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Center for Peace and Well-being marks first anniversary with symposium on equality

– The University of California, Berkeley's Center for the Development of Peace and Well-being will mark its first anniversary next week with a two-day symposium about how inequality in income, education and social standing affect many aspects of people's lives.

"Equality, Hierarchy and Social Class: Across Species, in the Classroom and in Health" will begin Friday, May 9, at 3:30 p.m. and continue all day Saturday at the UC Berkeley Clark Kerr Campus, 2601 Warring Street. It is free and open to the public, but advance reservations are necessary.

"According to a number of studies in the social sciences, there is a rising income gap in the United States," said Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley psychology professor and co-director of the center. "The great disparity in social class has effects on physical and mental health and has given rise to larger numbers of people suffering from depression. It's not a pretty picture."

The symposium comes at the culmination of a "very successful first year" for the center, Keltner said, during which it sponsored 19 fellows and two popular events - a talk by author and educator Jonathan Kozol and a forum on benevolence in a time of turmoil.

In keeping with the center's interdisciplinary focus, speakers from a variety of academic areas will address the issue of equality at the May 9 symposium.

Frans de Waal, a professor at Emory University who will speak at the symposium, wrote "Peacemaking Among Primates" (Harvard University Press). In this book, de Waal describes powerful checks and balances in the makeup of humans' closest animal relatives and shows that, to humans, making peace is as natural as making war. He details how different types of simians cope with aggression, and how they make peace after fights. Chimpanzees, for instance, reconcile with a hug and a kiss, whereas rhesus monkeys groom the fur of former adversaries.

De Waal makes a convincing case that confrontation should not be viewed as a barrier to sociality but rather as an unavoidable element upon which social relationships can be built and strengthened through reconciliation.

UC Berkeley psychology professor Stephen Glickman will provide observations on DeWaal's talk. Glickman studies spotted hyenas that are maintained in a large enclosure in the hills above UC Berkeley. He is an expert in behavioral endocrinology and comparative psychology.

Robert Slavin's talk is titled, "Achieving Equality in Education: A Road Map." Slavin is co-director at Johns Hopkins University of the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk and chair of the Success for All Foundation. Success for All emphasizes reading, writing and early intervention to resolve learning problems, especially for elementary schools with significant numbers of at-risk students. Students and parents also are taught how to solve disputes without fighting.

UC Berkeley psychology professor Rhona Weinstein will provide commentary after Slavin's talk. In her recent book, "Reaching Higher" (Harvard University Press), she investigates the power of expectations in schooling, illustrating how adults' expectations can powerfully shape students' performance and attitudes.

Ichiro Kawachi, associate professor of health and social behavior at Harvard University, will speak about "Economic Development, Economic Inequality and Population Health," linking social forces - such as income distribution, social cohesion and social capital, inequalities in political participation, and residential segregation - to patterns of health and disease in various populations.

Nancy Adler, professor of medical psychology at UCSF, has been invited to give commentary on Kawachi's remarks. She is the chair of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health.

The symposium also will include breakout sessions, a poster session by center fellows and a reception.

The Center for Peace and Well-being was co-founded by psychology faculty Stephen Hinshaw, Phil Cowan and Keltner. Its future plans include continuing to reach out to the community beyond the Berkeley campus. For example, a 2004 summer institute will be for teachers to work on issues such as cross-racial friendships and teaching children compassion.

Housed in the UC Berkeley Institute for Human Development, the center delves into the scientific understanding of what promotes peace and well-being between individuals, within families and across communities.