Obamacare support: When polls mention repeal it seals the deal

ITHACA, N.Y. – With the U.S. Senate set to take up debate on a new health care bill, Cornell researchers asked a simple question: Does the American public want former President Obama’s health care law repealed and replaced? It depends on how you ask the question.

The researchers analyzed hundreds of national opinion polls from March 2010, when Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, through the recent presidential election. They wanted to know whether different wording in survey questions would predict support for “Obamacare.

Support for Obamacare is significantly higher – by about 9 percentage points – when the survey question explicitly mentions “repeal” or “repeal or replace” as an option, they found. The study was published May 4 in Health Communication.

“Given that ‘repeal and replace’ really has been the mantra of Republican lawmakers, it’s interesting that polls mentioning that term don’t show higher support for getting rid of the law. It actually seems to put people in a mindset where they support the existing law even more,” said co-author Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication at Cornell University.

Co-author Jeff Niederdeppe, associate professor of communication at Cornell, and his colleagues hypothesize that loss aversion, a well-researched concept in economics and psychology, may account for the law’s greater support on questions that include “repeal” or “repeal and replace.” That is, people generally want to avoid a loss more than they want an equivalent gain, he said.

“When people have a law that has expanded health care options for tens of millions in the U.S., talking about taking it away seems to, if anything, increase people’s support for it,” Niederdeppe said.

The research also points out that survey questions, depending on the polling organization, can take radically different forms, Schuldt said.

As every good survey researcher knows, there’s no right way to ask a question, Schuldt said. One must critically engage with the way survey questions are asked and the organization that’s asking them to get a clearer understanding of public sentiment. “The wording of surveys matters more than we think.”

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews. For more information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Warren named associate VP of development

Kathi Dantley Warren, currently the senior executive director of development for Duke Cancer Institute, has been named associate vice president of development at Rice University, effective July 10.

Kathi Dantley Warren

With more than 17 years of experience at higher education and medical institutions, Warren will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of individual fundraising programs and also oversee various departments within the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, including gift planning, major gifts, school-based fundraising and annual giving.

All of us at Rice are incredibly excited that Kathi will be joining the Development and Alumni Relations team,” said Vice President Darrow Zeidenstein. “Educated as a scientist, Kathi brings incredible smarts and a wealth of development experience from her work at Cornell and Duke, two of the best development programs in the country. I have zero doubt that both faculty and staff will enjoy working with Kathi as we seek to secure resources to enhance Rice’s mission.”

In her development role with one of the original eight comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute, Warren transformed the fundraising program from a yearly $18 million enterprise to a $30 million enterprise and successfully completed a $200 million campaign.

Before joining the Duke Cancer Institute and Duke Health in Durham, N.C., in 2014, Warren served as assistant dean for alumni affairs and development at Cornell University’s College of Engineering, where she created its first alumni affairs and development strategic plan and alumni engagement plan. Over a four-year period she increased annual revenues by 245 percent – from $22.7 million to more than $56 million – and helped achieve the second-best fundraising year in the college’s history. Through philanthropy she also enabled the college to create and endow several new programs, including an engineering leadership program and teaching excellence institute.

“It gave me great joy to see the legacy that this created,” Warren said. “Faculty and students are benefiting from those programs that were the result of a partnership with donors and institutional leadership.”

Warren has an M.A. in cell and molecular biology and microbiology from Duke University and a B.A. in biology from Hampton University. She found herself drawn to the development profession after thinking about how she had been impacted as the recipient of an undergraduate scholarship and graduate fellowship. She learned more about the profession that made that scholarship and fellowship possible and became a development associate at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she worked her way up to associate director of development.

She met a refugee from an African country at a University of Maryland scholarship event for donors and recipients and kept in touch with him. After graduating, the refugee got a job at the United Nations and then returned to his home country to try to assist people there, but none of that would have happened if he had not received the scholarship. “That was hugely impactful,” Warren said. “The scholarship changed not only his life, but the lives of others.” She said experiences like this helped her to find meaning in the development profession. “It’s very rewarding,” she said.

Warren’s career in development includes more than 10 years of leading teams during fundraising campaigns of more than $1 billion. She said the best institutions find a way to blend the scientific tenets of fundraising with “the art of cultivating meaningful, lifelong relationships with an institution,” and Rice’s ability to do that was a key factor in her decision to join the university’s development team.

“Rice has an excellent story to tell and a visionary leader in President David Leebron,” Warren said. She noted that Rice’s prestige as a research institution, its liberal arts programs, its residential college system and its unique landscape in an urban setting are “very compelling and really engender not just investments but partnerships with donors” and can lead to “transformational gifts.”

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Warren said she is excited to come to Rice and to make a home in Texas for her family, which includes her husband, Stephen; her 11-year-old son, Bennett; and Pearl, a Piston terrier who is “the sweetest dog on the planet.” Warren is an avid sports enthusiast who likes to run, lift weights and play basketball with her son. She also enjoys cooking and acrylic painting.

Yale University statement on graduate student unionization

During the past year, Local 33 of UNITE HERE, which is seeking to unionize students in several departments of the Graduate School, has held a number of protests and demonstrations on campus. Yale has fully respected those peaceful gatherings and the right of demonstrators to express their views — both pro and con — on the question of graduate student unionization.  However, actions this week by members of Local 33 raise concerns about the safety and well-being of the demonstrators and about their apparent disregard for longstanding university policies and principles regarding the appropriate time, place and manner for exercising freedom of expression. 

Yale as an institution is resolutely committed to freedom of speech and expression, the principles of which are embodied in the Woodward Report. The university continues to welcome an open, respectful, and robust discussion on the important issue of graduate teaching fellow unionization.  Yale also enjoys strong and productive relationships with its clerical, service, and maintenance employees, whose unions — UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35 — recently concluded five-year contracts, marking many years of historic labor peace on campus.

On Tuesday of this week, eight graduate students affiliated with Local 33 announced that they would engage in a fast. The university believes this action is unwarranted by the circumstances. Yale cannot compel anyone to refrain from this activity, but strongly urges that students not put their health at risk or encourage others to do so. In response to the fasting, President Peter Salovey has stated, “My primary concern is for the health and safety of our students. While I deeply respect their right to freedom of speech and expression, I urge our graduate students to reconsider this decision and to avoid actions that could be harmful to their well-being.” On Wednesday morning, a small number of graduate student union organizers attempted to block access to Woolsey Hall, disrupting an information session during “Bulldog Days” for high school students recently admitted into Yale College and their families.  Later on Wednesday on Beinecke Plaza, without seeking the required approval to hold a demonstration there, Local 33 members erected a large tent-like structure as part of what they said would be an ongoing, indefinite protest. The demonstrators have been formally notified that their continuing presence and the structure do not comply with university policies on free expression. 

The matter of Local 33’s graduate student organizing drive is currently before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB conducted elections in February in nine departments of the Graduate School for which Local 33 filed petitions. Although there are 2,600 doctoral students in the Graduate School, only 228 students cast eligible votes in the nine academic departments in which elections were held. The low vote count (under 9%) was due to Local 33’s “micro-unit strategy” of holding nine separate union elections, and preventing students in the rest of the school’s departments from having a say on the question of unionization. The Graduate Student Assembly — the student government elected by all graduate students — had passed resolutions prior to the elections opposing both Local 33 and its exclusionary micro-unit approach.

Yale has requested that the NLRB review Local 33’s questionable micro-unit strategy, which is unprecedented in higher education. Unions that have organized at other private universities, including Columbia, Harvard, Duke and Cornell, have all sought school-wide bargaining units — not the separate departmental units advocated by Local 33 at Yale. Yale’s request for a review is still pending. As the NLRB process in which Yale and Local 33 are engaged is still underway, Yale has informed Local 33 that requests to engage in collective bargaining in the eight departments that voted to be represented by Local 33 are premature.

Yale continues to provide unsurpassed support to its doctoral students. They receive annual stipends of $30,000 or more, and a tuition fellowship or other grants fully cover the annual tuition of $39,800. Yale pays for the health insurance of all the doctoral students. If a student has a spouse, but no dependent children, Yale pays half the cost of the spouse’s health insurance. If a student has a spouse and children, the university covers the full cost of their health insurance. Over six years, the total cost of support equals nearly $375,000 for a single Ph.D. student. For a student with a family, the support totals more than $445,000. Over the course of six years, doctoral students gain valuable teaching experience as part of their training by devoting no more than a sixth of their time to teaching, and in many cases far less.

Additional information about graduate education at Yale can be found on the Graduate School’s website. As with any issue, all members of the Yale community should feel free to express their views on this critical matter in higher education.

Former VP Joe Biden to deliver Senior Convocation address

ITHACA, N.Y. – Vice President Joe Biden will give the keynote address at this year’s Senior Convocation, Saturday, May 27, during Cornell’s 149th Commencement Weekend. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January, Biden has represented the United States in every region of the world, traveling to more than two dozen countries.

“We’re really excited about having Vice President Biden. No matter what you believe politically, you must respect his outstanding character, leadership and decadeslong service to our country, as well as how he has overcome personal adversity. He is a true American,” said Matthew “Chewy” Baumel ’17, chair of the student-run 2017 Convocation Committee, which selects the speaker.

Biden, vice president of the United States 2009-17, represented Delaware as a U.S. senator for 36 years, from 1973 until he became vice president.

A native of Pennsylvania, Biden graduated from the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School. At 29, he became one of the youngest people ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

As chair or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, Biden was particularly active in criminal justice issues, including the 1994 Crime Law and the Violence Against Women Act. As chair or ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years, Biden was at the forefront of legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, Europe, the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

As vice president, Biden led the national Cancer Moonshot initiative, which focused on making progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer.

He implemented and oversaw the $840 billion stimulus package in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He also led the Ready to Work Initiative, the Obama administration’s effort to identify ways to better the country’s workforce skills and training. A longtime advocate against sexual assault and domestic violence, Biden appointed the first White House Adviser on Violence Against Women, and he worked on White House efforts to reduce gun violence and raise the living standards of the middle class.

Internationally, he advised President Barack Obama on foreign affairs. He had been a leading architect of the U.S. strategic vision of a unified Europe and a revitalized NATO. He also led the administration’s effort to support Ukraine as a sovereign democratic country. In the Middle East, he was deeply involved in shaping U.S. policy toward Iraq and championing Israel’s security. And he led the administration’s efforts to address economic, social, governance and citizen security challenges throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Convocation is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. May 27 in Schoellkopf Stadium. The event will be livestreamed on CornellCast and televised on local Spectrum Time Warner Cable Channel 16. Tickets are not required, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In the case of severe weather, the event will be moved to Barton Hall and only graduating seniors will be invited to attend.