Archive: Wed Dec 2008

  1. Graves: Yale invests the right way


    In recent weeks the Responsible Endowment Project and Undergraduate Organizing Committee have gained attention on campus by alleging the Yale Investments Office has made unethical investments. One of their two primary complaints is that Yale’s investment in HEI Hotels and Resorts, a private equity fund manager that acquires and manages hotels, is an unethical one. They also argue the University must increase endowment transparency to allow for greater oversight. To make sure their voices are heard, they have wrote to this paper and staged a sit-in at the Yale Investments Office.

    Although the recent controversy may have soured some students’ opinions of Yale’s investments, in reality, we all should be holding our heads high. Yale is one of the most ethical institutional investors and the University’s chief investment officer, David Swensen, is one of the most ethically trustworthy managers in the business. What the UOC and Responsible Endowment Project fail to grasp is that opacity is a necessary part of responsible institutional investing and that the HEI Hotel and Resorts controversy is in part a union issue and is not necessarily a matter of ethics.

    Although accounting transparency is vital to the ethical governance of a corporation, investment transparency is universally destructive to endowments and other large investors. When Yale makes an investment or employs a particular strategy, the confidentiality of its operations is of paramount concern. A large portion of Yale’s excellent returns comes from the ability of the Investments Office to locate and invest in talented and ethical fund managers, who come from domestic equity funds, hedge funds, private equity funds, real estate funds, timber funds, and oil and gas funds, among other parts of the investment world. The Yale Investments Office takes great pains in locating these managers and making its other investments, and if everyone were to have a complete list of Yale’s holdings and asset allocations, this work would be for naught — everyone would rush to invest in the same holdings as Yale, and our returns would be diluted by copycats.

    The UOC fails to understand the fundamental fact that the investment world relies on the protection of intellectual property. If Yale’s endowment were to become as transparent as the UOC desires, the Yale portfolio would become common knowledge, and Yale’s returns would cease to be extraordinary. Just as Coca-Cola and the best chefs protect their secret recipes to prevent others from destroying their businesses by copying them, the Yale Investments Office keeps its holdings from the public. To generate long-run returns that will keep the University healthy and help it weather hard times like these, Yale must keep the portfolio opaque.

    Although many institutions must balance opacity and oversight, Yale has developed an effective system to achieve both goals. At Yale, the main body responsible for creating guidelines for responsible investing is the Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility, which is aided by the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, a committee on which two students serve. In establishing these organizations in 1973, Yale became a pioneer for ethical institutional investing. Providing further oversight, the Yale Investment Committee oversees the entire portfolio.

    On top of this, Yale has another force driving responsible investment. An organization is often only as ethical as its leaders, and David Swensen is recognized by the financial industry as one of the most conscientious and ethical institutional investors. Yale’s endowment is in good hands — both financially and ethically.

    The HEI conflict is emblematic of student misunderstanding of the Yale investment process and ethical mission. This conflict gained publicity at Yale because the union of which some Yale workers are a part got students to advocate for their fellow workers who work for HEI and might unionize. Violations of workers’ rights must be addressed if they are substantiated, but the current campaign to paint as unethical Yale’s investment in an organization with a union conflict is intellectually dishonest.

    The recent sit-in at the Yale Investments Office was inappropriate because the UOC engaged in heavy-handed tactics suitable only for extreme cases, and certainly not appropriate given the circumstances of this case. A campus rally for union organizations would be appropriate advocacy, but a sit-in that disrupts investment professionals striving to protect our University from tough financial times is not.

    Daniel Graves is a senior in Ezra Stiles College.

  2. Sexual assault more prevalent than reported


    Sexual assault is three times more common at Yale than the University’s official crime statistics reflect, according to a new report issued by the campus sexual offense resource center.

    The report from the Sexual Harassment Assault Resources & Education Center records the number of calls to the center’s response line in the 2007-’08 school year. By that count, there were 24 reported incidents of sexual assault at Yale last year.

    The University Report on Campus Security, however, lists just eight alleged forcible sex offenses in 2007.

    In response to allegations that Yale was underreporting sexual offenses, the U.S. Department of Education began investigating the University for its compliance with federal reporting requirements in 2004. Since then, the University has reviewed and reformed its protocols for handling reports of sexual crimes.

    Yale administrators said the figures in its campus security report are lower because federal law requires universities to report only certain kinds of offenses. Plus, the administrators added, no one knows exactly how many sexual crimes take place at Yale — or, for that matter, at other universities.

    “There’s a feeling that our [numbers] are too low and not reflective of what’s really happening,” said the report’s author, SHARE director Carole Goldberg.


    In 1986, Jeanne Ann Clery, a 19-year-old freshman at Lehigh University, was asleep in her dorm room when she was raped and murdered.

    Her parents discovered that the school had not told students about 38 violent crimes on Lehigh’s campus in the three years leading up to their daughter’s murder. Together with other campus crime victims, they pushed Congress to enact new reporting requirements with a 1990 law later named in Clery’s memory.

    The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report certain crimes on an ongoing basis and in an annual report. Included among those crimes are rape, acquaintance rape, attempted rape and unwanted fondling or touching that take place on campus or in other specified locations, such as a facility operated by a registered student organization and off-campus facilities owned by the University.

    The law requires schools to disclose any such offenses that were reported to not only police but also any “campus security authority,” defined as all officials with “significant responsibilities” over student life, including “student housing, student discipline and campus judicial proceedings.” Yale’s most recent campus security report says those officials include everyone from freshmen counselors to academic department heads — from residential college deans to deans of the graduate and professional schools.

    A 2004 article in the Yale Alumni Magazine, though, revealed that Yale was not asking such campus figures to report the crimes brought to their attention during the course of the year. Instead, at the time, the University was only reporting data collected by police.

    That seemed to explain, at least in part, why Yale was reporting fewer sexual crimes than its Ivy League peers: just five in 2003, compared to 11 at Princeton and 32 at Harvard.

    Without a system to survey officials’ reporting, the University was violating the Clery Act, said Daniel Carter, public policy director of Security on Campus, the watchdog group founded by Clery’s parents. So Carter alerted the Department of Education to the article in August 2004 and asked them to open an investigation.

    The Department of Education’s assessment has not yet been finalized, but a spokeswoman for the Department said data collection, site visits, interviews and other information-gathering steps have all been completed.


    While the Department of Education began investigating Yale’s compliance with the Clery Act, Peter Salovey, then dean of Yale College, requested in 2005 an internal review of Yale’s procedures for responding to sexual assault complaints.

    The review was conducted by the Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, a body of two faculty members, two administrators, two undergraduates and one counselor that hears informal and formal complaints of sexual harassment; unlike the Executive Committee, the University’s highest disciplinary body, however, the board has no punitive power.

    The University’s review, completed in April 2006, recommended consolidating sexual harassment resources in a new office, which became the SHARE center, and improving the tracking and reporting of sexual crimes. The latter suggestion manifested itself in the recent SHARE report, which is the first of its kind at Yale.

    Until now, the campus security report was the only metric of how many sexual crimes occur at Yale each year. But the SHARE Center’s publication changes that.

    Carole Goldberg, a psychologist at University Health Services who directs SHARE, said most sexual assaults on campus that are reported make their way to her, even if the assault was not reported through SHARE’s hot line. Based on her understanding, she said, her report includes the majority of known sexual crimes. The number of sexual assaults that SHARE reported, 24, is the first-ever indicator of the number of sexual crimes that occur at Yale beyond the official campus security report.

    Today, Yale asks all relevant officials to report crimes of which they are aware twice per year. University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees security at Yale, then sifts through the data to check for repeat reports and to ensure that only crimes matching the exact specifications of the Clery Act make it into the annual campus security report.

    The Department of Education investigators helped Yale revise its method of data collection, Highsmith said.

    “The Clery report follows very clear guidelines so that people can compare one campus to another,” Highsmith said. “There are very strict definitions of what gets reported and how.”

    These strict definitions are what have kept Yale’s reported figures so low over the years, Highsmith added. Because crimes occurring in off-campus apartments or unregistered fraternity houses are not counted, for instance, many sexual crimes that involve a Yale student never make it into the report.

    Asked whether sexual assault is more common off-campus, Highsmith said, “That’s what the numbers would suggest.”

    While Highsmith said Yale reports all the sex crimes that the law requires, its official figure of eight is still lower than the numbers reported by the University’s peer institutions. Last year, Harvard reported 52 sex offenses, and Princeton 17.

    Asked why, Peter Parker, a physics professor and convener of the Grievance Board, offered two explanations. One, the urban setting is different at each school. And two, other schools may count one crime multiple times if multiple officials were aware of the case.


    Goldberg said reporting the new figure helps educate students by giving them a more accurate picture of the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.

    But, she said, the report was held throughout the fall while Yale’s lawyers looked it over; Associate General Counsel Susan Sawyer said she did not know whether or why the report was delayed.

    Parker said he is also planning his own report of grievance board cases. The release of Parker’s report has also been delayed since September for administrative reasons, but both he and Goldberg now hope to publish their findings annually.

    “The concern is that by not reporting [the numbers], you’re giving the impression that is not letting people know what’s really going on,” Parker said.

    In another sense, though, University officials said, it is almost impossible to know the full extent of rape on campus.

    A 2001 study by the Department of Justice found that fewer than five percent of sexual crimes on college campuses are reported to police, though around two-thirds of victims mention the encounter to another person.

    That usually means a conversation between friends, but Goldberg hopes the establishment of her center — and its call line, which is staffed all day, every day — will make it easier to extend those conversations so that more victims can find some semblance of closure.

    The day when Yale knows of all sexual crimes will probably never come, but for now University officials say they are compliant with the Clery Act.

    But even if Yale’s reported figures are no longer too low as a legal matter, they remain low as a practical matter, and too high as a moral matter.

    “Crime is not zero, not yet,” Highsmith said, “but that’s what he hope for.”

    Harrison Korn contributed reporting.

  3. Rell to request federal funding

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    With the economy in recession, Connecticut, like nearly every other state in the union, is turning to the federal government for help.

    Gov. M. Jodi Rell joined 40 other governors meeting with President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden in Philadelphia on Tuesday at a meeting of the National Governor’s Association. Last week, Rell announced that she is asking for federal funding for infrastructure projects throughout the state. She has also directed state agencies to have projects “shovel-ready” so that they can begin as soon as funding is secured.

    In a statement, Rell said she is asking the federal government to foot 100 percent of the bill for infrastructure eliminating the usual 20 percent state contribution.

    “The best way out of the economic doldrums is by literally working our way out – by creating as many jobs as possible, as soon as possible,” Rell said in a statement released Monday.

    As the state is facing a financial situation similar to its 1990-1991 budget crisis — when the General Assembly passed the first ever state income tax — state elected officials are citing the need for federal funding.

    “The federal government can operate at a deficit, whereas states cannot,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano ’81. “We need their help.”

    Nancy Wyman, the state comptroller, released new budget figures Monday showing the current deficit above 1 percent of the state budget, at $338 million. Under these circumstances, Rell is required by law to submit a new budget proposal to the General Assembly to close the gap.

    Combined, the 40 governors at the meeting governors requested $136 billion for infrastructure and $40 billion to defray health care costs.

    Rell said she was pleased with the outcome of the meeting with Obama and is optimistic about the prospects of federal help.

    “I think to have this dialogue, to have this conversation going back and forth, it’s very helpful and opens that line of communication for the future,” she told the AP in after the meeting.

    Speaker of the House James Amann, a Democrat, told the News last week he believes the new administration will be more helpful to states.

    “Every indicator points to them shifting funding back to states,” he said. “We anticipate [Obama] taking the federal-state relationship in a new, positive direction.”

    Recent projections by the state Office of Policy and Management predict a nearly $6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Rell will introduce her budget for that period in February.

  4. One Eli wins a Marshall


    Adam Bouland ’09 is Yale’s lone winner of this year’s Marshall scholarship, given annually to up to 40 American students for postgraduate study in the United Kingdom.

    Bouland, a computer science and mathematics major, will spend two years at the University of Cambridge studying mathematics and physics, each for one year. In each of the past two years, two Yale students were offered Marshall scholarships. The number of Marshall scholars from any given institution routinely fluctuates from year to year, said Director of UK and Irish Fellowships Katherine Dailinger, adding that the Marshall is “fiercely competitive” and “highly prestigious.”

    Last year, 37 out of 886 applicants were awarded the Marshall scholarship. Forty students received the scholarship this year, though application figures have not yet been released.

    Bouland, a Maryland native and member of Silliman College, was one of 10 members of the class of 2009 inducted to Phi Beta Kappa during junior year. A Goldwater scholar, Bouland is a member of the Yale Concert Band and is the chaplain of the Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union.

    Bouland also serves as the technical director of Yale’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which has been working to bring clean water to Kikoo, a remote village in Cameroon where he spent two weeks over the summer in 2007.

    Bouland said working with residents in Kikoo has taught him the value of such projects in the developing world.

    “When you go to Kikoo, if you give someone an empty water bottle, they will accept that graciously as a gift,” he said. “It makes you appreciate the position we have in this world, at Yale.”

    Bouland is both “an amazing scholar” and a “self-effacing and humble guy,” said Silliman College Dean Hugh Flick.

    At Yale, Bouland has undertaken several research projects, including the development of software that analyzes data of cosmic microwave background radiation, which cosmologists use to learn about the physics of the early universe.

    Bouland’s research will likely help improve certain practices within data analysis, said physics and astronomy professor Richard Easther, who works with Bouland on the research and recommended him for the Marshall.

    “It’s a way of accelerating a widely used technique inside of cosmology and many other scientific fields,” he said.

    In his other research projects, Bouland has studied simulations of faults at Stanford University, examined the process of blow-molding bulk metallic glass at Yale and investigated the structural dynamics of shock at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

    While at Cambridge, Bouland will receive a certificate of advanced study in mathematics during his first year, and he said he plans to spend his second year doing theoretical physics research. Afterwards, Bouland said he intends to return to the United States to earn his doctorate, followed by a likely career in academia.

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard all had the most Marshall scholars, with four each. The only other Ivies with Marshall scholars were Columbia and Princeton universities, which, like Yale, had one Marshall winner each.

  5. Long ties to hockey for Eli goaltender

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    It’s tough getting anything past Jackee Snikeris ’11.

    The women’s ice hockey goalie stopped 56 of 60 shots during the three games over Thanksgiving break, earning her the title of ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Week. Snikeris nearly shut out then-No. 4 Boston University on Nov. 25 as the Bulldogs trumped them 4-1. The Terriers struggled to score as Snikeris made 18 saves in the match, helping Yale to its upset win over BU.

    Earlier last week, Snikeris was also named the top goaltender at the Nutmeg Classic and received the Belliveau Award, which was named after Yale All-American Laurie Belliveau ’98.

    In the Nutmeg Classic, hosted at Storrs, Conn., on Nov. 28-29, Snikeris earned her fifth career shutout during Yale’s 2-0 win over Quinnipiac and blocked 21 of the University of Connecticut’s 24 attempts at scoring during the championship match.

    In just her first season as a Bulldog, Snikeris has already set the school record for goals-against average (2.18) and is currently ranked fourth for best-save percentage (.921). With these achievements behind her, and almost three full seasons still ahead, Snikeris sat down with the News to discuss both her accomplishments and her team’s success.

    Q The games over Thanksgiving break seem to have gone really well — what worked for you, and for the team?

    A Yeah, I’d say it was a successful week. The break definitely benefited our team a lot. Beating No. 4 BU was a great feeling, and it showed that we can beat anyone when we play our best. Now we just have to strive for consistency and keep getting better every day.

    Q What do you think about being named Goalie of the Week? Was it one of your goals from the start?

    A It’s always nice to be named something like that, but it is never really my goal. I would have rather won a championship like the Nutmeg Classic than receive any individual honor. I think all of my teammates would say the same thing.

    Q What are your hockey roots? Did you always want to continue playing in college?

    A I started playing hockey when I was six. When my brother and dad would be playing in the street, I would always run out and just stand in the net with a stick and no padding.

    It runs in my family — many of my cousins played, as well as my dad, my grandpa and my brother. My great-grandpa was a well-known goalie in Minnesota and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame there. There were hardly any girls playing hockey where I lived, so I played on a boys’ team growing up. It was extremely beneficial for my development, looking back, and it was always a lot of fun. I always knew I wanted to play in college, and even knew from an early age that I would go to prep school and play girls’ hockey to hopefully get more recognition from colleges.

    Q How has your hockey career at Yale unfolded so far?

    A Playing at Yale has been such a great experience so far. My teammates are awesome, and we all have a ton of fun. We play in a tough league, so every game is a battle, and I think we all enjoy the competition. All the coaches are very knowledgeable about the game and always put in the extra effort to help us strive to be successful, which is all you can really ask for.

    Q What would you like to accomplish — both personally and as a team — by the time you graduate?

    A By the time I graduate I just hope I’ve left behind a successful and respected program. It would be awesome to win Ivies, and I definitely want to and will beat Harvard before I graduate.

  6. Mejia: User-generated content: A fad, or here to stay?

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    Since YouTube was founded in early 2005, it has hosted over 80 million videos. In 2006, Time Magazine declared “you” the Person of the Year. The recent presidential campaign attests to the influence of blogs and other forms of social media. Indeed, user-generated content has become incredibly prominent in today’s technological environment. But it remains unclear whether it will continue to influence media or just remain a footnote in history as a passing trend.

    User-generated content isn’t a new idea. Think back to companies who hold contests in which consumers create a slogan or an idea for a product. It can be argued that the purpose of such contests was not primarily to obtain a new logo or slogan, but to advertise the company. The contests’ value lay not in the ideas it generated, but rather in the role it played in promoting the company among consumers. Since the advent of the Internet, however, there has been a marked shift away from this trend. The astronomical success of Web sites like YouTube and many blogs have demonstrated that people are capable of producing captivating content.

    But user-generated content needs to be taken more seriously by the regular media in order to remain relevant. It is common to see news broadcasts making use of blogs or YouTube videos, but it seems their primary intent is to establish themselves as technologically savvy, rather than to use the technology effectively to better their reporting. Likewise, recent contests to create commercials made use of user-generated content as a gimmick. Few people remember the commercials themselves, though the contests succeeded in getting the names of the companies out there. And while large sites like YouTube display ads from which they receive revenue, the creators of YouTube videos themselves receive no payment. For user-generated content to transcend the category of a fad, it must be treated as more than a moneymaking gambit.

    Another problem with user-generated content (and social networking in general) is the tendency toward groupthink. This is easy to see on political Web sites like Huffington Post or Conservapedia that are largely ideologically homogenous. But this tendency is problematic on nonpolitical sites, such as Digg, too. Even though the sites espouse free speech and refrain from endorsing a particular opinion, it’s common to see a poster that goes against the general consensus instantly disregarded. This happens regardless of how well-thought out or valid an argument is.

    More recent events, however, seem to suggest things are getting better. In the recent presidential election, blogs and smaller Web sites were, in many ways, as useful as larger media sources. These smaller sites were able to update much more quickly than their corporate counterparts and could report on a broader variety of news.

    Some methods are able to pay content creators. Apple’s App Store allows individuals with programming experience to create an application and sell it online, where millions of users can access it. Though Apple takes a small fee for each sale, the developers receive the majority. Or take Little Big Planet, a recently released PlayStation 3 game that allows users to design characters and sell them online in a similar fashion.

    User-generated content stands to become an important part of media if it can overcome these hurdles. There have been many incredible examples of user-generated content in recent years and it seems that these will only become more commonplace in upcoming years, taking their place alongside traditional media.

  7. More Elis signed up for flu shots this year — but do they work?

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    Nathan Hardesty ’12 decided to get his first flu shot at University Health Services last month. Coming to Yale, he realized just how quickly the flu would be able to spread if even one person got the bug.

    “We live in a very close environment,” Hardesty said, “so if one person has the flu, it’s probably very easy to pass it to the next guy.”

    [ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”11514″ ]

    For Allison Bauer ’12, the decision to get vaccinated was a no-brainer. The ease and convenience of the shot, as well as the professionalism of the YUHS staff, pushed her to sign up, she said.

    For the second year running, YUHS hosted flu vaccination clinics at several locations around Yale, including the School of Management, Sterling Memorial Library, Woolsey Hall and each of the residential colleges throughout the flu season. The clinics provide influenza shots free of charge to all members of the Yale community who show up, regardless of whether they are on the Yale Health Plan. This year, the University has experienced a projected hike in flu shots, according to YUHS, which experts attributed to improved advertising and an increase in overall anxiety among the student population because of the economic downturn. Still, many have chosen to go without a vaccination this flu season, for a range of psychological reasons and a scientific one — whether the vaccine even does what it advertises to do.

    Anxiety or Advertising?

    Ann Marie Cirkot, health educator and flu clinic coordinator, said the University had administered 10,581 shots as of Dec. 2, when two flu clinics to be held at YUHS remained.

    This indicates a likely rise in the number of flu shots in comparison to last year, when 11,200 were administered throughout the entire season, she said.

    The projected rise in flu shot popularity may be traced to unconscious patterns of behavior, experts said.

    Given the uncertain times and flagging economy, anxiety levels are currently at a high — which may be impacting the decisions people make, Douglas Mennin, assistant professor of psychology and director of Yale Anxiety and Mood Services, said.

    “In times like these, people think more about security,” he said, “making sure things are safe and careful.”

    And wanting to be safe and careful can transfer over to all aspects of life, from financial conservatism to health precautions.

    “If people are worrying more,” he said, “they will tend to things like health more.”

    Even so, Mennin, who specializes in anxiety, said an equally plausible hypothesis for the spike is increased advertising.

    Advertising efforts were visible this year: In addition to posting up YUHS fliers around campus, the University also handed out blue “I got my free flu shot from Yale Health Plan” stickers.

    Patricia Stumpf, assistant director of clinical administration at YUHS, explained that the organizers have made it a priority to improve communication about the clinics this year. For instance, YUHS made flu clinic schedules available online for the first time this year.

    “We’ve been creating more demand,” she said.

    Vaccine Skeptics

    But even with higher demand, some Yalies still refuse the shot. Many students question whether it will really protect them from getting sick.

    Indeed, there may be some truth to this: The actual effectiveness of the shot is uncertain, scientists who work in the field said.

    There are thousands of subtypes of influenza, but the vaccine only protects against three, said Akiko Iwasaki, associate professor of immunology at the Yale School of Medicine. The three strains the vaccine protects against change each year as the influenza proteins mutate.

    So scientists instead rely on highly educated guesswork, she said.

    “Scientists in the world get together and think of three possible strains of virus that could become seasonal flu for the coming year,” she said.

    If scientists guess right, she added, the vaccine will prevent any symptoms of flu caused by any of the viruses it covers and relieve most of the symptoms caused by related strains.

    But since the shot’s level of protection depends on the accuracy of scientists’ predictions, efficacy varies from year to year.

    And it is in part due to this unpredictability that Wariz Anifowoshe ’10 avoids flu shots every year.

    “They do use science,” he said. “But it is still a guess. The way it is advertised, it’s ‘I’ll get this and I won’t get sick,’ and that’s not true.”

    Last year, certainly, this may have been the case. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control, the 2007-’08 flu vaccine was only 44 percent effective.

    Some Yalies interviewed said they hadn’t realized the flu shot wasn’t 100 percent effective.

    One such student, Paige Fedon ’12, who said she will not be getting the shot this year, wasn’t surprised to hear the statistic — considering she has gotten sick every year she has gotten the shot.

    But Helen Jack ’12 said that some protection is better than none.

    “I wish they told you that, because I thought if you got the flu shot you wouldn’t get the flu,” she said. “But 44 percent is way better than 0 percent.”

    Improvements in Store

    Nonetheless, Iwasaki said she remains optimistic about the shot — at least in the long term. The associate professor heads a lab working to improve the efficacy of the influenza shot.

    Iwasaki and her team conduct research on how different sensors in the mammalian immune system respond to influenza. Currently, adjuvants, one of the components of vaccines, may not trigger the right sensors in the immune system, but Iwasaki’s group is searching for one that would elicit a more robust immune response.

    To date, the lab has identified some adjuvants that trigger immune sensors in mice to elicit an immune response to the flu virus, but finding the human analogues is a much more difficult task.

    “It could take years and years,” she said.

    In the meantime, it seems Yalies are looking to each other to decide whether or not to get the shot.

    When asked why he decided to get the flu shot, Chidi Akusobi ’12 responded jokingly, “Because everyone else is getting one.”

    Akusobi may have stumbled upon one of the reasons many Yalies are opting for the shot. Mennin said humans’ pact-like nature carries over into decisions in the health world.

    Indeed, Cirkot said she has observed Yalies opting to get the shot together, using the “buddy system.”

    But some, instead of feeling the safety in numbers, rely on the numbers for protection.

    If everyone else is getting the shot, some argue, why should they?

    But this argument — known as “horde immunity,” as Iwasaki put it — is not very legitimate.

    If the majority of the population does not get vaccinated, horde immunity does not work, Iwasaki said.

    But while YUHS may not want Yalies to get sick, they won’t push the shot on them.

    “We don’t try to convince anyone,” Stumpf said. “We tell them what the benefits are. They have to determine what’s right for them.”

    Nevertheless, Fabian Alvarado NUR ’09, a nurse at the Saybrook flu clinic, offered one final factor for Yalies to consider when deciding whether or not to get vaccinated: “the unbelievably good-looking nurses who are here.”

  8. Leaks from the Lab

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    Yale scientists use light energy to drive nanomachines

    A team of researchers at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science have shown that the force of light can be used to power machines that operate at the nanoscale. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.) “While the force of light is far too weak for us to feel in everyday life,” lead researcher Hong Tang, an assistant professor at Yale, said, “we have found that it can be harnessed and used at the nanoscale.” The work builds upon previous research showing that light can be used to move individual molecules to demonstrate that it can also be harnessed to move semiconductors.

    Tony Blair Faith Foundation Concert to raise money for malaria

    The Tony Blair Faith Foundation Malaria Relief Concert, an event organized by Anna Stirgwolt Brady-Estevez. a graduate student in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, will be held in Woolsey Hall on Saturday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. Each $10 ticket will pay for a mosquito bed net, to be purchased through the nonprofit organization Malaria No More. A goal of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation is the elimination of malaria, which kills 1 million people annually.

    Rudd Center to study childhood obesity

    The Rudd Center on Food and Obesity will study the link between the childhood obesity epidemic and food marketing, thanks to a $6.4 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The project aims to identify the effects of food marketing practices on youth eating behaviors. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16.3 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 to 19 years were obese in 2006.

    Yale report finds organizations are not adapting to climate change

    According to a recent Yale report released by the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the national organizations at greatest risk of damage from climate change are not changing their practices fast enough. The report found that such organizations lack up-to-date and accurate data for planning and forecasting climate change. Many also have rules and regulations in place that impede the process of change, lack clear directions to respond to the crisis and are primarily preoccupied with challenges in the immediate future.

    Yale establishes kidney center

    The University will establish the George M. O’Brien Kidney Center to help provide renal investigators with the highly specialized tools not regularly available to support their research. The Center is funded by the $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Heath.

    Jack Harris named among Discover’s “20 Under 40”

    Yale physicist Jack Harris has been named among the top “20 Under 40” minds in science in the December issue of the magazine Discover. Harris, a member of the Yale faculty since 2004, studies quantum motion.

  9. Ibbotson-Sindelar: In search of better sections


    Seminars and sections often fail to achieve their potential as places for engagement, passion and communication. It’s not for any lack of intelligence in the student body. Rather, our attitude toward the classroom disables us. Our search for knowledge is often overshadowed by both desire to perform well and fear of failure. To confront these psychological inhibitors directly is often too psychically daunting. Instead we repress the insecurities we feel about being at Yale. Nevertheless, these insecurities emerge subconsciously to shape our classroom behavior.

    The reality is that we are all only students: Our knowledge is incomplete, and the time we invest in a single class is limited. But this is a truth we work hard to hide. We speak our insecurities only obliquely, through our vocabulary and tacit practices.

    The term “section asshole” is the most visible clue that something in our attitude toward classroom discussion is off balance. The term itself isn’t inappropriate, but its frequent use is troubling. Conversations about section or seminar too often revolve around identifying section assholes. We use the concept to make sense of section by categorizing people into binaries: who is and who isn’t one.

    “Section asshole” holds so much meaning for us because it represents something we both desire and detest. At best, the section asshole is someone we want to be — someone recognized for intelligence and eloquence. But at worst he or she is someone whose desire to proclaim her or his own self-worth undermines the pursuit of collective learning — and ticks off fellow students in the process.

    The fear and desire for this label has become a focal point in our understanding of classroom participation. It produces a self-consciousness that checks displays of excitement or uncertainty.

    When we have something astute to say, before saying it we automatically calculate whether it will seem obnoxious and overeager. And, reversely, we also check our speech in fear that someone out there — the lurking section asshole — will recognize the stupidity of our comment, demonstrate that we read only half the assignment and publicize our ignorance.

    To the extent the label keeps people from making obscure references or tangential commentary, it is a useful label. But it also silences people for fear of embarrassment or ridicule. Look around a seminar and you will find a classroom full of alert but seemingly apathetic students.

    Because of our performance anxiety, we have adopted a number of tacit rules to ensure our own security and the security of others.

    Students rarely talk to each other in section. It is uncouth to respond too antagonistically to what anyone else has said. This protects us from the embarrassment of having our half-formed ideas exposed for what they are. But couldn’t we all admit that we are in the process of learning, and if we already perfectly understood, then the class would be unnecessary?

    Students also rarely ask questions. To do so would show weakness. You can’t reveal you are lagging behind, else you become prey for the section asshole waiting to pounce.

    And when a student does ask a question, it disrupts the appearance of order. We want to pretend that we each understand everything, and any differences of opinion are really differences in interpretation, not shaky understanding. A student’s admission of confusion often causes an almost comical flurry of students quick to supply answers. People have to disassociate themselves from those who would admit confusion.

    Of course I am not giving a perfectly faithful depiction of seminar. Each has its own character, and despite our insecurities we all want good discussion. But I want to illustrate that almost all sections are not true discourses. Students don’t rely on each other, but rather, we talk past each other and often speak against the flow of conversation.

    In section, looking out for yourself — whether that means saving your skin or showing your intelligence — takes precedence over fostering a collaborative atmosphere. Section should be a place where we raise questions and help each other come to understandings. Sneering at or fearing other members of a class will not create an environment that fosters the process of learning.

    Tyler Ibbotson-Sindelar is a senior in Branford College.

  10. News analysis | Union propels HEI protests


    The sit-in held by Yale’s Undergraduate Organizing Committee last month was just one of a dozen nationwide efforts to protest university investments in a hotel company. But all of the campaigns, though led by students, originated from the same place: a union, UNITE HERE.

    Students at Yale and other universities across the country are staging sit-ins, sending letters and holding demonstrations as part of nationwide student-led protest against alleged unethical investments in hotel company HEI Hotels & Resorts. Workers at HEI’s California Hilton-Long Beach hotel claim the company is preventing unionization. But what makes this effort even more unusual is that the students did not start the campaign as a group — the force that drew them together and in many ways continues to direct their actions is UNITE HERE, the parent organization of Yale unions Local 34 and Local 35.

    Over the past three months, student actions have started to coalesce on at least 10 different campuses. Using demonstrations at other schools as models, the UOC is presently planning a “visible, on-campus HEI-related action” that will take place before the end of the semester, according to an e-mail message circulated among UOC members.

    Students and workers at the hotel say HEI management subjects its workers to poor working conditions, disregards employee work-related health problems and pressures workers not to unionize. In a statement, HEI said the accusations are “wholly unfounded.”

    HEI spokesman Jess Petitt said HEI has noticed the recent upsurge in student involvement in the campaign, which he said “exploded” on college campuses.

    And UNITE HERE has been vital to the growing campaign.

    “We have no idea what HEI is thinking or what’s happening to hotel workers,” said Johnny Bowman, a Harvard University sophomore who is a member of Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement. “We only know that through the union.”

    Starting the campaign

    The union’s relationship with the college students involved in the campaign dates back to this summer, when the union hired students for paid internships. The students, working with different local unions across the country, heard about HEI workers’ conditions from visiting workers and researched the company’s history and investors for the union.

    Interns who had come to the union from about 10 schools — including Yale — have since used the information to start their own campaigns, said Judy Esber, a UNITE HERE community organizer in frequent contact with students about the campaign.

    As the UOC, led by three Yale students who interned at UNITE HERE, started its campaign, the union has provided key resources to students. For instance, the union paid to transport Hilton workers to universities, including Yale, to talk about alleged worsening hotel conditions.

    Esber, who spoke on behalf of the union, said UNITE HERE has been instrumental in connecting students with the workers, adding that the campaign is “really up to the students and workers.”

    The union also gave students tax forms to substantiate student suspicions about Yale’s investments in HEI, said Allen Sanchez ’10, a UOC member and one of the interns at UNITE HERE.

    According to HEI’s U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission tax forms provided to the News by the UOC, the Yale Investments Office and the 5C Corporation, a non-profit organization managed by Yale, have invested at least $121 million in three HEI management funds since 2004.

    The forms list the Investments Office and 5c as “beneficial owners” of these three funds, which entails ownership of at least 10 percent of the funds’ securities, said John Heiney, a spokesman for SEC. The forms state that the three funds together have over $1.2 billion in securities.

    Officials at HEI declined to comment on investor identities. The Yale Investments Office has a policy of not commenting on investment holdings.

    Uniting the students

    Although UNITE HERE facilitates student communication, students themselves lead much of the campaign, said Natalie Kelly, a University of Pennsylvania senior who is a leader of Penn’s Student Labor Action Project.

    The student groups are focusing on their own schools first, partly because the groups are at different development stages, added Eric Augenbraun, a Penn junior who is a member of SLAP.

    “At this point, we don’t have any coordinated action,” he said. “But it’s definitely a possibility.”

    Yet signs of coordinated action among the schools have occurred already.

    After receiving a Facebook message from the “HEIst for Justice” group, students across the nation called HEI management last week to express concerns about the alleged interrogation of hotel worker Elizabeth Martinez by Hilton hotel managers. Martinez had traveled to Harvard and Brown universities to discuss what she called the hotel’s poor labor relations.

    “It was a big day for solidarity action,” said Andrew Wolf, a Cornell University junior who is a member of Cornell’s Organization for Labor Action.

    The Facebook group, which now has 125 members, was created by Esber — a worker at UNITE HERE.

  11. Briefly: Woman robbed Saturday near Science Park

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    In an e-mail sent Tuesday morning, Yale Police Chief James A. Perrotti informed the Yale community of a robbery that occurred near Science Park on Mansfield Street by Tilton Street at 12:33 a.m. The victim — identified simply as a female friend of a university student — was walking alone when she was robbed of her cash by two men, one of whom was reportedly armed with a handgun. No injuries were reported. It has been five days since Perrotti last notified the University community of a crime.