Emeritus Faculty Association news September - October 2010

Next Meeting:
Friday October 1st, usual time and place, 10.30 am. Javits room, 2nd floor library.
Distinguished Professor of Pharmacological Sciences and Experimental Medicine, Arthur Grollman, will speak on "Manna from Hell: unraveling of an environmental mystery and clue to the discovery of a global, iatrogenic disease".
Research in the Laboratory of Chemical Biology (LCB), for which Dr Grollman serves as Director, focuses on the biological consequences of DNA damage with specific reference to molecular mechanisms of DNA replication, mutagenesis, and DNA repair. Research in the LCB was instrumental in establishing the mechanism of action of bleomycin and in defining an important error-avoidance pathway that protects cells against mutations resulting from miscoding effects of oxidative DNA damage. He and his collaborators established the three-dimensional structures of DNA glycosylases and DNA polymerases bound to site-specifically modified DNA, thereby correlating the molecular structure of damaged DNA with enzymatic function. Current research focuses on molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the nephrotoxicity of the human carcinogen, aristolochic acid.

in Memoriam
Jacob Bigeleisen: Member, regular attendee, and speaker at our meeting of February 2005, Jake died of pulmonary disease on August 7 at the age of 91. An obituary was sent out on university email by Provost Kaler on August 27.
Alec Pond died of cancer early Sunday morning, August 29, 2010. T. Alexander Pond did his doctoral work at Princeton under Robert Dicke. Aferwards he spent nine years on the faculty at Washington University before coming to Stony Brook as Chairman of the Physics Department in 1962. During his years as chair (1962-1968) he worked effectively to transform it from a small group with unexpressed aspirations into a graduate department with an international reputation. He wrote the successful proposal for the Einstein Chair with Frank Yang as its occupant. He was also instrumental in persuading John Toll to join Stony Brook as President. Later he served in a variety of administrative capacities including Executive Vice-President and Acting President. In 1982 he moved to Rutgers, where he remained for the next 20 years primarily as Executive Vice President. In 1998 he visited Stony Brook once more to receive an honorary degree. (Peter Kahn)

Last Meeting
Peter Williams, Vice Dean of the School of Medicine and Professor of Bioethics and Philosophy, spoke on "Why Americans don't deserve health insurance... or even health care."
The talk covered a large range of related topics: the right to healthcare in the US; whether we ought to take care of people; the new health care act; the redistribution of physicians; and finally a case history of a 4th year student in a Primary Care Clerkship who claimed that more tests and procedures should be given to Medicaid patients because it would increase reimbursements. Peter talked about the difference between a duty, which we should do and for which we need not receive gratitude, and a non-duty, such as saving a neighbor from his burning house. Is health care for all a duty?
After much discussion from the audience, Peter ended by offering handouts on Medicare and the New Health Care Act and a user's guide to health care reform from the AARP Bulletin.

budget hurts
In connection with the above, our UUP retirees chair Judy Wishnia sends the following news:
"As you may remember from past discussions. there is a civil service law, passed in the 70s which specifies that retirees who were state workers would be reimbursed for their contributions to Part B (just under a thousand dollars a year) Governor Pataki tried to do away with it several years ago but the court determined that one party could not abrogate a contract. Well, what Pataki could not do, our lame duck governor has managed to achieve.
In the rush to pass the budget, Paterson threatened to shut down the government unless the legislators agreed to some budget proposals. Among those proposals was the abrogation of the civil service law on Part B. Some legislators we have spoken to did not even know that was in the packet and even those who knew felt they had no choice. The result is: Part B WILL be reimbursed to state retirees but everyone covered by NYSHIP is going to contribute to the cost; that is, both active workers and retirees will now pay more: something like $38 dollars a year for single membership and $95 a year for family coverage. This doesn't sound like much BUT it is a terrible precedent: the camel's smelly nose is under the tent. Without the civil service protection the cost can continue to increase. Also worrisome is our general health coverage. Once again, every year, the legislature approves a contract which says that retirees in NYSHIP will get whatever health coverage the active workers get. We have asked for a permanent moratorium to avoid the yearly vote. Every year for the past four or five years, both houses have approved the permanent moratorium but each governor has vetoed it. Finally, as a reward for signing on to tier5 of the retirement system, NYSUT members (k-12) got permanency ... we did not, presumably because we are mostly TIAA/CREF or perhaps because we are a small union, they just didn't care about our approval or non-approval of tier5. At any rate, I am worried that given the way Part B was abrogated, we may be in trouble with health coverage. I am urging both unions (I also sit on the NYSUT retiree advisory committee) to make permanence a top priority ... I'll keep you informed."

Stony Brook, medium cool.
In recently announced results of the latest energy efficiency survey of US colleges undertaken by the Sierra Club, Stony Brook comes out with a ranking of 104 out of 162. In fairness it should be said that Amy Provenzano did a painstaking job of responding to the long questionnaire (over 700 colleges did not), and that some other campuses had an advantage in two categories that were substantially beyond our control (LIPA electricity generation and green endowment). Still it is clear from the comparison that we could do better. A number of other campuses gave guarantees that certain land areas would be retained in the natural state. Notable deficiencies pointed up are that we are playing catch up in new LEED certified buildings and refitting older ones, and in purchasing such as recycled paper and high efficiency appliances (lights and air conditioning may still be seen left on in rooms during extended periods of non-use). Your correspondent also believes we should be doing more to conserve and renew our fossil water supply. The full report may be seen at http://www.http://www.sierraclub.org/coolschools

To combat depression in retirement.
From interactions your correspondent has had over the past year it is clear that many of you are in a pessimistic mood and worry that the nation has seriously lost its way. Indeed, this anxiety now seems endemic all across the political spectrum from progressives on the left to tea-party people on the right. Also, the older people in these groups tend to think that morals and civility have declined from the time of their own heyday.
One of the advantages of retirement for me is that I have time to catch up on my reading. So I have been going back over what has been going on all these years while I was focussed on engineering and computer science.
And what I have discovered so far is that the US congress was perennially corrupt, irresponsible, and careening wildly off the rails. Perhaps my colleagues in history always knew this, but I hope this is reassuring for the rest of you. For like climate change and your retirement savings, you must not allow yourself to be distracted by fluctuations of the moment, but rather consider overall trends. Seen in this light it can be argued that (completely opposite from the two entities just mentioned) the congress has actually been improving very very slowly. And whatever Wikileaks reveals, in instances of execrable behavior around the world, the immediately preceding British empire was certainly worse.
Are you feeling better now?
So we must all retain our composure and not let our discouragement be the excuse to let up on our efforts to nudge this behemoth back onto the tracks.