Headlines @ U.Va.
should come clean with employees
Richmond-based GE Insurance is undergoing big change as it prepares
to spin off from General Electric, in the wake of several mergers
over the years and changes in the industry itself. Longtime employees
are being laid off and asked to re-apply for other jobs. The situation
has created a lot of hard feelings and some charges of age discrimination.
The key to managing such upheaval, says Darden professor Alec
Horniman, is honest communication. “Most people can stand
almost any truth,” he said. “What they can’t
stand is being treated as if they are not worthy of other people’s
— Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 29
Scholars clinging to paper?
It’s been roughly a decade since history professor Edward
L. Ayers launched his “Valley of the Shadow Project,”
a pioneering effort to bring history’s primary sources to
the Web. The project has won great acclaim, but to Ayers’
chagrin, few humanists have followed in his footsteps. He blames
university administrators who fail to invest in or reward such
scholarship. “Young scholars who dream of new kinds of scholarship
can read the situation: Steer clear of the major technological
change of our time. Play it safe. Stick to paper,” he lamented,
concluding, “The last decade, in short, has seen a global
revolution of unprecedented speed and reach in the creation and
transmission of knowledge. It remains to be seen if scholarship
has a role in that revolution or will be merely a bystander.”
— Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 30
Law professor battles for prisoner’s rights
Should a U.S. citizen captured with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan
be treated any differently than foreign nationals? Yes, says U.Va.
law professor Rosa Ehrenreich Brooks, who supported Yaser Esam
Hamdi’s push to obtain legal counsel, which soon will reach
the U.S. Supreme Court. The military has been holding Hamdi as
an “enemy combatant” and denying him access to a lawyer.
The Bush administration recently reversed itself and allowed Hamdi
to meet with a lawyer — not because it had changed its mind
on the issue, but because Hamdi’s intelligence value had
been exhausted, a spokesman said. “Once again, the Pentagon
is saying they’re letting him see the lawyer as a favor
rather than because he has any right to do so,” Brooks said.
“That’s pretty troubling.”
— Washington Post, Jan. 31
Advertisers probe consumers’ brains
It’s called “neuromarketing,” and the adjectives
being used to describe it include “Orwellian,” “exploitative”
and “coercive.” A new wave in marketing has researchers
using MRI technology to find which parts of the brain “light
up” when presented with marketing messages, allowing advertisers
to tailor their messages to consumers’ true preferences.
“It kind of distorts the marketplace,” said Jonathan
Moreno, director of U.Va.’s Center for Bioethics. “There’s
supposed to be a level playing field between a buyer and a seller.
But [with neuromarketing], there isn’t an opportunity for
the consumer to create a screen against the information. It violates
the notion that it’s possible for the buyer to beware.”
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 1
Hajj deaths require new thinking
An estimated 1.9 million pilgrims recently descended upon Mecca,
in Saudi Arabia, to take part in the “hajj” —
a pilgrimage all Muslims must make at least once in their lifetimes.
The crush of people often results in injuries and death, and has
led some to call for changes, even in theological interpretation.
This year, 251 pilgrims died as a crowd surged to participate
in a stoning-the-devil ritual, in which pilgrims hurl rocks at
pillars depicting Satan. “This is a meaningless destruction
of life in the performance of a symbolic ritual,” declared
U.Va. religious studies professor Abdulaziz Sachedina. He called
for theological acceptance of performing the ritual in places
other than the traditional site.
— Toronto Globe and Mail, Feb. 3