What we’re reading


A 2015 Pew Research Center study reports that 89 percent of American cell phone owners have used their phones during their last social gathering. Of American adults, 82 percent believe their cell phone use in social settings has negative effects on the conversation. Sherry Turkle, professor in the Science, Technology, and Society program at M.I.T., explores the detrimental effects of cell phone use in her New York Times piece. Our increased dependence has led to a decrease in the ability of some to engage in “empathetic conversations” and read others for emotions, among other effects.

Hipster alert! “The Mason Jar, Reborn traces the history of the trusted beverage container you see many of our classmates walking around campus with. The piece traces the transition of the mason jar from being used as a convenient method for preserving food to a symbol of “thrift, preservation, and personal labor” that has become ubiquitous in the capitalist system. Continue Reading

A new Provost: Richard M. Locke


This afternoon, President Christina Paxson P’19 sent out an email announcing our new provost, effective July 1st. Richard M. Locke, current Director of the Watson Institute, will be stepping up to the job, which belonged to Vicki Colvin this past school year. Locke teaches Political Science to undergraduate and graduate students, has  served on the Deficit Reduction Working Group, and worked on the meld of the Taubman and Watson centers.

Locke is an author, a seasoned faculty member and alumnus of MIT, and the receiver of a nearly perfect rating on The Critical Review, to name just a few of his achievements. His research focuses on “improving labor and and environmental conditions in global supply chains”, meaning producing a reality where you don’t need to violate the Earth and basic human rights in order to run a big, profitable business. Locke works with companies like Coca Cola, Apple, and Nike. We look forward to seeing how Professor Locke will integrate these values into his new position.

Until further notice, Locke will continue to serve as Director of the Watson Institute. You can read more about Locke and the announcement here.

Image via.

What Lincoln Chafee brings to the 2016 Presidential race


Yesterday in Wilson 101, former Governor and Senator of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee ‘75 P’ 14 P ’17, in a partnership with the Brown Journal of World Affairs, participated in a Q&A on various national and international issues. This comes right on the tail of Chafee basically announcing that he was running for President of the United States, and offered ample opportunity for participants to get an early understanding of his agenda and positions on key topics in the upcoming race.

With Hillary Clinton dominating the democratic nomination conversation, it can be hard to understand why other Democrats would even bother. Yet, as Chafee said himself, “There shouldn’t be one person out there…voters want options.” Chafee would certainly be a very different candidate from Clinton.

Here is what Lincoln Chafee could bring to the presidential race:

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What we’re reading

On Sunday, after months of speculation, Hillary Clinton announced that she will be running as a candidate for the 2016 presidential election. The Atlantic’s “The 2016 Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet” breaks down the candidates who have announced and people likely to do so in the near future. Things keep heating up as the time left until election day winds down.

The New York Times‘ Michael Sokolove followed around the Philadelphia 76ers this season trying to get to the bottom of one of their worst seasons in recent history. In “How Long Can the Philadelphia 76ers Go?“, Sokolove explores the team’s history starting four years ago in 2011. He traces their successes and failures, including this season’s opening 17-game consecutive losing streak, to explain the 76ers’ 2014-2015 season.

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Technicians Strike at RISD: A photo essay

On Thursday, the Rhode Island School of Design technicians went on strike after months of contract negotiations with the school’s administration. The RISD Technician Union has outlined its contractual requests on their website. In short, the techs would like a restoration of retirement contributions (which were cut significantly in 2009 due to the economic recession), annual wage increases similar to those of RISD faculty members, and external tuition remission (a reimbursement of employees’ children’s higher education tuition costs if their child attends a school other than RISD). Additionally, the techs object to a raise in their healthcare premiums. The school’s administration and the technician’s union have not yet come to a resolution. For more information on the tech strike, read BlogDailyHerald’s post from earlier this week or click here for the RISD Student Alliance’s new website, which acts as a living document and student resource during this time.

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Images via Danielle Perelman ’17. 

5 things to take away from the Ricardo Lagos lecture

10-7 Lagos quo vadis poster

Former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos came to speak at the Joukowsky Forum at the Watson Institute yesterday. Mr. Lagos is well-known for being the first socialist to take office since Salvador Allende (1966-9), and for standing up to Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship–when, following an American-backed coup, between 1974 and 1990, Pinochet’s military government detained 80,000 people and tortured almost 30,000.

Since leaving office in 2006, Lagos has been committed to promoting democracy in Latin America and around the world. The Chilean political rockstar came to the Watson Institute to ask one question, Quo Vadis (Latin for Where are you going), Latin America?

1. Latin America is more politically stable and economically progressive than the rest of the world thinks.

Currently, all Latin American states are considered democracies. Some of them are headed by women, and Brazil, the region’s most powerful nation, is currently led by a trade union advocate.

Even though that positive picture oversimplifies the political climate, above all, it shows that the region that was once plagued by conservative dictatorships is now experiencing a paradigm shift to the political left.

At the same time, the major powers in the region, namely Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil are all projected to have close to $30,000 in GDP per capita within the next 10 years. In short, the region is experiencing converging rates of growth, with some countries seeing double per capita growth rates.

Mr Lagos pointed out that Latin American countries were innocent in the most recent financial recession, but that the region is not estranged from economic crisis. In fact, Latin American nations have experienced so many economic crises that they now have extremely durable systems, which makes growth rates all the more promising. Continue Reading