Daily Archive: December 6, 2017

Dec

6

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Is this you?

Staff Writer Isabel Sepúlveda braved the rain last night to attend the final reading for Writers at Barnard, featuring creative writing faculty, so you didn’t have to (though you definitely should have).

It was honestly the perfect atmosphere for a reading by two members of Barnard’s creative writing faculty, poet Saskia Hamilton and author Hisham Matar. The heavy rain and rushing traffic faded into a distant ambiance that set the tone perfectly for the intimate mood of the reading that was to follow.  This set-up was continued by the writers’ introduction, given by fellow faculty member Rachel Eisendrath. It was frankly a touching introduction that conveyed her love and respect for her colleagues. She stated that “ours is a brutalizing world” and that these works were a moment of happiness in said world. I would later find these words to be the perfect contextualization of what I was about to hear.

Saskia Hamilton, English professor and director of Women Poets at Barnard, was the first to read. She began by sharing a piece titled “Zwijgen,” the Dutch word for “to fall silent,” and she explained the meaning behind both the title and inspiration for the piece. I had read the piece shortly before arriving at the event, in an attempt to get a feel for what I was about to be hearing. Seeing the words on a page was nothing compared to hearing the writer give life to her own works, both in the explanation and the reading itself. She followed with a handful of selections from a project she is currently working on, before finishing with two translations, including one of an Anglo-Saxon riddle. Despite the range of the selections, Hamilton painted a delicate but detailed picture of the subject and really lived up to the promise of moments of happiness in a world that tends to find itself lacking in that department.

Find out about Hisham Matar below!

Dec

6

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A beautiful poster for a beautiful show

The Nutcracker is one of the most famous ballets in the world today—especially around the holiday season. This semester, Columbia University Ballet Ensemble (CUBE) has been working hard to choreograph and produce their own version of this classic show, and Bwog was lucky enough to be able to send Arts Editor Sarah Kinney to sit in on dress rehearsal Tuesday night.

CUBE, known for both its incredible talent and inclusivity, casts every dancer who auditions. Because of this, the show featured dancers of every level—from beginners to ex-professionals. The curtain opens on Kayla Glaser (BC ’20) en pointe as young Clara, who then welcomes all of her friends and family to her family Christmas gathering. Many of the dancers portraying her friends are only beginners, but with Clara leading them in simple yet elegant movements, the scene is engaging and uplifting. This pattern continues throughout the show; with roles from children to mice to bakers to sugar plum fairies, the the whimsical tone of The Nutcracker lends itself well to incorporating dancers of all levels. Glaser’s portrayal of Clara herself is lively, inviting, and technically advanced, making her the perfect leader for the entire show.

The set, however, is somewhat lacking. With cardboard clocks and blow-up turkeys, the set certainly toned down the professionality of the production. That being said, the costumes—although not crafted specifically for this show—were creative and striking. The choreography was modeled after CUBE artistic director Elizabeth Neureiter’s (BC ’18) hometown studio production, but the student choreographers for each specific piece were granted artistic discretion to make changes as they saw fit. What ended up coming together was a genuinely student production—in a good way.

Some more bitchin’ ballet after the jump

Dec

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Change the world… more like charge the world…

Columbia will purchase six brand new battery-electric powered buses, which will replace the current diesel-powered buses in use by the campus shuttle network. Due to a grant from the New York State Electric Vehicle Voucher Incentive Funds, the University will be able to buy these buses for the network. The electric buses will provide both environmental and health benefits, like “reduced emissions and noise pollution, and improved air quality”. By going electric, the University is predicted to reduce emissions “by over 270 metric tons”, which will be a 70% reduction.

The six electric buses will be Xcelsior buses that are fourty-feet and will be able to seat 40 passengers. These Xcelsior buses have a “battery capacity of 480 kilowatt hours” and will be able to “travel over 200 miles on a single charge”. These new buses will also be the first electric buses in New York City.

Look out for these green, clean machines when they roll up onto campus next summer!

Xcellent Xcelsior via CUFO

Dec

6

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Dan Jurafsky gave an impassioned presentation on racial bias on Tuesday

Dan Jurafsky, the chair of the linguistics department and computer science professor at Stanford University, presented on Tuesday in Schapiro CEPSR about his current studies and findings on police language. Titled “Does This Vehicle Belong to You: processing the language of policing for improving police-community relations,” Jurafsky’s presentation focused mainly on two papers, one published and one a work-in-progress. The 2017 paper, which Jurafksy co-authored, reveals linguistically the open secret that “police officers speak significantly less respectfully to black than to white community members,” even after taking into account other factors such as the severity of the perceived infraction and the race of the officer. The presentation offered insight not only into how police officers ought to better build respect with communities, but also shined a light on methodological breakthroughs in linguistics.

How could a scientific study measure how respectful police officers are towards community members? The presentation started by explaining how the researchers sorted through tens of thousands of pieces of police body-worn camera footage from Oakland police in April 2014. They chose to use vehicle stops resulting in warnings or citations (no arrests) as a window into everyday, non-severe police interactions. From there, researchers created a subset of about 1,000 videos of vehicle stops with black and white community members (as identified in police reports). Professionals then transcribed the entire data set to allow coders to rate the way police spoke on factors like respectfulness and formality.

Researchers can use natural language processing to isolate elements of factors like politeness. Building on previous papers, Jurafsky and his team used cues of “negative and positive politeness” such as apologizing, expressing gratitude, formal titles, and introductions. Using these cues in conjunction with the result of subjective rankings of police interactions, the team is training an automated classifier to take more bodycam audio, transcribe it with the knowledge of what officers usually say, and then analyze it for markers of respect.

What were the results? Find out after the jump.

Dec

6

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what better place to show off your favorite holiday sweater than at tomorrow’s holiday sweater party?

Bwog’s GSSC (General Studies Student Council) Bureau Chief, Alex Tang, brings us a recap of last night’s meeting, the last one of the semester!

This week’s eventful GSSC meeting, the last one of the semester, included a visit by the new incoming dean of GS, updates on the reorganization of the GSSC elections process, and speeches by new council nominees.

The meeting began with a presentation and Q&A with the new dean of the School of General Studies, Lisa Rosen-Metsch, who will take over Dean Awn’s role in January. The incoming dean arrived early, greeting council members and meeting attendees. Introducing herself as an alumna of the GS Jewish Theological Seminary Joint Program, Rosen-Metsch will be the first GS dean who is also a GS graduate. Trained as a sociologist, Rosen-Metsch worked at the Mailman School of Public Health, focusing on the social determinants of health, specifically on issues such as HIV prevention and substance use prevention. Rosen-Metsch highlighted the unique identity of GS, with “no other school like it in the Ivy League or in the world,” and emphasized her desire to maintain a close relationship with GSSC.

When asked about what she sees as being the biggest challenges that GS faces, Rosen-Metsch mentioned the limited availability of financial aid for GS students, as well as affordable housing and food insecurity. During her first semester as dean, Rosen-Metsch plans to meet as many students and faculty as possible. Rosen-Metsch encouraged GSSC to share student concerns with her as often as possible, noting that the student council is a place for the dean to present initiatives and to get genuine student feedback.

Read about the new elections process and meet the new council members!

Dec

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Professional investigations…

Happening In The World: Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea due to Russia’s 2014 doping scandal. In 2014, Russia allegedly fixed the urine samples of over 100 competitors to “hide evidence of their use of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs”. However, if you think this is unfair, there is still some hope! Russian athletes who can prove that they are clean will still be able to compete in the games under the neutral Olympic flag by invitation. (US News)

Happening In The US: The US Supreme Court rules that Trump’s travel ban will be able to go into full effect. The ruling is applied to the third version of Trump’s travel ban, which has travel restrictions on individuals from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and some groups of people from Venezuela. Seven out of the nine justices “lifted injunctions […] imposed by lower courts against the policy”. (BBC)

Happening In NYC: An anonymous letter accuses the leader of New York City Ballet (NYCB), Peter Martins, of sexual harassment. Martins, aged 71, has since been removed from his teaching responsibilities at the School of American Ballet as two organisations investigate these accusations. Martins has been leading NYCB since the early 1980s. The school released a statement, publicly announcing that “the safety and well-being of [their] students [are their] absolute priority”. (NYT)

Happening On Campus: There will be a zine reading and fundraiser for Puerto Rico recovery efforts with, “Hecho a Mano Y Corazón” tonight! Co-hosted by NYC Feminist Zine Fest and WordUp Community Bookstore, four “seasoned zinesters” (Jamie Varriale Velez, Linda Ocasio, Nico Acosta, and Rachel Hernandez Casiano) will be reading. The event will be at the WordUp Community Bookstore/Libreria Comunitaria from 7 to 9 pm. Zines will be sold at the event and donations at the door are encouraged.

Overheard: I think I’m pregnant. The gas in my stomach feels like baby kicks.

Song Rec of the Day: Easily by Bruno Major

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