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

North Carolina Students Say No to Bloomberg

Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are organizing an Alternative Commencement Ceremony to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2012 without symbolically honoring New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will speak at the official University commencement on May 13th.

Students decided to organize the ceremony in light of Bloomberg’s support for what became a violent eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, and the NYPD’s repression of credentialed journalists who attempted to enter the park during the eviction process. The students also take issue with Bloomberg’s handling of New York City public schools, for which he has received harsh criticism from teachers, parents, and community members. Organizers are further concerned by the recently exposed NYPD blanket surveillance of Muslim student groups and community centers across the northeast, and most recently by Bloomberg’s public support for the financial giant Goldman Sachs, which has been implicated in manipulative and fraudulent banking practices which contributed to the financial collapse of 2007.

Protesters argue that a commencement address is different from other speaking engagements on campus in that the address is not a space for open dialogue between varying points of view, but rather is intended to give parting words of wisdom to graduating students. Commencement speakers also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, a symbolic means by which the university honors the speaker. As undergraduate Kari Dahlgren put it: “The people we honor are people who have accumulated massive amounts of wealth and power, and instead we think we should be honoring people who are working to build a better world.”

The speakers at the Alternative Commencement include Kathy Kelly, three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and current organizer of the program “Voices for Creative Nonviolence;” Charles Eisenstein, faculty member of the Health Arts and Sciences program at Goddard College and author of the book “Sacred Economics;” and Richard Muhammad, a dedicated organizer with Occupy Wall Street and a member of the OWS Think Tank Working Group and the Global Democracy Alliance Group.

So far, student organizers have received positive responses from students and faculty members across campus; many students have RSVP’d to attend the ceremony, and organizers plan to have faculty members lead a ceremonial tassel-turning to close the ceremony.

The only thing threatening the plans, student organizers say, is sufficient funding to pull off the effort. The group is thus looking to community members who support the intention of the ceremony to help make it happen. Donations can be made by visiting www.alternativeunc.com and clicking on ‘show support.’

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (3/21/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.


 

Laura Bolt focuses on human rights and revolution.

You Can’t Occupy This,” by Dahlia Lithwick and Raymond Vasvari. Slate, March 19, 2012.

If you think the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act sounds like a benign and inconsequential piece of legislation, think again. The act, passed with overwhelming support in Congress and signed into law on March 8th, contains small but significant language that threatens protesters and their right to assemble. This article outlines why a minor adjustment to this act is eroding rights and angering Occupy protesters.


Zoë Carpenter focuses on the intersection of economics, health and the environment.

Bolivia Has Transformed Itself by Ignoring the Washington Consensus,” by Luis Hernández Navarro. The Guardian, March 21, 2012. 

If panic in Europe and the lingering reach of the American recession—not to mention unchecked climate change and a health care crisis—tell us anything, it's that our economic system is not delivering sustainable and equitable prosperity. While Navarro's opinion piece on Bolivia's alternative path to "living well" gives a simplistic view of the country's successes, it is nevertheless a cogent reminder that we are not compelled to define "recovery" as a return to a failed system.


Umar Farooq focuses on the world-wide movement for democracy.

‘Everyone’s Got Their Indian’ – I: Separations,” by M. Neelika Jayawardane. Chapati Mystery, March 14, 2012.

“We are not Indians. We are the poors."  This long piece, the first of a pair, explores the place of Indian immigrants in South Africa. Never really able to find a place racially, they saw themselves through class.


Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power and political culture. 

Overstated Iranian 'Threat' Puts U.S. on Path to War,” by Jean Athey and Alex Welsch. The Baltimore Sun, March 19, 2012.

As the drumbeat for war with Iran continues, Jean Athey and Alex Welsch, of Peace Action’s Maryland chapters, push back against the trajectory of policy and another “preemptive” war of choice. They summarize where circumstances stand with concern for the language of SR 380, or the Liebermann-Graham bill, which has been co-sponsored by Maryland’s Senators, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, and which offers ambiguity toward the difference between Iranian nuclear “capability” and the possession of nuclear weapons themselves. Recognizing that Iran currently does not pose a threat to the United States, they write: “We citizens of Maryland should hold our congressional delegation accountable and replace them if they do not show leadership for peace, diplomacy and rule of law.”


Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations.

The GOP Isn’t the Only Party That Must Face Younger, Browner Nation,” by Shani O. Hilton. ColorLines, March 16, 2012.

This article provides a much-needed reminder that progressives shouldn't be complacent regarding the surging population of racial minorities (especially Latino/as) that have traditionally supported the Democratic Party. As Republicans try frantically, and often unsuccessfully, to court these growing minority groups, Democrats must remember that no one owes them a vote.


Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights.

Kneeling Toward Riyadh,” by Joy Lo Dico. Guernica, March 12, 2012.

The British Museum's long history as one of the world's most reputable historical institutions is under threat. Its Saudi-sponsored Hajj exhibition, which opened at the end of January and covers two millennia of the history of Mecca, purposely neglected the landmark 1979 Mecca siege that made the Saudi regime adopt the fundamentalists' ideology. The headline sums it all: the west is kneeling toward Riyadh. Or, as Alec Baldwin better described it, oil whoring.


Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender.

Gay Marriage Is Not a Human Right, According To European Ruling,” by Donna Bowater. The Telegraph, March 21, 2012.

The European Court of Human Rights declared yesterday that gay marriage is not a human right, arguing that it would violate churches' rights to choose who to marry. This decision undermines much of the progress in the UK and the European Union to alter marriage laws and sets a precedent that could prove difficult to overcome, even beyond the EU.


James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century.

Irish Emigration a Fact of Life but Not As Bad As It Could Be,” by Dan O’Brien. The Irish Times, March 22, 2012. 

Emigration tends to be an emotive subject in Ireland; no less today. So when Dan O' Brien, Economics Editor of the Irish Times, casts his forensic eye over the statistics and argues that the situation is "not as bad as it could be," a heated response is guaranteed. 


Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare.

Greece on the Breadline: HIV and Malaria Make a Comeback,” by Jon Henley. The Guardian, March 15, 2012.

In Greece, austerity measures are contributing to healthcare problems so severe that Doctors Without Borders officials say the system is nearing breakdown. Among intravenous drug users in Athens, for example, the incidence of HIV/Aids increased by 1,250 percent from January to October last year, and malaria has reappeared while tuberculosis and Nile fever are on the rise.


Elizabeth Whitman focuses on the Syrian uprising, its implications and the wildly varied domestic and international reactions.

Syria Crisis Causes Iran-led 'Axis of Resistance' to Fray,” by Scott Peterson. The Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 2012. 

News of atrocities occurring in Syria has diminished in its novelty recently, though not in its importance or horror. The same can be said for the international political stalemate in ending the violence. More original material, however, can be found in analysis of its implications, such as this piece assessing the regional impact of the incalculable violence in Syria and the different stakes key players, including Hezbollah, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others, have in possible future outcomes.

 

Occupy Davis's Bank Boycott Victory

This post was originally published by Adbusters.org.

For the last two months, Occupy UC Davis has been blockading a campus branch of U.S. Bank. Now, in a victory for Occupy that potentially gives birth to a new movement tactic, U.S. Bank has capitulated and permanently closed the branch.

U.S. Bank has been a visible symbol on campus of the corporatization and monied corruption of education in part because, as The Aggie campus newspaper explains, “in 2010, all students were required to get new ID cards with the U.S. Bank logo on the back.”

The tactic of the occupiers was simple, nonviolent and highly effective. The Aggie describes the scene: “the blockade became a daily ritual. Protesters — typically numbering around 15 — would arrive around noon, followed by an officer from the campus police department. Thirty minutes later, bank employees would leave and the entire process would be repeated the next day.”

A celebratory statement posted on Occupy UC Davis’s website said, “the blockade of the U.S. Bank was a real battle against the privatization agenda, and its closure is a victory... This is not enough, this is not the end.”

The victory at Davis opens a new tactical horizon for Occupy. Can the bank blockade tactic be replicated across the nation? Could shutting down big banks every day for a month be the tactical breakthrough we need for May?

Harvard is Now Cheaper than San Jose State

Public universities in California may have been dethroned as being cheaper than private schools for middle-income students. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, schools like Harvard and Princeton provide a cheaper alternative to schools like San Jose State and University of California, Berkeley.

Private schools are generally even cheaper than Cal State Fullerton. To go to Harvard, it costs $4,000 for a family with an annual income of $30,000. At CSUF, it costs $16,331 for a full-time student.

According to the Bay Area News Group, a family of four making $130,000 a year would have to pay $24,000 for tuition, room, board and other expenses to send one child to a CSU. Harvard costs $36,000, but financial aid makes it the cheaper option.

Financial aid drops Harvard tuition costs down to $17,000 a year, under San Jose State’s $23,557 and even under the $19,500 it costs to go to UC Berkeley. While Princeton may be slightly more expensive ($19,830) than UC Berkeley, it is still considerably cheaper than San Jose State.

Private schools used to be considered more expensive than public, but that trend has changed for a couple of reasons.

According to the Social Security Administration’s website, in order for a college student under the age of 22 to receive Supplemental Security Income, the maximum he or she can earn annually is $6,600. However, Harvard’s maximum limit for receiving aid is much higher.

“The program requires no contribution from families with incomes below $65,000 and asks on average no more than 10 percent of income from families with annual incomes up to $150,000 and typical assets, and does not require students to take out loans,” said Jeff Neal, senior communications officer at Harvard Public Affairs and Communications.

Harvard’s financial aid program provides assistance to a majority of students.

“More than 70 percent of students receive some sort of financial aid,” Neal said. “More than 60 percent receive aid directly from Harvard.”

Public schools generally receive money from state and federal governments, though sometimes they receive private donations. Private schools, however, receive most of their money through private donations.

“Private schools get donations from alumni and others and the top private schools have very large endowments,” said Matt Krupnick, a reporter at Bay Area News Group. “They have more money to spend than public schools do because of the donations.”

On the other hand, public schools are beginning to do more to help lower income students.

Still, according to Bay Area News Group, UC schools are trying to help families of students making less than $80,000 per year. However, they are only covering tuition, not room and board.

“Low-income students already get need-based financial aid, and so I think the trend is more geared to middle-income students,” Krupnick said.

California State Universities, on the other hand, are close to becoming too expensive for middle-income students, though CSUs are a better value compared to private schools, said Rhonda Johnson, director of Cal State East Bay Financial Aid.

“Although I am often quoted as saying we are close to pricing out middle-income students, the CSU and UC state college systems are still a relatively good value when compared to Princeton and other private universities,” said Johnson.

Johnson said she does agree that financial aid from private universities may be higher, however.

“It is true that students from families with identical financial means may receive a higher financial aid offer from Princeton than from a California State University,” she said.

The cost of tuition with room and board can be higher for private schools.

“Beginning this fall, the estimated cost to attend Princeton, including tuition and room and board, is $54,700 versus approximately $24,100 at a Cal State University,” said Johnson.

However, that’s for families making $250,000 a year, according to Bay Area News Group.

Furthermore, Johnson disagrees with the assessment that private schools are inherently better than public schools.

“I think we must realize that universities like Princeton, Stanford and Harvard are highly competitive,” said Johnson. “And the average California public college applicant won’t gain admission to one of these universities. In addition, many private universities have large endowments and other private funding sources unavailable at public colleges.”

Interns’ Favorite Pieces of the Week (3/14/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

 

Laura Bolt focuses on human rights and revolution.

Youth in Revolt: The Plague of State-Sponsored Violence,” by Henry Giroux. Truthout, March 14, 2012.

Since Occupy began last fall, the protest movement has found many of its most critical moments marred by violence and police brutality. This article finds a link between state-sponsored violence against protestors, the disintegration of social programs, and the increasing tendency toward harsh punishment of combat. Henry Giroux discusses and analyzes the long erosion of civil society that has reached a point where "the war on terror has become a war on democracy."

 

Zoë Carpenter focuses on the intersection of economics, health, and the environment.

Goodbye, Texas Women's Health Program,” by Andrea Grimes. RH Reality Check, March 13, 2012.

The national fight over women's health services came to roost in Texas this week, where hundreds of thousands of women are set to lose access to preventative and reproductive health care—thanks to determined efforts by state legislators, who have for years tried to block Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid Women's Health Program. In Texas, and across the country, the attacks on women's health—led predominantly by white men—have been most devastating for low-income and uninsured young women and mothers. 

 

Umar Farooq focuses on the world-wide movement for democracy.

10 ‘Occupy’ Candidates Running for Congress,” by Josh Harkinson. Mother Jones, March 12, 2012. 

While the Occupy movement has shied away from making any "official" links with political candidates, there have been plenty of candidates that look to the phenomenon for support. This article provides a list of ten (there are likely more) people running for Congressional seats, what connects them to the Occupy movement, and what chances they have of winning.

 

Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power, and political culture.

U.S. May Disclose Missile Defense Data to Russia,” by Alexey Eremenko. RIA Novosti, March 12, 2012.

In negotiations over the deployment and long-term development of missile defense, the United States has expressed potential openness to sharing with Russia data on the speed of its rockets. RIA Novosti cites Alexander Khramchikhin, a researcher with the Institute for Political and Military Analysis in Moscow, as saying that the offer to share "secret data" on the velocity of rockets is key to countering Russian military concerns that US/NATO missile defenses threaten Russia’s missile capabilities and the delicate balance of deterrence. This offer further demonstrates that the United States is committed to a robust trajectory of missile defense policy.

 

Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations.

Where Were You When Rush Was Blasting Black Folks?” by Jeneba Ghatt. Politics365, March 8, 2012.

After Rush Limbaugh's recent incendiary comments about Sandra Fluke sent liberals everywhere into a (justified) fit of rage, we're left wondering: why did it take this? Why are his sexist comments perceived as more offensive than his racist comments?

 

Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights.

No Saudi Spring: Anatomy of a Failed Revolution,” by Madawai Al-Rasheed. Boston Review, March/April 2012.

The headline is misleading, and I have to add that I strongly disagree with the writer's conclusion. But nonetheless, this piece provides a detailed insight and a reasonable argument on the hindered Saudi Spring.

 

Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender.

Egypt’s Fading LGBT Movement,” by Michael Luongo. Global Post, via Salon, March 8, 2012.

In the early days after the fall of Mubarak, LGBT Egyptians had high hopes for their place in the revolution. There were promises of democracy and social justice, and with it, a place for the budding community in Egyptian society. But with two thirds of the newly elected parliament representing Islamist groups, equal rights are no longer on the horizon—and the progress that was made before the revolution may have been lost.

 

James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century.

Generation Stuck: Why Don't Young People Move, Anymore?” by Derek Thompson. The Atlantic, March 12, 2012.

Since focusing on the migration of young Europeans earlier in this series, I have regularly asked myself if the economic downturn has had a similar effect on migration rates and patterns in the United States. The answer, according to Derek Thompson of The Atlantic, is no. In processing recent data from the Brookings Institution, Thompson offers an insightful and succinct analysis of why the overall American migration rate is at its lowest since World War II. Some of his findings will surprise you; and unfortunately, others won't.

 

Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare.

Report: 1 in 3 Americans Burdened With Medical Bills,” by Jason Kane. PBS NewsHour, March 8, 2012. 

A new CDC study shows that one in five Americans live in a family that struggles to pay its medical bills each month. When asked how healthcare reform will affect this type of data, which will undoubtedly inform presidential debates, Peter Cunningham of the Center for Studying Health System Change had a mixed response. The Affordable Care Act, he said, may help low-income people who receive new coverage through Medicaid and the health insurance exchanges, but it will probably do little to make employer-sponsored healthcare more affordable.

 

Elizabeth Whitman focuses on the Syrian uprising, its implications and the wildly varied domestic and international reactions.

Syrian Shop-Keeper Wages Lonely War From English City,” by Maria Golovnina. Reuters, March 14, 2012.

This story is about a man who goes by the name of Rami Abdulrahman. He runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a global organization that is one of the most cited and most disputed sources of information regarding the Syrian conflict. The article reveals the challenges of running such an organization, which has come under fire from all sides and so, in many ways, symbolizes the tension and divisions within those who oppose the Syrian regime.

 

Students Hold Vigil for 16 People Shot by US Soldier in Afghanistan

This article was originally published by The Daily Cal. Follow the paper on Twitter to keep up with its excellent local (as well as campus) coverage.

Candle lights flickered against the strong blow of the wind as a group of UC Berkeley students and Bay Area natives formed a circle on Upper Sproul in silent remembrance. The candlelight vigil, which was organized by the UC Berkeley Afghan Student Association, was one of many held worldwide in commemoration of the early Sunday morning shootings by a US soldier in Kandahar, Afghanistan that resulted in the death of 16 Afghans. The vigil, commemorated by about 70 people, began at 7:15 p.m. and ended by 7:26 p.m., with some remaining to pray for the victims’ families.

According to Saylai Mohammadi, campus senior and member of the association, the vigil was organized “really last minute” and was the result of a quick board meeting. “(It’s) short and to the point,” Mohammadi said of the event. “We want everyone to know why we’re here.” The purpose is to commemorate the lives that were lost Sunday, as well as the lives of everyone who has been killed as a result of the decade-long war, she said.

Association Vice President Tuba Nemati said this recent development is not a lone incident but indicative of hundreds of similar incidents. “The US has been at war with Afghanistan since 2001,” she said. “Nobody really knows what’s going on there. People are dying — it’s not evil people dying. Innocent people are dying.”

Vigils were also held in Oakland, Davis, London and Chicago, Nemati said.

Mustafah Treal, a Bay Area resident, said he went to areas of Afghanistan in 2010 and experienced the presence of military personnel firsthand. “US military occupation is having a deadly effect (on Afghanistan),” Treal said. “The US media is not giving this enough coverage.”

But intertwined with the political sentiments of US involvement was the feeling of sadness perpetuated by the recent deaths. “I want to remind everyone why we’re gathered here — this is a vigil,” Mohammadi said to the crowd. “We hold candles and shed tears in remembrance of the beautiful souls whose lives were robbed from them.”

The Truth About Muslim Student Associations


New York University Chaplin Khalid Latif gestures while speaking to students during a round-table discussion at the Islamic Center at New York University on Friday, February 24, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

In 1992, the forbidding streets of South-Central Los Angeles played host to the Rodney King riots—a violent juncture in the city’s history. The discord left the impoverished city blocks tinged with despair and yearning for compassion. When the smoke cleared, a group of seven UCLA and Charles Drew Medical students moved in. They saw a community that was bleeding, and they hoped to help mend it by providing free healthcare to one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods. This was the modest beginnings of the UMMA Community Clinic, now a beloved fixture in South Los Angeles, which has served more than 25,000 patients in the last fifteen years.

UMMA stands for University Muslim Medical Association, and the acronym spells a word that translates to “community” in Arabic. The organization, which has been recognized by President Obama and on the floor of Congress, is grounded in the Islamic principles of charitable giving and social justice, and it traces its roots to the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at UCLA. “UMMA Clinic was born in the MSA office,” explained Dr. Mansur Khan, one of the founders of the clinic. “That’s where it all happened. In a sense, UMMA clinic is the direct result of the success and the mindset of MSA-UCLA.”

Last week, news broke that the NYPD had been monitoring Muslim student groups in several different universities, looking to identify terrorists by their prayer habits and adeptness at paint-balling. They spied on Muslim students and infiltrated MSAs at campuses not just across New York City but as far away as Yale University. MSAs at sixteen colleges were under regular and unchecked surveillance by the NYPD, without being suspected of any wrongdoing.

As a beneficiary of a Muslim Student Association myself, the news left me torn—I did not know whether to laugh quietly or to scoff in bitter fury. My years in MSA were spent packing lunches for homeless feedings, mentoring kids at an underprivileged high school and learning about my faith with my best friends. The idea that a police force could trail a group of students who are trying to be assets to their community, seemed preposterous to me. Congregating on campus—whether it is to pray, discuss current events or plan a party—is not grounds for suspicion. Being a Muslim, though, apparently is.

As far as I knew, Muslim student groups on university campuses were breeding grounds not for radicalism or violence but for intellectual discourse, community service and the formation of Muslim American identities. MSAs function within the means of school rules and bylaws, often play a vital role in their campus communities and provide a safe space for Muslim students to express themselves. Targeting these groups as a potential threat could work to alienate young Muslims and stifle life on campus for all students. It is a shame that this unsettling turn of events could potentially prevent the next generation of Muslim students from engaging in a vibrant, meaningful and constructive part of their college lives. Many Muslim students will become anxious—prone to retracing their every step, always looking over their shoulder and being distrustful and wary of those around them.

The FBI has long considered Muslim students a danger to national security. The wealth of resources being allocated to investigate Muslim students might be futile, however, considering a recent study which concluded that Muslim Americans pose little threat of homegrown terrorism. The truth is that for most Muslim-Americans, there is no conflict between their Islamic and their American ideals. By profiling Muslim students and infiltrating their campus communities, the FBI is demonizing Islam and sending a dangerous and deeply unfair message: that anything Muslim is potentially criminal.

Unwarranted surveillance is not threatening MSA as an institution, but the principles that MSA embodies and stands for. By shadowing Muslim student groups, the NYPD is calling into question the legitimacy of the means by which all students practice civic engagement, community service and the building of common understanding on campuses. Had informants been spying on me during my years in MSA, they would have been privy to a scrapbook of the most memorable and formative moments of my life. MSA endowed me with a sense of community and family, and shaped me into the person I am today—an empowered Muslim American who strives to contribute positively to the world around me and takes pride in upholding the tenets of my faith. And I’m not the only one.

With over 150 MSAs operating in universities all over the United States, the students involved in these groups are as diverse as their respective campus populations. “Outside of the MSA itself, which comprises around 250 students, MSA members are actively involved in groups all over campus,” said Ahmed Desouki, member of MSA at UC-Davis and president of the MSA West—a coalition of MSAs across western states. “Many are involved with the Shifa Community Clinic, others are a part of an organization that reflects their cultural background and some are involved in political groups on campus, like the Davis Democrats, CALPIRG and others.” The Muslim Student Association draws students from different backgrounds and offers them a way to form communities based on shared ideals.

The groups are often reputable constituents of the greater campus community as well, and have longstanding positive relationships with school administrations. MSAs collaborate with other minority and religious groups to promote community activism and interfaith dialogue. “The MSA of Michigan was many times named student organization of the year, and we had the support of a lot of the administration,” said Dr. Abdulrahman El-Sayed, a social epidemiologist at Columbia University and Fellow at Dēmos, a New York–based nonpartisan policy center, who was vice president of the MSA at University of Michigan when he studied there. “We were normally at the lead of issues concerning minority student groups and religious organizations on campus.”

In a politically charged era in which Islamophobia is rampant, MSA serves as a tool to educate other students about what Muslims believe in and how they fit into the broader American narrative. “After 9/11, MSA was particularly important because it was an organization that allowed Muslims to organize in their youth around many of these very American values of empowerment, community service and interreligious organization and education,” explained El-Sayed. “It allowed Muslims to take a proactive role in a time when it would have been very easy to sink back, or be apologetic, and not allow both our American and our Muslim ideals to shine through.”

MSA alums like El-Sayed and Khan speak to the positive influence that MSAs can have in shaping Muslim American leaders who enhance the social fabric of the greater American society. They are accomplishing amazing feats that push America forward because of their time spent in MSA, not in spite of it. “MSA honestly developed me as a human being,” shared Khan. “When I came to UCLA, I really discovered my Muslim identity and I really came to learn my faith through the community there. MSA was where all of the principles and the ideals that we learned of our faith were actually realized. We learn to do good and help people, and MSA was the vehicle that allowed us to do that.”

The Blueprint Of The For-Profit College Newspeak Campaign

This article was originally published by Republic Reports and is re-posted here with permission.

Shakespeare’s Juliet told her Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  The star-crossed lovers could not have known that centuries later those words would be invoked by one of America’s most controversial industries in a manner more worthy of Orwell’s 1984. A 32-page Powerpoint document, “Introducing Project Rose,” from the leading trade association representing for-profit colleges, instructs its members to alter “the vernacular of our sector” in order to reframe the public debate. In this Orwellian Newspeak, a for-profit school’s high-pressure “call center” is transformed into an “enrollment-assistance center,” a “recruiter” becomes a more sympathetic “counselor,” a “piece of business” becomes a student “applicant,” and vilified “private equity” is called simply “private sector.”

In the past few years, for-profit colleges have created strong public concern because they often have high prices, low-quality programs, and deceptive tactics that have exploited taxpayers and left students deep in debt.

The industry has been particularly criticized for coercive sales techniques that have appeared, despite industry denials, to be driven by sales quotas and commissions.  The Project Rose document, from the group then called the Career College Association and now called APSCU, tells industry members that the new name for  ”quotas” is “goals” and the new name for “commissions” is “salary component.”

Today the Chronicle of Higher Education published an account (subscription required) of the 2010 Project Rose Powerpoint and reported that APSCU pursued the effort for at least a year.  Republic Report also has obtained the Powerpoint, and, exclusively, you can download the Powerpoint and read the whole thing here.

Clearly the effort was aimed at describing students less as traded commodities and more as treasured scholars. It’s unfortunate that the for-profit education industry has not tried to match its new words with improved deeds.

Project Rose was on the agenda when senior for-profit executives held a luxury retreat in Telluride Colorado in 2010.  Amid photos of skiing and premium accommodations, the meeting brochure described a session called, “Introducing Project Rose,” with the description “Shakespeare had it right. Words matter.”

A section of the Powerpoint entitled “How We Think,” includes this insight: “Institutional Lending Anticipates Heavy Failure To Repay.” This appears to be an admission by the trade association that expensive student loans issued directly by for-profit schools are often made with awareness that students will end up with too much debt to be able to pay the loans back.  Another sentence acknowledges how for-profits have benefitted from the recession: “Unemployment Rates Drive Profits.”

Last week, Republic Report’s Zaid Jilani reported exclusively from APSCU’s annual Washington DC meeting on former Senator Trent Lott’s account of how, as an APSCU lobbyist, he is able to bring into the fold Senators worried about how this industry is harming U.S. students, including our veterans. APSCU and Lott continue to face lobbying challenges.  Last week Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), sponsor of the post 9-11 GI bill, introduced new legislation to protect veterans from abuses by the for-profit college industry.

Here are some examples of APSCU’s Newspeak aimed at redefining the subprime college industry:

OLD        NEW
Career College        Private-Sector College or University
Parent Company        University System
Starts        New Students
Call Center        Enrollment-Assistance Center
Piece of Business        Applicant
Phone Script        Appointment Set Outline
Recruiters        Counselors
Mom and Pop        Family Owned
Market Presence        Regional Campuses
Private Equity        Private Sector
Open Enrollment        Equal Opportunity

 

Brian Moran, APSCU’s executive vice president, told the Chronicle that with a new APSCU president in place and the association’s focus on compliance with new federal regulations, other priorities have “superceded the issue of Project Rose.”


From Nation Interns: The Week's Top Stories (3/8/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Laura Bolt focuses on human rights and revolution.

Why Hungary's Youth Are Angry—and Drifting to the Far Right,” by John Nadler. TIME, March 7, 2012. 

Young people have been leading the process of dissent and revolution across the globe. While the vast majority of these young people come from and have flocked to the left, in Hungary, a surprising right ring party has captured the attention and loyalty of some young protestors. The article looks at why this is and if it will last.

 

Zoë Carpenter focuses on the intersection of economics, health, and the environment. 

The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom,” by Jeff Goddell. Rolling Stone, March 1, 2012.

Goodell's tough profile of Aubrey McClendon, one of the billionaire executives responsible for inflating the natural gas bubble, makes it clear that beneath the fracking craze lies a quagmire of financial, health and environmental hazards. Goodell's story isn't merely about strange cases of explosive tap water—it's about land grabs, ponzi schemes and levels of debt and obfuscation reminiscent of the mortgage crisis.


Umar Farooq focuses on the worldwide movement for democracy.

High Turnout in Iran Elections Could End 'Paranoia' of Leaders,” by Scott Peterson. The Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2012.

Iran held parliamentary elections recently, the first since the disputed 2009 Presidential race. The government claims up to 64 percent voter turnout, which if true, would be a resounding piece of evidence against the Green movement, whose leaders have been under house arrest for a year. This piece touches on the larger positive implications that a high turnout could have in Iran, and echoes concerns some had in 2009 about western intervention and its possible negative effects for the Green movement in Iran.

 

Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power, and political culture. 

NATO Hopes Putin Will Maintain Efforts to Reach Missile Defense Deal.” Global Security Newswire, March 6, 2012.

With the re-election of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency and the approaching NATO summit in Chicago, the US-NATO alliance is continuing it's diplomatic dance of danger with Russia over missile defense. Mr. Putin has been invited to the summit and birthday party for European-based missile defense operations, but Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabko said he is not likely to attend if substantive discussions of Russia’s concerns are not on the menu. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen responded in kind by saying that the summit and birthday party might be cancelled due to Russian disagreement with NATO's plans. So it goes.


Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations. 

Black Students Face More Discipline, Data Suggests,” by Tamar Lewin. The New York Times, March 6, 2012.

The Department of Education report that this article centers around doesn't really show us anything that wasn't already suspected, but it does call renewed attention to the startling reality that children of minority backgrounds in this country must put up with not only less opportunity, but also with a system that works against them from the minute they walk in the door.


Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights. 

Stratfor Emails: Covert Special Ops Inside Syria Since December,” by John Glaser. WarisaCrime.org, March 8, 2012.

This enlightening review of Elizabeth Holtzman's book, Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution—and What We Can Do About It, proves that prosecuting Bush administration over charges "of lying to Congress about the grounds for war, wiretapping Americans, and conspiring to torture," is not only still a possibility, but it's primarily a national duty in which we've got only twenty-three months to do.


Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender. 

Rape in the US Military: America's Dirty Little Secret,” by Lucy Broadbent. The Guardian, December 9, 2011. 

News of the lawsuit filed against the US military for rape and sexual harassment has spread across headlines, but the media have predominantly treated it delicately, and from a distance. This article parses through personal testimonies of the victims, taking time in particular to address one of the more overlooked issues—the male victims involved in the suit.


James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century.

The Crossing Point: Would-be Immigrants to Europe Can Go Almost Anywhere—For a Price.” The Economist, March 3, 2012. 

Despite its current economic woes, Europe remains a very attractive destination for millions of would-be immigrants. This feature in The Economist charts the well-worn path from the banks of the Evros River in Turkey, across the Balkans, to the Schegen Area—the prosperous free movement zone at the heart of the continent that is so attractive to the many Asians and Africans seeking a better future. 

 

Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare. 

Coverage Denials Draw Ire of Emergency Docs,” by Emily Walker. MedPage Today, February 29, 2012.

In this article, Emily P. Walker reports that Medicaid officials are denying coverage for emergency department visits in which a doctor concludes that a patient's condition is non-urgent. The danger here seems to be that patients with symptoms that might indicate an urgent problem may choose to forgo a visit to the emergency room, knowing that they could be denied coverage.


Elizabeth Whitman focuses on the Syrian uprising, its implications and the wildly varied domestic and international reactions.

The Fearful Realities Keeping the Assad Regime in Power,” by Robert Frisk. The Independent, March 4, 2012.

In this op-ed, Robert Fisk highlights the utter hypocrisy of countries involved or invested in the Syrian crisis, from Saudi Arabia to the United States to Britain to Syria. Fisk's analysis underscores the paradoxical relationship between the principles upon which foreign policy decisions are supposedly based and the realities of domestic situations, such as upcoming elections or a status quo that a rulers may be determined to preserve.

Why We Marched In Sacramento

The headline in this week’s San Jose Mercury News, “Harvard now Cheaper than Cal State,” may have shocked many across the country. But for California’s families and students, it reflects the reality of millions who have struggled for years with the rising cost of higher education. California leads the nation in tuition increases, with a 300% rise in costs since 2001. For a system that used to be a model for the nation, these skyrocketing costs are shameful – and coupled with the recession have put a college education out of reach for many of California’s young people.

When my family moved to the United States from Mexico, I was told by my high school teachers and counselors that I shouldn’t even consider college. Despite graduating in the top ten percent of my class, I was still told that my place was in the fields, where my parents work. Like many Latino families across the state, my parents worked hard every day with the hope of being able to send their children to college. And I worked hard too, studying to prove those teachers and counselors wrong. But for all the hard work, the tuition hikes still left that dream – and the Cal system – out of reach. With the Latino community in California on the path to becoming the majority, we are doing a major disservice to my generation by denying today’s children access to quality and affordable education. Now is not the time to abandon our children and families.

That’s why this week, I helped lead 165 of my fellow Fresno-area college students to Sacramento for Monday’s “Occupy the Capitol” march for education, where we stood with thousands of other students from across the state. We took our demands directly to Governor Brown and the California Assembly: no tuition hikes, no more higher education cuts, and stand behind solutions that will make the banks and the 1% pay their share to refund education. With painful budget cuts rendering universities short-staffed, and overwhelming tuition hikes leaving many students unable to pay, we urged the state's current leaders to stand up for California's future.

We were there to protest cuts, but also to pose a solution. At a “peoples assembly” inside the Capitol Rotunda, student protesters voted on their demands and policy priorities for the Governor and the Legislature – what we wanted out of this day of action. The number one priority was the “Millionaire’s Tax” ballot initiative, which has also been endorsed by the UC Student Association, representing more than 250,000 Cal State students. The Millionaire’s Tax would guarantee billions in dedicated funding for higher education, as well as funding for K-12 schools, children’s and senior services, public safety, and other key infrastructure that has been decimated by State Budget cuts.

On Tuesday the Governor tried to claim that a less effective ballot initiative – one that does not guarantee funding for higher education, and includes a sales tax – is an adequate response to the outpouring of enthusiasm and anger in Sacramento. It is not: the Millionaire’s Tax is the only ballot initiative that makes the 1% pay and that guarantees new revenue for higher education. In the latest poll it is the clear choice of Californians.

With California leading the nation in tuition hikes, too many California students have been forced to take on massive student loan debt. Unfortunately, due to this recession caused by the reckless action of Wall Street bankers, our generation has been called the “lost generation,” with millions of college students left unemployed after graduation. It’s time for millionaires and corporations to pay their fair share.

By marching in Sacramento this week – and on campuses last week, last November and over the past few months of activism and action - I have felt a real sense of unity and purpose within my community. From all parts of the state, thousands of students took the trip to Sacramento to make their voices heard. Together, students are uniting to fight for a quality, affordable education system – and we’re offering solutions to make those goals a reality.

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