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Harvard Is the Climate Crisis

Divest Harvard

(Courtesy of Divest Harvard)

The Guardian recently reported that Harvard University has increased its investments in fossil fuels by almost seven fold over the last few months.

I co-founded Divest Harvard almost three years ago. We campaign for Harvard to divest its $36.4 billion endowment (the largest educational endowment in the world) from fossil fuel companies. Why? At the institutional level, it is both immoral and irrational for our University to invest in these firms. Harvard educates us for the future. The effort, money, and resources spent on our education is subverted by its support for companies that threaten to obliterate our futures. It is also hypocritical for Harvard to green our campus, pioneer clean tech research, and educate students about climate change while profitting from fossil fuel extraction. On the macro level, investing in the fossil fuel industry endorses its business model, which is fundamentally opposed to a livable planet. It also enables climate denial and the industry’s capture of our political system. We demand divestment because that is the only acceptable position for an educational institution.

Divest Harvard students have met with members of the Harvard Corporation three times. We have met with the Harvard Management Company, and we have spoken with President Drew Faust during 10-minute appointments at her bi-semesterly office hours. In our meetings, we’ve heard the same arguments repeated incessantly. We’ve been told to “thank BP.” We’ve heard excuses that, if the University divested from fossil fuel stocks, others would demand divestment from sugar! Most of Harvard’s arguments are summed up in Faust’s October 3, 2013 statement opposing divestment.

During these same three years, close to 70,000 people have signed onto the Divest Harvard campaign. The national divestment movement has grown to over 400 campaigns. Divestment pledges from Stanford University and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund highlight the more than $50 billion in assets that have been divested from fossil fuel companies to date. Contrast this with Harvard’s dismissal of Divest Harvard and its recent purchase of fossil fuel stocks. In trying to make sense of this, I have come to understand Harvard’s reaction to the fossil fuel divestment movement as an example of the same kind of thinking that created climate change in the first place.

Here’s how to think like Harvard:

First: Refuse to question your fierce commitment to the status quo. Harvard charges forward instead of stepping back to confront profound contradictions in its own practices. Harvard’s direct holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies jumped from $11.8 million to almost $80 million last quarter. This contradicts its responsibility to students’ futures and self-professed commitment to sustainability. This is akin to a government, whose primarily role is the protection of its people, spending billions of dollars on fossil fuel exploration with no regard for its catastrophic implications.

Second: Reject systemic thinking in order to trivialize the challenge of change. Harvard tweaks its behavior instead of creating new operational frameworks. For example, Harvard said that the University can be more effective through shareholder engagement with fossil fuel companies, rather than divestment. The problem is that the past shows that engagement with fossil fuel companies is ineffective and incapable of achieving the fundamental energy transition we need. President Faust has introduced campus-wide sustainability practices, making Harvard one of the greenest campuses in the US. But this is nonsensical when you consider that much of Harvard’s campus could be underwater relatively soon if we continue on our present course. At that point, lightbulbs won’t matter.

Similarly, the US government crafts regulations that fall dramatically short of what is needed to avert the worst of climate change. The EPA’s new regulations on coal power plants would reduce CO2 emissions 30 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. To limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the UN-designated “safe limit,” the US needs to reduce emission 57 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Obama’s commitment to climate is encouraging, but the hard truth is that, to avoid climate catastrophe, we need far bolder action.

Third: Suppress dialogue to maintain control. Since the fall of 2013, the Harvard administration has refused to engage in public dialogue about divestment. In fact, Harvard demonstrated that it would rather arrest students then engage in open debate with Divest Harvard and the wider University community. The administration will now only meet with us off-the-record.

Others in power use the same strategy. Remember during the 2012 Presidential Elections when no candidates uttered the words “climate change?” Or take the vast amount of climate denial that is spread to suppress and confuse action on climate?

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I remember the moment when I learned I was accepted to Harvard. I was in my mom’s car. We pulled into an ally behind a restaurant so I could connect to Wifi on my iPod Touch. I read the email, my heart skipped a couple of beats, and I burst into a smile. Coming from a rural Maine high school, I was overwhelmed by the honor of a Harvard acceptance. In my mind, Harvard symbolized the world’s knowledge, wisdom, and truth. I imagined Harvard as the embodiment of action guided by reason.

Harvard President Drew Fast said in her October 3rd statement: “The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.” As a Harvard Senior, I am ashamed to see that our endowment—and hence the entire University—does impel social and political change: social change that accepts the status quo at the expense of everything that we love; political change that privileges corporations over people and oligarchy over democracy. Instead of being a beacon of truth and rationality, Harvard exemplifies the institutional processes that turned climate change into climate crisis.

I am an activist because I refuse to believe that this is the best that Harvard can do, just as I refuse to believe that this is the best that our civilization can do. Right now, Harvard is the climate crisis, but there is still time for Harvard to be the solution.


Read Next: Chloe Maxmin on Harvard president Faust’s opposition to divestment

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 1/29/15

Selma Screen Grab

The march across Pettus Bridge. (Selma, 2014)

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

The Anti-Olympics,” by Jules Boykoff. New Left Review 67, January-February 2011.

This week, I'm looking back at a great essay on anti-Olympics organizing around the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Jules Boykoff explains the damaging effects of being an Olympics host city and details the activism leading up to and during the 2010 Games, creating an archive of the movement. Currently, #NoBoston2024 is mobilizing against the possibility of a 2024 Olympics in my hometown, and being able to read records of previous organizing is extremely useful.

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

Academics Are Losing the War over the Middle East to the Thomas Friedmans of the World, Who Write All Too Clearly,” by Neeshat Afyonkara. Muftah, January 23, 2015.

An anonymous graduate student submitted an article intentionally packed with vague and confusing jargon to a prominent online journal of Middle East Studies. That the journal accepted the manuscript underlines the opaque and out-of-touch state of the discipline. Writing in Muftah, the student urges Middle East specialists to sharpen their language. Or else, she/he writes, the lucid yet uninformed Thomas Friedmans of the world will continue to dominate public discussions over a region where the United States is prone to dangerous military adventures.

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

An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay,” by Robert Jones Jr. Indiewire, January 21, 2015.

Self-proclaimed Son of Baldwin, Brooklyn writer Robert Jones Jr. pens a beautiful open letter to his “sister,” Ava DuVernay, acclaimed director of the film Selma. Although Jones’s letter is meant for the public, his prose feels intimate, as he describes the joy of identifying with fully realized representations of black identity in a time of national strife. By rejecting whiteness as the Default, DuVernay has created a “sanctuary” for black audiences, one Jones holds close to his heart, regardless of any validation accumulated during awards season.

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.

Muslim women's bodies - the hottest property in 2014,” by Shelina Janmohamed. The Telegraph, December 29, 2014.

As Islamophobic attacks continue to rise, Sherina Janmohamed's piece from last month rings true today. Janmohamed delves into the inherent ethnocentrism that drives the Western world's seeming inability to view Muslim women through any other than an appearance-based lens, reducing them to “one-dimensional voiceless images” that overshadow their sometimes remarkable “achievements, opinions and self-determination.” Her argument that the attire choices of Muslim women, particularly those in Western countries, are a symbol of freedom of self-expression and not a symbol of oppression is a necessary reminder in a world still steeped in lingering traces of Orientalism.

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

Shell Announces $11 Billion Petrochemical Plant for Iraq: What Could Go Wrong?” by Jim White. Emptywheel, January 28, 2015.

Shell is building an $11 billion petrochemical plant in the southern Iraq city of Basra. This piece argues that the security situation in Basra remains unstable, and notes a shortfall of $200 million for the World Food Programme’s efforts to distribute food to internally displaced people living in the Basra area. It situates the Shell plant within the context of the US military-industrial complex and the money that will be generated by the need to defend the facility.

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

Unauthorized memory,” by Yasmin El-Rifae. Mada Masr, January 25, 2015.

During a recent gathering in Egypt commemorating those who have been killed since the 2011 uprising exactly four years ago, political activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was shot dead by state forces. In this poignant text, Yasmin El-Rifae illustrates how the regime continues to censor and brutally repress the Egyptian people. They are no longer allowed to mourn or remember those who hoped for a better world outside the confines of the regime’s “barbed wire barriers”: “The gunmen and their bosses have made it clear that unauthorized memory will not be tolerated. Neither will grief. Public language, thought, and opinion is either legal or illegal, patriotism or treason.”

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

After Syriza's Victory,” by Stathis Kouvelakis. New Politics, January 26, 2015.

Syriza’s triumph in the Greek elections this past weekend gives hope to working class movements around the world. The capitalists, whose interests are forcefully advanced by world leaders, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, now face an opposition with real governing power. This article necessarily probes the true scope of Syriza’s victory and recognizes some of the challenges that await the new government.

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

Hunger games,” by Will Wiles.Aeon, January 22, 2015.

“Scarcity sells. Starvation sells. Survival sells,” observes Wiles, of the recent trend of open-world PC games focused on austerity, apocalypse, and resource management. In these McCarthy-esque “hunger games,” the “elemental calculus”––“eat, don't get eaten, keep going”––displaces zombie-fighting gameplay. Wiles attributes the popularity of this survival genre, characterized by its realistic “art of failure” and romantically-rendered scenery, to a “disempowerment fantasy” driven by our perverse desire to simulate terror, pity, cunning, fear, as environmental and economic emergencies off-screen worsen.

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

High Stakes: The Looming Battle Over New York's Housing Laws,” by Jarrett Murphy. City & State, November 2014.

Murphy provides a full picture of the rent regulations that will be up for renewal in June, the political prospects of various reforms, and the efforts so far—by real estate lobbyists, tenant organizers, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo—to influence the State legislature’s decisions. This article serves as an important reminder that the affordability crisis in New York is not an inevitable product of the market but rather the outcome of decades of pro-landlord policy decisions. Interestingly, the conclusion suggests that the success of tenant groups may in part depend on the tone adopted by the press and the “broad sentiment” of city and upstate residents.

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

Why Opponents of a New Planned Parenthood Are Doing Everything in Their Power to Stop It,” by Jill Filipovic. Cosmopolitan, January 23, 2015.

Cosmopolitan’s Jill Filipovic provides an effective and smart narrative about the politics of healthcare in Louisiana, a state where religion and religious affiliations have proven to trump the needs of its women. With the help of telling and introspective interviews from affected residents, Filipovic reports that Louisiana ranks as one of the states with the highest reported STIs and infant and maternal mortality rates. Despite the financial backing it has already received, the site for a New Orleans Planned Parenthood still remains an empty lot and women’s health risks remain in the balance.


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What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 1/23/15?

Gaza Palestine Bomb

Palestinians flee their homes in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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

I’m tired of suppressing myself to get along with white people,” by Priscilla Ward. Salon, January 19, 2015.

In Priscilla Ward’s deeply personal essay for Salon, she delves into her anger sparked by keeping aspects of herself suppressed in order to have comfortable personal relationships with non-black peers—“I don’t talk about what happens every 28 hours—a black person is killed. My white male roommate and I, we just don’t go there. It makes things easier”—and her renewed commitment to stop tiptoeing around race.

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

Shas’ Stunning Election Ad is a Challenge to Both Left and Right,” by Dimi Reider. +972 Magazine, January 18, 2015.

In Israel, as in the United States, politicians tend to court the middle class and ignore the poor during election season. But poverty is spiking in Israel with one-third of Israeli children now living below the poverty line. This piece by the Israeli journalist Dimi Reider explains how the conservative ultra-Orthodox Shas Party—which draws support from the Sephardic and Mizrahi communities—is working to make class and poverty major issues in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

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

How to Suck at Queer Allyship: A Case Study,” by Shannon Keating. The Toast, November 10, 2014.

We have all met this guy. Keating’s piece deftly excoriates that self-satisfied brogressive who wanders out of his depth while trying to prove how “cool” he is with all things LGBT. Instead of blindly celebrating allyship, she raises important questions about what it means to be a good ally and examines how quickly this supposed solidarity can be washed away by a couple of stiff drinks and an unapologetic lesbian.

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.

The effects of Israel’s occupation on Palestinian women,” translated from Arabs48. Middle East Monitor, January 21, 2015.

In this article summarizing the findings of a three-year study titled the “Protection of women in armed conflicts in the Arab region,” the correlation between conflict zones and women’s access to education jumped out at me. The report found that “Many young women are forced to leave school at 16 because of the daily harassment to which they are subjected at Israeli checkpoints,” a crucial reminder of the complexity of factors that slow the progress of an entire generation of young women in the region.

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

On Satire—a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks,” by Joe Sacco. The Guardian, January 9, 2015.

In this controversial graphic art piece, Sacco attempts to reframe the dominant discourse on the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris by contextualizing the plight of marginalized communities. He draws on history to try to understand how words and images can “otherize” and further divide people. These images challenge the “us versus them” duality, and are a call to understand, rather than denigrate, the stories of the oppressed.

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

The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake,” by David Cole. The New York Review of Books, January 19, 2015.

This article navigates through some new reports issued by eight public policy organizations to correspond with the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s watershed decision Citizens United vs. FEC. Grounded in a radical interpretation of the First Amendment, the controversial decision allows unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns, further consolidating the mechanisms of power in society into the hands of the wealthy elite. Cole argues that “if we are to preserve more than a semblance of democracy,” a movement must emerge to educate the public and develop the political capital required to provoke significant reform.

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

We Know How You Feel,” by Raffi Khatchadourian. The New Yorker, January 19, 2015.

Khatchadourian’s story opens with the classic robot of our pop culture imaginary: a blithering, stuttering, hopelessly unintuitive muppet, whose mathematical prowess bears an inverse relation to its emotional intelligence. But all that, according to Rana el Kaliouby, an Egyptian computer scientist, is soon going to change. Her pioneering work in “affective computing” has proved computers to be better, stronger and faster at sensing emotions than their human counterparts.

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

Right To the City,” by David Harvey. New Left Review, October 2008.

I’m grateful to now have a Marxist explanation for the rapid gentrification of my native Brooklyn. According to Harvey, one way capitalism survives is through repeated cycles of investing—and then divesting—in spatial environments, what he calls “accumulation by dispossession.” Today’s urbanization, driven by the profit imperative, is causing displacement, inequality and the development of a consumeristic individualism—and can only be countered with a people’s movement of global size for the “right to the city.”

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

What the President Should Say at the State of the Union—But Probably Won’t,” by Elizabeth Plank. Mic, January 20, 2015.

Before the State of the Union addresss on Tuesday, Plank, senior editor at Mic, pointed to some common trends in past addresses, such as politicians’ referring to women in the context of being “wives, mothers and daughters.” This article helped me put important national women’s issues in perspective as I watched the speech.


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New Year, Same National Youth Groundswell


Students take over the Baltimore City Public School System lobby for more than an hour. (Photo: @BmoreBloc)

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 student and youth organizing. Check out last year’s posts, in chronological order, here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Spring Semester, Day 1

On January 7, the first day of spring semester, the Coalition of Concerned Students at Clemson University in South Carolina marched from the football stadium, past the historic plantation house, to the administration building to deliver a collection of grievances and demands to the university. Over the fall, local #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations elicited harshly negative responses from some students. In response, multiple forums were held giving a diversity of students the opportunity to express opinions. The night following the last of the dialogues, members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity held a “Crip’mas Party,” encouraging participants to dress like gang members. This prompted another demonstration—a march to the president’s house to deliver “Crip’mas” cards with descriptions of how students felt about this tasteless gathering. While the president responded evasively, he ultimately assured us that the university would respond to our concerns. We have requested that response by February 6.

—Ian Bateman

2. Walking Out, Shutting It Down

Building on the energy surrounding continuing incidents of police brutality, the students of Baltimore’s City Bloc are engaging our peers in a conversation that connects the broad issues of a militarized society with our daily lives. During a recent action on January 9, more than fifty students walked out of school and marched to the Baltimore Board of Education and on to I-83. Once we reached the highway, we chanted, marched and shut down traffic for at least thirty minutes until a protester was arrested. Our demand is real reform of the city’s student commission, a statement of support for student organizing from schools CEO Gregory Thornton and a reevaluation of the 2015–16 school budget. By affirming our agency as students, we hope that the policies that impact us will no longer be made for us—or against us—but with us.

—Makayla G. Gilliam-Price

3. #EndTheBan

On January 9, undocumented students from Georgia’s Freedom University, along with student allies, protested Georgia’s ban on undocumented students at public universities by holding an integrated class at the University of Georgia in Athens. This date marked the 54th anniversary of the racial desegregation of UGA. Our class featured lectures by human rights activists Lonnie King and Loretta Ross. Undocumented students identified themselves by wearing handmade monarch butterfly wings. When the building closed, we refused to leave until our demands that UGA’s President and the Georgia Board of Regents renounce and rescind Policies 4.1.6 and 4.3.4 were addressed. At 8 PM, police arrived and arrested nine activists, including four undocumented students. We are determined to continue fighting for the human right to education.

—Jacqueline Delgadillo

4. #USTired2

On January 6, as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto visited President Obama, activists across the country called for justice for the forty-three normalista students disappeared in Ayotzinapa in September. Members of the Mexican community, alongside solidarity organizations including CISPES and SOA Watch, protested outside the White House. We chanted against US foreign policy in Mexico that contributes to state violence, counted from one to forty-three for each missing student and held a banner reading, “Renuncia EPN! Corrupto, Delincuente, Ladron, Asesino.” We gathered not only in transnational solidarity as part of the #USTired2 campaign, but also to express our outrage against the Obama administration’s massive deportation program and continued US military aid to Mexico’s national security apparatus.

—Marvin E. Centeno Recinos

5. In Madison, Build the People, Not the Jail

In November, 250 people joined the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, a group of women and queer black organizers in Madison, to launch the Build the People, Not the Jail campaign. Since then, we have died-in, shut down traffic and submitted letters to police, city and county elected officials. We demand a stop to any money going to a new Dane County jail, the release of people incarcerated due to crimes rooted in poverty, an end to solitary confinement and investment in the black community.

—T. Banks

6. In Oakland, Which Side Are You On?

In an attempt to silence black protest and foregoing precedent, the Oakland district attorney recently filed criminal complaints and demanded $70,000 in restitution from the #BlackFriday14, an intergenerational group of activists from Black Lives Matter and BlackOUT Collective who symbolically stopped BART train service for four hours and twenty-eight minutes at the West Oakland station on Black Friday. Community members and Color of Change have responded with a petition asking BART’s board of directors, “Which side are you on?” and demanding that charges and the request for restitution be withdrawn. We promise continued direct action until the charges are dropped.

—Chinyere Tutashinda

7. The Free Education Movement

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the United States Student Association’s declaration for free public higher education. Imagine our surprise on Friday, January 9, when President Obama said the words “free” and “college” in the same sentence with his call for free community college. Our Fund the Future campaign advocates for fully funding the Pell Grant and restoring summer grants and a range of other reforms to rebuild Pell, the bedrock of federal financial aid in this country. This spring, we will be organizing for free public higher education across the country—and we won’t be stopping at community college.

—Maxwell Love

8. The Title IX Findings—and Response

On December 30, the Department of Education found that Harvard Law School’s previous and current sexual harassment policies and procedures did not comply with Title IX, affirming what Harvard Students Demand Respect has been advocating: clarity around the school’s sexual harassment policy, and improved training. Though the university’s latest policy took some positive steps forward, there continue to be unclear standards around the level of training for administrators and faculty implementing the policy and procedures. This agreement settled complaints against Harvard Law brought in 2010; however, the investigation of Harvard College’s policies and procedures is ongoing, as are ninety-four other Title IX investigations across the country. We look forward to working with the school as it implements these changes to secure the safe, respectful community for which we all strive.

—MaryRose Mazzola and Rory Gerberg

9. The Youth Economic Platform

On Thursday, January 15, members of the AFL-CIO Young Worker Advisory Council released our first-ever economic platform as part of our effort to build a nationwide youth movement for raising wages. The platform, announced on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address, is an agenda for action for the labor federation’s nearly fifty Young Worker Groups across the country. Despite widespread frustration with a tough economy, most young voters stayed home on Election Day. To win our support, politicians need a jobs agenda focused on youth issues. The Youth Economic Platform embraces seven principles: providing free quality public higher education for all; expanding union apprenticeship programs; fighting bigotry and ending workplace discrimination; strong union rights; strengthening—not slashing—our safety net; and, above all, asking our government to invest in us.

—Rick Pospichal and Melinda Barrett

10. “A Land That Has Been Stolen”

Editor’s note: In Palestine, organizers in the struggle for racial justice from Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York, Ferguson and Atlanta joined in solidarity to support the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. (Video: Thorstein Thielow)

—Dream Defenders

As the Semester Ends, the Student Movement for Black Lives Turns Up


High school students walk out in Seattle. (Photo: Liz Jones, KUOW)

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 student and youth organizing. In the previous dispatch, December 11, ten people submitted a video and a brief update on their organizing in the struggle for black life. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. The New School Board

On Wednesday, December 17, a group of young people convened by the Baltimore Algebra Project, including former Heritage High School students, staged a die-in at the Baltimore City School Board and took control of the meeting for an hour to protest the board’s vote to close the community school. Despite consistent presence at board meetings, a recommendation to phase out the school rather than shut it down and community efforts to improve its performance, the board unanimously decided to close it. Immediately following our takeover of the meeting, the district CEO met with us. Although our demand to keep the school open until the community implements a plan to replace it was not met, the CEO agreed to meet regularly with us to collaborate on a long-term plan. If the district cannot value and implement our needs, we are prepared to take more militant action.

—Tre’ Murphy

2. The Six-Minute Die-In

On Thursday, December 18, members of the Philadelphia Student Union, Boat People SOS and Asian Americans United staged a die-in in front of the School District of Philadelphia to protest state violence in all forms. At PSU, we define violence as the power to hurt someone’s chances at survival—between people or in a system or institution. The death of Laporshia Massey, a 12-year-old who died last year from an asthma attack shortly after being sent home from school because there was no nurse on duty, is a shocking but real example of the way that systematic underfunding of public education is putting students’ lives at risk. We were still for six minutes, in honor of Laporshia, who was in the sixth grade.

—Philadelphia Student Union

3. From Berkeley High to Sproul Hall

On Wednesday, December 10, 700 students from Berkeley High School walked out of our sixth period class for a Black Lives Matter rally. After reviewing the events in Ferguson and New York, we chanted, held four and a half minutes of silence and, led by the Black Student Union, proceeded to march to UC-Berkeley’s iconic Campanile. As we marched, we called on UCB students to come “out of the house and into the street!” When we reached Sproul Hall, we chanted, “You’re the ones who showed us how, UC Berkeley, join us now!” The march ended with a four-and-a-half-minute die-in and a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” This action marks the beginning of the “Ferguson Isn’t Over” movement at Berkeley High School.

—Kadijah Means

4. From the City to the Capitol

After students at East High School walked out on December 3 in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, students across Denver Public Schools joined together to launch the DPS Student Unity March. At least six schools organized the action and, on December 12, 200 people showed up to march from City Park to the capitol, where we held a die-in and a candlelight vigil. Our demands: that DPS stop instituting lockdowns for protesting students and start funding discussions about police brutality and race. While the district hasn’t yet taken up our call, we will begin to open forums for more dialogue to educate ourselves and others.

—Students of Denver Public Schools

5. In New York, a New Labor Movement

On December 5, Graduate Workers of Columbia University publicly announced majority support for unionization. The campaign’s launch follows two semesters of face-to-face outreach among Columbia’s 2,800 research and teaching assistants, supported by the local chapter of the United Auto Workers—and coincides with new efforts across campus to draw connections between our labor conditions and the institutional treatment of sexual assault, racism and “diversity.” This month, students at Columbia’s medical and Morningside campuses have held forums on the grand jury verdicts in Ferguson and Staten Island and confronted the university about its failing commitments to students of color; on December 8, a SoCA-coordinated action dispatched a 100-student delegation to call for the reinstatement of the GSAS Dean for Academic Diversity position. Our organizing efforts also join a swelling academic labor movement in the city: On December 12, graduate workers at New York University with GSOC-UAW, reacting to stalled contract negotiations, voted 95 percent to authorize a strike; and just five days after GWC went public, student employees at the New School, SENS-UAW, announced their unionization campaign, simultaneously submitting a petition to the National Labor Relations Board. If successful, our bids for recognition could overturn the Bush-era precedent that graduate students at private universities are not union-eligible workers.

—William Burton, Elliott Cairns, Seth Prins and Alix Rule

6. In Oregon, a Strike—and a Win

From December 2 to 10, graduate employees at the University of Oregon went on strike, with more than 650 members of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation withholding our labor in a fight for paid parental and medical leave. On the eighth day of picketing in the rain, threatening grading of final exams and shutting down classrooms, campus construction, UPS deliveries and garbage pick-up, the administration conceded to a graduate assistance fund that allows employees to take leave when they need it. The fund is run by a majority of grad employees, and union members have legal protections, as workers, for third party binding arbitration if access to the fund is not handled properly. Moving forward, the GTFF is working toward a state law for paid leave for all Oregonians, set to hit the legislature’s docket in February.

—Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation

7. In California, a Historic Vote

On December 4, United Auto Workers Local 2865, representing 13,000 graduate student-workers across the University of California system, became the first major US union to pass, by member vote, a resolution in support of divestment from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. The resolution, which calls on UAW International and the UC to divest, is a response to the call of Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel by rank-and-file UAW 2865 members organizing under the banner of the BDS Caucus. The members of UAW 2865 voted overwhelmingly to approve the resolution, with a majority making a personal pledge to support the academic boycott of Israeli universities—showing that a new generation of workers and students sees how we are linked to the struggle of Palestinians for freedom.

—Kumars Salehi

8. Standing With Jackie

Following the publication of Rolling Stone’s article, “A Rape on Campus,” detailing the horrific gang rape of a University of Virginia student, Jackie, perpetrated by a group of fraternity members in 2012, hundreds of students have shown up to protests organized by numerous campus groups; an anonymous group of students vandalized the fraternity house in question; and faculty, some in full academic regalia, led students and community members in a march down the main strip of bars late on a Saturday night. When questions about the article emerged and Rolling Stone issued a statement conceding that it did not do its due diligence before publishing the story—troublingly placing the blame on Jackie, without acknowledging the well-documented effect that trauma can have on memory and recall of certain details—the number of students publicly supporting Jackie has decreased. On December 5, UVa Students United and the Alliance for Social Change at UVa held a space for students to talk, express anger and grief and proclaim, “We Stand with Jackie.” We will continue organizing until the administration reforms its response policies and rape culture is eradicated from campus.

—UVa Students United

9. Sitting-In for Janitors

On December 9 and 10, more than twenty students from the Tufts Labor Coalition staged a two-day, overnight sit-in at our administrative building to demand a freeze on job cuts in campus janitors’ current contract cycle. The Tufts administration is trying to cut costs on the backs of janitors as part of a decades-long attack involving the outsourcing of janitorial services and, in turn, numerous layoffs and disrespect toward workers. While we did not achieve our full demand, we won a commitment to no cuts through at least April as well as a process for influencing the upcoming campus staff reorganization plan. We will continue to fight until our demand of no cuts is met.

—Spencer Beswick

10. Can Students Speak?

While chalking messages of “Black Lives Matter” and “Solidarity” across campus, three Coastal Carolina University students were detained by campus police. These students were later served conduct charges by the Dean of Students Office. A fourth student, who photographed and circulated news of the detainment, was served similar charges. Following these actions and charges—an abuse of power and violation of freedom of speech—faculty organized an open forum. Professors talked about the importance of the First Amendment and advised listeners to keep pursuing channels for demonstrations; students talked about our encounters with institutionalized racism on campus. Some students are exploring specific legal action regarding the detainment and conduct charges, all of which have been dismissed. The Coastal Carolina Student Union, which helped organize and publicize this series of events, plans to host regular public forums this spring.

—Coastal Carolina Student Union

‘Are You Listening?’ Ten Highlights From a Generational Moment


Protesters at UC-Berkeley are met with police violence. (Photo: Laleh Behbehanian)

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 student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out November 10 and November 24. For this edition, ten people submitted a video and a brief update on their organizing in the struggle for black life. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. “One struggle”

In the past two weeks, members of the Missouri GSA Network have joined with Millennial Activists United to shut down highways and major intersections, convene community forums and march with Metro Trans Umbrella, chanting, “Black lives matter!” and “Stonewall was a riot!” As young trans women and gender nonconforming people of color, we are in one struggle against murder at the hands of police, the criminalization and pushout of students of color in schools and the gender policing we do within ourselves. We ask: #AreYouListening?

—Lin Ferguson

2. “We ain’t going to stop until our people are free”

In New York, FIERCE has been in the streets with our drums, our voices and our bodies. We are marching to ensure that, when we chant, “Black lives matter!” all black lives are uplifted and remembered. We are tired of black bodies, queer bodies, youth bodies and trans bodies being seen as disposable. We will continue to use what we have in the struggle for justice for all black lives lost due to police violence.

—Darielle Harris

3. “As soon as the tower dings…”

On December 4, at 12:15 PM, 100 black students at the University of Texas organized a die-in in response to the non-indictment of Eric Garner’s murderer. We lay in the intersection of 21st and Speedway, one of the busiest on campus, while non-black allies stood around us as a protective shield, holding signs reading, “Black Lives Matter.” With the help of the the People’s Task Force, African and African Diaspora Studies Department professors and many members of the Austin community, we shut down traffic and stood in solidarity.

—Tyler English-Beckwith

4. “We are here, whether you choose to see us or not”

This demonstration, a sit-in led by Howard University students at Union Station in Washington, DC, saw participation from students from schools acorss the district and beyond. As black people, it is time for us to claim our economic potential, demand legislation that protects black lives and educate our communities. Though this nation chooses to ignore us, do know: we are here!


5. “We will be teaching… building… healing”

On November 25, members of the Black Youth Project 100 Chicago Chapter organized a twenty-eight-hour sit-in in front of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at City Hall to bring attention to the fact that a Black person is killed by a police officer, security officer or self-appointed vigilante every twenty-eight hours. There were also die-ins at the twenty-eight-minute mark to underscore the point. During the sit-in, there were political education teach-ins about BYP100’s policy agenda, the Agenda To Keep Us Safe, in addition to healing circles and community building.

—Camesha Jones

6. “It is no longer the time to be silent at the water cooler”

People in Ohio are taking action in solidarity with those across the country—and in response to the recent string of police killings that have left John Crawford, Tanesha Anderson and Tamir Rice dead. Led by Black youth, the movement in Ohio is bringing together people of all races, genders and ages. We are having conversations about how to move policy and structural change at the local and statewide levels and shake up the current political and economic makeup of our cities.

—James Hayes

7. “In our communities, we know these stories”

On December 3, we converged on Chicago’s Dirksen Federal Building as part of a forty-three-city day of action coordinated by #USTired2 and #YaMeCanse. From Chicago to Ferguson, we watch and suffer as the police violate basic human rights and the cries for justice for black lives goes unheard. In Ayotzinapa, we watch as students are disappeared by the police and protestors are met with violent repression—at the hands of another state that has decided to use force against its own people.

—Laura Ramírez

8. “Occupation is a crime, from Ferguson to Palestine”

Students for Justice in Palestine at the College of Staten Island stands against racism, state terror and oppression of all forms. Eric Garner was killed by a system of racist police brutality that has murdered black people in our communities for years. If we do not stand against this system, we are complicit in it. After hitting the streets following the non-indictments in the Eric Garner and Mike Brown cases, we will continue marching—and organizing.

—Students for Justice in Palestine at the College of Staten Island

9. “Put people over profit”

Student activists in Memphis took part in Black Friday protests to support Walmart strikers and protest the murders of black youth at the hands of police. We stormed a Walmart store in Cordova, Tennessee, chanting “Black lives matter!” and “People over profit!” As we were forced out by police, and one person was detained, we continued protesting outside the store and performed a die-in at a nearby mall.

—Michele Nyberg

10. “Shut it down”

After the decision in Ferguson, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice partnered with Rockaway Youth Task Force, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and students from Columbia University to bring people together to boycott Black Friday. On the busiest shopping day of the year, we made our voices heard at Macy’s, Herald Square and Times Square. Since then, we have helped organize This Stops Today after the non-indictment announcement in Eric Garner’s case and are organizing a national campaign to demilitarize campus and local police departments.

—Million Hoodies Movement for Justice

Bobst Protest, Social Media as Battleground for Race


Demonstrators participate in a rally against a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, Thursday, December 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

This article originally appeared on NYU Local’s website and is reposted here with permission.

In the past two weeks, we have seen the nation grapple with the Ferguson and Staten Island grand jury decisions, demonstrating frustration through protests that have brought hundreds of thousands of vocal objectors to public spaces in dissent of what they call the American leniency of its police forces through systemic, violent racism that continues to plague impoverished communities.

In response to the outspoken reaction, the NYU Black Students Union has made plans to stage a die-in—a popular form of silent protest against wrongful death—for this Wednesday, December 10, in the NYU Bobst Library. Students will lie on the floor in silence for a long time.

In response to the upcoming BSU demonstration, outspoken members of the NYU community have made objections to the die-in, and the Eric Garner protests in general, by taking to the most respectable platform the vigilant millennial knows how to use: social media.

These Facebook comments and tweets have spurred a terribly disconcerting discussion surrounding race relations in America, the American judicial system, the tragedies of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and white privilege.

On both sides of the argument, we discover a saddening reality present among a certain population of the American youth (and adults—they’re guilty too) who commit, themselves, offenses as egregious as the inertial events that have initiated the discussion: spewing and ranting offensive opinions with hardly any factual backing, and doing so behind the protection of anonymity, or the defense of the natural informality of social media.

Here are some common threads that have stained the conversation over the past two weeks, found on Twitter, Facebook and NYU Secrets:

Heads up to the “protestors” at NYU, especially those ones “protesting” in private spaces where no one in the general public (especially cops) will even see you: you aren’t changing anything. You aren’t improving anything. You’re whining and bringing a negative light to the entire cause. You wanna change something? Get into politics. Become a cop. Stop laying on the fucking ground and expecting the world to change for you because the Internet told you you deserve it. [via NYU Secrets]

Will be stepping on people in Bobst if they are in my way. It’s goddam finals week. [via NYU Secrets]

Anyone who protests anything is a total ASSHOLE. IT ACCOMPLISHES NOTHING. YOU ARE ANNOYING. [via Twitter]

They [protesters] really could care less about the decision, it is an excuse to riot, cause mayhem, loot and damage. [via Facebook]

The people who are opposing today’s protests would probably be up in arms over the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I think that says enough about where they’re coming from. [via NYU Secrets]

Can’t wait for people like OP to die off so we can make real progress. [via Facebook]

PLEASE check your White Privilege. [via Twitter]

I will make no specific refutations to the arguments made above, for doing so holds no place in a journalistic setting. There is no necessity to do so, which would be stooping to the level of courage it takes to submit a comment through an anonymous posting service.

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The most disheartening wrinkle in the outlandish activity being seen on social media is that most of the people who are taking to the comments sections and Secrets pages are not just trolling—they are people who feel that they hold a stake in the argument, and are conducting themselves in the least honorable way possible.

These conversations, set apart from those of which are conducted in an intelligent manner and in a proper setting, only handicap our ability to progress as a community. To deny ourselves the right to change is to deny ourselves the right to be wholly American.

If there is anything to be learned from the strong, public action of the Eric Garner demonstrations, it’s this: voices that find the courage to speak out publicly for things they believe, with no mask or caricatured veil, are the ones that are heard.

And it is those that deserve an applause, not a shaming.

Note: The die-in that was originally planned for Monday, December 8, has been consolidated with the Black Students Union’s die-in for Wednesday, December 10, at noon on the main floor of Bobst.

Read Next: “Activists Stage a ‘Royal Shutdown’ of Barclays Center”

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 12/05/14?


Police officers patrol in Brownsville, New York. (Reuters/Eric Thayer)  

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

"The Unmanageables," by Sarah Ellison. Vanity Fair, January, 2015.

A long, detailed read on the inception, tribulations and growing pains of First Look Media. The combination of journalists and management is rarely anything but a powder keg, and the ungovernable characters at First Look Media are the epitome of muckrakers in a class of their own. The first painful purge has already occurred, and once the dust settles, I look forward to reading some investigative reporting our nation so desperately needs.

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

"My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK," by Kiese Laymon. Gawker, November 29, 2014.

In an essay that combines expertly crafted creative nonfiction with sharp political analysis, Kiese Laymon writes about race, violence and the institutional enforcement of white supremacy, all through the lens of his Vassar faculty ID. It's a haunting piece that needs no introduction—only a strong recommendation to read it, sit with it and read it again.

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

How Not to Get Away With Murder,” by Michael J. Mooney. D Magazine, December 2014.

In his latest story for D Magazine, Michael J. Mooney begins with an attempted murder. Nancy Howard, a mother of three, was followed into her garage by a man with a gun who demanded her purse before he shot her in the temple. It sounds like a simple botched robbery, right? But then Mooney starts telling you everything that led up to the shooting and spins one of the most bizarre true crime stories you'll read this year by detailing how Howard's cheating husband embezzled $30 million from his employer and shelled out millions to a string of drug-addicted, incompetent hitmen over the years.

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

Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, by Eric Foner

These last two weeks have been crushing, exhausting and emotionally draining. First the non-indictment for Officer Darren Wilson was announced in Ferguson. It is a travesty of justice. This lack of an indictment led to a week of protests all over the country. This week, Eric Garner's death became the focus of even more protests when the grand jury failed to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his murder. Despite his death being filmed. Despite the medical examiner ruling Garner's death a homicide. As an American who believes deeply in justice, not merely the procedure of the law, I feel deeply betrayed. I have read and listened to so many voices discussing what is happening and where we are as a country. All I can think of in response to this collective grief and anger is the title of Eric Foner's book about the period immediately following the Civil War. Titled Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, it deals primarily with events 150 years ago, but it might as well be about America right now. It is in that period of time, during Reconstruction, that the foundations of our unjust criminal legal system were laid. Policing and the law were constructed to target free African Americans. So for some historical perspective, I suggest this book. It is a long read. But Reconstruction was a time in the US where there was so much hope, and where subsequently, kowtowed by racism, so many mistakes were made. We are living out the horror of those mistakes everyday. Maybe when more of us understand why this systemic violence by the state against people of color happened, and keeps happening, we will have a better chance at making transformative change.

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

"Spain gets passing grade in public sector corruption index," by Alejandra Torres Reyes. EL PAÍS, December 3, 2014.

Spain, my home country, has a relatively ethical public sector, according to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index by nonprofit Transparency International. Scoring 60 out of 100, Spain ranked 37th on a list of 175 countries, climbing up three places over the past year. This is both good and bad news for me and all Spaniards: we're doing ok in government accountability, but we can do a lot better. It's crucial that people, regardless of their nationality, hold their government(s) accountable—and this report underscores the importance of this statement. But the index is also a wake-up call for the media because we're supposed to be democracy watchdogs. So, if you want to see how ethical your government is, click here to access all the data.

NOTE: The report doesn't take into account political-party corruption, focusing solely on countries' public sectors.

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

"NYPD to begin testing body cameras amid chokehold ruling," by Reuven Fenton and Yoav Gonen. New York Post, December 2, 2014.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says that body cameras will bring greater transparency and accountability to the NYPD. Unfortunately, the grand jury decision to not indict Eric Garner, whose death at the hands of a police officer was caught on film, is a sober reminder that transparency does not necessarily lead to accountability. The NYC pilot program will cost $50,000. Obama is calling for millions (more than $250 million) to be spent on body cameras and training around the country. Many have questioned whether the potential gains are worth the increased surveillance of communities that are already heavily surveilled; the Eric Garner decision has them wondering whether the potential gains would ever materialize at all.

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

"The New Republic: An Appreciation," by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Atlantic, December 9, 2014.

There are two parallel conversations taking place amongst journalists in the wake of TNR's collapse, "almost totally separated by race" as Vox's Matt Fisher writes. For journalists of color, there is a shocking amount of outrage that has been generated over recent events given years of silent complicity with TNR's long history of racist editorializing and questionable hiring practices. Where was the outrage before? What merits outrage amongst media makers and why? It's refreshing to read a prominent magazine journalist like Ta-Nehisi Coates name this uncomfortable and hurtful contradiction.

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

If Our Grief Were Colorblind,” Connie Schulz. Creators.com, December 3, 2014.

Tamir Rice joined the list of blacks dying at the hands of police officers when Timothy Loehmann shot him. Rice, 12 years old, was playing with a toy gun when, approximately two seconds after Officer Loehmann’s arrival, he was shot to death. In an insightful column, Connie Schulz makes a very good point about the perception that is too often a familiar response to police brutality.

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

"Should Suicidal Students Be Forced To Leave Campus," by Rachel Aviv. The New Yorker, December 1, 2014.

In the winter of 2012, W.P., a Princeton freshman, tried to kill himself. Once he swallowed twenty pills, he thought of his mother and how upset she would be, and walked to the student health center. After three days in the hospital, when W.P. was physically recovered, Princeton's director of student life told him he was required to take a leave of absence and was no longer permitted on campus. He appealed the decision, but was denied. W.P's psychiatrist claims that a "sense of purpose" was important to his recovery. By banning him from campus, some might argue that Princeton officials took this away from him. W.P. moved back to his hometown and spent a year working in retail and attending therapy sessions before he was allowed to return to Princeton for the Spring '13 semester. Although W.P. was allowed to return, the debate continues. Does making a policy to ban suicidal students help them in the long run by giving them time to forget about coursework and devote all of their energy to recovery? Or does it eliminate a sense of purpose, making them feel more like failures and less motivated to get well? It's a tricky situation, especially because a student's life is on the line. As for W.P., he said "his year away was a 'growing experience, but not because Princeton made it so. I had no perspective on how time does move on.'"

Fifteen Millennial Movements Taking Off This Week


A sign at the University of California (photo: Cal Progressive Coalition)

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 October 24 and November 10. 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 Free Speech Movement

On November 19, after University of California regents voted to increase tuition by 27.6 percent over five years, students at UC-Berkeley launched an indefinite occupation of Wheeler Hall. This increase extends the privatization of the UC system, where in-state tuition has already more than doubled in the past decade, sparking massive mobilizations and building occupations. At almost all UC campuses, students have rallied and marched against the fee hikes, with a brief occupation at UC-Riverside and an ongoing, indefinite occupation of the Humanities 2 building at UC–Santa Cruz. At the start of our occupation, more than 300 students and supporters packed the Wheeler Hall lobby. We voted to ratify three demands: no tuition hikes, full transparency of the UC budget under California Assembly Bill 94 and the dropping of all charges against Jeff Noven, arrested at the November 19 Regent’s meeting in San Francisco under false charges. We have continued maintaining the Wheeler Commons with daily general assemblies, teach-ins, working group meetings, art and banner making, open mics, movie screenings and study sessions. On Monday, November 24, in coordination with students across the state, we will have a class walkout and day of action.

—Kitty Lui

2. The General Body, Everywhere

On November 20, THE General Body, a coalition of more than fifty student organizations, ended our eighteen-day sit-in at Syracuse University’s administration building. The coalition announced that, while we are vacating the space, the movement is not going anywhere until critical needs of the university community are addressed—including guaranteed scholarships for students of color and commitments to end rape culture and improve counseling and mental health services. Students leave affirmed by new networks and concessions won—hiring an Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, delaying the passage of a corporate vision statement and an increase on the minimum pay for TAs—but also determined to continue resistance to the university’s top-down restructuring campaign by creating broad, bottom-up coalitions among students, teachers, staff, parents and alumni. As education is being reduced to a corporate transaction across the country, in the space of the sit-in, we have rediscovered education as social transformation.

—Ben Kuebrich and Yanira Rodríguez

3. In Colorado, Students Opt-Out

In September, Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, announced that seniors would be taking the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, a standardized test. CMAS is not an accurate representation of my learning or my teachers’ ability to teach me, takes time away from authentic classroom instruction and is a waste of taxpayer dollars. In response, a group of students from around the school spread the word and made a plan to help others opt-out. On November 12 and 13, despite misinformation spread by the principal that we are required to take the test by law, that it is a requirement for graduation and that it is tied to teacher compensation, 43 percent of the senior class refused to take the test. Our school joined a movement of schools around the state—with opt-out totals as high as 97 percent. As the spring test, PARCC, looms, we will continue educating students and parents and lobbying the state legislature to eliminate high-stakes testing.

—Andrew McGraw

4. In Newark, Students Show Up

On November 13, the Newark Students Union bused a delegation to Washington, DC, where Newark superintendent Cami Anderson was scheduled to attend a panel at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy think tank, to discuss the success of the One Newark Plan and how other cities can privatize public education as it is currently happening in Newark. Startled by our appearance, the AEI staff tried everything in their power to kick us, black and brown bodies, out of the space. After an hour of patiently waiting for the event to start, it was canceled due to a “security breach.” At that point, we took control of the room and tried to explain to attendees why Anderson refused to show her face. The next week, the Barringer High School branch of the NSU walked out to protest the school’s punitive, underresourced, unresponsive environment—left unaddressed by the One Newark plan. Students were forced to stay inside by security guards and police officers, violating their right to protest. As the administration maneuvers to close schools, displacing at least 8,000 students, we will continue to recruit students and build stronger bases throughout the city for actions soon to come.

—Jose Leonardo

5. In Manhattan, TFA Shows Its Cards

On Thursday, November 13, United Students Against Sweatshops students who have been at the forefront of a groundbreaking campaign to reform Teach for America traveled to New York for an open meeting with TFA leadership. After a long conversation with TFA CEOs, we were disappointed to hear that the organization plans to continue driving policies that harm working-class communities and displace veteran teachers across the country. Students brought up their three campaign demands—that TFA only send corps members to regions with actual teacher shortages, that corps members receive more adequate training and that TFA cut ties with corporations such as Walmart and Goldman Sachs—and asked why these changes haven’t been made. We also expressed concern at TFA’s influence in spreading corporate education reform policies, such as school closures, mass teacher layoffs, high-stakes standardized testing and the privatization of public education. The CEOs denied our concerns and made no indication that they plan to take meaningful action. We will continue our campaigns to kick Teach for America off our campuses until our demands are met.

—Dani Lea, Blake McGhghy, Hannah McShea and Will Daniels

6. How Can Deportations End?

Alongside numerous allies, the Immigrant Youth Coalition has successfully organized to stop the deportation and criminalization of immigrants in California by engaging in direct action and litigation and pushing for legislation such as the TRUST Act and driver licenses for all. After President Obama’s most recent announcement, our work remains very much the same. We are continuing to focus our efforts on preventing deportations by ending gang injunctions, which use racial profiling to place young people of color in gang databases, as well as practices that contribute to the school to deportation pipeline. We are also allocating resources to support LGBTQ undocumented people, who are particularly vulnerable to violence and human rights abuses. This includes LGBTQ detainees, for whom we are building support networks and providing basic necessities when released. By building capacity to organize those who are detained, we also hope that detainees can lead the fight against the 34,000-bed quota for detention centers and the private prison corporations who profit from them.

—Jonathan Perez

7. When Will New York Wake Up?

After a year of conversation with New York University’s Office of Financial Aid and mounting student support for a proposal to allow university financial aid resources to be accessed by undocumented students, the university will open these opportunities to incoming undocumented students from New York starting in the 2015–16 academic year. For the DREAM Team at NYU, this is a first step in the university’s commitment to equal educational opportunities for undocumented students, reflecting its stated efforts to bring its own financial aid policies “into closer alignment” with the vision for the New York State DREAM Act. The state DREAM Act, which was narrowly outvoted in the state senate last spring, has received support from leaders of both public and private New York higher education institutions. NYU now becomes one of the largest private institutions to open institutional aid to undocumented students, taking action where state politicians have not. While we continue to work alongside the New York State Youth Leadership Council and DREAM Teams across the city and state to escalate in support of the state DREAM Act, we are advocating for the expansion of NYU’s program to include undocumented students nationwide.

—Ivan Rosales, Maria Monica Andia and Mark Tseng Putterman

8. A Win for Ethnic Studies

Since the beginning of the school year, students from the Roosevelt Taking Action club, alongside the Community Rights Campaign and a student, teacher and community coalition, Ethnic Studies Now, have organized to make ethnic studies a requirement in all high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and expand it to other school districts statewide and nationwide. LAUSD has over 90 percent students of color; with these classes, we seek a better understanding of who we are, where we come from and how oppressions are formed and undone—which, put together with the fight to end the school-to-jail track, will help build a larger movement to end educational racism. At Roosevelt High, we made dozens of classroom presentations, collected hundreds of petitions signed by our classmates, organized community film screenings of Precious Knowledge on the fight to defend ethnic studies in Tucson, worked with our teachers to make short videos with the hashtag #ourhistorymatters and organized students to come out to the LAUSD vote on November 18. At the vote, 700 people across all ages and backgrounds rallied, filling the school board meeting room and spilling over outside. When the board passed the resolution 6-1, we made history by fighting to claim that of our people.

—Isabel Sanchez

9. A Win for Student Voice

On November 14, after a year of intense deliberation among California lawmakers, school officials, advocates and students, the California State Board of Education unanimously passed the final Local Control Funding Formula regulations, giving 4 million low-income and ESL students a voice in how schools spend money on their education. The LCFF, passed in July 2013, allots funding from Proposition 30 to historically underfunded schools. Initially, parents, teachers and school administrators all had a say in how the new funds would be spent in classrooms—but students did not. In response, Californians for Justice organized thousands of students in San Francisco, Richmond, Oakland, San Jose, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles and the Inland Empire to challenge the State Board of Education for a voice through the Student Voice Campaign. Now, the regulations require all 1,001 school districts to include students in the development of their funding and spending plans, setting the tone for educational priorities across California.

—Saa’un P. Bell

10. #YaMeCanse

After years of people disappearing, cartels inflicting violence throughout the state, and a government known for dirty tricks, people are getting angry. In Mexico, the disappearance of forty-three students from the teachers college of Ayotzinapa was the straw to break the camel’s back. On November 20, Mexicans told the world to stand in solidarity with their revolution. With #YaMeCanse, or “Enough, I’m tired,” as the call, forty-three cities across the United States joined Mexico for a day of action—voicing the truth that the US has pushed Mexico to where it is today via policies including Plan Merida and NAFTA. In New York, students, elders and migrant communities held a blockade in front of the Mexican consulate and performed a die-in inside Grand Central Station, chanting, “Murder made in the USA!”

—Camila Ibanez

11. #WCGtoUN

On November 12 and 13, We Charge Genocide’s eight-person delegation staged two historic protests at a meeting of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva. First, we walked out in response to the US government’s suggestion that the prosecution of 330 police officers over five years indicates significant progress toward ending police violence. The next morning, the UN grilled the US on issues of police violence, particularly against youth of color. The US dodged questions and misled committee members, at one point claiming tasers aren’t lethal. In protest, we rose silently with our fists in the air, each holding an image of Dominique Franklin—a 23-year-old friend who was tased to death by Chicago police this summer. Several other organizers and advocates stood or raised fists in solidarity. We then held our raised hands together for thirty minutes in honor of the thirty minutes that Rekia Boyd’s body lay in the street after being shot by a Chicago police off-duty officer. On this international stage, our stories, lives and struggles were recognized—amplifying our organizing efforts in Chicago.

—We Charge Genocide

12. #R2E

Starting on November 10, students from Birzeit University have toured the United States as part of the Right to Education Campaign. Starting in Ferguson and moving to schools across the country, the campaign seeks to illuminate the effects of the Israeli occupation on students’ ability to access education and academic opportunity. On November 18, students on the West Coast tour visited UCLA and addressed the university body at the undergraduate student government’s divestment hearings. The hearing also gave a platform to thirty-two student organizations that endorsed and supported the resolution to divest from corporations complicit in Israel’s occupation. That night, the student government passed the divestment measure by a landslide 8-2-2 margin, becoming the sixth of nine University of California campuses to hold majority votes for divestment.

—Rahim Kurwa

13. Taking Over the Board

On November 17, hundreds of students at the University of Southern Maine walked out of class and assembled on the quad to share stories about the adverse affects of ongoing budget cuts. We then marched to the UMaine System Board of Trustees meeting, where we disrupted the meeting with chants and took over the trustees’ seats—staging our own board meeting and calling for a different future for USM. The demonstration was the latest in a series of protests against the wholesale dismantling of USM by the board of trustees. Five programs have been eliminated since October, and twenty-five tenured faculty were “retrenched”—that is, fired—on October 28, with many more coerced into retirement. Students for #USMFuture has demanded reversal of the cuts, restoration of shared governance and renewed state investment in public higher education. Our actions were in conjunction with a week of action, coordinated by the International Student Movement, from Pittsburgh to Belgrade to Sierra Leone. We plan to continue to connect our movement to those of our allies in the struggle for the right to education.

—Meaghan LaSala and Philip Shelley

14. Camping Out—and Winning

On Monday, November 17, following a letter to the interim chancellor and a meeting with the chancellor’s executive assistant, graduate students marched across the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus to protest proposed reductions in the number of teaching assistant positions and proceeded to set up camp in the courtyard of the Campus Center. For three days and three nights, we marched and camped on campus, demanding our positions not be cut, equitable hiring of assistants across units and a commitment to budget reform. On November 18, we met with administrators to discuss our demands. The following afternoon, the interim chancellor released a statement announcing that our positions would be saved for the spring 2015 semester; the unit a student’s advisor belonged to would not impact students’ hiring status; and a budget allocation model would be proposed in December 2014 rather than toward the end of spring 2015. At the board of regents meeting the next day, we testified further about transparency and budget reform. Though our sit-in has ended, we are continuing to work for budget reform and administrative transparency.

—Vincent Cleveland

15. Moving the Moment, in Ferguson and Beyond

Editor’s note: On November 20, Akai Gurley, an unarmed, 28-year-old black man, was killed by police in Brooklyn. On November 23, hundreds from across the city, and across generations, massed in East New York. (Video: CBS)

—New Yorkers in Resistance

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 11/20/14?

People protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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

"Machil sentencing: 3 lives taken for the sake of medals, each bought at Rs 50,000," by Muzamil Jaleel. The Indian Express, November 14, 2014.

Three Kashmiri men executed in cold-blood. Their bodies lay dead near the Line-of-Control after a “shootout” in the mountains along the Indo-Pak border. The army says they killed three infiltrators, “Pakistani terrorists.” It turns out, they were not. The eleven people accused consist of a Colonel, two Majors, five soldiers and three civilians. This is the Machil fake encounter case, where these three young unemployed men, lured in the false pretenses of jobs, were taken to the border, and then killed. One of their faces was cosmetically darkened to give the appearance of a beard. His name was Shafi Lone – he was only 19.

I visited the families of the victims back in March for a story, where they desperately hoped for justice in a process they cannot fully understand. Earlier this week a decision finally came, an Army court martial concluded the case. In a rare instance of justice against uniformed men in Kashmir, five of them were sentenced to life in prison. The sentenced men can appeal, but this is a small victory for justice, in a place where justice is often skirted, and more often, outright denied.

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

Lost in Rawlsland,” by George Yancy and Charles Mills. The New York Times, November 16, 2014.

Professor George Yancy interviews Charles Mills as part of a series of interviews with philosophers on race. A professor of philosophy at Northwestern, Charles Mills, a renowned critical race theorist and the author of The Racial Contract and other titles, picks apart the logic of Rawlsian liberalism as is reflected by the false neutrality of "post-racial" thinking often lauded by whites. Here's Professor Mills suggesting the role that recognizing difference plays in making concrete the abstract idea of social justice:

“Rawls himself said in the opening pages of “A Theory of Justice” that we had to start with ideal theory because it was necessary for properly doing the really important thing: non-ideal theory, including the “pressing and urgent matter” of remedying injustice. But what was originally supposed to have been merely a tool has become an end in itself; the presumed antechamber to the real hall of debate is now its main site. Effectively, then, within the geography of the normative, ideal theory functions as a form of white flight.”

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

"Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died," by Advocate.com Editors. The Advocate, November 17, 2014.

[Note: the following reflects the pronouns used by Leslie Feinberg's life partner, Minnie Bruce Pratt, in her obituary for Leslie.]

It is no exaggeration to say that I would not be who I am if it weren't for Leslie Feinberg. We all need elders—people who've come before us, whose faces reflect our own—and in Leslie, gender non-conforming folks had an impossibly courageous elder. It was Leslie who taught us to claim our identities with pride, to love ourselves, to refuse to be marginalized, and to never stop challenging power. Leslie was a tireless activist and an ally across movements. Her passing reverberates through our community, but so does her legacy. (And if you're a queer person who hasn't read Stone Butch Blues, give yourself the gift of reading it now.)

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

Double Jeopardy” by Paige Williams. The New Yorker, November 17, 2014.

After convicting Shonelle Jackson of capital murder in 1998, an Alabama jury unanimously rejected the prosecution’s request to sentence the teenager to death. But, as Paige Williams points out, capital cases in Alabama don’t end with the jury’s decision. “The state’s judges can exercise an unusual power: they can ‘override’ a jury’s collective judgment and impose the death penalty unilaterally.” Although Jackson's role in the murder was unclear, the judge in his case decided to impose the death penalty anyway. Williams’s latest story for The New Yorker is framed around Jackson’s saga and uses his narrative to show how judicial overrides cast a pall over criminal justice in Alabama, especially when elected judges are able implement them to appear tough on crime.

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

“We Need Doula Care to Achieve Reproductive Justice,” by Elizabeth Dawes Gay. RH Reality Check, November 11, 2014.

Women dying during childbirth in the US in 2014 is not what comes to mind when discussing maternal mortality. But the US ranks only fiftieth in the world for maternal health, despite our massive spending on healthcare. It is sad and shocking that since hitting a low in 1987, maternal mortality rates in the US have grown at alarming rates. There are very specific communities that feel the effects of these terrifying numbers. African American women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. The reasons for this have a great deal to do with the inequality in our healthcare system. According to reproductive health experts and reproductive justice advocates, there is a simple way to fix this problem.

Doulas, who act as advocates for pregnant women before, during and after childbirth, make a huge difference in healthcare outcomes, especially for women of color. Elizabeth Dawes Gay, over at RH Reality Check, reports on how doula care can reach more women. With the expansion of healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act, millions of women now have access to medical care. However, doula care is not included in any of the expanded women's wellness coverage by the ACA for private or public insurance. If Medicaid coverage was expanded at the federal level to include doula care, women all over the country who previously have not been able to employ doulas as part of their birth plan would now have the option. Only women in Oregon and Minnesota have the opportunity to have doula care reimbursed under Medicaid. These failures to ensure the health and safety of pregnant women of color and their children are unacceptable. Reproductive justice means being able to choose how you give birth, and the seemingly obvious ability to labor and deliver a baby in a safe environment where you are getting the medical attention you need and deserve. If doulas can help make this a reality, let's expand doula coverage nationwide now.

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

"Whatsapp Just Switched on End-to-End Encryption for Hundreds of Millions of Users" by Andy Greenberg for WIRED. November 18, 2014.

Now that Congress has refused to reform government surveillance and address society's privacy concerns, messaging giant Whatsapp is implementing an encryption system called Textsecure, upgrading its security standards. I think this piece is relevant because it highlights the fact that even the private sector is taking steps to protect people's right to privacy—in fact, major tech companies like Google and Facebook supported the USA Freedom Act that Congress just blocked and would've overhauled NSA surveillance—while the government stands still.

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

"Congress is irrelevant on mass surveillance. Here's what matters instead.” by Glenn Greenwald. The Intercept, November 19, 2014.

This piece is both a good explainer of the "USA Freedom Act" (the NSA "reform" bill) that failed in the Senate this week, and an outline of the ways the world has changed in response to the Snowden revelations. Greenwald's point boils down to 'chin up, people': "the battle is underway," he writes, "and the forces of reform are formidable—not because of anything the U.S. congress is doing, but despite it."

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

A racial state of emergency: How we prepare for devastation in Ferguson,” by Brittney Cooper. Salon, November 19, 2014.

In her column this week for Salon, Dr. Brittney Cooper asks us—as Black people and as allies who love Black people—to find joy in the calm before the storm. Cooper urges us to find joy however we are able to in a moment pregnant with the expected non-indictment of Darren Wilson. For her, joy is a Black woman director's filmic representation of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, set in the U.S. south. Ava DuVernay's Selma is the aesthetic portal to a joy that shields against the violent crucible of race in America and, according to Cooper, an artistic force to inspire a burgeoning movement. The historical continuity between the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and today's resistance makes legible both how we inherit struggle as genealogy and the timeless indomitability of the Black spirit. In Selma, in Ferguson, in the wake of Black death and the storm of unrest that inevitably follows, Black people go on living and resisting—and that's beautiful. Cooper and DuVernay remind us: we have been here before and we will be here again, it's our ancestors' stories that give us strength to go on.

"There are films that galvanize movements," Cooper writes. "As I sat watching 'Selma,' I knew this film would be one of them." High praise indeed.

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

The Untold Story of Fatherhood,” by Stacia Brown. Colorlines, November 18, 2014

Over the past few years, media personalities have described the lack of black fathers as an “epidemic of fatherlessness.” However, in a 2013 Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report indicating that black fathers are more active with their children than white and Latino fathers. Stacia Brown profiles four black fathers who are confirming the findings of the CDC report. They have their own entry points to fatherhood, but nevertheless they are rewriting the narratives of black fatherhood in our world.

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

"Death by Deadline Part One," by Ken Armstrong. The Marshall Project, November 15, 2014.

The Marshall Project launched this week with a multi-part feature that looks into how lawyer error can prevent death row inmates from getting a final appeal. The story opens by explaining the case of Kenneth Rouse, who was tried by an all-white jury. After he was sentenced to death, one of the jurors revealed that he thought "he thought black men (“niggers” was the term he was quoted as using) raped white women for bragging rights." Although the claim for juror bias was undeniable, Rouse's final appeal was never heard. "Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Rouse's lawyers had just one year after his initial state appeal to petition for a last-resort hearing in federal court. They missed the deadline by a single day." Rouse later received a second chance under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act, but many inmates in his situation weren't so lucky. Armstrong's investigation shows that since the one-year statute of limitations was signed into law, the deadline has been missed "at least 80 times in capital cases. Sixteen of those inmates have since been executed." As for Rouse, his appeal is still pending.

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