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

How Art Inspires Change

Faron Manuel and James Pate.

Faron Manuel (right) introduces artist James Pate (left) at the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries, where Manuel is a docent. Pate appeared as part of the “Kin Killin’ Kin” traveling art exhibit.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Poverty is everywhere, but so are examples of real people making meaningful change. This resilience is a crucial ingredient to the success of every social movement and is at the heart of what inspires the Center for Community Change’s mission. This year, the CCC hosted a new youth contest, in which The Nation was delighted to partner. The CCC and The Nation jointly asked young people to submit a photo illustrating courage or resilience in confronting economic hardship in their life or community and explain in 500 words what it meant to them. We’re extremely proud to publish the winning entry below. The winner, Faron Manuel, is a senior at Clark Atlanta University in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.

For the past two years I have worked as a docent in the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries. During this time I learned the true value of art (which is not monetary, by the way), and how the messages in art and culture can inspire human beings to aspire to a greater reality. As a docent I was responsible for many tasks, but the job that proved most rewarding was the guided tours and enrichment programs I was able to run for young people, many of them visiting an art gallery for the first time on field trips from schools and community centers located in areas of the city where economic hardship and racial injustice are commonplace.

As an Atlanta native coming from the same “inner-city” areas, I understood firsthand the challenges many of them experienced day-to-day. Whether it’s unemployed parents, gun violence or the slew of other side effects of poverty, confronting these societal ills using the medium of art has proven to be a great way to spark conversations about resilence, anger, rage and hope tapping into long-buried feelings. This is especially so when the work confronts, depicts, or even challenges issues that are familiar to the viewer, as much socially conscious art does.

For instance, in the photo I am assisting artist James Pate with a lecture on gun violence in impoverished African-American communities across the United States, during the exhibition of his series on the subject titled “Kin Killin’ Kin.” It is a known fact that gun violence shares a direct link with poverty, and honest dialogue about this correlation is the first step to reducing both.

Teaching the youth by using art as a tool to evoke constructive dialogue about pressing issues like racism and poverty in our society has renewed my hope for positive change. Many of the young people that visit the galleries leave with a new outlook on life. They become inspired or hopeful by a connection they have made with a piece of art or with someone who was similarly moved by the artwork. My job as docent afforded me the opportunity to play a key role in inducing these types of experiences and interactions and it is in this type of work that I find the most significance.

 

Read Next: An overturned death penalty conviction sparks debate in North Carolina

To Start the Semester, Students Walk Out, Shut Down Traffic and ‘Carry That Weight’

NSU

Newark students fill Broad Street. (Photo: Newark Students Union)

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 August 12 and August 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. The OneNewark Shutdown

In Newark, the school administration has blatantly ignored students and community members and force-fed us a corporate plan, “OneNewark,” which disguises itself as a means of giving students more school choices while eliding our lack of funding, accountability from the state and the voices of students. In response, the Newark Students Union organized a two-day boycott, demanding Superintendent Cami Anderson’s immediate resignation, a halt to her OneNewark plan and full local control of our schools. On September 10, we shut down Broad Street, the busiest street in New Jersey’s biggest city, laying down and chanting for nine hours—and enduring hostility and an injury from police. Until our demands are met, we will escalate our actions—with the hope of creating change that ripples across the country.

—Jose Leonardo

2. The Future of Academic Freedom

On September 11, six weeks of organizing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign came to a head as Steven Salaita, whose appointment to the American Indian Studies faculty was revoked by UI’s chancellor on August 1, allegedly due to criticism of Israel’s invasion of Gaza on Twitter, was further rejected by the UI board of trustees. Hundreds of students and faculty from across the Midwest gathered at the board meeting and delivered public comments demanding the board uphold the university’s principles of academic freedom and diversity. While one trustee broke ranks, a majority vote upheld Salaita’s firing. Following the meeting, supporters rallied across campus, demanding the reinstatement of Salaita and mobilizing university workers to unionize. The case of Salaita—a professor with little job security—has sparked joint pressure from the labor and social justice movements on the UI administration.

—Ahmad Hamdan

3. The Weight of Sexual Violence

On the first day of the fall term, Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz began carrying a dorm mattress with her everywhere she went on campus, and will continue to do so for as long as she and the male student she says raped her both attend Columbia. This action, Mattress Performance: Carry that Weight, comes in the wake of a Title IX complaint filed against Columbia by twenty-eight students, federal investigations of more than seventy-five colleges for the way they handle sexual violence cases and expansive media coverage of Emma’s ordeal. In response to Mattress Performance, students at Columbia University have begun organizing collective carries of the mattress to support Emma and all survivors of sexual violence on campus. Carrying the Weight Together held the first collective carry on Wednesday, September 10, and plans to hold further carries for the duration of Mattress Performance. On September 12, students held a speak out and rally, Stand with Survivors—and brought our mattresses as a show of solidarity.

—Allie Rickard

4. At Florida State, Students Confront the Kochs

On September 5, Florida State University students and faculty were removed, with students threatened with arrest, for reading aloud a call to restructure FSU’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee. The following week, arrest threats continued for students who clapped or snapped during PSAC meetings. Our purpose has been to call out the current two-thirds majority of corporate representatives on the committee, including five members tied to the Charles Koch Foundation or ALEC. In May, PSAC motioned to fast-track State Senator John Thrasher, a Koch -funded legislator, without an application; this month, its vice chair threatened graduate assistants with arrest and funding cuts for distributing anti-Thrasher literature. Throughout this fight, students have spoken up about links between ALEC, PSAC members and recent revelations of the Kochs’ corrupt influence over hiring and curriculum at FSU; multiple faculty have threatened resignation; and FSU donors are withholding support.

—Ralph Wilson

5. At Burlington College, Students Oust the President

In November 2013, following a series of faculty firings, the Burlington College student government was voluntarily dissolved by students and replaced with a student union—which has been steadily building power. On August 29, thirty Burlington College Student Union members attempted to enter a board of trustees meeting to deliver a vote of no confidence in the school’s president, Christine Plunkett—but the door was shut in our face. Under Plunkett, Burlington College has used money from a memorial scholarship fund on operating costs, been put on probation by accreditors due to financial concerns and withheld employee retirement funds. Following the meeting, students surrounded Plunkett’s car and demanded her resignation. She responded, “Ok, I resign. Happy?” She was replaced in three days—with no input from faculty or students—by a board controlled by commercial real estate developers. The presidential transition team includes a city councilor who helped gut Burlington’s livable wage ordinance and the former Vermont head of a regional telecom facing a strike for labor abuses.

—Burlington College Student Union

6. #TrustFor3

On Tuesday, September 9, dozens of community members rallied in front of the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles to “Restore TRUST for 3,” highlighting the cases of Samuel Sixtos, Wilman Exady Juarez and Sergio Flores, all of whom have been imprisoned in violation of California’s TRUST Act. Both Samuel and Wilman are being detained in Adelanto Detention Center, while Sergio has had weekly visits by ICE officials. After a five-day hunger strike, Samuel was placed in solitary confinement; in August, personnel at Adelanto assaulted Wilman, threatening that further media attention to his case would lead to his deportation. Just as deferred action has helped thousands of immigrant youth avoid deportation, executive action from Obama—delayed September 6—could have done the same for the families of Samuel, Wilman and Sergio. On September 19, the Immigrant Youth Coalition, RAIZ and advocates from across the state will gather to strategize next steps to fight every deportation—with or without executive action from the White House.

—Jonathan Perez

7. #BlackLivesMatter

On September 5, the Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia gathered students, faculty, staff and Charlottesville community members to the steps of Old Cabell to rally against police brutality and media misrepresentations of black and brown people. The rally began with a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” followed by a march across the university’s historic Lawn and Academical Village with words, poems and chants from students and community speakers, including “No Justice, No Peace!” and “Black Lives Matter!” At many stops, the crowd paused to observe a moment of silence and a reading of the names of slain, unarmed victims—Ezell Ford, Dante Crawford and Eric Garner, to name just a few. In coalition with student and community groups, we have begun to facilitate solution-driven dialogues to police brutality, among other issues, with the aim of implementing our ideas with local police.

—Aryn Frazier

8. A Campus-Wide Labor Coalition

On September 5, more than 300 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and campus workers from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, rallied to demand fair contracts for all university staff. The rally was organized by UMass Unions United, a coalition of five unions—representing graduate student-workers, facilities and custodial staff, faculty, librarians and administrative staff—all currently negotiating new contracts. The coalition coalesced over the summer as we recognized common challenges at the bargaining table—ranging from slow progress to concessionary demands to pat rejection of union proposals—as well as common goals, including fair wages, the preservation of professional rights, improved job security and adequate protections against overwork. Concurrently, members of the Graduate Employee Organization, a member-led, social justice union, has organized in solidarity with an emerging anti-racist movement on campus, which convened 100 people for a speak-out and march to protest Michael Brown’s murder, and the Western Mass Coalition for Palestine, which has held weekly actions in downtown Northampton and is organizing a community teach-in on September 27.

—Anna Waltman

9. A New Movement for Democracy

From Massachusetts to California, student workers are not only unionizing, but reforming their unions around issues of democracy and social justice. Inspired by these bottom-up efforts, members of the recently recognized Graduate Student Organizing Committee of the UAW have formed NYU Academic Workers for a Democratic Union. As GSOC-UAW enters into a second semester of contract negotiations with the university, NYU AWDU, which is running a slate of progressive candidates for union office, is committed to fighting for comprehensive healthcare coverage for all workers and their families, raising wages—especially for NYU-Poly student workers, many of whom currently make $10 per hour—securing tuition remission for working master’s students, limiting ballooning class size and making the union’s operations more open to members. We believe substantive member mobilization and pressure is the surest way of obtaining a robust contract—while deepening solidarity with others fighting for social and economic justice, from domestic and fast-food workers to custodians on our own campus.

—Natasha Raheja and Nantina Vgontzas

10. What’s Next for Title IX?

This month, Know Your IX, a national student campaign against campus sexual violence, is launching a Campus Action Network, a forum for activists to share tactics and narratives to build effective survivor-centered local campaigns. The idea is to provide a space for survivors to build national intercampus solidarity, identify and highlight common patterns of institutional betrayal and organize for state and federal policy changes to address those abuses. The Campus Action Network will work to hold schools and policymakers accountable and build a more inclusive movement centered on amplifying the voices of marginalized survivors. IX-CAN is supported by a broader network of allies working to empower and support us to end violence on our campuses.

—Know Your IX

Overturned Death Penalty Conviction Sparks Debate in North Carolina

Wrongful conviction overturned.

Innocent North Carolina man Henry McCollum embraced by his father upon being released from death row after thirty years in prison. (AP Photo/Michael Biesecker)

 

 

This article originally appeared in The Daily Tar Heel and is reposted here with permission.

The release of a death row inmate wrongly imprisoned for thirty years has shed new light on the conflicted state of the death penalty in North Carolina.

On September 2, a Robeson County judge vacated the convictions of Henry McCollum and his half brother Leon Brown after the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission tested DNA from the crime scene and found that the evidence implicated a different man.

McCollum and Brown were convicted in 1984 of first-degree murder and rape. Both men spent time on death row, though Brown’s sentence was later changed to a life sentence in prison.

Death row executions in North Carolina have halted since 2006 due to a variety of legal challenges, including several under the state’s former Racial Justice Act, which allowed defendants to use claims of racial discrimination to have their death row sentences converted to life in prison without parole.

The 2006 act was repealed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013. Still, four case appeals are pending involving the Racial Justice Act in the state Supreme Court, said Vernetta Alston, an attorney with the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Until the court decides those cases, Alston said, the future of the law’s role in state death penalty litigation remains unclear.

“It’s our position that everyone who has an RJA motion currently pending—that those motions are not rendered mute by the repeal of a law,” she said.

Lawyers filed a motion under the Racial Justice Act in McCollum’s case, but his release was based on separate litigation, she said.

Jennifer Marsh, director of research and community services at UNC School of Law, said critics of the Racial Justice Act wrongly argued the act would lead people to be released from prison.

“That is not and was never a remedy under the act,” she said.

Support for the death penalty for people convicted of murder stands around 60 percent nationally, according to the most recent Gallup poll on the issue. But capital punishment’s approval is at its lowest point in more than forty years.

And Sarah Preston, policy director for North Carolina’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she thinks there has been national and state momentum against the use of capital punishment.

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A national advocacy group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty launched in 2013 to push for an end to the death penalty, Preston said, and North Carolina has a chapter of the organization.

“What we’re starting to see is recognition that is sort of bipartisan—and lots of groups and categories of people are starting to recognize that the death penalty is broken in a variety of different ways,” she said. “It feels different from how it’s felt in the past.”

 

Read Next: Top Ten Back-to-School Songs

Top Ten Back-to-School Songs

A school bus back on the job (cc)

For many students, September is an exciting time—new friends, new teachers, new experiences. For others, it’s a dreadful month: the resumption of homework, detention and cafeteria food. Songs/laments about school have likely been sung by students for as long as there has been formal schooling. Wikipedia reports that examples of such literature can be found dating back to medieval England. Here, we’ve tried the highly dubious task of trying to highlight ten of the best such songs ever written. Please use the comments field below to let us know what we’ve missed.

1) Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall

2) Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors

3) The Clash, Mark Me Absent

4) The Ramones, Rock and Roll High School

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5) Belle & Sebastian, We Rule the School

6) The Replacements, Fuck School

7) The Smiths, The Headmaster Ritual

8) Chuck Berry, School Days

9) Pete Seeger, What Did You Learn in School Today?

10) Vampire Weekend, Campus

From Ferguson to Miami, a Generation Demands Justice

GMU

Students walk out at George Mason. (Photo: GMU BSA)

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 July 25 and August 12. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. Getting Organized

In the wake of Michael Brown’s death, young people in St. Louis have participated in marches, delivered food and supplies to organizers and residents, conducted trainings—and acts—of civil disobedience and pushed demands in coordination with the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Coalition. The Justice League, a collaboration of Show Me 15, the St. Louis fast food worker union, and Young Activists United St. Louis, which organizes students and youth, is led by people of color with the goal of combating and redressing police violence. As we prepare for Saturday’s appreciation day, whose goal is to elevate the leadership of youth in Ferguson, we are working on curriculum materials with an emphasis on individual rights and the historical threads that made Ferguson happen.

—Rasheen Aldridge and Tito Gardner

2. Walking Out in St. Louis

It is painful to watch someone who so closely resembles your brother, uncle or father lay in a pool of his own blood after departing this world. The black community, especially those of our generation, is in a state of trauma. On August 25, the day of Michael Brown’s funeral, students at Washington University at St. Louis and Saint Louis University organized #HandsUpWalkOut events on our campuses as part of a national walkout. We will continue to work as a united front for justice for Michael Brown and all those taken by forces who don’t believe in the humanity of those who happen to be black.

—Christopher Walter, Jr.

3. Walking Out Everywhere

On August 25, students and faculty at George Mason University, convened by a range of organizations, from the Black Student Alliance to Students Against Israeli Apartheid, came together to protest the murder of Michael Brown. The protest began at North Plaza with a march to the George Mason statue with everyone’s hands up, chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” We continued with a moment of silence followed by a reading of names of others taken too soon by police brutality, including Timothy Stansbury, Oscar Grant and Eric Garner. From there, we broke into smaller groups to develop proposals for how the campus community can help rebuild Ferguson, hold police officers more accountable and help limit and eventually eliminate police brutality.

—Christina Lee

4. Justice for Reefa Hernandez

On August 14, five days after the murder of Michael Brown, Dream Defenders went to US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida to demand a federal investigation into the murder of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez. Israel was a Miami Beach teen and street artist who was chased down, brutally beaten and tasered by police for painting on an abandoned McDonald’s. More than a year later, the officer has not been charged. We called for US Attorney Ferrer to open investigations into State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s Office, as well as the Miami Beach, Miami-Dade and Miami Garden Police Departments. Instead of having grievances heard, seven Dream Defenders and a mother from the Miami Workers Center were arrested and released later that evening. As we can’t count on police departments to adequately protect and serve us—or conduct proper investigations when the suspect is one of their own—we are issuing a national call to action.

—Shamile Louis

5. Justice for John Crawford

On August 5, 22-year-old John Crawford was killed by Beavercreek police inside a Walmart after brandishing a toy rifle, which was sold in the store. Since then, young people across Ohio have taken action to demand that Walmart’s security tapes be released to his family, their lawyers and the public. Within twenty-four hours of the Ohio Student Association’s third action in Columbus, the Ohio Attorney General allowed the family and their lawyers to see six minutes of the footage—prompting his father to say that his son was murdered. The AG has called a grand jury hearing in Greene County to determine if these officers will be indicted. On September 22, we are organizing a pilgrimage from the Beavercreek Walmart to the Xenia Courthouse to bring national attention to Greene County and demand justice for John Crawford.

—James Hayes

6. Justice for Chicago

On August 26, 100 young Chicagoans marched on Chicago Police Department Headquarters demanding to meet with Superintendent Garry McCarthy to end the unjust arrests of Black people for low-level marijuana possession. As of today, McCarthy has not responded to our request, despite publicly stating that the CPD should focus on ticketing instead of arrests. The Chicago Police Department makes an average of forty-four arrests per day for misdemeanor marijuana possession (fifteen grams or less)—more than all other offenses combined. Despite extensive studies showing that marijuana is used at similar rates across racial groups, Black people are fifteen times more likely to be arrested for minor possession than white folks. Black Chicagoans account for 78 percent of those arrested, 89 percent of those convicted and 92 percent of those jailed for low-level marijuana possession. The Chicago Department wastes nearly $80 million in local taxpayer dollars each year in court fees and thousands of police hours. This work is part of BYP100’s larger campaign to decriminalize blackness in America and end police brutality and abuse.

—Angie Rollins

7. History for Student Rights

On August 19, LA’s Community Rights Campaign won a huge victory by passing the Equal Protection Plan. The plan will restrict the role of police inside LAUSD and provide more serious protection for students, teachers and the community. For seven years, young people have taken direct action and organized around the plan in front of schools administrators, judges, school board members, police and teachers—and taken it to the surrounding community to seek its support. With its passing—fifty years after the original Freedom Summer in Mississippi, where I attended an anniversary conference at Tougaloo College—we see this as our moment to build the world we want and step closer to dismantling the school-to-jail track in Los Angeles and across the country.

—Delona Washington

8. Student Unionism Rising

On August 18, more than 100 members of the Chicago Students Union, alongside parents, teachers and elected officials, marched on Chicago Public Schools headquarters demanding the fair funding of schools and a democratically elected board of education. The CSU, formed in February 2013, has spent this summer holding meetings to listen to the problems students are having at school. In the upcoming school year, the CSU will register eligible students to vote, push CPS officials to ensure that students’ needs are prioritized in school budgets and escalate the fight for funding and democracy.

—Ross Floyd

9. What Wouldn’t Marco Rubio Do?

On August 25, members of United We Dream, United We Dream–Tampa Bay, El Cambio and the Dream Organizing Network came to South Carolina to confront Florida Senator Marco Rubio on his attacks on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, a program that has benefited more than half a million Dreamers like myself. Instead of standing with Dreamers, Rubio has turned his back on our community and sided with anti-immigrant Congresspeople like Steve King. As a Florida Dreamer, I had one question for Rubio: Does he want to deport me? Dreamers remain committed to fighting for DACA, turning back Republican opposition at every corner and winning similar relief for millions more.

—Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez

10. Who’s Next?

From August 11 to 14, thirty new members of the AFL-CIO’s Young Worker Advisory Council had a biannual meeting to discuss how the labor movement can empower young workers and better advocate for the largest generation to enter the workforce since the Baby Boomers. The YWAC, created in 2011, consists of young worker representatives from affiliates of the AFL-CIO. YWAC members are working on two major projects: growing local Young Worker Groups that can build community-based campaigns in targeted areas; and preparing for a 2015 Next Up Young Worker Summit that will engage, inspire and organize young workers. Through these projects, we hope to build a movement around our issues, including student debt, sub-living wages and—as the world’s eyes converged on Ferguson as we met—racial justice.

—Anthony Muniz

Girls Speak Out Against Sexist School Dress Codes

Haven Middle Schoolers

Kate McClintock, Kate Green and Lilly Bond, seventh graders who've been fighting back against the dress code at Haven Middle School in Evanston, Illinois. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

In the chaotic script of a rising eighth grader, Frankie Lindsay’s notecard, written in preparation for a meeting with her school’s principal, read: “This school’s policy is one of the reasons why the US has the 6th highest rate of rape in the world.” Lindsay, along with three of her friends, was getting ready for a conversation with Principal Joseph Uglialoro about the way South Orange Middle School in New Jersey enforced its dress code. Although the code—mandating that shorts and skirts must be at fingertip length and forbidding “attire that exposes undergarments or anatomy”—is more or less common, Lindsay and her friends say that the way that the administration pushed the issue in mass e-mails to their parents and over the loudspeaker during morning announcements made them very uncomfortable.

With rising recognition, the girls realized that they did not appreciate being told, repeatedly, that their bodies were distractions to the school environment and required stringent regulation. In a June 2014 e-mail sent to South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent Osborne, local parents spoke out: “At South Orange Middle School, Principal Uglialoro has written that, ‘Dress code continues to be a concern, specifically with our female students,’ in all three of his e-blasts for the month of May. Additionally, in his May 19 e-mail, he alludes to the reason behind enforcing the dress code, as to a possible interference with establishing and maintaining a ‘learning environment.’ This begs the question of whose ‘learning environment’ is being prioritized, and at whose expense.”

The parents’ letter also noted with distress that girls are removed from instructional time and report being publicly shamed because of what they wear to school. In response to the frequent warnings about dress code enforcement, Lindsay and her friends formed the group #Iammorethanadistraction to raise awareness about what it means for a middle school girl to be told that her appearance is frustrating her learning environment. Ava Emilione, a member of the group, elaborated, “We shouldn’t be responsible for other people’s actions. When the school board is telling a girl that she has to dress a way so she won’t be distracting, that’s telling a girl that she needs to change herself, to make sure she’s not distracting. We are more than distractions to boys and the school environment.”

#Iammorethanadistraction is just one facet of a greater movement among young female students. Young women are fed up with being pressured to curate their appearance and, by extension, others’ potentially lecherous thoughts about them—especially when young men are so much less likely to be called out for dress code violations.

When Haven Middle School in Evanston, Illinois, banned leggings and yoga pants, 13-year-old Sophie Hasty spearheaded a petition to reverse the ban. The Evanston Review reported that a horde of young girls showed up wearing leggings in protest, holding signs that read, “Are my pants lowering your test scores?” In a letter to the Haven administration, parents wrote, “Under no circumstances should girls be told that their clothing is responsible for boys’ bad behaviors. This kind of message lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men… If the sight of a girl’s leg is too much for boys at Haven to handle, then your school has a much bigger problem to deal with.”

Students at Morris Knolls High School in New Jersey, Kenilworth Junior High in California, Duncanville High School in Texas and even New York’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School have issued complaints about their dress codes, many of which have resulted in full-on protest. Stories of girls being harassed, sent home, shamed or asked to change into ill-fitting gym clothes in lieu of what they came to school in are commonplace on Tumblr, and are rapidly becoming more prevalent on Twitter. Young women around the country are arguing that the school’s reaction to a woman’s appearance is more distracting than her appearance itself and that it is unfair to be told that their attire frustrates the school’s goal to educate. On a more extreme scale, this philosophy of blaming women’s attire for men’s behavior toward them echoes what many call “rape culture:” a term describing, in part, the likelihood that a woman will be blamed for her rape.

The constitutionality of dress codes is attributed to the Tinker vs. Des Moines School District Supreme Court case. In December 1965, students in Des Moines, Iowa wore black armbands to protest the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. Christopher Eckhardt, 16, John Tinker, 16 and Mary Tinker, 13 wore their armbands to school religiously with the support of their parents. But on December 14, principals and administrators of Des Moines schools met and together resolved to rid the schools of this disturbance. If any student were to arrive wearing an armband, they would be asked to remove it. And if they refused, they would be suspended.

Tinker, Tinker and Eckhardt refused and were suspended. A formal complaint was filed under § 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code. The District Court’s opinion, however, was that the school “upheld the constitutionality of the school authorities’ action on the ground that it was reasonable in order to prevent disturbance of school discipline.” The case established, or at least sketched out, guidelines by which schools could juggle appropriate discipline and students’ right to free speech.

And when girls violate dress codes, schools do tend to focus on discipline. Nefertiti Martin, Community Organizer for New York-based Girls for Gender Equality, has been looking at harsh discipline in public schools. She thinks that girls who are taken out of class, given something else to wear or suspended for their style choices should be treated far more respectfully. “More often than not, the school system works in a disciplinary realm as opposed to being transformative, a learning opportunity. People do a lot of punishment without explaining why, or without a clear understanding of the roots of the problem.” Martin points out that when she facilities workshops with school officials, they often do not even know how to talk to students about sexual harassment largely the result of lack of training.

But disciplining young women for dress code violations has repercussions far more troubling than embarrassment or missing educational time. Placing such strong emphasis on young women’s bodies may play a large part in their self-definition, their perceptions of themselves as sexual objects. The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls holds that “Sexualization occurs when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics.” Self-objectification, to the APA, occurs when girls “learn to think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desire.” In essence, focusing so much attention on a young woman’s sexuality—the visibility of her legs, her bra straps or midriff—teaches her that these things are of major importance to others; therefore, they should be of major importance to her. Compromised school performance, lowered self-esteem, anxiety and eating disorders are just some of the consequences that follow.

Of course, it’s not just schools that are pushing young women to frame themselves as sexual objects. But while larger cultural pressure for young women to self-objectify is steady, it is absolutely imperative to note that girls—young girls—can understand and control the implications of their appearance. Girls and boys experiment with their aesthetic as they search for their place among their peers, and more importantly, for who they are as individuals. Niv Miyasato, proud father of Lily Kirschner of #Iammorethanadistraction, underscores this point: “Honestly, I think that Lily and her friends are very aware of the choices they make. I feel that they have their own sense of what’s appropriate for them and what’s not. They self-edit. They’re not mindless consumers of what’s presented to them—they’ve seen all of this since they were little… To say they don’t have choices, that we’re just blind victims of consumerism, is not true … It’s when people impose their choices on other people, that’s when there are problems.”

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All girls interviewed emphasized that when they choose to wear revealing clothing, they do not do it primarily—or often at all—for the attention of their male peers. They want to feel good about themselves. According to Nathania Fields, a rising senior at Campus Magnet High School in New York: “I think a lot of the time girls wear what they wear to feel more confident in themselves. The attention from men is, I don’t know, extra.”

Comfort is also key: Sophie Hasty argued that her school should allow leggings because they are comfortable and low-maintenance. Fields, who says her high school does not turn on air conditioning until the last week of school, also stressed comfort: “A lot of the time, girls are like, ‘I buy my clothes. You don’t. It’s 90 degrees outside and you don’t have AC because you’re cheap. What am I supposed to wear… If it’s hot in the building, I’m gonna wear some shorts and you’re gonna leave me alone or put on some AC.”

Next step for the girls involved in #Iammorethanadistraction is to help create a space designated for young men to have candid conversations with parents, teachers and young women about how they view women’s bodies, and how their behavior can negatively impact young women. Martin said that young men are often surprised that, if a woman is wearing revealing clothing, she is not asking to be approached in a certain way. Fields elaborates, “We have to tell guys that just because a girl is wearing a short skirt doesn’t mean she wants you. I’ve heard guys say that there are females who wear short skirts and females who don’t, and the ones who do, those girls are thots [sluts].”

Girls around the country are speaking out against casual expressions of systematic sexism in the classroom. But despite widespread pushback against dress code enforcement, the issue is merely the face of a greater struggle: Emilione comments, “It’s not about the clothes, really. I could care less that I have to wear longer shorts. But it’s about the implications and the bigger message of the dress code—the message on the loudspeakers: ‘For all you ladies out there!’”

Read Next: Hannah Finnie on “The Hidden Crisis on College Campuses”

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 08/22/14?

Gaza

(REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.
Follow @barthosNY

Gruesome Tales Surface of Israeli Massacres Against Families in Gaza Neighborhood,” by Max Blumenthal. AlterNet. August 17, 2014. 

The coverage of Gaza in the past month has for the first time truly become humanized, ceding more place to Palestinian voices and to reporting. The tragedy of one family drowns out another, and given the intensity and depth of the current massacre, so many disastrous events fall off the map: Max Blumenthal's article is a very moving description of what is happening in Gaza before and after the missiles start falling. It gives a sense of Israel's targeting, of the destruction of the infrastructure as well as that of lives, of the sense of panic before and during attacks, and the loss after them - but also, movingly, of small acts of solidarity which tie people together. 

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.
Follow @seriouslysummer

 "Mental Health Cops Help Reweave Social Safety Net in San Antonio," by Jenny Gold. NPR. August 19, 2014.

The idea of "smart justice"—diverting individuals with mental illness into treatment rather than jail—is evident in San Antonio with its six-person mental health squad. Through answering emergency calls where mental illness may be an issue, the unit acts more like a group of social workers than law enforcers. As a result, the jails aren't overcrowded and the city and county have saved $50 million over the past five years. It seems like San Antonio figured out what should have been common sense all along: having the dignity to take the needs of individuals with mental illness seriously.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.
Follow @ErinACorbett

Why don’t we hear about women victims of state violence?,” by Verónica Bayetti Flores. Feministing. August 14, 2014

In this piece, Bayetti Flores asks a very important question. And as you may have guessed from the headline, she questions why we have heard very little about cases of police violence against women and LGBTQ individuals.  She talks about how we use social media to communicate with one another, and she explains how we bring with us to these discussions our internalized racism, our anti-black bias, we bring misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.  She talks of how we calculate innocence and worth and how those most at risk of state violence don’t make the cut. They are sex workers, they are black, they are Latina, they are trans women, they are immigrants, they are queer, “or, God forbid more than one of those at once.”  So why are we not also outraged about the deaths, the beating, the sexual violence against these women? And why do more people not know who they are?

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.
Follow @crown_vic_

"Activists Connect Shooting of Michael Brown to Movement for Reproductive Justice," by the Feminist Newswire. Feminist.org. August 13, 2014.

It is important, perhaps more than ever before, to consistently integrate our conversations about the plights of this nation in an intersectional framework. Very fortunately, many activists have done just that and are beginning to widen the way in which we talk about Ferguson, civil rights, and how the genocide of black and brown bodies in this country is a feminist issue. In this article, the Feminist Newswire frames the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the window of another very specific civil rights issue: reproductive rights. This article also touches on the hashtag activist movement happening called  #reprojustice, a term, Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst at RH Reality Check has used when discusses the important of this intersectional discussion: “Black women are raising children and fearing that their children are going to be gunned down in the street. That affects their ability to parent freely."

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.
Follow @_grantde

"Republicans Hate the New AP History Exam,” by Avi Asher-Schapiro. VICE. August 20, 2014.

With the release of a new standard for the Advanced Placement US history exam, which aims to look more critically at the country's founding, conservatives are training their fury on what they see as undermining civic pride and patriotism and displaying history through a "leftist" perspective. 

This is hardly the first time conservatives have tried their mightiest to rewrite history – there was an epic fight in the Sixties over historian John Hope Franklin's history Land of the Free that was so vitriolic that one man said he'd rather be thrown in jail than let his daughter be in the same room as the book. One of its big offenses: favorite treatment to Martin Luther King, Jr. Paying attention to the foundational parts of our country's history that subjugated its black citizens – who weren't treated as humans, let alone afforded the benefits of citizenship – and noting the exploitation of immigrant labor is a bridge too far for these conservatives. Better not teach history than learn from it.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.
Follow @write_noise

The Tenuous Future of Climate Migrants,” by Manish Vaid and Tridivesh Singh Maini. Himmal. August 11, 2014. 

At least for now, Bangladesh has more at stake than other countries in the global warming crisis. The swampy country could have one-fifth of its territory submerged in water due to climate change. But this issue doesn't only affect Bangladeshis—the governments of the countries where the displaced may migrate must also pay attention. In Himmal magazine, Manish Vaid and Tridivesh Singh Maini argue that the Indian government must change its policies to accommodate "climate refugees" from its neighbor.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.
Follow @alanahinojosa

The Wisdom of the Exile,” by Costica Bradatan. The New York Times. August 16, 2014.

Costica Bradatan does the brilliant and beautiful work in this New York Times opinion piece of exploring the richness of the unknown, the depth of being uprooted and the arguably necessary experience of exile. Such an experience, through its lightness of being, yields the ability to create a world anew, he says, but also the chance the totally redraw the lines of yourself. "As an exile you learn that the world is a story that can be told in many different ways," he writes. "Certainly you can find that in books, there is no deeper knowledge than the one that comes mixed with blood and tears, the knowledge that comes from uprooting." Could it really be, as Bradatan suggests, that exile (in all its forms) be necessary for both the philosopher and the common wo(man)?

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—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.
Follow @agnesradomski

 “St. Louis: A City Divided,” by Jeanette Cooperman. Al Jazeera America. August 18, 2014.

"In St. Louis, segregation— geographic, cultural and economic—is normal," writes Jeannette Cooperman for Al Jazeera America. The Ferguson protests have a history that needs to be considered in any debate or discussion involving the current unrest. St. Louis has been "chopped into bits, remaining socially and economically segregated long after racist laws were erased from the books." The Mississippi and Missouri rivers have been used as racial divides and artificial boundaries carve the metropolitan into ninety separate municipalities, many of which can't afford good schools or highly trained police forces. In addition to this, the control of black people's movement can be traced back to the 1700's and in 1916, St. Louis became the first city to pass a segregation ordinance by referendum. This fascinating piece delves into the history behind today's Ferguson and is a must read for anyone interested in truly understanding the plight of a deprived yet resilient community. 

 

Read Next: What Nation interns are reading the week of 08/015/14.

Where Is the Voice of Migrant Children in the Immigration Crisis?

Immigration Child

 (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

This article originally appeared in Generation Progress and is printed here with permission.

While the voices of those in office have risen to the forefront of the border crisis, the child migrants and their families are the ones actually being affected by the shifts in policy, and ultimately, any decision made impacts their future first and foremost.

These children chose to leave their home countries in Central America because they were fleeing poverty, violence and, in some situations, death.

“I am afraid to go back to Guatemala because I am afraid that there is no one to protect me,” 15-year-old Dulce Medina said during an ad hoc press conference organized by the House Progressive Caucus on the influx of unaccompanied migrants from Central America.

Along with debate surrounding their future in the United States, their temporary status has been challenged, as many have been threatened with immediate deportation. Throughout the crisis, there have been reports of states not using shelters, US officials closing shelters previously used to house migrant children, along with unfounded accusations that the children may have Ebola.

On Tuesday, officials in Massachusetts said they will not need to open up shelters for unaccompanied children. According to officials, “fewer children have been caught while crossing the border illegally over the last month and the government has expanded capacity at existing shelters in other states.”

But there are many stories of children in Central America who have become victims of the extreme gang violence. Reports of missing children whose remains are later found buried in an abandoned field are common.

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During the ad hoc press conference, 12-year-old Mayeli Hernandez recalled witnessing two separate homicides in Honduras prior to fleeing. She said “it was very ugly to see the blood running on the ground.”

The immediate response from many lawmakers has been to send these kids back as efficiently and quickly as possible, but the question of their fate after returning to the very country they were fleeing from is rarely part of the conversation.

When the fact is that the violence children are fleeing is not just murder but brutal murder, where children are “stabbed to death, cut into pieces or tortured,” the question of what children are returning home to needs to be a part of the conversation.

With Congress having just entered a five-week recess, the pressure to have these voices heard lies on the shoulders of President Obama. And while shelters are closing or are no longer planning to accommodate migrant children, violence continues on in the countries of origin, without any guarantee as to when the increasing number of migrants coming across the border will come to a comfortable stop.

 

Read Next: StudentNation on reflections from the brick wall

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 08/15/14?

Rikers Island

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

The Rebirth of Stockholder Capitalism?” by Robert Reich. Guernica, August 8, 2014.

In this article, Robert Reich offers useful terms to understand the paradox of our financialized economy: shareholders have been reaping the profits of most companies at the expense of other stakeholders, a larger category that encompasses employees and customers. Some companies are trying to circumvent this, such as the supermarket brand Market Basket, which reinvests its profits into providing higher wages for employees and lower prices for customers—as opposed to funneling money to shareholders. Inevitably, soon enough the company's board fired the CEO who started the initiative, to great public outrage. The control of companies by shareholders is absolute but benefits no one but shareholders themselves. Because of this, Reich advocates for a stakeholder capitalism, with companies taking into account their customers' constrained salaries and their employees’ basic necessities (and more cynically, purchasing power) in their decision making. These are the most basic measures we could ask for in a strained economy. But I wonder whether shareholders' unchecked power on industry is inherent to capitalism itself, insofar as there are shareholders with the leverage to drive companies according to their own interest. We need deeper, structural reform.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

"What Is a Woman?" by Michelle Goldberg. The New Yorker, August 4, 2014.

Nation writer Michelle Goldberg's piece on the divide between radical feminism and transgender identity adds another dimension to the influx of attention trans rights has received recently (e.g. trans* actress Laverne Cox appearing on Time magazine's cover last June). The complexities behind this particular issue within the trans rights realm has led Goldberg's piece to already face backlash for being one-sided, especially from the viewpoint of the trans community. It goes to show that the process of grasping the politics behind gender is only just beginning despite trans individuals having been in the public eye for years.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

The Most Wanted Man in the World: Edward Snowden in His Own Words,” by James Bamford. Wired, August, 2014.

In this article, James Bamford profiles Edward Snowden in hopes of answering his burning question: What drove Snowden to leak thousands of top-secret documents of domestic surveillance programs? Snowden reveals throughout the piece that he intended for the government to have some idea about what he stole, and that the biggest question is not what new story will come out next, but how that problem will ultimately be addressed.  His answer: We can end mass surveillance with technology, without any legislative action at all. Initially, as he first headed to Hong Kong before releasing the NSA documents, he expected that Americans would collectively shrug and move on from the information he had leaked; and regarding the question of whether or not there is another leaker, Snowden expresses how that simply underscores the NSA’s inability to control the massive amount of private information it has been collecting. This captivating piece is the story of Edward Snowden’s intelligence career and decision to become, as Bamford describes, “a uniquely postmodern breed of whistle-blower.” 

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

"This is Why We Are Mad About The Shooting of Mike Brown," by Kara Brown. Jezebel, August 11, 2014

On August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown did not simply "pass." Michael Brown was shot six times by a Ferguson Police Officer who stood thirty-five feet away from him. Michael Brown was gunned down. Ten bullets exploded inside of his body. Michael Brown was brutally murdered. Michael Brown was left uncovered and untouched in the street, his body left to burn in the summer heat for hours before any law enforcement official or paramedic came to the scene of the crime. No explanation has been offered to explain this unexplainable and inexcusable atrocity. Except to relay a broader message to a broken community of black people in this country. That Michael Brown was slaughtered. That Michael Brown was assassinated. That Michael Brown's life was violently and maliciously taken from him. His story rests among the countless others who have died beneath a country's fear of color. A life stolen by a country with a dirty, dirty history. On August 9, an 18-year-old was given no justice. He was given no liberty. He was given no protection from his country. And Michael Brown died the most unnatural of deaths. This we know is true.

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

"The New Racism: This is how the civil rights movement ends" by Jason Zengerle. The New Republic, August 10, 2014

James Zengerle uncovers the efforts of the Alabama legislature's Republicans, since the 2010 Tea Party wave election, to roll back a half century of progress on all fronts, from Medicaid expansion to the imposition of strict voter ID laws doubtlessly intended to restrict voter participation—and to render moot the civil rights movement's biggest achievements. Zengerle focuses on a state senator, Hank Sanders, who has been marginalized in the wake of the GOP's takeover. In only the past few months black voters helped Thad Cochran win his GOP runoff in Mississippi against an extreme candidate, giving the impression that they can play a pivotal role in the coming midterm elections. "But these will likely be pyrrhic victories," Zengerle notes. "At the state level, Republicans can continue to win by catering exclusively to white voters, pushing the parties even further apart and making state laws ever more extreme. The fact that black people in the South still have the right to vote, and they’re still able to elect black politicians at the state and local levels, is what makes the end of the Second Reconstruction so much more insidious than the end of the First. Lacking white politicians to build coalitions with, those black politicians are rendered powerless. As Kareem Crayton, a University of North Carolina law professor, told me, 'The situation today has the semblance of what representation looks like without very much ability to actually exercise it.'” 

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Let’s Get Naked,” by Kristen Radtke. BuzzFeed, August 11, 2014.

The graphic novel is a male-dominated genre in which women's bodies are distorted and exploited, perhaps even more than they are in other realms of popular culture. In this BuzzFeed article, twenty-three female graphic novelists respond to this trend with representations of female bodies that they feel are closer to their own life experiences. “I look forward to the time when honest depictions of women’s bodies are a normal thing to look at, instead of some kind of statement," writes graphic novelist Anya Ulinich. “I love any excuse to look at naked bodies in a nonsexual context," writes Liana Finck.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

Death in Gaza: Some Counts More Controversial than Others,” by Peter Hart. FAIR.org, August 12, 2014.

The New York Times and Washington Post published articles recently that suggested (read: encouraged) the world to be skeptical of the death toll coming out of Gaza. At the same time, Palestinian and non-state organizations have reported that 84 percent of the deaths in Gaza right now are civilians. But surprise! Israel doesn't agree. The dispute over how many, and who, is being killed should be rather telling. As the author of this piece writes, the quarreling over death toll numbers is " reminiscent of some of the problematic reporting about deaths in the Iraq War. Which might lead one to conclude that what makes a given death toll controversial is linked to who is doing the killing."

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, Black Feminist thought, and police brutality.

Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine ‘denied UK visa over homophobic stance,’” by Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire. The Guardian, August 13, 2014.

Recently, Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine was denied entrance into the United Kingdom and was forced to cancel performances over his homophobic stance and lyrical content. But Bobi Wine's visa denial does not come as a shock. For months, gay rights groups have voiced outrage over Uganda’s homophobic policies. But recently, Ugandan gay rights activists were celebrating victories—"Uganda's Constitutional Court recently overturned a ruling that would have seen homosexuals face life imprisonment" – and earlier this month LGBT groups celebrated their third annual pride celebration. As the nation’s former colonial power, there is a level of irony within Bobi Wine's UK visa denial—which offers a major statement against the Ugandan government’s anti-gay agenda. There is no telling what impact the UK's decision will have, but in the coming months the opposition in Uganda will continue to fight against the institutions that oppress sexual minorities.

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail,” By Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz. The New York Times, July 14, 2014.  

This New York Times investigation provides a harrowing account of how society’s most vulnerable are treated at Rikers Island, the country's second largest jail. Brutal attacks on inmates by correctional officers are a common occurrence, especially among the mentally ill (77 percent of the seriously injured inmates had received a mental illness diagnosis.) The vivid descriptions of abuse and profiles of inmates subjected to especially cruel treatment shows that mental illness at Rikers Island is met with severe violence. The investigation also reveals that there is no accountability for the correctional officers deplorable behavior, which have left several inmates with major injuries, some even requiring life saving surgery. Sadly, Rikers Island offers only a glimpse into a much larger and more systematic problem that can be found across the country’s correctional facilities—one that reflects a deep lack of understanding and empathy for those suffering from a mental illness. 

 

Read Next: What Nation interns are reading the week of 08/08/14.

Students Stand Up and Speak Out in Sacramento, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC

Gaza protest

Saturday’s march on Washington for Palestinian justice. (Photo: WJLA)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out July 14 and July 25. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. At 11, Not One More

On August 2, more than 2,000 people marched on Washington, DC, to pressure President Obama to stop deportations and expand deferred action for all. The mobilization, organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, was led by undocumented individuals and families affected by the president’s policy on deportations. Day laborers, members of the LGBTQ community and children were among the speakers at the march—illustrating how deportations impact many communities. Starting at the National Mall, we took over the streets en route to Border Patrol, where we stopped briefly to hear from families affected by the crisis at the border. From there, we continued to Freedom Plaza, where we dropped banners reading “Not1More Deportation” and “DACA4All.” Our last stop was at the White House, where we announced ongoing local action to pressure the president.

—Reyna Wences

2. At 12:30, Free Palestine

On August 2, some 20,000 people marched from the White House to The Washington Post in a display of anger over Israel’s most recent onslaught against the Palestinians. Before the march, supporters rallied in Lafayette Square to listen to a variety of speakers, ranging from Cornel West to local student activists. As a sea of Palestinian flags flooded the streets, traffic came to a halt. Once the march reached the Post, activists began to stack coffins against the windows. The protest was more than a cathartic experience; it was an opportunity for activists of all ages to reunite or meet for the first time—and share ideas for future action, including ramping up BDS work across the country.

—Tareq Radi

3. #MyOwnAdvocate

On Monday, July 28, undocumented leaders from the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Undocumented Illinois, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, ASPIRE and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network launched #MyOwnAdvocate, a campaign demanding that DC-based immigration advocates step aside and make space for undocumented people to negotiate the Obama administration’s pending changes to immigration policy. Together, we visited the National Immigration Forum, the Center for American Progress and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, asking all three to boycott all further immigration meetings with Obama until the people directly affected by his current and pending policies are present at the table. Afterward, we started a picket line in front of the White House and publicized our call.

—Hairo Cortes

4. #SupportSalaita

This week, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revoked associate professor Steven Salaita’s appointment to its American Indian Studies program. Salaita, who left his position as an associate professor at Virginia Tech, was set to join UIUC this month—until his hiring was overturned by Chancellor Phyllis Wise following Twitter posts critiquing Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza. Wise’s decision blatantly disregards academic freedom and freedom of speech—which she herself defended earlier this year amid the American Studies Association’s decision to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. Student and activist groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have mobilized online, with petitions demanding the Salaita’s reinstatement as well as an email campaign directed at Chancellor Wise. Joining faculty from across the country, the Director of American Indian Studies, Professor Robert Warrior, has stated his support.

—Ahmad Hamdan

5. At UC, Student-Workers Gear for a Boycott

The elected officers of UAW 2865, the union of 13,000 University of California student-workers including teaching assistants and tutors, published an open letter in solidarity with Palestinian labor unions’ call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli occupation. The letter, voted on and passed by the union’s 83-member Joint Council, outlines the union’s intent to support its Palestinian counterparts and seek a membership vote once the fall term is in session. If this vote passes, UAW 2865 would become the first US union to join BDS. The Joint Council is asking members to consider divestment of UAW International’s pension investments from companies that profit off Israeli occupation; join five of nine UC campus governments in pressuring the UC to divest; and observe a member boycott of academic activities officially sponsored or funded by Israeli universities justifying apartheid. The letter calls for members to vote “yes” on the resolution. Jewish members also published a letter in support of the move.

—Anti-Oppression Committee, UAW 2865

6. At UMass, Undergrads Call for a Union

In the fall of 2013, Peer Mentors at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst began efforts to join UAW Local 2322, which represents resident assistants and graduate student workers. Peer Mentors are live-in undergraduate student-workers who assist first year students in their transition to the university, with a focus on academics. A majority of Peer Mentors have signed union cards; we believe that we deserve higher compensation and a greater voice in the nature and future of our position—which has been undergoing ongoing revisions with little or no student worker input. While the university affirms the importance of Peer Mentors, it has contested our unionization efforts to the Department of Labor and, in a hearing, stated its intention to convert our job from an hourly waged position to a for-credit practicum with a stipend. By fighting undergraduate worker unionization efforts, the university silences our voices and experiences—and damages the communities it aims to create.

—Jenna Grady, Emily Braun, Ian Roche, Aeden McCarthy and Hoai Quach

7. Capitol Hill’s Title IX Teeth

On the week of July 28, bipartisan coalitions of Senators and Congresspeople introduced two bills to end sexual violence on college campuses. Know Your IX’s ED ACT NOW campaign, which advocates for better federal enforcement of Title IX, was particularly encouraged to see two provisions we’ve called for since our launch: greater transparency into civil rights investigations of schools and fining authority for the Department of Education if a school violates these rights. Currently, the only sanction ED can levy against a noncompliant school is revoking all federal funding, which would be a disaster for students, particularly those on financial aid. Perhaps for this reason, no school has ever been sanctioned for sexual assault-related Title IX violations, rendering the law an empty promise. Know Your IX looks forward to working with the bipartisan coalition and student allies across the country to make sure these key provisions become law, bringing our campuses one step closer to safety and justice for students of all genders.

—Know Your IX

8. Sacramento’s Preventative Education

Since last spring, federal complaints filed by scores of students across California, from the University of Southern California to Occidental College to UC-Berkeley, have pressured lawmakers to make campuses safer. Now, California lawmakers are springing into action with SB 967, a bill that would require students to have affirmative consent from their partners before engaging in sexual activity. The bill, which students have been vital in putting at the forefront of California’s legislative agenda, also aims to increase important preventative education and outreach to students to confront the widespread culture of campus sexual assault. Beyond serving as a model for how states can respond to sexual violence on campus, the bill has generated an important dialogue among anti-sexual violence activists, students and the mainstream media about how our culture can encourage safety, respect and consent.

—Sofie Karasek

9. Where Has Corbett Been This Whole Time?

At 9 AM on Wednesday, August 6, students from Youth United for Change protested in front of Governor Corbett’s office in Philadelphia as he held a press conference on funding for education. We tried to get inside, but security refused, saying that the event was closed to the public. As Corbett came out of the elevator, we greeted him with chants—and he ran from us. We were escorted out of the building, where we rallied with students from Philadelphia Student Union. Reporters asked me if we should cut Governor Corbett some slack, because he was giving us $265 million for education—but he doesn’t deserve to be the hero status as he is the main reason we are in this struggle in the first place. We will continue to demand full and fair funding so we can have the education that we deserve.

—Katherine Garcia

10. When Will the Genocide End?

On Saturday, August 2, more than 150 people, mostly under the age of 25, came together to offer and hear public testimony about Chicago police violence, participate in a workshop on the history of police violence and current resistance and network with each other. The gathering was the first event of a new group, We Charge Genocide, a grassroots, intergenerational effort to center the voices and experiences of the young people most targeted by police violence in Chicago. Our next action will be a copwatch training on August 21.

—We Charge Genocide

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