07:58 PM

Faculty in the News—Oct. 10 edition

DU faculty were in the media this week discussing tamarisk plants, a common thread in mass shootings and how we classify domestic terrorism. Read on for more from Anna Sher, Nancy Leong and Nader Hashemi.

In an interview for CPR’s Colorado Matters program, Anna Sher, professor of biological sciences, discusses her research on tamarisk, a non-native plant that land managers are hoping to control with beetles that eat it, in the context of a recent judicial ruling against the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the federal agency that released the beetles. Unfortunately, beetle control carries a risk of weeds coming in and loss of habitat for an endangered bird that nests in tamarisk. “We have found that proportionally to the degree to which the tamarisk is reduced we have the recovery of native plants in the understory.” Sher explains. “The beetles are here to stay, but the issue is that we need to do good science on tracking beetle movements and restoring plant communities so that organisms that require trees have habitat.” She adds, "What we are anticipating over the next few decades is a normalization such that the tamarisk isn’t acting invasively; it can be a benign element of the landscape.”

After the Las Vegas shooting last week, police have been searching for a motive. In this article from Quartz, Nancy Leong, professor at the Sturm College of Law, discusses the thread that connects many of the perpetrators of mass shooting in recent years: a history of domestic violence. Though Americans convicted of domestic violence are banned from buying guns, Leong contends that the government should do more. Before and during parole, she says, known domestic-violence offenders should have their houses swept for any trace of firearms. Leong says that there are precedents for this: “A drug test looking at the interior of someone’s body is arguably more invasive than [searching] their house.” Overall, the police and judges “tend to treat things like domestic violence as less serious than other kinds of crimes,” Leong says. “Really, just treating the behavior involved in domestic violence like other crimes of comparable severity would already be a step in the right direction.”

Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, was interviewed by 9news in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting about how we define domestic terrorism. Hashemi added another perspective to that question, and comments on how often the public jumps to conclusions about terrorism when a suspect or perpetrator is Middle Eastern or Muslim, but not when they are Caucasian. “That double standard is what gets many people upset – this rush to judgment and this rush to extrapolate to make generalizations about an entire group of people based on the actions of one member of that community,” Hashemi says. “We tend to do that when it comes to Muslims, we don’t do that when it comes to white people, and that’s a problem.”