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Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

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The Setonian
News

Rule's orientation leads to career path

For the parents of most graduating high school seniors, the concept of a son or daughter beginning an Ivy League education is a gleeful one — a dream come true.



The Setonian
News

Gay and straight: Ph.D. student learns Rules

    When he realized that his high school classmates had been able to accurately detect that he was gay before he even realized his own sexual orientation, Tufts psychology Ph.D. candidate Nicholas Rule began thinking hard about the nature of non-verbal communication and visual perception. He wondered if — and how — it was possible to accurately perceive certain characteristics based on quick glances at other people.     Working with Professor of Psychology Nalini Ambady, Rule has conducted several psychology studies dedicated to the accuracy with which faces can be judged. Dipping into his own personal history for inspiration, Rule conducted a study revealing that a man's sexual orientation can be observed by looking at his facial features for just a fraction of a second.     Rule and Ambady began the experiment by taking a sample of 90 male faces from pictures used in personal ads, 45 of which were self-identified as gay, 45 as straight. The duo standardized the faces by testing them for attractiveness and emotional expression, and ensured that "familiarity effects" were avoided by choosing samples from outside the Boston area.     The pair then showed the photographs to Tufts students under six different conditions — for 10 seconds, six and a half seconds, self-paced (about a second and a half), 100 milliseconds, 50 milliseconds and 33 milliseconds — and analyzed the results to determine how accurately the participants could judge whether the men in the photographs were gay.     Quite accurately, they found.     For nearly every time interval, the accuracy with which participants label ed a subject as gay or straight hovered around 70 percent. What Rule found particularly significant was that few participants strayed far from this accuracy level, and no photos were guessed entirely accurately or inaccurately.     "We never have a hundred percent agreement on any one face," Rule said. "Which is really interesting, I think."     But despite efforts to keep the faces pictured ambiguous, doubts were inevitably raised as to whether hand-picking gay and straight men out of a lineup was simply too easy.     "That's the first question that people ask — they're like, ‘Oh, well, you know, who are these flamers you have in the study that are so obvious?'" Rule said. Other critics of the study suggested that hairstyle might tip participants off, or that personal ads might be too obvious or intentionally deceptive.     So Rule further standardized the experiment by taking faces of men from Facebook.com, using only those photos that were "Tagged by Others" with the men in groups of people rather than alone. This helped cut back on what Rule called the "self-presentation" aspect that would have led to skewed or inaccurate results.     The researcher took the tests a step further by removing hairstyles altogether from the photos, and at one point ran the tests on photos of only eyes.     The results came back, silencing doubters of the experiment: Participants decided who was gay and who was not with the same level of accuracy under all conditions. "There was no difference, which was excellent," Rule said.     Rule himself was initially skeptical of the experiment. "I didn't think it would work," he said. "The whole thing was actually really exciting to see evolve because we started with 100 [milliseconds], and then we were sort of like, ‘Oh my God it, worked — let's try 50, let's try 33, and then going up [in amount of time], what if we make them really think about it?'"     For Rule and Ambady, the process was exciting because it pointed to broader psychological insights.     "People actually can accurately judge sexual orientation from the eyes and mouth, but they don't know that they can, which is super cool," Rule explained. "This then suggests that how we perceive people probably occurs through these multiple paths, you know, consciously and unconsciously."     "So really, this shows that our intuitive judgments about gay and straight are based in something and they're somewhat accurate," he added.     In step with the increasingly common use of terms like "gaydar," bloggers and media outlets swarmed Rule with curiosity — and criticism — as to the scientific merits of his experimentation.     "It was a little frustrating at first because the bloggers clearly have not read the study — they would be saying all these things and making all these accusations that were completely outrageous, that would have been clearly addressed if they had read the paper," Rule said. "I didn't want to respond to them because I didn't want to get into a dialogue with the bloggers."     For such experiments, media coverage can signify the end of testing: Researchers hope to keep the intentions of the experiment under wraps to their participants until after the testing has been completed.     "When all the press about it came out, we were basically screwed," Rule said. "So we really can't do too much anymore because now everyone knows about it."


The Setonian
News

Carmichael and Dewick no longer allow table-tent ads

Students returning to the Hill this semester have probably noticed cleaner tables, and some club heads have had to rethink how they do promotion, as the Carmichael and Dewick-MacPhie Dining Halls have banned the distribution of paper advertisements on tables.



The Setonian
News

Brown and Brew trims hours

Students looking to Brown and Brew for late-night coffee or a sandwich on the weekend will have to search elsewhere, as the campus café is now closing at 11 p.m. and will no longer be open on Saturdays and Sundays.



The Setonian
News

Interdisciplinary studies at Tufts on the rise

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last year that "interdisciplinarity," which is an approach to learning, teaching and research that transcends and unites a variety of traditionally separate academic disciplines, was becoming increasingly agreed upon by the university community — a community, they added, which often tends to argue over its philosophy of learning.



The Setonian
News

John McCain: the leader our country needs

    With the end of the Republican National Convention, the official general election campaign for President of the United States has begun. Rarely in the history of this country have the American people been given the opportunity to elect a man whose independent spirit so attracts, whose experience is so comprehensive and whose passionate love of country has been proven through the toughest of trials. John McCain stands ready to lead this country to peace through strength and to prosperity through the free market.     As America stands once again at its quadrennial crossroads, it will choose between two very different men and two divergent visions for the future. Barack Obama, a brilliant orator and the first African-American candidate for president of any major party, appears to many as a wholly new kind of politician. But there is little new about the policies he espouses. Faced with a war on the brink of victory, he wants to retreat. Faced with an economy in trouble, he wants to raise taxes on businesses that create jobs. Faced with a looming energy crisis, he refuses to consider increased domestic oil production as central to the solution.     Indeed, Barack Obama's plans for America appear almost identical to those put forth by Democrats in the 1960s and 1970s, which were resoundingly rejected by the American people. Depicted as a transcendental political figure, his record is that of a hyper-partisan who voted the Democratic Party line more often than even the Senate Democrat leadership. Reasonable people can disagree on the issue of abortion, but surely a responsible legislator would support protection for infants born alive in abortion clinics? Barack Obama voted against just such a measure.     In contrast, John McCain has a long record of opposing his own party when he feels the good of the country requires it. He joined the bipartisan "Gang of Fourteen" to find common ground on the issue of judicial appointments. He supports federal action to halt climate change. McCain championed the cause of immigration reform but has accepted the American people's demand that the border be secured first. He opposes torture and aggressive interrogation, promising to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He has stood fast against corruption and waste in both parties and is a tireless fighter against Congressional earmarks.     John McCain has proven himself willing to risk his very reputation on what he believes to be right. From almost the very beginning of the war in Iraq, he was loudly calling for more troops to be committed — a very unpopular position. Barack Obama opposed any surge in troops, declaring: "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse."     Thus, while McCain was advocating for reinforcements, Obama was demanding a phased withdrawal, effectively agreeing with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said "this war is lost." Now, even Obama admits that the surge has been extremely successful (long after most independent observers had come to the same conclusion). However, Sen. Obama continues to argue that our impending victory is evidence that he has been right all along. While it is true that the United States will soon begin pulling its troops out of Iraq, thanks to John McCain, they will be returning with victory. Barack Obama would have brought them home in humiliating defeat.     In an absurd Daily op-ed last week, Jimmy Pianka argued that McCain's military experience actually disqualifies him to be commander in chief. Using grievously tortured logic, Pianka suggested that a man who has been in combat and in a POW camp is less qualified to lead our armed forces than a man with no military experience who associates with an unapologetic former domestic terrorist. Pianka condemned America as "a culture still very much enamored with war" and John McCain as "shaped profoundly by violence and cruelty, whose only visible passion is the spread of American values by force," incapable of "compassion and the basic identification with all humans as kin."     Contrast these maliciously false statements with Senator McCain's actions. After his horrendous treatment at the hands of the North Vietnamese, McCain led the push to normalize relations with that country, realizing the need for national reconciliation and healing. McCain opposes torture on the grounds that it is inhumane to do such things, even to our enemies.     On a more personal note, he and his wife Cindy were so moved with compassion for a young Bangladeshi girl trapped in terrible poverty that they spontaneously adopted her. These are not the actions of a man warped by violence and rage. Rather, McCain's actions prove that he feels deep empathy and has a sound grasp of the subtleties of this complex world. However, he also has seen the face of evil, and America's allies and enemies alike will have no reason to doubt his resolve in the face of danger.     Obama, on the other hand, has vowed to bomb our ally Pakistan without its permission while simultaneously promising to talk to our enemy Iran without preconditions. Such a scattershot foreign policy can only serve to confuse our friends and embolden potential foes. Michael Hawley is a sophomore who has not yet declared a major. He is the president of Tufts Republicans.



The Setonian
News

Freshman vote for senators today

The predictably congested flock of freshman Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate candidates is facing off today in an election for the class' seven seats.


The Setonian
News

Police Briefs

Identity crisis: Two addresses to match those two IDs     Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) officers responded to a call at 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 28 from Bartol House, commonly called the Arts Haus, at 37 Sawyer Ave. The caller reported that a suspicious male was knocking on the house's front and back doors. Upon arriving, officers found a student at the rear of the Health Service building.     When they asked the individual where he lived, he pointed to the Health Service building, which is at 124 Professors Row, and said 98 Professors Row, according to Sergeant Robert McCarthy of TUPD.     The individual was asked for identification and produced two different driver's licenses, one that indicated he was 21 and one that said he was 20. "Guess which one was the real one," McCarthy said.     TEMS was called and the individual was eventually deemed well enough to be released and then was brought back to his fraternity house.


The Setonian
News

Green Line extension end point may be announced next week

    As transportation officials continue to vet the Green Line's planned extension into Medford and Somerville, the next major announcement may reveal where the line will end.     While Tufts is guaranteed to get a stop at the intersection of Boston and College Avenues, the line will either stop there or will continue further down Boston Avenue to the Mystic Valley Parkway (Route 16). The announcement may come as soon as next week.     The proposed extension, which was promised to communities to offset pollution from Boston's Big Dig, dates back more than 15 years and has seen a number of delays.     In May, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) revealed its most recent plans to add seven new Green Line stations in Medford and Somerville. Three of them — a Ball Square stop and the extension's two potential end locations — are situated less than one mile from Tufts' campus. This followed Gov. Deval Patrick's allocation of $600 million on April 17 in order to fund the extension and guarantee completion by its 2014 deadline.     Community groups and transportation officials are currently directing their focus to the two possible final stops in Medford. Whichever location gets the terminal stop will have the largest stop generated by the Green Line extension.     The Executive Office of Transportation (EOT) may announce the end location of the extension at the next public meeting on the project Sept. 15, according to Ken Krause, a member of the Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance (MGNA), an advisory group comprised of local citizens.     Klark Jessen, a spokesperson for the EOT, would not confirm that a recommendation would be made. "The terminus is still under consideration and review," he said. "I'm not aware we're going to make some big announcement Sept. 15."     Krause said that he was unsure of how the EOT's decision would play out.     "There's a lot of factors involved," he said. "We think that the EOT should look strongly at trying to go to Route 16 in order to make the project as good a project as possible, serve the most people, provide the most air quality improvements — and hopefully that will still be in a cost-effectiveness range [so] they feel the project is still worth doing."     At an Aug. 4 meeting, the MGNA presented a demographic analysis of the neighborhoods surrounding both proposed stops, as well as a petition signed by 2,022 people in support of a Route 16 station.     The demographic analysis revealed that more than 9,000 people "who would not be similarly served by a terminus station at College Avenue" live within a half mile of Route 16, according to an MGNA press release.     The MGNA has spoken out in support of the Route 16 terminus, citing positive effects such an extension would have on air quality and on increasing the availability of public transportation to the area's disadvantaged communities.     "The Green Line extension project is bound by the environmental justice principles that no segment of the population should be denied environmental benefits, or bear a disproportionate burden of the environmental impacts, related to the project," the MGNA demographic report said.     The EOT must now analyze potential ridership and determine whether a Route 16 extension would be cost-effective, Krause said. He also noted that the Route 16 stop may require land acquisitions, unlike other T stops on the Green Line extension.     "That's kind of, I think, one of the big unknown factors," Krause said, "because up until now … they've been able [to expand] without the need to take anyone's homes or without any significant land acquisitions." Such acquisitions would incur a significant cost.     He explained that a terminal station at either College Avenue or Route 16 would require a long platform to store an extra set of train cars. But if the final stop were located at Route 16, he added, an extra parking structure would most likely be included in plans.     Barbara Rubel, the director of community relations at Tufts, said that the university has not officially announced which proposed terminus location it supports.     "We have not taken a formal position, but we would very much like to see it go to Route 16," she said. "We think that, as advocates of environmentally friendly efforts, it makes sense to create maximum access to public transportation. But we also recognize that we aren't the people who are impacted as the extension would get closer to Route 16."     The next public meeting on the extension project will take place on Sept. 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. at St. Clement High School in Medford.


The Setonian
News

Freshman orientation ran successfully under new leadership

    For the freshmen who flooded the Tufts campus at the end of August to begin orientation, the changes were nearly impossible to pick up on. But for those who worked behind the scenes, this year's orientation process was all but business as usual.     This year, the university unveiled its new orientation planning committee; it included a lot of new faces — and new ideas. It was headed by the triumvirate of Jim Ryan, Joseph Golia and Laura Doane.     Ryan, the coordinator for programs and special projects, is the only one who had previous experience running Tufts' orientation. Golia, the director for campus life, and Doane, the director of advising and scholarships, both started here this summer.     One of the committee's most visible efforts was an added focus on the environment. All handouts were made from recycled paper, and the Matriculation lunch and Gantcher Center dinner were zero-waste events.     The committee also took a foray into the social-consciousness arena with the purchase of edun LIVE t-shirts. Run by students, the group adds designs to organic t-shirts made in sub-Saharan Africa and then sells them. Its members aim to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable employment opportunities in that region of Africa.     Ryan said that the test run for environmental programming went well.     "[We wanted] green [to be] a theme for orientation," he said. "Now that we know we can do it relatively easily, instead of just making it a theme we are going to make it a recurring goal for orientation in general."     Another relatively new part of orientation was the use of support staff; this was the second year they were employed. They worked with three student coordinators — junior Nissa Bagelman and seniors Ben Picillo and Shawna Russo — to ensure that operations ran smoothly.     "A lot of our success comes from the support staff," Ryan said. "We hire a number of students who aren't orientation leaders and who aren't executive orientation leaders, so they just help us do the logistical day-to-day stuff; they stuff the bags, they get things around."     Although orientation coordinators are only beginning to assess this year's programming with a survey given to all new students, they have already received positive feedback, according to Golia.     "I heard students say that they really had a great week," he said. "It's a spectacular program; there is so much variety. It's not just the same types of events every night."     Ryan said that he has seen a positive response and is hoping for evidence in numbers.     "We've heard a lot of good feedback, but we are waiting for that survey to come back to get our more empirical stuff. Just from a logistical standpoint, I've been told by departments with whom we work here on campus, outside just the dean of student affairs, that things went more smoothly this year than they had in the past."     Freshman Reeve Bright said that orientation augmented her adjustment to college and her overall planning process.     "[Orientation] was really helpful. It had everything I wanted to do. I really liked the panels; I went to the pre-med one, which I thought was really helpful for students who were debating about which major to go into," she said.     According to Russo, orientation ran smoothly because of hard work and collaboration.     "I would say that there are two parts: the academic side and the social side, and it wouldn't have worked and been the same without everyone's help and cooperation," she said. "Orientation as a whole is a team effort."     Golia agreed that the students and staff working together made the program a success.     "[Orientation] cannot be done, and could not be done, without the three student coordinators," he said. "It's an amazingly logistical program that they held together quite smoothly."     "It was integral that there were all six of us," Russo said. "It wouldn't have happened without the dynamics of the six of us and the guidance we received from Jim, Joe and Laura."


The Setonian
News

Three seniors nab empty TCU Senate seats

Three seniors stepped up at Thursday night's candidates' meeting to fill the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate seats vacated over the summer, while 21 freshmen entered the race for seven Class of 2012 slots.


The Setonian
News

Alleged rapist to be arraigned today

Michael Mahoney will be arraigned today on rape and assault charges stemming from two incidents that occurred near Tufts' campus over the summer.



The Setonian
News

Some say television is more to blame than Web for short attention spans

    After the publication of Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" in The Atlantic and Motoko Rich's "Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?" in The New York Times, Americans are beginning to question whether the Web is harming their ability to stay focused in today's digital world.     Many specialists contend that switching from one Internet program to another over prolonged time periods weakens a user's ability to become immersed in activities that require greater time and attention, such as reading.     "It makes it harder even when we're offline to read books, as skimming takes over and displaces our modes of reading," Carr wrote in his Atlantic article. "The way we gather information is by jumping around, and that's governed not only by Google, but by the whole economic structure of the Internet."     But some may argue that other factors — like the media-focused nature of today's culture and television — are to blame for our nation's inability to focus.     Andrew Call, a market researcher at Zoom Marketing, a California-based consulting firm for technology product and services companies, says that excessive media consumption may injure society in the long run.     "I personally think our society's nature to simplify and shorten the processing of information has been of detriment to our attention spans," he said. "A lot of times, getting information and facts in such a quick manner causes us to miss all of the nuanced subtleties."     But this inability to process information for an extended time period may not be so much a result of the Internet, but rather of television programs from the 1990s, Call said.     "Such [a] phenomenon is often referred to as part of the ‘MTV' generation: since MTV was one of the first networks to pick up on this trend [of short cuts and choppy, unfocused material]," Call said.     "But a lot of times, I think the worst case of this kind of behavior is with the news," he continued. "These days, people have to be constantly entertained."     Take Fox News, for example. They've got runners on the bottom of the screen, graphics thrown at you every two seconds, all in addition to their regularly programmed news."     In fact, some believe that the structure of modern television may be more to blame for higher rates of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in recent years than the Internet.     "Some people have hypothesized that an overexposure to television will cause ADHD-like tendencies among audiences," said John Howe, co-founder of the Newton-based Adult ADHD Anonymous Support Group said. "In some ways, I suspect there's truth to that thesis, because the very short visual splices found in television programming can increase a person's tendency towards ADHD."     But the Internet may not have the same effect as television, Howe said. In fact, he suggests that the Web may be of significant benefit to users who do exhibit ADHD tendencies.     "The Internet supports an ADHD way of thinking very nicely, because with the Internet, the user is able to access it at his or her own rate," Howe said. "When a person with ADHD watches television, however, their ability to process information is controlled by the speed of the editing.     "Sometimes a hypnotic effect can arise from such quick pacing," he continued. "Television and movies 15 years ago had much longer sequencing and slower editing that helped to get the attention mechanism used to absorbing longer material. In real life, you don't have jump cuts forced upon you, framing your nervous system for a pacing like that."     In his work with people afflicted with ADHD over the past 13 years, Howe said that he has rarely seen a single case in which a person's ADHD tendencies were exacerbated by Internet use.     "I've found that few folks with ADHD have reported detrimental effects on their attention spans from Internet use," he said. "In fact, a lot of times the Web can be a great resource for us because it allows us to chase information at our own rate."


The Setonian
News

Douglas murder and embezzlement scandal drew interest from media

This is the second in a two-part series in which the Daily looks back 25 years at a case in which a faculty member at the Tufts Medical School embezzled thousands of dollars from the university to fund his ongoing affair with a prostitute and then murdered her.


The Setonian
News

Beyond Boundaries was leader among capital campaigns in April

    In April, Tufts outpaced the 26 other billion-dollar universities engaged in capital campaigns, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.     Tufts' campaign, Beyond Boundaries, experienced a $131.8-million vault in April.     According to Director of Central Development Programs Chris Simoneau, this jump was due "almost entirely" to the late Frank Doble's (E '11) $136-million donation, which the university received in April.     The campaign's monthly capital gains average between $5 million and $10 million. After April's surge, donations in recent months have remained strong and steady, Simoneau said. The campaign, which aims to earn $1.2 billion by 2011, surpassed $900 million this summer.     "We're really hitting our stride," said Christine Sanni, director of advancement for communications and donor relations.     Doble designated Tufts and Lesley University as primary beneficiaries of two trusts he set up as part of his estate plan before passing away in 1969. The trusts were dissolved upon the recent sale of his company, Doble Engineering, and their assets were distributed equally to the two universities. The gift is the largest in Tufts' history.     Doble was a member of the Charles Tufts Society, an organization of alumni who include Tufts in their estate plans. The Society currently has close to 900 members, according to Sanni.     Membership has increased, on average, by about 10 people per month since Beyond Boundaries went public in 2006, according to Rebecca Scott, director of Tufts' Gift Planning Office.     Scott described the link between the Charles Tufts Society and the Beyond Boundaries campaign as a "chicken and egg" scenario. As contributions to the campaign increase, more members are added to the society. Likewise, as membership to the Society increases, additional campaign contributions are made.     Since the campaign's inception, the Gift Planning Office has made an effort to increase publicity about the importance of donations to the university and has used Periscope, Tufts' faculty circulation, and Tufts Magazine to let people know more about the office.     Scott said that administrators have also been more proactive in asking donors who have included Tufts in their estate plans or wills to inform the university.     "We want to thank them properly and show them that it's a great way to contribute to the Beyond Boundaries campaign and the general success of the campaign," she said.     Beyond Boundaries was publicly announced in November 2006, although a quiet phase of fundraising began in July 2002. The campaign's primary goal is to increase financial aid to undergraduates and establish a need-blind admissions policy.     While Doble's gift makes the 2011 deadline easier to reach, Simoneau said that administrators had expected to receive some standout gifts during the campaign.     "Campaigns are built with the expectation that there will be extraordinarily generous donors," Simoneau said. "Large gifts create a sense of momentum at the university and inspire others to look deeper."     Sanni said that most universities do not see much alumni support, and she believes Tufts is within the range of reasonable alumni giving for most institutions.     "We're in the middle of the pack," she said. But according to U.S.News & World Report's 2009 rankings of American universities, Tufts places 40th among national research universities with a 23 percent alumni-giving rate. This rank is considerably lower than Tufts' overall 28th ranking on the list of universities.     Close to 92,000 donors have contributed to the campaign. Though a majority of them are alumni, many have come from corporations, foundations and individuals connected in some way to Tufts, Sanni said.     "It's amazing to see people who have the means show how meaningful Tufts was to them," Sanni said. "I think we'll meet the goal. If we do better than the goal, we'll be ecstatic."     Sarah Butrymowicz contributed reporting to this article.