Emeritus Faculty Association news March 2014
Friday March 7th, 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library. Angelique Corthals of Pathology, will talk on forensic anthropology.
Abstract: The study of ancient civilizations has fascinated archeologists and the public for centuries. The focus of the majority of studies has been on objects and cultural records, rather than on the historical ecology of diseases and biology. Now forensic anthropology attempts to extract key information from ancient remains by incorporating forensic and genetic techniques. Tissues can be screened for DNA related to tuberculosis or malaria. Human DNA can be studied to determine the spread of disease. Combined with ancient texts, paleoclimate and paleodemography studies, forensic anthropology helps to generate modeling of disease transmission or population migration patterns. By combining multiple sources of evidence, forensic anthropology advances our understanding of ancient civilizations in a time of widespread environmental change, including climate fluctuations. As a specific example Dr. Corthals will discuss her work on the Children of Llullaillaco Frozen Bodies.
Bio: Dr. Angelique Corthals earned her doctorate at Oxford and has researched and taught at the American Museum of Natural History, the University of Manchester (UK) and CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her work has focused on the study of human and non-human remains for forensic purposes and on the study of the pathogenesis of autoimmune and infectious diseases, both in ancient and modern populations. She has studied human and non-human remains in major museums, on crime scene and on archaeological sites around the world. In December of 2011, she published a major review on the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis, where she shifted the framework of understanding the disease. Since 2009, she has also been a consultant on HIV viral load diagnostic technology for Doctors without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres) in Geneva and South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi. She has been involved both off and on camera in the IMAX movie Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs, Discovery Channel's Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen and most recently, National Geographic's Explorer series Child Mummy Sacrifice. She is a consultant for the television series CSI and Bones and has been a consultant for the building of the first ancient DNA laboratory for the purpose of studying ancient Egyptian mummies at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Sam Bradfield: passed away 16 October 2012 in Melbourne, Fla., at the age of 94. He was the first chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department starting in 1961. Dr. Bradfield had over 50 years experience designing and sailing hydrofoils. Many of Dr. Bradfield's associates pursued hydrofoil technology for military purposes. In contrast, he dedicated his career to a commercial market of his own creation - that being the demand for hydrofoil systems for everyday sailors and racers. As president of HydroSail Inc., Dr. Bradfield developed a product line of watercraft including coastal and ocean racers of up to 37 feet which are recognized to this day as unique and marvels of engineering; see for example the article Takeoff Window, Professional BoatBuilder, October/November 2012. In 2010 the International Hydrofoil Society presented the award of life membership to Dr. Bradfield for devoting a significant part of his life and energies to the advancement of hydrofoil sailing.
Announcements: from Judy Wishnia:
1. We are no longer being subsidized for our UNUM insurance which covers a $1000 death benefit and travel insurance. The cost of coverage is now very high. We will be covered until June 30 and we are looking into other alternatives. State employees do get a $3000 death benefit. Note: This doesn't come automatically but has to be pre-applied for. Marty Liebowitz is researching it and the results will be posted on our website.
2. The Cuomo budget for SUNY is not good. It is a flat budget, no funds to make up for the money lost in the past few years. As of this year, the state pays only 23% of the SUNY budget, student tuition and fees pay for 75% of the budget. Most critically, funds were cut for the hospitals. The effort to save Downstate is now supported by the national union AFT because the demise of Downstate hospital and medical school is a symbol of what is happening in the state and the nation. It is more than denying medical care to the poor of Brooklyn, but a desire to privatize SUNY hospitals. Both the governor and the chancellor have indicated that they want to get out of the hospital business. Public hospitals are crucial because they do what private hospitals will not do. For example, Stony Brook has an expensive burn center, much needed and supported by the local fire departments. No private hospital would carry such an expensive department.
3. For retirees, once again the Governor's budget wants to renege on the repayment for Part B of medicare for retirees who now pay more because of the IRMAA means test. This especially affects members in TIAA/CREF because retirees are required to take out money each year and that brings them over the top limit. We are hopeful that the legislature will reject this as they did two years ago.
from Joel Rosenthal:
Anyone who published in 2013 and who wants to be included in the annual "authors & editors" leaflet and wine-and-cheese(?) should contact Ann Brody in Conferences and Special Events, (Ann.Brody@stonybrook.edu). Ann will be delighted to include the elderly as well as the youthful.
Featured Talk: The speaker Eric Rabkin, Associate Provost for Online Education was introduced by David Smith who is the editorial correspondent in following summary (for bio see Feb newsletter).
Dr Rabkin started out by making clear that online education is not the same as massive open online courses (MOOCs), although the emergence of MOOCs in the last few years has drawn more attention to the subject. For example our own school of nursing as well as our school of professional development (SPD) have been offering distance learning for many years. In fact the process of acquiring knowledge has been continuously changing. From the original form of back and forth dialog between professor and student, it first changed with the onset of the written word. So when Plato wrote down the teachings of Socrates he tried to portray it in the dialog form. Even later in England, the Oxbridge model of education was based largely on discussion between tutor and student, with lectures optional and exams given only at the end of the second and third years.
Rabkin himself has been using online communication in his courses since the early 70's. His first MOOC in 2012 had 40,000 students and the grading of essays was by student peer review, with the option to flag to the instructor only the suspicious ones. He says that some 15% finished the course with but 20 essays flagged, only 3 of which were shown to be plagiarized. His most recent MOOC had 8,000 students and he thinks plagiarism was not a problem. He distinguishes the feedback to student questions as either synchronous, in which the students can have immediate dialog (like an online chat-room), versus asynchronous, more like an online bulletin board. According to one of the founders of Coursera (Daphne Koller), in her company's courses the average time for a student to get an answer (usually from some other student) is 22 minutes, 24/7. Of course until now MOOCs have been free, with no credit given. In this sense, 2014 will be a critical year, as fees and credit are added. For example this spring semester Georgia Tech in association with the company Udacity is starting their online MS degree in Computer Science for a total student cost under $7000, versus the onsite tuition of $20,000 not counting dormitory and meal fees. Our own chancellor has written a contract with Coursera to launch MOOCs at SUNY starting this fall. Also this year the Open SUNY program starts with a plan to crank it up to 100,000 students by 2017. The first SBU contribution to this is the Electrical Engineering BSc program, utilizing pre-packaged experiment sets and apps to morph the student's online monitor into a meter or oscilloscope. Eric rhapsodized as how in the near future a poor son of Mongolia or his own grandsons might be facilitated to more easily follow their star and achieve success. However in answer to a question, he divided US universities into three groupings: (1) The Harvards and MITs who take the attitude that they will create the best MOOCs which others can use, and that they are rich enough not to worry about attracting resident students; (2) Community colleges and such who would realize that such materials available online were much better then they could ever provide themselves, and (3) the rest in between (like USB?) who think they are going to be exporters not importers. What is really in store for them? Perhaps as this scene develops, Associate Provost Rabkin could be in a hot seat.
Since this is such a pregnant subject, this month your correspondent is taking the liberty of merging the question time into a sort of postscript discussion (for which of course he himself takes the large part of the blame). The spirit of this is not so much to question Dr Rabkin, but to try to assist in the debate at USB and SUNY as it develops, that the many sides of the issue should be raised. And to fit the action to the topic, we are available online (well, - at least on website and email!)
In some quarters online instruction and MOOCs are being presented as a completely new model of education. Maybe they should rather be viewed as a continuing evolution in the way we teach, as our speaker alluded in his introduction. After all, for most of the courses we taught, we selected a textbook authored by one of the leaders in the area of the course and tailored our teaching to that, as well as working with the students through the problems at the end of the chapters. Should we not treat available MOOCs in a similar way? And many of us have been making the text of our lectures and assignments available online for years. In an era of lowered state support and rising student tuition, our own SUNY administration in Albany appears to be thinking of this largely as a way to save money. But the time and cost of doing it right should not be underestimated, as, from his own experience, one of our own members (Elof Carlson) has commented. As other examples: at UNC they required a team of more than 13 core members including a producer, a writer, a videographer, an animator, a cameraman, a teleprompter operator, two research assistants, a librarian, and an attorney (to resolve copyright issues), and estimated the cost per course at $150,000; Udacity budgets $200,000 for each course it makes, and in its partnership with the Georgia MS program referred above, Udacity expects to double its costs to $400,000 per course; EdX gives its partners the option of producing a MOOC on their own and then submitting the finished product to EdX, or else paying for EdX's design and consulting services at a rate of $250,000 per course plus another $50,000 each time the course is re-run. In our own session, the first question that came up was, for some areas outside of the hard sciences, say language or music performance skills, is it in fact possible to acquire these remotely? But even in the so-called "STEM" areas, would you want someone remotely assessed and graduated designing the bridges and airplanes on which you ride? For as the New Yorker cartoon explained (and our speaker quoted) "on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog". So how can individual questions and assessments be handled remotely? As referenced in last month's newsletter, the NY Times reported that in MOOCs nationally, only some 8% of registered students complete (some sources report less). After the low completion rates began to emerge, Coursera embarked on a plan to create worldwide "hubs" where students could physically meet with facilitators. In this case maybe OpenSUNY has a chance to do this right. After all we already have bricks and mortar all over the state (why do we need to pay Coursera for hubs?). But will OpenSUNY, like the utilization of MOOCs internationally, accelerate the divergence of academia into elitist and underprivileged camps? As we heard from Judy, at some SUNY campuses like Cortland and New Palz already 50% of their faculty are adjuncts. And as we learn from articles in the press, some adjuncts scurry from site to site, without office space or benefits, trying to make a living. If this is the model for the hubs to be, will the student experience be improved? Going back to the speaker's Oxbridge example, Master degrees were awarded automatically on the basis that an Oxbridge batchelor degree plus a year of life experience was the equal of MS programs at "redbrick" universities. And many Oxbridge students, who had not in fact attended many lectures, actually advertised their services afterwards as eg: "failed BSc(Oxon)", fully expecting to be preferred over those who had earned degrees elsewhere. Speaking as someone who dropped out of school at 16 to help support the family, working each day on the factory floor from 8am to 6pm, biking to 15 hours per week of extension classes evenings and weekends, no time to do any homework and little time to sleep or eat, well - been there, done that. Had the technology been available I wonder whether MOOCs would have helped me then. But from what I now know, what I could definitely have used would have been a place like Stony Brook, as it is now.