Archive for October, 2007

Swimming wins Division III opener

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Anna Dinndorf
Scott Bressler

The swimming teams are still going strong.

Lower numbers and the loss of some key swimmers from last season have not stopped the Bears yet. In their second dual meet of the season, their first against a Division III opponent, the Washington University swimming and diving teams both defeated DePauw University at Millstone Pool on Saturday. The women beat DePauw 155-129 and the men won 161-139.

Both the men and the women got off to a great start, each winning the 200-yard medley relay to begin the meet. The women’s team of senior Meredith Nordbrock, freshman Devon O’Leary, senior Kristen Mann and junior Kelly Kono posted a time of 1:53.27 to take first in the event, while the team of freshman Kartik Anjur, junior Perry Bullock, freshman Michael Flanagan and senior Tom Morris won the race in 1:39.29.

The first place finishes just kept rolling in after that. On the women’s side, Kono won the 100-yard freestyle race with a time of 54.38 and the 1000-yard freestyle in 10:38.85. She also took a close second in the 50-yard freestyle, finishing the sprint race in 25.41. Freshman Karin Underwood also had some strong swims for the women, cruising to an easy win in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 2:10.89. Underwood also won the 100-yard backstroke in 1:01.86 and placed third in the 200-yard individual medley, finishing in 2:16.42.

Nordbrock turned in her usual strong performance as well, winning the 100-yard breaststroke (1:09.10) and 200-yard individual medley (2:12.57) events for the women. Senior diver Priya Srikanth won both diving events, scoring 238.15 in the 1-meter and 246.25 in the 3-meter.

“[This win] will give us a certain level of confidence, especially after losing the SLU meet,” said Nordbrock. “It’s always nice to have a win under your belt.”

The men’s victory was highlighted by a number of first-place finishes as well. Bullock led the men, winning the 200-yard butterfly in a close race and qualifying provisionally for the NCAA Championship meet with his time of 1:54.83. Bullock also won the 200-yard backstroke in 1:59.55 and placed second in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 51.99.

Other key performers for the men included sophomore Alex Beyer and junior Julian Beattie. Beyer won both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke events, with times of 59.40 and 2:11.67 respectively, as well as the 400-yard individual medley in 4:12.11. Beattie dominated the distance freestyle events, winning the 500-yard freestyle in 4:50.86 and the 1000-yard freestyle in 9:56.17.

Wash. U. is back in action next weekend in Chicago, Ill. for the Maroon Invitational Nov. 9-10. Friday’s events start at 6 p.m.

The Bears are also looking ahead to training for their midseason championship meet, the Wheaton Invitational at the beginning of December, where they hope to qualify a number of swimmers for the NCAA Championship meet.

“We have really been working hard both in the weight room and in the pool,” said Nordbrock. “The fact that we’re swimming so tired and are still able to perform so well really stood out to me.”

Radiology takes the stand: Brain imaging enters the courtroom

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Edward Lazzarin

In an unprecedented attempt to bridge the gap between the radiology room and the courtroom, Washington University’s Schools of Medicine and Law will be collaborating to decide how brain scans should be used within the legal system.

The University will contribute neuroscientists and legal scholars, in coordination with over two dozen other universities nationwide, to work on the $10 million project.

Researcher Marcus Raichle, a professor in the schools of Medicine, Arts & Sciences, and Engineering, is co-directing one of the three research groups.

“Somebody with a brain lesion or disorder-clearly their behavior has been altered by this. Are they responsible for their actions?” said Raichle, “A teenager who has committed a crime-should they be held responsible? If so or not, how do we decide this?”

The project’s first three years are funded by a $10 million MacArthur Foundation grant with the purpose of “addressing the topics of addiction, brain abnormalities and decision making as they relate to complex issues such as criminal responsibility,” according to a press release by the Foundation.

One problem Raichle discussed was the admissibility of obscene or offensive evidence in court cases.

Judges are often called to evaluate whether evidence is too disagreeable for jurors to be able to deliberate rationally, possibly influencing the outcome of a case. Experts in neuroscience and psychology may be able to shed light on some of these centuries-old judicial practices, with the hope of shaping the legal system for the better.

Those in favor of the project hope that it will make our insights on important legal concepts such as guilt, punishment, treatment, the detection of lies and bias, and prediction of criminal behavior more accurate, keeping fewer innocent people in jail, and convicting more of the guilty people.

“We’re looking for information and taking a forward look at these issues,” said Raichle. “The question is ‘how do we think about these problems?'”

Skeptics, however, fear that incorporating brain-imaging technology into the legal system may violate rights to privacy and undermine personal responsibility, possibly undermining some of the basic assumptions of law.

Some specific goals of the project will be to hold conferences, publish judicial guidelines for handling neuroscientific evidence, develop scientific research proposals relevant to legal proceedings and possibly publish textbooks for Law and Neuroscience courses at universities.

There will be three working groups to study addiction, brain abnormalities and decision making, the last of which being co-directed by Raichle and Owen Jones, professors of law and of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University.

The MacArthur Foundation is one of the largest private grant-making foundations and awards $225 million annually in grants and low-interest loans. For more information about the project, visit

Student receives “out-of-this-world” scholarship

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Johann Qua Hiansen
Scott Bressler

Thirty-five years ago, astronaut Charlie Duke was driving on the moon. On Thursday, he’ll be presenting a prestigious $10,000 scholarship to senior Lonia Friedlander.

Duke will present a talk entitled “A Journey to the Moon” after the awards ceremony. The talk, which is open and free to the public, is scheduled this afternoon. Prior to the talk, Duke will get to see some of the lunar samples that he collected in April of 1972 in the lab.

“I can’t wait to meet him,” said Friedlander. “Astronauts really interest me because they risk their lives for science.”

Friedlander is one of 19 students in the country this year and the second student in the Pathfinder program in the past four years to receive this award from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Students are selected by the astronauts for excellence in their science or engineering field as well as their well-rounded contributions outside of the lab.

“We’re very proud of Lonia,” said Raymond Arvidson, who also heads the Pathfinder program in Environmental Sustainability. “She’s off and running.”

It all began when Friedlander visited the University on a whim. Although it was her first college visit, she applied Early Decision and signed up for the Pathfinder program.

“I jokingly say it’s the best arbitrary decision I ever made,” said Friedlander.

In the summer of her sophomore year, Friedlander traveled to Spain after being offered a research opportunity by Arvidson.

“I’m interested in science because I think it is possibly the best way to study the physical world,” said Friedlander.”

Friedlander’s research deals with ground water salts similar to those found on Mars.

“We were studying the spectroscopy of a certain family of minerals that appear to be relatively similar to those in Mars and figure out how they change in various conditions,” said Friedlander.

Friedlander has been working in the Earth and Planetary Remote Sensing Lab analyzing data sent back from the Mars Rovers and making suggestions to mission operations.

“The Earth and Planetary Sciences Department is cool because it’s relatively small but really involved,” said Friedlander.

Fellow Pathfinders are participating in the Phoenix rover, projected to land on Mars in May.

Friedlander plans to use the scholarship to pay for some of her undergraduate tuition.

“I get the check and hand it to Chancellor Wrighton, essentially,” said Friedlander.

When not in the lab, Friedlander likes to dance and help other students with their chemistry. In her freshman year, she was part of Washington University Dance Theater. Last summer, she was part of a West African dance group in St. Louis.

In a statement from Monday’s Record, Duke said, “Lonia will be one of the many leaders who will keep the United States at the edge of breakthrough technology, and I consider it an honor to be presenting her with this check.”

Duke was present in mission control when Neil Armstrong, announcing his arrival on the moon, said “Houston.the eagle has landed.”

Years later, he became the 10th of only 12 men to walk on the moon. He and astronaut John Young stayed on the lunar surface for a record-setting 71 hours and 14 minutes where they collected 213 pounds of lunar samples, drove a Lunar Rover and planted scientific equipment.

The speaker event will begin at 2:30 pm in room 300, Brookings Hall.

Researcher names virus in WU’s honor

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Steve Hardy

A new strain of virus has been identified by the medical school and named the “WU” virus after Washington University.

Graduate student Anne Gaynor believes that further testing might indicate that the virus infects young children, becomes latent in the kidney and causes illness later in life when the immune system is compromised, such as in elderly and HIV-infected people.

The virus, a type known as a polyomavirus, is closely related to two others, JC and BK, which attack the nervous system of HIV patients and cause kidney transplants to fail, respectively. However, the research team still has much to uncover about WU.

“There [also] doesn’t appear to be any difference in gender or ethnicity at this point,” said Gaynor.

A Web site maintained by David Wang, a University professor who leads the research team, states that the WU virus has unique properties unlike either of the others and he questions if it even is a human pathogen.

Gaynor says that it may even be related to a virus which infects non-human primates.

The virus has been reported in such geographically disparate countries as the United States, Australia, Germany and Korea, according to Gardner.

In fact, the first samples of the then-unknown WU virus came from the University of Queensland in Australia.

The samples were sent to the University because the school has ViroChip, a sophisticated pan-viral DNA microarray. This tool allows scientists to quickly screen viral samples and compare their structure to more than 22,000 known viruses. It was instrumental in distinguishing SARS from known viruses during the 2003 outbreak.

Several thousand young subjects have been studied by taking respiratory secretions. Researchers found that as many as three percent of those with respiratory infections also tested positive for the WU virus.

“Seventy percent of these kids have a secondary infection,” said Gaynor. “There is every range of infections, and some have two, three or up to five other infections.”

While this does not necessarily indicate a cause and effect relationship, it is enough for researchers to question the nature of the virus.

Even a one-day-old infant was found to be infected, illustrating that the virus might be able to pass from a mother to the fetus via the umbilical cord.

As of yet, researchers are unaware of any environmental factors or genetic predispositions that cause people to be more susceptible or resistant to contracting the virus. It does seem, however, that as the virus mostly infects people when their immune systems are weak, either by extreme age or illness.

Gaynor, who has been working in Wang’s lab for more than three years, wrote an article for “PLoS,” a national medical journal. Gaynor collaborated with Wang and other graduate students on the article, “Identification of a novel polyomavirus from patients with acute respiratory tract infections,” which introduced the WU virus to the medical community. Since its publication in May, the research team has been considering how to continue their study.

“We want to look at who has antibodies to this and at what age are you going to get them, when you will be infected,” said Gaynor. “Also, can we associate [the WU virus] with a disease? That’s sort of the next logical step. Right now, it’s an identified virus, but not a pathogen. We have to prove that it causes diseases.”

These viruses are called polyoma, meaning multiple tumors, and they are all known to cause tumors in rats.

“The thing I’m going to work on is determining if our virus can transform normal cells into a malignant phenotype in vitro, much like other members of this family,” she said.

The researchers must first grow tissue cultures and then inject those infected cells into a mouse. If the hypothesis is true, rats will develop tumors in whatever cells the WU virus is introduced, regardless of the type of tissue.

This experiment will be a good step toward determining the full scope of the University’s mysterious new virus.

Go to the molecular microbiology website to read more.

Black student festival focuses on activism

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Brittany Farb

Social activist and political commentator Jeff Johnson will headline the annual Black Arts and Sciences Festival lecture Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Graham Chapel.

The festival, which began on Sunday, is one of the Association of Black Student’s (ABS) major programs. This year’s festival is focusing on activism and how to achieve change.

“There are different ways to be activists and that’s what we’re trying to highlight,” said ABS President Sarah Johnson.

Mr. Johnson’s lecture, entitled “Become Activists: Building Effective Campus Organizations and Maintaining Excellence,” is co-sponsored by the Assembly Series.

“[Mr. Johnson] will be speaking on how we as young people can he influential forces of change on our college campus,” said Jasmine Taylor, ABS programming co-chair.

According to Ms. Johnson, ABS made its selection partially because of Mr. Johnson’s history as a political commentator and the controversy he raised.

“Not everyone agreed with what he had to say,” said Ms. Johnson. “But he is very interested in making people become activists.”

Johnson’s lecture is part of the annual Black Arts and Sciences Festival, a weeklong event that is focusing on how students can impact today’s world.

“It’s a national, even world wide feeling that people are getting that things will not change from their parent’s generation without effort,” said Ms. Johnson. “People are realizing that nothing will change unless you get up and do something about it.”

Each event will be labeled Acts I-VI, and the last event will be the annual ABS semi-formal, which will be called the Final Act.

“We are using a bit of a theatrical theme,” said Omolade Alawode, ABS programming co-chair.

Mr. Johnson has made occasional appearances on BET talk shows and created his own successful television programs, “Cousin Jeff” and “The Jeff Johnson Chronicles.” In 2004, Mr. Johnson was the first to cover Democratic national conventions for BET.

Since his appointment with the NAACP as National Youth Director, Johnson has attempted to generate interest in social and political arenas among young activists, including the development of, a Web site devoted to social activism and spreading awareness.

Mr. Johnson is currently writing a book, tentatively entitled “Black and Brown: The Conversation on Race America Has Never Had.” Johnson plans to express the need for honest communication between Black and Latino communities.

Mr. Johnson’s lecture is open to all University students, faculty, staff and the entire St. Louis community.

“We would love to see a diverse crowd fill [Graham Chapel] to capacity,” said Taylor.

Other events in the festival include a voter education forum on Thursday and the annual ABS semi-formal on Saturday night.

“We want to be active votes and we want to get people registered,” said Ms. Johnson. “We’re going to talk about the major issues in this election and how to vote by absentee ballot.”

For additional information regarding Johnson’s lecture, call 314-935-5285 or visit

-With additional reporting by Sam Guzik.

University rejects Watson’s commentary on race

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | David Song

The Washington University Genome Sequencing Center issued a public response on its Web site yesterday in response to controversial comments on race and intelligence made by James Watson, the biologist who discovered the structure of DNA along with Francis Crick.

Watson, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, recently suggested a genetic difference in intelligence between Africans and non-Africans.

Watson later retracted and apologized for his statement, stating that there was no scientific basis for his claims of genetic inferiority by race. Several days after, he resigned from his post at Cold Spring Harbor National Laboratory.

The Genome Sequencing Center’s (GSC) online statement opposed Watson’s original claims.

“Based on our collective extensive training and experience in biology and genetics, we do not support any notion of intellectual inferiority based on race, ethnicity, or gender,” read part of the statement. “Furthermore, we know of no scientific evidence that demonstrates that this is the case.”

Allan Larson, professor of biology, similarly rejected those notions of race and intelligence.

“[Watson’s] statement is a personal prejudice that in my opinion has no validity that even as a scientific hypothesis could be tested,” said Larson.

Larson also questioned the existence of any evidence that could be called genetic intelligence, and suggested that the statements were rooted in personal prejudice and were without any scientific validity.

“What does he even mean by ‘intelligence’?” asked Larson. “My impression is that the statement was illogical and a personal prejudice and he refers to it as if it’s something measurable. He’s making statements about cultures that are variable and probably have different ideas of intelligence. There is no possibility of a scientific basis for his claims.”

Will Ross, director of the Office of Diversity Programs, and assistant at the University School of Medicine, took a similar stance on the matter.

“There is absolutely no evidence to support that sort of correlation; it’s been a pseudo-science by the likes of The Bell Curve,” said Ross. “It really sets this whole issue of race and intelligence back when anyone makes a statement like that; it’s so unsubstantiated. I’m hoping that salient minds prevail and recognize this is an issue not supported by science,” he said.

Ross added that while the University seeks different perspectives, Watson’s comments were not acceptable in any institution of higher education.

“While we do promote an understanding of difference, there has to be an intolerance of things that are hateful and only serve to perpetuate stereotypes, which was the case with Dr. Watson,” he said. “Any university that prides itself on multiculturalism would not allow these comments to go unchecked.”

According to the St. Louis American, a Missouri newspaper targeted to African Americans, the name “watson” was dropped from University e-mail addresses.

The original e-mail servers for the GSC were named “watson” and “crick”-and so e-mail addresses would end in or over time the GSC has accumulated many servers. The current e-mail server is named “genome.”

Richard Wilson, professor of genetics and director of the GSC, stressed that dropping “watson” from the e-mail server was not a direct effect of Watson’s statements. Rather, the name has simply been disappearing over time.

“In large places they [e-mail addresses] tend to migrate,” said Wilson. “Very early in our days, Watson was the name of one of our servers, and it hasn’t been for many years. The e-mail addresses take time to change and it’s slowly going away. People can make the changes themselves; it’ll probably go away by itself.”

Ross also noted that the issue with the e-mail server at the GSC was not directly related to Watson’s recent comments.

“Wilson made an internal response, which speaks for itself,” he said. “There are larger issues than an e-mail server.”

To read the GSC Statement on Race and Genetics, go to the GSC website.

Think Halloween is only for one day? Think again

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Wandalyn Savala

What are you dressing up as tonight? A vampire? Frankenstein? A devil?

Ever thought of going as yourself?

No, I’m not repeating that lame elementary school joke. I’m making a shrewd observation. Every day, we wake up, walk to class, talk to our professors, hang out with friends. Every day, we don our masks. We present the public with what we view as an “acceptable” image.

You know, that personality you think everyone will (maybe) love, admire and respect. We hide our true selves thinking them too hideous for people to see. When we surround ourselves with people we feel (or think we feel) comfortable with, we think we can just take our masks off and relax. But how many of us do?

How many of us can?

Too often we tell ourselves the masks we wear are easy to remove, easy to keep separate from our “true” selves. But we treat these fake personas as appropriate (even necessary) costumes for everyday life. If we’re so accustomed to wearing these masks, then how can we possibly divorce the image we present to “outsiders” from what we think is our “true” self? At what point do we become outsiders to ourselves?

Think about it.

What did you do during the college application process? Created a persona for colleges to accept or reject.

What did you do throughout high school? Made sure teachers knew “you”-or the image you wanted them to write a recommendation about.

What about grade school? You bought into every fad from Pokémon to Harry Potter so you could fit in with everyone else.

Slowly but surely, the outside becomes the inside. Slowly but surely, we become strangers to ourselves. While the masks we wear may never consume us whole, the sway they hold over us can be transformative.

At times, we may not even recognize who we are without our disguises. At times, we may not even want to face what we’ve become.

But we continue to wear our masks. We wear them until we forget to take them off when we go out. We wear them until we forget to take them off around our friends. We wear them until we forget to take them off before we go to bed. We wear them until we can’t take them off even if we want to.

What are we afraid of? What lies beneath our layers? Without the slightest notice, we’ve made Halloween a yearlong holiday. Sans the candy. Sans the fun.

But we sure do have plenty of fear.

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

The weather doesn’t have to be nice to have fun

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Katie Ammann

A lot of you, I’m sure, would normally still be wearing shorts this time of year. Many of you would already need heavy coats and boots. In St. Louis, you’ll need everything you’ve got-all in the same week.

Weather here is fabulously unpredictable, and St. Louis has awesome things to do for every possibility.

On a warm autumn day, you can pick apples at Eckert’s Orchard or head to Six Flags for some roller coasters and Looney Tunes. For the chillier or rainier days, the City Museum, History Museum and Art Museum would all be great places to stay warm and dry. The History Museum in Forest Park currently has an exhibit about the 1904 World’s Fair, which, of course, involved much of Wash. U.’s campus. There is also an exhibit featuring wedding gowns from prominent St. Louis women throughout the city’s history. Other good indoor activities include the upcoming improv comedy performances as well as Diwali, the annual celebration put on by Ashoka.

All of these fall pastimes are especially enlightening and fun, and you might find something you can make into a new tradition for you and your friends.

As we move into winter, there’ll be days filled with heavy snow clouds and bitter winds, but these days will undoubtedly be mixed with one or two 60-degree interjections. For those randomly warm days, walk around downtown or in the Central West End; go to the zoo to see the penguins and the holiday lights; go to the market in Soulard or to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Grab a jacket, make use of your U-Pass and see the city.

For the absolutely blustery days, make your way to the Fox Theatre to see Wicked, or go to Powell Hall to hear the St. Louis Symphony play classical and contemporary pieces. The Symphony even has a classy New Year’s Eve “dance card” concert featuring drinks, desserts and a program of dance pieces that is secret until the night of the concert. At least one of the ridiculously cold St. Louis evenings deserves a bundled-up-in-six-layers attempt to wobble, stand or skate on the ice of Steinberg Rink in Forest Park. Or if there’s enough snow, grab some sleds, inflatable rafts, lunch trays or even cardboard boxes and get over to the hill in front of the Art Museum in Forest Park before the little kids take all the good snow. It’s a great hill, and it has just enough room at the bottom to stop before zooming into the museum’s pond. Also check out the January Ice Festival on The Loop; they’ve got ice sculptures, games and more.

As spring and summer return, there will be plenty more things to see and do-the Thurtene Carnival, student concerts and shows, the outdoor Muny Opera in Forest Park, Cardinals baseball games downtown and endless other festivals and activities.

If you’ve got the time, take a break once in a while to explore a new part of town, no matter how nice or terrible the sky may look. Get ready for more fickle weather, mostly cold, with events, festivals and fun places throughout the city. You’re here for the Wash. U. experience-go get it.

Katie is a junior in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

The meaning of shock value

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Dennis Sweeney
Scott Bressler

For 30 days every winter, the isolated town of Barrow, Ala. is plunged into a state of complete darkness. Then vampires come and massacre the town.

OK, “30 Days of Night” sounds pretty innocent.

But since Halloween is today, I thought I might bring it up. I have kind of a quarrel with the whole thing. Vampires are great. Go vampires. I’m sure the movie’s great, too. But the pervasiveness of shock value in today’s culture, especially in horror movies, is sick.

That we have in the past gone to see movies like “Hostel” and “Saw,” and been able to walk out of the theater afterwards saying to our friends, “Whoah, that was intense. What a movie,” and that we can then drive home and forget about it in an hour ought to disturb us. But it doesn’t.

A majorly bad thing is that the people who aren’t yet totally desensitized to calculated, graphic violence and disturbing images still have to deal with them even if they don’t choose to go see people getting gored and torn apart on-screen. I know you hear every day about “desensitization to violence in today’s culture” and it’s pretty clear to most people that there is a lot of violence on cable television and in culture in general. But I wish to bring up specifically the images of horror that we see so much.

My real complaint about “30 Days of Night” is the poster. It is a black on red print of an unhuman, sharp-toothed, screaming head bursting out of something with what looks a lot like blood splattered everywhere. I honestly think that it is a disturbing image. For someone who is not used to extreme violence, this is an image that will stick in his head and become the stuff of nightmares. Call me a wimp, but I think that when you walk out the door, you are not bargaining for this sick bloody image to stare you in the face on the way to class.

There are also those violent commercials on television. Normal stations. I don’t watch television a lot, but whenever I do it is not at all uncommon to see some pale-faced ragged zombie girl crawling out of the screen toward you or a bloody, screaming, tortured face flickering at you to give you just a hint of the great flick you can go catch starting this Friday in your local theater.

I mean, God, I’m just trying to watch “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” I really think it is harmful for commercials to inject these extremely well-calculated recipes for fear into the mind of someone not desiring it.

Here’s a question, though: what if it was a topless woman on the “30 Days of Night” poster or on the horror movie commercial? That would not fly at all. But I think the vampire and the topless woman have the same taboo value-not according to culture, clearly, but according to, perhaps, what “ought” to distinguish a taboo. They equally desensitize you toward things you are “not supposed to see.”

But then again, is the topless woman not better for you? It’s natural to have a sexual drive. There’s not much wrong with that. But is it natural to have a drive for violence and horror-even not necessarily for perpetrating it but for watching it? Is it OK that we want to go sit in a theater and watch people’s nails being ripped off with pliers and people sawing through other people’s legs?

The answer for most people, certainly, is that there is “shock value.” Seeing scary stuff gives you a feeling you would never get otherwise. OK. Some people like to be scared.

But I feel that there is a moral element to seeing a movie that is violent and full of horror, and especially torture. I think that it is a choice.

What kind of respect are you giving to people in real life who are in pain and who actually are being tortured, whether by others or by disease, when you watch the same stuff on the big screen in order to be entertained? If you think Nike should stop abusing workers in sweat shops, how does it entertain you to go watch “fake” people stuck in violent, sick situations by a “fake” killer? If you complain about George Bush torturing people at Guantanamo Bay, what the hell are you doing not walking out of the theater when a director presents to you, “for shock value,” a person being graphically tortured on screen?

Human suffering is, in my opinion, something we ought to have a lot of respect for.

Seeing it vividly represented on the movie screen for the sake of a thrill shows to me an absence of that respect.

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

What happened to Halloween?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 | Michelle Albert

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. It comes at that perfect fall moment when the leaves are brilliantly colored and the air is refreshingly crisp. Ghosts, witches and pumpkins are suddenly everywhere, plastered over store windows and hanging from trees. It’s a night to dress up, eat an inordinate amount of candy and party down. Good, clean fun. Right?

Over the years, especially in college, I have noticed something strange happening to Halloween. When I was in elementary school, my friends and I would start on our costumes a month before the actual holiday. We wanted to be unique and creative, wanted to seize the chance to be something completely different. Each year had to top the last. At that young, innocent, excited age, Halloween was all about the costumes and the candy. The running around at night with friends, dressed as Cleopatra or a Cheerios box, singing the latest pop song very loudly (and in four different keys) and toting a UNICEF bag and a hollow plastic jack o’ lantern made Halloween the best night of the year.

In college, however, Halloween takes on a whole new meaning. Where there were bowls of candy and funny rather than spooky ghost decorations, there are Jell-O shots and giant, crazy parties.

And the costumes.oh, the costumes. College students don’t seem to really get into costumes anymore. Well, more like they just don’t wear clothes. Somewhere along the path between trick-or-treating and deciding on a major, Halloween has become an excuse to wear as little clothing as possible-and to a somewhat ridiculous extent.

Let’s think. Bauhaus, the huge Halloween party put on by the Architecture school every year, takes place outside. And this is outside, at night, at the end of October, mind you. The temperature is usually around 40 degrees. There is a tent, but there is nothing to heat it, save the crush of dancing students. So, if you are dressed to the bare minimum, say in a bra or boxers or nothing save body paint, you are going to be, well, freezing your ass off. Yes, alcohol in certain amounts purportedly enables the drinker to not feel cold, but that just lends itself to a new host of complications. Frostbite, anyone?

Now I am not against wearing underwear as a costume. I am always up for some Rocky Horror-type action-movie, costumes and all. And, a few years ago, a friend of mine went to Bauhaus dressed as Mystique from X-Men. Nothing but layers and layers of blue latex body paint. And she looked fantastic, if a little chilly.

The point is (besides being ridiculously cold) that as costumes have become more revealing, their purpose as costumes has all but disappeared. The best part of Halloween has disappeared. Where has our creativity gone? This is a campus of intelligent, passionate people. I know we can do better. And if you are insistent on still wearing nothing but your skivvies, then at least make them furry and go as Tarzan. Or Jane, as the case may be.

Dressing up on Halloween should be fun. What other time can you walk around with zebra stripes on your face and have it be considered completely normal? Take advantage of the opportunity. After all, this chance only comes once a year. As for me, I think I am going to be a superhero. Bed-sheet cape and all.

Michelle is a senior in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].