vol. cxlviii, no. 81
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013
Klawunn named interim dean of the College Shutdown The VP for campus life could and student services will fill the post until a new dean is named harm state economy By KIKI BARNES
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn will serve as interim dean of the College effective Jan. 1, when current dean Katherine Bergeron will step down to become president of Connecticut College, Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 said at Tuesday’s faculty meeting. “I am thrilled that Margaret will step in and provide the needed continuity (to the position),” Bergeron told The Herald. “We work very closely together,” Bergeron said, adding that the employees in both of their offices collaborate and will ease the transition when a full-time dean of the College steps in.
“I am very pleased and honored to take this on,” Klawunn told The Herald. Schlissel also announced the students and faculty members who will serve on the dean of the College search committee, which he will chair. In a campus-wide email he sent yesterday, Schlissel wrote that he expects a new full-time dean to be named by July. Faculty members who will staff the committee include Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences Sheila Blumstein, Professor of Economics Andrew Foster, Associate Professor of Computer Science Chad Jenkins, Professor of Neuroscience Diane Lipscombe P’15, Associate Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature Zachary Sng, Senior Lecturer in English Elizabeth Taylor, Senior Director for Planning and Projects MaryLou McMillan ’85 and Associate Dean of the College Maitrayee Bhattacharyya ’91. Liza » See DEAN, page 2
U. financial aid and research grants will be unaffected in the short term, Provost said By ADAM TOOBIN CITY AND STATE EDITOR
COURTESY OF BROWN UNIVERSITY
Margaret Klawunn, who will become the interim dean of the College Jan. 1, is currently vice president for campus life and student services.
Faculty members critique Paxson’s strategic plan draft Faculty members expressed concern that the draft does not use the phrase “university-college” By KIKI BARNES SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Faculty members voiced concerns over President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan draft at a faculty meeting Tuesday, taking issue with the absence of the term “university-college,” its commitment to growing the faculty and student body populations and its emphasis on globalization and rearranging academic calendars.
At the meeting, faculty members also voted unanimously to create a new Behavioral and Social Health Sciences PhD program in the school of Public Health. The majority of time was spent reviewing and discussing Paxson’s strategic plan draft, which is called “Building on Distinction: A New Plan for Brown.” The plan’s absence of the term “university-college,” which is included in the University’s mission statement, sparked heated debate surrounding implications about Brown’s mission. One male faculty member said the University offers the best
undergraduate education among its peer institutions and should continue to do so, asking, “Will it be incumbent upon us to move away from that term?” But Paxson responded that “when you go outside of the University, the term is baffling,” adding that, in many contexts “university-college” refers to smaller-scale continuing education rather than places of higher learning such as Brown. “Symbolically, the phrase is really important to what we do here,” one faculty member said, while another countered by saying, “what it meant doesn’t exist anymore.” Many faculty members said
graduate students are overlooked in the strategic plan, adding that keeping the “university-college” term could lead to overlooking neccesary improvements to doctoral education. “We are a bit of a bubble,” Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 said. “Perhaps this somewhat obscure term could work against our interest to recruit good (graduate) students.” “I couldn’t disagree more,” said Professor Emeritus of Geological Sciences John Hermance. “‘University-college’ is very unique to Brown University,” Hermance said, adding that graduate students felt “left out” by undergraduates when » See FACULTY, page 2
After congressional quarreling sent the federal government Monday night into its first shutdown since the Clinton administration, Brown students and people across Rhode Island spent Tuesday considering how the closure will affect them. The effects will be limited in the short term, but if Congress remains embattled for weeks or even months, consequences will begin to mount, said David Wyss, an adjunct professor of economics and former chief economist for Standard and Poor’s. Short-term safety The University is most worried about “Pell grants and other forms of financial aid,” Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 told The Herald. The federal government has already paid the University all student aid necessary for the semester, but Schlissel said “if (the shutdown) lasts into next semester — which I’m very confident that it will not — then we’ll have issues with student support.” Research should also remain unaffected by the shutdown in the short term, » See SHUTDOWN, page 3
CreatureCast videos featured on NY Times website By MEGHAN FRIEDMANN CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Readers of the New York Times’ website now have the opportunity to learn about “Sex in Spoonworms,” thanks to Assistant Professor of Biology Casey Dunn’s project, “CreatureCast,” which the site picked up over the summer. Dunn started CreatureCast — a series of short animated videos that explore interesting topics in zoology — in 2009, after receiving a grant from the National
SCIENCE & RESEARCH
DAN ZHANG / HERALD
Casey Dunn, assistant professor of biology, used a National Science Foundation grant in 2009 to begin CreatureCasts.
Science Foundation. Most of the videos were made by Brown students, The Herald previously reported. Since then, the project has expanded, recently having received a total of about 400,000 views, Dunn said. Representatives from the Times contacted Dunn this past summer expressing interest in featuring some of the project’s videos on their website, Dunn said. While he does not know how the project came to their attention, Dunn said he “was really excited to hear from them.” The collaboration with the Times is a “great opportunity,” Dunn said. While certain CreatureCast videos have been featured by other media outlets over the past four years, the Times “provides a much more consistent and regular way to get some of the episodes out,” Dunn added.
Yes to Divest?
The Annenberg Institute received a grant to research school disciplinary policy
Professor of Economics George Borts retires after 63 years at Brown
Brown Divest Coal calls on the student body to advocate in favor of divestment
SCIENCE & RESEARCH, 4
Alysse Austin’s ’15 short video on spoonworms was displayed on the Times’ website last month
Recently, much of the attention the project has received on Twitter has been “driven in large part by the release on the Times,” Dunn said. Generally, feedback has been “really positive,” he added. Not all CreatureCast videos will be featured on the Times’ site — Dunn said he picks a group of videos he thinks the Times may want to feature, and editors respond with their opinions. Ultimately, the Times editors select which ones to post. One of Dunn’s students, Alysse Austin ’14, created a video — “Sex in Spoonworms”— that was featured on the Times’ site last month. Austin said she made the movie as a project for BIOL 0410: “Invertebrate Zoology,” and found out several weeks ago that the Times wanted to feature her video. Her friends and family were “all really happy” for her, » See CREATURE, page 4 t o d ay
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2 university news » DEAN, from page 1
12 P.M. Dollarocracy
Brown Bag Concert Series
Smith-Buonanno 106 8 P.M.
Sayles Hall 6 P.M.
Nick Byrne Solo Ophicleide Recital
“No” Film Screening
menu SHARPE REFECTORY
LUNCH Sweet Potato Fries, Fried Scallop Roll, Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich, Mashed Mustard Potatoes
Steak Fries, Shaved Steak Sandwich with Mushrooms and Onions, Mandarin Blend Vegetables
DINNER Gingered Turkey Salad, Sugar Snap Peas & Tarragon Pork Chops in a Tarragon Mustard Sauce
Grilled Chicken Cilantro, Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes, Corn Mexicane, Mesculin with Honey Dijon Dressing
Cariaga-Lo, associate provost for academic development and diversity, will also staff the committee. The undergraduate students who will serve on the committee are Amelia Armitage ’15, Abi Kulshreshtha ’15 and Emma Dickson ’16. Klawunn, who has previously taught English and gender studies at Brown, was named to her current position in 2008. Previously, she worked as associate vice president for campus life, associate dean of the College and director of the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center. Under Klawunn, the Office of Campus Life has spearheaded projects such as renovating undergraduate dorms and developing class-based housing communities. Klawunn has also been a prominent figure in plans to renovate the Sharpe Refectory — a
»FACULTY, from page 1 the Open Curriculum was developed in 1969. But those same graduate students ultimately benefited from the ethic the “university-college” term inspires, he said. “Graduate education improved as a result of undergraduates (after the Open Curriculum),” and that pattern will continue if the University maintains its focus on quality undergraduate education, he said. “One of the things that attracted me to Brown was that there was a good balance of liberal arts not swamped by many large professional schools,” said another male faculty member. Paxson responded to the criticisms by saying, “There is no disagreement about the core mission of Brown.” Faculty members also sparred over the plan’s proposed growth of
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013
priority President Christina Paxson affirmed in the recent draft of her strategic plan. Those renovations have come under criticism from some undergraduates and groups such as Brown for Financial Aid, who have argued they divert resources that should be concentrated on student aid. Klawunn worked with the 2011 Athletics Review Committee, which, under former President Ruth Simmons, recommended cutting four varsity teams and increasing the University’s athletics budget. The teams ultimately were not cut, and funding increases and facility renovations for athletics have continued. “(The dean of the College) is a role I feel is critical to supporting the uniqueness of Brown’s curriculum,” she said, adding, “it is a wonderful opportunity to work with a great team of individuals.”
Schlissel and Paxson worked together to appoint Klawunn to the position after “a great deal of deliberation,” Schlissel said. Klawunn’s appointment will keep the disciplinary breakdown of senior administrators relatively consistent. A humanities scholar, she will replace Bergeron, currently a professor of music. Klawunn will join Kevin McLaughlin P’12, dean of the faculty and former chair of the English department at Brown, Schlissel, former dean of biological sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, and Paxson, who is trained as an economist. “I am confident (Klawunn) will carry forward the work of the College with the same combination of intelligence, enthusiasm, sensitivity and commitment she has displayed in her five years as vice president,” Schlissel wrote in the campus-wide email.
the student and faculty populations by a projected 1 percent each year over the next decade. Professor of Political Science and Vice Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee James Morone said such a small increase per year “seems to be a lack of ambition,” though many others said the campus is already too crowded. “We are incredibly short on adequate classroom space as it is,” said Kenneth Breuer, professor of engineering, adding that an additional 200 or 300 students seemed “dangerous.” Schlissel said the University intends to provide more classroom space and fix scheduling issues, adding that rearranging the weekly class schedule could potentially alleviate classroom conflicts. “If we could get students to wake up an hour earlier in the morning (to
attend) 9 a.m. classes, that would help,” he said. Schlissel went on to say increasing the number of one-and-a-half-hour classes that meet twice a week instead of the common three-days-per-week option would free up many large classroom spaces from day to day. The University may also change the academic year to match that of the neighboring Rhode Island School of Design, which would create a winter session during the month of January for shorter, intensive class offerings, as well as a shorter summer session, Paxson said. “Faculty can choose when they want to teach, whether it is the current two semesters, or maybe spring and summer, which would free up the fall for research,” Paxson said, adding that changes are not finalized and in-depth discussions have not yet taken place.
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013
science & research 3
U. looks to expand research in computational neuroscience Researchers intend to use computerized mathematical models to illuminate biological and cognitive processes By ASHNA MUKHI CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Founded under the Brown Institute for Brain Science, the Initiative for Computation in Brain and Mind is aiming to strengthen the profile of computational neuroscience at Brown. Computational neuroscience focuses on using computer-based mathematical models of the brain and mind, as well as computer science techniques for analyzing data, said Michael Frank, professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences and co-founder of the initiative.
Computers allow researchers to perform complex simulations of brain activity and help link biological processes in the brain to cognitive processes of the mind, according to the initiative’s website. Links of this kind can be used to analyze the biological processes behind mental illness and can prove instrumental in developing treatments for these conditions. Various branches of the initiative examine different aspects of brain processes to give a more complete picture of the brain. For example, computational cognitive science models the mind and behavior, while computational
linguistics builds models of language, said Thomas Serre, professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences and another co-founder. Research in this area spans the departments of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, neuroscience, applied mathematics, computer science, neurosurgery, biostatistics and engineering, according to the initiative’s website. Serre and Frank said they hope to strengthen and formalize this broad and interdisciplinary research community. Though Brown is home to a variety of computational brain-related research projects, there was not a coherent center for them until Serre, Frank and Professor of Neuroscience David Sheinberg
founded the initiative one year ago, Frank told the Herald. The founders plan to increase the visibility of Brown’s computational neuroscience research through the organization of several seminar series and workshops on the topic. The initiative is also hosting a Neural Decoding Competition open to the Brown community. Participants will be given scans of a person’s brain waves and will have to use computer algorithms to deduce what the person was looking at or thinking about. “We hope to engage the community as much as possible through these talks and also through hands-on activities,” Sheinberg said. Students, a focal point of the
initiative, will benefit from the expertise of a number of different faculty across different disciplines, Frank said. “Theoretical approaches to the brain are a matter of intense undergraduate interest at Brown,” said Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences James Anderson. “Brown is a great place for such interdisciplinary work.” By building a strong community of people passionate and aware of this topic, the initiative hopes to “eventually recruit the brightest minds in the field for faculty and students,” Frank said. “We would like Brown to be one of the first places that comes to mind when people think about computational neuroscience,” Serre said.
» SHUTDOWN, from page 1
substantive damage, the Providence Journal reported. “This is a cumulative harm. It takes a lot of liquidity out of the economy and it takes a lot of money out of the economy,” Whitehouse told the Journal Monday. “Even people who are not directly affected by it will see an economic slowdown, which is something obviously Rhode Island can ill afford now.” The state relies on federal funds for a variety of valuable activities, Wyss said. If that money does not come through, projects will have to be halted, employees will not be paid and the recovery will slow, he added. For example, the Small Business Administration, which was responsible for more than $85 million in loans last year, has to cease giving out loans during a shutdown. Though Congress usually authorizes funds to pay federal employees in full for the time they did not work while the government is shut down, “most Americans are one month away — one paycheck away — from defaulting on a loan payment,” Wyss said. The 21-day government shutdown of 1996-7 was the longest in history, but “the economy was doing well, so the effects were limited,” Wyss said. Typically, the federal government itself incurs the largest cost from a government shutdown, Wyss said. Every day it remains closed, the federal government
loses about $100 million, he said. When those employees who were furloughed return to work, they usually require overtime to catch up on everything they missed while out, he added.
Schlissel said. Professors who receive grants from the federal government receive their funds at the onset of a project and will not lose access to it due to the shutdown, he said. The two federal agencies responsible for a large share of federal grants to the University, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, will be closed as long as the government remains shut down, so “the Fed won’t be processing new grants,” Schlissel said. “All the time, grants are ending and new ones are starting,” he added, a process that the government shutdown will delay. International students who need to renew their visas to continue attending Brown next semester should be able to do so. Because the State Department charges to process visa and passport applications, that procedure will not be affected by the shutdown, Politico reported.
COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said the federal government shutdown could lead to an “economic slowdown.”
State struggles The shutdown caused more immediate consequences across the state, though Wyss said as long as the government reopens soon, the effects on its economic recovery should be limited. About 7,000 Rhode Islanders work for the federal government, making it the state’s third largest employer, according to the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. Whitehouse told reporters Monday that Congress has about a week to pass a resolution funding the government or the state’s economy will suffer
Political instability In the days leading up to the government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats in Congress fought over whether a final budget deal would either delay or repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Democrats, including President Obama, insisted the fight over the health care law, passed in 2010, constituted a separate debate and should not be part of budget negotiations. Rhode Island’s congressional delegation echoed Obama’s sentiments. “The writing has long been on the wall that the extreme ideological agenda of House Republicans to delay or defund health reform is a dead end. The fight over the Affordable Care Act was settled, both in the Supreme Court and in the 2012 election, and yet this futile discussion continues all the way to a government shutdown,” wrote Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., in a statement. Rep. Steven King, R-Iowa, explained his party’s motivation for attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that “we can recover from a political squabble, but we can never recover from Obamacare.”
4 science & research
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013
Grant to fund study on school discipline The Annenberg Institute’s $1 million grant will fund research on equitybased disciplinary policy By KIAN IVEY CONTRIBUTING WRITER
The Annenberg Institute for School Reform received a $1 million grant in September from the Atlantic Philanthropies to research discipline in four U.S. urban school districts, Oona Chatterjee, co-coordinator of the project and assistant director of the Annenberg Institute’s New York City Organizing, wrote in an email to The Herald. The Institute will study methods of discipline and how they may have disproportionately adverse effects on economically disadvantaged students of color, Chatterjee wrote. The project is primarily intended to aid district leaders in creating and effecting policies that will “reduce disparities and promote positive approaches to school discipline,” Chatterjee wrote. In conducting this research, the Annenberg Institute hopes to combat the “school-to-prison” phenomenon, in which primarily low-income, urban students get in trouble with the law, entering the criminal justice system prior to graduation, according to an Annenberg Institute press release. By dealing with these issues, the Annenberg Institute hopes to decrease the marginalization of at-risk youth
and improve the quality of their education. The Atlantic Philanthropies, an international organization that aims to help disadvantaged people, first approached the Annenberg Institute about the potential grant. Though the process was not competitive, the proposal took three months to complete, Chatterjee wrote. This project marks the first time the Annenberg Institute has received an external grant to study urban school discipline, Chatterjee wrote. “Annenberg’s strengths in equitybased district reform, community engagement, research and communications offer exactly the right combination to provide crucial support to the school districts across the country taking up the charge to reduce suspensions, expulsions and arrests,” said Stephen McConnell, country director of U.S. Programs at the Atlantic Philanthropies, in the press release. Over the course of two years, the Annenberg Institute will select and work with schools in four major U.S. cities. During the first year, the researchers plan to accomplish four goals — data gathering and review, creation and implementation of policy, encouraging collaboration between the research sites and formulating a timeline for improving the disparate rates at which discipline policies affect different groups of students, Chatterjee wrote. Though the districts have not yet been chosen, the Annenberg Institute has begun the selection process. It aims
to select four districts with histories of strong leadership, advocacy and program design, Chatterjee wrote. In the second year, Annenberg Institute leaders hope to see results of the policy changes in the form of reduced racial disparities in the effects of school discipline and increased safety. “Racial and other disparities in the use of exclusionary discipline practices such as suspension and expulsion are a significant contributing factor to the persistent achievement gaps that sustain this pipeline of failure,” Chatterjee wrote. Cortney Griffith GS, a masters student in the Urban Education Policy program who is involved in the new research project, said she is looking forward to gaining “a deeper insight on the root and systemic causes of discipline disparities.” “What can we as researchers do to inform districts on how to train teachers to respond to the needs of students in urban school districts?” Griffith asked. She added that she likes that the project is “action-based,” with researchers “actually creating intervention programs that are going to help combat the disparities that exist in these districts.” In addition to writing and implementing new policy, the Annenberg Institute hopes to encourage more cohesiveness and collaboration within school districts in applying current policies. This approach will allow improvements to continue after the completion of the study, Chatterjee wrote.
COURTESY OF CREATURECAST
CreatureCast videos explain aspects of zoology as well as more abstract scientific subjects, such as statistics and bell curves.
» CREATURE, from page 1 Austin said. She added that she was surprised and “really excited,” though she said she would have “paid much more attention to detail” in her video had she known the Times would feature it. Eliza Cohen ’15, who also made a CreatureCast video during her sophomore year, said her work was not featured the Times site but did appear on a National Science Foundation website. Cohen said though she had not heard of the project’s launch on the Times website, she “wasn’t surprised.” Dunn has “big visions” for the project and “believes in the power of video,” she said. Though CreatureCast still receives money from the NSF, Dunn said the project’s low budget has contributed to
its longevity by keeping the project “accessible” to student producers. He also attributed the project’s success to student interest and participation. Dunn said the project has evolved over the past four years. While the first video was about nine minutes long, they now clock generally between two and four minutes. The shortened run time has made the videos more accessible to users, Dunn said. He added that improving the sound quality of the videos has been a recent focus of the CreatureCast project. As far as CreatureCast’s future goes, Dunn said he is working to expand the project to explain areas of science beyond zoology including more “abstract” topics. One of the two videos currently featured on the Times’ website explores statistics and bell curves.
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013
After 63 years of economics mentorship, campus legend retires George Borts, who worked directly under Milton Friedman, helped develop the department of economics By REBECCA STEINBERG CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Examining a photo of a happy baby boy, Professor Emeritus of Economics George Borts smiled. “I don’t have enough hair for a middle part anymore,” he chuckled, comparing his baby photo to his appearance now, 85 years later. After 63 years of teaching, Borts retired from Brown at the start of the academic year. Borts has mentored renowned alums including Janet Yellen ’67, current vice chair of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. Though Borts’ passion for teaching did not change during his six decades at Brown, he has witnessed tremendous transformations on campus, he said. He watched the Wriston Quad’s development, the Rockefeller Library’s construction and the List Arts Center’s sudden emergence, he said. “There was one telephone in the whole Robinson Hall. There was a secretary who would call you down when you got a telephone call. … You didn’t pull your phone out of your back pocket,” he said. First quarter baselines Borts was born Aug. 29, 1927 in New York City, a few years before the Great Depression. Borts said he still remembers noticing hordes of people walking the streets in search of work. Borts first began to study economics — taught only by one teacher at the time — in high school, he said. Borts remembered being the only student who showed real interest in the subject. At Columbia, where Borts received his B.A. in 1947, he met an economics professor who had just returned from service in World War II. The two met
once a week and poured over John Maynard Keynes together. This intimate method of education so inspired and challenged Borts that he soon found himself wanting to be an economist, he said. When Borts asked his professor what his next steps should be, his professor responded, “There’s a young chap at the University of Chicago named Milton Friedman. People seem to like him.” Borts enrolled at the University of Chicago where he earned a Master’s degree in 1949 under Friedman’s tutelage. “(Friedman) was extremely controversial — made you rethink everything that you thought was right,” Borts said. Growth curves Borts joined Brown’s Department of Economics in 1950 when he was 23 years old. “I was treated very nicely,” he recalled, “but not as an equal. Sometimes I had an idea that they didn’t pay attention to.” Borts’ students said they found him captivating in the classroom. “Professor Borts is truly one of a rare breed of professors whose class lessons are recalled far beyond a semester’s end. ... I was impressed by his dedication to students and unmatched accessibility to us,” said Elizabeth Fuerbacher ’14, a former Herald opinions columnist. A professor in microeconomics, macroeconomics and international finance, Borts said he boiled down complex theories so his students could not just understand them but question what they understood. “Can you describe in writing what you’ve read? Can you respond to questions? What are you doing, and why are you doing it?” he said, describing
the questions he wanted students to consider. “Going to Professor Borts’ office hours has been one of my best experiences at Brown. It is unbelievable how, after so many years of teaching, he would still care so much about everything a student had to say,” said Lorenzo Moretti ’14, another of Borts’ former students. Aside from teaching, Borts served as the chairman of the economics department from 1964-1967 and as an advisor for the Rhode Island chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. He also served as a consultant to the National Science Foundation, Undersecretary of Commerce for Transportation, New England Telephone Company and National Motor Freight Traffic Association. Borts “brought the department from a little local school place to the national level,” former professor of economics Jim Hanson previously told The Herald.
He is known by all for his mastery of the “one-liner,” Hanson told The Herald. “He showed me not just how to help students, but how to use economics to help people generally. He was always there for good advice — professional and personal.” Labor vs. leisure Outside of the classroom, Borts said he enjoys spending time with his family, including his son’s dog Gizmo, and listening to classical music. On his sabbaticals, Borts said he enjoyed traveling the world — including visits to the London School of Economics, Washington D.C., and Hokkaido, Japan. He said he has fond memories of his time in Japan with his wife. “My wife had beautiful blond hair. We would walk down the street and she would stop traffic. … A bus would slow down and we would wave at them,” he said. His experience at Brown has been
COURTESY OF BROWN UNIVERSITY
Professor emeritus of economics George Borts mentored Janet Yellen ‘67, the Federal Reserve vice chair. “fruitful,” he said. “I really got a lot out of it. … I can’t even complain about the food.” When asked about how it is to be retired, Borts responded, “I’ll let you know.”
BRITTANY COMUNALE / HERALD
Department of Public Safety officers posed on horseback and educated students about safety resources at “Be Safe Brown!”
comics Eric & Eliot | Willa Tracy
Class Notes | Philip Trammell
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013
U. should continue focus on environmental studies A renewed focus and approach to environmental studies — “Sustaining Life On Earth” — is one of the seven major themes identified in the University’s new strategic plan. President Christina Paxson and the Corporation have aptly recognized that environmental change is a pressing issue that “can threaten global supplies of food and water, harm human health, and undermine the stability of societies around the world.” Expanding the resources and scope of the environmental studies progrm is a crucial area that the University must continue to consider over the next decade. As the University continues to increase the capacity and resources of science, technology, engineering and mathematics departments, environmental studies should not be overshadowed. Oftentimes, environmental science is trivialized as a soft science in comparison to other, more “practical” sectors such as engineering and technology. The University has done a valuable service by recognizing that environmental sustainability is perhaps one of the most pressing concerns for the generations to come, and the changes in store for the department should echo this attitude. In addition, the Center for Environmental Studies must maintain its interdisciplinary approach to research and learning. Paxson has said the University would “seriously consider” creating an institute for the environment and human society. While we should praise the initiative to expand the resources and self-sufficiency of CES, we also hope the department continues to collaborate with other fields of study. CES has already made muchneeded changes to make its curriculum more focused and comprehensive, although there is still work to be done. Recognizing that the old tracks were too broad and made advising difficult, the department has introduced four new courses to its core requirements including ENVS 1350: “Introduction to Environmental Economics.” Though introducing an economics requirement inspired controversy, we approve of this decision: CES should recognize that an understanding of economics is especially pertinent to understanding environmental and resource issues. Along the same lines, CES will soon begin implementing a new curriculum with a fresh offering of tracks. Among the subject areas, CES is introducing both “Air, Climate and Energy; Conservation Science” and “Policy; Land, Water and Food Security and Sustainability in Development.” Students have suggested CES grow its selection of courses related to environmental food and health. Given the changing climate and increasing food-related epidemics, the department would be astute to introduce a track focused on these issues. As the University celebrates 250 years of history, the 250 years to come will present new challenges and responsibilities. As the strategic plan aptly pointed out, climate change and environmental sustainability are two areas of focus we must continue to tackle and adapt toward. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q U O T E O F T H E D AY
“How does the duck touch the world?” — Bryan Quinn, RISD professor See classes, page 8.
A N G E L IA WA N G
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Advising dialogue complements curriculum To the Editor: I am writing in response to recent conversations on this campus about the importance of ensuring the strongest possible advising system at Brown. I fully support this dialogue and hope it continues. The ideals of the Brown curriculum have always called for robust advising, and for that we need the best ideas of all our students, faculty and staff. Under the Plan for Academic Enrichment, Brown made significant efforts to strengthen this important aspect of the undergraduate experience. Since 2007, the number of faculty and staff members involved in first-year advising increased by over 50 percent. The College established new protocols for sophomore advising and revitalized the Randall Advising Program. We developed the Matched Advising Program for Sophomores to enhance conversations between sophomores and upper-class students. We restarted the Faculty Advising Fellows program to increase the engagement of students and faculty outside of class. We created new online tools for advising — Advising Sidekick and Focal Point — to make accurate information available to advisers and advisees and published new materials to support advising in the concentration. We launched CareerLAB and made significant enhancements to career advising. We opened new spaces for advising in J. Walter Wilson, the Third World Center, the Science Center and the Nelson Fitness Center, doubling the number of drop-in hours available to students across the week. And we created Team Enhanced Advising and Mentoring to help advisers learn about the difficult issues
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affecting many of our students today. Indeed, it is a point of pride that each year so many faculty members choose to be involved in the advising process, along with hundreds of student leaders who generously give their time in support of their peers. In a recent survey, faculty members at Brown indicated that among the things they value most in their Brown experience is their work with undergraduates. They also indicated that, next to teaching, the activity on which they spend the most time is advising. This level of dedication is the envy of our peer institutions. I am not suggesting, however, that we should be complacent. A strong advising system must continually grow and change to meet the needs of every new cohort of students. Last year, the Committee on Educational Innovation — in preparing for Brown’s new strategic plan — indicated in its interim report that “the University should not only continue its ongoing work to improve advising, but also develop new measures to promote student responsibility, reflection, and accountability.” I believe Brown’s new strategic plan accepts this premise as a given. Advising is one of the great challenges and great strengths of the Brown curriculum. I have been honored and proud to work on behalf of our passionate community of faculty and students to support the ideals of our ennobling philosophy of education. Katherine Bergeron Dean of the College
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THE BROWN DAILY HERALD WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013
The brain drain involved in start-ups and create businesses is a practical approach to creating jobs and producing growth. The successful opinions columnist model followed by Cambridge, Mass. — now one of the entreOne of the essentials of a strong preneurial centers of the world economy is a supply of highly — should be a template for educated workers. With excel- Rhode Island cities. The governlent universities like the Univer- ment needs to establish incensity of Rhode Island, Bryant Uni- tives and resources for businessversity, Providence College and es to grow in order to make use Brown, Rhode Island attracts a of the talent available in Rhode large number of out-of-state stu- Island. dents. But the state’s inability to Recent projects such the retain students after graduation, Hatch Entrepreneurial Center when they often take jobs back — a shared workspace for entrehome or in cities like New York preneurs, founded by Dan Muror Washington, D.C., represents phy ’01 — encourage students to a significant economic cost to get off campus and engage with the Ocean State. the Providence business comThis sizeable departure of munity. By empowering entreskilled individuals, motivated by preneurs through increased colmore promising opportunities laboration, projects like Hatch, elsewhere, has caused an eco- which is located in downtown nomic brain drain — a signifi- Providence, help show students cant human capital flight. the numerous opportunities From a student’s perspective, available here in Rhode Island. the state’s weak economy — with “I think it’s important that we an unemployment rate of 8.9 break the vicious cycle of talentpercent compared to the nation- ed young students who graduate al average of 7.6 percent — is a from our fine universities and motivating factor in choosing to leave because they can’t find a leave after graduation. Further- job,” State Rep. Chris Blazejewsmore, from the perspective of ki, D-Providence, told radio stabusiness, the flight of potential tion WPRO. skilled-workers is a significant The legislation introduced opportunity lost and a weight on last spring by Blazejewski and a struggling economy. State Sen. Ryan Pearson, DEncouraging Cumberland, students to stay in “With a growing Lincoln, has Rhode Island afhelped estabcommitment from lish ter graduation has incenlong been an issue policymakers and tives for colfor policymakers. graducontinued support lege But it will take a ates to stay in from industry, real commitment Rhode Island. to developing new If passed, the students can be enterprises and bill would help the key to growing students pay providing a business-friendly enthe Rhode Island off student vironment in orwhile also economy through debt, der to attract and providing opinnovation.” maintain talent. portunities for Recently, Gov. future tax credLincoln Chafee its. ’75 P’14 P’17 has introduced legFor many of us at Brown islation aimed at reducing the and at other colleges across the state’s corporate tax rate. Crit- state, Rhode Island is a place we ics argue this will lead to cutting call home for only four years. programs that support and sub- But with increasing opportunisidize development in economi- ties and an improving economy, cally weak areas. Politicians of- Rhode Island could present reaten discuss the state corporate sons to stay long after graduaincome tax rate since Rhode Is- tion. land has among the highest in Situated between Boston the U.S. Some economists have and New York, with access to argued reducing the corpo- resources like the Narragansett rate tax rate will help improve Bay, it should come as no surRhode Island’s regional com- prise that Rhode Island was once petitiveness by increasing busi- one of the major economic cenness friendliness. But with high ters in the United States. With a levels of unemployment already, growing commitment from poland a consequently weak tax icymakers and continued supbase, a reduction of revenue for port from industry, students can the state would result in numer- be the key to growing the Rhode ous spending cuts, including to Island economy through innovamany essential programs. tion. Ending the brain drain may Instead of focusing on bud- well be the solution to Rhode Isgetary issues, which produce land’s struggling economy. much debate and little progress, the state government should instead focus on how to maintain Scott Freitag ’14 specializes in the human capital that is already current economic issues. He can in the state. be reached at Encouraging students to get firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes to divest BROWN DIVEST COAL guest columnists
You might have seen us on the Main Green or read about our campaign in The Herald last year, but Brown Divest Coal is back. And once again, we’re asking the University to divest from the “Filthy 15,” five mining and 10 utilities companies that have consistently proven to be the highestpolluting coal companies within the United States, as determined by size, number of Environmental Protection Agency violations and environmental health impacts. Last June, the Providence City Council voted to divest from the top 200 publicly traded companies with coal and petroleum assets. As a city, Providence — along with Seattle, San Francisco, Ithaca, N.Y. and several others — has taken a strong step away from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, University investments fail to align with our own city council’s resolution to “support a sustainable future where all people can live healthy lives without the negative impact of a warming environment.” Brown Divest Coal stands in solidarity with a nationwide movement of college and university student groups organizing to ensure that their respective institutions divest. Over the past year, BDC has garnered incredible public support, such as the passage of an Undergraduate Council of Students resolution and the written endorsement of billionaire asset manager Tom Steyer. The Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies submitted its recommendation in April that the University begin coal asset divestiture. Last May, the Corporation invited members of Brown Divest Coal to sit in on a Corporation meeting, something practically unheard of. The Corporation did not then vote on divestment but plans to do so this October. We call on all Brown students to uphold the University tradition of ethical inquiry through participating in the coal divestment discussion this fall. In terms of size, coal assets represent a miniscule proportion of the Brown endowment, accounting for less than 0.1 percent,
per Vice President for Public Af- commercial scale CCS coal facilfairs and University Relations ity operates today. Clean coal, at Marisa Quinn’s statements in a least for the time being, is a myth. prior Herald article. As an instiPerhaps most importantly, as tution, Brown purchases the ma- a group Brown Divest Coal aims jority of its electrical power from to take an ethical and ideological TransCanda, which, like Rhode stance against the most carbonIsland utilities, primarily uses intensive fossil fuel. Coal is argunatural gas and not coal-based ably the number one contributor electrical generation. to climate change, an issue that So why do we call for coal di- may have once seemed solely envestment? vironmental but Coal producnow threatens to “We hope the tion disproporseverely impact Corporation tionately affects the economic and low-income physical security will take this communities of current and fuopportunity where mines and ture generations. to cement the coal-fired powWithin its divester plants are loment recommenUniversity’s cated. While didation, ACCRIP reputation as rect mining famakes it absolutetalities averaged ly clear that “the a cornerstone 35 per year beharms associated of progressive tween 2006 and with these comaction and social panies’ business 2010, coal-related deaths stempractices are so advancement.” ming from fly grave that it would ash particulate be deeply unethiexposure have been estimated at cal for Brown University to conanywhere from 13,200 to 23,600 tinue to profit from them.” annually. According to a 1970s We hope the Corporation will research study conducted by the take this opportunity to cement Oak Ridge National Laboratory the University’s reputation as a and later publicized in Science cornerstone of progressive action and Scientific American maga- and social advancement. In the zines, individuals who live with- past, the Corporation has voted in the stack shadow — half to to divest from tobacco, compaone mile — of a coal-fired pow- nies within apartheid South Afered plant are exposed to equal rica, HEI Hotels and Resorts, and or higher rates of radiation than businesses with ties to human those living the same distance rights violations in Darfur. from a nuclear facility. MountainThough the Corporation may top removal to make room for vote no this fall — or potentially coal mining operations has prov- postpone a vote altogether — a en to significantly disrupt ecosys- yes vote would solidify the great tem services in the surrounding things that set Brown apart from natural environment. its academic peers: a continued In addition, we believe coal is commitment to ethical inquiry, a bad investment, given the global demonstrated progressive leadpush for increased carbon regula- ership and rigorous analysis of tion, whether in the form of di- contemporary issues. Many of us rect taxes or cap-and-trade allo- may have chosen to attend Brown cations. Last July, the World Bank for these very reasons. ACCRIP, Group announced it would elim- the Undergraduate Council of inate financial support for coal Students, the Graduate Student production in developing coun- Council, thousands of students tries except in rare circumstances. and hundreds of faculty and alThis September, the EPA released ums have all endorsed divesta proposed rule for new coal-fired ment as an ethical imperative. A power plants that would effec- yes vote would confirm the Cortively eliminate future coal-fired poration’s trust in us. power plant construction without the commercialization of carbon capture and sequestration, For more information about known as CCS, or “clean coal,” Brown Divest Coal, visit technology. Though EPA Adminwww.browndivestcoal.org or istrator Gina McCarthy has said attend the Divestment CCS could prove a viable option, Teach-In Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the fact remains that not a single Smith-Buonanno Hall 106.
daily herald science & research THE BROWN
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013
SCIENCE & RESEARCH ROUNDUP
BY KATE NUSSENBAUM, SCIENCE & RESEARCH EDITOR
U. doctor performs single-incision hysterectomy W. Scott Walker, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, became the first surgeon in the state to perform a robotic-assisted hysterectomy involving only one incision earlier this month. During robotic-assisted hysterectomies, surgeons remove a woman’s uterus by controlling surgical instruments from a computer in the operating room, according to the Johns Hopkins Medical website. Most robotic surgical procedures, including those for endometriosis, involve three to five incisions, according to a Lifespan Hospital Group press release. But the hysterectomy that Walker performed involved only one small incision within a woman’s bellybutton, meaning she is unlikely to show any scarring, according to the release. The single incision also reduces the risk of complications. “I am honored to be the first physician in our region to perform this procedure and excited to offer my patients the most advanced, minimally invasive surgical options,” Walker said in the release.
Researchers compile list of editing sites in fruit fly genes
JUSTINA LEE / HERALD
With the introduction of new interdisciplinary classes, students will have the opportunity to lead an adult dance workshop, create educational videos and explore a duck’s interactions with its surroundings.
New classes integrate science and art The courses will examine animation and dance through both artistic and scientific lenses By RILEY DAVIS STAFF WRITER
Though art and science often appear contradictory, students in two new classes this semester will have the chance to explore both forms, with some using animation to explain basic science concepts and others exploring the physiological benefits of dance. In VISA 1800: “Communicating Science” and TAPS 1281: “Artists and Scientists as Partners,” students engage with art and science as two mutually beneficial subjects. A Rhode Island School of Design course called IDISC 1524: “Marine Duck Studio: The Art and Science of Ecocentric Practices” will also be available to Brown students in the spring. VISA 1800 students focus on communicating scientific ideas through animation. RISD and Brown students — with varying degrees of art and science backgrounds — will explore different ways to demonstrate scientific concepts through artistic mediums. Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience John Stein and RISD professor Steven Subotnick are collaborating on
the best ways for students to develop these skills. “We begin the semester with a series of guided exercises that introduce students to ways of using visual communication in the service of science education,” Subotnick wrote in an email to The Herald. Students will learn to explain science through an animated video, which they will develop in a group. The class addresses an important discrepancy between science and how it is taught to laypeople, said environmental studies concentrator Elizabeth Castner ’14. “It’s really great for education,” Castner said. “Right now students are losing interest in science because it’s too hard. They don’t understand it.” Under the tutelage of Julie Strandberg, senior lecturer in theater, speech and dance, and Rachel Balaban ’80, adjunct lecturer in theater, speech and dance, students in TAPS 1281 are examining the physical benefits dance can have on Parkinson’s and autism patients. “The idea for this class came from a class I was teaching to people with Parkinson’s disease — because I could see the difference it was making for participants,” Balaban said. At the end of the semester, students will lead their own dance workshops for adults suffering from
Parkinson’s or adolescents with autism. Strandberg and Balaban held auditions for the class in order to ensure an even distribution of self-identified artists and scientists, Balaban said. “I’m interested in medicine, but I love to sing and dance,” said Isabel Sunshine ’16. “I’ve always said sort of casually ‘yeah it’s my therapy’ … but didn’t understand what that meant from a scientific point of view.” In the spring, RISD’s IDISC 1524 “will focus on developing an ecocentric approach to design, with the duck itself as a client,” RISD professor Bryan Quinn said. “How does the duck see the world? How does the duck hear the world? How does the duck touch the world?” he said. “Once we have a good fundamental understanding of that subject matter, the students will develop creative work that explores those themes.” Part of the class will be studying the marine duck in the wild, Quinn said. Students will work with the University of Rhode Island and accompany URI students as they research the marine ducks in the field. Brown students can either take the suggested three-credit class, which meets once a week, or the six-credit class, which will have an additional session once a week.
University researchers have identified more than 3,500 editing sites in the genetic material of fruit flies. Their list includes locations in which an enzyme may replace a “G” nucleotide of RNA with an “A” nucleotide, altering the expression of certain genes. This process may affect the flies’ neural and gender development, according to a University press release. Their work was published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology earlier this week. Other research teams have attempted to compile lists of fruit fly RNA editing sites in the past, but the University team was able to report sites with increased accuracy using both biological sequencing and statistical estimation, according to the release. Professor of biology and corresponding author of the paper Robert Reenan and lead author Georges St. Laurent GS experimentally validated almost 1,800 of the sites. They also collaborated with Charles Lawrence, professor of applied mathematics and the paper’s senior author, to predict more than 1,700 additional sites. They then selected a proportion of those sites to test in the lab. Using their experimental results, the research team was able to determine the variables that make a nucleotide likely to be an editing site, which they then used to update their predictions. Their final list is likely 87 percent accurate, according to the press release. “How does the cell go about choosing which (nucleotides) are going to get edited and which aren’t is an interesting question this opens,” Lawrence said, according to the release.
Study unveils underreporting of risky prescriptions A new study led by University researchers has found that when Medicare Advantage plans report data to the government, it underreports the number of seniors receiving high-risk medication. Their work was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this month. The research team, led by Alicia Cooper PhD’13, examined data from over 170 insurers and found that almost 27 percent of patients over age 65 received a high-risk medication. But the plans reported that the proportion was closer to 22 percent, according to a University press release. “We’re using the same sources of data that Medicare Advantage plans are supposed to be using to derive this information,” Cooper said in the release. These findings are significant because Medicare pays plans based on their quality, and the rate at which high-risk medications are prescribed plays a role in their determination of that, according to the release. The research team’s finding also suggests that Medicare plans may be reporting more complicated data inaccurately as well, Cooper said in the release. In their paper, she and other researchers suggest that policymakers increase their oversight of the plans’ self-reported data “to ensure the validity and reliability for patients and other stakeholders.”
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