Tag Archive for government

8 Faculty Awarded Tenure

In its recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on eight faculty members, effective July 1, 2015. They are: Associate Professor of Sociology Robyn Autry, Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Amy MacQueen, Associate Professor of Music Paula Matthusen, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Rich Olson, Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen, Associate Professor of Economics Damien Sheehan-Connor, and Associate Professor of Classics Eirene Visvardi.

Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below:

Associate Professor Autry is a cultural sociologist with broad interests in collective identity, memory, and visual culture. Her research on the ways in which the past is constructed and represented at museums has been published in several journals. Autry’s book, Desegregating the Past: The Public Life of Memory in South Africa and the United States, analyzes clashes around the development of history museums in both countries as a window into the desire for particular personal and collective orientations toward the past (Columbia University Press, forthcoming). She teaches courses on comparative race and ethnicity, the future, and memory and violence.

Matesan Writes on Why ISIS Will Not Thrive in Indonesia

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

Following an ISIS attack in the heart of Jakarta earlier this month, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan writes on the blog “Political Violence @ a Glance” why she believes ISIS will not thrive in Indonesia. The ISIS affiliate in Indonesia remains very small, and “varies drastically from its counterpart in Syria in terms of motivations, organization, and perhaps more importantly, ability to challenge the state or claim territory.”

Matesan notes, “Indonesia has seen its fair share of violence, and even some earlier attempts to build an Islamic state.” She provides a history of different groups that over time have rejected the Republic and attempted to form separate Islamic states, resulting in periods of violence.

She writes:

Since 2009, however, there have been no major terrorist attacks in Indonesia. The trend that has been emerging over the last five years is a move away from hierarchical organizations and large scale attacks towards online, individual self-radicalization and decentralized networks of radical ideologues. Such is the case also with ISIS supporters in Indonesia, who are no more than several hundred across the entire archipelago.

This number is large enough to stage attacks such as the recent ones in Jakarta. But the number is minuscule when compared with the 50 million strong, pro-democratic and tolerant Nahdlatul Ulama (on their anti-ISIS and anti-extremism activities, see here). Compared to Syria and Iraq, there is also no significant challenge to the legitimacy of the Indonesian state or Indonesian democracy; there is no power vacuum or disintegration in the rule of law that these ISIS fighters could take advantage of.

To be sure, the threat of violence might not disappear in Indonesia. But it is important not to overreact to these attacks, not to overestimate the reach of ISIS, and not to conflate developments in the Middle East with developments in Southeast Asia. American involvement in counter-terrorism and harsh tactics by the police or Densus 88 (the counter-terrorism unit) have only spurred violent attacks before. Unlike many other countries countering terrorism, Indonesia has done many things right – it adopted a legalist rather than militaristic approach to counterterrorism and it has combined soft and hard tactics, understanding the importance of incentives, exit options, and respect for the rule of law. Rather than give in to an ISIS hysteria, the country should keep building on the lessons it has already learned from its tumultuous past.

 

 

Allbritton Center to Host Series of Panels on the Refugee Crisis

RefugeePanel1

 

The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life will host a series of three panels in February and March on the refugee crisis. All events will take place in PAC 001.

The first panel, The Development of the Crisis and the Response in Europe, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 3. Moderated by Professor of Economics Richard Grossman, the panel is comprised of Bruce Masters, the John E. Andrus Professor of History; Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria; and Marcie Patton, professor of politics at Fairfield University.

The second panel, The Refugee Experience, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 17. Moderated by Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, it will feature discussion between Steve Poellot, legal director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP); Mohammed Kadalah, of the University of Connecticut Department of Literature, Cultures and Languages, who was recently granted asylum after fleeing Syria in 2011; and Baselieus Zeno, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and a Syrian refugee.

The final panel, The U.S. Response, Locally and Nationally, will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 31. Moderated by Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan, the panel will include Christina Pope of Welcoming America; Chris George, director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services; and Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy at Church World Service. It will also feature a video message from U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

For more information, contact Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center, at rrosenthal@wesleyan.edu.

The Wesleyan Media Project Finds More Campaign Advertising with Little Impact

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

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

The campaign season so far has seen a significant increase in the volume of GOP presidential ads, and an explosion in advertising by super PACs and other outside groups. Outside groups sponsored 81 percent of ads between January 1–December 9, 2015—a 71 percent increase over 2011, and 12,000 percent increase over 2007.

This was the finding of an analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project, its first of the 2016 election cycle. The “remarkable growth in campaign activity by independent groups” it found was covered by The Washington Post, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, USA Today, Vox and others.

Notably, the report found little correlation between campaign advertising and a candidate’s poll numbers. As Vox demonstrates in a chart, there actually appears to be an inverse relationship between the two at this point. They write: “The big thing that jumps out is the contrast between Jeb Bush (lots of spending, low poll numbers) and Donald Trump (no spending, high poll numbers).” The apparent ineffectiveness of TV campaign ads has led some to ask whether their death is near.

“It’s far too early to call for the death of TV advertising,” Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, says in the report. “The Republican field is still crowded, which makes for a more challenging advertising environment. It is also important to remember that volume isn’t everything. All ads are not created equal; advertising content and the characteristics of the receiving audience matter and will condition their influence.”

Fowler discussed ad effectiveness with NPR:

“Some ads score well” on effectiveness, she said. “But volume and quality don’t go hand in hand.”

She cited “Desk,” a 30-second spot the Bush superPAC released last week. As the camera moves in toward the desk in the Oval Office, images of Trump, then Ted Cruz, and then Marco Rubio appear as if sitting behind it. An announcer suggests each is unqualified for the job — and then the ad shifts to talk about Bush.

Fowler said three attacks are too many. “It ends up coming off as a laundry list,” she said. And right now that’s the problem with the whole campaign: “There are too many other candidates to attack.” She predicted the ads will get more focused and effective as the candidate field shrinks.

Matesan Writes About Strategic Response to ISIS Attacks on Paris

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

In an op-ed written for Inside Sources (and appearing in Las Vegas Sun and other newspapers), Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan questions whether the swift French military response to the recent ISIS attacks on Paris will be effective in preventing future attacks and improving security for civilians.

Matesan, who studies contentious politics and political violence in the Middle East, considers different opinions on ISIS’s strategic logic and what each would mean for the repercussions of a military response. She concludes that the most likely logic is one of provocation.

She writes:

[Provocation] is a strategy beloved by al-Qaida and many other extremist groups, who count on the emotional response of their opponents, and who know that the use of indiscriminate violence against them will turn them into martyrs and heroes, boosting their ranks and recruitment potential. And if this is the case, then the escalation in military strikes, the resurgent sectarian rhetoric and the bubbling xenophobia in the West in response to the attacks is precisely what ISIS was counting on, and hoping for.

That is not to say that the military strikes might not be effective in destroying the military capabilities or even much of the leadership of the Islamic State. The fact that the group has a very clear geographic concentration in Syria makes this quite possible. But would such a destruction of capabilities count as “success”?

Over the last decade the United States has recognized that destroying the military capabilities of a group does not equate to winning “the war on terror,” it does not necessarily undermine the sources of violent extremism, and it does not always make civilians at home or abroad any safer. Furthermore, if we’ve learned anything over the last decade of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, it’s that clandestine organizations learn and adapt, quite often much faster than military organizations and state governments.

Matesan writes that it’s critical to recognize that much of ISIS’s recruiting has been fueled by a refrain of social justice and opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

We would be remiss if we condemn the violence perpetrated by ISIS and remain silent about the unthinkable violence that Assad has inflicted on his country’s population over the past five years. Improving domestic security can work, but it can also become counterproductive if it results in profiling, and if it doesn’t prioritize human security.

Unlike what some governors in the United States might have us believe, showing hospitality toward Syrian refugees might in some ways be the best way to undermine radical groups, and to show that the United States is indeed committed to social justice and to the protection of human life.

This is particularly important because there is growing evidence that individuals who engage in terrorist groups can and do renounce violence and leave the organization if they become disillusioned with the group and with the cause. This is an incredibly important silver lining and opportunity that liberal democracies should be able to take advantage of, and which might hold more promise than a solely military approach, which we have seen fail time and again.

A student group also invited Matesan to discuss the recent attacks on Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and the Sinai and alternative policy responses at 4 p.m. Nov. 23 in PAC 002.

Elvin Lim Talks to Globe About Presidential Candidate Rhetoric

Elvin Lim

Elvin Lim

This election cycle, those presidential candidates who use the simplest language are performing best in the polls, an analysis by The Boston Globe found.

“There’s no time to explain in modern politics,” Elvin Lim, associate professor of government, told the Globe.

On the Republican side, front-runner Donald Trump’s speeches, with short, simple words and sentence, could be understood by a fourth grader, according to the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. In comparison, Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore, who are struggling in the polls, communicate with voters at a 10th grade level. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s speeches are “just right for eighth graders,” while Bernie Sanders comes in at a 10th grade level.

Lim, who is the author of,“The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush,” said the current media environment benefits those who can speak in pithy soundbites.

“If you think about the tweet, the tweet is short,” he said. “The candidate who shows they can punch as much as they can in that short time form gets their message out.”

But is that a good thing?

“At some point enough is enough,’’ Lim said. “If you continue drawing these lines, you’re going to hit comic strip levels…There are real costs to oversimplification.”

Holmes ’17 Studies Congressional Tweets in QAC Summer Apprenticeship

Joli Holmes ’17, an economics major, is one of 24 students in the Quantitative Analysis Center's Summer Apprenticeship Program.

Joli Holmes ’17, an economics major, is one of 24 students in the Quantitative Analysis Center’s Summer Apprenticeship Program.

In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Joli Holmes from the Class of 2017. She is one of 24 students in the Quantitative Analysis Center’s Summer Apprenticeship Program.

Q: Joli, what is your major and what’s your specific area of interest?

A: I’m an economics major. I’m particularly interested in studying investment-related practices from an environmental and social perspective.

Q: Have you worked in the Quantitative Analysis Center before this summer?

A: I’ve taken a lot of classes through the QAC, including “Working with R,” “Excel with Visual Basic for Applications,” and “Python.” These are all classes on how to use statistical software, which also cover some statistical analysis topics.

Q: What does an average day look like in the QAC Apprenticeship Program?

A: We start our days at 8:30, and have class for an hour and a half. The classes are taught by Emmanuel “Manolis” Kaparakis, [director of Centers for Advanced Computing], Pavel Oleinikov, [associate director of the Quantitative Analysis Center, visiting assistant professor of quantitative analysis], and Jen Rose, [research professor of psychology]. The topics of these classes really vary. We cover everything from basic statistics – like how to do a simple linear regression and looking at correlations – to different types of clustering and factor analysis. In the future we might do some latent variable analysis. They make sure all the students have a good foundation, and then cover advanced topics. In these lessons, we work with statistical software and example data sets. For the rest of the day, we work on our individual research projects.

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).

Fowler’s Articles on Advertising in 2014 Midterm Elections Published

Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler recently had two new articles on advertising in the 2014 elections published.

Co-written with her Wesleyan Media Project co-director Travis Ridout of Washington State University, “Political Advertising in 2014: The Year of the Outside Group” was published in The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics in December 2014. The paper notes a plateau in political advertising volumes and levels of negativity this election cycle, and an increasingly prominent role played by outside groups, especially in competitive races for the U.S. Senate. It also tracks the most competitive races, looks at issues featured in ads, and notes that advertising started earlier this election cycle.

Another paper, written by Fowler, Ridout and the Wesleyan Media Project’s third co-director, Michael Franz of Bowdoin University, titled, “Sponsorship, Disclosure and Donors: Limiting the Impact of Outside Group Ads,” was published online in Political Research Quarterly in December 2014. The paper reports that interest group advertising from dark money sources has grown. Yet despite extensive advertising, the vast majority of the public has not heard of prominent interest group advertisers, regardless of whether or not they disclose their donors. Building on a small but growing literature, the authors demonstrate that advertising from unknown interest groups is viewed more credibly and ultimately moves intended vote choice more than ads from candidates. Disclosure–either in an ad or through the news media–levels the playing field in ad effectiveness, but does not make interest group advertising any less effective than candidate advertising.

 

Wesleyan Media Project’s Research Cited in Senate Committee Hearing

The Wesleyan Media Project’s research was cited by U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine during a hearing April 30 of the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration. The subject of the hearing was “Dollars and Sense: How Undisclosed Money and Post-McCutcheon Campaign Finance Will Affect 2014 and Beyond.” Watch a recording of the webcast here.

The Wesleyan Media Project, directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and collaborators at Bowdoin College and Washington State University, works to increase transparency about political advertising. It tracks political ad airings on television and reports in real time about ad sponsors, spending, tone and content. The project’s co-directors submitted written testimony to the Senate committee about growing interest group involvement in elections and how disclosure matters.

Knight Foundation Supports Wesleyan Media Project

The Wesleyan Media Project has received a grant of $74,800 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to track and analyze campaign ad spending in the 2014 midterm election cycle. The project is directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, along with Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and Travis Ridout of Washington State University. A resource for journalists, policymakers, scholars and voters, the project has worked to increase transparency in federal elections since it was established in 2010 with support from Knight Foundation.

Read more about the grant and the Wesleyan Media Project’s work here.

Government Class Visits Local Court, Speaks with Clerk, Judges

An upper-level political theory seminar, "Citizens, Judges, Juries: Who Decides in Democracy," taught by Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, visited the Middlesex County Courthouse on April 22 to see proceedings and speak with the clerk and two judges. Students had the opportunity to talk about the relationship between the law and racial injustice, discretion in sentencing, jury nullification, and the current populist movement to change the way family law courts adjudicate custody cases. This is the first semester that this course is offered and the first time Professor Chakravarti took students to the courthouse. Pictured in the photo are (from left to right) Sam Furnival ’15, Ben Romero ’16, Ruby Lang ’17, Yiyang Wang ’15, Hannah Goodman ’16, Aiden King ’14, Deputy Chief Clerk Jonathan Field, Ari Ebstein ’16, and Hadas Werman ’14 with Professor Chakravarti to the far right.

An upper-level political theory seminar, “Citizens, Judges, Juries: Who Decides in Democracy,” taught by Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, visited the Middlesex County Courthouse on April 22 to see proceedings and speak with the clerk and two judges. Students had the opportunity to talk about the relationship between the law and racial injustice, discretion in sentencing, jury nullification, and the current populist movement to change the way family law courts adjudicate custody cases. This is the first semester that this course is offered and the first time Professor Chakravarti took students to the courthouse. Pictured in the photo are, from left, Sam Furnival ’15, Ben Romero ’16, Ruby Lang ’17, Yiyang Wang ’15, Hannah Goodman ’16, Aiden King ’14, Deputy Chief Clerk Jonathan Field, Ari Ebstein ’16, and Hadas Werman ’14 with Professor Chakravarti to the far right.