Amherst Tops in Creative Writing, Says Chee

Submitted on Thursday, 7/5/2018, at 4:32 PM

Promoting his latest book How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, author Alexander Chee spoke with the Daily Hampshire Gazette about his days at Amherst College as a visiting writer between 2006 and 2010.

In particular, he told the Gazette that “Amherst College’s creative writing program and community remains the standard against which I’ve judged all others since.”

Chee elaborated, “Too often I think that people are made to feel like maybe they don’t belong in this or that conversation, and that was really not something that I felt when I was in Amherst. You could be at a reception for a particular writer, and maybe you’d be standing next to a junior who had just started getting into fiction writing classes, and some hot new novelist who just happened to be in town that night, and somebody who had retired from teaching maybe like two years ago and was around for the dinner and hanging out — and they would all be talking together … it’s a certain quality of openness that’s hard to explain, but when you experience it, you experience all of these possibilities inside of it.”

AC Press's Mark Edington on Peer Review Transparency

Submitted on Thursday, 7/5/2018, at 4:30 PM

“It is somewhat perplexing that a practice both central to our claim to distinctive authority as publishers, and implemented by all of us, does not have clearer, more public standards,” writes Mark Edington, director of the Amherst College Press and publisher of Lever Press, in a recent editorial for The Scholarly Kitchen discussing peer review.

Last year the Open Society Foundations awarded AC Press a $33,000 grant to host a conference on scholarly publishing, the first event of a group called  Peer Review Transparency, which issued a report in April recommending standards for peer review, and a system by which readers are notified of work that meets this standard.

Chimaway Lopez '20: Making The Case With Song

Submitted on Friday, 6/29/2018, at 9:37 AM

To protest cuts to the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s music programs, Chimaway Lopez ’20 chose not to simply speak to his hometown’s Board of Education, but sang instead.

The Santa Barbara Independent recently reported that Lopez, in a trio also made up of Santa Barbara High School students Ashley DeLepaña and Iyana Brown, stole the show at a board meeting with a rendition of Sam Cooke’s 1964 song, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

“We just wanted to show what a musical education means to us,” Lopez said.

Elliott Arkin '83 and the Ten-Foot Picasso

Submitted on Wednesday, 6/13/2018, at 4:03 PM

“If you walk or bike along the Brooklyn Greenway this month, you’ll probably see something very unexpected: a 10-foot-tall sculpture of Picasso mowing a lawn,” Artnet News recently reported, describing Elliott Arkin’s “cartoonish lawn gnome of the world’s most famous painter.” 

The sculpture is part of the 1983 Amherst graduate’s series of sculptures whimsically depicting famous artists as lawn gnomes.

“I used to say that if Picasso was around today he would have to mow lawns for a living,” he said. “The art world has changed that much.”

“Many of his works for the publication are ‘insider’s jokes’ about figures in the art world that wouldn’t be known by the general public,” writes the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Getting Inside Their Heads With Alex George

Submitted on Thursday, 6/7/2018, at 4:00 PM

On campus, Philosophy Professor Alexander George is known for getting inside our ideas —ethics, value, knowledge and other philosophical questions— but, as the Daily Hampshire Gazette recently discovered, he also gets inside our heads. You see, after hours he moonlights as a mentalist, or mind reader.

“I think I’ve learned more about how to put together a mentalism show from being a professor than anywhere,” George told the Gazette. “There’s a kind of performative element and interactive element to my day job that is intimately connected to mentalism.”

His ability to read people, he said, is based “90 percent on body reading and the rest on following a hunch … we don’t realize how much we give away through body language.”

Stavans on Snapping and Clapping

Submitted on Thursday, 6/7/2018, at 3:56 PM

Are you a snapper or a clapper? 

In a recent piece about finger-snapping as a sign of approval, Simplemost’s Bonnie Azoulay quotes Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture, about students snapping instead of clapping.

“I’ve made an effort to study the finger-snapping behavior, and I’ve reached an early conclusion: Finger-snapping is done delicately, respectfully, democratically, always in the middle of an event, whereas hand-clapping, which is by definition louder and more disruptive, is invariably reserved for the end,” he said, in a piece originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Laura Draucker Discusses the Solar Pact

Submitted on Thursday, 6/7/2018, at 3:18 PM

Laura Draucker, Amherst College’s director of sustainability recently appeared on WGBY57’s program “Connecting Point,” as part of a panel discussing the New England College Renewable Partnership.

Amherst, Bowdoin, Hampshire, Smith and Williams colleges are partnering with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, a leading clean energy company, which will construct a utility-scale solar power facility that annually will create enough electricity to power about 5,000 New England homes.

Each of the colleges will purchase zero-carbon electricity from the Maine site to reduce carbon emissions from campus electricity use. The facility is expected to open in 2019.

The collaborative effort was the subject of recent articles in Masslive.comDaily Hampshire Gazette and University Business.

President Martin Elected to the Harvard Corporation

Submitted on Thursday, 5/31/2018, at 1:26 PM

The Harvard Gazette and the Daily Hampshire Gazette recently reported that Amherst College President Biddy Martin has been elected to the Harvard Corporation, the smaller (13 members) of the two governing bodies of Harvard University, the other being the 30-member Board of Overseers.

According to Harvard’s website, the Corporation “exercises fiduciary responsibility with regard to the University’s academic, financial, and physical resources and its overall well-being,” and serves as a confidential sounding board for Harvard’s president and other officials.

The Harvard Corporation will be the first and only board President Martin has joined since becoming Amherst’s president. Martin and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will start in July.

“I think I will learn a lot from this experience and it will help me with my responsibilities at Amherst College,” she told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Javier Corrales on Venezuela's Fraught Election

Submitted on Thursday, 5/31/2018, at 1:26 PM

As the world watched for the results in the May 20 election in Venezuela, news outlets time an again turned for perspective to Javier Corrales, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 professor of Political Science at Amherst College.

Some observers characterized the election, which ultimately re-elected incumbent Nicolás Maduro to second six-year term, as a sham, having the lowest voter turnout in Venezuela's democratic history. 

Despite these concerns heading into the election, Corrales urged in a May 15 editorial in the New York Times that Venezualans should vote, regardless. “The correct question to ask is not whether voting is ideal — it certainly is not. We should be asking whether voting is better than doing nothing. To me, the answer is yes,” he wrote. “By doing nothing, that is, abstaining, Venezuelans will essentially vote for Mr. Maduro, giving him an easy victory.”

Articles in The Wall Street Journal, The Conversation, WLRN Public Radio, The Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, and the Associated Press quoted his Times piece, sought his opinions, and cited his recent study on Venezuela’s electoral system.

Amherst Finds the Right Mix

Submitted on Thursday, 5/31/2018, at 12:55 PM

For an article on higher education attempts to enroll more low-income students, Market Watch turned to Amherst as an example of a school that has successfully improved the mix.

“At Amherst College, increasing the size of its incoming class was among many strategies the school embarked on several years ago to open up the small liberal arts college to students it hadn’t traditionally served,” wrote Market Watch reporter Jillian Berman. “In addition to working to diversify the school’s applicant pool and establishing more generous financial aid policies, the school also chose to increase its freshman class size by 25 students every year for four years.”

“So far, it appears that the steps to increase diversity, including growing the class size, have worked. In the fall of 2006, the Amherst student body was made up of 1,613 students, 15.4% of whom were eligible for Pell grants. At the start of this academic year the college had about 1,846 students and 24.5% are Pell-eligible.”