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vol. cxlvi, no. 3

Tumor research could lead to treatment breakthrough By Natalie Villacorta Senior Staff Writer

Researchers at the Alpert Medical School made an important discovery that may lead to changes in the way brain tumors­are diagnosed and treated. Their findings, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute last month, have generated a slew of questions — not only about brain tumors, but also cancer in general. “This is a very big deal in brain tumors,” said Professor of Community Health Karl Kelsey, one of the paper’s senior authors. Brown researchers collaborated with researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and several other universities. Kelsey and UCSF Professor John Wiencke — who have been friends since high school — have teamed up repeatedly over the last 25 years on various scientific projects.

The study originated from the hypothesis that a relationship exists between mutations in tumors and the methylation patterns found in their genomes, Kelsey said. Previous research had identified this connection in other types of cancer, said Brock Christensen, a Brown postdoctoral research associate in pathology and laboratory medicine and the first author on the paper. He said he — along with Kelsey and Ashley Smith GS — set out to discover if this relationship also existed in brain tumors. There was an even greater basis for the relationship than expected, Kelsey said.  Christensen said the mutation in question exists in the IDH gene, which codes for an enzyme involved in glucose sensing, an aspect of metabolic processing. The researchers found that tumors with continued on page 2

Friday, January 28, 2011

Since 1891

Simmons attends Swiss conference

Raffling Rooms

By David Chung Senior Staff Writer

perimental performance” by Butch Rovan and Lucky Leone, according to a Brown press release. It has now reopened after the break and will be open until Feb. 13. The exhibition features many types of media, including digital videos, oil paintings and photographs, providing an excellent insight into the work of different kinds of artists and the media they choose to employ. But the variety also leads to incoherence within the exhibition. There seems to be little communication between the artists, resulting in a cacophony of clashing voices. Upon first entering the exhibition, three photographs taken by Postdoctoral Fellow in Music Betsey Biggs at an abandoned amusement park are on display. In particular, one photograph of

This week, for the fourth year in a row, President Ruth Simmons is joining global leaders from business, politics and other fields at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The event, which began Jan. 26 and ends Jan. 30, allows Simmons to develop relationships with university presidents and social entrepreneurs, as well as brainstorm initiatives that could bring change to the academic scene, she wrote from Davos in an e-mail to The Herald. The forum’s theme this year is “Shared Norms for the New Reality.” Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, said the event and its theme are applicable to the University’s interest in being involved in current global issues. “It is essential to be a part of the conversation,” she said. A number of university presidents from around the world attend the forum each year to participate in the Global University Leaders Forum, first organized in 2006. “The opportunity to meet with this diverse group to develop ideas and foster international academic partnerships is very worthwhile,” Simmons wrote. Quinn added that the forum provides a rare venue for university leaders to initiate and develop partnerships. Simmons attended a meeting Thursday morning hosted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty members, which focused on MIT’s energy institute and approaches to energy issues. The discussion prompted her to think about energy research at Brown, she wrote. Simmons is also hosting two panels during her time in Davos. The first, which has already taken place, discussed of methods for supporting emerging artists, and she wrote she hopes to implement in Providence some of the ideas that emerged from the discussion. The second panel will discuss the emergence and decline of languages. The event allows Simmons to foster valuable connections with non-profit leaders and social entrepreneurs, she wrote. “Discus-

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Nicholas Sinnott-Armstrong / Herald

The first pick in the housing lottery was raffled off to students at last night’s Housing Fair.

Innovative students pitch inventions, win in 90 secs. Two undergraduates made efficient use of their time — impressing judges and winning cash prizes in 90 seconds — Dec. 8 at an elevator pitch contest held at the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

in Providence. At the contest, sponsored by the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition 2011, college students and business veterans alike described business ideas to a panel — as if making a pitch to a CEO who only has an elevator ride’s worth of time to evaluate a proposal.

Winter Wonderland

Theresa Raimondo ’11 won the $300 first prize for her business idea, a thermos that can heat or cool beverages from 50 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit within 90 seconds. Anshu Vaish ’12 received a $50 prize for his pitch about WaterWalla, an organization already in existence and run by undergraduates that brings clean water

Faculty Triennial 2010, a gallery exhibition which includes the work of 24 faculty members, is now on display in the David Winton Bell Gallery. The show provides an opportunity for viewers to experience

arts & culture

Hilary Rosenthal / Herald

inside

news....................1-5 Comics...................5 editorial..............6 Opinions...............7 feature...................8

Opening up

Brown researcher gets Ethiopian teens to talk safe sex

Campus News, 3

continued on page 4

Art exhibition features diverse faculty artists By Anna lillkung Contributing Writer

A particularly snowy season in Providence left the Main Green covered in the white stuff.

to urban slums around the world. Raimondo entered the contest as part of her ENGN 1930G: “Entrepreneurship I” class. She and her team of classmates were assigned the general task of improving astronaut food with the help of mentors from the National

a mix of different art forms, as it features faculty artists from the departments of Visual Art, Modern Culture and Media and Theatre Arts and Performance Studies. The inclusion of literary arts and multimedia and electronic experiments culminates in a unique and varied blend of artistic work. The exhibition has been on display in the David Winton Bell Gallery at List Art Center since Dec. 3 and started with an “ex-

Racist care

Alum explores unconscious biases in healthcare

Feature, 8

Babbling Sarah Rosenthal ’11 on student writing

Opinions, 7

weather

By Jordan Hendricks Contributing Writer

t o d ay

tomorrow

28 / 21

34 / 18


2 Campus News

Profs find mutation, methylation link

calendar Today

January 28

6:00 P.M.

Tomorrow

January 29

1:00 p.M. “Intimate Lighting,”

Faculty Triennial 2010,

Modern Culture and Media 101

List Art Building

6:30 P.M.

5:30 p.m. West House Open Dinner,

Brown Running Club Group Run,

West House

Sciences Library

menu SHARPE REFECTORY

VERNEy-WOOLLEY DINING HALL LUNCH

Chicken with Raisins and Olives, BLT Sandwich, Vegan Chana Masala, Butterscotch Cookies, Clam Bisque

Chicken Fingers, Sticky Rice, Baked Vegan Nuggets, Enchilada Bar, Butterscotch Cookies

DINNER Chicken Tikka, Arabian Spinach, Basmati Rice Pilaf, Vegetable Stuffed Peppers

Texas Style Beef Brisket, Mexican Cornbread Casserole, BBQ Grilled Asparagus

Sudoku

The Brown Daily Herald Friday, January 28, 2011

continued from page 1 this mutation also have an associated DNA methylation pattern. DNA methylation — when a methyl group is covalently bonded to a cytosine base followed by a guanine base — is an epigenetic alternation to DNA, which changes gene expression. All the cells in the human body contain the same genetic material, but each cell also contains a methylation pattern. Methylated DNA is a signal of gene silencing, Kelsey said. In the case of the brain tumors, the methylated regions marked genes involved in metabolic processes, which might explain the abnormal behavior of tumor cells. Smith was in charge of the

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mutation aspect of the analysis, and Christensen handled the epigenetic side. A technique called the Illumina GoldenGate methylation array was used to measure the amount of methylation in the tumors. The analysis revealed a close link between the IDH mutation and enhanced occurrence of methylation, Kelsey said. The reason for this link is unknown, though research is already underway to fill in the missing gaps. But the Brown research team is going to focus on more general tumor-related questions. “We study tumors and we study people, and the answers to the questions that we have posed are best tackled by biochemists and the pharmaceutical industry,”

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Kelsey said. The study also found that patients with brain tumors carrying the IDH mutation survive longer than those without the mutation, but Kelsey said no one knows why. Despite this finding, pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop a drug to inhibit methylation, which is counterintuitive, Christensen said. The reasoning is that by preventing the methylation — and therefore reversing the silencing of genes — the cell will return to its normal state, Kelsey said. “But first you have to realize that everybody dies of this disease,” he added. The difference in survival is a matter of months or a few years, he said. But Christensen and Kelsey said they are hopeful that their research will contribute to changes in the way cancer is treated, moving away from the nonspecific and toxic removal of tissue to more personalized medicine. The immediate impact of the research is that people may now measure for IDH mutation clinically, Christensen said. “Just to tell people. Just to be able to say you are maybe going to do a little bit better,” he said. “While there are gaps in the basic biology, we now have targets that clearly affect the character of the tumor,” Kelsey said. “That’s knowledge that’s really important in terms of trying to figure out how to affect treatment.”


Campus News 3

The Brown Daily Herald Friday, January 28, 2011

Prof obtains better data on sex habits In Davos, Simmons By EMILY ROSEN Staff Writer

Using innovative nonverbal interviewing methods to protect the privacy of participants, Associate Professor of Sociology David Lindstrom has developed a method for obtaining more honest answers from Ethiopian adolescents to questions about their reproductive health. Lindstrom said this nonverbal response method makes for more accurate responses because the Ethiopian adolescents his group interviews are not required to verbalize answers to personal questions about their sexual activity and reproductive health. This innovative method could be used to conduct health surveys in other places, as it is an easy, economical way to conduct research, he said. For over nine years, Lindstrom and researchers from Brown, Emory University and two Ethiopian universities have been studying topics including sexual behavior among adolescents, access to contraceptives, awareness of HIV and the various issues young people face during the transition from adolescence to adulthood, Lindstrom said. Due to the personal nature and sensitivity of the questions asked during the interviews, Lindstrom said it was important to ensure participant privacy. The researchers also needed to find a nonverbal interview technique for people who may not be literate or know how to use computers, he added. To protect participants’ anonymity, Lindstrom’s group developed a method to conduct interviews using response cards. A card is placed between the interviewer and the participant so that the interviewer cannot see the participant’s side of the card. The participant’s side contains a grid with possible answers to questions, such as the words “yes” and “no.” Each possible answer then has a small hole punched in the card directly below it. To answer a question, the participant sticks a small rod through the hole corresponding to his or her answer. The interviewer records the hole that was chosen by the participant without knowing which hole corresponds to which answer. A master key is then used to decode the survey answers. Lindstrom’s group interviews Ethiopians between the ages of 15 and 25. Each individual is followed for five years and is periodically interviewed during those years. Researchers then compile and analyze data from the interviews, and publish policy briefs to summarize the findings, Lindstrom said. The policy briefs are short memos that contain data and statistics from the survey as well as policy recommendations to improve health and well-being. Lindstrom said these policy briefs include suggestions to health service providers for improving reproductive health. Another major component of the project was collaboration with Ethiopian universities, including Jimma University. Faculty mem-

bers at Jimma University were closely involved in the research, and Lindstrom said he frequently travels to Ethiopia to run workshops and work directly with native Ethiopians. The Jimma University’s health communication program has recently produced radio broadcasts of the policy briefs. Lindstrom said he hopes the radio broadcasts will be an effective way to communicate the survey results to the general populace. He said his group’s goal is to establish a dialogue between uni-

versities and health providers to improve public health. This research project also studies other aspects of Ethiopian life, including issues of sanitation, living habits, pest control and infectious disease. Lindstrom said there are many simple ways to improve public health without spending large sums of money. Lindstrom said he hopes his research collaborators and others will continue this kind of research in the future and expand it to other regions of the world. “We’re there to make a long-term contribution and impact,” he said.

networks, hosts panels continued from page 1 sions with this group are especially important to us in university life.” Simmons also recently learned of a project offering mini-loans to artists, and she wrote she is excited by the prospect of implementing the idea. And she will be holding a University event alongside Ronald Margolin, vice president for international advancement, and Mat-

thew Gutmann, vice president for international affairs. Prospective students, alums, donors and Corporation members are expected to attend. Though recruitment is not the main reason behind Simmons’ trip to Switzerland, she wrote she occasionally meets young, motivated individuals at the forum who already stand among global figures. The University always welcomes outstanding individuals, Quinn said.


4 Campus News

The Brown Daily Herald Friday, January 28, 2011

Entrepreneurs struggle with brevity continued from page 1 Aeronautics and Space Administration. After research and interviews with astronauts, the team discovered that neither hot nor cold beverages are available in space due to energy constraints. This inspired the team to design a thermos using portable thermoelectric technology. Raimondo said the group did not plan on actually marketing the product at the beginning of the semester, but the group’s win in the contest might change that. “We would consider it now,” said Raimondo. “It’s gotten a lot more recognition than we expected. We’re entering the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition. If everything goes well, it’s a definite possibility.” The group will use their prize money toward a prototype of the thermos as part of this semester’s class. Jason Beckman ’11, co-president of the Brown Entrepreneurship Program, noted the importance of being able to pitch a complicated business idea in a short amount of time. The program — which offers mentoring and networking services to students with an interest in beginning their own business venture — offers its own annual elevator pitch competition with a cash reward of $1,000 to the best 45-second pitch. “In terms of captivating an

audience, a small dose is really useful,” Beckman said. “To be able to distill an idea down into a minute’s length and sell the idea they’re working on is an essential skill.” Raimondo said that this challenge of brevity was also one of the more difficult aspects of the competition. “It’s challenging to give enough information in 90 seconds that you convince someone that your idea is useful and worthwhile,” she said. “Getting people interested quickly is a useful skill to have.” WaterWalla, Vaish’s group, began seven months ago and has raised $17,000. Vaish said group members felt an obligation to use their resources — especially a Brown education — to give back to others in the form of better health. The Hindi word “walla” roughly translates to “provider of.” After assessing the needs of different communities in India, WaterWalla sells technological solutions to local vendors at no profit. According to WaterWalla’s website, diseases related to water toxicity cause 90 percent of the deaths of children in Dharavi, the slum in Mumbai, India where the project began. “If all else fails, if we save the life of just one child, it will all be worth it,” Vaish said.

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Campus News 5

The Brown Daily Herald Friday, January 28, 2011

Music, video featured in profs’ art exhibit continued from page 1 a broken roller coaster called to mind a cold ghost town and was chillingly fascinating. Biggs enhanced the viewing experience of her photos by including audio tracks. One such track repeatedly said, “Wat now” — the words written on the ground in one of the pictures — reinforcing the supernatural sensation in a haunting way. Biggs’ work was an intriguing and distinct addition to the show as a result. Another interesting piece was Professor of English Forrest Gander’s “A Border History: Rattlesnakes and Light,” an audio poem accompanied by music and video footage of the Chihuahuan Desert. The natural beauty and wildlife of the U.S.-Mexico border provided a visual interpretation of Gander’s poem. But the music was a strange choice, with the Latin American beats disrupting the illusion of being in the calm atmosphere of the desert. A highlight of the exhibition was Associate Professor of Music Todd Winkler’s “Glint,” which incorporated audio, video and interactive software. This work leads the viewer into a black room with a three-screen video installment that makes the walls look like water shining in the sun. As the

participant steps into the room, images of his or her body appear on the wall in different colors and forms. The room simultaneously relaxes and awakens the curiosity of the viewer. Professor of Art Wendy Edwards’ “Vase I” and “Vase II,” as well as Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media Studies Mark Tribe’s “The New Revolution,” were not particularly striking. Edwards’ oil-on-board paintings were overly simplistic, with weak color schemes and vague definition. Tribe’s piece of art was a green screen paper, which attempted to invite the spectator to create his or her own projects, but at the end of the day appeared to be only a big green piece of paper. Faculty Triennial 2010 will organize a second event Feb. 11 with several live performances, according to a Brown press release. The exhibition provides visitors with a unique opportunity to learn how Brown professors express themselves artistically. But ultimately, the exhibit’s lack of cohesion is overwhelming and detracts from the impact of the individual pieces.

comics BB & Z | Cole Pruitt, Andrew Seiden, Valerie Hsiung and Dan Ricker

Cabernet Voltarie | Abe Pressman

Dot Comic | Eshan Mitra and Brendan Hainline


6 Editorial & Letter Editorial Mental health on campus after Tucson The tragic events that took place just a few weeks ago in Tucson, Ariz. — where 22-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire on a crowd, killing six and injuring 14 — raise questions about how colleges deal with mental health issues. Records at Pima Community College show that school officials were concerned about Loughner’s erratic and sometimes menacing behavior. Indeed, Loughner was finally suspended this past September and told he could only return if a mental health professional cleared him to do so. Looking back, it is easy to suggest that the college could have done more to prevent Loughner’s actions. Pima administrators, for example, were free to share their concerns with law enforcement, but chose not to. Moving forward, however, we should avoid conflating a school’s responsibility to provide mental health services to students with a duty to prevent these horrific actions. So far, documents released by the college reveal no breaches of procedure or seriously flawed judgments by administrators. To the contrary, safety experts told the Wall Street Journal that, by and large, the school acted “diligently.” Administrators made their concerns known to Loughner’s parents. And while the college did not approach police, the Arizona Republic reported that “what may look like a psychotic spiral in hindsight, likely would not have been enough to have (Loughner) forced into psychiatric care, much less arrested.” Putting the onus on colleges to outright prevent acts like Loughner’s would likely require students to give up more of our liberties than we feel comfortable with. Administrators are worried about liability. In a world where we expect school officials to stop every single Jared Loughner from acting, colleges would likely resort to mandatory leave and report students’ troubles to law enforcement much more than they currently do. Even Brown’s existing mandated medical leave policies have been criticized by some students (“Psychological leave-takers miss U. contact,” Sept. 27). And if reporting troubled students to the authorities were to become a standard response, it would undermine trust between the student body and administration. While preventative measures rooted in restraint have their place, they should not become go-to solutions to mental health problems. Instead, the University should redouble its commitment to providing students with psychological services that are both comprehensive and easily accessible. We should strive to be more attentive to our own mental health, as well as to that of our friends and classmates. Psychological Services offers many resources we can take advantage of. But we should not hesitate to seek out professional advice if we are concerned not just for ourselves, but for someone else. Belinda Johnson, director of psychological services, reminded us that staff are available “at any time of the day or night” to offer support. Sadly, it is doubtful the events in Tucson will mark the last time a mentally ill college student turns to violence. While many voices in the media seem intent on finding one entity to blame — be it Loughner’s parents, a culture of incivility or college administrators — the Tucson tragedy cannot be explained so simply. We hope that as the public discourse regarding the shooting progresses, we hear less about who is at fault, and more about what can be done to help prevent such horrors in the future. Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

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Editorial Comic

by erik stay ton and evan donahue

letter to the editor ACCRIP chair challenges Yale’s standard for ethical investments To the Editor: Your recent article on the recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) that the University not reinvest in HEI Hotels and Resorts provides an accurate account of the committee’s action. It also quotes Professor Jonathan Macey, chair of a similar committee at Yale, as having stated that, in contrast, the Yale committee had not found “sufficient evidence of violation of our ethical investment norms.” It is obvious that the two universities have different standards for what ethical investments are. ACCRIP’s unanimous recommendation was based on long reflection and deliberations over a period of

two years by a committee made up of very thoughtful faculty, student, staff and alumni members. Thus, I must qualify Professor Macey’s comment that Brown’s decision “appears to be based on the existence of complaints and allegations,” whereas a similar decision by Yale would have been based on “facts and evidence” as unfortunate at best. We stand firmly by our recommendation and hope that the Brown Corporation will accept it at its next meeting. Luiz Valente ACCRIP chair and associate professor of Portuguese and Brazilian studies

quote of the day

“If all else fails, if we save the life of just one child,

it will all be worth it.

— Anshu Vaish ’12, on his non-profit business, which brings clean water to urban slums

Business

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Correction An article in Thursday’s Herald (“Fundraising campaign complete,” Jan. 27, 2011) incorrectly stated that the Brown Annual Fund raised $573 million throughout the course of the Campaign for Academic Enrichment. This figure refers to the total amount of current-use funds raised during the campaign. The Annual Fund raised $247.9 million during the campaign. The Herald regrets the error. C O R R E C T I O N S P olic y 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 ommentar y 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 olic y 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 olic y The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. reserves the right to accept or decline any advertisement at its discretion.


Opinions 7

The Brown Daily Herald Friday, January 28, 2011

The ROTC Question By Chris Norris-LeBlanc Opinions Columnist After 18 years, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was finally repealed by a Senate vote of 63 for and 33 against. This historic legislation marks the end of an almost two-decade period when gay and lesbian members of the armed forces had to face a dishonorable discharge if they divulged their sexuality to their comrades, forcing them to live in secrecy while trying to perform a highly stressful and dangerous job. The magnitude of this decision has sent reverberations nationwide; however, I would like to talk about how it has reached us here on College Hill. In light of the repeal, President Simmons has decided to form a committee tasked with reevaluating the 1972 ban on all Reserve Officer Training Corps programs at Brown. To once again allow ROTC on our campus would be to completely ignore the social, political and historical contexts of its original expulsion. My personal feelings about the military aside, the repeal of the policy was a huge victory for human rights and has set an important precedent for future anti-discrimination laws; that being said, discrimination against queer folks in the military will not necessarily die with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and ROTC divestment was an act informed by the sum of many other crimes against humanity perpetrated by the United States military. Officially, the University instituted the ban on ROTC as a result of the program’s

unwillingness to rescind its status as an academic credit-bearing entity. However, as we all know, the 1960s were a time of significant student protest, especially at schools like Brown. Starting as early as 1967, there was a “Brown Committee to Abolish ROTC” taking action on campus. To try and remove Brown’s expulsion of ROTC in 1972 from the context of the United States military’s violence in Vietnam and at Kent State University is akin to taking any other action out of its historical

testing the United States military’s foreign involvement. Although this summary paints just a small picture of the cultural milieu in the ’60s and ’70s, it helps us to reconstruct the socio-political climate at the time ROTC was expelled from our campus. So, where do we stand now? The United States military is currently involved in many foreign conflicts, the most prominent of which are taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, an esti-

To once again allow ROTC on our campus would be to completely ignore the social, political and historical contexts of its original expulsion.

context. In order to truly achieve a coherent analysis about the initial decision to remove ROTC, we must look at the cultural position of the United States military between the years of 1967 and 1972. By the official end of the Vietnam War in 1975, an estimated one million members of the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong had died defending their country from U.S. invasion. Women, although allowed in the military in the 1960s and ’70s, were not given the same job opportunities as men, regardless of their ability or technical proficiency. On May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, four students were killed and nine others were injured at a rally pro-

mated 99,000-108,000 civilians have been killed as a result of U.S. occupation. A 2003 survey of female veterans showed that 30 percent were victims of sexual assault while serving in various branches of the military; furthermore, a 2004 study of female veterans seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent had been victims of sexual assault while in the service. Meanwhile, the National Guard has been called in on numerous occasions to help suppress protests during G-8 and G-20 meetings held all over the United States. To add insult to injury, the starting pay for a member of the Air Force, Navy, Marines or Army is only 17,604 dollars per

year — not very good compensation for risking one’s life. Although officer positions certainly pay more handsomely, they are mostly available to students coming from military colleges like West Point. Given this comparison between the situation in the 1960s and that of the 2000s, I see no reason why ROTC would be any more welcome on our campus than it was 50 years ago. If we look at the two student groups at Brown organizing around this issue, Students for ROTC and The Brown Coalition Against Special Privileges for ROTC, our campus’s opinion on the issue is fairly clear; the coalition has 173 petition signatures (including students, faculty and alums) and 10 student groups allied with their position, while Students for ROTC only has a handful of members and virtually no visible support. In The Herald this week, Undergraduate Council of Students President Diane Mokoro ’11 was quoted saying that in regards to the committee members’ personal opinions about ROTC, she wants “somebody who’s relatively in the middle.” Although our instinct at Brown is to always attempt to create a level debate, I think it is critically important that whoever gets chosen for this committee is both invested in the issue and has opinions which reflect those of the larger student body. My suggestion: Tell Ruth we don’t want a committee, and all hail community referenda. Chris Norris-LeBlanc ’13 is from Rhode Island. He can be contacted at chris.norris.leblanc@gmail.com.

Has Brown got the write stuff? By Sarah Rosenthal Guest Columnist President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address invited many pressing questions. Who would sit next to whom? When would John Boehner cry, and how hard? And oh yeah, there was all that policy stuff thrown in as well. Obama did an admirable job of focusing on education — the need for teachers to get the kind of respect they get in South Korea, the infeasibility of getting by with just a high school degree in a globalized world and, of course, the nation’s slipping competitiveness in math and science. No one can deny that last point. According to the most recent Nation’s Report Card, a Department of Education survey on grade-level proficiency in various subjects, only 21 percent of twelfth-graders nationwide were proficient in science in 2009 — 26 percent were proficient in math. These findings are troubling to anyone who cares about America’s ability to compete in a post-industrial knowledge economy, and they should be. But did you know there are subjects other than math and science? I’ve already held forth enough in this space on the importance of history — and literature and the arts are equally vital (not to mention foreign languages, which were oddly left out in all that talk about global competition). But there is one skill that is at the root of success in many disciplines, and in the world at

large: writing. Yes, writing. You can’t communicate the importance of your scientific breakthrough without it; chances are, you can’t even get the funding for your important scientific breakthrough unless you can convince a benefactor, in writing, that it’s worthwhile. Yet only 24 percent of twelfth-graders were found to be proficient in writing — just the cohort that will soon be heading off to college. “But not to Brown, surely!” you say. I certainly don’t mean to imply that only 24 percent of Brown students meet the national proficiency standards for writing; that

organized fashion. This seems simple, yet being capable of writing a paper isn’t the same as being capable of writing a good paper. I’ve had the amazing privilege of seeing the work of my peers in a lot of contexts: as a Writing Fellow, a Herald Opinions editor, a member of workshop classes in literary arts, creative non-fiction and history and a person to whom friends come with rough drafts. I call it a privilege because students have offered up their unvarnished work to another student’s judgment, which can be a scary and painful thing to do, and I’ve become a better reader and writer for it. A lot

Even a school like Brown has a lot of embarrassingly bad writing going on.

would be an absurd figure. I’m sure that 99 percent of Brown students are capable of writing a paper. After all, isn’t Brown’s sole requirement a demonstrated proficiency in writing? All true, but as someone who’s seen a lot of student compositions, I have come to an unfortunate conclusion: Even a school like Brown has a lot of embarrassingly bad writing going on. Good writing doesn’t necessarily have to be poetic or demonstrate the author’s impressive vocabulary, but it does need to get a message across in a clear, well-

of their work has been truly excellent. Some has needed work. And some has been pretty atrocious. It would be vicious and unnecessary to give quoted examples of some of the bad writing I have encountered over the years, not to mention a breach of trust. I also recognize that almost everything I read is a first draft and the final product is likely significantly improved. But trust me when I assure you that bad writing is out there. I’m not talking about minor grammatical errors here. I’m talking about a style of writ-

ing that actively impedes the reader’s ability to understand what the author is trying to communicate. On the one hand, we have babbling incoherence — pieces that switch topics every other paragraph and are populated by fragments, non-sequiturs and truly creative syntax. On the other hand, we have academic incoherence — long, verbose sentences strung together in hopes of obscuring the fact that the author isn’t entirely sure about what he or she is writing. Unfortunately, students at a school like Brown sometimes learn the latter from their class readings and even their own professors. Good writing is hard to teach, but it can also be extremely rewarding for students to master, since it develops creativity, analytical skills and individual style. And as our generation enters the workforce, employers are not going to be impressed by our ability to write in txt-speak. Would a little emphasis on writing in the nation’s schools be too much to ask? Maybe we should focus solely on math education in a globalized world; as Cady Heron poetically put it in Mean Girls: “Math is the same in every country.” Maybe it doesn’t matter, since soon enough we’ll all be writing in Chinese anyway. But even then, the skills that we learn when we learn how to write — clarity, organization and the recognition of an audience that must be persuaded — can stay with us throughout our lives. Former Herald Opinions editor Sarah Rosenthal ’11 may have just out-snobbed herself.


8 Feature

The Brown Daily Herald Friday, January 28, 2011

White III ’57 P’98 reveals racial bias in medicine and care By Crystal vance guerra Contributing Writer

Augustus White III ’57 P’98 is no stranger to breaking down racial barriers. In 1961, White was one of only four black graduate students at Stanford University. He went on to become Stanford’s first black medical school graduate, as well as Yale’s first black resident surgeon and the first black department head at Harvard’s medical teaching school. Born and raised in Memphis, Tenn. during the Jim Crow era, White witnessed dramatic changes in the nation’s attitudes concerning race over the course of his life. He recently published a book titled “Seeing Patients: Unconscious Bias in Health Care.” The book highlights inequalities in the field of medicine that result from conscious and unconscious bias, he said. Part memoir, part research, it is told through both White’s personal story and the lens of medicine, he added. “One of the lessons I’ve learned from medicine,” White said, “is how common humanity is.”

Yet innumerable articles, reports and personal stories reflect discrimination in today’s medical education, patient treatment and workforce. Certain minority populations are 50 percent less likely than non-minorities to receive pain medication after arm and leg fractures, according to White. “There is no sign that said, ‘Don’t give any black people any medication if they come in with a broken bone,’ ” White said, but “there are still examples of residual bias.” For White, much of his perspective relates to “how people react to me as an African-American male in certain settings.” Yet even he was surprised by the “extent and prevalence of the disparities which affect so many people.” “Doctors who really thought they were not prejudiced … were shocked to find out that they had treated black people in a disparate manner,” White said, referencing the results of an implicit association test. Several other studies confirm these disparities and reveal that patient treatment is not the only area still mired in racial biases. U.S. physician demographics

do not reflect the country’s racial composition, according to a 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges report. For example, blacks make up 12.4 percent of the country, but only 6.3 percent of all physicians, according to the report. For Latinos, the imbalance is even greater — 15.8 percent versus 5.5 percent. Why the disparity? One reason may be the long history of systematic racial discrimination in the medical field. By the end of the 19th century, two medical organizations had emerged, reflecting the country’s blatant racism: the exclusively white American Medical Association and the predominantly black National Medical Association. In 1910, a report commissioned by the AMA recommended closing seven of nine black medical schools, leaving even fewer options for black medical students, according to a 2008 Journal of the American Medical Association article. As late as 1961, during the black freedom movement, the AMA refused to defend eight black physicians who had been arrested for requesting service in the whites-only section of an

Atlanta hotel during a medical society luncheon, according to the Journal article. It was not until 1964 that higher education was forced to desegregate, and not until 1965 that segregated hospitals were banned by law. Although racial segregation is no longer sanctioned by organization or law, disparities continue to exist. Only 7.5 percent of medical school faculty are minorities, according to a 2009 AAMC investigation. Faculty positions for people of color are “very, very rare,” White said. White highlighted the importance of mentorship in his own success. After serving as an army surgeon in Vietnam, White met William Montague Cobb, a physician at Howard University, who was also head of the NMA for over 10 years and chair of the board of trustees of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Cobb thought it was important to help others, to give opportunity to more African-Americans if you were in a position to do that,” White said. In 1986, White was in such a

position at his own alma mater, Brown, where he once studied psychology. White served on the Blue Ribbon Committee, an external review of minority education and student life at Brown. The committee was formed after students occupied the John Carter Brown Library, protesting the University’s failure to meet previous demands for increased student and academic diversity. This committee published a report titled “The American University and the Pluralist Ideal,” in which several recommendations were made to address minority student concerns. These recommendations resulted in the hiring of the first full-time Latino dean and an increased effort to recruit minority faculty in each academic department, according to a 1986 article in The Herald. The University followed all but one of the committee’s recommendations: that students be required to take at least one course that relates to a minority issue, according to White. White said the University’s response was, “sounds like a good idea, but remember — we have no required courses.”


Friday, January 28, 2011