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

Students Hold Vigil for 16 People Shot by US Soldier in Afghanistan

This article was originally published by The Daily Cal. Follow the paper on Twitter to keep up with its excellent local (as well as campus) coverage.

Candle lights flickered against the strong blow of the wind as a group of UC Berkeley students and Bay Area natives formed a circle on Upper Sproul in silent remembrance. The candlelight vigil, which was organized by the UC Berkeley Afghan Student Association, was one of many held worldwide in commemoration of the early Sunday morning shootings by a US soldier in Kandahar, Afghanistan that resulted in the death of 16 Afghans. The vigil, commemorated by about 70 people, began at 7:15 p.m. and ended by 7:26 p.m., with some remaining to pray for the victims’ families.

According to Saylai Mohammadi, campus senior and member of the association, the vigil was organized “really last minute” and was the result of a quick board meeting. “(It’s) short and to the point,” Mohammadi said of the event. “We want everyone to know why we’re here.” The purpose is to commemorate the lives that were lost Sunday, as well as the lives of everyone who has been killed as a result of the decade-long war, she said.

Association Vice President Tuba Nemati said this recent development is not a lone incident but indicative of hundreds of similar incidents. “The US has been at war with Afghanistan since 2001,” she said. “Nobody really knows what’s going on there. People are dying — it’s not evil people dying. Innocent people are dying.”

Vigils were also held in Oakland, Davis, London and Chicago, Nemati said.

Mustafah Treal, a Bay Area resident, said he went to areas of Afghanistan in 2010 and experienced the presence of military personnel firsthand. “US military occupation is having a deadly effect (on Afghanistan),” Treal said. “The US media is not giving this enough coverage.”

But intertwined with the political sentiments of US involvement was the feeling of sadness perpetuated by the recent deaths. “I want to remind everyone why we’re gathered here — this is a vigil,” Mohammadi said to the crowd. “We hold candles and shed tears in remembrance of the beautiful souls whose lives were robbed from them.”

The Truth About Muslim Student Associations


New York University Chaplin Khalid Latif gestures while speaking to students during a round-table discussion at the Islamic Center at New York University on Friday, February 24, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

In 1992, the forbidding streets of South-Central Los Angeles played host to the Rodney King riots—a violent juncture in the city’s history. The discord left the impoverished city blocks tinged with despair and yearning for compassion. When the smoke cleared, a group of seven UCLA and Charles Drew Medical students moved in. They saw a community that was bleeding, and they hoped to help mend it by providing free healthcare to one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods. This was the modest beginnings of the UMMA Community Clinic, now a beloved fixture in South Los Angeles, which has served more than 25,000 patients in the last fifteen years.

UMMA stands for University Muslim Medical Association, and the acronym spells a word that translates to “community” in Arabic. The organization, which has been recognized by President Obama and on the floor of Congress, is grounded in the Islamic principles of charitable giving and social justice, and it traces its roots to the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at UCLA. “UMMA Clinic was born in the MSA office,” explained Dr. Mansur Khan, one of the founders of the clinic. “That’s where it all happened. In a sense, UMMA clinic is the direct result of the success and the mindset of MSA-UCLA.”

Last week, news broke that the NYPD had been monitoring Muslim student groups in several different universities, looking to identify terrorists by their prayer habits and adeptness at paint-balling. They spied on Muslim students and infiltrated MSAs at campuses not just across New York City but as far away as Yale University. MSAs at sixteen colleges were under regular and unchecked surveillance by the NYPD, without being suspected of any wrongdoing.

As a beneficiary of a Muslim Student Association myself, the news left me torn—I did not know whether to laugh quietly or to scoff in bitter fury. My years in MSA were spent packing lunches for homeless feedings, mentoring kids at an underprivileged high school and learning about my faith with my best friends. The idea that a police force could trail a group of students who are trying to be assets to their community, seemed preposterous to me. Congregating on campus—whether it is to pray, discuss current events or plan a party—is not grounds for suspicion. Being a Muslim, though, apparently is.

As far as I knew, Muslim student groups on university campuses were breeding grounds not for radicalism or violence but for intellectual discourse, community service and the formation of Muslim American identities. MSAs function within the means of school rules and bylaws, often play a vital role in their campus communities and provide a safe space for Muslim students to express themselves. Targeting these groups as a potential threat could work to alienate young Muslims and stifle life on campus for all students. It is a shame that this unsettling turn of events could potentially prevent the next generation of Muslim students from engaging in a vibrant, meaningful and constructive part of their college lives. Many Muslim students will become anxious—prone to retracing their every step, always looking over their shoulder and being distrustful and wary of those around them.

The FBI has long considered Muslim students a danger to national security. The wealth of resources being allocated to investigate Muslim students might be futile, however, considering a recent study which concluded that Muslim Americans pose little threat of homegrown terrorism. The truth is that for most Muslim-Americans, there is no conflict between their Islamic and their American ideals. By profiling Muslim students and infiltrating their campus communities, the FBI is demonizing Islam and sending a dangerous and deeply unfair message: that anything Muslim is potentially criminal.

Unwarranted surveillance is not threatening MSA as an institution, but the principles that MSA embodies and stands for. By shadowing Muslim student groups, the NYPD is calling into question the legitimacy of the means by which all students practice civic engagement, community service and the building of common understanding on campuses. Had informants been spying on me during my years in MSA, they would have been privy to a scrapbook of the most memorable and formative moments of my life. MSA endowed me with a sense of community and family, and shaped me into the person I am today—an empowered Muslim American who strives to contribute positively to the world around me and takes pride in upholding the tenets of my faith. And I’m not the only one.

With over 150 MSAs operating in universities all over the United States, the students involved in these groups are as diverse as their respective campus populations. “Outside of the MSA itself, which comprises around 250 students, MSA members are actively involved in groups all over campus,” said Ahmed Desouki, member of MSA at UC-Davis and president of the MSA West—a coalition of MSAs across western states. “Many are involved with the Shifa Community Clinic, others are a part of an organization that reflects their cultural background and some are involved in political groups on campus, like the Davis Democrats, CALPIRG and others.” The Muslim Student Association draws students from different backgrounds and offers them a way to form communities based on shared ideals.

The groups are often reputable constituents of the greater campus community as well, and have longstanding positive relationships with school administrations. MSAs collaborate with other minority and religious groups to promote community activism and interfaith dialogue. “The MSA of Michigan was many times named student organization of the year, and we had the support of a lot of the administration,” said Dr. Abdulrahman El-Sayed, a social epidemiologist at Columbia University and Fellow at Dēmos, a New York–based nonpartisan policy center, who was vice president of the MSA at University of Michigan when he studied there. “We were normally at the lead of issues concerning minority student groups and religious organizations on campus.”

In a politically charged era in which Islamophobia is rampant, MSA serves as a tool to educate other students about what Muslims believe in and how they fit into the broader American narrative. “After 9/11, MSA was particularly important because it was an organization that allowed Muslims to organize in their youth around many of these very American values of empowerment, community service and interreligious organization and education,” explained El-Sayed. “It allowed Muslims to take a proactive role in a time when it would have been very easy to sink back, or be apologetic, and not allow both our American and our Muslim ideals to shine through.”

MSA alums like El-Sayed and Khan speak to the positive influence that MSAs can have in shaping Muslim American leaders who enhance the social fabric of the greater American society. They are accomplishing amazing feats that push America forward because of their time spent in MSA, not in spite of it. “MSA honestly developed me as a human being,” shared Khan. “When I came to UCLA, I really discovered my Muslim identity and I really came to learn my faith through the community there. MSA was where all of the principles and the ideals that we learned of our faith were actually realized. We learn to do good and help people, and MSA was the vehicle that allowed us to do that.”

The Blueprint Of The For-Profit College Newspeak Campaign

This article was originally published by Republic Reports and is re-posted here with permission.

Shakespeare’s Juliet told her Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  The star-crossed lovers could not have known that centuries later those words would be invoked by one of America’s most controversial industries in a manner more worthy of Orwell’s 1984. A 32-page Powerpoint document, “Introducing Project Rose,” from the leading trade association representing for-profit colleges, instructs its members to alter “the vernacular of our sector” in order to reframe the public debate. In this Orwellian Newspeak, a for-profit school’s high-pressure “call center” is transformed into an “enrollment-assistance center,” a “recruiter” becomes a more sympathetic “counselor,” a “piece of business” becomes a student “applicant,” and vilified “private equity” is called simply “private sector.”

In the past few years, for-profit colleges have created strong public concern because they often have high prices, low-quality programs, and deceptive tactics that have exploited taxpayers and left students deep in debt.

The industry has been particularly criticized for coercive sales techniques that have appeared, despite industry denials, to be driven by sales quotas and commissions.  The Project Rose document, from the group then called the Career College Association and now called APSCU, tells industry members that the new name for  ”quotas” is “goals” and the new name for “commissions” is “salary component.”

Today the Chronicle of Higher Education published an account (subscription required) of the 2010 Project Rose Powerpoint and reported that APSCU pursued the effort for at least a year.  Republic Report also has obtained the Powerpoint, and, exclusively, you can download the Powerpoint and read the whole thing here.

Clearly the effort was aimed at describing students less as traded commodities and more as treasured scholars. It’s unfortunate that the for-profit education industry has not tried to match its new words with improved deeds.

Project Rose was on the agenda when senior for-profit executives held a luxury retreat in Telluride Colorado in 2010.  Amid photos of skiing and premium accommodations, the meeting brochure described a session called, “Introducing Project Rose,” with the description “Shakespeare had it right. Words matter.”

A section of the Powerpoint entitled “How We Think,” includes this insight: “Institutional Lending Anticipates Heavy Failure To Repay.” This appears to be an admission by the trade association that expensive student loans issued directly by for-profit schools are often made with awareness that students will end up with too much debt to be able to pay the loans back.  Another sentence acknowledges how for-profits have benefitted from the recession: “Unemployment Rates Drive Profits.”

Last week, Republic Report’s Zaid Jilani reported exclusively from APSCU’s annual Washington DC meeting on former Senator Trent Lott’s account of how, as an APSCU lobbyist, he is able to bring into the fold Senators worried about how this industry is harming U.S. students, including our veterans. APSCU and Lott continue to face lobbying challenges.  Last week Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), sponsor of the post 9-11 GI bill, introduced new legislation to protect veterans from abuses by the for-profit college industry.

Here are some examples of APSCU’s Newspeak aimed at redefining the subprime college industry:

OLD        NEW
Career College        Private-Sector College or University
Parent Company        University System
Starts        New Students
Call Center        Enrollment-Assistance Center
Piece of Business        Applicant
Phone Script        Appointment Set Outline
Recruiters        Counselors
Mom and Pop        Family Owned
Market Presence        Regional Campuses
Private Equity        Private Sector
Open Enrollment        Equal Opportunity

 

Brian Moran, APSCU’s executive vice president, told the Chronicle that with a new APSCU president in place and the association’s focus on compliance with new federal regulations, other priorities have “superceded the issue of Project Rose.”


From Nation Interns: The Week's Top Stories (3/8/12)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

Laura Bolt focuses on human rights and revolution.

Why Hungary's Youth Are Angry—and Drifting to the Far Right,” by John Nadler. TIME, March 7, 2012. 

Young people have been leading the process of dissent and revolution across the globe. While the vast majority of these young people come from and have flocked to the left, in Hungary, a surprising right ring party has captured the attention and loyalty of some young protestors. The article looks at why this is and if it will last.

 

Zoë Carpenter focuses on the intersection of economics, health, and the environment. 

The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom,” by Jeff Goddell. Rolling Stone, March 1, 2012.

Goodell's tough profile of Aubrey McClendon, one of the billionaire executives responsible for inflating the natural gas bubble, makes it clear that beneath the fracking craze lies a quagmire of financial, health and environmental hazards. Goodell's story isn't merely about strange cases of explosive tap water—it's about land grabs, ponzi schemes and levels of debt and obfuscation reminiscent of the mortgage crisis.


Umar Farooq focuses on the worldwide movement for democracy.

High Turnout in Iran Elections Could End 'Paranoia' of Leaders,” by Scott Peterson. The Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2012.

Iran held parliamentary elections recently, the first since the disputed 2009 Presidential race. The government claims up to 64 percent voter turnout, which if true, would be a resounding piece of evidence against the Green movement, whose leaders have been under house arrest for a year. This piece touches on the larger positive implications that a high turnout could have in Iran, and echoes concerns some had in 2009 about western intervention and its possible negative effects for the Green movement in Iran.

 

Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power, and political culture. 

NATO Hopes Putin Will Maintain Efforts to Reach Missile Defense Deal.” Global Security Newswire, March 6, 2012.

With the re-election of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency and the approaching NATO summit in Chicago, the US-NATO alliance is continuing it's diplomatic dance of danger with Russia over missile defense. Mr. Putin has been invited to the summit and birthday party for European-based missile defense operations, but Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabko said he is not likely to attend if substantive discussions of Russia’s concerns are not on the menu. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen responded in kind by saying that the summit and birthday party might be cancelled due to Russian disagreement with NATO's plans. So it goes.


Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations. 

Black Students Face More Discipline, Data Suggests,” by Tamar Lewin. The New York Times, March 6, 2012.

The Department of Education report that this article centers around doesn't really show us anything that wasn't already suspected, but it does call renewed attention to the startling reality that children of minority backgrounds in this country must put up with not only less opportunity, but also with a system that works against them from the minute they walk in the door.


Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights. 

Stratfor Emails: Covert Special Ops Inside Syria Since December,” by John Glaser. WarisaCrime.org, March 8, 2012.

This enlightening review of Elizabeth Holtzman's book, Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution—and What We Can Do About It, proves that prosecuting Bush administration over charges "of lying to Congress about the grounds for war, wiretapping Americans, and conspiring to torture," is not only still a possibility, but it's primarily a national duty in which we've got only twenty-three months to do.


Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender. 

Rape in the US Military: America's Dirty Little Secret,” by Lucy Broadbent. The Guardian, December 9, 2011. 

News of the lawsuit filed against the US military for rape and sexual harassment has spread across headlines, but the media have predominantly treated it delicately, and from a distance. This article parses through personal testimonies of the victims, taking time in particular to address one of the more overlooked issues—the male victims involved in the suit.


James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century.

The Crossing Point: Would-be Immigrants to Europe Can Go Almost Anywhere—For a Price.” The Economist, March 3, 2012. 

Despite its current economic woes, Europe remains a very attractive destination for millions of would-be immigrants. This feature in The Economist charts the well-worn path from the banks of the Evros River in Turkey, across the Balkans, to the Schegen Area—the prosperous free movement zone at the heart of the continent that is so attractive to the many Asians and Africans seeking a better future. 

 

Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare. 

Coverage Denials Draw Ire of Emergency Docs,” by Emily Walker. MedPage Today, February 29, 2012.

In this article, Emily P. Walker reports that Medicaid officials are denying coverage for emergency department visits in which a doctor concludes that a patient's condition is non-urgent. The danger here seems to be that patients with symptoms that might indicate an urgent problem may choose to forgo a visit to the emergency room, knowing that they could be denied coverage.


Elizabeth Whitman focuses on the Syrian uprising, its implications and the wildly varied domestic and international reactions.

The Fearful Realities Keeping the Assad Regime in Power,” by Robert Frisk. The Independent, March 4, 2012.

In this op-ed, Robert Fisk highlights the utter hypocrisy of countries involved or invested in the Syrian crisis, from Saudi Arabia to the United States to Britain to Syria. Fisk's analysis underscores the paradoxical relationship between the principles upon which foreign policy decisions are supposedly based and the realities of domestic situations, such as upcoming elections or a status quo that a rulers may be determined to preserve.

Why We Marched In Sacramento

The headline in this week’s San Jose Mercury News, “Harvard now Cheaper than Cal State,” may have shocked many across the country. But for California’s families and students, it reflects the reality of millions who have struggled for years with the rising cost of higher education. California leads the nation in tuition increases, with a 300% rise in costs since 2001. For a system that used to be a model for the nation, these skyrocketing costs are shameful – and coupled with the recession have put a college education out of reach for many of California’s young people.

When my family moved to the United States from Mexico, I was told by my high school teachers and counselors that I shouldn’t even consider college. Despite graduating in the top ten percent of my class, I was still told that my place was in the fields, where my parents work. Like many Latino families across the state, my parents worked hard every day with the hope of being able to send their children to college. And I worked hard too, studying to prove those teachers and counselors wrong. But for all the hard work, the tuition hikes still left that dream – and the Cal system – out of reach. With the Latino community in California on the path to becoming the majority, we are doing a major disservice to my generation by denying today’s children access to quality and affordable education. Now is not the time to abandon our children and families.

That’s why this week, I helped lead 165 of my fellow Fresno-area college students to Sacramento for Monday’s “Occupy the Capitol” march for education, where we stood with thousands of other students from across the state. We took our demands directly to Governor Brown and the California Assembly: no tuition hikes, no more higher education cuts, and stand behind solutions that will make the banks and the 1% pay their share to refund education. With painful budget cuts rendering universities short-staffed, and overwhelming tuition hikes leaving many students unable to pay, we urged the state's current leaders to stand up for California's future.

We were there to protest cuts, but also to pose a solution. At a “peoples assembly” inside the Capitol Rotunda, student protesters voted on their demands and policy priorities for the Governor and the Legislature – what we wanted out of this day of action. The number one priority was the “Millionaire’s Tax” ballot initiative, which has also been endorsed by the UC Student Association, representing more than 250,000 Cal State students. The Millionaire’s Tax would guarantee billions in dedicated funding for higher education, as well as funding for K-12 schools, children’s and senior services, public safety, and other key infrastructure that has been decimated by State Budget cuts.

On Tuesday the Governor tried to claim that a less effective ballot initiative – one that does not guarantee funding for higher education, and includes a sales tax – is an adequate response to the outpouring of enthusiasm and anger in Sacramento. It is not: the Millionaire’s Tax is the only ballot initiative that makes the 1% pay and that guarantees new revenue for higher education. In the latest poll it is the clear choice of Californians.

With California leading the nation in tuition hikes, too many California students have been forced to take on massive student loan debt. Unfortunately, due to this recession caused by the reckless action of Wall Street bankers, our generation has been called the “lost generation,” with millions of college students left unemployed after graduation. It’s time for millionaires and corporations to pay their fair share.

By marching in Sacramento this week – and on campuses last week, last November and over the past few months of activism and action - I have felt a real sense of unity and purpose within my community. From all parts of the state, thousands of students took the trip to Sacramento to make their voices heard. Together, students are uniting to fight for a quality, affordable education system – and we’re offering solutions to make those goals a reality.

Release of UC Davis Pepper Spray Investigation Findings Delayed

This article was originally published by The Daily Cal. Follow the paper on Twitter to keep up with its invaluable coverage of the Berkeley campus and community.

The public release of the findings of a task force investigating the controversial Nov. 18 pepper spray incident at UC Davis was postponed due to opposition from a university police union.

The task force was originally scheduled to present findings and recommendations to the UC Davis community at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but the Federated University Police Officers Association, which represents UC campus police, and a police officer at the center of the UC Davis incident announced intent Monday afternoon to request a court order halting public disclosure of the report, according to a Monday press release from the UC Office of the President.

Cruz Reynoso — a former California Supreme Court justice, professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Law and head of the task force — delayed the release of the report after receiving information from the president’s office regarding the union’s plans. Reynoso, along with 12 other task force members, was supposed to present the report’s findings.

The task force to investigate the pepper-spraying of students by police officers at UC Davis was commissioned by UC President Mark Yudof in November. Yudof also initiated an ongoing systemwide review of police policies and responses to campus protest activities.

“I was very frustrated to receive the news today,” Reynoso said in the press release. “However, let me assure you that I am undeterred in my commitment to release the complete and unredacted work of the task force, a view shared by President Yudof.”

The request to halt public disclosure — which will be submitted by an attorney on behalf of one of the police officers who was placed on administrative leave as a result of the investigation on Nov. 18 actions — is scheduled to be presented Tuesday morning to the Alameda County Supreme Court, according to the release.

“We were told there was going to be this legal move — to avoid complications, we are not releasing (the report) tomorrow, but we remain committed and we are going to fight in court,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

Klein said the university’s next move will depend on Tuesday’s decision.

“I can only speculate that these attorneys think (the release of the report) would harm their clients,” she said.

UVA Hunger Strike Ends

This was published today at the website of the UVA Living Wage Campaign.

13 days ago, we started with 12 students hunger striking to draw attention to the need for a living wage at the University of Virginia. Through snow, through rain, through thunder and lightning, through pangs of hunger, through exhaustion, through opposition and discouragement, through hours of meetings and rally speeches, we have made our voices heard. In the past 13 days, 14 UVa students and recent grads joined the original 12, bringing the total to 26 student strikers. Over 75 members of the UVa and Charlottesville communities joined in solidarity fasts, including members of the UVa NAACP chapter, the Black Student Alliance, the Latino Student Alliance, Queer and Allied Activists, and a student at Monticello High School. Students from Georgetown, from UNC, from William and Mary, and from the University of Miami have shown support through fasting, vigils, and statements of solidarity. We can’t even list all the individuals and groups who gave this campaign the momentum it needed to engage the entire UVa community, the Charlottesville community, the UVa administration, and the local, regional, and national news media.

To all those who have supported us, we express our deepest thanks. You have been heard. We have been heard. Today, after 13 days, we announce the end of the hunger strike. But let us be very clear: this is the end of this strike, but it is not the end of the struggle. We are energized, we are organized, and we remain, as we have been for the past 13 days, and the past 14 years, hungry but hopeful for justice and a living wage here at the University of Virginia.

The Living Wage Campaign declares our action an enormous victory.  Here’s a short list of what we’ve accomplished: first, the administration was forced to send two emails to some 40,000 people responding explicitly on our campaign.  We’ve met with them twice on short notice in the last week.  We have brought an unprecedented level of attention on grounds, in the state of Virginia, and indeed in the nation, to the issue of fair wages at UVA.  We have educated this campus and the broader community, and shown that UVA students care deeply about the issue of how employees are treated.  Every member of the BOV, and top administration figures, got literally thousands of emails supporting us—we know this for a fact. We have also received the support of thousands of people in the form of letters, petitions, donations, and calls.  We have focused the attention and support of at least two major unions, the AFL-CIO and SEIU, on labor issues on our campus.

Perhaps as importantly, we have inspired campus-based Living Wage campaigns across the south, especially in other right-to-work states, and we have given them a tremendous base of research and strategy documents to work with. When 30 Harvard students occupied their administration building for a month fighting for a Living Wage, they emerged with exactly what we have won: a commitment from the administration to audit contractors, to examine the university’s labor practices, and to prioritize the lowest-paid employees—and to make all this information public. Harvard’s campaign built on this same exact leverage to win an unprecedented living wage that included contract employees, and this is exactly what we will do.  We have utter confidence that this action has laid the groundwork for an indexed living wage, that includes contract employees, in the very near future.  We will not rest, indeed we will escalate, until this happens.

The fight for a Living Wage at this University is not over. This is still a place where workers are forced to work 2 and 3 jobs to keep food on the table. A place where the concept of a “caring community” does not extend to those whose labor makes this institution possible.  A place where equal work does NOT mean equal pay and contracted employees are consistently underpaid, exploited, and ignored. The University has thoroughly and consistently abdicated responsibility towards its workers. Until this problem is rectified and all workers are paid a living wage, WE WILL NOT STOP.

The resistance of the University administration has only strengthened our resolve and determination. The victories we have achieved are significant ones and have set the stage for tomorrow’s work. We’ve established a nationwide media presence; forced the administration to recognize the low-wage crisis; and built a network of activists and union support across the South and the entire nation. These things have made us stronger than we have ever been before and there has never been an opportunity for change like the one that faces us now. All of us together, working at this University now under national scrutiny, are organized. We are outraged. And our Campaign is ready to escalate.

So to this administration, which has so far failed to provide moral leadership to our University, we have only this to say: get ready, because we are already here. We will hold you accountable for your promises. This spring, we will be organizing teach-ins to train and educate people on this issue. We call on all people of conscience to come and learn more, and to get involved. We never thought this struggle would end quickly and the plan for our next steps is what it has always been: organize, escalate and fight.

Statement Concerning Personal Attacks on Our Student, Sandra Fluke

The following statement was signed by more than 250 members of the faculty of Georgetown University Law Center.

The undersigned faculty members, administrators and students of Georgetown University Law Center and other law schools strongly condemn the recent personal attacks on our student, Sandra Fluke. Ms. Fluke has had the courage to publicly defend and advocate for her beliefs about an important issue of widespread concern. She has done so with passion and intelligence. And she has been rewarded with the basest sort of name-calling and vilification, words that aim only to belittle and intimidate. As scholars and teachers who aim to train public-spirited lawyers, no matter what their politics, to engage intelligently and meaningfully with the world, we abhor these attacks on Ms. Fluke and applaud her strength and grace in the face of them.

From Nation Interns: This Week's Top Stories (2/29)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out nearly everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week and use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

 

Laura Bolt focuses on human rights and revolution.

Burma Awakes to Glasnost: A (Partly) Free Press and (Some) Freedom of Expression,” by Mark Honigsbaum. The Guardian, February 25, 2012. 

The evolution of a free press in Burma is coming in drops instead of a flood. While there are still many taboo subjects, this article highlights how censorship standards are becoming more relaxed, giving many Burmese citizens hope that a "truly free and independent press" won't be far behind.

 

Zoë Carpenter focuses on the intersection of economics, health and the environment.

Colonialism in Africa Helped Launch the HIV Epidemic a Century Ago,” by Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin. The Washington Post, February 27, 2012.

In an excerpt from their new book, Timberg and Halperin argue that the novel networks established by colonialism in Africa—trade patterns, rapid transportation, migratory labor and sexual interactions—provided a "tinderbox" that allowed HIV to explode from a potentially local, short-lived outbreak into a global epidemic. Their narrative provides a gripping account of how politics, economics and power shape health and illness.  


Umar Farooq focuses on the worldwide movement for democracy.

New Thinking for City Finances,” by Gar Alperovitz. The Baltimore Sun, February 21, 2012.

Economist Gar Alperovitz has been thinking about how cities can build sustainable, local, engines of economic revival for some time. In this piece he provides illuminating examples of how cities are working to combat disinvestment and austerity, challenging the notion that outside investment, often equated with positive economic development, should be subsidized by taxpayers.

 

Loren Fogel focuses on peace, power and political culture. 

Missile Defense: Toward a New Paradigm,” by EASI Working Group on Missile Defense. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2012.

This paper, by the EASI Working Group on Missile Defense, is introduced by the following: “No issue is more urgent or central to achieving progress toward the goal of creating an inclusive Euro-Atlantic Security Community than making European missile defense a joint project of the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and Russia.” The proposal lays out a framework and strategic architecture for projecting power in the 21st century, and demonstrates that sometimes very smart people can make big mistakes, As the US-NATO alliance presses forward with their portions of a strategy not far different from this one, missile defense and all of the antagonisms that come with it will become ever harder to hold back and deconstruct—increasing the likelihood of unforeseen but predictable miscalculation, misunderstanding and blunder.


Connor Guy focuses on racism and race relations.

"Former Ban on Black Priests Still Reverberates Through Mormon Faith," by Jason Horowitz. The Salt Lake Tribune (originally via the Washington Post), February 29, 2012.

This article provides a balanced, nuanced portrayal of the Mormon Church's racist history—which includes a ban on black people in the priesthood, only lifted in 1978. Many of Mitt Romney's supporters have argued again and again that his opponents are (or would be) unfair to hold his religion against him. As a Salon.com writer derisively notes, "because of the current political climate in this country, we're not supposed to talk about any of that." But we need to talk about it. We need to confront the fact that many Mormons (including, to a certain degree, Romney, whose staff would not comment to the Washington Post for this article) refuse to unequivocally condemn the racism of their predecessors.


Ebtihal Mubarak focuses on human rights. 

StoryCorps Oral Histories in partnership with the Arab American National Museum and the National Network of Arab American Communities.” Reclaiming Our Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes, September 2011.

In order to reclaim their identities, Arab-Americans are determined to dismantle Arab stereotypes by capturing the experiences of Arab-Americans ten years after September 11. Fifteen candid conversations among Arab-Americans from across the nation not only serve as documentation of the profiling and stereotyping in the post-9/11 era, but also offer a humane window into their lives; they'd like you to listen.


Hannah Murphy focuses on sex and gender.

Women in the Media: Why the Call for a Quota in Germany is Vital,” by Ines Pohl. The Guardian, February 29, 2012. 

The past two decades of feminism have been muted by an "it's only a matter of time" attitude—that all of the work has been done already, and with enough patience, society will catch up. But this week, hundreds of female journalists in Germany decided they were tired of waiting for their industry to figure that out—and signed a letter to 250 editors and publishers, demanding a quota to ensure that women fill at least 30 percent of the executive positions in media.

 

James Murphy focuses on migration in the 21st century.

The Illegal Immigrants Desperate to Escape Squalor of Britain,” by Chris Rogers. BBC News, February 28, 2012.

This report from BBC News reveals the sad and shocking situation in which a growing number of undocumented immigrants find themselves in Britain today. Caught in a legal no man's land, their stories underline the horrendous failures in immigration policy—from the lax border controls which allow human traffickers to prey on the hopes and dreams of migrant families, to the apathy of government in legislating just and progressive solutions to the problem.

 

Erin Schikowski focuses on the politics and business of healthcare.

Proposed Stage 2 Requirements Raise the Bar for Providers,” by Christine LaFave Grace. Modern Healthcare, February 23, 2012. 

As part of its multi-billion dollar investment in health information technology, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would have providers using electronic health records (EHRs) for each and every American by 2014. Last week, recently proposed "meaningful use" requirements that would determine providers' eligibility for federal incentive payments were made available online and will encourage electronic prescribing and online access to EHRs for patients.

 

Elizabeth Whitman focuses on the Syrian uprising, its implications and the wildly varied domestic and international reactions.

Syria Referendum Called 'A Sham,’” by Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand. Global Post, February 27, 2012.

A referendum in Syria last Sunday, which the government said resulted in nearly 90 percent of voters supporting a new constitution, was dismissed by many world leaders as a farce. This Global Post article details why and how the voting was a complete sham and discusses the vote's sectarian implications for Syria and its political future—if it has one.

Students Across the Country Unite for the National Day of Action to Defend Education

Today, students around the country will march, rally, teach-in, and walk-out in honor of the National Day of Action to Defend Education. Born out of the Occupy movement and the rise in student activism that came with it, the day is meant to draw attention to the corporatization and privatization of education, from pre-K through higher education, in both private and public institutions. As Wall Street continues to gain unprecedented influence in our schools, we’re standing up and demanding that our disapproval be heard and our interests be acknowledged.

At the end of 2011, Occupy Education Northern California, an education-focused organizing group in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, and the New York City Student Assembly, a group of students from universities around New York City that has been meeting regularly since October, put out a joint call for a national, education-oriented day of action. Now, over sixty different organizations have endorsed the event, including student groups, labor unions, various Occupy sites, teacher and faculty organizations, and political organizations around the country.

When this school year began, Occupy Wall Street existed only in the dreams of those who’d spent months planning for its imminent arrival. Mic checking was not yet part of the common vernacular and protests were isolated events that did not frequently enter the public consciousness. But even then, before we were “the 99%” and before we had articulated just what democracy looks like, education was under attack.

Tuition at private universities is skyrocketing, and the overwhelming majority of students graduate already in debt. The Occupy Student Debt Campaign, a subset of the Education and Empowerment working group out of OWS, started a petition asking debtors to sign a pledge of refusal. The petition, which states that participants will refuse to pay back their loans once one million people sign on, currently has 3,214 signatures.

As private university students face rising tuition costs and debt, so too do public university students. Tuition in the CUNY system, which was tuition-free until 1975, will increase by $300 each year for the next five years—a small amount compared to the price tags of most private universities, but enough to make a significant difference for many of CUNY’s students. Last November, police beat and arrested CUNY students at Baruch College who were peacefully protesting against these impending budget cuts and tuition hikes.

The issues facing public school students are intimately connected to those facing private school students. That night in November, students from Columbia, the New School, and NYU were outside of Baruch, protesting alongside their CUNY peers. Occupy Wall Street has brought students from all backgrounds together, and we have built solidarity around our common grievances. That solidarity is now being put to good use, and its strength will be on display tomorrow at actions around the United States.

The past few months have witnessed incredible growth in the student movement, but they have also witnessed incredible police repression and violence on university campuses. From CUNY in New York to UC Davis in California, the peaceful protests of student activists were continually met with pepper spray, beatings, and arrests. And as these events unfolded, university officials refused to take any responsibility.

On February 9, when high school students, teachers, and parents—as well as members of Occupy the Department of Education—filled an auditorium in Brooklyn in an attempt to stop the Panel for Educational Policy from holding its meeting and voting on school closings, the members of the panel sat through hours of mic checks and chanting, only to vote to close twenty-three New York City public schools. These schools will be replaced with charter schools, which are subject to less regulation and produce uneven results for students.

Over and over, we have witnessed the effects of privatization and corporatization in our schools. Our Boards of Trustees are comprised of some of Wall Street’s biggest names, and the methods we are given to make changes within our institutions do not come close to matching the influence of the one percent. Our universities are run like corporations, and we are no longer content to passively sit back and watch as the very people responsible for creating the problems of this country gain unprecedented control of our educations and our futures. 

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