 1891

Postdocs clarify policies and build community By Nicole Friedman News Editor

Alex Bell / Herald

President Ruth Simmons, Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Beppie Huidekoper discussed budget cuts.

U. details plans to cut millions from budget By Alex Bell Senior Staff Writer

The Brown University Community Council met Tuesday night to discuss plans for the University to align its operations with economic reality, including consolidation of services, layoffs, tuition increases and funding

By Fred Milgrim Sports Staff Writer

By Sarah Forman Contributing Writer

After losing her father in the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, Nathalie Joliver t decided to retur n to Providence. The third-year student at the Rhode Island School of Design will take on a full load of architecture classes when RISD commences its spring semester Feb. 22. Jolivert was interning in Haiti during the ear thquake with her father, an engineer, and working to design flexible of fice space that could be easily conver ted into apartments. She is studying to become an architect, she said, to build up her native countr y. “I do spend a lot of my free time trying to promote Haitian culture,” Jolivert said. She and her younger sister left Haiti in 2005, a little more than a year after a coup d’etat removed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power. She said she and her sister left Haiti while her parents stayed behind because conditions on the street had become ver y dangerous. Since then, she has organized numerous volunteer trips to Haiti, both as a high school and college student. Joliver t helped

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recommendations will be reviewed by the Corporation at its meeting later this month, said Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Beppie Huidekoper. Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98, who presented the annual continued on page 3

Clarifying benefits Postdocs are divided between fellows, who receive external research continued on page 2

Bank CEO Moynihan ’81 started on rugby field

RISD junior touched by Haiti quake

News.....1–4 Sports.......5 Editorial.....6 Opinion.....7 Today........8

for athletics. Much of the discussion focused on the report that the ad hoc Organizational Review Committee released last week. According to the report, the ORC sought to identify “opportunities for improved efficiency and cost reduction through administrative restructuring.” The

In the ongoing effort to improve policies, communication and outreach for the University’s postdoctoral community, sometimes the little things can mean a lot. “Right now, there’s no P for postdoc” on the A through Z menu on the University Web site, said Susan Rottenberg, postdoctoral program and data manager for the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. But there soon will be, she said, and “that’s a big deal for communicating.” The University is currently home to 211 postdoctoral fellows and research associates in 41 departments, according to data from the Human Resources Department. Having already received doctorates, postdocs are neither students nor faculty — they have come to Brown for extra research and training before moving

on to careers in academia or other industries. This in-between space is often poorly defined at universities, and compensation and benefit policies for postdocs differ from institution to institution, said Cathee Johnson Phillips, executive director of the National Postdoctoral Association. At Brown, postdoc advisory boards and administrative committees have collaborated for several years to clarify existing policies regarding benefits and compensation and create standards where none existed. The Postdoctoral Advisory Panel continues to work with several University offices to strengthen the postdoc community and address concerns.

The men’s rugby team at Brown is technically a club, but those who are more intimate with the team know that the rugby program is not your average college club team. Rugby is a way of life, and for Brian Moynihan ’81, it was the first stepping stone on his way to a prolific career.

In December, Moynihan was and the current director of Brown named the CEO of Bank of America. rugby, said he wasn’t surprised by From his beginnings as a Providence Moynihan’s successes. The two have lawyer and local rugger — after get- maintained a friendship ever since ting his J.D. from Moynihan’s graduNotre Dame — he ation. Sports joined FleetBos“He has what ton Financial Corporation in 1993 has appeared to be a meteoric rise, and worked his way up through the and he’s always had that drive, ammerger with Bank of America. bition, fire and energy to achieve, Jay Fluck ’65, his former coach and that was readily apparent back

at Brown,” he said. Moynihan, who played football his first fall at Brown, was approached by former football players who had switched to rugby. When they asked him to play that spring, he came out and never stopped. “It was a great group of teammates,” Moynihan said, “many of continued on page 5

Band hits 40 years on ice By Anna Andreeva Contributing Writer

The first few notes of the Brown fight song rang out in Meehan Auditorium as the last of the Brown and Harvard hockey teams exited the rink last Friday. Students stood on seats and cheered for the past and current members of the Brown Band — some

FEATURE brandishing trumpets, others weighed down by enormous sousaphones, and almost all on skates — making their way around the ice. On Feb. 5, the Brown Band celebrated the 40th anniversary of its first show on ice skates. The group is the only ice skating scatter band in the world, according to the group’s Web site. The spectators at Friday’s hockey

game who chose to remain in their seats for an extra half hour were treated to the Brown Band’s first alumni ice show in honor of the anniversary, featuring alums from each decade since the ’60s. After a round of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” the announcer called out the names of returning alums in between lines of the Brown fight song. Brown Band Alumni Liasion Andrew Leber ’12 said the ice show was modeled after the band’s performances during football games, with the band forming a “B” on the ice at the end of the performance. This is not the first time alums have returned to play with the band, but it is the first ice show to feature an alum performance as its centerpiece, said President Max Mankin ’11, a trombone player. continued on page 4

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The Brown Band claims to be the only ice skating scatter band in the world.

News, 3

Sports, 4

Opinions, 7

The blog today

hot for teaching Teach For America is as popular as ever with Brunonians

First year Strength Despite women’s hockey losses, first year players shine

Weekend weakness With the Gate’s closing, Mike Johnson ’11 wants weekend V-Dub hours

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

“There are actually a lot of negatives.” — Sharon Furtak, postdoctoral fellow in psychology

Navigating gray area creates challenges for postdocs continued from page 1 grants or fellowships and make up 75 percent of the postdocs at Brown, and research associates, who work as University employees. As Brown employees, postdoctoral research associates receive health care and retirement benefits through the University. Since 2004, all postdoctoral fellows have been able to buy University health insurance with the portion of their grant stipends designated for training-related expenses — after they have paid income taxes. “That’s probably the biggest problem,” said Melissa Maginnis, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry and member of the Postdoctoral Advisory Panel, where she serves on the benefits subcommittee. When Maginnis and her husband were both postdoctoral fellows last year, they each paid taxes on their health insurance costs. Now that her husband is a research associate, Maginnis receives pre-tax University health care benefits through him and can use more of her stipend to fund travel and lab equipment. Despite the prestige of receiving a research grant or fellowship, the inequity in benefits gives research associates at Brown little incentive to apply for external funding, said Sharon Furtak, a postdoctoral fellow in the psychology department who also serves on the advisory panel’s benefits subcommittee. Research associates who are awarded an external grant become postdoctoral fellows ­— and thus lose health benefits — when the funding begins. “Instead of having incentives to bring in your own money, there are

actually a lot of negatives, and I think the University realizes that,” she said. “You’re losing your life benefits, you’re losing retirement benefits, you’re losing the ability to have your health care pre-tax.” Some universities treat postdoctoral fellows as consultants, allowing them to receive health care pre-tax, but modifying the policy at Brown is “kind of that gray area no one wants to talk about,” Furtak said. The University cannot change how fellows’ benefits are taxed, according to Associate Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Nancy Thompson, due to the federal requirement that postdoctoral fellows not be University employees. To compensate, the Division of Biology and Medicine asks professors to provide bonus funds for research associates who receive external funding, she said. Half of Brown’s postdocs work in BioMed departments, according to Human Resources. Brock Christensen, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Community Health and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and a member of the advisory panel, said that fellows are motivated to seek bigger grants to cover their expenses, but associates have less reason to do so. “Why would I do that, if it would mean that my status would change?” he said. “All I know is, I’m thankful to be a research associate.” Ongoing adjustments The Postdoctoral Advisory Panel and the administrators that work with postdocs have also made efforts to improve salary equity and create policies for maternal leave and leave-taking.

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The University imposed a salary freeze on all employees last year, but postdoctoral fellows were still slated to receive a stipend increase, as mandated by federal law. To maintain salary equity between fellows and research associates, Thompson said her office requested that the University find a way not to freeze research associate salaries. Top administrators “identified the funds that would allow all the postdocs at the University to get increases” this fiscal year, Thompson said. While this issue mostly affected postdocs in BioMed, according to Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty Carolyn Dean, “the need to ensure equity is one of the few conditions under which a salary may be raised” in the current freeze. Another key issue on the postdoc radar has been the lack of a maternity leave policy. Until now, maternity leave has been determined on an individual basis between postdocs and their mentors, with “nothing written or understood ahead of time,” Furtak said. “I don’t think there’s any disagreement that we need to have one,” said Associate Provost Nancy Dunbar, who recently convened a panel of administrators to draft a policy. The new maternity leave policy, which includes language on medical leave and vacation time, is “really welcome,” Thompson said, and will be posted online soon. She added that the need for a maternity leave policy is because of the growing number of female postdocs — 43 percent of postdocs at Brown are female. Communication and community Brown has had postdoctoral research associates and fellows for years, but until 2004, those titles had little consistency or meaning, said Dunbar, who convened the Ad Hoc Committee on Postdoctoral Researchers in 2004. “There was tremendous confusion on a lot of fronts,” she said, adding that the committee worked with postdocs to provide “greater clarity on their appointments, on their benefits, on support for them, on to whom they should go with various questions.” Many of the administration’s efforts to improve the postdoctoral experience have centered on making information more widely accessible. University Web sites now provide information specifically for postdocs through the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the Human Resources Department and the Resources for Graduate and Postgraduate Parents Web site. Adding a postdoc category on the A through Z list will create a “common entry point” where postdocs can access information, Dunbar said. On top of that, postdocs have stepped up their efforts to create a com-

Courtesy of Nancy Thompson

Non-academic gatherings, such as this September networking event in Andrews Dining Hall, provide opportunities for postdocs to meet.

munity across departments through social events and communication. “We didn’t even have a listserv,” Christensen said, until one was created at the end of last semester. “You would think that something like having a listserv is trivial and can’t really make a huge difference, but in fact, disseminating the right information to the right people” has helped postdocs meet one another and gain a bigger presence on campus, he said. The Postdoctoral Advisory Panel has also helped postdocs “have a more active voice on campus,” Furtak said, adding that administrators have been responsive to their requests and concerns. Postdocs have more opportunities to meet each other and network at professional development events, as well as in non-academic get-togethers, Maginnis said. Still, it can be hard for postdocs to make connections outside of their labs or departments, especially because they don’t take or TA courses. “You don’t always feel like you’re part of the Brown community when you’re on a satellite campus,” Maginnis said. National perspective While statistics on postdocs are hard to find, “it appears that the number is increasing” nationally, said Phillips of the National Postdoctoral Association. Her organization lobbies on behalf of postdocs for funding increases and improved benefits and policies. Though the postdoc experience was less than ideal when Dunbar first convened the committee on postdocs

in 2004, the issues they have addressed are not specific to Brown, she said. “I think the challenges that we have with postdocs are not any different than any other universities,” Dunbar said. Postdoctoral appointments are becoming increasingly common and necessary for graduate students hoping to advance to academic or professional careers in many of the sciences, Phillips said. While these extra years of research allow postdocs to grow as independent researchers and publish independently before applying to longterm positions, Phillips said “only 20 to 30 percent of postdocs will acquire a tenure-track position.” She added that the longer someone remains a postdoc, the more difficulty they have reaching a faculty position. But the current economic climate suggests that “the group of postdocs here at Brown and nationally probably will continue to grow,” Maginnis said. Though postdocs are a “small community here,” the fact that 75 percent of them secure external funding for their research is “good for the University,” Furtak said. Postdocs “are increasingly important to the University and the research mission,” Dunbar said, a reference to the ongoing goals of President Ruth Simmons’ Plan for Academic Enrichment to expand Brown’s stature as a research university. Improving the postdoctoral experience at Brown and responding to their concerns “academically, professional and socially” is in the University’s “best interest,” Thompson said.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

THE BROWN DAILY HERALD

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“That’s the wake-up call for us.” — President Ruth Simmons, on funding shortages for sports

Brunonians continue to flock to TFA From Haiti to RISD, with By Alicia Chen Senior Staf f Writer

As the Feb. 19 deadline to apply for Teach For America looms, this year’s graduating class, as those before it, is applying in force to the two-year teaching program. Fourteen percent of the class of 2009 applied to the highly competitive program, according to regional TFA recruiter Anasstassia Baichorova. Forty of those students are in their first year of teaching with TFA now, she said. She said she believes that TFA is able to attract such interest on campus because “its mission resonates with students” and because of the personal approach that TFA takes toward the recruitment process. Baichorova also thinks that “the change in political climate, with Barack Obama’s call to action,” has inspired students to examine ways

they can give back to the community, she said. Baichorova — a TFA alum herself — said for many people, the program is a transformative experience. Before becoming a recruiter, she was a third-grade teacher in the Bronx. When she started, her students were performing well below grade level, but in a year, she was able to bump them up three grade levels, she said. “Seeing them excel in other people’s classes was very rewarding,” she said after visiting her students recently. TFA alum Sarah Saxton-Frump ’07 echoed the sentiment. “I had an incredible experience in Teach for America. I was humbled, challenged and inspired by my students, the community, the Teach for America staff and my fellow corps members,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Herald. TFA was created by Wendy Kopp as part of her senior thesis

at Princeton. Its mission was to end educational inequity by bringing talented college graduates to teach some of the country’s most at-risk students for two years. Since its inception in 1990, TFA has grown into a large force within the educational community — over 7,300 corps members are currently teaching in public schools all around the United States, and over 60 percent of alums remain in the field of education. But TFA has not been greeted with open arms by ever yone, according to Professor of Education Kenneth Wong. “I think the education community is somewhat divided about Teach For America,” he said. Some “professional educators feel it is important for anyone in a classroom to get some formal training” in pedagogy, but TFA’s approach is more focused on core continued on page 4

Council discusses tuition, athletics continued from page 1 report of the standing University Resources Committee that he chairs, said his committee instructed the ORC, which formed last spring, to assume 20 percent less funding coming from the endowment this year than last year when making its budget recommendations. “We’ll have something like $20 million less to spend than we had to spend this year out of the endowment alone,” he said. “We have to generate savings somewhere, and that is where the Organizational Review Committee comes in.” Huidekoper said the ORC, of which she is a member, recognized Brown’s sense of community as a “ver y valuable asset” and hoped the community members present would let administrators know if the recommendations of the report have “hit the right balance” in optimizing services. “We know it’s going to be a little bumpy along the way, but we really want to hear from you, as our community council,” she said. The council met in Salomon 101 instead of its scheduled location in Hillel with the hope of fostering a more active debate with members of the community in the larger space, Huidekoper said. The 22-page ORC report, assembled by about 150 members of the community divided into 12 teams, calls for wide-ranging reforms of University structure that aim to reduce expenses by $14 million to offset the decline in endowment payout while making services run more smoothly, according to Huidekoper. “We expect to see no detriment in the quality of the services,” she said. “In fact, if anything, there will be improvements in how we are supporting our students through a more coordinated set of work processes.” But with the consolidation of ser-

vices will come consolidation of staff as well, Huidekoper said. “The goal here is to minimize the number of individuals at Brown who will lose their jobs,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean it will be zero.” One way she said the University will minimize that impact is through its voluntary retirement program, which about 139 employees will take advantage of before the end of the year. “A number of those 139 positions we will have to refill, but not all of them,” Huidekoper said, adding that those who leave will receive generous severance packages and outplacement support. Kertzer said he would not yet make public details on compensation or next year’s tuition increase, saying “it would put the Corporation in a very difficult position” if he released that information before the Corporation met. He said last year’s modest tuition increases were “at the bottom of our peer group,” but the University has not actually increased its net tuition dollars in recent years because of steady increases in the financial aid budget. Kertzer said URC members were “painfully aware” that though the University has “some of the most lavish financial aid in the United States,” compared to Brown’s limited peer group, “ours was not as generous as a few — Harvard, Yale, Princeton being almost off the charts, particularly for relatively upper-income, middle-class kids.” Kertzer also recommended expanding enrollment to raise revenue. He said the URC’s recommendation to accept about 50 additional transfer students would not cause the types of problems for introductory classes and freshman dorm situations that enrolling more freshmen would cause. When a BUCC member asked what administrators thought might

be the aspect of the plan most likely to make headlines, Huidekoper responded that “there’s obviously a concern about athletics” because “it makes the news.” “It’s been a painful realization that our budget for athletics is abysmally lower than that of our nearest competitor,” President Ruth Simmons said. “What we’re trying to do in athletics is very ambitious, but very under-funded. The consequences of that perhaps are obvious, and that is that our students might have a less satisfactory experience in their sport than their peers at our competing institutions.” Simmons said deliberations about cutting sports will go into next year, and no decisions have yet been made. “If we’re going to offer a varsity support, we should do that correctly, with all the protections that students should have for competing in a sport,” Simmons said. “That’s the wake-up call for us, to face up to the fact that we simply don’t have the resources to mount the number of team sports that we offer.” BUCC member and Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn said a proposed fee for athletes would help the University not make “deeper cuts” as it considers how large of an athletic program it can support. Professor of Africana Studies Anthony Bogues also reported to the Council on the status of Brown’s Haiti relief work. He called the immediate food and medical relief combined with strategies for long-term help a “Brownian” way of responding to the crisis. He praised the University’s “very alive” Web site, which contains information on the community’s efforts and dispatches from community members in Haiti. Bogues also highlighted a program planned for Feb. 19 that will draw scholars on Haiti and relief workers to campus.

stories and sorrows to share continued from page 1 plan an alternative spring break trip that was supposed to go to Haiti this year, but has been cancelled because of the quake. Joliver t also spent her winter vacations in Haiti, where she worked directly with her father in previous years. But because her duties this Januar y involved staying in the of fice, she was not with him when he went to a school directly on the fault line to begin planning renovations. The building collapsed during the quake, killing him and 200 students and teachers, Jolivert said. “We didn’t know until the second day,” Jolivert said of her father’s death. “It was hard for us to find him.” It wasn’t until Jolivert’s older sister called her father’s cell phone — and a nun answered to explained what happened — that Jolivert learned of the collapse. “Trying to find his body was another problem,” said Jolivert. “There was no real time to mourn.” Jolivert’s mother, a physician, eventually located the body at a morgue, but she had to leave Haiti before his funeral ser vice was held. Joliver t and her mother — who broke her foot during the earthquake — went to Florida the week after the disaster and stayed there for seven days. “All the week before coming here, I was mostly taking care of my mom,” Jolivert said. She returned to campus Jan. 29. But because RISD is still in winter session, she will not begin classes until Feb. 22. “I know that I need to be ready to go back. The faster I can get my education, the more ready I’ll be,” said Jolivert, explaining why she had decided to return to school immediately. She said

she wants to complete her studies as quickly as possible, so that she will be able to begin building projects in her home country when she graduates from RISD’s five-year architecture program in 2012. “I want to be prepared,” she said. Jolivert said that she has felt support from the RISD community and that both the Office of Multicultural Affairs and counseling ser vices have made themselves available to her. “There is no normal process for students who lose a parent,” Damion Vania, a counselor at RISD’s Student Development and Counseling Services, said. “We’re just available.” He explained that RISD, unlike Brown, offers its students unlimited counseling sessions and has no waiting list for appointments. Jolivert expects to continue devoting herself to relief and building efforts in Haiti, and plans to return to the country this summer through a cousin’s architecture firm in New York. She said the support for Haiti from both Brown and RISD has helped raise her spirits. “It was surprising to see how active the community has been,” Jolivert said. She warned against thinking about the crisis in the short term and instead advocated working on longer programs to make substantive, enduring improvements in the country. “I think there is a big need of collaborating,” Jolivert added. “I’m afraid of politics going into it.” Even though she’s back at school, Jolivert is still tr ying to come to terms with her father’s death, but she said in some ways, it is easier to be at RISD while she goes through the grieving process. “It’s actually harder when you’re not doing anything,” she said.


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THE BROWN DAILY HERALD

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

“Instruments were freezing to people’s faces.” — Max Mankin ’11, president of the Brown Band

Year after year, alums Forty years old, Brown Band skates on Teach for America continued from page 1

continued from page 3 content knowledge, he said. While some have criticized TFA’s teacher training program, Wong said, TFA is actively working to address the issue by partnering with colleges and universities to provide continuous training. Wong said he hopes to “have a conversation to explore that possibility” with the new TFA branch in Providence. Some teachers’ unions have publicly criticized TFA. Last year, the Boston Teachers’ Union wrote a letter to the organization opposing its entrance into the area, according to a Boston Globe report. The union said there was already a surplus of professional teachers in the area. But others do not see this as a “zero-sum game,” Wong said. By inviting TFA into their schools, districts are widening the pool of potential applicants, allowing the best possible candidate to be hired, he said. “It is not a jobs program. It is a human capital investment strategy,” Wong said. Wong said TFA represents a creative means of improving the education system. “We have been

relying on the traditional way of filling teachers for the last 100 years,” Wong said. “And for the last 20 to 30 years, we have seen a persistent problem in low-income areas. I think we need to continue to try new strategies, including partnering with TFA.” Teachers’ unions in other areas have also expressed concerns that TFA’s two-year contract promotes high turnover. However, SaxtonFrump, who originally intended to go to law school after teaching for two years, wrote that her TFA experience in the Rio Grande Valley helped her find “a purpose in life,” and she now is working as a social studies teacher at a high school in Austin, Tex. When asked what she would tell a student considering joining the program, Saxton-Frump wrote, “I would pass on the same advice given to me by Seth Magaziner ’06. Do it, but you have to want it to be hard. This is not something to be undertaken lightly. This is not something you do because it looks good on your resume. Do it because you want to spend two years of life in service to others. Do it because you believe education is crucial.”

“I have probably been back a half dozen times,” wrote Christopher Maden ’94 in an e-mail to The Herald. To prepare for the ice show, alums like Maden were e-mailed scans of the songs ahead of the performance, Leber said. “Most of them still do play or practice in some capacity,” he said. The Brown Band was founded in 1924 by Irving Harris ’28, and donned ice skates for the first time in February 1970 — the same year that women were allowed to join the band. The band performs to a script read aloud by the commentator, though acoustics can sometimes pose a problem, Leber said. Designated members of the band write the script and hand it over to the band’s vice president who then chooses the formations for the band’s performance. Past formations have included a goblet, Pac-Man ghosts and Pac-Man himself, he said. The band can be spotted playing at Brown’s Homecoming, most home and away football games, and some lacrosse and hockey events. They have also played at A Day on College Hill and at Ben and Jerry’s Free Cone Day, Leber said. Members of the Brown Band often play in the Brown Commencement Band, along with musicians from other Brown music programs.

Keeping up tradition For Mankin, the ice show was an opportunity to trace the band’s history through the stories of alums. “It was really exciting, because the band has a lot of quirky traditions,” Mankin said. “Reconnecting with all these alumni sort of illuminated where (the traditions) came from.” These legacies include adding verses to their chants, Brown Band mascot Elrod Snidley — who reputedly nearly won a 1970s Undergraduate Council of Students presidential election — and the famous Brown Band buttons. “I am the ‘inventor’ of the Brown Band Button,” wrote Kenneth Sloan ’69 in an e-mail to The Herald. Sloan suggested making the buttons during a band meeting in September 1967, as a promotion during that year’s football season. Sloan ordered the first buttons — which read “Jam the Ram” — from his cousins’ company, he wrote. Sloan knew the buttons were a hit when a delegation from the football team asked for their own. Not all fun and games The status of the world’s only ice skating scatter band does not come without challenges. “The most difficult thing was getting everyone to stop in the form,” Leber said. “When we’re doing forms in the football field, it’s one thing. When we’re ice skating, people start holding onto others and sliding into position.” Not everyone was on skates on Friday night since “everyone is at different levels” of ice skating ability, Leber said. During this show, “the conductor was skating backwards” while “some people were shuffling,” Leber said. Mankin said certain instruments are too unwieldy to be played on the

ice. “Two years ago, one player wiped out … her instrument split into several different pieces,” he added. Weather is another concern for band members. At a performance two years ago on Yale’s campus, “the football game fell on a weekend when hurricane Noel and the Nor’easter were coming in — we got pummeled,” Mankin said. “Instruments were freezing to people’s faces.” Traveling and camraderie Friday’s ice show brought back fond memories for the alums. “Coming back, I enjoyed reconnecting with other alums,” Sloan wrote. “I also really enjoyed seeing how old traditions have survived and new ones created in the same spirit. I’m very proud of an ‘institution’ and a tradition that I helped create.” For Sloan — whose wife Christine Curcio ’72 was one of the original three Pembroke band members — the social aspects of the Brown Band were the most enjoyable. “I was active in writing shows for football games, was an early member of the Hockey Pep Band” and also was one of the founders of the band’s ice show, he wrote. Maden’s favorite parts of being in the Brown Band were traveling and the camaraderie with the fellow band members. “Much of what the Band does is part of a modern folk tradition,” he wrote. “More than a few of the songs they sing can trace their origin back hundreds of years.” For Leber, one of the great rewards of being part of the band is “being able to do something that no one else does,” he said. Mankin said being part of the band “is like hanging out with 50 of my best friends. There’s a collective enthusiasm toward the sporting event, but more importantly toward making band fun for everybody.”


SportsWednesday The Brown Daily Herald

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Page 5

W. Hockey

SwIMMING & DIVING

Two strong performances, but without a win Tough end and pull off an upset.

By Andrew Braca Assistant Sports Editor

The women’s hockey team lost a pair of games over the weekend to No. 5 Harvard and Dartmouth, but the final scores of 4-1 and 4-2, respectively, don’t tell the whole story. Facing both Harvard and a Big Green squad locked in a fierce battle for the final ECAC Hockey playoff slot, the Bears (2-18-4, 0-15-3 ECAC) rallied to tie the score in both games and remained close until the waning minutes of each game. “I think people get caught up in the wins and the losses, but I’m proud of the way my players continue to battle through really tough circumstances,” Head Coach Digit Murphy said. First-years shined for Brown in both games. Victoria Smith ’13 scored the first goal of her career on Friday against Harvard, and the following day, Erica Farrer ’13 scored twice. First-years keyed the offense, taking nearly half of the team’s shots in each game. And Katie Jamieson ’13, who made 39 saves against the Crimson and stopped 32 Big Green shots, “did a really good job keeping the score pretty close,” Smith said. “I’m really proud of the growth and development of the freshman class,” Murphy said. Starting strong Smith said the Bears came into the weekend ready to give their opponents a fight. “We knew they were going to be hard games, but we knew that if we worked hard, they weren’t going to expect a team that was going to come out and give them a run for their money,” she said. Bruno came out sharp on Friday in Cambridge, Mass., taking just a single penalty before the third period. Facing a 1-0 deficit with under four minutes left in the second, Smith got the puck at the point and

Jonathan Bateman / Herald file photo

Alena Polenska ’13 is one of many first-years who have been bright spots on the women’s hockey team, which remains winless in the ECAC.

shot quickly to elude a defender. With Farrer screening the goalie, the puck slid into the net. “When I saw the puck go into the net, it didn’t even hit me that I had scored until I looked at my teammates, and they were all celebrating,” Smith said. “It was a great feeling, especially to score against Harvard.” Saturday’s game in Hanover, N.H., began with a Brown goal less than four minutes in, when Farrer capitalized on the rebound off a shot by Jenna Dancewicz ’11. After Dartmouth answered with two goals, Farrer tied the score 5:51 into the third period. “Nicole Brown (’10) did all the work, rushed at the other team and tapped it across, (leading) the defender and giving it right to me to be able to shoot it in,” Farrer said. The Bears appeared to have the momentum. “Everyone was really positive,” Farrer said. “We thought we had a good chance of winning it and just got unlucky at the end.”

Faltering late Both games went south. Harvard answered Smith’s goal 1:48 later to take a 2-1 lead into intermission. Brown lost Sasha Van Muyen ’10, who had assisted on the goal, to a concussion late in the middle frame, and both she and blueliner Samantha Stortini ’11 would sit out the Dartmouth game. The Crimson scored on a quick transition early in the third and tacked on a power-play goal with 32 seconds left. “It was a lot closer than a 4-1 game,” Murphy said. On Saturday, Dartmouth answered Farrer’s second goal within 14 seconds, and tacked on the final goal with under four minutes left. “It was 2-2, we silenced the crowd, and then … we let them back in and they scored,” Murphy said. “That was very frustrating.” This weekend the Bears will play at Meehan Auditorium for the final time this season, hosting Cornell (11-8-6, 10-2-6) on Friday at 7 p.m. and Colgate (9-17-4, 5-9-4) on Saturday at 4 p.m. Farrer said the Bears hope to sneak up on an opponent

Before banking, he played the field continued from page 1 whom I keep up with today.” And his love of the game, the players and the organization has remained strong, playing a crucial role in the continuing success of this storied club. When Brown approached the team about building a new rugby field to give the team its first true home, Moynihan stepped up. He, along with other friends and alumni, raised just under $1 million to build the Brown Rugby Field in 2004, according to Fluck. Moynihan said many students find college sports rewarding. “I think the ability to provide avenues for people to spread themselves is tremendous, and rugby is one way they can do that. It’s a great sport. It’s a great chance for people to travel and stay involved,” During his playing days, Moynihan — who played fly half and inside center — was under six feet and about 175 pounds, according to the Wall Street

Journal. “Athletically, he wasn’t an imposing guy, but he was very smart and he was deceptively fast,” Fluck said. What made him excel was his understanding of the game, his ability to teach himself and to set an example for others, according to Fluck. Now at the head of arguably the most successful bank in the country, Moynihan’s days as a leader on and off the field have translated into what he does now. “The lessons of leadership do transfer — how to motivate people, how to try to get people to do more than a team can do apart,” Moynihan said. “He probably understood the game as well or better than most,” Fluck said. “He was one of the leaders of the club, he had the respect of all his teammates.” “You can only win in rugby if you play as a team,” Moynihan said. “I mean, every person has to carry the ball, every person has to tackle, every person has to pass the ball, so you have to work as a team.”

And it was with his team that he won the Ivy League championship his junior year, in the midst of a string of dominant Brown rugby teams. After having recently seen the film “Invictus,” Moynihan recalled one of the greater opportunities that being on the team afforded him. “We hosted a team of black South Africans. It was the first team that ever left the country,” Moynihan said. “It was quite fun.” All this, almost 15 years before Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the end of apartheid. But probably more remarkable than any of his athletic or academic accolades, is that he was just a normal Brown guy. “He was a real guys’ guy,” said Fluck. “Very bright, extremely energetic, extremely ambitious in all aspects of his life. He was always busy and always active. You saw that in his rugby.” — With additional reporting by Dan Alexander

Freshmen and the future Despite the pair of losses, this weekend shows how strongly the freshmen have performed. Farrer and Smith said the adjustment to collegiate hockey is a challenge, both citing stronger and faster opponents than those they faced in prep school. “Usually, considering my size, last year I was able to push girls around a lot easier and move them with my body,” Farrer said. “This year, it’s definitely a battle whenever I get up in front of the net or stuff like that, because these aren’t really little girls. “Especially being four years younger than a lot of them, they just have a lot of experience, but it’s good because that makes me have to play better and quicker and move faster.” Smith said it takes a positive attitude to thrive as a freshman. “Understanding that you’re coming in here one of the youngest players, you need to impress the coaches and impress your teammates,” she said. “You have to show that you’re willing to work really hard and do anything to play.” Murphy said it takes an entire team to develop a key group of freshmen. “Jamieson’s been a stalwart all year, and (Alena) Polenska (’13) and (Laurie) Jolin (’13) on the power play … we’ve really seen them play key roles in our wins, but it’s not just them,” Murphy said. “People like Stortini and (Erica) Kromm (’11) and Erin Connors (’10), those players are actually kind of dragging people up, so it’s kind of the growth and maturity of the whole team together that helps the freshmen get better,” she continued. “The team is connected in a different way. I think that bodes well for the future of Brown women’s hockey.”

to season for Bears By Sahar Shahamatdar Contributing Writer

Men’s swimming and diving The men’s swimming and diving team finished the regular season after two tough losses last week to Yale and Cornell, 161-137 and 166-134, respectively. The team started off the Yale meet by winning the 200-yard medley relay by just 0.01 seconds. Yale swimmers took first in the next three events and picked up momentum that lasted throughout the meet. There were many close races in both dual meets, but Brown ultimately came up short of enough gold medals to win either. The Bears will return to the pool on March 4 to compete for a title at the Ivy Championships. Women’s swimming and diving

The women’s swimming and diving team ended the regular season 2-8 after losing to Yale, 191-107, and Cornell, 160-135, this past week. In the last home meet of the season, the Bears battled Yale in a tough dual meet. The Bears had many second-place finishes but only one gold medal in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The team then traveled to Ithaca, N.Y., to race against Cornell on Feb. 6. Kristen Jackson ’13 and Kristen Caldarella ’12 led Brown to five victories, but they were not enough, as the Bears fell to Cornell. Brown will have a three-week break before heading to Princeton for the Ivy Championships on Feb. 25.

SKIING

Team finishes strong, looks forward to championships By Ashley McDonnell Contributing Writer

The ski team finished the regular season last weekend with another first-place finish in giant slalom and a fifth-place finish in slalom. In giant slalom, captain Krista Consiglio ’11 came in second overall, followed closely by Emily Simmons ’12 in sixth place and Kia Mosenthal ’12 in eighth. Despite the team’s dominance in giant slalom, it struggled in slalom — one skier crashed and none of the Bears managed to make it into the top 15 in that event. In preparation for the upcoming ECSC Championships, “we just really want to do slalom training in the next two weeks and fo-

cus on skiing fast and finishing” the race, Consigilio said. “I think in terms of going on to nationals, we just need to finish.” The championships will be held the weekend of Feb. 20 at Waterville Valley Resort in New Hampshire, where the Bears came in ninth in giant slalom on Jan. 24. Coach Michael LeBlanc said the team’s previous performance at Water ville Valley “had nothing to do with the hill.” Consiglio added that the giant slalom at Waterville Valley had been shortened that weekend due to “snow issues.” Regardless of the Bears’ past issues at Waterville Valley, LeBlanc is “positive they’ll get it done at regionals.”


Editorial & Letters The Brown Daily Herald

Page 6 | Wednesday, February 10, 2010

l e t t e r to t h e e d i to r

Banner needs to fit values of New Curriculum To the Editor: I’m writing to thank Pacifica House for their thoughtful analysis of the effect that Banner course registration has had on Brown students’ enjoyment of their curriculum. I was lucky enough to find myself on campus this weekend, and I got a chance to look at the special report that they tucked into copies of Friday’s Herald. I hope the discussion that they’ve started will develop into a productive dialogue among students, faculty, and administrators. The concerns raised by Pacifica House are not new. Rather, these very same concerns were the subject of a UCS resolution (full disclosure: I was a co-author of the resolution) and discussions between students and administrators at the time of Banner’s implementation. At the time, the Provost’s office suggested that Banner’s implementation wouldn’t have any substantial curricular consequences, and the Office of the Dean of the College suggested that the effects might actually be positive. It seems that neither view has panned out. The New Curriculum at Brown is sacred and, in my opinion, worth

protecting at great expense. At other colleges, the curriculum seems like an afterthought; at Brown, it is the centerpiece. Brown is also unique in that our curriculum is the product — and as a result, the dominion — of the student body. No action that might affect the curriculum should be taken without consulting students and alumni, and considerable deference should be given to their views. Frankly, if an administrator “can’t understand what all of the fuss is about,” it is most likely a reflection of his or her own incomplete understanding of the curriculum. Luckily, we have in President Simmons a head administrator who is (from what I can tell) an unabashed believer in the New Curriculum — but her job is to run a major research university, not to tend to the nittygritty administration of the college. I hope that in the future, we’ll make sure that more of the other administrators “get it,” either by virtue of having attended as undergraduates or by demonstrating a genuine understanding of the curriculum during the hiring process. Matt Gelfand ’08 Feb. 7

t h e b r o w n d a i ly h e r a l d Editor-in-Chief George Miller

Managing Editor Chaz Kelsh

editorial Arts & Culture Anne Speyer Suzannah Weiss Arts & Culture Features Brian Mastroianni Features Hannah Moser Metro Brigitta Greene Metro Ben Schreckinger News Sydney Ember News Nicole Friedman Sports Dan Alexander Asst. Sports Andrew Braca Asst. Sports Han Cui

Deputy Managing Editors Sophia Li Emmy Liss

Editor Editor Editor Editor Editor Editor Editor Editor Editor Editor Editor

Graphics & Photos Graphics Editor Stephen Lichenstein Alex Yuly Graphics Editor Nick Sinnott-Armstrong Photo Editor Max Monn Asst. Photo Editor Jonathan Bateman Sports Photo Editor production Copy Desk Chief Kelly Mallahan Jordan Mainzer Asst. Copy Desk Chief Marlee Bruning Design Editor Anna Migliaccio Asst. Design Editor Julien Ouellet Asst. Design Editor Neal Poole Web Editor Post- magazine Editor-in-Chief Marshall Katheder

Senior Editors Ellen Cushing Seth Motel Joanna Wohlmuth

Business General Managers Office Manager Shawn Reilly Claire Kiely Katie Koh Directors Sales Kelly Wess Finance Matthew Burrows Client Relations Margaret Watson Alumni Relations Christiana Stephenson Managers Arjun Vaidya Marco deLeon Aditi Bhatia Jared Davis Trenten Nelson-Rivers Alexander Carrere Kathy Bui

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A le x Y uly

e d i to r i a l

Building BIAP In last Monday’s report on the growing popularity of unpaid internships, The Herald cited an increasingly competitive job market and a depressed economy as two major causes. For students, an internship can provide an opportunity to explore a field or career, gain practical work experience, network with professionals and apply knowledge gained at Brown in a new context. But not everyone can afford to take an unpaid internship and forgo the chance to make money during the summer. Internships also impose costs, especially if the intern must arrange his or her own housing and transportation. This is where the Brown Internship Award Program comes in. BIAP provides $2,500 in funding for students to take unpaid summer internships. Its sister award, formerly known as the Aided Internship Award Program and now named the Summer Earnings Waiver, eliminates up to $2,800 of the summer contribution for students on financial aid. The awards are funded by private donations — gifts from parents, alums, faculty and companies — and Brown’s endowment. The Herald noted that last year, the number of students applying for BIAP awards increased by 30 percent to 235. Given the economic climate and the growing popularity of unpaid internships, we imagine this number will only rise. However, despite elevated demand for both internships and financial assistance, the supply of awards will decrease this year. Citing funding issues, the Career Development Center has estimated that they will only be able to fund about 40 students this summer, compared to 50 last year. Fortunately, the number of available Summer Earnings Waivers will remain constant at 25. We understand that times are tough, but we believe

Opinions Opinions Editor Michael Fitzpatrick Opinions Editor Alyssa Ratledge Editorial Page Board Matt Aks Editorial Page Editor Debbie Lehmann Board member William Martin Board member Melissa Shube Board member Gaurie Tilak Board member Jonathan Topaz Board member

Marlee Bruning, Katie Wilson, Designers Jordan Mainzer, Kelly Mallahan, Carmen Shulman, Copy Editors Alex Bell, Sydney Ember, Sarah Mancone, Night Editors Senior Staff Writers Ana Alvarez, Alexander Bell, Alicia Chen, Max Godnick, Talia Kagan, Sarah Mancone, Heeyoung Min, Kate Monks, Claire Peracchio, Jenna Steckel, Goda Thangada, Caitlin Trujillo Staff Writers Shara Azad, Nicole Boucher, Kristina Fazzalaro, Anish Gonchigar, Sarah Julian, Matthew Klebanoff, Anita Mathews, Kevin Pratt, Luisa Robledo, Emily Rosen, Anne Simons, Sara Sunshine, Dana Teppert, Connie Zheng Senior Sales Staff Katie Galvin, Liana Nisimova, Isha Gulati, Alex Neff, Michael Ejike, Samantha Wong Design Staff Caleigh Forbes, Jessica Kirschner, Gili Kliger, Leor Shtull-Leber, Katie Wilson Web Staff Andrew Chen, Warren Jin, Claire Kwong, Phil Park, Ethan Richman Photo Staff Qidong Chen, Janine Cheng, Alex DePaoli, Frederic Lu, Quinn Savit Copy Editors Nicole Boucher, Sarah Forman, Claire Gianotti, Christine Joyce, Sara Luxenberg, Alexandra Macfarlane, Joe Milner, Lindor Qunaj, Carmen Shulman

that the BIAP program is too important to scale down. For this reason, we are appealing to alums, parents and companies who might be looking for a way to give back to the University. Endowing a BIAP award is a great way to connect with students, and help students explore their interests and get a head start in their careers. Individuals, families and companies currently endow general BIAP awards, as well as specific awards for internships related to the arts, labor relations and politics. There are many opportunities for expansion. We urge potential donors to contact the Career Development Center, which is responsible for overseeing the awards. In addition to easing financial burdens, we believe that BIAP can increase the quality of an internship. Financial support can legitimize the internship in the eyes of the employer, and may even lead to students being given more responsibility. Further, having a supervisor connect with Brown — even just at application time and after the internship has finished — will push employers to think about the intern experience both generally and in the specific case of the Brown student currently employed. In an ideal world, companies and organizations would be able to pay student interns for the work they do. But since that is not the case, we appreciate that the Career Development Career can pick up some of the slack. Ultimately, the main problem facing BIAP now is that demand is up and supply is down. If you’re reading this and looking for a way to give back to Brown, please consider the BIAP program. Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.

correction The editorial in Tuesday’s Herald (“Newsworthy,” Feb. 9) said a proposed $33,000 cut in spending would represent one-fourth of one percent of the total amount that the University Resources Committee plans to cut. In actuality, this statistic applies to the total amount the Organizational Review Committee plans to cut. A photo accompanying an article in Tuesday’s Herald (“RIC prof’s story hits the big screen,” Feb. 9) was misattributed. The photo was courtesy of Thomas Cobb. The Herald regrets the errors. C O R R E C T I O N S P olicy The Brown Daily Herald is committed to providing the Brown University community with the most accurate information possible. Corrections may be submitted up to seven calendar days after publication. C ommentary P O L I C Y The editorial is the majority opinion of the editorial page board of The Brown Daily Herald. The editorial viewpoint does not necessarily reflect the views of The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. Columns, letters and comics reflect the opinions of their authors only. L etters to the E ditor P olicy Send letters to letters@browndailyherald.com. Include a telephone number with all letters. The Herald reserves the right to edit all letters for length and clarity and cannot assure the publication of any letter. Please limit letters to 250 words. Under special circumstances writers may request anonymity, but no letter will be printed if the author’s identity is unknown to the editors. Announcements of events will not be printed. advertising P olicy The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. reserves the right to accept or decline any advertisement at its discretion.


Opinions The Brown Daily Herald

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Page 7

Let us eat cake… please? Mike Johnson Opinions Columnist

In the aftermath of the horrifically burst steam pipe under the Gate, the University has decided to close the eatery indefinitely until the pipe can be repaired. While fairly understandable from a safety point of view (who really wants their paninis with a side of scalding hot steam?), the decision leaves Pembroke campus with a definite lack of dining options. As all Brunonians know, and as many freshmen figure out the hard way, the V-Dub is closed on weekends. On weekdays, the Gate provided those on Pembroke campus a convenient alternative to the usually crowded lunch environment of the V-Dub. On weekends, the Gate was the only thing on this side of campus and usually had a constant flow of students. But as of Friday, this is no longer the case. On weekends, all those who are hungry will be forced to walk to the Ratty for meals, an option that many find leaves a bad taste in their mouths. Now, while it is obviously physically possible for students on Pembroke campus to get themselves to the Ratty, it’s gosh darn inconvenient. This lack of choice is even worse for those of us who may want dinner later than 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, in which case the only

options on campus are the Ivy Room and Jo’s. Friday nights? We’re left with just Jo’s, a nice, scenic 15-minute walk through the frozen tundra that is this current winter. Friday’s Morning Mail included a brief statement regarding the Gate’s closing and attempted to reassure us by claiming, “All other dining facilities remain open and ready to serve you.” While ostensibly true, in reality, this statement is false. All dining facilities are not open to us: the V-Dub is still closed on weekends.

feeling fairly stranded by the administration. In this time of crisis, it seems that the needs of the Main Campus population are held more dear than those of the estranged Pembrokers. My fellow members of the New Pembroke Fourth Estate have compiled a list of “Rights of Brunonians,” and right at the top of the list is opening the V-Dub on weekends until this calamity passes us by. If this demand isn’t met, I’ve heard rumors of methodically forcing every Main Campus resident to stand

There must be a way to temporarily open the V-Dub on weekends.

True, this is an issue that students have seemingly griped about for ages. But in an interesting turn of events, Brown Dining Services and the Undergraduate Council of Students actually came to an agreement over something, providing a terrible precedent. While the extension of V-Dub breakfast was a long time coming, once they finally let a “yes” out into the world, all crotchety columnists will be free to make outlandish demands for convenient dining options. In the aftermath of the Gate disaster, I’m

firmly on the Pembroke Seal, until the V-Dub unbars its doors and releases the convenience held prisoner inside. There must be a way to temporarily open the V-Dub on weekends. There are many students who are out of work at the Gate while it’s closed. I’m sure they’ll be happy to work at the V-Dub until the Gate reopens. Even if part of the union contract stipulates that non-student workers have priority at the V-Dub, then with the money saved on student salaries from the now-closed Gate, BDS can

pay those workers to staff the V-Dub. Chefs are unnecessary, as the Ratty makes more than enough food that sits in warming ovens until it is served. Pop a few of those trays into one of those snazzy Brown Dining Ser vices vans constantly cruising around campus and bring them up to sit in the V-Dub warming ovens. Students will be so happy that the V-Dub is open that they won’t complain about the lack of variety. (Those that would complain are probably the sort to walk all the way to Jo’s in the first place.) Far from being a wasted gesture, the V-Dub would be swarmed by hungry students who don’t have the time to break their studies to walk to Main Campus for a sandwich. So in an effort to prevent needless pregnancy and dropouts at the hands of the Pembroke seal, I make a humble plea for the temporary opening of the V-Dub until the steam pipes can be repaired underneath the Gate. It won’t be a permanent addition to the dining calendar, unless, of course, BDS decides it wants to be extra generous (hint, hint). Think of it as a trial run, to see what the demand would be like. It’s a commonsense solution to a devastating problem that would ser ve the dual purpose of being the right thing to do and making students happy. Who can say no to that?

Mike Johnson ’11 can be reached at Michael_Jackson@brown.edu.

A skeptic’s response to Oscar the cat David Sheffield Opinions Columnist Human interest stories are an easy way for newspapers to fill space. They appeal to readers without having journalists spend much time with pesky fact checking. Especially as newspapers and other organizations lay off science journalists, it is increasingly clear that entertaining consumers, rather than getting the facts right, is what is important. A good example is the case of Oscar the cat. In 2007, David Dosa, an assistant professor at the Alpert Medical School, wrote an essay in the New England Journal of Medicine describing a day in the life of Oscar. He and the staff of Steere House, a Providence nursing home where the cat lives, believe that Oscar has the ability to predict the deaths of patients. News agencies worldwide picked up this stor y in 2007 without considering whether there was scientific validity to it. The articles might have contained some token skepticism in an attempt to show balance — the false proxy of objectivity. They did not. The Herald now has its own article on Oscar, which repeats the unfounded claim as credulously as anything from 2007. The piece, “Prof’s book tells the story of a cat’s eerie sixth sense” (Feb. 2), tells the stor y of Oscar and of Dosa’s newly released book. Dosa’s claims of Oscar’s abilities are taken as fact and uncritically examined. After all, “Dosa published an article about him in the

New England Journal of Medicine,” so it must be true. It turns out that the “article” is actually an essay, a narrative of a day when Oscar spent time by a dying patient. The important difference is that an essay presents no evidence to support its claim. The physicians and staff of the nursing home believe that their cat possesses the ability to sense when a patient is near death, but that does not mean that it is so. All we are given is an anecdote. Many of the 2007 articles contain commentary on why a cat would be inclined to

I suspect that an actual study would find that Oscar cannot predict deaths, as this looks like a typical case of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is caused by the tendency to remember evidence that confirms one’s hypothesis while forgetting evidence that disconfirms it. One of the classic examples of how confirmation bias works is the myth that emergency rooms get more visits during full moons. This results from emergency room staff experiencing a busy night and then discovering that the moon is full. Be-

Before even bothering to speculate on the cause of Oscar’s ability, we should first know whether the effect is real.

stay near a person just before his or her time of death. This, however, is premature. Before even bothering to speculate on the cause of Oscar’s ability, we should first know whether the effect is real or whether the staff of Steere House is mistaken. Anecdotes might be useful for indicating new areas of research, but they are worthless for actually determining whether an effect exists. In this case, the staff’s observations and Dosa’s essay are cause for looking into this further, but they cannot be used to support the claim that Oscar has any unusual abilities.

cause this is an interesting coincidence, they tend to remember it more than other nights throughout the month that were just as busy. When staffers think back to when they were the busiest, they are more likely to say that it was around the time of the full moon. But when systematic studies are done, relying on records rather than fallible human memory, there is no correlation with the moon’s phase. The same effect has likely caused the staff of Steere House to believe that Oscar has abilities that he does not actually possess.

Dosa has yet to publish a study showing the amount of time that Oscar spends with near-death patients as compared to other patients. Dosa’s essay claims that Oscar visits numerous patients throughout the day. It is therefore unsurprising that Oscar would visit a dying patient at some point before death. The staff remembers those visits while they forget the visits to patients who continue to live. Supposedly, the difference between those uneventful visits and the ones where Oscar predicts the patient’s death is the length of time that Oscar spends with the patient. However, Dosa gives no definite length of time at which Oscar’s visit turns from friendly to grim. Nor is there a fixed amount of time between when Oscar stays with the soon-to-be-dead patient and when the actual death occurs. This means that it is easy for staffers to retroactively fit Oscar’s behavior with what they expect to happen — perfect fodder for confirmation bias. There is some good speculation on how Oscar could be predicting deaths, but without a systematic study to demonstrate Oscar’s ability, the frailty of human memory provides a much better explanation for what is happening in Steere House. Until such a study is done, it is irresponsible for articles to propagate unfounded stories like those of Oscar the cat — even if only to entertain.

David Sheffield ’11 is a mathphysics concentrator from New Jersey. He can be reached at david_sheffield@brown.edu.


Today The Brown Daily Herald

e d i to r ’ s n ot e

The Feb. 5 Herald included a four-page addition that was inserted by an individual familiar with The Herald’s production process without the knowledge of the Herald staff. Its content was neither reviewed nor approved by an editor. The Herald has revised its publication process to ensure that a similar event cannot occur. We regret any confusion that may have been caused.

3

Brown students join TFA en masse

Swim teams face tough losses

5

to day

to m o r r o w

33 / 25

35 / 18

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Herald wants YOU! Info session TONIGHT! 8 p.m., 195 Angell St.

between Brook and Thayer

reporters, designers, sales, finance, copy editors, photographers, bloggers, post-, artists questions? e-mail herald@browndailyherald.com

comics

c a l e n da r Today, February 10

tomorrow, february 11

5:00 P.M. — Timothy Patrick Moran: Unveiling Inequality —A World-Historical Perspective, McKinney Conference Room

4:00 P.M. — NSGP Seminar: Dr. Jeffrey Macklis, Harvard University, Sidney Frank Hall 220

6:00 P.M. — Hoops for Haiti, Pizzitola Center

Cabernet Voltaire | Abe Pressman

7:00 P.m. — 1st Annual Environmental Activities Fair, Salomon Lower Lobby

menu Sharpe Refectory

Verney-Woolley Dining Hall

Lunch — Vegetable Enchiladas, Beef Tips with Curry, Polynesian Ratatouille, Raspberry Sticks

Lunch — Hot Ham on a Bulkie Roll, Pizza Rustica, Italian Marinated Chicken, Raspberry Sticks

Dinner — Chicken Tikki, Vegan Chana Masala, Fresh Vegetable Melange, African Honey Bread

Dinner — Italian Meatloaf, Stuffed Spinach Squash, Jamaican Pork and Apricot Saute, Apple Oatmeal Crisp

Dot Comic | Ethan Mitra and Brendan Hainline

crossword Excelsior | Kevin Grubb

Fruitopia | Andy Kim

Hippomaniac | Mat Becker

Page 8

Wednesday, February 10, 2010  

The February 10, 2010 issue of the Brown Daily Herald

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