Society

Wesleyan Media Project Expands Into Health Policy Analysis

WMP logoThe Wesleyan Media Project, which for the past two federal election cycles has tracked and analyzed campaign television ad spending, is expanding into the realm of health policy analysis with a new study examining media coverage accompanying the Fall 2013 rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace.

The question of inquiry: How did media coverage of the ACA (commonly called “Obamacare”) differ state to state—or even within states—and what impact might this have on new health insurance enrollments? Findings were published July 18 in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law from Duke University Press.

Praying for the Worst

“Isn’t it against the rules of religion to pray against another person?” Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, professor of American studies, professor of African American studies, asks in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times. The answer: “Hardly.”

Imprecatory prayer–or praying for harm to befall another–is more common than many know, McAlister writes. She points to a Ghanaian traditional priest who is claiming credit for causing an injury to Portugal’s soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, whose absence, the priest hopes, may improve Ghana’s chances against Portugal in the World Cup this week. Closer to home, the American evangelical community for the last five years has led a chilling campaign praying for President Barack Obama’s death.

McAlister writes:

The Secret Service has taken note of the threat inherent in the prayer campaign. But without direct evidence that people were actually advocating acts of violence, the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League have concluded that the campaign to “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109.8” is a legal form of political speech.

In a way, though, that conclusion relies on secular logic. The ACLU and the ADL assume prayer to be ineffectual in causing harm. But many evangelicals believe negative forms of prayer can actually be efficacious weapons. This is why they use the term “spiritual warfare,” and why they think it is best left to the experienced “prayer warrior.”

Bears, Donkeys ‘n’ Elephants

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on Russia Today television. The discussion ranged from the recent deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations under President Obama to possible U.S.-Russian cooperation in fighting terrorism to the implications of the crisis on Ukraine, and other foreign policy issues, for American politics.

“For all of the ups and downs in the 1990s and 2000s, there was a kind of continuity in the parameters of the [U.S.-Russian] relationship,” said Rutland, who is also professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European Studies. “That really has fallen apart since 2008. Yes, there were some changes in Putin’s policy, but Putin had been around since 2000, so the main responsibility for the collapse in the relationship must like on the American side, unfortunately. There was a mindset of the Obama Administration coming in that thought that Putin was a man of the past…They put all their chips on the idea that Russia would return to democratization under President Medvedev, and that proved unfortunately to be a losing bet.”

In response to the interviewer’s assertion that Russia has continued down a road of democratization, Rutland said, “There are different types of democracy. Putin is certainly a popular leader and he’s certainly stayed within the loose parameters of democratic politics understood in the Russian context, but what the Obama administration had in mind was real, competitive Western-style democracy with parties competing for the presidency, competing for seats in the parliament, and also much more interaction of civil society organizations in Russia with Western organizations.”

Watch the entire interview here.

 

Closing Schizophrenia Program a Crippling Loss

Writing in The Hartford Courant, Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, chair and associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, rails against plans to close the 20-year-old Schizophrenia Rehabilitation Program at the Institute of Living in Hartford. Individuals with schizophrenia suffer from impairments that can make daily life a Herculean struggle for the entire family,” writes Kurtz. Moreover, people with schizophrenia represent a substantial proportion of the homeless population; have extremely have levels of unemployment; and, in the absence of treatment, all too often end up in prisons, which are ill-equipped to treat them and where they are highly vulnerable targets of other prisoners.

Kurtz writes: “The Schizophrenia Rehabilitation Program, internationally recognized for its treatments, is one of the very few treatment centers in Connecticut that can address the needs of this patient population and the only program, to my knowledge, to offer such a rich array of integrated services with such proven results. Indeed, despite the dire statistics, we know that evidence-based treatments can improve outcomes in schizophrenia and that many people with the disorder can live rich and fulfilling lives, even with residual symptoms.”

Read more here.

Tiananmen Square’s Unremembered Victims

On the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, in which Chinese government troops killed and arrested thousands of civilian pro-democracy protestors, Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, writes in the Jewish Ledger about the importance of remembering these events. Even today, she writes, the government is arresting those who attempt to discuss the history behind the events on June 4, 1989, leading to an entire generation who is unaware of the massacre.

Schwarcz writes: “The Jewish prayer of Kaddish does not mention the dead. Instead it praises the Creator whose name is synonymous with truth. The mothers who lost sons and daughters in Tiananmen Square cannot say words of Kaddish.  Not simply because the words of the ancient prayer are unfamiliar to them. Also because the government forbids any mention of those who died in the dark night when tanks plowed into the ranks of unarmed protesters weakened by a hunger strike and waning hopes for the reform of the regime.”

 

 

President Roth’s “Beyond the University” Reviewed

President Michael S. Roth’s new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattersis reviewed in The Washington Post by Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. Nelson begins with the remark: “Michael Roth’s new book may finally answer a question I have often asked myself: Why do the leaders of our nation’s liberal arts colleges find it so difficult to define liberal education clearly and so challenging to communicate its benefits?”

He continues, “After reading Roth’s economical and nearly jargon-free historical account of liberal education in America, I think the answer may be this: There are many distinct threads of liberal education in America that have been woven and rewoven over time in many different ways. As a result, nearly every college now existing can legitimately lay claim to a distinctive sort of liberal education. Generic descriptions simply cannot convey the variegated vitality of liberal education as it is lived on our many college campuses.”

In presenting the ideas of prominent Americans who historically have shaped educational thought–from Thomas Jefferson to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Booker T. Washington–Roth provides a “substantial and lively discussion that allows the reader to maintain an open mind while examining the strengths and weaknesses of the several threads, each in its own turn,” writes Nelson.

Read more about Beyond the University in Roth’s op-eds in The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and in this interview in The Atlantic magazine.

The Thesis Project

Thesis Project

The HuffPost College Thesis Project gives students a chance to share with a wide audience the fruit of their hard academic work.

The Huffington Post is on a mission to share excellent student research and writing with a wider audience through “The Thesis Project.” With the motto “Because your college thesis deserves more than a shelf to sit on,” the project offers students an opportunity to share the fruits of their academic labor with a wide audience. Wesleyan is one of about a dozen schools partnering with The Huffington Post on the project.

The first four Wesleyan senior theses have been published on The Huffington Post site. Matt Donahue ’14, a double major in psychology and neuroscience and behavior, writes about the struggle of psychology researchers to confirm the validity of their experimental findings, and the bogus “lie detector” device they developed to identify deceptive subjects.

For her thesis, Taylor Goodstein ’14, a biology and neuroscience and behavior double major, interviewed people affected by mental illnesses and wrote about their daily struggles in hopes of “illuminat[ing] and rectify[ing] some of the stigma that is associated with neurological disease.”

Oluwaremilekun “Remi” Ojurongbe ’14, a psychology and government double major, wrote about portrayals of immigrants in the print news media in 1996 and 2013, during the deliberation/passage of immigration legislation.

And for her thesis, theater major Emma MacLean ’14 used theater as an “experimental landscape” to explore the question “What does the disabled body look like?” She considered the portrayal of disabled characters in plays as old as Shakespeare’s Richard III and as recent as John Belluso’s The Rules of Charity (from the 2000s).

Check back as more theses are added to Wesleyan’s collection.

 

Bush ’93 Offers a Prescription to Fix Hospitals

Jonathan Bush ’93, CEO of athenahealth and author of Where Does It Hurt?: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fixing Health Care, writes in The Boston Globe magazine about the problem with the business model of today’s hospitals, and offers a prescription for change.

Currently, he writes, “The business model of practically every hospital is predicated on mysterious and outrageous charges that someone else, either an insurance company or the government, will eventually pay or haggle down. There is almost no consideration of the patient as customer, someone who could conceivably compare prices and service and value. In our convoluted system, the insurance company is the customer and the patient is a widget to be processed, administered and billed for.”

The result? A system that is threatening to bankrupt our economy. But Bush offers a glimmer of hope:

“From the point of view of an entrepreneur, this scene is dripping with potential. All you have to do is to bite off a chunk of that hospital business, reduce the overhead, and offer routine services at reasonable rates. In a market economy, as prices become transparent and shoppers entertain more choices, the big hospitals will increasingly struggle to draw business. And these battles are already underway.”

Read more here.

Students Share Their Summer 2014 Internship Opportunities

As the semester ends and students head off on their summer adventures, The Wesleyan Connection checked in with several students about their summer internships. Here’s a sampling of some of the exciting opportunities they will be pursuing.

Gabe Rosenberg

Gabe Rosenberg ’16

I’m moving all the way from my hometown of Pittsburgh to New York City for the summer, to work for a tech-journalism startup called Contently. They are a place for freelance journalists and brands to connect and tell great stories that aren’t being told elsewhere, and they publish two magazines of their own: The Content Strategist, which focuses on new trends in content and marketing, and The Freelance Strategist, which is aimed at helping up and coming freelancers navigate the world and tell their own stories. I’m going to be an editorial intern, so I’m going to be drifting between their two magazines and writing for brands myself, as well as hopefully getting to table in the marketing and advertising sides of things. I also took a part-time position writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, where I will be reporting and writing about the media and the journalism industry.

 

Adi SlepackAdi Slepack ’16

I’ll be interning with Channel Frederator, the web division of Frederator Studios, in New York City. Frederator has been making cartoons for television, movies, and the Internet since 1998 and are best known for shows such as The Fairly Odd Parents, Chalkzone, Adventure Time, and – on the internet – Bravest Warriors and Bee and Puppycat. I’ll be working under the Network Manager and the Director of Marketing, Publicity, and Licensing, learning the ins-and-outs and helping manage of one of the first and largest networks of animation on the web. I’m pretty stoked about it.

 

Lily HermanLily Herman ’16

This summer I’m interning a HelloFlo, an absolutely incredible women empowerment startup that sends monthly feminine hygiene products to subscribers (along with treats, of course) and also seeks to empower women to no longer feel ashamed of their periods. Since the HelloFlo team has only two full-time employees besides myself, I will be the definition of a startup intern the summer as I run rampantly around New York City doing everything from writing content and working on social media to helping create marketing campaigns and doing research.

Ming ZhuMing Zhu ’15

I’ll be interning at Archer Entertainment Group in LA this summer. It’s a talent management firm founded by Mr. Alan Jacobs and my main responsibilities will include assisting with casting submissions, preparation of client materials, scheduling casting sessions, communications with talent agencies, etc.

 

Caitlin Daniels ’15

Caitlin DanielsI will be working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Office Of Policy under Wesleyan alumnus Matthew King’s (’81) international affairs team in Washington, D.C.  In this position, I will be working with either the Asia-Pacific or Canada Director on international affairs projects, lending administrative support, and attending events/meetings with staff; I think being able to see these meetings from an internal perspective will be one of the most rewarding aspects of this opportunity. My past semester spent studying in New Zealand sparked my interest in foreign relations, so I am excited to take what I have learned from my overseas experience and apply it to the context of Homeland Security’s mission abroad. I am incredibly appreciative to have received this opportunity, and I look forward to gaining a better understanding of the United States’ relations with foreign countries.

 

Dylan NiehoffDylan Niehoff ’15

My internship is an Account Executive position at a marketing agency called Epsilon. Epsilon does the marketing for 26 out of the Fortune 100 companies. I will be working out of their NYC office in the financial district. My department/position is responsible for client servicing and client acquisitions. We are the intermediaries between the Epsilon team and the client. We are responsible for ensuring their satisfaction with our service. I’m very excited to be living in the city and having the honor to be working with such a phenomenal company. 

 

Andrew Hove '15Andrew Hove ’15

I’m working for Atlas Holdings LLC in Greenwich, Conn., and I’ll be a summer analyst for them. I can’t actually tell you exactly what I’ll be doing, as they haven’t described the position in great detail, but I’ll be researching various companies/industries that they would potentially invest in and find out if the return would be profitable and if the company is able to be saved (they specialize in failing companies). The company is super young, bright and enthusiastic about what they do, which really stuck out to me during the interviews.

 

Donovan Brady '15Donovan Brady ’16

I will be interning for a cloud computing company called Logicworks, located in Soho in New York City. My official title will be Technical Operations Intern, where I mostly will be fixing and building computers, and coding in addition.

Why Liberal Education Matters

Beyond the UniversityIn connection with the release of his new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education MattersWesleyan President Michael S. Roth has new op-eds and interviews published about the value of a pragmatic liberal education.

Writing in The New York TimesRoth warns against education that overemphasizes critical deconstruction of literature, art or other material. He writes:

Of course critical reflection is fundamental to teaching and scholarship, but fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence has contributed to depleting our cultural resources. Creative work, in whatever field, depends upon commitment, the energy of participation and the ability to become absorbed in works of literature, art and science. That type of absorption is becoming an endangered species of cultural life, as our nonstop, increasingly fractured technological existence wears down our receptive capacities.

Roth calls upon students to allow themselves to be absorbed in compelling work, and consider how they might find inspiration, meaning or direction through it.

Roth also had an op-ed published in The Boston Globe on “The Case for a Liberal Education.” In an age when pundits continually question whether the cost of a college education is “worth it,” and undergraduates behave like consumers, Roth argues against notions that non-monetized learning is wasted or worthless. He writes, “The bartender with a chemistry degree is the contemporary version of the Jeffersonian ideal of a farmer who reads the classics with pleasure and insight, or John Dewey’s image of the industrial worker who can quote Shakespeare. For generations of Americans, these have been signs of a healthy republic.”

And Roth concludes:

The willingness today by some to limit higher education to only certain students or to constrict the college curriculum to a neat, instrumental itinerary is a critical mistake, one that neglects a deep American tradition of humanistic learning. This tradition has been integral to our nation’s success and has enriched the lives of generations of students by enhancing their capacities for shaping themselves and reinventing the world they will inhabit. Since the founding of this country, education has been closely tied to individual freedom, and to the ability to think for oneself and to contribute to society by unleashing one’s creative potential.

The pace of change in American higher education has never been faster, and the ability to shape change and seek opportunity has never been more valuable. Our rapid search engines can only do so much: If we want to push back against inequality and enhance the vitality of our culture and economy, we need pragmatic liberal education.

Roth also was interviewed recently in The Atlantic  about his book in an article titled “There’s Nothing Liberal about Specializing in Philosophy.” He muses on what Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin would think about the state of higher education today; economic inequality and access to a college education; liberal versus vocational learning; and the power of a liberal arts education to expand horizons and transform world views.

Ojurongbe ’14 to Speak on Media Depictions of Immigration

After graduating this May, Oluwaremilekun "Remi" Ojurongbe '14 will spend two years working at a law firm in New York City. She plans on going to law school and eventually working with immigration law and policy. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

After graduating this May, Oluwaremilekun “Remi” Ojurongbe ’14 will spend two years working at a law firm in New York City. She plans on going to law school and eventually working with immigration law and policy. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Oluwaremilekun “Remi” Ojurongbe of the Class of 2014. She will deliver a WESeminar at Reunion & Commencement on the topic of her capstone project, “Illegality, Criminality, and the Taxpayer’s Burden: The Incomplete U.S. Immigration Narrative.”

Q: Remi, what is your major and why did you decide to write a thesis?

A: I am a psychology and government double major, but I decided to conduct research in psychology mainly because of the classes that I took in the department. Courses like Professor Sarah Carney’s “Psychology in the Law,” and “Cultural Psychology” with Professor Robert Steele really made the connection between psychology and social policy for me. I felt that psychology was a great medium to further explore these topics of race, class, power and the media.

Q: How did you choose the topic of media coverage of immigrants and immigration?

A: I choose the topic of immigration because it is an area that I am personally familiar with, but I also wanted to learn more about it. My parents are Nigerian immigrants so I have some personal experience with the process of emigrating to the U.S. My sophomore year with the Ronald McNair program, I did independent research on past restrictive immigration and the creation of a perceived American identity. It was through this project that I learned more about restrictive immigration legislation, public attitudes and trends in immigrant representation.

New Assessment: Climate Change is Here and Now

Gary YoheOn May 6, the Obama Administration released its most comprehensive analysis to date about the impact of the human activity on the climate in the National Climate Assessment, of which Huffington Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe is vice chair of the Development and Advisory Committee. The report concludes with more certainty than ever that climate change is affecting the daily lives of Americans right now through increases in extreme weather, sea level rise, heat, heavy downpours, drought and other adverse conditions.

PBS Newshour covered the release of the report. Speaking at a press conference at the White House, Yohe said, “What keeps me up at night is a persistence across the population not to recognize that the old normal climate is broken, and we don’t know what the new normal climate is going to be. That lack of recognition and the inability of this community and decision-makers to communicate those risks to individuals unnecessarily puts economic assets at risk, unnecessarily puts human lives at risk, unnecessarily puts ecosystems at risk.”

Yohe also spoke to The Associated Press about the assessment, explaining that this final report is a re-written and shortened version of the draft that was released in January 2013, with more scientific references, reviews by experts and the public, and a thorough review by the National Academy of Sciences. There is even stronger evidence now of climate change than there was in 2013, he said.

And Yohe told NBC News that at a personal level, “…everybody can look out their window and see something about their climate that has changed over the last 5, 10 or 15 years.”

In addition, Mother Jones quotes Yohe as saying: “One major take-home message is that just about every place in the country has observed that the climate has changed…It is here and happening, and we are not cherry-picking or fear-mongering.”

Yohe was also interviewed by Voice of Russia UK radio.

Watch the full White House press conference on C-SPAN.