Archive for February, 2007

Two freshmen phenoms hit the court

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Andrei Berman
Scott Bressler

This weekend’s opening rounds of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament will mark the last time three Wash. U. seniors step foot on their home floor.

But the sizable crowd expected at Francis Field House on Friday (and Saturday if the UAA champion Bears advance) will have the treat of viewing one of D3 basketball’s finest youth movements, one that includes a pair of freshmen who have garnered unprecedented amounts of playing time in their debut seasons.

Meet Cam Smith and Aaron Thompson: roommates, teammates and absolute basketball junkies. Without the rookie duo, it seems clear that the 12th ranked and 20-4 Bears would find themselves in a far more precarious predicament.

Thompson, a pure shooting off-guard who averages 29 minutes per game, has impressively filled the considerable void left in the wake of junior captain Danny O’Boyle’s early season-ending injury. O’Boyle’s injury also led to more playing time for Smith, a versatile small forward who contributes close to 22 minutes a night.

The loss of O’Boyle, a key returnee who was named captain prior to the season, only further affirmed the belief held by many UAA prognosticators that the 2006-2007 edition of Bears basketball, having graduated two key players from last year’s 17-8 team, would be a rebuilding one.

Not so fast.

With Smith and Thompson immediately thrust into the everyday rotation, the Bears got off to a 16-1 start and opened the first half of league play without a loss. Coach Mark Edwards threw the pair into the proverbial fire and has never looked back.

For most freshmen, the adjustment to college basketball is, if not difficult, at least gradual. But Thompson and Smith are cut from a different cloth. While many first-years would have displayed signs of rookie jitters or played with hesitancy upon being unexpectedly forced into the everyday lineup, Thompson and Smith have enjoyed every moment of the action. They’ve played like veterans since day one.

The reasons for the smooth transition to the top of the Bears rotation (Thompson is a starter, while Smith is the first man off the bench) can be traced to both players’ basketball roots.

Thompson, a shaggy-haired coach’s son (his father competed at Bluffton College) and consummate gym rat, played his high school ball in Elida, a small northwestern Ohio community and somewhat unknown hotbed of basketball talent about seven hours from St. Louis.

A rigorous work ethic was instilled in the small-town Buckeye State resident from the day he set foot on the hardwood. By his senior year at Elida High School, Thompson was leading his squad to big wins in front of crowds which routinely exceeded 1,500.

The relaxed, somewhat soft-spoken Thompson shouldered the heaviest burden of the offensive load his senior year, no easy task in an environment not at all fond of losing basketball games. At Wash. U., he has been counted on primarily for his sweet outside shooting touch, a stroke which has allowed him to average over seven points per contest.

“The experience I got in high school really prepared me [for Wash. U.]. It’s more fun to just have a role instead of having to carry the load each game,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s relatively easy adjustment to the college game has also been aided by a pair of Wash. U. sophomores, Tyler Nading and Sean Wallis. Both Nading and Wallis played integral roles on last year’s squad and are starters this season.

“Tyler and Sean have had a big influence on me. On my second visit here I had the opportunity to play with several members of the team and I had a pretty good shooting day, but I also played on Tyler’s team and I think we held the court the whole time,” explained Thompson. “I knew right then that I would enjoy playing with him.”

While Thompson’s high school experience may have proven intense, Smith’s seemingly came straight from the set of the famed basketball classic, “Hoosiers.” The 6-foot-4-inches swing man grew up in the heart of high school basketball passion: Indiana.

Smith, who hails from the Indianapolis suburb of Noblesville and who is extremely well versed in the history of Hoosier State hoops lore, wrote his primary high school research paper on Indiana’s controversial decision roughly a decade ago to alter the longtime format of the state tournament. Basketball has been in the family blood for generations.

He can speak for hours about Indiana school boy hoops lore and looks back fondly on his own formative basketball memories, particularly those associated with the famed Wigwam, the legendary, near 9,000-seat high school basketball arena which the legendary Anderson Indians call home.

“My uncles lived and died Anderson Indian basketball when they were in high school and on into their 30s. The Indians have a certain mystique with my whole family,” said Smith, noting that both his parents’ extended families still live in Anderson.

But no one in the Smith clan is more of a basketball aficionado than Cam’s grandmother. The matriarch of the family, she has always been an avid and knowledgeable fan of the game and Smith takes great pride in her passion. She has attended almost every home game this season, despite the near four hour commute. But neither Wash. U.’s Friday games nor its Sunday tilts typically serve as grandma’s highlight of the weekend.

“Her favorite part of the weekend is Saturday when she can watch the Division I games,” said Smith, only half-jokingly. “She’s a huge IU fan.”

Smith, an exceptionally athletic player who also excelled in tennis during high school, was attracted to Wash.U. for its strong engineering program, but wasn’t completely sold on spending four years here until junior center, team captain and fellow engineer Troy Ruths stepped into the picture.

“If you’ve never met Troy, he’s an unbelievable guy. If you have, you know why coming to Wash. U. to play with guys like Troy was a no-brainer,” Smith said.

Edwards had recommended that Thompson and Smith meet one another prior to the beginning of the school year, and so a dinner – families included – was planned in Indianapolis over the summer. The connection between the two has been strong since the beginning, though an unsuspecting passerby of their Lien Hall dorm room might initially think differently.

Thompson and Smith argue in an almost brotherly fashion about everything from music taste (Smith is a country fan while Thompson prefers rap) to the difficulty of their course load (Smith, who is currently deciding between a major in chemical engineering or biomedical engineering chides Thompson, a Business School enrollee, for his lack of homework).

The families of the players have become close as well. On at least one occasion, Thompson’s mother has driven to Noblesville to meet Smith’s mother for the ride to St. Louis. Both players have dedicated followings in their respective hometowns, as local media outlets and community members constantly stay on top of each athlete’s performance.

Overall, Thompson and Smith report that they are quite content within the confines of their new collegiate worlds. But neither has lost sight of the team’s goals as the 20-4 squad enters postseason play beginning Friday at 8 p.m. against Fontbonne.

When speaking about the differences between his high school coach and Edwards, Smith said, “My high school coach made sure practice was intense with his intensity. Coach Edwards wants us to bring our own desire each and every day. I can’t say one style is better than the other, because both coaches know how to win: that’s the ultimate goal.”

Environmental panel warns against global warming

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Ben Sales

Five speakers talked about the importance of environmental action at a panel hosted by the Washington University College Democrats on Tuesday.

The panel consisted of Richard Smith, Chair of the Anthropology Department, Erin Robinson, a graduate student who chairs the University Committee on Environmental Quality, Henry Robertson and Ken Schechtman from the Eastern Missouri Sierra Club and Paul Moinester, the Student Union President.

“Currently, our major issue of the semester, due to its importance to the Wash. U. campus, is the environment,” said junior Meredith Sigler, president of the University College Democrats. “We thought it would be a good idea to inform our [group] members with a diverse panel.”

The panel was geared toward addressing a variety of environmental issues in an attempt to portray the breadth of the issue. Issues from domestic energy reduction to more environmentally friendly agriculture came to the forefront, but the topic of global warming dominated the speakers’ statements.

“Global warming is an extraordinarily dangerous problem for all of us, globally and locally,” said Schechtman, an associate professor of biological statistics at the Medical School. “The political system simply is not doing the job in terms of dealing with it.”

Despite the focus on global warming, Sigler said she was pleased with the myriad issues that the speakers addressed.

“It pointed towards the diversity of issues that we are currently facing,” she said. “You cannot pinpoint one issue, and that is the problem. One of the reasons that there are so many environmental groups is that there are a lot of issues that we are presented with.”

Still, Sigler appreciated that the panelists came from different viewpoints.

“It was a diversity of issues, a diversity of experience and a diversity of thought. We wanted different perspectives on the panel. Having like-minded people does not tend to be effective.”

Schechtman stressed the importance of environmental activism, saying that policies need to be changed as soon as possible in order to sustain the global climate.

“All of us have an obligation to realize that what is happening now has consequences for both the immediate and distant future,” he said. There are so many examples of the potential disasters that might happen.”

Sigler hopes that the panel leads to action on campus, something the College Democrats hope to initiate.

“We do have a couple of other things in the works,” she said. “We are looking for a proactive event about the environment, most likely something with legislation.”

Moinester, who spoke in the panel about more activism within the administration, also said that action is the key to environmental change.

“I think that [the panel] was a great first step,” said Moinester, an environmental studies major. “With the exception of the environmental studies department, there is not any focus that the administration or the faculty really places on teaching people about the environment outside the classroom.”

The College Democrats hope to partially fill that void by placing a new focus on on-campus activities, a shift from the focus it placed last semester on national elections.

“This is a new area for us,” said Sigler of on-campus activities. “In the past we were focused around election efforts. We do have a lot of stuff that we do off-campus, with local politicians, so currently we are trying to be more on-campus.”

Schechtman said that education should be the focus of the movement to help the environment by changing personal behavior.

“We have an obligation to educate ourselves, to educate others, to change our behaviors in ways that reflect personal sacrifices,” he said. “There are specific actions that we can take.”

Police Beat

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Jacqueline Brixey

Tuesday, Feb. 20

10:21 a.m. PROPERTY DAMAGE – WOHL CENTER – Bon Appetit reports person(s) unknown attempted to force open one of the employee lockers. Entry was not gained. Time of occurrence: between Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 7 a.m. Disposition: Pending.

10:50 a.m. AUTO ACCIDENT – PARKING LOT #54 – Vehicle backing from a parking space backed into a university-owned vehicle being operated by a communications technician. Minor damage, no injuries. Disposition: Cleared.

6:31 p.m. FALSE FIRE ALARM – MCDONNELL HALL – Unknown subject pulled the fire alarm. No sign of fire or smoke. Disposition: Pending.

Wednesday, Feb. 21

11:33 p.m. PARKING VIOLATION – PARKING LOT #40 – Parking monitor reported a fraudulent temporary permit. The permit was removed by Transportation and the vehicle towed. Disposition: Cleared.

5:15 p.m. LARCENY-THEFT – OLIN LIBRARY – Student reported her purple Trek mountain bike stolen from the Olin Library bike rack near the south main entrance. The front wheel of the bike was secured to the bike rack with a U-lock and was still present. Time of occurrence: Feb. 19 between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Student was not sure of the value of her bike. Disposition: Pending.

Thursday, Feb. 22

10:33 a.m. AUTO ACCIDENT – BRYAN HALL – Faculty reported that a Road Way truck was damaging the concrete area of Bryan Hall’s dock. Disposition: Cleared.

10:45 a.m. LARCENY-THEFT – PARK – Complainant reported the theft of 3 generators and 2 refrigerators from the storage facility located in the west side of Park. Time of occurrence: between Feb. 12 and Feb. 14. Disposition: Pending.

Business school team develops alternative fuel model

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Jacqueline Brixey

Last April, a team of Business School students developed a model to use an indigenous African plant in a new approach to creating alternative fuel. The concept was originally conceived by the World Agricultural Forum and then elaborated upon in the Practicum program in the Olin School of Business.

Unlike many previous studies of alternative energy, the team made use of the Jatropha bean, originating in Africa.

The model consists of refining the Jatropha bean into a biodiesel to be used to provide electricity. The biodiesel would power a simple diesel engine and could be used, for example, to power a grain mill. For a village, this would provide a heavy source of electricity in comparison to solar or water energy.

Jacob Schnarre, the team leader, insists that the model was designed to be applied globally to different areas, not just to Africa.

“Africa is at the forefront for thought on economic development,” said Schnarre.

Schnarre explained that the Jatropha bean is a better choice than current alternative fuel choices because it has a higher yield than soybean, used in the U.S., and rapeseed, used in Britain.

The Business School model boasts that if just two percent of Africa’s landmass was planted with the Jatropha bean, its production per year would match the Alaska’s North Slope where most of Alaska’s petroleum production occurs.

Further, unlike many other sources of alternative energy, Jatropha does not conflict with pre-exisiting farming.

“At the community level, [Jatropha] can grow really easily and can be used as hedge since animals won’t eat it,” said Schnarre.

The Practicum program is designed so that corporations, both local and global, can find new solutions by employing students. The corporation pays a fee to work with the school and to also pay the students in the team.

This allows students an “opportunity to practice what they have learned and apply it to the real world,” said Mark Soczek, the director of the program.

Teams are made of four or five upper-level undergraduate or graduate students and work for 10 hours a week. Projects are typically market-research based.

For the alternative fuel project, the World Agricultural Forum (WAF), a St. Louis-based organization, approached the Business School for an idea of an alternative fuel that would be easy to grow in less developed areas of the world.

The team presented their model in April 2006 to the WFA board in Washington, D.C. They also presented to the United Nations and have been featured on CNN and in “The Business Review.” The project will soon be put before more forum groups and corporations in the U.S. to promote as a local energy source.

The team consisted of leader Jacob Schnarre, Kevin Lehnbeuter, Keith McLamb, Thomas Stehl and Steven Gabster. Their faculty advisor was Todd Zenger, professor of Organization and Strategy.

After the presentations, Schnarre continued to develop the business plan in corroboration with the WAF.

Schnarre said he continued with the program because he felt a personal connection. After growing up on a farm in Missouri, he later majored in Agricultural Systems Management at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He felt that he “didn’t get to use all the knowledge that [he] grew up with” and “wanted to explore the developmental aspect” of agriculture. The Practicum allowed him to “use the learning and skills [they] had but in a non-traditional sense.”

The Practicum is sponsoring 10 projects for the current semester. Started in 1992, the Practicum and Taylor have both sponsored over 200 projects each.

St. Louis universities stress safety after attack on WU campus

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Sam Guzik

Area schools have used the Feb. 12 assault incident on the Washington University campus to review their safety protocols and to emphasize the importance of public safety.

“Everyone learns from the mistakes other people make, and we’re trying to make sure that we don’t fall into the same traps,” said Jack Titone, St. Louis University Director of Public Safety.

At St. Louis University, the recent events are being used as an impetus to finalize changes that had been suggested a number of months ago.

Instead of employing students to check student IDs and monitor the activities of visitors entering dorms, St. Louis University will soon begin to use professional security guards.

“We had an incident several months ago where our student workers failed to stop an unauthorized entry,” said Titone. “By having a professional down there, the rules will be more closely followed.”

At both Webster University and Fontbonne University, the departments of public safety have stressed to students the importance of constant awareness.

“Nothing has been changed. We followed our standard procedures,” said Bob Kraeuchi, Director of Public Safety at Fontbonne University.

Kraeuchi elaborated that in the days after the assault there were increased patrols on Fontbonne’s campus and flyers had been posted warning students about the events at Wash. U.

On the University’s campus, safety and security efforts have focused around the continuing investigation.

According to Washington University Chief of Police Don Strom, investigators from both the Clayton Police Department and the Washington University Police Department have continued to work full time on solving the case.

While there have been no specific developments recently, the St. Louis County crime lab is still analyzing evidence from the scene of the crime. Data from that analysis has helped to rule out a number of suspects.

Additionally, Chancellor Mark Wrighton has appointed a committee that will review the University’s public safety policy and make recommendations to improve that policy. The recommendations are expected to be complete in about a month.

“Any time something like this happens, it’s an opportunity for us as a community to examine our own safety and security systems,” said Rob Wild, assistant to the chancellor. “There might be some new things there, and there might be some things we were already moving towards to make the community more safe.”

The Chancellor’s committee comes in addition to continuing efforts to collaborate with other university police and the public safety department in the area.

“We’re all concerned because people like this [perpetrator] don’t pick on any one institution, so there’s a good chance that any university could be affected,” stated Titone. “We all work together to stay safe.”

Fewer students visit businesses on the Loop

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Sam Guzik
Scott Bressler

Since the late ’70s when the Loop began its resurgence from a worn-down urban neighborhood deeply affected by white flight to the thriving cultural center of St. Louis that exists today, generations of Washington University students have come and gone.

Few at the University, with the exception of older professors and a limited number of St. Louis natives, have even heard the story of the Loop’s development. Yet, the University is one of the central forces that helped to return the Loop to prominence.

“The block where I am living now used to be a serious drugs and guns area. A lot of the windows on the storefronts were bricked up. [The Loop] has really bounced back, and it is almost startling,” said architecture professor Bob Hansman, a St. Louis native who encourages his students to support the Loop.

Since the earliest businesses started to return to the Loop, University students have been active in supporting their return. Students eagerly received Loop institutions such as the Tivoli Theater and Blueberry Hill. Over the past 10 to 15 years, however, Loop business owners have noticed a decline in the number of University students taking the time to visit the Loop.

“Washington University students and the Loop have a symbiotic relationship,” said Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill and a leader of the Loop business community.

Edwards is the entrepreneur responsible for colorful venues on the Loop like Blueberry Hill, the Tivoli and the Pageant, in addition to coordinating the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

According to Edwards, the Loop creates an arts and entertainment community close to the University which thrives partially because of the business provided by students and professors. Yet this student patronage may be on the decline.

“Sometime in the early ’90s, the make-up of my business changed because fewer students came over here,” said Lew Prince, co-owner of Vintage Vinyl.

A number of years ago, Prince used University undergraduates to conduct a survey and found that many students found it difficult to walk to the Loop.

“Transportation and weather are the two reasons why I don’t really get out to the Loop,” said freshman Kimberly Burfiend. “I’d love to take advantage of things like Vintage Vinyl and Cold Stone Creamery. I would go to eat and to look around.”

For many students, it is easier to walk to Bear’s Den for a quick bite rather than investing an entire night traveling to the Loop for dinner.

“I don’t take advantage of the Loop as much as I would like to, but when I have time I like to go. Especially on school days, it’s difficult to get out there,” said freshman Mitch Jenkins.

Other students suggested that much of what the Loop has to offer is targeted towards younger students, removing some of the incentive to travel there.

“When I was a freshman and a sophomore, we went to the Loop often because a lot of the good clubs were 21 and up. We might walk out in order to go to Blockbuster or Cold Stone every once in a while,” said junior Kashay Moring.

“The Loop is no further than it’s ever been, but students are different,” said Hansman. “If they can’t even get to the Loop, think of what else they’re missing in St. Louis.”

Hansman explained that as students become more accustomed to fulfilling their needs online, whether it is for research, shopping or entertainment, they are less likely to go out to the Loop.

Still, the constant presence of University students helps to infuse the Loop with a new source of ideas and experiences that gets along well with its existing and already diverse inhabitants.

“Sometimes, a lot of different people come to a place and they water down their identities in the process. People in the Loop don’t water themselves down much for each other; people are there pretty much as they want to be and there is room for that,” said Hansman.

In a city largely divided along racial lines, the Loop provides a neutral ground conducive to cultural learning and openness. This is reinforced by the historical role of Delmar Blvd. has played as the dividing line between black and white St. Louis.

“Not only is there great ethnic and racial diversity where everyone feels comfortable, but there is also age and economic diversity. This is one of the few areas in St. Louis where things are open in this way,” said Edwards.

The Loop began its initial decline as shoppers began to prefer large commercial malls over the small, locally-owned shops on the Loop. As fewer active businesses operated on the Loop, it became worn down and ignored by most.

“When we came here, it was 1979 and the Loop basically consisted of a bunch of empty storefronts and manufacturing businesses,” said Prince.

Despite that, the combination of cheap real estate, diversity and proximity to Washington University and other St. Louis area universities proved appealing for the new business.

“A lot of the appeal of this business is getting to hang around and talk about music. We built a store for the musically literate because that’s who we wanted to talk to and that has held up in this neighborhood largely because of Washington University,” said Prince.

University delves into 150th Dred Scott anniversary

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Andrea Winter

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the infamous Dred Scott ruling, Washington University will be hosting a symposium called “The Dred Scott Case and its Legacy: Race, Law and the Struggle for Equality” this weekend.

A series of distinguished speakers, including legal scholars, historians, direct descendents of Dred Scott and six out of the seven Missouri State Supreme Court judges will be giving talks during the symposium. The keynote address will be delivered by the Honorable Michael Wolff, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri, on Friday at 4 p.m. in Graham Chapel. Professor Jack Greenberg, who argued the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954, will be a commentator on Saturday.

“This case marks the first great civil rights case in American history. One could argue that the legal battle of the civil rights of African-Americans began here in St. Louis in 1846,” said David Konig, Director of Legal Studies, professor of history and law and one of the chief organizers of the event.

The symposium’s purpose is not to celebrate, but to commemorate the Dred Scott case which eventually ended with the racist ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 1857 that all persons of African descent did not have any legal rights and could never be citizens.

“It is important to commemorate this event because the struggle for equality is something that has not come to its conclusion. This case is a vivid reminder of how bad things once were, and where we need to be in order to have true equality,” said John Baugh, director of African and African-American Studies and one of the symposium’s co-planners. “The consequences of slavery are still with us and need to be addressed with care and attentiveness.”

According to Konig, the symposium’s purpose is to place this historical case in the context of the present.

“Legal scholars are constantly making us aware of the fact that the law is supposed to be color blind, but that it certainly isn’t,” he said.

Speakers will also consider contemporary legal issues which concern not only African Americans, but also anyone who is denied full civil rights, such as the detainees in Guantanamo Bay who were recently refused the right of habeas corpus.

The symposium, which is free and open to the public, is geared toward academics as well as the St. Louis community. “The symposium combines a scholarly conference with community outreach, which is quite unusual,” said Konig. Hundreds of postcard invitations were sent to K-12 educators and there will be a special presentation focused on how teachers can incorporate the case’s civic issues into their curricula.

The University, as well as the St. Louis community, has reason to celebrate its historic involvement in the case. “One of the most important things about the case is that the jury that voted here in St. Louis voted to give the Scotts liberty. The Supreme Court overturned that decision. White citizens, and all St. Louis citizens, should take pride in the progressive position that was put forward by this jury,” said Baugh.

In recent years, many universities have begun to confront their historic connections to slavery. Brown University, which was initially endowed largely by wealth acquired through slavery, instituted a Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice in 2003.

Unlike Brown, Washington University has a legacy for “being on the right side of history,” said Konig, because it was founded by abolitionists. William Greenleaf Eliot, one of the university’s co-founders, would buy slaves so that he could free them. He also educated slaves during a time at which it was illegal to do so.

Today, the University and the St. Louis community are at the foreground of efforts to commemorate the anniversary of the Dred Scott case. “On a national level, we would like to make it clear that St. Louis is taking the lead. The University is giving this case the upfront focus it deserves. I don’t think there is any similar anniversary taking place anywhere in the country,” said Konig.

“I am very proud of what we are doing here in St. Louis. To the best of my knowledge, the event will be the premier event celebrating the 150th,” said Baugh.

Konig and Baugh both said that the Dred Scott case is frequently a topic in their courses in law, history, and African-American studies.

“It comes up all the time. It’s unavoidable. It’s a boulder in the road that has to be encountered,” said Konig.

Two weeks of security-mindedness

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | David Song

Two weeks ago, on Saturday, I woke up far too early to the sound of drilling in the common room of my suite. I managed to fall back asleep (someone else had answered the door), but when after finally rolling out of bed, I noticed the peephole installed in the suite’s door.

A few days before that morning, I was at a Student Union Senate meeting, where the Senators were discussing the issue of safety after the case of sexual assault. Peepholes were brought up. Security cameras were almost brought up, and then generally dismissed, the measure seeming too Orwellian and anyhow more of means to track crime than to deter it. Peepholes, however, were inexpensive and worked on the basis of their owners’ active usage.

The day the peepholes were installed, I heard a knocking on the door. Forgetting to look through the door, I opened it. It was my suitemate; he had forgotten his keycard. Afterward, however, I realized that it could have been a potential robber, or worse, a potential assailant.

A few days after the sexual assault, I was studying at the Danforth library, reading Shakespeare and trying to pry the subtext out of Oberon’s lines. Someone rapped at the window (the Danforth library is right next to the hall’s door), so I went to open the door for her; it was terribly cold outside, and she had materials in her hand befitting a beleaguered architecture student. I remembered the safety advice given – not to let strangers in without precaution – but it would have been a little heartless, I felt, not to open the door.

The same day, I had forgotten to bring my ID card with me as I left the dormitory. I didn’t have to call someone I knew within the building, though, because someone exiting it left the door open for me.

Things like these probably happen every day to you, who aren’t in general thought of as robbers, assailants and intruders, but as regular University students. You open doors for others – you’d kind of be an asshole to leave a weary architecture student out in the cold – and others open doors for you.

Today, I looked at a security notice from Jan. 29, describing a thief in the building as a young woman with dreadlocks; it somewhat broke my mental image of the burly male intruder with tattoos from prison. There are also, no doubt, University students themselves committing crimes of opportunity. (My old TI-83 calculator may well be in another undergraduate’s backpack as he reads this paper.)

Today I remembered far back to an investigative report that Channel 4 News did on campus security. An investigative reporter was sent to four university campuses in the St. Louis area – this one among them – to enter dorm buildings as a means to test security. When he went into Dardick Hall, a small group of students left the door open for him; those students later called the WUPD, who confronted him outside the hall. Campus security, it seems, is often a matter of both students and security personnel; as a student, however, I’m still reluctant to refuse to leave doors open for the sake of niceness, and I can imagine my frustration at being left out alone in the cold (or in the heat) without a keycard in my pocket.

Housing for the next year is coming up; after having read Samantha White’s op-ed article in Friday’s paper, “Our campus is not secure,” I’m somewhat wary of off-campus living. But even if safety does, to some degree, begin with students ourselves, I’m still skeptical of how security-minded both parties – students and security personnel – will be as time passes, and, as I hope it won’t be, the memory of the assault fades.

David is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

Tigers do not listen well

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Dennis Sweeney
Christine Garvey

I might venture to say that we don’t have control over anything, but we really want to. At least, observe: I am at the zoo on Tuesday, post-class trip, and I’m wandering around, looking at the tiger pacing around and walking along the ledge that drops down about a hundred feet so the tiger can’t escape and rip anyone’s heart out. I’m awed by this fantastically beautiful and fierce spectacle of nature. I make my way over to observation post two, to see what else I can see, and there are a few more observers. I squeeze my way up to the railing.

Next to me is a woman with a camera. She begins to call to the tiger, “Look this way. Look this way! Come on, turn around.” Are you kidding me? I mean, maybe that’s just something people say when they are trying to get a good camera angle. Whatever. But she was speaking it in a voice that was more than just self-reflective; it sounded like she was actually trying to get the tiger to listen to her. And I still would have been ok if she hadn’t added bitterly, when the tiger didn’t turn around, “Ok, don’t look this way.” Good God. Sometimes I just can’t take people.

Now I know everybody can’t be as enlightened and as at peace with nature as I am, but this little picture of tiger-commanding really accentuated some basic facts about human nature that are awfully annoying. People just have to have control over their environment, apparently. Human beings are, especially in this age of remote controls and buttons and things, appalled when things won’t go as they please, when the world doesn’t respond to their desires. I know this; when I was a kiddo I spent a lot of time making scenes over not being able to find specific LEGO pieces and freaking out over eating things that weren’t fish sticks. But I would expect adults to have grown out of not only the desire to control the world around them but also the belief that this is possible.

We, it appears, cannot merely observe; we must touch and manipulate and control. In classes, for instance. I have no quarrel with interactivity during class time, and class discussions usually are the only thing that can keep anybody awake. But some people seem to miss the point that there is a time for observation and understanding before there is a time for vehement and unrelenting questioning. We fancy ourselves smart here at Washington University, and therefore ripping on famous philosophers and writers comes naturally. I think we seek to insert our own limited experience into the discussion too early – before the question “Why is Plato so impractical and dumb?” is posed, maybe we should be asking, “What’s the context, how does this really work, how would this apply to life if actually used?” If you criticize things before you even understand them, you are just as deluded as the lady trying to woo the tiger. You have no control over something you don’t understand.

Maybe that’s slightly different than not being able to accept things you can’t control. Maybe more in line with this theme is the unreasonable demands people are always making on the University administration, often presented in the editorial pages here. Damn those ArtSci clusters, the lack of parking spaces, the big holes in the ground, obsession over the school’s national image, those long lines in Mallinckrodt and the tuition hike. Hmm. It appears that the school is God. With less money and less-qualified students, they can in fact provide more parking spaces and large sparkling cafeterias without even breaking ground anywhere. Blows my mind.

Look: the school isn’t God. No human institution is going to have control over everything. We’re all just trying to do our best down here. As unfortunate as the recent campus attack is, the school can’t do much about a determined attacker short of posting guards with M16s at the door of each dorm, and we all know how encouraging that would be.

So it looks like what we’ve really got here is, on one hand, an irrational desire to control our environment and have dominion over things we don’t even understand, and on the other, the willingness to hand over our fate to a patriarchal figure who will take care of all our problems for us. Either way, it’s stupid, and either way, we’re fooling ourselves. My prescription is a healthy dose of humility on the first hand – like, remembering that the tiger could and would rip our jugulars out if it had the chance – and on the second hand, repossession of personal responsibility – realizing that if our life is going to improve, it’s going to be because of us.

Dennis is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

The role of science in medicine

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 | Ben Mudd

Two articles – one written by an anthropology major (“Science and magic,” Feb. 23, 2007) and one by a biomedical engineering major (“Science and magic – not even close,” Feb. 26, 2007) – convey two completely different perspectives on medicine and healing.

The real heart of the issue is not whether modern medicine is, generally speaking, a more effective methodology for curing physical ailments, because it is. McCormick is right; modern medicine can cure cancer with an incredibly higher rate of success than folk remedies can. Empirically, chemotherapy reduces far more cancer than Christian Science prayer sessions or chicken heart soup. As every American knows, this is proven, undeniable fact. Nowhere in his article does Steinert-Threlkeld disagree with this.

There are several issues with McCormick’s article that I would like to address. The first is her implicit assumption that modern medicine and doctors are universally beneficial and well-intentioned. She wrote, “Looking at how many dieting trends have come and gone” will show that “the best method for positively changing health is always subject to reevaluation” and that this is a product of “empirical data.” I’m sorry, but was I on another planet when dieting trends became based on actual empirical data and scientific fact? Last time I heard, most diet pills and trends are nonsense disguised as medicine and intended to make money. Even real medicines often do not work, or have side effects almost as bad as the malady they treat. Some (ephedrine, Vioxx) do far more harm than good. As experience has proven, profit is often more important to medicine than patients.

The second is that science, in and of itself, is a Good Thing (notice the capitalization). Science has produced some amazing miracles, but it also produces horrors. Atomic bombs, global warming and mass extinctions all result from science, the scientific method and how modern society practices them. Perhaps we at Washington University need to be reminded that science is not a god. It is not well-intentioned, it is not beneficent, and it is not magical. It is a human process, identical in nature to all other human processes. It is imperfect, it is flawed, and it is only as good or evil as the humans who practice it. Just because a scientist states “I hypothesize . . .” before he mixes doesn’t mean he is doing other than random mixing; it means that he is recording and organizing his results. Witch doctors who repeat cures that worked are no less valid than doctors.

What McCormick really missed was that Steinert-Threlkeld was not trying to argue that some witch doctor brewing frog gut stew has just as high a chance of curing cancer as chemotherapy. Taken out of context, his quote about a “white coat mixing chemicals” seems to say just that. In fact, his point was that these two individuals each produce cures in the manner that their society holds to be most appropriate – although one process heals physical maladies more often, both are processes riddled with mystery, chance and incomplete understanding. Western medicine is just as reliant on cultural precedent, and yes, sometimes even blind faith, as a witch doctor.

“Heal” is a word with subjective meanings, and the American definition of physical health is not the only definition of well-being. What is more valuable? Living for a larger number of years? Being happier, whatever that means, during a shorter life? Going to heaven when you die? Living without pain? Even within our own culture, there are many different answers to these questions. Many Americans dread pain to the point of irrationality, but any good Marine can tell you that pain is just weakness leaving the body. Which one of these perspectives is more correct? Does any person have the right to judge another for answering differently?

That is what Steinert-Threlkeld meant when he wrote “that others believe in it suffices.” Contrary to McCormick’s assumption, physical health is not the only purpose of healing. The purpose of healing is to help people live a better life – if a Christian Science minister helps his patient have a better life than an MD can, then the minister has done a better job, despite the fact that the MD’s patient will likely live longer. Many, perhaps most, people consider a good life better than a long one, but a long life is often all that Western medicine has to offer, if it works and if people can afford it.

Ben is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].