Emeritus Faculty Association news March 2012
Friday March 2nd, usual time and place 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library. The speaker will be John Fleagle, Distinguished Professor of Anatomical Sciences in the School of Medicine, to speak on Comparing Primate Skulls: The strangeness of humans and the importance of fossils.
Bio: Professor Fleagle was born and raised in North Carolina. He received a B.S. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale and a PhD in biological Anthropology from Harvard. He came to Stony Brook in 1975. He has worked on many aspects of primate and human evolutionary biology, and conducted field research in many parts of the world, including India, Malaysia, Suriname, Argentina, Egypt, Kenya, and most recently Ethiopia. He is the founding editor of the journal Evolutionary Anthropology and is an author or editor of numerous books, including Primate Adaptation and Evolution (1988, 1999), Primate Communities (1999) and the Human Evolution Sourcebook (1992, 2005). Dr. Fleagle's research involves many aspects of evolutionary biology of higher primates, including laboratory studies of the comparative and functional anatomy of extant primates, and paleontological field research in Africa, South America, and Asia. Current research projects are concerned with four areas: (1) the evolution of monkeys, apes and humans in Africa and Asia, (2) the evolutionary history of New World monkeys, (3) ecological comparison of primate communities, and (4) comparative primate cranial morphology.
Paul Zimansky, Professor of Archaeology and Ancient History, kindly agreed to step in at short notice just 10 days after he returned from Iraq. He started by saying that Elizabeth Stone (our speaker in 2003) was really the main instigator and he was just along for the ride - for 35 years (being her husband). Saddam Hussein and the war have been a disaster for archeology in Iraq. As we have heard before from our speaker of November 2007, Donny George Youkhanna, the entry of US forces in 2003 left the National Museum in Baghdad unprotected. Paul said that it still is not back to normal use after the extensive looting. Similarly the site at Mashkan-shapir where he and Elizabeth did so much of their previous work in Iraq is now effectively obliterated. They have long wanted to go back and find another site at which they could continue their study of the Isin-Larsa period (1900-1800 BC) of ancient Mesopotamia. Thanks to the efforts of some of the Iraqi students they brought to Stony Brook, they were able to visit southern Iraq last July and set up the project they conducted over the winter break. They were permitted to use a house on the grounds of the ancient Sumerian city of Ur as a center of operations, with the approval and attendance of all kinds of officials from the prime minister's office on down, assembled an international team to explore the nearby site of Sakhariya. They first did a foot survey of the site, collecting diagnostic surface pottery shards and other objects - which fortunately did not include mines! To place trenches for soundings they employed satellite photos and magnetic field gradient surveys - techniques which they had used successfully in previous outings. The subsequent excavations however revealed that this time those techniques were not effective. For one thing there were just too many metal fragments now polluting the area. Digging to reach the plain level some 16 feet below also proved difficult because much of the site proved to be a concrete-like mudpack. Although some tablet fragments with cuneiform script from the period of interest were found, most of the artifacts (pottery and small jewelry) dated from the later Kassite. So the search for an Old Babylonian settlement there proved disappointing. Probably Sakhariya was an earlier raised temple mound which was looted for its bricks by later Kassite short-term inhabitants. But the project did yield one important result - it opened the door to further research in the area, perhaps at Ur itself.
On campus architecture
Some years ago while he was an undergrad student in the CS department, Jonathan Huang created a website uncyclopedia.org, the content-free encyclopedia. This was a satirical site that parodied Wikipedia. Indeed, it was bought out by them in 2005, while Huang was still a student here, for an offer rumored to be in the high-5-figures (he is now a developer at Google). Subsequently the project grew to span over 75 languages, with over 30,000 pages of content in the english version. As an example, the following excerpts are from the uncyclopedia article on Stony Brook architecture: "Of the numerous structures on campus, anywhere between 30-60% of them are connected by at least one bridge . . . The architect pulls out paper, draws two boxes and an equals sign. The building design is given go-ahead, creating another addition to the University in the form of a box conjugating with another box".
In contrast, you may remember that the Health Sciences complex in particular was described by one of our recent speakers as "the brutalist style of architecture".
Notwithstanding these comments, there is some evidence that the HS architecture looks better from a distance. For example: It is well known that sailors on the Sound set their steering by the building at distances up to 15 miles; And in the recent exhibition in the Art Institute of Chicago devoted to the architect Bertrand Goldberg, (Architecture of Invention, September 17, 2011 - January 15, 2012): - This exhibition featured as its frontispiece, covering a whole wall as visitors entered, a huge depiction of none other than our Health Sciences complex.
So perhaps in the matter of viewing distance, 800 miles would seem to be about right.
Health and Hospital News
1. UUP is very concerned about plans to transfer major departments with 3,000 employees from Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn to Long Island College Hospital. This will leave only emergency services at Downstate and the hospital will no longer be able to serve its community as it has in the past. If this is successful, there is a danger that the same will occur at Upstate Medical in Syracuse and possibly at Stony Brook. This does NOT save money but it does weaken the public hospital system Cuts in Medicare will also affect hospital budgets.
2. UUP has joined a multi-union suit against the state for passing on increases in prescription co-pays and contributions to NYSHIP to all unions without contractual agreement. The suit, sponsored by seven state unions, including UUP, is in FEDERAL court. Apparently, federal law says that when someone retires, they are under the contract which was in effect when they retired. Thus it is illegal for the state to raise rates for members who are already retired. The suit seeks a reversal of the increase in contributions to NYSHIP which took effect in October and affects about 202,000 retirees and dependents. UUP will name people who have retire under all contracts, from the beginning (if they are still alive!) to this contract.
3. Governor Cuomo has introduced a plan for Tier 6 of the retirement system which allows for a privatization choice. At this point, we don't know if that will affect contributions to TIAA/Cref but it certainly affects all other future state retirees. Note that Cuomo has also threatened to cut state contributions to higher ed unless colleges and universities do more with less.
Some of us who after retirement shared office space in their departments retain it no longer. Also our former emeritus room on the 4th floor of the library has had to be relinquished in favor of the expanding Journalism school. In its place your executive committee is scheduling its meetings in the Alumni Room on the 4th floor of the Wang Center (enter from the Staller side and use the closest elevator). This is an extremely nice multipurpose space with lounge and meeting areas. Should any of our members require a formal or informal space to meet with students, other emeritus members, or conduct other university business, Marianne Celerin will be happy to oblige. Just check beforehand with her at 631-4001 to make sure that the space has not been assigned to another group at that time or that the doors will be open. (You may even find some of your old students there!)
(Note that our regular speaker meetings will continue in the Javits room as before.)
Note to readers: The following two items were truncated from last month's newsletter as sent from the provost's office, and so are repeated here. Of course the latest (un-truncated) newsletter is always available on the emeritus website at www.stonybrook.edu--> faculty and staff-->emeritus faculty association--> emeritus news.
Generation 1 Reunion
The Alumni Relations office has been contacted by two volunteers (Ken Marcus '71 and Ed Berenhaus '74) who are interested in organizing a reunion for the first twenty classes here at Stony Brook. Apparently they have received positive feedback from a group of individuals that finished Stony Brook during those years (1961 - 1981). So present plans are for a "Generation One" Reunion to be held on April 28, 2012.
Emeritus faculty from that period may want to keep this date clear to be able to greet some of their old students and find out about their lives since. (They are asking $90 per head for their own members, but since they are anxious to encourage and to publicize the appearance of faculty from those days, they might be flexible on this.) Interested faculty should contact the alumni association by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org
On Minds and Hinds
In recent years the national press has spent much time decrying the growing scourge of obesity and diabetes. On our campus it seems like a long time ago when there was a general phys-ed requirement (the students hated it). Soon it was a rare academic building or dormitory that was not equipped with commercial soda and snack machines. These days in the general exercise room at the gym, weight machines lie broken and un-repaired for months, going into years. Of the 4 surviving exercise bicycles, only 2 are in proper working order. A recent delivery of shiny new bikes was quickly whisked away for team use only. To add to the difficulties for would-be exercisers, there is now something like an organized crime ring in the building, as the phys-ed administration and campus police well know. Many lockers (approx. 140 = 10%), having been broken into, lie unusable. Gym bags have been stolen from the squash court areas even while games were in progress. So perhaps, as our heading suggests, it is time to alter just one character in the slogan that appears on the rear of campus busses:
You are following some of the greatest minds in the country.