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

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

I-75 blockade

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

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out September 29 and October 14. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Occupying SLU

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

—Kat Carroll

2. Storming City Hall

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

—Nay’Chelle Harris

3. The I-75 Blockade

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

—Natalia Hall and Zakkiyya Anderson

4. The Return to Campus

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

—Jasmine Bertrand-Halidy and Josh Odam

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

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

—Philadelphia Student Union

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

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

—a.t. furuya

7. At Miami U, Reality Confronts George Will

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

—Jordan Rubin-McGregor

8. How Many Asses for a Kentucky Vote?

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

—Ryan Hidalgo

9. Whose Iowa?

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

—Melissa Zimdars

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

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

—Mission Playground Is Not for Sale

Can Student Credit Unions Solve the College Affordability Problem?

Columbia University Library.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Read Next: Poly, NYU’s Latest Global Venture in Building ‘Innovation’ on the Backs of Low-wage Workers

Poly, NYU’s Latest Global Venture in Building ‘Innovation’ on the Backs of Low-wage Workers

Students at NYU Poly.

Students participate in a "hackathon" put on by NYU Polytechnic, the MTA, and AT&T. (Creative Commons, photo: MTA/Patrick Cashin)

When The New York Times recently exposed the abusive treatment of construction workers at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, people all over the world reacted with disgust to a growing pattern at NYU: employing what the university calls “innovation” on the backs of low-wage, precarious workers. While the NYU Abu Dhabi situation has received well-deserved attention, a lesser known example of worker-exploitation exists right here in New York City, at the NYU-Polytechnic School of Engineering. Touted by university administrators and city officials alike as a hub of economic development, much of this innovation happens through the creative, hard work of hundreds of low-wage graduate student employees engaged in cutting-edge experimental research ranging from solving urban transportation problems to developing improved medical technologies, clean energy technologies and storm resilience.

At Poly, new research and patents have generated $250 million and 900 new jobs for the New York City economy and helped bring around $20 million a year to NYU in research grants and contracts. NYU has compiled a long list of international conference presentations, grants, awards and more achieved in the recent past by Poly researchers, many of them graduate students, but the graduate student workers who help make those projects happen for the university, the city and beyond get paid as little as $10 per hour and are struggling to make ends meet on low wages and non-existent benefits.

Unlike the workers at NYU Abu Dhabi, however, graduate employees won the right to collective bargaining through the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/UAW (GSOC/UAW) and have been engaged in negotiations with NYU for a first contract since February. Unfortunately, the administration has so far failed to put an offer on the table considered fair by student organizers and more than 1,000 NYU and Poly GSOC/UAW members have signed a letter demanding that NYU raise graduate employee wages and greatly improve access to health benefits.

The fact that NYU makes graduate student workers at Poly pay for healthcare and tuition—over $18,000 per semester—is particularly egregious because at NYU’s Washington Square campus the majority of graduate students don’t have to pay any fees when they work as teachers and researchers alongside their studies. If NYU is really so proud of what we do as graduate workers, it should stop treating those of us at Poly like second-class members of our own university.

It gets worse. Many student workers at Poly are international students, primarily from India and China, who travel across the world to pursue a Master’s degree and who on occasion must resort to working under the table for restaurants and gas stations to make ends meet because their visas make it legally challenging for them to work off-campus. International students are often referred to Poly by “educational consultants” who help them apply to the school in exchange for a large fee, which renders them highly vulnerable to the fear that if they complain about anything, they risk having their financial aid packages revoked.

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After the Abu Dhabi scandal broke, NYU issued a poorly written apology to the workers. At Poly, workers have the opportunity to win something much better, a legally binding contract with fair wages and benefits that would enable Poly to actually become the global center for innovation that NYU claims it to be, and that we all want Poly to be in reality.


Read Next:It’s Time for Everyone to Come Out of the Debt Closet

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 10/16/14?

Capt. Ron Johnson.

Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, left, answers questions as Governor Jay Nixon listens during a news conference in Ferguson, Missouri. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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

Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany,” by Peter Maas and Laura Poitras. The Intercept, October 10, 2014.

With how little privacy we have, perhaps we are desensitized when more revelations occur. Our desensitization started with Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. It was our first foray into covert worlds in the twenty-first century. It marked a new era in the government’s targeting its information drones on the Internet and beyond. That was just the beginning, as Edward Snowden has shattered any and all beliefs that our rights and privacy as citizens are respected. Much of the NSA’s invasion of our privacy is usually thought of as an intangible intrusion, via hacking and collusion with telecommunications and technology companies. But as this Intercept article reveals, the quest for more access may involve the physical sphere, with convert agents using “physical subversion” as a new method of gaining access to data. It turns out the CIA and the NSA have more in common than we think.

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

The Economics of Palestinian Liberation,” by Raja Khalidi. Jacobin, October 15, 2014.

I appreciate Jacobin’s coverage of Palestinian politics because it has prioritized the complexities within Palestinian society over those broad-strokes narratives through which we discuss Israeli-Palestinian history. Every national struggle, as the author explains (with the help of Fanon), is necessarily rife with contradictions. However, there are few places on the media (leftist publications included), where these contradictions are not cynically used to unfairly dismiss dissent as fundamentally flawed, and few where those contradictions can be used to help that dissent to evolve and adapt in the context of changing political constellations.

Also, unrelated, but Nikil Saval’s “Bartlebys All” in the most recent issue of Dissent feels so relevant, or at least it does from this cubicle. If you enjoy this you should also check out his book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace.

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

Appropriation vs. Appreciation,” by Browntourage and Mohammed Fayaz. Interrupt, September 23, 2014.

Last Halloween, my friends and I were standing outside a tropical bass party on the Lower East Side when we got into an argument with a drunk white woman in a Pocahontas costume. The suggestion that her costume might be racist incensed her, and the conversation quickly escalated, culminating in her sob-yelling, “You’re fucking racist!” and walking away. All of that might have been avoided if she’d just read an article like this “illustrated style guide” to “Appropriation vs. Appreciation.” Halloween is just around the corner, which means it’s a good time to remind ourselves that “appropriation continues patterns of disempowering groups that are already marginalized.”

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

A Wrongful Conviction Robbed William Lopez of His Freedom, and Then His Life,” by Liliana Segura. The Intercept, October 8, 2014.

Where so many wrongful conviction stories are framed as redemption narratives, Liliana Segura’s latest story lingers on the continued hardships of life after a conviction is vacated and a long-time prisoner is released. Writing in The Intercept, Segura explores the life and untimely death of William Lopez, a man who spent twenty-three years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of killing a drug dealer. Lopez’s case had all the “classic hallmarks of a wrongful conviction: a dearth of physical evidence, a prosecutor who withheld exculpatory evidence, hapless defense attorneys, a hostile judge,” but even after his release, Segura notes, he was still hounded by attempts to retry him and had trouble adjusting to life on the outside. On top of all that, Segura writes, “prison is like a debilitating illness; it literally speeds up the aging process.” And in Lopez’s case, the toll that prison took on his health killed him before he had a chance to receive any restitution from the state for what it did to him.

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

Let John Oliver and Jeff Goldblum Show You How Police Commit ‘Legalized Robbery’

Did you know that if the police ever stop you for anything, ever, they can take all your cash? They can take your car, your home and any other goods they deem valuable, and even if you are innocent, you may never get it back. This is because in order to seize assets from a citizen, there is no legal requirement that the police arrest you, charge you, that the property seized be related to any crime, or that you be found guilty of any crime. This process is called civil forfeiture, and it is unregulated and so far, completely sanctioned under current law. Amazingly, knowledge of this practice is limited, although it is widely experienced. Civil forfeiture has been covered every now and again in the media, but has never ignited public passions. That is, hopefully, until now. John Oliver, former Daily Show correspondent and host of Last Week Tonight, has taken up the issue. In one of his show’s incredibly well researched and edited segments, he introduces the issue to millions of Americans. This segment is a must-watch. Check out The Washington Post’s recent investigation into civil forfeiture that John Oliver cites as a source in this segment for more comprehensive information.

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

Search who’s giving money to Cuomo, Astorino in race for NY governor,” by Michelle Breidenbach. Syracuse.com, October 15, 2014.

Syracuse.com—Syracuse, New York’s online news operation—has built an interactive database to look up contributions to Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Rob Astorino’s campaigns in New York’s gubernatorial race. I think this is worth showcasing, because it’s a great example of public-service journalism that helps ordinary citizens and journalists keep an eye on politicians. Unfortunately, money plays an important role in US politics, so people must watch how finances are influencing or could influence their government.

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

The Future of the Culture Wars is Here, and It’s Gamergate,” by Kyle Wagner. Deadspin, October 14, 2014.

This is worth a read even if you haven’t been following Gamergate, which is fully explained and described (as “a mutant variant of the traditional American grievance movement”) in the article, if you’re not already familiar. Wagner draws an interesting parallel between gamers responsible for the Gamergate plague and other relatively small groups with outsize pull on public discourse, like Tea Partiers. “Co-opting the language and posture of grievance,” Wagner writes, “is how members of a privileged class express their belief that the way they live shouldn’t have to change, that their opponents are hypocrites and perhaps even the real oppressors.”

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

The Death Penalty, Missouri and the Continued Devaluing of Black Life,” by William C. Anderson. Truthout, October 14, 2014.

This week, a thoughtful article from my friend William C. Anderson in Truthout, asks us to consider the “pageantry of black death” when police brutality (more accurately, fatality) and extrajudicial killing of black bodies are the seemingly ubiquitous backdrop to American life. Anderson makes linkages between the killing of Mike Brown and the resistance movement that came from Ferguson and the spectacle of cruel and unusual punishment that has quietly taken over the American South: the botched and mishandled executions of death-row inmates. How can we think about black bodies implicated in the prison-industrial complex? How can we begin to think about justice for these bodies, stolen from us by the state?

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

Black and Blue,” by Jamelle Bouie. Slate, October 13, 2014

In the days following the shooting of slain black teen Michael Brown, the public learned that Ferguson Police Department was nearly 95 percent white, although Ferguson is 67 percent black. When questioned by the media about the lack of diversity among the police officers, Mayor James Knowles explained, “There’s also the problem that a lot of young African-American people don’t want to go into law enforcement. They already have this disconnect with law enforcement, so if we find people who want to go into law enforcement who are African-American we’re all over it because we want them to help us bridge the gap.” In this compelling article, Jamelle Bouie addresses the perception that hiring black cops will solve the issue of police brutality. As revealed in his article, the focus on demographics should center on which racial groups reside in a city. The fact is, more black residents in any city yield more police shootings. This is true particularly for young black males between the ages of 15 and 19. They are twenty-one times more likely to be shot and killed by the police than white males of the same ages. Police are physical representations of the institutions that manage racial control, regardless of the race of the police officer. Hiring more black officers will not solve the legacy of racial discrimination; it begins with dismantling the training practices and cultures of all police.

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

Battered, Bereaved and Behind Bars,” by Alex Campbell. Buzzfeed, October 2, 2014.

Arlena Lindley’s boyfriend is serving a life sentence (with the possibility of parole) for killing her son. She is serving forty-five years for “failing to protect” her child from the man who repeatedly beat her and once stuffed her in a trunk. In this unsettling and thoroughly researched narrative, Campbell explores the way in which many state laws punish women for not being able to defend their children or themselves from the men who abuse them.


Read Next: It’s time for everyone to come out of the debt coset

It’s Time for Everyone to Come Out of the Debt Closet

A student protestor poses with chalk graffiti.

An NYU student at an action to protest student debt called "Coming Out of the Debt Closet." (Photo courtesy of the NYU Queer Union)

This piece originally appeared at the NYU Local and is reposted here with permission.

Yesterday, in the shadow of Washington Square Park’s arc de triomphe, sixty NYU students stepped bravely out of the Debt Closet. This event, the enterprising lovechild of NYU’s Student & Labor Action Movement (SLAM) and the Queer Union, marked the second anniversary of “Coming Out of the Debt Closet,” a project aimed at breaking the silence of student debt.

For many of us, the word “debt” is a dirty word, tabooed in casual conversation. We don’t like to think about it, and we certainly don’t like to talk about it. This, however, is exactly the stigma “Coming Out of the Debt Closet” strives to eradicate. The project, as Queer Union e-board member AJ Stone Jonathan put it, is about “making that symbolic step towards breaking the silence which surrounds student debt.

“If you don’t talk about it, things aren’t going to change,” they added.

And, as the statistics from yesterday show, things need to change. From the mere 60 participants of this year’s event, SLAM and Queer Union calculated a net debt to the tune of $4,256,876—that averages to $70,950 per student. The staggering height of these numbers makes them almost abstract, distant from the everyday reality of Bobst all-nighters and street cart dumplings. There is nothing abstract, however, about the implications of a 70,000 dollar set-back upon graduating college.

At the current juncture, NYU appears to be doing little to help its students with their debilitating debt. Most of the “extra” resources of the university instead are filtered into ‘emergency funds,’ our sites abroad, and, of course, the infamous 2031 plan. The obscene figures of the venture—such as $6 billion in total expenditure—reveal, perhaps, the reason for our laughable financial aid and expansive tuition.

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With “Coming Out of the Debt Closet,” SLAM and the Queer Union are also acting against this stagnancy in the administration’s stand on student debt. They strongly believe an education should not be the financial burden it has become. Above all, however, they want to get students talking, and talking early. They want to eradicate the stigma from its source. To do this, they need the voices of NYU students, current and past. As Queer Union secretary Olivia Creamer put it with solemn conviction, the issue is “everyone’s problem, and everyone needs to work together to do something about it.”

To get involved with the discussion of student debt, reach out to SLAM, speak up, and make a stand.

Read Next: From St. Louis to South LA, American Youth Move the Movement


From St. Louis to South LA, American Youth Move the Moment

Ferguson October

Ferguson October (Photo: Howard Koplowitz, IBT)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out September 15 and September 29. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Moving a Moment

From October 10 through 13, thousands of people from across the United States gathered in Ferguson and St. Louis, Missouri, for a Weekend of Resistance that arose from protests against the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the violent police crackdown in the days following his death and the larger issue of police violence against the black community. Marches, convenings and nonviolent direct actions united a wide spectrum of causes—from labor to climate justice—as part of building a national movement against racism and police violence. At the forefront of the weekend were youth, who have led the Ferguson protests since Brown’s death in August—despite being assaulted with tear gas and arrest. Students and young people, including activists from Millennial Activists United and Lost Voices, led mass protests in both Ferguson and St. Louis in honor of Brown, Vonderrit Meyers and Kajieme Powell—two local youth killed by police—and other victims of police violence. Moving forward, we are working to build local coalitions—from student networks like St. Louis Students in Solidarity to the strengthening of relationships among young activists in St. Louis, Ferguson and other areas of St. Louis County—to build upon the momentum gained over the weekend.

—Nay’Chelle Harris

2. Demilitarizing America

On October 3, as thousands prepared to head to Ferguson, students of the Community Rights Campaign in Los Angeles held a vigil, “From Ferguson to LA: Demilitarize Our Communities,” to honor the lives of the many young people who have died at the hands of law enforcement. The program that supplies military weaponry to St. Louis, the Department of Defense’s 1033, recently delivered a Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicle, sixty-six rifles and three grenade launchers to the Los Angeles School Police Department. Los Angeles schools are not a war zone. We demand an immediate return of all the weapons and a complete inventory of the weapons the LASPD has in its possession. Over the past eight years, we have fought successfully to curb truancy ticketing, ban the use of willful defiance and secure a new police protocol to decriminalize student discipline. Now, we are ready to demilitarize LAUSD and all police and build a movement for power and respect for black and brown communities.

—Laura Aguilar

3. Cutting the Pipeline

On October 5, as part of the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s Week of Action Against School Pushout, the Missouri GSA Network led a march from Normandy High School, Mike Brown’s alma mater, to the Ferguson police department, chanting, “I deserve an education, don’t set me up for incarceration!” On Wednesday, we held a speakout on experiences with school pushout and the school to prison pipeline. On Saturday, in coordination with Ferguson October, we started a chalk walk about a world without pushout and followed with a march and rally with hundreds of screenprinted shirts with messages about justice and the school to prison pipeline. Later that day, we held a trans teach-in to discuss the intersection of criminalization, race and trans identities and ended with a celebration of our ongoing organizing at the St. Louis City Museum.

—Sterling Waldman

4. In Philadelphia, Students Walk Out—Again

On October 6, Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission voted to unilaterally cancel the Philadelphia Federation of Teacher’s contract, forcing teachers to contribute to their health insurance plans—after they had already taken a two year pay freeze and have been contributing their own money to classroom supplies. Two days later, more than 300 students from Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, alongside students from the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, went on strike in solidarity with our teachers. We met at 8 am and spent the next four hours chanting and flyering to passersby to call for the reinstatement of the contract. Superintendent Hite, Governor Corbett and the SRC have been pushing a rhetoric of “shared sacrifice,” but the sacrifice is nothing close to being shared. School district staff have given $70 million in concessions this year while Harrisburg has given $12 million. This is an attack on workers, the poor, children of color and the city of Philadelphia. We stand in solidarity with our teachers and demand the SRC reinstate PFT’s old contract and continue negotiations toward a new one.

—RubyJane Anderson

5. In Hartford, Jane Doe Rises

After months of solitary confinement without charges at York Correctional, a women’s prison, Connecticut ward “Jane Doe,” a Latina transgender 16-year-old, has now had to endure months of further solitary confinement at CT Juvenile Training School, a facility for delinquent boys. Jane is a survivor of horrific abuses at the hands of Department of Children and Families staff and people with whom she was placed by DCF. On September 27, supporters—including the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, the New Haven LGBTQ+ Youth Kickback, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Black and Pinkmarched to the state capitol, the most recent of several actions in Hartford. Some youth who have been through DCF have told their own stories in addition to advocating for Jane. The Justice For Jane movement is demanding the immediate removal of Jane from CJTS and her placement with a loving family, more than ten of whom have reached out with offers to adopt her. Additionally, the coalition is demanding that DCF Commissioner Joette Katz be fired, that CT statute 17a-12, which allows DCF to imprison children without charges, be overturned and that there be an independent investigation launched into DCF’s abuses. On October 14, there will be an all-day call-in to Governor Dannel Malloy’s office with demands to free Jane.

—IV Staklo

6. Umbrellas for Hong Kong

On October 2, seventy students supporting Hong Kong’s Occupy Central Movement gathered at a pro-democracy rally at the University of California–Davis. We wanted to show solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong and stage a public forum on the movement with an emphasis on the true motives of the “Umbrella Movement.” Although the movement has received significant media attention worldwide, most news reports focus on police brutality rather than on the demand of the protestors—genuine universal suffrage, a fulfillment of the Chinese government’s promises and respect for people’s basic human right of unbiased elections. While supporters in other countries cannot actively participate in the protests, we can mobilize in support of the movement.

—Kenneth Chen and Kimberly Mitchell

7. Questions for Iguala

Six days after the forty-third anniversary of the Tlatelolco massacre, students across the world protested an all-too-familiar attempt by the Mexican government to silence their voices. Police were involved in the disappearance of forty-three student teachers in Iguala, allegedly handing them to the Guerreros Unidos cartel. In solidarity with the Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education and demonstrations against the Mexican government’s history of violent reactions to student dissidence, members of the Michigan Student Power Network and MSU Students United traveled to the Mexican consulate in Detroit to deliver a letter demanding that the government return the students alive and punish those responsible for their disappearance. After reiterating the letter’s demands to the deputy consul, he attempted to shift culpability to organized crime—the seemingly preferred pretext. This answer is no longer satisfying. The Mexican people demand a government that is corruption-free, transparent, accountable and accepting of criticism; we will work to build pressure until such democracy is reached.

—Lizbeth Bermúdez-López

8. The Free Speech Movement, Continued

On October 1, the 50th Anniversary of the University of California–Berkeley’s arrest of a student during the Free Speech Movement, the Cal Progressive Coalition held a sit-on at the home of Capital Projects, steps away from Sproul Hall where Mario Savio and many others answered the call to put their bodies on the gears. Our coalition formed around the anniversary to tell the story of the ongoing struggles that have made gains in spite of UC’s policy of repressing dissenting voices. The sit-in protested the privatized commercial development of UC-owned historic farmland, now slated to become a big-box, union-busting grocer. After six hours of negotiation, we won two key demands for one of our coalition members, Students for Engaged and Active Learning—a meeting with the chancellor and release of key documents—which will help them build a food initiative on all twenty acres of this historic farmland. We will continue resisting impending tuition and fee hikes, the exploitation of workers, the oligarchy of UC Regents, institutional relationships with petrochemical conglomerates, the speculative investment of tuition dollars, the arming of campus police with tactical weaponry and the installment of Janet Napolitano as UC president—struggles against privatization and violence that connect the FSM with an ongoing history of movements after 1964 tackling injustice at UC.

—Cal Progressive Coalition

9. The New Hillel

From October 11 to 13, student organizers with the Open Hillel movement hosted an unprecedented conference to discuss the Jewish community’s relationship to Israel and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Open Hillel is a student-run campaign to challenge the red lines that limit debate on the conflict in the Jewish community. Among other things, Hillel’s Jewish campus centers are required to exclude groups and individuals who support nonviolent resistance through boycott, divestment and sanctions from Israel. More than 350 people gathered at Harvard to hear from a diverse set of students, experts, activists and scholars, including Judith Butler, Peter Beinart, Rashid Khalidi and three Jewish veterans of the 1964 Freedom Summer. The conference kicked off campaigns to organize transgressive events in campus Hillels, including a speaking tour with the Jewish civil rights veterans whose views on Palestine violate Hillel’s current “Standards of Partnership.”

—Naomi Dann and Sandra Korn

10. When Will Justice for John Crawford Be Served?

Editor’s note: Following the police killing of John Crawford at a Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart and subsequent non-indictment of the shooter, the Ohio Student Association took over Beavercreek police headquarters. In solidarity, organizers in Ferguson have since shut down three Walmarts. (Video: TYT Nation)

—Ohio Student Association

Affirmative Consent as State Law in California

A UCLA student.

A student walks on the University of California Los Angeles campus in Los Angeles. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) 

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Tar Heel and is republished here with permission.

As UNC and other campuses nationwide engage in sexual assault policymaking efforts, California has become the first state to enact a new consent standard for colleges and universities in hopes of changing the culture surrounding sexual violence.

On September 28, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a statewide “yes means yes” law for institutions that receive state money. The law stipulates that the person accused of sexual assault must prove that a clear affirmation of consent was given by the accuser.

Christi Hurt, UNC’s assistant vice chancellor and chief of staff of student affairs, said she supports many aspects of the California law. She said UNC’s campus-specific policy and its definition of consent align with provisions in the California law underscoring the importance of affirmative consent instead of a definitive “no.”

“I think any move to encourage the concept around affirmative consent and striving towards healthy sexuality is exactly the direction we need to be moving toward for the country,” she said.

North Carolina could benefit from a statewide law or policy regarding affirmative consent, she said, but there could also be problems with such a legal standard.

“Building a policy that worked for our university—it was so important to listen to students, staff and faculty,” she said. “I hesitate to put anything in place for any other campus because a policy should reflect the needs of each individual university.”

Laura Palumbo, prevention campaign specialist for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said a statewide policy in any state would convey more benefits than drawbacks.

“It’s changing the standard from the idea that the sexually assaulted person needs to prove a ‘no’ to making the standard of positive, enthusiastic communication of consent,” she said. “The responsibility that (the standard) puts on campuses when it becomes a statewide law is really significant.”

Palumbo said California’s policy could push colleges and universities to re-examine their campuswide policies—in particular, motivating them to consider the detrimental effects of placing the policies’ unclear standards of proof on the victims of sexual assault.

“The standard of a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ isn’t giving people all of the information they need because there is a lot more complexity to that in relation to our interactions,” she said. “There aren’t always black and white boundaries, but there does always need to be clear communication.”

Maddy Frumkin, co-chairwoman of Project Dinah, a UNC group that works to end sexual assault and interpersonal violence, said she supports California’s adoption of an affirmative consent model.

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“I think enthusiastic is a step above willingness,” she said. “The idea is that we want people to want to engage in sexual encounters, but that definition has become very misconstrued. They’re afraid of being coerced or what could happen if they didn’t consent.”

Palumbo said she hopes policies and laws like California’s could help create campus cultures where students feel free to communicate their needs.

“For campuses, the goal is emphasizing that every student has the right to communicate their boundaries and feel that those boundaries are going to be respected by their peers.”


Read Next: What Lena Dunham Taught Us About Unpaid Labour and What We Taught Ourselves

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 10/9/14?

Kashmiri protestors.

Kashmiri protesters run as Indian policemen give chase. (REUTERS/Danish Ismail)    

—Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy/affairs, international conflict (including US involvement abroad) and human rights issues abroad.

"Exploring Kashmir's Idyllic Meadow of Death," by Zahid Rafiq. VICE, April 2, 2014.

Kashmir is a place where I've often visited as a child, and a place where I've worked and reported on as an adult. It is also where my mother is from, and where many of the friends I have made over the years call home. I recently reread one of those friend's article. The story surrounds one of the many deadly consequences of having over half-a-million troops in your backyard. In this case, using that backyard as an artillery range.

Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and progressive critiques of Zionism.

“‘Honestly, it’s a revolution. It's so great taking control,’” by Lilah Raptopoulos. The Guardian, September 24, 2014.

Recently, The Guardian asked a number of people (mostly gay, cis-gendered men) for their thoughts on the more recent innovations on HIV preventative care, namely, PrEP, or Truvada as it is often called. The mainstream media has paid little attention to this new form of preventative care, as they rarely sound the alarm except when people, many of them queer and under privileged people, are already dying. Nonetheless, an interesting and at times heated argument over the ethics and efficacy of PrEP is circulating, revealing some interesting divides over the relative importance of access, and behavior when it comes to preventative care. Again, this is pretty limited sample, which notably appears to leave out disproportionately affected trans people.

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

College Students Wage Campaign to Kick Teach for America Off Campus,” by Julianne Hing. Colorlines, September 30, 2014.

Alternative certification programs like Teach for America often rely on elite university campuses as fertile grounds for recruiting. But last week, student activists at Harvard and other schools around the country joined a growing list of the organization's critics, urging their colleges to end relationships with TFA unless it makes major changes. "At the heart of their concerns," Julianne Hing reports, "is what they see as TFA's role in the corporatization of education." As this campaign and others like it continue, many of us will be watching closely: will students and their allies be successful in challenging one of the most powerful players in the "school reform" movement?

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

"Bias in the Box," by Dax-Devlon Ross. Virginia Quarterly Review, Fall 2014. 

Dax-Devlon Ross’s latest piece starts small—a double homicide at a gas station in Statesville, North Carolina, where the defendant was condemned to die by an all-white jury. But the story is much bigger than just one defendant and one trial because Ross’s reporting shows in painstaking detail how the voir dire process is used to systemically exclude black jurors and how this affects the criminal justice system. And, though Ross brings a great deal of academic and empirical studies into the narrative, he never loses sight of telling the reader a compelling—and important—story.

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

It's not just Bill Maher: Islamophobia on cable news is out of control,” by Max Fisher. Vox, October 8, 2014.

Islamophobia is mainstream. It is everywhere I turn, used as punchlines in pop culture, and especially last week, evidenced in all kinds of media coverage that is both news and news-like. Last week, Bill Maher, a noted hater of Islam and Muslims, went on his show to spout more Islamophobic nonsense. In a common tactic amongst Islamophobes, and although Maher regularly makes misogynistic statements that expose his deeply held sexism, he couched his Islamophobia in claiming to care about the lives and rights of women in the so-called Muslim world. I say so-called, because this phrase is so generalized and seems to only include the Middle East. It often avoids all of Africa, completely ignores South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and the Southeast Asian population powerhouses of Indonesia and Malaysia. The phrase also makes invisible all the Muslims who live in the rest of the world in majority non-Muslim countries throughout North America, Europe, South America and Australia. Max Fisher, in his piece at Vox, details some examples of how acceptable and normal Islamophobia is throughout cable news. Fisher highlights how audience attitudes have hardened in the last thirteen years. With only 38 percent of Americans personally knowing a Muslim person, the majority of Americans rely on the racist media and pop culture for their impressions and beliefs about Muslim Americans and Muslims abroad. This has very real consequences for Muslim Americans in terms of racial profiling, hate crimes and discrimination in our jobs, schools and communities. Also, since the vast majority of American Muslims are people of color, the hate that Muslims encounter just multiplies the racism, sexism and classism they are already experiencing. This also impacts how non-Muslim Americans view US foreign policy towards Muslim majority countries. The dehumanization and othering of Muslims in American media and pop culture are constant, and as Fisher points out, Muslims are almost never invited to speak about our experiences, our own communities or ourselves. People who are usually white speak about us, make assumptions and perpetuate dangerous stereotypes. It is important that everyone becomes more aware of these Islamophobic ideas and opinions that many hold, often without realizing it, and the impact they are having on the lives of Muslim Americans and the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.

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

"Old Debts, Fresh Pain: Weak Laws Offer Debtors Little Protection," by Paul Kiel. ProPublica, September 16, 2014.

This story from ProPublica focuses on a reality often forgotten: the millions of workers who have part of their paycheck taken out to pay off an old consumer debt. Garnishment legislation dates back to 1968 and hasn't kept up with society's ever-evolving economic circumstances, leaving numerous people in the hole. It might be time for a change.

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

[Op-Ed] Policing With Consent Would Require Throwing Away Our Freedoms,” by Gudjón Idir. TechPresident, October 8, 2014.

This opinion piece by the executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative explains why the UK's desire to implement increased Internet surveillance with the "consent" of the people is not a sudden shift to transparency, but fear-mongering, plain and simple. "Is the government testing the waters to see if the public really cares about our digital freedoms and our privacy?" Idir asks. "Is it counting on our naivety — that we are a collection of people with a nothing-to-hide attitude and so therefore, are blind to the overarching issues at play?" And will the public take a stand?

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

Did a White Guy Steal a Popular Gossip Site from Three Black Teenagers?” by Mitchell Sunderland and Emalie Marthe. VICE, October 7, 2014.

My article this week is a really well executed investigative piece from VICE's Mitchell Sunderland and Emalie Marthe on the history and legacy of the Internet forum Oh No They Didn't (ONTD). ONTD, as it is known, was founded by a young woman who had creative control of the website she helped to start wrested away from her from by outsiders when her mother was ill with cancer. Meanwhile, the interlopers parlayed their involvement with the website into successful careers in digital media. If you know and love ONTD, this is a must read.

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

Barack Obama's Safety,” by Jelani Cobb. The New Yorker, October 2, 2014

Last week an intruder jumped the White House fence, ran across the lawn and entered the South side of the East Room while possessing a gun. Thankfully, an off-duty Secret Service agent stopped him, and the First Family was not home at the time. This breach of security exposed the public to the vulnerability within the Secret Service and the American presidency. This incident confirms some of the anxieties blacks have always possessed. This poignant piece by Jelani Cobb mentions another event that reveals President Obama's susceptibility to danger every where he goes—even in an elevator. Cobb also highlights the anxiety that blacks have with Obama, stemming from his 2008 election presidential campaign. Blacks wrestled with their double consciousness with Obama. On the one hand, blacks revel in hope with him. Undoubtedly, blacks were unflinchingly excited of the possibility and progress of America when a black person born in Kansas, who worked in the community of the South side of Chicago, and earned degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law, could catapult to the presidency of the United States. Yet, at the same time, they also carried fear. Fear that Obama would not be alive to send his daughters off to college or high school. Fear that Obama would not be alive to celebrate his marriage anniversary with Michelle for another year. Fear that the list of political and civil rights leaders who were assassinated would include the name Barack Obama. This recent White House intrusion awakened this reality that blacks often suppress.

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

"The Price of Black Ambition," by Roxane Gay. Virginia Quarterly Review, October 3, 2014.

Roxane Gay is having a moment as a writer. This year, she published two books, both of which have been critically acclaimed. She is also having another moment, one that won't fade and has to do with who she is as a person, known as impostor syndrome. In this essay for VQR, Gay describes what it has been like for her to pursue success as a black woman in America. "I don’t even feel the flush of pleasure I once did when I achieve a new milestone," she writes. "I am having a moment, but I only want more. I need more. I cannot merely be good enough because I am chased by the pernicious whispers that I might only be 'good enough for a black woman.'"

What Lena Dunham Taught Us About Unpaid Labor—and What We Taught Ourselves

Lena Dunham.

Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in HBO’s Girls.

This piece was coauthored with Shen Trotter and originally appeared at Youngist.org. It is reposted here with permission.

Yesterday, Lena Dunham—whose character on the HBO show Girls is one of the most recognizable millennial narratives in pop culture—was called out by Gawker for “hiring” unpaid opening acts on her book tour. Only a few hours later, under pressure from fans and other media outlets, Dunham has come forward via Twitter and agreed to adequately pay all of her acts for their talent and labor out of the $304,000 in revenue from her tour. (Right on, Lena. We hope you learned something.)

We want to take this opportunity to reframe the conversation from Dunham as an individual to the realities of precarious, unpaid work and what would happen if every unpaid worker got the attention that those opening for Dunham received on Monday.

The generational relationship to unpaid labor

What is the significance of Dunham? She is the most pervasive trope of a generation who has been labeled “lazy,” “entitled” and “hopeless”, netting $12 million a year, and her face is the main stock photo used in the majority of articles about twentysomethings. How far away is Dunham from the reality of “the millennial”? For a group of people increasingly stratified by race and class, and with little in common except for our shared experience coming of age in a post-9/11 world under neoliberalism, its pretty clear she’s a far ways off. So, what the hell does the millennial identity have to do with Dunham and unpaid labor in the first place?

Though we have been conditioned to believe that working for millionaires is a privilege, history shows us that individuals, organizations and movements have long protested against free labor. Federal, state and city minimum wage laws, labor organizations and frequently popular opinion all reflect the spirit of the adage “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.” But in practice, the United States effectively has no minimum wage—just a range of pittances that come in different flavors for different kinds of work.

The estimated millions of unpaid and underpaid interns, freelancers, cultural workers and other creative workers are one piece of an economic landscape of wage theft that includes food service employees whose wages are commonly stolen, migrant workers with sub-citizenship legal standing, millions of prisoners who routinely make less than 50 cents per hour in a mass prison system that extends the subjugation of black people through chattel slavery, and countless others. And for those lucky enough to receive $7.25 an hour or more, that stagnant number hides the reality that young people are being paid a fraction of what we were decades ago for doing twice as much work.

Why we oppose unpaid labor

For the powerful few to deny the exploited many the opportunity to live freely is unjust, no matter the details. Worse, the super-exploitation of millions justifies even worse conditions for millions more, telling those who are just one or two strokes of bad luck from disaster that they should be grateful for what little they have. Part-time and temporary labor, for example, continue the work of a centuries-long tradition of coercing women to work for little or nothing, with women forming the majority of the insecure workforce and an estimated three-quarters of the unpaid internship force (since “the industries that rely on internships, such as fashion, media and the arts, are feminized ones”).

And of course, the “best” of this work is typically reserved for the white and the wealthy, as well as those who’ve shown they “deserve” good opportunities by having bought an undergraduate or even masters’ degree (on credit, if necessary). Attacking unpaid labor attacks the system by which working people are pitted against one another and divided by race, wealth, gender, legal status and other structures of domination.

Beyond Lena Dunham

Comedian Caroline Bassett, who is opening for Dunham on October 12, was reported saying, “I’m fine with not being paid because of the circumstances surrounding the event—I essentially volunteered by applying.” We see you, Caroline. Many young people are in your position: selling their labor for cheap or giving it away for free under the pretense of “paying your dues” or “putting in time” (strangely telling phrases, no?) with hopes of getting noticed by bosses and being able to rise in ranks within your workplace or sector.

Millennials, people of color, women and queers seem uniquely targeted by the deception that there is any kind of mobility out of unpaid work—when the reality is that the possibility of mobility and respect in the workplace only comes about through organizing and mobilizing amongst workers.

Ugh, where do we go from here? If we don’t apply for the few unpaid, entry level jobs out there for us, then what?

We don’t have many answers except to simply suggest—whether you decide to take that unpaid position or not: organize, and organize until we all can live.

What if interns began to see themselves as employees—deserving of all of the protections afforded to that category—rather than volunteers? What would it look like if unemployed, unpaid and underpaid workers across sectors refused to apply for jobs for little-to-no wages? If we refused to operate from a model of scarcity where competition for a small pool of positions, drives down all of our wages?

Could a movement of part-time and temporary laborers, who are frequently mothers, caretakers and homemakers, be a part of the revival of a movement demanding living wages for housework? What if interns and freelancers supported the growing movement in the US prison system by establishing connections with those struggling behind the walls? We often speak of all our oppressions as connected; taking the first steps towards creating and strengthening these bonds can lay the social groundwork that will support a popular or revolutionary mass movement. As this work is done, we should also look to the organizing that is happening as we speak. Food service workers demand a living wage and a union as part of the #Fightfor15 campaign, mass hunger and labor strikes within the prison system seek the end of abuses like solitary confinement, and interns are fight to raise their pay above the minimum wage, as in 2013’s organizing by Nation interns (which gave birth to a cross-sector group, the Intern Worker Alliance). Some experiences we share as workers, but many we do not. Unionized or unorganized, in the private and public sector, across gendered, racialized and classed divisions—inside cubicles and behind bars—our labor and our lives are fragmented, and because of this, our visions are nothing without one another. None of our siloed movements can do this alone.

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Looking to the future and understanding that fast food workers, interns, freelancers, parents, factory workers and prisoners are social categories that overlap and share strong bonds, how could we give material support to our interconnected struggles?

We have yet to fully actualize these bonds to improve our working conditions, and by that work create a popular vision free of economic scarcity. But as Dream Defender Sandra Khalifa said, “Our collective pain becomes power, once we feel that power we can’t turn back.”

Read Next: From Walmart to Wall Street, students mass for racial justice

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 10/2/14?

The New York Times.

The New York Times building. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

—Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy/affairs, international conflict (including US involvement abroad) and human rights issues abroad.

"America's Longest War Could Get Even Longer," by Yochi Dreazen and Gopal Ratnam. Foreign Policy, September 30, 2014.

The conflict in Syria and Iraq has brought the US back into the region, as we drop bombs on both countries, hoping to eliminate a "threat" by remote control. As this article demonstrates, the deteriorating situation in Iraq has the possibility of making our nation's longest war even longer, as both Pakistani and Afghani officials fear a revival of the Taliban when US forces leave in 2016. The possibility of our foreign occupation entering a second decade may become a sad reality. The idea that a child born at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan would enter college and we would still be at war is frighteningly plausible.

Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and progressive critiques of Zionism.

Belabored,” hosted by Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen. Dissent.

Hosted by Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, this podcast (produced by Natasha Lewis) is my go-to source for labor news. This Week: The Unfinished History of Labor Feminism.

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

"Latina, at the white, male New York Times: 'Why are people thinking it’s OK to say racist sh-t in front of me?'" by Daisy Hernández. Salon, September 28, 2014.

As an intern at a leftist political magazine, I think a lot about the intersections of journalism, identity and power. This excerpt from Daisy Hernández's new memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, is an account of her experience at The New York Times, from her first days as a researcher for Gail Collins to the ever-present racism that intensified in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal. Hernández's candid, intimate writing style and the vignette structure make her story all the more disquieting—as it should be. This is a frank look at the newsroom delivering reading material to breakfast tables across America, and it's not pretty.

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

"Before the Law," by Jennifer Gonnerman. The New Yorker, October 6, 2014.

At 16, Kalief Browder was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent the next three years on Rikers Island without a trial—much of that time in solitary confinement—before the charges against him were dismissed. What makes this story so important is that we know that what Browder went through is just an extreme example of systemic problems in the criminal justice system. While Browder’s friends were going to prom and graduating, he couldn’t get a trial date because of the backlogged Bronx criminal courts. On Rikers, he experienced firsthand the abuse that prisoners were subjected to. Jennifer Gonnerman’s harrowing account of what Browder went through is infuriating and inconsolably sad, but this narrative should force us to think about how the criminal justice system didn’t fail just Browder.

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

"The Destruction of Mecca," by Ziauddin Sardar. The New York Times, October 1, 2014.

This week, millions of Muslims from around the world arrived in Islam's holiest city, Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, for the annual pilgrimage known as Hajj. The pilgrimage culminates on Eid al Adha, one of the holiest times of year for Muslims. The pilgrimage is a spiritual journey that is required of all Muslims, if they are financially, physically and spiritually able, at least once during their lifetimes. An unfortunate, but unavoidable, part of preparation for this journey is visa approval to visit Mecca from the Saudi government. The Saudi monarchy declares itself the steward of Islam's most sacred sites. The Saudis impose a strident Wahhabi, Salafi interpretation of Islam on all who are granted visas and the holy sites themselves. They also run one of the world's most repressive and discriminatory regimes. They regularly deny visas for Hajj to North, East and West Africans because of institutional racism and colorism. They live ostentatious lives of wealth, greed and privilege while many in their kingdom go hungry and live lives of deprivation. The Saudi government denies women in Saudi Arabia the freedom to drive and restricts their travel. The behavior of the Saudi monarchy goes against the bonds of community and universality that the Hajj pilgrimage is meant to strengthen. In addition to their general terribleness in terms of governance and human rights, their urban planning has been an utter failure as well.  In a world where UNESCO World Heritage Site status is sought after and coveted, Saudi Arabia bulldozed the ancient buildings and places in Mecca to make way for high rise luxury hotels and shopping malls. Worse yet, these monstrous looking buildings obscure the view of the Kaa'ba, within the Grand Mosque, which is the most sacred place in the world for Muslims.  This New York Times opinion piece highlights the Saudi destruction of Islamic historical places and the inclusive, global, multiethnic, multicultural history of Hajj as well.

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

"Mostly Black Cities, Mostly White City Halls," by Richard Fausset. The New York Times, September 29, 2014.

This story underscores an alarming reality in American society: the political underrepresentation of African-Americans—especially in the South. Focusing on Conyers, Georgia, the piece explores the causes of the lack of black Americans in city halls, citing civic disengagement as an essential factor. It makes the point that political apathy within the African-American community and underrepresentation can turn "toxic" and lead to situations like Ferguson's. I believe this story raises very important issues that a democratic society must urgently address.

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

"How Tor protects and serves transgender service members," by Patrick Howell O'Neill. The Kernel, September 28, 2014.

Maybe it should be obvious that the deep web—the Internet you have to go out of your way to find and access, to put it simply—is a haven for people who have been marginalized, ostracized or persecuted by society. O'Neill's story about transgender service members using Tor to anonymously communicate with each other and access information vital for their health and safety is an important read nonetheless. The value of that anonymous access should not be underestimated: transgender service members, who are still officially banned from the military, often endure discrimination, harassment and physical and sexual violence if they are found out.

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

Ello, goodbye,” by Aral Balkan. Aralbalkan.com, September 26, 2014.

Recently, in the wake of a scandal in which the Facebook profiles of drag queens, performers and others who use pseudonyms were shut down, Ello, a new social media network, launched. Branding itself as the anti-Facebook, Ello promises to center privacy concerns and reject money from advertisements. It's a brand new beta, and it's designed to look clean and beautiful, but will it live up to its promises? Designer Aral Balkan, who consulted on the project, thinks not. His personal blog post on his experience with Ello elucidates the key fact that Ello is founded on venture capital seed money which stipulates that a digital network like Ello must be made into something that can be monetized as a back up plan—likely at the expense of users.

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

Ferguson Police Told to Stop Wearing 'Darren Wilson' Bracelets,” by Lynette Holloway. The Root, September 27, 2014.

In a letter written last Friday, Christy Lopez, deputy chief of the ligation section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, intervened to stop Ferguson police from wearing "I Am Darren Wilson" bracelets. Lopez cited that the bracelets "reinforce the very 'us versus them' mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exist." It could be implied that police officers wearing these bracelets is an act of solidarity, but it's troubling to believe such a claim when the Ferguson police chief was unaware of members of his staff wearing those bracelets. Accessorizing one's wrist with a bracelet that invokes, “I support Darren Wilson,” who fired at least six shots and one fatal shot to the head that caused the death a 17-year-old unarmed black teenager. I support Darren Wilson who has not been arrested for seven weeks. I support Darren Wilson who remains on paid administrative leave. I support Darren Wilson who joins the bank of police officers who have shot and killed black and brown men. Solidarity means you stand with the victim, and not the one whose actions caused someone to die before he reached adulthood.

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

"Grad School's Mental Health Problem," Ted Scheinman. Pacific Standard, September 30, 2014.

In this post, PhD candidate Ted Scheinman explores the notion that grad school is expected to be a place for failing mental health. Current professors reflect on their own grad school days, in which they toiled away on typewriters, as a mental "Vietnam," and expect their students to have similar experiences, which means they offer little support. Although no one forced these students to spend six years of their lives earning advanced degrees, it's still important to recognize the poor mental health can have deadly consequences. As Scheinman writes, "'Acceptance' of mental illness is excellent if it means dispelling a toxic stigma; what’s no good is the prevailing presumption that graduate school is supposed to be hell, and that madness is the natural communal reaction."

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