University News

This Week in Higher Ed: Nov. 14, 2013

By
University News Editor

What Would I Say website goes viral

What Would I Say, a website created by Princeton students that uses text from a Facebook user’s previous posts to generate humorous statuses, has become a phenomenon, gaining more than 1 million total hits and being featured in media outlets like the New Yorker, multiple news outlets reported Wednesday.

The illogical statuses, which have flooded Facebook news feeds, are the result of a HackPrinceton event, during which participants worked on software projects as part of teams.

“It happened really organically,” Pawel Przytycki, one of the collaborators, told the Daily Princetonian. “We were just throwing around ideas at the hackathon, and I said … this is something I’ve always wanted to try out. People had already been building bots that would chat with you based on responding to what you would say, and … we figured that Facebook was a great source of information,” he said.

Facebook had also offered a prize to the HackPrinceton team that best used Facebook information, an incentive that contributed to the direction of the group’s project, Alex Furger and Ugne Klibaite, two of the other co-founders of the website, told the Daily Princetonian.

What Would I Say generates statuses using a Markov chain, a commonly used tool, which produces arbitrary text based on an underlying source.

“I think it’s funny to note that the site is actually losing money right now,” Edward Young, one of the site’s producers, told the Daily Princetonian. “So we have no ads right now, and we are paying for server costs out of pocket, and server costs are cheap until you start getting like 600,000 hits.”

 

Vanderbilt Med School to shrink incoming class size 

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is planning to decrease the size of its incoming doctoral and medical student class size by 10 percent as part of the university’s general cost-cutting measures, wrote Jeffrey Balser, dean of the medical school, in a Nov. 7 university news release.

“Our priority must be quality, not quantity,” Balser wrote.

But Balser acknowledged the projected nationwide shortage of 150,000 physicians by 2025.

The incoming class size has historically been around 102 students, medical school spokesperson John Howser told the Tennessean.

As a result of the medical school’s planned downsizing, future classes will have about 10 fewer students.

The university’s medical school currently has an enrollment of 435 medical students and 745 doctorate candidates, the Tennessean reported.

Vanderbilt’s medical school aims to decrease its operating budget by $250 million over the next two fiscal years and has already taken steps toward this goal.

The medical school cut 300 jobs this summer, and administrators announced in September that the school would lay off 1,033 more staff members by the end of the year, the Tennessean reported.

 

Princeton faces meningitis outbreak

The New Jersey Department of Health declared a meningococcal disease outbreak at Princeton after a student was diagnosed with meningitis Sunday, multiple news outlets reported.

This is the seventh case of meningitis identified at Princeton since March.

Six students and a visitor to the university have been diagnosed with the illness, with the first case reported March 22. The Department of Health has been treating the situation as an outbreak since the fourth case arose in May, according to a Tuesday health advisory release from the department.

Though state law and university rules stipulate that all Princeton students living on campus must be vaccinated, all six students were affected by a strain of meningitis that the vaccine does not completely protect against, a university spokesperson told CBS News.

University spokesperson Martin Mbugua told the Daily Princetonian that the university is collaborating with community health authorities and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to minimize the spread of the illness.

Meningitis is caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, which can spread through close contact and can be fatal if not treated for a few hours.

The six individuals affected by the disease have since recovered, according to the Department of Health’s advisory release.