Indiana University       Research & Creative Activity       September 2000 • Volume XXIII Number 2


Why are African Americans referred to the office, suspended, and expelled at higher rates than white students? Russell Skiba, associate professor in the IU School of Education, says the disproportionate representation of African Americans among students disciplined at school is evidence of pervasive and systematic bias. Skiba’s study, involving 11,000 middle school students in the Midwest, strongly suggests that disparities in school suspension are due to differences in the rate of initial referrals to the office. African American males were much more likely to be referred from the classroom to the office than other students, even for minor infractions, and they were subject to higher rates of more severe punishments. Skiba also found that African American students were referred for more subjective reasons, such as excessive noise or disrespect. See the report at under “On-line Publications.”


D. Craig Brater has been named the ninth dean of the IU School of Medicine. A member of the Medical School faculty since 1986, Brater succeeds Robert W. Holden, who retired on June 30. Brater will oversee an annual budget that includes more than $135 million in research funding. Gerardo M. Gonzalez has been named university dean of the IU School of Education. Gonzalez is known for founding Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students (BACCHUS), the nation’s largest collegiate organization for the prevention of alcohol abuse. He replaces Donald Warren, who has retired after ten years as dean. Kumble R. Subbaswamy is the new dean of the IU Bloomington College of Arts & Sciences. A physicist, Subbaswamy had been dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. He succeeds Morton Lowengrub.


More than one quarter of American adults today say they have experienced an impending nervous breakdown. In a study published in the American Psychologist, IU researchers found that in 1996, 26 percent of Americans felt they were on the verge of a breakdown. In 1957, only 19 percent felt the same. Ralph Swindle Jr., of the IU Department of Medicine, and his IU co-authors conclude that the current generation is more accepting of mental and emotional problems. The researchers say the study suggests the expansion of policies that emphasize informal support and nonmedical treatments rather than the role of the primary care physician.

The gap in language skills between hearing children and children who are deaf may be substantially narrowed if the child with hearing loss receives a cochlear implant at an early age. Mario Svirsky, associate professor of otolaryngology at the IU School of Medicine, and other IU researchers have found that the earlier a child who is deaf receives a cochlear implant, the more likely he or she is to develop speech and language skills at about the same rate as a peer with normal hearing. A cochlear implant is an electronic device surgically implanted into the inner ear.

Microbes in the soil around a parent tree may kill that tree’s seedlings by design, say IUB doctoral student Alissa Packer and Professor Keith Clay. In a March issue of Nature, the biology department researchers published new evidence that native pathogens in the soil influence tree distribution. The fungus Pythium spp. prevented black cherry seedlings from growing near their parent tree, but different species could take root without a problem, creating a diversity of tree species. The hypothesis that natural pathogens kill seedlings around parent trees has been tested with tropical forests, but Packer and Clay’s study shows for the first time that the same process occurs in temperate forests.

When women serve as caregivers to others, their own health may suffer. That’s the finding of a study conducted by Eliza Pavalko, associate professor of sociology at IUB, and graduate student Shari Woodbury and published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Using a sample of nearly 3,000 women in late midlife, the researchers found that psychological distress increases as a woman moves into and continues caring for an ill or disabled person in her household. The work of caring affected women’s physical health as well—women in the study developed physical limitations, experiencing difficulty in climbing stairs, for instance, or lifting heavy objects.

Neil Goodman, IU Northwest professor of fine arts, has created his largest freestanding sculpture, “Centennial Passage.” The bronze entrance gateway made of 100 kinetic hexagonal units is in place at the Dow Centennial Sculpture Garden in Midland, Michigan.

IUB Distinguished Professor of biology Jeffrey Palmer is a new member of the National Academy of Sciences. A leader in evolutionary genomics, Palmer and his lab team have revealed new understandings of the origins of land plants and chloroplasts. Martina Arroyo, Menahem Pressler, and Rudolf Raff have been elected to the 220-year-old American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Arroyo and Pressler are Distinguished Professors at the IU School of Music in Bloomington. Raff is IUB professor of biology and director of the Indiana Molecular Biology Institute.

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