Emeritus Faculty Association news November - December 2008

Next Meeting:
The next meeting will be Friday, November 7th, at 10.30 am. in the usual location, Javits room, library 2nd floor. The speaker will be Distinguished Professor Clinton Rubin, Chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Director of the Center for Biotechnology speaking on the subject of "Stemming Osteoporosis and Obesity by Low Magnitude Mechanical Signals or, My Transition from Bone-Head to Fat-Head." Professor Rubin's department has developed a multidisciplinary graduate and undergraduate program around the many faculty at Stony Brook (Engineering and School of Medicine) and Brookhaven Laboratories who are working on issues related to Biomedical engineering and Biotechnology. The Center for Biotechnology was founded for the mission of forging linkages between academic scientists in New York State and industry. The Center now counts among its affiliates more than 200 corporations.

Last Meeting
The Second Stewart Harris Memorial Lecture on Environmental Issues will be held on Wednesday, October 29th at 1PM in the Engineering Building, Room 231. The title of the lecture is "Global Climate Change: the Human Driver, the Knowns and Unknowns" and will be presented by Dr. Minghua Zhang, Professor and Director of the Institute for Terrestrial and Planetary Atmospheres and Associate Dean of Stony Brook's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Stewart Harris was the former Dean of Engineering who passed away suddenly four years ago.
There will be a service on Thursday, November 6, at 4:00 p.m. in the Wang Center Chapel for Eli Seifman, Distinguished Service Professor of Social Science, who died October 1 while in the hospital for byass surgery. Eli had a long and distinguished career at Stony Brook. ╩He served in many leadership roles, including Director of the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education (1988-2001); Chair of the Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Program (1978-2001); Director of Teacher Education (1976-1999); Director of the Social Studies Secondary Teacher Education Program (1973-2001); and, Chair of the Department of Education (1965-1970). ╩After his retirement, he was the Program Coordinator for Stony Brook Manhattan (2002-2004) and Director of the State University Urban Teacher Education Center from 2004 until his death.
Also there will be a memorial service for Bernard Semmel in the Wang Center Chapel, Monday 1st December at 10am.
Finally he announced the memorial service for Egon Neuberger, former dean of social and behavioral sciences. This event has now been held, with a number of our members in attendance, and a brief account follows: A number of the speakers recalled him as an effective and very fair administrator during very difficult budgetary times. Egon himself always said that, rather than an administrator, he regarded himself primarily as a scholar (and he was). However, among the things he did while he was not an administrator was to found our own Emeritus Faculty Association as well as the Round Table - now called the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (click on the link on the right hand side of our own web page headed "for senior citizens"). Among the personal recollections at the service were those of President Kenny who recalled the occasion not long before his passing when she encountered Egon riding his bicycle in Old Field during the very difficult time that her own son was dying from leukhemia. After consoling her, Egon added quietly "I have it too".
The main event.
Co-chair Howard Scarrow introduced two of his Political Science colleagues to talk about the forthcoming presidential election, by saying that after we had watched the Joe and Sarah show (the VP debate) the previous night, we were now going to hear the Stan and Leonie show. For biographical details of Professors Stanley Feldman and Leonie Huddy please see last month's newsletter on the news archives.
Leonie started with a summary of the latest opinion polls from the Pew charitable trusts. (see http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_detail.aspx?id=292 .
For the latest situation on the red/blue state of the states, she pointed to the site named after the number of electoral votes: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/ .
These results should be seen against a background in which the polls are usually erratic until around the time of the first presidential debate when people really start to pay attention. And after that perceptions formed are usually very difficult to change as October proceeds (the only exception to this was Carter/Reagan). The poll of likely voters of September 27-29 showed that going from a situation in mid September which had been essentially a tie, Obama had moved significantly ahead 49%/43% after the economic crisis broke. On the separate issues, although McCain was still seen as better qualified to lead and to deal with Iraq and terrorism, Obama had moved ahead on the economy, energy, and understanding the needs of ordinary people. On the question of dealing with taxes, a subject much emphasized by the Republicans, Obama had moved ahead among women and young people (this was interpreted by at least one member of the audience as indicating that women are smarter). All this must be seen in the light of George W. Bush now having the lowest general approval rating (22%) ever recorded for a president in office. Even among Republicans, the percentage rating the economy as good has gone from 70 to 14.
Stan then took the floor to discuss related psychological issues. In this election there are two important unknowns coming into play for the first time: a presidential candidate of black ancestry, and a significant number of people with cell phones only.
As late as the 1960's a majority of the US population would not vote for a black candidate. In recent polls the general percentage who said race was a factor in their decision was down to 14, and in recent elections 10% of white Democrats did not vote for a black (although this varies by state, eg: MS 22, OH 15, PA 12). Overlaid on this, the tendency of pre-polls to over-estimate support for a black candidate by up to 6% is called the "Bradley effect" after the campaigns of the former LA mayor. However, evidence since the mid 90's including the primary elections of this year seems to show that on average across the country this effect has now gone away, ie: voters not intending to vote for a black will now tell that to pollers.
The question of people whose only phone is cell is important because those are typically not reached by polling and most are young, often voting for the first time. New evidence from people with cell phones and no land line seems to indicate a strong prefence for Obama 55%/36%. But these people are less likely to vote: Among 18-29 year olds, land-line vs cell, the percentages registered to vote is 64/60, while the percentages who always vote is only 41/23.

The election, continued
The talk was followed by a long and vigorous Q&A session. During this we learned about a certain campaign button featuring an Alaskan moose. In the interests of full disclosure your correspondent must here reveal his own bias: I am pro (wild) life. I want one of those buttons. Regarding our speakers' comments that the candidates are giving New York State a pass, I quote from a speech given at the unveiling this Summer of the historical marker on the colonial road used by George Washington - "No US president has seen fit to visit this campus since". Finally, the economic events of this first two weeks in October cast my mind back to an old quote of Everett Dirkson, minority leader of the senate in the 60's, which now seems exceedingly quaint. He said "A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money".

We are still there
This for readers of our snail mail version: The university web page has a new look. You can now find "For Faculty and Staff" right above the red "Stony Brook University" heading. After clicking on that you proceed as before, with the Emeritus Faculty Association tab in its usual place.