Tag Archive for The New York Times

Fins ’82 on Civil Rights for Those With Brain Injuries: NYT Op-Ed

Joseph J. Fins ’82, MD, MACP, is a professor of medical ethics and the chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medicine, and a co-director of the Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury. He is the author of a recent opinion piece in the New York Times calling for deeper consideration of the civil rights for those with traumatic brain injury. (Photo: John Abbott, New York Academy of Medicine)

Writing in a New York Times opinion piece, Joseph J. Fins ’82, M.D., The E. William Davis, Jr., M.D., Professor of Medical Ethics and the chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medicine, describes the startling case of a young woman thought to be in a vegetative state but later able to communicate through the movement of one eye.

In “Brain Injury and the Civil Right We Don’t Think About,” Fins says that many seemingly vegetative individuals are misdiagnosed and suffer a loss of personhood and civil rights when they do have some conscious awareness and are, in fact, in the minimally conscious state.

Because minimally conscious patients can feel pain while vegetative patients can not, a misdiagnosis of a patient’s brain state can lead to a lack of pain medication administered during a medical procedure, a horrifying possibility. So too, says Fins, is “segregating” these patients in “custodial care” facilities without offering them rehabilitative opportunities to foster their recoveries. He writes:

I use the verb “segregated” deliberately, to invoke a time when separate but equal was the law. In the wake of legal advances like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Disabled, which call for the integration of people with disabilities into civil society, how is the pervasive segregation of this population justified?

Part of the problem is that when these laws were written, the notion of reintegration was focused on physical mobility … When we restore voice to these patients we bring them back into the room and the conversation.

I often speak to university students brought up in the era of L.G.B.T.Q. rights who can’t understand how my generation did not appreciate that people could love those they chose to love. … I caution against smugness, suggesting that their own children may well ask them how they allowed society to ignore conscious individuals and deprive them of their rights.

Fins, a co-director of the Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury, is the author of Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics, and the Struggle for Consciousness (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and the Solomon Center Distinguished Scholar in Medicine, Bioethics and the Law at Yale Law School. He spoke on these topics at Wesleyan in 2015 as the Kim-Frank Visiting Writer.  A trustee emeritus of Wesleyan, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the university in 2012.

 

Scott: Is Our Art Equal to the Challenges of Our Times?

Distinguished Professor of Film Criticism A.O. Scott writes in The New York Times that ever since the financial crisis of 2008, he’s been on the lookout for the next great piece of art–a new “The Grapes of Wrath” or “Death of a Salesman.”

“The originals are all still around, available for revival and rediscovery and part of a robust artistic record of hard times past,” he writes. “But we are in the midst of hard times now, and it feels as if art is failing us.”

Scott explains, “Serious art and popular entertainment, in their diverse ways, offer refuge and distraction. Their pleasures and comforts are not trivial, but essential. Art is the domain of solved problems, even if the problems are formal and the solutions artificial.”

‘At Home in Exile’ Examines Jewish Diaspora

A new book by Alan Wolfe makes the argument that the Jewish Diaspora, a form of “exile” is actually a shared blessing. In a New York Times review, Michael Roth examines Wolfe’s thesis that the diaspora and Israel should thrive in productive tension with one another.

“The longing for the Promised Land may be an important theme in the Torah, but fundamental religious practice and cultural identity have mostly been formed far from Jerusalem,” Roth writes. “For millenniums Jews have lived in exile; “next year in Jerusalem” is an acknowledgment of loss and hope — not a travel plan.”

“While Israel’s existence is now part of the experience of Jews wherever they live, it shows no signs of bringing the Diaspora to an end.”

 

“Citizenfour” Draws Praise

The new documentary about former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, “Citizenfour,” can be seen as both advocacy journalism and an elegant movie, says New York Times reviewer (and Distinguished Professor of Film Criticism) A.O. Scott.

In a review published Oct. 23, Scott praises the film by Laura Poitras as a “tense and frightening thriller,” while it also seeks to offer Snowden’s side of the controversy over his allegations of widespread government surveillance.

“… it is also a primal political fable for the digital age, a real-time tableau of the confrontation between the individual and the state,” Scott writes.  “It’s hard to tell the difference, and thinking about the issues Ms. Poitras raises can induce a kind of epistemological vertigo. What do we know about what is known about us? Who knows it? Can we trust them? These questions are terrifying, and so is “Citizenfour.””

Eiko Performs “A Body in a Station”

The New York Times featured a new performance by Visiting Instructor in Dance Eiko Otake, the first she has conceived and performed without Koma, her husband and artistic partner. Titled “A Body in a Station,” the work, presented by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, develops as a series of three-hour performances once a week. The museum is also featuring a exhibition of photography by William Johnston, professor of history, professor of East Asian studies, professor of science in society. The photographs show Eiko performing in abandoned train stations in Fukushima, Japan.

“The images, elegant, bleak and harrowing, place her in a desolate landscape devastated by the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami,”  the Times writes.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Asimov ’79 Invites Readers to Join ‘Wine School’

Eric Asimov ’79, The New York Times’ wine critic, invites readers to “get out your corkscrew” in a new monthly “Wine School” column. In each installment, Asimov chooses a type of wine for readers to try at home, and asks them to share thoughts, comments and questions on The New York Times’ website.

“You don’t have to know much about wine to enjoy it. But if you become interested in wine and want to examine it more closely, your pleasure will deepen. What was merely satisfying becomes rewarding and, occasionally, even profound. This is the goal of the Wine School, which begins today: to help create an atmosphere of pleasure, attentiveness and curiosity about wine that will lead to knowing what you like, what you do not and why. I hope you will join me in the coming months to drink some wine together.”

Read the first Wine School column here.

“Save Us From the SAT”

Boylan   In the wake of the College Board’s big changes to the SAT, Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80 recalls a difficult experience with the exam while she was applying to Wesleyan. A mordantly funny op-ed in The New York Times details her confusion, frustration and fear during her first SAT attempt.

” I was in trouble,” she writes. “The first few analogies were pretty straightforward — along the lines of ‘leopard is to spotted as zebra is to striped’ — but now I was in the tall weeds of nuance.” Getting past the analogy questions was one thing. Boylan details what happened next:

“This was the moment I saw the terrible thing I had done, the SAT equivalent of the Hindenburg disaster. I’d accidentally skipped a line on my answer sheet, early in that section of the test. Every answer I’d chosen, each of those lines of graphite-filled bubbles, was off by one. I looked at the clock. Time was running out. I could see the Wesleyan campus fading before my eyes.

“I began moving all my bubbles up one line, erasing the wrong answers. The eraser on my No. 2 pencil hadn’t been at full strength when I’d started, and now I was nearly down to the metal.

“Then there was a ripping sound.

“I picked up the answer sheet. Through the gaping hole in the middle of it, I could see the hair of the girl in front of me.”

Boylan says the problem isn’t the way the Scholastic Aptitude Test is structured – it’s the test itself. She calls for its abolition.

 “The SAT is a mind-numbing, stress-inducing ritual of torture,” she writes. “The College Board can change the test all it likes, but no single exam, given on a single day, should determine anyone’s fate. The fact that we have been using this test to perform exactly this function for generations now is a national scandal.” Boylan is a professor of English at Colby College and the author of several memoirs. She is a contributing op-ed writer at The New York Times.

Odede ’12 Calls for ‘New Systems of Urban Promise’

In the lead op-ed in The New York Times Jan. 9, Kennedy Odede’12 described the despair and desperation of growing up in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums. He writes movingly of his childhood friends succumbing to lives of crime and terror as they sought a way out of crushing poverty.

“These are more than singular tragedies; they contribute to the psyche of being poor,” Kennedy writes. “This psyche inculcates hopelessness, dispels a belief in the possibility of tomorrow’s being better than today, compels a resignation to the fact that you may suffer the same tragic fate as your peers, and fuels anger because there is no escape and you did not choose this — you simply drew life’s short straw.   This, perhaps, is terrorism’s fertile ground. Because if you grew up as I did, self-protection requires coming to terms with violence and terror. Violence becomes a vehicle of survival. “

Terrorism is bred  in places like Kibera, he argues, calling for “new systems of urban promise” in Nairobi and elsewhere.

Odede is the founder of Shining Hope for Communities, and was a 2013 New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute.