Newsmakers for July 2002

Newsmakers is published in CampusMemo on the last Monday of each month during the academic year by the Office of Public Affairs at SFSU. 415/338-1665.

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July 8, 2002

Ch-ch-ch-changes That blooming plankton Vegas roots inspire professor A dangerous harvest
Divided loyalties Coming out In the writer's chair Apply in July
Big screen, bigger box office Return to the July 8 CampusMemo


An article in the May 17-23 edition of the San Francisco Business Times discussed several format changes that Bay Area radio stations have made in the last six months. Top 40 station KZQZ-FM changed its name to "The Drive" and now features classic rock. Sami Reist, a professor of broadcast and electronic communication arts, said KZQZ's change may not be for the better: "I find it hard to believe that this particular format change is going to be lucrative, as there are already a number of stations in the market that play variations on it."

That blooming plankton

The Marin Independent Journal reported in its May 20 edition that sea lions and other marine animals have become ill because of toxic plankton. The phytoplankton, a species known as Pseudo-nitzschi, is not always toxic, but blooms of it along the central and southern coasts have been producing the toxin domoic acid. "We have this same type of (phytoplankton) in Tomales Bay and outside the Golden Gate, and they are totally natural," said William Cochlan, senior research scientist at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. "But sometimes we get toxic blooms that can cause problems." Cochlan is studying the plankton to discover what triggers the toxic blooms. "There is a lot about the oceans we still don't understand," he said. "People think space is the last frontier, but look at the oceans."

Vegas roots inspire professor

Creative writing Assistant Professor Brighde Mullins discovered her talents and inspirations as a writer while growing up in Las Vegas, she explained in a June 7 San Francisco Chronicle interview. "It's such a visual place. ... It was all very spectacle oriented," the award-winning poet and playwright said. "I think I have a contrary nature -- I sort of went the other way. I became very interested in language and in sound and in reading." In the interview, Mullins also said she believes writing is the freest form of self-expression. "Self-censorship, especially for young people, for women, for gay people, is just as real as any censorship that exists anywhere," she said.

A dangerous harvest

The U.S. government's regular announcement of terrorist threats was the subject of a June 15 San Francisco Chronicle article. David Fischer, diplomat in residence at SFSU, acknowledged that "a lot of the warnings are just cover-your-tail exercises in political leadership" but also said that some of them are based on credible threats. "I know they are getting a lot of warnings," he said. "The difficulty is separating the wheat from the chaff."

Divided loyalties

The World Cup provided a painful exercise in loyalties for some recent immigrants, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on June 18. The article claimed that immigrants who cheer for the soccer team representing their former country instead of the U.S. team risk being characterized as anti-American. "We have a history of asking people to give up their cultural identities," said Susan Zieff, an assistant professor of kinesiology. "In an event like the World Cup, this nationalism becomes stronger. ... We say, 'If you're living here, you vote American. You be American. You cheer American.'"

Coming out, and several other online news portals ran stories on June 20 and 21 on an $876,965 grant awarded to SFSU from the California Endowment. The three-year grant will fund the first-ever study of physical and mental health outcomes of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who "come out" to their families during adolescence. Rafael Díaz, professor of human sexuality studies and ethnic studies, and Caitlin Ryan, director of policy studies at the Institute on Sexuality, Inequality and Health, will conduct the study. Ryan said she hopes this study will show how family and the community can help prevent the spread of HIV and reduce the high rates of pregnancy, depression and suicide among gay teens. "Families are a critical factor and a risk factor for youth in general," she said.

In the writer's chair

The June 23 issue of the Marin Independent Journal featured an article on Maxine Chernoff, chair of Creative Writing, and her short story collection Some of Her Friends That Year. The collection explores the life struggles of couples, families and friends. One theme that runs throughout the collection is the way people tend to process all of their problems without actually addressing them. "Everything has become psychologized, and sometimes rather than leading to a deeper understanding, it makes everything kind of superficial," she said. "And that's not just a California phenomenon, it's a media phenomenon."

Apply in July

In its June 24 issue, the San Jose Mercury News reported that San Jose State and SFSU will close application periods for the fall 2002 semester early because of an increase in applications. SFSU will stop accepting applications July 31. "The kids of the baby- boom generation are hitting big time," said Patricia Schofield, director of undergraduate admissions. "The wave first hit in the south and now we in the north are beginning to experience the overflow." Universities close applications early to make sure they don't admit more students than they can handle. "Obviously we want to be able to serve as many students as possible," said Jo Volkert, assistant vice president for enrollment planning and management. "But we have a limit in the number of courses we can teach based on the budget we get from the state. Once the classes are filled, there's no more room."

Big screen, bigger box office

The summer movie season is set to smash box office records reports the San Francisco Chronicle in a July 5 story. Movie receipts are up 26 percent over the same period last year. "There's something special about going out and seeing something with a community," said Joe McBride, assistant professor of cinema. "Plus, summer is the time for big spectacles, and people know (the films) won't look as good on the small screen." The article said it's also possible that uncertain times have led to more film-going, a trend similar to America's response to World War II. "People are scared out of their wits by warnings of terrorism," McBride said. "It's a relief to be able to forget about it for a few hours. And summer movies tend to be even more escapist than other films."

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Last modified July 8, 2002, by the Office of Public Affairs