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Week of 20 November 1998

Vol. II, No. 15

In the News

While a national organization seeking to eliminate affirmative action is now looking at Massachusetts, Board of Education Chairman and BU Chancellor John Silber is unconcerned. "This is no attack on serious affirmative action," Silber says in a November 4 Boston Herald story. "It's an attack on affirmative action based on racial discrimination," which he says is not characteristic of Massachusetts' approach. While underscoring his support of affirmative action, Silber says, "If schools want to save their affirmative action policies, there's a simple solution. Stop discriminating on the basis of race and discriminate on the individual history of educational disadvantage and economic disadvantage and social disadvantage."

John Glenn's return to space produced adulation, but it was also good for laughs, as viewers of The Tonight Show discovered when host Jay Leno matched wits with the shuttle crew. According to CAS History Professor Joe Boskin, commenting in a November 6 Philadelphia Inquirer story on the astronauts' banter with the talk show host, "It's very clever of [NASA] to use a guy like Jay Leno. It's a ploy, a very clever ploy. . . . what I call pabulum humor." Boskin adds that that type of self-deprecating and easy humor is the best public relations NASA could hope for.

"We don't talk about what a virtuous, good life is very much," muses SED Professor Kevin Ryan, director of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character, in a November 9 Christian Science Monitor story about heroes. The subject might even seem risible with a president embarrassed by a sex scandal. But Ryan sees other causes. "In times of warfare, in times of great uncertainty, I think that people who are stepping out and putting their lives on the line or devoting themselves to causes somehow strike the moral imagination more," he says. "But when the good times roll, the virtuous lives are somehow lost."

CAS Associate History Professor Nina Silber deprecates the tendency of some commentators to link the current presidential scandal with Thomas Jefferson's alleged relationship with his slave Sally Hemmings. Expressing her annoyance in a November 4 letter to the New York Times, Silber says Jefferson represents "a more profound problem than one man's cover-up of a tawdry sexual encounter." Jefferson's "actions must instead be seen in the context of a tangled and tragic history of race, sex, and slavery in which the founders saw little contradiction between advocating freedom for some and human bondage for others," she writes.

The November 16 BusinessWeek spotlights the results of a study conducted by Linda Bui and Eli Berman, CAS assistant economics professors, which assesses the effects of environmental regulations on employment at manufacturing plants in Los Angeles and other areas of the country. "Plant managers interviewed complained about the regulations but reported no adverse impact on jobs," Bui concludes. The study, sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research, focused on the period from 1980 to 1992, when air pollution controls were tightened dramatically in the Los Angeles area.

"In the News" is compiled by the Office of Public Relations.