StudentNation | The Nation



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

If You’re Searching for Voter Enthusiasm, Follow the Music

If Rabble Rousers frontman Bill Collins is right to say that “politics is like a car,” then its most recent drivers—previously less active urban and youth populations—have stepped back from the wheel. The result is a well-publicized “enthusiasm gap,” the bugaboo of the Democratic Party entering Tuesday’s elections.

With his Obama-inspired electoral fight song, “Put the Car in D,” Collins offers one method of bridging the gap.

When Collins attended President Obama’s campaign rally to support Connecticut Senatorial candidate Richard Blumenthal last month, he was struck by the President’s analogy between the current political morass and the struggle of driving a car out of a ditch. Collins soon wrote “Put the Car in D,” a Calypso-style, call-and-response rocker recorded with the help of a group of phone bankers for the Labor 2010 campaign. The track is currently receiving thousands of YouTube hits and counting, each one a new reminder why this election matters.

Though “Put the Car in D” admonishes us not to put the car in “R,” its message and purpose are fundamentally positive. The jaunty, interactive track is a recognition that in order to increase enthusiasm and voter turnout, you can’t simply convince people of what’s wrong. For many, disillusionment runs so thick that any issue appears symptomatic of an irredeemably broken system. To engage the disaffected, you have to give politics an active, exciting, positive spin. As activist and anarchist intellectual Emma Goldman once said, “If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.”

This is particularly imperative for turnout among youth voters, many of whom have not yet entered the shrinking job market or put their children through an underfunded education system—to name two issues for which 2010 presents a clear political choice. Without a feeling of positive incentive, youth could stay home.

Collins is not the only one who has used music as a force for motivation this election cycle. Grammy Award-winning fusion band Ozomatli recently released “Respeto,” a Spanish-English bilingual track provoked by the attempts of conservative PAC Latinos 4 Reform to convince Latinos not to vote. Last month Jay-Z recorded a musical public service announcement for the Vote Again 2010 campaign, following a string of on-the-trail performances for Obama in 2008. And Respect My Vote! 2010, an alliance between labor and hip-hop, is an endeavor to inspire and educate youth about the importance of voting in every election.

As decades of organizing have taught us, “political performance” need not imply smoke screens and back-door deals. A year before Woodstock and a few days before the 1968 Democratic Convention erupted into violence, Yippie activists staged peaceful concerts around downtown Chicago. Historian Michael Denning writes that the Popular Front in America in the 1930s was marked by a profusion of musical iconography. The Cradle Will Rock, a 1937 pro-union Broadway musical directed by Orson Welles, was shut down by authorities for fear of social unrest at the hands of an ascendant left.

Today’s left exhibits little of the movement culture that sustained the spirit of change in the 30s and 60s. For these elections, our most immediate hope of rekindling voter engagement may be to capitalize on identity politics and a widespread affinity for melody and fun. Before we look to reform the whole of twenty-first century democratic politics, all who share a stake in redeeming our broken system must be on the same wavelength: D.

Meghan McCain Insists The Tea Party Is 'Losing' Young People

This post was originally published by Campus Progress.

Earlier this week, Meghan McCain said on ABC news that the Tea Party is losing young voters because some of the candidates on the docket this November make a mockery of running for public office.

This isn't the first time she's protested the way Tea Partiers treat young people. In a February appearance on The View, she called out former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) for making racist comments about immigrants and about Obama.

“I think it's why young people are turned off by this movement. And I'm sorry [but] revolutions start with young people. Not with 65-year-old people talking about literacy tests and people who can't say the word 'vote' in English," McCain said on the show. "It's ridiculous….This rhetoric will continue to turn off young voters and anybody that says different is smoking something. Period."

But were young people ever turned on by the Tea Party to begin with? The Tea Party might be challenging the political establishment, but they’re not doing it with the interests of the majority of young people at heart. An Economist/YouGov poll released in September showed youth voters are least likely voter group to identify with the Tea party [PDF]. Twenty-seven percent of people age 18-29 strongly oppose the Tea Party, while 16.5 percent strongly support it.

A more comprehensive report on the Millennial generation prepared by the Pew Research Center earlier this year [PDF] showed that they “remain significantly more liberal than members of older generations” and feel more positive about the idea of government intervention in general.

Young people did once play a role in the creation of the Tea Party—a student-run organization of Ron Paul supporters called Young Americans for Liberty organized one of the first “tea parties” in January of 2009, before the movement really kicked off in the months following. 

But today, the movement is largely a “white, middle-class, mostly over the age of 50 movement,” according to Will Bunch, author of The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama.

In an interview with RH Reality Check, he said that in the course of interviewing Tea Partiers for his book, he learned that people who identify with the movement are driven by a lot of anxiety, primarily of two kinds—economic and cultural.

You’d expect that young people entering the job market in one of the worst economies sincethe Great Depression wouldidentify with feeling betrayed by the government.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this summer was the first time since 1948 that more than half of America’s youth population was unemployed (51.1 percent).

But even with its populist messages, that's not really what the Tea Party is about. "I think the economic anxiety is a contributing factor, but it's not the main factor,” Bunch said. "I think their economic problems are causing them to have more time to listen to these fearful messages and to become more anxious."

Bunch told RH Reality Check he believes that very real economic pain is being used as fuel for concerns ultimately unrelated to the economy that are being pushed within the “24/7 conservative media bubble,” ones more on the cultural side of things—anxiety about America becoming more diverse and more secular, something that’s become more obvious with all the wildly anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-immigrant messages that have been coming from Tea Party candidates during the midterm elections.

And the majority of young people don’t have the same sensibilities about a plural society as Boomers do. According to the Pew report on Millennials: “The distinctiveness of members of the Millennial generation is particularly evident in their social values, where they stand out for their acceptance of homosexuality, interracial dating, expanded roles for women and immigrants.” Furthermore, some issues will just have more of a lasting impact on Millenials. Climate change denial, for instance, is the kind of thing that will have more of an adverse effect on our generation and future generations than it will on the Boomers.

Not to mention that the Tea Party doesn’t represent a lot of young people who are feeling seriously dispossessed in America. The Washington Post reported last week that “only 42 percent of black youth 18-25 felt like ‘a full and equal citizen in this country with all the rights and protections that other people have,’ compared to a majority (66 percent) of young whites.” The same was true of 43 percent of Latinos in the same age bracket . 

And as America becomes more diverse—the Millennial generation is the most racially and ethnically diverse of any generation—the Tea Party falls further behind. The same Economist/YouGov poll showed that 3.2 percent of black survey participants from all age groups strongly supported the Tea Party, while 33.8 percent were strongly opposed. Good luck with that Millennial messaging, Tea Party.

College Student Takes On One of the Most Dangerous Jobs In America

This post was originally published by Campus Progress.

A 20-year-old criminology student, Marisol Valles Garcia, just became the chief of police in one of the most dangerous towns in Mexico. She was appointed by the town’s mayor, Jose Luis Guerrero, after no one else applied for the position—and she might be young, but she's definitely got guts.

Valles Garcia’s home town of Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, just south of the Texas border, has long been the site of drug-related violence. The AFP reports that more than 28,000 people died in the state of Chihuahua due to drug wars over the past four years.

The fear of being killed off by drug magnates—a very real concern, considering the previous mayor was killed in June, and the town saw eight drug-related murdersin the past week alone—is one that prevented others from offering themselves up for the job. Valles Garcia isn't going to let that stop her.

Valles Garcia is finishing a degree in criminology at the Centro Cultural Universitario  in Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent cities in North America. One of her professors assured the New York Post that she wasn’t being foolhardy when she took the job, and knew what she was getting into:

"[She's] very brave and very intelligent," he told the Post, fighting back tears as he talked about the trouble she faced. "It was a difficult decision for her. She has said so, but she also said that all of us are afraid of the situation that's happening now in Mexico.

"She's in some danger, and she knows it," he added. "But she's very prepared and intelligent and going to do her new job in the best way possible."

Valles Garcia has a buck-stops-here attitude about the violence plaguing her town.  "I took the risk because I want my son to live in a different community to the one we have today," Valles Garcia said in a press conference after being sworn in Monday. "I want people to be able to go out without fear, as it was before."

The media have paid a lot of attention to what an unlikely candidate Valles Garcia is for the job, but she has serious ideas about policing, ones that impressed the mayor so much he offered her a job in the police department once before. She wants to build trust in the police force, in an environment where police corruption has been a serious problem in the past, and prevent crime by learning about and addressing the social problems behind it. One of her main goals is to build up the social fabric of her hometown by setting up school programs, giving classes on family violence, and encouraging neighbors to watch out for each other. She also wants to bring more women onto the force.

Valles Garcia’s story drives home the culture of fear besetting Mexican border towns. Border security is a big campaigning point in American politics, but it’s important to remember that beefed-up enforcement alone doesn’t really get to the root of the problem. South of the border, there are folks like Valles Garcia who face tougher challenges.

The Obama administration approved an infusion of $600 million in late August for border security operations that was supposed to curb drug-related violence from moving into the US, but so far it has barely made an impact on the drug cartels’ cash flow and overall power on either side of the border.

As Elise Foley reported for the Washington Independent:

Stemming the flow of cash is vital to efforts by the U.S. and Mexico to take down drug cartels, Bob Killebrew, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told TWI in a recent interview. Drug cartels depend on cash from wholesale drug sales to gangs in the U.S. Without it, they become more desperate and branch out into money-making measures with a less visible paper trail, such as kidnapping, he says.

“We need to reduce the money going to the cartels,” said Killebrew, the author of a CNAS report on national security and criminal drug networks that will be released in September. “As they strain to make more money, they’re more visible to law enforcement and can be knocked off.

Campus Progress’ own Julissa Treviño summed up the big picture point here in a post over the summer:

There are a lot of problems in Mexico, but let's not forget where part of the cartel violence comes from: U.S. drug consumers provide Mexican drug cartels with $31 billion each year to carry out their business, according to a Dissident Voicearticle. A problem of violence in Mexico is also a problem of drugs.

UBC's Downtown Eastside Gamelan Project

After peering through the window of Vancouver’s iconic Carnegie Community Centre in the Downtown Eastside, Mike entered a room where students from the University of British Columbia’s Applied Ethnomusicology course were hosting a gamelan music workshop. At first hesitant, he later joined me behind the xylophone. We each took one mallet and together played an improvised piece. At first, I followed his pattern, and then he followed my pattern, but by the end we were in unison and dialogue—we were playing the same pattern.

Here I was, an admittedly over-privileged Vancouverite who had spent nearly my whole life in the affluent Kitsilano neighbourhood sharing a traditional Indonesian music experience with a resident of the Downtown Eastside—the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. It was at that moment that I truly felt part of the city I loved so much. I was sitting, teaching, learning in a neighbourhood that I had been told was a vibrant community for the struggling “others” in our city—a basic contradiction I had never taken time to grasp.

In the fall of my senior year, I had a life-changing opportunity to participate in a one of a kind “community-service learning” course called Applied Ethnomusicology. I took the course on a limb, intrigued by a term I had never heard before and, as did many of my fellow students, I thought that the course was a guaranteed GPA booster. I did not expect to have a learning experience that truly transformed my perceptions of experiential learning as well as the city that I call home. 

Along with twelve of my fellow students, I helped organize a gamelan workshop for Downtown Eastside residents in efforts to use music and art to help enrich the atmosphere of the Downtown Eastside. The gamelan is a traditional Indonesian instrument that has recently been adopted in Western environments for therapeutic purposes. Led by our team leader Rod, a Masters student who specializes in the study of gamelan’s therapeutic benefits, we met for weekly rehearsals to learn how to play the gamelan’s various gongs, drums, and xylophones. At the same time as we were learning the instrument, we were organizing the workshop, reaching out to Downtown Eastside residents and finding community sponsors that would provide us with the necessary food and space for the four-day workshop. After weeks of rehearsals and planning, we were finally ready for the big week.

On the first day of the workshop I met an individual named Mike. He told me about how he had lost his arm after being electrocuted by a wire, an incident that occurred just a few blocks away from the Carnegie Community Centre.

For those who have never visited Vancouver before or for those who have visited but were told to avoid a street called “Hastings”, the statistics will probably shock you, but even so, they only scratch the surface of the pain and suffering taking place in this neighbourhood.

What was once the city centre of Vancouver in the late 19th and early 20th century is now known as the “poorest postal code in Canada”. According to a 2009 Globe and Mail estimate, the average income for a single income-earning individual living in the Downtown Eastside is just under $7,000 per year, compared to the Canadian average of $21,000. The United Nations has found that the Downtown Eastside has a Hepatitis C rate of 70 percent and a HIV rate of 30 percent—comparable to the HIV rate in Botswana. The neighbourhood is also home to a disproportionate number of Aboriginals, who make up an estimated 15 to 30 percent of residents. Aboriginal women have especially fallen victim to the drug trade and prostitution rings operating in the Downtown Eastside. Most notably, in 2007, serial killer William Pickton was found guilty of killing 26 of the 49 women. A large number of these women were Aboriginal sex workers.

The various levels of government have attempted to provide resources to the residents of the Downtown Eastside—but often through questionable measures. For example, the Globe and Mail estimates that 1.4 billion dollars have been spent on the Downtown Eastside, but when Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, the homeless in the area were rounded up and sent on one-way buses out of the city limits.

Despite all this suffering, there are many rays of hope. Individuals, such as Dr. Klisala Harrison and Savannah Walling have inspired movements that utilize art, music, and theatre to help in the healing process. Women’s shelters, legal aid organizations, and food banks operate on tight budgets and little financial incentive in order to protect the poor. The examples of these service providers is what brought my classmates and me to the Downtown Eastside to participate in both learning and teaching, sharing and healing.

While Mike did not end up staying for the whole four-day workshop, meeting Mike on the first day of the workshop made me realize that more people need to know about initiatives such as our gamelan workshop. It is an uplifting story and the experience gave me many insights into the possibilities of community service learning, and of how to break the barriers that exist within my city. My hope is that in the future, Vancouverites will succeed in taking down the walls of “difference” between the wealthy and the poor. To accomplish this, many more youth will need to broaden their perspectives, a few more community service learning projects will need to be made available, and a lot of support from all levels of government will need to take place. 

Mahatma Gandhi may have said it the best: “We must become the change we want to see in the world.” I can say from being a part of this project that the potential for positive change in the Downtown Eastside is undeniably there.

The Democratic Youth: The Generation of Disillusionment

As earlier reported on Extra Credit, the enthusiasm gap between Republican youth and Democratic youth appears to be widening in the the GOP's favor for the upcoming midterm elections.

Inevitably, in the following days and months after the midterms, the Democratic Party and its backers will undoubtedly search for an answer to this growing problem: Where did all the youth go, and how can the Democratic Party win them back?

The youth did not disappear as much as we became disillusioned with the American political process. The liberal/left youth in this country are physically exhausted from the relentless attacks from the right and are frustrated with the waffling leadership in Congress and the White House.

While not every liberally inclined “youth” voter is the same, I feel as if I accurately represent the mean. I am 24; the first election where I legally voted was in '04. I am a baby of Reagan, a toddler of H.W. Bush and a child of Clinton—but I grew up and came of age under the regime of George W.

The fabled youth in America—and the other 69.4 million Americans who voted for Barack Obama in 2008—were not looking for a continuation of triangulation, or the failed neo-liberal past that brought us to the brink of a depression—but a new beginning, dare I say a revolution, within the political process and society. Yes, the majority of new voters were naïve to believe that such a revolution was possible in this post-modern age, but this is what the Democrats implied through their optimistic rhetoric and imagery in 2008.

In believing the Democrats would be able to fundamentally change our lives and make a difference, we gave the Democrats filibuster proof majorities in the House and Senate in order to implement our expectations. But instead of getting transformative leaders, we elected a party of dithers—who acted as if they were a minority-ruling party.

In two short years, the Democrats inexplicitly sold out our ideals and convictions—convictions and ideals the party ran on—to an illegitimate, reactionary adversary in the Republican Party.

However, the final straw for me, as a youth voter, was the healthcare bill—where we the people were sold out by the Obama administration.

According to former Senator and Majority Leader Tom Daschle's new book Getting It Done: How Obama and Congress Finally Broke the Stalemate to Make Way for Health Care Reform, the Obama administration compromised with the insurance companies just days after his inauguration. The compromise included the exclusion of a public option: the basic provision for any legitimate, universal healthcare system.

If the Democrats’ only prerogative with the healthcare bill was to produce a piece of paper of half-measures to parade around the country as a report card for the midterms—then they should have revealed this to the voters in 2008.

The Democratic Party, in its waffling away of a filibuster proof majority in Congress, revealed themselves to be the perfect party for an ever increasingly failed political system—where the convictions and beliefs of the majority are trumped by those with corporate or minority-self interests.

Despite attempts from the Democratic Party to reach out to youth, the growing numbers of disenchanted youth are not convinced that they should still feel enthusiastic about voting and participating in democracy if the organs pulling the strings continually reveal themselves to be fraudulent.

While I hope that youth do show up at the polls to vote on November 2, if the turnout is disappointing, the Democratic Party only has itself to blame for growing youth malaise and apathy.

The “Privilege” of Being a Student at a Corporate University

Disagreeing with someone who has given you a lot makes for some tough love.

In recent pieces in the Yale Daily News, I read, not for the first time, that “we ought to be thankful for the privilege of attending Yale” and that the exponential increase in our endowment under University President Richard Levin is “something that we ought to be grateful for, not resent.” The implication is that, since Yale has done a lot for us and a lot for the world, Yale deserves to make whatever financial decisions it deems necessary.

Those particular words were in response to a protest organized by the Undergraduate Organizing Committee which criticized the University’s decision to give President Levin a $350,000 raise in 2008, in the context of its more recent decision to raise the student “self-help” contribution to tuition—the amount that all students receiving financial aid have to pay out of pocket—by $400 per year. The UOC sought to reignite public attention and mobilize action around this change in financial aid policy made without formal announcement or student input.

There are two types of arguments that I’ve heard in response to the UOC's action. The first is that President Levin deserves to be compensated for the wealth that he has brought to the University’s coffers over the course of his tenure. The second is that students have no right to complain about a comparatively minimal spike in student costs.

The first argument, within a meritocratic framework, is entirely justified. President Levin deserves significant credit not only for the financial growth of the University, but also for Yale’s world-class financial aid system and for a relaxing of historical tensions between Yale and City Hall. The second argument is sort of justified, too. Many students, myself included, would not be at Yale if it weren’t for Yale’s 2008 decision to eliminate most tuition fees for students whose combined parental income is below $60,000 and to reduce tuition for families earning up to $200,000.

These arguments appear compelling, and yet, if we were speaking about national political economy, and not about our university, my guess is that more students might raise questions about Yale’s spending decisions.

Many students, like a majority of Americans, are outraged that executives of large financial institutions receiving government relief have given themselves massive multi-million dollar bonuses. And many progressives believe that we should raise taxes on the wealthiest segments of the population while investing in jobs and healthcare for working families.

Of course, Yale didn’t receive a bailout, and Yale’s investment policies didn’t single-handedly bring down the economy. But debate about bonuses, endowments, and financial aid is not one of numbers and budgets—but of values. Our view of a just society, in which money and resources should be used to generate security and opportunity for the non-upper classes and purchasing power for consumers, does not, in the minds of many, apply to Yale.

On a political level, I think that this mindset is wrong. Within the private sector, we need to rely on Yale to continue to set the tone as a leader in financial aid and equal educational opportunity. In order to be competitive, other corporations and educational institutions will be forced to follow Yale’s lead.

From the perspective of a student, this argument becomes more personal. Though its $16 billion endowment is greater than the GDP of a number of small countries, Yale is fundamentally an educator, not a money-maker. If Yale wants to be sincere about the positive change that its wealth and innovation have produced, then it had better make a sincere commitment to engage in open dialogue with its constituents. Calls by the UOC for more transparency in the creation of financial aid policy and some student involvement in the process have repeatedly been ignored by the President’s office. Announcements that the University needs to “trim the fat” and “make tough choices” have not been paired with a meaningful commitment to conversation with those directly affected by cuts to our budget. As students and families are already working hard to finance their education, this lack of two-way communication is a tough bargain.

The real privilege of being at Yale is the imperative to reflect rigorously on our relationship as students at a rich university to the city and the world around us. The real privilege is to be at the gates of power with the opportunity to let others inside. Some may resist our efforts to do so—because, they say, Yale has already done enough in these supposedly tough times—but I hope we’re not afraid to stand up for our ideals.

Islam on Trial

Today my Twitter feed tells me that Paranormal Activity 2 and Justin Bieber are trending worldwide, I beg to differ. Instead, I’d like to propose that the present-day trending buzzphrases sound a little something like: Islamophobia, Burn-A-Qu’ran Day, Ground Zero Mosque and, something that I hope will never come to trend globally—Terry Jones’s prodigious, mid-70s-pornstar ‘stache.

Even though I am a Muslim-Pakistani-Canadian female, the above-mentioned topics are not the sole issues that define me. Instead, like most students one semester away from obtaining their undergraduate degree, most of my mental radar is occupied with thoughts on what to do come May when I will be thrown into the “real world” with graduation ceremonies as my initiating rite into society.

Having spent most of my adolescent years as part of Vancouver’s sizeable South Asian community, I effectively remained immune from the polarizing us vs. them mentality until university. Even as I sat in my Grade 8 Math class watching the Twin Towers disappear in a debris of dust I could not have fathomed that exactly nine years later I would find myself in the midst of a Judge Judy-episode-gone-wrong with Islam as the defendant.

There is no doubt that we should be alert and aware of what is happening to our Muslim brothers and sisters on both an international and national level. But sensationalized topics such as a small-town church congregation of 30 to 40 individuals headed by a media-savvy pastor looking to debase Islam’s most valuable possession, The Qur’an, are not the sole issues that concern Muslims in this nation.

Growing up, I had a series of on and off again flirtations with my faith. Like most teenagers in our society, I was searching for a sense of community and a place to embed my roots. This security came to me in the form of Islam as both an institution and as a way of life.

Today, despite the spotlight on my faith and the people of my faith, I am constructing my own personal Islam. Even though I see my religion as an omnipresent facet of life it is still a sacrosanct sector that I wish to keep separate from politics of the state and media scrutiny.

But in a time when Sarah Palin’s Tweets over the proposed Park51 Islamic community center are spewed at  conveyor belt-like regularity and considered worthy of national air-time, I am no longer afforded the luxury of practicing my religion in a separate, personal bubble. Perhaps, in a time when the hatred incited by a small-town Florida church pastor is able to compel a riot halfway across the world in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, I am morally obligated to stir out of my state of passivity.

Some of the stereotypes about Islam are true. The way some Muslims practice Islam is far from ideal. The religion that I love and wish to defend so strongly is often interpreted in a warped manner by a misguided Muslim minority. This helps explain why 48 percent of Americans hold negative opinions towards their fellow Muslim citizens.

But within this atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust on both sides there exists an opportunity to nurture, heal and grow together. I find that people want to learn and they want to see beyond the stereotypes generated on the evening news.

And in a time such as ours, when actions from both sides of the spectrum can be easily misinterpreted as hostile, I propose using words as tools. And even though I am unable to outline a foolproof plan of action, I can assert the importance of the ability to negotiate and compromise, which is key to all successful human relationships.

The opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims to function in a peaceful, democratic co-existence is not a far-fetched dream. In 1580 at the height of the Mughal Empire, a Muslim ruler, Akbar the Great, successfully made India, the "land of a hundred tongues", a stronger and more unified nation. Possibly one of the greatest social experiments in history, Akbar’s interfaith religious campaign is testament to the fact that through sustained discourse, respect for individual faiths and an inclusive and tolerant outlook, our present-day society too can bring  people together and resolve conflict.

Whether it is through the mediums of social media or the old-fashioned conversations over the water cooler—it is our words that may ultimately salve some of our grievances.

University Enrolls Illegal Immigrants

Five undocumented immigrants joined the freshman class this year, according to La Casa Latina, the cultural resource center for Latino students.

While most students arrive on campus ready to share their stories with roommates and friends, these five students took extra precaution to ensure that they kept part of their background secret—their immigration status.

Undocumented immigrants are individuals who are not US citizens or legal residents but live in the United States. The Urban Institute, an independent analysis center, estimates that 65,000 undocumented students graduate from US high schools every year. Although there is no federal or state law that prohibits universities from admitting undocumented immigrants, many assume that they cannot legally attend college because they are not eligible for federal financial aid.

In recent years, there have been a number of undocumented immigrant students at Penn, according to La Casa Latina Associate Director America Espinal. The five who arrived this year were initially brought to La Casa’s attention through the Admissions Office, which gives the center a list of undocumented immigrant students to reach out to at the beginning of each year, according to Espinal.

Dean of Admissions Eric Furda declined to comment, and Student Financial Services spokeswoman Marlene Bruno maintained that her office was unaware of undocumented students at Penn.

When working with a student who is not a citizen or permanent resident, Penn's Student Financial Services will not include federal aid as part of the need-based financial aid package, according to Penn’s Office of the General Counsel.

According to La Casa Director JohnFive undocumented immigrants joined the freshman class this yeany Irizarry, private institutions such as Penn have the capacity to support undocumented students. “The Ivies have the resources to do that,” he said. “They have the private donations that can allow them to be more welcoming.”

The full article is available at the Daily Pennsylvanian.

Georgia Bans Undocumented Students From Top Schools

Georgia's university system just voted this week to ban undocumented students from enrolling in five of the most prestigious state colleges

Several states have been debating whether to allow undocumented students to attend college, and on what terms.  In 2008,  USA Today reported that: 

In the past two years, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Oklahoma have refused in-state tuition benefits to students who entered the USA illegally with their parents but grew up and went to school in the state. That represents a reversal from earlier this decade, when 10 states passed laws allowing in-state rates for such students. 

This summer, South Carolina became the first state to bar undocumented students from all public colleges and universities.

North Carolina's community colleges in May ordered its 58 campuses to stop enrolling undocumented students after the state attorney general said admitting them may violate federal law.

There are two debates going on here: whether students who’ve lived in the state for a significant portion of their lives, but don’t have citizenship status, should qualify for in-state tuition—and, more radically, whether they should be permitted to enroll in state schools at all. 

Georgia’s decision is also part of a larger push that’s been gaining momentum over the past year to block undocumented students from the educational system on all levels.

A number of public elementary and high schools have been taking steps to gather information on students’ citizenship status and to discourage undocumented students from attending. One Iowa gubernatorial candidate has even been campaigning on the idea of overturning Plyler vs. Doe, the Supreme Court decision that established the right to K-12 education for all children regardless of immigration status.

Unfortunately, these critics seem to be missing the point that education is a cornerstone of integration and positive citizenship. 

These kids are here now, regardless of what papers their parents have, and giving them the chance to get an American education is both the most moral and the most cost-efficient way to address the situation.

Let’s take the German education system as a cautionary tale. Germany’s been in denial about its huge influx of immigrants until recently, despite admitting a steady flow of immigrant workers since the 1950s, and the country's multicultural growing pains are coming to a head after years of an education system that tends to exclude minorities from college-track schooling.

In the German education system, you have to take a test arond age 10 that determines whether you track towards vocational, professional, or college education—and if students have recently immigrated and their German isn't strong, or their parents need them to join the workforce sooner to help the family out, they're probably headed for the vocational track.

Der Spiegel raised this point when the 2006 PISA study results revealed a huge achievement gap between German students and those with a "migration background." 

Specific criticism was levelled at the German and Austrian school systems for their practice of separating students by achievement at the age of 10. In Germany, this means that high-achieving students are placed in university track schools after the fourth grade and lower achieving students are essentially blocked from ever attending university. Many of the third-tier schools in Germany's three-level system become collection points for under-achievers, problem students and foreign students. Poor conditions at such schools have recently been splashed across the headlines in German papers.

It seems, four years down the road, that occupational segregation hasn’t exactly built social harmony, either.  

Let me break that down another way:

Anti-immigrant sentiment today -> banning kids from education system -> professional segregation -> less integration -> pundits and politicians blame immigrants for not integrating -> rise in xenophobia -> less security and social stability for everyone on the whole.

Does any of that sound like a good idea? 

Penn Democrats Register 1,300 New Voters

This semester, student political groups Penn Leads the Vote and Penn Democrats registered a combined 1,341 students to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. At just 180 short of the 1,521 student voters in 2006, the numbers suggest potential for high voter turnout. The number does not include students who registered last semester, sent registration forms through the mail themselves and students who did not need to re-register due to a change of address.

These high registration numbers are promising, according to Peter Levine, director of the Tufts University-based Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, which studies youth voting trends.

According to CIRCLE’s analysis of Census 2010 data, 86.8 percent of college students who were registered in 2008 actually voted, and “most of the pundits’ chatter about low interest by young people is either mere speculation or comes from comparing 2010 to the height of the 2008 presidential campaign,” Levine wrote in an e-mail.

However, he also cautioned against conflating a higher registration rate with a larger number of registrations done by organizers. “Lots of people do not register through groups, and sometimes when organizations register people, those people would have registered anyway,” Levine wrote.

According to Penn Dems President and College junior Emma Ellman-Golan, the group registered 250 new voters and re-registered 250 students whose addresses had changed.

“We’re really glad to see registration numbers go up,” Ellman-Golan said, adding that “young people traditionally vote Democrat, and I don’t think that’s changing this year.”

The full article is available at the Daily Pennsylvanian.


Syndicate content