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Once again, it is time for Yale and union locals 34 and 35 to negotiate a new contract. But alumni whose bright college years included picket lines and meal reimbursement checks should know that the University and the unions have vowed to do things differently this time. At an event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, President Richard Levin said he wanted to build a relationship with the union based on “day-to-day interaction rather than periodic confrontation.”
The previous six-year contract with the unions, which represent Yale’s 4,000 clerical, technical, service, and maintenance workers, expired on January 20. But both parties agreed at that time to extend the contract to March 1, during which time they were to participate in “interest-based bargaining training,” a process that focuses on finding common goals of labor and management and working toward “win-win” solutions rather than the traditional zero-sum game of collective bargaining.
That consultant, Restructuring Associates, Inc., was brought in by the unions and the University to interview labor and management personnel about Yale’s situation, and in January they released a report that described a “dysfunctional” environment. While the unions were criticized in the report for defending underperforming workers, the brunt of criticism was aimed at management. Workers described a demoralized workforce without a voice in how they do their jobs. “We’re treated like children,” said one unnamed employee. “Is it any wonder that after a while you begin to behave like a child?”
Yale and the unions, responding to the report in a joint statement, described it as “sobering” and “cause for great concern.”
Among the issues sure to come up in negotiations are the unionization drives among graduate teaching assistants at Yale and workers at Yale–New Haven Hospital. Locals 34 and 35 want Yale to adopt a policy of “card-count neutrality” on these unionization efforts, which means that the University and its management would not take a position on unionization and that the union would be recognized if enough employees sign authorization cards. But the University says that workers should decide the question in a secret-ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.
The University will be publishing updates on the negotiations at www.yale.edu/opa/labor. For the unions' position, go to www.yaleunions.org/neg.
Talbott Leaving to Head Brookings
Strobe Talbott '68, the former deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, who came to Yale last summer to lead the new Center for the Study of Globalization, is returning to Washington, D.C., to become the president of the Brookings Institution. Talbott said he will stay at Yale until he assumes the new post on September 1.
Talbott’s decision to leave so soon after the launch of the interdisciplinary center was a surprise to many. Talbott says that he “certainly didn’t plan to leave this early,” but that the chance to run the prominent D.C. think tank “was such a unique opportunity for me that I could not turn it down.” President Levin concurred, saying that the Brookings job was “an irresistible offer” for Talbott.
The Center for the Study of Globalization is intended to study the causes and effects of increased global interdependence. Still in temporary offices on Whitney Avenue, it is to be housed in the historic Davies Mansion, which is being renovated with funds from Corporation member Roland Betts '68. Betts House, as the mansion will be called, will also house the newly created World Fellows Program. Talbott’s wife, Brooke Shearer, is currently serving as executive director of that program, but will also leave in September.
While the Center is still in its infancy, its mission gained currency after the September 11 attacks. In the Center’s first major initiative, Talbott and the center’s publications director, Nayan Chanda, edited a book on the international aftermath of the attacks featuring essays by several Yale faculty members. “Whatever I do in my remaining career,” said Talbott, “I’ll always be uniquely proud of what Rick Levin has given me a chance to do: start something from scratch.”
New Hat in Biotech Ring
The announcement in January that Rib-X, a New Haven-based biotech startup designed to exploit Yale discoveries in molecular biology and chemistry, had secured $22 million in venture capital funding is one sign that New Haven’s biotechnology boom is going strong.
“This is a landmark deal,” says Matthew Rothman ’00, a spokesman for EuclidSR Partners, the venture capital firm that arranged the financing. “It’s the biggest deal of its kind in Connecticut history, and it was one of the largest in the country last year.”
Despite the recession, health care companies attracted considerable interest from venture capitalists in 2001. Rib-X currently has only about a dozen employees in its offices and laboratories in Science Park, but it secured major funding, Rothman explained, because the technology it has licensed through Yale shows significant potential in the rapid development of new and custom-designed antibiotics.
The company, which is in the process of expanding its staff and moving to larger headquarters at 300 George Street, grew out of work published two years ago in Science magazine by biochemists Thomas Steitz and Peter Moore. In a paper other investigators hailed as a “milestone,” the researchers provided a highly detailed structure of a key component of the ribosome, the site in the cell where genetic information is used to manufacture the proteins required for life. The work was quickly seen as science with commercial possibilities, and the two researchers founded Rib-X.
“The ribosome is a major target for antibiotics, and one of the major problems we’re beginning to encounter is antibiotic resistance,” says Steitz, a Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. “Unfortunately, developing new antibiotics has often been a matter of shooting in the dark.”
The ability to look for vulnerable sites on the ribosome, coupled with drug design software invented by Yale chemist and Rib-X cofounder William Jorgensen, should give the fledgling company the tools to eliminate much of the time-consuming, trial-and-error aspects of drug development.
Land Flap Leads to a Donation
Yale investment officer David Swensen is by now famous for his successful strategy of investing more than half of the University’s endowment funds in so-called alternative investments such as venture capital, gas, oil, timber, and real estate. The strategy has drawn favorable reviews from portfolio managers, but in late January it attracted attention of a very different sort in Colorado when yaleinsider.org—a Web site maintained by the Federation of Hospital and University Employees—revealed that Yale was a partial owner in the Baca Ranch, a 100,000-acre expanse of sage brush and sand dunes south of Denver. Several years ago, the ranch was at the center of a controversial plan by its consortium of owners to “mine” water from a deep aquifer below the largely arid site and sell the valuable commodity to growing communities near Denver. Residents of the San Luis Valley feared that the plan, which required the passage of a state referendum, would deplete their own sources of water, and environmentalists registered concern that water-mining would destroy an adjacent, ecologically unique area known as the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.
After a bruising battle, the development plan was defeated, as were subsequent court challenges, and the partners decided to sell the property, which they had bought in 1996 for $15 million, to the Nature Conservancy for $31.3 million. The organization then planned to sell the ranch to the U.S. government to create the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
The FUHE-researched revelation that the Yale had played a part, albeit a silent and, according to the University, an inadvertent one, in the bitter controversy prompted angry denunciations of Yale and its policies. But when U.S. senator Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) called President Levin demanding an explanation and an apology on January 24, he came away with something better. Noting that Yale had “no intention of harming the citizens of Colorado,” Levin dropped the asking price for the land by several million dollars and agreed to donate the University’s profits on its sale for conservation use.
Senator Allard was pleased. “President Levin was willing to listen, and he understood the issues,” he said. “We’re saving the San Luis Valley’s water, and we’re saving the taxpayers money. This is a good deal for everyone and the environment.”
Lin to Face Lee in Corporation Race
The University committee responsible for nominating candidates for alumni fellow of the Yale Corporation has selected Maya Lin '81, ‘86MArch, to share the ballot with the Reverend Dr. W. David Lee '93MDiv, who is mounting the first petition-based candidacy for the office in 37 years. Alumni of the College (excluding those who graduated after 1996) and of the graduate and professional schools are eligible to vote in the election and will receive their ballots in the mail this month.
Lee submitted a petition with 4,870 alumni signatures in October, more than the 3,252 required to secure his place on the ballot. In a typical year, the Alumni Fellow Nominating Committee of the Association of Yale Alumni chooses two or three candidates to put before the alumni. At its meeting last month, the committee chose Lin as its only candidate.
Elections for alumni fellow are usually conducted without formal campaigning. The ballots, which are customarily the only election materials, include only a biographical note on each candidate and a photograph. Lee has campaigned openly, sending brochures to alumni, promoting his candidacy on a Web site, holding fund-raising events, and securing endorsements from local politicians, including New Haven mayor John DeStefano Jr. and New Haven-area congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.
Lee, a former football player at Syracuse University, holds a doctorate in theology from United Theological Seminary. Pastor of the Varick Memorial AME Zion Church on Dixwell Avenue, he has urged Yale to increase its attention to New Haven’s problems. He has received financial backing for his candidacy from Yale’s unions, whose cause he has long supported. He was quoted last year in the newsletter of locals 34 and 35 as telling a union rally that “a ten-billion-dollar corporation like Yale cannot continue to pay poverty wages and exploit its workers,” and that “Yale has met its Waterloo” in the alliance of the University’s unions.
Lin, an artist who lives in New York City, is best known for winning the competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., while still an undergraduate. She also designed the Civil Rights Memorial in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Women’s Table, a monument on the Cross Campus that is dedicated to women at Yale. She received an honorary doctorate from the University in 1987. “It would be thrilling to come home to Yale and help with the unfolding design of our alma mater,” says Lin.
Lasaga Sentenced to 20 Years
Former geology professor Antonio Lasaga was sentenced to 20 years in prison on February 15 after he pleaded “no contest” to charges that he sexually assaulted a boy he had met through a mentoring program. Earlier that week, a federal judge gave Lasaga a 15-year sentence on child pornography charges. The sentences are to be served concurrently; Lasaga will remain in federal custody until he completes that portion of his sentence. Lasaga’s lawyer Diane Polan '73, ‘80JD, says he will appeal the federal sentence, which is more severe than the 9 to 11 years that federal guidelines recommend.
Lasaga is a leading geochemist whose colleagues described him at his sentencing hearing as “brilliant” and “Nobel Prize material.” He was master of Saybrook College from 1996 to 1998, when he was discovered to have downloaded images of child pornography on his computer in the geology department. A subsequent FBI raid of the Saybrook master’s house and his office turned up nearly 150,000 such images, including explicit video tapes of the boy apparently taken over a six-year period.
President Levin, acting on advice of a University tribunal, revoked Lasaga’s tenure last year. Lasaga appealed to the Yale Corporation, which upheld Levin’s action. Meanwhile, the victim’s mother has filed a lawsuit against Lasaga, Yale, and the New Haven Board of Education, which ran the mentoring program through which Lasaga met the boy.
Ancient Science, Winter Blues
More than 2,000 years ago, physicians had a surprisingly modern prescription for a common complaint, the winter blues. People afflicted by what is now known as “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD, were often told simply to go south to combat a buildup of “humors”—components in the blood thought to influence mood.
Migrating south, at least temporarily, remains a kind of self-medication against the depression that affects as many as one quarter of all residents of northern climates. In an upcoming issue of Biological Psychiatry, associate professor of psychiatry Dan Oren and his colleagues at the School of Medicine and the Department of Veterans Affairs have shown that the ancients were on to something.
Oren explains that SAD is a response to decreased levels of light. If a Caribbean holiday isn’t an option (there are more hours of winter sunlight in the south than the north), doctors now prescribe early morning exposure to strong fluorescent lights to trick the body into believing it’s actually spring.
“I’ve been curious about the chemistry of the process,” says Oren. “There had to be a molecule that was mediating the effect. It couldn’t be voodoo.”
In plants, a substance called phytochrome is known to play a key role in helping them track changes in daylength, and Oren believes he has found a similar time-keeping chemical in animals. Ironically, the light- measuring molecule appears to be one of the ancient humors, a yellow pigment in the blood called bilirubin.
Modern researchers have long believed that bilirubin was “a useless waste product,” says Oren, but its chemical similarity to phytochrome prompted the researcher to theorize in 1996 that bilirubin helped set the body’s biological clock. He also suspected that changes in bilirubin levels might somehow be setting the stage for SAD.
In the current study, Oren and his colleagues measured the night-time bilirubin concentration of nine men and women with SAD. It was significantly lower than that of seven volunteers who did not have winter depression. However, after two weeks of light therapy, the SAD patients experienced significant improvement in their symptoms; their night-time bilirubin level also increased toward the normal range.
No one knows how the molecule might work in the body to influence mood, and Oren is quick to label his findings as preliminary. But while he and his colleagues conduct a larger investigation, the researcher has a prudent suggestion for how anyone feeling, well, bilious, in winter might raise their bilirubin levels—just in case. If neither a southern journey nor light therapy is possible, certain vegetables are known to increase the body’s production of bilirubin. “You could always eat more broccoli,” says Oren.
Andrea Goldberg '02 is the number-one singles player on the women’s tennis team and an activist for women’s reproductive rights. But she also has a dark secret. “My guilty pleasure is fashion magazines,” says Goldberg. “I read them all the time while I’m working out.”
Lucky for her. Paging through an issue of Glamour last year, Goldberg read about a scholarship competition that would choose “Ten Women Who Could Change the World.” Goldberg applied and won, earning $2,000, a spread in the magazine, an appearance on the CBS “Early Show,” and a chance to network with powerful women at a luncheon in New York.
Goldberg’s own plan to change the world is as a future president of Planned Parenthood—after a year at Oxford (as the winner of Yale’s Henry Fellowship) and medical school. The Albuquerque, New Mexico, native says her pro-choice stance is intimately linked with her athleticism. “As an athlete, I’m used to having control over my body and the way it performs,” she says. “And I chafe at people telling me what decisions I should make about it.” She also intends to champion universal health coverage.
Despite the distractions at hand, Goldberg says she is focused on her final season on the team. Last year, the women had their best season in 12 years, taking second place in the Ivy League and beating Harvard in Cambridge for the first time since 1979. Coach Meagan McMahon left on that high note at the end of the season to spend more time with her family. The new coach, Chad Skorupka, inherited all of last year’s starting players. But Goldberg says that while the team is experienced, Harvard and last year’s champion Penn are stronger than last year, too. The team’s conference schedule begins this month.
As part of a general sprucing up of the University Theater, the Yale seal on the building’s York Street façade has gone polychrome.
Sunita Puri '02 and Shayna L. Strom '02, who were freshman suitemates in Vanderbilt Hall, won Yale’s share of this year’s Rhodes Scholarships. Harvard had the most Rhodes winners (five); Duke and West Point each had three. Strom is also one of four Yale students and alumni to win Marshall Scholarships, along with Zachary Kaufman ’00, Jennifer Nou '02, and Krishanti Vignarajah '01.
A vacant lot near the Grove Street Cemetery may soon be the site of a Yale Police station. The University bought the former American Linen site on Lock Street in November. Vice president Bruce Alexander says the site may also include community facilities for the adjacent neighborhood.
If you’re looking for a good reason not to pierce your tongue, talk to Richard Martinello. The doctor at the School of Medicine recently wrote up the case of a patient who developed a brain abscess as a result of infection from a lingual piercing. The patient recovered after treatment with intravenous antibiotics.
Yale law professors led opposition to President Bush’s plan to establish military tribunals for terrorism suspects. A Yale-authored letter signed by more than 700 law professors said the tribunals are “legally deficient, unnecessary, and unwise.”
A federal jury found in favor of the University in December in a civil rights lawsuit brought by a former Divinity School student. Christopher Harris, who was evicted from School housing after withdrawing from his classes, asked for $10 million and reinstatement at the School, charging that Yale had discriminated against him because of his race (he is African American) and his disability (he is legally blind).
From the Collections
Dr. Edward Clark Streeter, an avid collector of weights and measures, believed that “metrology is the foundation of all science.” He gave his collection, including this set of nesting weights made in Nuremberg in the 18th century, to the Medical Historical Library in 1941. Selections from the collections will soon be on view at the library’s Web site.
Not since 1962 has the men’s basketball team been 7-1 in Ivy League play, but the team achieved that mark in February after back-to-back wins at home over perennial Ivy powers Penn and Princeton. The victories put the team in first place in the league.
Fencer Sada Jacobson '04, who went unde- feated and won the NCAA championship in women’s sabre last year, has been awarded the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame’s Marty Glickman Award. The national award is given annually to an outstanding Jewish scholar-athlete.
After 104 years of competition, the men’s swim team notched its 1,000th win on February 2, beating Princeton but falling to Harvard in a three-way meet at the Kiphuth Memorial Pool. The team is believed to be the first ever to reach the milestone.
The Yale Bowl may be in line for a $25-million renovation. The Office of Facilities has submitted a feasability study to the President, but a final decision on the renovation and its scale will depend on fund-raising efforts and cost estimates. Former coach Carm Cozza is spearheading a fund drive among football alumni.
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