Carbon nanotubes, long touted for applications in materials and electronics, may also be the stuff of atomic-scale black holes.Physicists at Harvard University have found that a high-voltage nanotube can cause cold atoms to spiral inward under dramatic acceleration before disintegrating violently. Their experiments, the first to demonstrate something akin to a black hole at atomic scale, are described in the current issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.“On a scale of nanometers, we create an inexorable and destructive pull similar to what black holes exert on matter at cosmic scales,” says Lene Vestergaard Hau, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics at Harvard. “As importantly for scientists, this is the first merging of cold-atom and nanoscale science, and it opens the door to a new generation of cold atom experiments and nanoscale devices.”Hau and co-authors Anne Goodsell, Trygve Ristroph, and Jene A. Golovchenko laser-cooled clouds of one million rubidium atoms to just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. The physicists then launched this millimeter-long atomic cloud towards a suspended carbon nanotube, located some two centimeters away and charged to hundreds of volts.The vast majority of the atoms passed right by the wire, but those that came within a micron of it — roughly 10 atoms in every million-atom cloud — were inescapably attracted, reaching high speeds as they spiraled toward the nanotube.“From a start at about 5 meters per second, the cold atoms reach speeds of roughly 1,200 meters per second, or more than 2,700 miles per hour, as they circle the nanotube,” says Goodsell, a graduate student on the project and now a postdoctoral researcher in physics at Harvard. “As part of this tremendous acceleration, the temperature corresponding to the atoms’ kinetic energy increases from 0.1 degrees Kelvin to thousands of degrees Kelvin in less than a microsecond.”At this point, the speeding atoms separate into an electron and an ion rotating in parallel around the nanowire, completing each orbit in just a few trillionths of a second. The electron eventually gets sucked into the nanotube via quantum tunneling, causing its companion ion to shoot away — repelled by the strong charge of the 300-volt nanotube — at a speed of roughly 26 kilometers per second, or 59,000 miles per hour.The entire experiment was conducted with great precision, allowing the scientists unprecedented access to both cold-atom and nanoscale processes.“Cold-atom and nanoscale science have each provided exciting new systems for study and applications,” says Golovchenko, Rumford Professor of Physics and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard. “This is the first experimental realization of a combined cold atom-nanostructure system. Our system demonstrates sensitive probing of atom, electron, and ion dynamics at the nanoscale.”The single-walled carbon nanotube used in these researchers’ successful experiment was dubbed “Lucy,” and its contributions are acknowledged in the Physical Review Letters paper. The nanotube was grown by chemical vapor deposition across a 10-micron gap in a silicon chip that provides the nanowire with both mechanical support and electrical contact.“From the atom’s point of view, the nanotube is infinitely long and thin, creating a singular effect on the atom,” Hau says.Harvard’s Office of Technology Development has filed a patent application on the technology underlying the new work by Hau and Golovchenko.This work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.
Students, faculty, and Native American tribal representatives gathered in soggy Harvard Yard Thursday to officially open the fall archaeology season, during which students will get a taste of fieldwork even as they help to illuminate Harvard’s roots.The gathering occurred near Matthews Hall, where archaeology faculty members have led students in digs for the past several years. The excavations seek the remains of Harvard’s Indian College, one of the University’s earliest buildings. The Indian College initially housed a group of Indian students who were admitted to fulfill Harvard’s charter, which dedicated the institution to the education of colonial and Indian youth alike.The class, “Archaeology of Harvard Yard,” builds on the work of Summer School students who began to dig in July and continued into August. Class instructors hope to reach a feature uncovered when the College class was last offered in 2009 that appears to be a foundation trench for the Indian school. This fall’s class is taught by lecturers on anthropology Diana Loren and Patricia Capone, both associate curators at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and by senior curatorial assistant Christina Hodge.During the ceremony, held outdoors near the dig site under gray skies after days of rain, Freshman Dean Tom Dingman wished students luck as they toiled in work that he said will help members of the Harvard community to understand themselves better. Elizabeth Solomon, assistant director of academic affairs and fellowship programs at the Harvard School of Public Health and a member of the Massachuset at Ponkapoag tribe, told students that the items they recover are part of a larger story, whose gaps they will help fill in, but which will remain incomplete.Anastasia Walhovd ’13 (left) and Tia Ray ’12 kick off the semester’s digging with a ceremonial push of a shovel.Both Solomon and Shelly Lowe, executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program, reminded students that they were digging on land that belonged to native peoples — the Massachuset specifically — before Harvard ever existed.“It’s not just a Harvard story; you’re telling a tribal story,” Lowe said, adding that if one has to tell a story, digging a big hole in Harvard Yard that people have to walk around isn’t a bad way to do so.The semester’s digging began with a ceremonial push of a shovel by senior Tia Ray, who took the class in 2009, and by Anastasia Walhovd, a junior archaeology concentrator taking the class for the first time.
New research from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) suggests that seemingly small changes in summer temperature swings — as little as 1°C more than usual — may shorten life expectancy for elderly people with chronic medical conditions, and could result in thousands of additional deaths each year. While previous studies have focused on the short-term effects of heat waves, this is the first study to examine the longer-term effects of climate change on life expectancy.The study was published online April 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.“The effect of temperature patterns on long-term mortality has not been clear to this point. We found that, independent of heat waves, high day-to-day variability in summer temperatures shortens life expectancy,” said Antonella Zanobetti, senior research scientist in HSPH’s Department of Environmental Health and lead author of the study. “This variability can be harmful for susceptible people.”In recent years, scientists have predicted that climate change will not only increase overall world temperatures but will also increase summer temperature variability, particularly in mid-latitude regions such as the mid-Atlantic states of the United States and sections of countries such as France, Spain, and Italy. These more volatile temperature swings could pose a major public health problem, the authors note.Previous studies have confirmed the association between heat waves and higher death rates. But this new research goes a step further. Although heat waves can kill in the short term, the authors say, even minor temperature variations caused by climate change may also increase death rates over time among elderly people with diabetes, heart failure, chronic lung disease, or those who have survived a previous heart attack.The researchers used Medicare data from 1985 to 2006 to follow the long-term health of 3.7 million chronically ill people over age 65 living in 135 U.S. cities. They evaluated whether mortality among these people was related to variability in summer temperature, allowing for other things that might influence the comparison, such as individual risk factors, winter temperature variance, and ozone levels. They compiled results for individual cities, then pooled the results.Within each city, years when the summer temperature swings were larger had higher death rates than years with smaller swings. Each 1°C increase in summer temperature variability increased the death rate for elderly with chronic conditions between 2.8 percent and 4 percent, depending on the condition. Mortality risk increased 4 percent for those with diabetes; 3.8 percent for those who’d had a previous heart attack; 3.7 percent for those with chronic lung disease; and 2.8 percent for those with heart failure. Based on these increases in mortality risk, the researchers estimate that greater summer temperature variability in the United States could result in more than 10,000 additional deaths per year.In addition, the researchers found the mortality risk was 1 percent to 2 percent greater for those living in poverty and for African Americans. The risk was 1 percent to 2 percent lower for people living in cities with more green space.Mortality risk was higher in hotter regions, the researchers found. Noting that physiological studies suggest that the elderly and those with chronic conditions have a harder time than others adjusting to extreme heat, they say it’s likely these groups may also be less resilient than others to bigger-than-usual temperature swings.“People adapt to the usual temperature in their city. That is why we don’t expect higher mortality rates in Miami than in Minneapolis, despite the higher temperatures,” said Joel Schwartz, professor of environmental epidemiology at HSPH and senior author of the paper. “But people do not adapt as well to increased fluctuations around the usual temperature. That finding, combined with the increasing age of the population, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, and possible increases in temperature fluctuations due to climate change, means that this public health problem is likely to grow in importance in the future.”Support for the study was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Ever get the urge to print a few words on a graham cracker, with chocolate? No? Well, you only have until Dec. 21 to sample that creation, along with some other experiences you may not have imagined. Like petting a sage plant, or hanging out in an inflatable Mylar hut.That’s the last day the Labrary will be open at 92 Mt. Auburn St. The student-designed pop-up space, which is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., explores what libraries of the future might look like. Pop-up spaces are short-term homes for sales, exhibits, and other public uses. From start to finish, the Labrary will have lasted five weeks.“This whole thing has been a sprint,” said Jeff Goldenson, a Graduate School of Design (GSD) co-instructor in the advanced seminar ADV-09125, or the Library Test Kitchen, where the Labrary projects originated. The other instructors are Jeffrey Schnapp and Ann Whiteside, with help from teaching fellows Ben Brady, M.Arch.1 ’12, and Jessica Yurkofsky, MUP ’12.Teaching fellow Ben Brady, M.Arch.1 ’12 (center), discusses the Labrary with the GDS’s course co-instructor Jeff Goldenson (right) and teaching fellow Jessica Jessica Yurkofsky, MUP ’12.“The Harvard Library is changing,” said Goldenson of the course’s co-sponsor. “This is a way to bring students to the table.” The Labrary emphasis is on making things, he added. In a film about the course, Schnapp, who is director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, called the Library Kitchen “a fast prototyping laboratory for the future of learning spaces.”Some student-made fast prototypes seem whimsical. Rola Idris and Pablo Roquero came up with the printing-on-food idea. Their “graham grams,” made on a palm-size platen press, are part of “Millebooks,” a project that illustrates the impermanence of knowledge. (Goldenson said that burned CDs have a life span of seven years.) Next to the little press is a corn tortilla, covered with lines of inked type.Tony Cho ’14, the only undergraduate represented in the exhibit, came up with “Green Noise,” consisting of three plants hooked to a pale blue, Honeytone baby amplifier. Riffle the sage or tap the bamboo, and you are greeted with an odd little ad hoc concert. Cho was suggesting that people catalogue plants like books, which, he wrote, is “reductive, empirical.” But the objects feel and smell nice too. Future libraries, Goldenson suggested, might include “experience with living things.”Dana Thomson, M.Sc. ’11, a research associate at Harvard Medical School, used her background in global public health to offer the idea of “massive open online scientific literature,” or MOOSL, as an accompaniment to MOOCs, the massive open online courses that are shaking up online education. “It’s the science platform of the future,” she said, a step beyond science literature that has been digital for years, but that can now add depth through multimedia and interactive platforms.While Thomson was looking far ahead, GSD student Gabrielle Patawaran used RECON-TEXTS to reinvent the book as a bound, one-off product that brings the digital (her research notes) back into the realm of the physical. Her volumes, differently formatted for annotation, constituted the only bookshelf at the Labrary. (In a few other cases, old books were used to prop up digital devices.)Brady lay down on a curving plywood stage, hid his face under a laptop, and pressed a button. Voilà! The image of his figure, splayed over a crime scene outline, was downloaded to Tumblr and flashed onto a big screen. Meet “Bookface,” a “participatory photo opera” created by Nicolas Rivard. It’s a way to consider “what we sacrifice by living digital,” he wrote.A few feet away was Rivard’s BoomBench, a platform seat designed to amplify sound. (Yes, future libraries may not fetishize silence.) “Whatever the future of the library is,” he said, “we’re going to be sitting down.”Though perhaps not always comfortably. GSD student Hattie Stroud designed “Furniture for Slight Distraction.” Included are one-legged “unsteady stools” to keep you alert, and “topical tables” rigged with speakers that murmur lectures as you think or read. “I study best,” said Stroud, “when I’m in a lecture for another class.”Study habits of the future — and the libraries that enable them — may well include more noise than is tolerated now. Brady designed a silvery Mylar tent that is kept inflated with a fan. Goldenson looked around at the furnishings: a rug, a lamp, and two beanbag chairs. “It’s been a great meeting space,” he said.Sitting at a table was Karina Qian, M.P.P. ’14, whose scholarship requires a little noise and company. “I don’t study in traditional libraries,” said the Stanford University graduate. “It’s too quiet.”The Labrary was a find, she said, because collaborative space can be hard to locate. Qian works at the space every day it is open, and once had a project meeting in the Mylar inflatable. At the Labrary, she added, “you open yourself up to serendipity.”Local artist and designer Jim Kalambokis sampled a little of that serendipity. He is creative director at the Fullbridge Program in Harvard Square, and “stumbled on the Labrary while grabbing lunch one day.” He was charmed, and set up a display of his book art.Goldenson likes the idea of a library space that is less isolated than tradition requires, that encourages collaboration, and that puts student work on public display. “We’re trying to make an argument for a public space for the library,” he said.That includes letting students use it for their own needs, including the study break part that Qian organized.Said Goldenson, “I want to make lending this space out as easy as taking out a book.”An upcoming lecture, “Library as Platform,” will be held at the Labrary from noon to 1 p.m. on Dec. 14.
“Picture a bridge over a river with a hole in the middle,” said Dahianna Lopez, a Ph.D. student in health policy at Harvard. “When people cross it, some are going to fall through the hole and into the water below. There will be people on the river bank who will jump in and pull them out one by one — those are the doctors. But the public health professionals will ask, ‘Hold on a second, why is there a hole in the bridge? How many people are falling through? How can we fix it?’”Lopez is asking similar questions in her own research, as she works to shine a light on the factors that make it more likely for cyclists and pedestrians to be involved in a crash on the streets of Boston. She is earning her doctoral degree in health policy, with a concentration in evaluative science and statistics, through a University-wide interdisciplinary program offered through Harvard School of Public Health and five other Schools, and expects to graduate in 2016. She has received financial support for her work from the Boston Area Research Initiative at the Radcliffe Institute and the Rappaport Institute at the Kennedy School.For the past year, Lopez has worked with Boston’s Police Department, Department of Transportation, and Mayor’s Office on an assessment of bicyclist injuries in the city. Read Full Story
Most folks don’t spend much time contemplating the computer mouse. It’s just another piece of technology that takes up desk space, and what little attention it gets usually comes when it breaks.A handful of Harvard graduate students, postdocs, and staffers, however, now have a new respect for the engineering behind the lowly mouse, because they built one from scratch.As part of the fifth annual January@GSAS, a series of more than 100 classes, seminars, and training sessions offered to students in Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences during semester break, a workshop introduced participants to the many uses of Arduino microcontrollers, through a project in which they built and programmed working computer mice.“It was a pleasant surprise to find workshops like this being held,” said Alp Sipahigil, a fourth-year graduate student in physics, who attended the session who attended the session at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “I knew about Arduino devices, and had been looking for a chance to try them out, so this was a great chance to learn how they work in a short amount of time.”The January offerings are designed to give students a chance to escape the lab or the library and spend time exploring subjects that might not otherwise appear in a Harvard course catalog, from the biology of superheroes to the connection between neuroscience and magic. Some programs offer opportunities for professional development and social interaction.Along with workshops aimed at developing technological skills, the GSAS partnered with the Office of Career Services to highlight professional development programs, including sessions on making the transition to a nonacademic career and expanding professional networks using online social media tools.For Yasmine Meroz, a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of L. Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, the workshop proved both fun and an important opportunity to learn skills she can use in the lab.As part of a study examining plants and phototaxis, the phenomenon in which plants grow in the direction of a light source, Meroz plans to use an Arduino controller to manipulate light sources around plants.“I’m a theoretician, so this is something I never thought I would do, ever,” she said. “This is a great opportunity because this is exactly what I need to know for the experiment. Otherwise, I would need to learn it all by myself, and it would take ages. This is perfect. I think for any experimentalist of any kind, understanding how microcontrollers work … it’s like having a computer. You can do anything with it.”Among the other events offered to students this month was a forum at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that explored ways to develop innovative assessment techniques in the classroom.In a session led by Gary Sherman, a research fellow at the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching, participants reviewed various grading techniques — including absolute grading, grading on a curve, and pass/fail — and the advantages or disadvantages each offered.Among the newest grading models is multi-choice assessment, an idea Sherman described as a “choose-your-own-adventure” model for students. Rather than simply taking tests or writing papers, students have the ability to pick and choose from a menu of assignments, and are awarded points for completing each. Their grade is then calculated based on the number of points they amass.“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions,” Sherman said. “Our goal here is to give you the tools you can use in your toolbox.”For Shane Campbell-Staton, who led a class titled “The Biology of Superheroes: Exploring the Limits of Form and Function,” the monthlong break was an opportunity to explore how his childhood passion for comic books and superheroes intersects with cutting-edge biology.“As I’ve gone through academia and gained an in-depth understanding of biology, I’ve been thinking about comic books and the extreme phenotypes that exist there — things like super strength or super speed — and I realized they bring up a number of issues that scientists are thinking in depth about,” he said. “Whether or not you’re into comic books, people love superheroes, so I thought that would be a good grounding point to pull people into the scientific literature.”For Sipahigil, the depth and breadth of activities in January are part of what makes Harvard special.“It’s amazing,” he said. “I hope these activities continue to grow. The variety of courses is already very impressive, but it’s getting better and better each year.”
On Feb. 26 the members of the Faculty Council approved a proposal to change the name of the undergraduate concentration organismic and evolutionary biology to integrative biology. They also heard a report from the Committee to Study the Faculty Council Election Procedures and a presentation on the University’s financial context.The council next meets on March 12. The next meeting of the faculty is April 1 at 4 p.m. The preliminary deadline for the April 1 meeting of the faculty is March 18 at noon.
It has been a busy six months since Bill Lee became the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, one of the University’s two governing boards. Busy and productive, Lee said last week, citing The Harvard Campaign chugging along toward its $6.5 billion goal, the University reporting essentially a break-even result in last year’s budget, President Drew Faust embarking on a campaign to make the “case for college,” and the opening of the dramatic new home for Harvard’s art museums. The Gazette sat down with Lee ’72, a former Harvard Overseer, to get his thoughts about his time as senior fellow, the University’s progress during that period, and the challenges and opportunities ahead for Harvard. GAZETTE: How has the University done in your first six months as senior fellow?LEE: Thanks to so many others, it’s been a terrific six months, with the University moving forward in important ways. The capital campaign is moving ahead robustly. As of the end of September, we’re at $4.8 billion.The Steve Ballmer gift to SEAS [School of Engineering and Applied Sciences] sends an important message: a 50 percent increase of the computer science faculty over time. The Chan family gift to the School of Public Health is a huge step forward. We think it puts the School in position to look forward as the leading public health school in the world. What it means for public health, pandemics, health care systems, health care generally, is really enormous.We’ve taken steps to affirm the importance of the humanities to a liberal arts education that brings together elements of the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.The art museums’ reopening was just wonderful. The fact that these marvelous museums with these marvelous collections are available again, in a building that recognizes the special nature of a university museum and also reaches out to the community, is critically important.The fact that we won the Harvard-Yale game for the eighth year in a row is important for those of us who were athletes when we were here.And then, Drew’s use of the Harvard president’s unique position to speak of broader issues, to emphasize — to use [Harvard College Dean] Rakesh Khurana’s term — the difference between transactional education and transformational education, has been a real positive step forward. She did it with high school students in Dallas, the right audience at the right time to get the right message.GAZETTE: How important is it that somebody prominent like Harvard’s president make the case for college these days? Why is that even needed?LEE: I think it’s critically important. Our own government has suggested evaluating education by the short-term economic returns of your first job. That’s not the way to judge the quality of a college education, and it’s certainly not the way to judge whether education has put you in a position to have an interesting, challenging, and engaging career, and a fulfilling life over a long period.Following the 2008 economic crisis, the value of a broad liberal arts education is a question on people’s minds more than it has been for some time. So affirming that such an education is important, no matter what your discipline, is especially critical now.GAZETTE: To go back to the campaign, what’s your sense of its progress?LEE: The success to date has been spectacular and, candidly, better than we could have hoped for. But it’s the breadth of interest in the campaign, the number of people who are giving to the campaign, our ability to raise contributions for Schools like the School of Public Health or the Ed School or the Divinity School — traditionally greater challenges because of the nature of their alumni body — that have been really encouraging.What it says, at least to me, is the great strength of Harvard is the breadth, depth, and unique combination of our Schools and the College. And to the extent that the campaign can ensure that all of them will be strong financially and intellectually, we’re going to achieve a lot.GAZETTE: Why are people motivated to give to Harvard?LEE: Some people recognize that there is an economic challenge in higher education today. We’re in a time when education funding is being challenged, and the financial model of higher education is being re-evaluated.Perhaps more important is that people who give gifts like the Chan gift recognize that they’re not just giving to Harvard, they’re giving so that Harvard’s faculty, its students, its staff make fundamental changes in the world, for the benefit of people around the world.I said at the launch of the [Chan] gift that it will affect hundreds of faculty, thousands of students, but, more importantly, millions of people. So in many ways, a gift like that is not a gift to Harvard, but a gift that enables a means to a broader end.The same is true of gifts to financial aid. You’re not giving to Harvard so that it can be wealthier; you’re enabling students to come here who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to have an education like the one we offer. And when those students leave, they do great things. I think that’s what people recognize.GAZETTE: The University posted a surplus in the past fiscal year, albeit only $2.7 million on a $4 billion budget. Does that mean troubled times are over?LEE: There are strong financial headwinds for any University today. Looking into the future, there will be some challenges we can anticipate — decreased federal funding — and some we can’t.That means responsible fiduciary stewardship is going to be more important than ever. Annual surpluses and deficits are actually not always the best indicators [of how we’re doing], because there will be deficits some years, surpluses others. The question is whether, over a longer period of time, we can provide the right broad financial foundation for Harvard.At the Corporation, we think about things this way: The University has four different types of capital. We have intellectual capital, we have reputational capital, we have physical capital, we have financial capital.You could say that the two most important are the intellectual capital and reputational capital. But a key part of the Corporation’s responsibility is to ensure that the physical capital — like House renewal — and the financial capital are strong, dynamic, and robust so that you can have the intellectual and reputational capital that really define the University.GAZETTE: What other challenges do you see in the future?LEE: As you look out 50 years, what does the rise of the digital domain mean for education on campus? What does it mean for education off campus? Who are the students we’re educating? Only those admitted to Harvard or the broader world? That is a big challenge.A related challenge is: What are we going to do over the next 25 years to make being educated as a member of the Harvard community in Cambridge or Boston so unique and so important that it is worth the time and money to come here to experience it?A third challenge is: What does it mean to be a university in a global context? Are we an American university with global aspirations? Are we a global university that happens to be situated in America? Those are important questions as well.GAZETTE: How have the recent governance reforms, which expanded the size of the Corporation and instituted a new committee structure, changed your job, your workflow?LEE: I think the reforms have been a real success, though I have to tell you I was an advocate for them, so I have a bias.They’ve been a success for this reason: If you look at the breadth of expertise on the [expanded] Corporation today, it’s really quite impressive. We have accomplished academics, accomplished university presidents, people who know and care about the sciences and the humanities. We have CEOs of corporations, nonprofit leaders, people who’ve served in government, people who know finance and technology and law. There’s a breadth and depth of experience that allows us to really help the president as she thinks through the thorny issues that Harvard confronts and the opportunities in front of us.The committee structure is one of the real strengths of the governance reform, in part because it has allowed us to bring non-Corporation members into our deliberations and benefit from their thinking.To give you an idea, the Corporation begins meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Mondays and goes straight until 6. The entire morning is committee meetings. So there’s a huge amount of work that’s getting done in the committees. And we’ve been working hard to ensure we have the right things on our agenda and the right information for us to play our role as well as we can.
The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, based at Harvard Kennedy School, is pleased to announce the appointment of its spring 2017 fellows.“Following one of the most remarkable presidential campaigns in American history, our spring fellows will bring true insight to the turbulent times our politics and our media face,” said Center Director Nicco Mele. “From the role of media in political polarization to the press coverage of international refugee and migrant issues, we look forward to our fellows’ contributions to the Kennedy School community and the world at large.”These distinguished leaders in journalism, technology and political communication will be joining Richard Stengel, Walter Shorenstein Media and Democracy Fellow, through May 2017.Joan Shorenstein FellowsAdam J. Berinsky is a professor of political science at MIT.Helen Boaden is the director of BBC Radio.Farai Chideya has covered every election since 1996 for outlets including CNN, NPR, and, in 2016, FiveThirtyEight, where she is a senior writer.Zack Exley is a political and technology consultant who worked as a senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign.Entrepreneurship FellowMeighan Stone is president of the Malala Fund, working with 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai to empower girls globally.
Scholars at Radcliffe session examine the deep meaning of a movement The women’s revolt: Why now, and where to Though Weinstein’s alleged offenses were extreme, the universality of his accusers’ experiences seemed to empower many women who had been unwilling or unable to come forward before. It also ignited media outlets that either had set aside reporting on sexual misconduct because they couldn’t get enough credible sources to publish, or hadn’t been interested in pursuing the stories until the Weinstein scandal began garnering worldwide attention.Suddenly, every outlet was hunting down its “Weinstein,” and since then, stories about high-profile men, including “Today Show” host Matt Lauer, CBS news anchor Charlie Rose, former Senator Al Franken, actor Kevin Spacey, and many others have become so routine that their narrative is almost formulaic: “Famous rich man used his power and money to sexually harm women or men for years without consequences. Now he’s been fired.”A panel of journalists who have been covering the #MeToo movement took a rare breather Tuesday evening at a discussion at Harvard Kennedy School to reflect on the breathtaking impact the Weinstein story has had on the wider culture but also on the profession, and to consider where the movement may be headed and what work reporters have before them on this long-overlooked issue.Moderator Genevieve Roth, a spring 2018 Shorenstein Center Fellow, asked Koa Beck, editor in chief at Jezebel; Dahlia Lithwick, a legal reporter and senior editor at Slate; Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming for SiriusXM radio; and Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman whether — given the human tendency to apply the “bad apple” label to every new revelation about a sexual abuser, as well as the episodic nature of the #MeToo coverage — reporters and society as a whole are hindered from confronting the systemic problems that underlie sexual misconduct.,Sherman, author of a best-selling 2014 biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who was forced out of his job in 2016 after anchor Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment, said that as the story developed, he realized the bigger news was about the vast system Ailes had created around him: a “whole chain of enablers” made up of deputies, the network legal department, draconian nondisclosure agreements to silence potential accusers, and private investigators to smear women who came forward.“I think that is where the fundamental change happens, because yes, there are predators, there are bad apples out there, but they’re only as powerful as the space in which they operate,” Sherman said. “People like Roger Ailes or Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer, any of these very powerful men operating in this corporate environment, were able to use that corporate environment and the tools, the levers of that environment, to abuse women.”Lithwick said the “desperate desire” of institutions to declare that an accused is a lone bad actor whose dismissal will show the system is working is both understandable and a huge part of the problem.“It means that all of the processes that you’re seeking to put in place, to figure out how is it that we are 40, 50 years into a legal architecture that’s supposed to protect women … is so utterly failed as a legal architecture that we’re doing this kind of internet hashtag parallel justice system? It’s insane.“Instead of saying what is systemically broken, every system that is called upon to assess how it dealt with things tends to say, ‘Hey, we got rid of him. No problem here!’ The deeper conversation we’re going to have to have isn’t [about] the bad apples, it’s the apples in the middle. There are a lot of not-awful-apples-but-still-creepy-apples in the middle,” she said.That the behavior of many of the most infamous #MeToo accused had been long talked about in industry circles suggests that true accountability will have to come from outside corporations, courthouses, and universities.“I just think the presumption that institutions are going to police themselves consistently fails us,” Lithwick said.,In addition to covering the men who have not yet been publicly accused, the panelists agreed that reporters need to expand their attention beyond the famous predators. Where to begin? A good start would be more stories that focus on women of color or women in lower-status jobs who can’t hire a lawyer and create a paper trail or who don’t have the connections to get the attention of the national media; stories that consider the role that men can and should play in the movement; and pieces that uncover what some are doing outside the legal system to stop workplace harassment, they said.Maxwell, a communications veteran of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and a political analyst for MSNBC, said that with a record number of women running for office this November, pundits have already been referring to 2018 as the “#MeToo Elections.”“I think why you see so many women speaking out and why you see so many people stepping up to run for office is because there’s power in numbers. When you see other women coming out to tell their story about the same person who assaulted you, then you’re more likely to be believed,” she said. The end result is the realization that: “We can no longer be passive observers of what’s going on in our country; we have to be more engaged and that also includes telling the truth about sexual assault.”Beyond the splashy and sometimes lurid headlines, how #MeToo creates lasting change likely turns on some fundamental elements, the panelists said.“We have not quite figured out how to invite men into this conversation,” said Lithwick, who wrote about the rare resignation of an appellate judge from the federal bench last December after he was accused of sexual misconduct. Many men who called her with news tips about sexual harassment in the federal judiciary refused to speak on the record, saying the matter was a place for women’s voices to dominate. Lithwick’s not convinced that’s true.“How impactful this [movement] is in the long term — or whether it’s another 1992 that comes and goes — turns on finding a space for men in this conversation,” she said.Sherman, the lone male panelist, said the volatile social media environment makes it particularly fraught for men to wade into the movement in a public way, even when they’re supportive.“This is a double-edged sword. It’s incredibly liberating for speech, but the downside is too much democracy can also be silencing of speech. There is a chilling effect for men, especially white men,” when the default position for Twitter is a mob mentality.“To invite men into the conversation, you have to be willing to hear points of view that you don’t want to hear,” he said. “The way to bring more men in is not to say, ‘I got you. Now I’m going to have thousands of people tweet at you.’” Related Probing the past and future of #MeToo Five months ago, the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal broke open in the pages of The New York Times and The New Yorker, triggering an outpouring of first-person testimonials and claims against others that quickly became known as the #MeToo movement. The #MeToo surge against sexual abuse provides opportunities for pivotal societal change, but challenges too