Published August 19, 2020

On a global, national, and community level, Rutgers faculty and researchers are engaged with the issues of the day. Whether you’re looking for insight into U.S. voting systems, the pandemic in schools, Joe Biden’s running mate choice of Kamala Harris, or other conversation topics, you’ll find it from Rutgers experts in a wide range of news stories and media outlets. Here is a sampling from the past few days:

“People…have safely, effectively…cast their ballot via vote by mail for years,” says Elizabeth Matto, director of the Center for Youth Political Participation at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics. Matto spoke with NJ Spotlight about President Trump’s warning that greater use of mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud, saying his fears are unfounded. “To scale up a system quickly is challenging, it takes a lot of support. But I am concerned that it’s been politicized…there’s not much data, support for the notion that vote by mail is a fraudulent way to cast your ballot.”

NJ Spotlight | Menendez: ‘This Kind of Suppression Comes Straight Out of a Dictator’s Playbook’

Voting Controversies

A Politico article presents insight from 17 scholars and writers about Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate and its impact in the political arena. Two of the experts assembled are Kelly Dittmar and Kimberly Peeler-Allen of Eagleton’s Center for American Women and Politics. “Frustration over women’s persistent underrepresentation in presidential politics is palpable,” says Dittmar, who fully expects Harris to face “biased commentary, evaluation, and treatment due to her race and gender.” Peeler-Allen highlights the strength of “Black women and allies across the country” who are preparing to “show ourselves and the world that we are indeed a nation as good as its promise.”

Politico | ‘She May Very Well Hold the Key to Biden’s Win’

President Trump is talking about cutting or eliminating the payroll tax but has been “very careful about not connecting it to Social Security,” says Ross K. Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, in an article in The Hill. “I’m a little bit surprised that Democrats haven’t jumped on this more aggressively,” he adds, “because you can justly say the repeal or reduction of the payroll tax is a raid on the Social Security trust fund.”

The Hill | Trump grabs ‘third rail’ of politics with payroll tax pause

A New York Times story follows Senator Elizabeth Warren’s journey on racial issues, suggesting that her student years at Rutgers contributed significantly to her present worldview. Although Warren NLAW’76 was not necessarily involved in civil rights activism as a student, says the story, “she was becoming more aware of racial inequality around her.” The article quotes Rutgers University–Newark law professor and alumnus Louis Raveson NLAW’76, who says “[d]iscussions about race were everywhere at Newark and at Rutgers at that time. I have to think that being at Rutgers and being in Newark must have had a profound effect on Liz.”

The New York Times | Elizabeth Warren’s Evolution on Race Brought Her Here

Forbes writes about how developing emotional intelligence (EI) skills can help boost your leadership effectiveness, citing the work of Cary Cherniss, a professor at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. Emotional intelligence “is the ability to perceive and express emotions, to understand and use them, and to manage emotions in oneself and other people,” Cherniss says. “Dozens of studies involving thousands of workers now show that EI has a positive impact on employee morale, motivation, and performance.”

Forbes | Want To Be A Better Leader? Do It With ‘Feeling’

Dissent Magazine has published a tribute to the late David Bensman, a professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations for more than four decades and a member of Dissent’s editorial board. Bensman “found his voice and…found his own subjects” in the pages of the magazine, says the tribute. These included “labor movements and working people, social and economic justice, and education.” Since more work from Bensman will be published in future issues, says the tribute, “David’s voice is not yet stilled.”

Dissent Magazine | In Memory of David Bensman, 1949–2020

School Openings

Starting a new school year is stressful enough for children, but with the ongoing public health crisis, the number of students dealing with anxiety is likely to grow. A New Jersey 101.5 report on this topic quotes Kelly Moore, program director of the Children’s Center for Resilience and Trauma Recovery at Rutgers. “We have to really make sure that we’re trying our best to create as much predictability and control as possible, in a situation that feels very unpredictable and uncontrollable,” says Moore. Referring specifically to digital and online teaching, she adds: “It is critical that schools ensure that virtual classroom features facilitate this process and that students and teachers know how to use the technology.”

New Jersey 101.5 | Back to School During a Pandemic: How to Manage Your Kid’s Anxiety

Research suggests that young children do face certain risks from COVID-19, and experts insist public health must remain the priority as New Jersey and other states consider how to reopen schools in the coming weeks. “We started this with a myth…that COVID spares kids,” Lawrence Kleinman, a population health expert in the pediatrics department of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, tells NJ Spotlight. “And that desire to reassure creates harm.”

NJ Spotlight | Children and Coronavirus: So Much Still Unknown as Schools Head for Reopening

Navigating COVID-19

An effective, viable COVID-19 vaccine appears to be on the horizon, but moral and ethical dilemmas remain about how it will be developed, tested, and distributed. A Washington Post story on the topic quotes Rutgers School of Public Health bioethicist Nir Eyal, who says it is possible for so-called human challenge trials to simultaneously “maximize utility and respect rights.” Eyal says such trials should involve only “informed, willing, low-risk volunteers” from a population that is already in high-risk areas.

The Washington Post | Vaccine Confronts Humanity With Next Moral Test

A story from CBS affiliate WCCO in Minnesota looks at the increasing use of saliva-based testing for COVID-19 and puts a spotlight on where that test method was pioneered. “Rutgers University has now done several hundred thousand of these tests with great data and information that proves that the false-negative rate and false-positive rates of this test are less than one percent,” says Jason Feldman, CEO of Vault Health. He adds that the saliva test’s effectiveness is similar to the nasal swab method that is used for the official test result count across the country.

CBS Minnesota | What Is A COVID-19 Saliva Test? Good Question

Frank Edwards, an assistant professor at Rutgers University–Newark’s School of Criminal Justice, co-authored an analysis of court data in Seattle that found that people of color in that city were consistently charged with more fines and fees per capita than white people. “We are in the most catastrophic economic situation of our lifetimes and it’s absurd to think about courts proceeding to extract revenue from the most economically precarious members of the population,” Edwards told Bloomberg.

Bloomberg | The Disparate Financial Impact of the American Justice System

Akissi Britton, an assistant professor of Africana studies at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, tells Vox that some Black Americans are finding solace in African spirituality. She says that growing up in the Afro-Cuban Lucumí religion, which is derived from the Yoruba tradition, gave her a fulfilling sense of self. “I am not separated from my Orisa, from my ancestors, from the spirits, as well as from my community,” Britton says. “When my sense of self is much broader and attached to other things, I don’t feel so isolated. I don’t feel so alone, like I’m trying to figure it out on my own.”

Vox | How some Black Americans are finding solace in African spirituality

Crop yields for apples, cherries and blueberries across the United States are being reduced by a lack of pollinators, according to a recent Rutgers-led study, which highlighted the risk to global food security. “We found that many crops are pollination-limited, meaning crop production would be higher if crop flowers received more pollination,” said study co-author Rachael Winfree, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Managing habitat for native bee species and/or stocking more honeybees would boost pollination levels and could increase crop production.”

New Jersey 101.5 | Decline of Bees Threatens Crop Yields Across New Jersey and The U.S.

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