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The University of Alabama

UA in the News: December 22, 2012-January 2, 2013

Habitat for Humanity teams up with UA students, Calvary Baptist to get Jackie home for Christmas (photos) – Dec. 21
Two weeks after beginning construction, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa, with help from a local church and a group of University of Alabama students, handed the keys of a brand new house to Jackie Wright. Wright, 49, will share the new house on Fosters Ferry Road in West Tuscaloosa with her sister, Deima, and their three nephews thanks to Calvary Baptist Church and UA graduate students who launched a “Get Jackie Home for Christmas” campaign to raise funds this fall. At a dedication ceremony on Friday, Wright thanked all volunteers, donors, UA and Calvary Baptist members for helping her move out of her 61-year-old family home that had been in serious disrepair.
WLTZ-NBC (Columbus, Ga.) – Dec. 24 
WTTE-Fox (Columbus, Ohio) –Dec. 24
CBS 8 (Montgomery, Ala.) – Dec. 24  
WTOK-ABC (Meridian, Miss.) – Dec. 24  
WLOS-ABC (Greenville, SC) – Dec. 24    
WJRT-ABC (Flint, Mich.) – Dec. 23
WTAE-ABC (Pittsburgh, Pa.) – Dec. 23
WCPO-ABC (Cincinnati, Ohio) – Dec. 23
WMBF-NBC (Florence, SC) – Dec. 23
WBRZ-ABC (Baton Rouge, La.) – Dec. 23
WXTX-Fox (Columbus, Ga.) – Dec. 23
WDAF-Fox (Kansas City, Mo.) – Dec. 23
KTLA-CW (Los Angeles, Calif.) – Dec. 23 
Fox 6 (Birmingham) – Dec. 21
CBS 42 (Birmingham) – Dec. 21

UA faculty members make predictions for 2013
Tuscaloosa News – Jan. 1
They may not be fortune tellers with crystal balls and Tarot cards, but they are still able to predict the future. Several University of Alabama faculty members recently offered insight into what might come to pass in the new year during the 32nd annual Educated Guesses project. Presented by UA’s Office of Media Relations, the project gives faculty members an opportunity to make predictions in their areas of expertise. While the guesses do not always come true, the professors have established a decent track record. “We ask faculty to go out on a limb a bit,” said UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen. “We let them know they won’t be held to it if it doesn’t come true.” From self-driving cars becoming more prevalent to more states legalizing marijuana because of revenue, the 2013 predictions touched on a variety of topics. The 12 UA professors gleaned this information not by any magical means, but by researching and studying current events.
Gadsden Times – Jan. 1
CBS 42 (Birmingham) Dec. 24

UA grad students make third trip to Haiti
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 25
Santa came a little early to a couple of hundred Haitian children this year. While many students were taking a much-needed break from school, visiting with family and enjoying the holidays, University of Alabama graduate student Haley Beech, 26, and her husband, a fourth-year pharmacy student at Samford University, Lucas Beech, 23, spent some of their winter break bringing a little Christmas joy to 200 children in Boucan, Haiti. The Christmas goody bags included notepads, crayons, toys, candy and more. Many of the items were school supplies because those things are hard to find in the poverty-stricken country, said Haley Beech, a second-year graduate student in UA’s School of Social Work. This is the young couple’s third trip to the small, rural community high in the mountains, about two hours outside of Port-au-Prince. About 500 people call the mountain village their home and they survive there without running water and electricity. The Homewood residents said they had their first experience in Boucan shortly after Christmas in 2010. “We really had a heart to go right after the earthquake in January (2010), but there were so many people and organizations pouring into the country, it was really hard to get in,” she said.

UA Public Relations Student Society of America wins national contest – Dec. 31
If you were at the Alabama-Ole Miss tailgate this year, you may have seen a strange looking tailgate covered in some type of duct tape. This was all part of a national competition in which the University of Alabama’s Public Relations Student Society of America were competing. Turns out they won. Add another national title to the list. Duck Brand College Duck Tape presented a challenge to PRSSA groups all over the U.S. to get their public relations brains thinking to promote their own college’s themed tape complete with a 200-student tailgate. The PRSSA committee enjoyed the competition and were also able to get some real world experience. Melissa Stewart, co-director of the competition, said they couldn’t have started this year off on a better foot. “This campaign was a great way to start off the semester. I was so pleased with the number of students who participated and helped implement it,” said Stewart. “We could not have led an award-winning campaign without everyone on our committee and their hard work.” UA won the national competition along with $1,000.

Emancipation & the Civil War
CSPAN3 – Jan. 1
UA History Professor Dr. Glenn Brasher took part in a panel discussion about Emancipation & the Civil War at Gettysburg College. The panel discussion was recorded and aired on CSPAN3.

Gun sales rise, Large-capacity magazines on the firing line
Anniston Star – Jan. 1
For many, the hottest thing going this Christmas season couldn’t be found on the toy aisle. Large-capacity ammunition magazines for the AR-15 assault weapon – similar to the one used to kill six women and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., this month – are selling quicker than manufacturers can make them, dealers say. And it’s not just the sales of those large-capacity magazines that are up. Sales of all guns and ammunition have increased in recent weeks, say local gun sellers…The feeling by some that the U.S. is steeped in a culture of violence is what Mark Lanier, professor and chair of the department of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, thinks may be more dangerous than the amount of ammunition a weapon can carry. “I think that the media, movies, rap, (video) games contribute more to a subculture of violence than of extended clips,” wrote Lanier in an email to The Star Friday.

Expansions, additional retailers in forecast for 2013 in West Alabama
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 30
The year 2012 was a time of recovery in West Alabama. Businesses destroyed by the April 27, 2011, tornado came back in greater numbers, and some retailers new to West Alabama joined the scene. City of Tuscaloosa officials finished mapping out their plans for rebuilding the tornado-ravaged areas. And West Alabama’s auto industry, which only a few years ago faced an uncertain future as some wondered quietly if it would survive, was racing ahead as Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance prepared to add new vehicles to its production lines and with them additional employees. The same held true for its area automotive parts suppliers. And the county’s coal industry — one of its oldest and largest employers — was on the move, too … “The overall economy of Tuscaloosa county grew by approximately 2 to 2.5 percent” in 2012, said Ahmad Ijaz, an economist with the University of Alabama Center for Business and Economic Research.
Gadsden Times – Dec. 30

Legal briefs: SD school, evangelist head to court in free speech dispute
Community College Week – Dec. 24
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and a Christian evangelist who wants more freedom to speak on campus are poised for a court battle. The outcome could affect other college campuses in the state. Mark Gavin, 39, of Black Hawk, is suing the school, saying it has infringed on his right to free speech by not allowing him to preach in high-traffic open areas around campus. He is seeking the right to do that, along with court-related fees, in the federal lawsuit filed on his behalf by the Tennessee nonprofit Center for Religious Expression. The school filed a response to the lawsuit, indicating it will not back off on its stance that Gavin must pay a $50 fee for an area inside the student union, the Rapid City Journal reported. The school argues that its policy establishes areas “appropriate for expression” that do not infringe on Gavin’s First Amendment rights. The college considers Gavin’s speech to be solicitation, and a school policy requires solicitors to register with the school and be confined to an area inside the student union … University of Alabama law professor Paul Horwitz, an expert on free speech, said schools may be able to limit full access to campus, but they need to do so equally. “The answer seems to be yes, although it can’t just be done arbitrarily: the school at least would have to have a clear policy that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of the speaker’s viewpoint,” Horwitz said. “In fact, a number of universities in the past few years have established specified `free speech zones’ on campus, while keeping others clear of speech.”

Local GOP made history
Florence Times Daily – Dec. 28
Republicans were elected to local county commissions this fall for the first time since Reconstruction, marking what some observers said is the beginning of the end of Democratic dominance in local courthouses. David Black became the first Republican elected to a Colbert County office in living memory when he won the District 2 County Commission race over Democrat Lane Roland. In Lauderdale County, Republican Roger Garner defeated incumbent Democrat Rhea Fulmer to become the first elected GOP member of the County Commission. In Franklin County, the two challenged commission seats and the probate judge’s seat went to Republicans. “It (election results) cements Alabama as a red state because if that area is going Republican, then there is not much hope for the Democratic Party,” said Bill Stewart, a retired political science professor at the University of Alabama. “That is where the Democrats should be strong, given the presence of organized labor and TVA, and the loyalty that area had to the Democratic Party for such a long time.” Republican gains in local courthouses was voted the No. 4 story of the year by the TimesDaily news staff.

County jobless rate falls to 6.1%
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 22
Tuscaloosa County’s unemployment rate fell more than 1 percent in November. Figures released by the state on Friday show about 1,000 more people joined the ranks of the county’s employed in November, with 84,775 county residents holding jobs. That’s up from 83,751 people working in October, but still less than the 85,593 people working in November 2011. Although more people were working a year ago, the county’s unemployment rate then was higher — 7.4 percent. Similar patterns existed in previous months. Economists at the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research have said that’s because many people have left the workforce over the last year.

COLUMN: How crunching data can help police stop spree killers
Wired – Dec. 28
What if the police officers racing to a deadly mass shooting could know, ahead of time, whether they should trust or ignore first-witness reports? What if the brave men and women responding to heartbreaking scenes like those in Newtown, Connecticut and Littleton, Colorado could protect themselves – and save more victims – by knowing what to expect? Thanks to a growing body of analytics tools, we can develop detailed profiles of such horrific events and the people behind them, even with only minimal information reported from the scene. These findings could help police anticipate probable outcomes and adjust accordingly in real time, potentially saving more lives. In the swirl of panic, confusion and misinformation during the Columbine massacre, 13 people were dead or dying while the attackers – unbeknownst to the police – had already committed suicide. The first responding officers prioritized securing the school’s perimeter and waiting for backup, instead of immediately following the two shooters back inside the building. Some victims eventually bled out and passed away during this delay. Years later and almost 2,000 miles away, police were still searching for a second shooter three hours after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. They believed the witness reports that in addition to the killer who lay dead, another armed gunman had escaped and fled. What police didn’t realize in both of these cases was that of all active shootings that occurred in the U.S. over the last half century and yielded multiple casualties, less than 2.23 percent had been carried out by dual gunmen. (Adam Lankford is a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama and the author of The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers.)

GUEST COLUMN: Focus should be on mental health in wake of Newtown
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 30
The events that occurred in Newtown, Conn., are appalling and troublesome. As President Barack Obama mentioned in his address to the members of the Newtown community, this was the fourth time that he visited a town or city where mass shootings occurred during his presidency. The Newtown rampage involved so many very young, innocent children who had their lives ahead of them and had done nothing wrong. They just went to school on that horrific day. As commentators, politicians, family members and others reflect on the inexplicable behavior of a person who, obviously, had been living with serious mental problems, the focus will be on strengthening gun control laws. Indeed, there is much that needs to be done in this area. However, as most anyone will agree, if someone is bent on doing harm, no law will prevent them from succeeding. In my judgment, we should focus on strengthening our mental health services and programs. (Richard T. Crow, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama School of Social Work.)

GUEST COLUMN: America’s spiritual leaders are too silent
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 30
I have heard and read just about everything related to the issue of mass violence and gun control today in America — everything from solutions as zany as arming everyone to taking guns away from all. We plan to turn our schools into little fortresses and hire thousands of psychologists and police professionals to track down, analyze and neutralize every potential psychotic killer in the land, and finger pointing goes on and on. What I really haven’t heard should be coming from the pulpits of Christian churches across the land. I am not excusing other faith traditions in America, but I write as a Christian. Every religion that has a moral basis needs to examine what is happening in the land from inside their faith. Mine comes from inside of Christianity, and I hear a deafening silence from the pulpits of America. I am not condemning all, since I have occasionally heard and read powerful statements from eminent priests, pastors and theologians of the Catholic and Protestant worlds speak with clarity and power to the decline of those Christian standards expressed so clearly in the Bible. But those Christians are in the minority. (Larry Clayton is a professor of history at the University of Alabama.)

PATTERSON AND BROWN: Losing our literary legacy in the Twitter era
Washington Times – Dec. 26
Homer didn’t tweet. A facile observation, to be sure — Twitter did not exist in Homer’s time and place, wherever and whenever that might have been. (Most scholars put him in late eighth century B.C. in Ionia, but no one knows for sure.) If Twitter had existed in Homer’s day, though, would he have tweeted? If his time had been so occupied, would he still have been able to compose his twin masterpieces, the Iliad and the Odyssey — the foundation texts of Western civilization? More important, if a person existed today with the cognitive and linguistic capacities of a Homer, would Twitter (and the like) be liable to stoke or squelch his potential? To ask such questions is to brush up against the eternal entwinement of thought and language. No one debates whether or not digital tools such as Twitter debase the language; in a way, that is their very purpose. The question is: Does it matter? It does. In fact, future archaeologists looking back on our early-21st-century imperial decay surely will note that the erosion of the ability to write — and therefore, think — went hand in hand with a degradation of our politics and culture. (Matt Patterson is a Washington-based columnist and commentator. Crissy Brown is director of outreach for Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Alabama.)

Underwater homeowners will work for less pay: Cutting research
Washington Post – Dec. 28
People who are underwater on their home mortgages probably will accept “significantly” lower wages than other homeowners, according to a study published this month by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The recent U.S. housing bust left many homeowners with mortgage debt larger than the equity value of their homes, say Fed Bank of Atlanta economist Chris Cunningham and Robert R. Reed of the University of Alabama. They cite data showing that 31.4 percent of U.S. homeowners were underwater in the fourth quarter of 2011. People in that situation tend to value employment more than those with significant housing wealth do, because without a job they would default on their home loan, Cunningham and Reed said. They thus are willing to accept lower wages than their counterparts. Their study found that being underwater is associated with a wage decline of between a 5 percent and 9 percent. The risk is that by agreeing to work for lower wages, underwater workers create a negative feedback loop in which “house price depreciation leads to lower wages, and in turn, lower wages lead to greater housing losses,” they said.

College news
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 30
University of Alabama … Cresandra Smothers, director of internal communications for the University of Alabama, has completed the University of Alabama’s master management certificate program. Smothers received a certificate of completion on Dec. 12 from the University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies …Amanda Pate, a buyer for Nucor Steel of Tuscaloosa, Inc., and Joshua Michael of the University of Alabama completed the University of Alabama’s management certificate program for Supervisors. They received their certificate of completion on Dec. 12 from the University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies… Xi Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education at the University of Alabama inducted new members on Dec. 4. Inductees include Jessica Lee Harrison, daughter of Peggy Harrison; Katy Galloway, wife of Matt Galloway; and Michael A. Oliver, husband of Kim Oliver.

Crimson Tide coaches offer support on, off field
Fox 10 (Mobile) – Jan. 1
The Crimson Tide football team doesn’t achieve success by chance. Its hard work, dedication and coaching staff make a difference in the player’s performance both on and off the field. Behind the scenes, athletes at the University of Alabama can engage in spiritual opportunities whether it’s going to a bible study, sitting down one-on-one with a spiritual leader or attending chapel before a competition or game. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes also known as FCA, is an organization that’s been working alongside athletes (the football team in particular) since 1964. It’s the oldest FCA collegiate huddle in the country and was created to give athletes a platform to share and grow in their faith. University of Alabama’s FCA Director Coach Gary Cramer said he and his staff build relationships with the football players and become an integrated part of their lives. The spiritual staff goes to practices and games where they stand on the sideline showing support for the team. At times, Cramer said he will sit in the dining hall with a bible open, waiting for students to come and engage in conversation. “We meet with every athlete on campus whether you’re from the Jewish background, Islamic background, atheist, you may be an atheist. They know we’re on their team, and we love them, and we want to see them maximize their potential as to the gifts they’ve been given,” Cramer said.


The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.