Tag Archive for The Washington Post

Wesleyan in the News

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1. USA Today: “America Has a History of Lynching, but it’s Not a Federal Crime. The House Just Voted to Change That”

Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language Ashraf Rushdy is interviewed on the topic of legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. In the interview he called lynching “the original hate crime.” “Lynching is a blot on the history of America,” he said. “But it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

2. The New York Times: “Starbucks Baristas Accuse Service Company of Abuse and Pay Gaps”

Associate Professor of Sociology Jonathan Cutler is interviewed about transgender issues in labor organizations as immigrant, transgender, and black baristas face discrimination at airport Starbucks. “Organized labor often lives or dies by its ability to tap into broader social movements,” he said. “In this case, you’re seeing the most public effort to organize around transgender issues.”

3. The Washington Post: “Does Money Even Matter? And Other Questions You May Have About Bloomberg’s Half-Billion-Dollar Failed Candidacy”

President Roth Reviews Frank Bruni’s Book

President Michael Roth reviewed New York Times columnist Frank Bruni’s new book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania for The Washington PostThough Bruni directs his thoughts specifically to the young men and women competing to gain admission to Ivy League and other highly competitive colleges and universities, Roth sees his message as speaking “more broadly to the culture of manufactured meritocracy–a culture of rankings and branding, of recruiting and rejection.”

“Bruni tackles the roots of this lesson with example after example of successful, accomplished and happy people whose college experiences were far from the elite halls of Stanford or Harvard,” writes Roth.

“As an educator, I applaud Bruni’s advice to disregard the false rankings systems and recognize that hundreds of schools across the country offer fantastic opportunities for people eager to work and learn. As a father, I am grateful for his reminder of the importance of family for students: ‘something so much more essential and nourishing and lasting’ than admission to a college — no matter how highly ranked.”

Three Wesleyan Authors Have “Notable” Books

The Washington Post selected President Michael Roth’s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, on its list of top 50 notable works of nonfiction this year. A brief summary of the review states:

The president of Wesleyan University describes two distinct traditions of a liberal education–one philosophical and “skeptical,” the other rhetorical and “reverential”–and argues that both are necessary for educating autonomous individuals who can also participate with others.

Beyond the University was originally reviewed in the Post on May 23 by Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. In that review, Nelson calls the book “a substantial and lively discussion” as well as “an economical and nearly jargon-free account of liberal education in America.”

Two other members of the Wesleyan community were honored in the Post’s “Top 50 Fiction Books for 2014.” The list included Lucky Us by Amy Bloom, distinguished university writer-in-residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, and Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman ’86

Michele Roberts ’77 Makes News as New NBPA Chief

The first woman to lead a North American men’s pro sports union is Michele Roberts ’77. The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren reports that Roberts, a Washington, D.C. lawyer, was elected as executive director of the NBA Players Association.

“Let’s be clear: I’m sure there were people that noticed I was a girl,” Roberts told reporters. … “My sense was, the only thing people cared about was my resolve.”

According to Boren, Roberts will need that resolve. “NBA players believe that the collective bargaining agreement that settled the last lockout was favorable to owners and, when this one expires in 2017, she’ll face NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, whose popularity soared in the wake of the Donald Sterling mess.”

After graduating from Wesleyan, Roberts got her law degree from the University of California and spent eight years as a public defender. She currently works as a trial lawyer for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players association, told The Post that Roberts, whom he has known for years, is an excellent choice for the NBAPA job. “I know the players have chosen well,” he said. ” Michele is a tremendously skilled lawyer … who is formidable in a very measured way.”

President Roth’s “Beyond the University” Reviewed

President Michael S. Roth’s new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattersis reviewed in The Washington Post by Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. Nelson begins with the remark: “Michael Roth’s new book may finally answer a question I have often asked myself: Why do the leaders of our nation’s liberal arts colleges find it so difficult to define liberal education clearly and so challenging to communicate its benefits?”

He continues, “After reading Roth’s economical and nearly jargon-free historical account of liberal education in America, I think the answer may be this: There are many distinct threads of liberal education in America that have been woven and rewoven over time in many different ways. As a result, nearly every college now existing can legitimately lay claim to a distinctive sort of liberal education. Generic descriptions simply cannot convey the variegated vitality of liberal education as it is lived on our many college campuses.”

In presenting the ideas of prominent Americans who historically have shaped educational thought–from Thomas Jefferson to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Booker T. Washington–Roth provides a “substantial and lively discussion that allows the reader to maintain an open mind while examining the strengths and weaknesses of the several threads, each in its own turn,” writes Nelson.

Read more about Beyond the University in Roth’s op-eds in The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and in this interview in The Atlantic magazine.

Outside Groups Are Taking Over the Political Airwaves

The involvement of outside groups in campaign advertising is continuing its upward trend in the 2014 midterm election cycle, the Wesleyan Media Project reported in its first analysis of the season. Between January 1, 2013 and April 24, 2014, interest groups sponsored 59 percent of TV ads in Senate races. What’s more, 59 percent of interest group airings were sponsored by so-called “dark money” groups that are not required to disclose their donors. The project is directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, along with partners at Bowdoin College and Washington State University.

The Washington Post reported on these findings, and highlighted some extreme cases:

Not surprisingly, these groups are driving the action in the states with competitive Senate races. In North Carolina, interest groups have run 90 percent of television ads, the Wesleyan study found.

Michigan was not far behind, with outside groups sponsoring almost 87 percent of ads. In Louisiana, independent political organizations have run 85 percent of ads, while in Kentucky, they paid for 75 percent of the spots.

That means a lot of the political debate is being defined by independent players, many of whom give voters little information about their interests or the interests of their donors.  More than half of the House and Senate ads run by outside groups were sponsored by organizations that do not reveal their donors (“dark money”), according to an analysis by Wesleyan and the Center for Responsive Politics.

And few of the interest groups have a significant public profile, according to a survey by YouGov commissioned by Wesleyan.

“We’ve seen a huge rise in outside groups that are taking advantage of the relaxed campaign finance atmosphere, and the public knows nothing about them,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. In fact, she added, the public “sees candidates as self-interested, but they give these groups with generic patriotic names the benefit of doubt.”

Vox also reported on the new analysis, focusing on the remarkable number of anti-Obamacare ads–and the virtual non-existence of pro-Obamacare ads to counter them.

About 40 percent of those ads come from just one group — Americans for Prosperity, a dark money organization backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. Every single one of its political ads this cycle has criticized Obamacare, according to the study. AFP’s ads have frequently been challenged by fact-checkers.

There’s no similar map of pro-Obamacare ads, because they basically don’t exist. “Only a few ads touch the subject, preferring to, for example, reference requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions rather than reference the ACA directly,” the study’s authors write.

Erika Franklin-Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, told me that there were a few pro-Obamacare ads in Cory Booker’s New Jersey Senate primary, and in North Carolina and Louisiana. But their raw numbers are tiny, and most “are so oblique that if you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t know they were referring to health care reform at all,” she said.

Check out more coverage of the study on USA TodayTime Warner Cable News and The Week.

The Wesleyan Media Project’s research was also cited in a Senate Rules Committee hearing on April 30. Read about coverage of the hearing on NPR.

Read the project’s latest analysis here.

Stay tuned. The Wesleyan Media Project will release five more analyses of campaign ad spending before the November elections.

The Inner World of Our Animal Cousins

“Do animals think? Do they experience joy, grief, even love? Do they laugh?” These are some of the questions explored in two new books on research into animal minds and emotions, which Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, Director of the College of Letters, recently reviewed in The Washington Post.

Of the books, How Animals Grieve, by Barbara J. King, and Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures, by Virginia Morell, Weil writes: “Partial to the kinds of stories they know lay readers enjoy, the authors also draw attention to the evidentiary weakness of anecdote and the need for repeatable experiments. Both writers are hopeful that, with increasing proof of the ways humans and animals share needs and emotions, animals will receive better protection in the lab and in the wild.”

Why Does the World Exist?

President Michael S. Roth reviewed a new book by Jim Holt for The Washington PostTitled, Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story, the book examines the origin of everything, introducing readers to advanced mathematics, theology, physics, ontology and epistemology, among other subject areas. Roth writes: “Holt is usually very good about not losing us along the way, even when the math or the logic gets pretty esoteric.”

Genetically Modified Fish a Hazard to Ecosystems

Commenting in a piece in The Washington Post, Barry Chernoff, chair, College of the Environment, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, says the genetically-modified “GloFish” are being released into the wild and can damage natural stocks and threaten ecosystems. The fish have been genetically manipulated, implanting color genes from coral to create unnatural fluorescent exterior colors.

Do Campaign Ads Work?

In an article in The Washington Post examining the effectiveness of political advertising in presidential campaigns, Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government, director of the Wesleyan Media Project, says political advertising “matters at the margins” and “might help in a close election.” However, factors such as the state of the economy and partisan identification are much more influential, she says.

Wesleyan Clears Path for a 3-Year Degree

Writing a guest blog in The Washington Post, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth discusses how the university has cleared a path for enrolled students to earn a four year degree in just three years. Cautioning that this route to graduation is not for everyone and requires a high degree of discipline and a distinct desire to forgo a fourth year, Roth says the three-year degree program does offer significant savings to students and their families, and could increase overall access to Wesleyan for more students.

Roth Reviews “The Patagonian Hare”

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth published a review of Claude Lanzmann’s new autobiography, “The Patagonian Hare: Memoir” in The Washington Post. He writes: “Successful memoirs usually require more than the usual amount of self-absorption, and sometimes an annoying, even comical dose of narcissism. ‘The Patagonian Hare‘ is full of Lanzmann’s cloying self-regard, but we accept it for the single reason that he created ‘Shoah,’ his 1985 documentary about the Nazi war against the Jews, one of the masterworks of cinema. A man who produces a great work of art that succeeds in deeply affecting our consciousness of the past and of the human condition deserves to be listened to. And so we listen to Lanzmann.”