Faculty Notes: Research, Recognition and Global Impact

rockfish

Assistant Professor Scott Hamilton will investigate the responses of juvenile rockfish to a marine environment that contains elevated levels of carbon dioxide and reduced levels of oxygen (image courtesy of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories).

Assistant Professor Scott Hamilton, Moss Landing Marine Labs, was awarded a multi-year $330,000 National Science Foundation grant to investigate the responses of juvenile rockfish to a marine environment that contains elevated levels of carbon dioxide and reduced levels of oxygen. How well the rockfish adapt will provide key information for fisheries and fishery managers. This research, incorporating both field and laboratory studies, builds on Hamilton’s previous scientific investigations of temperate marine fishes.

School of Social Work Professor Laurie Drabble received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the rates of alcohol consumption, hazardous drinking patterns and illicit drug use among sexual minority women. One of the aims of the study is to identify individual, community and societal factors that contribute—positively or negatively—to substance use, including such factors as social support and psychological distress. A member of California’s Women’s Health Survey Committee, Drabble also serves as an affiliate associate scientist with the Alcohol Research Group in Berkeley.

Produced and directed by Department of Linguistics and Language Development Professor Rosemary Henze, the documentary “Just a Piece of Cloth” received a Making a Difference Award at the Toronto Community Film Festival in September. The film, featuring Bay Area Muslim women, has also had screenings at UC Berkeley’s Conference on Islamophobia, the Monterey Institute of International Studies and elsewhere.

Department of Sociology Lecturer and Center for Community Learning and Leadership Co-Director Michael Fallon helped organize the 2014 Silicon Valley Neighborhood Development Training Conference. The day-long, annual campus event brings together local neighborhood leaders and veteran community development practitioners to participate in workshops focused on public safety, health and neighborhood improvement. Among this year’s workshop topics: “20 Tips for Growing Healthy Neighborhoods,” “The Future of Transportation in Silicon Valley” and “Supporting and Working with Youth in Our Community.”

School of Information Director Sandra Hirsh co-chaired the fourth annual Library 2.014 Worldwide Virtual Conference, held October 8 and 9. Conducted in multiple languages in multiple time zones over the course of two days, the free online conference provided participants with the opportunity to learn about the issues impacting the information profession from an international perspective. Presentations addressed such timely topics as MOOCs, e-books, mobile services, green libraries and more. Keynote and session recordings are available on the Library 2.0 YouTube channel.

Department of Economics Professor Jeffrey Rogers Hummel was one of a panel of experts asked by WalletHub.com, a web-based personal finance resource, to weigh in on the challenge of creating a skilled and educated workforce. The site, which published a list of the most and least educated cities among the largest cities in the United States in 2014, ranked San Jose seventh in a field of 150. Hummel’s suggestion: “The most important step toward developing a more educated and skillful workforce would be to eliminate all federal involvement entirely.”

set up man 300

Writing as T.T. Monday, Professor Taylor spins a tale about a baseball player/private investigator that “succeeds as both a mystery and a baseball novel,” according to Publishers Weekly.

President Mohammad Qayoumi’s appreciation of Afghanistan’s new president, “Ashraf Ghani and Afghanistan’s future,” was posted on the U.S. Congress blog The Hill, a forum for lawmakers and policy professionals. Dr. Ashraf Ghani, Qayoumi’s roommate at the American University of Beirut more than four decades ago, was inaugurated as Afghanistan’s president this month. “If anyone can keep Afghanistan on a road to coherent self government and democracy, it is Ghani.  From his earliest years he has had total clarity of purpose, great vision, and an incandescent passion to serve Afghanistan,” Qayoumi wrote. 

Department of English Associate Professor and Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies Director Nick Taylor discussed his new thriller, “The Setup Man” (Doubleday), at the Menlo Park Civic Center on Oct. 4. Writing as T.T. Monday, Taylor spins a tale about a baseball player/private investigator that “succeeds as both a mystery and a baseball novel,” according to Publishers Weekly. Taylor is the author of two previous historical novels, “The Disagreement” (Simon & Schuster, 2008) and “Father Junípero’s Confessor” (Heyday, 2013).

San Jose Mercury News: Professor’s Op-Ed Voices Concern About “Runaway Democracy”

B. Kumaravadivelu: Dumb legislators and dumber voters cannot help democracy thrive

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News April 2, 2012.

By B. Kumaravadivelu
Special to the Mercury News

(B. Kumaravadivelu is a professor in the department of linguistics and language development at San Jose State University. He wrote this for the Mercury News.)

The French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville saw in America “the image of democracy itself.” But that was nearly 175 years ago. If he were to bear witness to American democracy as it exists today, he would perhaps write about the mirage of democracy rather than the image of democracy.

Consider what we recently learned in a span of just two days: In a moment of truthfulness rarely seen in a politician, House Speaker John Boehner passed a verdict on his fellow lawmakers who have the authority to determine the political, economic and, at times, social life of all Americans. Some of the legislators, he said, are “the smartest people in the country,” and some “the dumbest.” He wisely refrained from specifying the percentage of each.

On the heels of this rare admission came a survey that showed that a majority of likely GOP primary voters in the Deep South do not see President Barack Obama as a Christian. A whopping 52 percent in Mississippi and 45 percent in Alabama classified him as a Muslim. Another 36 percent in Mississippi and 41 percent in Alabama were “not sure.” A little over a year ago, a poll showed that almost one-fifth of all Americans believed that the president is a Muslim.

The speaker’s remark and the poll results present two sides of the same coin: a flawed democracy.

American democracy, as envisioned by our forefathers, is not designed to handle unworthy legislators and uncritical voters. Together, they have created a harmful mindset. A mindset that considers critical thinking injurious to intellectual health. A mindset that treats a different view as a delinquent view. A mindset that treats public debate as no more than a fiesta of the faithful. A mindset that regards self-reflection as self-delusion.

Of the two groups, it is the electorate that carries a greater burden. An enlightened electorate is a prerequisite for any democracy to thrive. Pure and simple. Writing in 1922, the celebrated journalist Walter Lippmann cautioned us against two kinds of “uninstructed” voters. “There is the man,” he observed wisely, “who does not know and knows that he does not know. He is generally an enlightened person. … But there is also the man who is uninstructed and does not know that he is, or care. He can always be gotten to the polls, if the party machinery is working. His vote is the basis of the machine.”

What Lippmann said 90 years ago is true even today.

The engine that drives this machinery is, of course, money. A political environment already saturated with money has suddenly been blessed with an unexpected jackpot. The super PACs, an offspring of Citizens United, are adding more fuel to the machinery, thereby quickening the demise of a model democracy.

The democracy of the people, by the people and for the people practiced by early Americans and admired by people all over the world has gradually degenerated into a political culture that revolves around power-driven elites, elites-driven media, media-driven politics and politics-driven governance.

Unfortunately, “we the people” have very little time or energy to critically reflect on the true state of our democracy. We deceive ourselves into thinking that we have the best form of democracy in the world. We shovel it down the throat of people of other countries.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, what we now have is a runaway democracy hurtling down a treacherous track. Only an enlightened citizenry can stop it from derailing. “We the people” will always get the leaders we deserve.

San Jose Mercury News: Professor's Op-Ed Voices Concern About "Runaway Democracy"

B. Kumaravadivelu: Dumb legislators and dumber voters cannot help democracy thrive

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News April 2, 2012.

By B. Kumaravadivelu
Special to the Mercury News

(B. Kumaravadivelu is a professor in the department of linguistics and language development at San Jose State University. He wrote this for the Mercury News.)

The French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville saw in America “the image of democracy itself.” But that was nearly 175 years ago. If he were to bear witness to American democracy as it exists today, he would perhaps write about the mirage of democracy rather than the image of democracy.

Consider what we recently learned in a span of just two days: In a moment of truthfulness rarely seen in a politician, House Speaker John Boehner passed a verdict on his fellow lawmakers who have the authority to determine the political, economic and, at times, social life of all Americans. Some of the legislators, he said, are “the smartest people in the country,” and some “the dumbest.” He wisely refrained from specifying the percentage of each.

On the heels of this rare admission came a survey that showed that a majority of likely GOP primary voters in the Deep South do not see President Barack Obama as a Christian. A whopping 52 percent in Mississippi and 45 percent in Alabama classified him as a Muslim. Another 36 percent in Mississippi and 41 percent in Alabama were “not sure.” A little over a year ago, a poll showed that almost one-fifth of all Americans believed that the president is a Muslim.

The speaker’s remark and the poll results present two sides of the same coin: a flawed democracy.

American democracy, as envisioned by our forefathers, is not designed to handle unworthy legislators and uncritical voters. Together, they have created a harmful mindset. A mindset that considers critical thinking injurious to intellectual health. A mindset that treats a different view as a delinquent view. A mindset that treats public debate as no more than a fiesta of the faithful. A mindset that regards self-reflection as self-delusion.

Of the two groups, it is the electorate that carries a greater burden. An enlightened electorate is a prerequisite for any democracy to thrive. Pure and simple. Writing in 1922, the celebrated journalist Walter Lippmann cautioned us against two kinds of “uninstructed” voters. “There is the man,” he observed wisely, “who does not know and knows that he does not know. He is generally an enlightened person. … But there is also the man who is uninstructed and does not know that he is, or care. He can always be gotten to the polls, if the party machinery is working. His vote is the basis of the machine.”

What Lippmann said 90 years ago is true even today.

The engine that drives this machinery is, of course, money. A political environment already saturated with money has suddenly been blessed with an unexpected jackpot. The super PACs, an offspring of Citizens United, are adding more fuel to the machinery, thereby quickening the demise of a model democracy.

The democracy of the people, by the people and for the people practiced by early Americans and admired by people all over the world has gradually degenerated into a political culture that revolves around power-driven elites, elites-driven media, media-driven politics and politics-driven governance.

Unfortunately, “we the people” have very little time or energy to critically reflect on the true state of our democracy. We deceive ourselves into thinking that we have the best form of democracy in the world. We shovel it down the throat of people of other countries.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, what we now have is a runaway democracy hurtling down a treacherous track. Only an enlightened citizenry can stop it from derailing. “We the people” will always get the leaders we deserve.