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.”

Steven Simon on Saber Rattling with Iran

Submitted on Thursday, 5/23/2019, at 3:17 PM

With recent news reports of national security advisor John Bolton fixing to drive the Trump administration towards military action against Iran, Steven Simon, Visiting Professor of History who served on the National Security Council in the Clinton and Obama administrations, joined Carnegie Fellow and US State Department veteran Richard Sokolsky in penning  pair of pieces urging caution, in Foreign Policy and Politico Magazine.

“It is widely assumed that President Donald Trump himself does not want a shooting war with Iran; it raises serious electoral risks for him, and Trump is anti-interventionist by inclination,” they wrote in the Politico piece, which urges Congress to push for hard evidence of the “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” about Iran that Bolton referred to in a May 5 announcement.

“With the Trump administration’s track record, no one should rely on its appeals to ‘trust us, we know what we’re doing,’” they wrote. “Allowing the administration to barrel down the path toward war with Iran without demanding to see the intelligence would constitute a massive congressional failure.”

“For now, the risk that an accident could trigger a much larger U.S.-Iranian military confrontation is intolerably high. Establishing crisis management and conflict prevention measures at the operational level would be a low-risk way of talking to the Iranians and ratcheting down tensions,” they wrote for Foreign Policy.

Basu on the Quandary of India's Election of Women

Submitted on Thursday, 5/16/2019, at 12:00 PM

A recent piece in the New York Times examined why, despite having made their way into leadership positions much earlier than women in many Western democracies, women in India struggle to win representation in the country’s parliament.

Among other experts weighing in, the Times turned to Amrita Basu, Amherst’s Domenic J. Paino 1955 Professor of Political Science and chair of sexuality, women's and gender studies, for an opinion.

She noted that the issue doesn’t seem to be in the final vote.

“When women are nominated to run for national elections, they actually do well,” she said. “The question is why a larger number is not nominated. I think it is some combination of societal prejudice, but also the growing criminalization of politics. To contest parliamentary elections is to be often subject to slander and abuse. Election campaigns have just become more violent, more corrupt, more dangerous.”

A Mammoth Discovery For A Small Child

Submitted on Thursday, 5/16/2019, at 11:56 AM

A Florida toddler recently made the news for stumbling onto the kind of discovery that likely would have thrilled Amherst Professor Frederick Brewster Loomis: a mammoth tooth, found in the same general area where Loomis found a Columbian mammoth skeleton, the inspiration for Amherst’s trunked and tusked mascot.

Florida Today reports: “Monte Brigance, a retired offshore electrician from Livingston, Texas, was baby-sitting his grandson Colt Couch, [age 3] during the unexpected discovery in southeast Palm Bay.”

“‘He was throwing rocks into the pond. That's his favorite thing to do: throw rocks in the pond that he picks up out of the bank. About half of this was sticking out of the soil, and he couldn't pull it up,’ Brigance said, holding the mammoth tooth.”

Brigance helped his grandson pull up the object, which was later confirmed as a mammoth tooth.

Melbourne, Florida’s Crane Creek is host to deposits rich in prehistoric bones, in an an area known as the “Melbourne Bone Bed.” In was here where Loomis (Amherst Class of 1896 and a biology and geology professor) and James Gidley of the Smithsonian Institution unearthed the two complete mammoth skeletons, one being the one that now resides in Amherst’s Beneski Museum of Natural History.