Following are selected examples of William & Mary faculty and staff members in the national and international media. - Ed.
‘Caitlyn Jenner’ Is the 2015 Name of the Year
In a Jan. 11 Time magazine article, William & Mary Law School vice dean and professor of Law Laura Heymann talked about the 2015 name of the year.
Each January, experts and linguists nominate and vote on the name that has most proved the relevance and power of naming the year before. The year of 2015 gave them no lack of contenders to debate. But even among Charlie Hebdo, Denali and the new characters in the Star Wars universe, the title of Name of the Year went solidly to… Caitlyn Jenner.
“It’s really just symbolizing the power of naming and the identity that is connected with a name, and the relationship between the acceptance of a name and the acceptance of a person,” said Heymann.
Koko the Gorilla Probably Doesn't Understand Climate Change
In a Jan. 7 Huffington Post article, Barbara King, chancellor professor of Anthropology at William & Mary spoke about the issue of Koko the Gorilla’s ability to understand climate change.
According to the article, some scientists are more than a little skeptical of a viral video featuring Koko the gorilla giving a "speech" on conservation.
Koko is known for her purported ability to use a modified version of American Sign Language to communicate with humans, and her trainers say she knows more than 1,000 signs.
The video, which was released during the COP21 Climate Conference in December, shows Koko signing about the importance of protecting nature.
King who has studied monkeys and apes for years, believes that Koko certainly has the ability to understand and express isolated signs and strings of gestures but isn’t entirely sure about complex ideas.
“There's a big leap between her basic linguistic skills" and the ability to grasp complicated ecological ideas. There's nothing in the published literature that would support the claim that Koko could understand these concepts," King said.
Four ways to use social media as an online student
In a Jan. 4 article in U.S News & World Report, W&M clinical associate professor of Marketing Dawn Edmiston spoke about how using platforms such as Facebook will allow online students to connect with classmates and showcase their work.
According to U.S. News for online students, social media is an opportunity to personalize and enhance their experience, allowing them to interact with classmates, ask each other questions and collaborate on group assignments.
"Your learning experiences are no longer limited to the physical borders of a college campus," said Edmiston. “"Literally the world becomes your classroom, and social media is a great channel for exploring that classroom."
U.S. News also says social media can also serve as a way for prospective students to gain knowledge of online programs by asking current students and alumni questions and checking out the latest program updates. Then, to get the most out of their online education experience, students can usethese platforms to work and get to know fellow classmates and ask their professors questions in real time.
Edmiston went on to say that one of her students once asked a questionon a social media marketing group on the professional networking site LinkedIn. She received more than 700 responses in just a few weeks.
"Many folks really want to help – to contribute to a student's education,"
I’m not broken
In a Dec. 7 National Journal article, William & Mary Scholar in Residence and Co-Chair of the Neurodiversity Working Group John Elder Robison talked about his dealings with autism and what society can do to help others. According to the Journal, Robison argues that there needs to be a different objective when it comes to helping people with autism.
“Our duty in autism is not to cure but to relieve suffering and to maximize each person’s potential,” he said.
According to the article, Robison, who was diagnosed as being on the spectrum at age 40, has been a critic of Autism Speaks. He sat on the group’s science and treatment advisory boards, but resigned in 2013 after Suzanne Wright published an op-ed saying the United States has let families “split up, go broke and struggle” because of autism. “These families are not living,” she wrote. “They are existing.”
“That’s a tagline for fundraising,” said Robison. “But I think that, if you’re leading an organization that represents autistic people and you say things like that, you have to recognize the powerfully corrosive effect that will have on the psyches of particularly young people who are themselves autistic.”
After Paris and Planned Parenthood, a fear of the unknown
In a Dec. 2 U.S. News & World Report article, Stephen Sheehi, associate professor of Middle East studies at William & Mary spoke about the issue of why Americans worry more about Syrian refugees than domestic terrorists.
According to the article, the deep divide, both political and cultural, has been exposed with the shocking terrorist attacks in Paris and the shootings two weeks later at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic. The assaults in France claimed far more victims and were led by killers with an allegiance to the Islamic State group. The latter killings were closer to home and far more common as an American criminal episode.
So far this year, there have been around 380 "mass shootings" (defined as a rampage in which at least four people are killed or injured), according to an online tally based on news reports. The U.S. also hasn't had a wide-scale, coordinated terrorist attack mounted by foreigners since 9/11, and, after admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees following the 2001 attacks, "there has not been a single known terrorist attack by any known refugee," said Stephen Legomsky, former chief counsel for U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.
So why are more than half of Americans in a recent poll afraid of letting Syrian refugees into the country? And why is there such a divide over who is the bigger danger?
Much is explained by pure presidential campaign politics, experts say.
Both parties' White House hopefuls are appealing to their respective bases, and the basic, opposing values those two camps hold, said Sheehi.
"No matter what you do, you're not going to convince those people dogmatically holding on to those stereotypes into changing their minds. These are stereotypes being mobilized for political ends."
Supreme Court case probably won't change course of local police shooting cases, experts say
In a Nov. 11 article in The Daily Press, W&M Professor of Law Adam Gershowitz spoke about how a recent Supreme Court ruling will effect local police shooting cases.
According to the Press the decision comes from a 2010 Texas case in which a police officer shot and killed Israel Leija Jr. during a high-speed chase. The officer who fired the fatal shot from a highway overpass, Chadrin Mullenix, said he was aiming at the engine of the car when he shot Leija.
The court ruled eight to one in favor of the officer, saying he was protected by qualified immunity, which protects government officials from lawsuits unless they violated clearly established law.
According to Gershowitz, "In these cases, they are not making any grand pronouncement of what police should or should not do." He went on to say that "the Supreme Court usually takes a case to make a statement … there are a handful of cases the court takes to just provide an answer, like this case."
In Newport News, Kawanza Beaty, 23, was shot and killed in July during an early-morning police chase after an officer received a tip that Beaty was carrying a sawed-off shotgun. Beaty died of a shot to the head after a confrontation with police. A shotgun was recovered at the scene and found to be unloaded.
The shooting continues to be investigated by police internally and by the Newport News commonwealth's attorney's office. In September, Beaty's family filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit. Jimmy Ellenson, the Beaty family's attorney, said he doesn't think the Supreme Court's decision will impact the pending lawsuit.
Jimmy Ellenson, the Beaty family's attorney, said he doesn't think the Supreme Court's decision will impact the pending lawsuit.
However, Gershowitz thinks that the ruling provides some guidance to police officers, without making a broad statement.
"The court basically wants to trust police to do their jobs. They don't want a police officer in the heat of the moment to worry about being sued," said Gershowitz, noting that the exception to this is when an officer's conduct is egregious.
Supreme Court prepares to take on politically charged cases
In an Oct. 4 New York Times article, Law School Professor Neal E. Devins spoke about the upcoming schedule of the United States Supreme Court.
“This coming term will again put into focus that the court is divided along partisan lines and that the 2016 presidential elections will be hugely consequential in shaping constitutional and other law for perhaps a generation or more,” said Devins.
In addition, Devins stated that “the Roberts court has generated more marquee decisions divided by party alignment than all other courts combined.”
Why Aren't Democratic Presidential Contenders Talking About K-12 Policy?
In a Sept. 21 Education Week article, Government Professor Paul Manna talked about K-12 policy and the presidential contenders.
According to Manna, there may not be enough disagreement between the parties to draw a good contrast.
“I would suspect that Democrats see higher education and pre-K as areas where there are more sharp differences between themselves and Republicans. So it is easier to set up one's self as an alternative to the GOP by focusing on those areas. In the K-12 arena, although Democrats and Republicans are at odds over vouchers—Democrats, especially in national politics basically always oppose them, while Republicans support them—there are many more K-12 policy areas where their preferences seem to overlap. Things such as test-based accountability for schools and teachers, charter schools, and others, are areas where there is less daylight between the typical Democratic and Republican positions.”
Transgender student's battle divides rural Virginia town
In a Sept. 17 U.S. News & World Report article, Barbara King, chancellor professor of anthropology spoke about the issue of a transgender student’s demand to use the boys’ restrooms at the Gloucester County, Virginia high school.
According to the article, Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, sued school officials over a policy requiring him to use either the girls' restrooms or a single-stall, unisex bathroom open to all students. The 16-year-old Gloucester High School junior claims it's stigmatizing and discriminatory. Some classmates and their parents argue that his presence in boys' bathrooms would be disruptive and a violation of privacy.
"A lot of this is based on fear — that changes happening nationwide are not always known and understood in smaller communities," said King. "It seems to be a continual discussion of privacy. I just have a hard time understanding what the big harm is and what the big danger is. I've never had that explained to me."
Low poll numbers keep Gov. Bobby Jindal at the 'kiddie table' for second presidential debate
In a mid-September article written in The Advocate, Professor of Government, John McGlennon spoke about Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal chances of competing in the second Republican presidential debate.
With low poll numbers, Gov. Jindal was relegated to the so-called kids’ table when the Republican presidential candidates assembled at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
CNN originally planned to average polls conducted from July 16 to Sept. 10 to pick its top 10. So CNN announced Sept. 1 that the first tier would include any candidate who averaged a top 10 ranking in the original two-month time frame or in the period from Aug. 6 to Sept. 10.
Jindal, 44, came in 14th in both sets of CNN calculations.
“The kids’ table served its purpose,” said McGlennon. “It let somebody say, ‘Hey, folks, I just graduated from high school. It’s time to make room for me at the grown-ups’ table.’ ”
Donald Trump: Like Ross Perot, but worse for the GOP
In an Aug. 17 Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, government professor Ronald B. Rapoport wrote about the differences between Republican Party candidate Donald J. Trump and then-Independent candidate Ross Perot.
“2016 looks remarkably like 1992: an election with a Bush, a Clinton and an uncontrollable billionaire,” said Rapoport. “The last time around the unscripted business mogul changed the nature of the campaign; this time he could cost the Republican Party the presidency.”
Ross Perot entered the race in February 1992, taking on two opponents: Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. After leading through the entire month of June, he dropped out, dropped back in, and ultimately received the highest third-party vote share since 1912: a stunning 18.9 percent, Rapoport noted in the article.
But, contrary to popular belief, Perot was not responsible for Clinton's victory. On Election Day, Perot supporters split right down the middle in their second choice.
This fact shouldn't really surprise anyone, Rapoport noted, because Perot's appeal was nonpartisan. He promised to fix the mess both major parties had gotten the country into: unbalanced budgets, lost manufacturing jobs, a political process reserved for wealthy lobbyists.
“Trump, like Perot, is an equal-opportunity critic. But if he decides to run as an independent — a possibility he refused to rule out at the first Republican debate — he probably won't have a Perot-like balanced effect on the contest,” said Rapoport.
Calling police 'pigs' lands teen in jail
In an Aug. 17 U.S. News & World Report article, Robert and Elizabeth Scott Research Professor Timothy Zick shared his opinion about a teenager who allegedly called police officers “pigs” and the legal ramifications that ensued.
William Reece, 19, was riding in a Honda Accord traveling at almost 40 miles per hour when he cracked a rear passenger door and yelled the insult at officers performing a traffic stop, according to a police report.
The police officer caught up with the car and arrested Reece for disorderly conduct "due to creating a hazardous condition that served no legitimate purpose."
The arrest report does not allege use of alcohol or drugs, and it’s unclear if Reece, who posted $500 bond the same day, agrees the facts are as alleged, particularly that he opened the door rather than rolled down its window.
Zick, like other experts, says opening the door was a poor decision. But he says ordinarily calling an officer a "pig" is protected by the First Amendment.
"There is a very narrow category of 'fighting words' that is considered not to be protected speech, but the utterance in this case likely would not satisfy the categorical requirements – basically, in context, the word would lead a reasonable person to want to engage in an imminent brawl."
Eagle ‘hot spot’ in Virginia could be replaced by a golf course and resort
In a July 21 Washington Post article, Bryan Watts, director of the Center of Conservation Biology, spoke about why a company shouldn’t turn an area where thousands of eagles live into an 18-hole golf course with a resort. But if the corporation that owns the land where they live has its way, moving day will come soon.
“This is a global hot spot,” said Watts. “There’s no other place on the continent like the Chesapeake Bay for eagles, and this place is one of the most important places in the bay. It’s an eagle magnet.”
According to the article, the bald eagle is one of the biggest success stories of the Endangered Species Act. America’s national symbol was nearly eliminated by destruction of its habitat, food contamination, illegal shooting and pesticide use in the 1970s. But the population recovered with protection and was removed from the endangered list eight years ago.
Evidence of Indian tribe village uncovered at Va. Navy base
In late July, archaeologists from William & Mary uncovered evidence that the long-lost Kiskiack Indian tribe had been found underneath the homes of naval officers at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown.
The team, led by W&M Professor Martin Gallivan, dug up artifacts that indicate the heart of the Kiskiack village sits on the same bluff that is now occupied by two-story homes with well-manicured lawns that are reserved for the military base's leaders. The story was covered in the Associated Press and picked-up by numerous national and local outlets .
The Kiskiak Indian tribe was once part of the powerful Powhatan chiefdom in southeastern Virginia, but the tribe disappeared from the historical record by the 1630s after English colonists attacked their village on the York River and eventually settled there themselves.
The tribe's location was well documented by Capt. John Smith in his 1612 map of Virginia and in other documents, but nobody's sure what happened to the tribe after it crossed the York River and settled in an area known locally as the Middle Peninsula. The tribe's disappearance isn't uncommon in Virginia.
"There are a number of other groups in Tidewater Virginia that have a similar sequence in which they're described, their location is mapped, there's trade, interaction, warfare and hostilities with the English colonists," said Gallivan. "Eventually, they get displaced by the English and they either merge with other groups or move out of the region."
How autistic adults banded together to start a movement
In a July 21 Washington Post piece, John Elder Robison - scholar-in-residence - spoke about autism and how neurodiversity advocates object to the approach of many mainstream autism activists.
The Post stated that such groups are more focused on cures and making autistic people act "normal" than on improving their quality of life.
Neurodiversity advocates, by contrast, consider people with autism a minority group, albeit one with extra challenges that might need accomodating, the article relates. They compare themselves to the gay rights movement and to the protesters trying to improve police treatment of African Americans.
"It's like an emerging civil rights movement," said Robison. "Neurodiversity is the recognition that autism, dyslexia, ADHD are just inborn neurological differences."
America's next social battlefield is on the actual battlefield
According to Fortune, gay marriage has been accepted as law of the land by the Supreme Court. The next group to advance the goal of equality will likely be the women serving on the front lines of America's wars. In an interview with the magazine, Leisa Meyer, associate professor of American studies and history talked about the difference between gay marriage and women in combat and what it means.
While gay marriage and women in combat are very different issues, they both provoke "a similar kind of deeply felt moral outrage and a similar threat to conventional structures," said Meyer.
W&M Law School in the media spotlight
Experts from W&M Law School were featured in June and July by a variety of media outlets on subjects ranging from the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act to the legal rights of children being born to mothers serving time in prison.
One Washington Post article featured Allison Orr Larsen, associate professor of law, discussing how Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy emerged as the judicial champion of gay rights.
Larsen explained that to Kennedy, “binding ourselves to a static sense of liberty is too stifling and unfaithful to the nature of a charter document like a Constitution that is meant to last forever.”
In an interview on the radio show HearSay with Cathy Lewis, Davison Douglas, dean of the law school, spoke about the future of legal profession.
“One of the concerns has always been particularly making sure access to legal services is there for everyone because they [legal services] are expensive,” said Douglas.
In The Atlantic, Arthur B. Hanson Professor of Law James Dwyer spoke about children being born to incarcerated mothers. Dwyer, the country’s most outspoken critic of prison nurseries, disputes the idea that advocates of the programs have in mind.
“I don’t think any children should be in prison,” he said. “Period.”
In a paper published in the Utah Law Review, Dwyer further argued that allowing mothers who have broken the law to keep their children in prison is not only unwise but unconstitutional.
Dylann Roof is the product of a system that has bred racist hatred for centuries
In an early June editorial, Joanne Braxton, Frances L. & Edwin L. Cummings Professor of English & Humanities provided her take to The Guardian on why Dylan Roof, the suspected gunman who allegedly killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, would commit such an act.
According to Braxton, the murders in Charleston were not just an isolated incident.
“It is simultaneously representative and starkly indicative of the rampant racism structurally embedded in America, the responsibility for which, it might be argued, bears no exemption for any American, especially white Americans, North or South, Republican or Democrat.”
In addition, she stated that the Charleston shooting was not an irregularity, but an exhibition of violence toward black America.
“Roof is a product of a system that has been breeding hatred and bigotry in America since the first Africans were kidnapped and forcibly transported here in the 15th century as slaves under deplorable, inhumane conditions.”
How sauerkraut can get you through that first awkward date
According to the Washington Post, eating your way to an anxiety-free existence is possible, but only if you take what’s in your stomach for consideration. It might sound outlandish, but the idea that your diet can have a huge effect on your emotions has become the focus of an exciting new area of psychological research at William & Mary.
Associate Professor of Psychology Matthew Hilimire, one of the authors of a new study on the psychological and emotional impact of fermented foods, has noted that their research shows "it is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut.”
Those changes he has said in turn influence social anxiety. The study, co-authored with researchers at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, was picked-up broadly by the national media.
In addition to an Associated Press wire story that appeared in more than 15 news outlets nationwide including Forbes Magazine and the AOL, separate coverage ran in several other national outlets including the Huffington Post and Yahoo!News.
Stand out or get shut out of GOP debates
In a June 9 article presented on WSFA, in Montgomery, Alabama, John McGlennon, professor and chair of the government department, spoke about how standing out from the crowded Republican candidate field will be crucial to securing a spot in the all-important GOP debate Aug. 6 in Cleveland.
McGlennon said appearing on the debate stage is a must for anyone aspiring to be the nominee. He said a potential field of 15 candidates is too many for the public and media to follow. As a result, grabbing an issue such as immigration, defense or abortion and speaking to a corresponding group of voters to rack up support is crucial.
"It's a winnowing out process," said McGlennon. "Moving support just a couple of points is critical, and trying to speak to a group of voters who will be actively involved in the nominating process."
McGlennon predicted a long campaign; debates and blunders will help cut the field in half as the calendar flips over to 2016.
"If you are making unforced errors, it's easy to dismiss a candidate.” He said.
Starbucks and William & Mary unite
In early June, Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Clinic William & Mary joined forces with Starbucks on a pilot program to advise and counsel veterans in Hampton Roads called “Military Mondays.” The new probram, which provides free legal advice for veterans filing disability claims, plus speakers to lead discussions on topics of interest to former service members, was featured in the Daily Press newspaper. The program will alternate every Monday at the Starbucks located on Mclaws Circle in Williamsburg
"It's a way for us to give some advice to veterans who may be able to proceed in their own if they just understand a little more about the process," said Patricia Roberts, clinical associate professor and director of the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Clinic.
In addition to the Daily Press, numerous other media outlets covered “Military Mondays” such as the Associated Press, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, National Law Journal and Stars and Stripes.
Menendez and America's public corruption problem
An April 7 editorial written by Associate Professor of Law Jeffrey Bellin about Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who was indicted on corruption charges, addressed the hard truths politicians face during bids for elections and the delicate stance elected officials have to take while taking money from donors.
“American politicians face a harsh reality,” said Bellin. “The average Senate campaign costs more than $10 million! Point the FBI at any elected official, and I suspect it can uncover a contributor who received special treatment: a meeting with staff here, a call to an agency there. None of it is necessarily illegal.”
Bellin also noted that Americans are not only allowed to give money to politicians; the Supreme Court has said they have a constitutional right to spend money on campaigns. Elected officials, in turn, have unfettered discretion to decide which calls they answer, what meetings they arrange, how to craft legislation and whom it benefits.
“Legally, what turns this volatile mix into a federal crime is any agreement to trade gifts for "official acts,"’ he said. “Absent this quid pro quo, it's politics as usual. In other words, the line between the corrupt politician and the successful one is drawn somewhere in the politician's mind.”
Richmond has three eagle nests for the first time in modern history
For the first time in modern history, three pairs of bald eagles are nesting in the city of Richmond. And in a Mar. 18 Richmond Times-Dispatch interview Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, stated you would have to go back in time before the Gettysburg Address to see that happen.
“You would have to go back before the Civil War to get three pairs in Richmond,” said Watts, “I’m sure of it.”
You can assume there were eagles nesting in this area when the Jamestown settlers arrived in 1607, Watts said. But during the second half of the 1800s, extensive land clearing, mainly for farming, destroyed many places eagles dwelled.
Records of egg collectors — people who traded eagle eggs like valuable coins — from the late 1800s to the 1930s indicate no activity in the Richmond area, Watts explained to the Times-Dispatch. And there are scientific records from the 1930s to the present.
The days of giant lecture hall courses may be numbered
In a Mar.12 interview, Professor of Economics, David H. Feldman provided expert opinion to the online magazine Education Dive on how and why the days of giant lecture halls courses may be numbered.
For years, colleges have balanced out the high cost of small class sizes during students’ third and fourth years by packing hundreds of freshmen and sophomores into introductory courses. The profits of the latter balanced out the labor-intensive costs of the former. The new proposal for free community college from President Barack Obama’s administration, however, could unsettle that balance Education Dive stated.
Feldman said there are two types of students who might take advantage of free community college through the Obama administration proposal — those who wouldn’t have considered college at all and those who would have gone to a four-year college instead. Only the second type of student will create what Feldman calls an “unintended consequence” for four-year schools.
“Some of them will come back into the four-year system already having the introductory material under their belts,” Feldman told Education Dive, “but they’ll be coming into four-year institutions to demand the resource-intensive upper classes.”
Why farmers and criminals hate daylight saving time
Assistant Professor of Economics Nicholas Sanders spoke to the reason why farmers and criminals dislike daylight saving time to the Atlanta Journal Constitution in a Mar. 7 interview.
When daylight saving was first implemented in 1918, farmers were extremely opposed to having to turn back and forward their clocks because it disrupted their schedules and made it more difficult to get the most out of hired help. And criminals didn’t care for daylight saving time either according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“Data shows extra daylight makes it harder for thieves to sneak in and out in the cover of night, so evening crime rates actually decrease when we get more sunlight,” said Sanders. “Unfortunately, those rates climb back up when we lose the extra sunlight.”
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton to speak on crime trends
Associate Professor of Law, Jeffrey Bellin spoke about crime trends and repercussions in the New York City area to Newsday on Mar. 1.
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton spoke publicly about the downward crime trends in the city at a time when shootings continue to increase. Police data show that shootings have increased around 17 percent so far this year over the same period last year, when the city reported an overall 6.3 percent increase in shootings. Bratton has insisted the shootings are unrelated to the large drop in stop and frisk activity by police. But the latest data showed the New York City police precincts with the largest increases in shootings last year -- as well as, in a few cases, more homicides -- also reported having the lowest numbers of stop and frisks in 2014.
According to Bellin, stop and frisks “only deters gun carrying if stops are seen as largely unavoidable.” “But the problem is that such a high level of stop and frisks would be needed for the deterrent effect that the program would be practiced unconstitutionally by targeting certain demographic groups, as a federal judge found in 2013,” he told Newsday.
The new wave of online prostitution
In a Feb. 25 Toronto Star interview, Law School Legal Practice Program & Legal Writing Faculty Interim Director, Laura Killinger spoke on whether or not the new wave of online dating for older men and younger women was a form of prostitution for the digital age in the 21st Century.
“I absolutely think this is prostitution,” said Killinger. “They have sugar-coated this type of prostitution so that it seems so much more socially acceptable, which is why we’re seeing this kind of growth. But I don’t think it’s dating.”
The growth of these specific online dating sites has triggered the interest of both prosecutors and law enforcement across North America.
“As a prosecutor, I wanted to take legal action against this activity and we talked about it, but it would take tremendous resources,” said Killinger. “You’d have to have an undercover police officer who would sign up on a website, agree to meet and, at some point, make an agreement to exchange $3,000 a month for sex. That would take so much time and investment for a police officer to make what is generally a misdemeanor case.”
Is creativity on the decline?
School of Education Associate Professor Kyung-Hee Kim delved into a Feb. 19 Orange County Register question about creativity measurement in humans. How exactly can “creativity levels” be measured in the first place? Well, it turns out there’s a respected test called the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) developed by American psychologist Ellis Paul Torrance in the late 1950s. The test measures divergent thinking and other problem-solving skills, and was originally scored on four scales: fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration. In 2010, Professor Kim analyzed 300,000 of these TTCT scores and discovered that creativity scores had raised steadily for several decades, then in 1990, began to drop.
Kim said that trait declined most seriously in kids between kindergarten and sixth grade.
“There are no definitive answers as to why creativity is diminishing,” said Kim. “The typical villains has been touted as TV and video games.”
More Middle Eastern students come to the U.S., find surprises
Since 2000, the number of students from the Middle East and North Africa has more than tripled, according to a report released by the Institute of International Education. Saudi Arabia sent nearly 54,000 students. And Sultan Qaboos bin Said Associate Professor of Middle East Studies, Stephen Sheehi noted in a Feb. 18 article to U.S. News and World Report that Middle Eastern students can expect a lot while attending classes in the United States but it doesn’t always have to be bad.
"I think, yes, in this day and age Muslim international students and Arab Muslims in particular experience prejudice both within the student body and in the host community," noted Sheehi. "In general, U.S. campus culture is quite welcoming and supportive of diversity and Muslim life and the idea that there should be space for people of all cultures and religions."
What physics tells us about making the perfect chocolate
As the some celebrated Chocolate Week with a simple candy bar, amateur chocolate-maker and Professor of Physics Joshua Erlich spoke with Smithsonian.com about how making chocolate is harder than one may think in an interview on Feb. 13.
Chocolate is a six-phase polymorphic crystal, meaning that when it's melted it can recrystallize six different ways. Comparing the crystal structure of chocolate with that of carbon, it can come in many different forms, like diamonds, graphite or pencil lead, which is actually the most stable, and even carbon nanotubes.
There are lots of different phases of carbon, and similarly there are six different phases of chocolate.
“When a chocolatier tempers chocolate, what he's doing is creating the right type of crystal structure,” said Erlich. “The type that melts in your mouth and not in your hand. The type that has that glassy appearance, the type that has that sharp snap when you break a piece.”
Sharp and sweeping rise of racial segregation in 20th century America
Census data correlated in a Feb. 11 Washington Post article by Economics Professor John Parman painted a fascinating picture of race and residential segregation in the early 20th century. Parman ruled the entries showed not just who lived at any individual address but who lived next to whom. Hand-drawn enumerator forms of a century ago showed where black families lived right next to white ones, or where entire streets were lined with households of a single race. The records show where Americans were integrated not across entire cities, but “across fence posts and brick walls.”
"It’s sort of shocking how much you can know about these historical patterns," says Parman. "Especially [relative to these modern studies]."
Super Bowl team cities see more flu deaths
Super Bowl Sunday! America’s unofficial holiday. In a Jan. 30 Scientific American article, Professor of Economics Nicholas J. Sanders in a joint study with Tulane University found that regions who sent a team to the Super Bowl saw an average 18 percent increase in flu deaths among those over 65, probably because of increased transmission due to gatherings of people at parties during the height of the flu season.
“So the investigators looked at mortality data from 1974 through 2009. And they found that sending a team to the Super Bowl caused an 18 percent increase in flu deaths among those over 65 in the two towns,” the magazine noted. “The senior citizens don’t even have to watch the game to be at increased risk—they could catch the virus from someone else who picked it up at a party or the pub. And the death toll is higher in years when the flu is more severe, like this season.”
Learning from Animal Friendships
In a Jan. 26 New York Times Science piece, Chancellor Professor of Anthropology Barbara King discussed how human beings could learn from friendships gained in the wild. Videos of unlikely animal pairs romping or snuggling have become so common that they are piquing the interest of some scientists, who say they invite more systematic study.
“I think we’re not even at the point of being able to extract patterns because the database is so small,” said King. She also added that “the topic could also benefit from a rigorous definition of what constitutes a ‘“friendship”’ between members of different species.”
Among other things, the Times noted, the alliances could add to an understanding of how species communicate, what propels certain animals to connect across species lines and the degree to which some animals can adopt the behaviors of other species.
“A relationship,” King proposed, must be sustained for some period of time; there must be mutuality, with both of the animals engaged in the interaction; and some sort of accommodation must take place in the service of the relationship, whether a modification in behavior or in communication.
Dictating the terms of free speech
A professor of law and author of The Cosmopolitan First Amendment, Timothy Zick commented in a Jan. 21 Boston Globe op-ed piece regarding the case of free speech at a protest in Grozny, Chechnya. In the Jan. 19th Chechnya protest, thousands of people flooded the streets to decry the French publication Charlie Hebdo after two militant Islamic jihadists killed 12 people at a satirical weekly magazine over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed they deemed offensive.
Zick had this to say about the matter: “The United States remains an outlier in allowing speech that other countries criminalize… “Much as Americans might assume that our protections on expression reflect universal human values, they need a more deliberate sales pitch elsewhere in the world — because there are powerful currents in the opposite direction.”
Unintended consequences of President Obama’s proposal to make community college free
In a Jan. 14, post on the Washington Post’s online blog Grade Point. Economics Professors Robert Archibald and David Feldman wrote about the president’s proposed free community college program and crunched the numbers to find the potential fiscal monetary impact on each state. Their essay gained so much attention that the pair was interviewed by Fox Business News and Al Jazeera America the following week.
“One of the program’s goals is to break down the financial barriers that keep many students from pursuing a useful certificate or degree. Two free years at a community college supposedly will make a four-year bachelor’s degree more affordable. Yet four-year colleges and universities depend on larger classes taught to first and second year students to keep cost down,” Archibald told Fox Business News. “These larger introductory classes are the flip side of the smaller and more teacher-intensive upper level classes of the final two years. The upper division courses are the ones that truly prepare students for a job market that prizes advanced training in technical and non-technical fields alike.”
The professors also stated how research showed that students who could do well at a four-year school but who chose to begin at a community college are less likely to graduate than their peers who go directly to a four-year school.
Feldman had this to add about the actual cost: ‘“Fiscal cost’ is the listed tuition times the number of students enrolled. That’s the cost that will have to be split between the feds (3/4) and the state (1/4) if you make Community College free,” he said to Al Jazeera America. “This ‘fiscal cost’ measure is really an ‘initial’ cost, since it could grow if the number of enrolled students rises as a consequence of the price cut. But it’s a good starting place for the discussion. And this ‘fiscal cost’ is based on an assumption that every student qualifies, which clearly is an overestimate.”
Bob McDonnell sentenced to 2 years in prison for public corruption
On Jan. 6, Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison on corruption charges in a Richmond, Virginia. federal court. The Washington Times sought out the expertise of Law School Professor Jeffrey Bellin. McDonnell was convicted in September 2014 on 11 counts of public corruption last January shortly after he left office. The indictment charged him with accepting more than $150,000 in gifts and loans. McDonnell purportedly rejected a deal that would have averted the six-week trial last year and spared prosecution of his wife, Maureen, who was found guilty of eight charges for her role in the conspiracy.
Bellin discussed how U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer would sentence McDonnell.
“Federal judges typically follow federal guidelines and the degree of departure in the case was “particularly notable,” he told the Washington Times. “The ex-governor also has significant legal issues for appeal, including whether federal law prohibits exchanging ‘access’ for money. While it may seem clear that such exchanges should be unlawful, the legal precedent in this case could be applied to campaign contributions, and that may trouble an appeals court.”
Alien life on Mars? NASA rover spots methane, a possible sign of microbes
As people young and old search the night sky for comets and falling stars, some of the world’s leading scientists have found an interesting occurrence that may send shockwaves through our knowledge of the solar system – methane gas on Mars.
On Earth, most methane, better known as natural gas, is released by microbes that belch out the gas as they digest food. The rover mission scientists hedge the new results carefully, saying there’s no way to tell whether the methane spikes have a geological or biological origin. Applied Science Professor Joel Levine expressed in an interview with National Geographic Dec. 17 that this could be a pivotal discovery.
“It is a very, very puzzling result,” said Levine. “Either Mars is geologically alive, which would be surprising, or Mars is biologically alive, which would have profound implications.”
What we should learn from Garner and Ferguson cases
A Dec. 9 editorial, written by Law Professor Jeffery Bellin about the Garner and Ferguson Grand Jury decisions to CNN Opinion, stated that the criminal justice system’s grand jury structure doesn’t inspire confidence in sensitive cases involving police officers. To restore confidence, he noted, local prosecutors shouldn't present cases involving police shootings to grand juries, but bring an independent attorney. Bellin also went on to say that the grand jurors in Ferguson and Staten Island were doing something different from what typical grand jurors do. They were tasked with determining, as the prosecutor would normally do, whether to bring criminal charges.
“The problem in the response of Ferguson and Staten Island criminal justice officials wasn't that they presented all the evidence to the jury -- it was who was presenting that evidence. As commentators have correctly pointed out, prosecutors wield tremendous influence over a grand jury. If we don't trust prosecutors to make the decision of whether to charge, it makes no sense to give them the task of presenting the evidence that controls that decision,” said Bellin. “The grand jurors should see all the relevant evidence, but the presentation should be guided not by a prosecutor, but by a ‘special counsel,’ an attorney completely independent of the local police and prosecuting authority.”
In for a dollar: discount stores engage in a high-price bidding war
What’s the impact on the market of the countless mergers, acquisitions and takeovers happening every day to businesses in the United States? A December Federal Reserve Bank article addressed the question using recent acquisition bids for Family Dollar as a case study. Law School Professor Alan Meese weighed in on the government’s antitrust regulations for such acquisitions.
“The government wants to prevent mergers that transform the structure of a market in a way that raises prices and thus injures consumers in that market,” said Meese. “Raising antitrust concerns to thwart a more generous bid can raise suspicions about the motives of the target’s board.”
African leaders abuse Chinese aid and channel to their home areas
China's "no strings attached" aid is being abused by African leaders who channel the lion's share of funds to their home areas, U.S.-led researchers found in the first geo-referenced database of Chinese aid to the world's poorest continent. Reuters reported the findings in a Nov. 19 article noting China's policy of non-interference means it rarely intervenes in domestic issues. This lack of interference makes it easy for corrupt politicians to use Chinese aid to reward their political supporters, rather than direct it to the areas most in need, the article reported the researchers as saying.
In the study, researchers from German, Australian, Swiss and U.S. universities mapped more than 1,600 Chinese official development aid projects, worth $84 billion, in 50 African countries between 2000 and 2012. The researchers argue that projects funded for political reasons are less likely to contribute to development than those allocated on the basis of poverty or need.
Brad Parks, executive director of William & Mary’s AidData, told Reuters about the report, “We hope that this effort will … facilitate evidence-based discussion and debate among those who want to see foreign aid put to more effective use.”
Obama uses veto pen sparingly, but could that change?
In a Nov. 19 article, USA Today’s Greg Korte addressed the issue of presidential vetoes. Korte noted that president Obama using his veto power is likely to take a higher profile in the last two years of his presidency, as he's confronted for the first time by Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress. But when and how often he uses his veto power depends as much on Congress as it does Obama, Korte reported. More than 80 percent of veto threats issued by the administration come not from the president directly but from unnamed "senior advisers," the article noted, allowing the president room to negotiate. Government Professor John Gilmour had this to say to Korte about the situation in Washington, D.C.
"By pushing the veto threat farther away from the president, it gives the president more wiggle room. You should trust that to mean the president will veto the bill. The president's credibility is at stake. Presidents don't issue idle veto threats," he said.
Federalist Society Legal Scholars Begrudgingly Accept Obama’s Immigration Powers
In mid-November, Sam Stein of the Huffington Post wrote a commentary about the Federalist Society’s November convention. Panelists discussed major confrontations between the branches of government, from enforcement of marijuana law and the implementation of health care to Obama's impending executive order on immigration. The panelists - including Neal Devins, director of the election law program at the College of William & Mary - agreed the president has wide legal latitude to prioritize and shape deportation laws, as regrettable for Republicans or the long-term balance of powers as that may be.
“I do not think the executive is subordinate to the judiciary, and if the executive is not subordinate to the judiciary and has the power to independently interpret the Constitution, it can’t be exercised only at the veto point when a prior president may have signed the bill,” Devins said. “The president who inherits the bill has to have the opportunity to interpret it himself and not be bound by the prior administration. The idea that the prior administration can tie the hands of a subsequent administration doesn’t make sense to me.”
MIT researchers offer explanation for autism
The Boston Globe published a piece in October about autism and its symptoms (ranging from repetitive behaviors to impaired social skills). Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists proposed a common thread that could explain many facets of the disorder: a failure to make good predictions. William & Mary Neurodiversity Scholar-in-Residence John Elder Robison, who has written extensively about his own experiences with Asperger’s syndrome, said that although he respects any thoughtful study of autism, he disagrees with the researchers’ conclusions.
“A piece of work like this is an example of how, when researchers don’t sufficiently engage with the community they are researching, they make wrong assumptions and go down paths that are less than optimally productive,” Robison told the Globe. “Our problem is that we have no clue what is being asked of us. That means we are not sensing the things that other people are sensing to carry on a conversation — the whole idea of my book being called ‘Look Me in the Eye’ is an expression of the reality that the automatic, instinctive thing of looking a person in the eye doesn’t happen” for people with autism. That has nothing whatsoever to do with my predictive ability.”
5 Things to Know About Former Va. Governor Trial
During summer of 2014, Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was indicted on federal corruption charges of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts, trips and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory, Anatabloc.
Throughout the trial, Law Professors Jeff Bellin and Adam Gershowitz were called upon by local and regional reporters to explain the legal twists and turns of the case.
Toward the end of the trial, Bellin told the Associated Press (AP) that providing the star witness immunity complicated the case for the prosecution.
“It’s a weakness in the prosecution’s case,” Bellin told AP, “because it enabled the defense to argue that Williams said what he thought prosecutors wanted to hear just to save his own hide.”
The story also ran in ABC News, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Yahoo! News, and SALON.
Seeking Facts, Justices Settle for What Briefs Tell Them
During its fall term, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in what became popularly known as “the Hobby Lobby Case.” In this case, the Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs. These amicus briefs, as they are commonly called, often provide the factual information that helps put the case in a broader context for the justices. The justices are hungry for such data, noted William & Mary Associate Law Professor Allison Larsen in a New York Times article. Their opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs, she said. Noting that’s not always a good thing.
“The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,” said Allison Orr Larsen. “The U.S. Supreme Court is the only American judicial entity that depends so heavily on amicus briefs to educate itself on factual matters.”
McDonnell trial puts focus on unlimited gifts to Va. elected officials
The trail of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell revolved around $177,000 in luxury gifts, vacations and loans that prosecutors say the McDonnells accepted from Jonnie R. Williams in exchange for official acts. An August 31, article in the Washington Post raised the question of whether the unlimited-cash culture that has long pervaded Virginia campaign was broken and needed to be fixed. Government Professor John McGlennon told the Post he didn’t think the Virginia General Assembly had the stomach to make the recommended reforms.
“If the General Assembly wouldn’t pass stronger reforms this year, there’s not much chance they will next year,” McGlennon said. “The public is disgusted with what they see as a corrupt system, but they have little confidence that anyone can do anything about it.”
Mexico opens energy sector, but investors may hesitate
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed into law changes to his country’s energy sector that open it to private investment for the first time since it was nationalized in 1938. The laws are designed to allow foreign oil companies to participate in joint ventures and bring their expertise to Mexican oil fields, but there is opposition to the reforms. George Grayson, emeritus professor of government, told Voice of America that one issue that potential foreign investors have is the threat of Mexico’s drug cartels to security.
“Los Zetas, which are the most sadistic members of cartels in Mexico, have tapped into oil and gas pipelines, and I wonder if the foreign investors are going to be willing to go into northern Mexico where Los Zetas and other cartels operate,” said Grayson. He went on to explain that because the nationalized energy industry has operated for so long in a closed system, it may not meet international standards. “There is going to have to be a great deal of beefing up of the regulatory system if the Mexicans hope to deal even-handedly with foreign investors, who, of course, can afford to purchase the best talent in the world.”
Proposed Google Glass driving bans are “unenforceable”
Google Glass is reputed to be the wearable technology piece of the future, but at least eight states have introduced bills to try to prevent wearing the glasses while driving. Professor of Law Adam Gershowitz told CNET and The Wall Street Journal that these bills are unenforceable. “A driver could simply say that he was only wearing Google Glass (perhaps because it contains his prescription lenses) and that he was not ‘using’ the device at all.”
Gershowitz suggests that future legislation should ban a person from driving “while wearing a wireless electronic communication device” or “while using a wireless electronic communication device.” Another potential solution is the introduction of a “drive mode” with features designed to assist drivers rather than distract them.
How employers are tapping talents of disabled workers
In March 2014, the Department of Labor updated its requirements regarding individuals with disabilities, setting a utilization goal of seven percent. While the objective of this legislation is to change the prospects of disabled workers, some employers are already making efforts to recruit these individuals. John Elder Robison is a neurodiversity scholar-in-residence at William & Mary who informed CNBC’s coverage of this trend. He said that autistic brains can provide a valuable resource to the right company.
“We live in a world of increasing specialization, where employers recruit specialized people for computer programming and math and science jobs,” said Robison. “A person with extremely narrow ability levels can be a star in such a world.”
Colleges are also promoting disability inclusion via programs like W&M’s Neurodiversity Initiative, founded by Robison. “We have neuro-diversity day on campus, like Gay Pride day,” he said. “Our graduates go out and become lawyers, psychologists and teachers. The world needs us.”
What if Boehner wins his lawsuit against Obama?
Ahead of midterm elections, House Speaker John Boehner is suing President Barack Obama for failing to fulfill his constitutional obligation to execute the nation’s laws. Specifically, Boehner has promised a vote on a resolution to sue over the delay of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. The prevailing thought is that this is a political stunt, but law professor Tara Grove told Newsweek that the matter may be fairly serious.
“I would not call it a joke,” said Grove. “I think it’s significant that the House of Representatives is actually thinking of bringing this matter to court.” While she argues that the Constitution does not give Congress the power to defend laws in court, Grove is concerned that using the courts could become a deciding ground for political disputes. By using this case as a precedent, “virtually any dispute between Congress and the president could wind up in court.”
Does the Hobby Lobby decision threaten gay rights?
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., giving closely held corporations exemptions from law based on the owners’ religious beliefs, many fear that the door may be open for discrimination is public accommodations and hiring. “Most people are worried about the Hobby Lobby decision not for what it held now, today, but for the possibility of challenges using Hobby Lobby later, tomorrow,” Allison Orr Larsen, professor of law, told Newsweek. “Most people are concerned about the slippery slope.”
Concerns include discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, age, disability, or pregnancy based on corporations requesting exemptions based on religious beliefs. The dissenting opinion from the Supreme Court, authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, argued that the majority opinion’s logic is not confined to this specific case and cited a number of cases where business owners thought serving or hiring minorities violated their religious beliefs. “It’s the job of a dissent to say the sky is falling,” said Larsen, who previously served as a Supreme Court clerk. “But I do think it’s interesting that what Justice Ginsburg wrote prompted Justice Kennedy to write his own short concurrence to resist her… [t]o me, that shows that it rings a little true, that it makes him nervous.”
Nurturing citizen leaders starts in higher education
In a July 2 piece for the Huffington Post, William & Mary President Taylor Reveley outlined the university’s participation in the Franklin Project and its vision for increased service throughout the student body. W&M is a lead institution for the Franklin Project, which has the goal of engaging one million men and women ages 18-28 in at least one full year of service by 2023. In addition to outlining campus service programs like the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic and Coverdale Fellows Program, Reveley wrote on the importance of service for both a university and the nation.
“It's crucial to the quality of our national life and the strength of our democracy, however, that all colleges and universities help nurture citizen leaders,” he said. “Embracing the Franklin Project can be a powerful means to that end. William & Mary has embraced the project. We believe thousands of other institutions of higher education will also. The young people who serve will find meaning and satisfaction in making a difference for the better. Collectively they can have a transforming impact on the country.”
Republicans look to Mississippi, Kansas, Tennessee after Cantor’s Tea Party defeat
When House Majority Leader and seven-term incumbent Eric Cantor was defeated in his bid for reelection by Tea Party candidate David Brat in early June, it sent waves throughout the Republican Party. The prevailing wisdom had been that the Tea Party was a spent force and its influence towards extreme conservative values had ceased. The International Business Times examined the potential impact of this upset on the national stage and consulted John Marshall Professor of Government Ron Rapoport.
“Because it was so unexpected, that’s a lot scarier to incumbent members of Congress,” he said. Politicians like predictability and this election showed there may not be as much as they’d like to think.” Attention will now turn to elections in Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee where more longstanding Republican leaders are facing challengers from the far right wing.
U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
A segment on MSNBC’s ‘All In With Chris Hayes’ examined the fallout from the recent release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Republicans have seized the opportunity to accuse President Obama of negotiating with terrorists and having a weak stance on foreign policy. Larry Wilkerson, professor of government and public policy, said he expected as much.
“I’ve learned that both political parties… will take advantage of almost any situation to score points, so it’s no surprise that they’re doing it,” he said. “It’s reprehensible, but it’s no surprise.” Wilkerson also addressed the particulars of dealing with the ruling parties in Afghanistan.
Virginians remember Angelou’s talent, generosity
When Maya Angelou died on May 28, the nation knew that it had lost a literary giant, but perhaps not the outstanding caliber of human being that Angelou was. Joanne Braxton, professor of English and Humanities, knew Angelou personally and spoke to NPR and the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the author.
Braxton interviewed Angelou for a project at William & Mary called the Middle Passage Project, which examines the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Known for her generosity, she gave Braxton and her daughter a framed copy of the poem she wrote for Bill Clinton’s first presidential inauguration. “She was a generous human being,” Braxton said. “She had an international family. There are many people who claimed her as intellectual, spiritual and artistic kin.”
Obama eyes sacred Va. Indian site as U.S. Park unit
Werowocomoco, the area believed to be a seat of power for the Powhatan empire, is being considered as an addition to the National Park System. President Obama has requested $6 million to acquire more than 250 acres in order to achieve that goal. In an Associated Press piece that was picked up by the Washington Post, ABC News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, among others, Professor of Archaeology Martin Gallivan, who led a dig at Werowocomoco, spoke about the significance of the site and why it is worthy of inclusion as a National Park.
“I think it deserves that status given the events that occurred there in the early Colonial period and the deeper history of the Powhatans,” he said. “If it was included in the national park system that would give the American public the chance to learn that history.” Gallivan also emphasized that Virginia Indians should be consulted on how to best interpret the site.
Hobby Lobby, corporate law, and the theory of the firm
The Supreme Court case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., questions whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees health coverage of contraceptives based on religious objections of the corporation’s owners. The Obama administration contends that Hobby Lobby is not a person and therefore is not afforded protection under the act. Law professors Nathan Oman and Alan Meese have published a paper, examined by the Washington Post, that argues the opposite.
“First, corporate law does not discourage for-profit corporations from advancing religion. Second, such businesses do not undermine the goals of corporate law, nor would it undermine such goals to grant these firms religious exemptions from otherwise neutral laws in appropriate cases. Third, given the plausible reasons for protecting religious exercise by for-profit corporations, there is no reason to reject the most natural reading of RFRA’s text, namely that “person” includes private corporations of all kinds.”
Numerous legal bloggers noted the paper as well, including Ed Whelan of National Review Online who called it "excellent and comprehensive."
The paper was first published in the Harvard Law Review Forum.
Ugly history on Tobacco Road
At Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, students are proposing to rename buildings that currently bear the monikers of controversial historical figures. Professor of English Terry Meyers, who is involved with the Lemon Project to investigate William & Mary’s history with slavery, spoke to Inside Higher Ed about how universities can deal with an ugly past.
Standards for renaming a building are hazy on many campuses, and Meyers says that societal shifts complicate the issue further. “Each generation has a right to commemorate or honor those people they think are significant,” he said. “But how long does that right go on into the future as values change?”
Cuban moviemakers feeling burden of U.S. embargo
Film is a growing industry in Cuba, but the long-standing American embargo of the nation has put a damper on that growth, according to an April 6 article in The New York Times. Using crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo, independent filmmakers have been able to raise thousands of dollars to produce their own movies, money that they have been unable to access because it comes from an American company. Director of film and media studies Anne Marie Stock said that the embargo is hurting what could be a transformative movement.
“Precisely as independent filmmakers are telling stories in new ways, using new genres, exploring Cuban reality in ways that even hard-liners in the U.S. would see as positive, the embargo is preventing them” from accessing American resources, she said. Along with the economic sanctions, the Cuban government has been restrictive of filmmakers and as a result stymied opportunities. Stock emphasized that there is real talent coming out of Cuba, saying that the United States film industry is “missing opportunities, both economically and creatively.”
How playful learning will build future leaders
In an increasingly technology-driven world, it is important for the workforce of the future to be able to do what machines and computers can’t, which is to think strategically and creatively. Unfortunately many educators, including professor of education Kyung Hee Kim, believe that the current emphasis on testing is having a negative effect on schoolchildren’s creativity. She spoke to the Christian Science Monitor for an April 22 piece on the decline in play in American schools.
By analyzing scores from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking she found that “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” This trend may be reversed by an increased focus on allowing play and “hands-on, minds-on” approaches to education.
What does how you talk have to do with how you get ahead?
The “Valley Girl” accent that ends all sentences like a question is a phenomenon that’s been associated with airheadedness for a long time, but uptalk, as it’s known, is used in many situations and even by those with influence and power. Professor of sociology Thomas Linneman has researched uptalk and spoke to Businessweek on April 24 about his findings.
“I first noticed the trend among my very smart undergraduate female students,” said Linneman. “They’d get up in front of the class and say, ‘These are my results? Here’s what I found?’ It was out of control.” To investigate, he examined 100 episodes of the television show Jeopardy! and documented contestants’ use of uptalk. He found that successful women were more likely to use uptalk than less successful women, and the opposite for men. Linneman believes that the successful women wanted to appear less dominant and more likable. “Studies show that if a woman comes across as too assertive, too confident, or too successful, then she’s regarded as unfeminine,” he explained. Uptalk is a way to subtly apologize for that dominant position.
Associate Professor of Linguistics Anne Charity Hudley offered an explanation. “When certain linguistic traits are tied to women… they often will be assigned a negative attribute without any actual evidence,” she says. Together these two William & Mary faculty members shed light on a pervasive part of modern speech and communication.
SAT revision: the reaction
As the College Board announced a redesign of its SAT college admission test, students and educators across the country reacted to the changes, which are designed to make the test (and a college education) more accessible. Among those adding their voice to the discussion was Associate Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Henry Broaddus, who gave his thoughts to The Washington Post.
“We support the redesign of the SAT, and we believe that both the style and the content of the test must be assessed regularly and updated periodically,” he said. “Efforts to insulate the redesigned SAT from the impact of test-taking tricks and strategies, which are disproportionately less known to students from low-income backgrounds, are especially welcome. No longer will some students be encountering for the first time a set of multiple-choice questions in which guessing incorrectly is penalized more severely than not answering at all.”
Over 100 published science journal articles just gibberish
In the last few years, around 120 scientific papers have been submitted to, and approved and published by, established scientific journals despite containing nothing more than computer-generated sentences designed to sound fancy. As Fox News examined how this could have happened, they turned to Robert Archibald, professor of economics, for answers.
So why would a fake paper be submitted to a journal? “Most schools have merit raise systems of some kind, and a professor’s merit score is affected by his or her success in publishing scholarly papers,” Archibald explained. He went on to note that because other professors may not actually read the paper, “publishing a paper that was computer-generated might help with merit pay.”
Mexico’s capture of ‘El Chapo’
When Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman was captured by Mexican authorities in February, Emeritus Professor of Government George Grayson was consulted regarding the impact of the arrest by numerous news outlets including the Associated Press, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. Many are wondering about a possible extradition to the U.S., as Guzman is charged with crimes in various U.S. cities and in 2001 escaped from a Mexican prison, leading to worries about their security.
“This is going to be a completely political question,” Grayson told the Christian Science Monitor. He pointed out that Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto has sought to distance himself from the cartel wars and having Guzman in the Mexican justice system would “make the drug war more salient, and that’s the last thing he wants.” On the other hand, Peña Nieto does not want to be viewed as “subservient to Uncle Sam,” so he may want to handle the case within his own country.
Alleged military sex assault victims seek to block use of counseling records
Chancellor Professor and Director of the Center for Legal & Court Technology Fredric Lederer spoke to the Washington Post to aid their coverage of a Naval Academy sexual assault case. Standard practice in the military has been to review and release an accuser’s mental health records, but the current plaintiff’s lawyers are attempting to block such action.
Lederer helped draft other portions of the military code of justice and said that the protections for mental health records are crafted more broadly than in some civilian courts because it “recognizes some of the special problems within the armed forces.” He also said that civilian judges are governed by legal precedents that don’t exist in the military.
The Daily Press published a multi-part story on exploration of Mars, consulting two William & Mary professors along the way. Joel Levine is a professor of applied sciences who has worked for NASA previously, and Connie Pilkington is a relationship dynamics expert who examined what personality types it would take to successfully land on the red planet.
Levine discussed the possibility of life on Mars, saying that 4 billion years ago it was much more like Earth.
“The geological evidence that we’ve gathered from our probes on the surface of Mars indicate in its early history Mars had lakes, rivers, oceans,” he said. “We also know Mars had a much thicker atmosphere than it does today … There’s a good probability that Mars also experienced the formation of life in that more hospitable environment.”
Addressing the successful mix of crew members to send on a Mars mission potentially spanning years, Pilkington emphasizes people who are considered “higher-sensation seekers.”
“They like excitement, they like novelty, they like to take chances,” she said. “But then also, I think, especially if you’re talking about a small group of people, you want people with similar personalities as well.” The goal would be to avoid conflicts or arguments that would distract from the mission.
Levine also addressed the desire to get to Mars. “There’s an urge for human exploration and human discovery. Sending humans to Mars will be one of the greatest adventures of the human race.”
Is Frank Underwood on ‘House of Cards’ gay? Ask Shakespeare
Netflix’s wildly popular original series “House of Cards” is now on its second season, and English Professor Paula C. Blank has noticed Shakespearean inspirations in the show’s storyline and its main character Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey). In a piece written for the Washington Post, she wonders whether the works of William Shakespeare may offer clues to Underwood’s sexuality, an important mystery to fans.
Blank explains that “renaissance England wasn’t a utopia for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals; far from it,” but extrapolates that “there was no concept of sexual identity, no closet where one’s true sexuality might be hidden. The implicit presumption was that any man could have erotic feelings for other men, just as any man could for women.” She goes on to wonder if “House of Cards” could be anticipating a day, similar to the Renaissance, when the shock of non-heterosexual identities has worn off.
Will taking the Fifth save Christie’s sidekicks?
Associate Professor of Law Jeff Bellin spoke to Newsweek to inform their coverage of the investigation of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his aides in the “Bridgegate” scandal. Key to the investigation is interpretation of the Fifth Amendment, which protects U.S. citizens from being witnesses against themselves. This applies not only to verbal testimony, but can protect someone against furnishing documents. Christie’s aides are hoping this will allow them to keep their emails and personal records private.
“It’s certainly a plausible Fifth Amendment claim that the production of the document is protected by the Fifth Amendment,” said Bellin. He also distinguishes between investigators asking for specific documents they know to exist, which would be difficult to protect, and the broad subpoenas issued in this case. Bellin goes on to discuss the possibility of granting the aides immunity in exchange for information in the investigation of the governor.
Unions in college football? One team makes a move
Football players at Northwestern University have asked to form a union in order to gain a voice in fighting for physical, academic, and financial protections. Their petition has to go through the National Labor Relations Board, which would determine whether student athletes are employees or not, a distinction that Professor of Economics Peter McHenry told CNBC.com may be tricky. “I think the NLRB would be on the fence on this one,” he said.
McHenry went on to say that the players may have a better chance given the current political power structure, explaining that “the current NLRB board might be more willing under President Obama’s appointees than with a Republican president’s appointments.” He also believes that a union doesn’t need to be certified for college athletes to improve their conditions. “Even if they don’t get certified as a union, the whole movement with student-athletes is forcing the NCAA to improve conditions for students,” McHenry said. “I expect student-athletes to get better deals ahead.”
Why South Sudan has exploded in violence
In an article written for the Washington Post, Assistant Professor of Government Philip Roessler explains why South Sudan has had such a violent aftermath to its new independence. The nation has fallen into the “coup-civil war trap,” which Roessler describes in detail.
“The coup-civil war trap arises when political institutions are weak and ethnic groups are strong,” he writes. This distribution of power requires a government leader to strike alliances with “big men” from other ethnic groups in order to keep the peace. The trap is that these alliances, designed to prevent civil war, make it easier for a group that is out of power to overthrow the current government in a coup.
Want to learn criminal law and procedure? Watch “The Wire”
Law Professor Adam Gershowitz makes the case (no pun intended…..well, maybe just a little one) that HBO’s highly popular crime drama “The Wire” is a great learning ground for criminal law and procedure. So much so, that he’s written a textbook about it. That book, as well as a paper by Gershowitz, were featured in the Wall Street Journal in December. One of numerous things law students can learn from the program is the legalities of wiretapping, he told the paper.
“Most criminal procedure classes do not cover the heightened standard for obtaining a wiretap, the statutory requirement that police minimize their listening, or the need for officers to provide magistrates with progress reports about the wiretap. The Wire vividly displays each of these legal concepts."
Women and academic leadership
In an op-ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Education Professor Pamela Eddy looks at the leadership roles women play on college campuses across the country. Eddy - along with co–author Kelly Ward, professor of education at Washington State University – looks at the factors that contribute to women representing just 29 percent of all full-time professors in the U.S.
The pair notes that “many midcareer women opt to forgo promotion and leadership positions in anticipation of messy politics, sexist cultures, or irreconcilable challenges between work life and family life. The result is that women get stuck in midlevel positions, and fewer women than men occupy the corner offices on campuses.”
They encourage campuses to be proactive.
“If campuses are serious about seeing more women in leadership and as full professors, they need to do more than simply encourage women to lean in to their careers.”
A Greek classic
New York Times book review editor Steve Coates featured Chancellor and Forrest D. Murden, Jr. Professor of Classical Studies John Oakley’s “The Greek Vase: Art of the Storyteller” in a recent Sunday review. Coates lauded the book for being accessible to “the general reader” both in style and price and described it as a “succinct primer” of classical Greek pottery.
A record that counts is in reach
With the strength of the economic recovery in question, there was focus on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in November as the stock market near record highs. Economist William Hausman ran calculations on the Dow’s value using inflation-adjusted figures, and urged caution on declaring a record in articles in both the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Hausman said a surge in the market in late November left the Dow about one percent below the inflation-adjusted high needed to declare a new high.
“[Getting to that number 916219.52)] really confirms that we are in record territory,” Hausman told the Wall Street Journal. “Then we can talk about whether we are headed for a bubble or whether the fundamentals are strong.”
A Gallup poll released in November 2013 showed that 23 percent of American workers prefer a female boss. Assistant Business Professor Inga Carboni discussed the phenomenon with online news outlet mainstreet.com. Women’s personalities were once thought to be too nurturing for them to be effective leaders, Carboni noted. "In today's flatter, more connected and more mobile workplace, relationships and relationship-building differentiate those who are merely managers from those who lead," she said. "So, perhaps the old stereotype of woman-as-nurturer is starting to look a lot more like woman-as-leader."
Gubernatorial elections and state secession
State politics garnered national attention in late 2013 as numerous states, including Virginia, held gubernatorial races and Colorado weathered discussion of secession. The closely watched Virginia gubernatorial race drew national media attention in the fall. Government Professor John McGlennon was called upon by press on both topics.
McGlennon, who specializes in state and local politics, discussed the decline in corporate campaign contributions with NPR’s "All Things Considered," “In this election campaign a lot of business interests appear to be sitting on their wallets.”
On Colorado and seccession, he told the Christian Science Monitor in early November that “These efforts are always percolating, but not realistic. They are more common today because we see more like-minded people feeling that they can’t control their political environment."
Informing Colonial Williamsburg’s Electronic Field Trip
When Colonial Williamsburg wanted to cover the Bill of Rights as a part of its “Electronic Field Trip” program, Associate Professor of Law Allison Orr Larsen was consulted to help explain the history of the document to students across the country who could tune in on PBS. Alongside interpreters playing James Madison and Patrick Henry, Larsen helped clear up how the Bill of Rights became what it is today.
In particular, one student wanted to know if slaves originally had all of the rights outlined in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. After interpreters pointed out that they did not, Larsen added “it’s important to remember, though, that the Constitution went through a major change after the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment applied the Bill of Rights equally to all people, including the newly freed slaves.”
How cool is this? A worm in my mouth
In a story that was carried by Wired, the Los Angeles Times, the International Business Times, the Huffington Post and the Daily Press, one William & Mary professor had a research opportunity dropped right into his mouth. Jon Allen, professor of biology, had felt a small rough patch in different locations around his mouth and one day decided to take a look. Further investigation (and a bit of tugging) identified the patch as Gongylonema pulchrum, or the gullet worm, a parasite more known for infecting animals.
Indeed, this parasite is so rare in humans that Allen is only the 13th case ever reported in the United States. Fortunately, all grossness aside, the worm is harmless. Allen now uses it as an educational tool for pre-med students. “What do you do when you get unexpected data or symptoms? Just because you haven’t seen it before doesn’t mean your patient is crazy or doesn’t have (an issue).”
Breaking Bad: The Science Behind 5 Grisly Moments
As popular TV show and cultural phenomenon “Breaking Bad” came to an end, many were curious about the scientific accuracy of its more gruesome scenes. Assistant Professor of Chemistry Doug Young is a fan of the show, as well as an expert in bio-organic and medicinal chemistry, and informed a story carried by Discovery News and Fox News examining five of the most iconic and grisly deaths. The viewing audience will be pleased to learn that Walter White was using real science to get himself out of (and into) various predicaments. “For me as a scientist, a lot of shows are hard to watch because of the inaccuracies,” Young said. “But I think ‘Breaking Bad’ does a pretty good job with the science.”
Why don’t fish get water in their eyes?
The question of how fish cope with irritating water in their eyeballs was posed to Discovery News by a five-year-old and answered by Richard Brill, director of the CMER program at VIMS. Brill explained that fish do get water in their eyes, it just doesn’t bother them.
“They don’t have eyelids,” he said. “The function of the eye evolved to suit the habitat.” For fish, the presence of water on the eye is comparable to air on the eyes of humans. Underwater creatures also have much thicker lenses in their eyeballs that help focus the small amount of light that reaches them beneath the surface.
Will mutual funds start paying for loyalty?
For the first time, a mutual fund is offering a bonus to shareholders who keep their shares for a year. A Sept. 12 U.S. News & World Report article examined the practice and got the opinion of Lisa Szykman, associate professor of business, who thinks that incentives for investing can be (and already have been) successful.
“I can’t see why fund loyalty programs like this would not be as successful as workplace matching funds have been,” she said, comparing the cash bonus to employer matching of savings. “It’s very difficult to motivate customers to sacrifice a short-term benefit for a long-term one. So, if we have some sort of freebie that serves as the short-term benefit and also leads me to have long term success, it’s a win-win.”
Is the economy forcing colleges to spend more?
The rising cost of higher education continues to be an issue of national concern, one that is examined in detail by the Washington Post’s ten-part series “The Tuition is Too Damn High.” In part five, the Post’s Wonkblog requested Chancellor Professor of Economics Bob Archibald’s expertise on one contributing factor. Archibald uses an economic idea called Baumol’s cost disease to explain how college can become more expensive while still accomplishing the same thing (meaning the education of students).
Baumol’s cost disease is the brainchild of William Baumol, who Archibald explains realized that “there are some industries where productivity growth is very likely and some where it’s not.” Higher education is an industry that does not increase productivity in the same way that other industries do, yet has to continually increase expenses in the form of employee salaries. “The industries where productivity growth is likely, and the industries where productivity growth is not very likely, have to compete for workers,” says Archibald. This means that while universities are not becoming more efficient at educating, they are forced to pay their highly skilled employees salaries comparable to those in an industry that is becoming more efficient. The end result is an increased cost for the same product, in this case a college education.
Lobster shell disease that has plagued southern New England creeps northward into Maine
VIMS Professor of Marine Science Jeffrey Shields spoke with the Associated Press on August 11 for a story about lobster shell disease that was picked up by the Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News, Yahoo! News, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Post Intelligencer and Huffington Post.
Epizootic shell disease, which makes the lobsters unsightly and sometimes unmarketable, has been noticed in the southern parts of New England since the 1990s but has only recently gained prevalence in the fertile waters off the coast of Maine. Shields was hired to assess some of the diseased crustaceans and advises the state to “keep an eye on it. Keep monitoring it. Lobby federal and state agencies to fund research to understand more about it.”
Why does college cost so much?
As the Tennessean contemplated the causes for the high cost of higher education, they consulted David Feldman, professor of economics and co-author of Why Does College Cost So Much. Feldman pointed out that while the list price of tuition has increased consistently, the net price that a student actually pays has been more stable. “Net price has only increased manageably – there is no crisis there,” he said.
Feldman also pinpoints the reason that education costs have risen faster than inflation, which is that universities provide a service. Unlike manufacturers who can cut costs by using more efficient technology to decrease manpower, higher education is dependent on faculty as well as technology to be effective. When schools do cut faculty, staff or programs it can result in students staying at universities longer. “So we’re cutting costs in one way, but passing it off to students in another form,” he said.
The Lessons of Belle Glade
On July 18, Professor of History Cindy Hahamovitch published an op-ed in the New York Times recounting past abuses of government immigrant worker programs. She says that the status of immigrants as “guest workers” rather than citizens is what permitted these abuses, a connection that needs to be kept in mind as Congress works on an immigration reform bill that may include a “path to citizenship” rather than simply work visas.
Comparing the plans of the Senate and Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Hahamovitch makes the case for a path to citizenship. “Neither plan does anything to improve wages, require safer housing or protect our mostly immigrant farm labor force from pesticide poisoning. But if an expanded guest-worker program is inevitable, at least the Senate bill, by allowing guest workers some hope of becoming permanent residents, honors the long American tradition of giving the ultimate reward – citizenship – to those who do our dirtiest, most dangerous and essential work.”
Mexico Captures Head of Zetas Cartel
On July 15, the Mexican navy captured the alleged leader of the most violent of the country’s drug-trafficking cartels, Miguel Angel Treviño. Treviño had been head of the Zetas crime organization since October 2012, when the group’s previous chief Heriberto Lazcano was killed in a shootout with Mexican military. Professor of Government George Grayson says that this arrest will bolster the reelection chances of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal for a July 15 article, he said that “This takedown will boost Peña Nieto several points in the polls, even as he has spurned talking about violence and the narco war.” Grayson also noted another, less savory, beneficiary of Treviño’s arrest, leader of the competing Sinaloa Cartel Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Do Dogs Think?
Dog owners have often wondered what’s running through their pet’s head, and Barbara King, professor of anthropology, may have an answer for them. In an op-ed piece for NPR, King speculated that dogs are capable of thought similar to that of humans, citing two examples of canines solving problems for themselves. In one video a family’s dog is shown swinging from a tree branch (gripped in its mouth) egged on by children. The canine’s real goal, however, is revealed when the end of the branch breaks off and leaves it with a trophy, promptly carried off to be played with later. King says that “each dog planned ahead to solve a problem, step-by-step” and dismisses the idea of their actions being the result of conditioning because “the dogs’ persistence doesn’t support that view.”
Does Shuanghui Deal for Smithfield Foods Pose Any National Security Risk?
Smithfield Foods is an iconic American brand, but the Virginian company was recently bought by Chinese corporation Shuanghui. With this purchase come concerns that Chinese ownership of such a large and influential business could present a security risk. Assistant Dean of MBA Programs Deborah Hewitt says that she doesn’t believe this to be the case, telling Fox Business on July 2 that government agencies in charge of approving this kind of deal are “looking for something that could give a foreign firm access to secure documents, to be able to tap into our infrastructure or cause a problem in our supply chain but I’m really not thinking that the hog market fits into one of those categories.”
SCOTUS Strikes Down Arizona Voting Law, But Leaves Opening
The Supreme Court recently ruled against the state of Arizona as it sought the ability to add voting eligibility requirements to those of the federal government. In a June 17 article, law professor Rebecca Green told the Wall Street Journal that “it’s not fair to say this means that Congress runs state elections.” She went on to describe a “clear opportunity” for Arizona to demand in court a special instruction that voters in their state supply proof of citizenship.
The internship economy – who it helps, who it hurts and where it takes us
Mary Schilling, associate vice president for student affairs and director of the Cohen Career Development Center, discussed the benefits of internships for recent graduates entering the job market or students preparing to enter the job market with Tom Ashbrook on NPR’s On Point June 11.
“It really does make a difference not just in their employability, but in their level of confidence, their ability to make a connection between what they’re learning in the classroom and the academic experience and the real world - the application of theory to practice becomes really important,” Schilling told On Point about the internship experience. “Learning about the corporate culture, the non-profit culture, the government sector, communication — all of these experiences really do make for a more employable, more confident, more job ready individual.”
Scholars as ‘Foreign Agents’
A new law in Russia requires nongovernmental organizations to register as “foreign agents” if they receive any funding from sources outside of Russia and are found to be engaging in any “political activity.” One organization that is fighting this classification is the Levada Center, the main independent polling agency in the country, which has been deemed to be participating in the aforementioned political activity and has been threatened with closure. The Levada Center is resisting the registration on the grounds that this would compromise its credibility and ability to conduct research.
The effects of this law may also be felt in scholarly research efforts, where many organizations receive funding from a variety of sources both domestic and international. Vice Provost for International Affairs Stephen E. Hanson questions the policy’s impact on any and all research involving Russia. “[T]his does introduce the question about whether collaborations between the Russian scholarly community and researchers abroad can really continue in that kind of atmosphere,” he said to Inside Higher Ed in their June 10 story on the matter. “Will people fear that the danger of being thought of as a ‘foreign agent’ could apply to them as well?”
Use first year of law school to prepare for the bar
The bar exam is usually thought of as the finale to a law school experience, and William & Mary School of Law Dean Davison Douglas says that a law student’s first year can be crucial to passing the exam. In a May 23 piece for U.S. News & World Report, Douglas said that “every student who takes a bar review course, or who is otherwise preparing for a bar exam, is going to review again virtually the entire first-year curriculum.” Topics like civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, and criminal law are often covered in first year law curricula and are core subjects that appear on the test. He emphasizes that if students can “get a good grounding in that first year in those subjects, that will set them up will, not just for the rest of law school but also for the bar review.”
Islam had nothing to do with the Boston bombing
In the wake of the bombing at the Boston marathon, controversy over the role of Islam in terrorist attacks once again came to the forefront of the national discourse. While it is easy to point to the involvement of Muslim extremists in terror attacks around the world, some argue that actions of such a violent nature are contrary to the teachings of the Quran and as such are condemned by the vast majority of Muslims around the world.
Tamara Sonn, Kenan Professor of Humanities & Religious Studies, takes the latter stance, saying in a quote that was picked up by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Philly.com, among others, that terrorism “is in opposition to the spirit of Islam, which holds human life sacred and personal culpability a matter for God alone to determine.”
Researchers think industrious oysters could clean up Chesapeake
An overabundance of nitrogen from lawn and farm fertilizers is one issue facing the Chesapeake Bay, and an unlikely hero in the effort to regulate nitrogen levels has appeared in the form of the lowly oyster. When the state of Maryland seeded a reef in the Choptank River with the tiny bivalves it removed 20 times more nitrogen pollution than another site that had not been seeded.
Lisa Kellogg, Assistant Director for Education at VIMS, said in a May 5 article in The Washington Post that oysters could potentially remove nearly half of nitrogen pollution from the river “if you took all the areas suitable for restoration and restored them.” Oysters represent a significant opportunity to improve the ecosystem because, as Kellogg says, “they produce huge numbers of eggs each year. It’s a prolific species that can provide this habitat again, to the extent that we allow it.” The news is already sparking action as Virginia plans to embark on its largest state-funded oyster replenishment in history beginning this month.
Meet Jane, eaten by her 17th century Jamestown co-settlers
Historic accounts of cannibalism in the Jamestown colonists have been well known for years, but just recently researchers have found the first real proof that the English settlers ate each other during the “starving time” over the winter of 1609-10. The remains of 14 year-old “Jane” were uncovered in 2012 and discovered to have unusual markings on bones that indicated the use of knives and tools to strip away flesh, presumably for eating. Grisly though this may seem, with drought and food shortages wiping out more than 80 percent of the population, times were desperate and the dead represented a source of meat that was otherwise unavailable. The settlers had made the unfortunate error of arriving in North America during a seven year period that we now know as the driest in 770 years.
To make matters worse, Jamestown apparently had a harder time even compared to other colonies, as professor of geology Jim Kaste told Wired in a May 6 article. “There’s evidence that things were worse in Jamestown than they were in other settlements nearby,” he said. “There was something about Jamestown that caused very high death rates.” Theories center on the drinkability of water from the James River, which can become too salty to drink at times due to variations in tide and rainfall.
How animals mourn their dead
The grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one is a familiar part of the human experience, but research is showing more and more that this phenomenon is not unique to our species. In an April 28 excerpt from her book “How Animals Grieve” in the New York Post, professor of anthropology Barbara King gives several examples of other members of the animal kingdom’s mourning process.
From elephants to house cats, from horses to gorillas the evidence continues to indicate that animals do form affectionate bonds with each other and are saddened by the loss of a companion. A particularly poignant anecdote that Dr. King shares is that of Bobby the gorilla, whose friend Bebe was euthanized to spare her the pain of a death from cancer. Zookeepers let Bobby spend some time with her body, which he initially tried to revive before grasping that she had died. At this point “something changed,” King wrote.
“Bobby seemed to come to a sudden realization and both his mood and his behavior shifted. He began to wail and bang on the bars of his cage. Whether Bobby actually had a concept of death in his mind is impossible to know, but the sequence of his actions strongly suggests that he did recognize death in some way.”
Contractors: good value for money or drain on aid resources?
When governments and nonprofits attempt to supply aid to those who need it, the use of private contractors is a frequent tool that allows goals to be accomplished quickly and to an acceptable standard. One problem with this system, noted an April 25 article in The Guardian, is that these contractors are often expensive and information regarding their use of funds is difficult to come by.
Brad Parks, director of the AidData project at the College of William & Mary, told The Guardian that a lack of transparency is at the heart of the debate on contractors, a problem that is compounded by the absence of information about their contributions.
“The absence of good data remains a fundamental constraint on our ability to [scrutinize] these [programs] and understand what effects they are having. The fact of the matter is that very, very few development finance institutions release detailed information about the activities of their sub-contractors.”
Boston bombing suspects and Miranda rights
Law Professor Jeffrey Bellin spoke on April 23 on "Hearsay with Cathy Lewis" on WHRV 89.5 (Norfolk's NPR affiliate) about legal issues surrounding the questioning and the unfolding legal case against the Boston Marathon bombing suspect.
The fact that the suspect was not read his Miranda Rights is not surprising to legal experts, Bellin said.
“The legal rule says that if the police are asking questions 'necessary to secure their own safety or the safety of the public,' then there is not a requirement that the Miranda warnings be read prior to those questions. .... In a case like this, where there are questions like 'are there any more bombs, are there any more bombers out there,' that same ... reasoning ... [applies]."
Listen to the complete interview (begins at 35:45).
Chesapeake Bay grass acreage drops again; 2011 storms blamed
For three consecutive years, the amount of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay has been declining according to an aerial survey conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. In a story by the Associated Press that was carried by the Washington Post (among other newspapers) Professor of Marine Science Bob Orth told reporters, “It has been a rough few years for bay grasses, and we were not terribly surprised.”
The current level of grass was last this low in 1986, which can impact food sources and habitats for birds and fish. Not all news is bad news, however, because according to Orth there could be recovery this year if summer temperatures are not too high and there are no serious storms similar to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.
“If there’s no major event, I would expect that there might be some recovery in some parts of the bay,” he told AP.
Gun-control debate: How does Bloomberg stack up against the NRA?
Even more than three months after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gun control remains a hot topic in the political sphere. As advocates for increased gun control try to influence legislation to that end, they face a daunting opponent in the National Rifle Association. One new development is the creation of a “super political-action committee” by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Called Independence USA, this Super PAC will focus on, among other things, supporting candidates who want to enact stronger gun control.
In a March 26 piece for the Christian Science Monitor, the potential influence of Mayor Bloomberg is compared with that of the NRA. Professor of Government John McGlennon said that it is the money that comes with the support of the mayor, a billionaire, which will make the largest impact. “Mayor Bloomberg’s involvement reflects the first time you have a force with significant money supporting candidates who favor [gun control], he said. “That’s a big change: For all the involvement of other groups like the Brady Campaign, their ability to compete with the NRA financially just didn’t exist. This lets [pro-gun-control] candidates know that there is somebody out there who can support them.”
Shocking examples of guest-worker abuses
Although the U.S. government has supported a variety of programs designed to bring immigrant workers into the country, these programs are not always implemented as originally intended. In March, an ABC News piece examined the history of immigrant, guestworker programs.
One example, the Bracero program, was implemented during World War II to use Mexican laborers in place of American soldiers fighting overseas, which was supposed to include protections for the workers such as guaranteed housing courtesy of employers. Those protections, says Professor of History Cindy Hahamovitch, never happened.
“You had men sleeping in stables and chicken coops,” she told ABC News when describing the substandard conditions. These issues have continued into more recent times, like in 1986 when an immigrant sugar cane worker strike was broken by police with seemingly little cause or after Hurricane Katrina in 2006-2007 when Indian workers were denied the opportunity to become permanent residents, something they had been promised when they purchased visas. Hahamovitch recounts the first story in her 2011 book No Man’s Land: Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor.
Pope Francis has a model for Muslim engagement in St. Francis of Assisi
With the election of a new pope comes much speculation about what kind of leader he will be for the Catholic Church. Pope Francis’ humble demeanor is already drawing comparisons to the iconic 13th century saint of the same name, and some are wondering if the parallels may extend to his ideas for Christian-Muslim relations. In a little-known story, St. Francis of Assisi crossed the borders of the crusades to meet with Egyptian sultan Malik al-Kamil, a gesture many interpret as one of peace and a desire for coexistence.
Philip Daileader, professor of history, is not so sure about that interpretation, telling Religion News March 15 that “Francis’s goal was, of course, conversion, not coexistence. And while some 13th-century Christian commentators criticized the crusades for their violence, Francis was not among those critics. His joining up with the 5th Crusade suggests a tacit acceptance of crusading.” Whether his goal was conversion or acceptance, the saint’s example sets an interesting precedent for Pope Francis.
Vietnam Activist Freed
Linda Malone, the Marshall-Wythe Foundation Professor of Law, was recently recognized by media nationwide for her efforts in the representation of Nguyen Quoc Quan, an American citizen and democracy activist who was recently released from a prison in Vietnam where he had been since April 2012. This was an unexpected turn of events according to Malone, who told CNN on Jan. 31 that “Dr. Quan's release comes as a major and wonderful surprise; given that the government has on trial 22 people right now for subversion, and recently convicted 14 others of similar charges based on protected advocacy of nonviolent democratic reform.”
Malone credits the U.S. reaction to his arrest with his discharge, telling the Sacramento Bee that "there is no question that the media attention, public outrage and efforts of the State Department were critical in preventing conviction of a U.S. citizen for exercising a clearly protected human right to freedom of speech and thought." Malone had been serving pro bono as a part of Quan’s legal representation throughout his detainment and her statements also appeared in the Miami Herald, Modesto Bee, Los Angeles Times, and Radio Free Asia.
Chimp Research Curtailed: Will Science Suffer?
The National Institutes of Health recently received a set of recommendations from the scientific community that detailed a major cutback in chimpanzee research. Biological anthropologist Barbara King was called upon byDiscovery News for comment. "Chimp research makes very little to no advance of medical knowledge," King told the news outlet in the January article. "The advance of medical knowledge is important, but if you look at the medical literature and ask what's the source of the advance, chimpanzee-based literature is hardly ever cited."
Mexico Jumps into the U.S. Gun Control Debate
The Mexican government claims that lax gun control laws in the United States are responsible for increased violence by the drug cartels with the country’s new President Enrique Peña Nieto and Mexican ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora publicly supporting more restrictive gun regulations in the U.S. Professor of Government, Emeritus George Grayson disagreed in a Fox News Latino article, saying, “The lion’s share of weapons used by cartels come from the United States, but having said that, if the Virgin of Guadeloupe were to stop the flow of weapons southward it would be a nuisance for the cartels but it certainly would not end the bloodshed.”
Watch Night Turns 150: A Different Kind of New Year’s Eve
In a piece by the Huffington Post, Professor of English Joanne Braxton elaborated on one longstanding, New Year’s custom: eating like your ancestors. “Black-eyed peas represent coin money and collards symbolize the greenbacks we hope the next year will bring us. We learn these things not from books, but from our mothers’ knees. It’s a way of keeping in touch with those who have gone before us,” she said. The article, which appeared in late December, looked at a number of African American New Year’s customs including Watch Night. 2013 is the 150th anniversary of Watch Night first celebrated in 1863. While slavery was still in existence at this time, the occasion represented the wait for freedom to arrive. Over the 150 years since then, the tradition has changed to one of prayer and community in black churches across the United States. Braxton is the founder of the Middle Passage Project, which studies the transatlantic slave trade and its effects on African Americans.
Lack of data slows studies of gun control and crime
In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the issue of gun control was brought to the forefront of the national dialogue once again. Carl Moody, professor of economics, told the Wall Street Journal that the reliance on citizens to report their own gun ownership is a problem when collecting data.
“People who think the government is going to take their guns away aren't going to say whether they have guns," he said in a Dec. 21, 2012 article.
As government officials examine possible solutions and the passage of new gun legislature, the lack of data regarding gun ownership as well as gun crime creates a barrier to informed decision making.
Wilkerson: Secret report confirms torture didn’t work
Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy Lawrence Wilkerson appeared several times in December on MSNBC’s The Ed Show discussing topics ranging from Benghazi to torture and interrogation.
On a Dec. 12, 2012 episode Wilkerson addressed a new study that suggests “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the George W. Bush administration were not as effective as some believed, particularly in finding Osama bin Laden.
“[Torture techniques] did not, as Cheney [former Vice President Dick Cheney] has alleged, lead to the killing of bin Laden,” Wilkerson said. “It was counterproductive. It was damaging to our reputation and he’s still lying about it.”
Meeting delay a sign of cooling US-Vietnam ties
Although the relationship between the United States and Vietnam has improved greatly in recent years, human rights remain a point of contention. A current example of this tension is the arrest of U.S. citizen Nguyen Quoc Quan, who was detained upon his arrival in Vietnam because of his advocacy for democracy and opposition of the government in spring 2012.
The Associated Press covered this topic in a story on Dec. 11, 2012 that was subsequently picked up by outlets like Yahoo News, ABC News, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and The Huffington Post. William & Mary Law Professor Linda Malone, who is advising the defense of Quan, told the AP that “[i]t would be a disaster for Vietnam if they come down on U.S. citizen with an extreme sentence for peacefully advocating human rights," adding that "[t]hey will lose tremendous ground in an area where they seek to advance themselves."
Back-to-back in the New York Times
On November 11th and 12th, members of the College’s faculty were covered in back-to-back articles in the New York Times. The first article featured Joe B. Jones, director of the Center for Archaeological Research, discussing the unearthing of artifacts during development projects while the second drew on the expertise of Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, to examine the survival instincts of birds in the face of storms like Hurricane Sandy.
“Construction Site Offers Fleeting Glimpse of the Civil War Past” detailed the discovery of a trove of Civil War artifacts that were uncovered in the process of building a new courthouse in Fredericksburg. Jones informed the Times that development like this is the way that most archaeological discoveries are made. “Until people start breaking ground, only then do people realize what they’ve got there, and everybody’s got to scramble to find a way to deal with it in a responsible way,” he said.
“To Birds, Storm Survival is Only Natural” examined how birds use their migratory skills to skirt storms and regain their original course even when blown far away from it. While several species appeared in New York City that ordinarily do not belong, they did not stay long and left within days of the end of Hurricane Sandy. Dr. Watts says this is to be expected from birds, explaining that “[b]irds have tremendous situational awareness… They know where they are and where they’re going, they’re able to fly back repeatedly, and they’ve shown an amazing ability to compensate for being pushed off track.”
When will we know results of the presidential race?
As Americans waited for their votes to be tallied and a president to be elected, the early indicators of who would win the election rested in the swing states. But as much as the outcomes in Virginia, Ohio, and Florida had told us, the possibility remained for a drawn out process similar to that of the 2000 election where the results from Florida were challenged and reexamined. Rebecca Green, co-director of the Election Law program at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, told CNN that the possibility of protracted results was strong, given the close nature of the election to that point. "Between provisional balloting, absentee balloting and voting technology, I think there are untold different ways that this is a tense, contested election," she said. "It's pretty certain there's going to be some litigation when this is over on November 6."
Does India still need khap panchayats?
India’s current government is predated by the self-governing system of khap panchayats, unelected village councils that make decisions for the community. Despite their lack of actual political power, these councils do wield considerable influence, a fact that has become somewhat controversial among Indian politicians in recent years. Associate professor of government Rani Mullen spoke to the New York Times about this system, explaining that “Khaps seem to do well in areas where politically elected panchayats are weak.”
Mexico strikes back against cartel
At first glance, the killing of drug kingpin Heriberto Lazcano by the Mexican navy would seem like a positive step in reducing drug-related violence in Mexico, but George Grayson, professor of government, says that isn’t the case. In fact, Lazcano’s rival the Gulf Cartel has regained control and will likely resume fighting its war against Lazcano’s Zetas cartel. "I don't think the killing will reduce violence in the north, if anything it will accelerate it," Grayson told the Wall Street Journal in early October.
Perot’s economic stance resonates 20 years later
One of the most talked-about topics in the 2012 election year was the balancing of the federal budget, perhaps indicating that not much has changed since Ross Perot ran for President as a third-party candidate with the budget as his chief issue in 1992. Professor of American politics Ronald Rapoport talked with USA Today for their Oct. 1 piece about Perot regarding the relevance of third parties, saying that “[t]he function of third parties is to identify a set of issues that the major parties are ignoring.” He went on to describe the impact of such a candidate, explaining that “Perot’s legacy really was the Republican takeover in 1994.”
Judge throws out Mass Occupy Chicago arrests as unconstitutional
When Chicago police arrested hundreds of Occupy protestors in October 2011, city leaders praised their actions for how they respected protestors’ rights. A Cook county judge felt differently and ruled the mass arrests unconstitutional, adding that an 11 p.m. curfew in the park where protests were staged violates First Amendment rights and shows hypocrisy on the part of the city because of a lack of action when 500,000 people broke that same curfew during an Election Night rally in 2008. Law professor Timothy Zick added his voice to the discussion in a Sept. 28 Chicago Tribune article, saying that "[w]hen it enforces curfews and other regulatory measures, the city cannot discriminate against certain groups or viewpoints... if it did so, then the charges against some of the (Occupy Chicago) protesters would be properly dismissed."
New wave of workers tries novel approach: save more
With the uncertain economy affecting the financial plans of an increasing number of retirement-age Americans, younger adults are bolstering their saving efforts. Lisa Szykman and Nicole Montgomery, of the Mason School of Business, have been studying savings habits and report that even Baby Boomers agree that their children are saving more responsibly than they did. When interviewed about their adult children’s understanding of the need to save "[t]he older people said their children already are better prepared for retirement than they were," Montgomery told the Wall Street Journal in a September article.
Bankers made a killing when the U.S. was formed, like now
In this review of history professor Scott Nelson’s book “A Nation of Deadbeats,” Bloomberg’s Yalman Onaran touches on the revelation that from its inception the United States has been influenced by banks and their desire for profitability. Nelson uses the book to discuss the impact of monetary interests on the political environment in the U.S. and how that impact has not been reduced or altered significantly despite the multiple financial crises it has caused. These observations are particularly relevant in the wake of the country’s recent economic struggles and offer insight to the root of the problem.
A 61 million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization
Social media is one of the most predominant trends in the Internet age of today, but what impact does it have on voting? Professor of government Jamie Settle was a part of a study completed during the 2010 Congressional election to determine just that. The findings were featured in the September issue of Nature magazine.
“The results show that the messages directly influenced political self-expression, information seeking and real-world voting behavior of millions of people. Furthermore, the messages not only influenced the users who received them but also the users’ friends, and friends of friends,” Settle and her colleagues wrote.
Playing the September effect
September is always a bad month for stock values, but no one is really sure why. Scott Gibson, associate professor in the Mason School of Business, posited in an August Wall Street Journal article that one cause could be the October end of the tax year for mutual funds, a date set by laws passed in 1986. These funds sell off stocks with recent losses in order to take advantage of tax breaks.
“In 1990, when the rules took full effect, stocks with recent losses that were widely held by mutual funds lagged their benchmarks by almost 7 percentage points in October. Those same stocks beat their benchmarks by nearly 7 points in November, as the effect wore off,” Prof. Gibson told the paper.
As the Gulf Coast of Louisiana was pummeled Aug. 29 by Hurricane Isaac, questions arose about the storms impact on a 400-foot deep sinkhole in Assumption Parish. Forecasters predicted the eye wall of the storm would go directly over the sinkhole located near Baton Rouge. Geology Professor Greg Hancock told ABCNews.com, "The fact that we're going to get more rain doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a great collapse of the sinkhole.”
He likened the situation to a sandcastle on the beach. "The last thing we want is for the sand to be really wet," he said. "The more water gets added to the sand, the less stable it is." He added, "I'd want to keep an eye on it, but I don't think there's a reason to think that there's going to be significant growth to this associated with the hurricane."
Aquarius, the last underwater sea laboratory in the world, is in jeopardy of being shut down,thanks to federal budget cuts.Researchers trying to save the lab got the attention of national media in July and August. VIMS Associate Professor of Marine Science Mark Patterson, who worked eight missions at the lab, told the media Aquarius’ demise would fundamentally change his work. "I’ll have to do my science in a very different way," Patterson said to the Associated Press. The story was picked up by ABC News, CBS News and the San Francisco Chronicle.
When school-age children have problems with their friends, experts say it’s important for parents to let them work it out themselves. The best roles for parents are sounding board and listener, Shannon Trice-Black, assistant professor of counselor education, told the Chicago Tribune in a July 31 article. Trice-Black responded to a specific scenario about a seventh grader rejected by his best friend. As a parent, that’s so difficult because every part of you is just dying to defend your kid, Trice-Black said. Her advice? Listen, sympathize and help your child come up with a solution.
Marc Sher, professor of physics, has devoted his career to studying the Higgs boson a subatomic particle that had been entirely theoretical until this summer when CERN, the European physics collaborative,confirmed its existence. Sher was in demand by reporters for commentary and context when the announcement was made. He told the Associated Press that while he expected reports of advancements from CERN, he was still somewhat stunned by the results. His comments appeared in national news outlets including NPR, FOX News and the San Francisco Chronicle.
The BBC ran two stories featuring William & Mary faculty in early June. The stories addressed climate change, its impact on the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay and the politics of environmental change. They featured faculty from both the Center for Conservation Biology and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
The two articles “Virginia’s dying marshes and climate change denial” (June 5, 2012) and “‘Ghost trees’ victims of rising sea levels” (June 8) laid out the ecological concerns and the political hurdles associated with the impact of climate change on the tidal marshes along the east coast of Virginia.
Scientists say the political culture is to turn a blind eye to the ecological impact in the marshes because the cause, global warming, is politically unpopular.
"Here in Virginia there is very little political will to address the mitigation side of things -- reducing our carbon footprint, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is a high degree of skepticism in the political and the general public," Carl Hershner, who studies coastal resources management at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, told the BBC.
Bryan Watts, avian ecologist and director of the Center for Conservation Biology, noted that dying trees on the lower edges of the small islands or hummocks that dot the marshes are the result of rising sea levels.
“These are just the early warning signs of what's coming," Watts said.
The lost vegetation means lost habitat to the many animals that call the marsh home. Watts’ explanation of this habitat shift was also featured in a video that accompanied both stories.
Public universities pushing ‘super-seniors’ to the graduation stage
Washington Post reporter Daniel de Vise talked with William & Mary Provost Michael Halleran for a June 4 article about a nation-wide trend in higher education to increase on-time graduation rates. Amid discussions of rising tuition costs, de Vise wrote, a focus on four-year graduation rates is returning.
While on-time graduation rates languish below 50 percent at many of the nation’s public and private colleges and universities, two of Virginia’s top public institutions -- William & Mary and UVA -- are big exceptions to the rule.
“In Virginia, U-Va. and the College of William and Mary have four-year graduation rates rivaling those of elite private colleges,” de Vise wrote. “On-time graduation is a tradition at both institutions.”
Halleran told the Post, “[On-time graduation] is the ethos of the campus. It wasn’t mandated by a president or dean. I can’t pinpoint when it started.”
The fascinating journey of a Kashmiri moon shawl
In the first part of 2012, a Kashmiri shawl dating to the early 19th century was sold at auction for nearly $60,000. The story of the shawl’s journey to the auction block was chronicled in a May 18 Wall Street Journal blog by Nafeesa Syeed.
History of the Kashmiri culture and shawl making industry was provided by History Professor Chitralekha Zutshi.
“The ‘moon’ emblem adorning the shawl auctioned in Boston was, in fact, a 19th-century Western design that might have been of French origin, according to Chitralekha Zutshi, a professor of South Asian history and Kashmir expert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Shawl-makers in Kashmir as well as in Europe widely adopted the moon pattern in their products, she says,” Syeed wrote.
Zutshi told the WSJ she wasn’t surprised the shawl sold for thousands of dollars.
“Shawls have firmly been reduced to rarities from the past—antiques, in effect—that fetch huge prices at auctions because they represent Eastern royalty and luxury.”
Legal experts offer predictions on fate of health-reform legislation
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in March regarding President Obama’s health care plan. As the hearings came to a close, Assistant Professor of Law Allison Orr Larsen spoke with HealthDay News regarding the fate of the health-reform legislation.
According to HealthDay, “she expected the hearings to be ‘spirited and lengthy’ and she wasn't disappointed. But, she added, ‘What seems like a surprise is that the press should be calling [the court's decision] already, which seems a dubious endeavor. It's hard to predict Supreme Court opinions based on oral arguments alone.’"
U.S. News & World Report also ran the story on their website.
Unlocking migration’s secret
A recent story in Audubon Magazine detailed the trials, tribulations and successes of migratory birds. The story featured comments from Bryan Watts and Fletcher Smith with the College of William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology (CCB). The CCB tracks migratory birds – like whimbrels - using small transmitters attached to their backs. Watts, the center’s director, explained to Audubon how the tracking program started.
“‘We were doing weekly aerial surveys in the spring on the Eastern Shore [of Virginia], and by the early 2000s we started to see significant declines in whimbrels,’ he said. ‘We didn’t feel it was a local issue, because the birds are feeding on fiddler crabs and marine worms, which are super-abundant. We didn’t know if the problem was on the breeding grounds or the wintering grounds, but where were they breeding? Where were they wintering? We realized we needed to get more of a full, annual-cycle picture.’”
The article also featured the individual stories of several of the birds tracked by the CCB including Hope, who found herself caught in the middle of Hurricane Irene last summer. “‘Most of these birds are entering the storms on the northeast quadrant, where the winds are in their faces, and then going straight through the eye of the hurricane,’” Research Biologist Fletcher Smith told Audubon. “‘It looks like these whimbrels are strong enough to negotiate even these huge storms.’”
The research is feeding theories on migratory connectivity that are further detailed in the full Audubon article.
Pair of W&M faculty featured in USA Today stories
William & Mary experts appeared in USA Today twice in March 2012 – just one week apart. Anne Charity-Hudley spoke with lifestyle reporter Carol Memmott regarding the meaning, use and acceptability among different age groups of the “b” word in reference to women. The article, “New TV series scratch the B-word itch,” examined the decision by two broadcast networks to uses the “b” word in the title of new shows in their spring schedule.
Hudley, director of the Linguistics Laboratory at the College of William & Mary, told the paper, [People of different ages and backgrounds] "really give you different perspectives on what the word means to them. For some people, it's completely not derogatory." She points out many young people, such as Jersey Shore's Snooki, also use the word as a term of endearment.
Then, just a week later, Dean of Admission Henry Broaddus spoke to the paper about diversity in the higher education admission process. New light was focused on the issue earlier this year when the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the University of Texas.
"What is the magic point at which we feel like we've really come far enough? I don't know the answer, but what I do know is we're not there yet," Broaddus told the paper.
The article, “Affirmative action fight goes on,” noted that the percentage of black students attending William & Mary had increased from 6.3 percent of its freshmen class in 2002 to 9 percent this year. Yet nearly 25 percent of the Virginia's high school graduates are black.
Selectivity vs. diversity
If teacher training programs were more selective about the students they admitted, would they produce better teachers? It’s a question currently being hotly debated, and the Obama administration’s RESPECT grant program is fueling the discussion. Dean of William & Mary’s School of Education Virginia McLaughlin weighed-in on the topic in a recent issue of Inside Higher Education.
“We’re in education because we believe that education matters, and that people can grow and learn given the right experiences,” McLaughlin told the magazine. “Future teachers should be evaluated regularly and judged on their progress, including how well they master both knowledge of the subjects they will teach and the techniques they will later use in the classroom.”
The full Feb. 23 feature story, “Selectivity vs. Diversity” is available online here.
Facebook page challenges how blacks define themselves
Miami resident Gibré George started the Facebook group "Don’t Call Me African-American" because he felt the term did not accurately describe roots, featuring both an African and a Caribbean heritage. He squarely became a part of a centuries-long American discussion about the appropriate term for the African diaspora. The Miami Herald featured George in a recent article about how people racially identify themselves.
In the article, Africana Studies professor Anne Charity Hudley traced the roots and changing connotations of various terms such as black, person of color, and African-American through American history.
“The larger issue is that over the years, people of the African diaspora lost the right to name themselves," Charity Hudley told the Miami Herald. “It’s not really about what is right or wrong but how people see and think of themselves, which is a personal choice.’’
See Miami Herald story here.
For courting students, glossy viewbooks lose luster
A number of universities are considering whether or not to continue sending out viewbooks. Some universities have limited themselves to four magazine-style mailings. Others have employed the use of QR codes, which students can scan with their smartphones to access online content.
The Feb. 14 article by the Chronicle of Higher Education also featured William & Mary's approach to capture the interest of prospective students. "We wanted people to open the mailbox and go, 'Viewbook, viewbook, viewbook ... spaceship,'" Dean of Admissions Henry Broaddus told the Chronicle of Higher Education. Read more
So, William & Mary sent out an "Ampersandbox" to prospective students, a stack of notecards featuring bright photographs and phrases, such as one featuring the griffin, reading "NAKED & FRIENDLY." The notecards contain unique website links that have more content.
The Washington Post's Higher Education reporter also blogged about the "Amphersandbox" on Feb. 27.
Friends with benefits
Dogs are often thought of as man’s best friends but do they also establish friendships with each other or other pets - even supposed arch enemies like cats? It’s a long-asked question by scientist and one TIME magazine addressed in a February cover story. William & Mary anthropologist and animal behaviorist Barbara King isn’t sure all the relationships scientists are classifying as friendship between animals really hits the mark.
King, the author of Being with Animals, told TIME, "Right now the label is being applied far too broadly and uncritically."
She also notes that close bonds between animals may arise out of the need for any type of close bond – like when an animal loses its parents. King noted that the animal behavior needs to escalate beyond just spending time together to reach the “friendship” threshold.
Faster-than-light neutrinos? Probably a GPS problem
He identified the problem months before it was found. But Robert McKeown is modest enough to say he wasn’t the only one. McKeown, the Governor's Distinguished CEBAF Professor in William & Mary’s physics department as well as deputy director for science at Jefferson Lab, was interviewed by Adrian Cho for the Dec. 2, 2011 issue of Science.
In the fall of 2011, the scientific world was in a flap over preliminary reports from the CERN facility in Europe that subatomic particles called neutrinos were clocked on a 730-kilometer Switzerland-to-Italy run at a speed slightly faster than the speed of light.
Such a feat would violated a number of laws of physics, beginning with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity—unless there was a mistake somewhere.
“We may learn something subtle about GPS,” McKeown said in Cho’s piece, which included commentary from other notable particle physicists.
In February, 2012, CERN indeed noted it had found two separate issues with the GPS-based system used to clock the neutrinos’ traveling time.
Cho’s story, headlined “Superluminal Neutrinos: Where Does the Time Go?” is here.
Virginia Primary ballot challenge
Several Republican presidential candidates sued in Virginia courts to be placed on the March 6 primary ballot. In advance of the Jan. 13 hearing on the Constitutionality of the Virginia requirement that candidates submit at least 10,000 signatures from across residents in each of the state’s 11 districts collected by Virginia residents, Law Professor Rebecca Green spoke with CBS Radio about the ballot challenge.
“Other circuits have held that that requirement burdens your Constitutional first amendment rights,” she told CBS reporter Pam Coulter, still noting that plenty other candidates had been able to meet the requirements in the past.
Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are the only two Republican presidential candidates slated to appear on the ballot in Virginia’s upcoming primary. Other candidates, including Rick Perry (TX) and Newt Gingrich (GA), didn’t submit the required signatures to qualify to be placed on the ballot.
‘Ghosts’ haunt creatures on bay’s bottom
Annually 60,000, or some 20 percent, of the 300,000 crab pots Virginia waterman are licensed to set in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries each year end up as “ghost pots” – unmarked baited crab traps lost or left at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay, Kirk Havens, director of the Coastal Watersheds Program and assistant director, VIMS Center for Coastal Resources, told the Washington Post in a Jan.
The lost or abandoned pots trap and kill countless crabs, eels, terrapins, fish, muskrats and ducks. A federal and state funded program in Virginia, the Blue Crab Fishery Resource Disaster Relief Plan, pays Virginia watermen to recovery the lost pots in the December – March Winter Fishery when the Chesapeake Bay is closed to crabbing.
Havens told the Post that the four year program has been a success, but will end in March when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stops funding.
A margin for error in hedge-fund filings
Research on quarter-end valuations of hedge-funds by Gjergii Cici, assistant professor of business, was featured in the Dec. 30 Wall Street Journal. Cici conducted the research with Alexander Kempf and Alexander Puetz of the University of Cologne. As reported by the WSJ, the results of their analysis indicate that hedge-funds ‘take advantage of lax regulation by strategically fudging equity position valuations to impress…potential or existing clients.’
As reported in the WSJ, Cici, Kempf and Puetz found deviations that were ‘economically significant’ in a fourth of the companies they analyzed. The article explains that the researchers looked at 864 hedge-fund companies from 1999 – 2009 examining SEC quarterly filing data on stock prices. The article notes that “roughly 150,000 of the 2.3 million disclosed positions they looked at –about 7% -- showed valuations that deviated from quarter-end closing prices.”
Cici, Kempf and Puetz’s findings were also presented at the American finance Association’s annual meeting at the beginning of January.
Pursuing a word-perfect campaign
George Allen’s 2006 re-election bid failed following a campaign stump gaffe. Allen, then a one-term senator seeking re-election, addressed a member of his opponent’s staff as “macaca.” In several languages the word translates as “monkey.” The staff member was of Indian descent. A Dec. 3 Wall Street Journal article recounted the event and considered whether it would impact Allen’s return bid for the Virginia Senate seat.
William & Mary Government Professor Larry Evans told the WSJ the faux pas wouldn’t play much of a role in the election.
"Now, if he does it again, that's another story," he said. "Then it will be a significant factor."
Evans was also called upon by NPR's Morning Edition to discuss the ethics investigations that helped end Newt Gingrich’s (R – GA) speakership in the House of Representatives in the mid-90’s and earlier, the speakership of Jim Wright (D – TX).
"And that really, for the first time, kind of politicized the ethics process," Evans said during the Dec. 8 program.
Grayson talks Mexican drug cartels with NBC Nightly News
Government Professor George Grayson spoke with NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams in early December about drug cartels in Mexico. The segment followed the discovery of a large tunnel used for smuggling drugs across the border between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, Ca.
The tunnel was believed to be a part of the drug operation of the Sinaloa drug cartel headed by Joaquin Guzman or “El Chapo” (“Shorty”). Grayson spoke to NBC about Guzman.
“He has the police under his thumb, he controls much of the system in his state and neighboring states and he is virtually an untouchable,” Grayson said.
Big box stores get bigger, and richer
The Sunday following Black Friday, one of the biggest retail days of the year, the Atlanta Journal Constitution featured an article on its front page about the impact of large, so called “big box” retailers on the economy. According to the story, in the last 30 years the economy has seen a consolidation of retail outlets led by “big box” retailers like Wal Mart, Target, Sears and JCPenney. Mason School of Business Professor Lawrence Ring joined the discussion noting the growth of retailers has not been subtle.
“In pretty much every category, you’ll see that the biggest guys are a lot bigger today than they were 10 years or 20 years ago,” he told the AJC.
This growth has reduced or consolidated the number of retailers across the country and both wages and the pace of hiring within the labor force.
Large retailers are often criticized for their lack of customer service. It’s a fair criticism Ring notes in the article, but says if you want the service it is going to cost you.
“I’ll admit that the service isn’t that great at the big stores, but if you want somebody to hold your hand, you go to the corner guy,” Ring said. “And you’ll pay for it.”
Why the constitution and the courts are allies of the Occupiers
Amid increasing clashes between protesters and city officials and efforts by localities to remove protesters and establish curfews, analysis of the Occupy Wall Street movement turned to the role of First Amendment rights. William & Mary Law Professors and Constitutional Law experts William Van Alstyne and Tim Zick were called upon in a Nov. 2 Forbes.com article to weigh the precedents and the legal rights of the protesters vs. the rights of the cities involved to govern and protect their citizens.
“I think a flat curfew, just banning people from being present in a public park after a certain hour, will not survive the First Amendment, at least in the setting of persons not otherwise committing harm and are assembling in order to convey a public message of some kind of civic protest… The public parks, frankly, are probably the oldest historically identified government-owned place where the First Amendment has been applied very rigorously,” Van Alstyne told Forbes.
Zick concurred and took the point a step further.
“You can’t enact policies based on the type of assembly that’s taking place there or the content of the speech,” he said. The question is: Why now are you enacting a restrictive access policy?
Did Jamestown settlers drink themselves to death?
History.com’s “History in the Headlines” series featured research by William & Mary geologists Greg Hancock and James Kaste in an Oct. 17 article. Hancock and Kaste, along with undergraduate Doug Rowland , have been studying the quality of water in the wells of the former Jamestown Colony.
The Colony, nearly decimated in the winter of 1609-10, was known for food shortages. That infamous winter is often referred to as “The Starving Time.” Historians have wondered for years, the article notes, whether other factors may have been at play in 1609.
“Plenty of people had suggested there might be an issue with the water they were drinking, but nobody had done a study to investigate what the water quality was and where the contaminants were coming from,” said Gregory Hancock, an associate professor of geology at William & Mary.
The geologists research points to high salinity, arsenic and fecal matter in the water, though arsenic may have been the lesser of the evils in the Jamestown wells.
Kaste told History.com, “…the arsenic concentrations and the seasonal cycling of iron and arsenic that we have measured so far are very consistent with what we would expect from natural processes which have been described by others studying similar environments.”
Professor of History James Whittenburg provided historical context for the article including discussion of the vastly different food conditions when the colonists first arrived at Jamestown. “The sturgeons in the James River were so large that colonists would wade out and harvest them with an axe,” he said.
Coming out to the world on the web
Following the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy at the Department of Defense, a flood of “coming out” videos began to spring-up on YouTube. A New York Times article about the thousands of videos posted to the popular social media video site featured William & Mary Health Educator and Clinical Sexologist Eric Garrison.
Garrison told The New York Times that while a popular practice, there may be some dangers to coming out online.
“I don’t think some of these people understand that this is still the World Wide Web,” he said. One’s “grocery list” of whom to come out to — and when — benefits from careful curating, he said. “On YouTube, you don’t control that grocery list anymore. Everyone becomes an A-list invitee to your coming-out process.”
Women making slow, sure strides in science and math
A national Associated Press story headlined “Women Making Slow, Sure Strides In Science, Math” by Martha Irvine spotlights Professor of Chemistry Elizabeth Harbron’s success in the development of young women scientists at William & Mary. Irvine used Harbron’s relationship with a former student, Rebecca Allred ’10, to help illustrate the gains women are making in degrees and careers in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math.
Having female role models in the lab is important for female students Harbron told the AP noting that her observation is that women tend to hang back in the lab and let the male students take the lead role.
"They're so afraid of being wrong. I don't think guys have that fear. If they're admitting they don't know something, then they are admitting a vulnerability. "But what they don't realize is that other people don't know either."
Osama bin Laden is dead
Visiting Government and Public Policy Professor Lawrence Wilkerson appeared live on MSNBC's "Ed Show" and NPR's "On Point with Tom Ashbrook” immediately after President Barack Obama announced the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Wilkerson, a retired Army Colonel, served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff from 2002-05.
9/11 in the classroom
Jeremy Stoddard, Sallie Gertrude Smoot Spears Distinguished Associate Professor at the School of Education has spent the last decade researching how the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath are incorporated into secondary school curriculum, textbooks, state social studies standards. Stoddard’s findings were featured in the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor during this year’s 10th anniversary of September 11.
Taking the choice out of payroll deduction
The two conducted a study of employees, separated them as determined by their knowledge of investing. Their study found that, even with an increase in fund choices, both groups fell back on the default option. The cause of this: inertia. Employees feel that they stick with a bad choice and lose more from their payroll. Businesses solved this problem by automatically enrolling their employees in the 401(k) at a low level.
In short, giving employees less options or automatically enrolling them, saves the company and employees money.
The states are shaped for a reason
Most Americans never wonder how the states got to look the way they did. However, with the History Channel’s segment on “How the States got Their Shape,” aired July 7, some Americans gained insight into what formed the shapes of the states today. Scott Nelson, professor of history, was one of the featured historians who helped show the reasoning for the states.
For example, Texas’s panhandle was shaped as a result of the fight over slavery between the North and South. To be a slave-owning state, part of the panhandle, which once rose above the Mason-Dixon line and into what is now parts of New Mexico and Oklahoma, had to be cut off to make up for the slave and non-slave state ratio.
“What Texas has to do is get a haircut. It needs to lose everything north of 36°30° to be a state,” he explained.
Studying the seriousness of humor
So, to remedy that, Morrell helped form the International Humor Conference. Held this past May at Boston University, academics from different fields came together to discuss their interest and fascination with humor. Although no “funny business” took place during the conference, humor was abound in presentations and discussions throughout the five-day session.
Morrell and the conference were featured in the May 2011 issue of Wired magazine, in “The Humor Code: Deconstructing the Science of Funny.”
Unelected councils in India run villages with stern hand
In India’s villages, it is often not the law of the land that reigns supreme. Instead, it is often the law of village councils, known as khap panchayats, that is heeded. However, the all-male councils have been increasingly scrutinized lately for their extrajudicial rulings, especially those that are being blamed for so-called “honor killings.” In a June 4 New York Times article on these councils, Rani D. Mullen, assistant professor of government, provided some insight as to why government officials have not publicly condemned the councils.
“Local and state-level politicians have been noticeably reluctant to condemn the khap panchayats, since they represent a large and powerful vote bank,” she said in the piece.
James H. Stronge, professor in the School of Education, was featured in a June 6 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for his upcoming work on an evaluation system for teachers and administrators based on their students’ academic performances.
Stronge has been recommended to lead a team of experts who will develop the system, at the request of the Georgia Department of Education. According to the article, Stronge has been working in Gwinnett County – one of the districts where the system is expected to be piloted next year – since 2006. He has previously worked on other such large-scale evaluation systems for the federal government and several states, including Virginia.
Teachers know the importance of proper evaluations, Stronge said in the article.
"To ensure a higher level of buy-in with a new evaluation system, especially one that is rigorous, it is essential to have teachers actively involved in the designing and planning for the new system," he said. "Additionally, teachers need and deserve quality professional development, clear evaluation handbooks and related material, and ongoing support as the new evaluation system is implemented."
'Beast' friends forever
Friendships aren’t just for human beings, according to a book by Jennifer Holland titled “Unlikely Friendships.” The book showcases the often-surprising bonds between animals of different species. In a June 19 article about the book in the New York Post, Barbara King, professor of anthropology, said that animal friendships are more than just something for humans to marvel at.
“These stories help us get in touch with the best in ourselves,” she said in the article.
Continued insight into the unrest in Mexico
George Grayson, professor of government, has once again been called upon to provide expert insight into the continued unrest in Mexico. Grayson was included in a June 7 article in the Washington Post on the use of “narco tanks” by drug cartels.
“These behemoths indicate the ingenuity of the cartels in configuring weapons that are extremely effective in urban warfare,” Grayson said in the article.
Grayson was also quoted in the Wall Street Journal several times in June. On June 5 and June 15, he commented on the detainment and later dismissal of a controversial politician who had faced weapons charges. Grayson said the dismissal of charges was a triumph for the politician’s party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI, and shows the ineptitude of the government.
"Calderón despite his 30 years in politics is a greenhorn at dealing with the PRI," Grayson said in the article.
On June 18, Grayson was quoted on crime groups stealing fuel from Mexico’s state oil monopoly in order to increase revenue for the groups. Grayson said that the monopoly, Pemex, is partly to blame as it has not maintained its facilities and pipelines. Pemex has also long tolerated the theft of oil from unionized workers, Grayson said in the article, adding that some of those workers may be working with crime groups to steal fuel.
"I would be shocked if there wasn't also connivance by members of the Pemex union," he said.
Effort to extend FBI director's term
When President Barack Obama requested that FBI Director Robert Mueller stay in his position for an additional two years, the matter was brought before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Among the experts who testified at the hearing was William W. Van Alstyne, Lee Professor of Law.
According to the coverage, Van Alstyne voiced his support for the term extension, saying he did not see it as unconstitutional and would, in fact, resign his tenured post at the law school if it was ruled as such.
"I frankly have no doubt that successful passage of the current bill will suffice," he said.
Virginia starts center to study tiny electronics
The College of William & Mary was mentioned in a May 26 article on Forbes.com for its cooperation in the new Virginia Nanoelectronics Center (ViNC).
William & Mary has teamed up with University of Virginia (U.Va.) and Old Dominion University (ODU) to research and produce a new level of tiny electronics. The center will conduct research aimed at producing faster, smaller and cheaper computer applications in everything from mobile devices and computers to automobiles and energy-efficient homes. ViNC is based at U.Va.
Ale Lukaszew, William & Mary’s VMEC Professor of Physics and Applied Science, will serve as one of the co-principal investigators at ViNC.
Colleges come to terms with slave-owning pasts
Kimberley Phillips, the Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Associate Professor of History and American Studies and co-chairwoman of the Lemon Project and Jody Allen, visiting assistant professor of history and Lemon Project coordinator, were featured in a May 23 article on CNN.com. The article looked at how universities across the country are coming to terms with past ties to slavery.
The article featured a symposium held on the William & Mary campus last spring on the history of slavery at William & Mary and how to move forward. The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation is named for a slave called Lemon whom the College owned in the early 18th century. The project began in 2009 as a multiyear effort to better understand William & Mary's own connections to slavery as well as race relations at the College from the end of the Civil War to date.
Phillips told CNN.com the Project was not just about slavery, “but about the lingering past with segregation.”
Advertising can warp your memory
Nicole Votolato Montgomery, assistant professor of marketing at the Mason School of Business, was featured on USNEWS.com May 23 for helping to develop an experiment to test the effects advertisements have on memory. Montgomery’s research, along with her co-developer Priyali Rajagopal, an assistant professor of marketing at Southern Methodist University, shows advertisements can encourage people to recall things that never even happened to them.
“What we found is that if consumers falsely believe they have experienced this advertised brand, their evaluations of that product are similar to evaluations of the product that they actually experienced. That is a fairly unique finding,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery and Rajagopal also found that if they replace the well-known brand with something they invented but keep the same product name and advertisement there was a much lesser effect.
“Our intent was just to educate consumers and let them know they need to be vigilant when they are processing high imagery ads, because these vivid ads can create false memories of product experience,” said Montgomery.
Death of bin Laden
When President Barack Obama announced to the world tha Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been klled by U.S. forces, major news outlets called on William & Mary's Harriman Professor of Government Lawrence Wilkerson to explain the political, military and national security impact of the event.
Wilkerson appeared live on MSNBC's "Ed Show" and NPR's "On Point with Tom Ashbrook." Statements from the MSNBC interview fed to more than 100 NBC affiliates nationwide.
Soaring Gas Prices
Clinical Assocaite Professor of Economics and Finance Deborah Hewitt talked with the Chicago Tribune about rising gas prices and whether the escalation in prices seen across the country in late April would be enough to send consumers looking for alternative fuels.
For Hewitt the jury is still out. "The key point is whether [gas prices] will stay high long enough to have a significant impact," she told the Tribune.
Hewitt specializes in inernational trade and finance at the Mason School of Business.
Can dogs and cats really be friends? Animal behaviorist Barbara J. King talked about the unlikely and sometimes seemingly improbable relationships that can develop between animals with "CBS Sunday Morning."
"Things like, play and grooming - if it goes on over time and the two animals are repeatedly choosing to come back together to do that, then I would think that that's a friendship," she said.
King is the Chancellor Professor in the Department of Anthropology.
Drug violence and turf wars engulf Mexico
George Grayson, professor of government and an expert on Mexico and drug trafficking at William and Mary, was featured in three back-to-back articles in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 15, 16 and 17) about the shootings of two U.S. government law-enforcement agents in Monterrey. He has also been called upon by a number of other national publications, including the Christian Science Monitor, to discuss the deadly shooting.
Since December 2006, more than 34,000 people have been killed in areas of Mexico controlled by powerful drug cartels. In areas around the state of Nuevo Leon and the city of Monterrey turf wars between the Gulf Cartel and their former violent enforcers, known as the Zetas, have resulted in a wave of killings over the past year.
"The Zetas are all over Nuevo Leon," said Grayson. "They want to intimidate the business community there in order to enhance their ability to raise funds through kidnapping and extortion.”
Although attacks on U.S. officials are rare, Grayson said the latest incident means more eyes and bodies will be focused on Mexico’s increasing drug violence. "In terms of the U.S. law enforcement community, this will greatly raise the significance of Mexico," he said.
Grayson is the author of “Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?” The book chronicles the rise of regional Mexican drug cartels in Mexico, their increased savagery against territorial rivals and uncooperative government representatives, and the related security threat to the United States. He talks about his book in this short video.
Book Chat: “Why Does College Cost So Much?”
What’s driving the rapid rise in college tuition and are there any solutions to hold down the price?
Economics professors Robert Archibald and David Feldman, authors of the book “Why Does College Cost So Much?” answered those questions in a recent New York Times online book chat column on Feb. 18. The NY Times blog also linked to a “Book of the Month” video produced last semester by University Relations.
Released in November, the book examines the rising cost of higher education through the lens of U.S. economic history. For the column, the scholars fielded questions from what’s driving the rising costs of services to forecasting a better, simpler financial aid process.
“The real question is how we create access for people who could succeed in college if only they can get their foot in the door,” explained Feldman. “The way we subsidize higher education can have a big impact on who gets to go to college.”
Archibald advised that while financial aid could be fixed to extend access to more students, the biggest problem right now is the complexity of the programs.
“Families have to make a series of decisions early in the process to help their children to become college material,” he said. “Well-to-do families usually take care of this quite well. On the other hand, because they think they can never afford college, children from less well-to-do families do not take the steps one has to take to prepare for college.”
Egyptian revolution of 2011
For 18 consecutive days, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in the streets of Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and enactment of democratic reforms of the political system.
On Feb. 3, Business Professor Debora Hewitt, an expert on emerging markets, spoke with Voices of America, an international multimedia broadcasting service with a worldwide audience of 123 million people.
Hewitt discussed the ripple effects of social unrest in North Africa and the Middle East on the area's and the world's economy. She said that although private foreign investment remains weak, Egypt could look to reforms in Morocco that have appealed to investors. Morocco has taken great strides to strengthen it education system and invest in roads, ports and electric power, said Hewitt. These investments put people to work, but most importantly, they create the foundation for future economic and political development.
"With economic growth and expansion comes the desire for more political freedom,” she said. “And the two go hand in hand. They feed on each other."
The revolution ended on Feb. 11 when Mubarak resigned after continued protest and pressure.
Shedding light on dark legacies
Meyers’ research involves the 18th-Century Bray School and its possible connection to an old house tucked on the edge of William &Mary's campus. The house, located on Prince George Street and presently used by the College's ROTC program, could be the nation's oldest surviving schoolhouse for black children, free and enslaved.
Meyers has documented too the College's being instrumental in the very foundation of the Bray School, sited in Williamsburg on Benjamin Franklin's recommendation after Franklin discovered, according to Meyers, that William and Mary's presidents and faculty already had a track record in black religious education.
“What galvanised me was the discovery of the names of two children who were owned by the very college I’m employed by, Adam and Fanny, who the college sent to Bray’s School,” said Meyers. “All of a sudden, slavery, which had always seemed sort of abstract to me, had a very human face.”
Meyers’ research ties into work by the Lemon Project, a committee of faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the local community looking at the College's connections to slavery and race relations from the Civil War to date. He has also been featured in the Washington Post and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
2011 begins with an "Aflockalypse" or Natural Phenomenon?
When thousands of red-winged blackbirds mysteriously fell from the sky in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve just minutes before 2011, leading ornithologist and professor of biology Dan Cristol was called upon by a number of national outlets to discuss the “aflockalypse.”
USA Today interviewed Cristol on Jan. 4 about the theories and possible causes of the die off, including pesticide poisoning, weather and fireworks. When more birds fell from the sky just days later in Louisiana, Texas and Kentucky, Cristol spoke with the national Associated Press.
After reports of more bird deaths in Sweden, dead turtledoves in Italy, dying fish in the Chesapeake Bay, Florida and New Zealand, and dead crabs washing up ashore on an English beach, Cristol sat down with ABC News Nightline to share his expertise about the mass wildlife die offs.
“Mass wildlife die offs do happen, and they happen every year,” Cristol told ABC News Nightline. “I think a lot of the frenzy we’re getting around the world is because the media and Internet have allowed more of these stories to be exposed and connected. I don’t think they’re connected.”
The Price of College Admission
“Why Does College Cost So Much,” it’s not only a hot topic that’s drawn national media attention, but the title of a book authored by economics professors Robert Archibald and David Feldman. The book, released in November, examines the rising cost of higher education through the lens of U.S. economic history.
On Dec. 21, the duo was featured in a seven-minute segment on CNBC. The scholars explained that there are two main reasons for the dilemma: the cost of producing education is rising faster than the inflation rate and the cut backs on state funding to public universities.
“Unlike manufactured or agricultural goods, higher education is a service,” explained Feldman. “We simply can’t easily reduce the number of hours it takes to produce a year of education.”
Archibald noted that he doesn’t see the trend in state financing changing anytime, especially with the pressures from pensions, K-12 education, prisons and transportation. “There’s been a slow privatization of publically-supported institutions for quite some time and I don’t see that reversing,” he said.
The pair’s innovative ideas for rethinking higher education were also featured in a Dec. 15 opinion piece in The Seattle Times.
Protecting the private data of consumers
Laura Heymann, associate professor of law, spoke with The Chicago Tribune about the security breach of consumer information at McDonald’s, Walgreens and Gawker, and what individuals can do to protect their private data.
“E-commerce would grind to a halt if consumers stopped disclosing basic information to companies,” said Heymann. “Companies should report data breaches to customers promptly and take steps to minimize damage. Consumers, for their part, should ensure that their passwords are robust and that they are appropriately suspicious about any request for their personal information.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces extradition
Marshall-Wythe Foundation Professor of Law and Director of the Human Security Law Program, Linda Malone, was featured in a Dec. 8 segment on NPR about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fighting extradition to Sweden regarding sexual assault allegations. Malone, who specializes in international law, said “There’s very clear grounds in extradition laws for challenging extradition, if you think that you are going to be persecuted. Most of the time that persecution is not based on any kinds of political motivation so much as religious, ethnic and other types of persecution.”
How to Encourage Your Kid’s Creativity
“Tolerating ‘wrong’ answers” is one of many ways to encourage creativity in children, Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology Kyung Hee Kim told U.S. News and World Report in a Dec. 2 article. “Creativity depends upon ambiguity, making mistakes, and being playful. Applaud your child’s imagination when he draws wings on a kitten or writes suing incorrect spellings. The rules will assert themselves soon enough.” The article appeared in two parts. Read them in their entirety, part one and part two.
The U.S. News articles followed a July 10 Newsweek article that introduced Kim’s research to the public. This initial article drew the attention of other media, and Kim has discussed her research with numerous news outlets since and participated in an online Q and A with Encyclopedia Britannica.
College cost crisis
Economics Professors Robert Archibald and David Feldman and their book, “Why Does College Cost So Much,” have been featured in the national press in recent weeks. The book, released by Oxford University Press in November, looks at the rising cost of higher education through the lens of U.S. economic history.
In a Nov. 28 Newsweek article Joel Schectman wrote, “For more than two decades, as the cost of college has climbed at twice the rate of inflation, critics have argued that bloated bureaucracies, overpaid faculty, and unnecessary amenities are inflating tuition. Yet in a new book—“Why Does College Cost So Much?” —economists Robert Archibald and David Feldman argue that college isn’t actually overpriced.”
In their book, Archibald and Feldman point to similarities between the trajectory of college cost and the cost behavior in many other industries and conclude that forces affecting many industries are more important that those that only affect higher education.
A Nov. 15 column by New York Times’ columnist Stanley Fish titled “There is no college cost crisis” said about the book, “The title question is a teaser, for the book’s message is that it doesn’t. In fact, say the authors, ‘for most families higher education is more affordable than it was in the past.’ The column drew enough response that the NYT asked Archibald and Feldman to respond. They did so in a Nov. 22 column.
The pair also shared their views in an Oct. 19 opinion piece in Inside Higher Education.
Archibald and Feldman have studied the cost of higher education for more than 10 years and have collaborated on numerous articles. “Why Does College Cost So Much” is the first book authored by the duo.
College students on break fix others’ lives
USA Today ran a story about the trend among college students to spend a fair portion of their winter break doing international or community service work. The story featured comments from Associate Director of the Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship Melody Porter as well as student Brian Focarino ’11.
“Winter trips can allow students to more easily use their experiences as a catalyst for community service and civic engagement back home during spring semester,” Porter told the paper.
Hiding behind the web
George Grayson, professor of government, spoke with Newsweek about the practice among Mexican press outlets not to report what the drug cartels don’t want public and the work of an anonymous blogger to fill the reporting gaps. “I look at it as kind of a technological yard sale,” Grayson, a Mexico specialist, said of the blog report. “A bunch of junk shows up, but you find some things that are pretty interesting.”
Historical fact checking
History Professor Carol Sheriff noticed a section of her daughter’s fourth-grade history textbook that claimed that two battalions of African American soldiers fought under Confederate General Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War.
Sheriff, who teaches about the Civil War at the College and has authored a book on the subject, knew the passage in the textbook to be factually inaccurate. Historians, Sheriff said, universally agree African Americans did not fight in any organized way for the Confederacy. In fact, the Confederacy made it illegal until the last year of the war – and well after Jackson’s death, she said
The original story ran in the Washington Post, that piece led to broad coverage of the story including MSBNC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and the Associated Press put out a story on the national wire that led to more than 200 news outlets across the country picking up the story. Numerous local papers ran stories as well.
“How Green is your Campus? An Analysis of the Factors that Drive Universities to Embrace Sustainability” by Professor of Economics Sarah Stafford, is featured on the Contemporary Economic Policy’s web site and will also be featured in an upcoming print edition of the journal. Stafford’s paper looks at factors that influence the adoption of sustainable practices by institutions of higher education in the U.S. The paper shows that size and wealth are significant factors in the adoption of sustainable practices at universities but that stakeholders such as faculty, alumni, and the surrounding community also play an important role. The study shows no evidence that institutions adopt sustainability to attract students or that regulatory pressure is at play.
Interviews regaining a foothold in college admissions
It appears the on-campus interviews for prospective students are making a comeback. In a front-page article Aug. 2, the Washington Post reported that William & Mary is well ahead of the trend. The College is the only public university in Virginia that conducts student-run campus interviews for prospective students.
The Post reported that many selective schools have stopped conducting interviews because of resources and time constraints. Some are concerned about ability of students to travel to campus to take advantage of the interview. That's less of an issue at William & Mary, the Post reported, because the majority of students attending the College come from Virginia and within driving distance.
William & Mary's interviews, which are evaluative, are conducted by specially trained rising seniors who give prospective students an inside look at the College's campus experience. The College revived its interview program six years ago and today conducts more than 1,400 of the 30-minute interviews each summer for visiting high-school seniors.
W&M admissions officials told the Post the interviews are used as just one of many tools in the overall admission selection process.
"When you are talking about students of this caliber," said Wendy Livingston, senior assistant dean of admissions, "it's often the personal and intangible details that help us make the decision."
The Bray School
The Washington Post recently ran a feature article on research by Terry Meyers, Chancellor Professor of English, regarding the 18th-Century Bray School and its possible connection to an old house tucked on the edge of William & Mary's campus. The house, located on Prince George Street and presently used by the College's ROTC program, could be the nation's oldest surviving schoolhouse for black children, free and enslaved, Meyers told the Washington Post in the July 23 article.
Meyers's research indicates that the house may have been home to the Bray School, established in Williamsburg in 1760 on the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin by an English philanthropy, the Associates of Dr. Bray. The Rev. Thomas Bray was the Commissary in Maryland of the Bishop of London and a friend of James Blair, Commissary in Virginia and founder of the College. Bray and the Associates advocated for the religious education of black and Indian children. The research ties into work by the Lemon Project, a committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni looking at the College's connections to slavery and race relations from the Civil War to date.
Several news outlets picked-up the story and the article was distributed on the national wire by the Associated Press. Meyers was also featured in a May 30 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Assistant Professor in W&M's School of Education, Kyung-Hee Kim, was featured in an article in Newsweek about the Creativity Crisis in America. Recent research by Kim shows that while American IQs are getting higher with each generation, the country's creativity scores are trending downward. While IQ tests are given to determine a person's intelligence, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking is administered to measure one's creativity or "CQ." Kim, who specializes in educational psychology and creativity, recently analyzed the Torrance scores of 300,000 children and adults and found that American creativity scores have been falling since 1990.
Progressive vision and Constitutional Law
An article by Law Professors Alan J. Meese and Nate B. Oman appeared in the July 5 issue of the National Review Online. The article, "The End of an Idea," discusses Harvard Professor of Law Noah Feldman's New York Times Magazine article endorsing a Progressive vision of Constitutional Law.
"Feldman's essay exemplifies a longstanding disconnect between many progressive scholars of constitutional law, on the one hand, and basic principles of political economy and economic history, on the other," Meese and Oman wrote.
According to Meese and Oman, Feldman and other proponents of Progressive constitutionalism have relied upon an outdated historical narrative crafted by constitutional lawyers instead of economists. This narrative, they say, ignores conclusions by economists that policies authorized by Progressive constitutionalism often destroy wealth and harm workers and consumers.
The authors end by expressing their hope that Elena Kagan, President Obama's most recent appointment to the Supreme Court, "rejects this faith-based approach in favor of one based on evidence, experience, and economic logic."
W&M's joint degree program with St Andrews exemplaire
Laurie Koloski, associate professor of history and director of the Reves Center for International Studies, stressed the importance of studying abroad during an NPR interview in late May.
"It teaches you to understand that really in the grand scheme of things you are small, tiny piece of a big, huge human society," Koloski said in the interview with Richmond NPR affiliate WCVE"It's amazing to sort of go out there and see how other people live their everyday lives, their political systems, their economic systems, their successes, their failures and so on. It's just a wonderful experience.
The interview was in conjunction with the announcement that William & Mary will be teaming up with the University of St Andrews in Scotland to offer a joint degree program beginning in 2011. Under the program, students will spend two years at each university.
Mexico's violence: no one immune
George Grayson, professor of government, recently spoke to the Associated Press about the disappearance of Mexico's former presidential candidate and its possible connection with the country's ongoing drug violence. "It shows that no one is immune from their reach, not even a multimillionaire super-lawyer," said Grayon, referring to the possibility of the disappearance being credited to Mexican drug cartels.
Christine Nemacheck, associate professor of government, was quoted by Associate Press national writer Mark Sherman in a story about President Obama's possible nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. "Based on what he's done so far, it doesn't seem like he is willing to expend a lot of political capital,'" Nemacheck said. The story on Kagan, who is now a pending nominee to the Court, was picked-up by numerous national news outlets.
Mexican drug violence: At least six abducted in hotel raids
William & Mary Government Professor George Grayson was quoted in the New York Times after the violent abduction of guests from a hotel in Monterrey, considered by many to be the industrial capital of the country.
Grayson noted the attack was unusual, even by today’s standards.
“It’s absolutely unprecedented,” he told the Times.
Grayson is the author of the recently released book,“Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?”
The violence impacts more than the direct victims. For Monterrey it may be the town that falls.
“Monterrey used to be so dynamic that there was a joke that the official bird was the building crane,” Grayson said. “Now, there’s the beginnings of an exodus and it’s ‘last one out, turn out the lights.’ ”
Stephanie Nakasian, a professor of music with a specialization in Jazz voices at the College, recently released an album called "Billie Remembered," which was featured on the April 28 episode of NPR’s Fresh Air radio program.
Nakasian’s CD, which features remakes of Holliday’s 1935 recordings of such songs as No Regrets, Did I Remember, and What a Little Moonlight Can Do, commemorates the establishment of Holliday as a vocal singer and pinpoints the apex of her singing career
“I tried to get that soulful and immediate feeling without contriving it and hurting myself,” she said. “I tried to be in the middle of it somewhere, and get the essence of the feeling and the passion.”
Counting Sea Life
An Associated Press article titled “Counting Sea Life, Sometimes Little Things are Big” posted on April 21 mentioned the Virginia Institute of Marine Science for their work in helping to catalogue all of the marine wildlife species for the Census for Marine Life.
“Tracey Sutton of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and colleagues led by the Smithsonian Institution's G. David Johnson used genetics to show that three types of fish thought to be different are really one,” the article noted.
The census, which will reach its tenth anniversary this year, has been influential in categorizing over 5,000 new marine wildlife species and represents the combined efforts of over 80 countries.
Alan Meese, the Ball Professor of Law, recently co-authored an Op-Ed article in The Huffington Post regarding the Obama Administration’s decision to approve the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster. Meese, and co-author Barak Richman, law and business professor at Duke University, wrote in the Jan. 31 online article that the merger decision “marked a fittingly undramatic end to what many hoped would be the watershed to a new economic policy. The administration's decision instead reflected a commitment to principle over politics and pragmatism over populism.”
Meese and Richman produced a 120-page analysis of the merger. That analysis, which was commissioned by the parties, concluded that any legal challenge would be difficult.
“The companies are combining forces to pursue an innovative business model, one that pursues new consumer demands and responds to the rise of electronic music," the co-authors wrote in the Op-Ed. "It is not an attempt to acquire a stranglehold over an industry that technological change has made increasingly resistant to strangleholds.”
Cheney, Padilla and the torture question
Larry Wilkerson, Adjunct Harriman Professor of Government and Public Policy, was a featured guest on the Feb. 28 episode of MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” During the interview, Wilkerson discussed the Obama Administration’s policy of officially banning torture and a recent poll that found 53 percent of Americans believed that torture is justified.
“[Torture] is never justified, it is debilitating, it is injurious, it damages our reputation and it damages our very soul,” he said. “We should not be torturing people and I’m very happy that this administration has banned it officially.”
Wilkerson, who is often chosen by “Countdown” as an expert in the field of U.S. foreign and military policy along with international security issues, served as the chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
YouTube Admissions Videos Raise Questions
Some colleges and universities across the country are now allowing prospective students to submit video essays with their undergraduate applications. It’s not something that all admissions officers agree is the best way to evaluate potential students.
In an ABC News online article about the issue, Henry Broaddus, dean of admissions, discussed why William & Mary does not require – or even encourage – applicants to submit videos. Broaddus said that applicants may not be presenting their genuine selves on video. They could see it as a competition to market themselves “as a product instead [of] as curious students.”
“This isn’t American Idol,” Broaddus told ABC News. “This is still an evidence-based review in which we have a very specific record that we have sought: the transcript, the essays, the recommendations. There’s a way that this all fits together.”
Barbara King, Being with the animals
Barbara King, Chancellor Professor of Anthropology, recently appeared on the National Public Radio to explain the bonds between humans and animals that cause us to spend billions of dollars and hours on our pets. King appeared on NPR’s Diane Rehn Show to discuss her recently published book, “Being with Animals: Why We Are Obsessed with the Furry, Scaly, Feathered Creatures Who Populate Our World.” The book was reviewed in the Washington Post and King also was interviewed by National Geographic Weekend.
King, an owner of six cats and a rabbit named “Oreo,” explains that being with animals reminds us that humans themselves were once wild and are indeed still animals. During the interview, King explained that the process by which she begins observing animals goes far beyond the usual computer analysis.
“They will grumble and rumble back to me, this is a way of my saying I’m entering your world, I would like to sit with you, I’d like to watch you, and from there, I then take the data,” King said. “It is an important realization that they are sentient, conscious beings who are watching my every move.”