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vol. cxlviii, no. 76

since 1891


Alums rank among top earners in survey

Questions of U.’s mission emerge at planning forum

Graduates rank as the eighth-highest paid in the country and the thirdhighest among Ivy peers

University expansion, financial aid and absence of detail in President Christina Paxson’s recently released strategic plan dominated discussion at a forum Tuesday hosted by Paxson and Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 to solicit feedback on the plan from students, faculty members and staff. Proposals to expand the University — in terms of numbers of students and faculty, educational scope and physical space — were at the heart of the discussion, which » See FORUM, page 3



How much can a Brown graduate expect to earn? In a tough economy, that question rests on many students’ and parents’ minds. According to an annual survey that PayScale released last week, Brown graduates have the eighth-highest average income after graduating among alums of U.S. colleges. The University ranked 17th in last year’s PayScale rankings. Among its Ivy League peers, only Princeton and Harvard outperformed the University. For its survey, PayScale compared approximately 1,000 American colleges and universities on a complex data set. According to the rankings, the average Brown graduate earns a $52,300 starting salary, and average mid-career salaries stand at $119,000. In response to the survey question, “Does your work make the world a better place?” 51 percent of alumni surveyed answered affirmatively. In contrast to typical college rankings, PayScale aims to calculate the financial outcomes on college education, including earning potential and the 30-year average return on investment. The PayScale rankings are unique in that “it’s the only data we currently have that attempts to find out how much graduates earn,” said Mark Schneider, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a member of PayScale’s advisory board. “A school like Brown, which is more liberal arts-(oriented), does well because of the quality of its students,” Schneider said, adding that humanities majors at most other schools do not earn similarly high salaries. The PayScale rankings have proven popular, Schneider said, attributing this to students’ angst about the state of economy. But some students expressed skepticism about the importance of the rankings and their significance for the University. “Most thinking adults realize that these ranking studies really are hogwash,” said Sohum Chatterjee ’14. Emma Funk ’16 said the high rankings do not console her. “A statistic like » See INCOME, page 2



President Christina Paxson spoke about her strategic plan draft at a forum Tuesday. With expanding professional schools, Brown is no longer a “university-college” as former President Henry Wriston defined it, she said.

As course offerings grow, Critical Review falls behind Faculty disinterest, lack of manpower and funding shortages have caused the website to lose prominence By KHIN SU CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A lack of updates to the Critical Review’s course reviews in recent years has caused the site to experience challenges in retaining prominence as a student resource during shopping period. The Critical Review announced updates for courses conducted in the fall 2012 semester in April on the group’s Facebook page but was unable to meet group leaders’ expectations for writing new reviews for courses offered last semester. Adam Siegel ’14, Critical Review editor-in-chief, said the lack of updates was due to a technical issue with the printers,

which meant survey packets were not delivered to faculty members in time. “We really screwed up,” Siegel said, adding, “It was definitely our fault, and we won’t do it again.” Many classes have reviews that were last updated in 2009 or 2010, with information on faculty members who no longer teach the course. Some students said without more current data, it is difficult to reply upon the Critical Review when selecting courses. Critical Review leaders said they have suffered from a lack of manpower to continue updating course reviews. “We recruit just enough people to survive and stay afloat,” said Rod Hasbun ’15, a Critical Review editor.

The Critical Review has an executive staff team of seven, which includes one technical staffer who maintains the entire Critical Review website, and around 20 to 25 writers and editors, Siegel said. About 1,900 courses are currently offered at the University by over 730 faculty members, said Curricular Resource Center Director Peggy Chang ’91. She added that as the number of courses has consistently risen, and as two-thirds of faculty members have arrived in the past 10 years, keeping up has become more difficult for the site. Chang said when she was an undergraduate in the late 1980s and early 1990s, “the Critical Review ... was supremely central” in students’ decision-making process for courses. But like any older organization, the Critical Review needs to rethink its

approach, she said. “The Critical Review student (staff) may not fully realize the exponential growth that’s taken place” in academic choices at the University, Chang said. “So when there’s that much choice, it’s wonderful, but I think we all need to acknowledge it’s a little overwhelming.” The Critical Review should think more strategically about the number of classes the group targets and should consider shifting the survey completion process online to maximize student responses, Chang said. But she added that she believed the group still has promise as a resource. “I don’t think the Critical Review’s time is over yet,” she said. The Critical Review has also faced budgetary challenges. » See CRITICAL, page 2

Lecturer explains nature with mathematical principles The Harvard professor used examples to show the simplicity in complex scientific questions By ALEX CONSTANTINO STAFF WRITER

Many different processes in nature can be understood through similar mathematical principles, said L. Mahadevan, professor of applied mathematics, biology and physics at Harvard, in a lecture to a mostly full Salomon 101 Tuesday night. His talk is part of a series of lectures around the world, entitled “Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013,”



Mahadevan confessed the questions he presented are “tiny” but a “cause for hope” for the future of mathematics in biology.

Bear love

Libertarian U.

Celebrate CAAS

Women’s tennis has strong “team chemistry,” said Coach Paul Wardlaw

Zach Ingber ’15 argues the Open Curriculum offers a free market model

The Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies celebrates its 30th anniversary






The student body may grow by 1 percent per year, President Christina Paxson said

that concern the interactions between mathematics and nature. “A lot of people think of science in terms of big complicated questions, but some of the absolute greatest problems start with very simple questions,” said Peter Jones, professor of mathematics and applied mathematics at Yale, when introducing Mahadevan. Mahadevan answered four such simple questions from his own research about biological forms — how tubes grow, how tendrils coil, how leaves ripple and how guts loop and fold. The first problem Mahadevan addressed was how the tubes of pollen elongate on their journey to fertilize a flower. The mechanism is similar to » See MATH, page 5 t o d ay


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2 university news calendar TODAY


5 P.M.



8 P.M. Grad/Undergrad Mixer

Water by the Spoonful

Sarah Doyle Women’s Center 7:30 P.M.

Leeds Theatre, Lyman Hall 8 P.M.

Free Screening of Blood Brother

Unheard Featured Artists Night

Metcalf 101

The Underground



LUNCH Popcorn Chicken, Au Gratin Potatoes with Fresh Herbs, Artichoke and Red Pepper Frittata, Vegan Brownies

Split Pea with Ham Soup, Pulled Pork Sandwich, Vegan Quinoa Stuffed Portobello, Italian Marinated Chicken

DINNER Grilled Ham with Pineapple, Savory Chicken Stew, Sweet and Sour Tofu Stir-Fry, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll

BBQ Chicken Quarters, Tortellini Pesto Salad, Potato Salad, Jamaican Pork and Apricot Stir-fry


Course Performance Reports to go online Students can request written evaluations for S/NC courses online through Advising Sidekick By MANDI CAI CONTRIBUTING WRITER

An online system for Course Performance Reports has replaced the issuance of hard copy reports. The reports enable students who are taking courses using the S/NC grade option to receive written evaluations of their performances from their professors, according to the Dean of the College’s website. Students can now request a CPR from a professor on Brown’s Advising

INCOME, from page 1 that doesn’t convince us that we won’t end up being unemployed or underemployed,” Funk said. “The fear or perception of the economy not doing well is still prevalent. … I don’t think that data makes us any more relaxed about our employment prospects.” For other students, Brown’s high ranking contradicted their perceptions of where graduates commonly work.

» CRITICAL, from page 1



“It’s actually a very small organization. People think that since everyone visits it, it has to be a large and extremely well-funded organization, and it really isn’t,” Hasbun said. “A year or two ago (the Undergraduate Finance Board) wanted to just cut the entire budget for the site, which is ridiculous,” said Cody Mello ’15, Critical Review software and operations engineer. Mello said UFB ultimately did not cut the group’s website funds, but he added that chances of any funding increase are slim. Critical Review leaders said they have had problems with data collection. Each year, the Critical Review distributes packets to between 900 and 1,000 undergraduate courses, Mello said. “A majority of professors don’t respond” to Critical Review staffers’ requests for surveys to be collected, Siegel said. The survey packets are handed out to department secretaries and stuffed in professors’ mailboxes, but only about 35 percent of these packets are returned to the Critical Review staff

Sidekick webpage. Both the student and faculty member submit their portion to ASK under the “My Reports” tab, where it is stored and eventually sent to a school or organization at the student’s request. “Unlike the paper copy, the student will have ready access to their CPRs completed via ASK online rather than hunt for where they placed the physical paper copy,” wrote Robert Fitzgerald, the University registrar in an email to The Herald. “I think it will definitely be easier, especially for someone like me with messy handwriting,” said Douglas Brown, director of the Writing Center and Writing Fellows program. “However, usually only one in five students request a report, so it won’t affect everyone.”

Some undergraduates also voiced their approval of the change. “Sometimes applying to jobs or grad schools with S/NC on your transcript seems disadvantageous compared to someone who took the same class and got an A, so this could be really helpful,” said Michelle Frea ’14. “This will be especially useful to seniors who may want to be able to take a lot of classes S/NC.” “It makes me a bit more comfortable taking courses S/NC, though I’m not sure how much the application reader will actually pay attention to (the evaluation). If anything, it’s an incentive to perform well in S/NC classes,” said Jayson Marwaha ’14.

“I was under the impression that a large majority of Brown graduates go into nonprofit organizations or more community-related jobs than profitearning ones,” Jack Du ’16 said. Schneider said PayScale’s data set raised questions about how to best analyze the numbers. “How do you combine disparate measures into a similar ranking?” Schneider said. “How do you compare a state university to Brown? How do

you develop a category for comparison?” PayScale’s methodology did not include alums with advanced degrees and only used data from graduates with bachelor’s degrees. It also excluded self-employed and contract employees. Because the salaries of graduates from elite schools vary extensively, the study has a relatively wide margin of error, the report stated.

for evaluation, he said. This low response rate is linked to the fact that many University departments already issue their own course surveys to students, Hasbun said. Because of these other surveys, many faculty members “think the Critical Review is superfluous,” he said. Critical Review staffers said they have been considering implementing some changes. One goal is greater communication with students and faculty members to increase the number of survey responses, Siegel said. “We are trying to revamp the Critical Review and rejuvenate it to a certain extent,” he said. The group is contemplating moving the survey completion process online, Critical Review staffers said. The surveys are currently two pages and require students to choose a number on a numerical scale and to complete five or six short answer questions, Mello said, adding that digitizing them could pose new problems. An online process might make it easier for students to avoid taking the survey, Mello said. “They might forget

or just don’t care.” But Mello said he believes the Critical Review is a useful resource still widely used. “I walk around campus, and I’m in the CIT, and I see people on computers using the Critical Review,” he said. Ria Mirchandi ’15, a Herald opinions columnist who said she shopped 46 courses this semester, said she finds the Critical Review to be a helpful resource in narrowing down courses. But she said the site should not determine students’ final choices. “I was shocked that my Meiklejohn, my faculty advisor, my international mentor — none of them told me about (the Critical Review),” she said. As an independent studies coordinator at the Curricular Resource Center and a Meiklejohn, Mirchandi said she believes the site is still valuable to first-years. “It’s one of the first things I tell my Meiklings,” she said.

— With reporting by Emmajean Holley

university news 3


» FORUM, from page 1 attracted a crowd filling close to half of List Art Center 120.

that amazing undergraduate program,’ ” Paxson said during an overview of the strategic plan. “That’s wonderful, and I want people to still think that in a decade. But I also want them to say this is the university that has the most remarkable programs in brain science, in the humanities, in the performing arts, in medicine.”

Student body size Paxson estimated the faculty and undergraduate bodies would grow by about 1 percent per year over the course of the plan, adding that she anticipated a higher growth rate for master’s students. Growing the graduate school Implementation of the plan is expected Others expressed concern about the to span about a decade. University’s proposed expansion into In response to a question from the Jewelry District. Justice Gaines ’16, Paxson said the Matthew Lyddon GS, former presiUniversity could double the number dent of Graduate Student Council, said of students admitted without suffering he was skeptical the Jewelry District was any decline in the quality of the student the “answer to the shortfall of graduate body because of the tremendous appli- student departmental space.” cant pool. If the University can handle Paxson responded that the Univermore students, she said, turning them sity is committed to growing graduate away unnecessarily would undermine programs, calling expansion of graduate Brown’s educational mission. resources “essential.” Growing the student body would Lyddon said he took issue with what also put the University on better finan- he called the plan’s neglect of doctoral cial footing, she students. He consaid. “Right now, if you ask trasted what he “We are a said was the sigpeople what’s great very tuitionnificant focus on dependent expanding master’s about Brown, they u n i v e r s i t y,” programs with a will say truthfully, Schlissel said. lack of attention ‘Oh, Brown, that’s a “If we don’t alto the needs of low ourselves to doctoral students. that school with that grow very modIn an interview amazing undergraduate last week with The estly at the same time we build Herald, Paxson program.” new programs said the move and hire new to grow master’s Christina Paxson faculty, then programs was moPRESIDENT that puts even tivated not only by more upward academic incenpressure on tuition for the number of tives but also because new programs students who are here.” could create new revenue streams for “The idea is to strike the right bal- the University. ance, to hit the sweet spot without givLyddon said though he knows ing up the kind of … highly interac- administrators understand the issues tive mode of education that makes the doctoral students face, the strategic plan undergraduate program so special to represents a missed opportunity to presallow us to get to the scale where we ent those issues to the Corporation. capture efficiencies,” he said. Paxson said the increase in students Academic advising CORINNE SZCZESNY / HERALD would be accompanied by an increase Stanley Stewart ’16 said he was disStudents asked President Christina Paxson and Provost Mark Schlissel P ‘15 about the University’s strategic in faculty, adding that the plan aims appointed the plan did not mention plan. Increasing the size of the student body will improve the University’s financial health, Schlissel said. to maintain the student-faculty ratio undergraduate advising. rather than a particular number of But Paxson said advising’s imporOf international students, 34 per- committee reports did not make it into needs to reexamine the size of support students. tance was so obvious that it seemed cent currently receive financial aid, the draft of the plan, mitigating student staff and individual staffers’ workloads. unnecessary to include in the plan. “It compared to 45 percent of the student contributions. Schlissel concluded the forum by The ‘university-college’? doesn’t even need to be body as a whole, But Paxson said the document is encouraging more written feedback to Some questioned Brown’s mission there because we know Paxson said, adding a high-level strategic plan, not an op- the plan, which he said has been limited “(Advising is) and the role undergraduate education we need to do it,” she that forging ahead erational plan. The initial draft was 45 in the six days since the plan was restill a priority should play in defining the University’s said. on need-blind ad- pages, but administrators trimmed it to leased. So far, he told The Herald, he has identity. “If you look at stafor students, and mission for interna- its current 11-page length so that people only received eight written responses. Marguerite Joutz ’15, a member of tistics on student sattional students is a would be likelier to read it, Paxson said. The draft of the plan will not be reit should be a Brown Conversation — a group that isfaction with advising top priority. Paxson also said when the plan vised prior to October’s Corporation priority for the aims to promote dialogue about cam- over the last couple She said making reaches the implementation stage and meeting, but a written summary of the pus issues — said she was concerned years, things have rethe University more operational plans are made, there will feedback from the forum will be created administration as to see the term “university” used in ally improved due to affordable and ac- be “a wealth of information to draw on” and made available to the Corporation, well.” the report as opposed to “university- very concentrated efcessible for all stu- from the interim reports. Paxson told The Herald. college,” which is used in Brown’s mis- forts on the part of the dents “is something A staff member from the music deStudent input will also be relevant in Todd Harris ’14.5 sion statement. administration,” PaxI feel very strongly partment commended the plan’s com- relation to the “sequencing, timing and PRESIDENT, UNDERGRADUATE Paxson said the reason for that son added. about.” mitment to the humanities and per- prioritizing” of the plan’s implementaCOUNCIL OF STUDENTS choice of wording was because “most Underg raduate “I saw (Prince- forming arts, but she said the University tion, she said. people off campus have no clue what Council of Students ton) go through the that term means.” President Todd Harris ’14.5, who made transition from being not need-blind She also said Brown is no longer a undergraduate advising a pillar of his to being need-blind for international university-college as former president presidential campaign, told The Herald students, and it changed the character Henry Wriston defined the term — a he thinks the University has room to of the place in a very interesting way,” university without professional schools. improve. Paxson said. Because the University has the School of “It’s still a priority for students, and Engineering, the Alpert Medical School it should be a priority for the adminisBroad strokes and the School of Public Health, it has tration as well,” Harris said. Multiple students voiced displeasure moved away from Wriston’s model, with what they called the plan’s lack she said. Financial aid of detail. Joseph DiZoglio ’15 called it But Paxson said Brown remains a Lawrence Goodman, staff writer for “vague” and Daniel Moraff ’14, a Herald university-college in spirit because of its Brown Alumni Magazine, asked about opinions columnist, said it was full of commitment to a liberal arts education. the role of need-blind admission for “abstractions” and “platitudes.” “Right now if you ask people what’s international students in the UniverMoraff said the planning process great about Brown, they will say truth- sity’s commitment to a “meritocratic” created the illusion of student input fully, ‘Oh, Brown, that’s that school with admissions process. but that many ideas in the interim

4 sports wednesday



Underclassmen lead Bruno in Ivy title pursuit

The team will attend various tournaments before starting its regular season this January By LAINIE ROWLAND CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The women’s tennis team opened the year with top finishes at the Brown Invitational this past weekend. With young players such as firstyear Dayna Lord ’17, whose serve dominated over the weekend, and Hannah Camhi ’16, a First Team All-Ivy doubles player and Herald contributing writer, the team is ready for the title hunt. Camhi lost in an emotional singles final of the Bear Flight, and Lord won the Red Flight in straight sets — 6-1, 6-4. Head Coach Paul Wardlaw said he expects this year to be a successful one for women’s tennis. “Every year we’re always in the hunt for an Ivy title and NCAA tournament bid,” he said. Lord and Camhi also teamed up this

weekend to reach the doubles final in the Brown Flight. Other notable performances came from Sarah Kandath ’15, with a third place finish in the singles Gold Flight, and wins from first-year Mariska Chamdani ’17 and sophomore Ammu Mandalap ’16 in their respective flights. The flights were determined based on seeding but were ultimately made at the team’s discretion. “It was really nice to play at home for the first tournament,” Camhi said. “It was revealing of what we need to work on.” The team faced multiple injuries last year, something members hope to avoid this season. “Our goal is to definitely improve upon our team last year,” Camhi said. “The team chemistry is good, and it’s a nice group of players. They’re working really hard,” Wardlaw said. The team will head to New Haven for the Yale Invitational Oct. 4-6 and will attend various other tournaments until regular season matches begin in January.


Hannah Camhi ‘16, a First Team All-Ivy doubles player, lost in the singles final of the Bear Flight last weekend.

T H E D O G D AY S A R E N ’ T O V E R


Students took part in “Heavy Petting,” an activity designed to reduce stress, Tuesday on the Main Green.


science & research 5


Mahadevan discussed the plant process on a microscopic level, using mechanical human-made objects to demonstrate their similarities.

»MATH, from page 1 blowing up a balloon, he said, but with one crucial difference — pollen tubes elongate instead of becoming spheres. This occurs because cell processes inside the tubes allow them to act as “molds,” bending the same way as glass does when it is blown into shapes like test tubes, he said. The work could be medically significant because some antibiotics work by influencing the cell walls of bacteria, Mahadevan added. Mahadevan then discussed another plant process, this time on the macro scale. After showing a time-lapse video of a tendril coiling around bamboo, he demonstrated the same mechanical principles with human-made objects — a telephone cord, a sheet of paper and a coil with two different layers. Mahadeven used the cord to represent the coiling tendril, and he wet the paper to show how it bends depending on the direction of its fibers. He then showed how a coil composed of two different materials could wind when stretched, mimicking a type of spring discovered by climbing plants. On the same plant scale, Mahadevan presented the problem of how

leaves ripple, which is puzzling, he said, because “there is one way of flat and infinite ways of not flat.” By studying mutant leaves of the Antirrhinum plant, he and collaborators were able to develop a mathematical model of leaf-rippling. Again using simple props, he showed how a flat piece of foam ripples depending on how pressure is applied and related the principle to how flowers bloom. Mahadevan concluded with the flesh-and-blood problem of how intestines form their characteristic loops. Experiments showed the problem is not as simple as “packing” the intestine to fit an enclosed space, he said. Instead, a structure called the mesentery acts as a “master puppeteer” by mechanically directing its development. He modeled the situation simply with a latex sheet and a rubber tube. Mahadevan confessed the four examples he presented were “tiny,” but he said he considers them “cause for hope” for the future of mathematics in biology. Jesus Leyva ’16 called the lecture “awe-inspiring,” saying it showed how mathematics can be used everywhere.


The colloquium addressed the Center for Alcohol and Addiction’s study of stagnating smoking rates, which are at an all-time low after years of decline. More than 70 people attended the symposium.

» ADDICTION, from page 8 “The one thing that our human brains don’t do very well is think about complex, long-term feedback loops,” he said, which causes many people to smoke for immediate gratification and disregard the long-term health risks associated with cigarette use. Though smoking rates are at an alltime low in America — approximately 18 to 20 percent of adults smoke — the number of smokers has ceased to diminish, he said. Researchers in the field of addiction are attempting to

analyze why certain people elect to smoke while others refuse to touch cigarettes, he said, adding that this information can help researchers determine how to reduce smoking rates. Abrams said he has worked with new software that can track where individuals buy cigarettes. This type of individualized study can help researchers understand how one’s environment contributes to addictive behaviors. Though Abrams focused on tobacco, other researchers who spoke at the colloquium covered topics ranging from environmental effects on teen

comics Class Notes | Philip Trammell

Culture Shock | Chloe Hequet

alcohol use to the role of continual rehabilitation for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. John McGeary, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior, discussed how analyzing genetic pathways could help clinicians discover personalized treatment methods for addiction, which some initial studies suggest have potential. More than 70 people attended the symposium, including many faculty members and fellows of the School of Public Health as well as some of the center’s alums.

6 commentary



PhD candidates face barriers to academic pursuits As we approach the last week of September, many seniors have already begun setting their post-graduation plans — especially with the fall recruiting season well underway for a number of top consulting, banking and technology firms. Amidst the chaos, it is easy to forget about another significant sample of seniors working to fulfill their post-graduation plans — plans that do not necessarily earn an immediate wage but are geared toward achieving an expert understanding of a specific subject area. The Doctor of Philosophy, a prestigious distinction reserved for only the most dedicated and intellectually driven, seldom enters the minds of many students these days. Rather, it is — regrettably, we believe — viewed as an unattainable trophy reserved only for the select few, a mindset unlikely to change in today’s world. Our national and global economies have and always will continue to depend on the fostered ability of human intellect and innovation. Attaining a PhD signifies competence, personal development and willingness to critically engage in the most important issues and questions facing society. It comes as no surprise that on average, those with a PhD earn 26 percent more than those who do not. A sure economic benefit accompanies the long-term investment of attaining a PhD. Unfortunately, this rests on the shaky assumption that employment is the next step after attaining a PhD. But today, jobs for PhDs are in short supply. According to an article published in the Economist, the United States awarded “more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009,” but only awarded 16,000 new professorships during that same time. And at the same time, the percentage of PhD graduates who attain jobs immediately after graduation has been rapidly shrinking, while options such as postdoctoral studies have risen. Of course, one considers more than just economic reasons when deciding to advance in academia. Pursuing a PhD is an exhausting and thorough experience that can be done only if one is truly motivated by the subject material. The same Economist article cites that within 10 years of the first date of enrollment, only 57 percent of PhD candidates will obtain employment, with the figure much lower — 49 percent — for humanities candidates. Based on these depressing numbers, we have much reason to admire PhD candidates, many of whom are forced into a “high-risk, high-reward” mindset. This is even truer for non-science candidates whose futures primarily hinge on stable academic employment. Though the growth and prosperity of society’s future rests on the potential and capability of the academically enlightened, the path toward the doctorate is marred with immense obstacles. After graduate students have braved the years-long struggle toward attaining the PhD, they can attempt to enter the gate to employment — except the gate is only wide enough for a fraction of those who seek entry. In such a narrow, competitive system, we remain unsurprised — though disappointed — that many who would otherwise strive to advance in academia decline to pursue graduate education. Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Rachel Occhiogrosso, and its members, Daniel Jeon, Hannah Loewentheil and Thomas Nath. Send comments to



“Most thinking adults realize that these ranking studies really are hogwash.” ­— Sohum Chaterjee ’14 See INCOME, page 1.

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A vision for Brown admissions to know students and for them to know Brown. I propose a system in which tens of millions of students would parguest columnist ticipate in a Brown education. Their opportunities would An alien arriving in Provi- range from a series of free, dence from a distant planet online lectures — similar to would marvel at the inefficien- the Khan Academy model — cy of admissions processes at to certificates for attendance Brown. Nearly 29,000 people or passing exams, to coached apply, about 3,000 get accept- courses offered and monitored ed and about 1,600 end up on by graduate and undergradcampus. How people decide to uate students, to online-tuapply, the process for accep- tored and professor-supported tance and the student’s deci- courses. sion on accepting the accepAdmissions should be a tance are a black box. Tradi- gradual process. Rather than tionally a highly selective uni- sending in applications, Brown versity, Brown chooses from a can intensify its interaction very small pool of mostly U.S. with tens of millions of stuhigh school graduates — with dents, reaching from the slums 94 percent of Brown applicants of Calcutta and the favelas of in the top 10 percent of their Rio to the banlieues of Paris and classes. the barefoot classrooms of VanThose in the Admissions uatu. As highly promising canOffice have a tough job: How didates emerge from first concan you evaluate the lifetime tacts, these students should be promise of an 18-year-old? encouraged to deepen their inThose at admissions must be teractions with Brown. One opscratching their tion is to conheads in a lot “I propose a system nect “honors” of cases. How high school in which tens of can you make courses directa life-changing millions of students ly to Brown — decision about a both would participate through candidate based the on-site in a Brown on a few writhigh school ten pages and a teachers and education.” couple of test rethe honors sults? students. Through a combinaEven less clear is how peo- tion of Brown teaching and lople decide to apply to Brown cal support, Brown can provide in the first place. Albert Ein- true “honors” education prior stein would not have applied to college admissions. Those to Brown. He would have had who rise to the top, and who to write his essay in English, choose to live in Providence for which would have been a four years, would form a part challenge for him in pre-War of the elite 1,600 full-time, onZurich and Augsburg. The campus, attendees. Herald wouldn’t have been Professional baseball teams available to him. If he had ap- have single-, double- and triplied, he probably would not ple-A teams. They rarely bring have been accepted. their recruits directly to the Finally, those that “get away” majors. Instead, they bring to rival universities or ashrams them to the farm teams, coach in India — hello, Steve Jobs — them and watch their progress. reflect a low yield rate and a Moving forward, admisfrustrating loss of opportunity sions should not be a binary for Brown. How do people de- event. Rather than waiting for cide, after being admitted to applications to come over the the University, that Brown just transom, admissions should isn’t for them? In most cases, become an active process of inadmitted students who decide teracting with millions. Rather to attend Brown know as little than issuing a thumbs-up or about the University than the thumbs-down decision, Brown Admissions Office knew about should offer a spectrum of adthem when they sent them missions opportunities. And their fat envelope. students who are accepted to So admissions at Brown is Brown will know a good deal an inefficient, inexact, frustrat- more about the University ing and wasteful process. What than they do under the current must Brown do to improve process. this? How can Brown find and Admissions should be a recruit the next budding Nel- process, not a milestone or a son Mandelas, Mahatma Gan- deadline. dhis and Albert Einsteins of the world? Admission is binary. You John Lonergan ’72 is a gradreceive either a thin letter or uate of Harvard Business a fat letter. You’re in or you’re School and a Silicon valley out. It’s like a bad first date. entrepreneur. He wants you to A better way would be to engage with these issues at have a spectrum of ways to get


commentary 7

Libertarian of the Ivy League

from. Why should we not em- students to seek help when they ulate this hands-off approach truly need it rather than igin the real world? At the end nore something that could seopinions columnist of the day, individuals, rather verely hamper their experience than governing bodies, know at Brown. I believe that states what makes them happy. should adopt this philosophy I am not a libertarian. While I It is also no secret that Brown when writing legislation on somay agree with libertarians on has repeatedly been ranked cial policy. From drug policy to some issues, I certainly do not as one of America’s happiest a woman’s right to choose, a less share their approach on for- schools. Perhaps Brown stu- overbearing government would eign policy. I lean toward in- dents are some of the happiest lead to happier Americans. Alterventionism, and I admit- in the country lowing people to tedly tend to favor a hands-on because of the make their own “The American government role when it comes very free mardecisions — progovernment to national security — sorry, ket approach vided that they Ben Franklin. With that said, at Brown I do not harm othcan learn a bit I am sympathetic to the liber- just described. ers — will lead to by looking at tarian emphasis on individual I would una happier, freer freedom and limited govern- doubtedly be Brown’s libertarian population. ment. These notions have deep less happy if I I understand approach, its historical roots in the United had a mandathat sometimes States and remain a fundamen- tory lab science students’ happiness, we need to cortal part of our political culture. or language to and the trust the rect the market And though much of Brown’s take before I from the top. Imadministration student body avowedly favors a graduated. The perfections exbestows upon large government presence on freedom we enist. The introduceconomic and social welfare is- joy as students the student body. tion of the writsues, I believe we can learn a bit percolates into ing requirement There seems to about government policy from the classroom is a perfect examour beloved Brunonia, the lib- itself — stuple of this. The be an invisible ertarian of the Ivy League. dents at Brown University rechand guiding It is no secret that we have are in classes ognized a shortBrown students to coming in our plenty of freedom at Brown. that they want From designing our own edu- to take, not academic success system and fixed cation to navigating the many because they it. I accept the and happiness.” social outlets on campus, are forced to. necessity of these Brown boasts an incredibly lib- Granted, many types of reforms, erating, hands-off approach. complain when but we need to Most notably, the Open Cur- fulfilling tough pre-med or make sure that we are focusing riculum allows students to other requirements. But Brown on the right kinds of repairs carve their own paths, to try not only abstains from setting in the right places. These soand fail, and to explore and re- many of those — it also does lutions should neither signifiject — all on their own. While not force students to take that cantly dampen the overall exvarious advising institutions path. The American govern- perience of a student — or citimake recommendations about ment could learn a bit by look- zen — nor greatly impinge on which classes students should ing at Brown’s libertarian ap- the individual right to choose a take, at Brown, undergraduates proach, its students’ happiness certain path. could easily take four classes in and the trust the administraI am not suggesting that we the same department or take all tion bestows upon the student abolish all regulations in the of their classes S/NC. This is a body. There seems to be an in- United States. All I am sayfree market at its finest. visible hand guiding Brown ing is that we, a student body We learn the ins and outs students to academic success that tends to favor a top-down of Brown’s sinuous academic and happiness. economic approach in governroads by talking to our peers, Just as the Open Curriculum ment, could learn a little from shopping classes and experi- mirrors a free market, the social the way we do things at Brown. menting on our own. We do not atmosphere at Brown reflects a Because I think I know what have to sift through top-down smart approach to social poli- makes me happier better than rules. Such rules would suggest tics in the United States. We the government does. Brown students are not capable have an exceptional Residential of or willing to figure out what Peer Leader program at Brown, is best for themselves. The fact a program focused on buildZach Ingber ’15 would love that the University’s adminis- ing relationships and creating if Brown Dining Services had tration allows this freedom dis- resources for students in need. fewer rules about where and plays an incredible amount of RPLs do not function as spies when you could use meal credtrust — something our political or security seeking ways to get its. Feel free to email him at structures as a whole can learn students in trouble. This allows


daily herald science & research THE BROWN



Researchers pinpoint tuberculosis’ Achilles’ heel


At the colloquium, held Saturday in Salomon 101, speakers addressed reduced funds from the National Institutes of Health, which was forced to cut its annual budget by $1.55 billion.

Colloquium celebrates CAAS anniversary Speakers addressed limited funds from the NIH, which cut its annual budget by $1.55 billion By SARAH PERELMAN SENIOR STAFF WRITER

The University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies celebrated its 30th anniversary amidst excitement about the center’s growth and concerns over future research funding at a colloquium Saturday in Salomon 101. The colloquium featured a keynote address by speaker David Abrams, executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as well as 12 presentations by researchers followed by discussion panels. President Christina Paxson and Peter Monti, director of the center and professor of alcohol and addiction studies, provided opening remarks. When David Lewis, professor emeritus of community health, first opened the center in 1983, it was “simply a small office at Arnold Lab with a whopping budget of $1,500,” Paxson

said at the start of the colloquium. But the center now employs 28 full-time faculty members and enjoys $13.3 million in grants for research, she said. One of the center’s greatest accomplishments is its postdoctoral training program, Monti told The Herald. He added that the program trains more postdoctoral fellows than any other alcohol and addiction center in the country. “I think one (important feature) is that we are a resource, for example, for people to come if they want to quit smoking,” said Professor and Chair of Behavior and Social Sciences Christopher Kahler. By participating in the center’s research studies, well over 1,000 people have gained access to the resources to quit, he added. But the center’s ability to conduct research depends largely on grant money from the National Institutes of Health, Monti told The Herald and emphasized in his opening speech. “The biggest challenge we’re facing right now is the reduction of funding in the NIH,” Monti told The Herald. Though the center gets “a larger piece of the funding pie with each passing year,” he said in his opening remarks, the size of that pie is diminishing. After sequestration went into

effect in March, the NIH was forced to cut its annual budget by $1.55 billion. The reduction will be evenly spread across all programs and projects funded by the NIH, according to the NIH website. The funds are necessary for the center to continue its work in encouraging young researchers to persist in tackling problems associated with alcohol and addiction, Monti said. To introduce Abrams, Monti showed the audience a slideshow of photos of a shirtless male model who shares his name. The real Abrams, who specializes in tobacco research, then took the stage, clothed, and discussed the history of the decline of cigarette use as well as the advent of electronic cigarettes. He said electronic cigarettes — advertised as a safer way to smoke than traditional cigarettes— will be mass-produced from several large factories in Europe. Abrams said electronic cigarettes present a catch-22 to public health experts — promoting electronic cigarettes might enable current smokers to satisfy their cravings in a way that’s less harmful, but it might also encourage non-smokers to underestimate the risks of smoking. » See ADDICTION, page 5

Oesper GS selected for supercomputing event Oesper’s computer science research could advance understanding of the biological basis of cancer By JOSEPH ZAPPA CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Computer science student Layla Oesper GS has been selected to participate in the 25th annual SuperComputing13 conference in Denver this November. Oesper is a fourth-year doctoral student who said she uses computer science to interpret the billions of base pairs that make up cancer genomes. Interpreting this mass of biological data may help biologists to better understand what causes cancer and to better treat it, she added. Oesper was chosen along with two other Rhode Island students by

Rhode Island’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, an organization composed of members from nine Rhode Island colleges and universities that works to promote statewide scientific efforts, according to a press release on the organization’s website. Supercomputing is about analyzing data, Oesper said. As technology has evolved, scientists have “had to be on the forefront of dealing with massive quantities of data,” she said. The conference will feature presentations by supercomputing researchers from around the world, according to the press release. Eightyfive students, selected from over 300 applicants, will volunteer at the conference, the press release reported. Edward Hawrot, associate dean of biology and professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology, is the co-principal

investigator of EPSCoR. He asked Oesper’s advisor, Ben Raphael, associate professor of computer science, to recommend a Brown scholar for the conference. Raphael described Oesper as a “perfect fit” because her work has “compelling and high impact implications,” adding that “Layla is a great role model for female computer scientists.” Oesper said she enjoys her work because she “never know(s) what’s going to happen on any given day.” She works not only to interpret data but also to explain it to scientists from various disciplines. “If I’m giving a talk about the same information to a room of biologists or computer scientists, that talk is going to be different,” Oesper said. “I’m excited because this conference is a little outside of my bubble,” she said. “It is an intersection of a lot of different communities.”

Jason Sello, associate professor of chemistry, and Corey Compton GS may have found Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ “Achilles’ heel,” according to a Sept. 18 University press release. The researchers found that the tuberculosis bacterium requires an enzyme called ClpP to survive. Inhibiting this enzyme will kill the M. tuberculosis bacteria, a deadly infection gaining resistance to mainstream antibiotics, according to the release. Though the enzyme ClpP is extraneous in most bacteria and is even referred to as “the garbage disposal of the bacteria cell,” it is essential to the survival of the M. tuberculosis strand of bacteria, Sello said in the release. “If you can inhibit the function of the enzyme … then you can kill the bacterium,” he added. Running a series of multi-step experiments on a set of 14 compounds known as B-lactones, Sello and his team eventually found the holy grail they sought. The molecule B-lactone 7 was found to inhibit the ClpP enzyme, indirectly triggering the death of the M. tuberculosis bacteria. “Our data validate ClpP as a viable, antibacterial drug target,” Sello said in the release, adding that pharmaceutical companies could use B-lactone 7 or the ClpP inhibition strategy as potential launching pads for anti-tuberculosis drug development.

Flower fertilization knowledge grows With an article title that suggests the first ever how-to-guide written by a plant, University researchers recently published new findings on the intricate process of flowering plant reproduction. “Speed dating, rejection, and finding the perfect mate: advice from flowering plants,” was published in Current Opinion in Plant Biology earlier this month. The research demonstrates an increasingly strong understanding of flowering plant reproduction on the molecular level and describes new insight on how “cysteine-rich peptides are a major mode of cellular communication” throughout the process, according to the article. In the paper, Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, and Kristin Beale GS describe how pollen tubes from one flower’s piston grow toward female gametes in another flower to transport a pair of sperm cells, a process known as double fertilization. The maneuver requires “extensive cell-cell interaction” that regulates how far the pollen tube goes, when it stops and when it bursts to deliver the sperm, according to the article’s abstract. The sperm activate when they arrive at the female gamete, and then one fuses with the female sex cell. The researchers found evidence that more pollen tubes will grow toward the female gamete only if the first fertilization fails.

Research uncovers nongenetic type 2 diabetes risk factors In a new study involving more than 13,500 postmenopausal women, Brown researchers linked certain nongenetic factors such as lifestyle choices to type 2 diabetes risk. The study was published online in the journal Clinical Chemistry earlier this month. To measure the level of risk, researchers tracked the levels of a protein called sex hormone binding globulin. Low levels of this protein indicate increased risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a University press release. Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine, led research on nongenetic factors that affect SHBG levels in postmenopausal women. His team found that factors such as age, estrogen replacement therapy, physical activity and consumption of coffee were positively correlated to higher SHBG levels, and therefore lower risk for type 2 diabetes. A high body-mass index was associated with lower levels of the protein, signaling greater risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the release. The study, which focused on SHBG-related type 2 diabetes risk in black, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander postmenopausal women for the first time, revealed that ethnicity does not affect type 2 diabetes risk in a significant way. The research may help bolster clinicians’ understanding of type 2 diabetes risk factors and make intervention strategies more effective, according to the release. “By the time you are checking blood glucose, it’s too late,” Liu said in the release. “Our argument is that you can go to the doctors office and check this protein that can predict your future risk six to 10 years down the line,” he added.

Thursday, September 25, 2013  

The September 25, 2013 issue of The Brown Daily Herald

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