Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

1. Saying goodbye to your freshman: Move in day at UC Berkeley

It was an emotional move-in day at Berkeley on Monday, as proud parents helped their kids move into their new rooms and bid them goodbye. "I'm going to cry later," said single father Carl Gyllenhammer, as he left his son Reese, a computer science major with a 4.66 GPA. Some interesting statistics accompany this story: Females comprise 53 percent of the freshman class and California residents form 69 percent. All 50 states are represented, as well as U.S. territories and 54 countries. Link to video.
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2. Leading Berkeley Through Free Speech Tests
Inside Higher Ed

As Berkeley holds its convocation for 9,500 new students, the campus's new chancellor, Carol Christ, is expected to announce her plans and priorities for the school year. Reclaiming Berkeley's free speech legacy is one of them, according to this report. In an interview on Friday, she said: "We are deeply committed to the principle of free speech. ... At the same time, we don't want to, in any way, minimize or trivialize the concerns of people in our communities that feel that sometimes speakers come and say not only things with which they disagree, but things that they feel are deeply abhorrent to them. We need to spend a lot of time as a community thinking about those tensions, but that doesn't in any way minimize our commitment to free speech. ... We have the responsibility to protect free speech. ... We also have the responsibility to protect the safety of our students. And so of course we're doing planning on the security side." Other priorities include building community, solving budget shortfalls, eliminating sexual harassment, improving the undergraduate experience, hoping faculty perform research, and increasing student and staff diversity. An in-depth profile of Chancellor Christ appeared in the San Jose Mercury News. Other stories on this topic appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and Berkeleyside.
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3. 5 Researchers Share $500,000 Prize for Work on Gene Editing
New York Times (*requires registration)

Molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna is one of five researchers sharing this year's $500,000 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research. The award is for the researchers' parts in developing the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology.
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4. Battle over Pesticide Pits Demand for Proof against Precautions for Health
Capital Public Radio

With controversy growing over the safety of pesticides, this article asks what science has to say about chlorpyrifos, a commonly used agricultural pesticide in the organophosphate family that was on its way to being banned in the U.S. until Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump's EPA chief, decided to reverse course. "This is not perfect science," says public health professor Brenda Eskenazi, an expert on the topic. Although she says more research is needed, she doesn't think chlorpyrifos can meet the EPA's standard for "a reasonable certainty of no harm." She says there's "sound research" in animal data supporting the notion that chlorpyrifos is potentially harmful to human health. "I think we have to weigh the animal evidence and the limited human evidence together ... to make sure we anticipate any potential harm to human health and to guard against that." Link to audio. For more on Berkeley pesticide research, see our latest press release at Berkeley News.
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5. How Children's Brains Learn to Reason
Psychology Today

Brain wiring established by age six predicts reasoning ability later on in life, according to a new study led by psychology and cognitive neuroscience professor Sylvia Bunge. In prior research, Professor Bunge's team had established that two parts of the brain the prefrontal cortex and inferior parietal lobule are especially important to reasoning. In the new study they looked at the structure and function of these two regions, aiming to figure out the order of developmental events. They accomplished this by collecting data on more than 500 people ranging in age from 6 to 22. Think of the Golden Gate Bridge, Professor Bunge says. "The first thing that was built were the cables that stretch all the way across, connecting two points of land, just the way long-range axons, neurons, are connecting different parts of the brain." Once that foundation was in place, the rest of the bridge could be built, and then the traffic had room to proceed. "The cars . . . that is the communication between brain regions ... they're sending messages and information back and forth." While the study doesn't explain what, exactly, helps build the necessary foundation, the researchers say they do know what impedes that growth -- malnutrition, exposure to toxins, unstimulating environments, chronic stress, and other things that often accompany low socio-economic status.
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6. Twitter, Facebook users name and shame white nationalists in Charlottesville rally
Mercury News (*requires registration)

In a story about Twitter and Facebook users' identification and shaming of white nationalist demonstrators in Charlottesville on Saturday, law professor Chris Hoofnagle, an information privacy and consumer protection expert, weighs in. Noting that police and others have been working to identify demonstrators for years, he says: "We have very strong protections for our speech and a right to assembly against our government, but virtually no protection against private retaliation for free speech. ... This is all about private censorship and shame. ... If you're willing to accept it as OK, then think about what this would mean if this were done to you."
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7. North Korean nuclear threat reopens debate on pacifism in Japan
La Nacion (Argentina)

With nuclear threats emanating from North Korea (and the U.S.), Japan is reportedly considering amending its Constitution to raise armed forces, banned there since World War II. In this article, political science and Asian studies professor Steven Vogel gives a bit of background: "Historically, governments reinterpreted the Magna Carta to say that Japan may have military forces, but that they have a defensive role and not the capacity to attack. That is why [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe would rather have a constitution that would openly acknowledge Japan's right to defend itself, to have an armed force and to participate in joint military missions. In 2015 it enacted certain norms that allowed the Self-Defense Forces to participate abroad; that was a kind of substitute of the revision of the Constitution, since the reform was not politically viable at the time." [The original article is in Spanish]
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8. America's Buses Lose Riders, Imperiling Their Future
Wall Street Journal

A story about the decline of bus transportation in American cities mentions a Berkeley co-authored study finding that increased city transit service makes cities more productive and raises workers' wages by making it easier for companies to cluster together, attracting workers.
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9. The Downside of Full Pay Transparency
Wall Street Journal

An old study co-authored by Berkeley researchers is mentioned in a story about the risks and benefits of pay transparency. The study was based on surveys of UC employees. Some respondents had been prompted to look up their coworkers' salaries on a public website, while others had not. All respondents were then questioned about their job satisfaction. On average, staff who found out they were paid below the median expressed much less satisfaction with their jobs and were more likely to leave than people who were also paid below the median but hadn't been prompted to compare their salaries. In other words, full pay transparency was found to increase job dissatisfaction and potential turnover.
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10. 12 Lessons You Learn or Regret Forever
San Francisco Chronicle

An advice column on career advancement highlights the importance of "sticking your neck out." Under the tip, "Don't Say Yes Unless You Really Want To," the author says: "Research conducted at the University of California in Berkeley shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout and even depression, all of which make it difficult to take charge of your career. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for many people. 'No' is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it's time to say no, avoid phrases like 'I don't think I can' or 'I'm not certain.' Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them."
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