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What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 2/27/15?

Keystone March

Demonstrators march during a protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline outside the White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

Scary Negroes with Guns,” by Messiah Rhodes. The New Inquiry, February 23, 2015.

In a powerful personal essay, Messiah Rhodes explores his relationship to guns as a Black man in America, and America's obsession with the gun—real or imagined—in Black hands: “These dream guns indicate the depth of white America’s fear of black resistance.... Black people can be trained to protect our national security, to be snipers, to be killers, yet if we attempt to protect ourselves from a history of violent white supremacy, we become enemy combatants.”

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

Bogus university graduates clog Iraqi job market,” by Adnan Abu Zeed. Al-Monitor, February 24, 2015.

Considering America’s long-term military involvement in Iraq, and the growing popular obsession with ISIS, there’s surprisingly little available in English about the country’s internal political and social scene. This piece from the Iraqi journalist Adnan Abu Zeed covers the widespread corruption among Iraq’s ruling class: there’s a glut of unemployed overeducated Iraqis with graduate degrees, but many still struggle to secure government jobs because the most coveted positions are sold to well-connected elites with bogus inflated credentials.

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

Transgender Crimea,” by Dimiter Kenarov. The Huffington Post, January 31, 2015.

Through the eyes of a young trans man named Pasha, Kenarov beautifully renders the experience of LGBT refugees within the context of the Russian-Ukraine crisis. History has shown the direct relationship between political instability and anti-LGBT sentiments, which force many to abandon their homes and seek safety elsewhere. Paralleling Pasha’s own transition into a man with the evolving identity of Ukrainian citizens, Kenarov ends the article with a powerful statement: “In a sense, everybody in Ukraine was now trans.”

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

What Was Missing from Obama's Anti-Terrorism Speech.” The Real News, February 23, 2015.

In this interview, academic and author Vijay Prashad describes Obama’s speech at the DC summit addressing global terrorism as “only half right.” Prashad acknowledges Obama’s point of the responsibility of Muslim scholars and clerics to push back against ISIS rhetoric and propaganda, but says the president failed to address the “issue of Western intervention in the Middle East” by ignoring the role the US and its ally Saudi Arabia have played in “fomenting the birth of the Islamic State.” In light of the US’s widening military role in the region, Prashad’s emphasis on foreign policy and geopolitics, not religion, as the root cause of terrorism in the Mid East region is worth noting.

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

Some Unions Think Supporting Keystone XL Was A Mistake?” by Kate Aronoff. Vice News, February 18, 2015.

Here’s a look at the growing collaborations between labor unions and climate justice advocates and how those connections have developed through labor’s changing stance on the Keystone XL pipeline. It's an important dynamic at work underneath the ongoing fight over the pipeline.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

Isis has provoked an Arab alliance to bomb the West’s enemies,” by Robert Fisk. The Independent. February 16, 2015.

In America’s war against ISIS, Fisk describes how the US has found its allies in the Middle East to help do its dirty work. Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Libya’s Khalifa Hafter, and many of the GCC countries are bombing ISIS fighters, and feeling the brunt of the effects. As Fisk points out however, for Arabs the message is very clear: “Washington has an American-trained general in charge of the Libyan air force, an American-trained former field marshal and president in charge of Egypt, [and] an American-educated and British-trained king in Jordan…in the battle.”

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

Working Anything but 9 to 5,” by Jodi Kantor. The New York Times, August 13, 2014.

Starbucks relies on software to manage the scheduling of its employees, making use of an intricate web of sales patterns and other data to distribute labor in the most profit maximizing way possible. This article lets readers into the lives of parents struggling to raise their children when faced with unpredictable shifts that sometimes require them to work until 11 PM and return the next day at 4 AM. This is just one example of how the logic of our economy fractures social relations in the sacred pursuit of profit, but if you ask Charles DeWitt of Kronos (the company that supplies the software), “It’s like magic.”

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

New survey reveals everything you think about freelancing is true,” by David Uberti. Columbia Journalism Review, February 17, 2015.

For anyone who has freelanced––and attempted to get compensated for their time, expenses, and creative labor—many of these statistics are familiarly depressing. And it’s freelance investigative reporting, often funded out of journalists’ own pockets due to the dismal slashing of expense budgets, that has taken the hardest hit. “Ninety-three percent of those surveyed said they’d be interested in joining some sort of freelancer collective.” So what are we waiting for? Let's unite.

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

Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor and race.
@savitchlew

The Complexities of Black Community Control of Police,” by Glen Ford. Black Agenda Report, February 11, 2015.

Glen Ford, founder of the Black Agenda Report, looks at the landscape of reforms that have emerged in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, from police body-camera legislation to Newark Mayor Baraka’s proposed Civilian Complaint Review Board. Ford concludes that we need nothing short of black communities seizing control of policing in their neighborhoods. I wonder if his call for principles of “self-determination” will be better received by millennials, thanks to our familiarity with identity politics, than it was in the post-civil rights period.

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

Patricia Arquette’s Feminism: Only for White Women,” by Amanda Marcotte. Slate, February 23, 2015.

Monday morning brought an onslaught of responses (including a blog post from The Nation’s Dave Zirin) after Patricia Arquette’s Oscars backstage comments concerning equal pay for women. Marcotte’s piece takes an especially holistic look at how Arquette’s comments, which failed to address issues of intersectionality, could affect women not included in the category of white-middle-class feminist. Public forums are powerful platforms, Marcotte says; it’s best to play it safe and keep responses simple before making sweeping, exclusive declarations.

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 2/20/15

NYU Workers Are Still Subject to ‘Abuse and Exploitation’ After Promised Reforms

NYU Protest

Students organize for the rights of academic workers at NYU’s New York campus. (Photo by Rebecca Nathanson)

This article was originally published by the NYU Local and is reposted here with permission.

If you think NYU’s administration learned its lesson from the alleged abuses of migrant laborers, Human Rights Watch would like to tell you otherwise.

On Tuesday, the prominent NGO released a new report on the alleged exploitation of the migrant workers who built NYU Abu Dhabi, as well as projects for the Guggenheim and Louvre. Human Rights Watch has released two earlier reports on the issue in 2009 and 2012.

After the 2009 report chronicled several abuses, NYU agreed to create a statement of labor values. These include prohibitions against forced labor, harassment or abuse, and discrimination. Human Rights Watch has praised the guidelines as a step forward.

Nickolas McGeehan, a lead researcher for the newest report, said that although these guidelines are commendable on paper, “the enforcement mechanisms are very clearly deficient.”

Discussing the research conducted for the most recent study, McGeehan stated, “When we went back we found the same problems.” Workers reported not having passports, paying recruitment fees that were not reimbursed, and living in squalid housing conditions.

“The most serious allegations are the deportations,” said McGeehan. In 2013, a few years after NYU had implemented its statement of labor values, hundreds of workers building NYU Abu Dhabi were arbitrarily deported. The workers had organized a strike to protest their working conditions and pay. In response, the police and BK Gulf, the contractor NYU hired to build its Abu Dhabi site, collaborated to arrest forty workers they accused of leading the strike. These workers were deported after nine days in prison. Between 200 and 350 other workers would be deported as well.

At a Tuesday panel hosted by The NYU Coalition for Fair Labor, Sean O’Driscoll, the journalist who co-authored the New York Times exposé on the abuses, discussed the strike and subsequent deportation. In October 2013, the leadership of BK Gulf agreed to negotiate with the striking workers. But according to O’Driscoll, it was a trap. A BK Gulf manager photographed any of the workers who spoke up at the meeting. “Those photos were passed on to the police who turned up at the camp the next day in riot gear, wearing balaclavas, machine guns, batons.”

O’Driscoll continued, “it was hard for me…to believe that these were NYU workers because NYU was supposed to set the real high standard not just in the [United Arab Emirates] but in the Gulf.”

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In May 2014, NYU spokesperson John Beckman issued a statement to NYU Local, writing, “To any worker who was not treated in line with the standards we set and whose circumstances went undetected and unremedied, we offer our apologies.”

Joined by others in the panel, O’Driscoll expressed his wishes that NYU would be willing to compensate the deported workers, as a first step in addressing the most recent abuses. Some of the workers interviewed by HRW said they were in debt, despite having worked long hours, six days a week. NYU President John Sexton, a vocal champion of the Abu Dhabi expansion, is scheduled to be awarded a $2.5 million bonus this year.

 

Read Next: Chloe Maxmin onHarvard’s climate crisis

From Bob McCulloch to Scott Walker, Whom Does the University Serve?

Whose Diversity?

Students at the University of Minnesota take over Morrill Hall. (Photo: Twin Cities Daily Planet)

This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out January 16 and February 11. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. The Act of Diversity

On Monday, February 9, undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Minnesota acting under the banner, Whose Diversity?, staged a sit-in at President Eric Kaler’s office to press the administration to take immediate action to improve conditions for students of color and other marginalized communities at the predominantly white institution. Sixteen students informed Kaler that they would remain in his office until eight demands were met, while more than 100 people rallied outside for eight hours. Our demands include the removal of descriptions of race and complexion from university crime alerts, the hiring of more faculty of color, the installation of one gender neutral restroom in every campus building and the creation of a new program to recruit students from local, working class neighborhoods of color. The president remained unwilling to commit to these changes, instead calling on the police to make arrests for “trespassing.” In total, thirteen were arrested—the #UMN13—and spent the night in jail. We remain committed to forging a university that values the lives of all its students.

—Whose Diversity?

2. The Thin Blue Line

On February 20, Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor who handled Darren Wilson’s case, is scheduled to speak at the Saint Louis University School of Law at a symposium titled, “The Thin Blue Line: Policing Post-Ferguson.” On February 9, students involved in the Ferguson community spoke at an SLU community town hall meeting to ask the administration to uphold the school’s Jesuit mission by rescinding McCulloch’s invitation. We then led the room if four and a half minutes of silence to show respect for Mike Brown and the clients we serve in Ferguson. We oppose McCulloch’s appearance because of his numerous ethical violations and show of disregard for the community he serves. Students, alumni and other members of the community respectfully continue to show opposition by sending letters to the administration.

—Sheree Davis, Grace Flash and Christina Vogel

3. In Milwaukee, Scott Walker Gets a Wisconsin Cheer

In response to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s plan to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system budget, hundreds of students, faculty and staff have rallied on UW-Milwaukee’s campus over the past two weeks, organized by Progressive Students of Milwaukee in coalition with groups across campus. Walker’s proposed cuts will result in mass layoffs, fewer classes, a slowdown in admissions and tuition increases after the expiration of a tuition freeze in 2017. The proposed budget will also place the UW system under the control of the Walker-­appointed Board of Regents rather than the elected state legislature. We plan to hold more actions over the coming weeks, demanding, “No Cuts to UW!”

—Progressive Students of Milwaukee

4. In Richmond, Survivors Win the Right to Their Own Recourse

This spring, the Virginia Student Power Network has been fighting to prevent the Virginia General Assembly from passing legislation which would prohibit survivors of campus sexual assault from seeking confidential help from their universities. Proposed legislation would require administrators and staff to call the police when a survivor comes forward seeking help in the wake of a sexual assault—even if involving the police is against their wishes. Students from across the state have attended hearings in Richmond and met with legislators to testify that these bills would limit survivors’ options and agency, with a chilling effect on reporting. Multiple survivors bravely testified that, if this law had been in place, they would never have come forward to their universities about their assaults—which is crucial for receiving academic accommodations, counseling, housing adjustments and no-contact orders. Following this pressure, both the House and Senate dropped the “mandatory reporting” requirement from their bills. Currently, both versions still require police involvement if the sexual assault constitutes an ongoing threat to the health or safety of the campus community (which is already required, in some cases, by federal regulation). In the final two weeks of the legislation session, students, survivors and advocates will continue to push for changes to ensure that any bills passed do not damage survivors' ability to seek the support they need and the justice they deserve.

—Virginia Student Power Network

5. In Little Rock, Students March on the State

On January 28, the Arkansas Board of Education held an open forum to decide the fate of the Little Rock School District. After four hours of community testimony, mostly in opposition to the measure, the board decided to take over the school district immediately. All school board members were removed from office, and the superintendent was kept only on an interim basis. The night after the takeover was announced, students, teachers and community members held a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Arkansas capitol building, and, on February 5, seventy students marched on the Arkansas Department of Education. We have formed the Little Rock School District Student Association to further the fight against a state-run school district.

—Rebekah Smith

6. Sitting In, Getting the Goods

The UMass Amherst Graduate Employee Organization has been engaged in contract negotiations for the more than 2,500-member bargaining unit since June. Following the last-minute cancellation of a negotiation set for Tuesday, February 10, members of the GEO Bargaining Committee, along with forty union members and undergraduate allies from the Student Labor Action Project, staged a march, sit-in and teach-in at the office of the Graduate School in Goodell Hall and demanded to bargain at the scheduled time. We planted ourselves in the hallway outside the office of the Graduate Dean and the university’s main labor-management representative for ninety minutes and conferred about bargaining progress. At a rescheduled negotiation on Friday, we signed five tentative agreements; we are now set to become the second student-worker union in the country with a contract guaranteeing all-gender bathroom access.

—Anna Waltman and Anais Surkin

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7. Schooling Homeland Security

On February 12, the University of Massachusetts issued a policy barring the admission of Iranian students from certain graduate programs in engineering and natural sciences. While the administration argued that the policy change was necessary to comply with federal law and US Department of Homeland Security policy, a US state department official suggested in The Boston Globe, “US law does not prohibit qualified Iranian nationals coming to the United States for education in science and engineering.” Iranian students and community members, as well as faculty, mobilized in response to the policy, using the hashtag #‎weareallumass and creating a Facebook page which accumulated over 2,500 “likes” during its first day. On February 18, the administration announced that it would reverse course; Iranian organizations on campus have welcomed this move, while calling for clarity on the revised policy and transparency and fairness in future admissions.

—Graduate Student Senate

8. A Historic Vote for Palestinian Justice

In a historic vote on February 8, the University of California Student Association passed a resolution to divest from companies that profit off violations of Palestinian human rights in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The 9-1-6 vote represented the coalescence of years of grassroots, intersectional and coalition-based Palestine solidarity organizing from students across the UC system through Students for Justice in Palestine chapters. The vote constitutes the largest win in the nation for the student divestment movement against the Israeli Occupation; the UC Student Association is the official voice of more than 240,000 students in one of the largest public school systems in the United States. Organizers gathered from across the state of California to speak in support of the resolution, which included over ninety endorsing organizations from a diverse identities and issues. The coalition of SJP chapters on the West Coast, SJP West, will now take the call to divest to the Board of Regents.

—Sophia Armen

9. A Global Upsurge for Divestment

On February 13, the Global Day of Action for fossil-fuel divestment, more than 200 students from ten Virginia universities marched together on the University of Mary Washington to demand that our institutions cut ties with the fossil-fuel industry. This action, the largest in UMW campus history, sent a message to the Board of Visitors that we will not be silenced—after more than a year of action, ranging from sit-ins to performance art pieces. Building off the energy from the march, students from Divest UMW will present a twenty-minute proposal to the board. The event also kicked off Virginia Power Shift, a 400-student convergence organized by the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition and the Virginia Student Power Network to build power for social, economic and climate justice in Virginia.

—Zakaria Kronemer

10. Chapel Hill and the World

Editor’s note: On February 15, thousands gathered at UNC–Chapel Hill to mourn Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha. (Video: The News & Observer)

—Chapel Hill Community

Read Next: Chloe Maxmin on Harvard’s climate crisis

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 2/20/15?

50 Shades

Fifty Shades of Grey trailer (YouTube)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

Austerity’s Billy Club,” by Andrew Klein. Jacobin, February 5, 2015.

Public transportation has been on my mind lately, from the MBTA’s struggle to provide service through record-breaking snow in Boston (and using the labor of inmates to shovel tracks) to the MTA’s recent shutdown and fare increases. In this timely piece, Andrew Klein explains the history of austerity, racial divisions and violence in the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and connects this history to #BlackLivesMatter protests, crackdowns on homeless populations and the necessity of investing in public infrastructure.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

“Detroit’s ‘Walking Man’ Walks On,” by Charlie LeDuff. Vice News, February 17, 2015.

James Robertson works at a factory in Detroit that’s far beyond the reach of public transit, so he must walk twenty miles to and from work everyday. Thanks to some Internet do-gooders, his story went viral and a “GoFundMe” account in his name received over $350,000 in donations. Detroit-based writer Charlie LeDuff’s reporting on the story underlines both the crisis of poverty in Detroit and the capricious impulses of online humanitarians.

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

Fifty Shades of Feminist Socialism,” by Laurie Penny. Penny Red, February 16, 2015.

“‘My desires are…unconventional,’ he admits. ‘So are mine,’ I say. ‘I want to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.’” Laurie Penny’s Fifty Shades rewrite gloriously skewers the film adaptation of E.L. James’s “romance” novel by replacing the problematically meek protagonist, Anastasia Steele, with a woman who is not buying Mr. Grey’s brand of bullshit. Film executives take note: this is the sequel the world wants to see.

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

A New Feminist Movement? Middle Eastern Hijabis as Superheroes,” by Women’s Voices Now. Aquila Style, February 18, 2015.

Within the context of rampant regional sexual violence, this article illustrates how MENA women are creatively challenging “restrictive patriarchal norms and rising misogyny” while debunking the “widespread depiction of MENA women as oppressed victims.” The piece showcases the work of an Egyptian artist and creator of a female comic-book hero who emerges out of a “world of superheroes steeped in Western, male narratives” to challenge the status quo both in the MENA region and beyond.

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

What the Hell Is Going On With the New US Cybersecurity Initiative?” by Ryan Faith. Vice News, February 18, 2015.

The reporting here isn’t great, but the apparent redundancy of US cybersecurity agencies is worth a closer look. There’s the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) under DHS, the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC) under ODNI, and the Cyber Response Group (CRG) under the Homeland Security Council; all three have similar and potentially overlapping mandates. Figuring out what’s actually going on with those three agencies, which Vice fails to do, would be interesting.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

Hailed as a Model for Successful Intervention, Libya Proves to be the Exact Opposite,” by Glenn Greenwald. The Intercept, February 16, 2015.

In this piece, Glenn Greenwald illustrates how three years after NATO’s military mission in Libya, often lauded as a model intervention, the country has collapsed into a drawn-out civil war. He explains how US military intervention in other nations ends up bolstering the enemies that it later on fights (such as the rise of ISIS which was created after the 2003 Iraq war, or the creation of Al Qaeda, which was empowered when the United States armed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion). In this hard-hitting piece, Greenwald points out that US militarism “ensures that the US government never loses its supply of reasons to continue its endless war.”

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

Oil Refinery Workers Are on Strike and They’re Getting Support from Environmentalists,” by Ari Paul. Vice News, February 18, 2015.

Now entering its third week, a nationwide strike by more than 5,000 oil workers at nine facilities carries on. The strike is bolstered by the encouragement of environmentalist groups, who share a common enemy. And they should: combating climate change requires a radical restructuring of the economy, which ultimately depends on the mobilization of workers.

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

Which Women in Tech?” by Nicole Sanchez. Medium, February 9, 2015.

Sanchez’s essay on the problem with conflating “white women” with “diversity” in the tech industry (think “lean in”) also aptly applies to all industries in which problematic conversations about diversity take place. “White women are a small sliver of the available talent, but are currently used as the proxy for all diversity. What works for them is not what works for us,” Sanchez writes. “If you work on ‘women in tech’ events, organizations, etc and you do not know why a more diverse cross-section of women participate, find out why.”

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

Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor and race.
@savitchlew

If Teachers Can’t Make Their Unions More Democratic and Social Justice-Minded, Public Ed Is Doomed,” by Bob Peterson. In These Times, February 12, 2015.

Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, knows that in this age of neoliberalism, “we must proceed with caution in our public criticism of…school district policies.” Despite or because of the attack on teachers’ unions throughout the country, Peterson insists that the key to “reclaiming” the profession is to push stagnant, self-serving teachers unions toward “social justice unionism”—a type of organizing that values not only the needs of teachers but also the wellbeing of entire communities of families and students.

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

Don’t Blame Parents for Vaccine Resistance. Blame Mothers,” by Ruth Graham. Slate, February 17, 2015.

I was resistant to post this piece because I agreed with Graham’s disclaimer: “It’s dicey to discuss this gender disparity for a number of reasons, including the fact that ‘blame moms’ is not a thesis that tends to endear one to the sisterhood of womankind.” But her careful findings track a real trend of mothers’ pushing for the anti-vaccination movement and make this story worth considering. Graham points to the fact that medicine is founded in paternalistic language; perhaps changing the rhetoric to appeal to “warrior” mothers might make a difference in this anti-vaccination dialogue.

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 2/17/15

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 2/17/15?

Bush Mission Accomplished

President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, May 2003. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

How to Make an Accused Rapist Look Good,” by Erin Gloria Ryan. Jezebel, February 6, 2015.

A piece published by Cathy Young in The Daily Beast earlier this month proved, yet again, that mainstream media perpetuates rape culture by questioning survivors’ accounts of sexual assault. Jezebel does a great job of tearing down these journalistic practices, and shutting down Young’s persistent rape skepticism in favor of the voices of the brave young people who have come forward on the issue of sexual assault and rape culture in their universities.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

Jose Mujica Was Every Liberal’s Dream President. He was Too Good to be True,” by Eve Fairbanks. The New Republic, February 5, 2015.

This rare deep dive into the personality and politics of Uruguay’s Jose Mujica is engaging and rich with anecdotes, but ultimately falls short. Eve Fairbanks parachuted into Montevideo, spoke with a few opposition journalists, and wrote a familiar tale of overambitious radicals who fail to deliver. By brushing aside the legacy of military dictatorship, the impact of the far right National Party—and for that matter the internal dynamics of Mujica’s own Popular Front—Fairbanks missed a rare opportunity to dig into an under-covered corner of Latin America.

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia, and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

Guardians, Gatekeepers, and the Gay White Media,” by Rohin Guha, Tom Bardwell and Zach Wilcha. Medium, February 8, 2014.

How do you solve a problem like Azealia? Ever since she splashed onto the rap scene in 2011 with the infectious “212,” Azealia Banks has thrown the music industry for a loop, indicting many for what she calls “cultural smudging” and feuding with the likes of Iggy Azalea and Kendrick Lamar. Her frequent use of the word “faggot” on Twitter, which she claims to be using in a “feminist way,” has recently sparked an important discussion in gay media circles about the power and policing of language in this cultural moment.

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

Lama Younis: Rethinking psychoilogy and personal empowerment in the Middle East,” by Hyacinth Mascarenhas. Elan, June 24, 2014.The Washington Post, January 20, 2015.

While this mini-interview of the first (Saudi) female forensic psychologist and criminologist in the Middle East is a fluff piece, it serves as a good reminder of why, when it comes to “spearheading change and empowerment in the Arab world,” the first step should be supporting internal efforts towards change rather than trying to externally impose it (otherwise known as the savior complex trap).

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

It Wasn’t About Oil, and It Wasn’t About the Free Market: Why We Invaded Iraq,” by Danny Postel. In These Times, February 11, 2015.

This is a thoughtful review of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad's The Road to Iraq, a book that unpacks the neoconservative agenda that led to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The review caught my attention early with its compelling criticism of three powerful narratives of the rationale for war: that it was fought for oil, to spread free market doctrine, or to expand US global political dominance. It only gets better from there.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

NGOs – do they help?” by Dinyar Godrej. New Internationalist, December 2014.

With the rise of neoliberal policies in the 1980s, NGOs were increasingly given the task of addressing social issues in society—poverty, environmental issues, gender equality, etc. In this article, Godrej critiques the “corporatization” of NGOs and analyzes how the non-profit model stifles initiatives for radical structural change. Due to enormous government and corporate funding of NGOs, Godrej examines whether NGOs are indeed forces for betterment in society or merely instruments of state policy.

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

Peer-Pressure Philanthropy,” by Vauhini Vara. The New Yorker, February 8, 2015

Vara argues that the emerging billionaire class has ushered in a new era of giving, one in which philanthropists are more willing to donate greater shares of their wealth at a younger age. She fails to mention that the wealth of the new elite is generated by a system of exploitation that is the source of the very ills in society that they purport to alleviate. It would be misguided not to want the money to be put to good use, but there is no doubt that “corporate responsibility” is a giant PR campaign that softens the image of the powerful and keeps the public further from dissent.

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

The CIA's Secret Psychological Profiles of Dictators and World Leaders Are Amazing,” by Dave Gilson. Mother Jones, February 11, 2015.

Following reports of a secret Pentagon study diagnosing Putin with autism, Mother Jones’ listicle spotlights leaders targeted by the CIA's “long history of crafting psychological and political profiles of international figures, with varying degrees of depth and accuracy.” At their best, the excerpted profiles, which occasionally conflate a leader's ideological perspective with his psychological and moral failings, read like passages from The Brothers Karamazov. Nikita Khrushchev, for instance, is described as “An uninhibited ham actor, who sometimes illustrates his points with the crudest sort of barnyard humor...Capable of extraordinary frankness, and in his own eyes no doubt unusually honest, Khrushchev can also on occasion be a gambler and a dissembler expert in calculated bluffing.”

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

Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor, and race.
@savitchlew

Injustice at the Intersection,” by Benjamin Ross. Dissent, December 18, 2014

With urban poverty pushed to the city’s edge, suburban poverty is growing. Carless and forced to walk streets that are unfriendly to pedestrians, many low-income people are at risk of becoming traffic fatalities—or police fatalities (Michael Brown was jaywalking in his suburb when he was stopped by Officer Darren Wilson). Benjamin Ross’s article proves that segregation and oppressive land-use planning have not disappeared in the age of urbanization; we've merely shunted the poor into new—now suburban—uninhabitable spaces.

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

Labor Pains,” by Rebecca Traister. The New Republic, February 3, 2015.

Traister’s narrative about the restrictions for new and working mothers in the United States provided great insight into the challenges women still face within the professional sphere. Although companies like Google and Facebook are meeting the obvious need for parental leave benefits, there is still only a small percentage of working parents who are receiving this coverage. And, as Traister can attest, pregnant women and new mothers have limited options for professional mobility — regardless of their benefits package.

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 1/29/15

Why Harvard Students Are Sitting-In Outside Drew Faust's Office

Divest Harvard Sit-In

(Courtesy of Divest Harvard)

Today, more than thirty-five Harvard students launched a sit-in at Massachusetts Hall, outside President Drew Faust’s office, to demand full divestment from the fossil-fuel industry. We sit in because Harvard has a responsibility to do everything in its power to address the climate crisis.

The scientific debate about climate change is over. Global warming threatens livelihoods and cultures in communities around the world with natural disasters, drought, floods, disease and conflict. Yet Harvard knowingly and willingly profits from the fossil-fuel companies that exacerbate this crisis, even as the true costs of oil, coal and gas use are borne by our communities. Overwhelmingly, these costs are shouldered by already marginalized communities, making this not only a climate issue but a justice issue.

As we sit in, we call on Harvard to answer these questions. Will Harvard continue to profit from corporations whose extraction methods exacerbate inequality in already marginalized communities? Will this university disregard the effect of exploitative business practices and choose to prioritize corporate profit over communities on the frontlines of climate disasters whose lives and cultures are under siege? Will it choose to ignore commitments to current and future generations, including Harvard’s own students, who are currently being robbed of a livable future?

Divest Harvard calls for divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as the first step. Harvard’s divestment would align its financial choices with its purported values. It would also send a powerful message that our society can no longer tolerate the business model and political power of the fossil-fuel industry. Harvard is already a global leader in research and education. Alumni, faculty and administrators enjoy tremendous influence over our economic affairs and political culture. And the university has taken steps to address its own carbon impact through admirable sustainability initiatives. Yet Harvard’s wealth and influence means it has a special responsibility to act in every capacity possible in the face of a crisis this immense. Despite a compelling historical precedent of divestment from tobacco and South African apartheid, Harvard has ignored the facts of the current crisis. Refusing to divest now is an irresponsible and unsustainable abrogation of Harvard’s power.

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Divest Harvard began on this campus close to three years ago. In an Undergraduate Council referendum in 2012, 72 percent of participating Harvard College students supported divestment from fossil fuels. Since then, in addition to growing student support, over 200 faculty members, almost 1,100 alumni and around 65,000 community members co-signed our campaign. Backed by this powerful movement, we asked the university to meet with us to discuss divestment. The university ignored our requests and even arrested a student in the spring of last year for protesting the lack of transparent dialogue.

Now, Divest Harvard will accept nothing short of full divestment. After three years of conversations that led nowhere, merely requesting further discussion is both insufficient and disrespectful to the communities who bear the direct consequences of the fossil-fuel industry’s actions. Harvard’s actions must reflect the urgency of the global need for action.

Today we are sitting in the office of Harvard’s president, to call on her and her fellow decision-makers in the Harvard Corporation to make the ethical, sensible, and necessary decision to divest from fossil fuels. This movement is here to stay. Divest Harvard therefore commits to continue mobilizing, and to come back in the spring—more powerfully and with higher numbers than ever before.

Read Next: Chloe Maxmin onHarvard’s climate crisis

Students Mass Against ‘Hebdo’-Fueled Hate Speech, Disrupt Tuition Hikes and Rise for Jessie Hernandez

Jessie Hernandez

A vigil in Denver for Jessie Hernandez. (Photo: Padres y Jovénes Unidos)

This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, and links to all posts from 2014, check out January 16. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. 400 Greet Anti-Muslim Hate Speech

In mid-January, a law professor at Vanderbilt University published an op-ed in The Tennessean arguing that Islam poses “an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored” and made “part of the brotherhood of man.” Two days later, 400 students gathered on Library Lawn at Vanderbilt University to denounce an attack on Muslim students.The action showed those who shared the opinions of the faculty member that Vanderbilt students and faculty have zero tolerance for bigotry. In response, the provost issued a statement disaffiliating the views of the university from those of the professor.

—Farishtay Yamin

2. 68 Blockade for Black Lives

On January 19, Martin Luther King Day, sixty-eight Stanford students were arrested for blocking the San Mateo Bridge as part of nationwide #ReclaimMLK demonstrations. Reclaiming Martin Luther King Day meant engaging in direct and disruptive action and drawing in the internationalism King championed at the end of his life. While detained on the bridge, we tried to bring attention to issues of state violence, mass incarceration and foreign occupation that Silicon Valley otherwise has the ability to ignore. Our action was centered around the Ferguson Action national demands—and featured the Palestinian flag as a symbol of global struggles for justice. The action was black–centered and -led, with participation from Stanford students of all backgrounds.

—Silicon Shutdown

3. 2 Percent Too Much

With two dramatic campus demonstrations, the Ohio University Student Union launched a new campaign to reverse the university’s decision to raise tuition for both current and incoming students. The “Ohio Guarantee,” as the school has termed the hike, raises tuition for each incoming, in-state freshmen class by 5.1 percent. Students would then pay that rate for up to four years. Current students will see their tuition raised by 2 percent, the maximum increase allowed under current Ohio law. On Thursday, January 22, 100 students rallied outside Baker University Center, followed by a march down a high-traffic street off campus. After the crowd dispersed and journalists left, the Athens Police Department surrounded a small group of students and issued citations to three for “persistent disorderly conduct.” The following day, thirty students disrupted the Board of Trustees meeting to deliver three demands: no new tuition hike, full funding for the Survivor Advocacy Program on our terms and no new natural gas pipeline construction on campus. Three additional students were arrested. We are building a legal fund to support the arrestees.

—Ohio University Student Union

4. 27 Percent—for Now

When the University of California announced a 27 percent fee increase in the fall, it was met with militant protest and multi-day occupations across the state. The increase, roughly $4,000, would be the highest the university has ever seen. Though the spring term has just started, students have already disrupted multiple PR events and protested the Regents’ meeting—while holding down picket lines for UC doctors striking for the first time in twenty-five years. In all these actions, we have decried a budget that prioritizes administration over instruction and things over people. At many, the UC has sent in police to shut down protest. Students at UC–Santa Cruz have already called for ninety-six hours of disruptive action, culminating in strikes and campus shutdowns the first week of March.

—California Student Union at UCLA and UCSC

5. In Arcata, Taking Residence for Native Justice

Since Martin Luther King Day, Humboldt State University students have taken up twenty-four-hour residence on campus in the newly christened Dr. Jacquelyn Bolman Forum—and plan to stay there until our demands are met. Dr. Bolman was the director of HSU’s Indian Natural Resource, Science and Engineering Program, and a beloved Lakota mentor, who was fired last fall for criticizing the university’s inability to hire faculty and staff of color, despite shifting student demographics in the state and public university systems. We are peacefully protesting school administrators for violating the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, California Education Code 66301, United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples articles 14, 18 and 19 and the college’s mission statement. This is not an occupation, but a liberation—a reminder from Native students and the Unified Students of Humboldt that the university resides on occupied Wiyot Land. We have received public support from the Sovereign Wiyot, Tolowa and Yurok nations and more than thirty faculty and staff members.

—Unified Students of Humboldt

6. In Oakland, LA and San Diego, Kicking Out ICE

In September, and again in January, the Immigrant Youth Coalition, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance and allied groups sent letters to Attorney General Kamala Harris requesting to meet—with no response. We demand a public statement reiterating stronger implementation of the TRUST Act in lieu of Obama’s new “Prioritized Enforcement Program” for undocumented immigrants; U-Visa certifications for those affected by TRUST Act violations; disciplinary action for sheriffs and police departments in violation; and appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute use of force in jails, prisons, detention centers and the streets. On Wednesday, January 28, we took action at Harris’s offices in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego. In San Diego, we occupied the lobby for four hours—first being redirected by a staffer to the Sacramento office, then told by Sacramento that they could not assist us, then chanting, being told to disperse and, finally, winning a meeting with the AG’s office. After multiple hours of negotiation, the office committed to a meeting with a “top” staffer in San Diego.

—Avila Medrano

7. Mississippi’s Gay-Straight Alliance

On January 14, Dr. Lynn Weathersby, the Rankin County, Mississippi, school superintendent, struck down our right to create a Gay-Straight Alliance at Brandon High School, telling us that he did not want “gay clubs” in his schools and that these are “issues” we should discuss with our parents at home. He then ruled that students would need parental permission to join a club in school—posing a problem for students who aren’t out to their parents. On January 20, we held a protest outside the district office. Even though we were unsuccessful in blocking the new rule, the support—and outrage—has been overwhelming. At the same time, we have been harassed as a group and, more frighteningly, individually. This is exactly why we need the GSA. For now, we are still holding GSA meetings, as a donation-funded group, outside of school.

—Brandon Gay-Straight Alliance Council

8. York’s Public School Groundswell

On November 19, students from York City, Pennsylvania, protested the takeover of our school district by a for-profit charter school company with a sit-in at the monthly York City school board meeting. As court hearings began to determine our school district’s fate, we organized a student union to promote student awareness and activism. On the day of the meeting, we led a school-wide walkout and march to the York County Judicial Center and protested throughout the hearings. The judge ruled against us before ultimately granting our right to an appeal. We demand that the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education provide a public school option in York and will continue organizing protests to increase awareness and community support.

—Ashlee DeSantis

9. What’s Wrong With Hoodies?

On January 27, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice announced the #HoodieBanBill campaign. Our effort comes in response to the Oklahoma State Legislature’s proposed SB 13, which would effectively give law enforcement officials the right to enforce a state dress code under the racist pretense that hoodies are directly correlated to crime. The hoodie has come to represent a unifying a symbol of the continued struggle for racial equality and justice for communities of color. On February 3, following signature collection and coordination with groups across Oklahoma to raise awareness that the nation is willing to stand with Oklahomans for dignity and civil liberties, the bill was defeated.

—Pete Haviland-Eduah

10. When Will It End?

On January 28, 200 people rallied at Denver’s District 2 police substation to mourn and demand justice for 16-year-old Jessica Hernandez, who was killed by police on Monday. We held a moment of silence and watched a slideshow of Jessie projected onto the substation walls. Led by Denver Freedom Riders and Branching Seedz of Resistance and representing Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, we raised our voices until a sergeant came out and agreed to meet with us. As a delegation went inside, we chanted, “Hey now, we can’t be silenced when our friends are gunned down!” and “¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” The delegation learned that the Hernandez family was receiving anonymous threats of deportation, prompting police coverage, as well as the names of the officers involved, Daniel Greene and Gabriel Jordan. Still, there were no details or answers about what had happened. We will not stand by and allow the police to monitor and investigate themselves for abuse and misconduct.

—Jhovani Becerra

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 2/6/15?

Spain Anti-Austerity Protests

People hold banners and placards as they march during a protest against government austerity measures in Madrid March 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Sergio Perez)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

Why Internet journalists don't organize,” by Lydia DePillis. The Washington Post, January 30, 2015.

This article is not as thorough as I’d like, but it is a good starting point for discussion. DePillis focuses on labor journalist Mike Elk’s recent attempts to unionize Politico, and questions why new media journalists aren't unionized the same way that newspapers traditionally were. The piece neglects to delve into some crucial issues, but may be useful in sparking debate about how best to organize and protect the precarious, contingent, and often isolated workers on which our economy is increasingly dependent.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

The dark side of Winston Churchill’s legacy no one should forget,” by Ishaan Tharoor. The Washington Post, February 3, 2015.

The British just marked the fiftieth anniversary of Winston Churchill’s funeral with near-universal reverence and piety. The British Bulldog’s less savory side—his racism, and what The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor calls his “tory zeal for empire,” are left unexamined and mostly forgotten in the United States and Britain. But “to many outside the West,” Tharoor observes, “[Chuchill] remains a grotesque racist and a stubborn imperialist, forever on the wrong side of history.”

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia, and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

The Valentine Series,” by Substantia Jones. The Adipositivity Project, October 12, 2014.

Every year Substantia Jones photographs large people and their partners for The Adipositivity Project, a fat photo activism website dedicated to expanding the far too narrow standards of beauty. These photographs capture quotidian moments between lovers showering, having sex, reading and just lounging around the house. Jones’s gaze never feels voyeuristic and reveals a deep reverence for her subjects, who refuse to be defined by their size.

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

The mysterious absence of women from Middle East policy debates,” by Tamara Cofman Wittes and Marc Lynch. The Washington Post, January 20, 2015.

This article focuses on how the “current gender imbalance in the US foreign policy debate” prevents women’s professional development, but I think it’s even more important to emphasize that excluding women from the discussion critically undermines the effectiveness of US foreign policy particularly when it comes to the Middle East, where female scholars likely have more in-depth access to the cultural issues relevant to the debate. The underlying irony that US policy makers are exhibiting gross gender inequality while discussing foreign policy is also worth noting...

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

When Cops Break Bad: Inside a Police Force Gone Wild,” by Nick Pinto. Rolling Stone, January 29, 2015.

The Albuquerque Police Department is among the most violent in the country, with “a per-capita kill rate nearly double that of the Chicago police and eight times that of the NYPD.” This lengthy piece digs deep into the culture of the APD that contributes to the department's horrifying brutality.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

Militant Islam is an Instrument of Saudi-Pakistan-US Policy,” an interview with Prabir Purkayastha by Paul Jay. The Real News, February 3, 2015.

This interview is an intricate analysis of how failed historical policies and alliances helped shape current conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa region. When observing the turnaround of Western foreign policy in the region, Purkayastha speaks about how the United States and Saudi Arabia initially supported the Muslim Brotherhood in their efforts to curb Arab nationalist movements in the region. These strategic foreign policy goals, along with other shifting alliances during the postcolonial era, have led to destabilization and the rise of militancy.

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

When the South Wasn’t a Fan of States’ Rights,” by Eric Foner. Politico Magazine, January 23, 2015.

This article successfully dismantles the idea that the overarching impetus for the Civil War was the ideological tension between federalism and states’ rights. Foner artfully recounts the South’s enthusiasm for federal legislation, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, that safeguarded the dehumanizing institution of slavery. He rightly observes that federal and state power do not “exist in a vacuum,” rather, “both can be threats to the liberties of citizens and both can be modes of protecting them.”

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

The Difference Machine: Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Women in Tech,” by Molly Lambert. Grantland, January 29, 2015.

Lambert reminds Walter Isaacson, author of the recent The Innovators and the bestselling Steve Jobs biography, that the history of computing should not be dominated by white men from the West. She also reminds him that the structure of innovation is not marked by the revelatory flash of an individual's Eureka! moment but by the loosely-coordinated, improvisational efforts of scientific and non-scientific actors working together. She discusses programming’s cultural shift from a feminized labor to a masculine-dominated profession, showing how broader structural changes condition who gets the chance to be a genius and who gets left behind.

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

Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor, and race.
@savitchlew

From Proletarians to Proprietors,” by Brenna Bhandar. Jacobin, January 30, 2015.

While Spain’s constitution enshrines housing as a right of citizenship (the United States has no such provision), its laws to protect victims of predatory lending are worse, in effect forcing the indebted to continue paying even after foreclosure. In Spain, like in the United States or anywhere in the western world, immigrants and people of color (the subjects of imperial conquest) are the most frequent victims of foreclosure, evictions, and subprime lending. Thanks to the role of international finance in the real estate market, we see the historical relationship between the ownership of capital and regimes of racial oppression replicated every day, and it’s giving birth to new movements—in Spain and beyond—to occupy empty homes and rethink notions of property.

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

The Problem With Those ‘Feminist’ Super Bowl Ads,” by Ann Friedman. The Cut, February 2, 2015.

While my friends at an all-women Super Bowl party clapped after the Always “Like a Girl” ad played, I, like Ann Friedman, winced. In this piece, Friedman discusses why companies that use feminist “empowertising” tactics to sell their products shouldn’t necessarily be lauded for attaching feminism to their brands. She raises a point that has caused many skeptics to tweet, “#NotBuyingIt.”

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 1/29/15

Harvard Is the Climate Crisis

Divest Harvard

(Courtesy of Divest Harvard)

The Guardian recently reported that Harvard University has increased its investments in fossil fuels by almost seven fold over the last few months.

I co-founded Divest Harvard almost three years ago. We campaign for Harvard to divest its $36.4 billion endowment (the largest educational endowment in the world) from fossil fuel companies. Why? At the institutional level, it is both immoral and irrational for our University to invest in these firms. Harvard educates us for the future. The effort, money, and resources spent on our education is subverted by its support for companies that threaten to obliterate our futures. It is also hypocritical for Harvard to green our campus, pioneer clean tech research, and educate students about climate change while profitting from fossil fuel extraction. On the macro level, investing in the fossil fuel industry endorses its business model, which is fundamentally opposed to a livable planet. It also enables climate denial and the industry’s capture of our political system. We demand divestment because that is the only acceptable position for an educational institution.

Divest Harvard students have met with members of the Harvard Corporation three times. We have met with the Harvard Management Company, and we have spoken with President Drew Faust during 10-minute appointments at her bi-semesterly office hours. In our meetings, we’ve heard the same arguments repeated incessantly. We’ve been told to “thank BP.” We’ve heard excuses that, if the University divested from fossil fuel stocks, others would demand divestment from sugar! Most of Harvard’s arguments are summed up in Faust’s October 3, 2013 statement opposing divestment.

During these same three years, close to 70,000 people have signed onto the Divest Harvard campaign. The national divestment movement has grown to over 400 campaigns. Divestment pledges from Stanford University and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund highlight the more than $50 billion in assets that have been divested from fossil fuel companies to date. Contrast this with Harvard’s dismissal of Divest Harvard and its recent purchase of fossil fuel stocks. In trying to make sense of this, I have come to understand Harvard’s reaction to the fossil fuel divestment movement as an example of the same kind of thinking that created climate change in the first place.

Here’s how to think like Harvard:

First: Refuse to question your fierce commitment to the status quo. Harvard charges forward instead of stepping back to confront profound contradictions in its own practices. Harvard’s direct holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies jumped from $11.8 million to almost $80 million last quarter. This contradicts its responsibility to students’ futures and self-professed commitment to sustainability. This is akin to a government, whose primarily role is the protection of its people, spending billions of dollars on fossil fuel exploration with no regard for its catastrophic implications.

Second: Reject systemic thinking in order to trivialize the challenge of change. Harvard tweaks its behavior instead of creating new operational frameworks. For example, Harvard said that the University can be more effective through shareholder engagement with fossil fuel companies, rather than divestment. The problem is that the past shows that engagement with fossil fuel companies is ineffective and incapable of achieving the fundamental energy transition we need. President Faust has introduced campus-wide sustainability practices, making Harvard one of the greenest campuses in the US. But this is nonsensical when you consider that much of Harvard’s campus could be underwater relatively soon if we continue on our present course. At that point, lightbulbs won’t matter.

Similarly, the US government crafts regulations that fall dramatically short of what is needed to avert the worst of climate change. The EPA’s new regulations on coal power plants would reduce CO2 emissions 30 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. To limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the UN-designated “safe limit,” the US needs to reduce emission 57 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Obama’s commitment to climate is encouraging, but the hard truth is that, to avoid climate catastrophe, we need far bolder action.

Third: Suppress dialogue to maintain control. Since the fall of 2013, the Harvard administration has refused to engage in public dialogue about divestment. In fact, Harvard demonstrated that it would rather arrest students then engage in open debate with Divest Harvard and the wider University community. The administration will now only meet with us off-the-record.

Others in power use the same strategy. Remember during the 2012 Presidential Elections when no candidates uttered the words “climate change?” Or take the vast amount of climate denial that is spread to suppress and confuse action on climate?

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I remember the moment when I learned I was accepted to Harvard. I was in my mom’s car. We pulled into an ally behind a restaurant so I could connect to Wifi on my iPod Touch. I read the email, my heart skipped a couple of beats, and I burst into a smile. Coming from a rural Maine high school, I was overwhelmed by the honor of a Harvard acceptance. In my mind, Harvard symbolized the world’s knowledge, wisdom, and truth. I imagined Harvard as the embodiment of action guided by reason.

Harvard President Drew Fast said in her October 3rd statement: “The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.” As a Harvard Senior, I am ashamed to see that our endowment—and hence the entire University—does impel social and political change: social change that accepts the status quo at the expense of everything that we love; political change that privileges corporations over people and oligarchy over democracy. Instead of being a beacon of truth and rationality, Harvard exemplifies the institutional processes that turned climate change into climate crisis.

I am an activist because I refuse to believe that this is the best that Harvard can do, just as I refuse to believe that this is the best that our civilization can do. Right now, Harvard is the climate crisis, but there is still time for Harvard to be the solution.

 

Read Next: Chloe Maxmin on Harvard president Faust’s opposition to divestment

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 1/29/15

Selma Screen Grab

The march across Pettus Bridge. (Selma, 2014)

Queen Arsem-O’Malley focuses on grassroots labor organizing, youth-led social movements, anti-carceral feminism, and critiques of mainstream media.
@qaween

The Anti-Olympics,” by Jules Boykoff. New Left Review 67, January-February 2011.

This week, I'm looking back at a great essay on anti-Olympics organizing around the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Jules Boykoff explains the damaging effects of being an Olympics host city and details the activism leading up to and during the 2010 Games, creating an archive of the movement. Currently, #NoBoston2024 is mobilizing against the possibility of a 2024 Olympics in my hometown, and being able to read records of previous organizing is extremely useful.

Avi Asher-Schapiro focuses on US foreign policy, politics in the Middle East and South America, and technology issues.
@AASchapiro

Academics Are Losing the War over the Middle East to the Thomas Friedmans of the World, Who Write All Too Clearly,” by Neeshat Afyonkara. Muftah, January 23, 2015.

An anonymous graduate student submitted an article intentionally packed with vague and confusing jargon to a prominent online journal of Middle East Studies. That the journal accepted the manuscript underlines the opaque and out-of-touch state of the discipline. Writing in Muftah, the student urges Middle East specialists to sharpen their language. Or else, she/he writes, the lucid yet uninformed Thomas Friedmans of the world will continue to dominate public discussions over a region where the United States is prone to dangerous military adventures.

Cole Delbyck focuses on LGBT politics, East Asia, and representational issues in film and television.
@cdelbyck

An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay,” by Robert Jones Jr. Indiewire, January 21, 2015.

Self-proclaimed Son of Baldwin, Brooklyn writer Robert Jones Jr. pens a beautiful open letter to his “sister,” Ava DuVernay, acclaimed director of the film Selma. Although Jones’s letter is meant for the public, his prose feels intimate, as he describes the joy of identifying with fully realized representations of black identity in a time of national strife. By rejecting whiteness as the Default, DuVernay has created a “sanctuary” for black audiences, one Jones holds close to his heart, regardless of any validation accumulated during awards season.

Khadija Elgarguri focuses on MENA issues including women’s rights, the relationship between foreign policy and cultural change, and women’s roles in protest movements in the region.
@dijaawad

Muslim women's bodies - the hottest property in 2014,” by Shelina Janmohamed. The Telegraph, December 29, 2014.

As Islamophobic attacks continue to rise, Sherina Janmohamed's piece from last month rings true today. Janmohamed delves into the inherent ethnocentrism that drives the Western world's seeming inability to view Muslim women through any other than an appearance-based lens, reducing them to “one-dimensional voiceless images” that overshadow their sometimes remarkable “achievements, opinions and self-determination.” Her argument that the attire choices of Muslim women, particularly those in Western countries, are a symbol of freedom of self-expression and not a symbol of oppression is a necessary reminder in a world still steeped in lingering traces of Orientalism.

Benjamin Hattem focuses on Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East, as well as economic inequality, homelessness, and the prison system.
@BenHattem

Shell Announces $11 Billion Petrochemical Plant for Iraq: What Could Go Wrong?” by Jim White. Emptywheel, January 28, 2015.

Shell is building an $11 billion petrochemical plant in the southern Iraq city of Basra. This piece argues that the security situation in Basra remains unstable, and notes a shortfall of $200 million for the World Food Programme’s efforts to distribute food to internally displaced people living in the Basra area. It situates the Shell plant within the context of the US military-industrial complex and the money that will be generated by the need to defend the facility.

Nadia Kanji focuses on foreign policy, political art & alternative economic structures.
@nadiakanji

Unauthorized memory,” by Yasmin El-Rifae. Mada Masr, January 25, 2015.

During a recent gathering in Egypt commemorating those who have been killed since the 2011 uprising exactly four years ago, political activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was shot dead by state forces. In this poignant text, Yasmin El-Rifae illustrates how the regime continues to censor and brutally repress the Egyptian people. They are no longer allowed to mourn or remember those who hoped for a better world outside the confines of the regime’s “barbed wire barriers”: “The gunmen and their bosses have made it clear that unauthorized memory will not be tolerated. Neither will grief. Public language, thought, and opinion is either legal or illegal, patriotism or treason.”

James F. Kelly focuses on labor, economic inequality, world politics and intellectual history.
@jamesf_kelly

After Syriza's Victory,” by Stathis Kouvelakis. New Politics, January 26, 2015.

Syriza’s triumph in the Greek elections this past weekend gives hope to working class movements around the world. The capitalists, whose interests are forcefully advanced by world leaders, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, now face an opposition with real governing power. This article necessarily probes the true scope of Syriza’s victory and recognizes some of the challenges that await the new government.

Ava Kofman focuses on technology, popular science and media culture.
@eyywa

Hunger games,” by Will Wiles.Aeon, January 22, 2015.

“Scarcity sells. Starvation sells. Survival sells,” observes Wiles, of the recent trend of open-world PC games focused on austerity, apocalypse, and resource management. In these McCarthy-esque “hunger games,” the “elemental calculus”––“eat, don't get eaten, keep going”––displaces zombie-fighting gameplay. Wiles attributes the popularity of this survival genre, characterized by its realistic “art of failure” and romantically-rendered scenery, to a “disempowerment fantasy” driven by our perverse desire to simulate terror, pity, cunning, fear, as environmental and economic emergencies off-screen worsen.

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

Abigail Savitch-Lew focuses on urban policy, labor, and race.
@savitchlew

High Stakes: The Looming Battle Over New York's Housing Laws,” by Jarrett Murphy. City & State, November 2014.

Murphy provides a full picture of the rent regulations that will be up for renewal in June, the political prospects of various reforms, and the efforts so far—by real estate lobbyists, tenant organizers, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo—to influence the State legislature’s decisions. This article serves as an important reminder that the affordability crisis in New York is not an inevitable product of the market but rather the outcome of decades of pro-landlord policy decisions. Interestingly, the conclusion suggests that the success of tenant groups may in part depend on the tone adopted by the press and the “broad sentiment” of city and upstate residents.

Hilary Weaver focuses on reproductive rights, feminism and related political, health and education issues.
@Hilary_Weaver

Why Opponents of a New Planned Parenthood Are Doing Everything in Their Power to Stop It,” by Jill Filipovic. Cosmopolitan, January 23, 2015.

Cosmopolitan’s Jill Filipovic provides an effective and smart narrative about the politics of healthcare in Louisiana, a state where religion and religious affiliations have proven to trump the needs of its women. With the help of telling and introspective interviews from affected residents, Filipovic reports that Louisiana ranks as one of the states with the highest reported STIs and infant and maternal mortality rates. Despite the financial backing it has already received, the site for a New Orleans Planned Parenthood still remains an empty lot and women’s health risks remain in the balance.

 

Read Next: WhatNation interns were reading the week of 1/23/15

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