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University Budget Back in Black

As of this year, University administrators can open their ledgers and see something they haven’t seen for six years: a balanced budget. Thanks to a 6 percent reduction in the size of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, an unusually strong endowment performance, and what Deputy Provost Charles H. Long terms “pruning,” the 1997-98 budget of $1.1 billion calls for a zero deficit, the result of a four-year effort to erase an annual shortfall that had peaked at $18 million.

Long says that holding “fairly tight” on salary increases helped the University reach its goal, as did a new contract with union locals 34 and 35. While the increase in the endowment made deeper cuts unnecessary, Long says the budget would have been balanced anyway, “because we set that goal with determination to reach it on time.”

With budget-cutting days behind it—at least for now—the campus is abuzz with speculation about how the University should spend a forecasted surplus in coming years. Speeding the pace of renovations (or borrowing less to fund them) is a possibility, as are increased aid for international students and additional support for faculty research. Provost Alison Richard says that revisiting the faculty no-growth policy is not among the options being discussed. But Long cautions that “surpluses will happen only if the endowment continues its extraordinary climb. We are doing our best to budget cautiously, anticipating the strong possibility of a market correction.”


Mac vs. Windows Rivalry Hits Home

Given the precarious state of Apple Computer and the passionate loyalty of the fans of its Macintosh operating system, tensions run high these days when the Mac’s future is the subject of discussion. Anxiety on campus rose substantially over the summer when Yale’s director of Information Technology Services (ITS), Daniel Updegrove, advised incoming students who are buying computers to choose models that use the Windows operating system rather than Macintoshes.

Updegrove made the recommendation at the end of a letter to incoming students mailed in June. But when an online news service published the letter in late August, such publications as Business Week and Wired seized on the news as a bad omen for Apple, which counts the educational market as one of its few remaining secure niches.

Updegrove says his intention was simply to let students know that there is now “less inherent advantage to owning a Macintosh” at Yale than there was when the University’s network supported only Macs in students' rooms. As a result, Updegrove says, the Class of 1997 chose Macs over Windows PCs by a 3-to-1 margin, while the Class of 2001 favored Windows by the same ratio.

Still, Updegrove emphasized that the University is working to “integrate Macs into the increasingly Windows-centric software systems we are providing.”


New Look for the “Blue Book”

For more than 50 years, Yale College has listed its courses in the Yale College Programs of Study, a chunky paperback known universally as the “Blue Book” for its pale blue cover. But students shopping for courses got a surprise this fall when they picked up the 1997–98 version, which sports a color photo of Sterling Memorial Library on its front cover.

Veronica Soell, the managing editor of publications for Yale College, explains that change was intended to help YCPS conform to the look of the catalogs of the graduate and professional schools, which were recently redesigned. “College catalogs everywhere have become more interesting, and it was time for a change,” says Soell.

To those who complain that they can’t call it the Blue Book anymore, Soell points out that the back cover and spine still carry the familiar color.


Jewish Students Sue Over Housing

Four Orthodox Jewish Yale students filed a Federal lawsuit against the University on October 15 challenging its on-campus residency requirement for freshmen and sophomores. The students argue that because separation of the sexes is not enforced, Yale dormitory life is incompatible with their religious beliefs. They cite in particular the Jewish tenet of tznius, or modesty.

The students—who called themselves the “Yale Five” until one of them married recently and became exempt from the requirement—have for several months waged a highly public campaign to be excused from the requirement. In a New York Times op-ed essay, freshman Elisha Dov Hack complained that, despite the fact that freshmen are housed on single-sex floors, “women are permitted to stay overnight in men’s rooms, and visiting men can traipse through the common halls on the women’s floors—in various states of undress—in the middle of the night.”

Dean Richard Brodhead responded in a letter to the Times that “what students gain by living together is an essential part of their education” and that if the students were allowed to live off-campus, they would “rob others of a chance to learn who they are and why their convictions require respect.”

While freshmen have long been required to live on campus, the requirement was extended to the sophomore class two years ago in order to counter a trend toward off-campus living, a trend that has since begun to wane. The University has worked to accommodate Orthodox concerns in other matters, permitting the transfer of meals to the Kosher Kitchen and arranging for observant students to have keys to bypass electronically controlled entry gates on the Sabbath. Yale Hillel, the undergraduate Jewish organization, opted not to take an official position on the issue.

In early October, the University proposed a compromise in which the students would be accommodated with in-suite bathrooms or by labeling bathrooms as single-sex. The students rejected the offer, saying that the University would have to go further—policing bathrooms and monitoring a voluntary agreement to abstinence by the students' suitemates.


Debunking Myths on Race and Poverty

Question: What percentage of the nation’s poor are African Americans? Answer: About 29 percent. If you guessed higher, you may be under the influence of the media. Martin Gilens, an assistant professor of political science, has published a study in Public Opinion Quarterly showing that news magazines illustrate 62 percent of stories the on poverty with pictures of African Americans. On network television news, African Americans are seen in 65 percent of poverty stories.

Gilens finds further that the groups that are viewed most sympathetically by the public—the elderly and the working poor—are underrepresented in news coverage, while unemployed working-age adults are overrepresented. The result, he says, is a public misinformed about the nature of poverty (on average, Americans think half of the poor are black, according to surveys) and more opposed to welfare spending than they might be otherwise.

Gilens, who teaches a course on welfare policy, interviewed photo editors at the news magazines in an effort to explain the discrepancy. He says the editors tended to overestimate the percentage of African Americans among the poor themselves. The availability of poor people in urban areas where the magazines are located also provides a partial explanation: While African Americans make up only 32 percent of the urban poor, they represent more than 60 percent of neighborhoods in extreme poverty. Gilens also speculates that editors may unconsciously choose images of African Americans in order to “present a more readily recognized image of poverty.”

“By implicitly identifying poverty with race,” Gilens concludes, “the news media perpetuate stereotypes that work against the interests of both poor people and African Americans.”


Music Library Emerging in Sterling

An enormous construction crane took up residence on Wall Street this summer to work on a task akin to building a ship in a bottle: raising the roof trusses for a new $11-million music library in a little-used light court at Sterling Memorial Library.

For 25 years, music librarians have been expressing a need for a larger space in order to consolidate materials now stored in several locations. The new Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, designed by Sterling renovation architects Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson, and Abbott, of Boston, will provide three times the space of the current library in Sprague Hall.

The main floor of the library will contain seminar rooms, an exhibition space, and 44 listening stations. A reading area with periodical stacks will be located on a mezzanine level, and the basement will house additional stacks, a seminar room and study carrels.

Jon Ross, project manager at Shepley, Bulfinch, says the goal of the library’s design was to “create a room comparable in stature to the main reading room, but one that is unmistakably a 1990s space.” The project, which was partially funded by a gift from the late Irving S. Gilmore '23, is scheduled for completion in May.


Shifting Portfolios at the Top

The addition of a new officer and the retirement of another will lead to a redistribution of responsibilities among key University administrators. Vice president Terry Holcombe '64, a 23-year veteran who has overseen two capital campaigns, including the one just ended, will retire at the end of the year. At that point, the development office’s liaison role to the Association of Yale Alumni and the Yale Alumni Magazine—which is editorially and financially independent of the University—will be transferred to University Secretary Linda Koch Lorimer '77JD. Lorimer, in turn, will hand over her responsibilities for New Haven and state affairs to Bruce D. Alexander '65, a newly appointed vice president and retired executive of the Rouse Corporation, the Baltimore developer noted for urban revitalization efforts.

Lorimer, who is also a vice president, has led the University’s New Haven Initiative program since she returned to Yale as Secretary in 1993. She established the Office of New Haven Affairs, launched the Yale Homebuyers Program, and redoubled the University’s efforts to spend its dollars in New Haven.

Alexander, whose appointment expands the number of University officers to seven, will join the administration in May. Director of Development Charles J. Pagnam will serve as acting vice president for development upon Holcombe’s departure.


Research Probes Foiling Thieves

When it comes to preventing automobile theft, many people turn to obvious devices such as noisy car alarms or red steering wheel locks. But the best strategy may be what Ian Ayres, the Townsend Professor of Law, calls the “unobservable precaution.”

In a research paper to be published next year in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Ayres and his colleague, University of Chicago professor Steven Levitt, describe the crime-stopping power of “Lojack,” a hidden radio transmitter activated by the company when its owner reports a car as stolen. The police then home in on the signal—and the felon. The recovery rate of Lojack-equipped cars is better than 95 percent; those without it are recovered only about 50 percent of the time.

That statistic alone might justify the device’s roughly $500 price tag, particularly among owners of expensive vehicles. But when Ayres and Levitt examined the incidence of car theft in a dozen cities served by the Lojack company, they discovered something surprising. “For every 1 percent increase you have in the number of cars with Lojack, you get a 20 percent decrease in the current rate of auto theft,” says Ayres, who, aside from having a Lojack in his minivan, emphasizes that neither he nor Levitt has financial ties to the corporation.

The reason the strategy works so well is because of the power of unobservable precautions. “Alarms and steering wheel restraints simply encourage thieves to look elsewhere,” Ayres explains. But this “displacement effect,” as it’s called, doesn’t occur with hidden devices like Lojack, which has not only resulted in the arrests of professional car thieves, but also in the break-up of “chop shops” that specialize in stripping vehicles of valuable parts.

“We’ve estimated that a $500 investment translates into an anti-crime benefit of $5,000 to your fellow citizens,” says Ayres. “In terms of charitable giving, that’s a pretty big bang for the buck.”


A Designer Virus That Kills HIV

An intriguing new weapon in the war against AIDS uses a genetically altered cattle virus to kill cells infected with the HIV virus. A team led by Dr. John K. Rose, a professor at the School of Medicine, has published the results of a successful laboratory trial of the approach in the journal Cell.

HIV attaches itself to white blood cells and takes them over, using them to replicate itself. Rose and his team altered a virus known as VSV, or vesicular stomatitis virus, so that its outer coating would resemble that of the cells HIV targets. But when the VSV attaches itself to HIV-infected cells, the more efficient VSV reproduces itself inside the HIV-infected cells, kills the cells rapidly, and reduces HIV production to very low or undetectable levels.

Because the VSV is engineered to seek only HIV-infected cells, it is thought to be otherwise harmless. But the virus’s safety and effectiveness will not be known without extensive tests, beginning with animal trials this fall.  the end


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