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Apologies to Ethel Mae and Her Vertebrae Which I Hit With an Umbrella When I Was Six

You confiscated it
after that, and for the rest
of the year,
I walked to school
With only a yellow slicker
for protection when it rained,
breaking your back
on every muddy crack
that my red galoshes descended on
like shiny, rubber truncheons.

On April 1st,
they sent me home
from school with a fever,
and I caught you dancing
unaware of my heated presence.
Out in the sloping yard,
apple blossoms showered
the grass green as pears
where you danced alone,
hands clasped over your head,
your white cotton skirt surging
open as you pirouetted on your toes,
a twirling, white parasol of the body.

--From A Failure of Loveliness, poems by Linda Lee Harper (Arts and Sciences '86, '82), published by Nightshade Press (Troy, Maine, 1994). Harper teaches at the University of South Carolina at Aiken and is editor of The Devil's Millhopper.

Blank Expression

For nine years, Pitt doctoral candidate Eric Davin has worked to complete his history dissertation on Pittsburgh's political history while fighting the FBI over documents on the Workers Alliance, the largest representative of unemployed Americans during the Depression.

Davin suspects that the documents, requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act are a "gold mine."

When Davin first asked the FBI for the files in 1986, only a few pages were given. Following his lawsuit in 1992 (now on appeal), Davin received 2,900 pages of the 6,900 documents he requested--but all with varying degrees of usefulness.

"They'd have a copy of a letter, and the letter would say, 'Dear Blank,'" Davin says. "And then the entire page would be blanked out, and then at the end it would say, 'Sincerely, Blank.'"--From news reports in The Pittsburgh Post- Gazette and The Pitt News

What happens when you sneeze up a storm?

"Anything I say would be a wild guess. I don't know the compression within the sinus cavity, no idea of the velocity of the air involved. "--Paul Shepard, professor, physics and astronomy department

" I'm not sure. It probably has to do with the creation of mist in the air. I get questions like this all the time. I guess when you're on television, you lose a certain amount of anonymity, so people will feel free to call and ask, 'What does it mean when it's raining cats and dogs?' One lady stopped me on the street and asked what the weather would be like next October for her daughter's wedding."--David Zahren (Arts and Sciences '71), weekend weather forecaster, WJLA TV, Channel 7, Washington, DC

Growling Stomach

Found taped to a refrigerator door in the School of Library and Information Science: Whoever is taking S. Buchanan's lunches--Stop It or I'll Starve.

A few recent visitors to campus--

Actor Barry Williams, aka Greg from the 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch, speaking about the differences between his character Greg Brady and Barry Williams. "Greg was a confused teenager trying to get dates all the time, trying to figure out what to do with his life. Barry Williams is a sophisticated adult trying to get dates and figure out what to do with his life." Edmund Gordon, professor emeritus of psychology at Yale University, speaking on diversity: "The cojoining of universities' commitments to honor the characteristics of our diverse peoples and the pursuit of academic excellence is not only one of the moral imperatives of our time...it is also a required condition for the continued advancement of our society." Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, speaking at Pitt's 1995 Commencement: "Don't ever confuse knowledge with wisdom and common sense. The world is full of educated derelicts- -don't ever join them."

Ready, Mr. Music?

Among the rock groups appearing around campus last semester:
Reagan Squad
Bitter Delores
Ed's Redeeming Qualities
Flannel Underground
Nixon Clocks
Her 11 Cats
Barefoot Serpents
Monkey on a Stick

On a Clear Day,
the Voltage Will Surround You

As you stand on the ground looking up at the Cathedral of Learning-- craning your neck and compromising some important shoulder muscles--you spy an antenna on top, which looks to be 10 or 15 feet high.

Try again. When you stand on the roof of the Cathedral, the antenna is more like 50 feet. Maybe 60. It's huge.

And it's more than just an antenna. Its height and design make it mighty prone to lightning strikes-- even though it's not technically a "lightning rod."

Instead, the big antenna is built to double as a grounding mechanism, much the way a three-prong plug grounds power tools and appliances. Thick, braided copper wires carry the electrical load into the Cathedral of Learning's infrastructure and down into the earth.

What with lightning strikes and the ambient static electricity, the antenna gets a good workout. (That high up, the moisture and changing electrical fields in the air can create a spark even on a clear day.)

And such protection is very much needed: A slew of expensive electrical equipment is tucked in and around the roof turrets. (Because the building is an historic landmark, the equipment is placed as out-of-sight from the ground as possible.) There are radio antennas for the Pitt Golden Panther Ham Radio Club, transmission equipment for the University's beeper system and campus police, and signal devices to Pitt's computer hookup in nearby O'Hara Township. And halfway up the 50-foot pole are twin antennas for WPTS, the campus radio station.

The mishmash of antennae make for some weird juxtapositions. Imagine WPTS broadcasting something from the rock group "Throbbing Gristle" (no, we're not making this up), right next to Pitt's ham radio antenna. Imagine: ham, gristle, ham, gristle.... Better yet, don't imagine that.--Mark Collins

Research Periscope

Molecular Lens: Chemistry assistant professor Patrick Treado has developed a new computerized chemical-imaging microscope to uncover the molecular structure of materials. The computer-driven device can tell researchers what a particular material is made from. Treado's private company, Chemicon Inc., has stirred significant interest in the business press.

Help for Hepatitis C: The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has received two grants to study drug therapies for chronic hepatitis C, a serious liver disease that often necessitates transplantation. Hepatitis C affects approximately 170,000 Americans each year, half of whom develop a chronic condition.

Free treatment for depressed teens: Researchers at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic are offering free treatment for teenagers with clinical depression. As many as one million teens in this country suffer from clinical depression. Suicide--one of the leading causes of death for people under 25--has been linked to unchecked depression.

Counseling vs. training for abusive families: Preliminary results of a five-year Pitt study of abusive families, funded by the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect, suggest that high-risk behavior during treatment-- such as parental use of force or excessive parental anger--are lessened in families who receive individual child and parent training in coping and self control skills vs. families who receive group therapy.

Do I Need a Note
from my

The following grading policy appeared in a publication from one of Pitt's graduate schools:
The time limit for changing an I (incomplete) grade to another grade is one calendar year.... Thereafter, the I grade remains permanently on the transcript. Exceptions to this policy can be made under the following circumstances:
  • Academic probation
  • Doctoral student engaged in dissertation writing
  • Extended illness beyond the term following the I grade
  • Death or extended personal emergency--if the student does not return for the following term.

Anyone who returns to school after death will be exempted from this policy. Late fines from Hillman Library, however, will still apply.


Interim Chancellor Named:
J. Dennis O'Connor stepped down on August 1, as chancellor. Taking on the role of interim chancellor is former law school dean Mark Nordenberg. Nordenberg, 46, dean from 1985 to 1993, is a Distinguished Service professor in the School of Law. He served as interim provost from September 1993 to June 1994. In that position, he chaired the University's Planning and Budget Committee and Council of Deans and helped to initiate the strategic planning process now underway.

Pitt Adds Women's Soccer, Drops Two Men's Sports: Beginning in 1996, women's soccer will become the newest addition to Pitt's varsity sports roster--but 1996 will also mark the last year for men's gymnastics and tennis. The moves were spurred in part by Title IX, a federal law that provides for equal education opportunities for men and women, including athletic activities. Pitt athletic director Oval Jaynes called the decision to drop the two sports" agonizing," but added, "We have a strong commitment to be in compliance with Title IX.... We want to make the best effort we can to provide quality programs for male and female students." The realignment gives Pitt nine men's and nine women's varsity sports.

Titusville Unveils First Campus Fund Campaign: The University of Pittsburgh at Titusville launched its first-ever capital campaign.

The million-dollar effort--already halfway to its goal--will help finance a new science center. The new building will house laboratories, classrooms, offices, computer facilities, and an auditorium.

The One That Got Away

"I work full time. I'm a husband, father, and touring bass fisherman. It's tough to fit everything in. "--Senior Steve Heck, who is finishing his degree through the External Studies Program. Quoted in The Pitt News


August 24--Residence halls open...August 30--Classes begin...September 2--Football: Pitt vs. Washington State...September 12--Add/drop period ends, resignation sets in...September 23--School of Dental Medicine Class of 1945 50th Reunion (BTW: l995 marks the 40th anniversary of Jonas Salk's polio vaccine. "When I came here, I started out in the old Municipal Hospital that is now Salk Hall. Salk put them out of business. The next to the last year that the hospital was operational, there were 143 patients there with polio. The following year, there was one. That was the year it closed down."-- Kenneth Rogers, then-chair of Pitt's Department of Preventative and Social Medicine, in Pitt Magazine, Spring 1969)...October 14, 'round midnight--Pitt basketball officially begins pre-season practices (BTW: It would be immodest to call the incoming freshmen one of the most talented recruiting classes in the country, so we won't mention it. ) . . . October 20-21--Homecoming Blowout: Keg Roll, Fireworks/Laser Show. Football: Pitt vs. Miami (BTW: the first radio broadcast of a football game was October 8, 1921, right here in the 'Burgh. Pitt 21, West Virginia 13.)...October 30-November 4--25th Annual Jazz Seminar and Concert...November 16--University Orchestra at Bellefield Hall...November 24--Football: Pitt at West Virginia...November 22-26 --Thanksgiving Recess...December 9- 16--Finals . Sleeplessness. Torpid stupor. Caffeine jags...December 16-- Fall term ends.

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