Emeritus Faculty Association news February 2014

changed location of website
Those of you receiving this by email please note that the university has slightly changed our location. On the stonybrook site, go as usual to the "For Faculty & Staff" listing, but at this point look across to the right under the " resources" subheading.

Next Meeting:
Friday February 7th, 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library.
Eric Rabkin will talk on Online Education & Stony Brook: Past, Present, and Future: Massive online education is coming. How does it feel so far? What can we do better? What should we do differently? What may and should the future of education hold?
Bio: Born 1946, raised in New York City and educated at Stuyvesant H.S., Cornell University (A.B., 1967), and the University of Iowa (Ph.D., 1970), Erik Rabkin joined the University of Michigan in 1970, reaching full professor by 1977. As Associate Dean in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts in1979-83, he helped guide College-wide restructuring during difficult economic times. Among his teaching awards was the Golden Apple given annually by UM students for the outstanding teacher. His research interests include fantasy and science fiction, graphic narrative, the quantitative study of culture, traditional literary criticism and theory, and academic computing. Rabkin has over one-hundred-seventy publications, including thirty-four books written, co-written, edited, or co-edited. He is the founder of Write On Target, a corporate communications consulting firm. He was recognized by Adobe for his innovative use of Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop in the curriculum of the English course Technology and the Humanities. In 2012 he offered the world's first writing-intensive massive open online course (MOOC) Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. This was given free of charge to everyone on the Coursera platform. He joined USB in the newly created position of Associate Provost for Online Education last September. Also last September, a provost&$39;s commission on MOOCs issued its initial report, see: http://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/provost/documents/MOOCs%20Task%20Force%20Report.pdf . This report was generally optimistic, and recommended 5 initial MOOCs to start at USB in 2014. Meanwhile, nationally, MOOCs have been having some problems, in particular the very low percentage of the registrants found to actually view all the lectures and complete the courses, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/11/us/after-setbacks-online-courses-are-rethought.html?_r=0 . Eric has also experienced some problems himself with MOOC student plagiarism. His job now will be to design a model for Stony Brook which can surmount these difficulties and also assess the impact of the chancellor's new SUNY online initiative. This program, also gets off to a start this year with 8 SUNY programs going online for students statewide, including from Stony Brook the EE BSc course sequence, see: http://sb.cc.stonybrook.edu/news/general/011414_OpenSUNY_Plus.php?=marquee2

In Memoriam:
Henry (Bill) Morrison, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, died 8 October at the age of 82. He came to Stony Brook in 1967 and retired in 1992, after serving as Director of Graduate Studies and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies in Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Amiri Baraka, Emeritus Professor of Africana Studies, beat poet, playwright, and activist, died on Thursday, 9th January, at the age of 79. A comprehensive obituary appeared the next day in the NY Times, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/arts/amiri-baraka-polarizing-poet-and-playwright-dies-at-79.html?_r=1 . Born Everett Leroy Jones, Baraka taught at Stony Brook starting in 1979, although in recent years he lived most of the time at his home in Newark.

Last Meeting:
Ira Rezak, one of our members, talked about numismatics, and especially with respect to medals and the history of medicine. He related how his interest in the subject was sparked from an early age when one of his usual silver dollars from his parents turned out by mistake to be an old dutch coin. Which led to his side hobby for the last 70 years, after his day job as a pulmonary physician. Ira has by now amassed one of the largest collections of medals in private hands and is particularly interested in researching the social contexts of his treasures. Medals issued to commemorate special occasions are intended to bond a certain group and for this purpose they need to have a special significance to those people. Thus, in the most famous book on the subject, Dialogue of Warlike and Amorous Devices, Paolo Giovio, 16th century physician, historian, biographer, and prelate in Italy, wrote that "the design should not be so obscure as to require a Sibyl to interpret it, nor so plain that all the vulgar crowd can understand it". In the case of both medals and coins, the front is usually a portrait while on the reverse some kind of design, which could be historical or heraldic. Part of the purpose here is that the importance of the monarch or other important person depicted, should be more widely disseminated. Medals were issued to commemorate the noble and virtuous in the spirit of Thomas More who said "Images of notable men should be set up for the perpetual memory of their good acts, that the glory and renown of the ancestors may stir and provoke their posterity to virtue" (of course he ended up without his head). As a first example Ira showed a medal in his collection issued in 1768 with the image of Catherine the Great, to commemorate the control in her reign of smallpox by variolation. This consisted of rubbing pulverized smallpox scabs or pustules into superficial scratches made on the skin and was actually was a very risky procedure. But it did reduce the occurrence or severity of the disease as well as infecting about 10% of people who wouldn't have had it otherwise. And it did lead some two decades or so later to more sophisticated methods of inoculation using cowpox, and eventually the widespread use of vaccination. Another example was a medal honoring Dr. Guillotin, an important physician of the time. After the medal was issued, his association with the guillotine caused his family to petition the French government to rename it, and when the government refused, they instead changed their own family name. As the practice of medal giving developed commemorative occasions were organized in which the honoree received his medal in gold and the rest of the attendees in bronze. Eventually, medals became much more common, and especially among doctors, if they could not get anyone else to issue a medal in their honor they even awarded medals to themselves. Ira went through many examples from his collection ending with one given to Sigmund Freud at his 50th birthday dinner. On one side was his profile and on the other a depiction with a greek inscription of oedipus confronting the sphinx (this certainly met the Giovio criterion!). Freud said that this brought to fruition a dream he had in his sleep 25 years earlier. Evidently some medals can be considerably more valuable than the gold or silver contained, witness when Francis Crick's Nobel medal sold to a chinese collector for over $2million. Mr Rezak didn't mention what kind of value his own collection might have. But as the talk continued he did send around through the audience various medals and coins that he talked of. And perhaps because emeritus members were raised in a different era, he even got them all back at the end.

Affordable Health Care Woes
Supposedly, even though the federal site has had problems, the state site works much better. Or so said Paul Krugman. So here follows one persons's view of registration at this site so far, compiled by your correspondent David Smith. Start in October with step 1: sign in with birthdate, social security number, driving license#, address, etc. The message we are unable to confirm your identity appears. So get on the phone to the troubleshooting call-waiting queue. To eventually learn that: "lots of people are having this problem" - they will mail forms which should be returned along with photocopies of the birth certificate, etc. Wait a month in which nothing whatever happens except for new blank forms appearing in the mail at intervals. Back on the call-waiting queue, learn that: What should be done is to register at the department of motor vehicles and then use that id and password on the nystateofhealth.ny.gov site. Which is when the dmv site crashes. When the dmv is back in business, sign on successfully. CHEERS! Except that back at the health site the new id and password are rejected. So get back on the call-waiting queue to be told that the use of upper and lower case, punctuation marks, and abbreviations, of every entry on the two sites must be absolutely identical. With this done the same error message as step 1 can be reached. (To be fair some government software is capable of somewhat greater generalization. Witness the time when all namesakes of Edward Kennedy were placed on the no-fly list. After the senator himself was actually thrown off a plane, this was soon corrected. And the good senator, may he rest in peace, was grateful. As were all the David Smiths in the nation (at least 4 in Stony Brook alone) who in that time found themselves in a similar predicament. (For this story your correspondent is indebted to senior reporter for the Orlando Sentinel at the time, one David Smith.) But we digress. To get back to health care registration, camp out one final time on the call-waiting queue at 855-355-5777. To learn that in this situation the only recourse is to make an appointment with a navigator who is authorized to personally vouch for your personal documents and identity. So get in line the next time a navigator is in your area (end of December). The waiting room fills with long suffering souls who look as if they took the day off from work. Three navigators with laptops arrive and announce that since the federal site is down this day, no new applications can be processed on the state site. But they will attempt to complete the process for those who have managed to start it. But both the health and dmv ids and passwords are again rejected and a new message produced: After 5 failed login attempts further logins from this machine are permanently disabled. Which is when the state site crashes. As most people in the room filter out, they are given the navigator schedule for January. In the meantime do have a happy Xmas, - and a prosperous New Year, - and DO STAY WELL.