In the Media

Tucker Explores Photography’s Powerful Role in Our Legal System

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

An essay by Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker is included in The Five Photographs that (You Didn’t Know) Changed Everything, a five-part BBC radio series focusing on historically important yet little-known photographs.

In her segment, The Tichborne Claimant, Tucker tells the story of how an 1866 photograph of a butcher in Wagga Wagga, Australia, played a central role in a case that gripped Victorian Britain and had an enormous impact on our legal system, raising questions about what photography is for and how it should be used. Says Tucker:

“Sometimes even a mundane photograph can have a powerful and lasting historical impact. This is the story of one such photograph—a picture that not only changed the life of the man it showed, but also set in motion the longest and most expensive trial in British legal history, and sparked a national debate over the role of photography as evidence in a court of law.”

Tucker also is associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor in the environmental studies program, associate professor of science in society, and faculty fellow in the College of the Environment.


Roth Writes in WSJ on Religion’s Role in the History of Ideas

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

President Michael S. Roth writes in The Wall Street Journal about the importance of exploring religious feelings and experiences in humanities education, and why these topics make students so uncomfortable.

He writes: “Why is it so hard for my very smart students to make this leap—not the leap of faith but the leap of historical imagination? I’m not trying to make a religious believer out of anybody, but I do want my students to have a nuanced sense of how ideas of knowledge, politics and ethics have been intertwined with religious faith and practice.”

“Given my reading list, I often ask these questions about Christian traditions, inviting students to step into the shoes of thinkers who were trying to walk with Jesus. I realize that more than a few of my undergraduates are Christians who might readily speak to this experience in another setting. But in the classroom, they are uncomfortable speaking out. So I carry on awkwardly as best I can: a secular Jew trying to get his students to empathize with Christian sensibilities.”

Rutland Assesses the Threat from Russia in U.K. Mirror

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thoughts, writes in the Mirror (U.K.) about the threat to the West by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He considers the comparison made by British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon to the Islamic State. While “Putin’s people are not beheading Christians or burning captives alive,” writes Rutland, Russia has nuclear weapons — lots of them. “And is willing to use them if necessary,” he writes.

“Deterrence only works if both sides see each other as unwilling to risk war. And [Putin] believes the West will not risk nuclear conflict over where to draw Ukraine’s borders, or the language rights of people in breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk,” Rutland writes. “He has shown in words and deeds that he is willing to risk war to stop Ukraine from joining NATO.”

Rutland also is professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Grossman Talks about Quantitative Easing Policy on Share Radio

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor of economics, is featured in a radio interview with Share Radio in London Feb. 19.

In the interview, Grossman talks about the consequences of the European Central Bank’s new quantitative easing (QE) policy, which may stimulate an economy when a standard monetary policy has become ineffective.

The ECB’s action follows in the footsteps of the central banks of Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which also have used quantitative easing in the 2000s.

A concern that has been raised about the introduction of QE is that persistent low interest rates will lead to another boom-bust macroeconomic cycle similar to the one that ended  in the US subprime crisis. Grossman, who conducts research on historical episodes of financial crises, argues that the European economy is so weak at the moment that the risk of QE causing a crisis is low, and certainly outweighed by the benefits.

Grossman said implementation of the QE may not be noticed right away.

“Over time, this will put a consistent downward pressure on the euro,” which Grossman argues will help European exporters.

Listen to the program here.

Rudensky’s Photos Featured in Times Story on Russian TV

Early this year, Gary Shteyngart embarked on an experiment for The New York Times: For a week straight, he would “subsist almost entirely on a diet of state-controlled Russian television, piped in from three Apple laptops onto three 55-inch Samsung monitors in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan.”

Assistant Professor of Art Sasha Rudensky documented this experiment in a series of photographs that accompany the story. Here is Shteyngart lying in bed, feet encased in hotel slippers, while Russian President Vladamir Putin’s stern face fills three towering television screens. Here Shteyngart is dining on Wagyu beef slices and sipping pinot noir while staring vacantly at the screens. And here, lying in bed gesticulating while a visiting psychiatrist listens to him talk. Russian TV, explains one photo caption, “dulls the senses and raises your ire.”

“Here is the question I’m trying to answer,” Shteyngart explains. “What will happen to me — an Americanized Russian-speaking novelist who emigrated from the Soviet Union as a child — if I let myself float into the television-filtered head space of my former countrymen? Will I learn to love Putin as 85 percent of Russians profess to do? Will I dash to the Russian consulate on East 91st Street and ask for my citizenship back? Will I leave New York behind and move to Crimea, which, as of this year, Putin’s troops have reoccupied, claiming it has belonged to Russia practically since the days of the Old Testament? Or will I simply go insane?”


Wesleyan’s “Observatory Nights” Featured on Local Media

The Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

The Van Vleck Observatory on Foss Hill.

The Hartford Courant and WNPR both featured stories on Wesleyan’s “observatory nights,” which began this month. Every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. during the Spring semester, the Van Vleck Observatory will open its doors to the public, rain or shine, for viewing of the sky through telescopes and presentations on the latest space-related research.

According to the Courant, Research Assistant Professor of Astronomy Roy Kilgard said the department is seeking to supplement its outreach to groups already interested and involved in science with new sessions for people who may not have a high level of knowledge about space and astronomy.

“We’re really trying to grow it beyond looking through the telescopes,” Kilgard said.

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, works with students on a small radio telescope, located on the roof of the Van Vleck Observatory.

Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, works with students on a small radio telescope, located on the roof of the Van Vleck Observatory.

Assistant Professor of Astronomy Meredith Hughes told WNPR:

“It’s actually pretty amazing that in the middle of a city, we can see a ton of beautiful things in the night sky.”

“For example, tonight,” Hughes said, “our list of cool objects to observe — if the weather is good enough — includes Jupiter; the Orion nebula, which is a million years old — which sounds old, but is actually very young in stellar terms — a stellar nursery where stars are being born; we have the Beehive Cluster, which is a cluster of stars that is relatively recently formed; and the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest neighbor galaxy to our own.”

Beginning Feb. 20, there will also be special “Kids’ Nights” on the first and third Friday of every month where topics will be tailored for children, according to the Courant. Graduate student Jesse Shanahan will run the kids program, which will cover topics including the life cycle of a star, black holes, comets and an introduction to our solar system.

Gallarotti Discusses His Book “The Power Curse” on McAlvany Weekly Commentary

Giulio Gallarott is the author of The Power Curse.

Giulio Gallarott is the author of The Power Curse.

Giulio Gallarotti, professor of government, professor of environmental studies, tutor in the College of Social Studies, was a guest on the McAlvany Weekly Commentary to discuss his book, The Power Curse: Influence and Illusion in World Politics.

Gallarotti discusses how power creates the seeds of its own destruction. The applications are explored both in the context of geo-politics and international finance.

Listen to the interview here.

Gallarotti’s book can be found here.

Jenkins Moderates Panel, Writes Op-Ed on Plight of Two Death Row Inmates in Indonesia

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins is part of a growing movement urging Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to spare the lives of two Australian drug smugglers currently on death row in Indonesia. Their executions are scheduled for later this month.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were part of a theater workshop Jenkins conducted at the Kerobokan Penitentiary in 2011. That workshop focused on adapting Dante’s “Divine Comedy” for the stage. Jenkins is now teaching the same class at a prison in Connecticut through the Yale Divinity School.

In connection with that course, on Feb. 7, Jenkins moderated a panel at the Yale Divinity School on social transformation in prisons through the arts, which was dedicated to Chan and Sukumaran. The panel was covered in a news article which was published on the Asian News Network and appeared in 10 Asian countries. One of the panel members was Jenkins’ former student, Kaneza Schaal ’06, who is currently directing an adaptation of “The Egyptian Book of the Dead” with a formerly incarcerated actor, Cornell Allston, who also spoke on the panel.

“We want Chan and Sukumaran to know that the international community fully supports them,” Jenkins told The Jakarta Post.

On Feb. 6, Jenkins also wrote an op-ed in The Jakarta Post, titled, “Waiting for death behind bars,” about the two men and their participation in the prison theater program.

Collectively they wrote a play that interwove lines from Dante’s text with stories from their own lives that paralleled the journey from hell to heaven that is the subject of “The Divine Comedy.”

The tales told by the men and women in Kerobokan prison were as unsettling as the torments in the “Inferno” portion of Dante’s poem, but in spite of the abuse and betrayals that led them to a point in their lives where as Dante wrote “the straight path was lost,” none of the prisoners lost hope.

Even Sukumaran and Chan believed that international appeals on their behalf would stop the government from carrying out the barbaric ritual of state execution.

Neither claimed innocence. They admitted their crimes, but wondered like much of the rest of the world if those mistakes merited the punishment of death.

What I remember most about Sukumaran and Chan was the generous way in which they encouraged other members of the workshop to forget about their problems for a few hours a week and throw themselves into the collective work of creating theater.


Fowler on the Effects of Politicization of Vaccines in the Media

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler is also co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

As controversy over the measles vaccine continues to grow, and prominent politicians weigh in with their views, Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler writes in The Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog about the dangerous consequences that politicization of vaccine issues in the news media can have on public support for vaccines in general.

In an article co-authored with with Sarah Gollust ’01, now an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, Fowler considers the the 2009 dust-up over mammography screening recommendations, and the 2006-07 debate over whether to require girls to get the HPV vaccine. Though neither started out as controversial, “once the news media highlighted political sources or partisan conflict about these issues, future news coverage continued to reflect this politicization — even as news coverage of these issues tapered off,” they write. That is, the “political firestorm” continued long after the original issue faded.

Moreover, Fowler and Gollust write that politicized media coverage was associated with lower support for requiring the HPV vaccine, as evidenced in a survey of respondents’ attitudes and media coverage in their states. They also conducted an experiment in which people were exposed to brief news excerpts discussing the debate over requiring HPV vaccines. For people who were less likely to have previously encountered news stories about the HPV vaccine controversy, reading about political conflict over the issue decreased support for vaccines in general, and decreased trust in doctors.

“This suggests a very troubling implication: media coverage of the controversy about the measles vaccine could actually affect the general public beyond the very small ‘anti-vax’ community,” they write. “But our research also suggests a way for news coverage to avoid this. We found that news coverage that did not emphasize conflict was associated with increased support for both the HPV vaccine and immunization programs generally. This shows how news media could bolster support for needed vaccinations: steer clear of the political controversy.”

Fowler and Gollust also wrote about their findings in a brief for the Scholars Strategy Network (SSN).

President Roth on the Responsibility of Colleges to Make Students Job-Ready

President Roth recently spoke to The Washington Post about current level of anxiety over the job-readiness of college grads, and what colleges’ roles and responsibilities really are to ensure their students are prepared for the workforce.

“The erosion of the middle class,” he said, “has put a lot more pressure on parents and students to make it big in the world or the consequences are dire.”

Roth told the Post that he believes universities can do more to prepare students for the job market “without abandoning their traditional role to provide a broad education.” He said Wesleyan is investing more in its career services.

The article goes on:

But Roth is interested in making more fundamental changes to what happens in the classroom so that students better retain what they learn on the spot, and most important, are able to translate that learning for potential employers. He wants more courses to be project-based, for example, so that students better learn to work in teams and apply their knowledge to real-world problems as they’re learning.

“It doesn’t matter what you take in college, it matters what you do,” Roth said. “You should be able to show your teachers, and then anyone else, how what you’ve made in a class, what you created, demonstrates your capacity to do other things and what you’re going to do next.”

President Roth’s Book Cited in Exploration of Views of Liberal Education Over Time

Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dan Berrett traces the ongoing tension in American between visions of higher education “as a vehicle for intellectual development” and as a simple tool to prepare students for jobs. Citing Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth’s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education MattersBerrett shows how the debate over the value of a liberal education has evolved from the days of the Founding Fathers to W.E.B. Du bois and Booker T. Washington to today.

“A farmer reading the classics or an industrial worker quoting Shakespeare was at one time an honorable character. Today’s news stories lament bartenders with chemistry degrees. ‘Where once these “incongruities” might have been hailed as signs of a healthy republic,’ Mr. Roth writes, ‘today they are more likely to be cited as examples of a “wasted”—nonmonetized—education.'”

Jenkins Reviews Book on Famed Artist Lempad in Jakarta Post

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins ’64, professor of theater, published a review of Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line in the Jan. 19 edition of the Jakarta Post. Jenkins had high praise for the book, which contains pictures of the works of Balinese architect and artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad.

Jenkins wrote, “the aptly titled volume illuminates not only the exquisite lines of Lempad’s artwork, but also the intangible elements of Balinese identity that those lines represent.”

In addition to describing some of the noted works, Jenkins also commended the depth and insightfulness of the essays that accompanied each work. The essays were written by a team of scholars lead by the acclaimed Indonesian cultural researcher and author Bruce Carpenter.

Read the full review here.