This week, Rutgers fired men's basketball coach Mike Rice after video surfaced of him using homophobic slurs and physical abuse against his players during practices. Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti also resigned in the video's aftermath.
This is a reminder to all that colleges have an obligation to build character as well as minds and athletic skills. Antisocial behavior that is dehumanizing or discriminatory on the basis of race, sexuality, or religion should not be tolerated by anyone in the university community. There are no innocent bystanders.
The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which Sen. Frank Lautenberg and I wrote several years ago and reintroduced in February, would require colleges to set high standards against such language and behavior and to achieve those standards. This Rutgers incident highlights the need for our bill to become law.
Beyond the Human Genome Project
In the 1960s, the United States invested in the Apollo project. It took us to the moon -- but even more importantly, it produced a major return to our economy, producing an estimated $7 in return for every $1 in federal investment.
In the 1990s, we had a new grand goal: mapping the human genome. The Human Genome Project was jump-started with $3.6 billion in federal investment, and the economic output has been almost $800 billion so far.
On Tuesday, President Obama proposed a new idea for big-vision investment: the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Its goals are at least as bold as setting foot on the moon or understanding human genes; it seeks to enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought. The payoffs could include new treatments for brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.
The President has proposed $100 million in initial funding in 2014 for the BRAIN Initiative -- a major investment, but hardly an extraordinary amount by historic standards. In fact, federally funded investment has declined by half since the 1960s, as measured as a share of our economy.
As I told the Star-Ledger, the private sector has made up some of that loss, but they tend to invest in different types of R&D. If you want to develop a certain kind of light bulb, private industry will do that. But more fundamental discoveries -- such as basic knowledge and insights that cannot be patented -- have traditionally been supported by the government, since no private company can capture all of the payoffs of such investments.
The same is true for fundamental research in understanding the human brain. Indeed, the President may be dialing back his goals because of a recalcitrant Republican majority in the House. Far more than the proposed $100 million could and should be spent on this initiative -- not to mention the billions that should be spent on research initiatives in energy, transportation, health care, communications, climate science, and more.
New iPad App Helps You Explore American Energy
The Natural Resources Committee Democrats this week released a new iPad app called "eVIZ," short for Energy Visualizer, which helps you explore and understand America's energy production and usage, as well as the consequences for our society.
Using eVIZ, you can map decades of U.S. energy production -- including wind, solar, coal, and oil -- with the slide of a finger. You can also compare states head-to-head to discover which are the most energy efficient. In addition, eVIZ features an extreme weather section mapping billion-dollar disasters, and it helps you calculate your fuel savings from fuel-efficient automobiles.
The app is a quick and simple way to be more conscious of our use of natural resources and of how we can improve America's energy future. Click here to download it via iTunes.
Member of Congress