Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Beth Cobert's Q&A with the Daily Princetonian

Beth Cobert, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management, spoke at length with the Daily Princetonian in a May 30 Q&A about her academic interests as an undergraduate, her career at McKinsey & Company, and her work at the OPM. The interview started,

Daily Princetonian: What made you interested in coming to Princeton?
Beth Cobert: I grew up in New Jersey, and my mother grew up right around the Princeton area, so I had always heard about Princeton. When I was in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be a math major, and Princeton had a great math department. I actually wanted to move Princeton to Massachusetts so I wouldn’t have to be an hour away from my parent’s house. I couldn’t persuade anyone to do that, so I came anyway. It was a great chance to go.
DP: What was your major, and what kinds of activities were you involved in?
BC: Academically, I was an economics major, and I focused on the quantitative side of economics. But, I took probably the minimum number of economics courses you needed to qualify for the major, and since they didn’t have the dual major and certificate programs that they do now, I sort of took advantage of taking all sorts of things. I took a bunch of art history, I took architecture, I took Russian history, I took chemistry, so I had a pretty eclectic curriculum, which was one of the things I loved about the place, since I could do all these different things. Outside of academics, the thing I was most involved in was Outdoor Action. I had gone backpacking before I came to Princeton, and I had gone on a freshman trip and then signed up to be a trip leader. I led freshman trips every year after that, and I taught a canoeing class with Rick Curtis ’79, who is the current head of OA. I probably spent most of my time on Outdoor Action.

The complete interview can be found here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Susan Stefan Publishes Book on Legal and Social Policy Aspects of Suicide

Civil and disability rights lawyer Susan Stefan's new book, "Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws: Examining Current Approaches to Suicide in Policy and Law," is garnering attention for its unflinching look at issues surrounding suicide, in a book that draws on surveys and interviews with 244 survivors of suicide attempts. One of the interviewees, Leah Harris, wrote a long review, "A Radical New Direction for Suicide Prevention and Care," for the Huffington Post, noting,

Stefan delivers a scathing indictment of the suicide prevention and care status quo, based on her in-depth study of history, case law, and the first-person narratives of providers and survivors she interviewed, “our policies and practices regarding suicide create an irrational incentive structure where people understand they have to attempt suicide to get help, help which is of questionable utility, while community-based approaches that are less expensive and work are underfunded. We have a system that doesn’t work for anyone — neither the people who are supposed to be providing help, nor the people who are supposed to be receiving it.” She points out the hypocrisy in the caring rhetoric of suicide prevention versus the reality: a series of legally-sanctioned, uncaring policies and practices that may actually increase, rather than decrease, suicide risk.
The book tackles head-on perhaps the most controversial issue in law and social policy regarding suicide and mental health in general: legal capacity to make decisions regarding one’s own life and care. Stefan draws a conclusion from her research that may stun many: “The vast majority of people who are thinking about suicide, attempting suicide, and committing suicide are nowhere close to incompetent under our current legal standards.” The problem, however, is that any expression of suicidality is all too often presumed to be a sign of incompetence. This “suicidality equals incompetence” assumption, Stefan argues, “shuts down the conversation at the very point where the conversation is most needed.” It leads to coercive, knee-jerk responses that can be experienced as punitive and re-traumatizing by people in suicidal states.

Bob Silverman Tackles Jewish-Muslim Issues in New Post at AJC

Following a 27-career at the State Department, Robert Silverman is gaining attention as the new Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations at the AJC (previously known as the American Jewish Committee). A May 18 article in the New York Jewish Week, "AJC Muslim Push Comes Amid Rancor in U.S.," discussed the reasons that the AJC created the position, and the response from Jewish and Muslim observers. The article notes,

“This is a community that is in some distress because of some of the speech that is coming out of politicians,” Silverman told The Jewish Week. “We as Jews should do the right thing … [and] the AJC is the right address to work on stronger ties between the two communities.” 
He said that although both the Muslim and Jewish communities are minorities in the U.S., “we are the more settled, established community” and this is the “right time to develop ties with this community. Showing support at this critical time will lead to good results for the Jewish people down the road.” 
Fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish, Silverman, 58, worked for 27 years at the U.S. State Department. A senior foreign service officer, he completed his tenure as director of regional and multilateral affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. 
“I had nine overseas tours and all but one was in a Muslim country,” he said. “I have spent my entire professional career forming ties and friendships with different communities and mostly in the Muslim world. Even in my ninth country, Sweden, I reached out to the Muslim community.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Tiger News from the TLA

Reliable sources indicate that a class member joined with other Tigers to hold a Princetonian-focused social hour at a public-spirited agency that we can call the TLA (Three-Letter Acronym). Those in attendance named the informal gathering "the Moe Berg '23 Society." Berg was a stellar Princeton baseball player and linguist who played catcher with four Major League Baseball teams. During World War II he put his language skills to work with the Office of Strategic Services reporting on German and Italian science research. A good and discreet time was had by all, just the way Moe Berg would have wanted it. For the inside baseball on the Moe behind the Moe Berg Society, one might read this