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StudentNation

Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

Ask NYU: What’s The Deal With Andrew Hamilton?

Andrew Hamilton

(Credit: Bridget Casey)

This piece was originally published by NYU Local and is reposted here with permission.

On March 18, the NYU Board of Trustees announced their decision to appoint Andrew Hamilton as the next president of the university. He has previously served as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford and Provost at Yale, and he will assume his position at NYU in January 2016. Following the official memorandum sent to faculty and students, Hamilton wrote an enthusiastic e-mail to personally introduce himself to the NYU community.

So, NYU Local took to the streets around Washington Square Park to ask students about their opinions of their president-to-be. Some graduating seniors replied with a confused “who?” while another shrugged and expressed her ambivalence towards “just another old white man.” A surprising number of students referred to “Alexander” Hamilton. Most students, however, had much to say about John Sexton, Andrew Hamilton, and the future of their education at NYU.

“I feel like I have more feelings about Sexton leaving than I do about who the new president is. I’ve only been here for a semester and a half, but from what I’ve heard about Sexton, he’s really the face of this growing empire that NYU is and this corporate attitude towards running a university. Frankly, I don’t know what [Sexton] looks like, I wouldn’t know him if I saw him, but the idea of him is upsetting to me. I doubt much will change [with Hamilton as president]. I’m very, very sure nothing will.”

Rowan, graduate student at Gallatin

“I am excited about the new president because he does not have a business or a law degree, and I think that will contribute to the way he runs the university in that he probably won’t run it as a business. He is a researcher, so he may be interested in making NYU a research university… I think [this decision] may have also had something to do with integrating Poly more, because Hamilton is a scientist, specifically a chemist.”

Xena, freshman at CAS

“I haven’t read [the e-mail] yet… I care to a certain extent, but I don’t have that much time left here. I’m a first semester senior, so I guess I feel like it doesn’t affect me that much, which is probably not the right attitude. I know there’s been a lot of drama [with John Sexton and the current NYU administration] and I’m definitely wary of all the tuition hikes… I’m interested to see if anything changes or if it will just stay the same.”

Sophie, senior at Gallatin

“I read what he had to say… How much could really change? He’s just one guy, even though he’s at the top. Even the President of the United States doesn’t have that much power. You can’t really tell if he’s a nice guy or not, because obviously his e-mail will make him sound nice no matter what. He probably didn’t even write it himself.”

Matt, sophomore at CAS

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“Oxford seem to be sad to have lost him, which may be a good thing for us, given that Oxford is such a distinguished university. Honestly, I’m sad that John Sexton is leaving. He’s gotten a hard time here, but he seems to be a devoted president. It seems like NYU is going in an interesting direction. We’ll just have to see in a few more years what actually happens.”

Andrew, senior at Gallatin

“He’s an academic, not a businessperson, so I am cautiously optimistic that he might repair the relationship between faculty and the administration.”

Tommy, sophomore at CAS

“I am more curious to see what [Hamilton] will do. I think a lot of students are concerned about unnecessary spending on senior faculty and whether he will do anything to change that, or continue to be paid ridiculous amounts of money at the expense of students. Another concern that I have is what he will do about NYU’s expansion plan and labor policies in some of our satellite campuses. He has not spoken to any of those issues, which leads me to think that maybe he will just continue what John Sexton has started. But, with that said, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Mariah, junior at Gallatin

In spite of many reservations and widespread disillusionment, it seems that NYU students will wait to judge Hamilton until next year, or at least until they finish reading that e-mail. Your move, Andy.

 

Read Next: Students Blockade for $150 Billion, Rally for Hoosier ‘Freedom’ and Rise for Martese Johnson

Students Blockade for $150 Billion, Rally for Hoosier ‘Freedom’ and Rise for Martese Johnson

Virginia protest

Students from Virginia Commonwealth University hit the streets after the beating of a UVa student. (Photo: The Daily Progress)

This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out March 5 and March 16. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Whose Budget?

For the past month, the United States Student Association has been leading the charge to oppose $150 billion in cuts to the Pell Grant, subsidized loan, income-based repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs. Beginning March 16, students across the country made hundreds of phone calls to House and Senate Budget Committee members. On March 18, USSA students, staff and allies disrupted the Senate Budget Committee and were arrested and charged for speaking out. The week of March 23, we sent more than 13,000 emails through an online petition, culminating in an action on March 27 at the Capitol, where more than 200 students and allies, including Senator Bernie Sanders, turned out to oppose the cuts—and ten students were arrested for blocking the intersection of First and Maryland. On March 30, 250 students converged on Capitol Hill for a lobbying blitz. We are continuing to build support against these cuts while mobilizing more and bigger actions—not only until Congress rolls them back, but until higher education is free.

—United States Student Association

2. Whose History Month?

On March 23, fifty community members gathered outside the ICE field office in Santa Ana, California, and marched to Santa Ana City Jail to demand the release of Omara Gomez-Aviles, a Salvadorian mother of three who was detained as part of ICE’s “Operation Cross Check” earlier this month. At age 17, Omara came to the US fleeing the civil war and violence in her home country—including sexual abuse and an arranged marriage to an older man. Although she has two felony convictions, which make her a priority for deportation, these are from sixteen years ago—and deportation should not be a form of punishment. This protest was part of “Chant Down the Walls,” a concert series started last year in Los Angeles by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, along with youth and community activists. In the coming months, we plan to take these serenata concerts to other states, including Arizona, Texas and Alabama.

—Claudia Bautista

3. The Nittany Lion’s Last Straw

Generations of women, and too often victims of sexual violence, have suffered in silence on Penn State campus and the streets of State College. On Friday, March 20, more than 100 students rallied after a fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho, undressed unconscious women and posted pictures on social media. On March 25, Window of Opportunity, a youth-based community group, staged a march on frat row to protest in front of KDR. On Thursday, April 2, the Progressive Student Coalition hosted a public forum to discuss rape culture in our community. The next day, WOO organized another march on frat row.

—Laura Shadle

4. The Hoosiers’ Disgrace—and Uprising

After Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed the state senate in early March, the Allies Club of Brebeuf Jesuit teamed up with Freedom Indiana to challenge the bill, which allows businesses to discriminate against people on the basis of religion—with LGBT people as targets. High school students phone-banked, delivered hand-written letters to our senators and representatives urging them to vote “no” and rallied at the Indiana Statehouse. Despite our—and many other Hoosier’s—efforts, the bill proceeded to pass through the Indiana House and was signed by Governor Pence on March 26.

—Olivia Totten

5. In Charlottesville, Hitting the Streets—and the Board—for Black Lives

The brutal beating of black University of Virginia student Martese Johnson by law enforcement officers on St. Patrick’s Day sparked campus-wide protests against the systemic racism the black community experiences every day at UVA. Hundreds of people attended a March 18 rally on campus and later shut down sections of University Ave. and West Main St. before marching to the Charlottesville Police Station. When the UVA Student Council unilaterally planned a police dialogue featuring top officers from across the state, black students took over the event and demanded answers to the violent policing of black bodies, before marching out with fists raised. Organizers took to social media, using hashtags #BlackUVADemands and #NotJustUVA to connect the struggles of black students to those of the Charlottesville community, which has faced racism and discrimination for decades. One week after the beating, UVA’s Board of Visitors railroaded an 11 percent tuition increase that will expedite the privatization of UVA—a process that disproportionately hurts black and low-income students. In response, UVA Students United mobilized hundreds of students for two days of demonstrations against the hike, including a sit-in after administrators locked down a public building to prevent demonstrators from entering the BOV meeting.

—UVA Students United

6. In Lansing, Rising for a New State

On Thursday, March 26, 150 members of the Michigan Student Power Network, representing nine campuses, converged on Lansing for the Michigan Student Rise March. At the capitol, we delivered ten demands to supportive legislators, embracing a range of causes and movements and articulating a socially just vision for Michigan’s future—in opposition to policies that serve the white, rich and male ruling members of society. Following several speakers on the capitol steps, we marched to the rotunda and on to the legislative chambers. In the face of right to work, religious discrimination legislation, education cuts, emergency managers and more, MSPN is committed to building power among young people to fight for a state that supports all people.

—Michigan Student Power Network

7. From Hillel to Kehilah

On March 22, Swarthmore’s Jewish organization held a celebration to announce that it would change its name from Swarthmore Hillel to Swarthmore Kehilah, or “community” in Hebrew. The decision followed legal threats from Hillel International over Israel-Palestine programming. Two days later, the Kehilah hosted civil rights veterans Ira Grupper, Mark Levy, Larry Rubin and Dorothy Zellner, who are on a national tour, “From Mississippi to Jerusalem,” speaking with students about their experiences as white, Jewish organizers in the US civil rights movement and around Israel-Palestine. Swarthmore’s programming is part of a student movement challenging Hillel International’s restrictive “Standards of Partnership” on Israel-Palestine. On February 27, the Wesleyan Jewish community, an affiliate of Hillel International, hosted a Jewish Voice for Peace Shabbat event with nearly 50 attendees, although Hillel’s standards bar JVP. On March 20, Caroline Dorn resigned as president of Muhlenberg Hillel after her Hillel refused to host the civil rights tour—which proceeded to take place at another location with 100 attendees.

—Open Hillel Steering Committee

8. From March 29 to Spring 2016

On the morning of Thursday, March 29, twenty Divest University of Mary Washington students began a sit-in of our president’s office. On March 18, the Board of Visitors refused to hold a vote on our campaign’s proposal to form a subcommittee simply to explore options for removing the university’s investments from the fossil fuel industry. On Thursday evening, a group of students from across Virginia joined Divest UMW in a unified call for divestment statewide, culminating in the first collective action of DivestVa. Divest UMW will continue the sit-in until our demand, a plan for coal industry divestment by the end of the 2016 spring semester, is met.

—Rabib Hasan

9. 15 Now

On March 25, Temple University students and workers launched a campaign demanding at least $15 an hour for all workers on campus—from adjunct professors to food service workers to student workers. In coalition with groups across campus, Temple 15 Now wrote a letter to President Neil Theobald, articulating our fight as an issue of equality and justice in the North Philadelphia community. After a rally and speeches by students and workers, we marched to Theobald’s building—which is supposed to be open to all students and faculty—but were greeted by police blocking the entrance. We plan to escalate until the president will accept the letter himself—and listen to us.

—Zoe Buckwalter

10. 1,100—and More—Next

From March 19 to 22, I joined more than 1,100 young union leaders, students and community allies in Chicago for the AFL-CIO’s Next Up Young Worker Summit. We heard from leaders throughout the labor and progressive movements; sharpened our organizing skills in more than 80 workshops; shared successful strategies from campaigns across the country; and led dozens of sessions to strategize a raising wages agenda. On Saturday, March 21, we participated in seven actions across Chicago. I joined a large crowd to demonstrate for union rights and a $15 minimum wage outside Food 4 Less and McDonalds. Others organized leafletting for the #ChangeZara campaign, talked to Guitar Center workers about the benefits of a union contract, visited a Nissan dealership to support Nissan workers fighting for a union, supported striking Steelworkers at a nearby refinery, amplified Chicago’s #CabDriversUnited and canvassed for a teacher running for Chicago’s Board of Alderman. As a member of IBEW Local 46 and the AFL-CIO’s Young Worker Advisory Council, I have returned to Washington State eager to to build the next generation of leaders in the labor movement.

—Chelsea Nelson

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 4/9/15?

Rolling Stone

Columbia Journalism School’s Sheila Coronel and Steve Coll answer questions during a press conference on Monday, April 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

Fight for Fifteen on Campus,” by Keely Mullen. In These Times, April 6, 2015.

Discussions of student debt, adjunct organizing, and fair wages for campus staff are often framed as separate fights, but $15 Now NU—a campaign run by a coalition of student groups at Northeastern University—connects these struggles to the corporatization of higher education. Students voted on the issue in a referendum this week, which passed with 76 percent, and negotiations with the university will begin next fall.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

The hidden hand behind the Islamic State militants? Saddam Hussein’s,” by Liz Sly.The Washington Post, April 4, 2015.

In this provocative article, Liz Sly claims that many of the leadership positions in ISIS are actually held by former members of Saddam Hussein’s army, pushed aside when the US disbanded the Iraqi armed forces in 2003. It’s a strong counter argument to those—like The Atlantic's Graeme Wood—who insist that the key to understanding ISIS is to explore its jihadist ideology.

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

Taking Feminist Battle to China’s Streets, and Landing in Jail,” by Andrew Jacobs. The New York Times, April 5, 2015.

On the eve of International Women’s Day, five Chinese feminists—Li Tingting, Wang Man, Wei Tingting, Wu Rongrong and Zheng Churan—were arrested for provoking social instability. In the eyes of the Chinese government, social instability means organizing a campaign about sexual harassment on public transportation. Their detention speaks to the disturbing trend of suppressing grassroots activism that has escalated since Xi Jinping became president in 2012. 

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

Women behaving boldly,” by Nair Antoun. Mada Masr, December 20, 2013.

As mistreatment of protesters escalates in Egypt, a 2013 peaceful protest that resulted in the mass arrest and abuse of a group of men and women comes to mind. The women refused to leave when the prosecution ordered their release because they realized that accepting special treatment would be a silent acceptance of the fact that “women’s bodies [are used] as a tool for political blackmail.” One of the women, Rasha Azab, said that she wanted to highlight the reality that the arrests “were not scandals because of what happened to the women [but] because you cannot treat peaceful protesters in that way.” 

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq,” by Emma Sky. Politico Magazine, April 7, 2015.

Emma Sky, a former political advisor to the commanding general of US forces in Iraq, writes a scathing critique of the Obama administration’s bungling of the fallout from Iraq’s 2010 parliamentary elections. It’s difficult to know how much to trust the source here, but it’s still an important text for understanding how Iraq got to where it is today.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

The Chevron Tapes: Video Shows Oil Giant Allegedly Covering Up Amazon Contamination,” by Robert S. Eshelman. Vice News, April 8, 2015.

There’s been an ongoing battle between Chevron and residents of Ecuador’s Amazon forests who claim that oil spills are damaging their health and environment. Footage was recently leaked showing what appears to be two workers associated with Chevron looking for soil that has not yet been contaminated with crude oil. In the video, there’s an exchange that occurs where one of them exclaims: “Give you one simple task: Don’t find petroleum.”

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

Greece Nazi occupation: Athens asks Germany for €279bn.” BBC, April 7, 2015.

Greece is getting creative with its impossible debt—it's asking for reparations for the Nazi occupation during WWII. While this is a highly symbolic gesture from the Greeks, it’s a reminder that the leaders of Syriza will continue to fearlessly challenge the balance of power in Europe.

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

Portrait of an I,” by Elizabeth Gumport. Bookforum, April/May 2015.

I’ve been reading reviews of Kathy Acker’s and McKenzie Wark’s email correspondence, printed for the first time this year, as I wait to buy the real thing. Gumport reminds us of the historical moment in which e-mail became a tone, a style, a mode of thinking. Acker knew this too: “We need,” she wrote, “to regain some of the energy, as writers and as readers, that people have on the Internet when for the first time they e-mail, when they discover that they can write anything, even to a stranger, even the most personal of matters.”

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Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor and race.
@savitchlew

These Nine People Gave Up the Middle Class Dream. Was it Worth It?” by Molly Osberg. Talking Points Memo’s The Slice, March 26, 2015.

Molly Osberg’s description of a quirky communal home in West Philly and its diverse inhabitants evolves into a discussion about American conceptions of adulthood, privacy and ownership. We millennials are the so-called “sharing” generation, but most of us still aspire to capitalist, bourgeoisie ideals of home. As a former co-op resident who had decided never to live in a co-op again, I was forced to confront what ideological conceptions, and skillsets, I would need to acquire to make a truly anti-capitalist life possible. 

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

Despite Damning Report, Rolling Stone Will Continue 'To Do What We've Always Done.' Are They Serious?” by Hanna Rosin. Slate, April 6, 2015.

After Rolling Stone released CJR’s report about its missteps in the now infamous UVA story, Rosin takes a look at the mistakes the staff made in the story’s original reporting. Rosin says some of these blunders are “(almost) understandable and others so basic that a first-year Columbia J-school student would be reprimanded for making them.” Her biggest surprise of all: Rolling Stone is doing nothing to change its ‘editorial system'. 

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 4/3/15

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 4/3/15?

Angora Bunny

(Credit: PJ Rhymes, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

New Canadian Counterterrorism Law Threatens Environmental Groups,” by Alleen Brown. The Intercept, March 30, 2015.

The “Anti-Terrorism Act”— serious scare quotes on that one—that is being discussed in Canada is touted as a counterterrorism measure prompted by the shooting of a soldier in Ottawa. Activists and civil liberties advocates have recognized it for what it really is: a bill to quell dissent and grow the surveillance state, as evidenced in this piece discussing the impact that "security" measures have already had on environmental and indigenous activists.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

Amazon makes even temporary warehouse workers sign 18-month non-competes,” by Spencer Woodman. The Verge, March 26, 2015.

Non-compete agreements are typically reserved for high-skilled employees, to prevent trade secrets from being passed to competitors. But the online retail giant Amazon is now forcing some of its seasonal warehouse workers to sign contracts with noncompete clauses—which prevent them from working in the warehouses of Amazon competitors.

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

NCTE Announces $1M Transgender Laboratory.” National Center for Transgender Equality, April 1, 2015.

Everybody can sit down because the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) just won April Fools’ Day. In a deliciously snarky response to a proposed bill in Florida that would make it illegal for transgender people to use public bathrooms, the NCTE has opened a laboratory to create “transgender people who do not need to pee.” NCTE’s statement not only reveals the absurdity of the Single-Sex Public Facilities Act, but also follows in the rich tradition of the LGBT community using humor as the antidote for hate.

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

Iranian VP works for change from within,” by Sahar Namazikhah. Al-Monitor, March 30, 2015.

Shahindokht Molaverdi—scholar, activist and youngest member of the Iranian administration—offers insight into working for women’s rights from within. Molaverdi embodies a rare balance that enables her to enjoy the support and occasional criticism of both religious and secular groups. When asked for her assessment of global conditions for women after attending Beijing+20, Molaverdi emphasized the important yet oft-forgotten point that, “in each country, progress and challenges are related to internal and regional conditions” that uniquely shape the type and direction of change.

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

The future of lonliness,” by Olivia Laing. The Guardian, April 1, 2015.

The Internet has radically altered lived experience. While the unprecedented level of interconnectedness that has been achieved may lead one to think that society is moving toward a higher mode of social organization, this transformative new medium may have the unintended consequence of leading individuals into further isolation. Laing explores whether or not true intimacy is possible in the modern world.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

A Few Thousand of my Closest Friends: Letter from a Montreal night demo,” by Dru Oja Jay, The Media Co-op. March 28, 2015.

This piece written for the Media Co-op, a grassroots media outlet in Canada, illustrates what it’s like to participate in a mass movement. Right now, the anti-austerity movement is growing in Quebec and people are taking over the streets almost daily. “With every launch of a tear gas canister, they produce a thousand moments that will become shared history. Shared history becomes shared destiny, and shared resolve. In a word: solidarity.

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

The Cuddly, Fluffy, Surreal World of Angora Show Bunnies,” by Jon Mooallem and Andres Serrano. The New York Times Magazine, April 2, 2015.

I fell for the Internet really hard today when I entered the "alien country" that is the competitive world of lethargic angora rabbits. "They are basically already sweaters," Mooallem writes. "Not just because they’re mostly wool, with that ludicrous shag frothing out of their nonphysiques; it’s their total passivity, the way they allow themselves to be handled or arranged on a table, just so, like those sea creatures that, incapable of self-propulsion, get joggled along by the tides." This is the first time I've seen a cute-clickbait slideshow paired with metaphors reminiscent of Melville, and I hope it's not the last.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor and race.
@savitchlew

A Promise He Can't Deliver,” by Sandy Boyer. Jacobin, March 29, 2015

Activist Sandy Boyer critiques De Blasio for his dependence on developers to deliver his promised affordable housing plan and for the mayor's unwillingness to firmly challenge 421a, one of the state's broken real estate tax credit programs. Boyer suggests that we need more funding—from the federal government and other sources—to facilitate a truly affordable housing plan. His critique may have benefited from greater discussion about what the city can do in the absence of such funding.

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

"Ellen Pao and the Sexism That You Can't Quite Prove," by Annie Lowery. Daily Intelligencer, March 30, 2015.

In a piece that got attention across social media, Lowery takes a look at the failed lawsuit of Ellen Pao, former employee at venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers, and the subtle sexism that exists within the professional sphere. Lowery pinpoints that it wasn't just one thing that caused the sexism against Pao; it was several little things that exist in our culture and prevent women from rising through the ranks.

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 3/27/15

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 3/27/15?

Blake Brockington

(Credit: YouTube/Charlotte Observer)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

"Private University Police Patrol Off-Campus (and Off the Record)," by Hannah K. Gold. Pacific Standard, March 17, 2015.

Campus police officers may be privately hired, but they do everything we expect public police departments to do: patrol neighborhoods, carry weapons, make arrests, racially profile people. At public universities, the Freedom of Information Act covers activities of campus police, and Illinois is now the first state to push for private campus police to be subject to FOIA requests as well.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

All aboard San Francisco's startup bus craze,” by Nitasha Tiku. The Verge, March 23, 2015.

Leap Bus—a new startup in San Francisco—is a luxury private bus service that loops between the upscale Marina and Financial District. The Verge's Nitasha Tiku took a ride, interviewed one of Leap's founders and saw exactly what you'd expect of a private-San Francisco bus: "reclaimed wood, abundant personal space, and white people.... Wasn’t this more for elites than the masses?"

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

Trans Teen Activist, Former Homecoming King, Dies in Charlotte, N.C.,” by Mitch Kellaway. The Advocate, March 24, 2015.

Last year, Blake Brockington became the first out trans homecoming king in a North Carolina high school. He committed suicide this past Monday. His death marks the sixth reported suicide of a trans youth in the US this year.

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

New Media and the Spectacle of the War on Terror,” by Maymanah Farhat. Jadaliyya, March 4, 2015

Farhat places the US “war on terror” in the context of an ages-old psychological warfare that exploits the desires and fears of citizens to perpetuate the Military Industrial Complex in its evolving forms. She cites a “daunting repository” of “pejorative imagery” that demonizes the Middle East within the psyche of the viewing masses, and a secret CIA “cultural diplomacy” program that sought to cement US power by using “tyranny against freedom” narratives depicting Islam and the Arab world as the “othered” enemy. This “good-and-evil binary,” Farhat says, is disseminated through mass media and infiltrates “virtually every aspect of domestic life.”

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

Twitter Data Mining Reveals the Origins of Support for Islamic State.” MIT Technology Review, March 23, 2015.

A research institute in Doha data mined tweets about ISIS to try to glean some insight into why people decide to join the group. Included in the story is a troubling quote from the lead researcher about developing algorithms to anticipate people's support for ISIS based on their Twitter history: "We train a classifier that can predict future support or opposition of ISIS with 87 percent accuracy."

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

Capitalism: A Ghost Story” by Arundhati Roy. Outlook India. March 26, 2012.

This essay details the pitfalls of unabated privatization and structural adjustment, and describes how a handful of corporations continue to dominate India. Although this piece was written prior to Modi’s ascension to prime minister, she describes how aside from the neoliberal orthodoxy that he vehemently promoted, Modi was accused of "actively abetting" the killing of 2000 Muslims in 2002. Three years later, Roy’s essay remains relevant to the future of India— “Capitalism’s real ‘grave-diggers’ may end up being its own delusional Cardinals [of corporate gospel], who have turned ideology into faith."

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

Big Data Is Watching You,” by Joanna Scutts. In These Times, March 12, 2015.


Critics of surveillance in the United States often reserve blame for the government, but the infrastructure that agencies like the NSA tap into arose from a calculated decision among private entities that surveillance is a profit-making venture worth undertaking. As more and more of life experience is filtered through social media, Scutts reminds us that our compliancy and desire for convenience is part of the problem.

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

"New Haven Rising," by Jennifer Klein. Dissent Magazine, Winter 2014.

Labor historian and New Haven resident Jennifer Klein contextualizes the grassroots work behind the rise of the city's 2012 majority labor-backed Board of Alders, in a city whose university-medical complex-driven “growth” has rarely translated into gains for the economic or social health for the surrounding communities. Even with these wins in local elections, shifting the balance of economic power in the city will necessitate even more organizing and the coordinated collaboration of activists across the city, from within the university and from far without.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor and race.
@savitchlew

"In Rising Market, Vital Mitchell-Lama Program at Crossroads," by Norman Oder. City Limits, March 25, 2015

It's old news that New York's Mitchell-Lama housing program, which has provided affordable housing to middle class and low-income residents since the 1950s, is undergoing a wave of deregulation as owners pay off their public loans and opt out of the program. Yet what is state government and the de Blasio administration going to do about it? Norman Oder explains why Mitchell-Lama buildings are so badly maintained, discusses how city agencies hope to protect residents from the conversions and explains why today's economic conditions make it incredibly challenging to re-create a program resembling Mitchell Lama.

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

‘Woody Allen is a genius. Woody Allen is a predator:' Why Mariel Hemingway's new revelation matters,” by Erin Keane. Salon, March 26, 2015.

In my efforts to separate the artist from his art, I have always had respect for Woody Allen’s Manhattan—it has gorgeous cinematography and even features Meryl Streep as Allen’s ex-wife. But Mariel Hemingway, who played Allen's teenage love interest in the film, recently wrote in her new memoir that Allen tried to seduce her when she was teenager. This Salon piece identifies why Hemingway’s story is important and why it has become increasingly difficult to separate Allen’s personal life from his work—and speaks to the greater definition of a “predator.”

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 3/22/15

College Construction Offers Jobs, Raises Question on Yale Bidding Process

Yale Brick

A carved brick at Yale University (Marc_Smith/Flickr)

This piece was originally published by theYale Daily News and is reposted here with permission.

The cranes that were recently hoisted up to Yale’s skyline—towering above a pit teeming with machinery and workers in hardhats—look to students like a sign of things to come, a tangible reminder that today’s Yale is not tomorrow’s. To New Haven’s construction workers, the cranes symbolize an opportunity.

The $500 million construction project for Yale’s two new residential colleges is among the largest in Connecticut history, and the massive undertaking has already resulted in a payment of $7.6 million in permit fees to the city of New Haven. By expanding Yale’s footprint northward, the new colleges could alter the composition of the adjacent Dixwell neighborhood, spurring new development or raising the specter of gentrification. But perhaps the most immediate effects of the project will be felt by those residents currently battling snow and frozen ground to lay the foundations for Yale’s first expansion of the undergraduate population in nearly 60 years.

Before the college doors open in August 2017, at least 125 New Haven residents will be employed on the construction site in some capacity, according to Nichole Jefferson, executive director of the Commission on Equal Opportunities, which works to ensure publicly funded construction projects employ minority and female construction workers, as well as New Haven residents.

“Truthfully, the city is ecstatic,” Jefferson said. “The administration and all the residents, because they may have the chance to work on that site. Representatives of Dimeo, the contractor overseeing construction, declined to comment to the News and deferred questions to Yale administrators. Based on the size of the project, however, Jefferson estimated that roughly 700 workers will be involved. Fifty to 60 subcontractors—including J.L. Marshall & Sons, Inc. of Massachusetts, Manafort Bros. of Plainville, Conn, Ducci Electrical of Torrington, Conn., and Suzio York Hill of New Haven—will work on various aspects of the new buildings, from delivering concrete for the foundation to installing electrical wiring, according to Jefferson.

Federal law requires all construction projects receiving federal funding to ensure that 25 percent of work hours are performed by minority construction workers and 6.9 percent by women. Additionally, New Haven law requires projects that receive city dollars to reserve 25 percent of work hours for New Haven residents.

Legally, the privately funded construction of the new colleges is not required to meet those standards. But Yale requires contractors to do so anyway, Jefferson said. Thus, she predicts 25 percent of the 700 workers on the site will be New Haven residents.

Bruce Dykty, vice president of sales at Suzio York Hill, said Dimeo had contracted Manafort Bros. to oversee the building of the north college and J.L. Marshall & Sons for the south. Suzio York Hill has been subcontracted to deliver 100 to 150 cubic-yards of concrete every day.

“It’s such a large project, a fast-track project that we needed to spilt it up because not one company could supply the man power to keep it going,” Dykty said.

Because the project is privately funded, Jefferson is not monitoring the construction workforce to ensure it meets diversity standards. She said Danielle Gunther-Gawlak, associate director at Yale University Facilities, meets with Yale administrators and construction companies to discuss hiring targets and strategies for meeting them. Gunther-Gawlak declined to comment.

Jefferson said that when contractors agree to hire only unionized workers, as Dimeo has, they monitor their workforces and contact local unions if they need additional women, minorities or New Haven residents to meet their diversity requirements. If the union does not have enough available workers, they contact the Construction Workforce Initiative, a program that provides training in construction skills for New Haven residents. Then, a CWI trainee may be hired to simultaneously earn wages and learn on the job.

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“You’re bring paid while you’re training at the same time,” Jefferson said. “You’re earning and helping your family.”

The union wages start at $15 an hour, Jefferson said. She estimates that New Haven workers will collectively earn over $5 million in wages over the course of the construction project.

Already, roughly 25 New Haven residents have been hired through their unions or the CWI to work on the colleges in positions such as carpenters and pipe insulators.

Dixwell Avenue, said he has never bid on a construction job at Yale because he does not know how to do so. He said he has never seen Yale projects listed in the local newspapers or online.

Cherry believes Yale should do more to reach out not only to minority workers, but also to minority-owned construction businesses so that they have more information about how to navigate the process of bidding on jobs.

Larry Stewart, the business manager for Tri-Con Construction Managers LLC, said his company has worked on several projects for Yale, including redoing the seats at the Yale Bowl. He, too, found it challenging to “get in the system” and become a company from which Yale will solicit bids.

“They’re the biggest game in town, between them and the [Yale-New Haven] Hospital,” Stewart said. “But Yale, as far as reaching out to local contractors, you don’t see very many local contractors working on Yale projects. Especially minority contractors.”

Stewart added that the construction industry historically has been dominated by white men, forming an “old boys network” that can be hard for minority contractors to break into.

University spokesman Tom Conroy defended Yale’s record as a construction employer. He said Yale’s bidding process is fair.

“Prior to entering into a contract, all bidders to Yale, including architects, contractors and material suppliers, are all evaluated to confirm that they are well qualified for the proposed contracted work based on their firm’s prior work experience,” Conroy said.

Conroy also said jobs at Yale are “excellent,” offering strong compensation and benefits.

Jefferson said she was excited about the next few years of work on the site for the new colleges.

“Everyone wants an opportunity,” Jefferson said. “They just want a chance to get on the Yale site.”

 

Read Next: From Selma to Madison, a generation demands justice

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 3/22/15?

Beliebers

(Credit: Danna Collins/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

Strike votes reach 30,000-student tipping point,” by Igor Sadikov. The McGill Daily, March 16, 2015.

As of March 18, 38,000 Quebec students have a strike mandate across seven campuses, the largest strike since the massive protests of Maple Spring in 2012. Students are mobilizing against austerity measures in the province that continue to affect education, connecting students’ struggles to that of all Quebecers who will suffer from the neoliberal policies that roll back public services.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

What Happened in Homs,”by Jonathan Littell. New York Review of Books Blog, March 18, 2015.

This deeply moving essay—adapted from Littell’s introduction to Syrian Notebooks—recounts the work of a citizen journalist documenting the 2012 battle for the Syrian city, Homs. “[They] still believed that the constant flow of atrocity videos they risked their lives every day to film and upload on YouTube would change the course of things,” writes Littell. “They were wrong, of course, and their illusions would soon drown in a river of blood.”

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men of Touch,” by Mark Greene. Films For Action, March 16, 2015.

Can’t we all just get along and touch each other? As part of his work at The Good Men Project, Mark Greene takes aim at what he calls touch isolation, a phenomenon among straight men who are “banished to a desert of physical isolation by these same homophobic fanatics who police lesbians and gays in our society.” Greene grounds his lamentation of homosocial touching in history by showcasing powerful images of men dating back to the advent of photography who wrap their arms around each other and hold hands without fear of homophobic backlash.

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

“Meet Estayqazat, Syria’s online feminist movement,”by Maya Gebeily. Al-Monitor, March 16, 2015.

Emerging from Syria’s war-torn society is the online feminist movement, Estayqazat (she has awoken), which aims to provide a platform for Syrian women to reclaim their sexuality and voice even when in defiance of cultural norms. Despite criticism that the majority of Syrian women are currently facing more difficult issues than agency and ownership, and the claim that “these are really trivial issues and Syrian women aren’t this oppressed,” the movement highlights the overlooked reality that, in the midst of “madness and chaos,” Syrian women’s voices are still independently sparking debate.

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

Occupation Apps,” by Helga Tawil-Souri. Jacobin, Spring 2015.

Telecommunications infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza is tightly controlled by Israel, and this article does a good job showing how the Israeli private sector profits from this control. The piece unfortunately falls short when talking about the power of Palestinian telecom companies—which dominate the Palestinian economy—and when discussing the effects of Israeli control of telecommunications networks in the Gaza Strip, especially in the context of Israeli military campaigns in Gaza.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

How the FBI Created a Terrorist,” by Trevor Aaronson. The Intercept, March 16, 2015.

“He was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction—a weapon the FBI had assembled just for him.” In this investigative piece, Trevor Aaronson describes how since 9/11, the FBI has been targeting vulnerable segments of the population, namely the mentally ill, in its informant-led counterterrorism stings. The article specifically describes the case of Sami Osmakac, a man diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, who became the target of the FBI’s chase against potential terrorists, where they’ve managed to imprison people in the name of security—even if the evidence was fabricated.

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

Here's What People Are Saying About Starbucks' 'Race Together' Campaign.” NPR March 17, 2015

The CEO of Starbucks, the country’s beloved omnipresent café, wants you to talk about race with your barista. Schultz has corporatized the café, so why not try and take advantage of its historical essence as a safe haven for public discourse?  This campaign is nothing but a publicity stunt and everyone knows it.

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

Democratize the Universe,” by Nick Levine. Jacobin, March 19, 2015.

As developed countries set their sights on colonizing outer space, will they use its resources to make the rich astronomically wealthy or to guarantee a universal basic income? Heavens can’t wait: let’s socialize space.

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Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor and race.
@savitchlew

How Obamacare Went South in Mississippi,” by Sarah Varney. The Atlantic, November 4, 2014.

How did Mississippi, the nation’s poorest state, become the only state in the union to have fewer residents insured after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act? Yes, racist politics and the Tea Party are largely to blame, but also the federal government for deciding to abandon its efforts there (is this the end of Reconstruction all over again?). Frustration with the shortfalls of Obamacare has only deepened many Mississippians’ lack of faith in governance.

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

Hysteria and Teenage Girls,” by Hayley Krischer. The Hairpin, March 13, 2015.

This piece details the concept of hysteria—the reason thousands of adoring fans went weak-kneed over the Beatles or why Justin Bieber fanatics scream in his presence at a burger shop. What might be thought of as a gendered scientific issue, Krischer says, has historical context dating back 4,000 years.

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 3/13/15

From Selma to Madison, a Generation Demands Justice

Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo students rally for justice. (Photo: @_JonathanRomero)

This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out February 20 and March 5. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. #UnsafeAtK

Amid extensive racist harassment, including death threats, students from the Kalamazoo College Intercultural Center Movement have declared a state of emergency. On March 7, 100 students, faculty and members of the Grand Rapids Black Lives Matter chapter stormed the college’s Board of Trustees meeting to urge the administration to listen to the voices of students of color who feel #UnsafeAtK. Prior to the action, we held a press conference addressing our experiences with racism on campus and the college’s continual neglect of our concerns, while demanding an intercultural center, administrative transparency, increased hiring and retention of faculty of color, recruitment of local students of color via the Kalamazoo Promise and the incorporation of ethnicity requirements throughout the curriculum.

—Willina Cain

2. #Selma50

On March 7, a group of organizations in the Southern Vision Alliance, including the Youth Organizing Institute, Ignite NC and the NC Student Power Union journeyed from Raleigh to Selma for the fiftieth anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” a landmark moment in civil-rights history. Upwards of 80,000 people gathered to commemorate the moment—and see the movement forward. In Selma, the poverty rate among African-Americans is 48 percent, and the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shelby County case has removed vital protections for voting rights—paralleling nationwide trends in the denial of political power for people of color. In North Carolina, we are bringing the movement home by organizing for equitable schools, an end to the school-to-prison pipeline, voting rights and living wage jobs.

—Southern Vision Alliance

3. The Ninety-Six-Hour Action

This month, students across the University of California carried out 96 Hours of Action in response to 27 percent fee hikes and police violence—which, under the banner of racialized class warfare, represent the dual forces of privatization and militarization. On Monday, March 2, UC–Santa Cruz students began with a march blocking intersections with bags of “debt.” On Tuesday, six students blocked the Highway 17 and 1 interchange for more than four hours. On Wednesday, Students for Justice in Palestine set up four mock checkpoints throughout campus to demonstrate the everyday experience of apartheid. An anti-police “antagonistic vigil” followed, in which we marched to the on-campus UCPD station and, confronted by sixty riot cops, silently laid down coffins and then recited poetry. Starting at 4:30 the next morning, we staged one of the most successful strikes in recent campus history, as picketers gathered at both campus entrances and shut down university activity for the day. Following this week, we are discussing both long-term organizational questions as well as immediate actions, including one at the upcoming Regents’ meeting on March 18.

—Arash Ehya

4. The Gold Standard

Beginning on March 3, an anonymous group of University of California–Berkeley students, the Bathroom Brigade, launched a mass redesignation project, posting all-gender signs on bathroom doors across campus. The UC’s response threw into question its stated commitment to “be the gold standard” of safety for trans and gender nonconforming students and workers: members of the Brigade were harassed by administrators, and UC Police stopped a public bus in order to detain two others in connection with the action. Despite the widespread outrage that this situation has generated, the Bathroom Brigade remains committed to expanding access to all-gender restrooms. On March 11, the group hosted a surprise “shit-in,” redesignating bathrooms in one of the busiest campus buildings and inviting people to use them as all-gender spaces.

—Beezer de Martelly

5. On Maryland Avenue, Taking the Collectors to Account

On February 27, the US Department of Education announced that it has finally cut ties with five of its debt-collection contractors, including a subsidiary of Navient—a company that was previously a division of Sallie Mae. For the past three years, Jobs With Justice’s Debt Free Future campaign, along with student debtors, the legal community, government agencies and elected officials, have demanded the department hold its debt collectors and servicers accountable. Finally, before the release of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report that specifically named collectors for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the department took action. The question remains: Why is the department outsourcing this work at all? We will continue fighting to ensure student debtors aren’t delivered an empty Bill of Rights—while working toward free higher education and real debt relief.

—Chris Hicks

6. On Capitol Hill, Converging for Youth Justice

On February 25, members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign converged on Washington to address injustices with school pushouts as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We visited congressional offices to urge legislators to oppose Republican bills in the House that would undermine the federal government’s role in education and fail to ensure that federal funds are used to reduce racial and other disparities in education. We will continue to provide members of Congress recommendations that help improve school climate. For members of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, a member of DSC in New Orleans, this campaign builds on local work that calls for a moratorium on out-of school-suspensions, which often lead to incarceration.

—Rahsaan Ison

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7. The First Contract

After being decertified in 2005, New York University’s graduate student union, GSOC-UAW, received recognition as the first and only graduate student union at a private university in the country in 2013. On March 10 at 2 AM, following a year of grueling contract negotiations and on the day of our deadline to strike, NYU agreed to a settlement with remarkable material gains for workers and significant concessions in every unresolved area—including immediate 50 percent wage increases for the lowest paid workers, guaranteed wage increases for the rest, 90 percent healthcare coverage for the majority of the workforce without it and the establishment of family healthcare and childcare funds. This victory reflects the power of democratic, rank-and-file-led unionism. Under the leadership of NYU Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, we grew an active base of graduate workers with ties to the broader NYU community. With this structure in place, an eleventh-hour university-wide anti-union e-mail sent by an NYU provost was met with protests and petitions from undergraduates and ridicule from the university community at large. On the night of bargaining, dozens waited outside negotiations with “GSOC on strike” flags, manifesting a credible strike threat that ultimately forced the administration to cave in.

—Shelly Ronen and Ella Wind

8. The Orphan’s Place

On March 12, popular children’s clothing brand, The Children’s Place, had twenty-seven members of United Students Against Sweatshops, Workers United, ILRF and a survivor of the deadly Rana Plaza building collapse arrested at the company’s headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey. Survivors of the 2013 disaster have been demanding $8 million in compensation, but the company has paid less than $500,000 to date. In response, we led a peaceful delegation into the company’s national headquarters, holding Children’s Place garments previously found within the rubble of Rana Plaza to remind the company of the blood on its hands. Moments after entering the building, we were arrested and detained at a nearby police station.

—Katherine Hood

9. Norman

Editor’s note: Students at Oklahoma University march in response to a racist video from a now-expelled fraternity on campus. (Video: The Guardian)

—Oklahoma University Community

10. Madison

Editor’s note: Students in Madison walk out and take over the capitol to demand racial justice. (Video: Progressive Polymath)

—Madison Community

 

Read Next: From Newark to New Orleans, youth rise for justice.

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 3/13/15?

John Oliver

(Credit: YouTube)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

U.S. Territories.” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, March 8, 2015.

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight has a satirical spirit, but also does great reporting in the course of their segments. This clip focuses on the treatment of US territories and the racist historical basis for the US’s continued colonial attitude toward the people who live in Guam, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Northern Marianas.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

Uber and Lyft drivers’ class-action lawsuits will go to jury trials,” by Tracey Lien. Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2015.

The future of the multibillion-dollar ride-sharing market will be decided by twelve random citizens. Two lawsuits that seek to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers are going to jury trial. If the companies lose, they will have to pay for benefits, work expenses, and insurance for hundreds of thousands of drivers—a blow to the industry that could easily prove fatal.

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

My Life as a Gay Congressman,” by Barney Frank. Politico Magazine, March 12, 2015.

I never knew a closeted Barney Frank. In my lifetime, Frank was held as theexample of an openly gay politician, one whose private life was kept separate from his congressional ambitions. In this excerpt from his upcoming book, Frank reveals just how wrong I was, as he details his tumultuous coming-out process, 1989 sex-scandal, his fraught relationship with the LGBT community, and how his homosexuality continues to make waves in Washington.

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

A beginner’s guide to downtown’s alternative art scene,” by Rowan El Shimi. Mada Masr, March 2015.

This piece delves into the metamorphosis of alternative Egyptian art from its birth in the 1990s cafes and galleries to its expansion into today’s streets and abandoned buildings. In a culture that is both exuberantly open and intensely shuttered, emerging artists effectively blur “the lines between art and life, theater and the quotidian, private space and public space.” The progress of emerging artists who use art as a means of political expression spurring change from the bottom up is worth noting, especially as they face heavy suppression in a burgeoning police state.

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

Losing Sparta,” by Esther Kaplan. VQR, Summer 2014.

This is a powerful deep dive into the closure of a Philips lighting plant in Sparta, Tennessee, written by the I-Fund’s Esther Kaplan. The story also elucidates the offshoring of American labor, the decline of manufacturing and union power, and the replacement of middle class jobs with low-wage, part-time and temporary work. And it’s beautifully written.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

Imperialist feminism and liberalism,” by Deepa Kumar. Open Democracy, November 6, 2014.

In this piece, Deepa Kumar describes how “gendered orientalism” has been used as a tool to justify ongoing military intervention in the Middle East. Mainstream media and the state continue to homogenize the entire Muslim world as misogynistic, portraying Muslim women as victims in need of ‘Western enlightenment.’ This framework based on the need to ‘liberate’ the ‘oppressed,’ which Kumar says is rooted in racism and empire, is then used to perpetuate the new age of liberal imperialism.

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

Toward a Radical Climate Movement,” by Michael P. McCabe. Logos, Winter 2015.

McCabe’s essay in the new issue of Logos is a sobering reminder that the climate justice movement requires tactical reflection. While broadening awareness should be a necessary feature of a successful social movement, McCabe says “our primary objective must be to shatter the monopolistic claim that elites maintain over the organs of public policy, by redirecting the objectives of the state away from neoliberal imperatives and toward public ends.” Combating climate change ultimately depends on confronting the contradictions intrinsic to capitalism.

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

Academe’s Willful Ignorance of African Literature,” by Aaron Bady. The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 4, 2015.

The field of African literature and Africanists, Aaron Bady explains, “only ‘seems to have grown up overnight’ to people whose eyes have been closed.” For many English departments across the country, African literature is always “emerging,” and often in the context of a cosmopolitan approach to world literature, rather than a discipline of study in its own right. “Racism is not the only word for this tendency, but it’s one of them, along with inertia and a self-satisfied lack of intellectual curiosity.”

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Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor and race.
@savitchlew

2015 State of Baltimore City: Mayor Reinforces 'Flawed' Crime-Fighting Program.” The Real News, March 10, 2015.

Operation Ceasefire, a supposedly progressive policing strategy that offers gang members access to resources if they stop the crime (and incarceration, if they don’t) is drawing criticism from community leaders and police veterans. In Baltimore, where an African-American mayor is expanding the program, critics say the city has failed to offer an adequate level of resources to youth in trouble and has failed to give poor neighborhoods ownership of the program. It’s a good reminder that “police reform” alone is not the answer to the “New Jim Crow.”

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

Mary Cain is Growing Up Fast,” by Elizabeth Weil. The New York Times Magazine, March 4, 2015.

This feature, about young long-distance prodigy Mary Cain, held my attention from the beginning. Though I wish the writer, Weil, would have referred to Cain less as a sort of talented runt of the pack but rather let her talent stand on its own, this story is a multi-dimensional narrative that leaves you wanting to know more about this rising running star. It’s nice to have another female runner to add to the “Must Watch” list and even better to see a piece focused solely on her.

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 3/6/15

Why Governor Cuomo’s Education Proposals Are As Bad for Students As They Are for Teachers

Cuomo School

Parents, students and teachers taking part in a March 12 'Hands Around the School' protest at PS 29 in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Julian McCaul

Last week, I issued the following challenge to a dozen third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders: create a paper airplane that flies farther than your peers’. We worked our way through the design process, brainstorming and sketching ideas, talking about the science of flight, crafting prototypes. We tested our planes, worked collaboratively to make revisions to the original designs, and shared our insights and conclusions. By the period’s end, each kid had a plane that flew significantly farther than her first.

Thanks to an in-house enrichment program at my school, these kids and I meet weekly to explore design challenges and engineering-oriented thinking that extends well beyond the curriculum. If Governor Cuomo’s budget—into which he quietly tucked several major changes to education—passes unrevised, schools across NYS will be forced to permanently forsake programs like this along with content not emphasized on the state exams, like social studies, creative writing, the arts, and social-emotional learning.

NYS families, the clock is ticking. On April 1, the NYS legislature will vote on Governor Cuomo’s budget, including his latest reforms to the state’s public-school classrooms. One of Cuomo’s proposals is to overhaul the way teachers are evaluated.

Under the current evaluation system, students’ progress on the state exams accounts for 20 percent of a teacher’s annual rating. Cuomo is proposing that we increase the weight of student test-score gains to 50 percent. (He’d like the other 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to come from classroom observations: 35 percent based on a one-time visit from an outside evaluator and a mere 15 percent based on her own principal’s assessment of performance.)

If 50 percent of each teacher’s evaluation is based on the gains her students make on standardized tests, she’ll have no choice but to start intensive test prep in September and continue until the exams are over in May. Students will be grouped strictly by test-score performance and targeted with intervention that addresses them not as whole children but as test-taking beings. And, if you have a child in one of the lower grades where students don’t yet face standardized tests, he’ll have less dramatic play, less time to progress at a developmentally-appropriate pace because he’ll have to be on track to take high-stakes exams beginning in third grade.

Underpinning the logic of these proposed reforms is an increasing reliance on value-added models (VAM), a relatively new statistical model designed to supposedly determine how much a teacher should improve her students’ scores. The problem? Organizations like the American Educational Research Association and the American Statistical Association have specifically warned against using VAM to evaluate teachers. According to the ASA, a teacher accounts for only 1 to 14 percent of the variability in a student’s test score; moreover, when it comes to students’ test-score gains or losses, VAM can reveal a correlation between a teacher and her students’ scores, but not causation. And, the practice has a whopping margin of error of up to 53 points.

As a public-school teacher, I want to be evaluated. But there are much more effective ways to do it. The countries and states that consistently outperform New York on standardized assessments—Finland, Japan, Massachusetts, among others—have successful evaluation systems in place that could help shape New York’s. In these places, test-score gains play no role in a teacher’s evaluation. Instead, multiple measures are used to evaluate the efficacy of a teacher’s performance: principal and peer observations, student and family feedback, professional development. Why not borrow a page from corporate America’s playbook to provide teachers with a 360-degree view of their performance?

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But families, this fight isn’t about teachers. It isn’t about a flawed, statistically unsound, uninformed teacher evaluation system—though it could be. I’m not asking you to stand up and raise your voices to protect us teachers. I’m asking you to stand up and protect your children. To protect the kind of teaching and learning that empowers kids to be critical thinkers—to ask questions and not just answer them; the kind of teaching and learning that enables kids to be curious—to shape and manipulate data and not just be shaped and manipulated by data; the kind of learning that deeply engages students and teaches them not just to fill in bubbles on a multiple-choice exam, but to actively seek knowledge about themselves and the world around them.

Families, we have until April 1. A groundswell of opposition is building fast. Assembly Democrats have opposed Cuomo’s education reform plans while hundreds of New York City schools have rallied and taken public stands against the governor’s proposals. Tell Governor Cuomo and your state representatives you want the education reforms pulled out of the budget, revised, and voted on as a stand-alone issue. And sign the New York Teacher Letter (www.nyteacherletter.org) to express your disapproval of the governor’s proposed education reforms.

An unhealthy obsession with high-stakes testing and the aggressive collection of test-related data has already prompted many schools to do away with enrichment programs like my engineering cluster. If Governor Cuomo’s public-school agenda prevails, all schools—including mine—will be forced to forsake content and programs that advance inquiry, critical thinking, collaboration, and social-emotional learning.

Ultimately, families, it’s your choice.

 

Read Next: From Newark to New Orleans, youth rise for justice

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