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

Meeting Offers Syracuse Students Chance to Learn About Occupy Movement

This article was originally published in the Daily Orange and is reposted here with perimission.

Occupy Syracuse and Occupy College participants have been lacking high numbers of involved Syracuse students in relation to the total university population, so Orange, it's officially time to step up your game.

The Women's and Gender Studies Department is hosting a discussion and teach-in Nov. 10 at 11:00 a.m. titled "Feminism and the 99 Percent Movement." The event will take place in the Atrium Lounge on the third floor of Sims Hall. I'll be co-facilitating the discussion with another WGS student. I encourage students to attend this discussion. It's important for SU students to start getting involved in the Occupy movement and to talk about the most effective ways to go about contributing our own voices and experiences to this sociopolitical movement.

There are plenty of reasons why you should come out and support the Women's and Gender Studies Department, the Occupy movement and me on November 10.

For starters, everyone else is doing it. Following the success of two separately organized protests and walkouts at colleges and universities nationwide, 68 schools have signed up on OccupyCollege.org to participate in the National Student Solidarity Teach-ins on November 2 and 3. Syracuse University has remained absent from all three forms of activism thus far — but it's better late than never.

This is a chance to offer your perspective. If you're not happy with the way Occupy Wall Street and Occupy College have operated thus far, this discussion is your chance to talk about, and change, it. The movement has been criticized for excluding different races and genders. The only way to make it more inclusive is for all students from different social locations to lend their thoughts and ideas for progress.

Be a part of something bigger than over-studying for your exam the next day or spending valuable time talking about the demise of Kim Kardashian's 72-day marriage. Not to discredit the importance of grades, but one test or paper will be just a fleeting moment in your life, whereas a discussion about feminism and Occupy Wall Street has the potential to stick. And as for the Kardashian-Humphries saga, get your mind out of the gutter and start talking about important issues.

Plus, I'm bringing special brownies — special in the sense that I seldom bake or do anything in the kitchen. Take advantage of this momentous occasion by stopping by and at least humoring my baking skills and pleasing your taste buds.

Countless students talk about the myriad issues facing our country and our age group specifically, but it's time to stop talking and take action. The Occupy Wall Street movement embodies a social movement that is — generally speaking — representative of our generation's sentiments. If you've tweeted about the Occupy movement, debated with friends and made comments on Facebook statuses, it's probably time for you to turn those smaller conversations into larger discussion.

Krystie Yandoli is a senior women and gender studies and English and textual studies major. Her column appears every Wednesday. She can be reached at klyandol@syr.edu or followed on Twitter at @KrystieLYandoli.

Harvard Students to Walk Out on Mankiw

As reported today by Business Insider, Harvard students are planning to walk out of economist Gregory Mankiw's Econ 10 class on tomorrow, Wednesday, November 2, to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

A prominent adherent of Milton Friedman, Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush and the author of a leading economics textbook, has been critical of the Occupy Wall Street protests on his blog — and a student email cites his "biased instruction matter" as a reason for the walk-out.

Check out this Facebook page for more info.

Occupy Bowdoin Kicks Off

This article was originally published in the Bowdoin Orient.

The international Occupy Wall Street movement hit the College Tuesday night when posters advertising "Occupy Bowdoin" appeared in Smith Union. Robbie Benson '15 is the self-proclaimed "kid behind the posters," the driving force for a group that he hopes will heighten discussion about social class and socioeconomic inequality at the College.

The signs bear phrases such as "PUT PEOPLE OVER PROFIT—Occupy Bowdoin: Join the Peaceful Revolution," and list occupybowdoin@gmail.com as a point of contact for more information.

Since the first protest on September 17 in New York City, the "Occupy" movement has spread to over 900 cities around the world. It has been described as a revolt against the chasm of social and economic inequality in America that divides the 1 percent of wealthiest Americans from the other 99 percent.

Benson said the Occupy Bowdoin startup was "incredibly impromptu," sparked by a Tuesday discussion with peers over lunch. "We asked ourselves why Bowdoin wasn't more involved in what we saw as a defining moment in political history," said Benson. By yesterday afternoon, he said the group's email account had received inquiries from over 30 students.

Benson plans to hold an open forum soon to discuss what about the "Occupy" movement most affects students, and to shape the direction of the organization. He said they also will discuss what to tangibly demand from administrators. "Over its history, Bowdoin has been committed to its Common Good...if it wants to follow through with its commitment, it should open its eyes to what's happening," he said. "I don't think we are going to be occupying Hubbard Hall any time soon," said Benson. "I'm just trying to get as many people involved as possible."

Along with facilitating discourse, he expressed interest in organizing a student outing to join larger movements like Occupy Boston. "I went to Occupy Boston over Columbus Day weekend and found the students and professors protesting both articulate and passionate," he said. Professor of Gender and Women's Studies Kristen Ghodsee reached Benson after contacting the Occupy Bowdoin Gmail account advertised on the posters. "Anything that breaks Bowdoin students out of their bubble has got to be a good thing," she said. "We tend to focus on race and gender and religion and disability, and class issues often get swept under the rug." Ghodsee said she was curious to see how the movement would take shape on campus. "If a bunch of Bowdoin students just hang out on the Quad what does that accomplish?" she said. "I'm not sure what there is to be accomplished, other than showing that they are paying attention to what is happening at the national level."

Nonetheless, she mentioned the necessity of young people questioning the status quo. "I understand that for a lot of young people, apathy is cool, it's a posture...but it hides people's anxieties about" entering the job market after graduation, said Ghodsee. "Is this the world that we want to be a part of?"

Many students voiced interest in Occupy Bowdoin's effort to catalyze discussion of socioeconomic differences. "I think it's a wonderful idea. I know that at Bowdoin we're trying to become more socioeconomically diverse, but it's not that easy to do. I'd like to know what ideas people have about it," said Amy Schweitzer '14.

Nonetheless, some students doubt the "Occupy" movement's efficiency in enacting change. "I wouldn't join [Occupy Bowdoin] for the same reasons I wouldn't join Occupy Wall Street; my time could be better spent elsewhere," said Lewis. Salas '13. "The targets should be policy makers, not Wall Street brokers."

According to The Nation's "Extra Credit" blog, over 10,000 students have protested in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in the last three weeks alone. Occupy Colleges is an offshoot movement organized for students in protest of high tuition bills and a lack of job opportunities after graduation.

One hundred and forty campuses participated in their October 13 "National Student Solidarity Protest," but Bowdoin was not involved. On November 2 and 3, Occupy Colleges will stage student-initiated "National Solidarity Teach-Ins" at campuses around the country.

The aim of the teach-in is to continue this dialogue on campuses, with collaboration between professors, students, and community members. "This is exactly the type of thing we are looking to bring to Bowdoin," said Benson.

Environmental Youth Leaders Take Washington

This article was originally published on the website of the invaluable PowerShift.org and is reposted here with permission.

Last week, thirty-five of the best and brightest young leaders descended upon the nation’s capitol to deliver the grassroots demands and action that we’ve been organizing for months. From leading campaigns to move campuses beyond coal, to mobilizing against the Keystone XL pipeline, and hosting training and strategy sessions at our regional Power Shift conferences, these young people are leading in the grassroots, but last week they came to DC to be heard. And heard they were.

The first stop was a meeting with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to thank her for her leadership, and show our support for her continuing to lead on critical matters of the mercury ruling and the Keystone XL pipeline. In a packed room on Howard University’s campus, we had a frank discussion on the state of public health, and the challenges we face in protecting it. Tayla Tavor from Michigan shared how she was diagnosed with asthma when she was 3-years old, and now finds herself at Michigan State University fighting to retire the largest on-campus coal plant in the country, which continues to threaten her and her peers’ health.

Administrator Jackson shared our concerns about the impacts of dirty energy. "It's so important that your voices are heard, that campuses that are supposed to be teaching people aren't meanwhile polluting the surrounding community with mercury and costing the children a few IQ points because of the need to generate power. It's simply not fair," Jackson said. And she didn’t mince words about some of the challenges she faces in protecting the American people from big polluters. She slammed the GOP for putting the interests of the coal industry ahead of those of the American people.

Despite it all, when Maura Friedman, a student at University of Georgia, spoke about how Georgia has 13 coal plants (including one on UGA’s campus) and her concern for her reproductive health, Administrator Jackson confirmed that new public health precautions were in the pipeline, and in particular that her administration was committed to finalizing the new mercury ruling by December 16th (currently there are no limits to how much mercury a coal plant can emit).

And on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, we confirmed a major development; Administrator Jackson confirmed that her EPA would be weighing in on the contentious Keystone XL pipeline and it’s faulty Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). When asked about it, she said they would definitely make a statement, because after all, in her words “the pipeline will literally cut our country in half.”

After this very productive meeting with Administrator Jackson, it was time to take our demands and plans to another very important place: the White House. For the last couple of months we’ve been making our voices heard and our power felt across the country. More than 1200 people partook in civil disobedience at the White House, rallies are greeting President Obama at campaign stops across the country, and hundreds are visiting OFA offices (last weekend in Cleveland, 400 people from Midwest Power Shift paid them a visit). But now we had an opportunity to bring our voices and power directly into the White House.

So once again we filed through the gates of the White House for a very serious sit-down with White House staff. The Keystone XL pipeline decision is in President Obama’s hands, and his hands alone, so we weren’t there expecting to hear a “Yes” or “No” on the pipeline from his staff. We were there to talk about our organizing efforts, make sure they knew that there was an unprecedented wave of energy sweeping the country on this issue, and that our movement is committed to stopping the pipeline.

Jarymar Arana, a young woman from Texas kicked-off the discussion on Keystone XL with the White House. In 2008 she helped turn out the youth vote for Obama on her campus, but now she’s fighting to make sure he doesn’t approve the pipeline that would rip through her community and threaten her family. She shared how, after waiting in line for 12 hours to testify at a State Department hearing on Keystone XL a month ago, she’s afraid that her comments might not matter due to the massive conflict of interests and corruption beyond the pipeline proceedings. So she’s committed to keep organizing until her voice is heard, until this pipeline is stopped.

Going around the big oval table, we continued to hear incredible stories of struggle and organizing. Students sitting-in at MSU to demand the largest on-campus coal plant closes, young people and community members in Mossville, LA taking environmental crimes to international criminal court, students in Virginia building a statewide movement for clean energy solutions. What more could we do? From my vantage point, we’re doing a lot right. We heard from the folks we were meeting with that our stories and organizing would be “taken directly to the top.”

One piece of feedback that we heard that we were receptive to is that our senators and representatives need to hear from us too. And I totally agree. But Sasha from Pittsburgh said it best: “we’ve organized lobby visits, we’ve organized townhalls, and we’ve built big coalitions. When we put pressure on Congress on the climate bill, we needed President Obama to be with us and he wasn’t there. And in this case with Keystone XL we don’t need Congress, it is President Obama’s decision.”

Last week we went inside the White House to make it clear that we’re not going away, that we’re going to keep organizing from the grassroots to bring in a clean energy economy and stop Keystone XL. And this weekend we’ll surround the White House to show President Obama that right now he has the support to stand up to big polluters and reject the pipeline - Will he seize it?

10 Ideas to Change the World

Every American generation is defined by the policy battles that shape it: the New Deal, the Great Society, the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terrorism. How will we be defined?

In the midst of the Great Recession our Congress remains gridlocked, held hostage by ideological struggles and the influence of corporate money. We are desperately in need of new ideas to carry this country forward; towards a new economy, a new approach to national defense, affordable and equitable education, a stronger, more flexible social safety net, and a new energy infrastructure that can keep our country competitive in the twenty-first century. Where will these ideas come from? They’re going to come from our Generation and we all have a part to play.

That's where the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network comes in. Founded in 2006 by students across the country who were frustrated that their ideas were not playing an active role in the national political dialogue.  Founded by students, for students, the Campus Network promotes a new form of progressive activism: grassroots policymaking. We give our students the tools and resources to generate impact in their communities and provide a platform to express their ideas on the national stage.

Our national publication, the 10Ideas series, is a key piece of that platform. Every year, each of our six policy centers publishes a journal that highlights the best student ideas for progressive change. We work with each author to promote their ideas in policy forums at the local, state, and national level, connecting them to the top progressive organizations and taking their ideas to the halls of Congress. This year, the New York City staff will recognize the top 10 ideas submission from each policy center by bringing the authors to New York City in January to participate in a writing workshop and meet with leading progressive thinkers to share their ideas for change.

You can register for ‘Intent to Submit’ by November 1 and the Campus Network will provide resources to help you build your idea. The deadline for all submissions is December 1. Get info here. We hope you'll take this opportunity to make your voice heard.

Solidarity Teach-Ins at a College Near You

Since Occupy Wall Street emerged on September 17, more than 1,200 related occupations have taken place coast to coast. In solidarity, Occupy Colleges was formed, focused on the need to engage students on their own turf: campuses. In the past three weeks, more than 10,000 students nationwide have walked out and protested in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. Now, it is time for schools to do what they do best: Educate and learn!

Starting November 2, schools across the nation will participate in teach-ins about Occupy Wall Street in hopes of continuing and extending the dialogue that was started by the Occupy Movement. Topics will include; How we got here? Why are we occupying? and, Where do we go from here? These general questions will help facilitate ongoing discussion between professors, students and our communities.

U-Stream has generously offered ad-free accounts to students who wish to broadcast their teach-in live and Occupy Colleges strongly encourages this. By broadcasting live, colleges will be able to introduce the conversation to a larger audience. We hope to be a platform for students to learn as much as they possibly can about Occupy and to stand in solidarity with other occupations.

There are currently thirty-five colleges signed up to participate in the National Solidarity Teach-In November 2-3 and more schools are signing up every day.

Here's a summary of what a few schools are planning:

Occidental College
“On November 2nd, at lunch, Professors Robert Gottlieb and Peter Dreier will take microphones and begin an informal lecture and discussion. Professor Gottlieb will discuss his experience organizing with SDS in the 60s, while Prof. Dreier will discuss why the Occupy movement is happening and where it should go next. Students will be invited to respond, ask questions and debate.” From Guido Girgenti of Occidental College

California State University-Bakersfield
On Oct. 31st, we will be doing a banner drop to raise more awareness and get students excited for our November 2 Teach in. On November 1st, we will be doing a guerrilla art performance demonstrating the injustice of a new program set for the CSU system by Chancellor Charles Reed, in which students will be expelled from colleges if they "take too long" to graduate. On November 2, we'll be live streaming through UStream, and will be documented through Twitter and Facebook. Four professors will speak and students will march and rally other students to come to the next lesson. There will also be "round tables" in which students can participate in discussion with others and a "tent city" in which students can study.
From Ericka Hoffman of California State University at Bakersfield

Saint Mary's College of California
On both November 2 and 3, there will be teach-ins featuring faculty and students speakers on the chapel lawn.

Brooklyn College
A school-wide Teach-in will take place on November 3rd at 12:15 featuring Professors Nancy Romer and Corey Robin, a Nation writer.

The University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University and Duke University will team up on November 3 for a two-part all-day teach-in.

We have a stream of information flowing into Occupy Colleges, so keep checking back -- and let us know if you're planning your own event! We'll post a schedule with dates, times, and speaker information for each school.

'It's Up To Us': Occupy Colleges Gains Traction

One of the biggest myths about the Occupy Colleges movement, similar to misconceptions about Occupy Wall Street, is that there is a lack of focus. Occupy Colleges originated in the same way as its “mother” movement—spur of the moment, without a strong idea of what the future would look like, but with a sustained focus on problems that specifically affect colleges and universities across the nation, student debt being the most obvious example.

In an attempt to gain both focus and traction, Occupy Colleges is staging National Solidarity Teach-ins on November 2nd and 3rd. The purpose in holding these teach-ins is to educate interested university community members about Occupy Wall Street, cultivate new ideas and possible solutions and ways to contribute, and effectively participate in steering the course of the largest social movement our generation has yet to see.

The Occupy Colleges website provides resources for students to make organizing teach-ins not too arduous a task. In addition to helpful guides, here are some other details to keep in mind when aiming to conduct the most effective teach-in possible.

Keep it local. While it’s important to address Occupy Wall Street on a broad scale and within an international context, it would be problematic for colleges to ignore local concerns occurring in their own backyards. Giving your teach-in a local perspective is necessary in order to create an inclusionary social movement. Colleges and universities, especially private institutions, often attain reputations for being “ivory towers on the hill” and separating themselves from local off-campus communities. Working together with the local city or town that your college is geographically situated in is integral to the teach-in and the Occupy movement in general.

Address ‘the right’ issues. Each campus is unique in its current struggles and the issues that face the surrounding local community. Seek out a representative from the local movement who can most accurately speak to these issues at the teach-in, but also remember to present the unified issues that Occupy Colleges and Occupy Wall Street stand for on a national level -- higher taxes on the "one percent," the closing of corporate tax loopholes, student debt forgiveness, a more regulated financial services industry and a forthright, well-funded effort to put people back to work.

Reserve an appropriate space on campus. Students are more likely to attend the teach-in if it’s physically accessible to them. It’s also important to reinforce one of the founding ideas behind Occupy Colleges: university students are capable of bringing the Occupy movement to their own schools, even if it’s not feasible to attend a protest in one of the big cities in which the movement has taken root. The room’s general set up is also an important component to consider—allow for sufficient space and seating, and try to find a comfortable environment.

Acknowledge your social location. Coming to terms with our own sites of privilege and oppression in relation to the other unique experiences of Occupy Colleges, Occupy Wall Street and teach-in participants is necessary when attempting to organize a cohesive and balanced social movement. In an effort to avoid further oppression and the perpetuation of privilege within the Occupy movement, it’s not only essential to include a variety of perspectives in the teach-in but also for each student to be aware of their own intersections of race, class, gender-identity, sexual-identity, etc. when organizing ideas and discussion topics.

Recruit informed, involved, and willing participants
. Seek out professors, students, and faculty members who will contribute accurately and effectively, and also challenge common misconceptions about the movement. Actively engaged individuals will provide interesting dialogue and increased awareness about Occupy Wall Street. Campus activists, intellectuals, journalists, politicians, and researchers can simultaneously provide different and important perspectives and, in turn, spark mass interest.

Students shouldn't hesitate to jump on the Occupy bandwagon and bring this social movement to their own campuses. These are issues worth fighting for and directly affect our futures as students, Americans, and members of the 99 percent. We’ve reached a point where we can no longer accept the false stereotypes of a “quiet generation”—there is nothing more important than participating in the largest demonstration of social change in our lives and contributing our own perspectives to the movement.

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important Stories (10/28)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most 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 please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

— Angela Aiuto:

Angela focuses on money in politics.

Wealthy Corporations With a Trillion Dollars Stashed Offshore Lobby for a 'Holiday' From US Taxes,” by John Aloysius Farrell and Aaron Mehta. Center for Public Integrity, Oct. 24, 2011.

Multinational corporations are lobbying Congress for a temporary tax holiday that would reduce the rate at which foreign-held earnings are repatriated by nearly 75 percent. Supporters of the proposal have glossed over its $40 to $80 billion price tag with promises of job creation, but an in-depth examination of the 2004 tax holiday—which tax expert Charles Kingson has appropriately dubbed "The Great American Jobs Act Caper"—shows that while the same promises were made, they were never kept.

—Cal Colgan

Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.

Double Speak and Intervention in Mexico,” by Fred Rosen. NACLA, Oct. 25, 2011.

This blog post on the North American Congress on Latin America's website outlines a stirring development in Mexican politicians' attitudes towards the cartels. In the wake of the New York Times' recent investigation into US government agencies' collusion with some cartels and the use of informants to gather information, NACLA is reporting that President Felipe Calderon's stance against working with the cartels at all may be increasingly a minority position. Even former president Vicente Fox is now admitting that covertly supporting some of the cartels in order to undermine the more dangerous narco-traffickers is a wiser decision than continuing current law enforcement policies.

— Teresa Cotsirilos:

Teresa focuses on "global South" politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.

India's Silent War,” by Imran Garda. Al Jazeera, Oct. 21, 2011.

In an era of Twitter and real time news, it can be hard to imagine that "one of the world's largest armed conflicts" could go unreported. But a slow-burn civil war in eastern India has caused the displacement of at least 12 million people over the past thirty years—and killed thousands of Indian civilians. Al Jazeera correspondent Imran Garda's brief documentary deftly examines the conflict between the Adivasis, India's aboriginal people, the Maoist rebels that ostensibly protect them, and the Indian military, which has been forcing Adivasi villagers from their land to access valuable mineral deposits.

— Paolo Cravero:

Paolo follows war, peace and security.

Welcome to the Shadow War,” by Michael Knights. Foreign Policy, Oct. 24, 2011.

As the US Army is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, Security Sector issues emerge more clearly delineating a challenging and complex future for the Iraqi security forces. Iranian influence (military and non) and domestic political questions seem to suggest that sustainable security and development are more than a step away.

— Erika Eichelberger:

Erika follows the environmental beat.

Climate Skeptics Take Another Hit,” by Kevin Drum. Mother Jones, Oct. 21, 2011.

A Koch brothers–backed climate change study has just released its results: the world is indeed warming. A story in Mother Jones tells how last year, University of California, Berkeley physicist Richard Muller, darling of climate-deniers, decided to start his own climate analysis project that would "do it right." The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study, partially funded by the Koch Foundation, an instrumental player in the climate-denial machine, used a novel statistical methodology, but came up with some surprising results. The resulting data tracked closely with that of the "big three" existing climate models, NASA, NOAA and the UK's HadCRU. Said Muller in a press release, "Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK."

— Josh Eidelson:

Josh covers the labor beat.

City taxi drivers' organization joins AFL-CIO,” by Daniel Massey. Crain’s New York Business, Oct. 20, 2011.

For the first time since the United Farm Workers half a century ago, a workers' organization with no legal collective bargaining status is affiliating with the AFL-CIO.  The AFL-CIO, the country's largest labor federation, presented a formal charter to the National Taxi Workers' Alliance in a ceremony last week.  Because taxi drivers are considered "independent contractors," they are among the millions of workers currently excluded from the union recognition rights under the National Labor Relations Act.  Collaborating with organizations of excluded workers has been an increasing focus for the AFL-CIO in recent years.  Thousands of New York City taxi drivers organized a one-day strike in 1998.

— Eli Epstein-Deutsch:

Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.

Occupy first. Demands come later,” by Slavoj Žižek. The Guardian, Oct. 26, 2011.

This timely op-ed from Slavoj Žižek comes just as the debate over whether to tender demands at OWS is starting to come to a head: occupiers seem to be strongly split on principle. It is a thorny issue, which Žižek tries to resolve with some nuance. It's questionable whether he actually manages this or merely manages to argue to a contradiction. He makes a strong case that relatively petty policy demands would only be counterproductive—giving away the energy of the movement on the cheap. But he also advocates something less than demand-free purism—ultimately, strategic demands which, while they cannot be simply dismissed as practically impossible or naive, can also not be agreed to by the ruling order, as it would undermine their very position and power. Yet he also highlights the force or "terror" of the movement's "silence" (drum circle notwithstanding): meaning refusal to engage in a dialogue on the terms of the system as it presently exists. Whether a demand at this point could meet the precise criteria he sets out is an interesting question. 

— Collier Meyerson:

Collier’s beat is discrimination.

Ohio Univ. Students to Classmates: ‘We’re a Culture, Not a Costume,’” by Jorge Rivas. Colorlines, Oct. 25, 2011.

Every year the spate of news stories about controversial Halloween costumes spark brief and informal chatter across American college campuses. Disputed costumes have included Adolph Hitler, Ku Klux Klansmen, "a terrorist" and "a rapist," both euphemisms for Arabs and African-Americans respectively.  This year 10 students of color at The University of Ohio in Athens banned together and formed a social-media campaign to raise awareness about the detrimental psychological effects of these costumes. Jorge Rivas of Colorlines reports on the initiative's widespread success, just in time for Halloween. BOO racism and sexism!

— Allie Tempus:

Allie follows human rights.

India education: The chain school,” by Jason Overdorf. Global Post, Oct. 24, 2011.

This article alerts us to a schooling trend in India that can serve as a jumping off point from which to discuss the right to an education, and what makes a good one. Indus World School is a chain of school franchises with plans to expand throughout India. This certainly addresses in part India's goal of near-universal enrollment by 2015 (and, consequently, its need to build 250,000 schools by then). But the IWS model brings up other concerns: will the limited number of scholarships create a tiered system that favors the already privileged? Will the corporate stakeholders influence curriculum? 

— Jin Zhao:

Jin follows the US’s image in international media.

AdSense: Google cracks down on Pakistani websites,” by Omair Zeeshan. The International Herald Tribune, Oct. 18, 2011.

Google AdSense recently banned a large number of bloggers and publishers on the ground that they lack original content, provide low-quality user experience, and deliberately manipulate design to mislead users to the advertisers' website. Among these banned accounts, most of them are Pakistani, which led many Pakistani bloggers, especially legitimate bloggers, to believe that Google's act is based on racism and its desire to please its advertisers.

Occupying Our Place in the Protests

This article was originally published in the October 25 edition of the Yale Daily News.

It’s still a little surprising to me how close Yale is to New York City. I’m from Pittsburgh, which — while not on the other side of the country or anything — is prohibitively far from the Big Apple. On Saturday, I took advantage of New York’s proximity for the first time. For one glorious afternoon, I occupied Wall Street.

This wasn’t how I had expected to spend my Saturday. My decision to go was made in about 10 seconds ­— I was eating lunch when a friend sat down with a giant poster that said something about greed and bankers. Twenty minutes later, four other freshmen and I were sprinting to catch a train. Two hours later, we entered Zuccotti Park.

The protest itself is something to see — legions of unkempt, sign-holding hippies, hipsters and college kids, coexisting together in drab tents. Food was doled out in an Oliver Twist-like queue, and makeshift kiosks were set up distributing Marxist literature or copies of the Occupy Wall Street Journal.

Above all, there were people everywhere — talking, chanting, singing, smoking. They held signs that said, “We are the 99 percent” or “Read Your Zinn,” while others were too profane to discuss here. (Let’s just say that bankers aren’t that popular.) A man in some sort of rodent costume was sermonizing loudly, while a few yards away drums beat to the rhythm of an impassioned chant. In a word, being one of the occupiers was awesome.

I held a sign and chanted with the best of them. I was interviewed by several New York University students making documentaries about the protest. The remarkable thing about the Occupy Wall Street protest is that it is completely leaderless. My friends and I lined up and began chanting, “This is what democracy looks like.” Within a minute, there were about 50 people chanting and following behind us. Like I said, awesome.

But I wondered: Were we hypocrites for being there? As one of my friends said, “Yale is sort of like the fast track to become the 1 percent.” Obviously not everyone becomes an investment banker or high-powered lawyer, but our chances are pretty good should we want to. Does attending a top-tier university mean we are not part of the 99 percent?

Furthermore, was it voyeurism or protest-tourism for us to spend an afternoon at Occupy? There are people there living outdoors in the cold, neither washing nor eating well, just to keep the protest going. Many of their signs detail how they lost their jobs or homes and how they are at Zuccotti Park because there is nowhere left for them to go.

And, above all, is there a point to Occupy Wall Street? You can say what you want — I said a lot while chanting on Saturday — but the demands of the protesters are not exactly uniform or crystal clear.

It doesn’t matter that we were entitled college kids there just for an afternoon. It doesn’t matter that Occupy Wall Street doesn’t have a definitive list of demands. The protests are lawful, and they are calling attention to serious problems in this country — and every extra person there helps. Occupy Wall Street represents the vast majority of Americans — those who think realizing the American dream is getting harder and harder. It shows that it’s increasingly mainstream to want progressive taxation or financial regulation.

Our presence at Occupy Wall Street helped in some immeasurably small way to swell the ranks of the self-proclaimed 99 percent. Every extra person chanting and cheering, marching and sitting gives the protests more power. If Occupy Wall Street can survive the winter, and if it can get progressive candidates elected to office ­— as the Tea Party has conservative candidates — then it can accomplish some of its goals. The Tea Party has proven that protests don’t need clear goals to realize some change — as long as enough people are protesting.

For the record, I don’t want to end capitalism or oust every single Wall Street banker. But there is something wrong with our country when the wealthiest 400 people are worth more than the poorest 150 million people. There is something wrong with our country when the top 1 percent pays a lower percentage in taxes than the rest of us. There is something wrong with this country when the bottom 80 percent owns 7 percent of the wealth. This needs to change.

In 1968, protesters swarmed the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, demanding progressive change and chanting, “The whole world is watching.” Now, the whole world is watching Occupy Wall Street. New York isn’t that far away. Let’s show them what we the people can do.

NC State Students Reject Hate-Filled Vandalism

This article was originally published by the invaluable Campus Progress.

When his advisor told him that North Carolina State University’s LGBT Center had been vandalized, Paul Cash dropped his work to look at the damage. “Fags burn,” read the door in purple spray paint. “DIE,” said the center’s glass-covered billboard.

Cash, a 23-year-old second-semester senior and president of NCSU’s GLBT-CommUnity Alliance, was used to reading such sentiments in the university’s “free speech tunnel,” a cross-campus tunnel in which students can express feelings from the profound to the profane. But he hadn’t expected to see them targeting his community out in the open.

“My initial reaction was anger, of course, to think that someone would come over to our center to do that,” Cash told Campus Progress. “I don’t feel unsafe on campus … I wasn’t worried for myself. I was worried for the kids who had yet to come out of the closet.” 

But some of Cash’s initial worries were alleviated by a prompt community response. The NC State Student Government and other campus organizations approached center director Justine Hollingshead to plan a rally in support of LGBT students at the university.

Friday’s “State not Hate” rally, organized in just two days, drew more than 500 students, faculty, and staff members—as well as members of the broader North Carolina LGBT community. Provost Warwick Arden, Vice Chancellor Thomas Stafford, and other university figures spoke out about the importance of the center and the value of diversity on campus; Arden called the vandalism “a reprehensible act of hatred and intimidation.”

A petition rejecting the vandalism, which has circulated since the attack, received over 1,000 signatures by the end of the rally. Students wrote supportive messages on slips of paper for a “chain of hope,” held up at the end of the event to applause.

“I don’t know what the goal of the people who vandalized our center was,” Cash said. “But after that rally I’m sure they didn’t get what they wanted.”

The GLBT Center at NC State opened in 2008, serving a student population that identified as 3.15 percent of the student body in 2004. Campus officials said defacing state property is a crime, but they would not say if they were investigating the incident as a hate crime. 

Following the rally, members of the university community are treating the vandalism with some optimism. “[It’s] an opportunity for an increased level and enhanced level of dialog on the campus about our core values and about who we are as an institution,” Arden said. Cash shared the same hope. “[The rally] spoke volumes louder than a few spray-painted words,” he said.

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