In the Media

President Roth Writes a Strong Defense of Affirmative Action

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael S. Roth

In light of news that the Justice Department will investigate college affirmative action, President Michael S. Roth writes in Inside Higher Ed to urge resistance to efforts to restrict affirmative action.

“Ever since the founding of this country, we have recognized that education is indispensable to our vision of a democratic society. All men may be created equal in the abstract, but education provides people concrete opportunities to overcome real circumstances of poverty or oppression,” he writes. “Promoting access to a high-quality education has been key to turning American rhetoric of equality into genuine opportunity. And throughout our history, elites threatened by equality, or just by social mobility, have joined together to block access for groups striving to improve their prospects in life.”

Fowler, Gollust ’01: Local TV News Is Making it Harder to Repeal Obamacare

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

Writing in The Washington PostAssociate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and Sarah Gollust ’01 show how local television news coverage is making it more difficult for the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.

“The ACA repeal was always going to be a tough, uphill battle in the Senate, as we explained here in May. The stakes are high — both for the millions of Americans who now have insurance through Obamacare, and for the Republican Party that promised to repeal it,” they wrote. “Senate efforts have failed so far for a variety of reasons. But here’s one that hasn’t yet been explored: local television news. That drumbeat of coverage in their home districts during Senate debates may have made some GOP senators think twice about angering constituents — including those of their own party.”

Basinger Discusses the History of the Summer Blockbuster

Jeanine Basinger

How did summer get to be such a make-or-break season for Hollywood? It wasn’t always this way, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger recently told Marketplace, from American Public Media.

“In the old days, the studio system rolled out movies,” she said. “I mean, let’s take MGM. In 1952 [it] put out a feature film every week, so for 52 weeks they rolled out 52 features.”

In the 1940s, 80 percent of Americans went to the movies once a week. But with television gaining popularity, attendance had plummeted by the 1970s. Until 1975, when Jaws was released around the July 4th weekend. It was a smash hit. A few years later came another hit: Star Wars.

President Roth Examines Campus Intellectual Diversity in an Age of Polarization

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael S. Roth

Writing in Inside Higher EdPresident Michael S. Roth responds to a recent Pew Research Center survey showing a sharp partisan divide in how Americans view higher education. While 58 percent of Republicans and right-leaning independents say colleges are having a negative impact on “the way things are going in the country,” 72 percent of Democrats and left-leaning independents see colleges as positive.

Roberts ’77 Makes AdWeek’s ‘Most Powerful Women In Sports’ List

Michele A. Roberts ’77, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, appeared in AdWeek‘s list of its “30 Most Powerful Women in Sports.”

Adweek named Michele Roberts ’77, executive director—and first female leader—of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), to its “30 Most Powerful Women in Sports” list, which features outstanding executives, athletes and journalists, among others.

Previously an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Roberts began her career as a public defender in Washington, D.C. In the June 26 article, Adweek’s Tim Baysinger noted that Roberts would be negotiating across the table from league commissioner Adam Silver when the two worked on a new collective bargaining agreement—and Roberts would be trying to avoid a lockout, something her two predecessors were not able to do. A government major at Wesleyan, Roberts earned her JD from the University of California at Berkeley.

The negotiations now completed, Roberts noted, “The deal we worked out with the league contained a number of favorable provisions for our players, including a 45 percent across-the-board salary increase for those players whose salaries are pre-set. And, no lockout!”

In 2015, Roberts spoke at Wesleyan’s Dwight L. Greene Symposium about her role with the players union and her deep commitment to the men she was representing: “Maybe it is okay for a professional athlete to be as politically apathetic as anyone else; they have the right not to care,” Roberts said. “But when I saw my guys wearing those ‘I can’t breathe’ t-shirts, I could not have been more proud.… We will defend to the death the right of our players to comment on political issues as they see fit as long as they don’t violate any laws.”

The New Yorker Profiles New Wes Faculty Member Sorey MA ’11

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11 will join the Wesleyan faculty this fall. (Photo by John Rogers)

“Tyshawn Sorey Defeats Preconceptions,” proclaims the The New Yorker headline on a profile of Wesleyan’s newest assistant professor of music, Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, who will join the Wesleyan faculty this fall. “The prodigious multi-instrumentalist and composer transcends the borders of jazz, classical, and experimental music.”

Grossman Comments on the Economic Impact of Brexit

Richard Grossman

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman was asked by Wales Online about his expectations for the economic impact of Brexit over the next few years. He said:

“Leaving the European Union will be a drag on the British economy in the medium term. Even before Brexit takes effect, however, the economy will be hurt by two factors: expectations and uncertainty.

“The expectation that the UK will no longer have free access to the European market may lead exporters to reorient production toward domestic consumption or export to non-EU regions well before Brexit comes into force. UK-based financial firms may shift operations to EU locations in anticipation of Brexit, rather than waiting until it is a fait accompli.

“And firms that rely on high-skilled labour may relocate to other countries if they expect the reduction in immigration that is expected to accompany Brexit to  reduce the pool of talented workers in the UK.

“In addition to its anticipated effects, the economy will suffer from the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. There really is no precedent for a country to leave the EU, so no one really knows how the negotiations will turn out.

“And markets hate uncertainty. The worse the perceived effect of Brexit, the worse a drubbing the pound will take.

“A steady decline might support exports to some extent, but will lead to inflation at home as imported goods become more expensive. What is more likely than a steady decline is a more volatile pound, which will help no one.”

 

Inaugural Hamilton Prize Winner Featured in Boston Globe

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt).

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt.)

The Boston Globe recently published a profile of Audrey Pratt, an incoming student in Wesleyan’s Class of 2021 and the winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. Pratt, a graduate of Needham (Mass.) High School, won a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan for her short fiction submission, “Thorns, Black and White.”

Pratt, who was accepted early decision to Wesleyan, told the Globe that when she applied for the prize, she “didn’t think in a million years I’d win,” but she was excited for the chance to have Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99 read her work. Miranda, writer/creator and former star, and Kail, the director of Hamilton, are co-chairs of the alumni selection committee for the prize.

Wesleyan received more than 600 entries, including short stories, slam poetry, screenplays and songs.

Pratt described her entry as “a dark fantasy story, almost a modern Grimm fairy tale, about a forest, the coming of age process, girls with antlers and other monstrous versions of forest creatures.”

Pratt has written stories as long as she can remember. She was captain of her high school’s speech and debate team, a member of the all-female robotics team, and a member of the National Honor Society. At Wesleyan, she plans to study creative writing, neuroscience and behavior, and film.

“I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it,” she told the Globe. “It has given me a lot to live up [to], but I’m going to try my best and make everyone proud.”

Read more about Pratt and the Hamilton Prize here.

Rubenstein Discusses Theories of the Multiverse on Studio 360

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein was a guest on WNYC’s “Studio 360” recently, in a show titled, “The Theoretical Physicist Wore a Toga.” She addressed existential “what if” questions and the idea of multiple universes—an idea, she explains, which “is about 2,500 years old.”

“For the ancient Atomist philosophers [in Ancient Greece], the most desirable thing about what we’re now calling the multiverse was that it got rid of the need for a god. If it is the case that our world is the only world, then it’s very difficult to explain. How is everything so perfect? How is it that sunsets so beautiful?” she said. “What the Atomists believed was that religion and the belief in these kinds of benevolent gods actually caused people to behave terribly to one another, so they wanted to find a different explanation. So their explanation was that it’s not the case that some anthropomorphic god or gods made the universe so it was just perfect the way it is, but that actually that our world was just one of an infinite number of other worlds that looked totally different from our world, and that worlds were the product just of accident, of particles colliding with one another and randomly forming worlds.”

“It sounds a lot like modern physics,” she added.

What are the practical effects of such theories?

“Every major development in modern Western science since Copernicus has been advertised as this radical de-centering of our importance. […] As science progresses, we learn that we are less and less important than we thought we were. That’s one argument. But of course, it doesn’t seem to be the case that these purported decentralizations of the importance of the human have in any way contributed in any way to our feeling like we’re insignificant. We still tend to think that we run the planet.”

Rubenstein is also professor of science in society, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Badr ’20 Runs Website to Empower Youth to Tell Their Stories

Ahmed Badr '20

Ahmed Badr ’20

Ahmed Badr ’20, who was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, was profiled recently on NPR. According to the story, Badr used writing to figure out what it meant to be an Iraqi-American kid:

Over time, Badr realized that writing on his personal blog helped other people understand who he was and where he came from.

“There was this feeling of empowerment that was just overnight, all of sudden people were interested in my story,” Badr says. “… And so with that in mind, two years passed, and I thought, ‘OK, well this was great, but this is only helping me. This is only helping my own expression. So how about I take that feeling and that space that I created for myself and turn it into something that allows youth, refugee or otherwise, all over the world to do the same exact thing.’ “

Badr founded the website Narratio to empower other young people from around the world to tell their own stories. He curates essays, poems and stories submitted by young people, and also runs youth writing workshops.

Badr tells NPR he feels guilty when he sees family still living in Iraq, and feels a sense of personal responsibility to give the millions of youth in that country an outlet to express themselves.

“I want to be able to turn that guilty feeling that I had when my cousins asked me, ‘What are you up to?’ into a responsibility … and make it possible for them to be able to answer that question as freely as they would like to,” he says. “And so, if I can do that by giving them a website that they can share their stories on, that’s a step in the right direction.”

At Wesleyan, Badr is both an Allbritton Fellow and a Patricelli Center Fellow.

Matesan Discusses Manchester Terror Attack on CBS Connecticut

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan discussed the recent terror attack in Manchester, England on CBS Connecticut.

Matesan said the big question on her mind is the nature of the perpetrator’s connection to ISIS. At this time, not much is known about the perpetrator’s background.

We know from terrorism studies that there is no single profile to explain “why an individual would join a terrorist group or why they would undertake a terrorist attack, so there are so many possible paths to radicalization. That story we do not know yet,” she said. “The other interesting question that we’re not exactly sure about yet is the connection to ISIS. Because ISIS has claimed the attack […] but it seems like they don’t have their story straight.”

“It seems most likely that [ISIS] simply inspired the attack but had no direct connection in organizing or coordinating it,” she said.

Understanding how ISIS is either inspiring or directing terror attacks like this this is important in dictating policy response, she added. It’s quite difficult to predict where the next attack will come from when attackers are acting relatively independently.

Matesan also noted that in this case, the attacker chose a high-profile venue with significantly less security than in other locations, such as in London. The fact that the victims included many women and children resulted in a high shock value.

“The message that ISIS wants to send is to be scared, that they’re coming for us, and that’s exactly the message that we need to undermine,” she said. “In terms of responses, of course enhanced security and intelligence cooperation and hardening targets is the only clear and obvious response. What perhaps is most important is what we should not do, and that is not to fall into the trap of provocation and in the trap of Islamophobia and xenophobia.”

Matesan also is a tutor in the College of Social Studies.