Philosophical ruminations.
Nov. 23 1999 3:25 AM


News from academe.

(Continued from Page 1)

Ohio University students cleaned off their porches last February when the Athens, Ohio, city council outlawed the use of indoor furniture out-of-doors. But today, the couches are back. Led by OU neurobiology professor Scott Hooper, students beat back the law with a referendum that won by a 46-vote margin (1,506 in favor, 1,460 against). OU senior Jennifer Ciganko saluted the return of the Athens decorating tradition. "My mom went here 30 years ago and there were couches on the porches," she said.


The Fittest for Science

The nation's top scientific journal is getting a new top editor. Donald Kennedy, a biologist, former president of Stanford University, and once commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, will take the reins at Science in June. (Current Editor Floyd S. Bloom will return to Scripps Research Institute.) Kennedy resigned from Stanford in 1991 after reports circulated that he had acquired extravagant personal items at the expense of the federal government.

A Bad Shot in the Arm

The government wants to bust the drug policy professor. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded the John Jay College of Criminal Justice a $2.6 million grant in 1996 to support Professor Ansley Hamid's five-year study of heroin use in New York City's toughest neighborhoods. But a federal complaint, filed in late October, accused the much-celebrated Hamid of misappropriating grant funds for personal use--to take trips, buy CDs, and work on an unrelated book manuscript--and to buy heroin for his research subjects. Hamid faces 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and losing his job, all over what he calls "really trumped-up charges." Joy Settembrino, who refused Hamid's requests to purchase items unrelated to the research, says of Hamid: "It almost seemed that he acted as if the check for the full $2.6 million was written out to him to do as he pleased."


Higher Learning

The 100 best spiritual books of the last 100 years were announced this month. Compiled for the new-agey publisher Harper San Francisco by Smith College religion professor Philip Zaleski, the list includes books from all major religious traditions as well as novels, essay collections, letters, and confessions. Malcolm X, Mother Teresa, Franz Kafka, and Jack Kerouac made the cut. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man received the most votes from the nominating committee. Zaleski thought people might be surprised that The Lord of the Rings made the list. "I do think it's the quintessential tale of good and evil, a deeply moral tale. And that seems to be a spiritual subject," he told the Dallas Morning News.

Why Johnny Can't Do Differential Equations

College mathematicians are overhauling the undergraduate math curriculum now recommended by the Mathematical Association of America. Many professors complain that students don't understand the concepts and theories underlying their number crunching. "I want students to think--and that's not what we get out of our math programs today," says Ernst Breitenberger, an Ohio University physicist. The MAA's new curriculum, which will be voluntary, is due in two years.