Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

28 Juniors Awarded Davenport Study Grants

The John E. Andrus Center for Public Affairs recently announced its 2012 Davenport Study Grant recipients. Twenty-eight juniors will receive funding to support research and scholarly projects in public affairs, beginning this summer. Grants typically range from $500 to $3,000.

The funds are made available to current sophomores and juniors thanks to a gift from the Surdna Foundation in honor of Frederick Morgan Davenport, Class of 1889, and Edith Jefferson Andrus Davenport, Class of 1897. Recipients are chosen based on “demonstrated intellectual and moral excellence and a concern for public affairs.” They must show promise for leadership in public service through their personal qualities and scholarly and vocational intentions.

This year’s recipients represent majors in the College of Social Studies, History, Sociology, Government, Latin American Studies, Science in Society, American Studies and Anthropology, Religion, Dance, French Studies and Neuroscience & Behavior.

The grant recipients and their project titles are:

Zain Alam ’13, Dreams and Disappointment: India’s Muslims, the Muhajir, and the Making of Pakistan

Dahlia Azran ’13, Memorials of the Holocaust: A Comparative Study of the planning process of Holocaust Memorials in the United States, Israel, Germany and China

Rev. Billy Warns of the Coming “Shop-Ocalypse” in April 23 Lecture

Anti-consumerism activist Reverend Billy stages revival-style “services” in public squares, theaters, art museums and parking lots, seeking to make people and institutions mindful of the consequences of their spending.

On Monday, April 23, Wesleyan will receive a visit from Reverend Billy (Bill Talen), the anti-consumerism activist and performance artist, who has tried to “exorcise” so many Starbucks cash registers, he’s been banned from the coffee shop chain. He will speak at 7 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

Talen is best known as the subject of the 2007 documentary, What Would Jesus Buy?, produced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlok and directed by Sundance Film Festival Award-winner Rob VanAlkemade.

In his performance art, Talen takes on the persona of an evangelical preacher to protest the excesses of corporate commercialism.  He and his choir, “The Church of Stop Shopping,” preach a broad message of economic justice, environmental advocacy, and anti-militarism. He stages revival-style “services” in public squares, theaters, art museums and parking lots, seeking to make people and institutions mindful of the consequences of their spending. Talen also implores audiences to confront abusive labor practices, exploitative resource extraction, the demise of small businesses and the ecological costs of excessive consumerism. He chants things like “change-aluia” and warns of the coming “shop-ocalypse” to try to get his audience to imagine a world free from consumerism.

“Products, logos, and labels have become our gods; the beings for which we will give up everything we have. Shopping malls are our temples and churches,” says Mary-Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion, describing Talen’s message. “In the style of a revivalist preacher, he calls his audiences to turn away from their self-destructive investment in false gods and turn back toward ‘reality,’ which is to say to make things rather than buy them; to support small businesses rather than transnational corporations; and to stop the endless, unconscious consumption that’s destroying the earth, our bodies, and our civil life together.”

Rubenstein is teaching Talen’s work in her Introduction to the Study of Religion course, as part of a unit on capitalism and some of its counter-movements as late-modern religious expressions.

The event is sponsored by the Baldwin University Lectures, the Center for the Arts, the Ethics and Society Project, the Office of Institutional Partnerships, the Religion Department, Sociology Department (Hoy Endowment) and Government Department.

Chin ’13 Attends Clinton Global Initiative, Seeks to Make Wesleyan Greener

Shamar Chin ’13

From March 30-April 1, Shamar Chin ’13 joined nearly 1,200 other students at a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U).

According to the Clinton Global Initiative’s website, CGI U, launched by former President Bill Clinton in 2007, “challenges students and universities to tackle global problems with practical, innovative solutions.” CGI U hosts an annual meeting for students, national youth organizations and university officials to discuss solutions to pressing global issues.

Prior to attending the meeting, each student must develop and submit a Commitment to Action: a specific plan to address an important challenge on his or her campus or in the global community.

For her commitment, Chin is seeking to convert Wesleyan’s lawn mowers to produce fewer environmentally harmful emissions.

“At the meeting, I had the chance to network with many students from across the globe and learn about their commitments,” says Chin. “I had the opportunity to attend working sessions in my area of interest—environment and climate change—where we discussed the importance of campus sustainability and environmental entrepreneurship. The plenary sessions were inspiring and made me realize that failure comes with innovation, but we should embrace it rather than give up.”

Chin is majoring in Earth & Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. “I have always wanted to start a green initiative in my community,” she says. Over winter break this year, her thesis advisor, Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, associate professor of environmental studies, director of the Service Learning Center, urged her to apply to the Clinton Global Initiative.

O’Connell calls Chin a “self-starter.” She was impressed that Chin, after working with middle school girls at the Green Street Arts Center last summer, had taken the initiative to start her own environmental afterschool program for girls.

Chin is still gathering the necessary approvals for her CGI U commitment, which she has called “Go Green-Go Wes.” She aims to meet her goals before she graduates next spring.

“I firmly believe that global warming is linked to the emission of greenhouse gases, and this was the foundation for my Commitment to Action,” Chin explains. “Wesleyan University has signed the New England Governors/ Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan, which requires greenhouse gases associated with energy production to be reduced to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. I proposed raising funds to purchase two electric lawn tractors. However, Wesleyan does not own their own lawn equipment, so I have reworked my commitment to raise funds to purchase catalytic converters for our lawn tractors.”

“Participating in this program has been such a blessing and one of the best experiences of my life. I met incredible people, heard amazing ideas and I left feeling very inspired. I am positive that we as students can enact change,” Chin says. She encourages her fellow students to apply to the Clinton Global Initiative in the future.

Djanali ’09, Sheehan-Connor Published in Economic Psychology Journal

Iwan Djanali ’09 and Damien Sheehan-Connor, assistant professor of economics, are the authors of an article, “Tax affinity hypothesis: Do we really hate paying taxes?” published in the Journal of Economic Psychology. The paper resulted from Iwan’s senior thesis at Wesleyan. The article, which was published online in February, will appear in the August 2012 issue of the journal. It can be read online here.

Through an experiment using 66 Wesleyan undergraduate students as subjects, Djanali and Sheehan-Connor found evidence contradicting a well-established economic principle: that people derive no utility from paying income taxes. Standard economic analysis assumes that when people decide how much of their time to dedicate to work versus leisure, they base decisions on the hourly wage rate after taxes. Put another way, raising taxes by a certain amount has the same effect on a worker as lowering his wages by the same amount.

Challenging this thinking, Djanali and Sheehan-Connor decided to test the hypothesis that people do, in fact, derive utility from paying taxes because of their “pro-social tendencies.” They found statistically significant evidence that, at the same net wage rate, subjects worked more in the presence of a tax than its absence. In addition, they found that the impact of wage changes on the amount subjects worked depended not only on after-tax net wage rate, but also on the tax rate. These findings have important implications for tax policy and economic analysis.

Adelstein Author of The Rise of Planning in Industrial America

Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, is the author of The Rise of Planning in Industrial America, 1865-1914, published by Routledge in March 2012.

In the book, Adelstein explores the remarkable transformation undergone by business in the U.S. over the half-century following the Civil War—from small sole proprietorships and proprietorships to massive corporations possessing many of the same constitutional rights as living men and women. Approaching this story through historical, philosophical, legal and economic lenses, Adelstein presents an original, three-pronged theory of the rise of business firms.

He traces the big business boom to three historic developments: a major managerial achievement within the firms themselves; a ill-conceived and ill-timed attempt by legislators to rein in rapidly expanding firms; and the Supreme Court’s understated—but immensely consequential—decision granting constitutional rights to corporations separate from those of their owners. Read more about the book in this March 26, 2012 Wesleyan Connection story.

Singer, Farkas, Skorik Published in American Naturalist

Mike Singer, associate professor of biology; Tim Farkas ’08, MA ’10 and Christian Skorik ’09, MA ’10 are the authors of “Tritrophic Interactions at a Community Level: Effects of Host Plant Species Quality on Bird Predation of Caterpillars,” published in the March issue of The American Naturalist. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine also contributed to the report.

Researchers report that a tree is not a tree is not a tree when it comes to birds foraging for tree-feeding caterpillars. With help from a small army of students, the scientists ran a field experiment in Connecticut forests over two years, involving hundreds of tree branches either bagged with garden variety, bird-proof netting or left open to foraging birds. They found that disparities in caterpillar growth between different tree species, such as black cherry and American beech, changed a caterpillar’s risk of becoming bird food. On balance, nutritious trees like black cherry can increase a caterpillar’s risk of being taken by foraging birds by 90%. This neat pest-control system works because the most nutritious tree species harbor the greatest numbers of caterpillars, offering up the easiest pickings for birds. For tree-feeding caterpillars, however, no tree is completely safe. Even without the risk of being in a crowd, nutritionally poor trees like American beech can slow down a caterpillar’s growth and prolong its exposure to bird predation.

Read more about the study in this past Wesleyan Connection article.

Wesleyan Leads Local Archaeological Dig

The Hartford Courant featured an archaeological dig of the “Beman Triangle” site by Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, along with Wesleyan students and community volunteers. The archaeologists hope to uncover household items that paint a picture of the day-to-day lives of the black families who owned property on the site–bordered by Vine Street, Cross Street and Knowles Ave.–in the mid-19th century.

Siry on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Only Synagogue

In an interview with the Tel Aviv newspaper, Haaretz, Professor of Art History Joseph Siry discusses his new book on Beth Sholom Synagogue, the only temple by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Siry describes the synagogue, located outside Philadelphia, as the climax of Wright’s lifelong work designing modern religious architecture. “Wright was conscious of the fact that he was nearing the end of his life, and it was vital to him to bring to fruition architectural ideas he considered essential,” Siry tells Haaretz. Siry and his book were also featured in a recent story in The Wesleyan Connection.

Adelstein Explores the History of Corporate Power in New Book

Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, presents an original theory of the rise of business firms in his new book.

The influence and power wielded by large corporations in our country has never been more pronounced than it is today. But how did we get here? In a new book published this month (March 27), Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics Richard Adelstein explores the remarkable transformation undergone by business in the U.S. over the half-century following the Civil War—from small sole proprietorships and partnerships to massive corporations possessing many of the same constitutional rights as living men and women. Approaching this story through historical, philosophical, legal and economic lenses, Adelstein presents an original, three-pronged theory of the rise of business firms.

In The Rise of Planning in Industrial America, 1865-1914 (Routledge), Adelstein traces the big business boom to three historic developments: a major managerial achievement within the firms themselves; an ill-conceived and ill-timed attempt by legislators to rein in rapidly expanding firms; and the Supreme Court’s understated—but immensely consequential—decision granting constitutional rights to corporations separate from those of their owners.

The first of the three developments refers to the unprecedented emergence following the Civil War of industrial giants demonstrating successful, consensual central planning at a large scale. For the first time in history, thousands of men and women were organized to work toward large-scale production for the common goal of profit maximization. Previously, only military generals and a few slave masters had succeeded in purposefully coordinating the efforts and interactions of hundreds or thousands of individuals toward a single purpose.

In the 1880s, as the efficiencies brought by large-scale production drove down prices, firms in dozens of industries organized in trade associations, cartels and trusts to keep prices up, output down and marketing territories protected. An anti-monopoly campaign was initiated, but by the time the federal Sherman Act was enacted in 1890, many of the trusts and cartels had already collapsed under their own weight, releasing their small member firms back into the competitive sea. Some of these firms continued to grow much larger by acquiring suppliers and distributors to ensure a steady flow of materials in and product out of their enormous facilities. Consequently, the Sherman Act was of little use in a fight against bigness, which Adelstein argues was the more important problem posed by the great firms, and which only began to become clear to Americans after 1890.

Justice Scalia Delivers Defense of Originalism at Hugo Black Lecture

Antonin Scalia, associate justice of the U.S Supreme Court, delivered the 21st Hugo Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression March 8 in Memorial Chapel.

An originalist approach to interpreting the Constitution may not be perfect, but it’s “the only game in town,” was the message from U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia when he delivered the annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression at Wesleyan on March 8.

“Do you think that judges—that is to say, lawyers—are better at the science of what ought to be than the science of history? I don’t think so,” Scalia told a packed crowd in Memorial Chapel. “The reality is that originalism is the only game in town; the only real verifiable criteria that can prevent judges from reading the Constitution to say whatever they think it should say. Show Scalia the original meaning, and he is prevented from imposing his nasty conservative views upon the people. […]

5 Questions With . . . Laura Stark on Human-Subject Regulations

Assistant Professor Laura Stark hopes her new book can inform scientists, scholars, students and research participants of new research regulations created by the Office of Human Research Protections.

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Laura Stark, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of environmental studies. Stark recently published a new book, Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research.

Q: Professor Stark, what inspired you to study institutional review boards (IRBs), which regulate research on human subjects?

A: I first became interested in this project in 2002 because of a great coincidence of scholarship. At the time, I was reading historical works that explained why the Nuremberg Code after World War II had so little effect on medical research in the U.S. I was also going through IRB training to conduct interviews as part of a research study, and found that the IRB training manuals attribute the modern origins of American research ethics to the Nuremberg Code. The two contradictory accounts intrigued me. I am generally interested in how new knowledge is produced in science and medicine, and I also think it’s important to use research methods appropriate to the question at hand (which is why I use both ethnographic and historical methods in the book). As a result, I started to explore how the ethics evaluation process developed historically and how it works today, and investigate the conflicting accounts of the importance of the Nuremberg Code.

I was excited at the prospect of exploring uncharted territory by observing IRB meetings and reconsidering the history of IRBs using new historical materials from the National Institutes of Health.

Q: What was most striking about the IRBs you observed?

A: As an ethnographer, I was struck by how similar these different IRB “field sites” felt to me. Each was a day’s drive from my home, each was composed of quite different individuals, and each used a lot of discretion in evaluating researchers’ proposal. Yet their methods for reaching decisions were remarkably similar. The three boards didn’t communicate with each other and they certainly weren’t trying to model on each other, and yet they use similar decision-making techniques.

As I argue in the book, these similarities are a function of the common configuration of IRBs all around the country. Since 1966, The U.S. surgeon general has required all universities, hospitals and other organizations that receive federal funding for research on people to get prior approval from a human-subjects

Stemler’s Book Offers Review of American Schools’ Mission Statements

Book co-authored by Steven Stemler.

Steven Stemler, assistant professor of psychology, is the co-author of a new book, The School Mission Statement: Values, Goals & Identities in American Education,” published by Eye on Education in March.

Co-authored with Damian J. Bebell of Boston College, the book contains an extensive review of mission statements from a diverse range of schools, including public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, vocational schools, parochial schools and Native American schools. Stemler and Bebell developed a coding rubric to classify the mission statements according to eleven broad themes (eg. Foster cognitive development; foster social development; foster emotional development; integrate into global community).

Based on their review of mission statements, Stemler and Bebell conclude that the purpose of American schools extends well beyond the cognitive domain. However, testing is limited almost exclusively to the cognitive, meaning schools are not being held accountable in the same way for these other, equally important, goals. If schools truly value developing these other competencies in students, then they should do so in a measurable way, they argue.