vol. cxlviii, no. 19
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2013
Possible cuts to federal funding delayed, still pose threat The Corporation has approved the use of reserve funds in advance of the possible sequester
“way down,” Huidekoper said. The effects of the budget sequester would not affect current research awards, she said, but in terms of future awards, “federal agencies are just holding off until they know what’s going to happen.” The sequester will also affect federal financial aid, but Pell Grants, the University’s largest source of federal financial aid, are protected from the cuts through 2013, she said. The sequester’s effects on financial aid will be seen more sharply at smaller schools that do not promise to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need, said Ronald Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. Federal agencies released reports last week detailing how they would cut spending, said Amy Carroll, director of government relations and community affairs. While some agencies, including NASA and the NSF, said they will maintain or try to maintain their cur-
rent award levels, others including the NIH said they would have to make cuts, she said. For current long-term awards, researchers have started to notice a delay in the release of funds, said Clyde Briant, vice president for research. Because the sequester deadline was pushed back, agencies will continue / / Cuts page 2 to face
UCS selects first-year to fill UFB vacancy
Community marks 10 years since Station fire
equine exposure, syrupy snow, partial politicians
By TONYA RILEY SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Slacktivism Corvese ’15 criticizes armchair activism Page 8
All a-loan R.I. students average fourth largest debt in country today
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The Council passed votes of confidence confirming White, Tomasso in their current posts By MAXINE JOSELOW SENIOR STAFF WRITER
The Undergraduate Finance Board elected a new representative to fill an open position during the Undergraduate Council of Students meeting last night. Dakotah Rice ’16 — who was selected from six candidates — will represent 10 student groups and aid in UFB’s spring budgeting process. “I understand that in the spring budgeting process tough decisions will have to be made, and I will not be afraid to make them,” Rice said in his candidacy speech. Rice said that though he is a firstyear, he is qualified for the position due to his experience in finance, citing his membership on the Brown Investment
With the January passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, Congress pushed the original Jan. 1 deadline for the federal budget sequester — which includes potential cuts to higher education research and financial aid funding — to March 1. But even with the extended deadline, the higher education community has continued to express concern. The sequester, which was originally a clause of the Federal Budget Control Act of 2011, includes a variety of automatic cuts to federal discretionary and mandatory spending programs that will go into effect if Congress cannot determine a strategy for addressing the deficit by the
March 1 deadline. “If anything, it would have been nice to have some certainty sooner,” said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration, in relation to the new deadline. The passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 decreased overall budget caps for the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years, reducing cuts for discretionary-funded programs, which includes the cuts to higher education funding, from the planned 8.2 percent to 5.1 percent, according to a report by the American Council on Education. This includes projected cuts of nearly $15 billion to the National Institutes of Health budget and $286 million in cuts to funding for the National Science Foundation. The University normally uses past awards from federal agencies as a “leading indicator” for predicting future award money, but because of the sequester, those indicators are
Board and an internship with Atlanta Venture Capital. “Dakotah seems like he’s qualified, passionate and ready to go,” said Jon Vu ’15, the alumni relations liaison. Daniel Pipkin ’14, UFB vice chair, expressed concerns about Rice’s lack of experience as a first-year. “Since we’re about to go into spring budgeting … it would be a little difficult to throw someone in who’s not seasoned,” Pipkin said. But several UCS members argued that Rice’s status as a first-year did not put him at a disadvantage. “There’s no reason why being a freshman or amateur disqualifies you,” said Sam Gilman ’15, UCS treasurer. “I think it was obvious Dakotah was the person who cared the most,” said Holly Hunt ’13, UCS general body member. “I understand it’s inconvenient to train a freshman. But what’s more inconvenient is student groups working with someone who’s not passionate,” Hunt added. Rice will begin his duties today at 8 / / UCS page 8 p.m. at UFB’s
Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 spoke with members of the Undergraduate Council of Students.
World Bank straight out of New York University. He landed the job through a temp agency that recruited people with foreign language proficiency and an “adequate” familiarity with the country they would be assigned to work with, he said. “It was very easy to get a job in 1995,” he said. “This was kind of like the Clinton heydays where, when I graduated, I had six job offers.” “It was a completely different world than we live in now,” he added. One of those six jobs was located on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center, and he said that every now and again he reflects on how things would be different if he had accepted the position. After two years at the World Bank, Parks went to law school at Tulane University, but he said he realized midway through school that law was not the right career for him. But Parks still wanted to finish. It wasn’t until he got the opportu-
nity to teach at Tulane that he realized teaching appealed to him — so much so that he reshaped his career path. An interest in history took precedence over taking the bar exam, and after graduation, he headed straight to graduate school, where he also worked in Tunisia on a Fulbright grant. Parks originally planned to go to law school right after earning his undergraduate degree, and the “pressure to take the next step” led him to leave his job at the World Bank for law school. Parks did not major in history as an undergraduate, but he said he was always interested. He emphasized colonial history in his coursework for his French civilization degree, and his interest in political science veered more toward the historical aspect of events than the quantitative number crunching of political analysis. Despite his interest in history, he felt compelled to follow what he
By CLAIRE SCHLESSINGER STAFF WRITER
While it may feel like some teachers were born to lecture, not all who take up the lectern have spent their lifetimes climbing up the ivory tower. Some professors and lecturers pursued a variety of jobs before arriving at Brown, from consulting to translating.
Passing up the bar for books Richard Parks, postdoctoral fellow in history, was hired as a French translator for the North African division of the
Cuts to research funding in worst-case scenario
national discretionary spending cut
$160-170 million annual federal research funding the University receives, as of fall 2012
Artists and attendees commemorate the 100 who died in a blaze at a local nightclub By MAX ERNST STAFF WRITER
ALEXANDRA URBAN / HERALD
Scholars reflect on jobs, experiences before Brown From stints at NASA to Fulbrights in Tunisia, lecturers often worked outside academia
By the numbers
thought was the one path to law school by earning a degree in political science. He said he thought that in those days, career paths were more prescribed, a pressure he felt more strongly as a firstgeneration college student. Parks said he does not regret the path he took because it led him to where he is today. Even though he ultimately forewent becoming a lawyer, the skills he acquired in school, such as public speaking and logical argumentation, have been widely useful, he said. ‘Messier than the textbooks’ David Wyss, adjunct professor of economics, has “done a lot of things” since finishing graduate school, he said. He obtained a Ph.D. at Harvard in economics after majoring in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. / / Jobs page 4 Wyss de-
A crowd of nearly 50 performance artists as well as students and other community members gathered last night for a theater-oriented commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the fire at the Station nightclub. The club burned down in 2003, killing 100 and injuring an additional 200, according to the Station Fire Memorial Foundation website. The event, held at First Baptist Church, featured 37 performance art pieces, three speakers and an original rock song by local artist David Tessier. “The Station nightclub fire is distinctive in national and Rhode Island history both in terms of the quantity of lives it affected and the amount of suffering that remains,” said Erik Ehn, professor of theater arts and performance studies. “The aim of having a commemorative event is to voice support for the people (affected by the fire).” The commemoration was one of many held this week in remembrance of the fire, which was caused by a pyrotechnic accident during a Great White concert. While most people who attended the event did not include those directly affected by the fire, it served as a space where members of the local community could commemorate the victims / / Fire page 5 of the fire and
CITY & STATE
2 university news C ALENDAR TODAY
/ / Cuts page 1 FEBRUARY 22
“The Education Bubble” Lecture
Zoot Suit Ball
MacMillan Hall 117
8 P.M. RI Medieval Circle Lecture
Annmary Brown Memorial Library
MENU SHARPE REFECTORY
LUNCH Falafel with Pita Bread, Cauliflower with Lemon Tahini Sauce, Garlic and Butter Infused Rice, Waffle Fries
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DINNER Nacho Bar with Toppings, Vegetarian Spinach Strudel with Cheese Cream Sauce, Pot Roast Jardiniere
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uncertainty about the funding they will have to contribute to future awards, he said. “The true situation is that no one knows what will happen,” Briant said. Because of the uncertainty about how cuts will be made, the University must be prepared for a variety of scenarios, he said, adding that the University will have a better picture of their situation after the sequester deadline has passed. “We prepared next year’s budget with an assumed overall reduction of about 4 percent,” Huidekoper said. “We made the best decision given the information at the time.” Huidekoper said the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost have discussed “stopgap” measures to allay faculty concern about the need for emergency funding. The University joins the higher
education community as a whole by taking the threat of the sequester very seriously, Carroll said. The sequester has raised the question of the value of research, Carroll said, adding that divesting from research could harm the future of economy and research-based career fields. Ehrenberg said the sequester comes at a time when federal research funding from the 2008 stimulus is drying up. “I don’t think any university could suddenly replace a large chunk of federal funding for a long period of time,” Briant said. The sequester was discussed during the most recent meeting of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body. The Corporation approved the use of reserves — a combination of unrestricted bequests and budget surpluses from the 1990s that were
set aside and have since accumulated growth, Huidekoper said. “It’s basically our savings account (or) rainy day fund,” she said. The reserves have helped with increases in the budget due to costs associated with recent projects, such as the operating costs of the Nelson Fitness Center and continuing financial initiatives, she said. While the Corporation reported several new gifts at their most recent meeting, most pledges are paid over a period of time, she said. “We are now receiving money that was pledged over five years ago, if not more,” she said. “So what we actually received this year is not going to have to do with the current budget.” Huidekoper cited President Christina Paxson’s finalization of her financial plans for the University as a step toward improving University finances. “We will hopefully get ourselves back into balance,” she said.
Stanford dean emphasizes sustainability Pamela Matson spoke about improving agricultural practices for future generations By SOPHIE YAN STAFF WRITER
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2013
The most critical challenge of the 21st century is maintaining systems that support life for many generations while meeting the needs of today’s population, said Pamela Matson, dean of the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University, in a lecture yesterday. Matson’s talk, entitled “Transitions to Sustainability in Agriculture: Ecosystem Science Meets Sustainability Science” and held in MacMillan Hall’s Starr Auditorium, discussed the controversial relationship between agriculture and sustainability. Her lecture was jointly sponsored by the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Department of Geological Sciences, the University’s Environmental Change Initiative and the ADVANCE Program. “Our challenge for the future is to change the relationship in which meeting (human) needs has negative environmental consequences” to one where meeting needs can also sustain the environment, she said. Matson spoke primarily about the accumulation of nitrogen in the ecosystem, an issue she highlighted as important to today’s environmental studies. Ever since the Green Revolution — a period in the mid-20th century focused on advancing tech-
niques to expand world agricultural output — food production has been efficient enough to support the human population, she said. But this boom in food production has also led to land conversion and a loss of biodiversity, she added. Matson said farmers regularly over-fertilize their crops to try to produce greater yields, but they only end up producing a surplus of nitrous oxide, a major greenhouse gas. Matson described her own research in the Mexican Yaqui Valley over the course of two decades. Along with an interdisciplinary team that included economists, ecologists and soil scientists, she researched a way to achieve a win-win agricultural solution: reducing nitrogen fertilizer use while maintaining crop yields. Through field experiments and simulation models, Matson and her team eventually designed an ideal fertilizing plan by using almost half of the amount of fertilizer that farmers were regularly using, she said. But reducing nitrogen fertilizer was hampered by influential credit unions and other organizations that prevented her group’s plan from being widely implemented, she said. Xredit unions would often support farmers only on the condition that they continue to use excess amounts of nitrogren fertilizer because they wanted to ensure adequate crop yields, she added. “(We learned that) if you really want your knowledge to be used, you have to actively engage in making that happen,” Matson said. “You have to understand who the decision-makers are, and you have to engage in that
www.browndailyherald.com 195 Angell St., Providence, R.I. Shefali Luthra, President Samuel Plotner, Treasurer Lucy Feldman, Vice President Julia Kuwahara, Secretary 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 2013 by The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. All rights reserved. EDITORIAL
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knowledge system.” Matson described a process she called the “pipeline model of knowledge transfer,” in which academics assume the recommendations from their research will be immediately implemented. But this system does not usually work, she said, stressing the importance of two-way dialogue between researchers and decision makers. “You really want to identify ‘bridgers’ — boundary organizations, individuals and objects that bridge the cultures between scientists, science and decision-making worlds,” she said. Matson expressed optimism in the scientific progress regarding reduction of fertilizer use. A win-win solution is possible, given that communities are already transitioning to more sustainable agricultural practices, she said. She ended her presentation with a slide depicting an image of Earth from space, with the word “imagine” hovering over it. “Universities are making a big difference, talking about (sustainability) but also living it and carrying out research to move us in this direction,” she said. Many audience members, who were mostly students, used the question and answer session that followed the lecture to express their interest in the topics Matson discussed. “I really liked the way she addressed communication between organizations and communities,” said Walter Kikuchi ’16, who attended the lecture with his first-year seminar class SOC 0300L: “Environment and Society in Africa.” “I thought it was really great,” said Kailani Acosta ’16, who currently works in an environmental science lab. She added that she took a course in environmental science last semester and thought Matson’s lecture “tied everything in really well.”
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city & state 3
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2013
/ / Debt page 8 corresponds to the jump in the state’s student debt ranking. Graduates of Salve Regina University in Newport accumulate more debt than those of any other school in the state, with student debt averaging $43,237 per person for the class of 2011, according to a WPRI study from earlier this month. Roger Williams University — where student debt averages $38,365 — produces the second-highest rate of student debt in the state. Families are increasingly taking advantage of the option to take out loans in the student’s name. These loans are offered at “significantly lower interest rates” and inflate the reported student debt rates, wrote Kristine Hendrickson, associate vice president of university relations and chief communications officer at Salve Regina, in an email to The Herald. “We believe this is a major reason for the reported increase in student debt load,” she wrote. In contrast, the average debt of each Brown class of 2011 graduate was $20,455 — the lowest in the state, ac-
cording to the WPRI report. The figure is also below the national average of $26,600. “Brown has made a commitment to steadily augment our financial aid over the past decade, and we have a policy that calls for no loans in the initial aid packages awarded to students with family incomes of less than $100,000,” wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald. “This is a costly and important program that we are able to offer as a result of the generosity of our donors, as well as because of income provided by the endowment.” Rising tuition costs also contribute to student debt. Roger Williams will enact an Affordable Excellence Initiative to freeze tuition for the class of 2017. While the issue of student debt is prompting reactions at both the family and university levels, Hanbury said the federal government is expending little effort to address these concerns. “Overall, there’s not many promising things going on in the student aid scene,” he said, adding that interest rates on subsidized loans may even double
in the near future. Interest rates for these loans are covered by the government while the loan recipient remains in school, so the increase would not have an immediate impact on current students. But if the rates go up, it would increase post-graduation debt. Despite the looming threat of increased interest rates, loans remain a popular option for families looking to finance the high cost of a college education. “Maybe you’ve lost your job and you’re now struggling to balance dayto-day expenses with school,” said Hanbury. “With unemployment rates in the double digits, a lot of people don’t have much choice but to take out a loan.”
4 feature / / Jobs page 1 cided to pursue economics after taking a statistics course in the economics department with a preeminent professor, he said. That he ended up in economics after studying math was “pure chance,” he added. Near graduation, “I started to think, what does a math major do for a living, other than teach math?” he said. Economics was an appealing application of his studies. “Besides,” he added, “it was the ’60s. We couldn’t be too practical.” The ethos of those “hippie years” prized learning over earning, but he was “much more worried about where the next job was coming from,” he said, and one answer lay in economics. After Harvard, he headed to Washington, D.C. to work at the Federal Reserve System for nearly a decade, operating “on loan” to other organizations such as the Bank of England. From there, Wyss moved to a consulting firm called Data Resources, Inc. started by his former thesis advisor. He then transitioned to Standard & Poor’s as their chief economist. Throughout his career, Wyss taught business courses part time at various universities. Wyss always knew he was interested in teaching — it is why he pursued a Ph.D. — but he knew he wanted to do something with “real-world applications” too, he said. Once he retired from the world of economics, he said he “wanted to slow down,” adding that he realized that his dream of teaching was facing a “now or never” moment. His consulting work had him away from home for a third of the week, and he saw teaching
as a chance to have more stability. Wyss said he tries to “bring the real world in (to the classroom) — with mixed results.” Some students might see his examples as “tangents,” he said, but he said he thinks it is important for students to be exposed to the practical side of finance — not just theory — to prepare them for the jobs they hope to obtain. “Economics has to relate to the real world,” so most students who study economics intend to use it in consulting, finance or business, Wyss said. As a teacher, “it helps to know what the real world is all about,” Wyss said. “It’s very easy for professors to get caught in an ivory tower.” He noted there are some who consult on the side and dabble in work outside of academia. He decried the dominance of “publication mode” among professors, in which getting published demands the bulk of their attention. He added that experience contextualizes the importance of and reason behind the content that students learn. “The real world is a lot messier than the textbooks,” he said. “It’s like trying to learn to drive a car from a textbook — you can’t do it. You have to actually go drive one.” Ad(venture) in Africa While Barrett Hazeltine, adjunct professor of engineering, was checking off all the requisite boxes of bachelors, masters and doctorate for a tenure position at Brown, he certainly took a few pit stops along the way. As a young faculty member, he was an ideal candidate for the Ford Foundation’s program to expose new professors to the industry, “not to do research, but
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2013
COURTESY OF RICHARD PARKS
Richard Parks, postdoctoral fellow in history, worked as a French translator for the World Bank in North Africa before pursuing an academic career. to be involved in what they call ‘real engineering,’” he said. That program connected him with a company called Raytheon for 15 months to work on bettering space communication for NASA’s Apollo programs. In the ’70s, spacecrafts landed in the ocean, and without GPS technology, NASA was worried about not being able to find them. Hazeltine worked on technology designed to address that problem. Upon receiving tenure in 1967, Hazeltine said he found more freedom to explore outside Brown’s walls. He taught engineering at the University of Zambia for a year. He returned a few years later, then taught in Malawi off and on for the next decade to avoid political problems in Zambia. He then moved on to Botswana, though he tried to avoid
spending more than a year at a time away from Brown. “My worry always was that if I was away from Brown for more than a year, people would sort of forget who I was,” he said. In his work in Africa, Hazeltine helped the newly independent countries transition their educational institutions from colonial-era trade schools to universities, simultaneously watching the political forces within those countries transform themselves, he said. While teaching at Brown, Hazeltine worked on instituting an entrepreneurship program, which kept him tethered to the University throughout his travels. His job at Raytheon entailed managing research and development, such as forecasting important upcoming technologies, which inspired him to start teaching management at Brown. Hazeltine called his efforts “an uphill battle” at a liberal arts university that questions the place of practicality in its
curriculum. Management first started as an independent study of three or four students and then developed into a group independent study course before evolving into the popular course ENGN 0090: “Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations” in 1974. The interest certainly existed among students, and Hazeltine had enough contacts among alums to come back and speak, but “it was hard getting people in University Hall to put much support in it,” he said, adding that no administrators wanted to back a business-like course. “Obviously it wasn’t that bad because the whole thing survived,” Hazeltine said. Hazeltine said he integrates realworld problems into his course, stressing, “it’s not just an abstract game that we’re playing. This really is involved with what’s happening out there, and if you’re going to be a good citizen, you should understand what’s happening.” / / Professors page 5 He add-
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THE BROWN DAILY HERALD THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2013
/ / Professors page 4 ed that working with actual problems is good for students’ self-esteem. He lauded the Swearer Center for Public Service’s efforts to offer social entrepreneurship opportunities to students, but said that at Brown, students often must seek out opportunities to do hands-on work with real-world problems. Lessons from the other side For these professors, the draw of professorship is building relationships with students founded on learning. Parks said he finds academia allows him “to be more engaged with things that I was interested in and be able to engage other people on a high, intellectual level” — fellow academics and students alike. Wyss said he enjoys being able to impart to students what he has learned over a lifetime of working in a variety of positions. He knows first-hand what problems exist in the world, he said, adding that he wants to equip students with the knowledge to solve them. “Our country is going to be in bad shape if the educated people are disdainful of what happens in the real
world,” he said. “We need to have a cadre of people who are focused on doing things rather than talking about it.” Parks and Wyss stressed that people’s interests will always evolve, even within their given fields. Even when Parks settled on history, he shifted from graduate research on HIV/AIDS as a case of the intersection of bioethics and law to research on the Jewish community in North Africa. “I think that the world is different now,” Parks said. Students will have a handful of jobs in their lifetimes and can attain those positions in any number of ways, he said. Even for professors, having a variety of experiences is important. Hazeltine lamented that Brown is different from other schools in that engineering professors do not do as much entrepreneurial work on the side. The upside, though, is that professors are allowed to explore different routes, he said. “I’m sure a school with more money and therefore more administrative structures wouldn’t have let me do the kind of things that I’ve done,” he said, calling the situation one of “benign neglect.”
/ / Fire page 1 remind themselves of the suffering that occured, said Connie Crawford, adjunct lecturer in theater arts and performance studies, who coordinated the event with Ehn. “This is what I do. I’m not a doctor, and I can’t help take care of people,” Crawford said. “This event is my way of helping to commemorate this terrible thing that happened and to hold a space for remembrance.” During the first part of the night, three performance art sessions were interspersed with three speeches. Each session consisted of five performance pieces put on for event attendees, who were permitted to walk around and listen to each. John Barylick, an attorney for victims of the fire, Jonathan Saltzman, a Boston Globe reporter who was at the scene the night of the fire, and Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, University chaplain, gave speeches between the performance sessions. The performance pieces were designed to be “imaginative and spiritually
Old Lace | Veena Vignale
deep memorials” rather than stories about the fire itself, Ehn said, while the speakers provided stories about the fire and its aftermath. They spoke about the effect the fire had on their lives and the lives of others. Barylick shared a revelation he had while providing legal council to family members of those who died as well as survivors of the fire. As he spoke to one of the most badly burned survivors about how glad he was his doctor saved his life, Barylick said he realized there was power in the fact that the victim was proud to be alive. “If this man can rejoice in life, shame on us for ever failing to do so,” Barylick said. “May we all be able to put our own lives in perspective.” Following the initial performances and speeches, all event attendees went outside for a final round of performance pieces. The 37 pieces — all of which were designed to be five and a half minutes in length — were performed simultaneously from 11:07 p.m. to 11:13:30 p.m., “the exact amount of time it took for the fire to burn down the Station
nightclub,” Crawford said. The event concluded with the performance of an original song by Tessier, which was incorporated to “pay tribute to the rock and roll everyone at the Station was there to see,” Crawford said. Ehn said he first had the idea to stage a memorial after putting together a similar event last year to commemorate the Virginia Tech shootings. “People had been encouraged by the space art can make for remembrance,” he said. “I heard about the meetings for this event early last semester, and I stuck around after attending one,” said Phoebe Nir ’14, one of the students who served on the planning committee and helped coordinate catering. “This has been a worthy project.” By opening the event to the public, Ehn said he hopes the project created a site for public witness to the tragedy for Rhode Island residents, whom he said he views as strong and resilient. “I have only been living in Rhode Island four years, and the wonders and strengths of the state keep unfolding for me,” he said.
6 editorial EDITORIAL
Breaking the NECAP There is no hiding that too many of Rhode Island’s high schools, especially those in the Providence School System, are persistently low-performing. In the latest chapter of Rhode Island’s educational crisis, the Rhode Island Department of Education will implement a policy, effective this year, to tie high school juniors’ performances on the New England Common Assessment Program to obtaining a diploma. We find this to be a reprehensible and dangerous policy that fails to directly address the tougher problems facing the Rhode Island school system. The state’s assessment of NECAP — a standardized test aimed to evaluate students’ academic achievement through a statewide standard — has not been promising. According to a report from the Department of Education, 23 percent of Providence high school juniors tested “substantially below proficient” in reading, and 45 percent had the same result in mathematics. This is an alarming and embarrassing statistic that warrants corrective action, but identifying the root causes of such educational inadequacies is difficult. Department of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has suggested drastic action that we believe does not address the problem. Gist’s new policy of mandating that students score at least “partially proficient” in the math and reading portions of the NECAP to graduate comes off as a zero-sum game: You either come out a winner, “equipped” with the skills to succeed in college or a job, or you come out a loser with only yourself to blame. Scoring “partially proficient” on the exam is not difficult in comparison to many other K-12 standardized tests and is a reasonable standard students and teachers should always strive to meet. But the implicit assumption that this policy will cure the deeper causes of Rhode Island’s educational troubles, without substantial effort to supplement it with a systematic overhaul, is absurd and offensive on multiple levels. Students cannot be expected to magically perform better on the NECAP because their futures are at risk, nor should teachers be expected to change their curricula so their students will be able to graduate. In addition, the high number of students who would not graduate due to the policy, thus staying in their respective schools for at least an additional year, would exhaust the schools’ already meager resources designated for four-year students. By demanding that schools devote more precious resources, time and money to improving test scores, the Department of Education is implementing misguided reform. Even if test scores improve, such changes will not be because students were scared straight by the policy. Instead, it will be because teachers were forced to spend time preparing students for the NECAP rather than inspiring students and providing diversified and creative curricula. Just as the Open Curriculum would never condone reading the SparkNotes version of a classic, Rhode Island students should not forgo a true learning experience for the sake of improving their chances of graduation. We appreciate the efforts to crack down on Rhode Island schools, but test scores are not the only measure of success and should not be seen as the first indication of such. Our high school experiences are not shaped by performance on standardized tests. Rather, they are shaped by our teachers, classes, activities and most importantly, our communities. Denying a diploma to students because of their inherent disadvantages is unfair, unnecessary and an act of betrayal by their schools. In light of these injustices, we call for Gist and the Department of Education to examine further the roots of the “educational crisis” and seek more meaningful measures to improve Rhode Island schools.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Dan Jeon, and its members, Mintaka Angell, Samuel Choi, Nicholas Morley and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2013
EDITORIAL CARTOON b y a n g e l i a wa n g
EDITOR’S NOTE A Jan. 24 opinion column, “Why we need pluses and minuses,” and a Sept. 6, 2012 opinion column, “‘Freedom’ taken too far,” both included unattributed language nearly identical to language published in other sources. In the Jan. 24 column, the first sentence should have been attributed to the Boston Globe. In the Sept. 6, 2012 column, a sentence about a study of Texas Gov.
Rick Perry’s campaign contributions should have been attributed to the New York Times. Notes have been attached to the online versions of the columns. The Herald holds its writers to the highest standards on proper attribution. We are reviewing our training procedures to make sure those standards are clear to all staff members. We apologize to our readers.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It was the ‘60s. We couldn’t be too practical.” — David Wyss, adjunct professor of economics See jobs on page 1.
t h e b row n da i ly h e r a l d Editors-in-Chief Lucy Feldman Shefali Luthra
Managing Editors Elizabeth Carr Jordan Hendricks
EDITORIAL Greg Jordan-Detamore Strategic Director Sections Hannah Abelow Arts & Culture Editor Maddie Berg Arts & Culture Editor Sona Mkrttchian City & State Editor Adam Toobin City & State Editor Elizabeth Koh Features Editor Alison Silver Features Editor Sahil Luthra Science & Research Editor Kate Nussenbaum Science & Research Editor James Blum Sports Editor Connor Grealy Sports Editor Mathias Heller University News Editor Alexandra Macfarlane University News Editor Eli Okun University News Editor Dan Jeon Editorial Page Editor Matt Brundage Opinions Editor Lucas Husted Opinions Editor Maggie Tennis Opinions Editor Multimedia Emily Gilbert Photo Editor Sam Kase Photo Editor Sydney Mondry Photo Editor Tom Sullivan Photo Editor Danny Garfield Video Editor Angelia Wang Ilustrations Editor Production Copy Desk Chief Sara Palasits Design Editor Brisa Bodell Design Editor Einat Brenner Design Editor Kyle McNamara Assistant Design Editor Sandra Yan Web Producer Joseph Stein Assistant Web Producer Neal Poole
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THE BROWN DAILY HERALD THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2013
Putting action back in activism GABRIELLA CORVESE Opinions Columnist A pink ribbon. An inspirational YouTube video. A group of women dancing. What do these things have in common? While they are symbols of important movements, they are also symbols of a dangerous trend in activism: “slacktivism.” Slacktivism, as the name suggests, involves supporting a cause on an individual level without doing much to support the big picture. Fred Clark, a Christian blogger, claims to have invented the word, defining it in reference to small movements that can positively affect society. Though it is well-intentioned, its danger rests in the relegation of significant issues to a symbol, color or image. Symbolism can effectively raise awareness, but it does not directly help solve the problem itself and can ignore more serious aspects of an issue. Unfortunately, slacktivism and the instant gratification it provides are new and prominent trends for activist groups. The vastness of social media makes these acts incredibly easy. You can share a picture to let your Facebook friends know you care. Twitter has a hashtag for every cause. But what is the actual effect of these actions? Though social networks allow the easy spread of information, a problem arises when the only support for a cause is a photo with a few thousand
shares. While it is satisfying and convenient for the individual to show concern for an issue, those in need of support receive little benefit. Not all slacktivism occurs online. On Valentine’s Day, One Billion Rising came to Brown in an effort to end violence against women. The movement and its founder, Eve Ensler, intended for one billion women around the world to dance in support of the one in three women who will be victims of violence during their
ly raises awareness of the violence many women face, awareness is only the beginning of the solution to a global problem — a truth that applies to many activist groups that rely on symbolism to address problems. There are plenty of ways to provide more effective advocacy. Write letters to legislators and public officials who can put issues of public interest on the political table. Donate money to a cause rather than just talking about it, but only af-
Symbolism can effectively raise awareness, but it does not directly help solve the problem itself and can ignore more serious aspects of an issue.
lives. It provided empowering opportunities to share stories and stand in solidarity against the abuse of women worldwide, and though I can not speak for all women in judging its effectiveness, I believe it is a worthy and well-intentioned cause. But it is here where One Billion Rising falls into the slacktivist trap — dancing does little to solve the issue of violence against women worldwide and the symbol of dancing is not a response to some of the severe acts of brutality that affect them. While One Billion Rising effective-
ter researching where the money goes. V-Day, the organization that sponsors One Billion Rising, raises $4 million annually through college and community events for domestic violence and rape crisis centers. One Billion Rising at Brown took donations for the Sojourner House, a center for domestic violence victims in Rhode Island. Despite value in awareness and empowerment, the additional value of financial support cannot be ignored. Throwing money at a problem is not always the solution, though, and some do
not have the resources to donate. Education on a cause is another effective method of garnering support, as it allows people to make choices based on information rather than based on who is shouting the loudest. While slacktivism can inspire discourse on important issues, it often does not lead to conversation on how to take further steps of support. After dancing, what can participants in One Billion Rising do to further empower women and prevent violence? In the long run, informed commitment is more valuable than celebration and spectacle alone. Activist groups like V-Day and One Billion Rising are vital parts of culture both here and outside of Brown. American society alone would not be the way it is without groups that fight for a causes that impassion them. But to make the difference that many others have, activist groups should do more than promote symbolism. I support One Billion rising, but I also support taking action above and beyond passive acts. Since slacktivism and its convenience are probably not going anywhere any time soon, it should become the gateway into more direct, informative and effective forms of activism. Through dance alone, One Billion Rising will not solve a problem, but one billion educated and committed individuals have the potential to change the world. Gabriella Corvese ’15 thinks we should consider other ways to end violence against women and can be reached at email@example.com
Why do Brown students vote? ANDREW POWERS Opinions Columnist Every election cycle, millions of Americans representing a diverse cross section of the nation turn out to cast their ballots. The concept of voting is entrenched in western civilization, and while it might be easy to blindly engage in a tradition with cultural roots dating back more than two millennia, I suspect the inquisitive Brown student can do better. When we analyze the motive behind an act, we necessarily compare it to all other possible actions, including inaction. To pass judgment upon the relative value of two or more actions, such as voting or not voting, presupposes the ability to compare them by some scale. Economists often use the term “utility” to quantify happiness — an abstract amalgamation of all positive qualia, which nearly all models assume to be the exclusive motivator in decision-making. Naturally, I am inclined to use this term as well, but I do not wish to unnecessarily claim that expected happiness as a consequence of an action is the sole motive behind that action. Instead, I would like to redefine “utility” specifically as that which spurs us to action. While utility by our definition drives all action, it alone can do little expository work. We can answer our original question trivially by saying most people vote because such an action confers higher utility than the alternatives would. This motivates
the notion of a utility function, which will allow us to parse out the underlying issues. Such a function is simply the weighted combination of elements that directly affect utility with respect to an action. One could argue not all decisions are prompted by utility alone — particularlythose made reflexively or while in an emotional state. By definition, the term “reflexive decision” is an oxymoron. Unfortunately, we cannot so easily dismiss decisions made emotionally. The case could even be made that, to some extent, all decisions are made while in some emo-
Dining Services and earn a starting wage of $8.75 per hour. Not working for BuDS means valuing the utility consequent from a free hour at greater than that from $8.75. For such people, even if voting took only five minutes, it would incur a fixed utility cost of at least 68 cents. In a 2009 paper, Nate Silver, then an independent blogger and analyst, estimated the probability of an average voter making a difference in a presidential election to be one in 60 million. Because this is such an unlikely event, the payoff would necessarily be significant for the action to increase expected utility.
Justification for voting certainly exists, but it seems obvious that the argument used by most — that voting has potential to make some national difference — is based on fallacy.
tional state. I hesitate to use the term “irrational” because such decisions still maximize expected utility. Our emotions do not circumvent, but merely distort our utility functions — transiently redistributing the weightings of their various components. So now we consider the utility gained from the possibility of one’s candidate winning the election. At Brown, every student has the opportunity to work for Brown
In fact, one would have to value his candidate’s winning at just over $40 million to be making a rational decision. A voter can be gratified by the act of voting itself. Since this is a guaranteed — as opposed to exceedingly improbable — increase in expected utility, its implication regarding the prudence of voting is drastically greater than that of a vote’s monetary value. If one prefers aquariums to zoos simply because aquariums are more
fun, then it is surely reasonable to frequent aquariums more often than zoos. But most see going to vote as valuable for reasons transcending pure taste. Hypothetically, one might obtain utility by adhering to a view of morality that implies one ought to vote, but I seriously doubt the majority of students use such complex reasoning for something as commonplace as voting. More significantly — especially at a politically conscious school like Brown — I believe peer pressure affects many, and though this can effect practical results, it does not legitimately substitute for logical argument. Justification for voting certainly exists, but it seems obvious that the argument used by most — that voting has potential to make some national difference — is based on fallacy. Often people will melodramatically ask, “Well, what if no one voted?!” This definitely would be disastrous, but utility functions evaluate competing actions on the basis of their relative ramifications. None of the possible actions lead to the outcome of no one voting, so this is completely irrelevant when choosing the best course of action. Another widely held belief is that the act of voting engenders one’s right to complain should the opposing candidate win. This argument presumes that one voter has the opportunity to make a difference. For me at least, the choice not to vote derives not from any political apathy, but rather a sober understanding of reality. Andrew Powers ’15 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
daily herald city & state THE BROWN
SPOTLIGHT ON THE STATEHOUSE
BY ADAM TOOBIN CIT Y & STATE EDITOR
Student tax Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence and Johnston, introduced legislation in the General Assembly that would require out-ofstate college students in Providence to pay $50 per semester for three years to fund the development of the land cleared by the relocation of the I-195 highway. Carnevale argued in a press release that students from Brown, the Rhode Island School of Design and Johnson and Wales University should cover the costs of the area’s development because each school has expressed interest in expanding into the area. The city has promoted the new land, as well as some surrounding areas, with the moniker “the Knowledge District” as part of its efforts to attract high tech companies, medical technology businesses and universities to the area. Carnevale said in the same press release that he supports the initiative but hates “to think of using any more tax money for a project — worthwhile as it may be — that will benefit a small group of landholders.” “If one of those schools buys some land today, relatively cheap, and sells it five years from now when the area is active and thriving, who will reap the profit?” Carnevale said. “Not the taxpayers.”
Plastic bags Rep. Maria Cimini, D-Providence, is trying to make Rhode Island the first state in the country to ban the use of plastic bags in the state’s stores. The legislation, introduced in the House of Representatives last week, comes in the wake of passage of similar legislation in cities like San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. Barrington became the first town in Rhode Island to ban plastic bags when a recently approved law came into effect in January. Since every county in Hawaii has individually banned plastic bags, Rhode Island would not be the first state to offer only paper bags. But if the proposed bill passes, the state would be the first to pass statewide legislation preventing the use of plastic bags. Advocates of the ban argue that modern consumers use more plastic bags than they need and that the environmental effects of the overuse can be devastating. One billion discarded plastic bags cause environmental damage equivalent to burning 12 million gallons of gasoline, according to an article on environmentalist blog EcoRI News. Rhode Islanders consume 192 million plastic bags every year, according to a 2006 University study, EcoRI News reported.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2013
Large loan debts burden R.I. students The state’s undergrad loan debt ranks 4th nationally, averaging $29,097 per student By EMMAJEAN HOLLEY STAFF WRITER
Rhode Island ranked fourth in the nation for accumulated undergraduate student debt according to an Oct. 2012 report from the Institute for College Access and Success. While over onethird of Brown students take out loans
/ / UCS page 1 budgeting hearing. UCS also held a vote of confidence in which it affirmed President Anthony White ’13 and Vice President Brandon Tomasso ’13 in their positions of power. Council members declined to comment on how they voted. “It’s a very closed process that doesn’t provide appropriate feedback unless the conversation stays within the (council),” said Gilman, who was among those who declined to comment. The council heard updates regarding the strategic planning Committee on Reimagining the Brown Campus and Community from Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy and Committee Chair Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 and Professor of Engineering and Committee Co-Chair Iris Bahar.
to finance their undergraduate educations, 69 percent of Rhode Island college students graduated with debt in 2011. Rhode Island students accumulate, on average, $29,097 of student loans by graduation. Massachusetts and Vermont both ranked lower than Rhode Island, according to the report, coming in at $27,181 and $28,273, respectively. Students in New Hampshire accumulate the highest student debt of New England states, with an average of $32,440. Rhode Island’s loan burden has increased over recent years, a trend that can be attributed to the financial dif-
ficulties lingering from the economic downturn beginning in 2008, said James Hanbury, director of the Financial Aid Office at Rhode Island College. “Across the state, (the) economy has just been terrible for the last five years, and the fact that students are borrowing more is a result of that,” he said. “This trend will start to reverse once the economy improves.” Hanbury added that his data shows a “marked uptick in student loans between 2007 and 2008, and another one between 2011 and 2012” at RIC. The latter jump / / Debt page 3
The committee focused on two key areas, Carey said — “academic space needs” and “connections between the Jewelry District and College Hill.” Hunt criticized the idea of moving entire undergraduate departments into the Jewelry District, saying it “would segregate departments.” “I think one of the things that makes Brown cool is that mathematics is literally next to (modern culture and media),” she said. White said moving the School of Engineering to the Jewelry District could be particularly detrimental. Administrators are currently considering moving the school off College Hill, The Herald reported last month. “A lot of engineering students came to me with this fear because they don’t see themselves as an engineering student, but rather as a student who chose
to study engineering,” White said. A new pedestrian bridge could attract students to the Jewelry District by making the area more accessible, Bahar said. The transportation service that will replace SafeRide when its contract expires could also facilitate travel between the Jewelry District and the main campus, Pipkin said. “I’m wondering if there’s an effort to keep undergrad classes on main campus,” said Gregory Chatzinoff ’15, UCS-UFB liaison. “You can’t have two classes back to back that are on opposite ends of campus. That brings up an issue of the schedule,” Carey said, adding the committee could possibly rethink the current course schedule organization to accommodate students with classes in the Jewelry District.