The College of Arts and Sciences' communications office works closely with Cornell's Media Relations Office. As the College's representatives to media, we connect faculty experts and thought leaders to local, regional, national and international media organizations.
Linda Glaser, Publicist
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Tricia Barry, Communications Director
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Current press statements from Arts & Sciences faculty:
Political Turmoil in Bolivia
Morales ousting adds new fuel to social conflict in Bolivia, region - Nov. 13, 2019
Political uncertainty accelerated in Bolivia after the ousting of once-hugely popular leader, Evo Morales, over the weekend. After Morales’ resignation, one of the country’s senators from the opposition declared herself president, saying she was stepping forward to “pacify the country.”
Kenneth Roberts, professor of government at Cornell University and author of “Changing Course in Latin America: Party Systems in Latin America’s Neoliberal Era,” says that the institutional vacuum is magnified by broader civil unrest in Bolivia and beyond.
“Evo Morales' forced resignation from the presidency in Bolivia has created a political vacuum that rival forces are mobilizing to fill, on both the left and rights flanks of Bolivian society. The resulting institutional uncertainty is magnified by civic mobilization, which threatens to deepen the country's profound ethnic and class divisions and politicize military and police institutions.
“In a Latin American context of accelerating social protests and heightened ideological conflict, the Bolivian case adds new fuel to the fire and poses novel challenges to democracy in the region.”
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30 years after fall of Berlin Wall, barriers keep going up - Oct. 31, 2019
November 9th will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a 155 km-long concrete barrier that separated the city for almost three decades. While traces of the wall are still scattered around Berlin’s neighborhoods, the cold-war ideological divide between the Eastern and Western areas of the city has all but disappeared.
Nicholas Mulder is a postdoctoral associate in Cornell’s history department, where he studies European politics and modern European history. Mulder says that the apparent gains of 1989 are obscured by the current threat posed by right-wing nationalism in Europe.
“1989 is mainly remembered for victory in the Cold War. But for Europeans it also marks the reunification of Germany, the end of Eastern European state socialism, and the transformation of the European community from a Western European club into a continent-wide union. Given all these processes converging in 1989, the legacy of the events of that year is mixed. The division of Europe that was agreed at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945 came to an end. New freedoms spread, and the European Union has been a political success.
“But from the vantagepoint of today, the apparent gains of 1989 obscure as much as they reveal. Despite EU support, Eastern Europe has not avoided economic dependence on the Western European industry. By focusing on the defeat of communism, liberals became complacent about the greater threat to democracy posed by right-wing nationalism, which has returned with a vengeance since the Great Recession. The protests currently happening from Chile to Lebanon to Hong Kong show that the struggle for political liberties goes hand in hand with the fight against inequality. 1989 won the former while losing the latter, and this unbalanced outcome has proven unstable.”
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Nobel Prize Exoplanet Discovery
Nobel Prize winners’ exoplanet discovery started a ‘remarkable era of discovery’ - Oct. 8. 2019
The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded Tuesday to a Canadian-American cosmologist and two Swiss scientists for their work in understanding how the universe has evolved from the Big Bang and the discovery of the first known planet outside of our solar system. Cornell University experts are available to discuss the impact their work had on our understanding of the cosmos.
Lisa Kaltenegger, director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, professor of astrophysics, and one of the world’s leading experts on exoplanets, says the discovery of exoplanets opened the door for investigating whether we are alone in the universe. A video of Didier Queloz speaking at the inauguration of the Carl Sagan Institute about his discovery of the first exoplanet can be found here.
“Discovery opened our exploration of these brand-new worlds, and now 24 years later we are at the verge of finding out if we are alone in the universe. I am excited that the amazing discovery that started our exploration of these fascinating new worlds got honored with the Nobel Prize today.
“Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor detected the first planet orbiting a Sun-like star 24 years ago, the first of more than 4000 known exoplanets to date.
“We have discovered that every 5th star has a planet that could be just like our own. With 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone, I really like our chances of finding life in the universe.
“The next steps, inspired by the amazing discovery 24 years ago of the first exoplanet, is to collect enough light from these small planets in the habitable zone to figure out if there are signs of life in their atmosphere. We are already building the telescopes that can collect enough light to answer the fundamental question of whether we are alone in the universe - or not.”
Ray Jayawardhana, exoplanet astronomer and author of “Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond our Solar System," is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell. He says the Nobel Prize winners changed our understanding of the cosmos.
“After millennia of speculation and decades of failed attempts, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz discovered a planet orbiting a normal star other than the Sun for the first time in 1995. Their finding, a hot gas giant whizzing around its star every few days —unlike any planet in our solar system— unleashed a remarkable era of discovery that continues unabated to this day. By now astronomers have found thousands of exoplanets —quite a change from the one solar system we knew about just quarter of a century ago. Our understanding of our place in the cosmos has changed dramatically in a single generation.”
“It’s been a honour knowing Michel and Didier over many years – I interviewed both for my book Strange New Worlds. Recently, I saw both at the Geneva Observatory in July, when I gave a colloquium there, and Didier again in August at an exoplanet conference in Reyjavik.”
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Supreme Court Deciding on LGBTQ+ and Civil Rights Cases
Supreme Court to decide LGTBQ+ civil rights, ‘right to work’ - Oct. 8, 2019
The Supreme Court will hear arguments this week on a series of cases that could expand protections against job discrimination on the basis of sex, codified by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Stephen Vider, assistant professor of history at Cornell University and author of the forthcoming book The Queerness of Home: Gender, Sexuality, and the Politics of Domesticity After World War II, says that the upcoming employment discrimination cases represent a critical shift in LGBTQ+ law.
“The three employment discrimination cases coming to the Supreme Court this week are vitally important, not only because of their potential to protect LGBTQ+ people in the workplace but as a litmus test and potential precedent for future LGBTQ+ rights cases.
“The cases up for oral arguments this week represent a key shift in strategy away from privacy and sexual intimacy and toward focusing on the right to work. We can understand this as part of a critical shift in LGBTQ+ law away from private life to public life, in the form of labor and commerce. That is in line with the Masterpiece Cakeshop case from 2018, which centered on whether businesses had a right to turn away LGBTQ+ customers based on religious beliefs.
“It’s critical that the Masterpiece case, and the cases this week, look back to the civil rights legacies of the 1960s. The underlying question here is an ongoing one about whether the kinds of civil rights protections put in place in the 1960s should be extended to LGBTQ+ people—that is whether LGBTQ+ people should be seen and treated as full members of their communities, and whether they deserve the protection of the government to ensure that they are.”
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