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Tracy Bee
College of Arts and Sciences

Last modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Political advisers Gibbs and Rove, filmmaker Herzog headline Themester 2012

Aug. 22, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- When is behavior good and when is it bad? We may believe we know good behavior when we see it, but how do we judge? For that matter, what is behavior? Not even experts agree. Physical chemists talk about "the behavior of water molecules," and mathematical functions can be described as "well-behaved" or "badly behaved."

Each year, Themester, an initiative of Indiana University's College of Arts and Sciences, invites faculty and undergraduate students to explore an idea across the disciplines. This year's "Good Behavior, Bad Behavior: Molecules to Morality" theme encompasses moral philosophy, behavioral biology, social sciences, mathematics, cosmology, and literary, visual and dramatic arts in more than 40 courses. Themester will feature an array of related public events, including plays, films, talks and exhibitions, most of which are free and open to the public.

Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and now senior adviser to the President Barack Obama re-election campaign, and Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to former President George W. Bush, will be on campus to discuss political behavior just a few weeks before the 2012 presidential election. On Oct. 18, Gibbs and Rove will meet with students in select classes during the day and offer a joint public talk at 7 p.m. in the IU Auditorium.

The event is free, but tickets are required and will be available at the IU Auditorium box office in October. The event is sponsored by the Union Board, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Kelley School of Business and School of Journalism.

On Sept. 14, renowned film director Werner Herzog will make a guest appearance at a screening of his documentary "Grizzly Man" (2005), on view as part of the Themester Film Series at IU Cinema. Admission is free, but tickets are required and are available at the IU Auditorium box office. Herzog's weeklong visit to campus is sponsored by the William B. Patten Foundation, and he will present Patten Lectures on Sept. 11 and 13 and take part in additional IU Cinema screenings that are not part of Themester.

Other notable speakers include Chaz Bono, author, LGBT rights advocate and child of entertainers Sonny and Cher; Walter Echo-Hawk, a Native American attorney, tribal judge, author and activist; David Lacks, son of Henrietta Lacks, whose story was made widely known through the award-winning book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"; and acclaimed ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber.

Additional film series will explore food-related behavior, political behavior, human trafficking, animal behavior, and good and bad behavior in East Asia.

The Department of Theatre and Drama is presenting three Themester-related productions: "When the Rain Stops Falling," a sweeping portrait of multiple generations by playwright Andrew Bovell; "Richard III," which offers one of Shakespeare's greatest villains; and playwright Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage," winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play, which features parents behaving badly despite the best of intentions.

As it has since its inception in 2009, Themester reaches into downtown Bloomington to foster community-wide exploration of Themester themes. In accordance with this year's "Good Behavior, Bad Behavior" theme, Cardinal Stage Company will present "To Kill a Mockingbird" Sept. 6 to 16 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Harper Lee's beloved coming-of-age novel, adapted for stage by Christopher Sergel, explores the best and worst of human behavior.

Bloomington Playwrights Project will offer "Rx," a new comedy by award-winning dramatist Kate Fodor. "Rx" takes on the ethical issues of mood-enhancing drugs, our "pill-popping" society, and the companies that promote and profit from them.

Humans aren't the only primate species under scrutiny during Themester 2012: The College's Center for Integrative Study of Animal Behavior will host a Primate Behavior Speaker Series featuring topics such as ape cognition, territoriality, tool and medicinal plant use, feeding behaviors and the development of prosocial behaviors. The series launches Sept. 25 with a talk by Duke University evolutionary biologist Brian Hare: "How Does a More Cooperative Ape Evolve?"

For detailed event information and a complete calendar of events, visit the Themester website.

Themester is organized by the College of Arts and Sciences each year with a committee of College faculty and students. This year's committee consists of undergraduates Anna Connors and Stacey Vosters and faculty members Colin Allen, cognitive science, and history and philosophy of science; Fritz Breithaupt, Germanic studies; Gregory Demas, biology and the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior; Constance Furey, religious studies; Jill Robinson, chemistry; and Peter Todd, cognitive science, informatics, and psychological and brain sciences.