Archive for January, 2001

Beware the Spokes of the Wheel

Wednesday, January 17th, 2001 | Michelle Leavitt
Seth Thomas

During a recent interview with one of Chancellor Wrighton’s former colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Student Life news reporter encountered evidence for a different Mark Wrighton than we’re used to seeing here at Washington University. Magic Mark, as he was nicknamed in Cambridge, reportedly put on chemistry magic shows to the delight of both MIT students and the general public-a far cry from the chancellor we have come to know over the past six years of his tenure here.
Such a discovery has highlighted some of the current differences and
problems with past WU chancellors as well as the structure of the university’s administration as a cohesive whole.
Clearly, Magic Mark is working a different kind of magic here at WU than at MIT. Even looking at the phenomenal success of the Campaign for Washington University alone (more than $970
million has been raised to date in an effort aimed at accumulating $1.3 billion by June 30, 2004), we can make no
mistake that Chancellor Wrighton is adept at accomplishing set priorities.
Yet Chancellor Wrighton functions primarily as an outside figure. His administration stands in contrast with that of his most recent predecessor, Chancellor William Danforth (Chan Dan) whose tradition of reading
bedtime stories to students in the Swamp made him beloved.
Certainly, the editorial board does not mean to suggest that we feel
neglected at bedtime. This chancellor whose attention is focused primarily on the world beyond the Hilltop has done, and continues to do, tremendous work for the university. Furthermore, top
university officials whose backgrounds are increasingly strong in business
related skills represent a trend in
academia today.
But despite the university’s continuing success, students are confronted with a troubling question: who is in charge of the internal workings of the university? To whom do we direct our questions and concerns, and who is ultimately accountable to us?
Many universities deal with this issue by having two top officials: one to serve as an outside representative and to keep locked up in the Ivy Towers (such as a president or chancellor), and an interior chancellor, often called a provost. In this way, there is both someone ultimately accountable to the students on the Hilltop as well as someone with an eye to the outside.
But this example of the interior/exterior chancellor issue is symptomatic of larger questions about the university management. WU employs a largely
collaborative body of administrators. This web-like administrative structure, analogous to Gerald Ford’s miserably failed `spokes of the wheel’ approach to presidential advisement, results in students’ difficulty both in knowing where to go to get a question answered as well as getting a direct answer.
In the words of Vice President Cheney (Ford’s chief of staff, after he realized he needed one) the failed spokes of the wheel approach didn’t work because someone has to be in charge. These words echo our sentiments precisely: we need someone ultimately accountable to students inside the university. It is abundantly clear that the chancellor is not this person, and for this we don’t blame him. It’s simply too much to expect of one man to toss a frisbee in the Quad with students after a long day of raising millions of dollars or advising President Bush on science policy. And while the web-like structure of administration below him is great for collaboration, it is similarly great for avoiding accountability. Something along the lines of a more linear structure of authority and accountability is in order if WU is best to serve its students.
When President Carter was elected, Cheney left Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s incoming adviser, a mangled bicycle wheel with a note that read Dear Ham. Beware the spokes of the wheel. We urge Magic Mark and his tangled web of administrators to reflect on their management approach, lest the chancellor’s successor and the students of WU end up with a similar inheritance.

Talent to Teach Outside the Book

Wednesday, January 17th, 2001 | Michelle Leavitt

Former Congressman Jim Talent began his stint as a professor this week, when his Poli. Sci. 456, “Thinking Like A Congressman,” met for the first time.

Talent initially designed the course as a seminar for 12 students. At one point, however, more than eighty budding politicians were either enrolled or waitlisted. The enrollment limit was upped to twenty, and twenty-four students attended yesterday’s class.

This is “a course on how to be a congressional staffer,” explained Talent’s spokesperson, Rich Chrismer. It will cover the basics of work in Congress, such as how to write press releases, minute-long speeches, constituent letters, as well as the unspoken rules of The Hill. It will also offer the opportunity to “think like someone on the Hill,” as Talent told his students.

“Congress is a culture all its own,” Talent said. “The balance of protocols, informal understandings, and politics” is something not easily taught by a textbook, he said, “most of what’s on paper is at best irrelevant on how the Congress really works.” This is why the only text for the course will be William Strunk’s and E.B. White’s famous The Elements of Style. Talent’s emphasis on writing relates to his view of clarity. “If you’re not writing clearly, you’re not thinking clearly,” he said.

One of the major draws of the course for many of the students was the offer of internships on Capitol Hill. With Talent’s connections and experience in Washington, he expects to easily place all his students with some sort of politician this summer, on both sides of the aisle. Personal interviews will be used to match students with offices. The details of the internships, all unpaid, are still being worked out with the university.

The offer of the internships is not the only draw, nor is it a required component of the class. Several students hope the course will give them a real-life look into politics. With the help of the experiences they expect Talent to relate and the insights he could share, these students hope to decide whether politics is really what they want to pursue as a career.

On the first day of the class, Talent was light-hearted but firm. He spoke of the grading option, offered only as Pass/Fail, in this way: “Three months ago I lost a close election for Governor, and if I can go through that kind of trauma, I can fail somebody from a course.” Attendance and participation will be the main components of the grade if needed, Talent is willing to force participation from the class. He will supplement this with written assignments.

For his first lecture, Talent covered the important duties of a freshman member of congress. These include sticking to campaign promises, realizing the things they can do on their own and those for which they need support from their party, and remembering to keep their integrity first and foremost. As a general guideline, Talent said, “there should always be a set of things you are willing to lose an election for-if not, get out before it destroys you.” Like a choose-your-own-adventure, students were presented with various situations and asked to make decisions, after which Talent would tell them what the likely career and political outcomes of their decision would have been.

Talent realizes the purpose of this class is to share his experiences, which is why he “will not discipline [himself] much in these classes” in regards to strictly following the course schedule, which was included in the syllabus. Although he “may go off on some story,” he said, he is attempting to give “a flavor of how Congress really operates, how Congressmen and women really think.”

When the announcement was made that Jim Talent, an alum of WU, had been named an Honorary Professor and was planning to teach this spring, there was concern that the class would be more of a soapbox for Republican ideals than an educational experience.

Yet Talent is not the first Congressman to teach at WU. Senators Eagleton and Danforth have both taught here. Indeed, Randy Glean, liaison between Talent and WU, said that “it’s typical that politicians invariably go to universities” after their term is up. And in regards to the potential political bias, Glean said it is better that they “teach to their expertise.” In fact, politicians are often “safer than other professors whose bias may not be known ahead of time. They can surprise you.”

Talent has tentatively agreed to stay at WU for at least two years, pending a decision in regards to the political race in 2002. He will most likely teach this course again in Fall 2001 and perhaps also in Spring 2002. During this “enforced time of being on the sidelines,” Talent would like to “expand his role” at WU; that may depend on how this course goes. As he said, “you never stop learning, your views never stop evolving, and a university setting is the perfect environment for that.”

WU Diving Team Springs to Life

Wednesday, January 17th, 2001 | Lisa Goldstein

Imagine a sport where practice entails daily, three-hour training sessions that consist of diving, weight lifting, plyometrics and trampolining. Think this sounds like a tough workout?

The WU women’s diving team was non-existent last year, but has since added four freshman divers. “Last year was really a fluke,” said swim coach Brad Shively.
Lauren Peterson/Student Life Staff

Junior Rob Gerber did, and that’s precisely why he tried out for the Washington University diving team in his third year of college without having any previous diving experience.

“[Diving] was something I always thought of trying to do, and I wanted to get my body in shape,” said Gerber. “Freshman and sophomore years, there’s no way I could have done it with the amount of time I had to put in with my pre-med classes. This year, being a junior, I had a little more time on my hands.”

Coach Bo Pritchard wholeheartedly welcomed Gerber’s presence and was willing to “give me a shot at it,” said Gerber.

Pritchard had good reason for his open-mindedness. While Gerber was busy drudging though his organic chemistry work last year, the WU diving team was struggling with its team’s depth. The “team” consisted of only one diver, current sophomore Ryan Braun. Though Braun had a successful season last year, taking fourth and fifth place at the UAA championships in the 3-meter and 1-meter diving competitions, respectively, the mere lack of bodies automatically lost points for the whole team.

“It hurts in meets,” explained swim coach Brad Shively. “If the other team has three divers and we have none, they’d automatically get 32 points and we’d get zero. Only three people per team can score, but if no one dives you still don’t get any points. This hurt us against big schools.”

With some intense recruiting by Pritchard, however, the Bears were able to snag five freshman divers this year, four of them women. Although the lack of a women’s team last year at first seemed disconcerting to some recruits, Kristen Pierce found it to be a plus.

“I was more excited than anything that there were no girl divers because it’s a brand new program,” said Pierce. “So the girls could just start over with a new slate and you don’t have anything to live up to. I got along great with the coachso I knew the program was going to be pretty good.”

The team now has seven divers, quite a change for Braun, who essentially had one-on-one training sessions with Pritchard during practice last year. Ironically, solo training often proved to be stressful and tiresome rather than beneficial.

Lydia Cote, who trained alone with Pritchard once a week last semester because of schedule differences, can sympathize with Braun.

“First semester, on Mondays, I ended up working out by myself,” said Cote. “It’s tough. It’s just draining in general. There is no down time. I used to complain to Ryan. He told me there’s nothing to complain about because he had to do it for a whole year.”

With the addition of new divers, Braun not only got some rest, but also six more voices of constructive criticism. Everyone communicating their knowledge has been especially helpful for newcomers to diving, like Gerber.

“[At first] I just kinda jumped in and everyone gave me their two bits,” said Gerber. “When I would wait [for the next dive] the divers would be like, you’re doing this and this wrong. I would just watch other divers and imitate them.”

Gerber, along with the rest of the team, has improved considerably from the beginning of the season. Take for example the men’s first meet of the season on October 28 at DePauw. In the 3-m diving competition, Braun and Bauer took fourth and fifth with scores of 135.25 and 112.52, respectively.

Fast forward to last weekend’s meet at WU’s rival Wabash University, where the divers’ improvement was appearent. Though hampered by an illness to Bauer, Braun took first in the 1m and 3m competitions with scores of 232.90 and 247.90, respectively. Gerber also contributed by grabbing a couple of points for the Bears in the 1 m with a seventh place finish (score of 122.2) and the 3-m with a fifth place finish (score of 92.55).

The divers will get one more chance to showcase their talents at home this weekend when they and the swimmers host the Washington University Invitational.

We Have Spirit, Yes We Do

Wednesday, January 17th, 2001 | Joshua Blumenthal

Last semester, this page repeatedly urged Student Union to “step up” and take an activist role in governance.

Apparently they heard us loud and clear.

It has come to the editorial board’s attention that several SU executives have begun the early stages of an effort aimed at boosting attendance at sporting events in order to improve what they perceive as a deficiency in school spirit.

Just as a president’s political power is often gauged from his ability to generate votes for his programs in Congress, much of society measures school spirit by the drawing power of a university’s sports teams. Clearly, from this perspective, WU’s level of spirit is resolutely dismal – even more so with a women’s basketball team that came within eight wins of a record breaking winning streak spanning three years.

And in this context, we sympathize with SU’s concern: spirit is important. It is how we show our satisfaction with where we are. Spirit is a manifestation of youth, satisfaction, and above all, joy.

Perhaps the reason why sporting enthusiasm has developed into the single gauge of spirit that it has become is due to the visibility involved in competing against other schools. But the premise of enthusiasm for sports is much the same as enthusiasm for any other student enterprise: respect and support for fellow students hard at work.

In this sense, WU has just as much, if not more, spirit than any other school. Our spirit,like our students, is diffuse in nature. Spirit WU-style is more cultural, philanthropic and intellectual than sporting. And as we conceive of it, no less valid.

For an example, simply recall last fall’s Diwali, a cultural celebration of India put on by ASHOKA. Tickets sold out in a record time, less than two hours. Even when another show was added to allay demand, those tickets also went like wildfire. WU student support and enthusiasm for this event has become a campus tradition: it has become a way in which we show our spirit.

The enthusiastic attendance of Thurtene every spring has similarly become entrenched as a campus manifestation of spirit. The Thurtene Junior Honorary plans the oldest student run carnival in the nation for months and participants put in hours of backbreaking labor to create breathtaking facades and engaging plays. And every year, the campus turns out with support and enthusiasm, both for the efforts of our fellow students and the philanthropic enterprise at which this event aims. Once again, this is WU spirit.

And finally, last semester’s Strong Brew demonstrated WU students’ support for intellectual dialogue. Billed as “Conversation and Coffee,” the event featured a discussion between a priest, a rabbi, an agnostic and a biblical scholar on the nature of the relationship between faith and morality that packed Holmes Lounge.

In short, WU students show their support and enthusiasm for student enterprise, namely our spirit, in a number of manifold ways: cultural, philanthropic, intellectual (which is to say nothing for the electricity that grips this campus the week of W.I.L.D.). And in order to truly represent us, SU needs to respect this way in which we choose to show our pride. They must stand up for students’ vision of WU, not fashion the school as they would have it.

Make no mistake: WU student-athletes work extraordinarily hard, and we acknowledge that it is unfortunate that they are not better supported. However, not being a terribly significant student concern, we oppose the expenditure of SU resources to increase sporting enthusiasm. Efforts to foster increased support for student athletes are more appropriate to the Athletic Department than to SU. For if SU is to truly “step up” and take on an effective activist agenda, it must be on behalf of the students as we are – not as they wish we were. And as we are, we do have spirit – albeit unconventional – and it is no less valid than that of a football powerhouse.

Two Fraternities Relocate

Wednesday, January 17th, 2001 | Joshua Blumenthal

After a year of inconvenience due to construction outside their front doors (at times making Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Epsilon Pi hard-had areas) the two fraternities will move into new townhouses in the Small Group Housing complex.
Lauren Peterson/Student Life Staff

Washington University’s Small Group Housing (SGH), set for completion in August, will include the new location for Alpha Epsilon Pi, Beta Theta Pi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Tau Kappa Epsilon.

The new townhouses will have several amenities, including larger rooms than the fraternity members currently inhabit, both single and double rooms at the fraternities’ request, elevators, and spacious living rooms and chapter rooms.

In its plans for the relocation of the fraternities, the administration gave Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Epsilon Pi a backhanded choice in the matter, according to virtually all parties involved in the decision. It informed both fraternities that if they chose to remain in their current location, their houses might eventually be torn down for the construction of a parking garage.

While both fraternities initially took the news with a bit of shock, recently the presidents of all four fraternities, as well as many individual members, have voiced their enthusiasm about the move.

“It will give more guys a chance to be out in the WU social community,” said Jeremy Zangara, a sophomore in Sig Ep. “It’s sad to see the old house go but it gives us a chance to start new traditions.”

Each fraternity will individualize itself from its Greek neighbors by choosing various features such as furniture, ways to arrange chapter rooms, and paneling.

While Sig Ep and AEPi will be moving in August, their current houses will remain standing to allow for extra housing in case of a large WU enrollment. Beta’s current residence will return to Sigma Alpha Mu, which had occupied the house two years ago, while a clause in the agreement to bring TKE onto campus stipulates that they must sell their current location on University Drive. The school has shown an interest in buying the property for resale.

After tearing down a building housing Beta Theta Pi approximately seven years ago, WU has been under a contractual obligation to rebuild a house for the fraternity. Beta was therefore the first of the four to choose a house for next year, and chose the largest of the four townhouses, with thirty-eight rooms. The other three fraternities agreed among themselves about housing. Sig Ep’s house will have thirty rooms and AEPi and TKE will have twenty-six and twenty-four rooms, respectively.

Sig Ep, the only house of the four which is filled to capacity, will lose 18 rooms because of the smaller size of the new townhouses. Sig Ep President Michael Schwartz, however, views the decrease in the number of rooms as a means of encouraging members to view “living in the house as a privilege,” rather than a given. Additionally, it may make it necessary for younger members to live on the South Forty, and that in turn may give the fraternity a presence amongst freshmen and some extra help during Rush.

Karen Horstman, director for greek life and Jill Carnaghi, assistant vice chancellor for students and director of campus life assure that there are no plans to remove fraternities from the campus. Their comments were in response to the rumors that the separation of some houses from the Fraternity Row is a step toward dismantling Greek life at WU.

“It puts the members that are moving at a disadvantage in terms of experiencing genuine Greek life,” said Konrad Salabar of SAE. “There is a camaraderie that Greeks share with each other, and moving them apart doesn’t allow the members to get the full fraternity experience.”

However, Horstman and Carnaghi feel that the relocation is a move toward integrating Greek life with school activities. Horstman said that the four fraternities will become “part of a residential community, which creates more interaction between Greeks and non-Greeks, and other different student organizations.”

She said that it would “also yield the opportunity for collaboration, conversation and appropriate conduct with others, which is a positive for everyone involved.” Carnaghi added that the investment in human resources within SGH raises “the standards and goes back to fraternal ideals of why men and women moved into Greek chapters.”

Matt Fine, house rush chair of AEPi, agrees.

“I think the really interesting thing is that it equalizes things,” said Fine. “There will be a lot of action, and it’s going to be really positive for all the new houses on that side of the community.”

The introduction of Greek life into SGH will essentially create a second community of fraternities beside the Fraternity Row. Both areas, however, will be operated and maintained on the same system. Because the four SGH fraternities will encounter different residential situation than the rest, some students are concerned that this may affect the policy regarding parties for these houses.

While no official discussion has taken place on the matter, Horstman maintained that any change in policy would have to be implemented by all fraternities. This may mean, however, that any restrictions imposed upon the SGH fraternities would also have to be incorporated by the rest of the Fraternity Row.