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Light & Verity

Tobacco Stocks Staying in University Portfolio

After a new round of attention to its investment policies concerning tobacco, the Yale Corporation voted in April to keep its $16.9 million in tobacco-company holdings. The decision followed a unanimous recommendation against divestment by the Corporation’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, an eight-member body composed of faculty, alumni, and students.

The committee and the Corporation had last considered the issue of tobacco holdings in 1991. Since then, a handful of other colleges and universities-including Harvard, Smith, and Johns Hopkins-have sold their tobacco stocks. In addition, law professor John Simon '53LLB, who developed Yale’s ethical-investment guidelines, has recommended divestment, and a group known as Students for Corporate Responsibility collected 70 faculty signatures on a pro-divestment petition.

But a few days before the vote, the Yale Daily News weighed in with an editorial opposing divestment and invoking the argument that dumping tobacco stocks would set a difficult precedent. “There is a danger of extending the arguments for tobacco divestment down a slippery slope to include every company that has ever polluted, engaged in discrimination, or moved jobs to Mexico,” said the News.

In announcing the decision, President Richard C. Levin ’74PhD said Yale would continue to “use its voice as a shareholder” to effect change in tobacco-company policies that it considers harmful.


First Alumna Returns to Campus

When Hillary Rodham Clinton '73JD was a student at the Law School, she took advantage of a Yale resource that is not part of most people’s legal education: the Child Study Center. There she learned lessons that helped her develop her own ideas about the legal issues surrounding children and families. On April 30, Clinton came to New Haven to pay tribute to one of the center’s leading lights, child psychiatrist James P. Comer.

Clinton started her day at the other end of the campus, appearing as the semester’s final speaker in a Divinity School symposium titled “Women: Finding and Raising Your Own Voice.” She talked to the audience about her own faith, which she said is “essential to my getting up and going on every day,” and hailed the growing importance of women’s voices, citing women’s efforts against female circumcision in Senegal and in favor of a peace agreement in Northern Ireland.

After appearing at a midday campaign rally for Democratic U.S. Representative Barbara Kennelly, who is running for governor of Connecticut, Clinton spoke at the School of Medicine as part of a two-day symposium marking the 30th anniversary of Comer’s School Development Program. Founded in 1968, the 700-school program focuses on issues of child development as a means of improving schools. Clinton praised Comer for his emphasis on parental involvement in schools. “Perhaps more than anyone I know, he has taken to heart the wisdom of the African proverb I borrowed for my book-'It takes a village to raise a child'-and put it into practice.” She also took the opportunity to criticize a Republican school-voucher proposal then before Congress and advocated increased public school choice.


Wheels Turning at New Power Plant

Tom Draeger was more than a little jittery on April 15, but not because of an unfinished 1040 form. Draeger, the director of Yale’s Power Plant Modernization Program, was gearing up for the first of three tests of Yale’s new cogeneration system for producing electricity. After warning denizens of the central campus to back up computer files, avoid elevators, and use battery-powered alarm clocks in case of a power failure, the Power Plant team successfully switched over from electricity supplied by the United Illuminating Company to power generated by the new system. The second and third tests also went off without a hitch, and the system officially went online on May 14.

Three gas-fired turbines that generate electricity through the cogeneration system also produce some of the heat required to make steam for heating buildings. The new system will provide about half of Yale’s electricity, with the rest continuing to come from UI. The improvements to the plant, which cost about $100 million, will pay for themselves in energy savings, Draeger says, because the new system is significantly more efficient. The new equipment will also release less than an eighth of the pollutants of the old, keeping Yale ahead of toughening EPA regulations.

Draeger says the University could have built a plant to supply all its own electricity, but that it wanted to continue to support the local utility. “UI is a small utility, and Yale is a significant chunk of their business. We wanted to make sure to retain our relationship with them while improving our own situation.”


High School for the Career-Minded

A town-gown partnership that benefits high school students interested in healthcare will get a boost in September, when the city dedicates a new $27 million home for Career High School on Legion Avenue. The school’s 600 students get a head start on careers in health, business, and computer technology through partnerships with local institutions.

Students and faculty at the Yale Schools of Medicine and Nursing work with Career High by offering internships, mentoring, and advice on curriculum development. Medical students teach advanced anatomy to students, and the University gives the high school faculty free Internet accounts and training in information technology.

Michael J. Morand '87, '93MDiv, an assistant vice president of the University in the Office of New Haven Affairs, says the school is geared toward preparation for higher education. “The name suggests a vocational school, but it’s not,” says Morand. “Now that the school will be two blocks away [from the medical center], the opportunities for collaboration will grow exponentially.”


Name That Dinosaur!

In the annals of paleontology, menace and the surname of John Ostrom, a seemingly mild-mannered professor Emeritus of geology and geophysics, have been forever linked. This spring, fellow researchers bestowed a high honor on the curator emeritus of vertebrate paleontology at the Peabody Museum by naming a dinosaur after him.

Rahona ostromi -- which means “Ostrom’s menace from the clouds”—was a birdlike dinosaur that terrorized the landscape toward the end of the Cretaceous period, nearly 65 million years ago. About the size of a small hawk, R. ostromi was endowed with sharp, sickle-shaped claws that were used, Jurassic Park style, to eviscerate prey.

The fossil was found on the island of Madagascar several years ago by Catherine Forster of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Scott Sampson of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. The ancient creature, which had a feathered tail, “is one of the strongest last nails in the coffin of those who doubt that dinosaurs had anything to do with the origin of birds,” Forster said.

The fossil hunters proposed the name, which was recently accepted by a paleontological review team, in praise of Ostrom, a champion of the controversial—but increasingly accepted—theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs. “It’s a very exciting specimen,” said its namesake, “and a nice, flattering honor.”


Devane Medals to Lamar, Chang

Former University President Howard R. Lamar '51PhD and statistics professor Joseph T. Chang were honored in April with the William Clyde Devane Medals—the highest awards for teaching and scholarship in Yale College—by the University’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

The Devane medal honors the longtime dean of Yale College, who was also a national and local Phi Beta Kappa leader. Each year, graduate members of the society select a retired faculty member for the medal, while members from the senior class choose a current faculty member.

Lamar, the Sterling Professor Emeritus of History who was Dean of the College from 1979 to 1985 and who led the University in 1992-93, is a noted scholar of the American West. Chang, an associate professor of statistics, has taught at Yale since 1989. His research focuses on probability, quality control, and genetics and evolution.


Covert Concert: BDs at the CIA

When 14 Yale men in blue blazers filed into CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, this spring, it wasn’t a training session (as far as we know). The group was the Baker’s Dozen, a men’s a cappella singing group, which has performed for the intelligence agency on several occasions in recent years. The group gave a concert to employees before joining a luncheon with some of the 50 Yale alumni who are on the CIA’s rolls.

“People don’t believe the CIA can have fun, but we do,” says Joyce Lovelace of the agency’s communications office. Asked if the agency did any recruiting during the visit, Lovelace acknowledges “I did get a couple of names.”


Once Again, Yale’s Books Are Balanced

The University will live within its means again next year, if it meets the proposed budget for 1997-98 that was announced in May. This year’s budget was the first to be balanced after six years of spending cuts.

The University proposes to spend $1.16 billion next year, about 5 percent more than this year. Just over half that figure goes for salaries and benefits; building construction and renovation accounts for $241 million. On the revenue side, 27 percent comes from grants and contracts, 23 percent from student term bills, 19 percent from the endowment, 15 percent from medical services, and 16 percent from a variety of other sources.


Women’s Studies Expands Offerings

How could the women’s studies program attract more men? First of all, its leaders decided, rethink the name. Next fall, as the interdisciplinary program turns 20 years old, it will appear in the Blue Book as “Women’s and Gender Studies.” Further, majors will be asked to select a concentration in one of three areas: women’s studies; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies; or gender studies.

Yale’s women’s studies program, the oldest in the Ivy League, began as a track within the American Studies major before being spun off into its own program in 1978. The change in structure is designed to draw more students of both sexes into the program, whose focus has gradually broadened to encompass scholarship related to homosexuality and gender differences.

“We’re trying to repackage what we’ve been offering for some time,” says chair Margaret Homans ’74, ’78PhD, a professor of English and women’s and gender studies. “This is really just our presentation catching up to the reality of the program.”

The new track in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies comes almost a year after author and activist Larry Kramer '57 accused the University administration of homophobia when it rejected his offer to leave Yale a sum of around $5 million for two tenured positions in lesbian and gay studies. Provost Alison Richard said at the time that the field was still too new to justify professorships “that would be there in perpetuity.”

Homans says that her department is the natural home for the new lesbian and gay studies track, which does not involve the commitment of new funds. “At Yale, it was inevitable that it would come out of women’s studies,” says Homans. “No other department has had such consistent interest.”


A Little Larceny in Life’s Origins

Origin of life researchers have long wondered how the supposedly primitive first family of chemicals that floated around in a primordial soup nearly four billion years could have developed any kind of sophistication. The answer, says a Yale scientist, is relatively simple: theft.

Ron Breaker, an assistant professor of biology, explains that in the beginning, a compound called ribonucleic acid (RNA) learned to reproduce. This substance, which remains fundamental to many key life processes, then gained an upper hand in the molecular arms race a very old fashioned way. “It stole what it needed,” says Breaker.

In the May 26 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Breaker and post-doctoral research associate Adam Roth report on experiments that make use of a technique called “test tube evolution” to demonstrate the effectiveness of molecular thievery. The scientists created trillions of DNA molecules (DNA and proteins eventually overcame RNA for supremacy) and then tied them down to a kind of chemical train track. The only way off was to “steal” a pair of molecular scissors, and after nearly a dozen trial runs, Breaker and Roth were left with molecules that could extricate themselves from potential calamity 10 million times faster than their less sophisticated neighbors.

Breaker expects future experiments will show that RNA also has the ability to coopt appropriate technology, and so the “RNA-world wouldn’t stay primitive for long.” By copying the process in the laboratory, the researchers are not only retracing life’s first steps. “We’re creating new substances, in particular compounds we can use as biosensors, that may be valuable for medicine and industry,” says Breaker.  the end


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