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Commencement 2010 | May 30, 2010 | Serving the community daily since 1891
COMMENCEMENT 2 3 5 6
The word conjures up B-grade horror films. It’s a word you’d expect to find in a work of science fiction from that anxious age between the invention of the computer and the day we became comfortable with smartphones in our pockets and GPS in our cars — when we realized technology might be OK after all. In fact, every one of us has become a cyborg, “a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device.” And it was hard for us to think of a more prototypical cyborg than the average Brown student: a creature whose productive energies are spent entirely in the realm of information — first absorbing, in the classroom and in the library, then producing, with the attendant flurries of keystrokes. The college campus has long been a connected environment, but students now have access to the outside world more easily than ever before, summoning information to their screens with just a click, a tap — wherever we are. In this issue, you’ll read about the “cyborg student” — who he is, where he goes and what he does. What do students do on their laptops during lecture? Can a cyborg student handle a week without 21st century technology? Read on. Resistance is futile.
Schedule of events Senior orators Baccalaureate address Honorary degree recipients
NEWS FROM THE HILL 9 9 10 10
Simmons’ sudden Goldman departure Cutting back after the financial storm Application numbers hit new heights The College Hill reading list
COVER STORY 14 16 18 18
The rise of the cyborg student In class, online An addict tries to kick the tech habit Beyond the skull
EVERYWHERE BUT HERE 24 25 26 26 27 27 28 29
— The 119th editorial board
A rare mind, taken too soon Seeing double A date with destiny Life in the fast lane Parting ways The candidate A lens on the world The wounded warrior
DIAMONDS EDITORS Steve DeLucia Michael Bechek Chaz Firestone Nandini Jayakrishna Franklin Kanin
Michael Skocpol Rachel Arndt Catherine Cullen Isabel Gottlieb Scott Lowenstein
C R E AT I V E
WRITERS Ana Alvarez Alex Bell Nicole Boucher Ellen Cushing Sydney Ember Sarah Forman
Brigitta Greene Kristina Fazzalaro Sophia Li Brian Mastroianni Kelly McKowen Suzannah Weiss
Marlee Bruning Jessica Calihan Gili Kliger Kim Perley Leor Shtull-Leber Katie Wilson
Cover photo by Max Monn and Nicholas Sinnott-Armstrong
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
COMMENCEMENT 2010 SCHEDULE OF MAJOR EVENTS Friday,
5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Brown Bear Buffet, one of Brown’s oldest traditions. A delicious meal and entertainment by Brown acappella groups. Sharpe Refectory, Main Dining Room
9:45 a.m. Commencement Procession Starts Faunce Arch, the College Green
9 p.m. – 1 a.m. Campus Dance, sponsored by the Brown Alumni Association. The College Green
11:15 a.m. The Medical School Convocation Ceremonial awarding of degrees. The First Unitarian Church
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Commencement Forums, a series of academic colloquia by faculty, alums and distinguished guests.
report directly to the First Baptist Church in America. The College Green
2:30 p.m. Baccalaureate Service. 1:30 p.m. The multi-faith Baccalaureate ceremony will be videoProcession Formation. broadcast on the College Graduating seniors Green and in Salomon assemble on Waterman Center and Sayles Hall. Street, facing east The First Baptist Church toward Thayer Street, in America with the line beginning at Faunce Arch wearing 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. cap and gown. In Brown Daily Herald case of heavy rain, Alumni Reunion graduating seniors 195 Angell St.
10:30 a.m. Graduate School Convocation Ceremonial awarding of degrees. Lincoln Field
12:10 p.m. College Ceremony Live video broadcast on the College Green and in Salomon Center, Sayles Hall and the Pizzitola Center. Live audiocast into Manning Chapel and Meehan Auditorium. The Grounds of the First Baptist Church in America 12:45 p.m. University Ceremony. Senior Orations and awarding of honorary degrees. The College Green Diploma Ceremonies immediately following at assigned locations as listed in the Commencement program. In the event of a severe storm, the storm plan will go into effect and be announced on the Brown University homepage. A yellow pennant will be flown on the College Green flagpole.
TATIANA GELLEIN Tatiana Gellein ’10 knew she wanted to work in medicine from an early age. When it came time to start looking at colleges, the Seattle native dreamed of attending Stanford and staying true to her West Coast roots. Then, her college adviser told her about a certain “very liberal” Ivy League institution across the country in Rhode Island. Once the University accepted Gellein into the Program in Liberal Medical Education, which offers Brown undergraduates a spot in the Alpert Medical School, Gellein packed her bags and headed east. After Gellein delivers her speech on Sunday, she will receive a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology. She will be attending Alpert
Medical School in the fall, and aspires to later go on to graduate school in public health. She hopes to go into pediatrics or family health, with a long-term goal of creating her own free clinic for low-income families. Gellein’s speech, entitled “Jonah Lives in Theory,” discusses the ability Brown students possess “to embrace their larger-than-life dreams,” she said, adding that Brown is a place where those big dreams do not die, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Gellein has been an active member of PHASE, instructing Providence high school students in sex education. She is also a member of WORD! — a spoken-word poetry group.
SENIOR ORATORS TAN NGUYEN Tan Nguyen ’10 is quite the world traveler. The son of tofu-makers in Vietnam, Nguyen won a scholarship to attend high school in Singapore at age 15. Four years later, he was “yanked out of my comfort zone” after being awarded another scholarship to attend Brown. Though his immersion into American culture and language was “quite intimidating” for Nguyen, he found his place in the Brown community, partly with the help of Professor of Mathematics Thomas Banchoff, for whom Nguyen works as a teaching assistant. Banchoff is not only Nguyen’s adviser and teacher, but someone he regards as family. Although Nguyen’s parents cannot attend Sunday’s ceremony, he said he is very happy to have his “American grandparents,” — Professor and Banchoff and his wife — with him. Nguyen says Banchoff encouraged him to write a speech for Commencement, nominating him to be a
senior orator. Nguyen’s speech, “Ropewalking”, reminds graduates to keep their heads up, look straight and remain confident in all their endeavors. He was inspired by the “ropewalkers” Brown students might recognize from watching their tightroping adventures between trees on the Main Green. It’s a feat Nguyen said is scary at first, but doable once you get your bearings. Nguyen is most proud of his involvement with the Vietnamese Students Association, Brown Toastmasters and Buxton International House. He is receiving both a Bachelor of Science in applied math/economics and a master’s degree in economics. He will work with the Breakthrough Collaborative, an academic achievement program for under-served middle schoolers, this summer before heading to Boston in the fall to work at Bain and Company, a global strategy consulting firm.
— Kristina Fazzalaro Photos by Kim Perley
BACCALAUREATE ADDRESS David Rohde ’90 David Rohde ’90 is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times whose kidnapping by the Taliban and subsequent escape made international headlines last year. Rohde joined the Times in 1996 and was named cochief of the South Asia bureau in 2002. His work has primarily focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in November 2008 while reporting on the conflicts in those countries. After seven months in captivity, he escaped on June 19, 2009. The Times’ reporting team, of which he was a member, won a Pulitzer in 2009 for its coverage on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rohde was earlier awarded a Pulitzer for international reporting in 1996, for his coverage of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina. His work for the Christian Science Monitor exposed the killing of
7,000 Muslims in the United Nations safe-zone of Srebrenica. Serbian authorities briefly detained him for his investigation of the mass graves. Rohde was freed after an international cohort of reporters campagined for his release. A 1990 graduate of Brown, Rohde transferred from Bates College at the beginning of his junior year. He received a Bachelor of Arts in History. He is married to fellow Brown alum Kristen Mulvihill ’91. Rohde’s 1997 book “Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica” discusses his experience in Bosnia. He authored a fivepart series in 2009 for the Times addressing his kidnapping, captivity and escape. His forthcoming book “A Rope and A Prayer: The Story of a Kidnapping” will recount his time spent in captivity. — Kristina Fazzalaro
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS This year Brown will award honorary degrees to eight individuals prominent in a variety of fields, including film, public service and historical scholarship. The recipients were selected by the Board of Fellows of the Corporation, based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Honorary Degrees. The committee, which is composed of faculty, staff and students, solicits nominations from the campus community each spring.
Courtesy of South Africa ‘s The Good News
With five Academy Award nominations to his name, Memphis-born actor Morgan Freeman has had a long and distinguished film career. His most memorable big-screen performances include roles in “Driving Miss Daisy,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Million-Dollar Baby” and, most recently, a stint as fellow honorary degree recipient Nelson Courtesy of S.C. Webster Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus.” Freeman’s acting career began in the 1960s in on- and off-Broadway productions and soon expanded to the roles in television and movies. His varied career on the silver screen has included narrating the 2005 documentary “March of the Penguins” and playing Lucius Fox, Batman’s technology supervisor in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.” Nearly 40 years after his movie debut in the children’s film “Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow?,” Freeman is now the 10th highest-grossing actor of all time.
Nelson Mandela Former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela will receive an honorary degree in absentia at Brown’s 242nd Commencement. A representative of the Embassy of South Africa will attend to accept the degree on his behalf. Mandela and former president of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their efforts to dismantle the country’s system of apartheid. Mandela, who was South Africa’s first black president, led the country from 1994 to 1999 in a period that sought truth, reconciliation and justice for the human rights violations committed during the apartheid period. Mandela began his political career in the 1940s, with a professed commitment to non-violent resistance, but came to see no alternative to violent methods of political struggle. In the early 1960s, Mandela co-founded the military wing of the African National Congress and was arrested in 1962, leading to a 27-year imprisonment on a sabotage charge. At the age of 91, Mandela remains one of South Africa’s most iconic figures.
Romila Thapar Romila Thapar is a leading scholar of ancient Indian history. Her research integrates archaeology, mythology, philosophy, literature and other fields to challenge oversimplified portrayals of Indian history. She received her doctorate in 1958 from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. A professor emerita of history at Jawaharlal
Nehru University in New Delhi, Thapar is the author or co-author of 15 books and has taught at Cornell, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2008, she was a co-recipient of the $1 million Kluge Prize, awarded by the Library of Congress for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Cecile Richards ’80 The national president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards ’80 is a long-time advocate for social justice. She has worked as an organizer for low-wage workers and founded America Votes, a national coalition of more than 40 organizations that works on voting rights, voter education and mobilization and the Texas Freedom Network, a grassroots organization that monitors issues related to religious freedom and individual liberties in Texas.
Courtesy of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood
Shahrnush Parsipur Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur who began writing short stories at the age of 16 has been imprisoned four times over the course of her literary career. Parsipur and lives in California as a political refugee, is the author of “Touba and the Meaning of the Night” and “Women Without Men,” two novels exploring women’s place in Iranian society. The author was imprisoned twice for “Women Without Men,” which speaks openly against women’s sexual oppression.
Though “Touba” was a best-seller in Iran, Parsipur’s work is now banned in her native country. Her writing, which includes numerous novels, short stories, essays and a memoir that recounts her experiences in jail, has been translated from Persian into English, German, Italian, Spanish and several other languages. Parsipur, who was the first recipient of Brown’s International Writers Project Fellowship in 2003, has also received a Lillian Hellman/Dashiell Hammett Award from the Fund for Free Expression.
Barbara Liskov In 1968, Barbara Liskov was the first U.S. woman to earn a doctorate in computer science. Last year, Liskov, a professor and the associate provost for faculty equity at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, was honored with the A.M. Turing Award, the field’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize. Liskov’s achievements in computer science include developing programming languages that ultimately laid the foundation for software programs on personal computers and the Internet. In her position as associate provost, Liskov works to increase minority representation among MIT’s faculty. “I think there has been a tremendous amount of progress,” Liskov said of the num-
Courtesy of Rwoan
ber of female students and faculty in math, the sciences and engineering, though “we’re still a long way from gender equity.”
Gordon Wood Distinguished historian Gordon Wood formally retired in 2008, after nearly 40 years at Brown and five years of part-time teaching. But Wood — who lectured at the White House in 1991 on the presidency of George Washington — hasn’t been idle since his retirement. His volume in the Oxford History of the United States, “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815,” was published in fall 2009 and was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for history. It won the New York Historical Society’s annual book prize — an award whose other candidates included his daughter Amy’s first book. Wood’s other books include Pulitzer winner “The Radicalism of the American Revolution” and “The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787.” He is currently compiling a Library of America volume of John Adams’ writing.
David Rohde ’90 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Rohde ’90 will be giving this year’s baccalaureate address. See page 5 for his profile. — Sophia Li
NEWS FROM THE HILL
Simmons’ resignation at Goldman still a puzzle BY ALEX BELL
For almost 10 years, President Ruth Simmons’ service on the board of Goldman Sachs Group was very much under the radar. Then, this past winter, as the world was waiting to see what CEO Lloyd Blankfein would take home after a tremendous $68 million bonus in 2007, a handful of students and bloggers began to realize that Brown’s own president was one of a group of just 10 directors who had the responsibility to set executive pay, as well as to oversee practices for which the firm has come under such scrutiny in recent months. When I interviewed Simmons for a Herald article in early February, she said her ties to the Wall Street giant would not harm the University’s image. She joined Goldman’s board in 2000 while serving as president of Smith College, and said her position on the board had given her a certain economic savvy that helped her do her full-time job at Brown better. She also spoke about the importance of sticking to commitments. People have an obligation, she said, to “do the best we can and do it ethically, but not to be buffeted about.” A few days after the interview was published –– and still a few months before the SEC suit and the Congressional hearings — I was surprised to read a Goldman press release stating that Simmons would not stand for re-election as a director due to “increasing time requirements associated with her position as President of Brown University” — the same reason she gave for stepping down from Pfizer in 2007. I nervously sent off an e-mail to Simmons, worried I had misrepresented her views. Less than an hour later, I received a reply in which she explained that she had made her decision a few days after our interview. She stood by what she had told me. She assured me it had been a complicated decision that involved factors she was not yet at liberty to talk about. A few weeks after the press release announced the end of Simmons’ tenure at Goldman, the issue was thrust into the national spotlight when the New York Times
After fiscal storm, a slow return to strength BY BRIGITTA GREENE
ran a feature by Graham Bowley on the front page of the business section about Brown’s “bogeyman of Wall Street” (whatever image that was supposed to conjure of Simmons) that portrayed a campus in uproar. I had met with Bowley in The Herald’s office about a week before his story ran, when he spent a day on campus trying to make sense of the ordeal, asking the question that was surely on the minds of many shareholders: What was spurring Simmons to leave? But administrators, and Simmons herself, refused to speak to Bowley, and the only student quoted was a Herald columnist who had railed against Simmons’ Goldman ties in several of his columns. Despite the article’s portrayal of Brown, there had not been rallies, petitions or mass movements. Readers of the Times read about a controversy that never really existed to such a great degree. But the article prompted a rash of blog posts about Simmons’ position on Goldman’s board nonetheless. On May 7, Goldman held its annual shareholder meeting, and Simmons did not run for re-election, finally washing her hands of the mess. As a Goldman director for all but a year of its life as a public company, Simmons had a hand in all of its dealings, if nothing more than her silent consent. The extent to
As Brown’s budget guru and planner extraordinaire, Beppie Huidekoper runs a tight ship. Her desk is covered with memos and documents, her schedule a solid block of appointments. But despite her chronic optimism, the aftermath of the recent financial crisis has proved a challenge to even this most seasoned of administrators. The office of the executive vice president for finance and administration, in the northwest corner of University Hall, is a clearinghouse for everything regarding the University’s response to the financial crisis. Brown is “always adjusting” long-term financial projections, Huidekoper says, but the last three years have been turbulent to say the least. Between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, the University’s e n d ow m e n t Students, lost $740 milfaculty and staff lion, falling participated nearly 25 percent to about in a review of $2 billion. spending this Administrators year, looking for soon reduced areas that could anticipated fube streamlined or ture spending cut. by around $95 million for the five-year period ending in 2014. Still strapped for revenue to meet this year’s budget, they elected to draw from the endowment at an unsustainable 6.5 percent. The $95 million in reductions was divided roughly into thirds — $35 million was immediately trimmed from the budget for the 2010 fiscal year, and about $30 million was excised from anticipated spending for the following 12 months. The University will soon determine the time and depth of cuts for the remaining $30 million in projected reductions. Budgets will depend on the endowment’s return, market conditions, fundraising success and other factors. Students, faculty and staff participated in a
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Herald File Photo
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
Farewell to Goldman continued from page 9 which Simmons played a role in overseeing the practices that have come under scrutiny from lawmakers is still unknown — and indeed, her positions may not have been reflected in the ultimate choices made by a board with 10 directors. We can hope that in the months and years after she distances herself from Goldman, she will be more open to discussing her role in leading the company. How much we care about her work on Goldman’s board will depend on the verdict of history regarding Goldman’s role in the financial crisis. With heightened national attention, much of left-leaning Brown is turning more strongly against Goldman, even while others, in turn, deride the Congressional hearings as a political stunt to bring about more regulation. Depending on how things plays out, Simmons’ tenure may be cast either in a light of righteous opposition to corporate greed or of ordinary service on a corporate board, an activity common for today’s college presidents. But there is also the potential — as some on campus have argued — that Simmons’ term at Brown will someday be seen to represent the corporatization of higher education, a time when an Ivy League president either contributed to the corporate malfeasance that led the country into crisis, or else sat idly by and watched it happen.
Balancing the budget continued from page 9 comprehensive review of spending this year, looking for areas that could be streamlined or cut. Many employees — 139 of them — will take advantage of a new early retirement program, and most of their positions will remain unfilled. The University also endured two rounds of layoffs — 30 staff were laid off last spring, and 60 additional positions have been eliminated this year. There will be less funding allocated for travel and food. Dining Halls will change their offerings, shorten their hours. But administrators — perhaps buoyed by the economy’s strong performance of late — remain confident that initial doomsday projections will continue to soften. Market returns, sponsored government research funding and fundraising have been stronger than expected, according to Huidekoper. By June 30, after the University has used up about $130 million in endowment funds as part of this year’s budget, the endowment is still expected to return to about $2.1 billion. Under the guiding hand of President Ruth Simmons, administrators have attempted to stick to the University’s core values while responding to fiscal constraints. Financial aid funding, for example, has actually increased. “A budget is a budget. An endowment is an endowment,” Simmons said in September. “But there is also something called a mission of a University.”
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Application numbers soar, admit rate drops BY ANA ALVAREZ
As applications for Brown’s class of 2014 poured in, the Admissions Office overflowed with paper — literally. With a flood of application papers that exceeded the office’s capacity, Alumnae Hall had to be temporarily transformed into a holding area for the huge stacks of prospective talent. The task facing the admissions office was, for Brown, unheard of. Once admissions officers had read through the over 30,000 applications — 20.6 percent more than the previous year — acceptance letters were sent to only 9.6 percent of applicants, making this Brown’s most selective freshman class to date. Many of Brown’s peer institutions experienced similar surges. In the past three years or so, colleges everywhere have been reporting record-breaking application numbers. Every Ivy League school except Yale broke its record for most applications, though only Princeton approached Brown’s percentage surge. For the first time, a majority of Ivies posted single-digit acceptance rates. According to Dean of Admission Jim Miller ’73, it took Brown 215 years to reach 10,000 applications. It took nearly a decade to double that total. And the last 10,000 applications have come in just the past two years. He partly attributes this
Herald File Photo
A record number of applications for the class of 2014 forced admission officers to move filing operations to Alumnae Hall.
recent rise in applicants to the economy, which he says has caused many prospective students and parents to partake in a “flight to quality” in education. With job markets as fiercely competitive as ever, many parents may continue to view the Brown degree as a worthy investment — albeit a pricey one. A notable aspect of the recent surge is not only the number of students, but where they come from. Thanks to recruitment efforts targeting first-generation and international students, the class of 2014 will include many more students from populations underrepresented at Brown, Miller says. Thirty-five percent of the accepted
students this year qualify as students of color, the most ever, he said. Credit is due in large part to the implementation of a need-blind admissions process by President Ruth Simmons in 2002, Miller says. Whether Brown will be able to convince these accepted students to actually matriculate is another story. Along with the steady rise in applications, the University has experienced a congruent decline in its yield rate, the measure of how many accepted students choose Brown over other options. This trend has not been entirely unique to Brown — as graduating seniors are applying to a larger number of schools, yield rates nationwide have decreased. Miller said he hopes Brown, with its increased selectivity and efforts toward building international visibility, can become more competitive with schools such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton. An unfortunate by-product of a large pile of applications is a large pile of rejection letters. One can only wonder how many members of the class of 2010 would still stand a chance in today’s intensely competitive pool. But while high selectivity always leads to the regrettable rejection of hundreds of worthy students, Miller thinks because of the added attention to recruiting students from underrepresented backgrounds, the selection process allows the school to choose not only the most talented, but also the most diverse class possible. Miller said he is hesitant to make predictions about future numbers, but he wouldn’t bet on a decline in applications. And since all applications will be processed electronically starting next year, there should be no need for the Admissions Office to take over Alumnae Hall again.
Brown at the Beach: A College Hill reading list Summer reading may not have been mandatory since high school, but a lack of requirements has never stopped Brown students from broadening their minds. So here it is, The Herald’s very own list of must-reads for this summer, featuring books by members of the Brown community. The Genius in All of Us David Shenk ’88 For anyone reeling from sticker shock at Brown’s tuition, this book may be a comfort. This science-heavy but accessible work dissects biologists’ findings that intelligence and talent are developed rather than predetermined. Shenk, a journalist and bestselling author, told The Herald in April the book is essentially about “how people get good at stuff,” a point underscored by his ambitious subtitle, “Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent
and IQ is Wrong.” Further Adventures in the Restless Universe Dawn Raffel ’79 The title of Raffel’s second collection of short stories was drawn from a supposedly “user-friendly” physics guide her father read to her as a child. Influenced by that memory and the recent death of her parents, Raffel composed 21 very short vignettes on family life, featuring women struggling to balance various domestic roles and family members struggling to connect. Mean Free Path Ben Lerner ’01 MFA’03 “Last year alone, every American choked to death on a red balloon,” reads a line from one of Lerner’s fresh and startling poems. The award-winning poet’s third
poetry collection blends “celebration and mourning, ode and elegy — within a militarized and commercialized language,” the author explained in an e-mail. In this personal exploration, Lerner focuses on the breakdown of language in the pursuit of exploring politics. World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics Harry Stark ’11 and Steven Stark P’11 If you’ve been feeling adrift since the winter Olympics ended, never fear. This book from the father-son duo introduces the history of the soccer (football for the non-Yanks) World Cup and its influence on international relations. Score a copy before the games begin in South Africa June 11. continued on page 13
Summer reading continued from page 11 The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal Jonathan Mooney ’00 Diagnosed as dyslexic and learning-disabled as a child, Mooney did not learn to read until he was 12. He went on to graduate from Brown with honors in English literature. Years later, plagued by a sense of inferiority, he set out on “an epic journey across the U.S. on a broken-down short bus,” like one of those reserved for disabled schoolchildren. His memoir chronicles the trip and his efforts to redefine normalcy for those who, according to his website, live “outside the lines.” Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat Assistant Professor of Medicine David Dosa The Grim Reaper takes many forms, and at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center he is Oscar the cat. Oscar made headlines in 2007 after Brown geriatrician Dosa published an article in a science journal about the animal’s uncanny ability to identify dying patients, snuggling up to them and their loved ones. Dosa, who was skeptical, has turned his observations into a book, realizing along the way that Oscar’s real gift is the comfort he can provide for the patients. American Vampire (series) Stephen King and Scott Snyder ’98 Art and Cover by Rafael Albuquerque Watch out Edward Cullen, Skinner Sweet is swaggering into town. Sweet is the anything-but vampire villain of the new comic book series by Snyder, a fiction and comic book writer, and horror aficionado King. “American Vampire” is the creative brainchild of Snyder, who enlisted King to write the backstory for the titular fanged character. Snyder himself fleshes out the narrative of naive actress Pearl Jones, while Albuquerque illustrates this newest addition to the vampire fiction genre, a bloody comic leaping across American history from the Old West to 1930’s Hollywood. — Suzannah Weiss
Thanks for reading!
THE RISE OF THE
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BY SCOTT LOWENSTEIN
The University’s website has received its fair share of criticism since its unveiling in 2006. It can be counter-intuitive, confusing and difficult to navigate. A new design is currently in development, to find what University administrators call a “better fit” for Brown. All of this is despite sifting through 40 shades of brown and paying hefty professional design fees only four years ago, when the current class of 2010 began looking around for the right “fit” of their own. The whole exercise seems a bit absurd until one takes a quick look around campus: Students are on the Internet constantly, bringing their laptops and smartphones everywhere. The libraries are filled with people reading books and articles on scanned databases while their bound brethren languish on the shelves. Google has become the new mom, answering questions about casseroles, nagging coughs and tipping procedures from pretty much anywhere. This coexistence defines the Brown student today: a sort of cyborg, an amalgamation of person and hardware that emerges equally in the classroom and on Facebook. To many, the University’s website, not the Van Wickle Gates, is the main gateway into the world of Brown — a hub that is worth the effort for Brown to get right. But in this mad rush to situate Brown in digital discourse, where does the University’s mythology fit in? What’s happened to the idea that this is a place where students navigate through seemingly infinite perspectives in search of their own? How do the ideals of the New Curriculum stand up to a radical new way of learning and thinking about scholarship? And how are long-standing dynamics — between teacher and student, writer and reader, active and passive — adjusting to this total reconception of what it means to be part of the Brown community?
Life in a wired Brown When Michael Pickett, vice president for computing and information services and chief information officer, talks about his job, he beams. “Sometimes I go home and think, ‘They pay me to do this?’ ” he said, playing with his newly purchased Apple iPad, which he is personally testing for potential University use. Switching easily between folksy idioms and corporate IT lingo, Pickett exists on campus largely to make technology available, secure and easy to use for Brown’s faculty and its “born-digital students,” as he calls them. “We value the conversations we have with students” about technology, he said, pointing to the
University’s conversion from an internal e-mail and scheduling system to Google’s free education tools as the result of student input about what is most useful. The new Google Apps suite, which includes e-mail, shareable web documents and calendars, is “rated for business,” he said, and comes with a slew of privacy protection and support options. Pickett states proudly that the institutional version of Google “was not hacked by the Chinese,” as the everyday commercial version that anyone can use reportedly was. The new system will also allow for an unprecedented amount of interconnectivity among departments, and between students and professors, that puts Brown ahead of the curve among comparable schools, Pickett said. “One of the greatest things about Brown is the conversations between students and faculty and
Where does the University’s mythology— as a place where students navigate through seemingly infinite perspectives in search of their own — fit in? How do the ideals of the New Curriculum stand up to a radical new way to learning and thinking about scholarship?
students and themselves,” he said. The ability to facilitate new and better communication with things like Google Apps is “very Brown.” Perhaps a more difficult part of the University’s efforts in technology is identifying which services and hardware are demanded where. Four years ago, Computing and Information Services was in the middle of a push to increase the availability of a then somewhat novel service: wireless Internet. In dorm rooms, on the college greens and in classrooms, little white boxes with blinking green lights were being installed, a new selling point for the University as well as a gamble on its importance for the future. Now, Wi-Fi has almost completely usurped traditional plug-in Internet service. “It’s been a real game-changer,” said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services. Klawunn said even the most mundane issues, like increasing the number of plugs for computers in study spaces, often dominate discussions with students about how to improve their quality
of life. “We look at where academic work is located, what it looks like and what (students) need to do it,” she said.
Shelves, at a threshold Increasingly, this has meant places other than the traditional center of study, the library. Or at least, not the library of yesteryear, where young scholars poured over tomes with that slightly funky smell that comes from years in the stacks. Circulation of hard-copy books has dropped by about 15 percent in the last 10 years, according to University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi, who oversees all of Brown’s library collections. Purchases of new books have slowed as well, and ink and paper now receives a steadily shrinking share of the library’s resources. At first glance, it might seem that libraries may be on their last legs. But amid these trends, library attendance, measured by the number of card swipes at entry points, has skyrocketed. Last year, Brown’s libraries saw more than one million unique entries. Students and faculty downloaded more than 1.75 million full-text articles from subscription services in that same period. Hemmasi said the library’s budget for electronic resources has jumped from what was once just $20,000 per year to a whopping $6 million in 2009. These shifts suggest a changing role for the library, from a place where students find resources to a place where they use them. That’s why Hemmasi emphasizes “access.” Students don’t need trade books that “every other school has” — they can access them online, or through book-sharing services with other, more conventional libraries, she said. “What we need to focus on is what researchers need and can’t get anywhere else, the rare things other libraries don’t have,” she said. In part, this means acquiring the ancient maps, constitutional documents and papers of luminaries the University likes to tout on its website. But it also means making these rare and fragile documents available for everyday student use. “Right now, it is like (rare materials) have chains on them,” Hemmasi said. But, she added, “natural user interfaces” can improve students’ access to such documents. These interfaces are, essentially, touch-screen computers that allow users to mimic “real-life actions,” like ripping pages out of documents or hand-rotating precious and exceedingly fragile scanned materials on the digital screen. The Microsoft Surface, a product with a multitouch interface, is slated to go into use next year.
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a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device.
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
In search of the cyborg student BY MICHAEL SKOCPOL
Where we go when we go to class
If you listen closely, you can hear two sounds wafting through Salomon 001 as Associate Professor of Sociology Leah Vanwey lectures to the students in her introductory statistics class. The first, drifting down from the ceiling, is the whir of the dual overhead projectors, splaying Vanwey’s PowerPoint slides across screens on either side of the room. The second, rising up from all corners of the room, is the lilting clatter of keys — a persistent soundtrack to the day’s lecture on regressions. As students’ eyes flit between the glowing screens perched in front of them and the slides projected on the wall, Vanwey waits for an answer, but none is forthcoming. She’s chosen to use a hypothetical data set about people’s computer use to model a regression line on the board, but no one is volunteering a value. “Okay,” she says, “maybe you average 10 hours a week on the computer in the classroom.” It is moments like these that I set out to capture when I ventured into five lectures over the course of two days to observe students’ use of technology — laptops sucking students’ attention toward Facebook and GMail, the silent crush of wireless data drowning out the professor’s best attempts to compete. But, while I found some poster children for a laptop ban, the reality of the situation proved more nuanced. Vanwey’s class, for example, did have its share of cyborg students, seemingly mindmelded to their laptops. The back row in particular was littered with them — one student glanced up from her computer only twice during the last 10 minutes of lecture. But there was another student who spent her time calling up the current lecture slides from the course Web page and tapping out her notes right in the margins, scrolling forward and backward to refresh or linger over a point. And a majority of students in Vanwey’s class, as was true in all five that I visited, used no computer at all. There is no question that 21st-century technology has already penetrated deeply into Brown’s classrooms, carried there by laptop-toting students and PowerPoint-reliant professors alike. But its effects are difficult to generalize. Students have more control now over what information they can consume at any given moment in the classroom than they have ever had before, and they choose different ways to employ it.
Classroom distraction is hardly an information age invention. Few people would be surprised if archaeologists announced tomorrow that ancient cave paintings were actually the doodles of bored caveman pupils daydreaming of the buffalo hunt. But armed with laptops, students often satisfy even the most fleeting whim or passing urge with an immediate tap of a finger. Disconnecting from a lecture lull is as easy as connecting to just about anything else in the Google age. On the same afternoon as Vanwey’s class met, Professor of Economics Glenn Loury delivered the semester’s final lecture of “Race and Inequality in America” to a couple dozen students in a small classroom on the second floor of Wilson Hall. As Loury read through an impassioned summation, touching on Barack Obama’s presidency and the legacy of slavery, half a dozen students had laptops out. One student, the glowing workspace of his widescreen MacBook Pro easily visible to all but the professor from his seat near the front row, flipped back and forth between his e-mail, the technology blog Gizmodo and the Wall Street Journal’s website, searching for articles about the television site Hulu. In front of him, another student casually flipped between Facebook and celebrity blogs. Another clicked through field hockey photos. Facebook and e-mail accounts were almost universal draws for students with laptops in the five classes I visited — all but the most diligent note-takers indulged themselves a quick e-mail check or newsfeed perusal. The New York Times, Wikipedia, Google and — to be fair — Brown’s MyCourses site were also popular attractions. Most students (though by no means all) who had laptops had at least a leaf of typed lecture notes open, if not the class slides. Twitter, it should be noted, received only one brief visit from a single student during my hours of observation. Some students rhythmically flitted between the Internet and their notes at regular intervals throughout the class, maintaining a staccato ballet as they deftly shifted among three, four or five open windows. One student returned to Facebook easily a dozen times in the space of one lecture. Others were seized by sudden technological compulsions, like the student in “Environmental Science in a Changing World,” continued on page 21
Education continued from page 15 Hemmasi also envisions collaborative computer walls, where groups of students can work on projects and presentations together, a sort of “social studying” — an idea growing more and more important in Hemmasi’s library system. New areas like the Rockefeller Library’s Finn Reading Room and the Sciences Library’s Friedman Study Center and science resource center also offer new ways for students to interact around work. But do all of these futuristic tools and social study spaces really belong in a library? What about books? Increasing the availability of resources in any way possible does “everything that’s good about books and so much more,” Hemmasi said. “What is study about today that it wasn’t about before?” she said. “Our job is not to dictate how (students) use library resources or library space. Our job is to provide access to what people want.”
Gizmos and peptide bonds The popular conception of a “classroom of the future” looks a lot like Assistant Professor of Biology Arthur Salomon’s lecture course in biochemistry. Salomon can rattle off a list of about a dozen innovations currently in use in his 245-person lecture course, from online lecture streaming to an electronic grading system that allows for students to receive e-mails with scanned PDF copies of their graded exams within 24 hours of the test. “Anything we can dream up, we will try it,” Salomon said, and the collection of self-created programs catalogued on his website bears witness to this fact. But the technological march forward has not come without snags. He estimated that posting lecture videos online led to a 30 percent decrease in attendance after he introduced the practice four years ago. To encourage attendance and “interactivity” — Salomon’s word for class participation — he introduced in-class pop quizzes. Students use wireless clickers to answer a question at some point during the lecture. (Think “Ask the Audience” on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”) Despite significant attrition in the lecture hall once the day’s question has been asked, Salomon credits the clickers with counteracting the drawbacks of putting lectures up for all to see whenever they want. Salomon speaks with pride about the streamlining, anonymity and speed that these improvements offer. The availability of the online resources has largely replaced students’ need to actually talk to the
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in the Information Age class instructors. To make up for this lack of communication, the class has a live blog for students to ask questions and an online extra-credit discussion group for bio chatter. This all might sound like a little much — like the proverbial old lady who swallowed a spider because she swallowed a fly. What about the basics — a professor speaking to his students? “Students come to me to learn biochemistry,” Salomon said. The technology helps with that, so what if there is less personal interaction? To Jacob Murray ’12, the “so what” is fundamental. “There is something to be gained from interaction” with professors, Murray said. Learning to communicate and get to know people — professors and students alike — is part of the unique Brown experience, he said. “If the University did not provide space to learn that skill, that would be concerning,” he said. Murray seems to share with many current students a sense of excitement for a more responsive and interactive future coupled with reluctance to give up what feels like the right way to learn. In terms of technology in the classroom, Murray said he hasn’t been “blown away” by anything a professor has thrown at him. Then pressed for what would send him aloft, he suggested more interactivity — instant polls, “something dynamic.” “Professors are more motivated to interact with the class if they don’t have the tools,” like PowerPoint presentations, that can cheapen the written word or limit flexibility, he said. “Some of the best lecturers are professors who write on the chalkboard and aren’t reliant on external things,” he said.
The new New Curriculum? The role of technology in scholarship reaches beyond cool clicker gadgets in classrooms, as the availability of countless journal articles, new data sources and affordable computers with real processing capabilities change not just how people research, but what kinds of questions they ask. It is a bedrock assumption in statistical theory that as the amount of available information becomes infinite, the probability of finding a piece of information within that huge trove approaches zero. It is a result as fundamental to the modern study of the probabilistic universe as it is counterintuitive — though in the age of 24-hour news and over 75 million unique Twitter accounts, one begins to get a picture of a future where anything useful is absorbed into the infinite expanse that is the Internet. With this seemingly infinite supply of potential data, scholarship in the Internet Age is about more than just the sheer volume of information. It requires
an entirely different approach to research, one that finds the digital diamond in the rough, albeit with a little help from resources like Google Scholar and WorldCat. Or a massive, 14 teraflop, multi-million dollar supercomputer, which booted up on campus this spring, providing 50 times more processing power than anything Brown has had before. The supercomputer is the latest move in a concerted effort to tap massive stores of data more effectively for teaching and research. Jan Hesthaven, professor of applied mathematics and director of the computational center, said the new tool is necessary for the growing, multidisciplinary demand for computing power. “There’s no expectation that researchers have their own library,” he said. Just as there is a shared library for book resources, there is a “shared computing infrastructure.” Hesthaven is clearly practiced in talking about the benefits of the computer, citing potential applications for research, collaboration and even enriching high school curricula. He described how new sources of data beg for both new kinds of analysis and new questions. “The data become your experiment,” he said. The influx of data from websites such as Facebook, the human genome project, and the U.S. census “inspires researchers to ask ‘how can I study this?’” It is worth noting that the probability theory described above is taught at Brown mostly in decidedly untechnological classrooms, with students scribbling hand-written notes in notebooks. The sort of monumental changes that Hesthaven implies in his tech talk have implications beyond just using technology itself. Professor of American Civilization Susan Smulyan has spent much of her career looking at the way technology and society interact and shape each other’s development. Recently, she has looked toward digital scholarship and social media, asking how such tools change the dynamic between teacher and student. “New media break down the boundary between research and teaching,” she said. Internet technology allows for projects and collaborations that are both instructive and instructing, challenging the traditionally authoritative divide between presenter (professor) and learner (student). But this begs the question of whether that is necessarily a good thing. Many student research projects start and finish on the Internet. Do the infinite resources available on the web give students too much freedom to decide what parts of cyberspace to use without adequate filtering? Are there any drawbacks to increasingly available web resources? “What danger could there be?” Smulyan re-
peated, almost hurt by the question. “For me, it’s that there’s not enough stuff available” — said with the conviction of a true believer in what she calls an “information revolution.” “We have always told students to look at sources critically, and that hasn’t changed,” she said.
Prognosticating the future When people — even at left-leaning Brown — talk about technology, it’s hard not to hear echoes of the philosopher Friedrich von Hayek, whose liberal ideas about freedom in society undergird libertarian political thought. Smulyan says social networking “will engulf” the Internet. Hesthaven, the supercomputer guru, describes the increased availability of studiable things as a “data explosion” that will leave the weak behind and leave only the (computationally) powerful and adaptable left in the scholarly world. But, at Brown at least, the process of technological change seems to be less like free-market competition and more like a curated evolution. Improvements in infrastructure, software and support are made in a delicate balance of what people want and what CIS and Brown administrators think is good for them. CIS phases out its support for old programs and hardware when it thinks it is time for hangers-on — Eudora users or Windows 95 devotees — to give up the ghost, Pickett said. There is equal involvement in the other direction, where CIS staffers test and determine which devices and services may best serve University needs, and promotes those products. “I’m a really geeky guy, and it’s important to have geeky people try stuff out,” he said, pointing out his efforts with the iPad and new support for Google’s Android mobile phone operating system. “But is it right for other people? ... Is it ripe yet? Is it time? Does it help more than it hurts?” The University library hand-picks the services and devices it believes will best serve the Brown community, and anticipates students will “grow into” them, Hemmasi said. It is an approach that echoes the wink-and-anudge spirit of academics at Brown, where enthusiasm for the freedom to take any class is mirrored by complaints about a lack of advising. Whatever has been the intertwining course of scholarship and technology at Brown over the last five to 10 years, the relationship between the two is likely to continue its circuitous path. “We get more change than any other area of the University,” Pickett said, again with his broad and joyful smile. “We have to stay on our toes. It’s a lot of fun.”
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
Beyond skin and skull Sit in the back of a physics classroom during a final exam, and you’ll bear witness to an odd bit of behavior. As soon as the students reach a question about electricity and magnetism, they drop their pencils and stick their right thumbs in the air, with their remaining four fingers curled into their palms. This goes on for a few seconds, and then the Chaz hands come down, Firestone ’10, pick up the pencils from Toronto, and scribble down was managing answers. editor of The Students of Herald in 2009. physics are certainly passionate, but that’s not why they give magnetic fields a thumbs up. The manual display is simply an application of a well-known principle called the “right hand grip rule,” a handy trick to determine the direction of a magnetic field produced by electric current in a coil of wire: If the current is traveling around the wire in the direction of your curled up fingers, the magnetic field points in the direction of your thumb. We humans are often separated from other animals by our ability to use tools. The creative spark in our stone-sharpening ancestors is the same one that churned out combustion engines and Kindles, and our impressive suite of tools is only growing. Tools make our jobs easier and our lives better, allowing us to do superior work more efficiently. Tools allow us to do more with our hands, but our hands can be tools in their own right. A thumb isn’t a prerequisite to study physics, but it helps to have one. For physics students, hands serve as cognitive tools: By applying the right hand grip rule, physicists let their hands do some of the thinking for them, “offloading” their cognition onto their fingers. The insight should seem intuitive — we use cognitive tools all the time. We don’t bother to remember our friends’ phone numbers because they’re stored in our iPhones; we don’t have to perform difficult calculations in continued on page 42
An addict tries BY RACHEL Z. ARNDT
During my last week of classes at Brown, I wrestled the fourth dimension and tried to travel back in time. For seven days, I vowed to stop using any technology that did not exist in 1988, the year the majority of the students in the class of 2010 were born. This meant no Internet, no e-mail, no text messaging, no thousands of songs on my iPod. I failed. My attempted “week in 1988” was flawed to begin with, of course. Doing away with email completely during the last week of the semester — especially the last week of the last semester — is ridiculous, if not idiotic. So I made exceptions: I would check my e-mail a couple of times a day (never on my phone) to make sure I wasn’t missing important messages from professors; I brought my cell phone with me when I left the house, just in case (pretending it was a car phone); I listened to music on my iPod (but restricted my listening to music recorded in 1988 and before). I also cheated: I used an online Spanish dictionary to find out if the correct preposition for “to look” is “for” or “of”; I skimmed the Wikipedia entry on “rhizome”; I e-mailed friends for our weekly viewing of “Lost”; and, in a temperaturerelated outfit crisis before my thesis reading, I checked the hour-by-hour weather forecast. I resisted some, too: I did not look up the cola nut’s role in modern sodas or the process that makes corned beef “corned”; I did not search for images of nettles or for their potential edible uses; I did not read the Wikipedia entry on the Chicago flag to remind myself of the symbolism behind its stars; I fought, with all my might, against the repetitive urge to solidify the difference between concrete and cement. When my week without modern technology surged to a close, I basked in the glow of my computer screen, its flashing banner ads and pixelated black text against stark white. I sent more text messages than normal, as if to make up for lost time. I cut through pages of Wikipedia, blogs and Facebook. I played catch-up. Clicking away
During my week, I did not visit the New York Times website, but that’s not a big change — I get the paper delivered every day and, though I normally check the site a few times during the day if I see an article I want to read, I look for it in print first. There are two reasons behind my insistence on paper, and both reveal part of the motivation behind my experiment, the reason why I would try to do without the information superhighway,
my favorite invention. First, I really do care about the fate of print media, though I will speak without hesitation about the glories of the Internet and the countless articles I read as light projected from a computer screen. But standards for Internet journalism are not the same as those for print journalism. It’s much easier to correct an online article — and much more subtle — than to print a correction the next day in the paper. The Internet is about speed; the newspaper is about accuracy and writing. The second reason, closely linked to the first, is that I have a hard time absorbing things I read on the computer. It’s partly the light and the hunched-back, unblinking stupor a computer demands. But it’s mostly the urge to click elsewhere, to follow new links before they have been contextualized, to find the best possible version of any song, article, celebrity photo or well-priced bestseller. That urge has translated to reading books, too. There is the need to be doing as many things as possible. Read while watching television, or read while watching the latest pseudo-campy music video. Never just read. I thought going a week without technology would imbue my reading with a pre-Internet calm, but a week is not long enough to change the habits that have grown up with me. These are the habits that encourage the constant intersection of the digital and the analog, habits that nearly mirrored my own development and intellectual tendencies. Text twist
The Internet was just one strand of my week unplugged. Having equal weight — in terms of convenience and social comfort — was text messaging. I less-than-fondly remember the days of my first year in college, when I was restricted to a mere 100 messages a month. Such a limit required a numerically watchful eye. This time, the limit — the removal of the technology altogether — required stubborn willpower. I turned off text-message notifications on my phone and let my friends know I would only communicate remotely by speaking. I also asked them to help me avoid temptation. A few messages rolled in, and in an unthinking, Sunday-morning moment, I fell back on muscle memory and almost shot futureward into 2010. I caught myself. Not sending text messages cuts off distinct parts of social communication. When it comes to communication of low consequence, we are a generation more comfortable working with short
to kick the tech habit bursts of text rather than dealing with stuttered telephone conversations. Talking about plans on the telephone gives them more weight and makes it more difficult to be flaky. Talking also restricts whom we’re willing to get in touch with. Peripheral friends would stay that way much longer if it weren’t for the casual, impersonal text message. And, for me, someone who still sometimes relies on a scribbled script for a long-put off phone call, the removal of text messages was the removal of a well-loved crutch. The lack of text messages also cuts off trivial communication. The text is a near-perfect medium for anecdotes and overheard-on-theMain-Green snippets. But a phone call instills in those observations — small, banal, hilarious — too much expectation. The phone call is not instant enough. Or maybe it’s that the phone call is not read; in reading text messages, the recipients make it their own in a way speech does not allow. But this is a digression better suited for the digital world, where I can stumble around Wikipedia, and stumble in private. The cell phone itself is a remarkably useful object. There is something so instinctive in idly checking the phone for missed calls or text messages, or just idly looking at it. The cell phone is a game. The cell phone is a social signifier. The cell phone is not just a cell phone. During my week off I did not check my phone in class, did not tap e-mails beneath my desk. I did not do whatever it is people do when they’re “on their phones” while waiting for friends to show up. And though I know there were cell phones in 1988, I did not talk on mine while walking around; I pretended it was too heavy a machine to comfortably cradle against my cheek for blocks on end. I listened to and left messages. (For some reason I balk at the term “voicemail”; maybe it’s because, until its recent demise, a minicassette recorder served my house better than any digital device). The trouble with my experiment has to do with timing and context. Living without modern technology for a week is hardly a commitment. And I was surrounded by people who still did have modern technology; they could text each other to set up plans, stay tuned in to campus goings-on through Facebook, give me a better weather forecast than the New York Times’ “pleasant” and “70s.” As long as I had an accomplice, I wasn’t too far from the technology I was pretending hadn’t been invented yet.
Back to the future
What’s more: I wasn’t actually without technology. If I had gone the week without checking my e-mail, I would have missed meetings and assignments. I wouldn’t have found the prized free food offerings in Morning Mail (which I claimed I needed to read “just in case” something important came up). I expected a grand
lesson would reveal itself, but as the experiment crept to an end, and I could feel the tendrils of technology stretching forth, there was the anticipation of downloading music and Facebook-stalking again. There wasn’t much else. It wasn’t a return to communication. It was only a return. The Internet and text messages are not telephone and mail add-ons. They are replacements; they are what those technologies have become. And they are, to a degree, what we have become. We are not interested in reading complete articles; the overwhelming number of links in any online news article shows that. Songs are mashed together, iPods shuffle and tabbed Internet browsing doesn’t just encourage rampant clicking around — it necessitates it. We monitor and we quantify, we click “refresh” to encourage e-mails to arrive rather than wait for the daily mail delivery. My week of 1988 technology came to a close without so much as a whimper. The futuristic-yet-modern devices I surround myself with had spent the week inching closer after I had tethered them to wall plugs. On the seventh day, the machines asserted their territorial dominance. And they rested, basking in their own steady glow.
Wired in class continued from page 16 who took notes in a notebook for most of the class but, at one point, abruptly pulled out a laptop for about 20 minutes and typed out a detailed, multiparagraph e-mail that included the phrase “I’m too bored right now in ENVS to give a (f***)” before putting it away again. Others’ humors were more whimsical, like the student who took a few seconds to unsubscribe from the Vermont Teddy Bear Company’s “Beargrams” during the same environmental science lecture, or the student in Vanwey’s class who spent a good half-hour paging through Time’s list of the 100 most influential people of 2010. Elsewhere, in a planetary geology lecture, a student couldn’t resist the pull of a dense geochemistry study sheet he kept pulling up and skimming — he had a final coming up. Laptops, I noted, are not the only agents of distraction. One senior in a review session for “Public Economics” chipped away at a crossword puzzle on her iPod Touch. Across the room in Metcalf Auditorium, another student cradled an iPhone in her lap. She scrolled through it casually, sometimes holding it up to her face and sometimes laying it flat on her desktop.
Text messaging was a common, if surreptitious, windows Study buddy
Brown students’ electronic devices are not just tantalizing distractions. They are, for many, legitimate aids — and not just for the hearingimpaired student who relied on a Disability Support Services laptop to read a running transcript of a class I sat in on. Some took a professor’s lecture outline and filled notes into that. Others took advantage of a word processor’s flexibility to jump forward and backward, rounding out sentences and filling in gaps. In one class, two students, seated side-byside, pulled the day’s PowerPoint slides up on their respective laptops and dutifully followed along, rarely if ever flipping away. In “Environmental Science in a Changing World,” a freshman who had earlier been reading e-mails and updating his Facebook status elucidated a passing mention of media mogul Ted Turner’s land holdings in New Mexico by flipping to Turner’s Wikipedia page. (On the other hand, he lingered there for nearly five minutes, laughing quietly with a friend after reading the section on Turner’s undergrad years at Brown.) In Loury’s class, too, a reference to last year’s Henry Louis Gates controversy prompted a student to
refresh his memory on Wikipedia. And those smartphones and iPods? One environmental science student used his iPod Touch to pull up an article mentioned by the professor and casually skimmed its contents. In “Public Economics” (after which someone explained to me that the professor was “reviewing stuff most people didn’t need to review”) several students took matters into their own hands. One student used her Blackberry to scroll through her calendar with one hand while flipping through her notebook with the other. As the professor lectured, she jotted down which lectures from the course she was missing notes for. In front of her, a junior who started the afternoon by firing off some short e-mails and paging through his Google Reader eventually found his way to the class’ MyCourses page. There, he downloaded several readings from the course to his desktop, pulling them open one by one and skimming. He took few notes on the broad overview of the course being outlining on the board. After his perusal of the readings was complete, he didn’t stick around much longer, packing up his things and ducking out up the aisle several minutes before the professor concluded his lecture, the last of the semester. The students applauded, and laptop screens snapped shut.
E V E RY W H E R E BUT HERE
A rare mind, taken too soon Scott Zager..............................24
Double vision Vero Testa................................25
A date with destiny Women’s crew team seniors........26
Life in the fast lane Early graduates.........................26
Parting ways Anna McLaskey and Mariela Quintana.....................27
The candidate Teresa Tanzi.............................27
A lens on the world Emma LeBlanc..........................28
The wounded warrior. Jeremy Russell...........................29
1,466 — that’s how many of us walked through the Van Wickle Gates on a sunny late summer Tuesday nearly four years ago. It was easy to feel a heady sense of accomplishment that day, the class of 2010’s official arrival on campus. 18,316 — that’s how many people had applied to be where we were, and we were the lucky few who made the cut. It was also easy to feel like this weekend was our destiny from the moment
that fat Brown envelope arrived in the mail — parents circled May 30, 2010 on their calendars while the ink was still drying on our deposit checks. So here’s another number to consider: 1,216 — that’s how many of those 1,466 the registrar expects will receive a diploma this weekend. We may, at long last, be the class of 2010 not in theory but in fact, but for at least 250 of our number, the pathway to a diploma wasn’t so clear-cut. Some 194 hit a detour, their routes leading off College Hill for a semester or more. Another 19 moved into the fast
lane, zooming to an early finish. There are 25 of us whose tracks the registrar can classify only as “other.” For 12 of us, the road led away from Brown, permanently. In one case, it led to a tragic end. In the pages that follow, The Herald profiles some members of the “Class of 2010” for whom graduating today didn’t become a reality. Though new faces may have filled in our class, obscuring the empty Commencement seats, we hope you’ll keep those who are not with us in mind as you read through the following pages.
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
A rare mind, taken too soon Until he got a whiteboard, Scott Zager wrote equations on his window in Everett House with black and blue magic markers. During his freshman year, he bought old books to fill his bare bookshelf — he liked the smell and the look of them. He windsurfed, fished and kayaked. He loved pizza. And he was extraordinarily good at math. “He was a kid that saw the whole world in math,” said Erik Duhaime ’10, a friend of Scott’s. “The extent and breadth of his intellect was kind of remarkable.” Just three semesters after he arrived on College Hill in the fall of 2006, he got news no one ever wants to hear — a diagnosis of testicular cancer. He went home to Naperville, Ill. to undergo treatment, but the cancer was too advanced. He died on May 26, 2008 at age 19, almost two years to the day before he would have graduated with the class of 2010. But even during his treatment — through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant — Scott was always thinking about math and returning to Brown. “Scott loved school,” said his father, Dave Zager. “He always wanted to get back.” Throughout his treatment, Scott didn’t want to take any pain medications because they limited his ability to think. “He would just do as much as he could without it,” his fa-
ther said. “He was trying to keep his life going.” For Scott, that meant finishing his finals from home and bringing his textbooks to the hospital so he could work on math problems. His mother, Gina Zager, said he made arrangements with the Brown Bookstore to get textbooks for classes he was not taking. Scott loved good conversation as well as problem-solving, friends recalled, and in the hospital, one led to the other. When his doctors saw him studying math in the hospital, his father said, they frequently struck up long conversations with him. “They were kind of fascinated he was continuing to pursue that,” his father said. While he was at Brown, his friends said, Scott was quiet, using most of his time to figure out solutions to math and physics equations even when he was among friends. He was closest to the other students who lived on his freshman hall. They spent many weekend nights in his room as Scott enjoyed the conversations surrounding him. On a particular night, Duhaime recalled, Scott sat at his desk doing something on his
Herald File Photo
computer while people congregated. When everyone left, Duhaime asked Scott what he had been doing. Scott “was making matrices of social interactions in the room,” Duhaime said. “Everyone else was just having this superficial Friday night.” It was this “mathematical perception” of the world that drew people to Scott, Duhaime said. “He was someone who would have kept thinking and gotten other people to think in interesting ways.” “I’d say he was a bit of a celebrity on our unit” said Sam Wolfson ’10.5, Scott’s freshman-year roommate. “He definitely had a good head about him.” Scott and his friends won the competition for first pick in the housing lottery that year for their video about “a sub-par, misunderstood, birthday-suited a capella group” known as the “Skintones.” Though the group originally planned to live together, Scott ultimately decided he wanted to live in a single in Minden, leading many of his friends to joke that they imagined him solving complicated equations in secret. “I really think he had some sort of gift,” Wolfson said. “I always saw him eventually as being some sort of quirky professor.” “I wish Brown had gotten to see more of him,” said Samantha Scudder ’10, who went to high school in Illinois with Scott before they both came to Brown. “It’ll be a real shame to graduate without him.” Though it’s hard to say what Scott would have done after graduation — “At the time, it was so far off,” Scudder said — his friends and family agree it probably would have built on his mathematical talents. “He had always been someone who enjoyed school,” his father said. “We kid that he wanted to be a student for his life.” — Sydney Ember
Seeing double Vero Testa likes to defy conventions – especially when those conventions double as Brunonian superstitions. Testa, who for four years has gone out of his way to step on the Pembroke seal — supposedly incurring the curse of not graduating — plans to walk through the Van Wickle gates an extra time this weekend, risking the same fate. Curses be damned, he expects to walk through the gates again when he really graduates a year from now. That’s right – while some of those who passed through those gates with him in the fall of 2006 are finding they won’t have a chance to participate in commencement at all, others, like Testa, have decided to do it twice. “It’s a symbolic thing to graduate with my friends,” said Testa, an international student from Italy. Even though he has spent eight semesters as an undergraduate and lists himself as a member of the class of 2010 on his Facebook profile, he must wait until next May to receive both his Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and his Bachelor of Science in Applied Math. Under Brown’s five-year combined A.B./Sc.B. program, students like Testa are able to merge academic “interests that span the sciences and the humanities” into a single undergraduate curriculum that can have more depth than a double concentration, said Associate Dean of the College for Science Education David Targan ’78, who serves as the adviser for combined degree students. The tradeoff? While their classmates receive their diplomas and venture out into the world beyond Brown, dual-degree students are expected to spend an extra year before the University will give them its imprimatur – albeit twice over. In recent years, an average of about a dozen students per class have opted for a dual degree. “You need to know how to do a lot of things” to succeed in the workforce, said Testa, when asked why he chose to stay on for a fifth undergraduate year. “You need to have several degrees.” Even though he is looking forward to writing a thesis and being “very old and wise” next year, Testa said he is a bit nervous about returning to College Hill in the fall without all of his classmates. “The downside of the (dual degree) program is that I’m scared
that all my friends are gone,” he said. Before students sign up for the combined degree program in their fifth semester, Targan said he tries to help them decide if they really want to put in the additional time and cost associated with an extra year. “For many things, two A.B.s would be okay,” he said. “From the outside world’s point of view, a double degree and a double major kind of have similar connotations.” The burden of staying a fifth year is no small consideration for those who enter the program, and for all the Vero Testas who decide it’s worth the sacrifice, there is also an occasional Kristie Chin. Chin, who just finished her sixth semester, is petitioning University Hall to let her complete both an A.B. in Architectural Studies and a Civil Engineering Sc.B. in four years, so she can graduate alongside her peers in the class of 2011. “To me it is really important to graduate with my class,” she said. “I came in knowing that I wanted to do it in four years.” Most students, Targan said, do not decide to work toward a combined degree until they have spent a few semesters tryKim Perley / Herald ing to pursue two completely distinct areas of study. Indeed, Testa only received official approval for his fifth year last fall, during his seventh semester. When Testa first came to Brown he hoped for an A.B. in economics, but his “interests evolved throughout the years,” and he eventually decided that the more intensive, multidisciplinary study of a combined degree would be more useful. After all, with two degrees, Testa said, “I’m really qualified for a lot of things.” Although Testa said he wished he knew more students in the combined degree program, he is generally quite happy to stick around Providence for another year. “It just worked perfectly for me,” he said. — Sarah Forman
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
Seniors of the women crew team
A date with destiny As most seniors march down the aisles to receive long-awaited diplomas this weekend, the seniors of the women’s rowing team are thousands of miles from College Hill, eyeing a literal finish line. Their aisles? The buoyed lanes of Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif., where they are racing for their third national championship title in four years. Though it’s a conflict that might seem a nightmare to many students and their parents, the team’s seniors didn’t hesitate when faced with the choice. “For us, nationals is what we train for the whole year, so it was never really a question about what our goal was,” said Sarah Palomo ’10, one of seven seniors on the team. “(I’d) be much more upset if I (were) at graduation, because that would mean we didn’t get to nationals,” agreed Anna Vresilovic ’10, who missed her high school graduation for a rowing competition as well. “This is par for the course,” she quipped. “This is how I graduate.” Brown’s Commencement and the women’s Division I rowing championship last fell on the same weekend in 2007, when members of this year’s class were first-years. The team won the championship that year while the seniors’ classmates tossed their mortarboards back in Rhode Island. “A lot of people are like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe you missed your graduation,’” said Sarah Brooks ’07, a member of the team that year. But she has no regrets about missing the ceremony. Competing in the national championship
regatta “was really a dream and something we were working for every day,” she said. Thinking about “missing graduation really didn’t come for me until six months later.” Most current members of the team view the upcoming race through the same lens — not as a sacrifice, but as desirable and fitting closure for their Brown experience as a whole. “Since rowing has been such a huge part of my life, it will be nice to have this great opportunity to go to nationals,” said Sarah Huebscher ’10. “Having my time here culminate in an athletic event is just as exciting as graduation.” The possibility of such a conflict first emerged for the team in 1997, when Brown shifted its Commencement day from Monday to Sunday. Before 1997, since the competition ended on a Sunday, “we would be on the first thing moving to get back,” said Head Coach John Murphy. But with racing this year lasting through Sunday morning on the other side of the country, that is no longer an option. “It is something we have worked very hard to fight,” Murphy said, but the students have taken the conflict in stride. When such conflicts occur, Brown holds a special event in University Hall the Monday before Commencement for those who cannot attend the official ceremony. Administrators, professors, family and friends attend the
Courtesy of Paco Palomo
event. The team is made up of close friends, Vresilovic said, which makes having an early ceremony that much more special. “The people I know and care about will be graduating with me,” Vresilovic said in advance of the ceremony. “The special ceremony celebrates what my time at Brown was really about.” “I’m excited to have a more personal graduation,” Huebscher agreed. An engineering concentrator, she said she preferred graduating in an intimate setting — with close friends and family looking on — to a large departmental ceremony. And though the seniors cannot be at their actual graduation, they may at least get a shoutout. In 2007, President Ruth Simmons announced the team’s national championship to the student body before the ceremony began. “I heard everyone just screamed and was really excited,” Brooks said. When the team returned to campus, “every single person said congratulations,” she said. “That meant a lot. It made everything worthwhile.” — Nicole Boucher
Life in the fast lane For most of the students who will walk the stage and accept diplomas this weekend, graduation comes at the giddy end of a whirlwind few weeks of final exams and projects — frenetic all-nighters giving way to the rush of Senior Week and Commencement weekend. But for the 18 members of the class of 2010 who graduated early, this weekend represents something very different. A few may have stayed in town, even on campus (some will be here next year as students at the Alpert Medical School), but all of them share a common bond — they’ve been “graduates” for months. The way Ben Abiri — who spent the last
semester doing research in a lab and working at Kaplan in Providence — tells it, his decision to graduate in December was “a nobrainer.” He had completed his concentration, had the AP credits he needed to finish, and, as a pre-med student, wanted a chance to take a bit of a breather before diving into his first year of medical school. He toyed with the idea of going abroad, but realized that would mean paying full tuition at Brown for a semester’s worth of credits he didn’t need. “I’m very glad,” he says. “It’s a chance to work at a lighter pace before going to medical school. Not to mention you save a semester of tuition.” According to Stephen Lassonde, deputy
dean of the College, who is tasked with handling accelerated graduation requests, the majority of people who graduate early do so for financial reasons. Though none of the students The Herald spoke to were motivated purely by finances, the possibility of saving on cash is an attractive reason to graduate early. Jessica Dai, a student in the Program for Liberal Medical Education who, like Abiri, graduated in December, did so partly in order to start saving money for medical school, which she’ll begin in the fall. She’s been living back home in New York, interning in the continued on page 30
Anna McLaskey and Mariela Quintana
Statistically speaking, it is much, much easier to get into Brown than it is to get out early. Of the 1,466 students who walked through the Van Wickle Gates as first-years four years ago, only 12 — less than one-tenth of one percent — have separated from the University for good, many with the aim of picking up their undergraduate education elsewhere. One of those 12, Anna McLaskey, who transferred to the University of Washington after a year at Brown, says her reasons for leaving were complicated, and her explanation is far from concise. “It’s a tough question,” she says over the phone from her apartment in Seattle. “There were lots of things.” A self-described “West-coast girl” born and raised in San Juan, Washington — a set of islands just south of British Columbia — McLaskey missed the familiar people and places back home, and she was concerned about the cost of Brown, nearly seven times the in-state tuition and fees at UW. “It kind of boiled down for me that where I came from, people had never heard of Brown,” the marine biology major said. “The name wasn’t important to me, and the money wasn’t worth it.” Mariela Quintana, who entered Brown with the class of 2010 but will be graduating from Columbia next fall, left Brown for reasons that were less pragmatic and more impressionistic. Quintana, now an English major, applied early to Brown and was thrilled when she got in. But, she now admits, “thinking that was very silly. You realize that school is not going to be perfect, and that was really hard for me to come to terms with. I had to be okay with things not being great all the time.” Coming from a high school — St. Ann’s, in Brooklyn — that sends a large contingent of students to Brown every year, Quintana felt she wasn’t being challenged enough socially. “I wasn’t branching out,” she says. “It felt very insular.” There’s something alienating, she thinks, about being discontented at what is often labelled one of the nation’s happiest schools. “Brown makes it so easy for students to do what they want and for students to be happy,” she says. “Not being happy at Brown to me seemed like something so antithetical to what everyone else was feeling.” After her freshman year, Quintana went to live at home in Brooklyn and took classes as a visiting student at Columbia. To her surprise, she ended up loving the school, despite its pedagogical and cultural differences from what she had sought at Brown. “It was wonderful,” she says. She applied to transfer that spring and was admitted for the fall of what would have been her junior year at Brown. As the class of 2010 walks the stage this weekend, McLaskey will be wrapping up her classes and preparing for her last round of finals at UW. Quintana will be settling into a summer internship at a literary agency before returning to Columbia in September for her final semester. Both have few regrets. For McLaskey, though she misses individual people and the community of the women’s rugby team, her heart is in Seattle. She has enjoyed her classes, appreciates how integrated UW is with the surrounding city and will be graduating without debt. “I think if I had stayed I would be happy, but I’m really happy here, too,” she says. And though Quintana occasionally thinks about what her college experience would have looked like had she stayed at Brown, ultimately, she says, “I’m really proud of myself for saying that I wasn’t happy and that things at Brown weren’t working out and I wasn’t meeting my full potential there.” She pauses. “That was a big step for me.” — Ellen Cushing
Courtesy of Teresa Tanzi
The candidate Teresa Tanzi may well have been the first-ever member of Brown’s class of 2010, but she won’t share the stage this weekend with her one-time classmates. In fact, she never even took a class with them. When Tanzi first enrolled as a part-time student through Brown’s Resumed Undergraduate Education program seven years ago, the plan called for her to graduate this weekend. But when the class was finally arriving on College Hill in 2006, Tanzi was headed the other direction, and she hasn’t been back in class since. Her reason for the unplanned leave? She was about to become a mother. Tanzi and her husband planned the pregnancy but didn’t account for its impact on her ability to continue her education. “I was just nauseated constantly. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t drive,” said Tanzi, who lived in Narragansett at the time and commuted to Brown. Though Tanzi expected to be “a bored mother,” she found that her daughter, Delia Tanzi Buchbaum, provided “every ounce of structure imaginable and then some.” Tanzi didn’t return to Brown after Delia’s birth — she and her husband struggled to find high-quality child care that they could afford, and they couldn’t shoulder her tuition costs on top of the costs of raising a baby. Now, four years later, instead of graduating this May as she had planned, the public policy concentrator is learning about the reality of Rhode Island politics. She is vying against incumbent David Caprio to be the Democratic candidate for her district’s state representative. Tanzi, who lives in Wakefield, decided to enter the race last April. And in the time since, she’s been surprised by the rewards of her new life as a public figure. “It’s definitely scary,” Tanzi said. The first time she attended a town meeting in Narragansett, where she lived at the time, Tanzi wrote down her comments in full before she went up to speak. It’s “amazing” how much her public speaking has improved since, she said. Tanzi acknowledges that taking on Caprio, the brother of General Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio, is a challenge. She continued on page 31
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
Turning a lens on the world At a time of year when many seniors are getting ready to graduate, Emma LeBlanc is far away from end-of-the-year parties with friends and the annual march through Van Wickle Gates. LeBlanc, who enrolled with the class of 2010 but now expects to graduate in 2011, is currently in Syria working on a photo essay for Makoto Photographic Agency — a photo agency she co-founded during a year-long leave of absence from Brown after the first semester of her sophomore year. The agency is dedicated to covering stories that “get cursory treatment or are ignored entirely in the urgency of the 24-hour news cycle” and features the work of photojournalists who, its website proclaims, have an “unfailing commitment to people, places and causes.” That’s a description that fits LeBlanc well. Many of her pictures are stark portraits of people staring directly and intensely into her camera. There is an intimacy to the pictures, even though they are often positioned next to articles about large issues facing the Middle East. A sociology concentrator, LeBlanc entered Brown in the fall of 2006, never imagining that a year later she would have photographs dis-
played in galleries and published in high-profile magazines while she lived in the Middle East. The summer after her freshman year, Leblanc traveled with a friend from Brown to Damascus, Syria to study Arabic. She returned to Brown that fall, but she had loved her travels too much to stay long. After spending another semester at Brown, she decided to return to the Middle East — this time for an entire year. “I just hadn’t had enough of Syria, so I decided to take some time off,” LeBlanc wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “I wasn’t even exactly sure what I was going to do there. I just knew that it wasn’t time for me to go back to a classroom.” During her time away from College Hill, LeBlanc studied Arabic at the University of Damascus and in Amman, Jordan. LeBlanc also worked as a volunteer in an asylum in Damascus where she got her first taste of journalism, recording the oral histories of its residents. Her interest in photography developed when she spent a few months in Iraq as a freelance photojournalist for publications including GQ and Le Monde. Success led her to found Makoto, and her work has since been exhibited in galleries in the United States and in the Middle East.
For LeBlanc, these experiences kept her immersed in a very different world, far removed from her ties to Brown. “I never really kept in touch with friends at Brown while I was away,” she wrote, noting that many of her friends were also studying or working abroad at the same time. “There was an unspoken understanding between us that these experiences were too important to e-mail, Facebook or Skype.” For LeBlanc, the return to Brown was difficult. It was “strange to come back and realize that you may have changed, you may have new ideas and understandings and aspirations, but Brown hasn’t changed,” she wrote. “It’s the same parties, the same classes, the same meals at the Ratty, but it’s no longer very satisfying.” Still, as she completes her final two papers of the semester from an ocean away, LeBlanc does wish she was graduating with her classmates this spring. “I’m ready to go back into the real world, off of College Hill, to resume all the things I began during my leave of absence,” she wrote. “Taking time off was the best decision I’ve made at Brown.” — Brian Mastroianni
The wounded warrior When Jeremy Russell changed from the class of 2010 to the class of 2011, he didn’t make the decision with his head or his heart — his leg made the call for him. A standout defender and assistant captain for the men’s hockey team, Russell was a sophomore when he fell and mangled his knee, missing an entire season on the ice in the process. “I wasn’t able to skate for five months,” he recalled. “And I basically couldn’t walk on it for a month.” Russell has known that he would stay a fifth year ever since, to take advantage of the full four years of competitive eligibility that the NCAA affords injured athletes like him. Though the injury will keep him from graduating with his original class, Russell sees the opportunity to stay another year at Brown as a blessing in disguise. The injury gave Russell, a neuroscience and economics concentrator, a chance to take extra classes in science and add a second concentration. “It was just a really good opportunity to make the most of Brown,” he said. “Not many places are like that, and I couldn’t be happier that I did it.” And with the help of the athletic training staff, Russell rehabilitated his knee to full strength. Athletic Trainer Brian Daigneault “pushed me to get back as soon as I could, and as strong as I could,” Russell said. Russell has not missed a single game for the Bears in two seasons since. Still, not graduating this weekend is bittersweet for Russell, especially because he formed a close bond with his teammates from the class of 2010 during their very first days on campus. In the four years since, he said, he and his 2010 classmates have helped generate new excitement about Brown hockey that he hopes will continue to grow even after they graduate. “We struggled together and found our way together,” he said. “It’s going to be tough to see them go, but it is what it is.” Although he’ll be sad to see his teammates graduate, the rising senior is excited to serve as a role model to his younger teammates — next year will be his second in a row as assistant captain. And as soon as Commencement activities are finished, Russell and his teammates will start training again. He and four other players will live together this summer, doing rigorous offseason workouts under the purview of a strength coach. Russell aspires to play hockey professionally after graduating from Brown, and having a stellar campaign in what will now be his senior season would be a great start. It’s an opportunity he aims to make the most of. After all, were it not an unlucky — or lucky — break, his playing days might already be over. — Fred Milgrim
Kim Perley / Herald
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
Early grads continued from page 26 regulatory affairs department of a cosmetics company by day and tutoring in the evenings. And while Dai has had a hard time being away from her friends in their final semester together, she appreciates the opportunity to make money to put toward next year’s tuition, gain experience at a company and get off College Hill. “It’s great to see what life beyond college is like,” she says. Jane Zhang, another PLME student who graduated in December, says she relished the opportunity to read for pleasure and spend time with her family. She even came to miss schoolwork. “I was just talking to a friend about how I actually started to miss problem sets,” she says with a laugh.
“I think Brown is a really great school, but I needed a break,” Zhang continues. Like Abiri, she has been in Providence for much of the semester, living in an apartment and working in a lab. “I think it was a good decision for me,” she continues. “It made me more hungry to go back to school.” Though Abiri, Dai and Zhang all participated in December’s mid-year graduation ceremony, they’ll all also be on College Hill this weekend to walk out of the Van Wickle gates with their classmates. And though their paths may have meandered more than most in the intervening time, all three are happy they got the chance to take time off and still graduate with their class. “Honestly,” Abiri says, “I’m surprised more people don’t do it.” — Ellen Cushing
Part-time continued from page 27 has never held public office before, and she faces a long-time incumbent who has held office for over a decade and ran unopposed in 2000, 2004 and 2006. But Tanzi, who casts herself as a David figure facing Goliath, finds “amazing motivation” in being the underdog. Her husband called her “the insurgent,” she said. “I loved that.” Tanzi wasn’t discouraged by the long odds when she applied to Brown, either. “I didn’t think about Ivy League, about my lack of pedigree,” she said. “Having given it any thought, I wouldn’t have even applied.” Tanzi attended a local community college in New Jersey after graduating from high school in 1989. She dropped out after two years, never earning her associate’s degree. “I didn’t like being told what classes I had to take,” she said. After Tanzi moved to Rhode Is-
land in 2000, she started to consider going back to school. She attended the University of Rhode Island for a year, “just to test the waters.” She liked taking classes, but not URI’s environment. Then she found out about Brown and its open curriculum. “I didn’t even know it existed,” Tanzi said. “It was literally what I had been waiting for.” Classes at Brown were a struggle for Tanzi, who had no computer skills at the time and didn’t know how to type. She had to ask a classmate to teach her how to make a PowerPoint presentation. She felt “very much accepted” but at the same time knew she lacked the educational background and study skills of many of her classmates. Tanzi plans to return to Brown in January 2011, no matter the outcome of the Democratic primary in the fall — and this time, she said, she won’t be short on self-confidence. “I don’t think I’ll have that problem again,” she said. “I’m going to be a new person.” — Sophia Li
THE DIPLOMA, TRANSLATED FROM LATIN Brown University at Providence: In the State of Rhode Island To all who are about to read this document, everlasting greetings in the Lord. May it be known to you that the president of the University, with the authority entrusted to her by the board of fellows, in public assembly, has decorated JOSIAH CARBERRY with the degree of Bachelor of Arts/Science Magna cum laude and honors in the study of Psychoceramics And has given to him to enjoy all the privileges, honors, and symbols pertaining to those elevated to this degree In testimony whereof we subscribe our names to this diploma, fortified with the seal of the University Granted in academic ceremonies held in Providence on the day of May 30, in the year of our Lord 2010.
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
LOOKING BACK 2006
Jan. 4, 2007
Nov. 7, 2006
Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse ousts Lincoln Chafee ’75 to become Rhode Island’s junior senator with 53 percent of the vote.
Aug. 26, 2006
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is elected president of Iran, allegedly calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”
June 29, 2007
Apple’s iPhone is released in the U.S. to much media acclaim.
Dec. 30, 2006
Just before dawn in Iraq, former dictator Saddam Hussein is executed by the new Iraqi government.
5HUJ`7LSVZPILJVTLZ[OLÄYZ[ female speaker of the House of Representatives.
october november december
April 16, 2007
32 people are killed at Virginia Tech by a student gunman.
Oct. 6, 2006
The Sidney Frank Hall for Life Sciences is dedicated after a decade of planning.
Sept. 10, 2006
Chipalo Street ’06 GS alleges police brutality by Brown and Providence police. The next week, hundreds of students stage a protest, marching across campus in solidarity with Street.
Sept. 25, 2006
Jan. 25, 2007
Oct. 12, 2006
Then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., draws a huge crowd to Salomon 101, calling cynicism “the lazy way out.”
Gender-queer student calls for genderneutral bathrooms after claiming to have been harassed while wearing a skirt in a men’s bathroom.
The Friedman Study Center makes its grand opening.
Jan. 29, 2007
The University accepts $100 million from entrepreneur Warren Alpert and renames the Med School in his honor.
April 27, 2007
Brown announces that the Smith Swim Center will remain closed for good after rotting wood threatened its structural integrity. A temporary aquatic bubble is later erected.
Oct. 18, 2006
Brown releases its 106-page slavery and justice report, which calls for public acknowledgement of the University’s ties to slavery, the construction of a commemorative “slave trade memorial” and the creation of a center for research on slavery and justice.
Oct. 18, 2006
Dining Services workers and the University reach a contract agreement after unionized workers threatened to strike.
April 24, 2007
April 21, 2007
;OL-SHTPUN3PWZOLHKSPUL[OLÄYZ[ outdoor Spring Weekend concert since the class of 2008’s arrival.
)YV^U»ZÄYZ[L]LYVUSPUL registration through Banner begins for rising seniors.
Dec. 27, 2007
Oct. 20, 2007
Republican Bobby Jindal ’91.5 is elected as governor of Louisiana with 54 percent of the vote in a four-way race.
Oct. 12, 2007
March 17, 2008
Jan. 2, 2008
In a stunning deal, JPMorgan Chase agrees to buy rival investment bank Bear Stearns for $2 a share. Only a year before, Bear’s shares had sold for $170.
Oil prices rise to $100 per barrel in the wake of a weak U.S. dollar and violence in oil-producing countries.
Former Vice President Al Gore shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for “efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about manmade climate change.”
In the midst of her campaign to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan for a third time, Benazir Bhutto is killed in a suicide attack at a political rally.
Feb. 3, 2008
The New England Patriots lose Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants (with Zak DeOssie ’07) after starting the season 18-0.
Feb. 24, 2008
81-year-old Fidel Castro is replaced by his brother, Raul, as president of Cuba.
october november december
Dec. 5, 2007
Dean of Medicine Eli Adashi announces resignation, surprising colleagues.
March 15, 2008
Two Molotov cocktails are thrown at the off-campus apartment of Brown/RISD Hillel employee and Israeli emissary Yossi Knafo.
Weekend of April 12, 2008
Oct. 13, 2007
Soapbox cars race down a College Hill in Red Bull-sponsored competition.
Lupe Fiasco, Vampire Weekend, Umphrey’s McGee, Girl Talk and M.I.A. play Spring Weekend shows in Meehan.
President Ruth Simmons is named aGlamour Woman of the Year.
April 22, 2008
A pair of students throw pies at New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman during a lecture in Salomon 101.
Events that shaped life, on campus and beyond
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
LOOKING BACK Oct. 3, 2008
Feb. 5, 2009
(TPK^PKLZWYLHKWHUPJPUÄUHUJPHSTHYRL[Z and in response to swiftly declining stock prices, former President Bush enacts a $700 IPSSPVUIHPSV\[WHJRHNLMVY\UZ[HISLÄUHUJPHS institutions.
Nov. 4, 2008
Aug. 27, 2008
Over 131 million Americans go to the polls. Barack Obama is elected president in a landslide, besting John McCain by 10 million votes.
Then-Sen. Barack Obama, +0SSVMÄJPHSS`YLJLP]LZ[OL nomination to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo.
Oct. 18, 2008
Oct. 30, 2008
Members of Students for a Democratic Society attempt to enter the Corporation’s meeting in University Hall. Seven are eventually given probation after a disciplinary hearing.
4L_PJHUVMÄJPHSZJVUÄYTJHZLZ VM/5PUÅ\LUaHYLMLYYLK[V HZZ^PULÅ\:L]LYHS[OV\ZHUK JHZLZHYLZVVUJVUÄYTLK^VYSKwide as the disease spreads.
Barack Obama is inaugurated as president. Almost two million people travel to the National Mall to watch.
october november december
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tells a full Salomon 101 that the presidential race lacked substantial policy debate.
Feb. 17, 2009
President Barack Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly known as the stimulus package, alloting $787 billion to states to revive the economy.
Jan. 20, 2009
Cell phone pictures of Michael Phelps inhaling from a marijuana pipe surface and the Olympic gold medalist swimmer is suspended from the sport for three months.
Jan. 27, 2009
President Ruth Simmons announces that the University is assuming that the endowment will lose nearly 30 percent by the end of June. Administrators later say the loss occurred by the end of 2008.
Nov. 4, 2008
Students storm the Main Green after Barack Obama is elected president.
Brown April 1, 2009
Administrators announce that two students did not return to campus from their spring break trip to Trinidad. The students are later found and a parent says no foul play was involved.
Weekend of April 18, 2009
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Nas, Santigold, and Of Montreal play Spring Weekend concerts on the Main Green.
Nov. 24, 2008
Brown football ties Harvard for the Ivy League championship.
April 7, 2009
The faculty vote to rename the Columbus Day holiday to Fall Weekend on the academic calendar. Providence mayor David Cicilline ’83 and radio personality Rush Limbaugh are among those who decry the change.
March 10, 2009
Former Senator John Edwards emphasizes the nation’s responsibility to end poverty during a lecture in Salomon 101.
September 10, 2009
The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, successfully circulates proton ILHTZMVY[OLÄYZ[ time.
The XXI Winter Olympic Games are held in Vancouver. Host nation Canada sets an Olympic record with 14 gold medals, and American snowboarder Shaun White unveils the Double McTwist 1260.
January 12, 2010
July 28, 2009
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomajor is JVUÄYTLKI`[OL<UP[LK:[H[LZ:LUH[LI` a vote of 68 to 31. Sotomayor becomes [OLÄYZ[/PZWHUPJQ\Z[PJLVU[OLJV\Y[
A 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastates the Caribbean nation of Haiti. 230,000 lives are lost, and 1,000,000 are left without homes
october november december
March 23, 2010
By a vote of 220-211, the U.S. House of Representatives passes the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, extending health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans
After escaping from the Taliban in June, New York Times reporter David Rohde » W\ISPZOLZÄ]L front-page stories in the Times detailing his capture and escape.
Oct. 12, 2009
;OL<UP]LYZP[`VIZLY]LZP[ZÄYZ[ Fall Weekend as Providence and the rest of the country celebrates *VS\TI\Z+H`+7:VMÄJLYZ arrest one protestor at an anti-Fall Weekend rally on campus.
As the investment banking HUKZLJ\YP[PLZÄYT.VSKman Sachs faces allegations VMÄUHUJPHS^YVUNKVPUN President Ruth Simmons opts not to stand for re-election to its Board of Directors.
May 30, 2010
Brown University’s 242nd graduating class marches through the Van Wickle gates.
After tense negotiations and protests, Brown Dining Services employees and the University sign a new contract, avoiding the possibility of a strike.
Events that shaped life, on campus and beyond
A thank you to our supporters Donors to the 2009 Annual Appeal Joshua Spector ‘96 Bruce Douglas ‘86 Danielle Cerny ‘06 Lockhart Steele ‘96 Tom Benson ‘98 and Megan Tracy Benson ‘00 Ronald Offenkrantz ‘58
Michael Blumstein ‘78 Josh Weisbrod ‘97 Sheryl Shapiro ‘03 Ruth Hanno Beck ‘72 and Roy Beck ‘75 David Morenoff ‘95
The Brown Daily Herald Digitization Projecting The pilot was made possible by a gift from Herald alum Kristie Miller ‘66. The Brown University Library has provided in-kind technical support for the project. The following groups and individuals have contributed to fund the digitization of select years from The Herald’s history: 1929: Ambassador Philip Lader P’08, P’11 and Mrs. Linda LeSourd Lader P’08, P’11 in honor of Mary-Catherine Lader ‘08 and the 117th editorial board 1963: Mr. John W. Kaufmann ‘63 and Dr. Katherine S. Kaufmann 1972: Dr. Roy W. Beck ‘74 P’00, P’02 MMS’06 MD’06, P’08 and Dr. Ruth M. Hanno ‘72, P’00, P’02 MMS’06 MD’06, P’08 in honor of Eric Beck ‘08 and the 117th editorial board 1973: Mr. Robert Stewart ‘74 1985: Ms. Catherine Gildor ‘85, Mr. Peter Stein ‘85 and Ms. Nancy Zimmerman ‘85 in honor of the Class of 1985 1986: Mr. Robert Wootton P’08.5 and Mrs. Carol Wootton P’08.5, in honor of Anne Wootton ‘08.5 and the 117th editorial board 1991: Mr. James Kaplan ‘92 Fund the digitization of any full year of The Brown Daily Herald from before 1940 with a gift of $2,500, any year between 1940-1980 with $5,000 or any year from 1980-present with $7,500. The cost to digitize any year between 2003 and 2008 is $2,500, as some digital records exist for these years.
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Daily Herald THE BROWN
The internet and the ‘extended mind’
Headed a long way from College Hill
Beyond skin and skull
Measuring modern life, more or less
An old textbook shows how teaching and learning have changed 45
Principles and the professor
‘A’ is for ‘about’
Discovery and David Foster Wallace
What Ruth can teach us about a life lived ironically 46
Four years in footnotes
Getting in with Goldman 43
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
A is for ‘about’
Measuring modern life, more or less
Scott Lowenstein ’10,
from Binghamton, N.Y., was senior editor of The Herald in 2009.
As a generally neurotic person, I tend to assign significance to all observations, no matter how insignificant. A stray mark on a graded paper obviously means it was well written, and a muffled clearing of a class member’s throat is an undeniable sign of disapproval. In a sense, this absurd noticing of things is what interests me in politics, where the smallest word choice can make all of the difference (hence, we hear about the “Recovery Act” from Democrats and an “unprecedented bailout” from the Republicans). But as I move on to my first real job, in political polling and strategy, I hope that what I call “neurotic” becomes “observant.” Clearly, I’m already on my way. There’s just one little thing that I often fail to notice: People make mistakes — in action and observation. Sometimes a cough is just a cough, just as a one-point lead in a poll could be the result of a few poorly timed trips to the grocery store. This “give”
— a margin of error — is too often overlooked at Brown, as elsewhere. But for all the shortcomings, I have learned at Brown to appreciate little things for what they are — maybe significant, maybe not. Take Brown’s grading policy. My friends from just about every other school look at me in disbelief when I describe the University’s philosophy about grades. How can grading possibly be fair when there are so few distinctions? To which I respond: How can a grading policy be fair with such fine gradation? How much difference is there really between an A-minus and an A, and why should that difference matter? An A means I did a great job in a class; a B a good job; a C, not so good. (We don’t talk about No Credit.) As I finish Brown, I have a much better idea about what a good versus a great job means — it is a distinction that allows for a margin of error. It replaces the anxiety and competitiveness with a much healthier attitude about
what grades should be: a general assessment of how I did in a class. The no-pluses-and-minuses policy is emblematic of a broader philosophy at Brown that understands students can learn best when we are allowed some wiggle room. It is part of the ethos here for professors to keep students in mind when designing their coursework and undergraduate education. Even in my classes in economics, a discipline where the prevailing attitude about causation can be elucidated by the recent financial crisis, professors have stressed thinking critically about what a statistical result means in a complex world with imperfections. At Brown, we are proud of our adversity through slight misdirection. We appreciate margin of error. I hope to take this lesson with me to the world of politics, and remember that the other guy’s supporters go to the grocery store as much as my guy’s do (unless, of course, my candidate is winning by a point).
Firestone: The internet and the ‘extended mind’ continued from page 18 our heads when calculators can do them for us. Even the symbolic systems we’ve developed can be considered cognitive tools — when a friend asks me to write up a column for a magazine, he can tell me exactly how many words he wants in just three characters (7-0-0). Recently, some clever philosophers of mind have taken this intuitive insight to exciting new places. If physics students really are letting their hands do some of the thinking for them, the argument goes, then maybe our hands are more than mere tools for the mind — maybe our hands are parts of our minds, at least when they’re doing the kinds of things minds do. If calculators do the kind of work that would be considered mental if it had gone on inside a skull, and if iPhones store the kind of information that would be considered mental if it had been stored inside a skull, then maybe those devices — and all cognitive tools with them — are themselves stamped with the mark of the mental, and are literally parts of our minds. On this view, then, minds are not confined to skulls: They extend out into the world around us, along bridges we build when we
dovetail our minds with our tools. It remains to be seen whether the “extended mind” thesis, as it is known, turns out to be true. But I think it is at least on the right track. We really do “offload” cognition onto all sorts of tools — call them “cognitive prosthetics.” And even if the extended mind thesis is only half-right, the implications are staggering. I often bring my laptop to class and use the Internet. Sometimes it distracts me, but I think it makes me a better student most of the time. I can look up references mentioned by the professor, clarify something I missed with a quick IM to a fellow laptop-user or, if the class is reviewing something I already know, I can just pick something new to learn online: the day’s headlines, an insightful blog post or, if I’m feeling industrious, next week’s reading. That song may sound familiar, and it’s been sung before. But if the extended mind thesis is true, there may be a new way to spin it: The Internet is literally a part of our minds. Our generation bears a unique relationship to the Internet. An older generation might have seen the Internet as an exciting new tool, while for younger generations, the Internet has always been there, fully formed. But our generation
has grown up alongside the Internet. The Internet was first put to commercial use in my birth year, 1988, as the ARPANET, what one might call the fetal stage of the modern Internet. I was a late talker, so as I was beginning to expand my vocabulary in 1991, the Internet was finding its voice as well, when it became known as the World Wide Web project. The word “Internet” gained popularity when we entered first grade, and it reached its billionth user around the time when we came to Brown. Each step in our development has been paralleled by a development online. It’s not so surprising then, the kinship we feel with the Internet. It has grown with us, changing to fit our needs. But like any good cognitive tool, it gives as good as it gets, shaping our thinking as well. Even one day without the Internet makes me feel a bit uneasy, like I’m missing a part; and who knows, a week without it could send me into withdrawal. Maybe that makes me an addict. But if the Internet really is part of my mind, is it so strange that I would miss it the way I would any other part of my mental life? The Internet is the cognitive prosthetic par excellence, and that deserves a thumbs up.
Four years in footnotes
Discovery and David Foster Wallace I1 like being able to look at the steps I’ve taken after I’ve reached2 an answer3. I am selfish in my nostalgia4. There is no one way5 to do things. To look at each action as the potential6 for human behavior in its most natural form: to look at education as something living and growing, as opposed to simply an end7 to reach. [The sentences from the opening paragraph are edited versions of sentences that appeared in my Brown application essay, written October 2005.]
According to contemporary (literary) wisdom, “I” is not the author of fiction and is, rather, the narrator, a character, an explicitly false person. Forward: The “I” of nonfiction is the writer, but the writer is a character formed by her own writing. This character is a translation, continuous yet aggressive in her push for independence. This is the writer’s tendency to write herself away, even when that undoing is irrational, contemptuous. The professor’s nonfiction class was the start of everything: I learned about scaffolding, this marvelous trick used to form writing and then taken away, stripped piece by piece from the writing’s façade, until the writer’s truest intentions are what remain. I stopped being able to write standard academic essays. The necessary response became clear: Literary Arts, not English. And now, with Midwestern hands, I continue to write driven by the inspiration (I do not like that word; there is no other word) of my thesis adviser, that poetic master whose words — both written and said — will always be enough. I came to college to find the nature of words and those created by them. The creations were revealed to be the writers. I was satisfied with language. 1
By the time I reached the end of David Foster Wallace’s “Authority and American Usage,” I fell into a foreign void but lacked surroundings and pointed out that the void, in all its profound emptiness, must be contained. I set out in search of boundaries. I set out reading DFW’s essays, his fiction, his speeches. I was learning how to write. But perhaps it is the reason behind the discovery of DFW that made the discovery itself so astounding, awesome: It was in the third class I had taken from my favorite professor at Brown, an English professor who, draped in skirts and glasses and encouragement, is one the primary reasons I love to write. And certainly the main reason I know how to write (though this statement is dripping with too much self-confidence for any writer (it’s cyclical) to stand behind). A reader wished publishers would put extra pages at the end of books so he wouldn’t know when the ending was about to erupt. 2
But, I asked, wouldn’t you just look for the last page of text? Or maybe the book would end with repeated parts of itself. You’d know the ending because you’d recognize the story folding in on itself in repetition. But I’d keep going, I said: “Infinite Jest” is stories and one tells of an Entertainment so powerful that the viewer is left unable to do anything, ensnared in the Entertainment. And this, I answered (to a question never asked), is why the greatest books must end. My plea to learn grammar — that nitpicker’s code, that pesky yet lovable creature — was answered in Spanish. I learned about indirect object pronouns, the preterite and the indicative, the temporal difference between “has” and “had” and my favorite mood, the subjunctive. If I were to learn grammar again, I’d choose Spanish. So I chose Spanish. I returned to Brown from a semester in Barcelona and found myself wary of, and weary from, translating life into numbers, drawing graphs and plotting intersections to solve problems of free-market economics. Economics is valuable. The mathematical translations are oddly beautiful. But when I first noticed myself thinking in Spanish, I could no longer force away my love of language. Or: I could not stop writing myself into being, a task that relies on language and words and translation. The necessary response became clear: Spanish, not economics. 3
I don’t think I’ve collected or thought enough thoughts to know nostalgia. But let me go back to the sweaty summer day when I reached the end of “Infinite Jest” or the month when I finished reading “Ulysses” and became a former editor, and I’ll tell you if I’m humbled or stubborn. 4
According to some theories, the stream of consciousness cannot be translated to the page because it cannot be fully represented with language. To capture the rate and rhythm and multiplicities of possibilities of possibilities of possibilities &c. of thoughts is the mind’s task alone — not the writer’s. The mind is too chaotic for the word. (M. asked me why it mattered that words are just symbols. She asked why we can’t just enjoy reading a book because it is a great book. I had no good answer but to continue writing.) Writing all moments is impossible. Knowing all moments is impossible. I read DFW and convinced myself otherwise. My writing, already too-much, took on unnecessary and boring layers, digressions long severed from their roots. My nonfiction would swing its pendulum and declare the arc too mathematical. Eventually weight ripped the string from its anchor, and my 5
tales of truth jumped into imagined scenes of tiny angels practicing postmortem dentistry. And that is not real but it is real because I thought it. So here, where I mean to explain the impossible task of thinking through writing, I end up mirroring the extension, or spreading out, or flattening, the pinpoint moment. Learning to write nonfiction is a poetic version of learning to read. Learning to read the newspaper is not learning to read. And those who write the newspaper? They are in the wilderness of the newsroom. Still, the nagging paradox: Wilderness requires a lack of people to fulfill its definition. The map tells you, “You are here,” which undoes the scene: You are not in the wilderness. How, then, can the newsroom be a wilderness? It is why wilderness can be called wilderness, even when you are in it, pack straps digging into shoulders. It is Rachel immensely far from Z. Arndt ’10, our quotidian wanderfrom Chicago, was ings and so crucial to a senior editor of The successful, intelligent Herald in 2009. and thoughtful society. Working at The Herald was a daily trek in and out of the wilderness, a translation from the guts of the newsroom (the candy drawers and editors’ tendencies) to the campus and beyond the odd beauty of straightforward, informative linguistic communication. 6
The presses rumble less today, thrust fewer editions into the dim night-morning, the hazy light that makes perceiving depth a chore. Four years ago I thought about newspaper circulation as much as I thought about the loveliness of the word “disintegration.” I think about disintegration a lot now: disintegration by hand, by shredding, by biting, by time, by washing, by machines. The word tastes decadent. The word is a process, and, therefore, demands our attention. I wrote and edited my work and wrote and then edited. This was my stint at The Brown Daily Herald. Putting together the campus’ sole independent source of news everyday was tiring and fun and beyond worthwhile. Thank you, 119, for teaching me how to write by teaching me how to edit. Sometimes we measure in column-inches, and by quantifying we mechanize. A reflexive duty, a byproduct of watching. After all, I go on imitating. As the great footnoter himself wrote: “It’s funny what you don’t recall.” 7
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
Brunonia abroad Headed a long way from College Hill
Kelly McKowen ’10,
from Bedford, N.H., was editor-in-chief of The Herald’s weekly post- Magazine in 2009.
After four strenuous years on College Hill, most Brown students are ready for something new. Taking jobs or enrolling in graduate programs, the majority will relocate to popular alumni hubs in New York, Massachusetts and California. For some students, however, life after Commencement will take them not only far beyond Providence, but also far beyond the United States. At the end of this summer, I’ll find myself in Norway, researching the country’s welfare system. According to statistics collected by the University between 1999 and 2009, roughly 7 percent of graduating seniors chose to move abroad after receiving their diplomas, making it the fourth-most popular option after New York, Boston and San Francisco. Historically, Brown students have been recognized for being among the country’s top earners of fellowships and grants funding study, research or teaching abroad. Obviously, we are no strangers to settling down far from home. That said, despite the relative popularity of moving abroad after leaving Providence, it remains a daunting prospect for most students. One of this year’s Fulbrighters, Rachel Katz ’10, will leave the
United States at the end of the coming summer to spend almost a year in the Chinese interior researching the country’s trucking industry. As is true for many of us, it is still difficult for her to imagine living in a
How do I pay taxes from Spain? Will my cell phone work in Nairobi? Is it safe to eat reindeer?
foreign country. “Honestly, moving there is still a pretty abstract idea — I only found out a few weeks ago that I’d be going and I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet,” she says. Ready or not, students like Katz will soon have to negotiate a unique set of issues arising from being foreigners. In addition to acquiring languages and adjusting to new cultural norms, Brown’s expatriates will find themselves answering questions they probably never expected to ask themselves: How do I pay taxes from Spain? Will my cell phone work in Nairobi? Is it safe to eat
reindeer? What do I do if there’s a coup d’état? For alum Rajiv Jayadevan ’09, former editor-in-chief of The Herald’s post- Magazine, finding answers to questions like these and others has been an eye-opening part of his life abroad after Brown. A Fulbright recipient, Jayadevan moved to Indonesia to teach English and found that the experience not only taught him about traveling, but also gave him critical perspective about university life. “The world outside of the Brown bubble — here in Indonesia, at least — is often slow and illogical, and it was certainly difficult getting used to that. It’s also tough being away from constant intellectual stimulation.” And perhaps that is what will be most difficult after leaving College Hill for those of us moving abroad: not the adjustment to something new, but the loss of what has come before. For every Brown student, graduation is a time to say goodbye to friends and the university that has been home for the last four years. For a small group at this year’s ceremony, it might also be a deeper, cultural farewell to America, at least for now.
Can’t bear to part from College Hill? Don’t miss a thing! browndailyherald.com
Principles and the professor What an old textbook says about how teaching and learning have changed Professor Ivory Franklin Frisbee seems like a know-it-all. He is. “The Greek alphabet has twentyfour letters: — ” So begins, impatiently, the ancient book I first checked out of Rockefeller Library last summer, Professor Frisbee’s “Beginner’s Greek Book for Schools,” published in 1898. His imperiousness practically reeks from its pages — making them seriously uninviting despite Frisbee’s insistence that they are “printed in large type, and in every way made legible and attractive.” As I soon discovered, Frisbee teaches Ancient Greek about as engagingly as a flight attendant does seatbelt-buckling. He emphasizes rules, classification and rigor of every kind. It must have been clear to students of Frisbee’s how their professor dressed himself in the morning: “Sweaters are divided into three categories. ...” One imagines the late-19th century classroom, though, to be a severe sort of place where the rules, rote memorization and endless repetition that Frisbee demands seemed almost natural. It must have been, at any rate, quite a different environment from the typical Brown lecture hall today, where professors so clearly feel reminded that they must try to be interesting as well as informative — animated slides and streaming video their tools for entertaining. Ivory Frisbee is most definitely not interesting, and his approach to teaching has nothing to do with winning him love and admiration (though he does swear that “all of the methods have been for years tested by the author in the class room, and have been found most efficient”). It’s clear he never had to be graded by his students on evaluation forms like the ones I received this semester, which invited me to rate the instructor’s “enthusiasm” and answer questions like, “To what extent did this course develop your understanding of the diversity of people and cultures?” What seemed so strange to me
about Frisbee is that he treats the student like you would treat a broken limb — something to be adjusted, set and immobilized without debate or introduction. You don’t begin, Frisbee reasons, by persuading a fire of the merits of water. Frisbee represents the anti-Brown. He would never have accepted the idea that the first day of class should
Prof. Frisbee teaches Ancient Greek about as engagingly as a flight attendant does seatbelt-buckling. be spent discussing the benefits of classical studies, how the professor can be reached by telephone on the weekends and why students should bother to show up to Greek on Mondays rather than that laidback seminar. There is a popular idea that higher education should be treated like any other service provided to consumers. Considering the pricetag on a Brown degree, this seems justified — and indeed, the modern university accepts it, if only tacitly. For four years, I have been in complete control. I enjoy this state of things — a lot. I have near complete freedom to choose my courses. I can take hard classes if I’m feeling motivated, easy classes if I’m feeling lazy. I can avoid taking classes with professors who are tough graders. I can study at the library, if I so choose, on a completely nocturnal schedule. Having this freedom is part of growing up, part of learning how to make good choices, how to be a responsible adult. Brown treats its students, for the most part, as autonomous human beings. Frisbee’s book reminded me that it wasn’t always this way. The student did not have so much control. Sometimes, he was treated like a fractured tibia by eager professionals. Why, I had to wonder? I really think Frisbee cares about
his students, as much as he talks over their heads, as though addressing a concerned guardian. No less than a good professor today, Frisbee has a “course objective” and does not lose sight of it. The stated purpose of Frisbee’s book is “the preparation for reading Xenophon’s Anabasis.” And the text, “if rightly used,” Frisbee promises, “will arouse greatly the pupil’s zeal for future acquisition.” The simplicity of the Frisbee textbook is as elegant as it is maddening: “The pupil is led to classify and assimilate (information) by its necessary relations. Thus in all of his work, he is led to observe, to think and to form his own conclusions.” Classify, assimilate, graduate. Ancient Greek really is hard to learn if you’re not forced to. My “zeal for acquisition,” shamefully, did not far outlast that July afternoon, and I accept my degree not in the least prepared to read Xenophon’s Anabasis. I don’t know if I would be happier now if I had been forced by Ivory Franklin Frisbee to read his book beyond the first 15 pages. But I would know Greek. We are the new consumers. Frisbee had his “principles of pedagogy,” but they’re unappealing. Today’s professor accepts a more ecumenical approach to teaching and learning. In the syllabus for a class I took this year, one of my professors wrote that “a teacher must utilize a repertoire of skills to engage and inform students, cognizant that varied background, education and experience contribute to how individuals learn.” He described learning as “the acquisition and integration of sensory information.” “Exercises,” wrote Frisbee, “must be repeated until the pupil thoroughly grasps the form of the Greek sentence.” I’ll soon have to return Frisbee’s book — unfinished — no doubt feeling a bit guilty, like I’ve dropped a class. But I do wish, when the next reader picks up Frisbee’s old book, that he or she is dedicated enough to someday read Xenophon’s Anabasis. I hear great things.
Michael Bechek ’10,
from Needham, Mass., was managing editor of The Herald in 2009.
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
Getting in with Goldman
What Ruth can teach us about a life lived ironically
Michael Skocpol ’10, from Cambridge, Mass., was deputy managing editor of The Herald in 2009.
Brown enters the national consciousness in strange ways. Usually, it comes across as an exotic place, a bastion of the elite and famous, its students devoid of common sense and oblivious to common sensibilities in our rarified bubble. As far as the world at large is concerned, our class matriculated alongside Summer Roberts of “The OC” and will graduate with Hermione looking on. In the last four years, we came clean about our slave-trading roots, washed our hands of “Columbus Day” and spent most of the rest of our time having raunchy naked parties on the College’s dime. But our most recent blip on the national radar gave the old narrative a fresh twist. The news that President Ruth Simmons was cutting ties with Goldman Sachs, as an article in the New York Times portrayed it, sparked a fit of jilted pique among the student body. Our leaders, like the nation’s, had canoodled with Wall Street and let us down. We still came across as hopelessly naïve, but even we, the swaddled liberal elites, were sharing in Main Street’s betrayal. While it was nice to be analogized to the Average Joe for once, the story missed the mark. On the contrary, I found that most greeted the news of her resignation from Goldman’s board with a shrug. For the most part, we knew about her corporate board memberships — she continues to serve at Texas Instruments — and gave them little thought. I for one wasn’t all that surprised she wanted to distance herself from what was rapidly becoming the most resented company in America. This semester’s Herald poll found Ruth as popular as ever. It makes sense that we’re quite comfortable with the idea that President Simmons could immerse herself for years in the filthy excesses of Goldman’s corporate culture and emerge the same old Ruth, untarnished in our eyes. After all, we Brown students relish being in on something but not necessarily of it — situating ourselves just a little above it all, being a bit too cool for school even as we play along. We go to frat parties — ironically. We head to the Providence Place Mall — and roll our eyes about it later. We sit in the Ratty and crack jokes about the food. We’re even a little disdainful of the whole Ivy League thing. Yeah, we go to one of those schools, but we’re not the type of students who would
go to one of those schools. Similarly, we like to imagine Ruth in all those Goldman board meetings, rolling her eyes at the fatcats and the shills. At worst, we assume, she stayed away from the ickiness, showed up and then got away with several million dollars for her trouble, with plenty of time left over to take care of the things she really cares about — like us. At best, we imagine, she managed to inject her moral compass into the proceedings even while masquerading as a perfect corporate suit, subtly shaving a few zeros off those outrageous bonuses in the process. Hell, some of us see ourselves doing more or less the same thing next year, if only at the entry level. So are we in on the joke, or are we as naïve as advertised? Only the woman herself knows what she was thinking, and she’s shown little eager-
Brown students relish being in on something but not necessarily of it — situating ourselves just a little above it all, being a bit too cool for school even as we play along. ness to publicly navel-gaze about her time in Goldman’s inner circle. I do know that we students project a lot onto “Ruth,” even before we know much of anything about her. The first time we presume the familiarity of a first-name basis, we draw her close to us, trustingly. She’s not exactly one of us, but we assume that she gets it, that she’s not one of them either — not a sell-out, not cold-blooded, not a hired suit. We glimpse something in her we like, and we seize on it. There’s a history there. Simmons’ predecessor, Gordon Gee, famously failed to connect with the campus. With a lawyerly background, a reputation as more CEO than scholar, and a decidedly non-ironic signature bow tie, he was quintessentially not in on the joke, and he did not stick around long. Among Gee’s faux pas was an elaborate and expensive renovation of 55 Power Street, Brown’s presidential residence. Enter Ruth, whose humble origins
in a sharecropper’s shack in segregated Texas have always helped her project a refreshing sense of perspective, even as she climbed to pioneering heights. Thanks to formative years spent defying limitations as a poor black woman, her self-awareness is unparalleled; her actions always seem considered, grounded in a confident understanding of who she is and what she’s all about. At Brown’s helm, she can hobnob with wealthy donors while still winking at pretense, and it all comes across as pretty much sincere. After Gee, she was universally regarded as a welcome change of pace. Given her persona, one of the most fitting rumors I ever heard during my years as a Herald editor was that Ruth doesn’t live on Power Street at all, that she just holds occasional functions there. She maintains a place off-campus, the rumor goes — a home in some quiet neighborhood, unfrilly, where she can maintain her distance from it all. She may hold court at the crest of Power, but she doesn’t live there. I’ve always wondered if the rumors were true, and recently I screwed up the courage to e-mail President Simmons and ask. Her response? She does live at 55 Power Street, and she moved in the day she took the job. Which is not to say it has been an easy fit. “The struggle to make the presidential dwelling a home is a major consideration,” she wrote back. “Since 55 had been famously renovated before I came, I chose to keep the house intact as Gordon Gee had envisioned it, leaving it to my photographs and other portable items to provide that feeling of home for me.” She seems comfortable — or at least comfortable enough — with that decision. “A part of my consciousness is always with the humble houses that I grew up in, so another dimension of living at 55 Power is that it remains a little foreign and somewhat too privileged to me,” she explained. “Nevertheless, when I return at the end of the day or from a trip, it is now familiar enough that I can say that I feel utterly relieved to be home.” I also asked her, more generally, where she considers to be her home, and in that she was unequivocal. “I can comfortably say 55 Power Street,” she responded — without a trace of irony.
THE BROWN DAILY HERALD
DIAMONDS & COAL A diamond to Providence. What a great little college town, and so appropriately named. Still, living somewhere with slightly less rainfall will be, well, divine.
Coal to President Obama, whose meteoric rise over the last four years has made him such a cliché. Whatever, though — we saw him live before he got big.
A diamond to Hermione. Now that we seventh-years are on the way out, I guess that means you’ll be the new Quaffler or whatever on the quidditch team. Go Bruno.
A diamond to the ghosts of Thayer Street past — Dunkin’ Donuts, Geoff’s, Spikes, Cold Stone, Roba!Dolce, Store 24 before it was Tedeschi’s. Don’t worry, we can never replace you — and neither can your landlords.
Coal to mortarboards. We’re wary of putting something on our heads that sounds like the latest wheeled contraption conveying hipsters down Brook Street. Speaking of which, a congratulatory diamond to our journalistic and kickballing foes at the College Hill Independent, for four years of spinning University funding into journalistic gold. You got out of the business at the right time though — with budget cuts, we hear the University may ask you to ditch the ironically patterned broadsheet. Hey, Brown is green! Coal to the Rhode Island Blood Center. You keep labeling our donations, but how many times do we have to tell you we don’t believe in pluses and minuses?
A diamond to Spectrum India, though, which outlasted all of the above. How you pay for that space by selling novelty tissuebox holders, broken sandals and sequins will remain a mystery to future generations. A cubic zirconium to campus leftists and their activism. We wouldn’t know what we’d do without you, but after four years of your non-stop teaching in, taking back and dancing off, it’s a relief to finally be walking out. Un diamante to College Hill’s greatest enduring fixture, Bagel Gourmet. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s such thing as too much cream cheese. Coal to the Creative Arts Center. Sure, construction’s looking nice over there in Wind
Tunnel Alley (er, “The Walk”), but we dislike things that are eccentric, overpriced and not yet ready to do their job. (A diamond to the members of the graduating class, nevertheless.) A diamond to both the guest speakers and rappers performing on the Main Green this spring. Mr. Rohde, if you need a good opening line for your address, just paraphrase a crowd-pleaser like Snoop’s: “Do anybody at this University smoke journalism?!” A cubic zirconium to the Slavery and Justice report, which was released when we were freshmen. Even if the University has since come up short on making amends for slavery, justice will be served as long as the PDF is available online somewhere, right? Coal to the First Baptist Church in America. First in history, last in seating capacity. Finally, a diamond to Brown, the place we’ve called home for the last four years. If those credit card offers from the Alumni Association are a good first indication, we’re sure you’ll be in touch. — 119