Tiersky: Careful, Vladimir

Submitted on Friday, 4/25/2014, at 3:02 PM

Ronald Tiersky, Amherst's Eastman professor of political science, recently offered Russian President Vladimir Putin some friendly advice: what goes around comes around.

Writing recently for the Huffington Post, Tiersky authored “an imaginary memo to President Putin from an Old Friend,” in which the old friend, “Pavel,” cautioned the Russian leader following the annexation of Crimea to not overplay his hand.

“Your magnificent speech of March 18 announcing Crimea's annexation hit the right notes: legitimate grievance, the greatness of Russia, personal glory,” wrote “Pavel.” “For the moment, everyone is looking at Moscow, everybody fears Russia. (It's almost like old times.)”

 But “You have launched a dangerous game for Russia. If you know what you're doing then Russia is back. If you play badly, things will end badly, for you as well as Russia,” he concluded.

Amherst: Abnegation?

Submitted on Thursday, 4/10/2014, at 2:43 PM

If you were ever wondering where an Amherst education might place you in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, USA Today College’s Sarah Smith recently wrote that Amherst College best exemplifies the altruistic Abnegation faction of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent.

The novel, which has been adapted into a film current in theaters, describes a society broken down into 5 different factions based on certain personality traits: Candor, Erudite, Amity, Abnegation, and Dauntless.

In “‘Divergent’ on campus — which faction is your school?” Smith wrote, “Abnegation members are the selfless governing body of this world. A major aspect of this faction is their altruistic behavior – always putting others above yourself. Amherst College embodies a similar decree.”

Smith cites Amherst’s approach to financial aid as a proof of this, and quotes Gail Holt, Amherst’s dean of financial aid: “Nearly two-thirds of the student body receives financial aid from Amherst, and the college’s aid packages are among the most generous in the world.”

Kimmie Weeks '05 Wins Humanitarian Prize

Submitted on Wednesday, 12/11/2013, at 1:42 PM

Dr. Kimmie Weeks '05, executive director of Youth Action International, has been awarded the 2013 World Children's Prize Honorary Award, considered the most prestigious prize for children's rights in the world. He received the award from HRH Crowne Princess Victoria of Sweden on Oct. 17 at the Gripsholms Castle in Mariefred, Sweden.

Yes, Mr. President, But...

Submitted on Wednesday, 12/11/2013, at 1:53 PM

Amherst College President Biddy Martin wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education that President Barak Obama is correct to prioritize the affordability of higher education, but urges caution in setting standards of accountability.

"Our understanding of value ought to include students’ intellectual growth and understanding; the lasting impact of what they learn and the unpredictable ways in which its benefits make themselves felt over time," she wrote. "The financial success of graduates is a crucial bottom line, but we reduce a college education to the development of job skills and future income at our collective peril."

"President Obama stresses postgraduation income for understandable reasons," she concluded, "He sees higher education as the key to a middle-class life ... Higher education has been a path to opportunity and upward mobility for countless Americans and is a significant part of the mission for which we receive public support. In return, we owe the public a concerted effort to control costs while aggressively recruiting and supporting students who might otherwise not consider or imagine graduating from our colleges—or from college at all."

Dr. Charles R. Drew Portrayed in Mural

Submitted on Wednesday, 12/11/2013, at 1:45 PM

Dr. Charles R. Drew '26 is among a group of African-American achievers with ties to Massachusetts portrayed in a permanent art exhibition unveiled at the Edward L. Cooper Community Garden and Education Center in Roxbury, Mass. Drew was an outstanding surgeon who discovered the chemical method for preserving blood, and later became the director of the first American Blood Bank. He died in 1950. A residence hall at Amherst College, the Charles Drew Memorial Culture House, is named in his honor.

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Remembering Henry Bromell '70

Submitted on Friday, 3/29/2013, at 12:05 PM

The entertainment world recently mourned the passing of writer and television producer Henry Bromell ‘70, creative force behind such critically-acclaimed television series as Northern Exposure, Homicide: Life on the Street and Homeland,the last of which earned him an Emmy last year. He died March 18, at the age of 65.

In 2010, he spoke at Amelie Hastie’s class, “Knowing Television,” where he credited Amherst professors for encouraging his love for writing and film. “I started a film society, finagled some Super 8 film and proceeded to make some really bad films,” he told students at the time. Bromell, a short story writer and novelist published in the New Yorker, didn’t own a television when he was tapped to write for Northern Exposure.

“Henry was a profoundly decent and generous man.  A great writer and a great friend.  No matter how crazy things got, when he was in the room, you knew everything was going to be okay,” Homeland co-creators Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, told the Hollywood Reporter.

Pritchard: Another Look at Mrs. Bridge

Submitted on Monday, 3/4/2013, at 12:18 PM

William H. Pritchard, Henry Clay Folger professor of English, recently had a piece published in the Weekly Standard, in which he takes a look at Evan S. Connell’s novel Mrs. Bridge (1959), which he termed Connell’s “one brilliant, memorable book.”

Pritchard writes, “It’s a mistake to treat Connell’s relation to his heroine as a satirical one—putting ‘the literary scalpel to the suburban skin,’ as one of his critics described it. In the first place, it would not be much of a feat to score points off so unprotected and uncertain a figure as India Bridge; in the second, closely connected place, the book is simply too rich in its inventions to be so reduced.”

Connell died in January.

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Reyes on the Costs of Lead Poisoning

Submitted on Monday, 3/4/2013, at 12:15 PM

For an article on the persistent —and increasing— problem of lead poisoning in American society, Scientific American spoke with Associate Professor of Economics Jessica W. Reyes about the financial impact of lead.

Reyes estimated that societal costs related to lead poisoning, including direct medical costs, special education classes, and incarcerations for violent crime, amount to about $209 billion per year. She expressed hope that improved regulation of lead could be encouraged as a cost savings.

“Perhaps we will find that an X-amount of reduction in lead exposure equates with an X-amount of rise in test scores” [which has been shown in Massachusetts], she said. “Or perhaps we will find that a certain amount of reduction equates with a certain reduction in health-care costs.”

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Jagannathan on Doomsday: Black Holes and Dragons

Submitted on Tuesday, 12/18/2012, at 4:19 PM

For a lighthearted piece on the Dec. 21 doomsday being predicted by some readers of the Mayan calendar, the Chicago Tribune recently gathered ten “bet you didn’t know” facts about the Apocalypse, including observations from Bruce B. Benson ’43 Professor of Physics Kannan “Jagu” Jagannathan on the possibility of this planet being sucked into a black hole.

 “The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, went into operation in 2008, accelerating atomic particles and agitating people who were worried it could create a black hole that would swallow the Earth. Scientists downplay such concerns but, as Amherst College physicist Kannan Jagannathan explained, they are opposed to saying there's zero chance. Jagannathan did say the odds of the collider ending life on this planet were no better than the odds of his college president opening a kitchen faucet and a dragon popping out,” the Tribune reported.

 You can read the original interview with Jagannathan here.

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Congdon's "Take Me to the River"

Submitted on Thursday, 11/29/2012, at 3:52 PM

Playwright-In-Residence Constance Congdon’s play “Take Me to the River” was recently the subject of a staged reading by the Key City Public Theater of Port Townsend, Washington. Congdon went to Port Townsend earlier this year as the guest playwright at festival there in February; Key City presented her play “Lips” in the spring. “Take Me to the River,” which has been workshopped and given staged readings at the Denver Center Theater and at UMass, deals with the fate of family farms, the arrival of developers and drought.

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