Professor Austin Sarat Discusses Presidential Clemency on “The Takeaway”

Submitted on Friday, 5/20/2022, at 5:03 PM

Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, appeared on an April 2022 episode of WNYC Studios’ radio show The Takeaway to comment upon the history and potential of the power of U.S. presidents to grant clemency to those convicted of crimes.

The episode, hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry and titled “I Beg Your Pardon,” aired the day after President Joe Biden issued three pardons and 75 commutations to people convicted of drug offenses or other nonviolent crimes, while 18,000 petitions for clemency were still pending. Sarat gave his opinion on Biden’s actions, and spoke more broadly about clemency as an often unpopular political move that requires a “stiff political backbone and some courage.” 

Also discussed were the clemency review process, conceptions of clemency as mercy versus error correction versus political favor-trading, and comparisons between various presidents’ records regarding how and how often they exercised clemency. Sarat advocated for Biden to commute the sentences of those on death row. “If we want a more equitable use of the clemency power,” he said, “we need to elect presidents with a fine-tuned sense of justice and, more importantly, with a commitment to being merciful.”

Mead Art Museum Introduces “Mead on the Move”

Submitted on Monday, 5/16/2022, at 9:03 AM

TheReminder.com highlights the new program, piloted in fall 2021 and launched in spring 2022, that “brings art education from the museum’s galleries into pre-K through 12th grade classrooms” in the Amherst area. School visits are developed and facilitated by Amherst College student museum educators and led by Museum Educator Olivia Feal.

“‘Mead on the Move’ draws from the Mead’s core teaching themes designed to complement Massachusetts state learning guidelines,” writes Dylan Corey. The reporter quotes Feal’s description of a trial visit to Wildwood Elementary School: “It was a windy day when we visited, so the tissue paper was flying around, and it was hilarious and a great time. I can’t wait for the students to visit the Mead again, but I also love meeting teachers in their classrooms and having the visit be on students’ and teachers’ terms in their familiar spaces.”

Emily Potter-Ndiaye, the Mead’s Dwight and Kirsten Poler & Andrew W. Mellon Head of Education and Curator of Academic Programs, notes that, through the program, “Amherst College students gain a sense of connection and perspective with hands-on teaching skills, while our teacher and student partners build personal and curricular connections with artworks from their local museum collections.”

Jim Steinman ’69, H’13: The Eccentric King of Fairytale Rebellion and Grand Drama

Submitted on Thursday, 5/12/2022, at 7:02 PM

Around the first anniversary of his death, LouderSound.com published a feature on the life and career of Steinman, the songwriter behind such hits as Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell album.

“At Amherst College he wrote a musical version of a futuristic rock take on Peter Pan, The Dream Engine, which laid the foundation for much of his later work, including Bat Out of Hell and Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’” writes classic rock reporter Dave Ling.

Punctuated with music videos from YouTube and a playlist of Steinman’s songs, the article delves into his “tempestuous relationship” with Meat Loaf and other figures in the music industry, his longtime health problems, his work in musical theater, and the “massively bombastic” energy for which his creative projects were famous. 

A Singing Surgeon’s Journey

Submitted on Monday, 5/9/2022, at 9:03 AM

In an Outside the Office column for Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today, Dr. Brian Kim ’97 writes about joining the Zumbyes at Amherst and how he still draws upon his singing skills in his work as an ophthalmologist today.

“Even though my college days are decades ago, the skills I learned from my Zumbye brothers help me care for my patients to this day,” writes Kim, a partner at Professional Eye Associates in Dalton, Ga., and clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Medical College of Georgia. He explains how he has become known for singing to his patients to distract them from their anxiety. 

He describes how he auditioned for the acappella group twice despite having “no musical background,” and how they “taught me the basics—breathing techniques, singing from the diaphragm, opening the mouth and projecting sound.” He fondly remembers the Zumbyes’ tour of Florida, during which the group stayed at his family’s home and performed the national anthem at a Golden State Warriors NBA game. 

The column also includes Kim’s thoughts on his medical training, teaching experiences and family life.

Professor Katrina Karkazis on How Perceptions of Testosterone Shape Policy and Sport

Submitted on Thursday, 5/5/2022, at 4:52 PM

Karkazis, a professor of sexuality, women’s and gender studies at Amherst and a senior research fellow with the Global Health Justice partnership at Yale, appears on a recent episode of WPSU radio’s Take Note to talk about her 2019 book Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography, in which she and co-author Rebecca M. Jordan-Young correct mistaken or oversimplified ideas about the hormone.

“Part of the argument in the book is that it’s impossible to know both what testosterone is and what it does without also thinking about it as a cultural entity,” Karkazis says to host John Weber. “And there are a lot of notions about what we want it to do, what we think it does, that aren't always borne out by the evidence.” 

The interview delves into the testosterone myths reflected in a famous episode of This American Life. Karkazis points out that there are multiple types of testosterone, that it can be measured in different ways, and that “there is no straightforward direct relationship between testosterone level and violence.” The host and professor also discuss how misunderstandings about the hormone shape policies as to who may or may not participate in women’s athletic competitions. 

New Study and Interactive Map, Co-Created by Professor Katharine Sims and Margot Lurie ’21, Point to Environmental Justice Disparities

Submitted on Tuesday, 4/26/2022, at 2:04 PM

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters and publicized by the TNC Network, shows that, across New England, “communities in the lowest income quartile, and communities with the highest proportions of people of color, have access to only about half as much protected land near where they live.” It is accompanied by an online mapping tool to highlight “specific opportunities for future conservation based on environmental justice criteria.”

“We hope that this tool can both empower local communities interested in protecting nearby land and offer guidance to conservation organizations regarding who needs to be at the table in land-use planning decisions,” says Lurie, who helped to catalyze the project through her work as an academic intern at Amherst.

“Changes in leadership structure, outreach, and programming can increase access by making open spaces truly welcoming to all,” says Sims, professor of economics and environmental studies.

The team behind the study and map also includes Boston-based social justice scholar Neenah Estrella-Luna and Harvard Forest researchers Lucy Lee and Jonathan Thompson.

How Poetry and Prose Help Shape Amy Speace ’90’s Songs

Submitted on Friday, 4/22/2022, at 4:56 PM

Speace has just released the album Tucson and is pursuing an M.F.A. in poetry at Spalding University in Kentucky. In a Q&A for No Depression: The Journal of Roots Music, the singer-songwriter discusses her reading habits.

Interviewer Henry Carrigan asks Speace such questions as “What books are on your nightstand now?,” “How does reading influence your songwriting?” and “What’s your ideal reading experience?”

In her answers, Speace makes several direct and indirect references to Amherst College and its literary alumni: She identifies Lauren Groff ’01 as one of the “masters” of “strong narrative and incredibly rich language”; lists Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace ’85, as a book she has “faked reading”; and declares The Montague Bookmill, which she discovered while a student at Amherst, “my all-time favorite bookstore.”

Professor Olufemi Vaughan Wins 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship

Submitted on Tuesday, 4/19/2022, at 5:00 PM

“A ‘Guggenheim’ is one of the most sought-after honors in academe and culture,” says a brief article in The Boston Globe. “Eleven of this year’s 180 recipients are Massachusetts residents.” And one of those is Vaughan, the Alfred Sargent Lee ’41 and Mary Farley Ames Lee Professor of Black Studies and chair of Black studies at Amherst.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, based in New York, has awarded the fellowships annually for 97 years. “The work supported by the Foundation will aid in our collective effort to better understand the new world we’re in, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going,” says foundation president Edward Hirsch in a press release about the fellowship recipients for 2022.

At Amherst, Vaughan teaches such courses as “African Migrations and Globalization” and “Christianity and Islam in Africa.” His many publications include the books Religion and the Making of Nigeria and Nigerian Chiefs: Traditional Power in Modern Politics, 1890s–1990s. He has prevously received Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, a Ford Foundation Fellowship and the 2021 Waldo G. Leland Prize from the American Historical Association, among other honors.

How Amherst College Became a Champion for Community College Transfer Students

Submitted on Friday, 4/15/2022, at 4:25 PM

“Amherst enrolls 10 to 15 community college transfer students a year (out of about 495 new students),” says an Inside Higher Ed Q&A with Associate Dean of Admission Alexandra Hurd ’06. “It’s a small program but a big commitment to transfers.” 

The article, written by Yazmin Padilla of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, explains that “in 2010, Amherst was reaching the end of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation grant designed to lay the foundation for a community college transfer program. Despite the challenges of the Great Recession, the campus decided to sustain their commitment.” 

It goes on to explore how Amherst enrolls and supports these transfer students as part of an intentionally diverse campus population, through such measures as financial aid, transfer-focused orientation events and the Class & Access Resource Center. “President [Biddy] Martin has really pushed us past the point of representation and to a conversation on inclusion,” says Hurd, adding that “faculty very much supported the program and voiced how much they value having these students in their classrooms and as part of the community.”

Attorney and Author Scott Turow ’70 Knows the True Value of Persistence

Submitted on Wednesday, 4/13/2022, at 12:06 PM

Turow, who practices law in Chicago and whose bestselling novels include Innocent and The Burden of Proof, is the subject of a column in Michigan’s Oakland County Legal News.

“Literary success didn’t come easy for Turow, whose books have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and have been translated into some 25 languages,” writes Tom Kirvan. “His first novel, in fact, was rejected 25 times before gaining a semblance of acceptance, thereby assuring that Turow would be a lifelong proponent of ‘stick-to-itiveness.’”

In addition to that first novel, 1987’s Presumed Innocent, the column mentions Turow’s first nonfiction book, One L, published in 1977, while he was at Harvard Law School; his forthcoming novel, Suspect; and his years teaching creative writing at Stanford University after graduating from Amherst. It also quotes some of Turow’s remarks from a presentation at the University of Michigan Law School many years ago.

G. Edward White ’63 on the History of Soccer in the United States

Submitted on Tuesday, 4/12/2022, at 10:04 AM

In a Q&A for UVAToday, White, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and a former soccer player for Phillips Academy Andover and Amherst, talks about his new book, Soccer in American Culture: The Beautiful Game’s Struggle for Status (University of Missouri Press).

The Q&A begins with a question from interviewer Whitelaw Reid about how, in the mid-20th-century United States, “the sport didn’t have the kind of popularity that it did in other parts of the world.” “[A]t at both Andover and Amherst, the teams I played on had good equipment and good practice and game fields,” White says. “I do remember some supportive comments from fans at home games. But on the whole, we played in obscurity.”

The interview continues with discussion of the more recent “renaissance” in Americans’ enjoyment of men’s and women’s soccer, as both spectators and players. White attributes this to a number of factors, including the passage of Title IX in the 1970s, changes to the organizations of soccer leagues, and “the digital revolution [that] has expanded the capacity of Americans to play and watch sports.”

Arthur Bahr ’97’s Portal to Another World

Submitted on Monday, 4/11/2022, at 9:03 AM

MIT News highlights the work of Bahr, an associate professor of literature at MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. He is “completing a book on the Pearl-Manuscript—a rare surviving 14th-century document” whose component works “are critical to our understanding of the medieval world and literature.”

The article, with an embedded slideshow and video, explains that the handwritten, colorfully illustrated manuscript comprises “Pearl,” a poem about a bereaved father, as well as the stories “Patience,” “Cleanness” and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” “Part of my job,” Bahr is quoted as saying, “is to help these texts be audible and resonant in a very different cultural, social, and religious context than the one in which they were created.”

The article describes how the professor, who arrived at MIT in 2007, teaches courses on Beowulf, Chaucer and Old English. It mentions that he “fell in love with medieval literature as an undergraduate at Amherst College … and initially envisioned settling into a teaching career at a small liberal arts college.” It also notes that Bahr is a former skater who now works as a national judge with the United States Figure Skating Association.

Meet the Dallas 500: Michael Anthony Horne ’02

Submitted on Friday, 4/8/2022, at 2:57 PM

As part of its Dallas 500 series, D Magazine profiles Horne, a former teacher and school administrator who is now CEO and president of the nonprofit Parkland Foundation, “focused on making healthcare more accessible to individuals in southern Dallas.”

The profile, by Will Maddox, quotes Horne’s thoughts on a list of topics both professional and personal. These include, among other topics, his first job, as a cashier at CVS; career challenges and successes, such as overcoming pandemic-related limitations and “raising over $5 million to support Parkland Health in response to public health crises”; his desire to “make Dallas a more walkable and connected city”; and favorite travel destinations.

Horne notes, “I was in a college acapella group—the Amherst College Zumbyes (pronounced Zoom-byes).” He also mentions his marriage to Marissa Horne ’00, whom he met when they were both students at Amherst.

“The Privileged Poor”: An Interview with Harvard Sociologist Anthony Abraham Jack ’07

Submitted on Friday, 3/25/2022, at 9:03 AM

Jack, an assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, recently spoke with Harvard Political Review about his research into the various experiences of first-generation, low-income students at elite universities.

Also a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and holds the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Jack told interviewer Coby Garcia how his work as a diversity intern in Amherst College’s admission office helped to inspire his sociological focus: it opened his eyes to “the fact that so many students of color, who are low-income, come from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools” that teach them “how to interact with wealth and whiteness” of the kind they will find at prestigious universities. “They were more familiar and even comfortable with those things than the lower-income peers who did not go to prep schools,” Jack said.

The difference in experience between these two categories of low-income college students, and the question of what kinds of support the students need, is the topic both of the interview and of Jack’s 2019 book The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students.

Josh Harmon ’18: “I Quit My Dream Job in TV to Become a TikToker”

Submitted on Wednesday, 3/23/2022, at 3:12 PM

In an essay for Insider, Harmon explains his decision to leave the prestigious NBC Page Program in order to focus on creating social media videos. His Rhythms of Comedy series, in which he drums along to clips of stand-up comedy, has garnered hundreds of millions of views.

The essay, as told to Charissa Cheong, starts with Harmon’s excitement at being hired into the Page Program, a well-known gateway into a television career. “For a year, I got to walk around 30 Rockefeller Plaza, working on TV sets for the Today show and The Tonight Show,” Harmon says. But starting in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to work remotely from his childhood home, where he began making drumming videos. “I was blowing up on social media and making lots of money from ad revenue and brand deals, so I decided to quit and pursue content creation full-time.” By late 2020, he was invited to perform on The Tonight Show.

Though he acknowledges some difficulties in his social media career, Harmon calls it “a more efficient way of accomplishing my goals,” adding, “I can make and say whatever I want on TikTok, too, whereas in more traditional media, some of my jokes and personality would be edited out.” To his mind, “TikTok and YouTube are the new television.”

Harmon’s Rhythms of Comedy series is also highlighted in a Winter 2022 Amherst magazine article by Robyn Bahr ’10.