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Boston University Arts & Sciences

CAS News: August 2009
CAS Hosts Special Events for Class of 2013

With the start of a new academic year, CAS is planning three events exclusively for incoming freshmen and faculty. Please note that we would like as many regular faculty to participate as possible.

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James Winn Awarded Warren Professorship

James Winn, professor of English and director of the Boston University Humanities Foundation, has been named a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor. BU President Robert Brown made the announcement on August 27. Winn is the fifth BU professor and third CAS professor to receive the honor.

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Research Team Awarded $2.8 Million to Model Group Behavior

An interdisciplinary team of CAS faculty recently received a $2.8 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation for research into computer modeling of group behavior. Leading the project will be Margrit Betke from the Department of Computer Science. She will work with co-principal investigators Joyce Wong (Biomedical Engineering), Stan Sclaroff (chair, Computer Science), and Tom Kunz (Biology).

Learn More Celebrating 20 Years of PROMYS

Alumni, teachers, and students recently celebrated 20 years of PROMYS, a summer program at Boston University designed to encourage motivated high school students to explore the world of mathematics in a supportive community of peers, counselors, research mathematicians, and visiting scientists.

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In Memory
Professor Emerita Freda Rebelsky

Freda Rebelsky, the first woman to earn tenure in BU’s Department of Psychology, died on July 20 at age 78. A BU professor for 34 years, Freda retired as professor emerita in 1996. She served as chair of the Faculty Council in the 1970s and president of the BU AAUP chapter for many years. She won the Metcalf Cup and Prize, as well as numerous national teaching awards. Said CAS Music Professor Roye Wates, “Freda was more than a teacher; she was a presence—funny, passionate, loud, ranting, but above all, loving. BU owes an enormous debt to people like her.”

Colleagues, students, and friends celebrated Freda’s life at a memorial service on August 16 in the Boston University Law Alumni Auditorium.



FAROUK EL-BAZ, director of the Center for Remote Sensing, spoke about the mutual benefits of investing in science and science education in the Middle East at a July 22 event in Washington, D.C. He stressed that the United States should be doing more to help develop scientific capacity throughout the region, noting that President Obama's April speech at Cairo University—in which he outlined a strategy emphasizing scientific and technological collaboration to promote peace in partnership with Muslim countries—has electrified the region. “It’s certainly a worthwhile investment because we’re not just helping Arabs, but we’re also helping ourselves,” said Farouk, who is a member of the U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation (CRDF) Advisory Council. CRDF and the Brookings Institution, in conjunction with U.S. Rep. Rush Holt and the House Research and Development Caucus, hosted the invitation-only event on Capitol Hill.

JULIAN GO, associate professor of sociology, won the 2009 Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book from the Culture Section of the American Sociological Association for American Empire and the Politics of Meaning: Elite Political Cultures in the Philippines and Puerto Rico during U.S. Colonialism. The book examines the initial impact of American colonial rule of the Philippines and Puerto Rico from 1898 to 1912. It is the first systematic comparative analysis of these early exercises in American imperial power.

ADIL NAJAM, Frederick S. Pardee Professor for Global Public Policy, has been conferred the “Sitara-i-Imtiaz” by the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The award is given to Pakistani citizens and foreign nationals for excellence in various fields and activities. It is one of the highest civil awards Pakistan can confer. The investiture ceremony will take place on Pakistan Day, March 23, 2010.

In the News
Highlights of national news coverage received by CAS faculty


U.S. Fuel Sanctions to Hurt Iran, a Boon for Trader

“Iran is the world's fifth-largest crude exporter but its refineries lack the capacity to meet domestic fuel demand so it imports up to 40 percent of its gasoline supplies. The U.S. and its allies may target those imports if Tehran refuses to enter talks over its nuclear program. The West suspects Iran aims to make nuclear bombs, while Tehran insists it needs fuel for power plants. The measures would disrupt supply patterns, stop some suppliers and force Iran to pay more for sellers to run the risk, analysts and traders said. . . . Higher import costs would impact the budget, which could hurt President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Government subsidies make Iran's gasoline among the cheapest in the world. If imports cost more, more of the budget would be spent on those subsidies, leaving less cash to finance Ahmadinejad's populist programs. So even if the oil flow continues, sanctions may have the impact that the U.S. and its allies want. Neta Crawford, a professor of political science at Boston University who studied the effect of oil sanctions against apartheid in South Africa, said even leaky sanctions there strained the economy and fractured the elites' hold on society. ‘Sanctions deny them their resource, force them to pay a premium for that resource, and then the cost of evading the embargo just means they don't have the resources to do whatever it was they initially wanted to do,’ Crawford said. ‘Everything they do to evade sanctions becomes a huge tax. It creates these huge gray and black market economies, and people who wouldn't have been empowered become empowered by making a whole lot of money.’”


A New Focus for Alzheimer’s Patients
Researchers Finding Disease Is Exacerbated by Vision Loss

“The devastating memory gaps of Alzheimer’s disease often conceal a less well known impairment: a type of vision loss that a growing body of research shows may make people seem less mentally competent than they actually are. Scientists at Boston University and elsewhere are now testing whether they could improve the lives of people with Alzheimer’s by helping them see better, using low-tech interventions such as colored dinner plates, oversize change purses, and special bingo cards. . . . ‘Let’s say you put keys down on the counter and can’t find them. People say, “Of course she can’t find them—she has Alzheimer’s.” Well, what if she can’t see them?’ said Alice Cronin-Golomb, a BU psychology professor who has done leading work on vision in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s patients have difficulty picking up on certain kinds of visual contrast—one researcher compared it to wearing sunglasses indoors and squinting. . . . Now, Cronin-Golomb is testing whether simple, cheap steps could improve a patient’s functioning. She is studying, for example, whether varying pill’s color against a particular floor helps patients pick it up. ‘Baking, bingo, trying to pick out change out of a purse, trying to pick up a pill that dropped on the floor . . . they’re not essential to live, but they’re pretty essential to operate in society,’ said Tracy Dunne, a lecturer in psychology at BU who hopes to take the findings out of the lab to help patients and caregivers.”


In Exile, an Iranian ‘Lion’ Keeps Fighting
UMass Scholar Presses for Reform

“America is not a Christian nation. We are, it is true, a nation founded by Christians, and according to a 2008 survey, 76 percent of us continue to identify as Christian (still, that's the lowest percentage in American history). Of course, we are not a Hindu—or Muslim, or Jewish, or Wiccan—nation, either. A million-plus Hindus live in the United States, a fraction of the billion who live on Earth. But recent poll data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity. . . . According to a 2008 Pew Forum survey, 65 percent of us believe that ‘many religions can lead to eternal life’—including 37 percent of white evangelicals, the group most likely to believe that salvation is theirs alone. Also, the number of people who seek spiritual truth outside church is growing. Thirty percent of Americans call themselves ‘spiritual, not religious,’ according to a 2009 NEWSWEEK Poll, up from 24 percent in 2005. Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, has long framed the American propensity for ‘the divine-deli-cafeteria religion’ as ‘very much in the spirit of Hinduism. You're not picking and choosing from different religions, because they're all the same,’ he says. ‘It isn't about orthodoxy. It's about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great—and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that's great, too.’”

Important Administrative Notices

Faculty Mentors
All new assistant professors should be matched with a senior faculty mentor. New faculty members with questions about this should see their department chair. Department chairs should make sure that Gareth McFeeley in Faculty Actions receives an updated list of their department’s mentoring matches this week if he has not received them already.

Classes and Holidays
The first class day is Wednesday, September 2. Monday, September 7, is Labor Day, and classes are suspended; there is no make-up day.

H1N1 Virus Advisory and Classes
Prepare now to help stem the development and impact of a possible flu epidemic. All members of the BU community should follow appropriate hygiene practices to protect themselves and others. Helpful information is available from the CDC at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu. Everyone—students and faculty—who experiences flu-like symptoms should isolate themselves at home. Isolation should continue until symptoms have resolved, plus 24 hours. Faculty should be prepared to assist each other with covering classes. Because students must isolate themselves, they will not have, and should not be asked for, medical proof of illness. Faculty should be prepared in advance with grading and work completion policies that cover the case of illness. They should consider using web-based techniques that allow students to continue to make progress at home during illness as their health allows. More information will follow.

Religious Holidays and Classes
During the fall semester, many religious holidays coincide with class days. Please be sensitive and equitable in policies that take account of potential conflicts between religious obligations and class attendance and the scheduling of examinations and assignments.

Upcoming Meetings and Events

Ice Cream Social for Freshmen and Faculty
3:30–5 p.m., Marsh Plaza

First Day of Classes

Labor Day, offices closed

Successful Faculty Searches Lunch Workshop
Noon, CAS 132

BU New Faculty Welcome Reception
6 p.m., Sloane House

CAS New Faculty Orientation
8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., The Castle

Provost’s Meet and Greet Tea
4–5:30 p.m., Trustee Ballroom, 1 Silber Way,
9th floor

CAS Café, Omnivore’s Dilemma Discussion
Freshmen and regular faculty only
7–9 p.m., Trustee Ballroom, 1 Silber Way,
9th floor

Council of Chairs and Directors Meeting
4–5:30 p.m., CAS 132

Annual CAS Faculty Reception
5:30–7 p.m., Trustee Ballroom, 1 Silber Way,
9th floor

Keep Us in the Loop

Do you have events or activities you want to publicize? Please send them to cascom@bu.edu for inclusion in the e-newsletter.

Keep Students in the Loop

Do you have events or activities you want to publicize specially to students? Please send them to the CAS Weekly Newsletter for students at casevent@bu.edu.

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