The Colgate Scene
January 2007

Around the college

A contestant shows off his limbo skills during the popular annual Mr. Colgate pageant. The competition, a twist on the traditional beauty pageant, raises money every year for charity. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]


James B. Colgate Society gifts support strategic plan
More than 100 of Colgate's most generous and loyal supporters celebrate their "irrepressible passion and enduring connection to Colgate."

Seven members of Colgate's geology department plus a faculty colleague in educational studies converged in Philadelphia in October to make presentations at the annual meeting of the high-profile Geological Society of America.

The gathering of several thousand geoscientists from across North America featured lectures, information sessions, special symposia, and a public forum. The eight Colgate presenters discussed work from papers they authored on topics as varied as metamorphic core complexes, marine diatoms, and the state of science education in the United States.

"Making presentations at conferences is a really important part of being a scientist because peer review allows ideas to be debated in a public forum," explained Connie Soja, professor and chair of the geology department and one of the university's presenters at the meeting.

"It's very professionally affirming, too; top-notch research that culminates in presentations at national conventions is the result of the dedicated efforts of faculty working in many cases with students and fellow scientists here and abroad. Of course, it's also an enjoyable way to catch up with colleagues -- including Colgate alumni -- and hatch plans for future projects."

Soja said that it is not unusual for members of the geology department to travel to national and regional academic conventions and discuss their work, as is the case with faculty from all the disciplines on campus. But she is particularly proud of the quantity and quality of scientists who represented the university at this gathering.

In addition to Soja, presenters included Don Duggan-Haas, assistant professor of educational studies; Art Goldstein, professor of geology; Amy Leventer, associate professor of geology; David Marchetti, Boyce post doctoral fellow in the geology department; Jim McLelland, Charles A. Dana Professor of geology, emeritus; William Peck, associate professor of geology; and Martin Wong, visiting assistant professor of geology.

Co-authors of research being presented included Rich April, Dunham Beldon Jr. Professor of geology and natural sciences; Bruce Selleck, Harold Orville Whitnall Professor of geology; and several Colgate geology students.

Students gather in the Coop conference room to watch the results come in on election night 2006. The event was hosted by CAB After Hours, College Democrats, College Republicans, and Democracy Matters. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09] A student band plays at Bandfest, held in the Creative Arts House in November. Several other student bands, as well as the faculty band Dangerboy performed. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]

Volunteers read portions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to children in the Hamilton Public Library. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]

In October, the magic of community took over Hamilton in the spirit of Harry Potter and Halloween.

Wizards and muggles of all ages enjoyed a marathon reading of the first edition -- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone -- of the critically acclaimed fantasy series. It ran from 4 p.m. until exactly 1:16 a.m. when the final chapter was completed.

Members of the Colgate and Hamilton communities participated in the telling of this 17-chapter tale at the Hamilton Public Library the Friday before Halloween.

Charlotte Johnson, vice president and dean of the college; Barbara Regenspan, associate professor of educational studies; and the Sidekicks club were among the Colgate readers. The German and Spanish clubs also made special appearances and conducted readings in their respective second languages. One parent, dressed as Professor Severus Snape, read a chapter in full character, British accent and all, to the delight of listeners of all ages.

Many children, dressed in their wizard robes, enjoyed the arts and crafts area where they could create their own Harry Potter glasses or make theme-inspired buttons.

At 6 p.m., members of Konosioni arrived in cloaks to judge the costume contest. Books from the Harry Potter series donated by the Colgate Bookstore were awarded to the best-dressed children. The event was held in an effort to emphasize reading among children and to promote relations between the university and community.

Professor Georgia Frank, Shannon Young '09, and several other Colgate students and staff members combined forces to cast a rather large spell over all those in attendance. Young said the children received a lot more than Harry Potter glasses and a fun-filled Friday night: "it was a neat opportunity to get kids excited about reading."

The sophomore, who organized two marathon readings of the Iliad and the Odyssey last year, said that her mother used to read aloud to her when she was younger. She wishes for others to share in the enjoyment and benefit of hearing the written word aloud.

Although it took a coalition of Colgate professors, students, and members of the Hamilton community to organize the event, it was actually the idea of Frank's 9-year-old daughter, who suggested holding the event after participating in last year's Odysseothon with her mother. The event turned out to be such a great success that they plan on holding a marathon reading of the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, next Halloween. — Brittany Messenger '10

Michelle Malkin of the Fox News Channel and Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN commentator [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]

Ruben Navarrette Jr., columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group and frequent CNN commentator, and Michelle Malkin, syndicated columnist and Fox News Channel contributor, may not see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but they do agree that illegal immigration is a huge problem in the United States.

They also agree that border security in today's post-September 11 world is paramount, and that the American government and people are to blame for the immigration problem.

From there, well, their views on the subject of illegal immigration diverge.

The two traveled to Colgate to argue these points and many others during a debate titled "Immigration, National Security, and American Citizenship." More than 200 members of the campus and local communities filled Love Auditorium for the discussion, which was sponsored by the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization (CFWC) and the sophomore-year experience.

Navarrette, the grandson of a legal Mexican immigrant, acknowledged from the start what he called some "good ideas" for combating illegal immigration: cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants, increasing border patrols, and providing more resources to enforcement officers. But he also called for some sort of guest worker program and an increase in the number of legal immigrants allowed in the country.

"Doing it the right way, having the right discussion, is essential to preserving the country," he told the audience. "By that I mean preserving the best traditions of our immigrant heritage, the whole part of our narrative, the story of this country -- what makes this the most magnificent place on the face of the earth."

Malkin saw things differently. Illegal immigration is a serious national security issue, she said, and it should be treated as such. "Enforcing immigration laws must be clear and consistent," she asserted. As evidenced by the events of September 11, she said, it is naïve to believe that every illegal immigrant in the country came to the United States to find a job and a better way of life. "Our doors are wide open to [terrorists], to people who want to destroy our lives and to destroy all of the freedoms we enjoy today."

Just giving the crowd a sense of the many facets of an argument at the forefront of American political debate was important for Robert Kraynak, director of the CFWC and organizer of the event. "The objective was to help our students leave with a better idea of what their own views are on this, and I think we accomplished that."

The center also sponsored a dinner before the debate at which 20 students from the Latin American Student Organization, the College Democrats, College Republicans, Democracy Matters, and the Debate Society met with Navarrette and Malkin for informal conversation on their careers as journalists.

Baba Brinkman performs a portion of the "Rap Canterbury Tales" at the Palace Theater. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]

Sometime during the late 1300s, Geoffrey Chaucer began his enduring masterpiece The Canterbury Tales by describing in Old English the return of spring:

"Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote/The droghte of March hath perced to the roote/And bathed every veyne in swich licour/Of which vertu engendred is the flour."

In today's vernacular -- at least according to Canadian hip-hop artist and medieval scholar Baba Brinkman -- that same passage would go something like this:

"It was April, you know, when the sweet rain showers come and soak all of the roots of the plants that are all dried out in the drought in March, and this causes flowers to come out of the ground and this causes people to come up out of their houses and start going on trips and going to see shows. You know, springtime?"

Oh, and by the way -- the 2006 version would be rapped, not spoken.

Brinkman performed his own modern-day interpretation of Chaucer's poem, titled "Rap Canterbury Tales," to an audience of nearly 100 students, faculty, staff, and members of the community at the Palace Theater in November. A guest of Lynn Staley, Harrington and Shirley Drake Professor of the humanities and medieval and Renaissance studies, he traveled to campus to stage his show and conduct a rap workshop for students in Staley's Chaucer course.

In his unique adaptation of the famous poem, Brinkman energetically and enthusiastically rapped the words of five Chaucer characters to the music of DJ Timothy Wisdom.

"I see Chaucer and rap as links in a chain that stretches back to the shared roots of oral traditions," explained Brinkman, who has a master's in medieval and Renaissance English literature from the University of Victoria in Canada. "By connecting them I hope to demonstrate and celebrate rap's potential as a lyrical and literary art form, and also bring Chaucer back to brilliant sonic life."

The 14th-century version of The Canterbury Tales starts with the narrator meeting with a group of 29 pilgrims at a hostelry called the Tabard Inn in England. The narrator and members of the company agree to travel together to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury. At the suggestion of the host, they also decide to spin yarns along the way and compete for the title of best storyteller. The winner of the contest will receive a free meal.

Brinkman's translation, which he also recorded in album form in 2004, is a freestyle rap battle between a group of rappers on a bus. Adapted line by line, it stays as close as possible to the original text with updated language following rap rhyme schemes and rhythms.

A Yoruba Gelede mask with suku braid, or basketweave, hairdo [Photo by Warren Wheeler]

The Yoruba people of Nigeria are the most numerous cultural group on the African continent. One in four Africans is a Yoruba, and it is believed that one in five people of African heritage descended from Yoruba ancestors. The interdisciplinary forum Art and Culture of the Yoruba Diaspora focused on cultural expression through a series of events in September and October, including a symposium held to examine the impact of Yoruba art and culture in the United States and the Caribbean. "Yoruba culture has had a profound impact in the Americas, particularly in religion, art, and music," said Carol Ann Lorenz, symposium organizer and moderator, and senior curator of the Longyear Museum of Anthropology.

The two-day symposium featured an array of lectures from various experts in the fields of African heritage and art, several opportunities for discussion, and a musical performance. Robert Farris Thompson, the keynote speaker, presented a lecture titled "The Edge of the Road is Listening: Transatlantic Eshu Art." The seminar ended with a performance of African and Caribbean music by Alex Torres and his Latin Orchestra.

The fall forum also included exhibitions in the Longyear Museum and the Clifford Art Gallery, lectures, and a poetry reading by Opal Moore against a backdrop of projected drawings and prints by Arturo Lindsay.

Art and Culture of the Yoruba Diaspora was the inaugural Forum on the Arts sponsored by the Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts, and was co-sponsored by Africana and Latin American studies, Center for Ethics and World Societies, core cultures, and the Departments of Art and Art History, English, and Sociology and Anthropology.

The Armenian Genocide, a documentary about the mass killings of Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire, was featured as a Friday Night Film on campus in October. Appearing in the documentary is Colgate professor Peter Balakian, a renowned expert on the topic. His book, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response, was a New York Times best-seller.

The film, by director/producer Andrew Goldberg, includes discussions by Turkish and Kurdish citizens who tell of the horrific experiences endured by their parents and grandparents during that period in history. Goldberg was available after the screening for a question-and-answer session.

Nobel Peace Prize recipient Rigoberta Menchu gave an address titled "I Rigoberta Menchu: A Testimony of a Survivor" in November in the chapel. Menchu's talk was followed by a book signing and reception, and several members of the Latin American Student Organization enjoyed a small dinner with Menchu that evening. Menchu, the promoter of the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples mandated by the General Assembly of the United Nations, also presides over the Indigenous Initiative for Peace.

Two students perform in Terrorism, a play by the Presnyakov Brothers that explores the underlying terror of everyday life and its effects. The University Theater production, directed by Adrian Giurgea, was presented during Family Weekend and in early November. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Lorene Rayton '07 plans to teach in Atlanta after graduation, in an urban school with a large minority population. She wants to make a difference in the black community, and she received a good lesson on how to do that through her interaction in November with Lisa Delpit, an expert in teaching in racially diverse settings.

Delpit met informally with Rayton and other students from the Department of Educational Studies and delivered a public lecture titled "Building Bridges 101."

Teachers must "build a bridge to the brilliance" that exists in all children, Delpit told the Love Auditorium audience. To do that, she said, teachers must understand the children and learn about their backgrounds and cultural identities so they can help them realize that potential.

That advice struck a chord with Rayton and, she hopes, with her classmates.

"I'm hoping they (Colgate students) took away that they need to know their students, get to know the parents of their students, and get to know the community they are working in so they can be more effective teachers," said Rayton.

Delpit cited instances where negative societal views and popular misconceptions about racial minorities can influence a teacher's approach to students of color. A teacher might not challenge such students or might assume that they need extra help.

The young minority students, who

"breathe in racism," often begin to believe they are dumb or unable to achieve, and they might withdraw from class or disrupt it in a bid to draw attention away from their feelings of inadequacy.

To reverse this trend, teachers need to learn and then share with African American children the "strong intellectual background of their forebears," said Delpit.

Cultural strengths also need to be better understood. There is a strong sense of communalism among lower-income black children, she said, and by using a "buddy system" of teaching, where two students monitor each other's work, this strength is reinforced and not diminished.

It's also important, Delpit said, to build lesson plans that reflect the students' interests. This is not always easy for teachers, and students in the audience questioned Delpit about ways to integrate flexible teaching plans when so much emphasis is placed on preparing for tests.

An author of several books, including Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, Delpit is executive director of the Center for Urban Education & Innovation at Florida International University. She received a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship in 1990 for her work on school-community relations and cross-cultural communication.

Race and diversity issues also were explored in a series of events involving Jack Dovidio, former provost and dean of faculty and psychology professor at Colgate.

Two open sessions on November 3 provided members of the faculty and staff an opportunity to discuss with Dovidio issues of racial diversity in an informal setting. Then, more than 60 students and members of the staff and faculty gathered at the Edge Café for a brown-bag luncheon discussion. Pete Banner-Haley, a history and Africana and Latin American studies professor, organized the event under the auspices of the Arnold Sio Chair for Diversity and Community, which he holds this year.

After sharing observations based on his research into issues of race and diversity as well as his perspective gained from his many years at Colgate, Dovidio engaged the group in a 60-minute question-and-answer session. The discussion ranged from why and how there is significant tension and disagreement in discussions of racial diversity even though diversity is universally considered an important value for a college, to the social psychology behind differences in perception between blacks and whites.

Dovidio, now a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut, also delivered a public lecture titled "Racism Among the Well-Intentioned." He spoke in a nearly full Golden Auditorium and addressed issues of diversity, inclusion, and community in the liberal arts setting.

It's not every day you get to meet a Nobel Peace Prize winner. But Safwan Shabab '10 met Muhammad Yunus not once but twice in their native Bangladesh.

In the summer of 2005, Shabab worked as an intern at Grameen Bank, the organization founded by Yunus that shared in the 2006 Peace Prize, awarded in October. Shabab met Yunus again through his work as editor of his high school yearbook. Both experiences resonated. "He is very optimistic as a person. He is a visionary; he believes that if you set goals as a nation, as a whole, they are achievable," said Shabab.

Grameen Bank lends to the poorest of the poor in rural Bangladesh without asking for collateral. The bank's so-called microcredit system has spread to impoverished communities around the world since its start in 1976. Yunus founded the bank after returning to Bangladesh from the States, where he earned a doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University and taught for several years at Middle Tennessee State University.

Shabab is tantalized by what Yunus gave up and what he's been able to achieve.

"He could have had a wonderful life here and forgotten about what was happening at home," said Shabab, adding that Bangladesh was and largely remains a poor nation.

"That inspires me because I believe I'll go back after I'm done with my education and work `on the ground' in Bangladesh. I don't know where or how I'll apply myself, but I think there are plenty of ways I can have a direct effect in helping people change their lives."

Shabab's life has certainly changed since August 17, the day he arrived for first-year orientation at Colgate. It was his first trip to the United States. He said that while he does miss home, he is too busy at Colgate to be homesick. An active member of the Muslim Student Association, he is on the 2010 Class Council, a member of the South Asian Cultural Club, and also is involved in the Debate Society and Model UN.

CHOP member Daniel Bosco '08 helps a local resident pick out groceries at the food cupboard. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]

The student-run Colgate Hunger Outreach Program (CHOP) recently went looking for ways to better serve the community, a process that has helped the group build on its successes, redefine its goals, and engage with other student groups.

The process was straightforward: CHOP members asked residents and volunteer organizers about their needs and how the group could best meet them.

When CHOP was first created several years ago, it involved a few volunteers who focused mainly on providing meals for low- or fixed-income Hamilton residents. This service continues today and takes place primarily at the Friendship Inn -- a volunteer meal service at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Earlier this year, CHOP co-leaders Liz Whitehurst '08, Jennifer Frey '08, and Liz Harkins '09 conducted an assessment of the Friendship Inn's needs, as well as those of local food cupboards. The participants developed ideas for how CHOP could utilize excess campus food to best help the Friendship Inn.

The needs-assessment showed that the Friendship Inn was unable to provide desserts to their guests. So CHOP got groups from the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education to sign up to do some baking on a certain week, an initiative that spread awareness and got other student groups involved.

"CHOP interacted with the people at Friendship Inn, got to understand the needs of the community, and used the feedback to make changes to its program," said Betsy Busche-Cross, assistant director of the COVE.

Besides volunteering at the Friendship Inn, CHOP members also have been committed to finding uses for food that would otherwise go unused on campus. Working under strict guidelines on what types of food can be repurposed, CHOP members visit campus dining halls each week and collect usable excess food. CHOP also runs an extensive end-of-the-semester program in which students are encouraged to go through their rooms and donate food they would otherwise throw away.

During a Family Weekend "can van" food drive more than 800 items were collected -- an unprecedented success. The group also developed a plan to work with campus organizations (as well as local Hamilton merchants) to donate excess food from large events or banquets.

CHOP has also started to make more of an effort to increase hunger awareness on campus, helping sponsor Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, consisting of brown-bag luncheons, a "shantytown" demonstration in the village, and an awareness dinner.

Whitehurst is proud of the progress the group has made.

"I saw potential in this group as a freshman and I want to continue to see it grow even more than it already has," she said. — Katherine DeVries '10

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