In the media: Faculty inform the press

Following are selected examples of William & Mary faculty and staff members in the national and international media. - Ed.

2013
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 by Discovery 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.

2012
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.

Isaac's impact

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."

Saving Aquarius

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.

Parental role

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.

Discovery

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.

BBC’s double-hit

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.

2011
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

Julie Agnew and Lisa Szykman, professors of business, were featured in an article on July 10 in The Washington Post for their insight into why employees reject the 401(k) plan at their businesses.

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

According to John Morrell, professor of religion, humor, although it makes people laugh, is seen as negative in society.

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.

Georgia hires team to work on teacher pay plan

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.

Van Alstyne’s testimony was covered by numerous news organizations, including CNN, C-SPAN, and Politico.

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.

Odd couples

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.”

The pair was also featured in a seven-minute segment on CNBC in December 2010. The professors also have their own blog about the book.

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

 Terry Meyers, Chancellor Professor of English at William & Mary, was featured in an article in the Times Higher Education Magazine released on Feb. 17 regarding U.S. universities’ links to slavery.

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.” 

Cristol was also interviewed by Fox Radio’s Tom Sullivan, WVEC Channel 13 News and quoted in an article published by ABC News.

2010
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.”

Grayson was also featured twice in the last month on National Public Radio talking about Mexico’s bicentennial and the country’s internal push for dual sovereignty.

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.

Green campus

“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.

Creativity Crisis

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.

Potential nominee

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

As the media report on escalating drug violence in Mexico, the expertise of William & Mary Government Professor George Grayson is in increasing demand. Most recently he 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.’ ”

Fresh Air

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.

Industry stranglehold?

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 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.”