Feature Stories Campus Events

Law Professor Testifies on Indigent Defense before Congressional Committee

Original story at:
http://law.wlu.edu/news/storydetail.asp?id=545.


W&L Study Assesses Rockbridge Area Poverty

Tourists in Lexington see a small picturesque town with a thriving population.

But Lexington City Manager Jon Ellestad knows there are surprising pockets of poverty and that the services people need are not necessarily reaching them.

A year ago, Ellestad decided he needed a thorough report on what exactly poverty looks like in the Rockbridge area. He wanted to know how to provide more effective services and better prioritize spending. But he didn’t have the funds for that sort of costly research.

Enter Washington and Lee University’s Shepherd Program on Poverty and Human Capability.

Professor Harlan Beckley, program director, assigned two seniors, Melissa Caron and Chris Martin, to the project at no cost to the city. The result is a 91-page report titled Rockbridge Poverty Assessment 2008. It catalogues and impartially assesses existing efforts to meet the needs of underserved populations. It also lays out potential solutions and shows how service providers can more effectively cooperate and coordinate their efforts.

Don Dailey, W&L visiting associate professor of teacher education, was the students’ mentor for the project. He calls the report important for the community, saying “while it is primarily focused on long term trends and issues related to poverty in the area, short term issues are also addressed. Both sides of this story are important, but making decisions with a long term focus is the bigger and ongoing challenge.”

Dailey’s background is in research and he has worked with prominent institutions. “I think this report is comparable to what you would see coming out of a paid consulting agency for a fairly high price,” he says. “I haven’t seen students successfully pull together a report like this before, and in such a short time. It’s attracted the attention of some national agencies who didn’t realize that students can do something like this.”

“At first it was a little overwhelming but it was an amazing experience,” says Caron, a journalism major. She and Martin, a politics major, are both doing a concentration in poverty studies, and they devoted 12 weeks to the research during the fall of 2008.

Martin says he appreciated getting away from the campus and communicating with people in the community. “You see people around you every day in the community but you don’t really have a chance to interact with them. I think it’s fantastic to be able to do not only real social work, but also to build positive relations with people. Community-based research is the perfect combination of theory and practice and is what the college experience should be about.”

Ellestad received the final report in February 2009, and describes it as “very comprehensive,” pointing out that it is not just for the city of Lexington. “It covers the whole Rockbridge area of Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge County,” he says.
The students engaged in field research, conducted focus groups and multiple interviews with the area’s prominent community leaders and service providers. “We looked at the types of services that are available for people experiencing some aspect of poverty,” says Caron. “We wanted to find out where the holes are, and the problems in meeting people’s needs.”

After quantifying what constitutes poverty in the area, the report identifies 10 areas that need to be addressed: affordable transportation; safe and low-cost housing; accessible health and human services; sustainable employment options; hunger and food security; problems faced by the disabled; available child care and day care; diverse educational opportunities; elderly issues; and challenges facing non-English speaking immigrant populations.

The report highlights a pressing need for more transportation, which prevents people from finding and keeping employment, visiting the doctor, buying groceries or taking children to day care. It also isolates people socially. Unfortunately, there is no stable public or private transit system in the area for non-emergency rides. This issue is most keenly felt in Buena Vista and Lexington, where the number of people who do not own a vehicle is double the state average (14.2 percent compared to 7.7 percent).

Duplication of existing transportation services is another issue. The Rockbridge Area Transportation System (RATS), Maury River Senior Center, Kendal retirement facility, Virginia Military Institute and W&L each has an independent transportation system. “Everybody is transporting all over,” says one community leader in the report, asking “How can we coordinate that? Are there common routes?”

The report recommends establishing a task force to look at ways to both expand transportation services and make them more efficient.

Caron says one of the biggest surprises of their research was the lack of coordination between services. “There is a need to work together. We found there are a lot of different services in the community but they need to collaborate and find ways to prevent overlap.”

While there are several resource books and referral systems that detail available services, they are not up-to-date and many residents do not know about them. Instead, they learn about them through word of mouth. Many people go without services due to lack of knowledge.

The report also illustrates a lack of awareness among service providers of the work of other agencies and their eligibility guidelines. As one community leader says in the report, “Nothing frustrates an applicant more than being sent by one agency to another agency only to be told that they do not qualify.” To overcome this, the report recommends creating an organization to fill a coordinating role.

In the same vein, the ingrained belief that Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge County are independent entities prevents people from accessing services. One leader says in the report that she has a hard time getting area agencies to realize that they serve the whole area, not just the municipality they are located in. Likewise, individuals are deterred from seeking services outside where they live, simply because they associate themselves with the municipality they live in. As the report points out, when a family needs services and they go to the phone book, they say “That (service) is in Staunton so that’s not for us.” Then they don’t see services specifically for Rockbridge, get frustrated and give up.

Ellestad agrees, saying “We have such a broad array of services available, but no real central coordinating place to go to access them. I think the recommendation about more coordination has real potential.”

One result of the Rockbridge Poverty Assessment is a Community Forum on Poverty, scheduled for Tuesday, April 21 at the Virginia Horse Center. It is a joint effort of the W&L Shepherd Poverty Program and a core group of interested agencies –United Way, the Free Clinic and Social Services. This is possibly the largest such gathering in the community to address the issue of poverty.

The students’ report provides a solid basis from which to start.


Staniar Gallery Interns Mount Art Exhibit in Leyburn Library With Opening Reception

An opening reception on April 6 at 5 p.m. will celebrate a new exhibit of prints on display on the first floor of Leyburn Library on the campus of Washington and Lee University from April 1 to June 8.

“Echoing Gestures: Figural and Abstract” will primarily feature prints along with several mixed media works from Washington and Lee’s University Art Collection. Kept primarily in storage facilities until now, the images in the exhibit offer a unique introduction to art owned by the University.

The exhibit examines the relationship between two seemingly divergent modes of representation-the figural and the abstract. Through similarities in line, color and treatment of space, the exhibit demonstrates that abstraction ultimately compliments realism while the figural catalyzes viewer interpretation of abstracted forms. Thus, the figural and abstract worlds unite through their echoing gestures.

The remodeling of Leyburn’s first floor has provided the campus with both the occasion and the space to mount “Echoing Gestures: Figural and Abstract.” The exhibit seeks to encourage viewers to recognize the interrelationships between seemingly contradictory entities. By pairing works that demonstrate this phenomenon, the curators hope to convey the possibility of co-existence in an increasingly fractured world, evidence of which subsists even within the building of the exhibit’s location.

The exhibition is curated by W&L seniors and Staniar Gallery Arts Management interns Saya Clancy, Catherine Hook, Mallory Ruymann and Libby Spears. The project was guided by Clover Archer Lyle, visiting instructor of photography and director of the Staniar Gallery, and Patricia Hobbs, associate director and curator of the University Collections of Art and History.

Leyburn Library hours are Monday through Sunday 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. For further information about the exhibit, please contact Clover Archer at archerc@wlu.edu.


Lights Off for Earth Hour on Saturday

The lights will go out, but don’t be alarmed. There’s a simple explanation.

In response to a request from Washington and Lee’s Student Environmental Action League (SEAL), lights in Payne, Washington and Robinson Halls will be turned off between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 28, in observance of Earth Hour, which is expected to be the largest ever global demonstration of public concern for climate change. In a Campus Notice, SEAL urged students who live off campus to turn off the lights at their own houses during Earth Hour.

“It’s expected to be the largest international climate change statement ever made,” said Kara Fitzgibbon ’11, co-president of SEAL.  “This year the Earth Hour will happen in over 2,400 cities in 82 countries with an expected individual participation in the hundreds of millions. Buildings like the Empire State Building, the Acropolis in Athens, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Great Pyramids in Egypt and the Arch of Wembley Stadium in London will go dark.”

This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming. People of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – switching off their lights is a vote for Earth.

The Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008, the message had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness for that hour.

“If anything, it’s an honor and a humbling opportunity to take part in such a monumental, historical event that truly stands for something,” Fitzgibbon went on to say. “At first it seems daunting to think of how much ought to change and how much is ahead of us in terms of improving the climate and environment, but it also seems the further you get involved, the more you realize how much you can play a part in this important change. This is one of those parts.”


W&L Law Symposium to Explore African Women’s Rights and Health Issues

Original story at:
http://law.wlu.edu/news/storydetail.asp?id=540.


The Challenge of D.C. Representation: Opinion Piece by W&L’s Mark Rush in Times-Dispatch

The Challenge of D.C. Representation
by
Mark Rush
Robert G. Brown Professor of Law and Politics at Washington and Lee University.

LEXINGTON — It’s hard to find anyone who disagrees in principle with the current efforts to grant the District of Columbia representation in the House of Representatives. The population of the District of Columbia is bigger than that of several states. Yet, those states have representation in the House and Senate and the District does not. This just doesn’t seem fair.

Unfortunately, it is completely and unquestionably unconstitutional. The Constitution says that states — and no other political entity — may be represented in the Congress. That’s it. D.C. can’t have representation. Neither can Puerto Rico or Guam. If you want voting representation in the House (and Senate) you need to be admitted to the Union as a state.

Critics might contend that this is as impractical as it is unfair. The process of admitting new states to the union is tedious. To admit a new state to the union requires as little as a simple majority vote in the Congress or as much as an amendment to the Constitution. To give the District of Columbia voting rights in the Electoral College required the passage of the 23rd Amendment. To give it voting rights in the Congress (without granting it statehood) would require a similar amendment.

Such an amendment already failed once. The D.C. Voting Rights Amendment did not get the support of the 38 states necessary for its passage and therefore expired in 1985.

THE CURRENT controversy surrounding the D.C. Voting Rights initiative demonstrates why it is better — though much more tedious — to seek statehood or representation via the amendment process. Altering the composition of the Congress (and therefore the federal balance of power) is not a garden variety political matter. It embodies a fundamental and enduring change to the manner in which the federal government will operate. The Framers of the Constitution agreed and therefore said that profound matters such as this should require more effort and deliberation than goes into the passage of ordinary laws. The controversy surrounding the current legislative initiative serves only to endorse the Framers’ wisdom.

The process by which legislation is made invites the influence of and interference by special interests. This is in keeping with the vision of politics that informed James Madison’s writing in the Federalist. In order to make it difficult for any one group to rise up and dominate our politics, Madison envisioned that the constitutional system — replete with separated national powers, a division of powers between the federal and state governments, and staggered electoral terms for the president and Congress — would make it difficult for majorities to govern efficiently or to pass laws quickly. Madison expected that the legislative process would be besieged my many interest groups with conflicting interests. They would check and balance one another in the same way that the three branches of the federal government would.

So, it should come as no surprise that the gun lobby would show up in the midst of the debate about granting the District of Columbia voting representation in the House, and demand that any representation for the District be premised on the repeal of some of its restrictions on firearms.

This is Madisonian politics at its best.

Of course, it seems unfair — or at least, foul play — that something as constitutionally fundamental as the representation of the District of Columbia in the House should be predicated on a Faustian bargain regarding gun control. But this is the nature of the legislative process. Since the current proposal to grant D.C. voting rights entails ordinary legislation, it is subject to all of the interest-group politics that afflicts any other piece of legislation.

WERE D.C. to seek and gain statehood (via the amendment process or via a congressional vote), a proposal such as that to repeal D.C. gun laws would be unconstitutional. Since all states have equal status under the constitutional system, it would be unconstitutional to attempt to admit a state with a gun law condition that would render it essentially a “second-class citizen.” The state of “New Columbia” would have all of the rights that the other 50 states have.

So, the current proposal to give D.C. voting representation may be doomed. It will either founder on the shoals of interest-group politics or, even if it passes, it will probably be declared unconstitutional.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that the Constitution does provide two ways to grant the District representation and voting power in the Congress. The real question is whether Congress has the political will or desire to use the means required by the Constitution to grant the representation its residents deserve.

(This piece originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.)


W&L Senior Awarded Project for Peace

As far as Washington and Lee University senior Eduardo Rodriguez is concerned, communication is the key to peace.

That basic premise underlies the proposal that won Rodriguez a $10,000 grant from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace program.

This is the second time in as many years that a W&L student has won one of the grants. Last spring Andrew McWay, an accounting and business administration major from the Class of 2008, received money to partner with a small microfinance group in Peru.

Rodriguez is a business administration major concentrating in poverty and human capabilities studies. He is also a self-described technology supporter who works in the Tucker Multimedia Center at W&L. His winning project combines his passion for technology with his interest in using language instruction as a way to promote peace.

His project consists of setting up a language laboratory in his home town of Pehuajo, Argentina, where students will be able to use the latest technology, including video-conferencing, that will permit them to interact in virtual space with students from other cultures and countries as they learn languages.

Rodriguez had attended secondary school in Wales at the United World College of the Atlantic and found that, when he returned to Argentina, friends were quick to stereotype the people with whom he had been interacting.

” ‘Brits are all cold,’ was one of the things that I would hear when I’d come home,” Rodriguez said. “It really upset me, because these were my friends they were talking about. Most of the stereotypes are negative and could be avoided if people actually interacted with one another.”

Rodriguez has secured space at the Escuela Media 207, a public school in Pehuajo, where 15 interconnected computer workstations will be established. Funds from the grant will pay for six, while the school will provide the others.

According to Rodriguez’s plan, the laboratory will not only provide language instruction directed by professors at the school, but also connection to the Internet. The ensuing videoconferences with students learning Spanish at Washington and Lee will establish partnerships.

“There is no substitute for these one-on-one conversations in learning a language,” said Rodriguez. “Enabling these conversations to occur in a virtual way will provide the students in Pehuajo an opportunity many would otherwise not have.”

Although the project is focused largely on language instruction at Escuela Media 207, Rodriguez said that the computers will also be available to professors of other public and private schools in the community. Rodriguez intends to conduct on-site setup and training in July.

Projects for Peace is part of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, based in Middlebury, Vt. Kathryn Davis, a philanthropist and the widow of Shelby Cullom Davis, a businessman and former United States ambassador to Switzerland, has put up $1 million in each of the past two years to fund 100 Projects for Peace.

Now 102 years old, Mrs. Davis launched the initiative on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007 and now renews her challenge to today’s generation of college students to undertake innovative and meaningful projects. Designed to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world in the 21st century, each of the more than100 projects will receive $10,000 in funding.

“The competition on nearly 100 campuses was keen and we congratulate the students who proposed the winning projects,” said Executive Director of the Davis UWC Scholars Program Philip O. Geier. “Kathryn Davis has been a lifelong internationalist and philanthropist, and has left her mark on a wide range of institutions and countless students. The wisdom of her years has led her to look to young people for new ideas and fresh energy to improve the prospects for peace.”

The Davis program encourages students to use their imaginations to determine their projects and promotes “creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

W&L is one of more than 90 colleges and universities whose students are eligible for Project for Peace funds because it participates in the Davis program, which provides scholarships to students who attend the United World Colleges, a series of international high schools around the world.


2009 Lewis F. Powell Jr. Lecture On a Supreme Court Advocate’s Perspective

Original story at:
http://law.wlu.edu/news/storydetail.asp?id=536.


Recipients of the 2009 Woolley Fellowships Announced

The Center for International Education (CIE) at Washington and Lee University has announced the recipients of the 2009 Woolley Fellowships, provided through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Woolley in honor and memory of their son, Erik.

Washington and Lee supports a number of summer internship opportunities abroad through the Shepherd Poverty Program, the Latin-American and Caribbean Studies Program and the CIE.

Each fellowship provides up to $3,000 toward travel and living expenses to support an educational internship experience overseas. Proposals must demonstrate how projects will prepare students better for deeper global engagement, foster learning within an international professional practice and deepen students’ understanding of another culture.

This year’s recipients are:

Carolyn Small of Houston, Texas, and Natalie Bunnell of Clarendon Hills, Ill. , will both be working at the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage in Amsterdam. Last spring term, both studied with W&L Chemistry Professor Erich Uffelman in Amsterdam, combining chemistry and art through a technical examination of 17th-century Dutch painting. Both members of the W&L class of 2010, they have been invited to work this summer with Dr. William Wei, a leading conservation scientist who works at the Institute for Cultural Heritage.

Melissa Deokaran of Husser, La., and Felice Herman of Fairfield, Pa., members of the W&L class of 2011, will be traveling to Italy to join work on the archeological site at Gabii, near Rome. Gabii, where excavation began only in 2007, was an important Roman city-state of the first millennium B.C., and its excavation will provide pertinent information about the city-life of ancient Latin civilizations. The project is overseen by Dr. Nicola Terrenato of the University of Michigan and includes on its team Dr. Hilary Becker, visiting assistant professor of classics at Washington and Lee University.

Gaby Bucheli of Quito, Ecuador, will be interning in Manaus, Brazil, working on a project that examines the economic valuation of the environmental impact of oil extraction procedures. A member of the W&L class of 2011, Bucheli will be working with a multinational and multidisciplinary group of professionals from the fields of economics and geology, including Professor Jim Kahn, professor of economics at Washington and Lee.


Government Bailouts Topic of Federalist Society Panel

Original story at:
http://law.wlu.edu/news/storydetail.asp?id=535.