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the Brown

vol. cxxii, no. 35

Thursday, March 15, 2012

UCS eliminates media services fee By Margaret Nickens Senior Staff Writer

James Hunter / Herald

University administrators discussed the upcoming housing renovations during Wednesday’s UCS meeting.

City credit rating falls three grades

continued on page 9

Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish High Holy Day, will coincide with the second and third days of class in 2013, a conflict that will directly impact many members of the Brown community. For many Jewish students and faculty members, Rosh Hashanah entails attending synagogue for two full days, which could prevent them from taking part in shopping period Thursday and Friday. Univer-

sity officials are currently meeting with members of the community to attempt to alleviate difficulties caused by the conflict. The scheduling conflict was approved by faculty members at their February meeting after months of debate. “For a school that’s 20 to 25 percent Jewish, that’s crazy,” said Lex Rofes ’13, president of Hillel. “It’s outrageous. We are making students decide between spiritual life and academic life.”

Several years ago, Interstate 195 ran through the heart of Providence’s Jewelry District. But since it was rerouted, city officials have been planning various uses for the now vacant land, hoping to see the neighborhood become part of a “Providence Renaissance.” Last year, the state created the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission to oversee the neighborhood’s renovation, and the group is now at the recommendation stage. Colin Kane, chairman of the commission, addressed the Fox Point Neighborhood Association Wednesday to inform the group, which represents land under the commission’s jurisdiction, about the

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A bill may overturn the state’s incinerator ban City & State, 9


The first week of shopping period is a key time to attend class — students need to show up and show professors they want to be a part of their classes, Rofes said. “If it’s a seminar, you could be missing the only meeting of the entire week,” he added. To mitigate backlash, University officials are working to ensure no students are adversely affected by the scheduling conflict, said Dean continued on page 2

continued on page 5

continued on page 2

I-195 Commission discusses plans By Adam Toobin Senior Staff Writer

After area robberies, DPS steps up patrols The Department of Public Safety increased security around campus due to robberies in the area last month. In addition to increasing the number of DPS patrol routes, three contracted security officers have also been placed in the area to stave off crime. In light of Tuesday night’s robbery on George Street, DPS is also considering increasing the presence of security officers who patrol on bicycles, said Paul Shanley, deputy chief of police of DPS. DPS also works with the Providence Police Department for the area north of campus, and the Providence police force has also increased their presence there, Shanley said. Violent crime in the area has decreased in recent years, so the robberies that have occurred north of campus within the last three months are unusual, Shanley said. But cities occasionally experience spikes in crime at random intervals. Many of these incidents are crimes of opportunity — suspects taking advantage of people distracted or talking on their phones, Shanley said.

easy as pi

upcoming changes. Kane focused on his plans for the east side of Providence but also described his overall vision for the 20 acres. The commission’s work is immense and complicated, Kane said. “When we started, we had 25 projects embedded in the 20 acres, and we had to figure out how those projects worked with each other and with their surrounding neighborhoods,” he said. The logistics of trying to balance a number of conflicting interests has not always been easy, Kane said. “I will meet with preservation committees for lunch and unions for dinner,” he said. The I-195 Commission received a $250,000 state loan in January for continued on page 7

Emily Gilbert / Herald

Students enjoyed pie across campus Wednesday in celebration of Pi Day.


poses for Hef, paints air

Post-, inside


By Adam Toobin Senior Staff Writer

Fitch Ratings dropped Providence’s credit rating by three grades from A to BBB yesterday, putting the city only two steps away from junk bond status. The city’s downgrade follows similar declines for Woonsocket and East Providence, which have both had their bonds labeled junk status in the past year. Central Falls, which had its status lowered to Caa1 — indicating that the city’s potential to default would continue to increase — in June, declared bankruptcy in July. “Fitch’s report is confirmation that Providence’s fiscal crisis is real,” said Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in a statement. The external review confirms the need for Providence to reform its pension system and ask for more from local nonprofits, he wrote. Fitch issued the downgrade because of the city’s $22 million budget deficit, said analyst Kevin Dolan, director at Fitch’s Northeast region public finance group. “There are no concrete solutions to eradicate that deficit at this time, and as far as the city’s future outlook, they’re looking


The media services fee for all University-approved student groups will be eliminated, the Undergraduate Council of Students announced in a campus-wide email sent yesterday afternoon by Ralanda Nelson ’12, president of the council. David Rattner ’13, vice president of UCS, praised the decision during the council’s general body meeting Wednesday. The council has been working toward eliminating this fee for the past three years, Nelson told The Herald. Previously, the Undergraduate Finance Board would sign a contract with Media Technology Services each year, determining a fixed cost UFB would

pay to Media Services to allow Category III groups to use the equipment free of cost, she said. Under this new policy, Category S, I, II and III will receive free services, according to the email. UFB will now be able to allocate the funds used to cover the cost of media equipment to student groups, Nelson added. “It will greatly advantage student groups that never had access to those media services before for their weekly meetings,” she said. Michael Pickett, vice president of computing and information services, and Tim Wells, director of network technology, agreed to the fee elimination in a meeting with council members Wednesday

Rosh Hashanah, shopping period to overlap

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2 Campus News

Commencement to conflict with Shavuot

calendar Today

March 15

11 A.m.


March 16

5 p.m. Raunchy Bake Sale

Lucky Friday Celebration

Main Green, Brown Bear Terrace

Faculty Club

6:30 p.m.

10 P.m. America’s Global Role

Pride Prom

Wilson Hall, Room 301

Andrews Dining Hall



Vegan Nuggets, Chicken Milanese, Fresh Collard Greens, Vegan Tacos, Vegan Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Wisconsin Ziti with Four Cheeses, Grilled Santa Fe Chicken, Buffalo Wings, Mediterranean Bar

DINNER Panini Station, Carrot Cake, Gourmet Cheeses, Fresh Fruits, Vegetable Crudite, Lemon Rice

Vegetable Strudel, Pasta Vegetable or Chicken Stir-Fry, Pot Roast Jardiniere, Baked Acorn Squash



The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

continued from page 1 of the College Katherine Bergeron. Though the conflict will not occur until 2013, officials are already holding meetings to figure out how to help students balance their academic and religious commitments, she said. Rosh Hashanah has fallen in the first week of school twice in recent memory, said Professor of Judaic Studies David Jacobson. In both previous situations, faculty members, who have ultimate say over the academic calendar, have voted to change the start date of classes, he added. The Rosh Hashanah conflict was the topic of discussion at the December faculty meeting as well as at a faculty forum dedicated specifically to the issue. The 2013-14 academic year begins Sept. 4, a Wednesday. Rosh Hashanah, a celebration of the Jewish New Year, starts that night and continues for two days until Friday night. The services are often some of the most heavily attended events of the year, Rofes said. “The holiday represents a lot of people’s one connection to Judaism every year,” he added. Jacobson said he will be unable to attend class either day. “This is going to create a lot of problems for students and faculty members,” he said. “Many people don’t work or attend synagogue.” “I won’t be able to be at my first class — I feel like I’ll be at a disadvantage from that point of view,” he added. “I’m not super-religious or anything, but I will have to miss class,” said Zach Ingber ’15, a Herald opinions columnist. Ingber said he is disappointed by

the conflict, since Rosh Hashanah is one of a few times when Jewish students unaffiliated with Hillel come to services. “I’m not going to sue the school or anything. I’m just disappointed at their lack of sensitivity,” he added. Chelsea Feuchs ’14, vice president for campus relations at Hillel, said the conflict with shopping period was particularly difficult for Judaic studies concentrators like her. A lot of classes in the department are small, so even if the professor does attend, too many students will be absent to have a real class, she said. University officials, including deans and chaplains, met earlier this week to discuss the issue. The University will work to promote communication between all departments to ensure no classes are canceled as a result of religious observance, Bergeron said. “We also want to extend the shopping period that year, so that opportunities for students are extended as well,” she added. The University will ensure additional materials are online from those classes so no students feel they have missed any significant material, Bergeron said. She added that administrators will also create a forum where students can write to professors to explain they missed class for religious reasons so that no individuals are penalized for absences, she added. Though Jacobson said he appreciated the University’s effort to combat the effects of the decision to have class on Rosh Hashanah, he said he doubted the effectiveness of some of its proposals. For instance, he said there is no conceivable way he could hold class on Thursday or Friday.

A proposal to push the first day of classes a week later to accommodate the Jewish community would have caused orientation to overlap with Rosh Hashanah, which “seemed worse,” said Professor of Comparative Literature Karen Newman. Newman, who proposed the faculty vote keep the calendar the same, said she understands the conflict’s significance, but she does not think it should determine all scheduling. This year’s Commencement ceremonies also conflict with Shavuot, another Jewish holiday. Shavuot, which is not a high holiday, celebrates the Jewish nation’s receipt of the Torah. Though Bergeron said the University is currently unaware of any graduates who will not participate in commencement because of the overlap, Jacobson said he would not be able to attend the ceremony for religious reasons and would not be surprised if there are other students who also have to miss it. Rabbi Mordechai Rackover, associate University chaplain for the Jewish community, said he will not be able to give his traditional invocation at commencement because his orthodox beliefs prohibit using a microphone on Shavuot. The University will also make arrangements for those prohibited from travel during the holiday to stay longer at Brown, Rackover said. Bergeron said the University is willing to hold a separate Commencement ceremony for students unable to attend the official one if it becomes necessary. The University has previously held additional ceremonies for the women’s crew team when they make it to nationals, she said.

UCS supports U. compromise with city continued from page 1 morning, Nelson said. Though Pickett and Wells only officially agreed to extend this service until the end of the school year, Rattner said he was optimistic the program would continue to next school year due to the administration’s enthusiasm for the change. Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, and Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential and dining services, also attended the


the Brown

meeting to discuss upcoming residential hall renovations, which will include changes to Keeney Quadrangle, Andrews Hall and Miller and Metcalf Halls. The council voted to approve a “Town-Gown” statement supporting President Ruth Simmons’ proposed compromise with Providence to increase the University’s contribution to the city. Nick Tsapakos ’13 opposed the statement, arguing the current compromise may lay the groundwork for future University to Providence do-

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The Brown Daily Herald (USPS 067.740) is an independent newspaper serving the Brown University community daily since 1891. It is published Monday through Friday during the academic year, excluding vacations, once during Commencement and once during Orientation by The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. Single copy free for each member of the community. POSTMASTER please send corrections to P.O. Box 2538, Providence, RI 02906. Periodicals postage paid at Providence, R.I. Subscription prices: $280 one year daily, $140 one semester daily. Copyright 2011 by The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. All rights reserved. editorial

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nation increases. The statement passed with only one dissenting vote. Nelson also appointed Maahika Srinivasan ’15 over Gregory Chatzinoff ’15 to be this year’s election board chair. The council will be hosting the “State of Brown” address with President Ruth Simmons today in Salomon 101. The event will begin with a discussion between Nelson and Simmons followed by a general question-and-answer session with the audience, Nelson said.

Campus News 3

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

With no end in sight, tuition increases concern admins By Kate Nussenbaum Senior Staff Writer

The University will increase tuition and fees for undergraduates by 3.5 percent for the next fiscal year, following a 3.5 percent increase last year and a 4.5 percent increase the year prior. Rising tuition costs cannot be sustained in the longterm, but they are currently necessary for the University to maintain its competitiveness with peer institutions, said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15, who heads the University Resource Committee, the body that makes recommendations about University budget decisions. Some committee members stated that continuing to raise tuition by 3 to 5 percent each year “cannot continue indefinitely,” but finding a feasible solution is difficult, wrote Evan Schwartz ’13, one of the two undergraduate representatives on the committee, in an email to The Herald. The total charge for an undergraduate to attend Brown next year will be $55,016, reflecting an increase of more than $17,000 over the past ten years, a rate that far exceeds that of inflation. Tuition currently accounts for more than 40 percent of the University’s operating budget. “I think all universities are

worried about outstripping families’ abilities to send their kids to school, even with financial aid,” Schlissel said. Penn, Dartmouth and Princeton have also released their tuition rates for next year, each increasing their tuition by 3.9 percent or more. Though Schlissel said tuition cannot keep going up, freezing or decreasing tuition would have a negative impact on the University. “The costs of running the University are inexorably increasing,” he said. Each year, the University increases staff and faculty salaries, maintains new facilities, hires new faculty and offers competitive deals to the best faculty so they are not “lured away” by other schools, Schlissel said. Schlissel said the University is looking to combat rising tuition rates by diversifying funding sources through an executive master’s program for mid-career professionals and by “aggressively trying to increase our philanthropy.” Taking a stand

Despite the trend of rising higher education costs, some schools are pushing back, attempting to lessen the financial burden on families trying to educate their children. This year, Mount Holyoke College, a private liberal arts

college in Massachusetts, instituted a freeze in tuition rates. “It was a combination of our mission, our philosophical commitment to increase democracy and the fact that we have an unsustainable model where we can’t continue to raise tuition” that prompted the college to keep tuition rates stable for the next year, said Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella PhD ’85. Mount Holyoke hopes to be able to keep tuition costs stable for the next several years, but it is hard to determine what to expect given the unstable economic climate, Pasquerella said. Over the last five years, inflation-adjusted tuition and fee rates at four-year private colleges and universities have actually decreased by over 4 percent, the College Board reported in November. Schlissel said he found this information surprising. “Maybe what we lose track of is that there are thousands of colleges and universities in the U.S.,” he said. “I guess we’re only thinking of a small subset.” Increasing aid

As tuition increases, the financial aid budget must expand to cover growing need. The University’s financial aid budget will

climb to $90.3 million, up from $88.2 million last year, said Jim Tilton, director of financial aid. As tuition rates are being discussed each year, Tilton said he runs models based on different scenarios to determine what type of financial aid budget will be needed. Pasquerella said the tuition freeze will benefit Mount Holyoke because they will not have to give out as much need-based aid, allowing them to give out more merit aid to attract strong students. But Tilton said this was not a consideration for Brown since the University does not offer merit scholarships. “I think Brown has a very competitive financial aid program,” Tilton said. Unlike Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Yale, the University still includes loans in some packages, “but our financial aid programs are as competitive as Dartmouth, Cornell and others and substantially better than the vast majority of institutions in the country.” Though the financial aid budget increases as tuition increases, Tilton said, “it’s also the commitment the institution has made to financial need” that is responsible for its growth.

Moving forward

Schlissel said it is crucial that the University “strike the right balance between moderating the impact on the families that send their kids here and then achieving the full ambitions of the University.” Even at Princeton, where the endowment per student is nearly ten times that of Brown’s, tuition rates are still increasing. “All of our peer institutions are ambitious — they want to be part of a culture of continuously improving,” he said. “The ability to adjust tuition in proportion to the new and exciting things they do is real — it’s very tempting.” But not everyone believes the University should attempt to compete with peer institutions by expanding expensive initiatives. “I would say that the biggest issue Brown has is a lack of a longterm vision that answers not only the question of how it wants to get to where it wants to be, but also where it wants to be,” Schwartz wrote in an email to The Herald. “Rather than try to compete with other schools at their own game, Brown should redefine the game and excel in the direction it really wants to go,” he wrote, stressing that this vision should be developed collaboratively.

4 Campus News

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

Penn professor named to new U. post New political publications aim to fill void on campus

By Mark raymond Senior Staff Writer

The University named Penn Professor of Philosophy Paul Guyer the first Jonathan Nelson Professor last Friday. Guyer, who is known for his work in aesthetics, was hired as the first of six professors who will be appointed under the Humanities Initiative, a project funded by a $3 million donation and outside grants that attempts to bolster the humanities at Brown. The professorship was established last year by the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to appoint faculty whose “excellence in scholarship and teaching places them among the world’s best in their area,” according to a University press release. Different departments in the humanities were asked to submit proposals to the University with recommended candidates, who then underwent an interviewing process, said Bernard Reginster, professor of philosophy and chair of the department, which he said was responsible for appointing Guyer. When the philosophy department approached Guyer about the position, Guyer said he responded enthusiastically, “Yes, by all means.” Guyer is the author of nine books and over 200 articles and has won a number of awards throughout his career. He is known as the world’s preeminent scholar on Immanuel Kant, Reginster said, adding that Guyer is also a leading scholar on the history of aesthetics, a field he said appeals to a wide array of students. “We didn’t have a specialist in this field before Guyer,” Reginster said. Susan Sauve Meyer, chair of the philosophy department at Penn, said Guyer is “a wonderful person to have around.” Meyer added that Guyer has

By Marina Hernandez Contributing Writer

Courtesy of Brown University

Penn Professor of Philosophy Paul Guyer is the first of six professors hired under the Humanities Initiative.

the unique ability to “expand the conception of what the humanities is and what it can do” and called him a “great spokesperson” for the humanities. “He has almost encyclopedic knowledge about the texts he works with,” she added. “He is going to be a real asset to the humanities at Brown,” she said. “He’s world-renowned in the work he does.” Guyer highlighted curricular freedom as one of the key reasons he looks forward to teaching at Brown. He added that teaching students who want to be there “for the sake of being there” and are not simply trying to meet a requirement is an enriching experience. Reginster said about half the courses Guyer will teach are expected to be in philosophy and the other half in the general humanities. He said he anticipates

that Guyer will design courses that are “appealing and accessible” to students outside the philosophy concentration. Guyer emphasized humanities as a crucial element of education. “Of course it’s important to study human beings the way we study other objects in nature — that is the means,” he said. “But the end is understanding ourselves, expressing ourselves, and so, without the humanities, we just have an incomplete human existence.” Guyer’s appointment will reinforce strengths and create links between various fields in the humanities, said Kevin McLaughlin P’12, dean of the faculty. “This was a highly desirable appointment for a number of departments,” he said. “We have developed a strong profile in the humanities, and Guyer really enhances it.”

Recent months have seen the rise of non-partisan political publications on campus. The Brown Politics Memo and Brown Political Review, two online publications that aim to publish unbiased student articles about national and international politics, were both formed to address a lack of student-run political journals, their creators said. Ben Kutner ’14, a Herald senior staff writer, and Olivia Conetta ’14, Herald copy desk chief, are in the process of creating the Brown Politics Memo. Their webbased publication aims to “promote good political writing from students” and “get people involved in politics,” said Ben Resnik ’15, a contributing writer for the newly founded news site. Divided into five sections — Brown, state, national, international and election news — the journal’s creators hope it will become something “read outside of the University,” Resnik said. The group does not intend to seek recognition from the Undergraduate Council of Students, which would classify it as an official University publication, because they prefer to remain independent, Resnik said. The publication “is not beholden to budgets and administrative restraints,” and members are not “relying on University funding,” Resnik said. He also expressed confidence in the magazine’s future, noting the “creative energy” members have already displayed. The Brown Politics Memo does not need UCS recognition “as long as it is self-sustaining,” Curlin said.

Because the website was launched earlier this month, there are still relatively few students involved, Resnik said. Laura Curlin ’13, who recently joined the Brown Politics Memo as a contributing writer, said she believes Brown lacks a non-partisan political publication because “political science majors are more involved in activism” than in writing. This is her first experience with journalism, she said, adding that she hopes the site will be a “great way to get another perspective on politics.” The Brown Political Review, which was recently rejected for UCS approval, was founded by Zachary Ingber ’15 and Felix Tettey ’15. Taking a similar name to the Harvard Political Review, Ingber said he sought advice from the president of the Harvard publication, who recommended the group begin with a website. The council did not approve the student group due to its similarity to another student journal on campus, also titled the Brown Political Review, said Mae Cadao ’13, chair of the UCS Student Activities Committee. The other journal is part of the Brown Political Theory Project and is not seeking funding from UCS, Cadao said. She said the council has been trying to reduce overlap between student groups due to funding issues and considered the two groups “similar enough that the possibility of collaboration would be feasible.” Instead of appealing the decision, Ingber said the Review will see if it can merge with the existing Brown Political Review. --With additional reporting by Margaret Nickens

Campus News 5

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

Teach-in calls for end to sweatshop purchases By elizabeth koh Senior Staff Writer

The Student Labor Alliance urged students to end sweatshop labor for collegiate apparel at a teach-in presentation last night. About 25 students, mostly SLA members, attended the event in Salomon 001. “If you go into the Brown Bookstore and you look at the things being sold, the sweaters, the T-shirts — almost everything is being produced in a sweatshop,” said Gabrielle Tomson ’15, a member of the alliance. “Almost everything is produced by people earning poverty wages.” Tomson called for students to “pressure the University” against using sweatshop labor to manufacture clothing and other goods. SLA leaders Mariela Martinez ’14 and Stephanie Medina ’14 visited Honduran and Salvadoran factories this semester on a trip sponsored by the United Students Against Sweatshops. Martinez and Medina, who collected narratives from factory workers and examined their working and living conditions, showed video clips and photographs at the teach-in. “What’s going on is a violation of all our vendor codes,” Martinez said. “Here we are, not doing anything.” SLA called for students to combat sweatshop labor by endorsing factory disclosure and University codes of conduct. SLA’s next step is encouraging the University to renew its commitment to the Designated Suppliers Program, which enforces fair codes of conduct in factories producing university apparel. Despite claims that the suppliers program violated antitrust laws, the Department of Justice announced last December that it would not challenge the program.

Herald file photo

Six robberies around campus since October have led to greater police presence.

Crime spree around campus continues continued from page 1

David Chung / Herald

The Student Labor Alliance spoke out against sweatshop labor Wednesday.

The University first endorsed the program in 2008, according to an online memo. SLA is planning follow-up events to mobilize student support, including a lie-down protest next Wednesday on the Main Green against further sweatshop labor. SLA members will meet with University administrators following the event to ask Brown to recommit to the suppliers program. “I’m in a class about the Asian American movement right now, and this week we’re reading a book called ‘Sweatshop Warriors,’” said Brian Lin ’12. “I thought it was important not only that I read about this, but that I understand

what my peers are doing to investigate.” Lin said he was influenced by the event. “I’m definitely going to tell my class about this and bring five or 10 friends from my class to the event (next Wednesday),” he said. Organizers argued that ending sweatshop labor also has farreaching effects. “If we are able to raise their standard of living and actually remember that there are hands behind the sweaters and hands behind the products, we can put a face to the hands and not just see them as a third party,” Medina said. “We can raise the standard of living for all people.”

The robberies north of campus do not appear to be connected to each other, Shanley said. Crime rates on campus experienced a similar spike in 2001 and 2002, The Herald reported Feb. 23. Additionally, the area north of campus experienced multiple robberies by the same suspects two years ago, though it is unusual for assailants to hit the same geographic area more than once after they have been apprehended, Shanley said. Since October 2011, there have been six robberies on or near campus, according to the DPS website. Most of these incidents did not involve Brown students. The robberies in January and February of this year all occurred north of campus. On Jan. 28, a group of men robbed five victims walking on Bowen Street of their

coats, wallets and cellphones, Shanley said. During that incident, one suspect displayed a handgun, he said. The victims involved in the incidents Feb. 5 and Feb. 11 were approached and assaulted from behind, Shanley said. The Feb. 11 incident prompted the University to increase the presence of contracted security officers in the area, he said. Other than Tuesday’s incident, there have been no other reported robberies north of campus since February, Shanley said. None of the suspects have been apprehended, he said. Students and residents of the area have noticed the increased police presence, Shanley said. Kara Kaufman ’12, who lives near the corner of Keene and Thayer Street, said she felt relatively safe living north of campus, though the recent robberies did unnerve her.

6 Campus News

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

$35 million Hunter lab renovation approved By Morgan Johnson Senior Staff Writer

The Corporation formally approved plans for a $35 million renovation of Hunter Laboratory at its February meeting. Hunter will be redesigned for environmental science research, and the renovation will take approximately 18 months to complete, said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president. The building was formerly home to faculty in the Department of Psychology, now housed in the recently renovated Metcalf Laboratories as part of the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences. With plans to demolish the current Plant Environmental Center and build a new greenhouse on top of the renovated Hunter, environmental science was a logical fit, said Associate Provost Rod Beresford P’13. The rooftop greenhouse will be the same size as the current one, but will have more sophistication and functionality. Beresford said it was a challenge to find a way to accommodate the same amount of bench space available in the current greenhouse. The way the greenhouse “will look and affect the cityscape” was also a major concern during the design process, he said.

The area opened up by the removal of the existing greenhouse will become a new area of green space, featuring a new entrance to Hunter. Together with the rest of the Walk, it will be “a beautiful centerpiece of the campus,” Beresford said. Other external changes planned for the building include the addition of windows on the building’s first-floor facade facing Waterman Street. But the main focus of the renovations will be improving Hunter’s indoor facilities. “The building needs tremendous amounts of work,” said Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for facilities management. “The systems are at the end of their life,” he said, adding that it will be costly just to make the facility usable. “When it’s done, it will be no different than a brand new building,” he said. The decision to renovate Hunter was also highly motivated by its central location on campus, Beresford said. Serious discussions regarding the renovation of the building started around two years ago, he said, adding that the possibility of tearing down Hunter and constructing a new building from scratch was never considered. “It’s a useful container,” he said. But due to the constraints of

Herald file photo

Hunter Laboratory’s renovations will include a new greenhouse on top of the building, entirely new indoor facilities and more windows facing the Waterman Street entrance.

maintaining the building’s exterior, there will be no room for expansion of space, he said. Current plans also include allot-

ting use of the building’s third floor for the School of Engineering. The University has not yet decided what sections of the engineering school

will occupy the space — or for how long — though Spies suggested they would likely be connected with environmental science.

Campus News 7

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

I-195 Commission plans construction continued from page 1 planning, but multiple news outlets reported yesterday that the group is out of money and has requested more funds to hire an executive director to move forward with plans. Kane did not directly address the commission’s financing at last night’s meeting, but made a few references to its lack of funds. During the presentation, Kane said he was not operating under the assumption that all parties would approve of the commission’s plans. “We can’t be perfect, but we can be really good,” Kane said. So far, the commission has worked on the more functional, “less fun,” parts of development, Kane said. They are planning roads and utilities more often than they are courting industry, or working on the city’s aesthetics. “If we don’t get the underground stuff right, we won’t be building anything on top,” Kane added. Kane said he is very optimistic about the city’s potential. “As Rhode Islanders, we are all inclined to think everything stinks…but when you walk around this city, you see so much potential,” he said. Kane cited the hospital district, Johnson and Wales University’s growth, Hasbro’s current construction and the success of 38 Studios, a video game company, as indications that the city has weathered the storm of the recession. The first project in the neighborhood will be two and a half years of road construction. “We are going to do our best to keep it clean. It will be relatively messy, because we’re opening up streets and putting in utilities, but we promise to keep those Dunkin’ Donuts cups that you see at any construction site to a minimum,” Kane said. The city will build the roads on the west side this summer and the east side the following summer, he added.

Kane said despite recent negative publicity, the city should be very thankful that Brown and Johnson and Wales want to expand into the new district. New York had to “give away” Governors Island to incentivize institutional investment, he added. When the time comes to sell the plots of land in the district, the city could attract companies willing to put in as much as $100 million, Kane said. But as exciting as that kind of investment would be for the city, the commission would still need to ensure the project fits within the overall landscape of Providence, he said. The city has zoning requirements and parking needs that could somewhat limit the freedom with which interested companies can buy the neighborhood’s land, Kane said. The commission will enforce the requirement that any company that purchases land must start building within a year of signing the papers, he said. This measure will prevent companies and other organizations, like the University, from buying land and holding it rather than beginning construction as soon as possible, he added. Kane also answered questions from members of the FPNA. Members asked Kane about some of the commission’s less popular work. One woman asked why the commission recommended cutting the total amount of public park space three-quarters of an acre. Kane said the cut was small, and it allowed for an additional 200,000 to 300,000 square feet of office space in west Providence. The FPNA as a group has declared its opposition to allowing buildings on the east side to be above three stories. Kane said he believes this height places an impractical limitation on retail in the area and would recommend the buildings be allowed to reach five stories.

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Faculty receive one-year research grants By margaret nickens Senior Staff Writer

Fifteen faculty members and four faculty research groups were honored Wednesday afternoon as the recipients of the Seed Fund and the Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award. The Universitysponsored awards, distributed by the Office of the Vice President for Research, were presented in a ceremony at the Faculty Club. Clyde Briant, vice president for research, and Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 opened the ceremony by underscoring the importance of research at Brown and providing a brief history of the two awards. “We are the entity in our modern society that is charged with discovery,” Schlissel said. “We are supposed to serve the community, the nation and the world by discovering stuff that’s important.” Since the University began distributing the Seed Fund in 2003, the fund has supported multidisciplinary, multi-partner faculty research projects through awards of up to $100,000, Briant said. The funding lasts one year, at which point the recipients must submit a report of their findings, according to the website of the office of the vice president for research.

The four groups who will receive funding from the Seed Fund this year plan to study environmental and climate evolution in Indonesia, the correlation between cardiovascular disease and traffic pollution, the neurology of chronic pain and the factors influencing parents’ decisions to seek health care for their children in developing countries. In deciding the award recipients, a faculty committee reviews the merit of each project, the likelihood the research will be able to receive funding from other sources, the research’s potential impact and the probability the researchers will complete their proposed work in one year, according to the vice president’s website. The Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award reviews similar criteria in determining the fund’s recipients, who can each receive up to $15,000. Briant said the University works to support younger or newer faculty members through this award. The Salomon award was financed from 1995 to 1999 by Richard Salomon, former chancellor of the University, and the University has since continued to fund the award, according to its website. In total, the University has awarded 132 Salomon awards,

Briant said. “I think these Salomon and Seed awards are fantastic in terms of providing us with the resources that are necessary to get our projects off the ground,” Schlissel said. This year’s beneficiaries of the Salomon award included Savvas Koushiappas, assistant professor of physics, and Rachel Franklin, assistant professor of population studies. Koushiappas’s research will focus on determining the origin of gamma-rays, diffuse light that appears to have no source. “We have new ideas, which are not yet established in the field, and, before going to the funding agencies for money, you need to have shown that these ideas are actually worthwhile pursuing,” he said. “This funding, which comes from Brown, which is extremely useful, allows us to do this preliminary work that will set the stage for what’s going to come afterwards.” Franklin, who plans to study population decline in the United States and in Germany, said she was very pleased to receive the funding award. “It’s going to allow me to get my project going and do a little bit of travel to make sure it is what I want to do my research on,” she said.

8 City & State

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

City charter review underway Residents receive loan By Sona mkrttchian Senior Staff Writer

Around 15 city residents attended a special session of Providence’s Charter Review Commission last night at City Hall. The commission — appointed by the Providence City Council and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras — is charged with recommending revisions to the Providence Home Rule Charter, a document outlining city government procedure. Revisions to the charter are considered every decade. “You just have to review and see what needs to be revised,” Commission Chairman Cliff Wood said. “A lot of it is technical, but some of it is more drastic.” The night overwhelmingly focused on Providence’s school board. Speakers expressed interest in revising the city charter to include provisions for an elected school board instead of one appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council. “It’s important to parents to have a vote in their children’s education,” said Sheila Wilhelm, a parent whose children attend Providence Public Schools. It is time for the school board to be receiving its directions from the city’s parents, instead of the mayor,

she said. Providence City Councilman Nicholas Narducci Jr., Ward 4, agreed that the commission should consider recommending an elected school board. The school board needs to assume more responsibility for the decisions it makes, he said. “We’re elected officials. If you don’t like the job we’re doing, you can get rid of us,” Narducci said, adding that the school board should be subject to similar pressures. Residents also presented a petition with 500 signatures in support of an elected school board. Jean Link, whose children attend public schools, told a story about her experience with the current school board following last year’s school closings. Link said her youngest daughter now attends a Providence school located in an old factory. She said she believes there is a mold problem in the building and approached the school board at the end of last year about the issue. Since then, testing was done, and work was set to begin solving the problem, but the work was recently halted, Link said. Her daughter’s medical problems of chronic headaches are due to the mold in the school, Link said.

“I want all of those children to be taken care of,” Link said. The current appointed school board does not have students’ best interest in mind, she said. “We need an elected school board that is going to represent our children and the constituents,” she said. “It is very important that the people who make decisions for our children and families have a constituency,” said Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson, Ward 3. The current school board is too heavily associated with the Taveras administration, Jackson added. The majority of city residents opposed the establishment of the for-profit Achievement First charter school, which the school board approved because the mayor supported the measure, according to Jackson. “It got rammed down their throats,” Jackson said. Two other speakers suggested restructuring the redistricting commission. Suggestions made last night and in the future will be considered by the commission for recommendation to the City Council. Residents may also submit recommendations online. The City Council will determine which of the proposals to submit to the state, and residents will then vote on passage in the upcoming November elections.

relief for foreclosures By Aparaajit Sriram Senior Staff Writer

Rhode Island received $172 million of a $25 billion national settlement compensating states for improperly foreclosed homes in early February. The $25 billion settlement, a joint effort between 49 state attorneys general and the federal government, involved five of the country’s largest loan providers — Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Two Rhode Island state legislators, state Rep. Daniel Gordon, R-Portsmouth, Tiverton and Little Compton, and state Sen. Bethany Moura, R-Cumberland and Lincoln, are threatening to take legal action and encourage municipalities to sue the banks for additional compensation. “Picture this. A family. The stress, the embarrassment of having to uproot their children from schools, having to look for some place to live, worried about jobs … and the proposed compensation to make them whole is a measly $2,000 (per family)?” Gordon said. Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin supports the settlement’s conditions, according to his spokesperson Amy Kempe. The settlement will help victims more than pursuing litigation that would have taken far longer and been riddled with pitfalls, Kempe wrote in an email to The Herald. “The settlement requires banks to provide relief to homeowners through principal reduction, mortgage modification and direct payments to those who were previously foreclosed upon,” Kempe wrote. But Gordon disagreed, claiming there has been little improvement in bank practices since the agreement. “Banks are doing the same exact thing. Nothing has changed. Other than money changing hands, they’re still doing the same things as before,” Gordon said. He said foreclosures have increased since the settlement. “While they were hammering this agreement out, there was a hold on foreclosures. Now that this thing has gone through, foreclosures have actually accelerated.” The investigation into foreclosure and mortgage procedures began in 2010 at the height of

the national foreclosure crisis, Kempe wrote. The banks in the settlement “soon acknowledged that individuals had been signing thousands of foreclosure affidavits without reviewing the validity or accuracy of the sworn statements,” Kempe wrote. This practice came to be known as robo-signing, because mortgage providers and loan servicers were approving foreclosures of homes without any scrutiny. Other malpractices occurred as well, Kempe wrote. Banks would tell clients that they were on track for a corrective loan modification — if they were having trouble meeting payments — while simultaneously filling out paperwork to foreclose on them. Poor documentation practices also led to long delays in the processing of loan modification requests, which in turn accelerated foreclosures, Kempe wrote. Moura, who could not be reached for comment, called the settlement “an insult,” according to an article in the Woonsocket Call. At a Feb. 14 press conference, Moura said that promises of principal reduction are often left unfulfilled. “When you are promised principal reduction in this deal, get over it, it’s not going to happen,” Moura added. The settlement will provide up to $152 million in relief to Rhode Island homeowners who currently need loan modifications to avoid foreclosure, according to Kilmartin’s website. The settlement will also provide up to $7.2 million in aid to homeowners who still have their homes but are on the verge of defaulting, according to the website. The settlement stipulates that the two types of relief will not come from direct payments to victims, but from the banks themselves who will have to change policies to save clients money. The settlement also provides $3.1 million in direct payments to those who lost homes due to foreclosure. But Gordon said the stipulations for Rhode Islanders remain vague. “That’s actually the boilerplate language that was put together by the attorneys and the government to hammer this thing out,” Gordon said, adding that the settlement says “everything’s going to be fine, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

City & State 9

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bill would end R.I. incinerator ban By Robert webber Contributing Writer

State Rep. Jon Brien, D-Woonsocket, has proposed a bill that would overturn Rhode Island’s 20-year incinerator ban and facilitate the creation of a waste-to-energy plant in Woonsocket. The new plant would create an estimated 1,500 construction jobs, and many of Woonsocket’s elected officials support its construction. “I am pretty much against the landfills,” said state Rep. Robert Phillips, D-Woonsocket, one of the bill’s sponsors. He said Central Landfill — the only public landfill in Rhode Island — bothers residents of Johnston and Cranston with its odor, adding that incineration presents an alternative to burying trash. Rhode Island became the first state to ban incinerators in 1992. “We thought they were unhealthy,” said state Rep. John Edwards, DPortsmouth and Tiverton, who serves on the Special Joint Commission to Study Waste-to-Energy Incineration. “They release carcinogens into the air, and they leave toxic residue.” No new incinerators have been built in the United States in the past 15 years, but waste-to-energy technology has gotten greener,

according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A 2009 study found that waste-to-energy reduces pollutants and produces nine times as much energy as landfills do. Harold Ward, professor of environmental studies, disagreed with the EPA’s findings. A well-run incinerator is better for the environment than a poorly run landfill, he said, “but I don’t think it’s likely to be done right.” Historically, waste-to-energy plants have been more expensive than landfilling. “My community where I lived in New Hampshire signed an agreement with an incinerator company,” said Jonathan Scott, acting communications director for Clean Water Action, an environmental advocacy group that has taken a leading role in the fight against incinerators in Rhode Island. “For 15 years, we had to pay outrageously high rates per ton to dispose of our trash, and we had to deliver a certain amount or see those per ton rates go up even higher.” To help finance incineration, the bill would categorize the Woonsocket plant as a source of renewable energy, like solar power and wind power, making it eligible for government subsidies. “I suppose in some weird

way it is renewable,” Ward said. “But I don’t think it’s what the renewable energy subsidy is intended to accomplish.” Brien introduced similar bills in 2010 and 2011, but they were fiercely opposed by environmentalists. Members of the Audobon Society, Sierra Club and Environmental Council of Rhode Island passed out fliers and packed city hall meetings in Woonsocket, but neither bill passed the state’s House of Representatives. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of will in the General Assembly to have waste-to-energy in Rhode Island,” Edwards said. Ward argued that the state could continue to use Central Landfill as a disposal site. Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, the organization that manages the state’s waste, paid $5 million a decade in fines and costs of updating the facility when the EPA found that Central Landfill was in violation of the Clean Air Act, Ward said. The landfill still emits fumes due to a failure in the methane collection system, though it now operates in compliance with the CAA. In place of incineration, the technology at Central Landfill could be further updated to control emissions, Ward said.

Credit downgrade leaves future uncertain continued from page 1 at additional structural deficits, which could be difficult to overcome,” Dolan said. The city was placed under “negative outlook” roughly a year ago, Dolan said, meaning that the ratings agency would follow up within 12 months to determine a bond rating change. Providence can expect higher interest rates on new loans in the future as a result of the credit downgrade. The downgrade could push the city in one of two directions, said David Weil, professor of economics. As a result of increased interest rates in its future loans, Providence could spiral into more debt, or it could use the external review as a bargaining chip to improve city finances, Weil said. Fitch’s rating gives legitimacy to the mayor’s claim that the city’s economy is in dire straits, Weil said. In January, Taveras threatened that the city could declare bankruptcy in June if serious steps are not taken to close its budget gap. “The Mayor’s

Municipal Review Board identified the full range of fiscal challenges facing the city, which have been years in the making,” wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald. “It makes total sense to me,” said Anna Jouravleva ’12, who spent the summer researching municipal and state pension plans in Rhode Island. Ratings agencies take four factors into account when evaluating a city’s credit rating: debt level, government and management, local economic strength and the ability for the city to manage finances and raise revenue. But ratings agencies have traditionally ignored non-explicit debt, like pension liabilities, which make up the bulk of debt in Rhode Island towns and cities, Jouravleva said. “It seems very, very shortsighted to me, the way city officials and government deal with the finances of their city,” Jouravleva said. “There needs to be some really big change in the way that city officials plan their budgets

and approach governance.” The credit downgrade may make it harder to bring businesses to the state, she said, since people may fear the city’s bleak finances will translate to increased taxes. Fitch will meet again with city officials to check in on their progress as the fiscal year comes to a close in June, but a public announcement may not be made, Dolan said.

Higher ed news roundup

by eli okun senior staff writer

V. Tech found negligent in 2007 killings A jury declared Virginia Tech guilty of negligence in the 2007 massacre on the Blacksburg, Va. campus, MSNBC reported Wednesday. Jurors found that the university could and should have alerted students after the first segment of the murderous rampage, in which Seung-Hui Cho shot 32 people over the course of two and a half hours before killing himself. The families of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde, who brought the lawsuit, were each given $4 million, though the state subsequently filed a motion to cut the award, as the Virginia cap is $100,000. Jurors were not informed of the cap. The April 16 massacre constituted the most lethal mass shooting in America in modern times. On that day, Cho shot two students fatally in a dormitory, but hours passed until the second, deadlier bout of shooting in an undergraduate classroom. Prosecutors argued that university authorities should have understood the threat to students and sent out a warning to campus. Police said they initially deemed the first two shootings to be isolated events. One of the mothers who brought the suit, Celeste Peterson, said the verdict established justice and transparency, MSNBC reported. “Today we got what we wanted. The truth is out there, and that’s all we ever wanted,” she said. “We came here for the truth.” Her attorney said the families’ goal was to hold the university accountable, not to receive financial compensation. An attorney for the state, Peter R. Messitt, said the university did all it could under the circumstances. “What happened at Norris Hall was not reasonably foreseeable,” he said at the trial.

UC students may be asked orientation Incoming University of California students in future years may be asked to disclose their sexual orientation, the Daily Californian reported Monday. The move would come as part of an effort to improve on-campus resources for LBGTQ students by better identifying the scope of such groups on campuses. A statewide Academic Senate committee made the recommendation in January that UC schools implement the change, though any decision would not take effect for the class currently being accepted. The choice was made in response to an October law requesting that UC schools gather data on students’ sexual orientation. State officials portrayed it as an equitable measure designed to bring sexual orientation in line with other measures of diversity. Officials from both the UC and the California State University systems said administrators are still investigating whether and how to carry out those recommendations. Only one other college -— Elmhurst College in Illinois — has implemented such a practice thus far, and this year was the first in which Elmhurst asked for the information from its applicants.


Dreadful Cosmology | Dario Mitchell

Fraternity of Evil | Esha Mitra, Brendan Hainline and Hector Ramirez

10 Editorial Editorial

Mastering the undergraduate experience

Last week, The Herald reported that the long-planned master’s degree curriculums for mid-career professionals will likely be launched in fall 2013. The proposed program of study, called the Professional Executive Master’s Program, would offer courses taught by Brown professors to busy professionals in a manner easily adaptable to work schedules — largely online. Given that the University has long prided itself on retaining its undergraduate focus in the face of the emphasis on graduate research common in other elite universities, we question the compatibility of this program with Brown’s character as an institution. Especially in light of President-elect Christina Paxson’s reaffirmation of this commitment, we hope that the University will reconsider its plans to bring these master’s programs to fruition. The primary reasons given for the implementation of this program do not justify tarnishing both the value of a Brown degree and — more importantly — the ethos of the Brown academic culture. According to Provost Mark Schlissel P’15, financial motivations are a “significant” reason behind the program, and Executive Vice President for Planning and Senior Advisor to the President Richard Spies claimed that, through this program, “we can benefit ourselves.” These administrators should be commended for their remarkably candid comments. But though the University’s financial situation has been the subject of much debate recently — whether in discussions about tuition increases, the state of our endowment or the University’s commitment to Providence — sacrificing Brown’s identity as an undergraduate institution is not worth the funds these programs would bring in. And we ought to be suspicious when the University adds new educational programs solely because they are lucrative. The master’s program will also take faculty and administrative attention away from undergraduates. Schlissel cited the fact that the master’s classes will take place at different times than undergraduate classes as proof that the advanced degree program “doesn’t take away from the effort that our faculty are spending educating our on-campus students.” At the same time, just because professors presumably will not compromise undergraduates does not mean their attention would not shift focus. We worry that it is altogether too likely that the program will cause the strong relationships Brown boasts between faculty and undergraduates to be further eroded. Though it is true that the program expects to enroll at most 20 master’s students at its inception, we believe this could be the start of a transformation into a graduate and research-heavy institution like Harvard. The University’s explicit comparisons to schools like Harvard, Dartmouth and Columbia in the justification they have offered for these programs, exacerbates our concern that they would come at the cost of what sets Brown apart from these other, lesser institutions. We urge Paxson to speak out against the program and uphold her professed value for the undergraduate college experience. The program’s earliest start date has already been pushed back from 2012 to 2013, and the faculty still has to vote on whether or not to approve these programs next month. We hope that between now and then, the Brown administration will come to its senses and reiterate its commitment to the happiest undergraduates — for now at least — in America. Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. Send comments to

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Correction An article in Wednesday’s Herald (“Sex Week prompts contraception debate,” March 14) incorrectly stated that one in three undergraduates responded that they had zero or one sexual partner in last semester’s Herald poll. In fact, roughly three-quarters of students reported that they had either zero or one sexual partner last semester in the poll. The Herald regrets the error.

quote of the day

“As Rhode Islanders, we are all inclined to think everything stinks.” — Colin Kane, Chairman of the I-195 Commission See I-195 on page 7.

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The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012


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Opinions 11

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why aren’t there more engineers? By Matt Brundage Opinions Columnist

On a strictly academic basis, the number one reason I chose to attend Brown over other more or less academically equivalent universities was the open curriculum. I appreciate that the open curriculum, along with the S/NC option, gives students the freedom to take classes in unfamiliar subject areas without being concerned about fulfilling general education requirements or damaging their grade point averages. Still, the biggest appeal for me was that I could take classes in a variety of fields because I had no idea what I wanted to study. I originally indicated an interest in engineering, idealistically and quite incorrectly imagining that I could take classes in engineering, politics, economics, biology and cognitive science among a number of other fields before selecting one of them as my major. But upon first meeting with my assigned engineering advisor, I learned that this was not nearly as plausible as I had naively assumed. In order to be reasonably on track with other students in engineering, it is necessary to take ENGN0030: Introduction to Engineering, a math class, and ideally CHEM0330: Equilibrium, Rate and Structure, a course that assumes you have some sort of quality high school background in

chemistry, or at least a friendly hallmate who will help you take the placement test. These introductory courses leave very little room for academic exploration for even the most committed engineering students, let alone a student such as myself, at a complete loss for what he might want to study at Brown. I eventually determined on my own that income potential and outside influences skewed my perception of how much I would actually enjoy engineering, but I felt forced to determine this without ever knowing what an engineering class is like.

ent from anything taught in core math and science courses in high school. Conversely, students who never enjoyed the theoretical approaches to math and science courses in high school might miss out on an opportunity to be great hands-on engineers because they were unwilling to sacrifice three of their first four classes at Brown to a field they assumed they would not enjoy. Clearly, colleges have few options left to help students with this predicament because it is still a problem even with the open curriculum at Brown, which I saw as the best answer to the dilemma from my

Engineering students enter college blindly, and after being asked to take the majority of their classes in a relatively unfamiliar field, they might very well fail to find a concentration about which they are truly passionate. Most students entering their first year at Brown, myself included, have no real understanding of exactly what an engineering class entails. They have simply been told after years of excelling in math and science courses that they ought to study engineering, and the idea of studying engineering seems appropriate to those who enjoyed math and science classes in high school. The problem with this thinking is that because nobody has taken an actual engineering course, the students who are driven into engineering by their performance in math and science might end up disliking the field entirely since it is quite differ-

perspective. The change, therefore, needs to happen earlier. High schools ought to allow for a bit more flexibility in their curriculums. As of now, the best way to be accepted into a competitive college is to take a challenging, well-rounded course load of core requirements in English, mathematics, science, history and ideally a foreign language. By taking this standardized approach to my own education, I was left with a limited knowledge of what sorts of academic work I did and did not want to pursue. Upon entering college, it was much easier for me to cross out which sorts of fields I was not

interested in than to circle which ones I might be interested in, simply because the former required less ink. What if high school students were given the option to take Honors Engineering instead of Advanced Placement Physics, or an Honors Physiology or Immunology instead of AP Biology? Students would have the chance to delve into courses more relevant to the popular fields foisted upon them when they excel in math and science, namely engineering and medicine. This would be a smart alternative to entering college with a hefty list of requirements for their first semester to concentrate in something they are hardly sure they would enjoy studying. If the process doesn’t begin at least somewhat in high school, at what point are we supposed to discover what we are passionate about? It is unfair to ask students who have little idea what sort of work is even involved in engineering to devote their first semester schedule to precisely that. Engineering students enter college blindly, and after being asked to take the majority of their classes in a relatively unfamiliar field, they might very well fail to find a concentration about which they are truly passionate. Thus, with the way public education currently works, first-year engineers can only gamble that they will be happy in their academic pursuits. Matt Brundage ’15 has no idea what he is doing and can be reached at

The irrelevance of gender By David Hefer Opinions Columnist

When confronting a social issue, people mobilize around gender. The transvaginal ultrasound bill, domestic violence and sexual assault are presented as women’s issues. Child custody injustices are men’s. In this column, I will argue that gender has no place in our thought, and so cannot serve as a proper ground for activism. Imagine that you are a theoretical physicist. As a good physicist, you believe that there are subatomic particles zipping around, doing their thing. One day Kooky Casey comes to you with zer new theory. According to Casey’s theory, in addition to the usual properties like mass and charge, subatomic particles also have fayfolk. The fayfolk love to ride subatomic particles. They have little cowboy hats and spurs and go “Yeehaw” as they fly around. But, a particle’s fayfolk has no relationship to any of its other properties. A particle’s being a muon, electron or whatever is consistent with its having or lacking fayfolk. Fayfolk have no causal powers. A particle’s fayfolk cannot explain anything. There are no interesting generalizations involving them. This is the position we find ourselves in with respect to gender. Suppose a female with feminine dispositions wakes up one day and thinks to zerself, “No, this is all wrong. I am a man!” Nothing about this person has changed except for zer gender. Ze can still

think burps are gross and have two X chromosomes while being a man. Two people can be identical in all physical and behavioral respects except that one is a man, and one is a woman. This is because all it takes to be a certain gender is to identify as that gender. Just as fayfolk are irrelevant to what a particle is like, gender is irrelevant to who we are. To be clear, the claim is not that gender does not exist. It is that gender is not worth using to describe another or oneself. When you say “Alex is a (wo)man,” all you are saying is “Alex is in a group whose members are Alex, Jesse, Pat and so on.” This is true, but a waste of breath.

der. These beliefs are worth talking about, so gender is, too.” Reply: A mythologist can be interested in people’s beliefs about all kinds of fantastic creatures. However, ze will never use these to describe the world, only people’s false beliefs. Similarly, we need never use gender to describe a person, only false beliefs about that person — maybe even the person’s beliefs about zerself. People’s beliefs about witches have had effects on the world, but witches have not. We do not use witches to describe the world. “Women are usually female-bodied, act feminine, and are subject to certain expectations. This makes gender worth talking about.” Reply: We can stipulate that fayfolk

Gender is irrelevant to who we are.

Nor is it that gender is “just” a social construct. Money is a social construct, but a person’s wealth has effects on zer life. Gender has no effects and so is irrelevant to anything we might be interested in. I will respond to objections and then draw out the consequences. “Gender tracks societal expectations. (Wo)men are people that are expected to act a certain way.” Reply: This is simply incorrect. Many people expect transsexual men to play the role of women. They are not thereby women. “People have strong beliefs about gen-

tend to prefer leptons. They are still explanatorily impotent and have no proper place in our thought. “Biological sex and femininity-masculinity are not interesting categories. We should talk about chromosomes and primary and secondary sex characteristics on the one hand and dispositions such as empathy or outspokenness on the other.” Reply: This is a more radical version of my own position and is in its spirit. Depending on what biologists and psychologists say, we may accept this. “This position invalidates the experience

of trans* people.” Reply: My position says that anybody who identifies strongly with a gender is making a mistake. The position does not say that it is illegitimate to present oneself a certain way, want to be identified with a certain set of traits or desire a certain kind of body. “The end of gendered terms requires a substantial and difficult change in language.” Reply: Damn straight it does! Refusing to change for this reason is sloth. “Easy for you to say!” Reply: As a privileged person, I have never had to deal with many of the hardships my peers have. I am certainly missing something crucial about the experiences of others, and I do need to learn more about your experiences. If you come from a position of privilege and have found my argument convincing, these considerations should undermine your confidence. However, this is not enough on its own to challenge the conclusion. A proper objection would establish that calling someone a (wo) man relays some information. If we abandon gender, we cannot identify social ills as gendered. The issues identified above are not men’s or women’s, but whoever’s affected. This does not reduce our obligation to help them. Gender can serve as a focal point for activism, but only if we lie. David Hefer ’12 realizes that the issue — specifically the effectivity of genderless activism — is more subtle than 800 words allows. Please write to zer at before publishing your devastating objections.

Daily Herald Campus News the Brown

Thursday, March 15, 2012

U. seeks to expand study spaces in campus libraries By Margaret Nickens Senior Staff Writer

The University plans to refurbish and expand study spaces in University libraries, but the project remains on hold until ongoing renovations are completed. Proposed changes were identified after the University completed a review of available library spaces, said Harriet Hemmasi, librarian for the University. The review, conducted by the University libraries, Department of Facilities Management and other faculty members, was completed last May and recommended renovations to the John Hay Library, the Rockefeller Library, the Sciences Library and an off-campus storage annex that stores books. The University is currently renovating the Digital Scholarship Lab in the Rock, a project they hope to complete by fall 2012, Hemmasi said. The lab will feature a “high-definition, high resolution video wall” once renovations are complete, she said. The University also plans to start renovating the Reading Room and the University archives in the Hay next fall. It plans to begin refurbishing the computer space on the first floor of the Rock in the next two or three years, she said. The University commissioned the study in light of the increased use of digital media over books and the heightened demand for group rather than individual study spaces, said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior advisor to the president. To accommodate the changing role of libraries, the study proposed increasing seating in the Hay and

the Rock. The study also suggested an expansion of available study space in the SciLi, which would be achieved by relocating books to an off-campus site and opening the fourteenth floor for student use. “There literally are shelves after shelves of books that are not being used,” Associate Provost and Professor of Engineering Rod Beresford said. The University has transferred around 800,000 publications to an off-campus annex over the past five years, according to the University’s 2011 Institutional Master Plan. Currently, the annex is around two-thirds full and may eventually be expanded to one or two times its current size, Hemmasi said. But no specific plans for the expansion or for many of the other suggested renovations have been discussed, she said. Before the renovations can begin, the University must find funding for the projects, something usually done through individual donors, Spies said. The University may be able to begin the renovations if they are supported under the next Capital Campaign, though the campaign’s agenda has not yet been set, Hemmasi said. In the past few years, the University has completed several library renovations, including the Friedman Study Center and the Science Center in the SciLi. As a result, the number of students making use of university libraries has nearly doubled in the last few years, Hemmasi said. The renovations are “a reflection of the changing needs of students and faculty,” Spies said. “We’re lucky, at Brown, to have the kinds of library facilities that we do that can be repurposed in this way.”

Alexandra Urban / Herald

The University is planning to revamp the 14th floor of the Sciences Library to remove books and add study spaces.

Islamic health association reaches out to uninsured By Miriam Furst Staff Writer

A woman, unemployed and uninsured for six months, saw her blood pressure and blood sugar rise to a dangerous level. But she was unaware anything was wrong until she attended a health screening sponsored by the American Islamic Wellness Association, said Jeena Ahmed PhD’11. The condition could have killed her if she had not received medical treatment, Ahmed said, but after the screening and subsequent treatment, she is now healthy. Every Saturday, the American Islamic Wellness Association staffs the Amal clinic at Clinica Esper-

anza/Hope Clinic in Providence. The group, whose cofounders include Ahmed, aims to provide health care to the uninsured population of Rhode Island. Currently, Ahmed said more than 140,000 Rhode Island citizens lack health insurance. The association, which was founded last February, sees about 11 patients every Saturday and has served more than 250 patients since it became operational last May, Ahmed said. She added that a guiding principle underlying the association is Islam’s emphasis on helping others. But despite its basis in Islam, the group aims to provide health care to everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual

orientation or legal immigration status, she said, adding that 95 percent of the association’s patients are not Muslim. In addition to staffing the Saturday clinic, the association provides free health screenings once a month in community centers, mosques and churches, where the uninsured can have their blood pressure, blood glucose and body mass index checked. Attendees can also seek advice from the physicians present. These screenings are critical for preventative health care, Ahmed said, adding that the association sees around 100 patients during these monthly screenings. Patients are often referred to the Saturday clinic due

to findings from the screenings. Khalid Alhourani, co-founder and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the Alpert Medical School, said his Muslim faith encourages him to help anyone in need, adding that he believes health care is a basic right, not a privilege. Alhourani also works at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island as a specialist in pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine. On a personal level, he said volunteering at the association is “very self-satisfying and self-rewarding.” He added that the patients he sees through the Amal clinic show more appreciation for medical care than the insured ones he sees at Memorial Hospital.

Alhourani also said that by being a member of the association, he feels that he is correcting “the misled, stereotyped image of Muslims in America as isolated and different than the rest of the society.” Ahmed said the association is “trying to do more interfaith work, such as working with churches and the Jewish community in Rhode Island to build bridges between Muslims in Rhode Island and other faith groups.” Looking ahead, Ahmed said she plans to form collaborations between the association and other nonprofits and establish a lecture series on Islamic views of health care and end of life care.

Thursday, March 15, 2012  

The March 15, 2012 issue of the Brown Daily Herald

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