Washington and Lee Commemorates Veterans Day
In Washington and Lee’s annual commemoration of Veterans Day, held this year on Monday, Nov. 13, current and retired members of the staff, faculty and student body who have served in the military lined up for a photo.
They participated in a brief remembrance in front of Lee Chapel, and then adjourned to the Reeves Center for coffee and further fellowship.
The veterans in attendance included current and retired members of the W&L staff and faculty, as well as a student at the W&L School of Law:
- Buddy Atkins ’68, retiree, (Navy)
- Paul Burns, Safety Office (Army)
- Jerry Clark, Facilities Management (Army)
- Mark Fontenot, Facilities Management (Air Force)
- Paul Youngman ’87, German, Russian, and Arabic Department (Army)
- Ted Hickman, Facilities Management (Army)
- Dick Kuettner, Global Discovery Laboratories (Army)
- Laurie Lipscomb, retiree (Navy)
- Gabrielle Ongies ’18L, law student (Virginia National Guard/Air Force)
- Michael Young, retiree (Army)
W&L Students Travel to India and Japan with U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship Program Sierra Noland studied Hindi in Jaipur, India while Tara Cooper studied Japanese in Hikone, Japan.
Washington and Lee University students Sierra Noland and Tara Cooper spent this past summer studying abroad through the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.
Noland studied Hindi in Jaipur, India while Cooper studied Japanese in Hikone, Japan.
For eight weeks, Noland and 27 other American students from institutions across the United States participated in intensive Hindi courses at the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan, was once part of the kingdom of Amer and contains the Jantar Mantar Observatory and Amer Fort, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Noland and her fellow CLS program participants lived with local Hindi-speaking host families and met regularly with local peers to learn more about the Hindi language and develop their personal networks. The group engaged in cultural excursions, lectures and other enrichment activities designed to support and enhance language learning and exposure to the host culture.
During one excursion this summer, CLS students had the opportunity to visit the Barefoot College at Tiloniya, a non-profit social entrepreneurship and development organization founded on a Gandhian principle of self-reliant communities. At the Barefoot College, students learned about the organization’s work in women empowerment, solar engineering, education, water purification, and more.
For eight weeks, Cooper and 22 other American students from institutions across the United States participated in intensive Japanese courses at the University of Shiga Prefecture in Hikone, a small traditional castle-town that is located on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan.
Cooper and her fellow CLS program participants lived with local Japanese-speaking host families for four weeks and met regularly with local peers to learn more about the Japanese language and develop their personal networks. The group engaged in cultural excursions, lectures and other enrichment activities designed to support and enhance language learning and exposure to the host culture.
During one excursion this summer, CLS students had the opportunity to visit Honkoji Temple, a Buddhist temple located in Shiga Prefecture, to learn about the history and principles of calligraphy. The activity was led by a master calligraphist who also serves as the chief priest of the temple. Students were guided through the preparing of ink and the drawing of several traditional characters.
The CLS program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. CLS scholars gain critical language and cultural skills in languages that are less commonly taught in U.S. schools, but are essential for America’s engagement with the world, contributing to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.
In 2017, 555 American students representing 217 colleges and universities across the United States were competitively selected from over 5,000 applicants to receive a CLS award. Each CLS scholar spends eight to ten weeks in one of 22 locations studying Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, or Urdu.
The CLS Program runs every summer and is open to American students at colleges and universities. Applications for the 2018 CLS program are available at http://www.clscholarship.org. Applications are due November 15, 2017.
W&L’s Brock Analyzes Use of the Term “Witch Hunt” in Washington Post Opinion Piece Brock's piece, “No, there is no witch hunt against powerful men,” was published in The Washington Post on October 18, 2017.
“In this moment of profound social division…people in positions of power — especially those who have, on record, repeatedly demonized others — would do well to avoid willfully co-opting a term that denotes tragic events in which the disempowered were persecuted and prosecuted. As ever, history matters, not only in informing the meaning behind terminology like ‘witch hunt,’ but in understanding the weight of words articulated by the powerful.”
Mikki Brock is an assistant professor of history at Washington & Lee University and the author of Satan and the Scots: The Devil in Post-Reformation Scotland, c. 1560-1700.” Her opinion piece, “No, there is no witch hunt against powerful men,” was published in The Washington Post on October 18, 2017.
Read Brock’s piece online at The Washington Post.com.
W&L’s Colón Talks Fake News with PolitiFact Journalism professor Aly Colón shared his expertise with PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter
“…people are inclined to believe whoever they came to the dance with. Until something very obvious and visible contradicts that, they’re not going to have a very strong basis for accepting things from people they don’t trust.”
Aly Colón, Knight Professor of Ethics in Journalism at Washington and Lee University, recently shared his expertise in a PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter story titled, “The media’s definition of fake news vs. Donald Trump’s.”
Colón suggests it’s understandable that public figures get angry when they’re accused of something but they don’t know who the source is. “If President Trump doesn’t believe what is said, then he would believe it is fake, because it doesn’t fit into the reality that he accepts,” Colόn said.
Read the full PolitiFact piece online.
W&L’s Community Grants Committee to Evaluate Proposals in Early November The deadline for submitting a proposal for the Fall 2017 evaluation is 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017.
Washington and Lee University’s Community Grants Committee has announced its Fall 2017 proposal evaluation schedule. Community Grants Proposals may be submitted at any time but are reviewed semiannually: at the end of the calendar year and at the end of the fiscal year. The deadline for submitting a proposal for the Fall 2017 evaluation is 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017.
Established in the spring of 2008, the purpose of the program is to support non-profit organizations in the Lexington/Rockbridge community. The program began its first full year on July 1, 2008, coinciding with the start of the University’s fiscal year. The university will award a total of $50,000 during the program’s 2017-18 cycle.
During the second round of the 2016-17 evaluations held in May 2017, 22 organizations submitted proposals for a total of almost $176,000 in requests. The university made $25,850 in grants to 12 of those organizations. Those organizations were:
- City of Buena Vista Parks and Recreation Department
- Friends of Rockbridge Swimming, Inc.
- Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity
- W. Kling Elementary School STEM Program
- Main Street Lexington
- Mission Next Door
- PMHS Marching Blues
- Rockbridge Area Conservation Council
- RCHS Lady Wildcats Basketball
- Rockbridge Animal Alliance and Cats Unlimited
- Rockbridge Regional Drug Task Force
- Rockbridge Area YMCA
Interested parties may access the Community Grants Committee website and download a copy of the proposal guidelines at the following address: http://go.wlu.edu/communitygrants.
The second round of proposals for 2017-18 will be due on Friday, March 2, 2018. Please make note of the new March deadline.
Please call 540-458-8417 with questions. Proposals should be submitted as electronic attachments (word or pdf) via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If an electronic submission is not possible, materials may be faxed to 540-458-8745 or mailed to:
Washington and Lee University Community Grants Committee
Attn: James D. Farrar Jr.
Office of the Secretary
204 W. Washington Street
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, VA 24450
Provost Marc Conner Delivers Keynotes at International Ralph Ellison Symposium
“Ellison is such an important voice to us right now, in this political moment, in terms of his views of culture, of race relations, of the tragi-comedy of human politics, and the vital necessity for dialogue and debate.”
Ralph Ellison, the great African-American writer and author of the famed novel “Invisible Man” (1952), is gaining interest on an increasingly large stage. Washington and Lee University Provost and Ballengee Professor of English Marc Conner co-chaired a conference on Ellison, held Sept. 28-30 at the University of Oxford in England. The International Ralph Ellison Symposium featured work from over 30 Ellison scholars from around the world, all focused on the meanings and implications of Ellison’s writings not just for America but for the world. The gathering included scholars from South Africa, Russia, the Ukraine, France, Germany and Japan, as well as from the United States. Held over a three-day period at the Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute, the conference provided the largest international platform ever for engaging Ellison’s work.
“The concept was to look at Ellison from a global perspective,” Conner explained. “He is such a quintessentially American writer—he even described himself as “vindictively American”—yet his work has profound implications for the world at large. This was evident by the amazing interest in his work from scholars around the globe. It was so impressive to hear about how his writings are taught in South Africa, how he is being viewed in Germany, how the Ukraine finds him to be a vibrant writer. This global perspective was a revelation.”
The conference included keynote addresses by Conner, who talked about his work co-editing Ellison’s Selected Letters, a project forthcoming from Random House in the coming year; by Lena Hill of the University of Iowa on Ellison’s biography and politics; and by John Callahan, Ellison’s literary executor who provided an eloquent account of his long friendship with Ellison and the major work that has been brought out since Ellison’s death in 1994.
Lena Hill, professor of African-American literature at the University of Iowa and the vice-president of the Ellison Society, presented a paper on Ellison’s biography and politics. She said of the symposium, “Although Ellison has enjoyed an important position in the American literary canon since ‘Invisible Man’ appeared in 1952, the symposium revealed to attendees how much more there is to discover for all who study his life and work. The new research that scholars from all over the world shared throughout the symposium confirmed Ellison’s international appeal. This is truly an exciting moment for Ellison critics and readers alike.”
Tessa Roynon, a scholar of African-American literature at Oxford, organized the conference on site and chaired a panel titled “Ellison in the World” that featured papers on Ellison’s reception and importance in multiple countries and cultures.
“The idea,” Roynon said, “was to explore in full the concept of ‘Ellison in translation.’ So not only did we learn about the checkered history of the sections of ‘Invisible Man’ that have been rendered in Russian over the years from Moscow scholar Olga Panova, we also explored the idea of the cultural ‘translation’ of this text: what has an invisible identity meant in the political contexts of the USSR and post-Soviet Russia?
“And, as Aretha Phiri of Rhodes University discussed, how has Ellison’s trope of invisibility spoken to his readers in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa? New vistas are opening up as we continue to consider Ellison’s work as ‘world literature’, resonating in different ways in numerous locations over time.”
The symposium was sponsored by the Ralph and Fanny Ellison Trust, the Ralph Ellison Society, the Rothermere American Institute and the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities.
For Conner, the great accomplishment of the conference was to emphasize how important Ellison’s views on literature, history, and culture are for the 21st century and on a global scale.
“Ellison is such an important voice to us right now, in this political moment, in terms of his views of culture, of race relations, of the tragi-comedy of human politics, and the vital necessity for dialogue and debate,” said Conner. “Seeing how much purchase his thought has around the world was unforgettable.
“That this poor young man from the frontiers of Oklahoma has become such an important voice for the 21st century is powerful confirmation of how important his writing and thought have become. The invisible man, as Ellison himself said, speaks for all of us, and that has never been truer than today.”
Details of the conference including the full program may be viewed at https://ellisonsociety.wordpress.com.
W&L Professor Molly Michelmore Pens Op-ed for Washington Post
“The GOP’s transformation into the tax-cut party changed the rules of the game, and put Democrats on the defensive. To win back the party’s reputational advantage on the economy, the Democrats would be wise to stop playing the GOP’s game.”
Molly Michelmore is an associate professor of history at Washington & Lee University and the author of “Tax and Spend: The Welfare State, Tax Politics and the Limits of American Liberalism.” Her opinion piece, “Republicans have none of the ingredients necessary for tax reform,” was published in The Washington Post on October 2, 2017.
Read Michelmore’s piece online at The Washington Post.com.
W&L’s Strong On Washington’s Quest for His Stepson’s Education
Robert A. Strong column: Not even George Washington could keep these young men focused on learning
Washington had no children of his own, but when he married Martha he took responsibility for the care of her daughter Patsy and her son Jack. Patsy suffered from illness most of her life and died from a severe seizure in her teenage years. John (Jack) Parke Custis was Martha’s only surviving son. He was due to inherit a large estate when he came of age and Washington worked hard to make sure he had an excellent education.
Washington himself never attended college. He had plans to study at a school in England, but the early death of his father shattered those plans. He took up family responsibilities at a young age, served in the French and Indian War, and missed his chance for higher education.
As a result, he cared deeply about the education of others. He often wrote to relatives, and the children of friends, who were heading off to college. He warned against the temptations to gamble, curse, and carouse. He urged young people to take full advantage of a time “when the mind may be turned to things useful & praiseworthy.”
When it came to Jack, he worked tirelessly to get his stepson ready for college. Unfortunately, Jack did not share his stepfather’s enthusiasm for education. The tutor hired by Washington to supervise Jack’s preparation said that in all his years of teaching he had never encountered a more indolent individual or a less talented pupil.
The extensive correspondence between Washington and Jack’s tutor is filled with topics familiar to families today. Washington complained about the fees he was being charged. He worried about Jack’s health and whether he should receive a risky vaccination against small pox. He raised questions about the people Jack was associating with, criticized his stepson’s spelling errors, and argued with the tutor about which college Jack should attend.
When the tutor suggested William & Mary, Washington objected because Williamsburg had too many taverns. He knew his stepson rather well.
When Jack finally set out on the trip to King’s College, now known as Columbia University, Washington rode with him from Mount Vernon to New York. He wanted to make sure that Jack arrived at the proper time, avoiding distractions (including a girlfriend in Maryland) that might present themselves along the way. He also wanted to talk directly to the King’s College faculty about his stepson.
One scholar who studied the strenuous steps to secure an education for Jack Custis refers to those efforts as “George Washington’s losing battle.” Jack dropped out of King’s College, married the girl in Maryland, joined the Revolutionary War as a staff officer, and died at Yorktown.
Jack and his wife had four children, and after his early death, George and Martha adopted two of them. George Washington, now older and wiser, proceeded to repeat the familiar challenges of getting a young man — George Washington Parke Custis — properly educated. There was some progress. Jack dropped out of one college; George dropped out of two.
In a letter Washington wrote to his namesake, who had recently enrolled at St. John’s College in Annapolis, he observes that: “It is now near four weeks since any person of this family has heard from you, although you were requested to write to someone in it, once a fortnight, knowing (as you must do) how apt your Grandmama is to suspect that you are sick, or some accident has happened to you…”
Despite the absence of direct communication, Washington notes that he has heard from friends who have lately visited Annapolis and report that Custis was often seen in public in the company “of a certain young lady of that place.” Washington warns his grandson against dishonorable behavior that “might involve a consequence” of which “you are not aware,” (so much for 18th century sex education) and urges him to focus on his studies. “Cleve to your books,” is the advice that Washington gives before concluding with the salutation “Your sincere friend, and Affectionate Advisor.”
I am a teacher and academic adviser at a university named, in part, for George Washington. When parents visit I remind them that our greatest Founding Father performed his public duties with extraordinary success. Actual fathering was harder. It always is.
Robert A. Strong is the Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University.
Contact him at email@example.com.
W&L’s Haan Reflects on “The Coming Trump Slump”
“If the Trump administration continues to stoke fear, it may soon do exponential damage to the fundamental legal and cultural infrastructure that made America a great place to invest and do business.”
An opinion piece titled “The Coming Trump Slump: Trump’s tumultuous presidency is damaging the U.S. economy,” co-authored by Sarah Haan, associate professor of law at Washington and Lee, appeared in U.S. News on September 22, 2017.
The piece highlights the economic damage caused by the introduction of political instability experienced under the Trump administration.
Read the fill story online at U.S. News & World Report.
W&L’s Fairfield on the “Internet of Things”
“The idea of property is still powerful in our cultural imagination, and it won’t die easily. That gives us a window of opportunity. I hope we will take it.”
The ‘internet of things’ is sending us back to the Middle Ages
By Josh Fairfield, William Donald Bain Family Professor of Law at Washington and Lee
Internet-enabled devices are so common, and so vulnerable, that hackers recently broke into a casino through its fish tank. The tank had internet-connected sensors measuring its temperature and cleanliness. The hackers got into the fish tank’s sensors and then to the computer used to control them, and from there to other parts of the casino’s network. The intruders were able to copy 10 gigabytes of data to somewhere in Finland.
By gazing into this fish tank, we can see the problem with “internet of things” devices: We don’t really control them. And it’s not always clear who does – though often software designers and advertisers are involved.
In my recent book, “Owned: Property, Privacy and the New Digital Serfdom,” I discuss what it means that our environment is seeded with more sensors than ever before. Our fish tanks, smart televisions, internet-enabled home thermostats, Fitbits and smartphones constantly gather information about us and our environment. That information is valuable not just for us but for people who want to sell us things. They ensure that internet-enabled devices are programmed to be quite eager to share information.
Take, for example, Roomba, the adorable robotic vacuum cleaner. Since 2015, the high-end models have created maps of its users’ homes, to more efficiently navigate through them while cleaning. But as Reuters and Gizmodo reported recently, Roomba’s manufacturer, iRobot, may plan to share those maps of the layouts of people’s private homes with its commercial partners.
Security and privacy breaches are built in
Like the Roomba, other smart devices can be programmed to share our private information with advertisers over back-channels of which we are not aware. In a case even more intimate than the Roomba business plan, a smartphone-controllable erotic massage device, called WeVibe, gathered information about how often, with what settings and at what times of day it was used. The WeVibe app sent that data back to its manufacturer – which agreed to pay a multi-million-dollar legal settlement when customers found out and objected to the invasion of privacy.
Those back-channels are also a serious security weakness. The computer manufacturer Lenovo, for instance, used to sell its computers with a program called “Superfish” preinstalled. The program was intended to allow Lenovo – or companies that paid it – to secretly insert targeted advertisements into the results of users’ web searches. The way it did so was downright dangerous: It hijacked web browsers’ traffic without the user’s knowledge – including web communications users thought were securely encrypted, like connections to banks and online stores for financial transactions.
The underlying problem is ownership
One key reason we don’t control our devices is that the companies that make them seem to think – and definitely act like – they still own them, even after we’ve bought them. A person may purchase a nice-looking box full of electronics that can function as a smartphone, the corporate argument goes, but they buy a license only to use the software inside. The companies say they still own the software, and because they own it, they can control it. It’s as if a car dealer sold a car, but claimed ownership of the motor.
This sort of arrangement is destroying the concept of basic property ownership. John Deere has already told farmers that they don’t really own their tractors but just license the software – so they can’t fix their own farm equipment or even take it to an independent repair shop. The farmers are objecting, but maybe some people are willing to let things slide when it comes to smartphones, which are often bought on a payment installment plan and traded in as soon as possible.
How long will it be before we realize they’re trying to apply the same rules to our smart homes, smart televisions in our living rooms and bedrooms, smart toilets and internet-enabled cars?
A return to feudalism?
The issue of who gets to control property has a long history. In the feudal system of medieval Europe, the king owned almost everything, and everyone else’s property rights depended on their relationship with the king. Peasants lived on land granted by the king to a local lord, and workers didn’t always even own the tools they used for farming or other trades like carpentry and blacksmithing.
Over the centuries, Western economies and legal systems evolved into our modern commercial arrangement: People and private companies often buy and sell items themselves and own land, tools and other objects outright. Apart from a few basic government rules like environmental protection and public health, ownership comes with no trailing strings attached.
This system means that a car company can’t stop me from painting my car a shocking shade of pink or from getting the oil changed at whatever repair shop I choose. I can even try to modify or fix my car myself. The same is true for my television, my farm equipment and my refrigerator.
Yet the expansion of the internet of things seems to be bringing us back to something like that old feudal model, where people didn’t own the items they used every day. In this 21st-century version, companies are using intellectual property law – intended to protect ideas – to control physical objects consumers think they own.
Intellectual property control
My phone is a Samsung Galaxy. Google controls the operating system and the Google Apps that make an Android smartphone work well. Google licenses them to Samsung, which makes its own modification to the Android interface, and sublicenses the right to use my own phone to me – or at least that is the argument that Google and Samsung make. Samsung cuts deals with lots of software providers which want to take my data for their own use.
But this model is flawed, in my view. We need the right to fix our own property. We need the right to kick invasive advertisers out of our devices. We need the ability to shut down the information back-channels to advertisers, not merely because we don’t love being spied on, but because those back doors are security risks, as the stories of Superfish and the hacked fish tank show. If we don’t have the right to control our own property, we don’t really own it. We are just digital peasants, using the things that we have bought and paid for at the whim of our digital lord.
Even though things look grim right now, there is hope. These problems quickly become public relations nightmares for the companies involved. And there is serious bipartisan support for right-to-repair bills that restore some powers of ownership to consumers.
Recent years have seen progress in reclaiming ownership from would-be digital barons. What is important is that we recognize and reject what these companies are trying to do, buy accordingly, vigorously exercise our rights to use, repair and modify our smart property, and support efforts to strengthen those rights. The idea of property is still powerful in our cultural imagination, and it won’t die easily. That gives us a window of opportunity. I hope we will take it.