Category: Spotlight

Spotlight: Under the Eye of the FBI

By Amy Gorel, Staff Writer

Asimov

Former BU professor Isaac Asimov/ PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to tools like MuckRock and the Freedom of Information Act, government documents are made availible in an effort to have a transparent government, to an extent.

A man named Conor Skelding recently requested documents from the FBI that detailed a government investigation of Isaac Asimov, former BU professor-as well as a rather famous sci-fi author.

While I don’t know the reasons behind Skelding’s request for this information, the documents give some perspective on the public’s indignation at the NSA these days.

The reasoning the documents provide for investigation are as follows:

1. Asimov was born in Russia (though he came to America when he was three, and was naturalized by the time he was eight years old).

2. He was in academia as a biochemist (they were looking for ROBPROF, an academic in the field of microbiology).

3. He wrote for Sci-Fi Magazines which did some “blind” publishing for the Communist Party (CP) in the states.

4. His name was on a list from the 1950s of people who the CPUSA should contact for recruitment-but it doesn’t say if he was contacted or not.

Solid enough evidence? Well, the FBI didn’t think so and no, there was no further investigation into the matter.

But the government’s command of information is nothing new. The Cold War brought about a great deal of Soviet paranoia-calling out the communists-in America, especially during the 1950s. When Asimov was considered as a potential face of ROBPROF, a code name for a Soviet spy, it was already the 1960s and some of the craze had died down. However, this was the time when the government was looking for people who were inflaming the anti-war movement-which, according to BU Professor William Keylor, was assumed to have been fueled by the communists.

Nevertheless, the fact that the government had an entire file on him was probably not known to Asimov. They listed his address, phone numbers, wife, educational history; they had all the details of his private life.

So when the Edward Snowden ordeal became public and everyone started realizing just how much information the NSA had on each and every American-as well as foreign subjects it was investigating-it should have been no surprise.

Maybe you’re slightly uncomfortable with the government being privy to all those Google searches of cats you do every day, but this is nothing new: there’s just a new platform for you to submit information out into the world for the government to find. And anyways, why would the government care about how many times you’ve colored in the Koalas to the Max photo?

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Spotlight: Dean Elmore

By Trisha Thadani, Staff Writer

“You can take Elmore out of BU, but you certainly cannot take the BU out of Elmore.”/PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore’s classic bow tie and ever-present smile is a common sight for Boston University students while walking down Commonwealth Avenue. Elmore is known to make appearances at various student-group meetings, several on-campus performances and, sometimes, even grabbing a drink with students at T’s Pub.

Many know Elmore as a figurehead and a leader, while others view him as a confidant, mentor and friend. Those who know him well enough say there is hardly a difference between Kenneth Elmore, the Dean of Students and Kenneth Elmore, family man and friend.

He said he promotes the same values of personal integrity and communication to his students as he does to his two teenage children.

“I think that getting people to really understand what it is in their life that they can do well and take pride in is important,” Elmore said. “I think about this position, and also me being a dad, is getting people to understand where their passions lie, and how best to deal with passion.”

Elmore has been with Boston University since 1985. Beginning as an intern at the George Sherman Union, Elmore now sits at his desk on the third floor of the GSU with the title of Dean of Students. Back in August, he celebrated his 10th anniversary as Dean of Students and 28th year with the University.

Though, Elmore’s path to Dean of Student was certainly not a straight one. Jumping between various positions within BU, he temporarily diverged from BU for to practice law. Four years later, with BU still pulsating through his blood, Elmore came back home to BU where he happily here to stay- for now.

“I truly feel I got one of the greatest and best jobs around… This is a job where I’ve seen incredible grace and people who perform in these wonderfully graceful ways and I say, there you go, that’s joy,” Elmore said. “It’s just joy and joy and joy.”

Spotlight: History of Religious Diversity

By Amy Gorel, Staff Writer

Marsh Chapel is an example of a building of religious tradition located on campus./PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

Today, many Boston University students don’t even realize the religious foundation our university was founded on — a Methodist tradition (except for that vague memory you have of hearing something about that on your campus tour during high school). And maybe for a good reason.

BU was founded in a Methodist tradition but religious diversity was ingrained in the university from the start.

1839: John Dempster, a Methodist minister from New York state, founded a theological seminary as the Newbury Biblical Institute in Vermont

1869: Methodists William Fairfield Warren, Lee Claflin, Jacob Sleeper and Isaac Rich chartered the petition for one of the first modern research universities in America: Boston University.

The founders apparently included a provision in the Charter calling for the acceptance of religious diversity, according to Kathleen Kilgore in “Transformations, A History of Boston University” :

“No instructor in said University shall ever be required by the Trustees to profess any particular religious opinions as a test of office, and no student shall be refused admission . . . on account of the religious opinions he may entertain; provided, nonetheless, that this section shall not apply to the theological department of said University.”

William Warren, the university’s first president, taught one of the first classes in the U.S. on comparative religion, laying the foundation for religious studies outside the Christian seminary and into the diverse world.

1919: The School of Religious Education and Social Service was established, laying the groundwork for an independent and secular Department of Religion, which was created in 1966.

1970s: Several interdisciplinary programs were founded including the Center for Judaic Studies (now the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies) and the Institute for the Study of Philosophy and Religion.

Today:

–  The campus at BU supports places of worship and student groups for a great variety of faiths of its diverse population centered on Marsh Chapel.

–  While the BU School of Theology is still officially supported by the United Methodist Church, they are interfaith and accept students from all faiths.

–  BU has seven university chaplains and more than 29 religious life groups. From a variety of services at Marsh Chapel, which hosts services for many denominations on weekends, Hillel House for Judaic worship and other locations including a Muslim prayer room on the second floor of the George Sherman Union, BU as a unique interplay of different faiths.

Spotlight: Fast Facts About the Race to Replace Menino

By Amy Gorel, Staff Writer

Who is to replace Thomas Menino?/PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

In case you missed it:

1. Whoever wins the Nov. 5  election and replaces Menino will be the first new mayor in 20 years.

2. Mass. Rep. Martin Walsh and City Councilor John Connolly are vying for the position.

WALSH

  • Walsh came in first in the September primaries, with 20,838 votes, or 18.47% of the votes.
  • Walsh worked as a union laborer before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1997. He continued to be active in labor union affairs.

CONNOLLY

  • Connolly came in second with 19,420 votes, or 17.22% of the votes.
  • Connolly is a former public school teacher who became city councilor. He is focusing his campaign on education and reforming Boston Public Schools.

3. Less than a third of registered voters participated in the September primary. According to Mark Trachtenberg, precinct election supervisor of the BU area, reported that less than 30 BU students voted in the primary.

  • Even though your license might not say Massachusetts, you could still register to vote here since you will be living here for at least four years of your life.

http://dailyfreepress.com/2013/09/25/politicians-struggle-to-get-students-involved-in-elections/

4. Connolly has a slight advantage over Walsh in preliminary polls, but the race is close:  http://www.wbur.org/2013/10/18/elm-mayor-poll

5. November 5 is election day! The municipal election will determine the mayor, city councilors at-large and district city councillors will be. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

  • Though its too late to register for this election (needed to be done by Oct. 16), you could still prepare for future Massachusetts elections by registering here

Spotlight: Personal Habits

 By Stacy Shoonover, Staff Writer

More prevalent on campus than one would think./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Fried Dough

More prevalent on campus than one would think./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Fried Dough

Talking to people about personal habits is never easy. When that habit is smoking, the air is even more tense.

After speaking to 50 BU students who smoke, I found that 90 percent of them started smoking before they came to college.

I also noticed that there is about an even population of guy smokers to girl smokers. There did not seem to be a dominant race that smoked either, just as BU’s student body is very diverse – so is the smoking student body.

My interviews were all conducted at the common smoke spots: outside of dormitories, benches along Bay State Road, Cummington Avenue, outside of the GSU, Marsh Chapel, the BU Beach and Commonwealth Avenue.

Most of the smokers I tried to interview didn’t feel comfortable being interviewed about their habits, or using their names in the article. Some, however, felt confident in sharing their experience with me.

No two smokers are alike. Some love smoking, some hate that they smoke. Some never want to quit and some have already tried and failed. Many support e-cigarettes and many disagree with them completely.

An observation from talking to non-smokers that I made is they usually judge one individual smoker based on the smoking population as a whole. Through this, I noticed that non-smokers dwell on the fact that tobacco products aren’t good for the health, and so they believe that no one should smoke. Period.

However, the same observation of “no two smokers are alike” can also be made for non-smokers. Many hate second-hand smoke, but at the same time many non-smokers don’t mind or don’t think it has a large enough effect to make a difference.

Bottom line: just because someone smokes doesn’t mean they are the same as every other smoker. Just like dying hair, or getting a tattoo – one shouldn’t be judged primarily on an appearance or habit.

Spotlight: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Curiosity Rover and Mars

By Steph Solis, Staff Writer
@stephmsolis

Sojourner, MER and Curiosity. Three different rovers./PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

This week The Daily Free Press spoke with Boston University alumnus Matt Heverly, a mobility systems engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory rover (also known as Curiosity). Between Heverly and some research, we found some interesting details about the rover and the planet it’s exploring.

1. Your iPhone has more computing power than the Curiosity rover

That’s what Heverly says. The RAD750 PowerPC microprocessor built into the rover’s computers seem pretty simple, but it can withstand the crazy environmental conditions on in space and on the surface of Mars. That includes high-energy cosmic rays that would obliterate a smart phone or laptop, according to CNET.

2. Mars is 17.5 minutes away…in light years.

In other words, the distance between the earth and Mars is 315 million kilometers, or 196 miles. The rover spent nine months—precisely 253 days—to get there.

3. The Curiosity rover cannot be stopped by the government shutdown.

The rover’s Twitter account could not continue, but the mission is still going. Contract workers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are in California and are technically employed by the California Institute of Technology.

However, the MSL team could be affected by a prolonged shutdown, spokeswoman Veronica McGregor told Mashable.

4. There are two Curiosity rovers.

Well, not really. The real rover is out there, exploring the Martian terrain. But there is an identical model of the Curiosity rover at JPL that is used for testing in troubleshooting situation and things like that.

5. The mission could take up to a decade.

The rover’s power comes from the isotope plutonium-238’s radioactive decay. It should last a full Martian year, which comprises 687 Earth days, according to an article on Space.com. Although the rover is expected to continue for at least two years, some say Curiosity could stick around for much longer.

Spotlight: Why I Should Be Going To Class

By Amy Gorel, Staff Writer

Listen to Dwight and pick two./PHOTO VIA quickmeme

Chugging a coffee during the last five minutes of lecture, distractedly checking social media, my foot is tapping on the ground and I’m hoping that the professor lets us out early. He gloriously says, “Okay, any more questions?”

Sweet. I’m out of here. Going to print out that paper due next class and call my boss to tell them I can’t make it to work because I have this thing and that thing to do. 

But wait, there’s a hand up in the back of the lecture hall and now another one. Who are these people? He was about to let us out early! 

And then I realize that their questions encouraged the teacher to clarify some important and interesting info that was covered in class. Ugh.

Those hand-raisers were more concerned about the here and now–the lesson covered in this class–than they were about rushing off to do the next thing.

When every freshman gets to college, either through some orientation talk or an Internet meme, they hear the options they have: “Academics, sleep and social life. Choose two out of the three.” And sometimes more comically and probably more correctly, you find Dwight from “The Office” telling you that you could only choose one.

American college life emphasizes “doing it all.” Get good grades, join all the clubs, have an internship, make some money (and sometimes a lot of money if you have to pay for your own tuition), have an exciting social life and be a healthy and rested human being. Easy, right? Just the idea of balancing all that reaffirms my practice of keeping a backup thermos of coffee in my backpack.

Let’s stop to think. What are we paying upwards of $50,000 a year for? An education. We’re paying for the opportunity to learn from professors and from the readings and homework they assign.

We could learn to cook on our own and go out at night without paying that astronomical price. I only have to pay about $2.50 at Pavement for permission to sit for hours–and they don’t even ask me to complete a certain amount of reading before I visit again.

The hand-raisers happened to be part of the Evergreen program–students over the age of 58 who audit classes at BU. Speaking to them after class, I realized that they were here for the reasons the rest of the students are supposed to be here for–a love of learning. They are overjoyed to come to class, while the majority of undergrads grumble about waking up at the early hour of 10 a.m.

They’re here because they want to be here and they want to learn. They don’t have to stress over what they are going to do with their lives or how to follow the proper class structure to finish their major in time. While the “what am I doing with my life” stress won’t go away as an undergrad, it’s a good thing to stop and think about why we want to be here in the first place.

Spotlight: Protesting and Turkey

By Amy Gorel, Staff Writer

Turkey is a city, just like any other./PHOTO VIA Flickr user mr_smee44

Trouble makers, hippies, righteous activists, people who want to make a difference…

Everyone has very different perspectives on protesting. There are activists, there are those who believe all change occurs gradually by working with the government and there are others who just don’t care as much.

Many of us at BU have been here long enough to remember Occupy Boston (based on Occupy Wall Street) and even the attempt at Occupy BU for a brief moment.

Some of us saw the Occupy movement as intelligent people trying to even the economic disparity in America and some of us saw people who were out of work complaining about their lives.

The reality of the situation was probably somewhere between the two, in my opinion. However, this brings to light the issue of perspective.

The protesters in Turkey believed Prime Minister Erdogan was becoming too authoritarian and that something had to be done about it. Others in Turkey thought the protesters were only causing trouble and creating traffic for those going about their daily lives–even if they agreed about Erdogan.

Though most people know that the issues in Turkey over the summer were very different from those happening in the Middle East, it’s easy to be caught off guard and mix the two.

One BU student from Turkey tried to explain it to me this way:

“The first time I went to Africa, I expected to see wild giraffes and be on safari the whole time. Once I got there, I realized it was different but still relatively normal in my mind. There were buildings, schools, buses, bars and restaurants.”

Stories on the news show that protesters are dying. Photos show the vast number of people in the streets and over turned buses in Turkey. Similar headlines and visuals are shown from Syria, Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, Turkey is a secular, democratic nation which has acted as a bridge between east and west, Europe and the Middle East. Less than 10 have died in the Turkish protests while hundreds have died in the ensuing violence in Egypt, and over a thousand in Syria.

These numbers are just an indicator of the difference in circumstances these neighboring countries have–neighbors who are sometimes grouped together in our minds as “the problems of the Middle East.”

Sitting in Boston, these countries are all more than a 10 hour flight away.

Spotlight: Education Goes Alternative

By Samantha Wong, Blog Editor
@samzwong

There is a distinct difference between enjoying a class and merely going just to go. Students have this tell, this look, that shows that they have to go to class and are about to endure what will feel like an eternity (i.e., an hour or an hour and thirty minutes) of pain. Take note that this is not absolute. Not every student gets that look on his or her face; some people want to be there and enjoy it. Though, in a perfect world, students would be going to class not only because they have to but also because they want to.

Centuries ago, in Ancient Greece, students used to form small groups with one lecturer. This was where Ptolemy and Aristotle learned the hows and whys of the world. This is, to some effect, how most of the intelligentsia and the not-so intelligentsia have learned and have come to share information.

Grecian methods are more or less what is being used in this day and age with a few modifications. The modifications are tacked on with the passing of time, with the hopes that, with each modification, with each alternative method, education will improve.

Some such modifications are that the size of groups has grown considerably; the student to teacher ratio definitely increased. Especially at a school like Boston University where there are about 15,800 undergrads. Another is that, as the world evolved, growing more and more technology savvy so did schools. Boston University, as most students know, has been online for a while, employing tools like Blackboard and Blackboard Learn.

While some are resistant to change, change, admittedly, brings about its own impacts. Though, it seems that change can mean the difference between a student performing to best of his or her ability to not performing at all. Change can mean the difference of being able to teach a student and cater to him or her on an individual level.

Some may argue that a standardized method of education may be better while others argue that innovation is key to collecting information and being able to grow for the better.

Hopefully, with the coming of time, Boston University will provide complete flexibility for classes that will increase student interest and participation. That, in addition to making attendance rates soar.

Spotlight: What Goes Into Maintenance at BU

By Amy Gorel, Staff Writer

Though everyone has different opinions about what needs to be updated or renovated on campus, many students don’t realize the extensive planning that goes into each of the changes we see popping up.

Extensive research and bureaucratic processes go into deciding what new buildings to build, what areas need renovation, and where money spent will produce the most profit and have the most effect. The BU Institutional Master Plan outlines what the university is planning in terms of physical growth in the next ten years, but only after identifying every area of weakness and problems throughout campus. The strategic plan website outlines more of the university’s thought process on this.

For those who don’t spend their days perusing the Facilities Management & Planning website, check it out. It lists all of their major (and minor) projects around campus including ones related to academic spaces, athletic spaces, residences, administrative, research and student activities. You could find out more about why you see workers replacing windows on CAS in the middle of the night to which brownstone you should choose to live in as an upperclassman because they’re renovating it this year (it’s 2, 3 and 5 Buswell St., by the way).

So as you can see, it’s not quite as simple as saying taking care of those ugly lockers in the the College of Arts and Sciences is more important than putting new furniture in the School of Management lobby – even though its already arguably the most beautiful building on campus.

The renovations and new buildings show the school’s progression; these are decisions that denote that certain areas are growing or should be growing in the next few years. Physical renovations and buildings are evidence of academic growth or potential academic growth.