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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


Freakanomics Goes to College with Biddy Martin

Submitted on Wednesday, 10/3/2012, at 1:53 PM

President Biddy Martin recently spoke about the transformative power of education WNYC’s program "Freakanomics Radio."

Martin , appearing with economists David Card, Betsey Stevenson, and Justin Wolfers, as well as former Bush advisor Karl Rove, spoke about her upbringing in rural Virginia, and what an education provides beyond facts and figures.

“The family was skeptical of education…They grew up in a time and a place when the bias against what they would have called eggheads and overly educated people included, among other things, I think a fear that people with a lot of education think they’re better than those who don’t have an education,” she said.

“It’s impossible to learn a completely different way of thinking about things without unlearning what one has already learned,” she said. “And I think it’s important to realize that, because it’s often the case now, people think about education as the acquisition of new things as if it were an unproblematic and promising process, simply of adding to what one already knows or thinks. And the truth is, it is transformative, and that means upending a whole set of assumptions about how to see things, what’s possible, what’s real.”

Listen to the program here or read a complete transcript here.


Amherst Athletes Help Local Survival Center

Submitted on Wednesday, 10/3/2012, at 2:59 PM

Amherst athletes recently turned furniture into food for a recent benefit supporting the Amherst Survival Center, and their work was the subject of a news piece on WWLP-TV.

The annual Recycled Furniture Sale, help Sept. 7, benefits the Amherst Survival Center; money raised helps provide meals and health care for the needy. 

Amherst students joined with those from other local college sports teams in helping sell, move and arrange furniture during the drive.

“It's really a bonding experience, because I know we do other things as a team: we run and everything. Just to come here and help out with the Survival Center is just something that brings the team together,” said Wrenford Thaffe ‘13, captain of Amherst’s track and field team.


Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find Me a Roomate

Submitted on Thursday, 8/30/2012, at 12:19 PM

Amherst College has lately been getting attention from numerous media outlets for its low-tech, old-school and winning method of matching student roommates.

“The experience of being in a small residential college in New England is about negotiating what it means to live with another person,” Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life Torin Moore told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “For many, it's their first year away from their families, and it's important for us to get it right. This is someone you're living with day by day, someone you can grow and learn with.”

“Students at this age are often going to look for somebody they're going to feel comfortable with because they're just like them...We're going to look to really mix it up,” said Pamela Stawasz, assistant housing director, in an interview with USA Today.

“It’s cool to be introduced to new types of people,” Tom Sommers ‘16 told The Boston Globe, in a piece picked up by United Press International.