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

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 9/25/14?

Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Elizabeth Warren testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

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

"The Fight of Their Lives," by Dexter Filkins. The New Yorker, September 29, 2014.

The world's largest ethnic group without a country, the Kurds, are doing much of the fighting against ISIS in Iraq. This article examines their motivations for fighting for an Iraq they never wanted to be part of, and their desire for a country of their own.

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

Expert Q&A: Palestinian National Unity & The Schism Between Fatah and Hamas.”

In the wake of Operation Protective edge it is imperative to listen to political dialogue within the West Bank and Gaza, as well as among the Palestinian diaspora. The racist story readily peddled by right wing pundits, that Palestinians cannot be reasoned nor negotiated with, would not be as effective if media paid more attention to the nuances of Palestinian politics (as well as the perpetual occurrence of IDF violence) in between clashes.

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

"Why I'm Not Really Here for Emma Watson's Feminism Speech at the U.N.," by Mia McKenzie. Black Girl Dangerous, September 24, 2014.

This week, my Facebook feed exploded with appreciation for Emma Watson's feminism speech, launching her new HeForShe campaign, at the UN. In this article, Black Girl Dangerous creator Mia McKenzie explains why she wasn't such a fan. In particular, she takes apart the often-invoked argument that men should be feminists because patriarchy hurts them too. Does patriarchy really hurt men as much as it hurts women, McKenzie asks? (One look at the worldwide gender gap in pay answers that question with a resounding "No.") And even if it did...why should oppression need to directly, personally harm men (or white people, or straight people, etc...) in order for them to care about it?

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

"Teachers With Guns," by Wade Livingston. Missouri Life, October 2014.

In September, Missouri legislators voted to override Governor Jay Nixon's veto of a controversial bill that would allow teachers to carry concealed guns in school. This week, Missouri Life published an engrossing piece on the training those teachers and school employees receive. Wade Livingston received truly remarkable access and is able to take us inside the program that "trains teachers to become warriors." Livingston's dispatch is far from an apologia for arming teachers, but his reporting provides a rich and nuanced look at how some Missouri schools are trying to protect their students in a post-Sandy Hook world.

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

White House Intruders: Remembering Miriam Carey and How She Died,” by Lynette Holloway. The Root, September 23, 2014.

Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Mike Brown. We know these names and the tragedies that befell these people, but do we know the name of Miriam Carey and the tragic details of her shooting death in Washington, DC? Almost one year ago, this 34-year-old African American woman suffering from post-partum depression was shot and killed by local and federal police after driving her car, with her one-year-old child, into a barricade outside the White House and then driving towards the Capital building. She was killed when five bullets, out of the seventeen bullets fired at her, hit her torso and neck. Her name and memory have re-emerged in the news because of two security breaches at the White House last week. These two incidents with intruders at the White House both ended in arrests. One incident consisted of a 19-year-old man that was stopped and arrested after he tried to drive through a barricade to the White House (just as Carey did). The second incident involved a forty-two-year-old veteran, suffering from PTSD, with a knife and a car full of weapons, who made it inside the White House itself. Neither man was fired upon by police or Secret Service agents. Neither man was African American. The US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia concluded its investigation into Carey's shooting death in July and is filing no charges against any of the police officers that shot and killed her. Both Carey and the veteran suffered from mental health issues, but why were such different tactics used when dealing with these different incidents? Why, out of all three of these incidents in the last year, is only Miriam Carey dead from police bullets? Why isn't the DOJ pursuing this case?

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

"The Student Loan Crusader: How Elizabeth Warren Wants to Reduce Debt," by Tim Dickinson. Rolling Stone, August 20, 2014.

This brief Rolling Stone Q&A with US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) puts her proposed Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act in the spotlight, a progressive measure that aims to allow student-loan borrowers to refinance their outstanding debt at 3.86 percent interest while taxing the rich to make up for the decrease in money flowing to the Fed. With student debt surpassing $1 trillion, according to the New York Federal Reserve, I believe it's important to keep an eye on pending student-loan legislation that could help reverse this critical situation.

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

"Want to Find Out Where Your Fruit Was Grown? Good Luck" by Elizabeth Grossman. Mother Jones, September 24, 2014.

If you ever think about where your food has been you might lose your appetite. Your grocery-stored sourced fruit and veggies alone travel from grower to packer to distributor to supplier to store and, finally, home with you. A thorough explainer over at Mother Jones details just why you generally can't track down where your produce comes from or where it's been (beyond country of origin). Spoiler alert: that information is often considered a "trade secret." All the more reason to shop at your local farmers market.

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

Up From Pain,” by Charles M. Blow. The New York Times, September 21, 2014.

"...I would come to know what the world called people like me: bisexuals. The hated ones. The bastard breed. The 'tragic mulattos' of sexual identity. Dishonest and dishonorable. Scandal-prone and disease-ridden. Nothing nice."

This week, an explosive column from New York Timeswriter Charles Blow has captured my attention. Excerpted from his upcoming memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones—Blow writes a personal account of coming to terms with his sexuality, the traumas of his past and finding the courage to truly be himself. Blow brings the audience into his most inner sanctum, and the vulnerability and intimacy that electrify the page are apparent right away. The author makes a powerful case for the freedom that comes with speaking one's truth.

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

To keep peace, DOJ bars media from town hall meetings,” by Trymaine Lee. MSNBC, September 22, 2014.

It was announced that the Community Relations Service, an agency within the Department of Justice, will exclude the media and non-Ferguson residents from attending any of the city’s slated meetings, with the goal of healing tensions between city officials and the residents. Devin James, Ferguson's city spokesperson, told MSNBC, "It is my understanding that they [the DOJ] believe that the presence of media hinders and disrupts the conversation so that it is no longer productive and does not fulfill the purpose for which it was intended." Yet, it's problematic that the media will not be present. The claim that the media provokes tensions in the case of Ferguson is specious; we need the media to continue to record events as they unfold. In this case, cameras documented the previously invisible black Ferguson residents victimized by the police, inundated by structural disparities, yearning for their humanity to be validated. It was only this media coverage that made us aware, on a national level, of the contemporary political and social realities in Ferguson. Broadcasting images and videos of US citizens engaging in the political process is the media's duty. Fifty years after Freedom Summer, this continued media coverage is necessary to elevate American and international consciousness of the problems still plaguing the United States. This coverage affirms Dr. King's words, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

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

When no gender fits: A quest to be seen as just a person,” by Monica Hesse.The Washington Post, September 20, 2014.

Kelsey Beckham is not a boy or a girl. Kelsey identifies as “non-binary” or “agender,” if required to put a label on it, but, more than anything else, Kelsey is a person. In this beautiful and intimate story, Monica Hesse explores what it means to be a teenager in suburban Michigan who struggles with an identity that is not widely recognized. Although not all readers can identify with Kelsey’s particular struggle, this story transcends gender issues. From Hesse’s story, readers can recognize that we all struggle to find our identity based on varying societal expectations. No matter how we define ourselves, we are more than just boys or girls or agender or non-binary. We are people.

From Walmart to Wall Street, Students Mass for Racial Justice

Justice for John Crawford

Hands up at the Walmart where John Crawford was killed (photo: Ohio Student Association)

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

1. The Long March for John Crawford

On Monday, September 22, more than 100 people walked 11.6 miles from the Beavercreek Walmart where John Crawford was shot by police, through the back roads of Greene County, to the grand jury courthouse in Xenia—where there was no justice to be found. The jury declined to indict Officer Sean Williams, who killed John. While the Ohio Student Association was saddened by the verdict, we know the criminal justice system is in need of major structural changes—so we were not surprised. Immediately after the decision, we held meetings with more than 200 people in Dayton and Columbus to discuss next steps. This week, we will begin a new round of actions calling for a fundamental shift in power between law enforcement and our people. We are looking to our allies around the nation for support. Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown and Ezell Ford illustrate that this is not just a Beavercreek problem—but a nationwide crisis affecting young people of color and a moment for us all to throw down.

—James Hayes

2. The Growing Campus Movement

The execution of John Crawford is but one example of how black lives are undervalued—and quickly erasable by police force. In response, Kent State University’s Black United Students, an ally of the Ohio Student Association, orchestrated a die-in of more than 100 students to send a message about police brutality within the black community and show support to the families who have become victims of this injustice. Moving forward, we are in communication with the Kent City Police department and are working with the student body to create a system where students can effectively and easily report any issues or injustices at the hands of local police or the university.

—Mamadou Ndiaye

3. Flooding for Divestment (and More)

On September 21, after months of exhaustive planning, the student contingent at the People’s Climate March extended for blocks in Manhattan, 50,000 strong. Students marched with racial and economic justice, front-line and religious groups with the understanding that a crisis of incredible proportions deserves a commensurate response. The next day, 3,000 people, many of whom were youths, descended on Wall Street to connect capitalism and climate change at Flood Wall Street. Moving forward, the Divestment Student Network plans to build power by creating autonomous networks, regionally and nationally, and coordinating strategic escalation.

—Varshini Prakash

4. Speaking Out, From the DOE to the UN

Alongside youth from across the country, twenty New York City high school students from Global KidsHuman Rights Activist Project attended the People’s Climate March and served on the Youth Committee. In advance of the march, we campaigned to mandate climate education in all city public schools. Many of us live in front-line, underserved communities and experienced severe damage to our homes during Superstorm Sandy. In June, we created a petition, which has gathered 3,000 signatures so far, and held a rally on the steps of City Hall. In August, we went back to City Hall to support council members Costa Constantinides and Donovan Richards as they introduced a resolution calling for climate education in all city schools. Following the march, Global Kids leaders attended the United Nations Climate Summit to speak with world leaders about our work and demand immediate, meaningful action.

—Anthony Neciosup

5. Decolonizing Climate Justice

On September 20, as part of the New York City Climate Convergence, Free University–NYC hosted *Decolonize Climate Justice* in El Jardín de Paraíso community garden in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with a call to transform ideas and practices to protect the earth and its inhabitants from ecological, economic and political devastation. Fifteen workshops filled the garden to foreground the roles of people of color and indigenous communities in the climate justice movement. Highlights included a victorious report on halting a natural gas pipeline’s construction in Puerto Rico, the Beehive Collective’s massive murals on globalization, dialogues on anti-privatization struggles in Chiapas, Bolivia and Ecuador, a crowd-sourced analysis on how racism and poverty compound the effects of climate change and an intersectional nonviolent direct action training. Since Spring 2012, Free University–NYC has created numerous free radical popular education events in parks, community centers, museums and subway stations, building on the tradition of movement freedom schools.

—Free University–NYC

6. At Colgate, Students Take Racism to the Floor

On September 22 at 8 am, the Association of Critical Collegians at Colgate University conducted a peaceful sit-in at the Office of Admissions against policies and attitudes surrounding race, sexual orientation, ability, gender and class that violate Colgate’s mission to create an open and welcoming community for all. For eight hours, the administration listened to testimonials from students—including stories of racist and insensitive comments from other students, micro-aggressions from professors, disregard of disabled students by the administration and struggles with class in such a wealthy environment—and a set of demands. In response, the university released a statement attempting to address our concerns. Due to its lack of accountability and lack of specificity, we voted to reject the statement; we are currently awaiting further response from the administration.

—Allana Edwards

7. At Wesleyan, the Boys’ Clubs Meet Their Match

The history of fraternities at Wesleyan University is fraught with racism, classism, homophobia and sexism. Over the past three years, multiple rape lawsuits against the fraternities, the university and fraternity brothers have brought these issues to the forefront. The rape of a female student in a fraternity common room last spring provoked fierce campus debate and an unprecedented backlash against the existence of fraternities at Wesleyan. A broad coalition of student activists rallied student, faculty and alumni support for a petition calling for the coeducation of fraternities, culminating in the passage of a resolution in favor of coeducation by the Wesleyan Student Assembly. This week, in response to these demands, President Roth and the board of trustees announced that residential fraternities must coeducate within three years. This policy is a major victory for students, one which we hope to build on as we continue to demand major reforms to dismantle institutionalized inequality in the Wesleyan community.

—Mari Jarris, Anya Morgan and Chloe Murtagh

8. How Many Lives for Each Presidential Promise?

On Thursday, September 25, members of DRUM–South Asian Organizing Center and allied organizations held a People’s Court to charge President Obama and Senator Chuck Schumer with Crimes Against Immigrant Communities. Obama has gone back on his word time and time again—this time, promising action on administrative relief at the end of the summer, but postponing it until after the November elections. Every day he waits, more than a thousand people are being deported and hundreds of families and communities are being torn apart. For his part, Senator Schumer has consistently approved anti-immigrant and pro-enforcement legislation, which, for New York’s immigrant communities, cannot stand. Through United We Dream’s national week of action, and beyond, organizations across the country are holding all accountable who stand in the way of justice.

—Nayim Islam

9. Strike Debt

On September 17, Occupy offshoot Strike Debt announced it had purchased and erased more than $3.8 million in student debt, affecting 2,761 students of Everest College, part of for-profit Corinthian Colleges. Corinthian is teetering on the brink of financial collapse, and faces 200 lawsuits, including one for $500 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, over allegedly fraudulent, predatory practices. Despite Corinthian’s dire financial straits, students may still be liable for the loans they have incurred. Strike Debt’s purchase is a small step towards alleviating this burden. Strike Debt has long fought to empower debtors, noting that alone our debts are a burden, but together they make us powerful. To that end, we have launched The Debt Collective, which aims to unite debtors to build leverage—including Corinthian students—and provide tools for organizing. As we re-imagine our economic future together, there are many more struggles ahead.

—Strike Debt

10. Strike History

Across Jefferson County, high school students walked out throughout the week. (Video: CBS4/AP)

—Students of Jefferson County, Colorado

The Red Tape Remains: Columbia Students in Solidarity With Sexual Assault Survivors

Columbia rally.

Students rally on the steps of Low Hall on Columbia University's campus in Harlem. (Photo: George Joseph)

This article originally appeared at Youngist.org and is reposted here with permission.

Yesterday, in its first public rally, Columbia’s anti-rape group, No Red Tape, called on students to come out and voice their experiences of sexual violence directly in front of Low Library, the seat of Columbia’s administration.

Last year, No Red Tape made national headlines for attempting to hand out warning fliers to prospective students, organizing a 23 student Title IX complaint, and putting together a solidarity action on graduation day. But last year, a small core of students organized most of these actions—a fact that many online commentators have used to claim the anti-rape movement is getting too much attention.

The demonstration, however, left no doubt that No Red Tape’s actions had galvanized the student body. Over three hundred students, community activists, alumni, and curious journalists converged on campus, making it No Red Tape’s first campus rally, the largest in recent memory. Over 15 students lugged their dorm mattresses to the protest in solidarity with Emma Sulkowicz, a senior who has decided to carry her mattress everywhere she goes on campus as long as her alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser, is allowed to remain on campus.

“I brought my mattress to the rally yesterday because Emma (Sulkowicz) asked people to bring them to show support,” said Jen Sluka, a Columbia sophomore, “I think its important for a lot of people to bring their mattresses to show that this happens everywhere and its not just Emma’s issue, but all of ours.”

In the last year, campus sexual violence has been a much-publicized issue across the country, but has often been co-opted by lawmakers to push for increased involvement on the part of the police and the criminal justice system. So many reporters were surprised by No Red Tape’s start to the rally, a spoken-word poem denouncing the relationship between Columbia’s complicity in sexual violence and its simultaneous takeover of West Harlem and close ties to the NYPD.

Since last spring, when national media began focusing on the flood of Title IX complaints, students across the nation have fought back against these lawmakers’ policing narratives, demanding that the violence inflicted on their bodies not be exploited to strengthen institutions, designed to reproduce such violence on other people. No Red Tape has refused to go along with lawmakers’ calls for greater police involvement, instead seeking comprehensive prevention programs, calling for increased resources for survivors, and demanding that survivors no longer need to fear the continued presence of their assailants on campus.

Poet G! Pe Benito explained her piece, entitled “No Red Tape,” to Youngist, “For me, a lot of the conversation around violence tends to end with putting the police in charge of final justice,” said Pe Benito, “But we cannot be safe from racial and sexual violence as long as the police are a militarized unit that deploys racial and sexual violence right here.” She continued, “We must take great care to show that not all of us are content to remain complicit in this system of violence because we’ve come from communities, which have been inflicted with such violence.”

No Red Tape’s rally, which only had about seven speakers planned, went on for three hours, drawing words mostly from unaffiliated undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, and community members.

Jen Roesch, a former Barnard student, who had been involved in the early 90’s struggle for a Rape Crisis Center at Columbia, commented on how little has changed institutionally since her time at Columbia, pointing to the fact that the administration has refused to provide 24/7 access to the center for decades. Nonetheless, Roesch declared students had already had a huge impact on her personally, “For decades, I blamed myself for not being able to graduate from Barnard. Now I realize that was not my fault, this movement has given that back to me.”

The demonstration was at times poignant and at times angry. Over the course of three hours, many students, who had never come out about their violent experiences, chose to speak out for the first time, spurring the crowd to rage at the administration’s rape crisis cover-up.

At several points during the rally, unplanned chants broke out, exclaiming, “Fuck The Deans” and “Carry That Weight.” One survivor at the rally noted the power she felt standing with so many others at the rally, “The administration is so fucked. And I don’t know why this has to be so hard. But I know we can win this.”

No Red Tape members promised to escalate their actions, given Columbia’s refusal to work with students to overhaul the university’s rape crisis response process. At the beginning of the rally a No Red Tape member scaled Columbia’s central statue, Alma Mater, to cover it with red tape—an act of defiance that administrators immediately took down. But as the pain and anger began to pour out at the demonstration, another No Red Tape activist put the tape back up.

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“I felt like I wasn’t at Columbia, the space was transformed,” said Deborah Secular, a Barnard Sophomore. Students, for that brief moment, had reclaimed their campus. Three hours later, as organizers picked up their mattresses to leave, the red tape remained.

Read Next: How Art Inspires Change

Newark Students Have Made the City Their Classroom

A fleet of school buses

A fleet of school buses awaiting children (Creative Commons)

Watching young Newarkers march through the streets demanding educational justice animated every revolutionary fiber of my being. “This is what democracy looks like,” students proclaimed as they took to the streets. I was proud, to say the least. Here was a group of young people, Newark students, articulating visions of justice and engineering pathways to freedom—all while suffering under the yoke of an oppressive (mis)leadership, all while living in a society that renders their lives, their bodies and their education less important than that of whiter, wealthier peers.

It was Wednesday September 10, and I had a decision to make. I could teach as a substitute and make a little over $100—money used to pay bills and sustain myself—or, I could participate in the student walkout. Since becoming a Newark Public Schools (NPS) employee, I’ve witnessed firsthand the gradual deterioration of the city’s now-crumbling school system. I saw students frustrated with the lack of resources, parents disillusioned with broken promises, and an entire community enraged by the dubious direction in which their city’s schools are headed. When the call came asking me if I could sub, I thought to myself: the money is important, but the movement is imperative.

I joined the students and walked out.

Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, boasts its largest school district. Due to so-called poor academic performance, including low test scores and high drop-out rates, the state “intervened” in the district nearly twenty years ago with the promise that improvement would follow. It did not. But community distrust did. The volatile political climate churning under the city’s surface during the 1995 state takeover eventually came to a head, erupting into chaos when Superintendent Cami Anderson was appointed in 2011—the same year I was hired.

On December 8, 2013, Anderson announced a wide-scale “restructuring” of NPS under the auspices of an initiative dubbed “One Newark”. The plan was to create “100 excellent schools” by closing, “renewing” or charterizing a portion of the city’s public schools. Despite corporate backing, including $100 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “One Newark” was met with sharp criticism. In fact, four principals were suspended for allegedly criticizing the plan at a public forum, 77 clergy members have called for its moratorium, and a national coalition of community groups filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice and Department of Education arguing that the plan disproportionately affects African-American students. Newly elected Mayor Ras Baraka, an outspoken proponent of public education and former principal of Central High School, joined the critics when he remarked: “It’s a one-person plan not a ‘One Newark’ plan.”

And yet, of all the criticism levelled against “One Newark” both at the local and national levels, it has been the students who have made the most noise. The movement has been led by youth and supported by a community that is demanding local control.

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Cami Anderson’s gotta’ go!” was one of many chants I heard on the day of the walkout. Around the same time students across the country were pledging allegiance to the flag, a crew of Newark youth was pledging allegiance to the fight for their collective future. The Newark Students Union organized the walk out. Founded in 2012, one year after Anderson’s appointment, the NSU is a student-run and community-led organization. According to its Facebook page, it operates “with the goals of protecting student rights, ensuring [students] receive a quality education, and empowering the student voice in the political process.” Guided by that vision, NSU members—alongside other Newark students—walked out of their schools to protest the now notorious One Newark plan.

But that’s not all.

In addition to the immediate ceasing of One Newark, student protesters are demanding the removal of Cami Anderson, and a return to community control. Aricelis Checo (an NSU member) explained the decision to walk out this way: “My school is my home, and my home is on fire, but no one is coming to put it out.”

The city is home to nearly 40,000 students. And as Checo says, this house is burning: politically and socially. The repressive fire of state appointments and top-down policy is challenged daily by the revolutionary fire of student actions and grassroots power. Newark schools may be state-run, but the streets—as protesters reminded us through their chants—are “students’ territory!”.

Newark students are not alone. What’s happening in Newark is a microcosm of a larger trend sweeping urban America. From Chicago and Philadelphia to New Orleans and Brooklyn students are rising up and fighting back against the push to privatization and the burgeoning charter school movement. The fire that burns in Newark burns throughout the nation. The spirit of student power is rising among the children of America’s chocolate cities. And no politician nor policy can stop them.

Reflecting on the walkout, I must say: it was my students who taught me. They taught me the value of democratic deliberation and prophetic collective action. They taught me that if we organize ourselves, we can build the people power to change our conditions and determine our future. They taught me what Mark Twain meant when he said: “Don’t let your schooling interfere with your education.”

Student protesters have made the city their classroom and the current political conditions their curriculum. As the situation radicalizes Newark students, so too are Newark students radicalizing their situation. Despite the plight of public education in the city I call home, I take heart in knowing that a group of brilliant and brave young people are willing to “walk out” so those that follow after may “walk in” to a new, more just, collective future.

Sure, I didn’t get paid. But the experience I had and lessons I learned are worth more than anything money could buy. I walked away from the action with a different kind of currency: a fire fierce enough to transform this city’s schools, and revolutionize the way we think about education for good.

Okonto: Reality Check

Yale University.

Is Yale University a safe and welcoming environment for students of color?

This article originally appeared at the Yale Daily News and is reposted here with permission.

During a recent discussion among campus leaders, we were asked to describe the way outsiders might view the quintessential Yalie. It wasn’t hard to come up with an illustration: an attractive white male from an East Coast prep school with a killer smile and flowing locks of dirty blonde hair. As a tall black woman with black hair twisted into braids, I didn’t fit the description. So despite my four years of history here, I wasn’t surprised to be aggressively confronted last weekend by an individual who questioned my affiliation with the University.

Last Saturday morning, an older gentleman challenged me as I entered a residential college. First, he asked whether I was a Yale student — to which I immediately replied yes. But even after my quick response he continued to accost me. He asked me which college I was in (to which I responded Morse), my name (I said Patricia). Then he asked for my last name. Even after that barrage of questions, he asked me what I was doing in the residential college. I then turned away without waiting for him to respond or continue to question me.

On my own campus, I was made to feel like an outsider, like I didn’t belong. In the heat of the confrontation another student walked by, but the gentleman was so consumed with my presence that he failed to acknowledge or question my classmate’s status.

Public safety is a major concern at Yale and we should all be working to create a secure campus. But this encounter made me wonder: When do our public safety efforts morph into disrespect?

The encounter lasted only two minutes, but left me feeling insulted, humiliated and belittled. It didn’t matter that I was a freshman counselor or the former president of the Black Student Alliance at Yale. It didn’t matter that as Dwight Hall’s Institutional Service Coordinator I had entered the college that morning to gather breakfast and bagged lunches for Yale freshmen participating in a day of service. These things weren’t visible on my person. What mattered was that something about me — my demeanor, clothing or, more likely, my complexion- — was enough to warrant a hostile confrontation.

After nearly four years of giving my all to a university that I cherish deeply, I was essentially told I didn’t fit the standard mold of a Yale student.

This isn’t an isolated case. It’s striking how many similar incidents happen at Yale and go unreported. My friends and classmates of color have spoken about having residential college gates slammed in their faces, or being asked by Yale security officers to show ID. Yale prides itself on being a community that believes in racial equality and rejects discriminatory practices. But like every other community in this country, this campus is filled with individuals with unconscious negative attitudes about people of color. This implicit bias is more pervasive and at times more insidious than intentionally offensive demonstrations of racism. That becomes all too clear just by reading the national headlines — an armed white man walks away unharmed after murdering six family members, yet an unarmed black teenager is shot by police multiple times on a residential street.

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We need to wake up and be more critical of ourselves. We need to be more aware of the biases we use to judge others. Despite receiving acceptance letters, paying tuition fees and moving excitedly onto campus, students of color are sometimes still made to feel like outsiders on campus. Last weekend’s incident encouraged me to begin discussing the racial undertones of my encounter. Those conversations aren’t easy, but as a campus community we need to initiate those uncomfortable conversations about race. Wake up Yale: It is time for a reality check.

Patricia Okonta is a senior in Morse College. Contact her at patricia.okonta@yale.edu.

Read Next: Columbia Students in Solidarity with Sexual Assault Survivors

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 9/18/14?

A student reads in class.

Second grade student Kaign Groce, 7, reads a book. (AP Photo/Jose F. Moreno)

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

"Libya's leaders shelter by sea as country tilts towards civil war," by Laura King and Yasmine Ryan. Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2014

As Syria and Iraq dominate the news, lest we forget. This piece to me was another reminder of how the revolutions of the Arab Spring were only Act One in an ongoing tragedy. Three years later, and many countries in the Middle East and North Africa are still facing the arduous task of navigating the fallout of decades of dictatorships.

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

Going Back to Class: Why We Need to Make University Free, and How We Can Do It,” by Samir Sonti. Nonsite.org, May 1, 2013.

Last week, on my Twitter feed, there was an argument over the alleged anti-union implications of Malcolm Harris's “Not For Teacher,” a review of Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars. Harris questions the progressive value of rank-and-file organizing among teachers, and of public education in general, by ironizing the critiques of neoliberal reformers. Harris, like Kenzo Shibata's Jacobin (Kenzo himself being a rank-and-file teacher/ organizer in Chicago), accuses the other "side" of being either too liberal or too neoliberal. My coworker and I were talking about the back-and-forth and we agreed that both were much much better than the Twitter dialogue that accompanied them. Then my coworker pointed me to the above article, about a year old, which was really helpful at giving the context that seemed to be missing from the argument...enjoy. (Thanks Dan!)

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

@naomiglobal

"Mute the Messenger," by Jason Stanford. Texas Observer, September 3, 2014.

When education professor Dr. Walter Stroup testified to the Texas Legislature that the state's standardized testing, developed by Pearson, wasn't measuring what it was intended to measure, he unwittingly set off a chain of events that may have resulted in an academic's worst nightmare: an unsatisfactory post-tenure review. This investigative piece is a fascinating look at the deep flaws in the science of standardized testing, and the millions of dollars invested in making sure those flaws are never brought to light.

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

"Everything We Think We Know About Mass Shootings Is Wrong," by Tom Junod. Esquire, October 2014.

During the past two decades, mass shootings have occurred with such frequency that they almost seem to be an indelible part of the American landscape. As Tom Junod describes it, these mass shooters have "supplanted serial killers and possibly even terrorists as our culture's symbol of ultimate evil, seen as unfathomable and hence unstoppable." But Junod wanted to answer two questions: Can mass shooters be stopped? And who, if anyone, is trying to stop them? In his latest for Esquire, Junod takes us inside the world of threat assessment, a relatively new approach to identifying young men and women who could be on the path to mass violence. This approach raises clear ethical and practical issues, but Junod and the people who are pioneering threat assessment are emphatic: "Mass shootings are not unstoppable...They are not even inexplicable."

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

Occupy Offshoot Cancels $4 Million in Predatory Student Loans—and Starts a Debtors Union,” by Liz Pleasant, Christa Hillstrom and James Trimarco. Yes!, September 17, 2014.

With 40 million Americans burdened by more than $1 trillion dollars in student loan debt, the financial future of students and former students can seem bleak. As the movement for justice for student loan debt holders grows, meaningful reform of the public and private student loan system keeps getting voted down in Congress. One innovative form of resistance to this particular form of income-inequality has grown out of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The group Strike Debt was created out of the movement's pursuit of debtors' rights and grass roots solutions to crushing debt incurred for medical treatment and in pursuit of higher education. It raised funds and purchased $4 million dollars of private student debt for pennies on the dollar via secondary markets, just as debt collection companies do. Strike Debt then canceled the debt it purchased, freeing thousands of mostly low-income students who were victims of unscrupulous for-profit colleges. Since so much of our collective student debt is owned by the federal government and not available for purchase on secondary markets, we can't all benefit from this tactic, but it is still the most exciting news I have read in years coming out of the student debt movement.

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

The Most Wanted Man in the World,” by James Bamford. WIRED, August 2014.

WIRED's long-form piece on Edward Snowden is an absolute must-read. It provides insight into the personality, circumstances and beliefs of one of the most controversial people of our time. But, most importantly, the story looks into crucial issues in today's society such as national security, individual liberties, technology as an instrument of surveillance both for the government and the people and the role of whistleblowers in journalism, among others. Engaging and polemical, this is a story no one, regardless of his or her political ideas, should miss.

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

@jessimckenzi

"Radical Librarianship: how ninja librarians are ensuring patrons' electronic privacy," by Alison Macrina and April Glaser. Boing Boing, September 13, 2014.

Government and corporate surveillance of our digital lives may now be accepted by many as the cost of admission to the world wide web, but a handful of Massachusetts librarians are taking a stand. Authors Alison Macrina, a member of Boston's Radical Reference Collective, and April Glaser, who works with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, detail the steps libraries are taking to ensure their patrons' privacy and free and unencumbered access to information, including installing the Tor browser on public computers and privacy-protecting plugins like Disconnect.me, Ad-Block Plus, HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger. Macrina has also been instrumental in organizing workshops to educate both patrons and fellow librarians about digital surveillance.

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

Dinaw Mengestu: 'Immigrant is a very political term,’” Deutsche Welle, September 15, 2014.

My article this week is an interview with Ethiopian creative Dinaw Mengestu that touches on immigrant fiction as genre—whether that's a coherent or even useful classification—as well as immigrant art as inherently political. It's a lovely continuation of a conversation that's been happening between my two of my favorite writers, Junot Diaz and Edwidge Danticat.

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

@NKosiOates

"The Poverty of Culture," by Jonah Birch and Paul Heideman. Jacobin, September 16, 2014.

Since the death of Michael Brown, attention has been focused on inequalities in Ferguson. Authors Jonah Birch and Paul Heideman point out that commentators and writers have reasoned that the experiences of the black Ferguson residents are the result of a "culture of poverty." Scholars have written articles and books on "the culture of poverty," and public officials have articulated their support of this ideology. Yet despite this, black culture is not at fault for racial and social inequalities. Birch and Heidman brilliantly counter the poverty culture narrative by outlining three specifics aspects of black culture frequently subjected to the culture poverty theory. This is article refutes the consumed narrative and offers another perspective that rarely receives recognition.

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

New report slams Twitter, Facebook, Youtube for secrecy around harrassment of women online,” by Caitlin Dewey. The Washington Post, September 16, 2014.

Social media relies heavily on metrics, including clicks, faves and views, and all companies that use social media keep extensive records of how much interaction their posts receive. These companies also tally how many posts they take down for copyright infringements and other violations. However, a new report shows that social networks Twitter, Facebook and YouTube deliberately hide some of their more controversial statistics, including how they handle female abuse on their platforms. Of course, this most likely means the companies are handling it poorly, if at all, andarticles by female writers attest to this. Until these companies publish data regarding abuse, there’s no way that users can hold them accountable, and the barrage of nasty mentions and messages will continue.

 

How Art Inspires Change

Faron Manuel and James Pate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read Next: An Overturned Death Penalty Conviction Sparks Debate in North Carolina

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

NSU

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

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out August 12 and August 29. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. The OneNewark Shutdown

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

—Jose Leonardo

2. The Future of Academic Freedom

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

—Ahmad Hamdan

3. The Weight of Sexual Violence

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

—Allie Rickard

4. At Florida State, Students Confront the Kochs

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

—Ralph Wilson

5. At Burlington College, Students Oust the President

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

—Burlington College Student Union

6. #TrustFor3

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

—Jonathan Perez

7. #BlackLivesMatter

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

—Aryn Frazier

8. A Campus-Wide Labor Coalition

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

—Anna Waltman

9. A New Movement for Democracy

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

—Natasha Raheja and Nantina Vgontzas

10. What’s Next for Title IX?

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

—Know Your IX

Overturned Death Penalty Conviction Sparks Debate in North Carolina

Wrongful conviction overturned.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read Next: Top Ten Back-to-School Songs

What Are 'Nation' Interns Reading the Week of 9/11/14?

ISIS fighter with flag.

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa on June 29, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer) 

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

‘ISIS’ vs. ‘ISIL’ vs. ‘Islamic State’: The political importance of a much-debated acronym," by Jaime Fuller. The Washington Post, September 9. 2014.

The words we choose to use and how we use them are important, no doubt about that. Is someone a terrorist, enemy combatant or freedom fighter? You get the point. These words take on even more importance in the world of politics. Turns out, acronyms are pretty important too. Is it ISIS, ISIL or Islamic State? The reasons to use each acronym vary, as this Washington Post article points out. The nexus between what a group is called, what politicians across the aisle call them and what the media trying to cover it all call them, converge here.

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

The Help Desk: Bank-Robbin’ in Brooklyn," by Kristen Dombek. n+1, July 29, 2014.

Kristen Dombek's most recent addition to "The Help Desk" has stuck with me. Office workers, take note: although Dombek's magnanimous style makes it tempting to read in fits and spurts between small tasks, it's a much better read in one sitting.

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

"Acting French," by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Atlantic, August 29, 2014.

In Coates's typical expert fashion, this is a personal, political and intellectual meditation on several intersecting issues related to race, class, culture, colonialism and education. Unlike much of the current education news coverage on privatization and reform, this piece takes a step back and looks at some of the larger philosophical questions around learning and institutions. Through telling the story of his experience learning French in a summer program at Middlebury College, Coates explores what value educational institutions hold for the people who have historically been most oppressed by them (hint: it's not "respectability").

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

The Witness,” by Pamela Colloff. Texas Monthly, September 2014.

Pamela Colloff's latest for Texas Monthly gives us an intimate look at Michelle Lyons, who witnessed 278 executions in Texas. Although some of Colloff's most memorable works have focused on wrongful convictions, this piece explores a side of the criminal justice system that's often undocumented: how the people who are charged with keeping the system moving are affected and are forced to live with their own complicity in the process of incarceration and execution. Now that she has left her job with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Lyons is grappling with her memories of the executions that intrude "with such frequency that Michelle no longer trie[s] to push them out of her mind." Colloff's piece takes us inside those memories and forces us to confront, in a nuanced and thoughtful way, the way executions are carried out in contemporary America.

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

19 #WhyIStayed Tweets That Everyone Needs to See,” by Jared Keller. Mic, September 8, 2014.

The suspension of Ray Rice from the NFL, after footage emerged of his brutal assault of his then-fiance, Janay, has led to a national conversation around intimate partner violence. Victim blaming has unfortunately been a large part of this conversation. A hashtag response to this victim blaming emerged on Twitter to give voice to often silent, invisible victims. Survivors of intimate partner violence shared their stories using the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. Jared Keller at Mic offers a round up of some of these important tweets.

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

Public Universities Ramp Up Aid for the Wealthy, Leaving the Poor Behind,” by Marian Wang. ProPublica, September 11, 2013.

This long piece looks at how public universities are giving less money to students in the lowest quartile of income, while they increase financial aid for students in the highest quartile. The idea is that public universities are giving up their responsibility of offering affordable education to students with lower incomes. I think people should care about this issue because it affects a great number of American youths—as it prevents them from accessing higher education—as well as the country itself in terms of human capital and social inclusion.

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

"Reddit as a Government," by Sarah Jeong. Forbes, September 8, 2014

Sarah Jeong takes on Reddit's decision to delete the subreddit /r/TheFappening, where a flood of stolen celebrity photos (mostly nudes) and videos were being aggregated, and then launches into a much broader discussion about free speech on the Internet and the role of centralized platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. She concludes that "the internet has come to reflect all the ugliness and all the power imbalances of the real world, without any of the protections or even the weakest democratic safeguards." Although her proffered solution, to re-imagine free speech for the 21st century, is perhaps idealistic, it should be evident that something must be done: to address Twitter's rape threat problem; to prevent Facebook from deciding certain things aren’t news, like Ferguson, for example; and, more generally, to ensure that big tech companies are not "deaf to the people."

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

Dominatrix expelled from Senate hearing after mentioning ‘proof on politicians,’” by Tonda MacCharles. Toronto Star, September 10, 2014.

Terri Jean Bedford, a dominatrix whose federal suit overturned the laws banning prostitution in Canada (Bedford v. Canada), was expelled from Parliament after railing against the Conservative government's bad-faith attempt to replace the laws the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional with even more punitive anti-prostitution laws. Bedford, upon learning of this and attempting to engage lawmakers, was met with political barriers and doublespeak. In response, she threatened to out politicians who had made use of sex worker's services, telling the Parliament that, “I’d also like to say if this law passes, I’m going to make you guys forget about Mike Duffy, because I’ve got more information and more proof on politicians in this country than you can shake a stick at. I promise.” (!!!)

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

Outrage and Calls For Change Follow Ferguson Officials Into Council Meeting,” by Julie Bosman, New York Times, September 10, 2014

Earlier this week marked the first Ferguson City Council meeting since the death of Michael Brown. Residents from Ferguson, St. Louis and nearby communities voiced their dissatisfaction and appealed to the local and state governments over their handling of the killing of Michael Brown. It is completely reasonable for communities to be outraged: It has been a little over a month since a Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown, and to this day Darren Wilson remains on paid administrative leave. The anger that washed over the audience was telling because their display of outrage at the council meeting is at the heart of political engagement. Political engagement is not about not being complacent, but it is about assembling and confronting their political leaders on issues and decisions that affect them. The ways in which these actions emerge are sometimes not fully accepted or efficacious, but nevertheless political engagement is an indication of community ownership.

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

"It Will Look Like a Sunset," by Kelly Sundberg. Granta. April 1, 2014.

This week, TMZ released footage showing NFL running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee-now-wife, Janay Palmer, unconscious. Rice was soon suspended indefinitely from the NFL. Palmer then posted an Instagram defending her husband, which caused some people to question how she could stand behind him after he beat her. The conversation continued to social media, where survivors of domestic violence used the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft to give more context to Palmer's situation. This article, first published in Granta in April, gives readers glimpses into the physical, mental and emotional abuse the author's husband inflicted on her. Each of her fragmented memories stings like a scabbed wound that has been cut open again, leaving the reader feeling raw and exposed. While we all agree that victims of domestic violence deserve better, Sundberg bravely shows us why she stayed, and, in doing so, encourages us not to judge those whose situations we can't truly comprehend.

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