Feature Stories Campus Events

Protecting Children Online the Topic of W&L Law Symposium

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Dean Rodney A. Smolla Named to Steinheimer Chair in Law

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9/26: Student Scholarship Honored at Law Review Notes Presentation

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Business Journalism Expert Gives High Marks to Crisis Reporting

As the biggest financial story in United States history has unfolded in recent days, financial journalists have done a generally solid job of reporting in spite of the fact that recent layoffs at major newspapers have left many newsrooms depleted. That is the assessment of Pamela Luecke, the Donald W. Reynolds Professor of Business Journalism at Washington and Lee University.

Luecke, formerly editor and senior vice president of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, said that aside from the complexity of the story, one of the challenges that the reporters have faced is not feeding the frenzy with their choice of words.

“As I have read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers and news magazines, I think that they have been trying to convey the drama and historic nature of the crisis while not fueling the panic,” said Luecke, who is teaching a business journalism course for W&L undergraduates this semester. “If you look at the words they’ve been choosing, they have stopped a few decibels short of what they could be using.”

Restraint in reporting such a major event is an ethical issue, according to Luecke. She notes that studies have examined whether or not financial reporters can actually trigger a recession by reporting on the fact that consumer sentiment is low.

“These studies suggest that you may well have a self-fulfilling prophecy in such instances. If you say the stock market is crashing, do you then ensure that it will crash? As a matter of professional responsibility, you not only try to avoid adding to the frenzy but you also try not to predict what may happen,” she said. “In other stories, predicting would be considered a journalistic technique. You would want to look ahead. Here, I think journalists are trying not to get too far ahead of the story.”

Luecke says the financial press also performed much better on the run-up to this story than it did on either the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s or the bursting of the dot.com bubble in the 1990s. She believes there has been solid reporting for many months as the subprime mortgage issues began to surface.

“There was a lot of good journalism that questioned the viability of the subprime mortgages before they began to fail,” she said.

If she were to find any areas where the financial press might improve the coverage, Luecke says that they may not always explain the basics. There have not been enough stories that offer overviews in which terms and concepts are defined for average readers who may get lost in the more technical issues.

“It’s easy for journalists covering a beat to forget what they didn’t know until they began covering that beat,” she said. “And there are a lot of us out here who want someone to hold our hands and take us through this story.”

What has also struck Luecke about the reporting is that it comes on the heels of massive buyouts and layoffs at many mainstream news organizations where veteran reporters who would have perspective on many of the issues may no longer be employed.

“That really is a shame,” Luecke said. “To a certain extent, newsrooms have lost a lot of institutional memory. A story like this underscores the value of reporters who have been covering the topic a long time. It shows that having veterans in the newsroom is valuable. So given that, I think they have generally done a tremendous job.”

Memorial Service for Law Professor Louise Halper to Take Place Oct. 3

Earlier this summer, the law school suffered a devastating loss when our colleague, teacher and friend, Louise Halper, Professor of Law and Director of the Frances Lewis Law Center, died suddenly following surgery. On Friday, October 3, the law school will celebrate the life of Professor Halper. The memorial service will be held from 9:00 to 10:15 a.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room in Sydney Lewis Hall. The service will be preceded at 8:00 a.m. by a continental breakfast in the Moot Court lobby.

For information about the service, please contact Joan Shaughnessy, (540) 458-8512 or shaughnessyj@wlu.edu.

Washington Post’s Nationally Syndicated Personal Finance Columnist to Speak at W&L

Michelle Singletary likes sayings.

This Czech proverb, for example: “Nothing seems expensive on credit.”

Or this one from journalist Earl Wilson: “This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.”

Or this one from China: “Diligence is the basis of wealth, and thrift the source of riches.”

Do you see a theme here? You should, Singletary is the Washington Post’s nationally syndicated personal finance columnist and she’s obsessed with money. Not just how you get it, but how you manage it, control it, master it and use it wisely.

Singletary brings her obsession to Washington and Lee University on Tuesday, Oct. 14, when she’ll speak in the Stackhouse Theater of the John W. Elrod University Commons. Her subject is “Borrowed Out and Flat Broke: What Now for America?” Her talk, beginning at 4:30 p.m., is free and open to the public.

A book signing will follow Singletary’s talk. It will be just outside the Stackhouse Theater in the University Commons.

Singletary began her Post column, “Color of Money,” in 1997. Since then, she has also published two books on personal finance, “7 Money Mantras for a Richer Life: How to Live Well with the Money You Have” (2003), and “Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich” (2006).

Two years ago, she launched a national TV show, “Singletary Says,” on TV One. The half-hour program features Singletary visiting people in their homes and helping them with their financial problems. She also regularly dispenses financial advice on the National Public Radio program “Day To Day.”

“I was born to be thrifty,” Singletary has written. “It’s in my genetic code. I can’t pass a penny without picking it up.” Singletary credits her grandmother – or “Big Mama” as she’s called in Singletary’s columns – with teaching her the value of money and each year she holds a “Penny Pincher of the Year” contest in her grandmother’s honor. “She was my role model for frugality,” Singletary writes.

In addition to her Post column, which is carried by more than 120 newspapers around the country, Singletary holds a live online chat on the Post’s web site and has an electronic newsletter that reaches more than 150,000 subscribers.

Not surprisingly, Singletary is in demand as a personal finance guru and conducts financial workshops for several organizations including the National Football League, which sends its incoming freshman players to her during their annual Rookie Symposium.

Singletary joined the Post in 1992. Before becoming a columnist, she covered local and national banking. In 1994, she helped cover the election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Before arriving at the Post, Singletary was a business reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun, where she also covered police, religion, politics and zoning.

She is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, and Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master’s degree in business and management.

Singletary’s visit is made possible by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev., the Reynolds Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

Liza Mundy to Discuss her Book “Michelle: A Biography” at W&L

Liza Mundy, an award-winning journalist for The Washington Post and author of “Michelle: A Biography” about Michelle Obama, will speak at Washington and Lee University on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 3:30 p.m. in Room 345 of the University Commons.

Mundy’s talk is free and open to the public.

The book will be released on Oct. 7, the day of her talk. W&L’s University Store will have “Michelle: A Biography” available at a book signing after Mundy’s talk outside the room where she will be speaking.

“Michelle is interesting because her family story is a classic American narrative: her ancestors were slaves in South Carolina, and her grandfather joined the Great Migration out of the South to Chicago. This is an essential American narrative, but it’s one that is not often featured in public life. So I thought that hers was an important story to tell,” Mundy said about the focus of her book.

Mundy has covered politics, popular culture and women’s issues for more than 10 years at the Washington Post. In the summer of 2007 she wrote one of the first extended looks at Barack Obama. She is a regular contributor to “Slate” and participates in their women’s blog XX Factor.

“Michelle: A Biography” is Mundy’s second book, the first being “Everything Conceivable, How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Men, Women and the World” (Knopf).

Mundy’s work has won numerous prizes, including The Best American Science Writing 2003, and she has won awards from the Sunday Magazine Editors Association and the National Education Writers Association, among others. She has written for “Lingua Franca,” “Redbook,” “Mother Jones,” “Washington City Paper” and the “Washington Monthly.”

Scientific Evidence and the Courts: Solving a Puzzle

For Rebecca Harris, the puzzle begged an answer.

Why, she wondered, was scientific evidence, ranging from DNA to lie detectors, admitted by the courts in some states and not others?

“The science is presumably the same,” Harris says. “But the courts in different jurisdictions have not viewed it in the same way. For instance, Virginia had admitted DNA evidence in 1989 while Minnesota rejected such evidence in 1992.”

So Harris, assistant professor of politics at Washington and Lee University, began gathering and analyzing judicial decisions on scientific admissibility in search of a solution to the puzzle.

Her answer? Politics.

Harris describes the three political patterns that emerged from her research in a new book, “Black Robes, White Coats: The Puzzle of Judicial Policymaking and Scientific Evidence,” which was published by Rutgers University Press.

As she began looking at the differences between the treatment of DNA evidence across jurisdictions, Harris found that some state admissibility standards had set the bar such evidence higher than others, thereby limiting what particular courts could admit.

A second place where she discovered politics at work was in the personal political preference of the judges who were ruling on these cases. She examined both Democrat and Republican judges and found clear patterns from the data.

“The pattern was correlated with who wanted the scientific evidence admitted — the prosecution or the defense,” she says. “If prosecutors wanted admissibility, conservative judges, by and large, found the arguments compelling to allow the evidence. If, on the other hand, a defense attorney wanted to bring the same kind of evidence into a case, the conservative judges were much more skeptical.”

The reverse was true, as well, Harris notes. Liberal judges were much more likely to admit scientific evidence that came from the defense as opposed to being entered by the prosecution.

“Republicans and traditionally conservatives are characterized by law and order politics — strong law enforcement, pro-prosecution. The thought is to get tools in the hands of the government to prosecute these crimes,” Harris says. Democrats and liberals tend to say ‘What about the rights of the accused? We shouldn’t admit evidence in a blanket way just because a police officer says we should.’ They would tilt in favor of making sure defendants have a fair trial.”

The third area in which Harris found politics playing role with the evidence was the presence of third-party reports on the viability of the scientific evidence. When, for instance, the National Research Council issued a report on DNA evidence, that report would often be cited by judges in rendering their decisions depending on what the report concluded, Harris notes.

“My analysis found that these reports tended to side with the prosecution largely because the defense has a hard time generating a third-party report,” she says.

All three of these finds, Harris says, suggest that there is a role for politics in the judicial gatekeeping involved in these decisions about scientific evidence.

As she writes in the book: “Politics can set the bar of admissibility for a jurisdiction, either through legislation or judicial enunciation. Politics can certainly encourage particular courts or judges to favor (or disfavor) a particular science as a function of who it will benefit, defense or prosecution. And politics will certainly determine how respected third-party reports are generated.”

In the final analysis, Harris discounts public criticism of judges as not being able to handle the scientific evidence because they do not have enough background in the science. Instead, she argues that judges, as public servants, are supposed to filter science through our politics.

“I think the judges do a good job,” Harris says. “They understand that even if this is good science, they must also consider the effect it will have on the political system. Even if they are partisan about it, that’s what we need. We need both sides questioning it so that we arrive at a better decision.”

Former Va. Governor Linwood Holton Joins W&L Seminar on 2008 Elections

Washington and Lee University will host a seminar on the 2008 elections on Friday, Oct. 3, featuring W&L Politics Professors Mark Rush and Bill Connelly, as well as former Va. Governor Linwood Holton. It will take place in Lee Chapel from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Topics for discussion include predictions and prognoses for the various 2008 elections, congressional election prospects, the proposed reform of the nomination process and the call for a national popular vote to replace the electoral college, among other things.

Former Gov. Holton will also speak Saturday, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m. in Concert Hall, Wilson Hall. The title of his talk is “Opportunity Time-Again,” a reference to the title of his memoir “Opportunity Time”, which was published by University of Virginia Press this spring. The book covers Holton’s journey from the coalfields of Southwest Virginia to his history-making term as Virginia’s governor in the early 1970s.

The book is a punctuation mark on a legacy defined by Holton’s dogged efforts to end one-party political rule and racial divisions in the state. A book signing in the atrium of Wilson Hall will follow Gov. Holton’s talk.

Both events are free and open to the public, as part of W&L’s Homecoming Weekend. Gov. Holton’s talk is sponsored by Friends of the Library.

Questions may be directed to Kelli Austin, assistant director for alumni engagement, at 540-458-8866 or austink@wlu.edu.

Winners of 2008 Robert J. Grey Jr. Negotiations Competition Announced

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Ambassador Constance Morella to Offer Insights on the U.S. in the Global Community

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Campus Sustainability Week at W&L Kicks Off with Concert

Campus Sustainability Week at Washington and Lee University, Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, is an educational and awareness event to bring sustainability to the forefront of the consciousness of W&L students, faculty and staff and the Lexington/Rockbridge community. All events are open to the public.

Sustainability is one of the six institutional priorities of W&L for this academic year. According to W&L President Ken Ruscio, “Our effort begins with an awareness of how we can do better-with our use of energy, with minimizing our carbon footprint, and with treading gently on our local environment, such as Woods Creek. This year we will be looking for meaningful steps beyond those we have already taken.

“Like the commitment to strengthening our community, our commitment to sustainable practices is part of our educational mission. We must align what we preach to our students about their duties as responsible citizens and their obligations to future generations with our own institutional practices.”

The events were planned and organized by W&L’s Dining Services, Facilities Management, Biology Department and Program in Environmental Studies.

Sunday, Sept. 28, 6:30 p.m. – Campus Sustainability Week Kickoff Concert. The concert will feature the Adrienne Young Band in the Cohen Family Amphitheater near the Commons.

Monday, Sept. 29 – Water Awareness Day. The following forums, which are open to the public, will be held in the Elrod Commons, room 114.

  • Robert Humston, W&L assistant professor of biology will talk on “Why Chesapeake Bay? A Look at its Past, Present and Future” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. Tamim Younos, associate director of the Water Center and research professor of water resources, Virginia Tech, will speak on “Interdependency and Sustainability of Energy & Water Production Systems” from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. (brown bag lunch).
  • David Harbor, W&L professor of geology, will speak on “Your Water-What Is the Source of the Maury River and How Clean Is It?” from 1:20 to 1:50 p.m.
  • Mark Carey, W&L assistant professor of history, will speak on “Water and Society: When the Glaciers Melt” from 1:55 to 2:25 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Climate Action / Community Service Day. Campus Efforts to help reduce our carbon footprint will be highlighted and shown on Stemmons Plaza. There will be displays on water and energy conservation, solar energy, biodiesel, the Blue Bike Program, the Presidents Climate Commitment / Tallories Declaration, W&L’s green house gas inventory and waste minimization, among other things.

Wednesday, Oct. 1, 5-7 p.m. – Local Food Stewardship Day. The second annual Local Harvest Dinner will be served in the Marketplace in the University Commons. About 95% of the food served during this meal will be locally sourced. The charge to the public is $13.

The concert is being sponsored by the University Sustainability Committee, the General Activities Board, the W&L Geology department and Rockbridge Vineyards.

For more information about the Sustainability Week or the Local Harvest Dinner, contact Chris Wise at jwise@wlu.edu or 458-8253, or Christopher Carpenter at ccarpenter@wlu.edu or 458-8636.

Carey Receives NSF Grant to Study Natural Disasters and Climate Change

Between 1941 and 1970, retreating glaciers in the Peruvian Andes caused three floods and two avalanches that resulted in the deaths of about 30,000 people.

For Mark Carey, an environmental historian at Washington and Lee University, those natural disasters and the ways in which scientists, engineers, environmentalists, and the local population have reacted to them not only provide a window into the past but also offer opportunities to learn what we will face in the future.

Carey has received a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for his research project, which is titled “Glacier Science and Technology in the Central Andes: The Quest to Control Natural Disasters and Climate Change.”

The 2007 winner of the Leopold-Hidy Prize for the best article in the journal Environmental History, Carey is currently working on a book manuscript on the social history of climate change and glacier retreat in the Peruvian Andes and how glaciers have affected all levels of Peruvian society.

Carey will use the NSF grant to study historical relationships among science, technology, and society in the context of global climate change and persistent environmental hazards.

Among the issues he intends to examine is the often complex interaction between local populations and the scientists and engineers who bring technical solutions.

“The goal is to use history to identify the types of societal, political, economic and cultural problems that emerge from climate change rather focusing more on the scientific understandings of climate history or climate change, which is what our society generally emphasizes,” Carey said.

For example, enhanced technology in the form of, say, satellite images can now be used to determine more precisely the kinds of hazards the receding glaciers present to particular areas in the Andes. But this new technology may not necessarily help the local population comprehend those hazards or respond to them in ways that the scientists or engineers might want.

Carey hopes to show that, historically, the way people have responded to natural disasters caused by the receding glaciers in the Andes has had less do with the science and technology and more to do with the social relations and the power dynamics of the groups involved.

“When you look at these different groups who are interacting, you will see energy companies, water users, local farmers, residents living in areas vulnerable to avalanches or outburst floods, state policy makers, environmental scientists,” Carey said. “How all these groups interact and the different views that they bring will color their own responses to the problem and how they define the problem. By looking at the way these groups have interacted in the past, we can get a better understanding of why people make the decisions they make.”

As Carey explains, the history of these disasters shows that many Andean residents chose to accept or reject disaster prevention plans based on who was making the proposals more than on what the proposals contained.

The three areas that Carey intends to explore through the NSF grant are the capacity for increasingly technical scientific disciplines such as glaciology and hydrology to convey natural hazards to local people, the ways in which the science and disaster mitigation strategies employed by the indigenous people coexist with the Western science and technologies that are now being used, and a comparison between the experience in the Peruvian Andes and the Swiss Alps.

Carey will make site visits to Peru as part of his work and is also collaborating on parts of the project with Swiss anthropologist Ellen Wiegandt at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. He and Weigandt will be analyzing the responses of Swiss residents and engineers to nineteenth-century glacial lake outburst floods in comparison with the Peruvian response to similar floods.

Carey joined the W&L faculty in 2006 following a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley.

Lee Chapel & Museum at Washington and Lee Opens New Exhibition, Renovates Other Features

Washington and Lee University’s Lee Chapel & Museum opened a new exhibition, “Martha Custis Washington: The Indispensable Woman,” on Sept. 12. It includes objects associated with George Washington and the Custis family, on loan from The Mount Vernon Ladies Association. The small changing exhibition runs through May 17, 2009.

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (1731-1802), a member of the Virginia gentry, made two extraordinary marriages that defined her social status and future opportunities. Through them, she became the linchpin of the Custis, Washington and Lee families, all of whom influenced the politics and economy of colonial Virginia and the formation of a new republic.

Widowhood after her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis gave Martha economic and personal independence. Marriage to George Washington brought momentous historic events that molded her life in unique ways. The first of the First Ladies, Martha Washington set the standard for that new position and became a national icon.

Also on view in the Lee Chapel & Museum is “Not Unmindful of the Future: Educating to Build and Rebuild a Nation,” which opened in October 2007. It traces the history of American higher education through the evolution of Washington and Lee University. The exhibition highlights the contributions made by George Washington and Robert E. Lee to education nationally and at W&LL. Personal objects associated with Lee and Washington also are on display. The office of Lee, president of Washington College from 1865 to 1870, is open as well.

The renovated museum shop is now open. It includes a wide selection of books and other merchandise. The museum also contains new text panels about the Washington, Custis and Lee family connections, Lee’s death and the Valentine statue, “The Recumbent Lee.”

The museum is open daily to the public, free of charge. For hours of operation and information on upcoming events, call (540) 458-8768 or visit www.leechapel.wlu, which contains a new Web exhibition on Lee’s office.

Jamie Ferrell ’08 Awarded Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Chile

Washington and Lee ’08 graduate Jamie Ferrell has recently been awarded the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Chile. Ferrell was named the alternate last May but was told of her award in August.

Ferrell is formerly of Flint, Texas, and has been living and working in northern Virginia since graduation.

The Fulbright teaching assistantship program places students in a host country to teach English and complete research projects. The host country provides the student with international travel expenses, a living stipend and in some cases, tuition assistance.

“Jamie was as diligent and determined an applicant as I have seen in my years as a fellowships advisor,” said George Bent, professor of art and Fulbright liaison. “She wrote a terrific proposal, knew exactly what she wanted to do, and had the full support of both her faculty and those on the committee who evaluated her work. The fact that she remained ever hopeful as she waited to hear back from her host country speaks volumes for her tenacity and her deep desire to live and work abroad this year.”

Ferrell, whose award begins March 16, 2009, and will run through Jan. 15, 2010, will be working at the University of Conception in Conception, Chile, as an English teaching assistant. She also will be taking classes and conducting her Fulbright research project which consists of investigating the difference in women’s rights issues, especially domestic violence, in Chile as compared to the United States while recognizing that Chile currently has a woman president.

Ferrell feels that the Fulbright “allows me to serve as sort of a U.S. cultural ambassador to Chile while also being able to immerse myself in Chilean life and culture. This opportunity will serve me well in my future career – I just found out that I passed my foreign service exam, so I plan to enter the Foreign Service as a public diplomacy officer with the U.S. State Department after I get back from Chile.”

“Jamie possesses every quality that a good Fulbrighter ought to have,” Bent said. “Bright, engaging, curious, mature, and self-motivated, her brains and drive will take her places most of us can only imagine. For Jamie, this is only the beginning.”

“I had the good fortune of working with Jamie through the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) volunteer organization for four years,” said Ellen Mayock, professor of Romance languages. She went on to say, “Jamie was one of our most experienced English teachers and was well known among our clients in the Latino community. In her senior year, Jamie served as one of the co-chairs of ESOL’s English Education Committee for which she managed teaching assignments, carried out teacher training and continued to teach English. Earning the Fulbright is a very well-deserved and appropriate next step.”

While at W&L, in addition to being an officer and member of ESOL, Ferrell was in the Latin American studies program, a Bonner Leader, an executive officer and member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She also was a trip coordinator for the two Volunteer Venture Leading Edge pre-orientation trips for first-years and also volunteered at Project Horizon.

Ferrell said of her surprise call from the Fulbright program in August, “I accepted the grant immediately when the assistant director of the Fulbright U.S. Student Programs called. It just goes to show that one should never lose hope, because you never know what is going to happen.”

Poet Honoree Fanonne Jeffers Reads from her Works at W&L

Poet Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, associate professor of English at the University of Oklahoma, will read from her work on Thursday, Oct. 2, at 4 p.m. in the Staniar Gallery in Wilson Hall at Washington and Lee University.

The reading is free and open to the public.

Jeffers is the author of three books of poetry including Red Clay Suite, which was the second prize winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition Series; Outlandish Blues; and The Gospel of Barbecue, which won the 1999 Stan and Tom Wick Prize for Poetry, and was the finalist for the 2001 Paterson Poetry Award.

Jeffers has won several accolades for her writing, including a Tennessee Williams Fiction Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers Conference and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

Her work recently has appeared in the American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, The New England Review and Story Quarterly.

Jeffers, who recently guest-edited an all-black women’s issue of the journal PMS: PoetryMemoirStory, is at work on a fourth book of poetry and her first novel.

W&L’s Glasgow Endowment was established by the late Arthur G. Glasgow for the “promotion of the expression of art through pen and tongue.” In the past four decades the endowment has hosted authors including Mary Oliver and Seamus Heaney.

Mahon Draws Distinction Between Lies and Exaggerations in Political Campaigns

Charging political candidates with lying is an extremely serious charge, and judging them to be telling lies rather than exaggerating requires meeting a very high standard, according to a Washington and Lee University philosophy professor who has defined lying for the Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

James E. Mahon, an associate professor of philosophy at W&L who has written extensively on lying and deception, says that two conditions are necessary for an action to meet the standard of being a lie.

First, the person who is making the statement in question must believe that exactly what is being stated is false. And second, the person must intend for the audience to believe that exactly what is being stated is true.

“That leaves some room for doing things that fall outside of lying, according to the definition that I’ve defended,” says Mahon, who has also discussed definitions of lying and deception in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

For example, a politician who makes a statement that he or she believes to be true, under Mahon’s definition, cannot be called a liar, even if it is found to be false.

“Accusing people of saying things that are false is not accusing them of lying — not yet. You also have to establish that they believe them to be false,” Mahon says.

The distinction between saying something false and lying may seem insignificant. Mahon says that’s not so.

“The accusation that somebody is lying should be made only in cases where those standards are met, because I do believe that anyone who is ever found to actually be guilty of lying to get elected in a political campaign should face incredibly serious consequences,” said Mahon. “When trust, in principle, is lost, it’s very important. If I find that you’ve lied to me, I am now in the position that I can’t trust anything you say.”

Mahon says that it’s possible to accuse politicians of being misleading, of exaggerating, or even of being deceptive, without this being as serious a charge. Moreover, he believes that speechwriters and campaign assistants who craft messages on behalf of their candidates are aware of the dangers of going beyond misleading statements to actually lying.

“I don’t know if that actually means that they have worked on a definition of lying,” he says. “They are simply concerned to avoid saying something that can come back to that candidate as being something he or she believes to be false. Their goal is to plant beliefs in people’s minds without crossing the line of having lied.”

Mahon says that the words “lying” and “liar” are normally morally loaded terms, which do not merely describe an action but evaluate that action negatively.

“This has to do with why we think that lying is wrong,” Mahon says. “Lying is essentially a kind of disrespectful action, an attempt to manipulate somebody, usually for your own end. It also means in politics that if they’re prepared to lie to get into office, then they’re prepared to lie to maintain power. It’s a very, very serious thing to find somebody guilty of having lied. You’re saying, basically, that they are an evil person. You’re saying they are manipulating their audience to get in power, and you’re implying they might do this again in office to maintain power.”

Mahon says that the public will allow politicians and government officials to tell certain lies. For instance, when national security is at stake, the public will permit lies from people who are ultimately going to tell the truth at a later time.

W&L Announces Expansion of Schlegel Prize on 9/11 Anniversary

On the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Washington and Lee University has announced the restructuring and expansion of the Schlegel Prize for International Studies, which was created to honor Commander Robert Allan Schlegel, a 1985 alumnus of W&L who was killed at the Pentagon.

Cmdr. Schlegel was serving as Deputy Current Operations and Plans Branch Head for the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon when American Airlines flight 77 struck the building.

Established in 2002 through a fundraising campaign spearheaded by members of Chi Psi fraternity of which Schlegel was a member, the prize will now support three initiatives:

  • Support for W&L students to participate in foreign affairs conferences, including both the Student Conference on United States Affairs at West Point and the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in Annapolis;
  • Establishment of the Schlegel Prize for the best paper on foreign affairs or international relations in a given academic year;
  • Support for student research projects related to international affairs.

“With these awards, and the implementation of a more formal solicitation process, we will be able to recognize the Schlegel family and honor the memory of Commander Robert Schlegel in a more public, consistent manner,” said Mark Rush, Robert G. Brown Professor of Politics and Law, head of the politics department and director of the Program in International Commerce.

After graduating in French and journalism from W&L, Cmdr. Schlegel earned a master’s degree in International Affairs from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. In 1986 he completed Officer Candidate School in Newport R.I., and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy. He received a Naval War College diploma in 1998 for completion of the Joint Professional Military Education program.

During his fifteen-year Naval career he was the recipient of a Meritorious Service Medal, four Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, five Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the Armed Forces Service Medal, a NATO Medal, an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, a National Defense Service Medal and a Purple Heart.

Law Professor Russell Miller Discusses his Book on National Security on NPR Affiliate WMRA

Monday, September 15, at 3 p.m., Russell A. Miller, associate professor of law at W&L, appeared on NPR affiliate WMRA’s Virginia Insight show to discuss his new book. Titled “U.S. National Security, Intelligence and Democracy: From the Church Committee to the War on Terror,” it examines the recent history of the secret world of national security.

You are invited to join the conversation by calling 888-967-2825, or 888-WMRA-TALK. WMRA can be found at 89.9 in Lexington, 90.7 in Harrisonburg, and 103.5 in Charlottesville. The program will also be streamed live and archived on the Web site http://www.wmra.org/.

W&L’s Online Newscast, “The Rockbridge Report,” Wins Another National Award

For the second time in three years, “The Rockbridge Report,” the multimedia local news Web site produced by Washington and Lee’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, has been recognized as one of the top three in the nation by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

“The Rockbridge Report” was one of two runners-up for SPJ’s Mark of Excellence Award in the category of Best All-Around Independent Online Student Publication for 2007. The awards were given Sept. 5 at SPJ’s annual convention in Atlanta, Ga., attended by W&L senior Melissa Caron and Prof. Doug Cumming, the W&L SPJ chapter’s faculty adviser.

The winner in the category was produced by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The other runner-up was produced by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

“The Rockbridge Report” was also a national runner-up in 2005.

“A national top-three finish in two of the past three years underscores that the core of our program’s strength is its students and faculty,” said Prof. Brian Richardson, head of W&L’s journalism department. “We’re establishing quite a track record.”

“The Rockbridge Report” incorporates the work of several journalism classes working together to cover local news. More than two dozen students worked on the Web site over the course of the calendar year. They were guided by Profs. Claudette Artwick, Doug Cumming, Bob de Maria, Pam Luecke, Phylissa Mitchell and Richardson and Digital Media Specialist Michael Todd.

Mark of Excellence Awards are given each year to the best work of collegiate journalism in 39 categories. This year, more than 3,400 entries were submitted in the 12 regions of SPJ. “The Rockbridge Report” won the stand-alone online category for Region II, which includes student chapters of SPJ in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Winners in each of the 12 regions are then entered in the national awards competition.

The Region II winners were announced March 29 at the regional spring conference, which was hosted at W&L by the journalism department and campus chapter of SPJ.

SPJ, formerly Sigma Delta Chi, is a 99-year-old association of professional and student journalists that advances freedom of the press and high standards of ethics in journalistic practice. W&L had a student chapter as early as 1929.

Former Va. Governor Linwood Holton Joins W&L Seminar on 2008 Elections

Washington and Lee University will host a seminar on the 2008 elections on Friday, Oct. 3, featuring W&L Politics Professors Mark Rush and Bill Connelly, as well as former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton. Journalism Professor Brian Richardson will be the moderator for the event, which will take place in Lee Chapel from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Topics for discussion include predictions and prognoses for the various 2008 elections, congressional election prospects, the proposed reform of the nomination process and the call for a national popular vote to replace the electoral college, among other things.

Former Gov. Holton will also speak Saturday, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m. in Concert Hall, Wilson Hall. The title of his talk is “Opportunity Time-Again,” a reference to the title of his memoir “Opportunity Time”, which was published by University of Virginia Press this spring. A book signing in the atrium of Wilson Hall will follow Gov. Holton’s talk.

The book covers Holton’s journey from the coalfields of Southwest Virginia to his history-making term as Virginia’s governor in the early 1970s. The book is a punctuation mark on a legacy defined by Holton’s dogged efforts to end one-party political rule and racial divisions in the state.

Both events are free and open to the public, as part of W&L’s Homecoming Weekend. Gov. Holton’s talk is sponsored by Friends of the Library.

Questions may be directed to Kelli Austin, assistant director for alumni engagement, at 540-458-8886 or austink@wlu.edu.

Singer Awarded Shenandoah/Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers

Margot Singer of Granville, Ohio has been named recipient of the 2008 Shenandoah/Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, awarded annually by Shenandoah and Washington and Lee University, for her book The Pale of Settlement from the University of Georgia Press (2007). The book is also winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Singer’s stories and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Gettysburg Review and Agni, and she is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and Shenandoah’s Thomas H. Carter Prize for the Essay. She is an assistant professor of English at Denison University, where she holds the endowed Bosler Faculty Fellowship. Writers who have published one book of short fiction were eligible for consideration for the $2,500 prize.

Judge for the 2007 Glasgow Prize was Cathryn Hankla, who says Singer’s book “delves deep into the human need for both belonging and moral integrity.”

Next year’s Shenandoah/Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers will go to a writer who has published only one book of poetry. The judge will be announced after the winner has been selected. Submissions should be sent to R. T. Smith, c/o The Shenandoah/Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, Shenandoah, Mattingly House, 2 Lee Avenue, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450-2116 and must be postmarked between March 15 and March 31, 2009. All contestants should include a vita, one copy of the submitted book, one unpublished story not under submission elsewhere, an sase and a submission fee of $25, (either from the author or publisher), which also brings a year’s subscription to Shenandoah. Books submitted for consideration will not be returned and will be donated to the Washington and Lee University library after the contest has been judged.

See www.shenandoah.wlu.edu for more information about Shenandoah or The Shenandoah/ Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers.

Ambassador David Scheffer to Address the Future of the International Criminal Court

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Law Professor’s New Book Explores Conflict between Religious Liberty and Same-Sex Marriage

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W&L Opens 259th Academic Year with Reminder of the Power of Words

Addressing the annual Fall Convocation at Washington and Lee University on Wednesday, Sept. 3, Suzanne Parker Keen, the Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English at W&L, reminded members of the community that their words carry both power and responsibility.

W&L welcomed an entering class of 454 first-year students to its 259th year of instruction. Classes began on Thursday, Sept. 4.

Keen, who addressed her remarks principally to the newest and youngest members of the community, explained “we live inside a medium of language” from our birth. “By the time we are twenty-four months old most of us are engaged in shaping our reality with the words we speak,” she said. “So it matters which words we choose when we describe ourselves and our aspirations, when we greet or characterize others, when we say who we are and where we want to go.”

Keen, a 2008 winner of the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education, said that the commitment to civility and respect means that “community standards are violated if and when words bring harm. Our words are deeds. They can tear down as easily as they can build up, and no constitutional protection of speech or press exonerates a person from the responsibility for the consequences of his or her words if they harm others.”

Keen invited the first-year students to take positive and promising risks—such as “committing to the study of Chinese when you place out of Spanish” or “choosing an unfamiliar discipline to fulfill a . . . requirement.”

Another risk that Keen recommended to the students is to preserve W&L’s historic Speaking Tradition—to respond to the greetings of others they meet on campus. As Keen noted, that tradition is challenged these days by what she labeled “technologically induced solipsism,” a reference to the common practice of walking while either talking or texting on cell phones.

That risk is worthwhile, Keen said, “for if in every relationship with another there is an element of risk, an opening up of the self that makes us vulnerable to rebuff or misunderstanding, we must take that risk daily, or be shut out from the experience of care, to lose the chance at that most fundamental of the social virtues, friendship.”

In his introductory remarks to the gathering, W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio said that the Convocation is one of those occasions that “remind us why we do what we do . . . why, as faculty, we have chosen the life of the mind, and not just a solitary life of the mind, but one that is shared with students and colleagues . . . why, as students, you have chosen this special place to spend the most special time of your life . . . why, as staff, the arrival of students in late summer reminds us that W&L is not merely a workplace, but a chance to influence a person’s life every day we come to campus.”

Author Richard Brookhiser to Speak at W&L

Richard Brookhiser, author and senior editor with the National Review, will speak at Washington and Lee University on Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Lee Chapel. He is the first speaker sponsored by W&L’s Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity.

The talk is free and open to the public.

The title of Brookhiser’s lecture is the same title as his new book, “George Washington on Leadership.” Following the lecture there will be a book signing in the living room of the Elrod Commons. His latest book, plus others he has written, are available at the University Store in the Elrod Commons.

In addition to the National Review, Brookhiser has written for other magazines, including The New York Observer, The Atlantic Monthly and Cosmopolitan, on subjects ranging from the fall of Communism to Monica Lewinsky.

Brookhiser’s first biography was “Founding Fathers: Rediscovering George Washington,” followed by other books on the founders of the United States including Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, his son John Quincy Adams and Gouveneur Morris, a delegate to the Continental Congress and friend and ally of George Washington.

Brookhiser wrote and hosted a film titled, “Rediscovering George Washington,” which aired on PBS in 2002. He frequently appears on the History Channel.

W&L Professor and Filmmaker Explores Her Indian Heritage

Like most second-generation ethnic Americans, Indira Somani, newly-arrived assistant professor of journalism at Washington and Lee University, has struggled with identity issues. Being born and brought up in the Midwest, Somani led an American life, but at home her world was Indian because of her father’s immense love for India and Indian culture.

Unlike others in her situation, Somani took the challenges and conflicts she faced and co-produced a 30 minute documentary titled “Crossing Lines” with her colleague Leena Jayaswal, an assistant professor of Film and Media Arts at American University. It will be shown in Washington D.C. at the Ninth Annual D.C. Asian Pacific American Film Festival on September 28. It has also been distributed to over 100 PBS stations by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association, and has already aired on 20 stations around the country. It has screened at film festivals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta and more.

“It was an overwhelming experience to make this film, and I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to do it,” says Somani.

The film takes you on a journey to India, where Somani visits her father’s extended family for the first time after his death, and explores how she tries to stay connected to Indian culture and her extended family. It is the story of how one daughter pays tribute to her father in all that he’s taught her about India, Indian culture and family. It’s a unique story about the relationship of an Indian father and his American born Indian daughter.

Brian Richardson, department head of journalism and mass communication, calls “Crossing Lines” a wonderfully engaging work. “It offers a rare combination of insights that resonate universally from an intensely personal perspective,” he says. “We are pleased to have Indira Somani joining our faculty. She will no doubt enrich our students’ education enormously.”

Somani brings 10 years of broadcast journalism experience as a producer to the classroom, most notably with CNBC, and network affiliate stations in Washington, D.C., Norfolk, South Bend, Ind., and Springfield, Ill.

She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, an M.S.J. from the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University and a B.A. in media, race and gender (independent major) from Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. 

Details of the documentary film can be viewed at www.crossinglinesthefilm.com.

Grant Increases Internships in Arkansas Delta

The Delta Bridge Project—a community-development initiative of Phillips County, along the Mississippi River in Arkansas, spearheaded by Southern Financial Partners—has awarded a $90,000, three-year grant to Washington and Lee’s Shepherd Poverty Alliance to form the Shepherd Delta Alliance.

The grant will fund 30 student internships over three years with a goal of directly benefiting up to 1,500 residents.

The Shepherd Poverty Alliance is a key component of W&L’s Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability. Through the Alliance, students from W&L , Morehouse, Spelman, Berea, Middlebury and institutions participating in the Bonner Leader program spend eight summer weeks in internships with nonprofit organizations serving impoverished communities. The Alliance has partnerships with more than 60 agencies in 11 states.

The grant from the Delta Bridge Project will expand the Shepherd Alliance’s partnerships in the region and give new form and focus to the program’s commitment to Phillips County. Internships funded through this initiative will be specifically designed to address needs of community-based organizations in Phillips County. Corresponding to objectives identified in the county’s strategic plan, internships will emphasize work in economic development, housing, education, leadership development and health care.

Professor Shows Relationship Between Lower Wages and Poor English is Larger than Previously Shown

Arthur H. Goldsmith, Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics at W&L, has co-authored an article on “Measuring the Wage Costs of Limited English” which was published in the August issue of the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Science.

Goldsmith writes that previous scholarly research that showed poor English-language skills equate to lower wages, may not be accurate because it relied on the workers rating their own English fluency. However, when an interviewer rates a worker’s English fluency, that rating is far more likely to be closer to how an employer, co-worker and society in general would assess a worker’s fluency.

Therefore, using both self and interviewer reports of English proficiency, Goldsmith assessed the link between wages and English fluency for workers with Mexican ancestry in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area.

He found that the wage penalty associated with poorer English fluency is greater when interviewer ratings of English proficiency are used. Thus, the cost to workers of poor spoken English ability is larger than the previous research showed. The research also showed that women with poor language skills receive lower wages than their male counterparts with similar English limitations.