William and Mary Digest for Feb. 13

College community gathers to commemorate King

Ten days after the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., William and Mary students, faculty and staff joined with the greater Williamsburg community to commemorate his life and legacy.

Journalist Roland Martin served as the keynote speaker for the annual commemoration event, which took place in the Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium Jan. 31.

Martin, a host of an online news show, author and former CNN correspondent, is a well-read expert on and enthusiast of King. Martin spoke about the legacy and truth of King.

“Do we want to be honest with ourselves as to who we’re celebrating tonight?” he asked the crowd. Noises of agreements and boisterous words of approval were heard from the audience. Martin spoke candidly about the civil rights leader. In fact, Martin said King would probably find it problematic that the day was about him and not the movement.

Martin also spoke frankly about America’s treatment of King, both during his lifetime and since his death.

“America hated Dr. King when he was fighting for black freedom,” he said. “It’s easy to love a martyr. But did America love him when he was here?”

Athletics administrator chosen for prestigious leadership program

Erik Korem, associate athletics director for student-athlete high performance, has been selected for the prestigious Presidential Leadership Scholars Program.

Korem is one of 60 Scholars chosen for the program’s fifth annual class, which was selected after a rigorous application and review process. Scholars were selected based on their leadership growth potential and their personal leadership projects aimed at improving civic engagement or social good by addressing a problem or need in their community, the country, or the world.

Presidential Leadership Scholars serves as a catalyst for a diverse network of leaders brought together to collaborate and make a difference in the world as they learn about leadership through the lens of the presidential experiences of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson.

“Erik has quickly established himself as an integral member of the senior leadership team of Tribe Athletics. His work at the cutting edge of high performance is pivotal in our pursuit of holistic excellence,” said director of Athletics, Samantha Huge.

During the course of several months, scholars will travel to each participating presidential center to learn from former presidents, key former administration officials, business and civic leaders and leading academics. They will study and put into practice varying approaches to leadership and exchange ideas to help strengthen their impact in their communities.

GMOs not main culprit in monarch butterfly decline

To get a better understanding of the monarch butterfly’s future, Jack Boyle built a time machine.

Boyle, a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow of Environmental Science and Policy at William and Mary, has used the web to mine millions of century-old botany records to track abundance patterns of milkweed in America. Contrary to claims made by scientists and activists for decades, he’s learned that genetically modified crops are not the main culprit for the decline of milkweed, the principal host plant for monarchs.

“We’re attacking, in a very mild way, the received wisdom that the big thing we need to worry about with monarchs is genetically modified crops, that all this spraying of herbicide has devastated the milkweeds,” Boyle said. “Of course, we can’t rule out that that’s been what’s happening in the past 20 or so years, but that’s only the tail end of milkweed decline. They’ve been dying off since the middle of the 20th century, long before genetically modified crops.”

Boyle is the lead author on a paper detailing his findings, which was recently published in the journal PNAS.

Using digitized records from museums and herbaria throughout North America, the researchers were able to track the relative abundance of both monarchs and milkweeds for more than a century, from 1900 to 2016. They found that both monarchs and milkweeds increased during the early 20th century and recent declines are actually part of a much longer trend beginning around 1950.

“Herbicide-resistant crops are clearly not the only culprit, and likely not even the primary culprit,” the paper states. “Not only did monarch and milkweed declines begin decades before GM crops were introduced, but other variables, particularly a decline in the number of farms, predict common milkweed trends more strongly over the period studied.”

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