Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Wesleyan African Students Association to Host Africa Innovation Summit

africaOn Nov. 7, the Wesleyan African Students Association will host the first Africa Innovation Summit. Co-sponsored by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship and other campus partners, the event will facilitate conversations about the growth of innovation on the African continent, and will celebrate those who are paving a new path for progress in Africa.

The summit will be held from 2:30 to 8 p.m. in Daniel Family Commons in Usdan University Center. Hirut M’cleod ’00 of the World Bank, a former Wesleyan trustee, will deliver the keynote at 2:30 p.m. There will also be panels on topics including children and youth, healthcare, and business and development. Dinner will be served, along with a dessert reception hosted by the African Students Association.

See a full schedule and list of speakers, and register online here. Tickets are $5 for Wesleyan students and $10 general admission; space is limited.

Wesleyan Media Project Launches New Attack Ads Website, Videos

WMPbanner_20perThe Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzes campaign television advertising in federal elections, has launched a new initiative to educate the public about attack ads and dark money in elections, thanks to funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

As anyone who watches television is well aware, the airwaves are filled with attack ads. Negativity in advertising is especially pronounced in some races, such as the Connecticut governor’s race, in which only 15 percent of ads were positive from Sept. 1 to Oct. 23. At the same time, dark money—or spending by outside groups who do not disclose their donors—is playing an increasingly prominent role in campaign advertising. This is concerning to those who care about transparency in elections.

The Wesleyan Media Project’s new website, AttackAds.org, aims to educate voters about attack ads and dark money.

21 Employees Honored at Recognition Luncheon

Twenty-one Wesleyan employees were honored by President Michael Roth at the annual Employee Recognition Luncheon on Oct. 16 in Beckham Hall. All the individuals have worked at Wesleyan for at least 20 years.
This year, the employees honored included: Judith Goodale, Linda Shettleworth, Susan Lastrina, Jeffrey Gilarde, Alice Scholar, Cynthia Rockwell, Robert Lancefield, Joel LaBella, Rosanna Pandolfo, Barbara Schukoske, Benjiman Jackson, Gail Winter, Pearlina Jackson, Joan Schenker, Robert Weber, Nicola David, Ernesto Marino, Michael Patterson, Tony Bostick, Sergei Bunaev and Angela Morgan.
The event was sponsored by the Office of Human Resources.

 

Middlesex, Wesleyan Students Lead Robot Demo at Green Street Arts Center

On Oct. 20, children at Wesleyan's Green Street Arts Center were treated to a robot demonstration led by students from Middlesex Community College. The robot, named Mixy, put on a show for the kids ranging from following basic commands to displaying his tai chi moves. Wesleyan students assisted with the presentation.  The Middlesex Community College students visited Green Street as part of Connecticut's "Public Higher Education Makes a Difference Week." Taking place Oct. 19-25, this statewide program celebrates and promotes civic engagement while developing students' citizenship skills, forging community partnerships and integrating service learning and volunteering at Connecticut's public colleges and universities. It culminates on Oct. 25 with "National Make a Difference Day."

On Oct. 20, children at Wesleyan’s Green Street Arts Center were treated to a robot demonstration led by students from Middlesex Community College. The robot, named Mixy, put on a show for the kids ranging from following basic commands to displaying his tai chi moves. Wesleyan students assisted with the presentation.

The Middlesex Community College students visited Green Street as part of Connecticut's "Public Higher Education Makes a Difference Week." Taking place Oct. 19-25, this statewide program celebrates and promotes civic engagement while developing students' citizenship skills, forging community partnerships and integrating service learning and volunteering at Connecticut's public colleges and universities. It culminates on Oct. 25 with "National Make a Difference Day."

The Middlesex Community College students visited Green Street as part of Connecticut’s “Public Higher Education Makes a Difference Week.” Taking place Oct. 19-25, this statewide program celebrates and promotes civic engagement while developing students’ citizenship skills, forging community partnerships and integrating service learning and volunteering at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities. It culminates on Oct. 25 with “National Make a Difference Day.”

 

Kaye Studies Addiction and Criminal Justice, Male Prostitution

Kerwin Kaye at Wesleyan University. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Assistant Professor of Sociology Kerwin Kaye is teaching courses this year on sociology of crime and punishment, sociological theory, and sociology of sexualities.

Q: Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Kaye! Please catch us up on your life up to the present.

A: I grew up in Denver, Colo., and yes, I did learn to ski. My academic interests have transformed significantly, given that I began my university education with the idea of double-majoring in physics and philosophy. I wound up at CU-Boulder working on a crisis hotline and obtaining a BA in psychology. After that I moved to San Francisco, pursuing an MA in anthropology at San Francisco State University, where I conducted ethnographic research on male street prostitution. In 2001, I moved to the East Coast, obtaining a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. My master’s work concerning street prostitution pressed me toward the issue of drug use (nearly everyone on the street was using drugs of some sort), and also towards the question of institutional responses to street poverty. For my doctoral dissertation, I did a participant-observational study of drug courts and drug treatment within the criminal justice system (topics that brought me closer to some of the core issues and methodologies of sociology as a discipline). I still retain interests in physics and philosophy, and am grateful to have been exposed to a variety of intellectual traditions.

Q: How did you come to teach at Wesleyan? Is it true that you were previously a visiting professor here?

A: I was indeed a visiting professor here four years ago, and enjoyed the experience enormously. At the risk of pandering, I’d have to say that the enthusiasm and intelligence of the students here were huge factors that made me want to return.

Q: Please describe your research interests.

A: At present I am engaged in three projects. My primary project involves reworking my dissertation on drug courts and turning it into a book (tentatively titled “Using Drugs” and to be published in the Public Criminology series with Columbia University Press). I am also collaborating with about a dozen other scholars on a group research project in which we are attempting to reflect upon our individual projects in developing a larger framework concerning the direction of gender and sexuality within the contemporary economic environment. I also just finished writing a paper about the exclusion of men and boys from the sex trafficking discourse, using the exclusion of men as a way to talk about the narrowly gendered vision of “sex trafficking” as a frame, and arguing that a less melodramatic vision of the challenges faced by sex workers is needed. There are simply very few people who need to be rescued from sex traffickers, and prioritizing “sex trafficking” makes the important issues we should actually be confronting practically invisible.

Q: I see you’ve published a number of papers on male prostitution. How did you become interested in this subject, and what specifically did you study?

A: I had been interested in the politics of sex work for some time, and saw that most of the debates centered around street prostitution (just as today they focus on “sex trafficking”). I wanted to develop a better understanding as to what was happening on the street, so I began what turned into a year’s worth of ethnographic study, living for a short time in one of the local hotels used by the street workers, but mostly working through a small harm reduction agency in the area that handed out food, clothes, condoms, and needles for injecting drugs. My research focused specifically on the non-sexual aspects of street prostitution – I was curious about the everyday lives that people were living more than the sex as such. Basically, it was something of a crash course in issues of urban poverty among street populations. To me, the issue of street prostitution must be understood within that broader context rather than having the issue of sex narrowly define the questions.

Q: You’ve also written about addiction and criminal justice. Please describe your research in this area.

A: I conducted more than a year’s worth of ethnographic study looking at the way “drug courts” work (people avoid jail time by undergoing drug treatment that is supervised by these courts). I especially focused on the treatment centers that the courts send people to, a topic where there’s been very little research. I began by looking at the way that “addiction” gets defined by the various people and organizations involved: How do you know if someone is getting “better” if they’re living in a treatment center and are not presently using drugs? Do the different agencies agree upon a common vision of addiction and of treatment, and how do the people going through the programs understand these issues? Over time, I saw many practices at the treatment centers that I thought were very abusive. Apparently getting better from addiction requires being yelled at and shamed a great deal — to me it seemed that “tough love” is more tough than loving. More than that, I saw that “addiction” was being defined in terms of classed and gendered behaviors. Basically, the move from “addiction” to “sobriety” was defined as a shift from the street-oriented hustling that I had seen in the male prostitution study into normative forms of work, sex, and family life. In terms of employment, people were made to subordinate themselves within the lowest strata of the formal economy as a sign of sobriety; this included explicit instruction in how to accept abusive behavior from one’s boss, and how to emotionally cope with the tedium of much low-wage labor. Behaviors associated with the improvisational and often dangerous nature of street life were shamed as unworthy parts of a “drugs lifestyle” while acceptance of labor market injustices was defined as “emotional maturity.” Some of the people going through the program were glad to have a chance to get included in mainstream life, even at the bottom, but others thought the treatment center was simply another type of prison. And no one liked being yelled at and shamed by the staff.

Q: Please tell us about the courses you’re teaching this semester. What do you plan to teach in the future?

A: This semester I am teaching Introduction to Sociology and Sociology of Crime and Punishment. Next semester I’ll be teaching Sociological Theory and Sociology of Sexualities. I’m still thinking about what I might teach next year, but perhaps a course specifically on Critical Social Theories. At some point I will no doubt offer a course on drugs and addiction as well….

Q: How would you describe your teaching style?

A: I approach my classes with limited amounts of lecture and a greater focus on discussion. I usually have an agenda regarding a few points that I want to make sure get made during the class, but beyond that I much prefer open-ended conversations that take us to unexpected places in addressing student concerns. There are usually a few movies or videos thrown in for good measure as well…

Q: What are you most looking forward to about working at Wesleyan?

A: I am very happy to be here. My colleagues are great, and the students are even better! I especially appreciate the classroom dynamics that can get established when students are already interested in a topic and are essentially demanding that I teach them everything I know – it’s hardly an environment in which I confront a classroom of passive and bored students!

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

A: Walks and hikes in nature are perennial favorite activities for me. And, though geeky, I admit to also being an aficionado of science fiction.

Conn. Governor’s Race Sets Record in Negative Ads

Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, spoke to WNPR about the Connecticut governor’s race, which has emerged as the most negative in the country.

“We do tend to see movement in polls due to negativity,” she said. “The reason why you continue to see lots of negative [ads] is because people do seem to respond to them.”

“Foley and his allies are going after Malloy for being a career politician. For higher taxes that hurt the middle class,” Fowler said. “Whereas Democratic groups and Malloy are going after Foley for tax breaks for millionaires. For being anti-worker for not caring about the average citizen.”

Fowler said negative ads — and TV advertising in general — is generally targeted toward undecided voters and she said, “Negativity isn’t always bad. In a world where citizens don’t always pay a lot of attention to politics, a negative ad that induces a little bit of fear and therefore some information seeking, can actually be a good thing.”

The Wesleyan Media Project analyzes campaign ad spending in all U.S. Senate, House and gubernatorial races. More than 100 articles in major news outlets have cited the project’s research this election season. Other recent highlights include an interview with Fowler on Fox News, stories on NPR and Politico, and in The New York TimesThe Christian Science Monitor, CBS News, USA Todayand The Wall Street Journal.

Gruen on Killing ‘Excalibur’

Lori Gruen, chair and professor of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, writes in Time about the decision in Spain to kill a dog named Excalibur, who lived with a nurse exposed to Ebola.

Neither the dog, nor the nurse’s husband, who was put under monitoring, showed any signs of the virus, writes Gruen. Moreover, experts say there is no evidence to support the notion that dogs can transmit Ebola. Gruen writes:

The right thing to do would have been to isolate Excalibur and observe him, as was done to others who had been in contact with Teresa. But Spanish authorities weren’t thinking of Excalibur’s life as valuable or of how devastating his death would be to his family. They were thinking about what was expedient.

Many consider dogs, like most animals, disposable. Animal lives are thought to be worth less than those of humans. Rather than spend money or energy isolating a dog, it was easier, Spanish authorities decided, to kill him. And given how long it took the hospital to admit Teresa, it was unlikely they were simply acting with the utmost caution when it came to Excalibur. In the U.S., more than one million dogs are euthanized each year, dogs that are inconvenient or unwanted are routinely disposed of.

The routine killing of animals diminishes not only their lives, but the toll that choosing euthanasia takes on people who live with and love animals.

Ulysse Denounces Use of Term “Voodoo Economics”

Associate Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse, writing in The Huffington Post, denounced New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s use of the term “voodoo economics” in a recent essay, calling it derogatory and outdated. She writes:

Indeed, with its direct references to the most archaic of tropes (black magic, cult, inward-looking or progress-resistant, vindictiveness) Krugman’s “Voodoo Economics, The Next Generation” shows a socially limited attachment to an outdated term. His column could not make it any clearer why the New York Times, which has been repeatedly petitioned over this terminology by concerned individuals and collectives over the years, needs to revise its style sheet. The Haitian Vodou religion is not Krugman’s voodoo.

Wesleyan Presents Muslim Women’s Voices

Pam Tatge, director of the Center of the Arts, was a guest on WNPR’s “Where We Live” to discuss a year-long program at Wesleyan looking at Muslim women’s voices through the lens of the arts.

“What we’re doing is really looking at the complexity of Muslim women today through the various performance modes that there are around the world. What that means is we are bringing artists in to be embedded in courses across the university–gender studies classes, Arabic classes, French classes, government classes–and then also do a performance,” said Tatge. “It’s the combination of the curricular integration and the performance that’s really going to allow us to have conversations with our community and our campus around some of the issues.”

Riffat Sultana, a Sufi fusion singer who will perform at Wesleyan on Nov. 7, was also a guest on the show.

Learn more about Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan here.

Plous’ MOOC Promotes Compassion

Professor of Psychology Scott Plous’ Social Psychology MOOC is believed to be the world’s most popular massive open online course, but its impact is being felt even beyond the hundreds of thousands of students who enrolled, according to BBC News. The story featured the results of Plous’ “Day of Compassion” assignment, in which he challenged students to live 24 hours as compassionately as possible.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do,” Plous told the BBC. “You don’t have to be a physician or in education. Anyone can look at what they can do and if they are dedicated enough they can make a difference in just 24 hours.”

In response to the challenge, a doctor in India dedicated herself to combatting sexual abuse of young girls:

One day last year a doctor walked into a school near her clinic in a rural area near New Delhi in India and taught 2,000 girls how to protect themselves against sexual abuse.

Dr. Balesh Jindal’s talks evolved into being constantly on call at her surgery for girls and their mothers and to teaching boys from impoverished backgrounds how to respect women.

She is paving a new way for women to protect themselves in India, where there has been anger at a number of high-profile rape cases and concern about the availability of sex education.

 

Grossman Discusses Policy in Wake of Financial Crisis

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman, author of Wrong: Nine Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn to Themwas interviewed on Concord News Radio about policy decisions made in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

“The actions that were taken in the wake of the financial crisis, I view as having been completely necessary. If you go back and look at the Great Depression,when the government didn’t do enough and the central bank for sure didn’t do enough, then you get a sense of how bad things can be,” said Grossman. “When you’re just a few inches away from financial Armageddon, even if the policy isn’t perfect, you really have to turn all your guns on it and do everything to avoid going those last few inches over the edge.”

 

Barber Receives DOJ Grant to Study Peer Mentoring of Prisoners

Charles Barber (Photo by Amy Pierce/charlesbarberwriting.com)

Charles Barber (Photo by Amy Pierce/charlesbarberwriting.com)

Visiting Writer Charles Barber, director of The Connection Institute for Innovative Practice, will be the principal investigator, along with David Sells of Yale University, on a study peer mentoring of prisoners, thanks to a $295,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The study is a two-year randomized trial involving 110 ex-offenders in New Haven, Bridgeport and other Connecticut cities — 55 will receive mentors, and 55 will not.

“We will recruit clients from prisons, where mentors— who are former prisoners themselves, with at least five years of stability behind them — will meet with them two to three times, pre-release. Mentors will then meet weekly with clients for six months to a year in the community,” Barber said.

The mentors will use evidence-based practices to facilitate community reentry for the newly released clients. At their weekly meetings, the mentors will offer psychosocial support and practical guidance toward reentry into the community.

“We will then track if it has an impact on recidivism six months, one year and three years post-intervention, as well as look at other measures such as criminal risk, substance use, engagement in treatment and services,” Barber said.

At Wesleyan, students in Research Professor of Psychology Jennifer Rose’s Statistical Consulting Class will be involved in assisting and bolstering the research project.

The Connection Institute for Innovative Practice is the research arm of The Connection, a Connecticut-based human service and community development agency, which serves thousands of people throughout the state with behavioral health, family support and community justice programs.

The grant funds, awarded Oct. 1, were released under the the Second Chance Act of 2007, intended to allow agencies to develop mentoring and other programs to allow those released from prison to reintegrate successfully into the community.