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

This Week, Students Occupied City College, Flooded the Border and Sat-In for Palestine


Students at the Community College of San Francisco mobilize outside Conlan Hall. (Photo: SFGate)

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—from established student unions, to emerging national networks, to ad hoc campaigns that don’t yet have a name. For recent dispatches, check out January 27, February 10, February 26 and March 7. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch.

Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with any questions, tips or proposals. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. At City College, Direct Action Meets Tear Gas, Batons—and Overnight Takeover

On Thursday, March 13, more than 200 students and faculty rallied at City College of San Francisco calling for the immediate resignation of special trustee Bob Agrella, appointed by the state to restructure CCSF under threat of disaccreditation, and the end to a payment policy that discriminates against undocumented students. After marching across campus, students attempted to enter the administration building before being stopped by police. After the administration called in SFPD, the violence escalated: cops stormed the crowd with batons, hitting students and firing pepper spray, resulting in myriad injuries. Meanwhile, fifteen students took over Conlan Hall—and held it overnight. Following the incident, Chancellor Arthur Tyler blamed students for the brutality, labeling the peaceful protest a “violent outburst” by students—despite clear video footage to the contrary, ultimately leading the district attorney to drop all charges. On March 18, the chancellor and vice chancellor met with protesters to discuss the payment policy, which requires out-of-state and undocumented students to pay tuition fees up front or sign onto a stringent payment plan. Administrators dismissed the demand to abolish it. Save CCSF students are committed to escalating the mobilization until our demands are met.

—Save CCSF Student Committee

2. At the Border, Hundreds Mass for Entry—and Release

In December, Alex Aldana made the decision to return to Mexico to care for his sick grandmother. During his time outside the US, Alex dedicated himself to organizing with families who previously faced deportation or, like himself, had left the country due to a family crisis. This month, working alongside National Immigrant Youth Alliance, Alex assisted more than 150 people in presenting themselves at the US border Otay Point of Entry to return home. This transnational effort is a continuation of the #BringThemHome campaign, launched last year to push the US government to confront the human cost of our broken immigration system. Thus far, ICE has sent most of the families to detention—going as far as detaining children who crossed with their parents, and who are US citizens. A petition is circulating on DreamActivist.org calling for Alex’s release.

—East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalition

3. After Student Government Stalls, Michigan Sits-In for Palestine

On March 18, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality at the University of Michigan presented a resolution to the Central Student Government to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations in Palestine. When the agenda arrived at the resolution, CSG immediately passed a motion to table the resolution indefinitely, with a final vote of 21-15-1, before giving students the opportunity to discuss the resolution—effectively silencing the hundreds of students present in support of the resolution. This decision immediately ignited the chanting of “divest” as CSG adjourned the meeting. In response, SAFE, supporting student organizations and other students are holding a sit-in in the CSG chambers indefinitely until our demands are met.

—Students Allied for Freedom and Equality

4. Post-Suspension, Northeastern Sparks a National Outcry

On February 24, following our distribution of “mock eviction” fliers in student dorms, university police officers arrived unannounced at the homes of Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine members, and called our cellphones, to interrogate us about the leaflets. On March 7, the university suspended SJP without giving us a hearing. Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, whose attorneys are helping advise us, has documented more than 100 instances of suppression of pro-Palestine speech across the US in 2013. Following a year of administrative roadblocks and red tape, direct action—like leafleting about the Israeli practice of home-demolition—is all we have left at our disposal. Direct actions have increasingly become the recourse for students who wish to engage in political speech in support of Palestine. As universities curtail pro-Palestinian speech or thwart BDS initiatives, direct action from SJP chapters is set to increase.

—Max Geller

5. The Moral Monday Generation

On March 18, the Georgia Student Justice Alliance joined Moral Monday Georgia for “Truthful Tuesday,” a day of action that included a singing, speak-outs and civil disobedience. Alongside faith, labor and community organizations, we assembled at the capitol to urge Governor Deal to accept Medicaid expansion, which would extend health care to over 600,000 Georgians while also creating more than 60,000 jobs. In addition to mobilizing at the capitol, GSJA has been organizing for workers’ rights through the Choose Justice campaign by supporting Nissan workers’ demand for a fair union election.

—La’Die Mansfield

6. The “One Newark” Blitz

On March 18, Newark students, parents, educators and community members took to the streets to protest state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson’s plans for the district. Anderson plans to lay off approximately 1,100 teachers in the next three years, implement her One Newark plan—despite enormous disapproval from the community—and further the privatization of the school system. While One Newark gives the façade of choice, it displaces students from their communities and prioritizes a charter school on the other side of New Jersey’s largest city over a public school across across the street. At the action, a group of more than 200 people were able to shut down the busiest intersection in the city, Broad and Market, for fifteen minutes. Afterward, the group moved to 2 Cedar Street, the Board of Education, to rally outside the board’s monthly business meeting. On March 27, the Newark Students Union will be marching with other organizations to Trenton, and on April 3, we are planning further direct action.

—Kristin Towkaniuk

7. #ITooAmIowa

On March 12, the NAACP and and Black Student Union at the University of Iowa organized part one of the “I, Too, Am Iowa” photo campaign, following an NAACP program about what it will take for students of color to survive and thrive on campus. Inspired by the “I, Too” campaign at Harvard, we wanted to bring the discussion of race and marginalization to Iowa, where 17 percent of students are of color. On March 25, the groups will host part two of the campaign, in which more students of color can share microaggressions through pictures and be interviewed. By highlighting the daily experiences students of color are subjected to in a mostly white space, we hope to create awareness and catalyze systemic changes at the UI. In particular, we hope to prompt a cultural competency requirement through the university’s general education program.

—Ashley Lee

8. #WhoseDiversityUMN

On March 12, a collective of students called Whose Diversity? disrupted a ceremony intended to celebrate the recent “redesign” of the second floor in Coffman Memorial Union, a space that houses the student cultural centers at the University of Minnesota. During this reconstruction, historical murals that contained the histories of struggle and resistance on campus were demolished by administrative fiat. Alongside the disruption, students spoke out on the way students of color, working-class students, differently abled students, GLBTQ students and others have been historically marginalized at UMN. Minneapolis is over 18 percent black and 10 percent Latina/o, but UMN remains a bastion of whiteness—with only 4 percent black students and 2.4 percent Latina/o students.

—Whose Diversity?

9. Will Napolitano Get Away With Police Brutality?

As someone who separated and damaged two million immigrant families during her time as Secretary of Homeland Security, for many students, University of California President Janet Napolitano represents a system of terror and surveillance on black and brown bodies. When she visited campus on October 28, students at UC-Irvine staged a march around campus. When we tried to enter the building where she was meeting with a select group of students, we were met with pushing and harassment from undercover police. One student leader, Lisa Lei, has been charged with two misdemeanors for “battery” and “resistance,” and a graduate student leader, Jordan Brocious, with student conduct violations. Meanwhile, Lei has been hit with further misconduct over involvement in student-worker solidarity in the fall. In addition to organizing around the student conduct charges, in February, we held a solidarity action with mass protesters at UC-Berkeley, including a photo campaign in front of the UCI administrative building. Irvine students will continue coordinating with the statewide No 2 Napolitano campaign to escalate the pressure.

—Andrea Gaspar

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10. When Will Albany Get It?

On Wednesday, March 19, more than one hundred undocumented youth and allies formed a light brigade outside the New York City Council offices to protest the failure of the NY DREAM Act on the Senate floor on Monday. The message of the light brigade spelled out “Klein: We trusted You. NY DREAM Act shine on”—targeting co-majority leader Jeffrey Klein and the Independent Democrats who put the bill to a floor vote knowing that the votes weren’t there, a ploy to kill the DREAM Act as the New York State Youth Leadership Council and allies were inching closer and closer to securing the thirty-two votes needed to pass the bill. The bill was two votes short of passing on Monday. NYSYLC and the NYS DREAM Coalition are urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to include the NY DREAM Act, which would open state financial aid to undocumented students, in his executive budget by April 1. If not, we are prepared to work to reintroduce the bill before the legislative session ends in June. Next week, we will meet with Rochester residents to make their support of the NY DREAM Act known to Senator Ted O’Brien.

—Razeen Zaman


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Venezuelan protester

An anti-government protester in Venezuela (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

—Samuel Adler-Bell focuses on labor, mass incarceration and literature.

The Battle for Chattanooga: Southern Masculinity and the Anti-Union Campaign at Volkswagen,” by Mike Elk. In These Times, March 13, 2014.

When a majority of workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee factory voted against joining the United Auto Workers last month, many labor analysts were quick to blame a distinctly Southern anti-union bias—as if “Southernness” itself were simply antithetical to the ethos of collective bargaining. Mike Elk very elegantly complicates that story, identifying other contributing factors: the severe culture of managerial control that prevailed at the Chattanooga plant, low-level supervisors who organized to preserve their positions of relative dominance and a strain of work-place machismo (“Real men don’t complain about their work!”), which, while not limited to the South, is exacerbated by deeply held Southern, working-class ideas about masculinity and whiteness.

While the anti-union campaign may have mobilized a version of Southern history equating collective organizing with the poisonous influence of liberal Northerners—while glorifying the individualist, white Southern worker who resists the invasion of yet another “union” army—Elk proposes an alternative archetype: “The Anne Braden Southerner.” Coined by Michael Gilliland, head of Chattanooga for Workers, the term recalls the white, anti-racist crusader from Kentucky (Braden) who fought for racial equality beginning in the 1950s. History provides no single definition of Southerness—“Is the Confederacy really ‘more Southern’ than the civil rights movement?” asks Gilliland—but those who seek to preserve the present order of things would like us to forget that.

—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.

Lo que hay detrás de las guarimbas [PDF],” by Laura Weffer Cifuentes. Últimas Noticias, March 16, 2014.

"The median age of the youth in the plaza of Altamira is between 19-22 years old, they wear hoods and swear that their fight is for Venezuela. The median age of the National Guard officers is between 19-22 years old, they wear uniforms and swear that their fight is for Venezuela." Thus begins the article that has sparked a mini-controversy in the Venezuelan publishing world. After the piece was scrapped last minute, reporters from the private media group Cadena Capriles staged a protest at their desks and chief investigative editor Tamoa Calzadilla quit. Laura Weffer's portrait of a group of protesters calls into question claims that opposition leaders are paying the protesters, and paints a far more complicated picture than either side is willing to concede. "I think they're right, but sometimes they go overboard," says one young National Guard member, adjusting his bulletproof vest for another day on the job. Powerful stuff.

—Laura Cremer focuses on labor, gender and the historicization of culture and politics.

How Co-ops Helped Produce Foot Soldiers for Civil Rights,” by Carla Murphy. Colorlines, March 10, 2014.

This is an interview with Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of a forthcoming book called Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. It's an interesting reminder of the fact that experiments in collective ownership and operation of small enterprises have been an important and sometimes politically productive part of the country's economic history: despite the fact that, as Nembhard notes, "in the U.S. co-ops are often linked with hippies" in the popular imagination, Nembhard shows that they haven't just been a separatist or a utopian project nor just a strategy employed by radicals in long-ago and foreign political climates. She points out some of the concrete political movements they contributed to—and the ways that the McCarthy-era suppression of other options for political organizing made that necessary.

—Cecilia D’Anastasio focuses on ethics, feminism, press freedom and tech.

Build a School in the Cloud,” by Sugata Mitra. TED, February 2013.

What happens when an education researcher in India places a computer programmed with English language lessons on DNA replication in a remote slum and, with confidence, walks away for a couple months? The children had never seen a computer and had no iota of English. When the researcher, Sugata Mitra, returned, the children bemoaned that, while they looked at it every single day, they hadn't understood anything: "Apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA molecule causes disease, we haven’t understood anything else.” Mitra was blown away. Driven by curiosity, the children had taught themselves the basics of both English and genetics and had inspired in Mitra the ambition to design the future of learning: School in the Cloud. Listen to Mitra's TED talk to learn more.

—Simon Davis-Cohen focuses on self-governance, climate adaptation and science.

NH Towns Favor Getting Money Out of Politics,” by Melinda Tuhus. Public News Service, March 13, 2014.

In the past week, fifty-nine New Hampshire towns voted on local resolutions calling for a federal constitutional amendment to strip corporations of personhood and repeal Citizens United. At their respective annual meetings, forty-seven towns voted in favor and twelve against—and more votes are scheduled for May. Though these resolutions wield no legal authority, the grassroots process by which they were passed suggests a staying power. I’ll stay tuned to New Hampshire’s corporate skepticism and the progress of legally binding law there.

—Justine Drennan focuses on marginalized groups' relationship with technology and development.

Is All of Twitter Fair Game for Journalists?” by Amanda Hess. Slate, March 19, 2014.

The sudden flood of #HasJustineLandedYet tweets in December was disconcerting for me—my name's uncommon enough that whenever people use it, it feels like they're talking about me and not, as it turned out, someone named Justine Sacco. Even my very indirect identification with a person whose tweet I found repulsive brought home for me some of the ethical questions about journalism and tweeting that Hess raises in her article. Particularly interesting to me is Hess's quote from Oliver Burkeman at The Guardian: “I think there’s a distinction to be made between what’s public, what’s private, and what’s ethical.... The implicit definition of ‘public’ that’s being bandied around seems to be anything that’s technically possible to access without breaking a law."

—Corinne Grinapol focuses on education and international relations/national security.

A tale of two soldiers - Mali’s past leaders called to account.” IRIN, March 18, 2014.

"Long considered the most stable democracy in West Africa," went the popular opening refrain in article after article about the May 2012 coup in Mali, demonstrating that the media's prior perceptions of the state were owed in part to a lack of depth in reporting and coverage. Unsurprising in an era in which the effect of shrinking foreign bureaus is particularly evident in sub-Saharan Africa. This piece from IRIN, which takes a look at two key figures from the coup, deposed president Amadou Toumani Touré and coup leader General Haya Sanogo, illustrates some of the internal cleavages that belied the "stable democracy" of Western imagination. With neither figure universally reviled nor revered, this story shows the need for the kind of nuanced reporting hard to come by with strained resources.

—Mara Kardas-Nelson focuses on health.

Why Black Women Die of Cancer,” by Harold Freeman. The New York Times, March 14, 2014.

Black women with breast cancer are 40 percent more likely to die than white women with breast cancer (even though white women are more likely to get it). Although the reasons for this egregious discrepancy aren't particularly shocking—historically limited access to screening, limited access to comprehensive information, even bias by doctors who diagnose and treat black women—the continued racial, social and economic inequities that have broken our health system are newsworthy.

This article caught my eye because several weeks ago I read a Jacobin piece arguing that we live in a "new age of biological determinism," in which disparate health outcomes are increasingly explained through pure scientific reasoning, not inequality—you're not sick because you're poor, you're sick because you have a bad gene. I wholeheartedly disagree. This New York Times piece, and a wealth of other recent articles—including, for example, this and this on The Pump Handle—show a trend towards better understanding of, and anger about, determinants of health (the exceptionally well-researched 2009 book The Spirit Level makes this case best). And policies are changing as a result. As Freeman says, the Affordable Care Act is making some small strides towards ensuring coverage for everyone, but single-payer—tirelessly championed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, most recently just last week in a Senate committee hearing that barely garnered any media attention—would do more to level inequality and boost health outcomes.

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—David Kortava focuses on sustainable development.

Can we all ‘have it all’?” by Anne-Marie Slaughter. TED, June 2013.

In February 2011, Anne-Marie Slaughter gave up a high-ranking position in the State Department to spend more time at home nurturing her two teenage boys. She wrote about the complicated tradeoff in an essay for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” In this follow-up at TED she elaborates on what it means to be a feminist in the twenty-first century. “Real equality, full equality,” she says, “does not just mean valuing women on male terms. It means creating a much wider range of equally respected choices for women and men.” She says that while many of us now pay lip service to the notion that caregiving is as worthwhile and socially useful as breadwinning (and that gender is no criterion for deciding who is to perform which function and to what degree), our workplaces, public policies and lived culture haven’t caught up with our avowed principles. The talk is a near-perfect articulation of the work-life balance dilemma that so many women, men and families grapple with. And her call to reshape society—by, say, instituting workplace flexibility and universal childcare, and making caregiving as acceptable for men as working outside the home is for women—is as practical as it is moral.

—Benjamin Pokross focuses on education and the arts.

Do We Need to Force People to Live in the Homes They Own?” by Kyle Chayka. Pacific Standard, March 19, 2014.

In this thoughtful piece from Pacific Standard, Kyle Chayka brings together two frequently lamented trends threatening the landscape of major cities: gentrification and rampant real estate speculation. Chayka points out that instead of thinking of gentrification as one culture displacing another, many cities today are facing the evaporation of culture, with apartments unoccupied or turned into hotels through AirBnB. Although the provocative policy prescriptions of the headline fail to materialize in the article (and are perhaps impossible), the article complicates widely held beliefs about urban development.

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Tar sands

Alberta tar sands (howlmontreal/Flickr)

—Samuel Adler-Bell focuses on labor, mass incarceration and culture.

Immersion Journalism,” by Matthew Power. Harper’s Magazine, December 2005

Journalist Matt Power died in Uganda on March 10, apparently from heat stroke. Sixteen years ago he was an intern at Harper’s Magazine. At the time of his death, he was a contributing editor, having written eight of the best Harper’s pieces of the past decade. In this ‘Briefing’ from December 2005, Power exposed the national media’s shameless feeding frenzy in post-Katrina New Orleans. I have always been impressed by Power's precise and vivid prose (the writer’s grail of evocative concision). This time, I was even more struck by the strength of his commitment—sincere without being pietistic—to the trade of journalism. More than a blistering indictment of the national networks’ ratings vampirism, the piece conveys Power’s reverence for really good, humane, local reporting. If the villains in this story are the 24-hour networks—peddling disaster voyeurism, schadenfreude and racial hysteria—our heroes are the journalists at New Orleans’ own Times-Picayune, who stick around their battered city to do their jobs, sleeping on the couches and floors of one staffer’s salvaged Uptown home and filing their reports from a single dial-up modem. We lost a great journalist this week. And those who believe the news ought to serve a purpose higher than network ratings and corporate bottom-lines have lost a great ally. RIP.

—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.

"Paraguay Hit by Armed and Organized Mass Cattle Rustling," by Charles Parkinson. InSight Crime, March 12, 2014

It's very rare that the issue of cattle rustling (stealing cattle, for the unfamiliar) makes contemporary headlines in the United States. In the collective imagination of most Americans, cattle raids are associated with cowboys, the Wild West and Cormac McCarthy novels. However, the problem is very much a modern one: left-wing guerrillas in Colombia have used cattle theft to feed their troops; rural movements against social inequality have used it as a protest tactic, which is probably why the Paraguayan People's Army was blamed for this particular case; and the Honduran Rivera brothers, who head the Cachiros drug gang, used cattle rustling as a stepping stone into the world of drug trafficking. Cattle in general are a very real concern in Latin America, and not just around the issue of rustling. Cattle ranching is associated with climate change, social inequality and deforestation.

—Laura Cremer focuses on labor, gender and the historicization of culture and politics.

Inside The Barista Class,” by Molly Osberg. The Awl, March 11, 2014

Like Ben, below, I was struck this week by the sharp and thought-provoking account Molly Osberg gives of the contemporary service economy—or specifically the particular corner of it inhabited by many of the service workers of New York City. She writes about the labor that goes into serving the "creative class," labor that includes performing "a zombified bohemianism for the benefit of the rich," hiding the class differences between the server and the served. Two of her most important points are that emotional labor, disguised as fun and uncoerced socializing, is an enormous part of the job of many service workers and that it's a mistake to talk about all of the people who often get lumped together as "hip" Brooklynites as if they occupy the same class position. Some people are "hip" for fun—some people do it for $8 an hour. Osberg notes that this account, drawing on her personal history as a barista, isn't meant to be representative of the experiences of service workers generally, many of whom are significantly worse off—but it does point to problems faced by all.

—Cecilia D’Anastasio focuses on ethics, feminism, press freedom and tech.

The Future of Internet Freedom,” by Eric E. Schmidt and Jared Cohen. The New York Times. March 11, 2014

"I have nothing to hide," you assure yourself as you browse the net, pausing to decide whether to click on Wikileaks.com or e-mail your friend something racy. This self-affirming mantra is the political equivalent of closing your eyes and plugging your ears as a fire spreads toward you... while your neighbors are yelling "fire!" Not to sound paranoid, but it's time for us to encrypt. Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, are perhaps not the most trustworthy of characters in the digital sphere, but they do provide an important insight into the role encryption plays in press freedom and daily life. As reliable data in censored countries becomes scarce, and as the fear of constant and inappropriate surveillance affects our lives to a greater extent, the solution is to work, and also play, in safe, encrypted spaces. But, as the authors aptly note, "The final challenge is usability."

—Simon Davis-Cohen focuses on self-governance, climate adaptation and science.

Why New York State Should Let Cities and Counties Enact Higher Local Minimum Wages,” by the National Employment Law Project and Fiscal Policy Institute. February 14, 2014

In New York, as in other states, cities and counties have no power to pass minimum wage laws. This summary gives a compelling argument for why they should have that power—calling for the amendment of New York’s “minimum wage law to clarify that it is a floor, not a ceiling.” Should American metropolises like New York City depend on state action to do things like raise their minimum wage? ALEC thinks so.

—Justine Drennan focuses on marginalized groups' relationship with technology and development.

"Intellectual property rights and the TPP," by John Case. People's World, March 11, 2014

Probably partly because of continued opacity around the Trans-Pacific Partnership, recent articles on the "trade" agreement have tended to give simple overviews rather than analysis. Case's article, however, does offer some analysis, outlining the cases for and against the TPP's supposed IP protections and siding convincingly against them. "There is no patented pharmaceutical that is not composed of AT LEAST 97 percent knowledge in the public domain," he writes and makes a similar argument about software. While most recent TPP articles have tended to be fairly country-specific, Case's perspective is also refreshingly global. "Not mentioned often in the IP debate is the fact that most nations joining the TPP do not have the infrastructure to self-enforce intellectual property rights," he writes. "This handicap to weaker nations introduces a form of imperialism into agreements, where the supposedly independent tribunals can be manipulated by wealthy US interests and clients."

—Corinne Grinapol focuses on education and international relations/national security.

Critics raise concerns over oil industry involvement in Alberta curriculum redesign,” by Mariam Ibrahim. Edmonton Journal, March 12, 2014

The Alberta government's oil-industry worship has seeped its way into education. Alberta's education department, in the mist of an overhaul of its K-12 curriculum, lists three tar sands extraction companies among its "advisory partners" in some districts. The idea of oil companies providing input on curriculum is as natural as extracting oil from sand. Scarier still is the attitude of school officials, who deliver a coalmine of horrific quotes for the piece. A sample: “If we’re going to build a relevant education system, we need the voice of the employer, the business community, economic development — we need those people at the table.” As if children were nothing more than a product designed to suit employers' needs.

—Mara Kardas-Nelson focuses on health.

The Fat Drug,” by Pagan Kennedy. The New York Times Magazine, March 9, 2014

Most of us probably know at least a little bit about the negative effects of pumping our future meat full of antibiotics and growth hormones: our mind conjures images of caged, overstuffed breasts that somewhat resemble what was once a chicken. (I, for one, feel very bad for chickens on basically a daily basis.) But what's the long-term effect of pumping us with the very same stuff? New research suggests that the well-documented (and really quite scary) overuse of antibiotics not only threatens our ability to react to disease outbreaks but may also offer some answers as to why America has gotten so fat. We now have substantial evidence that antibiotic use can positively impact growth, not only in farm animals and mouse studies but in humans too. Moreover, antibiotics kill stomach bacteria, which may impact the way we digest food. (Indeed, researchers are looking at how the bacteria each of us host impacts a myriad of health outcomes—and whether science can tailor the best bacteria to make us super-healthy super-humans.) While research is ongoing, and we don't have a definitive answer of how and whether antibiotic impacts America's weight problem, or what to do about it, this fascinating area of research is beautifully outlined by Kennedy.

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—David Kortava focuses on sustainable development.

Stop Sending Aid to Dictators,” by William Easterly. TIME, March 13, 2014

“We need a new rule,” writes economist William Easterly, “no democracy, no aid.” Critics of foreign aid have long argued that conferring assistance to an authoritarian regime reinforces its hold on power. Were donor nations to cut off the flow of money, the thinking goes, then presumably the starved regime would eventually either collapse or democratize. There’s an intuitive logic to this, but the data reveal a more complicated relationship between the influx of humanitarian and development assistance and the durability of a dictatorship. One important recent study examining nearly every authoritarian government from 1960 to 2002 found that, under certain conditions, foreign aid can actually spur democratic reform. Easterly’s invitation to simply abandon any country administered by a sinister tyrant is short on nuance, but it does have the wholesome effect of stimulating spirited discussion on what makes for good aid, and for this I tip my hat to the author.

—Benjamin Pokross focuses on education and the arts.

Inside The Barista Class,” by Molly Osberg. The Awl, March 11, 2014

This evenhanded article describes the author's experiences as a barista, both in her hometown and in New York before and after college. She traces the similarities between the corporate atmosphere at Starbucks, which had engineered a formula for turning their stores into a "third place," an oasis between home and work, and the independent coffee shop she worked for in rapidly transforming Greenpoint. As a writer who came out from behind the counter to join the creative class that she had spent years serving, Osberg doesn't push too hard but persuasively brings to light the service economy that undergirds gentrification.


Read Next: Intern Corinne Grinapol on Harvard President Faust's videotaped comment on fossil fuel companies.

Harvard’s President Says Fossil Fuel Companies Are Not Blocking Clean Energy

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Last October, under pressure from a growing student campaign, Harvard President Drew Faust released a letter explaining why the university would not divest from fossil fuel companies. Her reasoning was questioned by both Harvard student Chloe Maxmin and former President of Reed College James Powell, among many others. Recently, Divest Harvard co-founder and StudentNation writer Alli Welton caught up to Faust and engaged her in a conversation, captured here on video, about her decision not to divest. By not divesting, Harvard is effectively using its “name to sanction the morally reprehensible acts of the fossil fuel industry,” Welton tells Faust. See how the president responds.

For more on the Divest Harvard movement, click here

Update: On March 10, President Faust sent a letter to Divest Harvard taking issue with the way the group was characterizing and contextualizing the conversation.

Read Next: UNC students advocate for garment workers’ rights.

UNC Students Advocate for Garment Workers’ Rights


Students at UNC are hoping to prevent another catastrophe like the one at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. (REUTERS/Andrew Biraj)

This article was originally published as part of a weekly series in the student-run Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

On April 24 of last year, more than 100 workers died in a factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was one of the most deadly factory disasters in history, and one of three that happened in Bangladesh last year alone. “That was the event that really drew the world’s attention and started workers in Bangladesh demanding that something change. And they gained a lot of support around the world for that.”

Junior Olivia Abrecht got involved with Student Action with Workers, a group that works in solidarity with workers connected to UNC, her freshman year. “Worker’s rights had always been something that I was passionate about.” After the factory disaster last April, Student Action with Workers began raising awareness of the problem around campus, as a large amount of UNC apparel is produced in Bangladeshi factories. The group also met various times with the Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee, a group comprised of representatives from around campus that makes recommendations to the chancellor pertaining to UNC’s licensees.

“[The committee] has assured us that they will be making a recommendation to the chancellor by the end of spring break.” This recommendation should lead to a commitment to ensure no workers are killed in factories that produce UNC apparel. Abrecht is hopeful the committee will support a move to require all UNC licensees to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which would require safer building standards in factories and give workers more rights.

“I think there’s significant support on the committee to require that our licensees sign the accord. [Many] members on the committee feel that this not only is something that [UNC] should do because it’s a human rights issue and it’s going save people lives—they also think it’s a really good decision because UNC doesn’t want to have there be a factory disaster in Bangladesh where UNC shirts are found. That’s not good for the University.” Student Action with Workers has heard accounts of Bangladeshi workers being beaten if they raise concerns about their safety.

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“At the end of the day, you want to be able to be proud of the University you go to and you want to be able to wear a Carolina sweatshirt. There is a person who made it who should be able to speak up for him or herself.”


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Palestine Soccer Team

 Players of the Palestinian soccer team (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

—Samuel Adler-Bell focuses on labor, mass incarceration, literature and film.

Fake Outrage in the Kentucky Senate Race,” by Mark Leibovich. The New York Times Magazine, March 3, 2014

Mark Leibovich’s dispatch from the closely watched KY senate race between incumbent Mitch McConnell and challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes depicts the dueling campaigns as clouded in a thick “fog of fake outrage.” Real disagreements over policy are displaced by a less-than-ingenuous disgust olympics between warring communications departments, over usually imagined affronts—e.g. “I am so appalled. You’ll never believe just how low our opponent has stooped this time.” Leibovich writes wistfully about a time when “the privilege of speaking publicly on behalf of a candidate belonged to a select few operatives, usually 40- and 50-somethings who spoke with deliberate authority.” Like an indignant Scooby-Doo villain, Leibovich seems specifically intent on indicting the campaigns’ conspicuously young and female spokespersons for fueling the substanceless war-of-position. Thus, intentionally or not, Leibovich aligns himself with the single most tired meme in American media: blame the millennials! Even when they somehow break free of their storied laziness and political apathy, they have to go and spoil the godly, dignified work of campaigning with their tweets and their irony. Meddling kids!

—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.

"Like a lingering cloud of tear gas: how do you reconcile the two Brazils?" by Grant Wahl. Sports Illustrated, February 27, 2014.

The side effects of mega-sporting events have become all too evident in recent years; forced relocation of poor people, immense corruption and even larger public debt are now foregone conclusions. However, these competitions also mute local culture by commodifying everything in their path. Grant Wahl's piece explores this phenomenon as experienced in Rio de Janeiro's legendary Maracanã stadium. Gustavo Mehl, a 30-year-old Brazilian social activist, described the old Maracanã as "a symbol of public participation in Rio" and "the most democratic space of the city" in contrats to the undemocratic, gentrified space the stadium has become. Now, corporations have exclusive license to hawk their goods; standing room for the poor has been replaced by individual seating and luxury boxes; the sale of traditional foods has been restricted in favor of Big Macs, Coca-Cola and Budweiser; and organizers' push for "more civilized" fan behavior destroys traditional forms of cheering. Aldo Rebelo, a former Communist party congressman and Brazil's current sports minister, insists that "there's a great risk that the market will eliminate the enchantment soccer holds for the people." That's quite a statement to make about Brazil, cultural epicenter of the "beautiful game."

—Laura Cremer focuses on labor, gender and the historicization of culture and politics.

What Tender Possibilities: Two Meditations On The Oikos, Pt. 1,” by Anne Boyer. CUNY Academic Commons, March 5, 2014

I was surprised to find myself again, this week, reading and having my interest piqued by an article that aims to draw a point about contemporary gender relations out of a scholarly analysis of Ancient Greek ones. Anne Boyer's blog post is a "meditation" on Angela Mitropoulos's book Contract & Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia and is part of an ongoing project by the CUNY Graduate Center's (very interesting) "Digital Labor Working Group." What I like about this post, whose claims are hard to fully evaluate without reference to the texts it's building off of, is the broader project it takes part in: the search for ways of understanding gendered labor that neither naturalize "women's work" nor collapse it into a homogeneous notion of "labor" that obscures its unique social and economic functions. Instead it aims at a notion that, in Boyer's words, allows for "more complexity than the Arendtian conception of the private or Marxian theories about reproductive and productive labor."

—Cecilia D’Anastasio focuses on ethics, feminism, press freedom and tech.

Who cares if it’s true?” by Marc Fisher. Columbia Journalism Review, March 3, 2014

The story begins, as it increasingly does, with BuzzFeed. The morning's topic at BuzzFeed HQ was the president's State of the Union address and how to cover it: "getting Vine video 'of when stupid stuff happens' and putting together a piece about how no one cares about the State of the Union," reports CJR's Marc Fisher in their cover story, "Who Cares If It's True?" Fisher visits newsrooms with widely divergent views on sourcing and editing, and concludes, with evident regret, "What’s news is what’s out there, whether or not it’s been checked and verified." Reporting from newsrooms, on newsrooms and (let's face it) for newsrooms, Fisher manages to state the obvious—what makes you click isn't always good for you—by substantiating this fact of life with truly entertaining anecdotes from the people behind the curtain.

—Simon Davis-Cohen focuses on self-governance, climate adaptation and science.

Oral Argument Recap: Ohio Supreme Court Considers Home Rule in Challenge to Zoning Ordinances Restricting Drilling,” by Dan Kavouras. North America Shale Blog, February 28, 2014

This piece, written for an industry law firm’s “Shale Blog,” reports on a current Ohio Supreme Court case concerning local governments’ role in governing oil and gas drilling. The city of Munroe Falls, OH argued (see video of oral arguments) that as a home-rule city, its zoning power to determine where drilling takes place can coexist with state law regulating how drilling takes place. More generally, the city defended localities’ right to speak (pass laws) where the state is silent and guarded against “implied pre-emption.” Beck Energy, with support from the state, argued that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources unilaterally regulates oil and gas extraction in the state. Justice Pfeifer was quick to note: “I believe it’s the only department we’ve held in contempt in my tenure here.” Both sides agreed that localities have no power to outright ban drilling.

—Justine Drennan focuses on marginalized groups' relationship with technology and development.

The Human Rights That Dictators Love,” by Pedro Pizano. Foreign Policy, February 26, 2014.

While I don't share Pizano's apparent distaste for the economic redistribution implied by some "positive" rights, I'm always interested in the tension he notes between the all-or-nothing premise of rights and the consideration of proportionality and degree that the idea of economic rights implies. If people have a right to employment counseling and paid vacation leave, two of Pizano's examples, how much of it do they have a right to? If we need to evaluate what specific amount of something would fulfill our right to it, does that undermine the idea that rights are defined by universality and indivisibility? Of course, traditional "negative" rights or "freedoms from" also must be weighed against each other—and perhaps the common insistence that negative rights are more clear-cut goes to Pizano's point about how easily supposedly universal rights talk lends itself to politicization.

—Corinne Grinapol focuses on education and international relations/national security.

"The Two Worlds of Vladimir Putin," by Amy Knight. The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2000.

By the time events in Ukraine reach their dénouement, at least half of the think pieces, blog posts, analyses and projections you will have read about Russia, Ukraine and Crimea—many of them written with forceful certainty—will be wrong. That is why this week, I'm looking at a piece from 2000 that got it right. Prescient is the term often applied to such work, but really, it's usually the product of good scholarship, strong subject knowledge or deep reporting.

Writing in the Spring 2000 issue of The Wilson Quarterly, just as Putin assumed leadership of Russia, historian and former Wilson Center scholar Amy Knight offers a warning about the dangers of building foreign policy around the idea of Putin as “someone we can do business with.” She ends with a line that reverberates, fourteen years later: "The fact that almost a decade after the collapse of the Soviet system in 1991 someone like Putin could rise to the top of the political leadership in Russia is a grim reminder that the legacies of police states die hard."

—Mara Kardas-Nelson focuses on health.

Open-Sourcing a Treatment for Cancer,” by Gary Marcus. The New Yorker, February 27, 2014.

Be prepared to feel like a massive under-achiever: before she's even graduated from high school, Elana Simonton has helped to conduct new research on fibromellar hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare form of liver cancer she was diagnosed with at age twelve—and she's done it in an innovative way. By compiling data from patients at different healthcare centers, Simonton helped to pinpoint a common gene mutation found in fifteen fibromellar patients, which could aid more precise diagnosis. The research also found genes that become active in fibromellar, which could act as potential targets for treatment.

Simonton's use of multiple data sources is radical in its simplicity: there is often a dearth of research on rare diseases, given that there aren't many patients out there, and moreover competing doctors and health centers don't want to share data with each other. By bringing multiple patients together from across sites, Simonton was able to see trends that are otherwise missed. Her research, and other "open-access" tools that push back against a cult of secrecy surrounding scientific and research data, should become the norm, rather than the exception, in order to catapult new research and better health outcomes.

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—David Kortava focuses on sustainable development.

We do not have to live with the scourge of inequality,” by Jonathan Ostry. Financial Times, March 3, 2014

Most mainstream economists have long held that government efforts to reduce inequality come at a cost: a lower rate of economic growth. Taxing the industrious rich and granting welfare to the idle poor distorts incentives, they argued—and devised mathematical models to prove it. That such measures have a chilling effect on the economy does not necessarily mean we should forego them, the thinking went, but that there is a tradeoff to be had is undeniable. This conventional wisdom has been contested before, and to read of it in the pages of The Nation or Mother Jones would be less than shocking, but here I direct you to an article in the Financial Times. The author, an economist at the International Monetary Fund, having co-written a recent research paper on the subject, concludes rather candidly that a more redistributive tax system appears not to stunt, but to stimulate economic growth. This is good news and, after decades of folly, may indicate a welcome shift in thinking at the IMF.

—Benjamin Pokross focuses on education and the arts.

"The Trigger Warned Syllabus," by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Tressiemc, March 5, 2014

Tressie McMillan Cottom, an influential writer on higher education, offers a surprising take on the question of whether college courses should offer trigger warnings on their syllabi (discussed in this article from The New Republic). Consciously refraining from entering in the debate about the use of trigger warnings, Cottom suggests that trigger warnings, a tool originally intended to help survivors of sexual assault, have become a way for universities to control what is taught and ultimately suppress "the critical canon of race, sex, gender, sexuality, colonialism, and capitalism." For Cottom, trigger warnings serve as ways for elite universities to enforce normative standards.

Read Next: intern Simon Davis-Cohen on a legislative victory for Oregon foster youth.

Foster Youth Win an Important Victory in Oregon

Oregon Foster Youth

The Oregon Foster Youth Connection Legislative Action Team, before testifying in support of SB 123. (Photo courtesy of Children First for Oregon)

In February of 2013, five members of the Oregon Foster Youth Connection (OFYC) testified before the Senate health and human services committee in defense of Senate Bill 123—mandating the adoption of an Oregon Foster Youth Bill of Rights and the hiring of a state foster youth ombudsman.

In their testimonies Zachary James Miller, Patrick Lamarr Kindred, Deedee Hartley, Royce Markley and Cain Stellings movingly detailed the consequences of foster youth being unfamiliar with their rights and feeling unsafe in speaking up in defense of themselves—making clear why the stakes were so high in the fight over SB 123.

Miller told stories of his brother being locked in a room for entire days at a time; Kindred didn’t know he was entitled to state funding to pay for clothes; Hartley was unaware she had a right to see her sister; and Markley only recently discovered his right to free legal counsel and to keep and spend money. The group argued that compiling foster youth’s rights in one place and posting them in every foster and group home in the state—as SB 123 requires—would help educate foster youth of their rights. But they also argued that a bill of rights is not enough; to protect their rights foster youth need to be able to report abuse confidentially.

SB 123 was passed in June 2013 and took effect this past New Year’s Day.

The bill’s first mandate was to establish a working group to implement the legislation. The group, comprised of representatives from OFYC, community groups, the Governor’s Office and the Oregon Department of Human Services, has drafted the Oregon Foster Youth Bill of Rights, agreed on a job description for the state foster youth ombudsman and interviewed applicants for the new job. Just hired on March 7, the ombudsman will be immediately tasked with creating a grievance procedure and setting up a private hotline.

Bills that reaffirm the rights of foster youth, like the Oregon Foster Youth Bill of Rights, have been passed before. North Carolina—in an effort led by the current and former foster youth at Strong Able Youth Speaking Out—passed a Foster Care Bill of Rights last July. The North Carolina and Oregon foster bills of rights do not introduce new rights, they acknowledge existing ones—to help educate foster children of their rights.

What differentiates the two states’ legislation is the fiscal impact of SB 123—to fund the ombudsman and grievance process. This was a major step toward a more clear—publically funded—grievance procedure for American foster youth, particularly at a time when the cutting of public child welfare services is commonplace coast to coast.

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OFYC, a member of the national Foster Youth in Action network, joins Florida Youth Shine, California Youth Connection, The Mockingbird Society and other foster youth-led organizations driving public child welfare policies through their respective state legislatures—reminding us that in America the states are foster youth’s caregivers, and that they can and must act like it.

Read Next: catch up on the latest in student activism.

What’s the Matter With California? Student Dispatches From Santa Cruz to the Border


Students march to the SDSU president's office. (Credit: Nadir Bouhmouch)

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—from established student unions, to emerging national networks, to ad hoc campaigns that don’t yet have a name. For recent dispatches, check out January 27, February 10 and February 26. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch.

Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with any questions, tips or proposals. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. As Napolitano Sits, Campus Occupations Spread

On March 5, as UCLA students died-in against deportations, #not1more continued to grow and students at the largely working class Community College of San Francisco prepared further action against a potential shutdown, students at the University of California–Santa Cruz took up Berkeley’s call for escalating action against UC President and former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Fresh off major wins for strike-ready UC service workers and Santa Cruz teaching assistants, students and workers rallied to make clear that these developments are part of a larger struggle to reclaim the university. After marching to McHenry Library, students entered the Hahn Student Services building and subsequently occupied it for eighteen hours. There, we called for Napolitano’s resignation and for workers’ ongoing demands—safer staffing, smaller classes and work for undocumented graduate students—to be met. Through daybreak on March 6, Hahn, normally a space of loans, fees and student-judicial affairs, became a site for students to strategize resistance to the dual challenges of racism and privatization.

—Autonomous Students

2. As Cal State Tuition Skyrockets, Students Mass Across the State

California State University’s new tactic of adding “student success” fees on a campus-by-campus basis, a fee hike by any other name, is drawing criticism from students, faculty and editorial boards on campus and off. For a week, students at San Diego State University have been trying to meet with their president—who gained statewide notoriety in 2011 when he was awarded a 30 percent raise at the same time that a fee hike was implemented—after a rubber-stamp committee recommended fees be raised in fall 2014. Students have staged multiple sit-ins, marches and rallies on campus against the hike, decrying undemocratic decision-making and demanding a meeting with the president, who has yet to even respond to letters or e-mail via intermediaries. Leading up to the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on March 26, students at SDSU, Fullerton and Dominguez Hills, all affected by the fees, will continue building pressure.

—Bo Elder

3. High Schoolers Rally Over Shutdown

In February, LA’s Roosevelt High School Academy of Environmental & Social Policy received a letter from Superintendent John Deasy directing this small and notably successful school to join a larger campus in a new neighborhood or close down. Despite four hours of protest by parents and students outside LAUSD headquarters on February 25, nine speakers who addressed the school board this week and questionable claims of fiscal unsustainability, the community has not been able to convince the district to reconsider this decision—made without any input from students, parents or staff. We are fighting for our school because it is safe, a place where we are involved and, most importantly, to assert the importance of student voice—which the district is quick to ignore.

—Gabriela Castaneda

4. Trans* Students Win—Again

On February 24, the California Secretary of State confirmed that right-wing efforts to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act, AB 1266, failed to qualify for the ballot. The law provides important guidance for schools to ensure that all students, including transgender students, have equal access to facilities and services. Youth, LGBT, racial justice and statewide teacher and parent organizations formed the Support All Students coalition after the law’s passage last summer, working together to educate Californians on the experiences transgender youth face in schools and how districts can support all students. The law went into effect January 1; now, youth activists are focused on local implementation. Students can start an implementation campaign in their district or support other Gay-Straight Alliance activists’ campaigns through the GSA Network Unite! campaign platform, which is also available to youth outside California.

—GSA Network of California

5. Title IX Deck Gets Stacked

On February 19, thirty-one current and former UC-Berkeley students filed two federal complaints, under Title IX and the Clery Act, citing gross administrative inaction and conduct in preventing rape, supporting survivors and punishing those who commit such acts. This follows nine months after an initial federal complaint, representing nine students, was filed. The public survivors are committed to holding the administration responsible for allowing an environment that is unsafe for survivors and fails to sanction appropriately those who commit acts of sexual violence. The movement to end sexual violence on college campuses is a nationwide issue, with several other universities, including the University of North Carolina, USC and Swarthmore, also facing potential investigations, and Northwestern students sitting-in this week.

—Aryle Butler, Iman Stenson, Sofie Karasek, Meghan Warner, Shannon Thomas and Nicoletta Commins

6. NAFTA Returns—to Silence

On March 6, the International Relations and Pacific Studies department at the University of California–San Diego held a conference titled “Mexico Moving Forward”—a convening of economists, industrial capitalists and artists, opening with a speech by Janet Napolitano, celebrating the “benefits” of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In fact, NAFTA has decimated the lives of millions in Mexico—while also sparking the rise of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional. In protest of the UC system for perpetuating neoliberal policies, and in solidarity with those who have resisted or lost their lives under NAFTA, students and community groups staged a silent march with ski masks and red and black bandanas to the building where the conference was held. The march was modeled after an action in December 2012, where Zapatistas marched in perfect silence to the center of San Cristóbal de las Casas to show that they are still present and resisting.

—San Diego Student and Community Groups Against NAFTA

7. #VisitFL

On March 4, the first day of Florida’s 2014 legislative session, the Dream Defenders, alongside community allies, hosted our own State of the State address, #VisitFL, to discuss the disproportionate incarceration of youth of color; privatization of the state’s juvenile prison system; and the impact of laws that encourage violence against black and brown youth like Stand Your Ground. After the address, we marched to the fourth floor of the Florida capitol outside the doors where Governor Rick Scott was supposed to deliver his own annual address. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement demanded that we leave, but we refused. As our chants were heard in both the House and Senate chambers, a recess was called, and, for the first time in history, the governor took a secret entrance into the room. Meanwhile, some legislators offered their support. On that same morning, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee quietly and swiftly passed CS/HB89, a so-called “warning shot” bill that would expand the Stand Your Ground defense by allowing individuals to fire warning shots when they perceive a threat, without the obligation to retreat. HB89 passed overwhelmingly less than one week after a jury in Jacksonville chose not to convict Michael Dunn for the murder of unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

—Dream Defenders

8. #Fight4aFuture

Over the weekend of February 21 to 23, Generation Progress brought together young people from across the country for a first-of-its-kind #Fight4AFuture National Gun Violence Prevention Summit. Summit attendees had a range of backgrounds, from a former gang member, to a 16-year-old man who has had twenty-eight friends and family die as a result of gun violence, to the brother of a victim from Sandy Hook Elementary, to the editor-in-chief of Global Grind and representatives from the White House. Participants included Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, Jr. Newtown Action Alliance and the Georgia Gun Sense Coalition. Attendees engaged in small group discussions to develop local plans of action—and hatched plans as well for a national activist network to be announced soon.

—Sarah Clements

9. When Will Obama Get It?

On March 2, 398 students, among a group of more than 1,000 protesters, were arrested in front of the White House following a two-mile march from Georgetown University. Amid chants of “We love you” and “Arrest my friends,” the students, 250 of whom were zip-tied to the White House fence, awaited arrest under freezing rain and wind—a process that lasted more than six hours. Our reason for this act of civil disobedience was simple: to make it clear to President Obama that we did not vote him into office to have environmental disaster exacerbated by the Keystone XL Pipeline, and to stress the environmental, climatic, economic, political and social consequences that would arise if the pipeline were to be approved. As we await President Obama’s decision over the coming months, activists across the country will be delivering comment cards and petitions to Washington, pressuring elected officials and ramping up direct action.

—Erin Fagan

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10. Who Speaks for Mass Incarceration?

This winter in West Philadelphia, FAAN Mail, a collective of young women of color, organized a screening and discussion of Orange Is the New Black, the Netflix series set in a women’s prison. Community members concerned about—and personally affected by—mass incarceration shared dialogue about the portrayal and realities of prison. Activists talked about local organizing efforts after exploring the following questions: What value, if any, does OITNB offer in the movement to end mass incarceration? What aspects of the show are realistic or fantasy? What do OITNB audiences need to know about mass incarceration?

—FAAN Mail


Read Next: Tufts students react to the school's divestment decision.

Tufts Students Say Fear Held the University Back From Fossil Fuel Divestment

Tufts University

Tufts students call for divestment. (James Ennis/Flickr)

This was originally published as an op-ed in the Tufts Daily and is reprinted here with permission. 

“This is the year to take action on climate change. There are no more excuses,” proclaimed Jim Yong Kim, current president of the World Bank, at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. “We can divest [from carbon-intensive assets],” he continued, saying that investing in the fossil fuel industry betrays investors’ “responsibility to future pension holders who will be affected by decisions made today.”

Less than three weeks later, Tufts University’s Board of Trustees voted to not divest from fossil fuels, citing “significant anticipated negative impact on Tufts’ endowment.”

As members of President Monaco’s Tufts Divestment Working Group, it quickly became clear to us that the group hadn't been created for “open discussion” about the possibility of divestment from fossil fuels, as Monaco claimed. Instead, it existed to generate financial models supporting the administration’s expectation that it was financially impossible.

In one of our committee meetings, Patricia Campbell, the executive vice president of our university, admitted that divestment could indeed be feasible—but it was clear to us that the administration wasn’t willing to consider the changes to Tufts’ investment strategy that divestment would entail. It was this lack of consideration given to fossil fuel divestment that colored the working group process and left us disappointed by our administration’s utter lack of good faith in its approach to the issue. In his Davos address, Kim said, “Corporate leaders should not wait to act until market signals are right and national investment policies are in place,” yet our administration continues to claim that Tufts should wait for the carbon bubble to burst before taking action.

Meanwhile, many corporate and institutional leaders are already taking leadership. Mayors of cities including Seattle, Madison and our own Somerville are pursuing divestment. Norwegian financial services firm Storebrand, which controls more than $60 billion in assets, has announced its intention to pull its investments out of coal and tar sands companies to ensure “long-term stable returns” because they know that those stocks will be “financially worthless” in the future. In January, the CEO of Google joined sixteen other managers of charitable foundations in divesting their assets from the fossil fuel industry. The list goes on.

Our administration and trustees declined to join these other institutions not because they are unintelligent or misinformed but because they are afraid. Perhaps some of our trustees are afraid to consider that the profits they have gained from their investments in fossil fuel companies have accumulated at the cost of a stable climate and human lives. We have heard both President Monaco and trustee Laurie Gabriel admit that divestment is the moral choice, but they are afraid to challenge one of the largest, most powerful industries in the history of the world. They are afraid to take leadership.

We, like so many of our fellow students, chose Tufts because we believed it was a place that valued ambitious leadership, bold innovation and active global citizenship. These are the values that Tufts promotes to us throughout its admissions process, in the classroom and ultimately, in the paths we take after graduation. We are expected to lead, make moral choices and improve our society. But the recent announcement that Tufts will not divest showed that our administration is failing to live up to its own values.

In his letter to the Tufts community, President Monaco wrote: “We are committed to meeting ambitious sustainability goals for Tufts’ operations,” and cited new projects in building energy metering and cogeneration. These are important steps, but compared to the scale and urgency of combating climate change, Tufts’ “sustainability goals” are not in any way “ambitious.”

We have seen this lack of ambition from our institution many times before. It took forty years for Tufts to create an Africana studies department. It took more than a decade to divest from apartheid South Africa. We don’t have a decade now. We do not have the luxury to be anything short of ambitious. Not when too many communities are already fighting for their lives, for clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and food to eat. Not when the fossil fuel industry imperils our generation’s ability to live, work and raise children in a stable and just world.

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The student body showed its support for divestment last semester in a referendum. We know that we, the student body, have the moral clarity and ambition that our administration has failed to show. Tufts will not change unless we fight for that change. So we ask that as this campaign moves forward, you stand with us to make Tufts a place that we can be proud of, for the sake of our future.

Read Next: Will Yale make the same decision on fossil fuel divestment as Tufts?

Student Internships: the Haves and Have-Nots


A student walks across a University of California campus. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

This article was originally published in the student-run Daily Cal.

The hours burned by as Anuraag Kumar scurried around California Memorial Stadium with hot summer rays beating on his back. But instead of a football, the UC Berkeley sophomore was carrying medical supplies.For about thirty hours every week during the summer 2013 football training camp, Kumar set up equipment and assisted physicians as a Cal Athletics intern. It’s an invaluable experience for a premedical student, he said, but there was one catch: it was unpaid. “It’s pretty exhausting,” Kumar said. “It’s difficult to work so many hours a week unpaid and still find time for a paid opportunity.”

Combating competition and economic decline, college students are increasingly struggling to find work and take on unpaid internships. The ubiquity of the latter follows the economy’s shift in the past few decades toward more casual employment, said Katie Quan, the associate chair of UC Berkeley Labor Center.

“It’s very hard to find a paid internship that will also give you experience for med school,” Kumar said. “Not doing them puts you at a disadvantage.”

Despite their prevalence, unpaid interns are not protected in the same way as paid employees are, leaving room for potential exploitation. California State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, introduced a bill in January that would give unpaid interns the same protections from discrimination and sexual harassment as paid employees. The bill, currently in committee, came in response to a New York federal judge’s ruling last fall that a Syracuse University student could not sue the company where she was an unpaid intern for sexual harassment because she did not count as an employee. “The recession has forced young people to rely on these unpaid positions to build resumes and contacts,” Skinner said in a statement. “Employers owe them a safe and fair workplace.”

Unpaid internships dominated headlines last summer after unpaid interns sued a number of high-profile companies including NBC Universal, Sony and Condé Nast, claiming they suffered minimum wage violations from not being assigned different jobs than paid employees and not receiving training in an educational environment—two of the requirements for unpaid workers set by the US Department of Labor. The wave of suits provoked discussion not only about the lack of legal protection for interns but, more importantly, the value of unpaid internships.

Many students still see unpaid internships as necessary to break into certain industries, particularly nontechnical fields such as government and media, where paid opportunities can be scarce. Anna Shen, a UC Berkeley senior majoring in political science, started interning—unpaid—for a Berkeley City Council member last fall, bolstering her interest in working in the public sector. “Even in freshman year, everyone was getting internships,” Shen said. “The expectation was if you don’t get an internship by junior year, you have nothing to show when you graduate, and you won’t get hired.”

Nationwide, about 48 percent of internships taken by seniors graduating in 2013 were unpaid, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. But as no system exists at the state or federal level to specifically regulate unpaid internships, some students learn practical skills at their internship while others perform less meaningful labor.

“The purpose of unpaid internships should be to give young people a chance to sample certain kinds of work,” said Robert Reich, a UC Berkeley public policy professor and former US secretary of labor. “All too often, employers view unpaid interns as free help to do menial tasks.”

Unpaid internships are often infeasible for students who lack the luxury to forgo a paid opportunity to pursue an internship in their field of interest. “An unpaid internship can take away from time [students] need for studying, working and paying their expenses here at Cal,” said Julian Ledesma, interim director of the campus Educational Opportunity Program, citing the myriad challenges low-income and first-generation college students face. Still, Ledesma said while internships are important, students often gain professional skills through other activities such as research.

A 2013 NACE survey found that 37 percent of college seniors with unpaid internship experience received at least one job offer—only 1 percent higher than those with no experience. Students with no experience also had a higher median starting salary than those who took unpaid internships. In contrast, the study found that the percent of surveyed students who had taken paid internships and received at least one job offer was about 63 percent and their median starting salary was significantly higher, although the research did not take into account factors such as the types of jobs to which students applied.

To legitimize unpaid internships, many companies require students to receive academic credit for participating. At UC Berkeley, there is no campus-wide oversight of academic internships, although many departments follow Career Center guidelines. The center also recently said that it will approve a new option to receive internship credit through an online summer course via ISF 187. Typically, students can receive credit from their department if the internship directly relates to their major and they complete a project pertaining to it. “[Internships] allow students to explore a particular career option,” said Tyler Stovall, the dean of the undergraduate division at UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science.

For international students, the internship process is even tougher. To work legally, they must be authorized by special federal work permission—but only if their degree requires an internship, or if they’re taking a course or a project based on an internship. From last summer to this spring, UC Berkeley’s English and media studies departments each gave twenty-four undergraduate students academic credit for internships. Political science gave seven. In that period, 408 international students were authorized to take internships. The campus does not keep track of whether internships are paid or unpaid. In contrast, the majority of internships in electrical engineering and computer science are paid, said Christopher Hunn, an academic counselor for computer science.

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Still working his unpaid internship on the field between classes, Kumar also has a paid job as a part-time tutor. It’s a balancing act, he says, to juggle an internship, a job and a full course load. But Kumar sees his internship as an investment towards his future. “I’d love to get a paid internship, but to gain that I need the right experience,” Kumar said. “I’m lucky my parents are willing to help out [financially]—a lot of people aren’t that fortunate.”


Read Next: check out this week’s Nation intern article picks.

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