Corrales on LGBT Gains in Brazil

Submitted on Thursday, 6/20/2019, at 4:10 PM

Following news of the June 13 ruling by Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court to include sexual orientation and gender identity  in the nation’s anti-discrimination law, the Associated Press published a piece looking at the history of LGBT rights in Brazil, speaking with Javier Corrales, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 professor of Political Science.

While President, Jair Bolsonaro has openly expressed his disdain for same-sex couples, and studies indicate Brazil is the most dangerous place in the world to be transgender. Still, Corrales said the ruling has important implications.

“It conveys to all actors the importance of respecting sexual and gender diversity,” he said. “Brazil is not the first. But it is not late.”

The Immigration Experience With Min Jin Lee

Submitted on Thursday, 6/13/2019, at 2:44 PM

Author Min Jin Lee, who will join the College as a writer-in-residence starting in the 2019-2020 academic year, recently spoke with WBUR’s On Point about being an immigrant in America, and on its elite college campuses.

The piece cited three recent pieces on this theme, a New Yorker column, “Stonehenge,” a New York Times opinion piece, “Breaking My Own Silence,” and an interview she gave to The Guardian.

"I’m going to sound like an optimist here,” she told The Guardian. “We are having a dark moment in the American political climate regarding undocumented migrants and asylum seekers but, then again, the history of immigration in America has always been checkered.”

“In the United States we have two competing mythologies about immigration. On the one hand, we believe that different kinds of races make up an American person. On the other, a deep nativist strain keeps resurfacing. Nevertheless, there has also been strong resistance to nativism. Frederick Douglass, for instance, called the United States a 'composite nation' when he argued against the Chinese Exclusion Act [of 1882].”

Her three-year appointment to Amherst’s English department came about after her appearance at the College’s LitFest in March 2018.

Vickery's Gift to the Emily Dickinson Museum, and More

Submitted on Thursday, 6/13/2019, at 2:42 PM

Word of the $25 million gift from the late William McCall Vickery '57, largely to support the Emily Dickinson Museum, has been rippling out through press accounts.

“This is many, many times the size of a gift the museum has ever received,” Museum Executive Director Jane Wald told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Pieces have also appeared through, WRSI-FM, Philanthropy News Digest, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Vickery, a founding member of the board of governors for the Emily Dickinson Museum 16 years ago, championed a campaign to restore Emily Dickinson’s bedroom. Of the $25 million being given to the College’s endowment, approximately $22 million is being specifically earmarked for the maintenance and improvement of the museum’s buildings, grounds and collections. Part of the Vickery’s gift will be used to create the “William McCall Vickery ’57 Piano Fund” to fund the restoring, rebuilding, repairing and purchasing of pianos for the College’s music department.

Steven Mallory '19 on Diversity in Hockey

Submitted on Thursday, 6/13/2019, at 2:40 PM

WGBY's Connecting Point did a piece on diversity in winter sports, speaking with Steven Mallory '19 about his days playing hockey for AC. He spoke (about 12 minutes into the program) about growing up in New Jersey, where he started on the ice at age 5. At Amherst, he was on the varsity men's ice hockey team, Student Athletic Advisory Committee, Council of Amherst College Student-Athletes of Color, and Amherst LEADS.

Building Bridges with Learning Communities

Submitted on Thursday, 6/6/2019, at 2:17 PM

In a new column for Inside Higher Ed, Catherine Epstein, dean of the faculty and Winkley Professor of History, writes about how small, intensive learning communities can help build bridges between diverse groups of students.

“We’ve found that if students who share academic interests spend considerable time together, they will often forge strong personal connections,” she writes, describing initiatives such as College-funded class trips overseas and research tutorials.

“At Amherst and other select liberal arts colleges, we face the challenge of creating a sense of campus belonging and community among a remarkably diverse student body,” she writes. “We cannot leave diversity work divorced from our primary academic endeavors; we should not separate it from our central academic mission. When we forge a sense of belonging and community through intellectual pursuits, we rely on the most fundamental task of the university: intellectual inquiry.”

Taubman on the Censored Life of Vasily Grossman

Submitted on Thursday, 6/6/2019, at 2:14 PM

William Taubman, Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, recently wrote a column for the New York Times’ Book Review section, in which he tells about being engrossed by Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century, an account by former Soviet journalist Alexandra Popoff, of the life of Russian author Vasily Grossman (1934 -1964), whose major work Life and Fate (1961) was suppressed by the government until 1988.

Life and Fate was a political bombshell. It was the first Soviet work to equate Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the two totalitarian regimes that confronted each other as enemies in the war,” Taubman wrote. “The official Soviet Writers Union informed Grossman [a famous war correspondent and author of other celebrated novels] that his novel might someday be considered publishable, but ‘perhaps not for 250 years.’”

“As told by Popoff, the stories behind Grossman’s stories, particularly of censors’ efforts to alter and limit them, are fascinating,” Taubman wrote.

Dhingra: This "Broken" Bee Doesn't Need Fixing

Submitted on Thursday, 6/6/2019, at 2:13 PM

The fact that the young contestants “broke” the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee, resulting in an eight-way tie, should be a cause for celebration, not a call for reforming the competition, Pawan Dhingra, professor of American Studies, writes in the New York Times.

“Eight adolescents kept beating the dictionary until it, in the form of [the bee’s pronouncer Jacques] Bailly, gave up, and they were all declared co-champions,” Dhingra writes.

“Is this acceptable? Shouldn’t a national championship be able to figure out how to winnow the field to one person or team? … But a spelling bee is not like any other competition. This is one case where multiple winners are actually something to be celebrated, or at least allowed.”

“Young people have enough spaces in which they must outcompete one another for prized goods,” he continued. “Youth stress is a growing pandemic, creating significant mental health concerns. Why not allow for competitive spaces that recognize sometimes more than one person is the best, rather than reserving that for a singular person? If there is one venue that is best suited for multiple winners, it is the spelling bee.”

Following the Tracks to the Beneski

Submitted on Thursday, 5/30/2019, at 3:31 PM

A stolen dinosaur fossil trackway —a slab of rock containing dinosaur footprints—seized from a poacher in 2002 and since then in the possession of the Massachusetts Environmental Police, recently found a new home at the College’s Beneski Museum of Natural History.

“I’ve been thinking about this day for literally years and years and years,” Lt. Col. Anthony Abdal-Khabir of the Massachusetts Environmental Police told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. The Gazette and several other news outlets covered the MEP’s gift to the Beneski, including New England Public Radio, the Associated Press and WWLP-22.

“The track was housed in a State Police office in Boston for 16 years before Abdal-Khabir, who took command of the state Environmental Police nine months ago, said he made it his mission to find a good place to display the fossil,” wrote the Boston Globe.

Gill Police seized the trackway in 2002 from a Chicopee who claimed to be taking the rocks to build a fireplace. But police determined that he was carrying dinosaur track fossils, which he intended to sell on eBay. Though the man was arrested and charged with trespassing and theft of stone, the case was continued without a finding and its records sealed in 2004.

Hayley Singleton, the museum’s collections manager, told the Globe the trackway is from the early Jurassic period. She said the track is likely from one belonging to the Eubrontes giganteus, a category of large dinosaurs that lived 190 million years ago.

Looking Back at War and Peace with Thayer Greene ’50

Submitted on Thursday, 5/30/2019, at 3:28 PM

“You could smell it … the disease and despair. It was the worst, a picture of hell,” says Thayer Greene ’50, thinking back 74 years to when he and his fellow U.S. Soldiers liberated the Nordhausen concentration camp, abandoned by the Germans as the Allies advanced, before World War II ended in Europe.

Greene, a concentration camp liberator turned Amherst College chaplain turned psychotherapist, reflected on his experiences in a Memorial Day piece for The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“After the war, Greene, who’s originally from New Britain, Connecticut, attended Amherst College, went to seminary, and became a chaplain at the college and a pastor at First Congregational Church in Amherst. In the early 1960s, he became a psychoanalyst. At 93, he still sees patients in his apartment in the Applewood retirement community in South Amherst,” wrote reporter Nick Grabbe.

“My life is a paradox,” Greene said. “At 18, I was trained to kill Germans. In my career as a therapist and healer, I spend my days healing damaged human beings. I am an instrument of life, but for a brief but horrible time I was an instrument of death.”

From New England to Nepal: The Positives of Land Conservation

Submitted on Thursday, 5/23/2019, at 3:20 PM

Continuing to challenge the narrative that land conservation is bad for business growth, Katharine Sims, associate professor of economics and environmental studies and chair of the economics department, is now getting attention for a pair of recent studies on the impact of protection efforts in New England and Nepal.

Sims recently spoke with WGBY’s Connecting Point about her recent paper in Conservation Biology, which looked at the impacts of public land protection in New England from 1990 to 2015.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, “revealed that when land conservation increased, employment also increased over the five-year period that followed,” Farm and Dairy reported. “If a town with 50,000 employed citizens increased its land protection by 50 percent, it saw, on average, 750 additional people employed in the next five years.”

Scienmag and Science Daily reported on a University of Manchester study published in Nature Sustainability, for which Sims joined the a UK team looking at conservation in Nepal. The study found that areas with community forest management were 51% more likely to witness simultaneous reductions in deforestation and poverty.

“We sought to learn from Nepal’s experience implementing an innovative conservation policy,” Sims told Scienmag. We hope our methods will be useful for future study of community forestry in different contexts and compared to alternate governance structures.”