Monday, September 13, 2010

Whole Foods color-codes sustainablity of wild-caught seafood

Like everything in life, Whole Foods (WF) has done some super awesome things and some super annoying things. Thankfully, today's report is super awesome!

If you haven't heard the news, WF is amping up its sustainability efforts by filling a gap in its treatment of wild-caught fish. While some of its wild-caught seafood at WF is MSC-certified ("meets the highest benchmarks for credible certification and ecolabelling programs, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization guidelines and the ISEAL Code of Good Practice"), consumers are left to wonder about the rest--until now.

Enter Blue Ocean Institute and Monteray Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch--both of which use color coding to rate the sustainability of wild-caught seafood. WF is using these to cover wild-caught fish not from WSC-certified fisheries.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Men's Journal advocates veganism

Lemmie tellya--hegans are hard to find. The heternormative script of "masculinity" doesn't exactly reward men who love animals or cherish the earth. But if male health can be re-routed away from animal flesh and fat, maybe we will develop more cultural space for the hegan.

Enter The Men's Journal (thank you, Gluten Freeway, for the link). In it's September 7th post of "The Men's Journal Guide to Going Vegan," MJ claims that just three weeks of a vegan lifestyle has you feeling better head to toe. I can definitely corroborate the quick time line.

Aside from listing vegan supplements, proteins, bars, and grocery tips, MJ also talks about "what to expect." I've inserted my comments in orange.

II. What to Expect

Week One:

Your entire body will feel lighter, as the meat built up in your gut is literally forced out by the deluge of fiber from all the vegetables. You will also feel less sluggish. “You start to come out of this fog that many people have from eating heavy, fatty foods,” says Susan Levin, the director of nutrition education at the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “When you give up dairy, you immediately breathe easier.” You’ll also have to deal with cravings for things like cheese. Find an appropriate substitute, like soy cheese. Your taste buds will adjust within a week. Uhhh...I don't know about any "cheese craving." But if you don't get enough healthy fats, you will crave animal products. When I first became a vegan, I was so busy eating beans, veggies, cookies, and rice, that I found myself craving meat. My friend told me my fat levels were likely down, and so I immediately incorporated nuts, seeds, and olive oil into my cooking and snacking. Voila! Also, soy is not the solution to all. It is generally over-processed, and there is controversy as to whether over-consumption has adverse health implications. Try making your own cashew cheese or picking up rice milk or almond cheese (available at Whole Foods).

Week Two:

You will have noticeably increased energy, and you’re likely to see some slight weight loss, because your overall calorie intake has likely gone down. “Not much weight loss,” says Levin. “We don’t want people dropping weight like crazy.” With increased energy, she says, you will find your workouts getting better and, as pro athletes have noted, your recovery time will become shorter. By the end of your second week, says vegan ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, you won’t feel as achy after your workouts.

With more energy, says Levin, comes a brighter mood and outlook. According to a 2009 Arizona State University study, people who cut all meat from the diets, including fish, showed less tension and stress.

Week Three:

“Enjoy everything you had in week two, but even more energy and probably a final layer of weight loss,” says Levin. But really, this week is where it gets molecular. “If you were someone who was meticulous and into blood labs, you’d actually see your blood sugars and cholesterol levels go down,” says Levin. “Your blood pressure will also fall as you’re breathing better and your arteries are clearing out.” If you are already in your target range of caloric-intake, a vegan transition likely won't result in weight loss. If you over-eat dishes with animal fat regularly, then perhaps. And don't forget--veganism still means cupcakes, cookies, brownies, fried seitan, and other deliciousness. Also, a note on the increased energy: it is true that you feel a crazy boost of energy. But then that becomes your everyday life, and the feeling normalizes over time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How Big is "Too Big"?

Cross-posted on GMUSL student publication, The Docket.

As I sat in a morning class of Federal Income Tax on my first day as a 2L, there was something particularly wonderful about the experience—there were only about twenty students around me. Looking forward to the joys of small class sizes to come, I suddenly wondered how the incoming class of around 300 1Ls would affect my GMUSL experience (Not to say all you 1Ls aren’t lovely. Shout out to my mentees). Even worse, if 1L classes keep getting bigger, tuition keeps rising, and SBA is not receiving increased funding, what exactly am I paying for?

After hearing about my concerns, Deans Polsby, Huber, and Kelsey were all kind enough to sit down with me and answer my questions. First, although the 1L class is unexpectedly large, our overall student body population is about 29 over the target 720-50. In 2007, GMUSL had an entering class of 267;[1] in 2008, the class size went down to 160;[2] in 2009, the number went back up to 247.[3] Although the new 1L class is bigger than usual, the difference makes up for smaller classes in the past.

Notwithstanding the extra bodies on campus, the 1L day sections are still sized appropriately because a chunk of the extra students are in the evening section. Also, the deans haven’t forgotten that our professor-to-student ratio affects our ranking. Dean Polsby is in conversations with the provost to get additional teaching help in the spring when it’s needed.

Next we moved onto tuition. If the 1Ls didn’t need an extra section, where is the extra money going? Turns out, GMUSL is responsible for only a small percentage of our tuition and a surcharge. Although the law school can increase the surcharge every year, it has only done so twice in GMUSL’s history. The rest of our tuition is in the hands of the Board of Visitors, and the law school is not at the table for tuition discussions. It was speculated that since tuition increases have less of an impact on cheaper undergraduate tuition and the law school is only about 3% of the total university, the Board doesn’t think it’s such a big deal. But it is, and Dean Polsby agrees. GMUSL attracts students because of our location, reputation, and price. Our 1L numbers demonstrate loud and clear that GMUSL has got the goods. Annual tuition increases are not sustainable, and the law school will lose its competitive edge if the trend continues. Dean Polsby believes our tuition should be as cheap as possible, consistent with other objectives. He along with other alumni are pushing to end the blind increases to our tuition, particularly in light of a 12% increase predicted for next year.

Aside from controlling the bulk of what we pay for school, the University also controls our SBA funding—not the law school (GMUSL does supplement certain academic activities like moot court). Although SBA funding has remained at about $200,000 throughout the years—even with a total student population bigger than what we have now—Dean Polsby will endorse any SBA request for increased funding.

And finally, the biggest question: how are we all going to get along on our small campus? For starters, the new building is scheduled to open in January 2011. Once the temporary wall in the atrium goes down, a lounge will open up into a new eatery. Law students will also have access to all lounge space in the new building, and we’re currently slated to get most of the 4th floor (this is subject to change). If you ride your bike to school, then you’re in luck; the basement bathrooms will have showers. What’s more, the cafĂ© downstairs will soon be vacated and turned into student space.

As for next year, Dean Polsby explained that getting back on enrollment target is a high priority. The school relies on a complex formula that is modified annually to guide the law school’s acceptance numbers. Since the University gives tuition back to the law school based on the enrollment target, as opposed to the actual numbers, GMUSL has to fight for every extra dollar—an incentive not to over-admit.

Until the new building opens, things might seem a little tighter on campus, especially in the library. So far it looks like we have come together to deal with it. Take the lockers, for example. While I am just as guilty as the next person for panicking in the face of a locker shortage, enough students made arrangements to share before they went on sale that we even had some leftover. SBA is also looking into temporary lockers if need be. In the meantime, looks like we’ll all make some new friends.




The Elephant in the Room: Diversity & Conservatism at George Mason Law

Edited version cross-posted on GMUSL student publication, The Docket.

While job interviewing last spring, I was asked how I liked George Mason. I answered that GMUSL is academically rigorous, but that I didn’t quite fit in with the campus culture at large. The hiring attorney replied, good—If you liked it, you wouldn’t fit in here, and I wouldn’t hire you.

I was stunned. Where does the stereotype of a GMUSL student come from? Regardless of the school’s political affiliation, GMUSL has a reputation for its strong academics; “Mason Law has moved steadily up the ranks since first cracking the top 50 in 2001” and “remains the youngest law school ranked in the U.S. News top 50.”[1]

Notwithstanding its quality curriculum, has GMUSL’s reputation as conservative impacted the school’s ability to foster a more diverse student population? It seems that the school’s entanglement with social issues, whether justified or not, has potentially impacted its image and ability to attract a wide range of students (not to mention its ranking, which takes into account peer assessment and assessment by lawyers/judges).[2]

In early 2000, the ABA, disturbed by 6.5% of entering minority students, issued a site evaluation describing “serious concerns” with GMUSL’s "unwilling[ness] to engage in any significant preferential affirmative action admissions program"—although it noted that GMUSL has a "very active effort to recruit minorities."[3]

To secure its reaccreditation, GMUSL amped up diversity efforts by creating both a minority coordinator and “Minority Recruitment Council,” and raising the proportion of minorities in its entering class to 10.98% in 2001, 16.16% in 2002, 17.3% in 2003, and 19% in 2004.[4] The ABA was still unhappy because, of the 99 minority students in 2003 and 111 in 2004, the number of African Americans remained a steady 23 in both years.[5]

But those numbers are an unfair reflection of Mason’s diversity initiative; in fact, Mason had granted admission to 63 African Americans[6]—those students simply didn’t choose to attend. The question is, why not?

Additionally, GMUSL’s reputation might suffer from the association of high-profile GMUSL figures with controversial issues relating to sexual orientation. As law schools across the country sought to ban military recruiters in light of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Congress reacted in 1996 with the Solomon Amendment—allowing the DOD to withdraw federal grant money from universities that prevent on-campus military recruitment. Essentially, an entire university could lose millions of research dollars from a ban particular to the law school.[7] An amicus brief, co-authored by Dean Polsby, countered allegations that the Solomon Amendment “violates the First Amendment by impeding the law schools' rights of expressive association and by compelling them to assist in the expressive act of recruiting."[8] Dean Polsby explained that the Solomon Amendment “merely conditions a university’s continuing receipt of federal funds on affording military recruiters the same access to the student body that the school grants to all other prospective employers. The Solomon Amendment thus is a perfectly ordinary contractual condition.”[9] A footnote read, “Amici do not take any position with regard to the policy’s merit”[10]

While loss of federal funding arguably impacts more students than those in the LGBTQ community (not to mention LGBTQ students would also be impacted by diminished school funding), one cannot deny the sting to a minority group and its allies. And just last spring, the same feelings were re-kindled when a GMUSL graduate, Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli,[11] advised, “"[L]aw and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including 'sexual orientation,' 'gender identity,' 'gender expression,' or like classification, as a protected class within its nondiscrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly."[12] However, shortly thereafter, the GMU Board of Visitors elected to keep GMU’s non-discrimination policy in place, and issued a resolution declaring that the Board “remains deeply committed to equal treatment of all persons...”[13]

Regardless of GMUSL’s association with touchy issues and its potential impact on public perception, the bigger question is “what is the on-campus experience for a ‘liberal’ student?” One classmate remarked that she felt a “general aggression towards anything liberal,” and noted a “nastiness that is not conducive to constructive dialogue.” Another student reflected on a professor who "was happy to throw out 'how is gay marriage different from bestiality or polygamy' and then not be terribly interested in the answer." In all fairness, another student observed that some liberal peers act “equally or even more judgmental” than conservative counterparts.

Personally, born and raised in Los Angeles, I had a difficult time adjusting to GMUSL campus culture. During my first year, I was most troubled by a lack of sensitivity in language choice on campus, and, as a Jew and advocate of female empowerment, bothered that several Internet sources attribute the genesis of “feminazi” to a GMUSL professor.

At the same time, despite a series of uncomfortable instances at school, I have cultivated very strong friendships with students both similar to and very different from me, as well as gained a new skill set in economics. While I have felt disrespected on campus at times, I have also been engaged in and benefited from discussions with students whose views greatly contrast mine. I wish that my experience at a “conservative school” could be less of the former and more of the latter. To the extent that my experience has been a mixture of both, learning how to succeed in a challenging environment is an invaluable skill that, retrospectively, I am happy to have acquired.

As we welcome a new class on campus, I know that some students who identify as liberal or as a member of a minority community are nervous about attending GMUSL. I know this because, while tabling at the perspective students fair, I was bombarded with questions from various potential 1Ls who saw the LGBTQ & Allies Law Association as the go-to for all liberal and diversity concerns. I hope that as we engage those around us, we can hold both polarized views, and respect for one another. That is the reputation I would like George Mason to have—and employers to hear about.

[1] GMUSL Current News, Mason Law Climbs to 34th in US Ranking (2008),

[2] U.S. News Best Graduate Schools, Law Methodology (2008),

[3] Gail Heriot, The ABA’s Diversity Agenda, Minding the Campus, July 8, 2008,

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Jan Roh, Supreme Court Rules Against Schools in Military Recruiting Case, Fox News, March 6, 2006,,2933,186936,00.html.

[8] Id.

[9] Brief Amicus Curiae of Law Professors and Law Students in Support of Petitioners at 6, Rumsfeld v. FAIR, 547 U.S. 47 (2006).

[10] Id. at 7 n. 4.

[11] Ken Cuccinelli, Education, (last visited Aug. 9, 2010).

[12] Letter from Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney General, VA, to Presidents, Rectors, and Visitors of Virginia’s Public Colleges and Universities (March 4, 2010) (available at

[13] Mason Media Blog, Mason’s Board of Visitors Reaffirms Commitment to Nondiscrimination (2010),

DC Vegan Goodness

The most recent issue of VegNews brings great joy for the veg, the veg-friendly, the lactose intolerant, and the kosher.

Item 1: Founding Farmers now has a vegan menu. I cannot wait to taste test and report back.

Item 2: DC VegFest is in one week! If you don't have a mental image of what this entails, here is a picture from last year to get your mouth watering: