The Colgate Scene
November 2000
Table of contents
In the news
Colgate has enjoyed an autumn in the regional and national spotlights
by Sarah Jarvis

Charles McClennen
Rubber baby buoy bungle
Delving into the ancient history of Venice's floodwaters, Albert Ammerman, senior research associate, department of classics, and Charles McClennen, professor of geology, have successfully charted the city's flood water levels back to 400 A.D. and the rate by which Venice's sea floor has been sinking. In the August 25 issue of the journal Science, the scholars' findings reveal a serious flaw in the Italian government's proposed plan to use inflatable sea gates to seal Venice off from acqua alta, or extreme high tides. New York Times reporter William J. Broad scooped up the news. The two-page feature and accompanying graphics in the Science Times piece on August 29 dramatically detail what compels the Colgate team to attempt to save Venice from an early watery grave.

     Writes Broad, "Science often rests on chance discoveries. So it is that an American archaeologist studying the origins of Venice has stumbled on clues suggesting that a multi-billion-dollar plan to build floodgates to save the city from rising waters is doomed . . . Dr. Ammerman, 58, an expert about things Venetian, has decided to air his findings widely in hopes of thwarting the project and spurring research on alternative ways of saving Venice, a cultural icon that 10 million people visit each year. It is also his home when he is not at Colgate, in Hamilton, N.Y."

     To save the floating city, the Italian government wants to install 79 linked floodgates that, when inflated, will seal the lagoon off from the Adriatic Sea during seasons of acqua alta. Colgate's scholars caution that feasibility studies for this nearly $4 billion construction project did not take into consideration global warming effects on sea levels or look back far enough into Venice's history to accurately determine its patterns of flooding. McClennen and Ammerman therefore project that the sea gates will need to be deployed more frequently than expected, become obsolete much faster than anticipated, and will serve to speed up the process by which the architectural treasures of Venice are eroded by entrapped fetid waters.

     Although the Colgate findings have advanced discussions of alternative solutions, Broad reports, "in the meantime, Venice needs to continue what it has already started: raising sidewalks and canal walls, elevating power supplies and telephone lines and moving people out of the first floors of residences."

     In addition to the extensive nationwide coverage in the New York Times and papers receiving its newswire, United Press International (UPI) and the International Herald Tribune developed their own features. The BBC, Discovery Channel and CBS News have also expressed an interest in developing science programs on the Colgate connection to Venice.


Michael Johnson
Money, money, money
When Campaign 2000 got underway there was big talk of bouncing soft money out of the candidates' checkbooks. Now, there is very little talk about campaign finance reform. In fact, the only time either presidential candidate will mention the word reform is when he can relate it to issues of character and integrity. For his September 7 report on All Things Considered, National Public Radio reporter Peter Overby listened to the experts explain why as "limits on political money continue to erode, campaign finance reform has subtly changed from a campaign issue itself to a metaphor."

     Overby called Professor of Political Science Michael Johnston, who has been studying the ethical and attitudinal dimension of politics for more than 25 years. Johnston explained, "It's partly a character-bashing issue -- use it to swing at the other guy. It's partly a symbolic issue. And if you can position your-self as being, if not Mr. Clean, then Mr. Cleaner, then you don't want to get into specifics. The speci-fics get boring; the specifics pin you down. Better to back the general cause of reform. And so we see a lot of that."

     At the September 12 kick-off program for The Center for Ethics and World Societies, "Who Controls Corruption? The Press, the Law and the Democratic Process," Overby served as a program panelist. During the 2000-2001 academic year, the Center for Ethics and World Societies is analyzing the issue of corruption from the vantage points of a variety of disciplines and methodologies.


Carrie Keating
You can't hide your lying eyes
Andrew Quinn, Los Angeles-based reporter with Reuters News, wrote on August 17 that when the political speeches were at full throttle at the conventions, he stopped listening to what politicians were saying and started to watch how their words were being delivered. To find out whether unspoken body language has the ability to sway voters, Quinn turned to Professor of Psychology Carrie Keating, "who has studied the effect of facial structure and body language on public perception of candidates."

     Body language has that power, according to Keating. "One reason this is so important is the emphasis that women voters in particular put on nonverbal cues." Keating went on to express that the candidate's facial features also influence a viewer's interpretation of the candidates' character. "Part of it just comes down to facial physiognomy. Bush has just the right amount of age in his face, and softer features than Gore. Gore has very sharp features and scores high on dominance, but the warmth is just not there."

     Keating has also been tapped by the Associated Press as well as the Syracuse Post Standard to evaluate how candidates running for the Senate, vice presidency and presidency fared during televised debates. Throughout the series of debates, Keating was on call and her opinions are recorded in daily newspapers throughout the state.


Press conferences

Land where my fathers died
In a wooded hilly area not far from campus, Jordan Kerber, associate professor of anthropology, works on an archaeological site that is bringing the history of their ancestors alive for middle-school students from the nearby Oneida Indian Nation. For the past three summers, Kerber has joined with the Oneida Indian Nation to offer an innovative, cooperative archaeological program. Students work trowel-to-trowel with Colgate's experts to excavate a site on Nation-owned property. The project helps the students develop work skills and provides an opportunity to literally uncover the history of their ancestors. At a July 31 press conference held at the Dungey site, Kerber, two Colgate students and the five Oneida youths discussed with the gathered reporters their findings of trade beads, wampum and remnants of European manufactured goods dating back to 1650. In addition to the ABC television affiliate from Syracuse, photographers and reporters from all area papers attended. Also, a television production team from Penn State University traveled from State College to develop a show on Colgate's work with the Oneida Indian Nation. The 15-minute program aired on public television stations across the country on September 8.


Upbeat about upstate
At a press conference held September 6 in the Capitol Press Room in Albany, results from the second Colgate/Zogby Upstate NY Poll were released to gathered newspaper, radio and television reporters from news outlets across the Empire State. Joining Provost and Dean Jane Pinchin at the podium were Adam Weinberg, assistant professor of sociology, and Michael Johnston, profes-sor of political science, two of the professors who developed questions for the poll. Also present was senior Amy Ross, one of 10 undergraduates who spent the summer working as an intern at Zogby International.

     Conducted at the end of August, the second Colgate/Zogby Upstate NY Poll posed 86 questions to 1,200 randomly selected upstate voters regarding their feelings about candidates running for president and state senator as well as their views on the region's economic health, quality of life and issues of civil society. In terms of the latter, Professor Johnston reported that upstate New York has a durable civil society, created by citizens who cooperate, associate and deal with their problems, together. Weinberg, who evaluated answers to questions he and Takao Kato, professor of economics, developed, found that while the economy upstate is strong, businesses need to focus on generating jobs that will keep ambitious young people employed within the region. Pollster John Zogby then shared the news on the political races: upstate voters favored the Democratic presidential ticket of Gore/Lieberman. Republican senatorial candidate Rick Lazio led by less than 10 points upstate, with Democratic candidate Hilary Rodham Clinton ahead in upstate cities.

     On September 7, reports appeared in dailies running from Albany to Buffalo and Watertown to Poughkeepsie, including coverage in The New York Daily News. In the days following the press conference, the reporter with Johnson Newspaper Corporation conducted interviews with both Johnston and Weinberg for features on their presentations.

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