e-Veritas Archive | March, 2011

The Ethics of Privacy

Anita L. Allen discusses "The Ethics of Privacy in an Era of Revelation" at UM's Storer Auditorium.

With reality TV shows and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace exposing the private lives of citizens for all to see, Anita L. Allen, a leading scholar of privacy law and practical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, delivered the fourth lecture in the Adrienne Arsht Distinguished Speaker Series in Ethics on March 28 at Storer Auditorium.

Allen, deputy dean for academic affairs and the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at Penn, noted that people now live during historic times characterized by technology that can dispense information rapidly. “In an age of revelation, sensitive information will come to light, for better or worse,” she said. “Even our genomes may come to light.”

Facebook, iPhones, personal digital assistants, and other devices have allowed people to disclose all sorts of information, Allen explained, noting her teenage daughters’ insistence that she return their text messages as an example of how such technology has affected her own personal life. “A mom who doesn’t video chat is like a mom who doesn’t cook,” she said.

Allen, appointed last year by President Barack Obama to his Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, questioned whether we are justified in disclosing sensitive information so readily, saying that issues of voluntary self-disclosure are not as clear-cut as other areas of disclosure.

She warned that sensitive information in the wrong hands can inflict tremendous harm, citing as an example unethical hospital workers who have access to medical records and dispense such information with bad intentions.

She also cited several cases of people’s privacy being infringed upon, from a school district that installed cameras in laptop computers issued to students to a woman who posted on the Internet information about a neighbor who had contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

The Arsht Distinguished Speaker Series in Ethics is an initiative of the UM Ethics Programs, which is codirected by UM professors Anita Cava and Kenneth Goodman.

Adrienne Arsht is a widely respected philanthropist and business and community leader in Miami and Washington, D.C. She is treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and is well known for the $30 million contribution to the City of Miami’s Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, renamed the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

She serves on the University of Miami Board of Trustees and is a member of the Athletics Advisory Committee. Arsht has donated generously, giving $1 million to UM Ethics Programs in 2006, followed by a $5 million donation to the University in 2008, $2 million of which further supports the UM Ethics Programs. The initial gift, at the time equaling the largest gift supporting ethics programs in Florida, funded a suite of University-wide, interdisciplinary initiatives including an ethics debate series, a distinguished speakers program, and a faculty/student research program in ethics and community.


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Mind Games

Navin Maswood, of the Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, poses the question, “Do bigger brains make smarter animals?”

Researchers from The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, with the help of more than 150 University of Miami students, faculty, and staff, helped educate children about how the brain and spinal cord work at the second annual University of Miami Brain Fair, held March 19 at the Miami Science Museum.

More than 1,000 people attended the free community event, which was organized by Coleen Atkins, assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery. Children learned about sports injury concussion prevention, constructed neurons, played with brain puzzles, and had brains and neurons painted on their faces. For the adults, lectures were presented by UM neuroscientists and clinicians specializing in autism, sleep disorders, brain injury, and Alzheimer’s disease. As a way to promote bike safety, The Pilot Club of Miami distributed 590 free bike helmets to children.

“Parents were thanking us and raving about the event. They were impressed with the large number of educators at each booth. At the end of the day as a scientist and researcher, to be able to educate the public on understanding how their brain and spinal cord function is very rewarding,” said Atkins.


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A Good Start for Good Government

Among those attending the Good Government Initiative Launch were, from left, Joe Natoli, UM senior vice president for business and finance and CFO; Sorenson; former Miami-Dade County Manager Merritt Stierheim; and William Scott Green, senior vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

With several prominent figures from South Florida’s political landscape in attendance, the Good Government Initiative, a collaboration between the University of Miami and former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson to help develop the leadership skills of newly elected officials, held its official launch event at UM’s Newman Alumni Center on March 21.

At the event, Sorenson said elected leaders are often unprepared for the challenges they face after taking office and forced to learn many of the skills they need while on the job.

“The best comparison to being elected I’ve heard is having a baby,” Sorenson said. “You go through hours of labor, birth, and recovery at the hospital, and then, when you are ready to leave, they hand you your baby and say, ‘Good luck.’ There’s no mandatory parent training—you’re just thrown in there, handed your child, and you have to get going. You have to start making decisions, important decisions, right away.”

Sorenson called the Good Government Initiative a boot camp, saying it will teach newly elected officials how government and the legislative process work by exposing them to case studies; diversity, ethics, and media training; rules of procedure and budgeting principles; and other teaching aides.

“The goal,” she said, “is to help them develop into thoughtful, effective leaders for our community and our region.”

Visit the Good Government Initiative website at www.goodgov.net.

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Lauren’s Long Walk for a Cause

Lauren Book talks with students at the UM Bookstore.

University Communications

In about a month, Lauren Book will climb the steps of the historic capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, to tell anyone who will listen “that it’s okay to talk about the topic” of sexual abuse, because it could help save a child from suffering the same fate she endured as a young girl.

Her “Rally in Tally,” as she calls it, will bring to an end a 39-day, 1,000-mile walk across Florida to raise awareness about the issue.

But before she reaches the state’s capital, the University of Miami graduate student, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, will make several stops throughout Florida, visiting sexual abuse treatment centers along the way and issuing a call to action in cities like Boca Raton, Tampa, Gainesville, Pensacola, and others.

It’s all part of Walk in My Shoes 2011, Book’s second journey covering the state by foot to help bring attention to an often overlooked and ignored problem.

Last Thursday, she made a stop on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus, speaking to students at a rally at the Hecht-Stanford labyrinth and later at the UM Bookstore, where she signed copies of her new book It’s OK to Tell: A Story of Hope and Recovery.

Her message was the same as it has been at all of her stops.

“Sexual predators thrive in darkness,” she said. “We need to protect children by shining a light into the dark. We have to be the voice for those who don’t have voices. There was no one there to speak for me, so I want to speak for others.”

Founder of Lauren’s Kids, an initiative that helps educate adults and children about sexual abuse, Book suffered years of sexual abuse by her live-in nanny. After years of therapy, she became an outspoken proponent for tougher sex-offender laws and continues to be a crusader on the issue.

She is lobbying for the passage of a bill that would provide financial assistance for survivors of sexual violence; raise fines for sex offenders, with the money going into a fund to help survivors; and make Internet safety tutoring mandatory for school-age children.

No Zebras, a UM student organization dedicated to promoting awareness about sexual assault, partnered with Book on her UM stop, helping to organize the rally, book signing, and a walk around the Coral Gables campus.

“I have friends who are survivors of sexual abuse. This is my way of giving them a voice, my way of saying I’m speaking up for you,” said Taeketra Haynes, president of No Zebras. The organization is so named because it urges people to take action when they witness situations of sexual aggression instead of adopting the bystander mentality often exhibited by zebras when a member of their herd is attacked.

Book, who earned a bachelor’s degree from UM three years ago and is now a master’s degree candidate in the School of Education’s Community and Social Change Program, said it is important for initiatives like No Zebras to get involved because they can help college students, who are often at a higher risk for being victims of sexual assault, become aware of resources.

“It’s important that they know there are places they can go to get help,” she said.

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Scholarly Activity Recognized

From left, professor of chemistry Angel Kaifer, who accepted the award on Vaidhyanathan Ramamurthy’s behalf; Miller School geneticist Margaret Pericak-Vance; UM Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc; and College of Engineering professor Antonio Nanni at the Provost’s Award ceremony.

Deciphering the genetics behind some of our most debilitating diseases requires researchers to work at what sometimes seems a nonstop pace. But sometimes there’s a moment, even if it’s just an hour or two, when a researcher can pause from the rigorous work of genotyping and other high-tech lab procedures to reflect on achievements.

Last Friday, on a university campus where investigation and teaching often coexist, Margaret Pericak-Vance experienced just such a moment, pausing briefly from “a life’s work” of identifying the genetic risk factors for conditions like Alzheimer’s and autism to accept what is considered the highest honor bestowed by the University of Miami for esteemed research activity: the Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity.

“This is exceptional because it’s recognition form those with whom you spend time with on a daily basis,” said Pericak-Vance, the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics, referring to the peer-nomination process for the award. “This is recognition from your community.”

Read the full story

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