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

Can Youth Build New Worlds With the Ballot Alone?

Students vote.

Students vote at a polling place in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Here’s a question that my fellow youth climate activists and I face: do we use existing systems to build a better world, or do we try to create new systems that bypass the ineffective institutions that have abandoned our generation?

The recent midterm elections starkly highlight this dilemma.

Let’s start with the Republicans. The party knew exactly what it was doing. It produced disciplined and coordinated candidate platforms guided by comprehensive databases mastered for insights into each individual voter. The result was targeted messaging that masked the party’s true intention: empower elites to maintain the status quo of entrenched economic inequality and destructive climate change denial. Intentionality, control and power supported the Republican platform. The party has skillfully created a “false mandate,” changing American politics with ~4.3 million votes and billions of dollars in campaign contributions.

The Democrats failed to develop a coherent strategy of their own. Confused and timid, the party tried to distance itself from President Obama. New candidates and incumbents alike failed to provide a compelling vision for voters. There was little unity and cohesion. The grassroots network that elected Obama didn’t activate to produce the voter turnout needed to turn the tide.

This is where the dilemma arises. What are Democratic and Progressive platforms to do in this situation? They can attempt to play the Republican’s game by using clever messaging to manipulate a population into supporting their agenda. Tom Steyer this approach, pouring millions of dollars of his own fortune into key races with the hopes of counteracting conservatives; financial influence. Steyer’s theory didn’t play out exactly as planned but he did win four of seven races in a very tough electoral year for Democrats.

But if the Democrats take the Steyer approach, does it only perpetuate the broken, ineffective, and corrupt system that is modern American politics? It is time for progressive politics to forge new paths and create agendas that build trust and transparency, revolutionize campaign funding and ensure that politicians respond to constituents over lobbyists.

Obama built an unprecedented grassroots network that catapulted him to office in 2008. Where are those networks now? Obama abandoned them after his election. He failed to build on the extraordinary momentum he achieved. Now the same grassroots have abandoned Obama. As I wrote recently for The Nation, the fossil fuel divestment movement can lay the foundation for the next wave of political mobilization around progressive causes. The movement targets corporate influence and is building a powerful new consensus around the need for bottom-up change.

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This isn’t an “either-or” situation. We need to excel in the politics of the system—Steyer’s approach—but we also need the grassroots strategies that create alternative structures. We need complementary strategies. As we create this new vision of what our world can be, it’s important to understand what’s broken in the existing systems so that we don’t perpetuate the same abuses and corruption.

If we’re going to challenge the influence of money in politics and reinstate the voice of the American people, then it’s high time that we start acting like it. We must learn to act in ways that align with the kind of world that we want to create. Voting is just one of many tools in our kit.


Read Next: “Students Walk Out for Native Justice, ‘Un-Koch’ Twenty Eight Campuses and ‘Carry That Weight’ Everywhere”

Students Walk Out for Native Justice, ‘Un-Koch’ 28 Campuses and ‘Carry That Weight’ Everywhere


Students assemble at Syracuse before taking over Crouse-Hinds Hall. (Photo: Frankie Prijatel, The Daily Orange)

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. For recent dispatches, check out October 14 and October 24. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. The Youth Vote

For the past three months, youth from Californians for Justice organized statewide for passage of Proposition 47, aimed at reclassifying six nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and reallocating money saved into K-12 programs and mental health and drug treatment. Currently, California spends $62,300 per prisoner versus $9,100 per student. Through phone-banking, door-knocking, outreach and social media, we reached thousands of voters. Prop 47 was not only about putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline but about giving our communities a second chance at life. Family members of mine suffer from hopelessness because of felony charges for petty crimes. Now that 47 has passed, black, brown and low-income families have opportunities to lead better lives, attain housing and financial aid and access good jobs, bringing us one step closer to justice and an end to institutional racism.

—Raul Montellano

2. The Ferguson Repeal

On October 27, Miami’s Power U Center for Social Change joined Dream Defenders, the Ohio Student Association and the Organization for Black Struggle for #Ferguson2Orlando to demand a fundamental shift in the way police relate to our community away from programs like Department of Defense program 1033, which provides police departments surplus military weapons to govern our community and schools. Together, we demonstrated outside the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s annual convening demanding the demilitarization of police departments and repeal of the 1033 program. Moving forward, alongside the Miami Committee on State Violence, we seek restorative solutions for justice.

—Keno Walker

3. The Takeover

Under new chancellor Kent Syverud and “Fast Forward Syracuse,” Syracuse University has rushed to change the structure and vision of the university—including defunding scholarships for working-class students and students of color, removing the notion of the university as a public good from its mission statement and shutting students out of decision-making bodies. In response, for the past week, students at Syracuse have been occupying Crouse-Hinds Hall, the central administration building. Hundreds of activists have participated throughout the day, with forty students camping out at night. THE General Body, a broad-based coalition of students, has been raised concerns over a series of undemocratic decisions, racist and homophobic incidents, and cuts to essential student programs and services. Despite three previous rallies, the administration remained unresponsive—prompting a fourth rally and our current sit-in. In a move by administration to diminish support, students at the sit-in were forbidden re-entry over the weekend. Meanwhile, designated food drop-off times have not been fully honored. On Saturday at noon, fifty supporters staged a solidarity rally. We will sit until our demands—centered on issues of diversity, democracy, transparency and social justice—lead to action.

—Yanira Rodriguez, Ben Kuebrich and Derek Ford

4. At Humboldt State, Students Mass for Native Justice

Since October 8, students at Humboldt State University have been protesting the administration’s mismanagement of diversity programs on campus—escalating a decades-long struggle in a region with the state’s largest population of indigenous peoples. The action, which has included walkouts, round dance, drumming and community-wide protests, sparked from the firing of Dr. Jacquelyn Bolman, a Lakota and director of Indian Natural Resources Sciences and Engineering Program, and a raid of the INRSEP house right before Indigenous Peoples Week. Dr. Bolman was fired after speaking out against the administration’s lack of perceived “value” in underrepresented students as stated in a CSU-LSAMP report. The ensuing demonstrations have grown to include all programs and clubs on campus that include students of color and our allies as well as HSU faculty and staff, challenging HSU to re-evaluate its conduct toward us all. On November 7, we have secured a meeting with the HSU president and provost. We demand the reinstatement of Dr. Bolman, additional fulltime faculty of color, a transparent hiring process involving students and the removal of administrators who have mismanaged HSU’s programs for students of color.

—Sarah Caligiuri and Peter Mueller

5. At TCF Bank Stadium, It’s Time

At 9:30 AM on Sunday, November 2, students from the American Indian Student Cultural Center at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities walked to TCF Bank Stadium, where we protested with 3,500 people of different ages, ethnicities and places against the racial slur of the Washington football team. This spring, we agreed to help plan the action, as the name perpetuates an unsafe environment for students, especially Native students, on campus. In English and Dakota, the language of the land, we told the crowd that we are not honored by the team’s name, which is degrading and dehumanizing and carries a terrible history—from bounty postings in 1863 during the genocide of Dakota people to today. We wanted Washington owner Dan Snyder to know that he is not welcome in our home because our home requires respect. We urged others to Cante T’insya Nazinpi—have a brave heart and stand up for what you believe in, because our efforts go further than this day in educating people about who we are and making others feel like they are not alone in the journey as educators. For our allies, our message was Wanna Iyehantu—it’s time.

—Vanessa Goodthunder

6. Ringing the Bell for Sexual Assault

CalArts students, faculty, staff and administrators were dismayed to learn of a sexual assault that took place on campus last spring, brought to light by an Al Jazeera article and now part of a federal Title IX investigation. On October 23, students held a campus-wide walkout and sat quietly in the executive administration offices while ringing small bells and jingling keys. Then, graduate students in the Art Program held an open community meeting in the main hall followed by a town hall by the offices of the provost and president. A large number of graduate students dedicated their mid-residency show to addressing sexual assault on campus, exhibiting artworks and text calling for changes in how rape and sexual assault cases are handled. CalArts students, staff and faculty are continuing to organize and hold weekly meetings. The allegations come amid ongoing calls from student organizers for fiscal transparency and accountability from school administrators.

—Olga Cosme, Lydia Hicks, Megan Lewicki, Hannah Plotke, Cori Redstone and Anna Knecht Schwarzer

7. Carrying That Weight, Everywhere

On Wednesday, October 29, students at more than 130 campuses across more than thirty states and five countries participated in Carrying The Weight Together’s National Day of Action in solidarity with survivors of sexual and domestic violence. The day was inspired by the activism and art of Emma Sulkowicz, who is boldly carrying a dorm mattress around campus as long as her rapist continues to attend Columbia University. Emma’s story reflects not only Columbia’s failure to end violence, but the epidemic of institutional and community unaccountability in universities and colleges across the country and the world. As thousands hosted events and carried mattresses, at Columbia, Carry That Weight collaborated with student collective No Red Tape Columbia to organize a rally and speakout with New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, student survivors and city activists. Twenty-eight mattresses, sponsored by twenty-eight student groups, represented Columbia’s twenty-eight Title IX complainants. After the speakout, we delivered these mattresses to President Bollinger’s home, publicly presenting ten demands.

—Becca Breslaw

8. How Many Campuses Can Koch Money Buy?

On November 3, students at Florida State University marched to Florida’s capitol protesting the dramatic influence that corrupt corporate donors have on our public education system, from contracts between FSU’s Department of Economics and the Charles Koch Foundation to the recent decision by a Koch-influenced Board of Trustees to appoint a three-time Koch-funded politician as president of FSU. FSU’s fight has inspired students across the country to #UnKoch their campuses. On Monday, we were joined by twenty-seven other campuses, from George Mason to Temple to Oregon, where students are raising their voices and passing resolutions to demand transparency and integrity. Together, we stand against “strings attached” funding that violates academic freedom by placing limitations and expectations on research outcomes and instruction.

—Kimberly Tate Anderson and Lakey

9. How Much Does College Pay?

After four years of campaigning by students and union members, the University of Memphis is raising base pay for more than 100 campus workers making poverty wages. Effective January 2015, pay will be raised from $8.75 to $10.10. Since 2010, as the nationwide push to raise the minimum wage has grown, members of the Progressive Student Alliance, United Students Against Sweatshops Local 68 and the United Campus Workers have engaged in direct action, diplomacy and lobbying. Now, we will continue to fight until all workers—including adjuncts and Aramark workers, who are not covered by the raise—are paid a living wage. The victory comes in tandem with USAS’s Campus Worker Justice Campaigns Halloween national week of action. Across Tennessee, students and workers are running a statewide living wage campaign demanding that the governor reinstate $40 million cut from public higher education; in Knoxville, students read a horror story at the University of Tennessee’s president’s office calling on him to advocate for reinstated funding.

—Michelle Nyberg

10. Now That Elections Are Over

On Thursday, October 29, immigrant youth and mothers from Connecticut Students for a DREAM confronted first lady Michelle Obama as she campaigned for Governor Dan Malloy and other Connecticut Democrats in New Haven. Two activists interrupted the speech with pleas for the first lady to acknowledge parents of undocumented youth and their need for administrative immigration relief and stop the separation of families. The first lady acknowledged both activists, telling them, “I hear you sweetie” and “I’m going to let you finish.” Although both were escorted out of the event, the first lady’s speech took on a different tone after the interruption. Three days later, President Obama, who has continually promised and delayed taking action through administrative relief, visited Bridgeport to campaign for Malloy and was similarly interrupted repeatedly. Groups like C4D are committed to fighting for our communities and continuing to demand that the president act boldly and inclusively on immigration.

—Danilo Machado and Tashi Sanchez-Llaury

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 11/6/14?


A voter inserts his paper ballot at the Belvedere Park polling booth in East Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy and affairs, international conflict and human rights issues abroad.

Hindu Right Rewriting Indian Textbooks,” by Raksha Kumar. Al Jazeera, November 4, 2014.

It is a case of history being written by the victors. Textbooks in the newly elected Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat rely heavily on Hindu mythology, confusing religious teachings and stories with scientific facts. The inclusion of only Hindu teachings—by omission of other faiths—“equates India to Hindus,” leaving India’s substantial religious minorities even more marginalized than they already are.

Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and critiques of Israeli exceptionalism.

Boom and Rust,” by Meagan Day. The New Inquiry, November 5, 2014.

This piece is paywalled for now, but either buy a subscription or wait to check out Meagan Day’s piece for the New Inquiry. I mean, the piece itself is beautifully laid out, but more important is the way that Day gives lyrical content to diminishing returns. It’s a refreshingly readable (and historical) analysis of the aesthetics of decay in California. Love it.

Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses on queer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.

Bait-and-Switch for America,” by Gary Rubinstein. November 5, 2014.

Teach for America alum Gary Rubinstein is one of the country’s most outspoken, and well-spoken, TFA critics. He was also my high school math teacher, and I’m embarrassed to say that despite his best efforts, I was not the most engaged of precalculus students. That’s why it gives me great pleasure to engage with his work in a different way now: by sharing his latest blog post, which is an attempt to dissuade 2015 TFA recruits from joining the Corps. The stories he tells are both absurd and disturbing, and the post serves as a great gateway to his blog, which is one of the most meticulously researched archives of TFA’s track record that I have ever encountered.

Edward Hart focuses on criminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.

The Obama Brief,” by Jeffrey Toobin. The New Yorker, October 27, 2014.

Jeffrey Toobin is one of the sharpest legal analysts writing today, and his interview with Barack Obama, published in The New Yorker, is revelatory in its careful consideration of Obama’s impact on the American courts. About a third of the federal judiciary is now made up of Obama appointees, but, Toobin notes, his judicial appointments are less notable for their ideological purity than for the diversity he has brought to the bench. The interview is wide-ranging, thorough and, as Obama enters the lame duck stage of his presidency, a preview of what will be an important pillar of Obama’s legacy.

Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.

Jim Crow Returns: Millions of Minority Voters Threatened by Electoral Purge,” by Greg Palast. Al Jazeera America, October 29, 2014.

This is a long read, but it’s worth it. I have not seen enough coverage of this fantastic investigation that Al Jazeera America did with Greg Palast. They uncovered a massive purge of voters from voter rolls across the country. On a mission to prevent non-existent voter fraud, this secret list was compiled by largely Republican statewide election officials, adding the names of felons who are unable to vote. The list was then checked against millions of names in multiple states, targeting people of color. If someone’s name broadly matched a felon’s, their right to vote was stripped from them, and they were unable to reinstate it. The project is called the Interstate Crosscheck Program, and up until now, the lists of who is on it has been secret. Al Jazeera America was able to get the lists and bring this nefarious plan to light.

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology.

Hackers Could Decided Who Controls Congress Thanks to Alaska’s Terrible Internet Ballots,” by Steve Friess. The Intercept, November 3, 2014.

I think this article is relevant because it underscores the paradoxical nature of technology: it can strengthen democracy, but it can also threaten it. For example, technology has enabled people to spread messages across borders and organize grassroots movements. It has facilitated the media’s watchdog role. But it has also enabled government surveillance.

In the case of this article, technology has given Alaskans the option to cast their votes electronically—but at the risk of having their choice changed without anybody noticing. The Internet was conceived as a realm of freedom and as a vehicle for free speech. If the Internet can be used to distort voter’s voices, maybe it’s not time yet to use online voting.

Jessica McKenzie focuses on technology and politics, transparency and accountability.

The $9 Billion Witness,” by Matt Taibbi. Rolling Stone. November 6, 2014.

In the tradition of hawking articles based on how they will make you feel: this piece will make you so mind-numbingly angry that you can’t even begin to articulate it. An insider look at the non-prosecution of Wall Street criminals, and the extent to which both sides, prosecution and defense, went to silence one whistleblower named Alayne Fleischmann.

Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements.

No, We Don’t Need A Law Against Catcalling,” by Liliana Segura. The Intercept, November 3, 2014.

By now you’ve heard about and maybe even seen Hollaback’s latest viral video campaign, produced in collaboration with the marketing team at Rob Bliss Creative. The video in question has been viewed over 33 million times on Youtube, sparking a firestorm of cultural commentary. Catcalling is a violent act no matter who does it. But highlighting women of color who have affirmed this fundamental truth while bringing valid criticisms to bear is important. The danger of the dynamics in the video is that white supremacy has already rendered it so public spaces allow us to read black and brown bodies as deviant. In the video, there are next to no white men catcalling, as many have pointed out. By contrast, the woman walking through the city is white. There is a specific and storied history around violent carcerality justified by racialized interactions in public space. Historically, white women’s protection has been used as the justification for many brutal lynchings, including, famously, Emmett Till’s murder.

In the wake of the video’s debut, some have called for a law against catcalling. Segura eloquently sums up why this would never work and how it would, in fact, inevitably echo the racial disparities that have come to characterize the prison industrial complex as we know it: “While men are certainly responsible for their personal behavior, a law against street harassment would, in practice, randomly punish a select few individuals in the name of redressing a vast and systemic problem.”

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N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.

“#TurnedAway: the truth about US voting rights on election day, according to you.” The Guardian, November 4, 2014

Millions of Americans attempted to go to the polls this past Tuesday. Many casted their vote. But many others did not and were prohibited from exercising their right. In “#TurnedAway” The Guardian compiled a collection of voter disenfranchisement stories from Tuesday’s midterm election. From the disappearances of names on the voter roll call, to arriving at incorrect precinct (due to gerrymandering), to utilizing malfunctioning voting machines, this article featured many insidious experiences. While this was perhaps not intended, the piece displayed narratives that heavily highlighted black and poor/working-class voter narratives, demonstrating that although voting is a right, it must be earned. Americans’ path to the polls are littered with many obstacles, that in our political moment just voting—regardless of the outcome—is a victory.

Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.

The Secret Dual Lives of People Living With Mental Illness,” by David Roseberg. Slate, October 28, 2014.

I recently published an article about my struggle with depression. I received responses from acquaintances who “had no idea” I have a mental illness because I “hide it so well.” Living a double life, one where we exude positivity in public and shrink into a depressive solitude in private, is common for many people with mental illnesses. Liz Obert, the subject of Rosenberg’s article, doesn’t think we should be ashamed of this. She photographs people with major depressive disorders to show the dualities that exist in their everyday lives. So far, only ten people have agreed to participate, which she thinks is due to the stigma against mental illness. Growing up, I heard that I shouldn’t trust people who are “two-faced.” But, for some of us, being two-faced is a way to survive.


Read Next: “My Generation: The Change You Can Really Believe In”

My Generation: The Change That You Really Can Believe In

Chloe Maxmin

In a recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, I referenced data from Harvard’s Institute of Politics showing that only 20 percent of my generation trusts the federal government, the lowest percentage in the past five years. I argued that the fossil fuel divestment movement, which aims to create new political space, can help restore the lost faith of young and old alike in our political system.

John Avlon, editor of the Daily Beast and a panelist on the show that evening, reacted aggressively, denying even my premise: “There’s a generation that was engaged and is now apathetic…but if they decide, then, [that] they’d rather change the world by being a slacktivist rather than going out and voting, they’re not only undermining our democracy—they are going to compound the problems we’ve got right now.”

Avlon grossly misinterprets the reality of my generation, today’s youth activism and what I said. We may be disillusioned, but we are not apathetic. We are engaged and determined to take action in thousands of new ways. We are not waiting on the sidelines for a miracle, and we are not giving up on the power of our vote—in fact we’re saving it.

The fact is that data from the Pew Research Center shows that “adults of all ages have become less attached to political and religious institutions in the past decade, but millennials are at the leading edge of this social phenomenon.” And understandably so: my peers and I grew up watching Clinton’s impeachment hearings. We came of age during eights years of Bush-Cheney, witnesses to the politics of fear and destruction. Climate denial has percolated throughout society as the planet hurdles towards an unprecedented state of emergency. We were hopeful when we elected Barack Obama. But he has turned out to be the change that we can’t believe in.

This picture of disaffiliation is complicated by a strong drive toward activism. millennials are more optimistic about the future than any other generation. Half of us are political “independents,” but we vote heavily for liberal policies and candidates and believe in an activist government. Another report from Telefónica supports these findings: 40 percent of millennials believe that we can make a global difference. While we may be skeptical of traditional institutions we use new technologies to create alternative networks and communities through which we mobilize political action. As I said on Real Time, our new forms of engagement are aimed at taking back democracy and restoring it to government of, by, and for the people.

The most urgent and significant example is the fossil fuel divestment movement. My generation understands that the world is on the brink of irreversible climate catastrophe and that our futures are at the frontlines of this crisis. Fossil fuel companies control 2,795 gigatons of carbon reserves—five times more than is safe to burn if the world is stay below 2 degrees Celsius of warming—the UN-declared reddest of red lines. The world has already warmed .8 degrees Celsius since 1880, and this has contributed to the hurricanes, typhoons, droughts, floods that already wreck havoc on our planet. Two degrees warming will change our planet but not destroy it. But if we do nothing, the Earth will warm 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 and become uninhabitable.

This climate crisis is the defining issue of my generation, and we are determined to alter the course of our indifferent government. Students nationwide are pioneering the fossil fuel divestment movement because we will not watch today’s leaders gamble with our futures. Our movement has two goals: first, we are stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry and highlighting its profoundly anti-social behavior, thereby weakening its political influence. Simultaneously, we are building a broad inclusive grassroots climate movement. Just about everyone in the US is part of an institution that has something to divest—from an alma mater’s endowment to a state pension fund. So we are creating the foundation for something big and bold. Already there are around 400 divestment campaigns on campuses in the US alone, and 50,000 students joined the People’s Climate March in New York City.

A movement like this can hold politicians accountable to their constituents, calling on them to stand up for federal action on climate change. This movement can also use its networks to mobilize Americans during election seasons. We can put out the call to vote for candidates that are paying attention to climate issues and pledging to push for climate legislation.

The divestment movement also represents a fundamental rethinking of modern society. At this unprecedented moment in human history, we must question the systems that created the climate crisis in the first place. We are not aiming to merely tweak society. This isn’t about engineering our way out of a problem. We are creating a new system of values that revolutionizes how we interact with the Earth and with each other.

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So when it comes to our political system, the divestment movement refuses to continue banging on the doors of a political system captured by a rogue industry that insists on putting its profits above the future of the planet and all its inhabitants. Instead, we are creating a movement that reveals the corruption of this process. We are not forsaking our vote, but we see that we must address the fossil fuel industry in order to restore the value and power of our vote.

My generation has the courage to turn disillusionment into hope. Even though our politicians and business leaders have failed us, we know that there is too much at stake to give up. We believe in all of our futures, and we refuse to lose heart. We really do believe in the possibility of a better world.

We are the change to believe in.

Read Next: What’s the real issue? Blaming AAAD obscures the UNC scandal’s broader societal causes

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 10/30/14?

Papers and a box representing 60,000 signatures protesting indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons sit outside Governor Jerry Brown's office at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. (REUTERS/Max Whittaker)

Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy and affairs, international conflict and human rights issues abroad.

"My Captivity," by Theo Padnos.The New York Times Magazine, October 29, 2014.

It's a long read, but worth it. Theo Padnos, the American journalist who was held captive in Syria for nearly two years before being released, recounts his story.

Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and critiques of Israeli exceptionalism.

The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed,” by Adrian Chen. WIRED, October 23, 2014.

From Adrian Chen: "Baybayan is part of a massive labor force that handles “content moderation”—the removal of offensive material—for US social-networking sites. . . .Social media’s growth into a multibillion-dollar industry, and its lasting mainstream appeal, has depended in large part on companies’ ability to police the borders of their user-generated content—to ensure that Grandma never has to see images like the one Baybayan just nuked."

Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses onqueer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.

"Gay Sex is Gay Sex and Politically, That Matters," by Jamilah King. Colorlines, October 23, 2014.

When a Twitter user complained in October that the "gay scenes" in Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder were "too much," executive producer Shonda Rhimes quickly shut it down. "There are no GAY scenes," Rhimes tweeted. "If u use the phrase 'gay scenes,' u are not only LATE to the party but also NOT INVITED to the party." In her perfect analysis of this moment on Colorlines, Jamilah King makes a simple but profound point: they are in fact gay scenes, and it's valuable to name them as such. In an era when gay sex is still criminalized in some places, and punished with violence in others, it's important to own our queerness, and own it with pride. As King writes: "Gay sex is gay sex. Gay sex is hot. Gay sex is not straight sex."

Ted Hart focuses oncriminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.

Kelli Stapleton Can't Forgive Herself for Trying to Kill Her Violent, Autistic Daughter. Can You?” by Hanna Rosin. New York, October 20, 2014.

Shortly after Kelli Stapleton’s 14-year-old daughter Issy returned home from treatment for her violent aggression, Kelli drove the teen to a secluded spot, lit a charcoal grill and placed it in the van, and shut the doors of the vehicle so that it would fill up with carbon monoxide. Her plan was to kill her daughter and herself so that they would go “to Heaven together,” but police found the two before either died. In Hanna Rosin’s latest story, she explores how a mother could be so afraid of her daughter that she tried to kill her. But Rosin also forces us to confront the countervailing narratives and the people who believe Kelli never intended to die that day. The story is a gripping and heart-breaking read, and it doesn’t leave us with any easy answers.

Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.

Let's Talk About Sex: Why Sexual Satisfaction & Pleasure Should Be on the International Development Agenda," by Chloe Safier. Oxfam blog, October 22, 2014.

Ever heard the term sexual health? It will hopefully become part of the way we discuss sexuality in the years to come. The World Health Organization defines sexual health as: A state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. This understanding of sexual health is not popularly held among development groups, non-governmental organizations and government institutions, though Oxfam's Chloe Safier argues it should be. Pleasure is important! Safier explains that feminists and women's rights organizations have been treating sexual pleasure as a legitimate issue, and one to which all people are entitled, for decades. Safier, a development professional herself, challenges the international development community to incorporate a larger understanding of sexual health into their work. Safier argues that: A revised approach to sex within the international development community would make the link between sexual pleasure and power dynamics, choice, health, and rights. It would account for the realities of people's holistic (and sometimes pleasurable) sexual lives, and further, move beyond the gender binary of women and men.

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology.

"Is Your Judge for Sale?" by Andy Kroll for Mother Jones, October 28, 2014.

Interest groups—including dark-money groups—are pouring rivers of dollars into judicial elections, undermining the integrity of the justice system. This story illustrates how judicial campaigns have transformed over time, especially after the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United, to the extent that justice has now a price tag.

Jessica McKenzie focuses ontechnology and politics, transparency and accountability. @jessimckenzi

"Jim Crow returns: Millions of minority voters threatened by electoral purge," by Greg Palast. Al Jazeera America, October 29, 2014.

This Al Jazeera investigation reveals how a new piece of software is being used by state election officials to identify "repeat voters," threatening the votes of nearly 7 million people, a disproportionate number of whom are black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters. The faulty program, called Crosscheck, only takes into account first and last names, ignoring discrepancies in middle names, suffixes and social security numbers. This is crappy technology with a built in racial bias being used without transparency, in what seems like an effort to disenfranchise voters, especially those of color. Actual voter fraud identified to date: basically nil.

Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements.

A mother who just wanted to know when her son would eat,” by Victoria Law. Waging Nonviolence, October 29, 2014.

This week, my article pick is Victoria Law's long read in Waging Nonviolence (an online publication founded by former Nation interns) on the impact of the 2013 California Prisoner's Strike, both with respect to prison reform movements and the fight to end solitary confinement in America. Four rival gang leaders organized the strike, which took place primarily at Pelican Bay State Prison. The respective heads of the Aryan Nation, Black Guerillas, Nuestra Familia and the Mexican Mafia were forced—through the sheer cruelty of the conditions in the Secure Housing Unit or SHU—to band together in coalition and organize a hunger strike. Law's piece profiles a mother, formerly incarcerated herself, whose journey to become a full-fledged prison reform organizer was spurred on by the incarceration of her son, a participant in the hunger strike (along with 30,000 other inmates). The strike lasted for 60 days, ultimately led to public hearings on long-term isolation and significant reductions in the use of solitary as a punitive tactic enacted by corrections officers. Law paints a compelling portrait of families organizing together for liberation.

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N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.

"Ferguson police brace for new protests by spending thousands on riot gear," by Jon Swaine.The Guardian, October 28, 2014

In the next few weeks, a grand jury will render a decision about the pursuit of an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department. In preparation for the expected denial of an indictment, the St. Louis police department, which took over the investigation of the slain, unarmed black teen Michael Brown, plans on spending tens of thousands of dollars monitoring the Ferguson protest movement. According to figures obtained byThe Guardian, since August the St. Louis county police department has spent a total of $172,699 on militarized equipment. This article details expenses of military-grade equipment including smoking canisters, grenades, rubber bullets and batons. It's understandable to keep "police officers and all citizens safe" in Ferguson, but protecting the police and the community does not call for the purchase and use of such militarized equipment or responses. The Ferguson community is still in mourning and reeling from the death of one of its beloved citizens. It appears quite contradictory that the police department is spending nearly five times as much as the median household income in Ferguson to induce harmful and dangerous effects on their citizens who are simply marching for answers and justice in the unjust death of their neighbor.

Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.

"The Contestant," by Daniel Alarcon. The California Sunday Magazine, October 5, 2014.

The host of "El Valor de la Verdad," one of the first reality shows to air in Peru, doesn't remember "anything special" about the first contestant, 19-year-old Ruth Thalía. As a guest on the show, Ruth Thalía was hooked up to a polygraph and forced to answer personal, often embarrassing questions. If she told the truth, she was rewarded with money. During the course of the show, Ruth revealed that she danced at a nightclub and had accepted money for sex. Her parents were mortified, and after the show aired, Ruth Thalía could barely bring herself to leave the house. Then she disappeared. When publicizing her disappearance, TV outlets referred to her not as the girl from El Valor de la Verdad, but as a prostitute. Alarcon's story tracks down the cause of Ruth Thalía's disappearance and, ultimately, her death. He places her story within a larger framework of impoverished Peruvian people who seek fame and fortune to better their lives, some of whom, like Ruth Thalía, tragically pay the ultimate price.

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What’s the Real Issue? Blaming AAAD Obscures the UNC Scandal’s Broader Societal Causes

UNC crest

UNC Chapel Hill University Crest.

This article was written by Omololu Refilwe Babtunde and orginally appeared at The Daily Tar Heel. It is reprinted here with permission.

In 2011, three UNC departments were suspected of participating in deceitful academic activities. When the news hit the stands, it focused on only one of the suspected departments: the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Rather than choosing either of the other departments as a byword for academic dishonesty, the public seems to have singled out the African and Afro-American Studies for this distinction.

Due to the actions of a few individuals, the media has unjustly characterized the department as being a site of student neglect and intellectual laziness. This unfair representation is not the experience of all students in the department. I am a proud student of the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies. There, I received mentorship unrivaled by what I’ve received elsewhere on campus.

I have been able to delve deep into a history I have never had access to before: the history of my people.

This department is where I felt seen, heard and understood in a society that has for 21 years told me that, because of my black skin, I must hide myself, shut my mind off and question nothing.

This department should not be a scapegoat for society’s failures. This scandal is neither just a departmental issue nor just an athletic issue. This scandal arises from the fact that our society’s conception of value is truly, truly flawed.

Yes, certain people in the African and Afro-American studies department and other departments made grave mistakes. But these mistakes were informed by an understanding of social value that did not allow student-athletes to be seen as intellectual beings but instead as commodities to be bought and sold for the entertainment and profit of the more powerful.

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The media’s one-sided reaction to this scandal shows how our society does not value black studies. This discipline—which has historically been discredited because of our nation’s violent tendency to suppress the intellectual, artistic, political and social expressions of blacks—became the scapegoat for a system that hides its oppressive tendencies in racialized hate and deadly stereotypes.

I believe in UNC. I believe that we can move beyond the normalized tendency to find a clear-cut culprit in tangled, nuanced situations. I want us to be brave enough to be able to look our history in the face and see how systems and relationships of oppression are being maintained and repeated. We should call a spade a spade.

Read Next: Joan Jett Gets Out the Vote

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 10/23/14?

Protesters in Detroit.

People stand outside Detroit City Hall, protesting thousands of residential water-service shutoffs by Detroit's water department, during a rally in Detroit. (AP Photo)

Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy and affairs, international conflict and human rights issues abroad.

"Afghanistan: 'A Shocking Indictment'," by Rory Stewart. The New York Review of Books, November 6, 2014.

Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan —the entire country, in 2002—from west to east. My first introduction to him was when I read his book about these travels, The Places in Between, a travelogue like no other. Here he reviews Anand Gopal's book, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes. Gopal's book is important, for posterity, as it investigates serious lapses of Western involvement in Afghanistan, from horribly botched counter-terrorism operations to shoddy and suspect development work.

Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and critiques of Israeli exceptionalism.

Whose Moon is it anyway,” by Rachel Riederer. Dissent, Fall 2014.

Rachel Riederer, an editor at Guernica, investigates the young but expanding private space sector. She questions the possibility of an expanding frontier, as a new bill—American Space Technology for Exploring Research Opportunities In Deep Space (ASTEROIDS)—aims to assert that the value of moon commodities is tied to entrepreneurship and not land ownership. Still, given the limited access to the private space sector (celebrity investors include Eric Schmitt), Riederer wonders if such unfettered frontiership is possible (if it ever was), and let lone anything resembling a lunar commons.

Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses on queer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.

"Fear of a trans college," by Emma Caterine. Feministing, October 17, 2014.

Ruth Padawer's New York Times Magazine article on trans men at women's colleges depressed me. With gem anecdotes like a white trans man running for multicultural affairs coordinator at Wellesley because "masculine-of-center students are a cultural minority," the piece left me wondering: is this extreme tunnel vision and lack of analysis what we've come to? But then I read Emma Caterine's sharp response at Feministing, and felt my feet on the ground again. Caterine makes two central points: one, men pushing back on women's space is an entitled expression of patriarchy. Two, it's particularly ridiculous to focus on the demand for increased men's space at a women's college when some women—trans women—are almost entirely excluded. Too often, big media coverage of a community outside the mainstream is taken as fact, and the talkback—likely truer to the voices of the community—gets ignored. I hope this post, and other responses to Padawer's article, prove to be the exception to the rule.

Ted Hart focuses on criminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.

Ugly treatment of Jameis Winston's accuser serves to only discourage future victims,” by Dan Wetzel. Yahoo Sports, October 15, 2014.

In the eleven months since rape allegations against Florida State's starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, surfaced, reporters have largely focused on how Tallahassee police and university officials bungled and impeded the sexual assault investigation. But in his column this week, Dan Wetzel pivots the conversation to show how the way the victim was treated by Florida State fans has made it significantly harder for other victims to go to the police. Wetzel is emphatic that he doesn't "know if Jameis Winston sexually assaulted the woman." But, he writes, absolutely nothing about the investigation is consistent with a false accusation, and the "woman who believes she was raped deserves" so much better than what she's endured. For other important pieces on the Winston investigation, see The New York Times's recent report on how football often trumps justice at Florida State and Michael Rosenberg's column on why we shouldn't conflate Winston's childish antics with a rape allegation.

Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.

White menaces to society: Keene State and the danger of young drunk white men,” by Brittney Cooper. Salon, October 22, 2014.

In the midst of #FergusonOctober, last weekend saw reports of civil unrest, cars being flipped over, threats to police officers' lives and police crowd control including pepper spraying large groups of young people. Doesn't sound like the young nonviolent protestors in Ferguson, demonstrating peacefully against police brutality and Mike Brown's murder, you say? You'd be right. These rioters were drunken college students at Keene State College in New Hampshire. A major difference in the two situations is that the drunken rioters in New Hampshire were white, and the young people protesting in Ferguson are largely people of color. You probably don't need to be reminded that the police in Ferguson responded to demonstrators with tanks, stun grenades, pepper spray and SWAT teams. At Keene, these drunkards, despite their obvious violence and threat to public safety, including their repeated verbal threats against police, were merely pepper sprayed and subdued. Mass arrests did not follow the riots. In Ferguson, many nonviolent protestors, journalists and even municipal legislators were arrested and jailed while attempting to exercise their First Amendment protected right to free speech and free assembly. Brittney Cooper expounds on this lopsided and deadly difference in perceived and protected freedoms for white Americans and Americans of color. While black bodies are seen as dangerous in public space in the white supremacist racist imagination, drunk and violent whites in public space are unpoliced, both historically and today. Cooper says, "But what the events in Keene suggest is that white folks often test the bounds and limits of public decency and order with little long-term reprisal. There were some arrests, and some tear gas. But no dead bodies. No stigma about white anger. No come to Jesus meetings about White America’s problem children. No public discourse about these “menaces to society.&rdquo

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology.

"The Great Frack Foward," by Jaeah Lee and James West. Climate Desk, September 15, 2014.

Looking to get China off its coal addiction, Chinese authorities and business groups see fracking as the ultimate energy alternative. But this video production shows the terrible ecological and socioeconomic effects of fracking in rural China. Families have to deal with polluted water, and they're losing their land to fracking activities—pollution in China has indeed become a social-justice issue. "The Great Frack Foward" is an absolute must-watch that will help you understand the intersection of pollution and politics in the Asian giant.

Jessica McKenzie focuses on technology and politics, transparency and accountability.

"The rise of the automated watchdogs," by Rob Price. The Kernel, October 19, 2014.

Our (or at least my) knee-jerk instinct is to say surveillance is bad, right? Not necessarily, especially when it is being turned on those in power. This piece in The Kernel is a good introduction to some of the tools at our disposal to automatically keep an eye on our elected leaders. Some of the tools singled out include the Twitter bot @CongressEdits, which notes when a Wikipedia article is edited anonymously from the House of Representatives IP address; Politwoops, which sends out alerts when politicians delete tweets; and several other trackers put out by the Sunlight Foundation. However, "our digital watchdog overlords can only be as powerful as the people who give them life," writes Price. "And that’s where you come in."

Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements (youth/millennial movements in particular), using an intersectional, Black feminist lens.

UN officials 'shocked' by Detroit’s mass water shutoffs,” by Laura Gottesdiener. Al Jazeera America, October 20, 2014.

This week, my pick is a reported piece from my colleague Laura Gottesdiener on the water crisis in Detroit, a massive human rights crisis that our national media is ignoring with as much zeal as President Obama. As a Canadian, I was clued into the story early when our neighbor-across-the-border reached out to the head of the Council of Canadians for emergency assistance. The Council, lead by Maude Barlow, got the U.N. involved—the right to sanitary water is a protected one. But since the summer, Detroit's "Emergency Manager" Kevyn Orr hasn't slowed the rate of shutoffs, even cutting off water access to a homeless shelter. Detroit is a city that is 80 percent Black and where 40 percent of residents live under the poverty line. It is often problematically referred to as "blighted" by the media, given that white residents and wealthier ones have long since moved away, depleting the city's revenue base and hence its capacity to provide services to remaining residents. But the truth is, the people of Detroit who have been deprived of their right to democratic self-governance and more broadly, self-determination, are resisting an assault on their persons and communities that has now arrived, literally, on the front step of their homes.

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N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.

Why Vonderrick Myers Matters,” by Trymaine Lee. MSNBC, October 18, 2014.

On the night of October 8, an off-duty police officer in St. Louis shot and killed Vonderrick Myers Jr. MSNBC.com National Reporter Trymaine Lee makes the case that this 18-year-old black man should not be ignored or shunned because he does not neatly fit to the construct of who is subjected to police brutality, since he might have been armed. Conflicting accounts emerged about Myers possessing a gun at the time of the altercation, but, as Lee points out, it should not matter if he possessed or fired a gun. Another young black person had died at the hands of a police officer. Police violence is unjust in any context regardless of whether the victim carried a gun. Even if Myers did, what can justify being shot seventeen times?

Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.

"Jackie's Goodbye," by Tiffany Stanley. National Journal, October 4, 2014.

The week she turned 29, Tiffany Stanley became another year older, and one of the 1 million unpaid dementia caregivers between the ages of 18 and 29 living in the U.S. In this piece, Stanley navigates the world of those charged with the task of caring for the millions of elderly dementia patients through the lens of her own experience caring for her Aunt Jackie. She writes, "Although the 2014 federal budget included an increase of $122 million for Alzheimer's research, the largest hike ever, Congress's own advisory group has recommended that the federal government spend $2 billion." Clearly, there's still a long way to go for care of Alzheimer's and dementia patients, many of whom are described by nurses as having "nothing medically wrong with them" because rather than the care of registered nurses, they require adult day care—and devoted friends and family who care enough to support them.

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'Rock the Vote' Redux: Campaigns Compete for Youth Vote in 2014 Midterm Elections

Voter inserts ballot.

A voter inserts paper ballot at the Belvedere Park polling booth in East Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

This article was originally published in the student-run Daily Tarheel.

The Republican and Democratic National Committees have launched opposing initiatives for the upcoming midterm elections—the target this time: youth voters.

Ferrel Guillory, a UNC journalism professor and director of the Program on Public Life, said the old cliché of every vote counting might ring true for the midterm elections.

“The control of the United States Senate remains in the balance in this election, and in North Carolina the contest between Senator Hagan and speaker Tillis appears to come down to just a figurative handful of votes,” Guillory said.

Youth voters have a known Democratic tilt in their political views. In a poll by Fusion, an online news network, 47 percent of people aged 18 to 34 said they would vote Democrat in 2014, compared to 32 percent who would vote Republican.

Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning private firm based in Raleigh, found that 61 percent of young voters in North Carolina favored incumbent Senator Kay Hagan compared to 27 percent who favored NC House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Raffi Williams, deputy press secretary for the RNC, said the Democratic lead among youth voters can be attributed to the fact that the RNC has only recently begun an outreach program to youths.

“If you look at the Democratic agenda, it hasn’t helped millennials at all,” Williams said, noting high youth unemployment rates. “So it is voting for your future, for your interests and the interests of the country to get out there to vote.”

Last week the RNC held a conference call between Tillis and College Republicans, volunteer days, phone banking and various rallies throughout the state.

The DNC has been using its existing youth vote structures to turn out young voters for the election. In early October, College Democrats from states with noncompetitive races were bused to states with competitive races, including North Carolina.

Additionally, the DNC allows individual state campaigns to use its election infrastructure, and the College Democrats released a video Thursday.

Rob Flaherty, youth media director for the DNC, said youth voters have tended to vote Democratic because the Democratic Party represented them best on issues like gay marriage, equal pay, healthcare and student loans, among others, and that Republicans stand against the interests of young voters.

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“Republicans, no matter what they are saying, stand for the same things,” Flaherty said. “They said they had to do this rebrand and that if they were to reach out to young people they had to change how they reach out, but not what they stand for.”

Guillory said the new, targeted form of campaigning came from lessons from President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Parties still use television ad topics, but have started using targeted efforts to motivate the base to vote in order to win elections.

Flaherty said the DNC is trying to ensure that young people, who typically have low turnout in midterm elections, will come out to vote in November in record numbers.

“If you look at where our generation is going, young people are an increasing share of the population,” Flaherty said. “By 2016, data is showing that young people, people called millennials, are going to be about a third of the electorate, so this is an important opportunity for young people to have their voices heard.”

Read Next: Can Student Credit Unions Solve the College Affordability Problem?

Students Blockade I-75, Stage a ‘Shit-In’ for Trans Justice and Get ‘Real’ With George Will

I-75 blockade

Protesters on I-75 in Georgia. (Photo: Ben Gray, ajc.com)

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. For recent dispatches, check out September 29 and October 14. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Occupying SLU

Photos have been updated, and autopsy reports have changed, but for Occupy SLU the #Ferguson message remains the same. From October 13 to 17 demonstrators camped at the Saint Louis University clock tower in an act of resistance to racial profiling and police brutality. The demonstration, led by groups including Tribe X and Lost Voices, ignited anger and vitriol—as well as constructive dialogue—across the predominantly white campus. The administration took Occupy SLU as a chance to kick-start a discussion on racism, privilege and the Ferguson protests. On Oct 22, President Pestello released a thirteen-step agreement created with the protesters to reflect the college’s newest commitments in line with its Jesuit mission. We will continue to demonstrate until the larger battle to educate and reform our campus culture is won.

—Kat Carroll

2. Storming City Hall

Following #FergusonOctober’s Weekend of Resistance, organizers from Young Activists United St. Louis and Millennial Activists United met with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. Five representatives spoke with the mayor after a #YouthTakover occupation of St. Louis’s City Hall, where we insisted on a meeting and a list of demands, including effective civilian oversight of the police department with subpoena power, body cameras for all police officers with proper privacy regulations, independent investigations into all police killings and an end to St. Louis’s involvement in all police militarization programs. The meeting itself was baloney—with activists from MAU and YSTL feeling that their voices were not heard and their desire for tangible action dismissed. We will continue pressuring local leaders to make changes consistent with the cries of the communities they serve—while building coalitions that reflect the highly intersectional nature of our movement.

—Nay’Chelle Harris

3. The I-75 Blockade

On October 22, Georgia social justice groups including #ItsBiggerThanYou and Southerners on New Ground helped organize #O22, a protest against the mass incarceration of black and brown bodies in solidarity with those in Ferguson. In Atlanta, youth organizers decided to cause substantial disruption, blocking four lanes of traffic on I-75 South near Freedom Parkway during one of the busiest times of Atlanta traffic. In front of a banner reading #BlackLiveMatter, seven people formed a human chain to block the freeway while others dropped banners on the bridge behind them. Protesters were eventually allowed to exit the highway without arrest. This weekend, #IBTY will be working with groups across the city to host a conference, Empowering Ourselves Now, at the Interdenominational Theological Center.

—Natalia Hall and Zakkiyya Anderson

4. The Return to Campus

During Columbus Day weekend at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, bigotry stained the doors of three students of color. Upon return from the weekend of resistance in Ferguson, a student was welcomed with “kill these niggers!!” boldly scribbled on his door. The community response was swift and strong as UMass stood behind the victims using the hashtag #Wrongdoor, signifying the zero tolerance policy for cowardly acts of racism on our campus. On October 16, students of color, white student allies and supportive faculty gathered for an open forum with the university administration, including the chancellor, to voice frustrations with racial targeting and the invisibility and neglect of underrepresented minority issues. In weekly meetings, we are developing further initiatives to step up the prioritization of these concerns on campus.

—Jasmine Bertrand-Halidy and Josh Odam

5. In Philadelphia, Students Shut Down “Won’t Back Down”

On October 15, the School District of Philadelphia screened Won’t Back Down for its Parent Appreciation night during the city’s “Family Appreciation” Month. At its core, the movie blames teachers and neighborhood schools for the failure of a broken education system that sets up schools and students to fail while demonizing unions and promoting charter expansion as the solution to “failing” school districts. Showing the film a week after Philadelphia’s unelected School Reform Commission canceled the teachers’ contract was a shady ploy to manipulate parents into supporting the school district’s plan towards privatization. So, we took action. Members of the Philadelphia Student Union disrupted the film by chanting “SOS, Save Our Schools!” and “Philly is a Union Town!” while sitting in front of the screen. We were soon approached by School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms, who berated us and screamed that we go to “failing” schools. As we protested peacefully, the audience—Simms’ supporters and members of the Women’s Christian Alliance, headed by Simms’ sister—chanted, “Lock them up!” Appalled, but not surprised, we exited the building just as several police arrived, and no students were arrested. Just like those in the movie, Philadelphia public schools have been subjected to systematic disinvestment for decades—more than ever, under current Governor Corbett—in place of a full funding formula.

—Philadelphia Student Union

6. In San Diego, Students Stage a “Shit-In”

The Trans* Action and Advocacy Student Coalition at San Diego State University, or TAASC force, is a student organization for transgender and gender nonconforming folks and allies. On Tuesday, October 21, in coordination with the California Student Union’s week of action, we held a “Shit-In” to raise awareness and advocate for more gender neutral restrooms on campus. At six toilets spread in front of our iconic Hepner Hall building, participants dropped their pants for #SDSUShitIn and #translivesmatter and pledged to take the Gender Neutral Bathroom Challenge, using only gender-neutral bathrooms for an entire week. Amid violence and verbal assault for using gender-segregated restrooms, it has been a struggle to get more accessible restrooms at SDSU. While the university gets ranked as a top LGBT campus, trans* justice has been on the back burner—or, in the case of last spring’s Trans* Week of Empowerment and the Shit-In, co-opted, silencing our efforts. The university’s reasoning for a lack of these restrooms is that trans* issues weren’t on the radar when buildings were constructed—despite that two of three new buildings don’t have any and existing locations are largely inaccessible. We are making a short documentary about the “Shit-In” and hope to create a national campaign.

—a.t. furuya

7. At Miami U, Reality Confronts George Will

The news that George Will, a public victim-blamer and rape apologist, would be paid $48,000 to speak at Miami University of Ohio was a shock. On October 19, members of Miami University’s Women’s Center wrote an open letter to the administration, signed by more than 1,000 people, explaining that Will’s column explicitly violates the Miami Code of Conduct and that inviting Will to speak is disrespectful to the university community—which the university rejected. At 5 pm on Wednesday, October 22, as some students lined up to listen to Will speak, hundreds of others showed up to protest, carrying signs and shouting, “Nothing less than yes!” and “No means no!” During the speech, students, staff and faculty held a teach-in on sexual assault. President David Hodge did attend the protest, where he talked to students and was handed a petition for greater funding for sexual assault victims at Miami with signatures from 12,500 members of UltraViolet. Together, we aim to show the university that we want discourse on campus to reflect values of love, honor and respect.

—Jordan Rubin-McGregor

8. How Many Asses for a Kentucky Vote?

From October 20 to 24, students from seven campuses affiliated with the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition hosted “Let’s Buy a Politician” mock fundraisers to draw attention to the role of money from fossil fuel industries in Kentucky’s elections. Our “goal” was to raise $100 million, the same amount forecasted to be spent in the most expensive Senate election in US history, between Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes. Our real goal is to make candidates realize that we demand a just transition to a renewable energy economy, which would protect our air, water and economic futures, in exchange for our votes. The fundraisers ranged from “Buy a Cookie, Buy a Politician” bake sales at duPont Manual High School and Western Kentucky University to a puppy-petting event at Transylvania University and an “Ass-Kissing Booth” at the University of Kentucky where a politician named “Grimey McConster” would kiss your ass in exchange for campaign contributions.

—Ryan Hidalgo

9. Whose Iowa?

Students in Iowa graduate with an average debt of $29,000, the result of state defunding of higher education concurrent with greater spending on administrative costs. Tuition and fees now make up a majority of university revenue—and are expected to increase. In response, the University of Iowa’s graduate employee union, COGS, held a Rally Against Student Debt on October 22 while the Iowa Board of Regents discussed the 2015–16 budget. Speakers included students, faculty and State Senator Tyler Olson—speaking on behalf of Senate hopeful Bruce Braley and his College Affordability Plan. Later that day, another student protest cut short a visit to Iowa City from Joni Ernst, who is Braley’s opponent and wants to abolish the federal Department of Education. As reported the next day, several members of the Iowa Board of Regents are now pushing for a continued tuition freeze—pushing educational costs further to the forefront of the midterm election.

—Melissa Zimdars

10. “You’re Not Going to Disrespect Me in My Second Home”

Editor’s note: A middle school student from the Mission District in San Francisco speaks out about confronting—and defeating—Dropbox and Airbnb employees in a game of eviction at the Mission Playground.

—Mission Playground Is Not for Sale

Can Student Credit Unions Solve the College Affordability Problem?

Columbia University Library.

Columbia University Library in New York (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

In the past two years, Columbia University students have attempted to remedy the vexing problem of college affordability with an old but largely untried idea: a student credit union.

Credit unions form a cooperatively owned alternative to traditional banks in which profits go to providing better rates and lower fees for the credit union’s clients. Recipients of capital become shareholders in the institution and participate in its decisions.

Mischa Beumer, a Columbia University student, first joined a credit union while working in Alaska: “I was served better than I ever had been. I discovered how great the services were, how much cheaper the loans.” Back at Columbia, Mischa started exploring the possibilities of establishing a credit union on campus. “If Columbia can have a student-run ambulance service, then it can have a student-run credit union.”

Started by a group of four students, the idea, rebranded Lion Credit Union Initiation (LCUI), quickly mustered interest. In the fall of 2013 dozens of students gathered for an informational meeting, after which half of the attendees applied to join the team. The team is now constituted of twenty-two students, chosen after a “brutally long application process,” according to LCUI’s current business development analyst, Dayalan Rajaratnam.

For Jared Greene, the current president of the LCUI, the idea is a “no-brainer.”

“It’s about connecting a community, while saving each other money and teaching each other things.” The credit union would be run by volunteer students. After its operational costs, which should be minor, are paid, its profits would be devoted to lowering fees and giving back to the community, by offering grants for different events and projects. For Mischa, the founder, it’s “all about knowledge-sharing and supporting innovation that comes from community members.”

Beyond providing a more humane alternative to banking, LCUI hopes to remedy the fact that most students do not know how to take out a loan or apply for a mortgage after college. The inadequacy of most college curriculum to deal with personal finances is flagrant: the most crucial short-term goal of the LCUI is promoting financial literacy on college campuses, by bringing in speakers and organizing classes.

Its team of volunteers will also be receiving hands-on experience on how to run a financial institution attentive to the needs of the community. In the long run, the LCUI hopes to be able to provide student loans at much lower rates, a feat that Beumer thinks is “realistic,” “because Columbia offers so much financial aid, it would not be that much to do”.

The initiative has received support from most of the student councils of Columbia University’s colleges (Columbia College Student Council, Student Government Association (Barnard’s undergraduate student council), Engineering Student Council, General Studies Student Council, Graduate Business Association, Teacher’s College Student Council and Graduate Student Advisory Council), and is now backed by the equivalent of 40 percent of the student body. With this solid base the LCUI is hoping to gather the support of the university senate. The group also needs the endorsement of the National Credit Union Administration. The credit union is reaching out to alumni to get financial backing to get started. It is also looking for a location, and has yet to gain the critical endorsement of Columbia University.

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Although there are many credit unions at different universities, for either faculty, grad or undergrad students, few are student-run, with Georgetown’s and UPenn’s being the notable exceptions. If approved by the NCUA, the Lion Credit Union Initiative, meant for anyone who has studied or worked for Columbia University, would bridge another historic rift: that which separates students from other members of the community. Unlike UPenn and Georgetown, the Columbia credit union is trying to reach out to anyone who has ever worked or studied at Columbia University, from students and faculty to administrators and workers.

A lesson in how to provide banking centered on people’s needs and not on profit for its investors, the Columbia credit union might well ripple well beyond the Morningside campus. Alvaro Rossi, a rising sophomore who is the head of the LCUI’s Internal Affairs division, hopes to start a credit union in Brazil after graduation “It’s incredible that there aren’t more credit unions around the world. I think it’s possible here. Mischa thinks it’s possible in Jordan too.”


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