In the Media

Roth Participates in Panel on the Value of College

President Michael S. Roth joined other educators on KCRW’s “To The Point” to discuss the spiraling cost of higher education, and answer the question: Is college worth it?

He discussed steps Wesleyan has taken to make a degree more affordable. “Wesleyan is one of those schools with a very high sticker price…but in our case, almost half of our students are on financial aid, and the average grant is almost $40,000 for students. I think that schools like Wesleyan and other highly selective institutions around the country have to find ways to contain costs” by cutting back on amenities that are not key to an education, Roth said. Wesleyan is also using innovation, including technologies like MOOCs, to save money.

Roth also discussed the message of his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters“Whenever there are economic anxieties in the United States, these are expressed in anxieties about higher education, from the beginning of the 1800s until our own day. At each juncture, the United States has found ways to develop a liberal education that is pragmatic and isn’t just about learning things that you can recite at cocktail parties or enjoy in the privacy in your own home. We have shown in America that liberal education serves innovation, serves creativity, provides our graduates with the capacity for meaningful work and for effective citizenship.”

Discussion on college begins around 8 min. Roth comes in around 20 min.

Roth Comments on STEM vs. Humanities

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Inside Higher Ed turned to President Michael S. Roth, author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattersto comment on a new study finding that “College students, on the whole, earn more credits in the humanities than in STEM, even though science majors outnumber humanities majors.” The researchers found that at many colleges and universities, general education requirements draw many non-majors to humanities courses. But at Wesleyan, which has no such requirements, officials have found that “people in STEM fulfill the expectation to take courses across the curriculum more regularly than the humanities people do,” Roth said.

He defended Wesleyan’s open curriculum: “You shouldn’t have to require people to expand their intellectual horizons,” he said. “You should be able to entice them to do so. Show them why it’s worth their while. When you have to require it, it demeans the enterprise.”

Read more here.

Basinger on Lassie’s Comeback

Lassie

Lassie

Dreamworks Animation is hard at work to give Lassie, America’s most beloved collie for more than three-quarters of a century, a comeback. They’re not planning any new Lassie movies or TV shows, but are getting ready to debut a new line of Lassie merchandise: dog food, dog accessories, dog grooming, dog beds and dog training.

“I would love to believe that modern children would sit down and watch lovely Lassie frolic with Timmy in the meadow,” Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger told The New York Times“But I fear they would get awfully bored unless she turned into a superdog that blows things up, and that would be sacrilege.”

“Lassie was always a bit of an acting lightweight anyway,” she added.

Johnston on Ebola’s Impact

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than one thousand people this summer, and captured the world’s attention. But Bill Johnston, professor of history, professor of East Asian Studies, professor of science in society, tells Voice of America that its impact pales in comparison to other diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis.

“Approximately 207 million cases with 627,000 deaths from malaria itself in 2012, tuberculosis, they counted 8.6 million new cases,” he said.

Watch the video report here.

Basinger Remembers Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall

Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, curator of the Cinema Archives, reflected on the life of actress Lauren Bacall, who died this week at age 89. When Bacall’s acting career began as a young woman in the 1940s, Basinger said, “She was a legend from the very first minute…And she was so unique–her looks, her style, her voice.”

Although Bacall was dismissed by some critics early on, Basinger said, the longevity and quality of her career proved that she “wasn’t just an appendage to Humphrey Bogart.”

Read the full story in The Chicago Tribune here.

Yohe on the Keystone XL Pipeline

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe

Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe responded to a new study which predicted the Keystone XL Pipeline could produce carbon emissions as high as four times the level previously stated by the U.S. State Department. The earlier estimates didn’t take into account the downward pressure the pipeline would put on fuel prices, if approved, spurring greater fuel consumption and increasing pollution.

Lower fuel prices may sound like a good thing, Yohe told The Associated Press, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

“Lower fuel prices are bad if they don’t include all of the social costs,” he said. “Consumers are happy, but the planet is not necessarily.”

Yohe is also chair of economics.

Gruen on the Rights of Non-human Animals

A selfie taken by an endangered crested black macaque.

A selfie taken by an endangered crested black macaque.

“If monkeys can own selfies, what other rights should they have?” asks Lori Gruen, professor and chair of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, writing in Wired. 

Gruen is referring to arresting self-portrait photographs taken by an endangered crested black macaque, which are now at the center of a copyright dispute. As Gruen explains: “At issue is whether the human primate, David Slater, who owned the camera the monkey used, has a legal claim on the image. He wants Wikimedia to take the photograph down on the grounds that it is ‘his,’ but Wikimedia has countered that because the non-human primate took the photo and not Slater, it is in the public domain.”

For Gruen, this matter raises serious questions about the rights of non-human animals. Read the full article here.

Grossman on Transparency at the Fed

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman writes in OUPBlog, the blog of Oxford University Press, that the financial world’s fervent “Fed watching” used to be a lot more difficult. In contrast to the regular press conferences now held by the Federal Reserve chair to explain recent policy actions, the body governing monetary policy was, for much of its history, quite secretive not only about its future actions, but also its current ones. He writes:

The Fed’s monetary policymaking body, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), was created under the Banking Act of 1935. For the first three decades of its existence, it published brief summaries of its policy actions only in the Fed’s annual report. Thus, policy decisions might not become public for as long as a year after they were made.

But, beginning in the 1960s, the Fed gradually became more transparent about its policymaking, and other central banks followed suit. Grossman thinks this is a good thing:

Despite disagreements over how much transparency is desirable, it is clear that the steps taken by the Fed have been positive ones. Rather than making the public and financial professionals waste time trying to figure out what the central bank plans to do—which, back in the 1980s took a lot of time and effort and often led to incorrect guesses—the Fed just tells us. This make monetary policy more certain and, therefore, more effective.

Greater transparency also reduces uncertainty and the risk of violent market fluctuations based on incorrect expectations of what the Fed will do. Transparency makes Fed policy more credible and, at the same time, pressures the Fed to adhere to its stated policy. And when circumstances force the Fed to deviate from the stated policy or undertake extraordinary measures, as it has done in the wake of the financial crisis, it allows it to do so with a minimum of disruption to financial markets.

President Roth Defends Liberal Arts

As the price of a college education soars, some are wondering: is the price of college worth it? And in an economy that places a premium on high-tech skills, is a liberal education even relevant? President Michael Roth ’78 argues that a liberal arts education is actually more important than ever. He makes that case in his new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattters, and told NPR’s Eric Westervelt that the debate over the value of higher education is hardly a new one.

On All Things Considered, August 3, Roth said:  “There are people who just think, ‘Some of us just don’t need a lot of education. Most people need something more specialized because the economy has shifted.’ … Throughout American history people have said, ‘Yes, it’s because the economy has shifted.’ They said that in 1918, they said that in 1948, and now they’re saying it again. Today the shifts in the economy mean technological change will only produce accelerated pace of innovation, of changing relations to audiences. A broad, wide-ranging education is the best way to be able to shape that change rather than just be victimized by it.”

Roth went on to address the value of  education as a driver of equity and inclusion in America, warning that broad, liberal arts education must continue to be made available to all students, not just those who can afford it:

“Higher education in the United States has traditionally functioned as a vehicle for social mobility,” he said. ” And as costs have escalated and financial aid has not kept up with those costs, elite education has become a way of cementing privilege rather than opening up elite [education] to more voices and more talents”

Williams ’02 Runs “Grass-Roots” B-Ball Program

From left, Jason Forde '01, Terrance Williams '02, Andre Charles '06, Justin Weir '02 work with an afterschool program devoted to developing student athletes academically, socially and athletically.

From left, Jason Forde ’01, Terrance Williams ’02, Andre Charles ’06, Justin Weir ’02 work with an afterschool program devoted to developing student athletes academically, socially and athletically.

The Team Scan Cardinals, founded by Terrance Williams ’02, and managed and coached by Williams and Wesleyan friends Justin Weir ’02, Andre Charles ’06 and Jason Forde ’01, is featured August 3 in a New York Times Magazine article. Team Scan is a “grass-roots” youth program that participates in the Elite Youth Basketball League, a recruiting platform started by Nike that has spawned some of the best basketball prospects of recent memory, including Andrew Wiggins, the 2014 top overall pick in the NBA draft.

The Times writes: “As a kid growing up in the borough, Williams was a decent basketball player but a better student, earning admission to a New Hampshire boarding school and eventually Wesleyan University. Williams, who is 35, started Team Scan as a way of reverse-engineering his own path: He wanted to help local kids turn their above-average jump shots into scholarships for private school and college — if not to play for the University of Connecticut, this year’s national champion, then perhaps Connecticut College. He brought on three friends from Wesleyan, who began mentoring kids from the neighborhood and cold-calling boarding schools throughout New England on their behalf. Together, they hoped to create a basketball version of Prep for Prep, the renowned New York City program that sends underprivileged students to private schools and helps them survive once they get there.”

The article traces Team Scan’s trek through the contests that make up the EYBL’s championship series, and describes the relationship of players, coaches, parents, mentors and journalists that work in and follow the league.

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.”

Bloom’s ‘Lucky Us’ is Reviewed

Lucky Us

Amy Bloom’s ‘Lucky Us’ is reviewed

Lucky Us, a new novel by Amy Bloom, distinguished university writer-in-residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, received a positive review in The New York Times. “Ms. Bloom does not write deep-dish, straightforward yarns for readers who enjoy conventional drama. She writes sharp, sparsely beautiful scenes that excitingly defy expectation, and part of the pleasure of reading her is simply keeping up with her,” begins the review. “You won’t know where ‘Lucky Us’ is headed until, suddenly, it’s there.”

Set in the 1930s and ’40s, the story follows Eva Logan, a girl who finds herself living with her father after discovering he has another secret, much wealthier family. With her new-found family, Eva criss-crosses the country, experiencing glamorous parties in Hollywood and more humble life in Long Island. The review calls Lucky Us a “short, vibrant book about all kinds of people creating all kinds of serial, improvisatory lives. Changes occur because characters fall in and out of love, trouble and, yes, luck.”

Lucky Us was also reviewed on NPR, and in Entertainment Weekly and Popmatters.