Sunday, March 24, 2013

Steve Wexler, Musician and Data Visualizer, Profiled in Newspaper

The multifaceted Steve Wexler gets a vibrant profile in the March 24 edition of the Journal News publication in New York's northern suburbs. Complete with photos of Wexler plucking at a bass guitar, the article, "Notable Neighbor: Briarcliff Manor Band Leader Steve Wexler's Talent is Top Shelf,"  highlights his love of Motown music and his band, the Top Shelf. The article also includes 10 things you don't know about Wexler, which you'll have to read for yourself because the list is so much fun (with obligatory Princeton references). On the musical front, here's the range of appearances for Top Shelf:

Steve Wexler and the Top Shelf has played everywhere from the Intrepid to Mohegan Sun, to the Cutting Room, a stunning venue in Manhattan. 
And you can occasionally catch the act locally, entertaining audiences at small venues such as 12 Grapes in Peekskill and the Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling. 
“You’re giving your all with each performance. You’re very exposed. You’re trying to convey something that’s palpaple and has meaning and have energy and enthusiasm came out of it. When you get it back from the audience, it just multiplies,” Wexler says.

Marc Fisher Details Prep-School Abuse for New Yorker

Marc Fisher, a 1976 graduate of the Bronx's Horace Mann School, has published a detailed investigation in the New Yorker of abuse charges against faculty members. The article, "The Master: A Charismatic Teacher Enthralled His Students. Did He Abuse Them?" focuses on English teacher Robert Berman. Fisher, a senior editor with the Washington Post, begins the article with a personal anecdote:

When I was in high school, at Horace Mann, in the Bronx, in the nineteen-seventies, everyone took pride in the brilliant eccentricity of our teachers. There was an English teacher who slipped precepts from the Tao Te Ching into his classes on the Bible and occasionally urged us to subvert standardized tests by answering every question with the word “five.” There was a much loved language teacher who would pelt distracted students with a SuperBall. There was a history instructor who, in a lecture on how the difficulty of delivering mail in the early days of the republic helped shape Federalist ideas, would drop his trousers to reveal patterned boxer shorts.

One group of boys stood apart; they insisted on wearing jackets and ties and shades, and they stuck to themselves, reciting poetry and often sneering at the rest of us. A few of them shaved their heads. We called them Bermanites, after their intellectual and sartorial model, an English teacher named Robert Berman: a small, thin, unsmiling man who papered over the windows of his classroom door so that no one could peek through.
Assigned to Berman for tenth-grade English, I took a seat one September morning alongside sixteen or seventeen other boys. We waited in silence as he sat at his desk, chain-smoking Benson & Hedges cigarettes and watching us from behind dark glasses. Finally, Mr. Berman stood up, took a fresh stick of chalk, climbed onto his chair, and reached above the blackboard to draw a horizontal line on the paint. “This,” he said, after a theatrical pause, “is Milton.” He let his hand fall a few inches, drew another line, and said, “This is Shakespeare.” Another line, lower, on the blackboard: “This is Mahler.” And, just below, “Here is Browning.” Then he took a long drag on his cigarette, dropped the chalk onto the floor, and, using the heel of his black leather loafer, ground it into the wooden floorboards. “And this, gentlemen,” he said, “is you.”
  • The next day, I asked to be transferred. I was not alone.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Greg Mankiw Quoted in Article on Harvard Cheating Scandal

The Harvard Crimson published a lengthy article on February 28 on an ongoing cheating scandal involving a government class. "The Fall of Academics at Harvard" also mentioned similar behavior in the Economics 10 class led by Greg Mankiw, Professor of Economics.

“Collaboration,” recalls Igor Liokumovich ’15, who took Ec 10 last spring, of the general environment surrounding the course. “It wasn’t that. It wasn’t collaboration on homework; it was passed down very much the same as I heard the scandal was.” He pauses. “But I feel like it’s like that with any large class, you know? I don’t think it was specific to Ec 10.” 
Liokumovich jokingly recalls “200 freshman in Lamont CafĂ©, trying to scramble to get stuff together” as they completed their problem sets. 
“Because only your section TF grades your work, and if you have friends from six different sections,” he adds, “there’s no way you’d get caught.” 
In an emailed statement to The Crimson, Professor N. Gregory Mankiw writes that students who do copy and are not caught will still suffer in the exams, as he believes that the problem sets are the best way to prepare.

The article includes comments from Princeton's Honor Committee, as a contrast to Harvard's approach:

“Typical Harvard,” chair of Princeton’s Honor Committee and senior Antonia Hyman remembers thinking when she heard about the Gov 1310 scandal. She describes Princeton students discussing the incident on campus: There was “the idea that that couldn’t happen here—that it wouldn’t happen here.” 
Like Donovan, Hyman of Princeton stresses that students have a twofold responsibility both to refrain from cheating and to report students they suspect have done so. Princeton’s honor committee was established in 1893 after students approached the administration demanding its creation: The university had gained a reputation for being easy and of low standards, Hyman says. “The Princeton degree was becoming somewhat of a joke." 
The Undergraduate Honor Committee has since been entirely student-run, handling all violations of the honor system that involve all written examinations that occur in the classroom. Hyman says around half of the reports that she receives are directly from students themselves.