Emeritus Faculty Association news February- March 2010

Next Meeting:
The next meeting will be Friday, March 5th, at 10.30 am., in the Javits room, library 2nd floor. The speaker will be Steven Skiena, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Computer Science. He will speak on "All I Know is What I Read in the Newspapers: News Analysis for the Social Sciences".
Abstract: The Lydia project seeks to build a relational model of people, places, and things through natural language processing of news sources and the statistical analysis of entity frequencies and co-locations. The analysis is quite different from Google News. We track the temporal and spatial distribution of entities in the news: who is being talked about, by whom, when, and where. To see our analysis of recent news obtained from over 500 daily online news sources, see: http://www.textmap.com This talk will describe the architecture of Lydia and technical aspects of our spatial, network, and sentiment analysis methods. We will also survey several applications of Lydia analysis to research in the social sciences, including political science, studies of ethnicity/nationality, and financial modeling.
Bio: Steve's current research interests include computational biology, combinatorial computing environments, and combinatorial algorithms and data structures. Besides his many papers in these areas he is the author of 4 books on algorithm design, computational discrete mathematics, calculated bets, and programming challenges. The last has been translated into Korean and Russian and comes with a website where your solution programs can be submitted. There, a robot will run, test, and grade them. He recently was featured in the University news as being the earliest to describe the Apple Tablet (22 years ago). He even got the name right on the first try. See: http://engineering.illinois.edu/news/2010/01/26/tablet-computer-idea-whose-time-has-finally-come (we will forget the handwriting part and the Apple Newton). Besides Computer Science, Steve is also on the faculty of the Graduate Genetics Program and the Applied Math department. He is a member of ACM, the AAAS, the American Finance Association, and the Mystery Writers of America. He also rides a unicycle.

In Memoriam
We regret to announce that our colleague and attendee of these meetings, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Paul Kumpel, passed away last week. Paul was one of the original Stony Brook faculty, coming here right after earning his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1964. Services were held at the First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown on February 3rd.

Last Meeting
John Williams (prof emeritus history) introduced Pramila Venkateswaran to talk on Creating Memory, Creating History: Interweaving poetry and photographs, familial, personal, and national histories. (For a bio of Prof Venkateswaran, see last month's newsletter)
Starting with quotations from Carolyn Forche's book Against Forgetting, and from Czeslaw Milosz, Pramila made a case for the significance of poetry in preserving memory and constructing history. She argued that the act of writing and publishing poetry is inherently political, is indeed a liberating act in a world in which political authorities often want to control history and suppress memory. In pointing out that oppressive regimes understand well that poetry is dangerous to their power, she read one of her poems about the execution of the Nigerian dissident Ken Saro Wiwa in 1995. Pramila's entire talk was interspersed with her poems, which she used to illustrate each phase of her argument. Some of these poems were new poems in manuscript, but most were from her 2008 work, Behind Dark Waters. Several of the poems were in the first person, depicting the experiences of a student, of a woman escaping from an abusive situation, and others. Then, quoting from Adrienne Rich's 1970s poem Diving into the Wreck, Pramila cited the role of poetry for women, in asserting their identities, revaluing their experience, and recovering their history. Since the 1970s, this process has been individual and collective, local and worldwide. As an example, she described the quantities of women's writing in India being found in old trunks and dusty attics in Indian family homes, and now being collected for publication. The Internet has become an important means for women worldwide to contact each other and lend support. Last year Pramila spent a sabbatical in Kerala and Chennai, gathering information (which turned out to be sparse) about her paternal grandmother, who had sung her original poems to her family at a time when women lived under the double oppression of colonialism and patriarchy. With most documentation lost, Pramila is attempting to recover her grandmother's subjective experiences, writing poems to give her grandmother voice, using imagination and looking at the context of her grandmother's times - in singing, dancing, boat races, and the surviving physical space. She has, for example, tried to convey the rhythms of Tamil boat songs in her English language verse.
At the end of the talk, Pramila showed pictures of Kochi, her girlhood home, one place where Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims have lived in close proximity and harmony since the 14th century. She in particular looked at the synagogue next door to where she lived, and noted the efforts there to recover and commemorate history.
Women Waiting Behind Dark Waters (Austin: Plain View Press, 2008) p. 50
I don't want to be the woman at the window waiting, always waiting for a wing, a sign, a ring.
I don't want to watch the road wind, imagine the city beyond the cluster of trees, mist, dust.
I don't want to trace loneliness in embroidery thread weaving in and out of hankies, skins, cushions.
I don't want to wait for the doorbell to announce a husband, relatives, lost travelers, passersby.
I don't want to study this pane, see my reflection on winter afternoons, or in somber evening light.
I don't want to write poems about waiting at a window, my pen traveling miles, while I practice rootedness.

Report from our UUP retiree representative, Judy Wishnia (The full report is included here since there was only time for the last part in the meeting)
As you know the budget is once again a disaster and although we are visiting our legislators, it doesn't look good. If you have a chance to phone or visit a legislator, please tell them how important SUNY is for the future of New York. I am reminded that in the darkest days of the 1930s depression, the City University opened three new colleges (Brooklyn, Queens and one other) noting that this was good for the future of New York City and indeed in the following decades, more Nobel laureates came from the City Colleges than from Harvard! And there was NO tuition! The Governor has also raised the issue of flexibility, allowing individual campuses to decide tuition, to sell or lease land to private corporations, etc. Most of the campus presidents, including our own, think this is a great idea - but there is a down side: this is a big step toward privatization of the SUNY system.
1. If the campuses raise tuition and keep it, the state may well cut their contributions an equal amount - no gain for us. Raising tuition, especially since student aid has been cut, will keep many lower income students from attending what is supposed to be a state system.
2. Selling and leasing land that belongs to the taxpayers of this state could open up a huge can of worms.
3. Most critically, although it would be nice to get rid of some of Albany micromanaging, having little or no oversight from the state also has a down side. Recall what the president of Adelphi did without sufficient oversight. And if the campuses are semi-independent would we still be considered state workers and would we have to negotiate health benefits and retirement benefits on each campus? That is the situation in the community colleges.
Now for retirees: As you may know, our retiree health coverage through Empire is based on Civil Service law which merely states that state workers can be covered by the same plan negotiated by active workers. So far we have gotten the same coverage that all UUP employees get in the contract but this is not a given. When NYSUT signed on to the Tier five retirement plan, they got a perk in return: the coverage based on the contract would be PERMANENT. UUP has not yet signed on but it looks like this will be an issue in the current legislative session. We are trying to get the same deal, that retired state employees will be permanently covered by the contract for actives. I will keep you informed. Did you know that we have a benefit whereby if you become ill in a place which is more than 100 miles from your home, you are covered so that they will pay to get you home or to send a family member to get you. This is especially useful for those of us who go to foreign countries. Let me know if you want more information.

Masks of Night: Faces from Traditional Korean Dance-Dramas
Emeritus prof of Fine Arts Theresa Ki-ja Kim has an upcoming exhibition at the Korea Society Gallery, 950 Third Avenue, 8th Floor (entrance on SW corner of 3rd Av and 57th St), taken from her private collection. Featured are traditional dance-drama masks carved by master artisans in the 1970s and 80s carved in four regional types: Pongsan (Hwanghae province in the NW of North Korea), Songpa (Seoul), Yangju (N of Seoul), and Tongnae (S of KyAngsang province). The exhibition also features reproductions from an original set of Hahoe (Andong) exorcism masks from North KyAngsang province. Each regional mask style has been designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the Korean government and the artisans who crafted them have been designated as Living Cultural Treasures. Unfortunately, the carving of traditional masks has become a dying skill and of the four artisans featured here, only one survives. The opening reception is Thursday 4 March 6pm-8pm, and the exhibit continues thru 28 May (entrance free).

The Emeritus Lament
(re-allocated from Gilbert & Sullivan as a dialog between "Younger generation" (YG) and Emeritus (EM). This in no way is intended or can compete with the poetry of Prof Venkateswaran)
YG: You told me you were fair as gold!
EM: And, master, am I not so?
YG: And now I see you're plain and old.
EM: I am sure I'm not a jot so.
YG: Upon my ignorance you play.
EM: I'm not the one to plot so.
YG: Your face is lined, your hair is grey!
EM: They gradually got so.