Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Rutland on the Tuareg Separatist Movement in Mali

Peter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, discussed the conflict in Northern Mali on BBC World Service. Though the international intervention has focused on the rise of Islamist rebels in northern Mali over the past few weeks, it’s important to remember that the original spark for this conflict was a rebellion by the Tuareg separatist movement, which “drove out the Malian army and overran the north of the country.”

“Presumably on the ground, there’s a kind of confusing mixture of Tuareg objectives and the Islamic groups that moved in, having highjacked the local movement,” Rutland said. “In the long term, I assume the outcome of all this will be the crushing of any hopes the Tuaregs had for independence in norther Mali, because they’ve chosen to ally themselves with the Islamists and they’ve brought on themselves this international intervention, which can only further reduce their chances of success.”

Shining Hope for Communities’ Work Highlighted

NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams highlighted the work of Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09 in the Nairobi, Kenya slum of Kibera. Their organization, Shining Hope for Communities, founded the tuition-free Kibera School for Girls, offering young girls a safe haven and an opportunity to escape crushing poverty, malnutrition and disease. In addition, correspondant Chelsea Clinton reported: “The school has become a lifeline for many in Kibera. Unemployed mothers run a sewing cooperative in an empty classroom. The school’s health clinic and water tower help 6,000 families a day.”

Odede grew up in Kibera, and graduated from Wesleyan last year. He and Posner married in June 2012.

Conflict in Mali: Nationalists or Islamists?

In an op-ed published in The New York Times/ International Herald TribunePeter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Cambell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, contradicts the popular narrative that the current conflict in Mali is caused by militant Islam. Rather, he writes, “the core of the conflict is the nationalist secession movement of the Tuareg people — one that in recent months has been hijacked by Islamist radicals.”

Rutland reminds readers: “In the Cold War, the West had a hard time separating out communism from nationalism. That failure led to a string of disastrous interventions, from Cuba to Vietnam. It was easier to see leaders such as Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh as tools of Moscow than try to deal with their legitimate nationalist demands.” He argues, “The same mistake is now being made in the ‘war on terror.'”

Jeanine Basinger Reviews “Hollywood Sketchbook”

Corwin Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger recently reviewed a new book, Hollywood Sketchbook, by Deborah Nadoolman Landis in The Wall Street JournalLandis, a costume designer herself, “defines the difference between the designer’s costuming goal and the role of the sketch artist. Costume sketches were never intended to be fashion drawings: Kinetic, emotional and drawn for a specific personality or character, they were about much more than clothes,” writes Basinger.

Wesleyan Center for Prison Education Highlighted

The New Yorker magazine recently featured the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education, a program that offers inmates in Connecticut prisons the opportunity to take college courses taught by Wesleyan faculty, with assistance from Wesleyan students. The story describes a visit by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki to CPE students at Cheshire Correctional Institute. The centerpiece of Jarecki’s film, “The House I Live In,” are the reminisces of Nannie Jeter, Jareckie’s family’s housekeeper when he was growing up. Jeter’s grandson, James Jeter Jr., is a CPE student and had asked Jareckie to visit the prison program. Later, Jareckie screened his film at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts.


Slotkin Theorizes on the Roots of U.S. Gun Culture

The Globe and Mail turned to eminent cultural historian Richard Slotkin, Richard S. Olin Professor of English and American Studies, emeritus, for a story examining the roots of violence in American culture. Citing Slotkin’s past writings, the article explains that common American folk tales about the country’s history depict “violence as essential to its manifest destiny, something that makes progress itself possible. This means the gun isn’t just a weapon, it’s a nation-building tool, like the railroad, the axe or the Pony Express. According to Slotkin, this is how that happens: ‘When history is translated into myth, the complexities of social and historical experiences are simplified and compressed into the action of representative individuals or ‘heroes.’'”

Grossman on Bank “Robo-Signing” Settlement

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman appeared on First Business News, a nationally syndicated television program, to discuss the impact of an $8.5 billion settlement announced between 10 banks and federal regulators over foreclosure abuses. The settlement resolves the banks’ “robo-signing” scandal, a hasty process by which banks approved foreclosures. Funds from the settlement will be distributed to borrowers who lost their homes, or are at risk of losing them.

“What we should hope for in terms of this settlement is that it makes banks and other lenders think twice before they relax their lending standards too much,” said Grossman.

Wesleyan Class Grants $10,000 to Local Non-profits

The Hartford Courant featured a new class, Money and Social Change, offered at Wesleyan in the fall semester. Students were asked to explore the question, “How is money used to change the world?” The class undertook a rigorous survey of 400 non-profit organizations in the greater Middletown area, and through a multi-round elimination process, eventually chose four receive $10,000 in available funds. Funding was provided to the class by the Learning by Giving Foundation, established in 2011 to promote the study of the nonprofit sector and philanthropy by undergraduate students.

A story about the course also ran in The Middletown Press.


Following Blind Ideology Off the Fiscal Cliff

In the wake of the last-minute “fiscal cliff” deal reached by Congress at the start of the year, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman examines in an op-ed in The Hartford Courant  how we got into this mess. Though reasonable people may disagree over what top marginal tax rate is ideal for the economy, he writes, the stubborn resistance of Congressional Republicans to any tax increases is the product of ideology, not reason. Looking back over history, the “abdication of sound economic reasoning in favor of ideology” has resulted in numerous policy mistakes with long-lasting economic impacts.

Rudensky Discusses Photographer Diane Arbus’ Work

Assistant Professor of Art Sasha Rudensky recently was a guest on WNPR’s “Faith Middletown Show,” where she discussed the work of the late photographer Diane Arbus. Though Arbus is remembered for choosing “freaks” as her subjects, Rudensky says of that term: “I certainly don’t think it does justice to the great variety of subjects that she was interested in. I think, more than anything, she was deeply interested in people, and they happen to be very different kinds of people… Undoubtedly, she was more focused on those people that were largely unseen in society. But at the same time, I think she was as interested in people that were very privileged.”

Listen to Rudensky (starting around minute 36) here.

Can Libor Be Fixed?

In an interview with Law360, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman discussed recent reforms suggested for the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) following a rigging scandal by banks. Grossman argued that the benchmark interest rate should be scrapped because “self-reported data is always susceptible to corruption, and as long as the market relies heavily on its own participants to set interest rates, it risks losing the confidence of lenders and borrowers.”

“This is what financial regulators are there to do — protect the integrity of the market,” he said. “This is a moment for them to be aggressive, and I worry they’re stopping short because to go further would be too hard.”

Read the full article here.