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the Brown

vol. cxxii, no. 34

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Since 1891

SNL star delivers weeknight update By kate nussenbaum Senior Staff Writer

Emily Gilbert / Herald

Seth Meyers pokes fun at his comedic flops along his path to stardom.

Seth Meyers, the head writer for Saturday Night Live, entertained a packed crowd in Salomon 101 last night, performing stand-up, answering questions and even sharing some “Weekend Update” jokes that were censored from SNL — all while talking a mile a minute. Meyers set the tone for the evening as Hannah Cockrell ’13, copresident of the Brown Lecture Board, introduced him and mentioned his appearance in the almost universally panned romantic comedy “New Year’s Eve,” released in December. In response to a collective bout of giggling from the audience, Meyers poked his head out from behind the curtain to shout, “It’s not a joke!” to raucous cheers. When Meyers took the stage, he mocked his appearance in the film but quickly turned the tables. “The

weirdest kid in my high school went to Brown,” he said pointedly. “I know you want the whole world to think you’re a bunch of John Krasinskis.” Meyers attended Northwestern University, where he performed in an improv troupe. After graduating, he stayed in Chicago to take classes and perform with IO, formerly called Improv Olympic. He then moved to Amsterdam, where he said he had the “greatest two years.” “It’s not what you think,” he said in response to audience laughter at his mention of Amsterdam. “I lived in Amsterdam because weed is legal there,” Meyers clarified. But he later explained that he enjoyed his time there because he was constantly on-stage. Meyers returned to the United States two years later, and in 2001 he joined the SNL cast after being discovered at his two-person comedy

“The evolution of a new adaptation, whatever it is, requires the modification of pre-existing genetic material,” Christin said. These modifications often incontinued on page 5

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ontributing writer

Panelists advocated improving medical-legal relations in the health care system Tuesday afternoon during the second part of a three-part seminar series entitled “Social Determinants of Health.” Doctors, lawyers, health care workers, community members and students gathered in Hunter Laboratory for the second seminar, “Law and Social Determinants: Legal Interventions to Address Health Disparities,” in which panelists advocated for better communication between professionals in the health and legal fields. Liz Tobin Tyler, director of public service and community partnerships at Roger Williams University, served as moderator. Laws can be used as a mechanism for improving social conditions that contribute to poor health outcomes, she said. It is also critical to consider how law influences community settings and how law is implemented, she added. Panelist Sara Rosenbaum, founding chair of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University, opened the seminar by providing an overview of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law is “essentially pushing and pulling at every legal


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news.....................2-4 Science....................5 editorial............6 Opinions.................7

Edwards, postdoctoral researcher and assistant professor, respectively, in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, found that specific species of

Sex Week prompts contraception debate By Hannah Abelow Senior Staff Writer

In late February, Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke testified in front of a congressional sub-committee. Her testimony instantly drew lawmakers’ attention to issues surrounding the refusal of some Catholic institutions’ health insurance plans to offer students contraception. Last week, Brown students donned contraception-themed costumes, played

feature carnival games with condoms and received free contraceptive devices at this year’s Condom Carnival sponsored by the Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council. In contrast to some religious-affiliated universities, contraception is readily available at Brown, and Health Services makes it a priority to educate students on sexual health issues. But some have voiced concern that excessive promotion of

contraception on campus encourages casual sex, which they view as having harmful long-term consequences. Contraception controversy

Five months before Fluke testified, 18 Catholic colleges and universities joined together to write a letter to the Obama administration criticizing the mandate that contraception be covered in health insurance plans nationwide. Since that time, the Obama administration has backtracked and issued an “accommodation” for religious institutions that does not require them to provide contraception directly. Even so, Catholic bishops maintain that the mandate infringes on their religious beliefs. Though the legislation deals specifically with employers’ responsibility to cover their employees’ health insurance needs, the national debate about mandating contraception coverage in health care plans has implicontinued on page 3

Rachel Kaplan / Herald

Students take advantage of free contraceptives at this year’s Condom Carnival.

“Funny first” Almost judge Drug deal SNL star Seth Meyers shares plans, insights in Q&A

NEws, 2

Silverman ’13 discusses R.I. senator’s strong leadership

opinions, 7

McGoldrick ’12 touts honest drug research

opinions, 7


By jasmine fuller Contributing Writer


By Mathias Heller Senior Staff Writer

The Alpert Medical School slid six spots in research, but moved up four spots in primary care in the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings of the nation’s top graduate schools released Tuesday. The report released rankings for graduate programs in computer science, engineering, humanities, medical education and the sciences. Medical schools are ranked in two main categories — expertise in primary care for patients and research. In an improvement from last year, the Med School moved from 28th to 24th in primary care. The Med School was ranked 35th in research, a drop from its ranking of 29th place last year. Under the research category, the Med School was ranked 9th in the alcohol and drug abuse research category. Med School administrators pay some attention to the rankings, said Ed Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences, but he added that the Med School is not driven by them. “We want to pick the best students, and we don’t just go by the numbers,”

Panel Gene swapping can cause adaptation By Alexander Kaplan the swapping of genes — a radi- plants from hot, tropical climates targets law’s C cal shortcut in the evolutionary gradually adopted genes by laterally swapping with other plants. involvement A study published last week in process. The researchers, led by Pas- These genes eventually became journal Current Biology il- cal-Antoine Christin and Erika integral aspects of the plants’ in health care the lustrates plants’ ability to swap photosynthetic machinery. genes with one another, not just pass them on from parent to offspring. Brown evolutionary biologists, along with researchers at other universities, demonstrated that Alloteropsis grasses held the ability to adapt through

Med School rankings rise in primary care, fall in research

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2 Campus News

Exclusive: Q&A with Seth Meyers

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The Herald: A lot of your work involves political humor. Do you think that humor has the power to influence politics or sway voters? Seth Meyers: You know, I think in certain cases, it does. I mean, when we write it, you have to write it for it to be funny. You can’t aim to affect the outcome of elections because I feel like that makes comedy too selfserious. So it’s like, be funny first, but then if the message you’re being funny about rings true with people, I do think it sticks in their head when they go to the poll. Along those lines, is there anything you’re really hoping happens this election season in terms of comedic potential? Well, I am a little worried about a Romney-Obama face-off. You know, I think it’s very hard to find things that are really funny about (President) Obama and I think you know Mitt Romney. When someone’s stiff — having played John Kerry in 2004 — it’s very hard to exaggerate stiffness or gravitas or woodenness. So it could be tricky. I’m hoping that Romney picks a really juicy (vice president)

because that certainly worked in ’08. Any potential names in mind? I mean, (New Jersey Governor) Chris Christie would be fun. You know, I think living in New York, a guy from Jersey is a good time. On a “Weekend Update” episode,” you claimed a poll that showed an increase in Obama’s approval ratings was taken at a Brown University drum circle. Do you remember where this came from? Was this your way of confessing your love and admiration for Brown? Uh, look I have nothing but love and admiration for Brown, but I do think it’s funny that, you know, obviously we try to write jokes that people respond to and … we do consider a drum circle at Brown probably the most liberal place on Earth. And what about the most valuable thing you learned in college? Well, I mean I think the most valuable thing I got from college (Northwestern University) was going to a school that had such a

strong performing arts school and just the people I met. You meet so many talented people and you realize that there were no successful, talented people that also didn’t work really hard. And obviously you go to a school where people are there to excel. That was great. And so if you could go back in time and offer your college self any piece of advice, what would it be? I would say there’s no other time in your life when you’ll have time to learn things. So like, try to learn things they’re trying to teach you — you’ll be so happy about it. You can’t believe that you will at some point in your life be in South Africa and even have taken a history of South Africa class, and you can’t remember any of it. Any more romantic comedies in your future? If I will, they’ll be, like, twice as romantic.

— Kate Nussenbaum

See for the extended Q&A.

Meyers tickles crowd with political humor continued from page 1


performance in Chicago. In 2006, he was promoted to head writer. Meyers began his stand-up routine discussing topics he said college students know well — futons, weed and those annoying friends who return from studying abroad and complain about drinking American beer and eating American chocolate. Meyers then turned to politics, a frequent subject of his jokes. One of his more famous skits, former SNL head writer Tina Fey’s impression of Sarah Palin, drew national attention during the 2008 election. “I think the best show on television this fall has been the GOP debates,” he said. “I miss Michele Bachmann,” he added. “Michele Bachmann to me has the eyes of a woman who just heard Michele Bachmann was elected president.” He also expressed incredulity at the number of politicians involved in sex scandals, saying there is “nothing stupider.” Texting an inappropriate picture — or tweeting one, like former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner — is “super highrisk,” he said. “The woman who will be angriest is the woman who is most likely to recognize it as your


the Brown

genitals.” Meyers also showed his human side to a wide-eyed and admiring audience, describing the awkwardness of greeting President Obama at the 2011 White House Correspondent’s dinner when he prematurely stuck out his arm and intercepted Obama’s handshake with Meyers’ girlfriend. “I had to access the part of my brain that comes up with witty comebacks when you’re in awful situations to diffuse the most awkward situation I’d been in in my life with the most powerful man on earth,” Meyers said. “So here’s what I came up with … I said, ‘Hahahaha, I know’ and ran away.” Meyers said he was the only man in the country who was disappointed by Osama Bin Laden’s death. Since Obama announced the death the day after Meyers’ performance at the dinner, he explained that he felt robbed of the press’ attention. But Meyers added that he was reassured when he realized Obama had probably sent forces to capture Bin Laden to take out his anger about Meyers’ jokes upstaging his. Continuing on the topic of terrorism, Meyers said many people believe the Koran promises 72 virgins to martyrs, but added that he

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had recently heard that might be a mistranslation — the word may actually mean grapes. “That would be the best burn! You’re a suicide bomber and you get to the afterlife … and it’s like … here are your grapes!” Students said Meyers lived up to their expectations. Kathryn Graves ’15, the first student in line last night, arrived at Salomon Center at 2 p.m., though the doors were not set to open until 6:15. “I love Seth Meyers — even if he’s just reading the dictionary, that’s fine,” she said. Meyers did her one better. During one of the evening’s many highlights, he recited “Weekend Update” jokes that were deemed too inappropriate for SNL. “According to Alaskan expense reports, Sarah Palin charged the state of Alaska for $21,000 for her children to travel with her on official business. In fairness to Palin, when she leaves them home alone, they get pregnant,” he said to wild roars of laughter and applause. Meyers also responded to questions from students, discussing the “really, really, collaborative” relationship between writers and his love for Stefon, the flamboyant “Weekend Update” guest portrayed by Bill Hader. On last weekend’s episode, Stefon planted a lengthy kiss on Meyers’ lips. But Meyers said, “I kissed Fred Armisen a lot deeper than that.” Meyers’ love for his job was evident throughout the evening. He recounted a story of bumping into a fan in the middle of the street in New York City. When the fan screamed, “Oh my god!” Meyers was poised to turn, face him and “make his f***ing life,” only to realize the man was actually screaming about a woman who had gotten hit by a car, not Meyers. He felt bad about his assumption, he said. “But then I thought, what if the driver of the car also saw me?”

Campus News 3

The Brown Daily Herald Wednesday, March 14, 2012

U. contraception policy Embargo facilitates student publishing comes under attack continued from page 8

continued from page 1 cations for college campuses. A wave of media attention has brought the relationship between a university and its students’ sexual health to the forefront. In 1965, Brown became one of the first college campuses that offered oral contraceptives to students, though the recipients had to be engaged or married — a move that was met with significant controversy. Nationwide, many Catholic institutions of higher education do not offer contraception on campus and choose not to cover birth control in university insurance plans. As is the norm for universities that are not religiously affiliated, Brown’s health insurance plan includes birth control coverage. Health Services’ website details contraceptive methods available to students. It also describes the benefits of abstinence and provides information about finding abortion providers in Rhode Island. Condoms and dental dams are available through Health Services on the doors of residential peer leaders, vending machines at various locations on campus and events such as the annual condom carnival. Birth control pills are available at the Health Services Pharmacy, as is the emergency contraception Plan B, which students can purchase for $30. The CVS in Wayland Square sells the same product for $50. ‘The responsibility of having sex’

Ryan Fleming ’13, editor of the conservative and libertarian publication the Brown Spectator, expressed concern about the long-term implications of casual attitudes toward

sex on campus. Fleming pointed to “Humana Vitae,” an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI, to highlight the damage he believes birth control has caused. “He addressed the ways that (birth control) hurts women, takes away the responsibility of having sex with women and makes it so you can have no-strings-attached sex,” Fleming said. “It underlines the fact that you can almost fully objectify a woman … without ever considering the consequence of childbearing.” Fleming, who was critical of what he sees as the University’s unnecessary emphasis on sex, said in his “dream world you could really take everything back (to) pre-sexual revolution and bring back the gravity there used to be to sex.” But he added that he has accepted that contraception will be a presence on campus. Instead, he said his objections lie in the attention Brown pays to sex-related campus events. Fleming added that the University’s allowance of events such as SexPowerGod puts students “in overly sexual situations.” “As a hallmate once said to me freshman year, ‘They make you think if you’re not having sex, you’re abnormal,’” Fleming said. Potential concerns in providing birth control for unmarried people would be better characterized as concerns about sexual morality, said Henry Bodah, associate University chaplain for the Roman Catholic community. Because the University does not have a religious affiliation, Bodah said he does not object to the provision of contraception to students. But he added that this attitude may procontinued on page 5

Panelists consider law’s impact on health care continued from page 1 lever we’ve got,” she said, referring to the way in which the law drastically alters the foundations of health insurance and health programs in the United States. “Health care is only a piece of actually getting health,” said Megan Sandel, panelist and interim executive director of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. She talked about the necessity of incorporating legal assistance into health care as a form of preventative medicine. Sandel compared the impact of a lawyer being brought in to force a landlord to remove mice from a single home to a national policy mandating suitable housing conditions for all citizens. A medical-legal partnership works its way from patients up to legislation, eventually leading to the implementation of policies to assist large populations, she said. The Affordable Care Act offers the chance to entirely reassess the way we perceive health care, Sandel said. The law urges doctors to “completely rethink diagnosis and treatment,” Rosenbaum said. Panelist Ellen Lawton, lead national consultant for Walmart’s pro

bono medical-legal partnership, advised those forming such partnerships “to bring in the health care teams that are serving those clients that the legal offices are also serving.” Though health care employees were initially reluctant to work with lawyers, the relationships formed have been beneficial to all parties, she said. Sandel agreed. “You can’t do it alone,” she said. “You have to work inter-professionally and cross-disciplinarily.” “Health is a function of social conditions,” said audience member David Egilman, clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine. But he offered a different perspective, adding that individual citizens — not just physicians — should possess the education and initiative necessary to advocate for themselves. Regardless of how change is enacted, Rosenbaum offered a brief summary: “You have to be willing to see the world in a different way,” she said. The seminar was sponsored by the Taubman Center for Public Policy, Roger Williams University School of Law, the Alpert Medical School and the Public Health Program.

appeal to students in the humanities and social sciences who are looking to publish books upon graduation, other students may choose not to pursue the embargo option, Gonzalez said. For students conducting archival research, automatic digital storage acts as a record of their discovery. Sometimes these findings are time-sensitive, and the dissertation becomes evidence that

the student made the discovery first. Automatic online dissertation publication is a means to get information out faster than the traditional publication process, Gonzalez said. The old dissertation publication policy was “developed in an environment where all dissertations were studied either in hard copy or microfiche formats” and stipulated that all dissertations would be copied and put on file at the University library, according to

the Annual Report. “It was just a different world,” Tyler said. With the bulk of today’s research occurring online, the new dissertation policy protects the interests of graduate student authors. “In the end, one of the goals of the University and for research in general is to disseminate the fruits of the work, the fruits of the research and at some point, the information must be made available to the public,” Riondato said.

4 Campus News

The Brown Daily Herald Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Med School nat’l rankings fluctuate continued from page 1 Wing said. The Med School works on criteria that factor into ranking decisions such as attracting high-profile faculty, seeking federal funding in research and accepting students with high Medical College Admission Test scores, Wing said, but he added “we don’t go overboard with it.” The U.S. News rankings place a great emphasis on a university’s financial resources, resulting in higher rankings for colleges with larger endowments like Harvard, according to Wing. But he added that the Med School has made progress in recent years when compared to larger institutions. “We’re still a new medical school and still growing our research profile,” Wing said, adding that the University actually outranks Harvard in terms of funding from the National Institutes of Health per faculty member. The administration is focused on attracting the best faculty members available while pushing for greater federal funding for research, Wing said. Wing pointed to the annual variability of the rankings as proof of their role as only a rough indication of a university’s strength. “Sometimes it’s hard to figure out why there’s variability,” Wing said. “It’s been very widely criticized by deans of medical schools.” The report also ranked many of the University’s other graduate programs highly, including ranking computer science 20th, economics 19th, English 13th, history 17th, math 14th and engineering 46th, one lower than its ranking of 45th last year. In certain sub-fields, the University scored high rankings,

including a score of 5th in applied math. The University does not consider improvement in rankings an impetus for changes at the grad school, wrote Peter Weber, dean of the graduate school, in an email to The Herald. He called the rankings “one of many tools available to prospective students,” but wrote students should focus on the individual training environments at respective schools. Weber highlighted the graduate school’s close mentoring of students and described the open curriculum as key to the University’s success. “Brown has a collaborative, flexible environment with strong support and training for graduate students,” Weber wrote. “I can’t say I gave rankings a single thought,” said Megan Reilly GS. “I think my decision to come to Brown had much more to do with the reputation of the faculty and those in my field than people working at U.S. News and World Report.” Reilly said she hopes the University keeps its focus on hiring highquality faculty rather than aiming to invest in boosting its rankings. “I think what’s more important is how we can improve medical education and how we can improve patient care,” said Rahul Banerjee ’10 MD ’14, a participant in the Program in Liberal Medical Education who continued his studies at the Med School. He cited the Med School’s new building in the Jewelry District as a key asset for the University and as evidence that rankings are not essential. “The amount of money the University would have to pump in just to boost its rankings by a few numbers is not worth it,” said Michael Kim ’10 MD ’14.

Science 5

The Brown Daily Herald Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Findings may impact study of evolution Health Services defends in different groups of plants,” Edwards and Christin’s study is continued from page 1 sexual education program Christin said. “the first well-documented case continued from page 3 mote “the idea that the only dangers of sex are pregnancy and disease.” “What I’m afraid of is that it’s disregarding the human tradition that connects the natural connection between procreation,” Bodah said. The potential consequences of casual sex are uncertain, and students may feel “pressured into it,” he said. Sex education

Health Educator Naomi Ninneman, who provides sexual education services on campus, acknowledged the need to support students who choose to remain abstinent. She pointed to last semester’s Herald poll, in which one in three undergraduates responded that they

had one or zero sexual partners in the fall semester. “We need to make sure those people don’t feel invisible,” Ninneman said. “But we also need to provide students with information.” Aida Manduley ’11, Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council co-chair and Sex Week Co-Programmer, said the council organizes Sex Week and other programming throughout the year and advocates making sex education accessible to all students, whether or not they are sexually active. “Brown as an institution is creating an atmosphere and providing services for students to become productive members of society,” Manduley said. “Part of that is providing services for all facets of student life. Sexual health is one of those facets.”

volve changes to enzymes, and these changes usually occur by natural selection between generations. “What is so exciting here is that these genes are moving from plant to plant in a way we have not seen before,” Edwards said. Though the idea of transferring genes within a generation could have important implications for the study of evolution, Christin said more work needs to be done before conclusions can be made about the larger impact, since the group only studied the Alloteropsis group — a set of plants which are exceptionally variable in terms of photosynthetic processes. “We don’t know yet whether such a phenomenon occurs

The researchers compared the genes for enzymes of C4 Photosynthesis, a specific type of photosynthesis that has advantages in certain environments. The researchers used phylogenetic analyses, a proverbial reconstruction of family trees, to see if some of the genes also belonged to the Alloteropsis group. Through their analysis, the researchers determined that these two sets of genes were incredibly similar to the distant lineages that evolved C4 photosynthesis independently. In a response published with last week’s study, Washington State University professor Eric Roalson wrote that though horizontal gene transfer has been documented in some species,

of plant-plant HGT of functional genes in which there has been a presumed adaptive advantage conveyed.” The idea that plants may be able to use horizontal gene transfers to adapt to new environments could have important implications for the field, Roalson wrote, but future studies are needed to understand the underlying mechanism of the process. Christin said while this phenomenon may not occur in all species of plants, the implications are far reaching. “The direct implication of this study is obviously to reveal a new evolutionary path to adaptation,” Christin said. “These results could have applied implications on a longer term.”

comics Fraternity of Evil | Eshan Mitra, Brendan Hainline and Hector Ramirez

6 Editorial Editorial

The myth of meritocracy We’ve all either said it to an inconsolable friend or heard it said to us — college admissions today are as much a game of chance as a game of skill. In their quest to construct the perfect class from an almost limitless pool of applicants, admissions committees weigh scores of variables against each other. Geographic background. Academic interests. Sports ability. Legacy status. Economic status. And, yes, race and ethnicity. Yet with the U.S. Supreme Court set to hand down a potentially major decision next year on the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action program in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, universities’ ability to consider applicants’ racial background in their admissions processes may soon be a thing of the past. Last week, The Herald reported that Brown plans to file an amicus brief in support of UT Austin’s admissions policy. We stand with the University in supporting affirmative action in higher education. Perhaps in this context more than any other, racial affirmative action programs like UT Austin’s serve to level an otherwise unequal playing field. It is common for opponents of affirmative action to argue that college admissions ought to be completely meritocratic. They posit that admitting a “less qualified” minority applicant over a “better” white one is ridiculous and that candidates should be ranked by their academic ability, so that the top-achieving students are admitted. And they assume that there is some metric — SAT score, GPA, what have you — that can accurately measure and compare the aptitude of all students. Set aside for a moment whether or not college admissions ought to, or even can, be conducted in such a way. Assume SAT scores are unrelated to socioeconomic status and completely flawless in their ability to determine students’ academic worth. The fact remains that this is not how the admissions process plays out at almost any university in America. Instead, a host of arbitrary and unfair factors corrupt the application process. For example, at many schools, including Brown, students whose parents attended the university receive a leg up in admissions. A set number of spots are reserved for recruited athletes. Schools without need-blind admissions consider applicants’ economic background. Others may give extra weight to those from underrepresented regions of the country. None of these has any bearing on how well a student will necessarily do in his or her classes once admitted. Furthermore, almost all of them are likely to favor wealthy white applicants. At Brown and other universities across the country, legacy students are disproportionately white. Athletic recruitment offers are extended largely to students privileged enough to have parents able to devote significant time and resources to their sport. Affirmative action programs for racially and economically disadvantaged students are not unduly unfair. They are, in part, a way of correcting for equally unfair policies that benefit other students. To reject racial affirmative action programs as somehow unjustly arbitrary is based on an inaccurate view of the college admissions process. In our opinion, the truly unjust and arbitrary policy is to allow admissions officers to consider every factor besides race. We hope the Supreme Court upholds UT Austin’s program and programs like it across the country when it hears the case next term. Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. Send comments to

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letter to the editor Column voices need for feminist support To the Editor: In a Tuesday column (“A call for women’s activists,” March 13), Leigh Thomas ’15 wrote, “We have not shaken the need for dialogue about feminism, gender issues (or) women’s rights.” As the coordinators of Feminists at Brown, we could not agree more. In fact, we originally intended to begin a new club called Feminist Activists at Brown but were denied approval by the Undergraduate Council of Students and therefore instead merged with the already-existing group Feminists at Brown. While we may not be the largest or most active group on campus, we do exist and are constantly trying to recruit new members and gather ideas for new projects. We encourage any student who would like to address the current attack on women’s

health — whether through an event or an awareness campaign — to contact us, because our sole purpose for taking over Feminists at Brown was to facilitate a space for students to become involved in feminist activism. Thomas wrote that she “actively attempted to seek out student organizations targeting feminist issues” and, upon finding such organizations, decided that “there needs to be more of a culture of support for their efforts, as well as greater visibility of feminist activism.” We would indeed greatly appreciate more support, and so we encourage Thomas and others interested in feminist activism to come to our meetings, get on our listserv or otherwise become involved with what we hope to accomplish.

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quote of the day

“We do consider a drum circle at Brown probably the most liberal place on earth.” — Seth Meyers, on featuring Brown in SNL’s “Weekend Update” See Q&A on page 2.

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The Brown Daily Herald Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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Opinions 7

The Brown Daily Herald Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Profiting from medicine By Rebecca McGoldrick Opinions Columnist Medicine — we love it, we praise it, we have faith in it, we take it, but should we trust it? Normally we think researchers, doctors and other health professionals have our best interests at heart, but all too often we forget how corrupting money can be, even in the most virtuous of professions. In recent years there has been a general growing concern about the ethical behavior of pharmaceutical companies and the universities that collaborate with them — unfortunately, Brown included. In the 1990s, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Martin Keller conducted a study on paroxetine — a drug marketed as Paxil in the United States and as Seroxat in the U.K. — to see if the drug was a safe and effective treatment for depression in adolescents. The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline and the results, which concluded that paroxetine was safe and effective in adolescents, were published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. With this stamp of approval, the drug was prescribed to thousands of people of all age groups — including teens — for ailments from depression to dizziness. Though it was one of GSK’s most profitable drugs, paroxetine soon racked up stacks of side-effect complaints as serious as dependence and suicide. According to The Herald, part of the controversy lies in the claim that Keller used se-

lective reporting — he discarded negative findings — to come up with his positive results. But another ethical concern is the alleged claim that a GSK-affiliated employee ghostwrote the study’s results. In other words, the accusation is that Keller accepted money from the pharmaceutical company in exchange for allowing the study’s findings to be written by someone paid by GSK and published under his name. While the jury is still out on this case, it’s a reminder that we shouldn’t assume that money can’t influence

cause most prescriptions being introduced on the market are not new drugs, but merely imitations of already existing medicines. The lion’s share of this “research and development” either goes towards copying another company’s pill or tweaking the molecular formula of one of their own drugs that’s lost its patent. How many prescription nasal allergy sprays are advertised on television? Do we really need Pfizer’s Lipitor and AstraZeneca’s Crestor if both lower cholesterol? Or what about Nexium — the “healing purple pill” —

The University’s failure to launch a public investigation into Keller’s research threatens the integrity of other research coming from Brown. the health profession. In fact, the very structure of this industry consistently puts profits before patients. In 2010 alone, Americans spent more than $307 billion on prescription drugs. Many pharmaceutical company apologists argue that these tremendous revenues are necessary to pay for the costs of research and development. Sure, research and development is costly, but that doesn’t explain the price of these drugs. The truth is that the major pharmaceutical companies — GSK, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, to name the biggest players — spend twice the amount on marketing and advertisement as they do on research and development. Apologists retort that marketing is necessary to educate health professionals and the public about the innovative drugs they produce in their labs. This ignores the fact that these companies are not producing innovative drugs, but imitation drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have to spend more on marketing and advertisement be-

that was introduced only after Prilosec lost its patent status and became available over the counter? The examples are endless. Sometimes these copy-cat drugs are actually more dangerous than the ones they’re replacing. Vioxx, for instance, was a hugely profitable drug despite the fact that it was no more effective than aspirin and significantly more fatal. These billion-dollar companies don’t market their drugs in order to educate us. They do it to secure their own piece of the lucrative drug market. Since there are a handful of other drugs on the market that do exactly the same thing, the aim of these marketing campaigns is to make their brand name and their pill the one that doctors are familiar with and prescribing. The pharmaceutical industry spends nearly $25 billion on things like pens, clocks, sporting event tickets and vacations that advertise to doctors and medical students. This calculated investment provides these mega-corporations enormous returns.

Additionally, pharmaceutical companies consistently seek to create lifestyle drugs — drugs that healthy people take to improve appearance or performance. Nearly every major pharmaceutical company is producing drugs for conditions like hair loss, acne, rosacea or erectile dysfunction. Pharmaceutical companies invest in prescriptions that Americans can afford and believe they need while neglecting to invest in cures and preventive treatments for diseases like malaria that are decimating the developing world. It is absolutely unacceptable that this industry pushes people to believe that medicine is expensive because research and development is costly. These companies sweep negative clinical trial findings under the rug, invest in developing drugs that may be less effective and more dangerous than ones already on the market and care more about improving a patient’s self-esteem than saving lives. Brown’s cozy friendship with pharmaceutical companies should concern every one of us. The University’s failure to launch a public investigation into Keller’s research threatens the integrity of other research coming from Brown. Not only does it discredit Brown’s integrity as a research university, but it also threatens patient safety since doctors are misinformed about the negative side-effects of drugs they are prescribing. The University should be devoted to researching medicine for the sake of benefiting humanity, not corporate profits. Rebecca McGoldrick ’12 is an English concentrator from Andover, N.J. She can be reached at

(Justice) Sheldon Whitehouse: What could have been By Bradley Silverman Opinions Columnist When Vice President Joe Biden visited Providence Feb. 23 to appear at a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, he offered surprising insight into the Obama administration’s deliberations over how to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens in 2010. Speaking at the Biltmore Hotel downtown, Biden divulged that the opening very nearly went to Rhode Island’s own Whitehouse, whom the vice president “approached… to be a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court,” according to the Providence Journal. Whitehouse allegedly declined the offer, explaining that he had a “commitment to the people of Rhode Island.” By most accounts, Obama’s eventual nominee Elena Kagan has served admirably, ruling with the court’s liberal minority on issues such as whether states may distribute funds to private religious schools or offer matching funds to publicly financed candidates running against big-spending opponents. She has also sided with the majority on two important free speech cases, one striking down a state ban on the sale of violent video games to minors, the other permitting organizations such as the Westboro Baptist Church to picket soldiers’ funerals. But Biden’s juicy admission raises an interesting counterfactual, and, in light of it, I cannot help but wonder — would Little Rhody’s junior senator have been a better choice? That Whitehouse would have been emi-

nently qualified for the nomination is beyond dispute. As a member of the U.S. Senate, he has spent nearly six years crafting complex legislation, which puts him in an excellent position to interpret the law of the land as a justice. His experience as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has given him even greater familiarity with the judicial branch and the contemporary legal issues that it faces. Before his election to the Senate, Whitehouse served for four years as Rhode Island attorney general, and before that as U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island. Whitehouse’s legislative experience would

on fullest display in the regrettable 2010 Citizens United decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy wrongly asserted that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” He justified this nonsense by arguing that the “absence of prearrangement and coordination of an [independent] expenditure with the candidate” undermines both the value of that expenditure to the candidate and its efficacy as quid pro quo. This logic demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of the manner in which money

Had Whitehouse been on the court when Citizens United was deliberated, he would have been in a powerful position to articulate the danger of limitless corporate campaign finance capabilities. have been a strong asset. As an elected official, legislator and non-academic, he would have brought important perspectives to a court that is all too homogeneous in its current composition. The last justice to have been elected to public office was Sandra Day O’Connor, a former majority leader of the Arizona State Senate who retired from the court in 2006. Since then, the court has suffered for the lack of background diversity among its members — of the nine justices, all but three are former academics, and only Kagan had not served as a federal judge. The damaging consequences of the court’s dearth of former political officeholders were

corrupts politics. First, candidates often take political actions or positions in reasonable anticipation of financial assistance from interested third-party groups. Second, even when corporate donations do not alter the preexisting beliefs of their recipients, they distort the political agenda by ensuring that their interests are given disproportionate attention and consideration relative to those not backed by millions of dollars in electioneering. This is a line of reasoning that a non-politician might have difficulty understanding, but it is terribly obvious to an experienced officeholder. Had Whitehouse been on the

court when Citizens United was deliberated, he would have been in a powerful position to articulate the danger of limitless corporate campaign finance capabilities. Of course, Whitehouse’s background as a senator would have its detriments. As a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, he could have made a strong case for its constitutionality, but he would have faced pressure to recuse himself from the case, given his vote for the law’s passage. His ascension to the court would have also created a Senate vacancy that would have been filled by former Gov. Don Carcieri ’65, a conservative Republican. Elena Kagan, meanwhile, has turned out to be a commendable justice and a formidable voice for the left. In those areas in which her voting record has been less than exemplary — she has voted twice with the majority to gut Miranda rights — there is little reason to think that Whitehouse, a former prosecutor, would have necessarily voted differently. Ultimately, Obama’s appointment of Kagan was probably wise. She is performing well in her current role, and Whitehouse is likewise. Nonetheless, as a progressive Rhode Island resident, Sheldon Whitehouse’s swearing in as the 112th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court would have been a proud and satisfying moment for me. My consolation is that at least we get to keep him here in Rhode Island — for now. Who knows what will happen next time a vacancy arises? Bradley Silverman ‘13 is a former intern for Senator Whitehouse. He hosts Taking Liberties, a weekly podcast on law and politics available on iTunes or at He can be contacted at

Daily Herald Campus News the Brown

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Language GISPs explore Pen pals support AIDS-affected children unfamiliar tongues By Benjamin Wolkon Contributing Writer

To learn a language like French, Spanish or German, most students simply register for a course. But for languages not offered by the University, students must put in extra effort to create a class from scratch. Students have recently studied Swahili, Wolof, Vietnamese, Telugu and advanced Korean and Arabic through Group Independent Study Projects. “It’s much easier to learn Spanish than Swahili,” said Peggy Chang, director of the Curricular Resource Center, as resources for some of these languages are hard to find in the United States. Despite this difficulty, language GISPs are held to the same standard as other language courses, meaning they meet more frequently than non-language courses and require speaking and listening components, she said. Elsa Amanatidou, director of the Center for Language Studies, assists students in finding necessary resources. Amanatidou played an important role in gathering resources for a Swahili GISP, the only language GISP offered this semester. When approached by Danny O’Donnell ’14 with a proposal for the GISP, Amanatidou helped him find Kenyan native Bernard Onyango GS to be the class advisor. Onyango is fluent in Swahili, but is only present for one of the four times the class meets each week. As a result, the students must be self-motivated and push each other to learn Swahili. Almost every day, they sit in Wilson Hall reading the language to each other and translating phrases into English. Most students participating in language GISPs do so because the language is connected to their families or heritage, Chang and Amanatidou both said. This was the case in previous Telugu, Korean and Vietnamese GISPs. But the three students currently studying Swahili are not of Kenyan heritage. Their motivation is rooted in their personal interest in the region.

Eli Okun ’15, a Herald senior staff writer, has always been interested in East Africa and is considering working for the Peace Corps. Rebecca Wolinsky ’14, a community health and Africana studies concentrator who plans to study abroad in Nairobi next year, said she ran a program for East African refugees in high school and came to Brown knowing she wanted to work with youth refugees. She currently volunteers at Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment, as does O’Donnell. O’Donnell, a development studies concentrator with a regional focus on East and Southern Africa, traveled to Kenya and Zimbabwe during a year off from college. The University’s development studies concentration requires students to demonstrate competency in a foreign language, so O’Donnell said he chose to create this GISP to learn a language that would be most relevant to his coursework. Though the University offers concentrations in development studies and Africana studies, it does not currently offer any native African languages in its curriculum. O’Donnell and the other students in the Swahili GISP said they are frustrated with this lack of language options. Amanatidou said she has made multiple efforts to bring an African Fulbright Scholar to the University to teach Swahili. Amanatidou looks into each specific language GISP to help the students determine “what specific learning outcomes are most relevant to their situation,” she said. But students, not Amanatidou, design their course syllabi and objectives. Self-motivation is the key to a successful GISP, especially one that focuses on a completely new language, Amanatidou said. In the early 2000s, Adrienne Thal ’05 matriculated at Brown as a deaf woman who had been raised in an integrated community where she communicated by reading lips, not by sign language. At Brown, she became dedicated to the University’s deaf culture. She created an American Sign Language GISP, and by her senior year, the University had added the class to the language curriculum.

By SOPHIE FLYNN Contributing Writer

A group of Brown students want to establish meaningful relationships with AIDS-affected children in China through a new pen pal program. Christopher Lam ’14 and Jingyi Gong ’12.5 are spearheading the new program in collaboration with the China AIDS Fund, a nonprofit that organizes Chinese-Americans in the fight against HIV/AIDS in China. By writing letters to AIDSaffected children in the Henan province of China, participants hope to provide emotional support. “It’s a small time commitment, but it can make all the difference in a kid’s life,” said Jay Xu ’14, a volunteer. The AIDS-affected children face many obstacles. Some are orphaned because they lost their parents to AIDS, and some contracted HIV from their mothers at birth, Lam said. Many children are ostracized because the populations of their home villages are undereducated on the spread of HIV. The spread of HIV in these villages stemmed from blood donation practices carried out by the Chinese government in the early 1990s. According to a grant proposal from the China AIDS Fund, villagers gave blood in exchange for a sum of money. The blood from multiple donors was then mixed and centrifuged together. The operators of the program took red blood cells from the mixed blood and returned the mixed plasma to donors, infecting hundreds of thousands of donors with HIV across China. Today, poor villages are still suffering from the spread of the disease. The mentors in the pen pal program write letters to children mostly aged six to 14 who attend one of two China AIDS Fund Children’s Centers in Henan. Lam and his brother, Matthew Lam ’15, cofounders of the program in the United States, came up with the idea of writing to these AIDSaffected children while working at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City in 2009. There they met Selina Chan, who works for the China AIDS Fund, and she

encouraged them to start a pen pal program in New York, based on one that already existed at Beijing University, the Lams said. Chan connected them to Huajuan Chen, then a master’s student at Columbia, who took on the role of translator and coordinator for the program. The brothers recruited about 10 of their friends in the New York area to begin writing letters. As local high school students, the original members found it easy to have group meetings, but once they entered college, they dispersed geographically and continued writing letters independently. Christopher Lam estimates that about four students outside of Brown continue to write letters. Gong had participated in a pen pal program at her high school in Shanghai, where she wrote to children at the same centers in Henan. She connected with Christopher Lam when the president of the China AIDS Fund told her that he also attended Brown. The pen pal program, which is new to the University this semester, consists of 14 mentors, four of whom are also letter translators, Gong said. Together, they said they hope to make Brown the first of multiple colleges to have an official program chapter. U.S. letter-writers first receive background on their Chinese pen pals via social workers who work at the centers, Lam and Gong said. Once letters are written, translators based in the U.S. translate the letter into Mandarin and forward it to the children’s centers for the social workers to give to the children. The children’s return letters are then scanned and sent to the translators, who give the original and English versions to the mentors, they said. At the beginning of their interactions with the children, mentors are discouraged from mentioning HIV/AIDS and its related difficulties. They are meant to be a positive influence and can eventually delve into more personal subjects when the relationships grow stronger. These friendships inspire hope for the future, Christopher Lam said. The children “do pursue their dreams.” Chen, who originally oversaw translation for the program, said she could see bonds forming be-

tween pen pals as time went on. In the letters, the children did not initially like to talk about their difficult family lives, she said. Instead, they wrote about their schools and the fun times they had at the children’s centers after school. But once the pen pals built up more trust, she said they did not worry about judgment like they do at home. She said she believes the program truly provides a successful support system for the children. Before coming to Brown, Christopher and Matthew Lam went on trips to visit the children’s centers to interact with the children they were writing. Christopher Lam said the children get very excited about their pen pals and eagerly wait to receive their letters. He added that during his trip, one child asked, “Could you be my big brother?” Gong and Christopher Lam attested to the strong bond between pen pals. Christopher Lam said the children “psychologically rely on their pen pals.” For this reason, the commitment to being a pen pal should be a long-term one, and writers are required to send at least one letter per month. So far, recruitment at Brown has been a success. Gong said she was expecting volunteers of mostly Asian descent, but the group is very diverse. The diversity extends to include mentors’ concentrations, including computer science, engineering, human biology and East Asian studies. She is also thrilled about having native Chinese speakers available to translate letters. Xu, whose parents are originally from China, said he felt a desire to support children who share his heritage but live in vastly different social situations. “It’s a privilege to have a childhood in a stable family,” he said. He was motivated to join after hearing that AIDS-affected children are sometimes banned from school because others fear contracting the disease. Gong and Christopher Lam are working on fund-raising to provide school supplies and scholarships to help the children afford the costs of eventually attending college. They are also hoping to have trips to Henan in the future so that letterwriters can meet their pen pals.

Policy lets grad students opt out of dissertation publication By Phoebe Draper Senior Staff Writer

A new policy allows graduate students to opt for a two-year embargo on the automatic digital publication of their dissertations, which can be renewed for up to a decade. The policy change was triggered when the Graduate Council received complaints from alums of the graduate programs in English, who had encountered problems in publishing their first books. These complaints put the need for a policy change “on the radar

screen,” said John Tyler, associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor of education, public policy and economics at the Graduate School. The Graduate Council drafted and ratified the policy change in May 2011 and passed it on to the Graduate Student Council for informal approval last September. The student council gave the new policy a nod, approving its “spirit,” said Matteo Riondato GS, president of the Graduate Student Council. The new policy is already formally enacted, but Tyler and representatives of the library are

drafting the policy’s official language for the Graduate School Handbook this week, Tyler said. Under the old policy, dissertations were automatically published online — a “problematic” system, said Khristina Gonzalez GS, a former member of the Graduate Student Council. Digitally stored dissertations are made readily available to the public and subjected to web searches, downloads and copying. Because dissertations frequently make up a significant portion of graduate students’ first books, publishing companies may be hesitant to publish the mate-

rial in hard copy form when it is already available on the web, Gonzalez said. “Alumni, especially out of English, were concerned, and their publishers were concerned that if their dissertations could be Google-searched and downloaded, then that was going to affect their ability to get a publication contract,” Tyler said. Unless the author renews the embargo for another two years, the work will automatically be stored online. “It’s an opt-out policy, so the default is that your dissertation

will be published and go into digital storage,” Tyler said. In cases where the dissertation involves joint scholarship and an embargo disagreement arises between a student and an adviser, the Graduate Council will adjudicate the case, according to the council’s 2010-11 Annual Report. “Students are now going to have autonomous control over whether their dissertation gets published, as long as they stay in contact with the University,” Gonzalez said. While the embargo option may continued on page 3

Wednesday, March 14, 2012  

The March 14, 2012 issue of the Brown Daily Herald