Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Roth Calls on Government Leaders to Enact a Carbon Price as Climate Change Solution

In a letter released May 8, President Michael Roth joined 29 other college and university presidents from across the country in endorsing carbon pricing for its economy-wide approach to reducing greenhouse emissions that cause climate change. The letter calls on state and federal lawmakers to proactively work to enact a carbon price at the state and federal level. Roth was one of three leaders, together with the presidents of Swarthmore and Dickinson colleges, to first sign the letter back in February.

“As leaders of higher education institutions, we call upon our elected representatives to act collectively on behalf of current and future generations by putting a price on carbon,” the letter reads. “We work to prepare our students for thriving futures, over which climate change casts a dark shadow of uncertainty. Putting a price on carbon pollution is an indispensable step we can take to effectively combat climate change.”

The complete letter can be found here.

The Higher Education Carbon Pricing Endorsement Initiative is led by Our Climate, a youth-led organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of climate leaders. Our Climate co-leads the #PutAPriceOnIt campaign with the National Geographic documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, and partners with Citizens’ Climate Education to recruit, train, and support student leaders across the country to advocate for carbon pricing.

“At Wesleyan, we place a high priority on reducing our own carbon footprint to do our part to address climate change,” said Roth. “A national price on carbon can be an effective tool to address climate change on a broad scale.  Wesleyan is will develop an internal price on carbon to better address the environmental impact of our own energy intensive projects.”

This summer, Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst and Facilities Business Manager Jeff Murphy will be developing an internal method of accounting for the carbon footprint of high-energy-consuming Facilities projects.  This internal mechanism will set up a “shadow” price on carbon emissions from projects as a line item in projects’ lifecycle cost analyses, essentially proceeding internally as if national carbon pricing exists.  For example, if a project results in a 50-ton carbon emissions increase, and an internal price was set at $40/ton (price is yet to be determined), the shadow cost on carbon for that project would be $2,000.  This follows the strategy established in Wesleyan’s 2016 Sustainability Action Plan to reduce the university’s carbon footprint by providing the economic case for higher carbon footprint initiatives, and will prepare Wesleyan for the possibility of future national carbon pricing.

Wesleyan to Offer Muslim Studies Certificate

muslimstyThe certificate, approved by the faculty on April 25, was proposed by steering committee members Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development; Typhaine Leservot, associate professor of French studies, chair of the Romance Languages and Literatures Department, associate professor of letters; and Ioana Emy Matesan, assistant professor of government, tutor in the College of Social Studies.

“Students in the certificate program will gain an appreciation for the diversity among Muslims geographically, culturally, historically, and religiously,” Leservot said. “They will become accomplished in multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches to the study of Muslim communities and their expressions and productions. In an American setting in which stereotypes reduce the more than 1 billion Muslims around the globe to singular caricatures, this represents no small accomplishment.”

The Muslim Studies Certificate will mirror an existing certificate in Jewish and Israeli Studies. Students must complete six designated courses in a range of areas, including contemporary society and practice; literary, artistic and musical studies; and historical inquiry. Courses involving Muslim studies already offered by more than a dozen faculty members will be included.

“This new certificate will highlight Wesleyan’s remarkable collection of faculty, courses, and resources for students interested in studying the lives of Muslims around the globe,” Gottschalk said. “Our faculty teach and conduct research in fields as diverse as Arabic, art history, College of Letters, English, French, government, history, music, religion, and Spanish. As Muslims become increasingly prominent in the United States, the number of faculty and students alike interested in Muslim studies has expanded.”

“The certificate aims to maximize students’ education in Muslim traditions by providing a structured program to guide their studies,” he added. “This will require students to diversify their exposure across disciplines and divisions, period and place.”

At a time when American Muslims are becoming increasingly marginalized, the certificate “will also help our non-Muslim students better understand a set of groups and traditions increasingly the target of disinformation and prejudice,” Matesan said. “Meanwhile, it would signal to our Muslim students and potential applicants that Wesleyan recognizes the diversity and significance of Muslim traditions.”

Wesleyan Media Project Researchers Write About What Americans Will Really Dislike about ‘Trumpcare’

Researchers affiliated with the Wesleyan Media Project wrote in The Washington Post on May 5 on what “Americans will really dislike about the House ‘Trumpcare’ bill.” The article, authored by Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Courtney Laermer ’17, Wesleyan Media Project Project Manager Laura Baum, and Sarah Gollust ’01, is based on data from Laermer’s senior thesis.

House Republicans voted on May 4 to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with their alternative plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The authors argue that this vote is likely to cause headaches for Republicans due to several unpopular changes it makes to the law. They focus, in particular, on the AHCA’s replacement for the individual mandate (unpopular itself with only 35 percent public approval) with a “continuous coverage requirement.” As they explain:

If you let your health insurance coverage lapse for more than 63 days, you would have to pay a 30 percent late-enrollment surcharge on top of the premium for the next year. (The bill passed with two amendments affecting these penalties. The widely debated MacArthur amendment lets states seek waivers to enable insurers to charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions who fall into this coverage gap. The late-breaking Upton amendment added Wednesday provides $8 billion in funds to offset some of these higher penalties for waiver states, but most analysts don’t think it’s enough).

The researchers surveyed nearly 1,600 Americans in mid-March during the debate over the first version of the AHCA. Here’s what they found:

As much as citizens don’t like the requirement to purchase insurance or pay a penalty to the government, our evidence suggests that they dislike the AHCA’s penalty paid to insurers even more.

In short, AHCA opponents and potential challengers to House Republicans can choose from among many lines of attack: the public is already concerned about protections for people with preexisting conditions, huge cuts to the Medicaid program, and citizens losing insurance. Highlighting the AHCA’s coverage-gap penalty could drop public support further.

Students Inducted into Honor Society, Win Awards At American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Julianne Riggs in Chicago last month, where she attended the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology meeting.

Julianne Riggs ’17 in Chicago last month, where she attended the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology meeting.

Five Wesleyan seniors were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology honor society at the ASBMB annual meeting in Chicago, April 22-26. They are: Jennifer Cascino ’17, Kaileen Fei ’17, Julianne Riggs ’17, Rachel Savage ’17 and Stacy Uchendu ’17.

The ASBMB Honor Society recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors who are pursuing a degree in the molecular life sciences for their scholarly achievement, research accomplishments, and outreach activities. The mission of the society is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, promotion of the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce, and publication of a number of scientific and educational journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research.

Bios of all the inductees, in alphabetical order, can be found here.

Riggs attended the meeting, where she took part in the induction ceremony and presented her research.

“Overall, it was a great experience. I got to present in the undergraduate poster competition and won honorable mention for best chromatin and gene expression poster. I also presented my poster to the general meeting,” she said. “It was a huge conference and there was so much going on. It was great to talk to people of all levels of science, get their perspectives on what it takes to be a scientist, and hear them passionately discuss their research projects. It was also wonderful to talk to people who were researching similar topics to mine, and get their advice and validation on my work.”

In addition, two students, Christine Little ’18 and Cody Hecht ’18, received ASBMB research awards. The $1,000 awards will support their research over the summer.

Roth Writes About Teaching Iconic Film ‘Casablanca’ to Today’s College Students

President Michael Roth

On the 75th anniversary of Casablanca, President Michael Roth writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education about teaching the iconic film to modern college students. He writes, “…I have to encourage students to open themselves to the pace, the acting styles, and the conventions of classical Hollywood cinema. I push my smart, hip, and often progressive students to give up their condescending attitude toward the past.”

He writes:

This year, the immigrant story at the heart of Casablanca is more powerful than ever. Many of my students are sympathetic to refugees escaping brutal conditions, and in our current political atmosphere this is no small thing. But Casablanca’s themes go deeper than that, depicting a world in which people are willing to work together across differences for shared political goals. There can be no litmus test of political or moral purity when the threat is real and the task is to find common ground from which to take effective action.

On college campuses it is easy to stay locked in the bubble of one’s own friends and allies. A campus may, like Rick’s cafe, pride itself on diversity, but student groups (and faculty allies) often self-segregate, so they rarely put aside their differences to join forces, or increase mutual understanding through conversation and debate.

While administrators talk a lot about helping the world, colleges often seem content to prepare students to maximize personal gain after graduating, encouraging a retreat into a private life in which other people’s problems and political struggles don’t inspire concern — let alone commitment and action.

Despite the lofty rhetoric, colleges are reluctant to stick their necks out for anybody, except their own students, alumni, and faculty. Casablanca forces us consider what it takes for good people to act in a corrupt world, not just turn their noses up at the corruption. What does it take to say “no” to abuses of power? How does one come to risk one’s life by publicly affirming basic human values?”

These are questions that Casablanca raised when it was released 75 years ago. Today’s undergrads may resist its earnestness and romanticism, and they can easily point out deficiencies in its portrayal of race and gender. But Casablanca’s story of how diversity and solidarity can be combined to fight tyranny still resonates, even if that combination remains more aspiration than reality on campuses. I suppose that’s one reason I continue to teach the film: When neutrality is no longer an option, aspiration counts for a lot.

New Minor in Design, Engineering and Applied Sciences Announced

Professor of Physics Greg Voth, at right, will teach a new course, CIS 170, Introduction to Engineering and Design, as part of Wesleyan's new Interdisciplinary minor in Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS

Professor of Physics Greg Voth, at right, will teach a new course, CIS 170, Introduction to Engineering and Design, as part of Wesleyan’s new Interdisciplinary minor in Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences.

Amid rising student interest, Wesleyan has announced a new interdisciplinary minor in Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS), beginning in 2017-18. It will be hosted within the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS).

The IDEAS minor will introduce foundational skills in engineering and design, and bring together existing arts, design, and applied science courses to create a more formal structure to guide students interested in these fields.

According to Professor of Physics Francis Starr, a co-proposer of the minor and director of the CIS, “The new minor plays into Wesleyan’s unique capabilities and dovetails with Wesleyan’s commitment to prepare students for the challenges facing society today. Our aim is to provide students with practical design and problem solving skills, coupled with the context to understand the social and cultural implications of their work.” The minor passed the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) in April.

Wesleyan is at the forefront of an emerging approach in academia

Garver ’20 Trains in Air Force ROTC

Dalton Garver '20 participates in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Yale University.

Dalton Garver ’20 participates in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Yale University. He juggles football, academics and ROTC by having a set schedule for each day that allots time for reading, studying, working out, and practices.

Every Thursday morning, beginning at 6 a.m., Dalton Garver ’20 finds himself at Yale University engaged in physical training—ranging from weightlifting to running to core circuits. This is followed by marching practice, a review of Warrior Knowledge, and, on occasion, lectures from guest speakers about the Armed Services.

Garver, of Fresno, Calif., is believed to be the first Wesleyan student to participate in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Yale. He joined this semester, but first decided to do ROTC as a junior in high school after talking to his brother’s friend about his own experience in the Army ROTC at Fresno State.

“I joined because I have always wanted to be a lawyer as well as serve our country,” said Garver, who plans to major in psychology. “I felt becoming a JAG (Judge Advocate General) for the Air Force would be a great way to do so.”

Wesleyan Joins Alliance to Expand Access to Lower-Income Students

ATI_Horiz_RGBWesleyan has joined 67 of the nation’s top colleges and universities in an alliance to substantially expand the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America’s undergraduate institutions with the highest graduation rates. This growing alliance, called the  American Talent Initiative (ATI), brings together a diverse set of public and private institutions united in this common goal. ATI members will enhance their own efforts to recruit, enroll, and support lower-income students, learn from each other, and contribute to research that will help other colleges and universities expand opportunity.

“Bringing students of diverse backgrounds to campus enhances the learning experience of all. We’ve worked for decades to open up Wesleyan to students who might never have imagined themselves here or assumed such a school was out of reach financially,” said President Michael Roth. “There’s more work to be done, however, and we’re confident that joining together with other institutions to set economic diversity goals and to share research will help us all deepen the connections between social mobility and higher education.”

Launched in December 2016, ATI is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and was founded with a national goal of educating 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students at the 270 colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates by 2025. Based on the most recent federal data available, there are approximately 430,000 lower-income students enrolled at these 270 institutions. ATI’s goal is to increase and sustain the total number of lower-income students attending these top-performing colleges to about 480,000 by 2025. To reach this ambitious goal, ATI aims to add more top-performing colleges to its membership in the coming months and years.

Research shows that when high-achieving, lower-income students attend these institutions, they graduate at higher rates, and access to those institutions provides them with a much greater chance of attaining leadership positions and opportunity throughout their lives.

Wesleyan and other participating institutions will further their goals by:

  • Recruiting students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds through robust outreach;
  • Ensuring that admitted lower-income students enroll and are retained through practices that have been shown to be effective;
  • Prioritizing need-based financial aid; and
  • Minimizing or eliminating gaps in progression and graduation rates between and among students from low-, moderate- and high-income families.

Wesleyan and other ATI members will share lessons learned as well as institutional data, and throughout the coming years will annually publish their aggregate progress toward meeting the national goal of 50,000 additional lower-income students by 2025. The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, the two not-for-profit organizations coordinating the initiative, will study the practices that lead to measurable progress and share that knowledge with the field through regular publications.

 

Wesleyan Faculty, Students March for Science

Professor Laura Grabel, pictured sixth from left, attended the March for Science in New Haven, Conn.

Professor Laura Grabel, pictured sixth from left, attended the March for Science in New Haven, Conn.

Numerous Wesleyan faculty and students in the sciences attended the March for Science in different parts of the state and country on Earth Day, April 22.

Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, spoke at the New Haven march.

“I decided to march because science is being seriously threatened by the Trump administration,” she explained. “Trump has not filled almost all of the science positions, has no science advisor, and is using little evidence-based thinking in his decision making. Some of his appointments are puzzling and scary. From my perspective as a stem cell scientist, appointing Tom Price, who has consistently opposed embryonic stem cell research, as head of Health and Human Services presents a real danger to the future of this work just as therapies are entering clinical trials.”

Jenkins Interviewed on BBC About New Play ‘Islands’

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins was a guest on the BBC program “Sunday” to discuss his new play, “Islands: The Lost History of the Treaty That Changed the World.” The play, commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Treaty of Breda in which the Dutch ceded Manhattan in exchange for the tiny spice island of Rhun, premiered April 21 and 22 at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts.

Jenkins’ interview begins about four-and-a-half minutes in. Or, on the BBC page, scroll down and select the “Islands” chapter.

“We’re performing the actual text of the 1667 Treaty of Breda. In this treaty, if you look closely at the words, you’ll see that the English and the Dutch were ending their war,” said Jenkins told the BBC.

“As part of the agreement, they were also trying to erase from history all the awful things that they had done during the war. And among those awful things were the massacre of the indigenous Muslim population of the island of Rhun. And we have the Dutch character singing the words of the treaty, and then the indigenous characters question that. […] Those murders did occur and we can’t forget that. There’s a back and forth dialogue between the colonial masters and the indigenous victims of colonialism.”

Jenkins describes visiting Rhun. In the 17th century, Rhun was as valuable as Manhattan because it was the world’s primary source of nutmeg which, at the time, was worth its weight in gold. They met nutmeg farmers and were shown the nutmeg trees, which are still there.

The radio feature includes Wesleyan students singing songs written for the play by John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce and Artist-in-Residence in Music I. Harjito.

Roth Writes on Hungary’s Attempts to Shut Down a Leading University

President Michael S. Roth

Michael Roth

President Michael Roth writes in The Washington Post about the Hungarian government’s efforts to close down the Central European University (CEU), a leading private university founded by liberal Hungarian-born financier George Soros.

CEU is accredited in the United States and registered in New York State, but has no U.S. campus. The Hungarian government has targeted the school by passing a law requiring universities to have campuses in the place where they are registered. The response has been mass demonstrations and even threats to suspend Hungary’s European Union membership.

Pointing to  recent debates over free speech at American universities, Roth writes:

While we in the United States fret about whether right-wing provocateurs can speak in the evening or the afternoon, a far more dire situation has developed in Budapest.

The Hungarian government is trying to shut down Central European University, a major beacon of research and teaching. The university was supported by the liberal philanthropist and financier Georges Soros and is currently led by Michael Ignatieff, a champion of freedom of inquiry. The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has put enormous pressure on CEU but supporters around the world have rallied to its defense. We should, too!

He concludes:

When freedom of inquiry and expression is threatened on campus, it will be threatened elsewhere in society. In the long run, it’s the most vulnerable who have the most to lose.

 

Gallarotti Discusses Rising Tensions Over Russia, North Korea on Radio Program

Giulio Gallarotti

Giulio Gallarotti

Professor of Government Giulio Gallarotti was a guest recently on “Best of the Valley/ Shore” on WLIS/WMRD to discuss “Current Challenges of American Foreign Policy.”

“Our economy is doing well, the stock market is strong. The Fed’s been talking about raising interest rates, that’s how well we’re doing. And that hasn’t happened in a long, long time,” said Gallarotti by way of introduction. “There’s a lot going on all over the world and Americans are involved all over the world because we’re a global power.”

On recent tensions with Russia, he said: “I think it’s always been a kabuki dance, even at the height of the Cold War. It’s kind of like two very big people sharing the room. There will be a lot of friction, no matter who they are. Even in good times, they’ll always have issues. And in bad times, the friction will sometimes get to a crisis level. People will be very worried. I think that Russia is trying to solve a lot of different problems. Its main problems are domestic, not foreign, and a lot of the foreign policy is oriented toward maintaining some kind of stability in this political regime. Putin is using a lot of ‘rally around the flag’ tactics.”

Gallarotti elaborated on the problems in Russia, which include political instability, declining oil revenues, and a bad economy. And he said that the Russian people are “culturally comfortable” with being ruled by an iron fist throughout their history.

Listen to the whole interview here (scroll to “Valley Shore–41417–Wesleyan Government Professor”).

Gallarotti is also co-chair of the College of Social Studies, professor of environmental studies.