Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), located at the Harvard Kennedy School, announced the spring visiting fellowship of Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico (2003-11), U.S. secretary of energy (1998-2001), U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1997-98), and U.S. representative (D-NM; 1983-97).Richardson’s fellowship will occur the week of March 28. On March 31, Richardson will speak in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum and deliver the 2011 Corliss Lamont Lecture, a lectureship featuring an individual widely recognized for leadership in diminishing the risk of nuclear war. Visiting fellows traditionally meet with student groups, lead discussion groups on topical issues and their experiences in public and political service, and participate in public policy classes with students and Harvard University faculty.
Read Full Story A new professional development grant named in honor of Jan Merrill-Oldham has recently been approved by the Association of Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) and Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) of the American Library Association (ALA) and will be awarded in 2012.For more than 30 years, Merrill-Oldham has been a recognized leader in the field of library and archives preservation. She has served on key committees within ALA, the Association of Research Libraries, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the National Information Standards Organization and many others. She has educated and mentored countless preservation librarians and conservators and her support for students and dedication to the field serves as a model to all of us. This award recognizes Merrill-Oldham’s wide ranging contributions, deep commitment to the field, and her undying support of young professionals by supporting participation in an ALA conference. In September of 2010, Merrill-Oldham announced her retirement after a long and notable career.Each year, the Jan Merrill-Oldham Professional Development Grant will consist of $1,250 to support travel to the ALA Annual Conference for a librarian, para-professional or student new to the preservation field. The intention is to provide the opportunity to attend an ALA conference and encourage professional development through active participation at the national level. The recipient will have the chance to work with a member of the jury to identify relevant programs and interest group sessions to attend, must attend the Preservation Administration Interest Group meeting, and must attend at least one PARS discussion group meeting.An announcement with more information on eligibility, application and selection will be made available in the coming months. This information will also be on the ALCTS awards Web site in the near future.
Turn down the heat (if you control you thermostat) Turn off task lighting and your office lights.Close/Shut All: We all play an important role in reducing energy and conserving resources on campus and in our offices. Our actions make a big difference in helping Harvard meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2016.Astonishingly, the energy used by a building to support just one office worker for a day causes over two times more greenhouse gas emissions than that person’s drive to and from work.Across Harvard, the Office for Sustainability and Campus Services are encouraging employees, faculty and students to take the Cold Turkey Pledge to shut down sustainably before you go home:Shut down your computer and turn off the monitor.Pull the plug – in the kitchen and the office. “Phantom Loads” of electricity being used by electronics plugged in but turned off add up fast and can account for 8% of energy use or $100/year. WindowsStorm Windows, where applicable – storm windows can prevent 25-50% of heat loss through windows.Blinds Printer/Fax and Copy MachineCoffee Makers, Tea Kettles, Microwaves and AppliancesUnplug Power Strips Check-in with the facilities team to learn your building specific shutdown proceduresLet your facilities team know if you see any leaky faucets/toilets or if you have any trouble with windows, thermostats, or lights during your shutdown.And, remember, before you leave for vacation last one out the door shuts off the main lights. For more information please visit www.green.harvard.edu.
In the hands of artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, a few photographic works prove powerful enough to make a profound statement about family and the Afro-Latin experience in America.“I tried to talk about the nuances of construction of the family. I’ve always been curious about the dichotomy, almost the opposing sides — black/white, Cuba/America, Africa/Europe — and then the result, the hybrid surge element,” said Campos-Pons, whose exhibit “Something About Family” opened Thursday at the Neil L. & Angelica Zander Rudenstine Gallery in the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.“I’ve been using diptychs and triptychs to comment on the idea of fragments and how we make a whole. It’s almost like we take particles of identity to create this new one,” she said.“Sagrada Familia” pays homage to Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons’ son and to her husband Neil Leonard (left).Campos-Pons is an interdisciplinary artist, but the exhibit focuses on a selection of 20-by-24-inch Polaroid Polacolors, a medium she chose for its “lusciousness.” They are not photojournalistic works meant to freeze a telling moment, however, but deliberate compositions that were planned, sketched, and carefully arranged in advance.“They’re very elaborately constructed,” said Campos-Pons.And they’re haunting. “Family Still Life” is a triptych of pale, slender bottles capturing “the little noises, the moment of stillness in the family, the moment of beauty, love, sorrow, joy … the sacred stories told within the walls,” said Campos-Pons. “A bottle carries so much silent information within — it’s the air that everybody breathes, the noises the air carries.”Another triptych, “Sagrada Familia,” pays homage to Campos-Pons’ son and to her husband; their pictures, she said, reflect the “trilogy of relations,” with mother and father at the center. “Study for December 17” celebrates a Yoruba holiday honoring a god that her late father worshipped in Cuba.Poignantly, “Unspeakable Sorrow,” a trio of women covered in black, their faces hidden from the lens, addresses women responding to and trying to make sense of tragedy. Campos-Pons created the work after the death of her mother, and it had special meaning for her at the opening on Thursday. Her father-in-law, Neil Leonard II, had died the day before. The show, which Campos-Pons called “an opportunity to reflect about where you’ve been and where you’re headed,” is dedicated to him.The triptych “Sagrada Familia” reflects the “trilogy of relations,” with mother and father at the center, said Campos-Pons. Courtesy of the Neil L. & Angelica Zander Rudenstine Gallery“I’m happy it opened today, at his alma mater,” she said. “I know he’d be proud.”Campos-Pons was born and raised in Cuba, and came to the United States in 1988 to study at the Massachusetts College of Art. She now teaches painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She has had solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Venice Biennale, the Johannesburg Biennial, the First Liverpool Biennial, the Dak’Art Biennial in Senegal, and the Guangzhou Triennial in China, and she was the first artist to exhibit at the Rudenstine Gallery, in 2006.Dell M. Hamilton of the Du Bois Institute, who studied with Campos-Pons at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, said her work addressed issues of longing, exile, and belonging, and called her a model of the African-Latin experience.“That immigrant’s feeling of looking backwards and forwards — I think that’s what Magda is doing in her work,” said Hamilton, the American-born daughter of Honduran parents. “That’s part of the challenge, what her work is trying to bring into the conversation. How Afro-Latins make a life for themselves here in the U.S. is a question scholars are still trying to figure out.”“Something About Family” was curated by Portia Harcus and was co-sponsored by the Du Bois Institute and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. It will be on display through May.
16W.H. Auden, 1946 2Maxfield Parrish, 1901 11A 1948-49 page from the Morris Gray Signature Book at Harvard’s Department of English 3Mother Teresa, 1982 7Henry Kissinger, 2012, and Richard Nixon, 1969 20Helen Keller in 1955, the year she became the first woman to get an honorary degree from Harvard 8Igor Stravinsky, 1946 5Henry Dunster, 1642, the year Harvard graduated its first class 10Bono and talking tableware in 2001 (left) and Shakira’s “Lips don’t lie” signature in 2011 1John Hancock, 1754 14Iran’s Mohammad Khatami offered 2006 wishes for “truth, morality, and brotherhood.” 17Two rivals: W.E.B. Du Bois in 1935 and Booker T. Washington, circa 1903 18Andrew Wyeth, 1955 13Former enemies Stjepan Mesic (Croatia) and Boris Tadic (Serbia) signed the Wadsworth House guest book in 2006 after a joint appearance at the Harvard Kennedy School. 4Charles Darwin, 1871, and Albert Einstein, 1943 15At the top, Anna Freud, 1980, the year she received an honorary doctorate 19An “unforgettable” Nelson Mandela, 1998 9David Souter, 2010 12“D.H. Thoreau,” who later took his middle name “Henry” as his first name, signs at the top of the page in a sheet of signatures from the Class of 1837. 6John F. “Jack” Kennedy, 1959 They loop and swoop and dip and dive. They jitter and circle and march in straight lines. Some are small, and some tall. Some are humble, others grand. These are the signatures of Harvard: the handwritten names of the famous who have visited the University.They are recorded in albums in places like Wadsworth House, a frequent stop for distinguished visitors, and the Department of English, which since 1939 has been collecting signatures from participants in its Morris Gray Lectures, including T.S. Eliot, Robert Penn Warren, Lillian Hellman, and Robert Frost.“There’s a lot of power in a signature,” as well as the tremor of history, said special projects assistant Sean McCreery, who watches over the Gray album. When poets and writers add to it, he said, “no one skips a page. They’re colleagues, either in spirit or flesh.”At the Harvard University Archives, there are millions of linear feet of correspondence and documents, often signed. “It’s not like we have a collection of signatures,” said archivist Barbara Meloni, who one November day lined up boxes of samples. “You will find them everywhere.”From 1642, on paper the color of heavy cream, the archives record the stately inked signature of Henry Dunster, Harvard’s first president. The archives also contain an early example of the most famous signature of colonial America, that of patriot leader John Hancock, then a College senior. (It appears on a 1754 letter scolding his sister Mary for not writing.)At Wadsworth House, University Marshal Jackie A. O’Neill keeps an eye on visitors’ albums dating back to 1979. (Many older ones are housed in the archives.) It’s a graphologist’s feast: Lawrence Fishburne’s signature is 6 inches tall, Henry Kissinger’s is inscrutable, and Bono’s includes a cartoon of a fork, knife, and plate. (One of his causes is world hunger.)The Wadsworth albums include signatures from Jane Goodall, Ruby Dee, the Barenaked Ladies, Sinbad, and Mother Teresa (complete with a prefatory “God bless you”), as well as J.K. Rowling, Aga Khan, Gordon Brown, Doris Lessing, Queen Noor, and of that other Hancock, Herbie. The signature of James Gandolfini appears near that of Aung San Suu Kyi. Close by are Toni Morrison, Seamus Heaney, and Dan Aykroyd, who appended a few phony degrees. Anna Freud shares a page with Walter Cronkite. John Cheever included his address, as did Rodney Dangerfield.And there are surprises. In one 1915 Harvard class letter addressed to him, Robert Frost crosses out “Lee,” a middle name now lost to memory. In 1920, E.E. Cummings preferred “Edward Cummings.” Despite a brash reputation, Norman Mailer signed his name modestly small, as did Albert Einstein, whose influence has been immodestly large. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Bishop had tiny signatures. Some signatures are impossible to decipher. Others are disarmingly clear. Richard Nixon signed in a cursive-clear, schoolboy hand.Both Andrew Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish signed bold and beautiful, as artists would. Nelson Mandela used just his last name, enough for a world that knows him well.Every Harvard signature contains a story, O’Neill said, “a way of explaining the long history of this place.” 21Pete Seeger, 1976
The idea that the wave of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer breaking over the world is largely the result of wealth and inactivity is not only wrong, it’s counterproductive, says a Harvard research fellow who recently founded a nonprofit organization to fight disease.In the past, such noncommunicable diseases have been attributed to lifestyle because of their links to high-calorie diets in wealthy, increasingly sedentary industrialized nations. But Alessandro Demaio, a fellow at the interfaculty Harvard Global Equity Initiative, takes issue with that description.Instead of wealthy Western businessmen, he says, the typical person suffering a noncommunicable disease today is a woman under 70, living in poverty, most likely in Asia.Demaio sees noncommunicable diseases as likely to be high on the global health agenda after 2015, the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which have guided global health efforts since their establishment in 2000.In the fall, Demaio and a handful of others, both at the Harvard School of Public Health and outside the University, started a global nonprofit, NCDFREE. As part of its effort to raise awareness about noncommunicable diseases, it hopes to find young leaders to work at the local level, and to make “NCD” a household term, much as AIDS/HIV has become over the past 25 years.The nonprofit is using a combination of Web savvy and old-fashioned face-to-face meetings to promote change. Financed partly through a successful crowd-sourcing campaign and with seed funding from the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, members have traveled to Mongolia and Ghana to create videos of “change makers” producing results against noncommunicable diseases.The videos were shown as part of launch events held in September in both Boston and Melbourne, Australia, which also featured TED-style talks and artist performances. The organization has also created a crowd-sourced film about NCDs for the World Health Organization, using cellphone-camera clips. NCDFREE estimates that its message has reached a million people.Felicia Knaul, head of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, believes NCDFREE goes a step beyond advocacy to capacity-building by raising the profile of “change makers” and helping them get further training. File photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerFelicia Knaul, associate professor of global health and social medicine and head of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, said that although Demaio is based at HGEI, he works largely independently. She described him as dynamic and good at bringing people together.Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading health problem in most nations, Knaul said, with the exception of the poorest, where inefficient or absent health care systems provide little protection against infectious disease.Advances in science are blurring the lines between infectious and noncommunicable diseases, she pointed out. Cancer, for example, is typically considered a noncommunicable disease, but cervical cancer is known to be transmitted by the human papilloma virus.Though advocacy to fight noncommunicable diseases is clearly important, NCDFREE goes a step beyond advocacy to capacity-building, Knaul said, by raising the profile of “change makers” and helping them get further training.The nonprofit is “very good at giving the microphone to smart people with good ideas from developing countries,” she said, adding that its leaders are taking a broad approach that avoids the “only my disease counts” problems that have plagued some past efforts.“That’s the right approach,” she said.
As the intense conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, and talk of a return to Cold War-style politics heats up, top world leaders, including President Vladimir Putin and President Obama, are slated to meet later this month to discuss how best to contain what all agree is a significant and growing international threat: nuclear terrorism.While nuclear arms control and disarmament talks between nations have long been a cornerstone of diplomacy, making sure nuclear materials don’t fall into the hands of individuals or groups bent on harm has not received that same level of attention from the international community until recently.“Unfortunately, the global … framework for nuclear security is quite weak,” said Matthew Bunn, professor of practice at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and co-principal investigator for the Project on Managing the Atom, a nuclear research and policy program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.“It’s not like nuclear verification, where countries have signed treaties that allow the International Atomic Energy Agency legal rights to come and inspect. There’s nothing like that on nuclear security. It is considered a sovereign matter for each country to make up its own mind about what kind of security it should have.”According to the first survey of nuclear security experts around the world, co-authored by Bunn and published this month by HKS, nearly all of the respondents said their nations’ policies and practices had become “much more stringent” in the last 15 years. The biggest catalyst for tightening up, they reported, was a major terrorism incident like 9/11, followed by reviews conducted either internally or by the International Atomic Energy Agency that revealed security inadequacies.The survey is among several on the state of nuclear security made available on a comprehensive new website from HKS, as authorities prepare for the third Nuclear Security Summit to be held March 24-25 in The Hague, Netherlands.Started at Obama’s urging to bring greater attention to the danger of nuclear terrorism, the summit convenes every two years, bringing together presidents and prime ministers from 58 invited countries to discuss ways to reduce the amount of nonmilitary caches of separated plutonium or highly enriched uranium that are vulnerable to terrorists; to improve security at sites where such nuclear materials are stored; and to develop better cooperation and accountability among nations to reduce the likelihood of nuclear terrorism.“Nuclear terrorism is a combination of motivation, capability, and opportunity,” said Laura Holgate, senior director for weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and threat reduction at the National Security Council, during a March 3 panel at HKS about this year’s summit. Holgate and Gary Samore, the Belfer Center’s executive director for research, organized the first summit, held in 2010. “The only term in this equation that states have control over is the opportunity. It is the material. If you don’t have the material, you don’t have nuclear terrorism.”Nuclear terrorists would be expected to pursue three goals: making a crude nuclear bomb that could decimate an entire city; sabotaging a nuclear facility to cause a meltdown or other tragedies; or building a dirty bomb that spreads radiological material that may not necessarily kill a large number of people, but would cause panic and massive disruption, and prove costly to clean up. All require surprisingly minimal nuclear expertise to accomplish.“Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a Manhattan Project to make a nuclear bomb. More than 90 percent of the work in the Manhattan Project was actually about making the nuclear material. Once you have the nuclear material, making the actual bomb is not as difficult,” said Bunn.Thus far, 27 countries have eliminated all of the nuclear material on their soil, while almost all the remaining countries participating have taken meaningful steps to improve the security of their nuclear stocks, a development Bunn called “dramatic progress.”“The reality is that nuclear security isn’t an on/off switch,” said Bunn. “It’s not something where it was vulnerable and now it’s secure. Rather, it’s a spectrum, and it’s a continuing process of always trying to look for vulnerabilities, find them, fix them, looking for ways you might be able to do things better, looking for ways to adapt to changing circumstances or changing threats.”Participating countries are expected to arrive in The Hague prepared to deliver on their own security promises, referred to as “house gifts,” or to join a small group of nations that have reached consensus on certain security measures, known as “gift baskets.”“Certainly, the countries with the largest stocks of material have taken fairly significant action to improve security, including the United States, including Russia, including the United Kingdom, France, China, etc.,” Bunn said. “It is true, however, there’s a lot more to be done. We did not succeed in four years in making sure there wasn’t any vulnerable nuclear material in the world anymore. We succeeded in making a lot of progress toward that objective, but we didn’t cross the finish line.”How countries balance the need to assure each other that they have taken the appropriate steps to effectively secure their nuclear materials with the desire to maintain secrecy over which threats they’re targeting will be a key topic of discussion during the summit, said Bunn.“Everyone has an interest in making sure all the other countries are fulfilling their responsibilities, and we don’t really have an international mechanism for countries to be able to exercise that interest,” he said. “One concern I have is we may end up with agreement on the principle of assurances, and may end up with assurances that don’t provide any assurance,” he said.In the United States, the sometimes-tenuous state of nuclear security was dramatically tested during a 2012 protest against the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Three anti-nuclear protesters, including an 82-year-old nun, breached layers of security at the complex, then spray-painted slogans and smeared blood on the walls of a storage facility that held weapons-grade uranium. Eventually captured by a guard, the protesters were sentenced to prison last month.Bunn says the event was a “profound breakdown” of security culture, proof that human failure can undermine even the most sophisticated equipment.“It was a real wake-up call for the United States, and I think it’s a real wake-up call for the nuclear community in general, that you can spend a lot of money on fences and alarms and cameras and so on, but if the people aren’t motivated to pay attention, you’re going to have a problem,” said Bunn.“That suggested that even in countries like the United States, which probably has tougher rules and spends more on nuclear security maybe than any other country, there’s still more to be done.”A new report by Bunn and HKS faculty Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth, and William H. Tobey on the progress countries have made to secure nuclear materials, weapons, and facilities found that while many countries have made noteworthy strides since the 2010 summit — including 13 nations that have eliminated highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium on their soil entirely — “significant gaps” remain. Many nations still have no on-site guards to protect nuclear sites, conduct no background checks before allowing access to facilities or materials, and have limited protection from insider theft. Few adequately test their security measures or have programs to assess and strengthen security culture, the report said.
Harvard researchers have discovered a new psychological capacity for cooperation.For decades, researchers have examined the psychology behind altruistic cooperation, when one person pays some cost to benefit another. However, another form of cooperation in which both people benefit has been little studied, but that is changing.A study co-authored by graduate student Kyle Thomas and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker examines how people use “common knowledge” — the shared understanding in which two or more people know something, know that the other one knows, know the other one knows that they know, and so on — to coordinate their actions, and how people’s efforts to cooperate may fail without this infinite level of shared beliefs.The study is described in a recently published paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study also included Peter DeScioli, now Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University, and Omar Haque, with Harvard Medical School.“There has been a great deal of research that examines the psychological roots of altruism, and you can think of that as a kind of motivation problem,” explained Thomas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Psychology Department at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the lead author. “However, when cooperation involves coordinating behavior, the problem people must solve is a knowledge problem rather than a motivation problem: What do partners need to know about each others’ beliefs to coordinate their behavior?”While the notion of common knowledge has existed for decades and has been applied to fields as varied as philosophy and computer science, studies that focused on the actual psychology of common knowledge have been few and far between, Thomas said.The chief reason, he said, is that “paying costs to benefit others poses obvious evolutionary puzzles that are not apparent when both people benefit. Because they do not present any evolutionary puzzles, the coordination problems of common knowledge are not nearly as obvious to researchers. The question is, how do we anticipate what our social partners will do, when what they do depends on what they expect us to do? This is a profound social cognition problem. How does one read the mind of a mind reader?”To examine the psychological roots of coordination and how different levels of knowledge affect it, Thomas and his colleagues recruited participants to play an online game.The participants were paired off, with each assuming the role of either butcher or baker working in a market. As the game began, each was offered a choice: Try to work together for mutual benefit — butchers making hot dogs and bakers making buns — or work on their own for a lesser, but certain profit.To test how knowledge levels might affect whether participants would work together, researchers created four levels of knowledge for how participants could earn more by working together.The first level, called private knowledge, involved telling one player that he could earn more by working with his partner, but leaving him in the dark about what his partner’s knows. At the second level, called secondary knowledge, one player knows conditions are good, and knows his partner knows that as well. In the third, one player knows, knows his partner knows, and knows his partner knows that he knows. To create common knowledge, this information was broadcast over a loudspeaker.“Each player then makes a decision,” Thomas explained. “They can decide to work alone or work together, and we paid them accordingly.”As predicted, these levels of knowledge dramatically affected how people played the game.“What we found was that, for private knowledge, even if we varied the payouts, or the number of people involved, only about 15 percent of people cooperated,” Thomas said. “With shared knowledge, we saw about 50 percent, and with common knowledge, it was 85 percent. It was just a whopping effect. That indicated to us that we are very sensitive to this previously unappreciated mental state. Our minds evolved to understand this important kind of social structure, and how different kinds of knowledge can impact it.”The effects of common knowledge, however, are hardly limited to the type of economic games described in the study.“You can see evidence of these coordination problems everywhere,” Thomas said. “We’ve done work on euphemism and indirect speech, where everyone understands the subtext of what’s being said, though it isn’t explicit. You can also see aspects of it when people talk about taboos or political correctness. When something is taboo, that’s a common-knowledge issue because even though everyone may think it, you can’t say it. There’s even evidence that self-conscious emotions, like guilt or pride or shame, are sensitive to common knowledge, and that certain emotional signals like blushing or crying are built around the idea.”
It all started with a wink from Lucy Liu.In a darkened Sanders Theatre on Saturday, dance music pulsed and images of the actress flashed across a large screen suspended over the stage.But it was when she made her entrance that the theater’s audience erupted in cheers. Liu, the 2016 Artist of the Year, was welcomed by S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation.Now in its 31st year, Cultural Rhythms, the Harvard Foundation’s annual celebration of diversity at the University, gives College student groups the opportunity to perform in Sanders Theatre, while also honoring those who have made major artistic and philanthropic contributions.“Our hope is that this show today and this week of talking, celebrating, acting, is able to fulfill the ideal that is at the heart of the Harvard Foundation’s mission — to enhance the quality of our common life,” said Jonathan Sands, co-director of the festival.Liu, an acclaimed American actress, producer, director, and philanthropist, has raised awareness of the plight of women and children in some of the world’s most impoverished countries and the international child trafficking industry. She has actively supported Women for Women, a nonprofit organization that has helped nearly 430,000 marginalized women in countries affected by war and conflict. And in 2012, she received the Champion of Peace Award for her “unyielding commitment to promote peace, justice, and human rights.”As 12 student groups performed, Liu sat in a cushioned chair in the back corner of the stage, smiling and moving to the music.The show began with the Kuumba Singers, the oldest existing black organization at Harvard College, their harmonies punctuated with sways and stomps. A group member stepped forward and said, “Music helps us sustain and guide our culture … and so we sing.”,The Harvard Philippine Forum stacked long, wooden benches from which they danced and jumped. Freshman-founded Omo Naija, a Nigerian dance troupe, opened to the sound of a rooster crowing, grabbing the crowd’s attention with flared red skirts and powerful stomps and smiles. Harvard Passus Step Team shook the theater with music created solely from their hands, feet, and shouts.In between acts, Liu asked the performers questions about their rehearsal schedules and talents. “I feel like Jimmy Fallon,” she said with a laugh. Liu even indulged a couple of students from Mariachi Veritas with a cellphone selfie.While presenting Liu with the award, William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, reviewed her many artistic and educational accomplishments, including her talents in collage painting and sculpture.“As we would say in Boston, you can be wicked ‘smaht,’ but also have a great ‘haht,’” Fitzsimmons said as he listed Liu’s staunch advocacy of gender equality, her role as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, and her time as a UNICEF ambassador.“Today, I think we have all seen onstage the bravery, the absolute joy, the pleasure of presenting who we are, and how we are, with no excuses,” said Liu, addressing the audience from the Sanders’ stage. Holding her Artist of the Year award in both hands, she spoke of the importance of being present for one another, about taking time to forget about the midterms, finals, papers, and theses.“These are all due, but we are also due for each other — to combine our hearts, our cultures, our languages, and accept them as they exist. Now and forever.”
American Muslims and others concerned about intolerance face a daunting challenge countering the growing negative sentiments toward Islam in the country, according to a roundtable at Harvard on Monday.With attitudes toward Islam a focus of contention in the highly charged national political season, speakers highlighted how hostility toward the religion has spread and what effects it is having on young Muslims trying to find their way in American society. The rising anti-Muslim sentiment reflects a “deep polarization” between some Muslims and non-Muslims, one that is rooted in religious illiteracy, said Ali Asani, who moderated the discussion and is professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic religion and cultures, as well as director of Harvard’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program.“This religious illiteracy has created a breeding ground for fear, prejudice, and hatred that have been exploited for political gain by unscrupulous politicians and terrorist organizations both in Western and Muslim countries,” Asani said. “It threatens not only democratic processes within countries but also relationships between nations and people.”Asani said afterward that hostility to Islam “is not just about religion — it’s another manifestation of racism, because racism and religion become conflated.”The discussion at the Barker Center was presented by the Alwaleed Program, the Harvard Foundation, the Harvard College Office of Student Life, and the Harvard Islamic Society.Christopher Bail, Ph.D. ’11, an assistant professor of sociology at Duke University who studies how groups shape public discourse, discussed the findings of his recent book on how anti-Muslim sentiment became widespread in American society after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.“This was the result of a very well-coordinated effort by a small network of anti-Muslim organizations that have succeeded not only in captivating the mass media but also increasingly influencing our counterterrorism policy,” he said.Using data to track references to Islam in newspapers, television broadcasts, and social media, Bail documented how the groups obtained extensive media attention for their narrative that “Muslims are secretly a fifth column that is trying to subvert the U.S. Constitution under the guise of political correctness.”“This is a pretty straightforward story about the media playing on people’s fears, gravitating towards the most emotional voices in the aftermath of … a major tragedy,” he said, adding that that “emotional energy creates a really interesting ripple effect within the public sphere.”,Arshad Ali, assistant professor of educational research at George Washington University, discussed research he conducted over five years with Muslim youth in New York and California.In particular, he focused on how young Muslims were affected by the New York City Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim students and faculty on college campuses in the Northeast. The surveillance was part of a larger program the city has since publicly disbanded, but Asani later said students remain fearful that it continues today.Ali said that for the Muslim students with whom he worked, the surveillance fostered a sense of “hypervisibility, of always being watched,” causing them to constrain their academic and extracurricular activities.“What we heard from students is that they are self-censoring” their political participation to avoid suspicion, he said. “They have been told by campus chaplains, parents, and community leaders not to engage politically.”Similarly, he said, “So many of the students I work with think hard about taking Middle Eastern studies classes, or classes that deal with Islamic theology.”Lana Idris ’16, a former president of the Harvard Islamic Society, said that what is “scary about anti-Muslim sentiment is that it’s not something that’s new.”“It’s existed for a very long time,” she said, “and like anti-blackness, it’s just becoming very highly visible now because we have social media and we have politicians banking on that right now. … I think it’s just important to know how we should engage when it isn’t at such a hypervisible level.”Omar Khoshafa ’16, who has worked as a Muslim youth organizer in greater Boston, said that the pressures Muslims face today are prompting many “to see the struggles of others who came before us, like our fellow African-American brothers and sisters, and … to work at the grassroots together.”He noted that he helped to organize and took part in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march against police brutality and that an end to Islamophobia was included in the demands of the march.“People saw it as an intertwined cause in the struggle,” he said.