This article was originally published in the student-run Yale Daily News.
This past weekend, the two highest university bodies on investor action met to formally discuss the possibility of Yale’s divestment from fossil fuels.
The Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR), which is made up of eight professors, students and alumni and evaluates ethical issues surrounding the university’s investments, raised the arguments for and against divestment before the Yale Corporation Committee on Investor Responsibility on Saturday in a confidential meeting. The ACIR was charged with recommending whether or not Yale should restrict its investments in fossil fuel companies. Though the results of the meeting have not been released, the CCIR has the final authority to direct the Yale Investments Office on the issue of divestment and is expected to present a decision soon.
“I know that [the trustees] take Yale’s leadership around climate change seriously,” said Yonatan Landau SOM ’15, a member of the student divestment advocacy group Fossil Free Yale. “With continued support from the broader Yale community, I hope they will see that they can safely take a major step forward in leading the world away from disastrous climate change.”
Landau said he knows Yale Corporation members are aware of a 2013 study published by the University of Oxford demonstrating that divestment campaigns have the potential to impact fossil fuel companies and government legislation.
Last month, Fossil Free Yale, the student group that has led the charge for divestment on campus in recent months, presented its case to members of the ACIR. During that meeting, ACIR chair and Yale Law School professor Jonathan Macey said Fossil Free Yale and the ACIR would work together to send letters to companies involved in manufacturing fossil fuels and ask them to disclose the environmental impact of their activities.
In a campus-wide referendum held in November 2013 by the Yale College Council that saw responses from over half of the undergraduate population, 83 percent of voters favored divestment.
The three members of the CCIR—Neal Leonard Keny-Guyer SOM ’82, Catharine Bond Hill GRD ’85 and Paul Joskow GRD ’72—could not be reached for comment. Macey also could not be reached for comment.
While University President Peter Salovey said corporation discussions are confidential, he added that the conversation between the ACIR and the CCIR this weekend was “robust” and that both committees are dedicated to the principles described in the “Ethical Investor”—a 1972 book that describes Yale’s ethical investing guidelines.
In the meantime, Gabe Rissman ’16, the policy coordinator of Fossil Free Yale, said the ACIR is working on a letter to companies asking them to release data on the emissions they generate relative to their energy production. Knowledge of this figure could give Yale an empirical estimate of each company’s impact on the climate, members of Fossil Free Yale said last month. Of the 200 largest coal, oil and gas companies, only 10 percent already report the metric.
The group hopes the university will decide to divest from the companies that do not comply with the disclosure request, Gabe Levine ’14, another Fossil Free Yale member, said last month.
In January 2014, the Yale College Council said it was engaging senior Yale administrators in the discussion over fossil fuel divestment.
Read Next: Get caught up with the latest roundup of student activism from across the country.
Governor Christie would dearly love for Bridgegate to go away, but that’s not happening any time soon. If you haven’t been following the story lately, the scandal is unfolding quietly, mostly behind the scenes, and it’s gaining momentum.
Perhaps most importantly, the US attorney Paul Fishman—who, unlike his predecessor, Chris Christie, doesn’t hold constant news conferences and leak information to any and all—has expanded his inquiry beyond its initial focus, which was an investigation of charges by Hoboken’s mayor, Dawn Zimmer, that New Jersey’s lieutenant governor had threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy recovery aid unless Zimmer backed a development project in her city that was supported by Christie. Now, according to Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, the US attorney’s office in Newark reached out to Sokolich for a meeting, and the mayor did indeed go down to Newark to talk to the federal prosecutors.
So, not only is the joint legislative committee expanding its investigation beyond Bridgegate to include a wider look at Christie’s role in unrelated actions, such as the decision in 2011 to shut down a multibillion-dollar Hudson River transit tunnel project and Christie’s involvement with the Port Authority’s vast patronage machine. Now the federal prosecutors are looking beyond Hoboken to the George Washington Bridge lane closing issue, too. As Bill Clinton found out with the Kenneth Starr investigation—which started with Whitewater but ended up with Monica Lewinsky—once the feds start looking into your affairs, they don’t stop.
Christie, appearing on New Jersey’s 101.5 radio program, Ask the Governor, last night, downplayed the whole thing:
“You folks [the media] are the only people at the moment who are asking me about this. … We’re going through an internal investigation [and] I’m not going to give into the hysteria. I am no longer going to speculate on things I don’t know about.”
Christie got some support from an unusual ally, namely, Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas and Tea Party icon who’s a rival for the 2016 presidential nomination:
“I think the whole Bridgegate thing is nonsense. I think it’s an example of the media piling on. Apparently the most important thing in the country is that there was some traffic in New Jersey.”
But it’s not just the media piling on. So is the US attorney, it appears, and the state legislature—despite Republican opposition—is continuing its probe. Today they released more, unredacted e-mails from David Wildstein of the Port Authority and Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, which—though they shed no new light on whether Christie knew or didn’t know about the lane closures—make for some interesting reading. (You can read the e-mails, in full, at the committee’s web site.)
Meanwhile, on the Port Authority front, it’s beginning to look worse and worse for David Samson, the PA chairman and one of Christie’s key allies. (You can read earlier installments from Christie Watch on the PA issue here and here.) Calls have come from various quarters for Samson to resign, not just because of his possible involvement in Bridgegate but because he’s used the PA as a piggybank for his law firm’s involvement in PA projects. Now, in an interview with the New York Daily News, the PA’s executive director, Patrick Foye, said in so many words that it’s time for Samson to go. Asked by the News whether Samson “has the moral authority to run the Port Authority” Foye said, “No.” He added: “I am not going to elaborate, but that’s my view.” Foye also called the lane closures last September “aberrational and immoral.”
Read Next: Christie Watch on David Samson’s web of connections at the Port Authority.
The Russian threats, bluster, troop mobilizations and pledges to throw their support to the ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine—who, delusional to the end, still asserts that he’s president despite a revolution in the streets that’s plain to see—are worrying, and ominous. Yanukovych, who has blood on his hands from the massacre of protesters in Kiev, will never, ever again have a role in Ukrainian politics.
And it’s also ominous that both Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO have talked about NATO’s role in Russia’s periphery yesterday. With exquisitely bad timing, while meeting the Georgia’s prime minister, Kerry said, “We stand by the Bucharest decision and all subsequent decisions that Georgia will become a member of NATO.” And NATO’s secretary-general, whose organization ought to have nothing whatsoever to say about Ukraine, said yesterday: “Ukraine is a close and long-standing partner to NATO. And NATO is a sincere friend of Ukraine. We stand ready to continue assisting Ukraine in its democratic reforms.” Needless to say, Ukraine doesn’t need NATO to help build a democracy.
But an important news analysis in The Los Angeles Times notes that Russia gave NATO advance notice of its military maneuvers near Ukraine, and it says that in the end Russia, the European Union and the United States may be able to reach an accommodation over Ukraine’s future:
Those ominous events, however, may obscure what is largely a meeting of minds among Russian President Vladimir Putin, European Union officials, the White House and more pragmatic elements of Ukraine’s new leadership.
The [military maneuvers were] apparently intended to impress on the new Kiev leadership that it should keep in mind the interests of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking minority. However, Moscow’s heads-up to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization quietly underscored the Putin administration’s repeated assurances that it has no intention of interfering in Ukraine’s domestic crisis, much less sending troops or encouraging secession.
As I reported earlier this week, apocalyptic scenarios for Ukraine remain unlikely.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who played a ruthless game of chess to protect Russia’s interests there, ought to know when it’s time to admit that he’s been checkmated. The game’s over, Vlad.
Sans Russian direct interventions—that is, without Moscow’s military intervention, which would be not only hopeless but catastrophically misguided—and without Russian covert support for pro-Russian guerrilla actions, including in Crimea, there’s a chance that Ukrainians can resolve their problems without generating a US-Russian, Cold War–like crisis.
And the Obama administration and the Europeans, who apparently didn’t foresee the revolution—at the last minute, last week, they were still negotiating a deal to organize early presidential elections to resolve the political crisis—it’s time to avoid pressing their advantage. To calm the crisis, the United States ought to acknowledge right away that it has no plans, ever, to include Ukraine in NATO. That would be easier to say if Russia hadn’t decided to exacerbate the crisis by pledging support for Yanukovich and ordering military exercises along the Ukrainian border.
As The New York Times reported:
Eight hundred miles away, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was ordering a surprise military exercise of ground and air forces on Ukraine’s doorstep on Wednesday, adding to the tensions with Europe and the United States and underscoring his intention to keep the country in Moscow’s orbit.
Sensibly enough—but then it’s easy to be sensible when your side has come out on top—Kerry said yesterday:
We’re hoping that Russia will not see this as a sort of a continuation of the Cold War; we don’t see it that way. We do not believe this should be an East-West, Russia-United States—this is not ‘Rocky IV’.… We see this as an opportunity for Russia, the United States and others to strengthen Ukraine, help them in this transition and there’s no reason they can’t look east and west and be involved as a vital cog in the economy of all of us going forward.
That’s the ideal approach, one that Russia too ought to adopt, but so far there’s little sign that Moscow is ready to admit it’s been checkmated and move on. Were it to do so, Russia could insert itself in the various schemes being cooked up to rescue Ukraine’s collapsed economy. Already the United States is pledging a $1 billion down payment for Ukraine, and both the European Union and the IMF are readying packages. But that doesn’t mean that Russia’s own, vital economic interests in Ukraine can’t be protected, or that Russia can’t defend its legitimate interests in its neighbor—a country that is far more important to Russia than to the EU, and which has almost no interest at all for the United States.
Russia’s military movements can only backfire, and the revolt by pro-Russian forces in Crimea could easily provoke a Ukraine vs. Russia military flare-up, in which case NATO and the United States might very well get involved. In a statement not exactly couched to reduce tensions, the acting president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, said:
I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet…. Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression.
He’s right, of course: it would be military aggression. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely.
Read Next: Nicolai N. Petro on the battle for Kiev.
Eight to nine inmates held at a US supermax prison in Colorado are on hunger strike and being forcibly fed, reports the watchdog organization Solitary Watch.
The striking prisoners are serving sentences at the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, the highest-security prison run by the federal government on US soil. At ADX, more than 400 inmates spend twenty-two to twenty-four hours a day locked alone in concrete “boxcar” cells without access to a window. A former warden once called the facility “a cleaner version of hell.”
The strike is reportedly taking place in a special ADX wing called H-Unit, which houses prisoners accused of terrorism, many of whom are under “special administrative measures” to restrict communication with the outside world. H-Unit has a history with hunger strikes and forcibly feeding prisoners. 60 Minutes reported in 2007 that there had been at least 900 instances of force-feedings at H-Unit since 2001.
Pardiss Kebriaei, an attorney who represents clients at ADX and Guantánamo Bay, wrote for The Nation last month about how ADX’s practice of solitary confiment compares with torture at the military detainment center in Cuba. Kebriaei represents Fahad Hashmi, an ADX inmate who was convicted in 2010 of supplying socks and ponchos for Al Qaeda and loaning a cell phone to a co-conspirator. She writes of his prison conditions:
For over 2,100 days, he has been alone in a space he can touch both sides of simultaneously. He has not touched another human being since 2007. While he has been at ADX for nearly three years, he has no sense of his surroundings, because all he can see of the natural world is a patch of sky through steel mesh from an outdoor “recreation” cage two to three times a week, if that. He has not set foot on anything other than concrete in over six years. The image of Fahad’s torture is not that of a person being led around an interrogation room on a dog leash, or held in a stress position with heavy-metal music blasting. It is a person sitting still in a small cell, slowly deteriorating in a modern prison on the outskirts of a small Colorado town.
A court testimony from Mahmud Aboudhalima, an H-Unit inmate convicted of conspiring in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (a charge he denies), offers another look into life at ADX. Here’s a snippet, via Solitary Watch:
Since September 11, 2001, through today, I have been in administrative detention and faced brutal and systematic mental, spiritual, and psychological cruelty. I never believed that such an unusual punishment would be extended up until today, where I have lived in a prison cell for the last ten years that is the size of a closet. I am fed like a zoo animal through a slot in the door, and manacled and chained at the hands, waist, and legs when I leave the cell.
News of the hunger strike Tuesday came as a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing to reassess the use of solitary confinement for juvenile, pregnant and mentally ill prisoners. The session was chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who called the the practice a “human rights issue we can’t ignore.”
US lawmakers heard testimony from prison officials and former inmates, including Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman and Damon Thibodeux, who spent fifteen years in solitary confinement before being exonerated for rape and murder in 2012.
Read Next: New York becomes the largest state to ban solitary confinement for inmates under 18.
Ever since President Obama announced that the Keystone XL pipeline would be in the national interest only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” the project has been scrutinized primarily on those terms. But there are other concerns to factor into an analysis of the project’s costs and benefits, particularly the local effects on communities along the pipeline route, from the tar sands in Alberta to refineries in Texas.
“I believe the health impacts of tar sands oil are being ignored,” Senator Barbara Boxer warned at a press conference Wednesday, where she and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse called on the Obama administration to conduct a thorough review of potential public health implications of extracting, transporting and refining oil from the tar sands before making a decision about the pipeline. Although the State Department finalized the environmental assessment of the project last month, Boxer said the report “was woefully inadequate when it came to exploring human impacts of the pipeline.” (The State Department had not responded to a request for comment at press time.)
Those impacts include rising cancer rates in places like Fort Chipewyan, a First Nations community downstream from a major tar sands site in Alberta; air pollutants and carcinogens in neighborhoods where refineries will process the oil, like Port Arthur and Manchester in Texas; immediate safety risks from transporting corrosive crude; and mountains of pet coke, an oil sands’ byproduct, which are growing throughout the Midwest. Much of this risk would be born—and is already being born—by poor people of color. Port Arthur, for example, has a 26 percent poverty rate, compared to 17 percent in the rest of Texas; three-quarters of the residents are of color. Manchester, a predominantly Latino community, is already one of the most polluted neighborhoods in the country.
“Health miseries follow tar sands—from extraction to transport to refining to waste disposal,” said Boxer. “Children and families in the US have a right to know now—before any decision to approve the Keystone tar sands pipeline—how it would affect their health.”
The State Department has been criticized before by lawmakers and the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to properly assess the health threats posed by KXL. “We’re at a point where health issues are often glossed over,” said Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council and co-author of a report on the health effects of tar sands crude. Part of the problem is that there isn’t a substantial body of research into whether oil from the tar sands impacts health differently than traditional crude. “At a minimum we’re going to have to study this a little bit further. Frankly, there’s enough out there to suggest this stuff is actually worse, and that what we really need to do is transition away to cleaner sources,” Droitsch said.
The public health blindspot extends beyond KXL. The Obama administration has embraced the North American oil and gas boom without really acknowledging that extracting and refining more fossil fuels at home means increasing the immediate health risks associated. Like Keystone, an “all of the above” energy strategy should be examined for its potential climate impact, which is itself a public health threat. But there are also questions to address about environmental justice and accountability for the petrochemical corporations powering the domestic boom. Many communities—in southern Louisiana, for example—have been sacrificed for the oil economy already. Whether more are ruined is a matter of deliberate policy making, not an inevitability.
Democrats in the House are also hammering the State Department for deficiencies in its environmental review. On Tuesday, Representative Raúl Grijalva asked the Government Accountability Office to audit the conflict-of-interest procedures the State Department used when it selected a contractor to conduct the Environmental Impact Statement. Several reports suggest that Environmental Resources Management, the London-based company hired to do the study, failed to disclose relationships with TransCanada and other corporations that would benefits from tar sands development.“If this is going to be a scientific basis for a decision on the pipeline…then the credibility of that information must be without any doubt. And at this point, that doubt exists,” Grijalva said at a press conference on Tuesday. The GAO told reporters it had not yet decided whether to conduct the review, but Grijalva said he’d been told the office would pursue an inquiry.
The State Department’s inspector general announced Wednesday that its own review found no violations, but Grijalva still wants a third-party review. “The inspector general was only asked to examine whether the State Department followed its own flawed process for selecting a third-party contractor. The fact that the answer is ‘yes’ doesn’t address any outstanding concerns about the integrity of ERM’s work, the State Department’s in-house ability to evaluate its quality, or whether the process itself needs to be reformed,” Grijalva said in a statement.
Read Next: Young activists are risking arrest as they protest against Keystone XL.
On Tuesday, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State John Husted moved to restrict early-voting hours in the Buckeye State, eliminating early voting on Sundays and weekday nights. The goal, according to Husted, is “to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat and to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity in the voting process no matter which method they choose.”
Never mind that Ohio voters already had opportunities to vote easily, and that the 270 potential voter-fraud cases in the 2012 election that Husted passed on to prosecutors represented “less than five one-thousandths of 1 percent of the 5.6 million ballots cast in Ohio in the 2012 election,” according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. That’s right—less than 0.005 percent.
Husted’s decision puts the kibosh on “Souls to the Polls,” a program that for decades has brought African-American voters directly from church to early-polling sites. It’s easy to see the implications of Husted’s decree: Zachary Roth of MSNBC writes, “There’s little doubt that cuts to early voting target blacks disproportionately. In 2008, black voters were 56 percent of all weekend voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s largest, even though they made up just 28 percent of the county’s population.”
Meanwhile, on the more, er, democratic (you can choose whether you think “democratic” ought to be capitalized) end of Ohio’s political spectrum, State Senator Nina Turner, a Democratic candidate for Husted’s job, hosted an eminently reasonable Twitter chat about voting rights and about prospects for getting more diverse candidates elected to political office. (For a transcript, search #AskNinaTurner on Twitter.) Turner has been endorsed by Emily’s List, which co-hosted the chat.
Turner takes issue with Husted’s claim that the restricted hours will bring an equal opportunity to cast a ballot for voters in all eighty-eight counties in Ohio. “I truly believe that fairness and equality does not mean uniformity, it means understanding the diversity of the electorate,” she said, noting that the population of Ohio’s largest county (Cuyahoga) is ninety-five times greater than that of the state’s smallest (Vinton). The same rules will have different effects in different communities, and a one-size-fits-all policy—homogenization rather than accommodation—doesn’t make sense when we’re trying to diversify both the electorate and the government it elects.
Turner is a wonderful exemplar of the diversity that American citizens ought to be voting into state (and national) offices. “We have to start by electing more women who are leading intersectional lives so they bring that voice to the table in office,” she said today. “But just having those voices in the room isn’t enough.… we must elect voices who will speak up and give perspective. What good is being in the room if you do nothing with the opportunity to make real lasting change[?].… We must also work to mentor, uplift & support their (women of color) talents. So many dynamic women of color just need a nudge of support.”
And voter-ID laws and restrictions on early-voting could have a chilling effect on those voices. “Any decision [to] take away Sunday voting disproportionately harms certain demographics of voters, especially elderly & minorities,” Turner said. She points out that the electorate comprises 53 percent women and 47 percent men, so voting restrictions will, in fact, have a larger impact on women than on men—not a happy development when getting more women into government needs to be a priority. What’s more, Turner says, “[A]bout 90 percent of women change their names when married, & many change their names back if they get divorced,” making voter-ID issues much thornier for women than they are for men.
Read Next: Bhaskar Sunkara on Chokwe Lumumba.
To no one’s surprise (I hope)—after the uproar over Max Blumenthal’s Goliath—a book often critical of Israel has provoked a strong backlash and set frequent allies against one another. This time it revolves around the pro-Israel stronghold—at least under former owner Marty Peretz and before the arrival of new boss Chris Hughes—of The New Republic.
Of course, the David Horowitzs of the world had already labeled the book Genesis by John Judis as betraying hatred for Israel and even support for, yes, the Nazis. There were several developments yesterday. After Ron Radosh had attacked the book, Leon Wieseltier, a colleague of Judis at The New Republic, sent Radosh a note going even further; the note was happily published by a right-wing site. This is just one blast:
I know with certainty that Judis’ understanding of Jewish history, and of the history and nature of Zionism, is shallow, derivative, tendentious, imprecise, and sometimes risibly inaccurate—he is a tourist in this subject. Like most tourists, he sees what he came to see…. Remember Rosa Luxemburg’s letter to her friend in which she proudly announced that she had no corner of her heart for the Jews? Judis is her good disciple.
Of course, Wieseltier has proudly picked fights for other staffers before, but he is now the last of the Old Guard there.
This latest hit provoked Peter Beinart (who has been attacked himself for some of his recent musings on Israel) to tweet: “john judis is an old, dear friend of mine. don’t agree w/ him on everything but will stand w/ him when unfairly attacked.” Andrew Sullivan hit Wieseltier here. Excerpt:
These are not arguments; they are insults. And they are as disgusting as they are entirely unsurprising. A simple question: is there an editor at The New Republic capable of preventing this kind of vicious anti-collegial invective? Not when it comes to Wieseltier, it seems. Chris Hughes and Frank Foer seem to answer to him, and not the other way round.
Jacob Heilbrunn (himself a former Wieseltier colleague) does much the same at The National Interest.
The truth is that hysterical petulance is at the bottom of much of Wieseltier’s fulgurations. The contrast between the lofty principles that intellectuals such as Wieseltier purport to espouse and the childish sniping is what emerges most conspicuously in his latest fusillade. In the end, the stakes aren’t really that high and, in any case, until recent decades many Jewish intellectuals were, more often than not, indifferent to Israel (Lionel Trilling) or dubious about it. Now Judis has written a mildly critical account that is triggering a furor. That his detractors would respond so extravagantly and violently may say more about their dispositions than his.
Max Blumenthal noted in a tweet: “Judis says Museum of Jewish Heritage has reinvited him to June 1 appearance—after rescinding invite under pressure.”
Judis then replied himself in a piece at The New Republic titled “Conservative Critics Say My New Israel Book Is Anti-Semitic. They Must Not Have Read It Very Closely.”
I have to admit that I found it disturbing that after reading one of these reviews, an old friend called to ask me whether in my book I really advocated the abolition of Israel. The fact is that I don’t believe in the abolition of Israel, nor in half the things that these reviewers have attributed to me.…
[M]any states, including the United States, are products of settler colonialism and conquest. There is no going back in these cases. What Israel’s early history does suggest, though, is that Palestinian Arabs have a legitimate grievance against Israelis that has never been satisfactorily addressed. It won’t be addressed by abolishing Israel—that’s not going to happen—but it can be addressed by an equitable two-state solution that gives both peoples a state and that opens the way for Israel’s reconciliation with its neighbors. If there is a lesson to Genesis—and I happen to believe that history can tell us things about the present—that’s what it is.
In an essay for Foreign Policy, Rosa Brooks writes that she hates Sheryl Sandberg. Not because she has nice hair or is wealthy, but because she has urged women to “lean in” to their work. Brooks describes taking this advice, leaning in to every opportunity inside and outside the workplace, and ending up utterly exhausted and, in her words, miserable. After briefly contemplating a move to Santa Fe to make crafts for a living, she says she came to an epiphany: “Ladies,” she writes, “if we want to rule the world—or even just gain an equitable share of leadership positions—we need to stop leaning in. It’s killing us.” She declares there has to be “a movement” and her rallying cry is thus: “Women of the world, recline!”
But targeting women with that battle cry isn’t going to bring about the transformation that she craves. The problem is that too many women already lean out—and that far too few men do the same. We need to start by asking men to recalibrate if we’re going to revolutionize the workplace.
Brooks has put her finger on something important: asking women to lean in in today’s world is a bit like asking Atlas to help you move in to a five-floor walk-up. Americans work too much, plain and simple. A Harvard Business School survey of professionals found that 94 percent work fifty hours or more a week, and nearly half put in more than sixty-five hours a week. Out of thirty-three developed countries, Americans are eleventh in how many hours they put in each year, beating out Japan, Germany and plenty of other developed peers.
We also stand out from our developed neighbors in how little time off each worker is ensured. We are the only advanced country that doesn’t guarantee every worker some paid vacation time. We are the only one out of twenty-two developed countries that doesn’t guarantee every worker a paid day off when they get sick. We one of just three countries out of 178 that doesn’t guarantee a new mother can take paid time off when her baby arrives, not to mention fathers.
Brooks also nails it when she notes that “in a world in which leaning in at work has come to mean doing more work, more often, for longer hours, women will disproportionately drop out or be eased out” given that they are “still expected to work that ‘second shift’ at home.” Women are no longer waiting at home with dinner cooked, house cleaned and a cocktail at hand—nearly half of all families have two working parents, and another quarter have a single working one. But someone still has to cook that dinner and clean the house, not to mention watch the kids when they’re home from school or, if they’re infants, all day long.
And that someone is still by and large a woman. Men have upped their share of the chores—they now spend seven hours a week on childcare and ten on housework, up from just two and a half and four hours, respectively, in 1965—but women still spend twice as much time with children as fathers do, and they now put in more hours on that task than the 1960s woman.
Given this contradiction—putting in more hours in the office while still doing the bulk of the work at home—many women already lean out. Nearly a quarter of married mothers don’t work so they can stay home, compared to less than 1 percent of fathers. Fewer women have been entering the labor force, in fact, because of our pathetic workplace policies. In 1990, American women’s labor force participation rate was 74 percent, which netted us a sixth-place rank among twenty-two developed countries. Two decades later, that percentage has only increased to 75.2 percent, while the other countries are at nearly 80 percent—dropping us to number seventeen.
Women are also more likely to change the arc of their careers to take children or other caregiving into account. They are more likely to go part time and cut back on hours—more than 40 percent of women with children have reduced their hours to care for someone, compared to 28 percent of fathers.
Telling women to lean out, then—not to take every opportunity, be aggressive and aim for the top—is not revolutionary. It’s what many women either choose to do or are forced to do in the face of a workplace that has yet to come to grips with the idea that workers have lives outside of the office that need tending to.
What would be revolutionary, on the other hand, would be to target men and, while women are leaning in, ask them to lean out. That would mean men cutting back on their hours, going part-time, telecommuting and otherwise adjusting their jobs to focus on things outside of work. Then they could spend even more time with children—something 46 percent wish they could do—as well as relax in a La-Z-Boy recliner, something Brooks longs for. Her movement begins with women and “bring[s] our husbands and boyfriends and male colleagues along, too,” but it needs to flow in the opposite direction. Men have to lean out before women can relax more without sacrificing something.
But we don’t just have to ask men kindly that they please stop working so much and wait for them to comply. There are policies that could reduce everyone’s work hours and make leaning out gender neutral. One small step would be to change our overtime rules so that more workers have to be paid time and a half when they put in more than forty hours a week, thus re-normalizing the nine-to-five work day. We need to pass far more paid leave policies. A much broader change, though, would be to simply cap work hours. That may sound crazy, but it’s illegal for an employer to make workers put in more than forty-eight hours a week in six of the top ten most competitive countries. Somehow, we need to make more time for children, friends and reclining chairs.
Read Next: Jarrett Murphy on New York City’s expanded sick leave law
The New York City Council on Wednesday passed a bill expanding workers’ right to paid sick leave in New York, and Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly said that he’d make it the first bill he signs into law. While expected for several weeks, the move underscore how much has changed not just on the west side of City Hall, where the mayor hangs out, but in Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office and the Council chambers on the east wing as well.
The previous Council speaker, Christine Quinn, refused for years to bring the sick-leave bill up for a vote even though it had more than enough votes to pass. As the mayoral campaign got underway and the pressure on her increased she agreed to a watered-down version of the bill that applied only to businesses with fifteen or more employees and included implementation delays, carve-outs for manufacturing and a self-destruct button (the law wouldn’t take effect unless certain economic conditions were met). Even that thin gruel was too rich for Mayor Bloomberg, who vetoed the bill and was overidden.
The new version does away with all the half-measures and applies to firms with five or more workers. It also permits time off to care for a close relative who is sick. The bill’s backers and the mayor did amend their original expansion proposal to give a grace period to smaller firms.
The funny thing about the ideological alignment of the mayor, the speaker, most of the Council and many of the advocacy groups that spent the Bloomberg years clamoring for change is that a measure that, by City Hall’s estimate, covers another 500,000 people is going to become law with so little drama. The same won’t be said of the UPK tax, the minimum wage or any of the other ambitious hopes the de Blasio administration has pinned on Albany.
But the low-volume finale for sick-leave expansion is a fitting end for a four-year debate about a right that, let’s face it, most everyone has and takes for granted. Like the eight-hour day, weekends and other hard-wired aspects of decent working life, in a few years we’ll all look back and wonder why this was such a big deal.
And that has implications not just for sick leave but for other social issues: when you close down the silly debates, you change the parameters of what the civic sphere can discuss.
Read Next: De Blasio slams Bloomberg in his first budget address.
Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing—from established student unions, to emerging national networks, to ad hoc campaigns that don’t yet have a name. For recent dispatches, check out January 27 and February 10. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch.
1. As Napolitano Hits Berkeley, Hundreds Mass, Eleven Occupy
On Thursday, February 13, hundreds of students came out to protest University of California President Janet Napolitano at Berkeley during her “listening and learning” tour. The action, organized by the Students of Color Solidarity Coalition, started with a rally at Sproul Plaza, followed by a campus march to receive students who walked out of a meeting with Napolitano in Sutardja Dai Hall. Meanwhile, a group of eleven students occupied the Blum Center to bring visibility to regent Richard Blum, a central figure in selecting Napolitano and pushing for the privatization of the UC system. The SCSC opposes Napolitano’s appointment as president on the grounds that she oversaw human rights violations as secretary of homeland security—she created the Secure Communities program, which has terrorized, incarcerated and deported almost 2 million migrants—and because of the undemocratic process through which the regents selected her, not to mention her lack of experience in education policy and administration. The events of February 13 have opened cross-university organizing opportunities and brought national attention to the critics of Napolitano’s appointment.
—Students of Color Solidarity Coalition
2. As Michigan Sits on Racial Justice, 1,000 Take the Library
On February 18, more than 1,000 students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in the University of Michigan’s undergraduate library for an all-night speakout to protest low under-represented minority enrollment and the poor racial climate on campus. Mobilized by the #BBUM twitter campaign and demands issued to the administration on MLK Day, the United Coalition for Racial Justice launched the speakout to push for a presidential commitment to diversity and inclusion not seen since the Michigan Mandate of the 1990s. Through eight teach-in sessions, the event sought to showcase grassroots solutions to enrollment, climate and other issues of race on campus. A surprise guest, former president James Duderstadt, pointed to the loss of leadership and commitment to diversity in the past several administrations, and the keynote speaker, historian and activist Barbara Ransby, called for students to continue to be the “conscience of this institution,” whose 4 percent black enrollment she called “utterly inexcusable.”
—United Coalition for Racial Justice
3. Greensboro Storms Out
On February 19, outraged over the latest evisceration of the academic budget, more than 500 University of North Carolina–Greensboro students, faculty and community members assembled at the center of campus to protest the blatant corporate pandering engaged in by university decision makers. As students work multiple jobs because of rising tuition costs, administrators decided to build a $91 million recreation center—further increasing the cost of attendance. Meanwhile, enrollment continues to drop as a result of the rising costs and declining quality of education. Students’ demands are simple: fund academics and clear out corporate leadership. The next day, student voices forced a board of trustees meeting into adjournment. Students from the rally have agreed to meet weekly to coordinate continuous pressure on university and state officials.
—Hannah Mendoza and Juan Miranda
4. Philly Fills the Rotunda
On February 12, students from Philadelphia filled the capitol in Harrisburg to protest the state’s prioritization of prison expansion over education. Students from Youth United for Change and the Philadelphia Student Union loaded buses alongside Decarcerate PA and other groups to Harrisburg. I was among a number of speakers who gave testimony about the school-to-prison pipeline, the need for human rights for inmates and the lies of the Department of Corrections. Over the past two years, YUC has won major changes, including the promise of no school closures in 2014 and, with the Campaign for Nonviolent Schools, a discipline matrix for the city’s student conduct code, replacing zero tolerance policies. We are currently organizing to change the MOU between the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Police Department to decrease the rate of arrests in schools, and are also part of an attendance awareness media campaign in which we talk to young people about staying engaged in schools and avoiding the pipeline. Across the city, students are being arrested, stopped and searched, and treated like they are criminals in and on their way to school. What’s the point of school if you feel like you’re in jail?
5. At UIC, Students Strike With Faculty
On February 18, 1,100 faculty members at the University of Illinois–Chicago went on a two-day strike, the first in UIC’s history. After sixteen months of failed negotiations over increased wages, shared governance and increases in hiring, faculty decided to escalate. Students, campus workers and other members of the Campus Worker and Student Coalition marched in solidarity, affirming our collective vision, which includes lowering tuition and paying campus workers a living wage. A petition from United Students Against Sweatshops Local 15 garnered 2,300 signatures from supporters across the region. The cross-issue, intergenerational demonstrations of solidarity represented the deepening and expansion of a movement that is resisting the corporatization of UIC and rethinking how UIC serves the metro region.
—Martin Macias Jr.
6. At UC, the Strike Waters Tremble—Again
At the University of California, food service, maintenance, transportation and patient care workers, represented by AFSCME 3299, are gearing up for a five-day strike, their third in a year. The workers will push for a pay raise to meet the rising cost of living in California, safe staffing levels to combat the 20 percent increase in workplace injuries over the past five years, and job security in the face of massive staff reductions. In solidarity with the workers, students are organizing boycotts of dining commons and asking professors to teach off campus and focus their lectures on issues related to campus worker struggles. Throughout the UC system, we have drawn links between the fight for worker rights and the ongoing campaign to force former Secretary of Homeland Security and current UC President Janet Napolitano to resign. In addition to refusing to address the needs of campus workers, Napolitano represents the twin ideologies of privatization and militarization that have threatened the livelihoods of students and workers across the system by creating an atmosphere of fear and inaccessibility for those whom it is intended to serve.
—Student Worker Coalition at UC Berkeley
7. The Paid Labor Fix
In spring 2013, students at New York University started a petition calling on NYU’s Wasserman Career Center to remove postings for unpaid internships that violate Department of Labor guidelines. This was the first petition holding a university accountable for promoting this legally questionable labor practice. Within weeks, the petition garnered more than 1,100 signatures from students, professors and supporters, and gained the attention of Wasserman representatives. As one of the petition organizers, I met with NYU officials over the summer to negotiate changes to NYU’s internship posting policy. This semester, in a landmark move, NYU decided to implement major changes to its internship site, including the creation of a screening process that requires employers to confirm that their internship abides by DOL standards before posting to the career site. We are now working with students at other universities to start similar initiatives at their campuses.
8. The “Diversification” of American Empire
In Fall 2013, the ROTC program returned to the City University of New York’s City College, Medgar Evers College, and York College, after being kicked out in 1971. Following recent CUNY struggles against David Petraeus’s teaching appointment, the Morales/Shakur Center’s eviction and a proposed “Policy on Expressive Conduct” to stifle free speech, efforts to re-remove ROTC are intensifying. On February 19, 100 CUNY students, faculty, staff and community members gathered at a Medgar Evers town hall to hear anti-war veterans and audience participants debate pro-ROTC speakers on their predatory aim to “diversify” imperialism at the nation’s largest urban university, whose students are mostly working-class women of color. On February 24, the college’s highest governing body voted by majority to remove ROTC, an important victory against CUNY’s turn towards militarization.
—Conor Tomás Reed
On February 22 and 23, ten leaders from Connecticut Students for a DREAM, a statewide network of undocumented students, families and allies, attended United We Dream’s fifth National Congress in Phoenix. Back home in Connecticut, undocumented students are currently fighting for tuition equity. While Governor Malloy signed an in-state tuition bill in 2011, in part due to organizing by C4D, tuition costs still remain a major barrier for those who are undocumented, like me. Under Connecticut statutes, 15 percent of tuition revenue must go back to students in the form of need-based aid. Even though undocumented students pay standard tuition, they do not have access to state or federal aid, which is calculated using the FAFSA, which they cannot fill out. The state’s Board of Regents has the power to fix this by expanding the ways that need is calculated. This spring, our Afford to Dream campaign aims to make this change happen.
On the night of February 17, just days before the final Teach for America application deadline, Students United for Public Education hosted a #ResistTFA twitter chat as part of our Students Resisting Teach for America campaign. The goal was to highlight critical views and elevate the conversation around TFA. Within an hour, #ResistTFA was the #1 trending topic in America and it stayed there throughout the night. Hundreds of students, teachers, parents and TFA alumni shared opinions, experiences and articles about TFA and discussed their reasons for resisting—from TFA’s inadequate five-week training, to its connection with corporate education reform, to proposals for better models than TFA. This spring, we will be continuing our campaign on various campuses by holding teach-ins and panels.
—Students United for Public Education
11. Southern Queer Power
Concerned that the unique struggles of organizing in the South are overlooked by the majority of movement spaces, students at the University of Richmond have established a partnership between the university’s Office of Common Ground, Q-Community, Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity, Southerners On New Ground and ROSMY to offer queer youth leaders across the South a new opportunity to connect and build power. The result, the March 22 Queer Summit, will be a gathering dedicated to queer youth movement-building, skill-sharing and best-practices development, led by those under 25. Of particular focus are ways that power structures continue to trivialize our youth experiences; the Q-Summit will build power through DIY self-care workshops, caucuses among traditionally marginalized communities within our queer family, and leveraging collective voice within universities, religious denominations, academic disciplines and communities.
12. New Student Unionism
On February 7, more than thirty students from across Vermont gathered for the first ever Vermont Student Power Conference and voted to combine separate campus organizations into one unified organization, the Vermont Student Union. Devoted to a democratic system that works to advocate for both student and workers’ rights on all campuses, the VSU is fighting for transparency of administrative spending, support for a living wage and benefits for all Vermonters and more student voice in university decision making. This spring, the VSU is launching a “Meet Us Halfway” campaign, directed to state legislators who are ignoring crucial legislation that would require the state to fund fifty percent or more of the overall Vermont State College budget. They are currently supporting only 14 percent of the overall budget; the rest comes from student tuition.
13. Will Cal State Get Away With Unprecedented Fee Hikes?
At Sonoma State University, San Diego State University, Cal State–Fullerton and Cal State–Dominguez Hills, students are fighting mandatory, campus-based “Student Success Fee” hikes of up to 77 percent. This new breed of fee hikes utilizes a divide-and-hike tactic—introducing fees campus by campus, obscuring what is in reality a systemwide hike. Administrators sell the fees with promises of additional classes and faculty hires, omitting that most financial aid packages don’t cover this classification of fees and pose an extra financial burden on students. They also fail to mention that the current student forums are only one method allowed for implementing them—with the alternate being a democratic referendum vote by the student body. In light of successful, statewide student mobilizations against fee increases less than two years ago, administrators fear that students could vote them down. On February 19, students at Sonoma State successfully overturned them, with the other campuses planning coordinated actions for March.
—Student Committee to Reclaim the People’s University
14. What's Next for CSULA’s Ethnic Studies?
On February 11, after shutting it down a week earlier, students at California State University–Los Angeles took over the academic senate to prevent it from voting down Ethnic Studies as a generational education requirement. On February 25, faculty voted in students' favor. (Video: CSULA EthnicStudies)
—CSULA Ethnic Studies Coalition
15. The Anti-Napolitano Generation
On February 13, Oakland youth joined Berkeley students to protest UC President Janet Napolitano. (Video: StudentNation)
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