Quantcast

StudentNation | The Nation

  •  
StudentNation

StudentNation

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

Occupy Uconn Takes the Library During Finals

Students involved in the University of Connecticut’s Occupy movement didn’t take a break from protesting during finals week—they set up a permanent occupation in the library while simultaneously studying for exams and writing papers.

Campus police were called by security guards on Sunday night, but in a refreshing shift from violent encounters at numerous other schools, students opened up a peaceful dialogue with officers about the first amendment and free speech.

According to a 17-minute video posted on Facebook, a campus security guard told the occupiers that the political messages on their signs had to go. Police officers later clarified that the university policy would not allow their signs to be visible and posted in their library space, regardless of politics and Occupy related messages.

There was a conversation between students and officers over why university policies about free speech were unnecessarily stringent. One female police officer even declared that she applauded the students for seeking out the proper methods to address these systemic issues, but ultimately they had to enforce rules and regulations of the school.

“We did tape signs on the table so, you’re right, technically we broke the rules. But the whole reason we exist and why this whole thing is here is because the rules are so fucked.”

This isn’t the only action taken by Occupy Uconn activists to combat suppression of first amendment rights. Earlier in November rapper Jasiri X gave a controversial concert at the University of Connecticut and performed the one song that Uconn’s student government requested he didn’t: “Occupy (We are the 99).” The Pittsburgh native’s lyrics speak to the inequality of the US government’s financial bailout Wall Street and other sentiments of the Occupy movement.

"And nobody got more welfare than Wall Street/Hundreds of billions after operatin' falsely/and nobody went to prison/that's where you lost me/but my home, my job and my life is gonna cost me."

The student government wrote into Jasiri X’s contract that he couldn’t perform this song because they did not want to align themselves with a political message. Uconn's student government removed Colin Neary, a senior class senator, who served as the event’s organizer.

In response to the university’s failure to defend free speech, the campus Occupy movement organized a “Funk Censorship!” dance rally. The group has also organized teach-ins with over 70 students in attendance and hosted six general assemblies over the course of the semester.

Occupy Uconn even performed street theatre action with other local occupations when Michael Moore spoke at the university on November 18—as a result, the filmmaker ended up giving occupiers 30 free tickets to the lecture.

Occupy Uconn is a small occupation at a massive university, but their actions echo a widespread message at other campus and university movements nationwide: students should be allowed to utilize freedom of speech in demonstrating their outrage over the government’s role in income inequality and high tuition costs—even during finals week.

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important Stories (12/9)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most 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 please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

— Angela Aiuto:

Angela focuses on money in politics.

Will Foreigners Decide the 2012 Election? The Extreme Unintended Consequences of Citizens United,” by Richard Hasen. The New Republic, December 6, 2011.

U.C. Irvine Professor of Law Richard Hasen has written a column for The New Republic highlighting Bluman v. FEC, a case before the Supreme Court that would determine the rights of foreign nationals living in the United States to spend in U.S. elections. While the Court is expected to uphold the ban on foreign spending whether it chooses to hears the case or not—and rightly so, Hasen argues—such a decision would underline the faulty logic underpinning the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision.

—Cal Colgan:

Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.

Adventures in drug war logic,” by Alex Pareene. Salon, Dec. 5, 2011.

Alex Pareene's snarky blog post on Salon examines two recent New York Times articles. The first is about the DEA's several-year-long operation of laundering large sums of money to drug traffickers in the hopes of "following the money" to the major cartels, a practice the agency had been performing in several European and African countries but just started doing so in Mexico a few years ago. The other article details the various dismissals of law enforcement officers who speak out against drug prohibition. Pareene argues that it is a disturbing double-standard for government agencies to condone laundering money to criminal organizations while simultaneously firing officers who question the effectiveness of the drug war. 

— Teresa Cotsirilos:

Teresa focuses on "Global South" politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.

Vast and Fertile Ground in Africa for Science to Take Root,” by G. Pascal Zachary. The New York Times, Dec. 5, 2011.

Welcome to the computer science center at Makerere University, a gleaming new college in Kampala, Uganda that is rapidly pushing the boundaries of global research. Through their current experiments, professors hope to provide life saving services to Eastern Africa's rural populations by endowing their cellphones with the "intelligence" to identify diseases in crops or malaria in a person's bloodstream. The college has attracted so many undergraduates that faculty members hold lectures past midnight in order to accommodate them.

— Paolo Cravero:

Paolo follows war, peace, and security.

Northern Distribution Nightmare,” by David Trilling. Foreign Policy, Dec. 6, 2011.

This article indirectly highlights the crucial importance of Pakistan in the Afghanistan conflict. Differently than usual, Trilling's piece does not talk about the political and military role of Pakistan, but shows the difficulties that the US is going through in order to resupply its troops from the "Northern Route". An interesting take that reminds us that if the war in Afghanistan will ever find a peaceful solution, this will be through Pakistan.

— Erika Eichelberger:

Erika follows the environmental beat.

Africa: Women Impacted by Climate Change - But Not as Victims,” by Melissa Britz. AllAfrica.com, Dec. 6, 2011.

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change for many reasons. As the primary food providers in poor countries, women are hardest hit by the effects of changing weather patterns on agriculture. Disease and injury resulting from climate change present another burden, as women are the chief caregivers. As resources dwindle, the challenge of curbing an explosive population falls on women as well. Thus, as this article at All AFrica points out, it is encouraging that the importance of women's voices has been recognized at the current COP17 climate negotiations, otherwise widely expected to be a disappointment. "I'm glad this [conference]...is highlighting women's leadership at the different levels," said Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, and head of a foundation promoting the concept of "climate justice". The story highlights, in particular, the need for climate funding to include investments in reproductive health education and family planning for poor countries in order to address overpopulation. Clearly, Western consumption must be curbed, but both strategies--mitigation and adaptation--will need to be employed to address impending climate crises.

— Josh Eidelson:

Josh covers the labor beat.

NLRB Moving to Speed Union Elections,” by Michael Goldberg. Labor Notes, Dec. 6, 2011.

Last week the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted to move forward with writing a new rule that would take away some of the tools employers use to delay union elections and buy themselves more time to scare workers.  Hours before the vote, it was still unclear whether, in an unprecedented move, Republican NLRB member Brian Hayes would resign his position in order to sabotage the agency by denying it a quorum.  Hayes announced that he won't resign, clearing the way for passage of the new rule later this month.  But the Labor Board will be incapacitated anyway come January 1, when Obama's recess appointment of NLRB member Craig Becker expires.

— Eli Epstein-Deutsch:

Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.

Does Inequality Matter?” by Robert Frank. Slate, Dec. 5, 2011.

This Slate piece discusses a hidden mechanism by which pervasive income inequality causes real damage to quality of life for the vast majority of people—without even improving things for those it supposedly favors.

— Collier Meyerson:

Collier’s beat is discrimination.

‘Opting Out,’” by Allie Grasgreen. Inside Higher Ed, Dec. 2, 2011.

In her new and controversial book entitled Losing The Potential Of America's Young Black Elite, Maya Beasley concludes that African-Americans graduating from America's elite Liberal Arts schools are gravitating toward lower paying and "less prestigious" nonprofit and community based professions. Beasley suggests: “Not everybody is going to make a great social worker…. some are going to be fantastic brain surgeons, and we’re really missing the potential of these students because they’re not getting the information they need." We are left asking ourselves: what is the most beneficial route for African-American economic advancement? Is it through vocational, or cerebral work? Here - as was the case during the famous W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington debates on the same subject - we cannot possibly deduce the correct answer, but only offer our opinions. 

— Allie Tempus:

Allie follows human rights.

Can Occupy and the Tea Party team up?” by Chris Dovi. Salon, Dec. 7, 2011.

In Richmond, Virginia the author sits in on what may be the first (though much-pondered and somewhat-anticipated) meeting of Occupiers and Tea Partiers. Their differences (historical influences, rallying tactics) and similarities (desire to return power to the people) are hashed out with optimistic conclusions. Whether one sees the Tea Party as an anti-intellectual threat to a progressive cause or a worthy partner in a "second American revolution," this small-scale local meeting may provide insight into bigger things to come. 

— Jin Zhao:

Jin follows the US’s image in international media.

China, USA: Comparing Poverty Lines,” by Oiwan Lam. Global Voices, Dec. 1, 2011.

China raised its poverty line from RMB 1,196 yuan in 2009 to RMB 2,300 yuan (USD $360) per capita annual income, or $0.99 a day, which is still below the extreme poverty line defined by the World Bank. On Chinese news and social network websites, many Chinese compare the poor in China to the poor in the US, questioning whether China's "socialism" is truly socialist.

 

The Occidental Four

This has been a trying week for the Occupy Movement. More specifically OccupyLA and Occupy Colleges have faced new challenges that the rest of the movement have been dealing with for months. Raids, arrests, dismantling of our camps, all in an effort to dismantle the movement. But, as has been said before "You can't arrest an idea."

On November 29, Occupy Los Angeles was raided by 1,300 police officers in riot gear, hoisting rubber bullet guns, and blowing off a lot of pent-up aggression.

Of the 300 protesters over 20 were students including one of our Occupy Colleges facilitators. Most of these students went down to Occupy LA to serve as nonviolent monitors to keep the peace between protesters and police. I interviewed four Occidental College students who experienced first-hand the night of the Occupy Los Angeles raid.

“We had been cut off from the protesters in the center of the park by the police and sat in a circle on the lawn with three other brave protesters. We were among the first groups of people to be arrested. We submitted to arrest willingly and were quickly cuffed and seated on a curb to be processed. We were told that the more we moved, the tighter the cuffs would get.” Jacob Surpin

“Soon it became clear that arrests would be imminent, our peacekeeping team decided to risk incarceration. We believed that we had a right to peaceful assembly and we thought the police declaring this occupation to be “unlawful” was both undemocratic and unconstitutional.” Guido Girgenti 

They didn't expect what came next.

"As riot police encircled us, we sat calmly in a circle and waited. In front of us, a photographer attempted to move towards the police line to take a photo. Two riot police grabbed each of his arms and attempted to stop him from taking photos. He pulled back and declared that he was leaving the encampment, but police stated he was under arrest. He held his arms out, attempting to avoid the plastic cuffs while explaining he was simply taking photos while making his way out. The police threw his arms violently behind his back and we heard a cruel snapping noise – the man yelled in pain. Three more officers engaged the man and together five riot police threw the photographer to the ground – one policeman pushed his head down and slammed his temple into the concrete walkway. While the man was held down, plastic cuffs were placed on his wrists and he taken away. His head was bleeding and his arm was held behind him awkwardly. Soon he was out of view.” Guido Girgenti

“They took us to a bus full of occupiers, these guys were the people I would be put in a holding cell with me. The whole arresting process of 290 people was very disorganized, officers didn't know where certain people were, and did a whole lot of paper work. Between 1:00 and 4:00am we were all siting in a big room waiting for everyone to be processed. Here I saw all the people who were arrested, there was a wide variety of people, there were a couple of people who had records, there were 30 year old professionals, there were students, and there were band members."  Mohammed Imran Chandoo

"By around 4:00am, I was under the impression that my processing was over, as I was taken to a group holding cell in which I was able to make a few phone calls. However, the next several hours were defined by the frequent shuffling of myself and other Occupy arrestees between different temporary group holding cells and fingerprinting stations. The constant shuffling of us early women arrestees is a testament to the lack of capacity the jail possessed to hold women as well as an overall sense of inefficiency and unpreparedness." Maddie Resch

Now here is the kicker - Most of the 300 arrested were cited for a misdemeanor offense which typically garners a fine and immediate release. Not this time. The student occupiers that Occupy Colleges helped bail out of jail were all held on $5,000 bail.

"During this process of waiting while cuffed, nothing was ever explained to us. My Miranda rights were not read to me. I was never told where I was going, why I was going there, or for how long I would be there. I was simply escorted different places with no knowledge of what I did or not have a right to in any given place. The only thing that I was told was that my bail was $5,000. I could not comprehend why it was so high. By being a peacekeeper, I was being overtly nonviolent and obviously was not a threat. A $5,000 bail seemed like cruel and unusual punishment for a student who was practicing nonviolence in a movement for greater justice and deeper democracy.” Guido Girgenti

Initially, on November 30 when we went to the jail during stated visiting hours, the jail was closed. The officers claimed that they were under-staffed. The LAPD sure didn't seem under-staffed on the night of the raid when they had 1,300 officers abailable for overtime.

"I left jail with a deep sense that the entire process I had gone through was opaque and confusing to the point of being a severe violation of our democracy. Yet, despite being given a cruelly high bail, being held in cuffs for seven hours, and going 11 hours in custody without food or water, I will not let the issue of police treatment distract me from the larger issues this movement will tackle: the deeply unjust inequities of wealth and power in our country, and the fight to save our democracy from the stranglehold of corporate money. I do not blame the individual officers who dealt with me for my mistreatment; it was clear many of the officers are sympathetic to the cause for economic justice, but it is was also clear that their solidarity as individuals was gravely undercut by the repressive institution they worked within. My time in jail has only strengthened my resolve to organize and to win.” Guido Girgenti 

How is it that we live a world where not a single person on Wall Street has served even an hour of prison time yet some of our fellow protesters still sit in jail? We are resolved to continue the most important fight of our lives - that of economic injustices. We are mobilized and nothing, not even egregious treatment in jail with high bails will stop us. Whether or not you agree with Occupy, you should be dismayed by the chipping away of our rights, the ability of the police and government to change the rules as they see fit, to use violence against nonviolent protesters and to only defend one side of the debate. Whichever side you are on, remember, next time it could be you.

Advice to Students: Be Wary of Blind Allegiance in College Sports

It's been a tough couple of weeks for Syracuse basketball fans -- let alone students -- with the increasing number of allegations emerging about Bernie Fine and the molestation of young men, including two former ball boys, while he was tenured as the assistant coach for the Syracuse men's basketball team.

News broke on November 17 that Fine was placed on administrative leave by Chancellor Nancy Cantor and SU, and was then terminated on Sunday, November 27 -- effective immediately. For both SU students and the surrounding community, the accusations have been nothing short of shocking. There's been an unprecedented amount of unraveling information, all of it constantly rebutted by opposing parties, which makes this situation even more difficult to comprehend and formulate conclusive opinions.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks' forward and former SU basketball player on the 2003 National Championship team, mirrored a reaction similar to the majority of Syracuse's current student body when asked about Bernie Fine's controversy in a November 29 interview:

"My heart goes out to the families. I have no comment about the Fine situation or the Boeheim situation," Anthony said. "That's a sensitive situation, a sensitive topic right now that I don't even want to go into."

Aside from the occasional Facebook status or Twitter update, the majority of students have remained almost complacent. It is crucial for students to tread carefully in responding to the new developments around accusations against Bernie Fine and the incessant confusion from the situation's lack of clarity.

The Daily Orange reported that Neal Casey, president of Syracuse University's Student Association, commended students on Monday night for their reactions to the controversies thus far. "He mentioned, in light of the recent events concerning the SU basketball program, he is proud of the way students have been handling SU's thrust into the national spotlight," the article  states.

Events at Penn State earlier this month have served as a model for Syracuse. Even though each school's respective circumstances of alleged child molestation and sexual abuse are different and not entirely comparable, Penn State laid out the groundwork for how Syracuse's administration should react. The school also set a major example for students, as well.

After Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was fired, along with university's President Graham Spanier, students rioted in protest. "Thousands of students stormed the downtown area to display their anger and frustration, chanting the former coach's name, tearing down light poles and overturning a television news van parked along College Avenue," according to the New York Times.

PSU students have since revamped their attitudes by coming out in support of anti-child abuse sentiments and honored the victims, but the damage was already done. Syracuse students have had the benefit of witnessing these initial reactions and learned from others' mistakes, but these mistakes shouldn't be long forgotten.

While allegiance to college sports is an inherent part of campus culture, the distinction between traditional fandom and blind allegiance is an important one to make. The difference between allegiance and blind allegiance is simple -- it's about putting those critical thinking skills to good use and mindfully analyzing the ethics of a situation before showing support. Unconditional love is mostly reserved for family members and, in special cases, good friends. Backing up a sports team no matter what the case can be dangerous, especially if fans are failing to stay fully informed.

Blind allegiance acts as a kind of nationalistic pride that permeates throughout campus cultures at schools like SU and Penn State: where student bodies large in numbers adhere to traditional possessiveness over popular sports, and have an undying sense of loyalty.

There's no doubt that Syracuse basketball and other campus sports largely shape students' experiences -- "bleeding orange" isn't a phrase to be taken lightly -- but it's important to consider the greater implications of the situation, beyond natural feelings of school pride.

Even coach Jim Boeheim exemplified and hinted at this characteristic of extreme loyalty in a recent press conference after Tuesday night's victory against Eastern Michigan. When discussing his initial comments about Bernie Fine, Boeheim said, "I supported a friend. I think it's  important what I did. I'm proud I did that. I've known him for 46 years. We went to school together. I think I owed him a debt of allegiance."

It's easier to immediately stand behind coaches, teams, and universities than it is to step back and understand the full severity of a situation before providing endless support. But life isn't about making the easy decisions -- doing the right thing involves extensive contemplation and reflection before jumping the gun, which is exactly the attitude SU students should embody moving forward.

The 2011 Nation Student Writing Contest

We're delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s sixth annual Student Writing Contest!

This year we asked students to send us an original, unpublished, 800-word essay detailing what they think is the most important issue facing their generation. We received hundreds of submissions from high school and college students in forty-one states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total.

Congratulations to the winners, Bryce Wilson Stucki, an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, and Hannah Moon, a 2011 graduate of Brooklyn College Academy in Brooklyn, New York, and to our ten finalists! The winners each receive a cash award of $1,000; the finalists receive $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions.

Many thanks to all of our applicants and the many people who encouraged their participation, and many apologies for our delay in naming the winners. The two winning essays will be excerpted in an upcoming issue of The Nation magazine and all finalists will be published at StudentNation on Monday, December, 5.

Winners

Bryce Wilson Stucki, Virginia Tech
Hannah Moon, Brooklyn College Academy, Brooklyn, NY

Finalists

College
Zoe Carpenter, Vassar College
Alex Klein, Yale University
Matthew Hickson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Melanie Muller, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Jake Shoemaker, Dartmouth College

High School
Ashley Arkhurst, Manlius Pebble Hill School, DeWitt, NY
Sakib Ahmed, Herricks High School, Manhasset, NY
Conor Beck, South Portland High School, S. Portland, ME
Kevin Xiong, Cambridge Rindge & Latin, Cambridge, MA
Stephanie Weiner, Spanish River Community High School, Boca Raton, FL

Syracuse Rallies Against Campus Violence

Students at Syracuse University rallied against police brutality on November 30 in light of the recent violence used against student activists at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, CUNY schools, and Indiana University. 

"This is a call out to all Syracuse University students, faculty and staff to come out and stand against this treatment of students," read the event's mission statement on Facebook "and to bring attention to the growing problem of police brutality on campuses and communities (including Syracuse) across the country.” In response, about 100 demonstrators filled the steps of Hendricks Chapel in the center of the campus’ quad at 12:30 in the afternoon.

Melissa Welshans, a PhD candidate in the English department at Syracuse, was one of the rally’s key organizers. She described her experience watching the Youtube video of the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis, posted by a former SU student who now attends the California state university, as the reason behind her interest in acting.

“I know someone there who’s working really hard to get a good education and I don’t want any students to have to deal with that kind of violence,” Welshans explained in a phone interview. “As an instructor I can’t imagine watching police do that to my students. It’s my natural instinct to think about how to keep my students safe in and outside of the classroom.”

Adrienne Garcia is another graduate student at Syracuse who helped organize Wednesday’s rally. In addition to coordinating logistics of the protest, Garcia also penned a powerful letter to the editor that was published in Wednesday’s Daily Orange about an article that originally ran in the independent student paper about SU’s close relationship with JPMorgan Chase.

Risa C'DeBaca, a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major, was the third main organizer of the event. C’DeBaca is  very active with Occupy Syracuse which has maintained a presence in Perseverance Park on South Salina Street since September 30.

Organizers are hoping that Wednesday’s rally is only a starting point for SU students to continue their activism and open up an important dialogue about issues of police brutality and civil rights. There are plans to hold more formal teach-ins in the spring semester.

“This issue will not go away, and it will not be fixed with the rally,” Garcia said. “But we can definitely start a dialogue.”

Nation Interns Choose the Week's Most Important Stories (12/1)

Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most 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 please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.

— Angela Aiuto:

Angela focuses on money in politics.

How Paulson Gave Hedge Funds Advance Word,” by Richard Teitelbaum. Bloomberg, Nov. 29, 2011.

A Bloomberg investigation reveals that former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had tipped a roomful of Wall Street executives to the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during a July 2008 meeting, seven weeks in advance of the takeover. Short interest in Fannie peaked that month, with short interest in Freddie following a similar path. The worst part? Paulson’s actions were entirely legal.

—Cal Colgan:

Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.

Mexico activists seek ICC investigation of drugs war.” BBC, Nov. 25, 2011.

A Mexican human rights lawyer has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, asking the international law body to to investigate the deaths of the hundreds of civilians slain at the hands of both cartels and security forces, in addition to cases of torture and rape. If the ICC rules that war crimes and crimes against humanity have indeed been committed by security forces as well as the cartels, the ruling could put a damper on President Felipe Calderon's strongman approach to fighting the drug war in Mexico. The Calderon administration has been outspoken in its denial that its policies have resulted in international crimes, but a Human Rights Watch report released in early November reveals that Mexican security forces were involved in several extralegal killings and disappearances in five states. If the ICC agrees to investigate these claims, it will be the first official investigation the body has done outside of an African country.

— Teresa Cotsirilos:

Teresa focuses on "Global South" politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.

The Stories You Missed in 2011,” by Joshua Keating. Foreign Policy, Dec. 2011.

India's military build up. Thailand and Cambodia's shooting war. Rwanda's potential backslide into despotism. Welcome to some of the least reported events in 2011—most of which took place in non-Western countries, and all of which could have a game changing geopolitical effect in the future.

— Paolo Cravero:

Paolo follows war, peace, and security.

After NATO attack, truckers face hard times,” by Mujib Mashal. Al Jazeera, Nov. 30, 2011.

The Pakistani ban on trucks carrying NATO supplies is a comeback to the recent NATO raid on Pakistan territory. Islamabad's authorities described the act as a deliberate act of aggression despite the Atlantic Alliance having ordered the "most formal level of investigation" into the raid. It seems that Pakistan has opted for a quite muscular—but economic detrimental—position towards NATO.

— Erika Eichelberger:

Erika follows the environmental beat.

New Study Links Climate Change to Higher Medical Costs,” by Frances Beinecke. Think Progress, Nov. 25, 2011.

A recent blog post at Think Progress concerns a first-of-its-kind study published in Health Affairs revealing the healthcare costs due to climate change in the US over the past decade. The study found that illness and injury due to extreme weather and smog accounted for over $14 billion in healthcare costs and more than 760,000 interactions with the healthcare system. This points to another way in which economic disparity will manifest itself in the future. Disadvantaged communities without the resources to cope with changing weather and associated healthcare costs will find themselves increasingly polarized from the rest of society.

— Josh Eidelson:

Josh covers the labor beat.

Rolling Sympathy Strikes Harass Food-Service Giant,” by Jane Slaughter. Labor Notes, Nov. 25, 2011.

Earlier this month thousands of Teamsters in nine states took part in brief rolling strikes against the second largest food service company in the country, US Foods.  Despite being under contract, and under the United States' strike-averse legal regime, workers were able to pull it off because of a hard-fought contract clause protecting their right not to cross picket lines.  After a bargaining unit of two janitors went on strike over alleged unfair labor practices by US Foods, one of them traveled from city to city, setting up quick pickets that gave local Teamsters a justification not to work.

— Eli Epstein-Deutsch:

Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.

America Beyond Capitalism,” by Gar Alperovitz. Dollars & Sense, Nov/Dec 2011.

In the wake of the tremendous failure of modern market capitalism to provide for the social and economic needs of great numbers of its constituents, it was inevitable that alternative forms of commerce would come to thrive. Post-industrial decay in the rustbelt is among the most quintessentially American examples of this failure, so it is natural that the heartland would be where some of the most (quietly) radical and thoroughly American experiments in different modes of organization would arise. This article from Dollars and Sense details a variety of cooperative initiatives in Ohio and beyond, ranging from worker-owned firms, community land trusts, to public asset reclamation for popular benefit. The writer who has a forthcoming book on the subject, both dispels the notion that grassroots communitarianism is merely a creature of wide-eyed sixties radicalism, while also calling for greater politicization of these often unsung institutions-in-formation.

— Collier Meyerson:

Collier’s beat is discrimination.

Inmates, Vermont prisons in conflict over Muslim prayer services,” by Terri Hallenbeck. Burlington Free Press, Nov. 28, 2011.

The rights of Muslim inmates at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, Vermont are being unmercifully infringed upon. Among the numerous offenses, Muslim prisoners were being denied the right to gather for Friday night Jum’ah services under unsupported suspicions that they were planning to use the time as an opportunity to organize a gang.  During the religion’s holiest month of Ramadan where adherents fast during the day, one staffer wrote in an e-mail: “Why do we continue to struggle with the Ramadan mess every August 1st?” It comes as no surprise that the Muslim prisoners complained of cold food and unfair treatment from officers throughout that month. The Vermont Department Of Corrections claims to have resolved the issues but Muslim prisoners say the discrimination persists.

— Allie Tempus: 

Allie follows human rights.

In Haiti, U.S. deportees face illegal detentions and grave health risks,” by Jacob Kushner. WisconsinWatch.org, Nov. 27, 2011.

This extensive investigation reveals the horrible conditions and illegal practices surrounding US deportation of Haitians. Produced as a collaborative project of several independent news organizations, this piece is a powerful example of the evolving structure of investigative journalism. And as we round the second anniversary of the devastating Haiti earthquake that prompted an outpouring of US charitable efforts, it serves as a reminder that humanitarianism begins at the policy level.

— Jin Zhao:

Jin follows the US’s image in international media.

‘Climategate’ Redux: Conservative Media Distort Hacked Emails ... Again.” Media Matters, Nov. 30, 2011.

Despite overwhelming evidence showing that climate change is happening at an alarming rate, conservatives continue to deny it, and one of such efforts recently was the "leak" of purportedly incriminating material taken from email exchanges among members of a climate research group at the University of East Anglia in 2009. However, anonymous hackers recently released a batch of emails showing that the email excerpts conservative media used to claim that climate change was a "hoax" and "conspiracy" cooked up by scientists were truncated and taken out of their contexts.

Campus Violence Continues at Indiana University

Five students were arrested late Tuesday night in the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University; three of them were pushed around by an unnecessarily aggressive police officer. Twenty economics students in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street sat cross-legged with locked arms in front of the doors of a JP Morgan Chase recruiting event inside their campus’s business school.

The event originally started with a large group of students sitting down in front of the doorway while simultaneously allowing passers-by to enter and exit the room. When police became increasingly aggressive, some students stood up and moved back from the area. There was an initial warning from an Indiana University police officer—those who were not willing to get arrested rose from their spots blocking the door and the five remaining activists were removed and arrested.

Two youtube videos taken by nearby observers show the details of the non-violent protest transpiring. One video lasts for 10 minutes and clearly shows the events that unfolded after students were arrested. At about the five minute mark a collective of students bring attention to the fact that officers succeeded in accomplishing their own initial goal and yell, “Thank you for blocking the door for us.”

In a shorter, forty-second video a detective from Indiana University’s police department wearing a gray suit is shown aggressively pushing and shoving two male students and one female student down a hallway in an attempt to prevent them from reaching the front doors of the recruiting event.

Campus violence has been a hot-button issue since the recent assaults against students peacefully demonstrating at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and CUNY Baruch. Albeit with far less brutality and violence, Indiana University has now joined the ranks of these colleges after a campus detective assaulted three students; they had not done anything illegal yet they were still subject to unnecessary brutality.

The activists’ intention behind this act of civil disobedience was to send a message to JP Morgan that they are not welcome on IU’s campus. In an exclusive email to one of Occupy College’s organizers, protestors claimed they were not trying to prevent their peers from attending the recruiting event but were its sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities and other fraudulent banking practices. 

“We are oppressed by a system that is corrupt both in that individuals and corporations with power abuse their power and actively maintain their strength at the expense of others,” said Peter Oren, one of the students arrested on Wednesday night. “JP Morgan Chase has played a significant--though not solitary--role in this globally perverted economic structure, and thus action against this company is action against oppression."

“JPMorgan Chase was among the major financial institutions that caused the 2008 financial collapse with its criminally greedy, fraudulent lending practices,” said Nick Greven, another Indiana University student arrested in Wednesday night’s protest.  “It has not ceased in their fraudulent practices and has contributed enormously to the corruption of our democracy, has caused misery on a massive, debilitating scale within this country, and has a list of other crimes to its name that is too lengthy to enumerate.”

In a written statement Greven went on to explain, “JP Morgan Chase is a perfect example of the perversion of democracy and capitalism that is the state-corporate complex, and I do not believe that an entity this immoral should be allowed access to impressionable students."

Arrested students will appear in court today at 1:30 in the afternoon.

The above information was provided to one of the main organizers at Occupy Colleges immediately after the protests,  and arrests occurred at Indiana University. Get in touch with Occupy Colleges about your own campus’s protests—provide updates, tips, or seek assistance and help if necessary. Send emails to info@OccupyColleges.Org, call (323) 642-8102, and follow @OccupyColleges on Twitter.

VIDEO: Fighting Back Against Student Debt

Monday was a day of action for university students on both coasts angered by the rising cost of tuition and the crackdowns on their recent protests. In California, students temporarily shut down a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents to protest a series of tuition hikes and the violent response to protests at UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis. Wary of a massive demonstration, the regents met by conference call from four different campuses but were still forced to switch venues after being confronted by chanting students at three of the four sites. In New York City, about a thousand students marched outside a meeting where City University of New York trustees voted to authorize annual tuition increases through 2015. The protests were the latest in a long-running battle against tuition hikes and education cuts that originated on UC campuses two years ago and quickly spread across the country. This morning, the invaluable new sprogram Democracy Now! spoke with two guests who helped launch the "Occupy Student Debt Campaign" Pledge of Refusal, which asks student signatories to refuse their student loan debt until a number of education reforms are implemented, including free public education. Pamela Brown is a Ph.D student in Sociology at The New School, and Andrew Ross is a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University.

Protest at Baruch Ends Peacefully But Tuition Hikes Are Passed

This report was originally published by the NYU Local in longer form. Follow the paper on Twitter at @NYULocal to keep up with its outstanding coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Hundreds of protesters descended upon Baruch College yesterday afternoon to intervene a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting, which was expected to decide on yet another tuition rise. With the main Baruch building on 55 Lexington Ave. sealed off by a hefty presence of NYPD, the surreptitious meeting went ahead uninterrupted, passing a series of $300 annual tuition hikes over a course of five years. The rally, however, managed to avoid the kind of run-ins with the police that saw 25 arrests at the previous demonstration last Monday—yesterday just 3 arrests were made.

The 15-to-1 vote means that by the 2015-16 school year, CUNY undergraduates would have to pay $6,330 per year for tuition, in comparison to last year’s $4,830, an increase of 31 percent by the end of the five-year period.

Demands at the rally were not limited to lowering tuition–many clamored for the immediate resignation of CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and the abolishment of the current CUNY Board of Trustees. Unions such as UAW (United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America), PSC-CUNY (Professional Staff Congress CUNY), TWU (Transportation Workers Union), and Internationalists also showed a strong turn-out Monday, making up at least a third of a rally that was spearheaded by CUNY students in conjunction with a large number of CUNY faculty members. 

In anticipation of the protest, all classes after 3:00PM were cancelled, with routine access to the building denied by a legion of NYPD. The police were lined up behind metal railings that claustrophobically hemmed in protesters like sardines on pedestrian sidewalks on the block by the building’s entrance, along 25th St. between Lexington and 3rd Avenue.

The rally was relentlessly restive; the claustrophobia and general outrage at last week’s mass arrests at CUNY seemed to circulate an apprehensive air of spite towards the police and the Board. More excitable protesters howled “Fuck the p’O’lice,” and others scathingly hissed at individual officers. However, the festive temper to which student rallies are naturally inclined (this time courtesy of an omnipresent marching band in green) sufficed to make sure things did not go overboard.

Prior to the march to Baruch, several hundreds gathered in Madison Square Park, where placards, signs, and political flyers were being distributed. Individuals spoke through the archetypal OWS human mic system to get the crowd’s adrenaline flowing. David Julian Guerrero, a graduate student at Hunter, held up a document of statement from student lender Sallie Mae before proceeding to set it alight. Surrounding protesters collectively chanted “CUNY must be free.”

CUNY graduates and various CUNY faculty members dominated a scene that was contrastingly more senior in age than the student rally at Union Square two weeks ago. Denise Romero, a 19-year-old Politics major at CUNY said that it was easier for graduate students to turn up because “Undergraduate students are mostly from low income communities… ethnic minorities… they often have two to three jobs just to pay off tuition… [S]o they cannot attend these rallies because they’re at work.”

On the way to Baruch College from Madison Square Park, voluntary ‘marshals’ with colored armbands patrolled and shepherded the crowd, constantly trying to keep the march from spilling out from the sidewalk. These marshals were also using walkie talkies to coordinate their movement from front to back of the serpentine march in order to prevent splintering. The procession that cried mantras like “Money for jobs and education/Not for police and corporation” drew plenty of attention from onlookers, who poked their heads out from windows; by-passers looked bewildered, amused, apathetic, intimidated, or substantially pissed; and all were taking snapshots on their phones. At times, the scene looked less a political rally than a feeding ground, a frenzy of journalists and cameramen looking for a story.

Around 4:00 p.m. the rally arrived at Baruch to find that the union masses had already occupied the street in front of Baruch College. After a bout of collective chanting, acknowledging mutual allegiance, half the rally was compelled to break off and march again around a two-block radius of the building. Protestors then began spilling out onto the roadside, at which point a squadron of officers on adorable mopeds popped up to force them back onto the sidewalk. The spillover continued into Third Ave., and the police mopeds charged more aggressively there, physically pushing protesters with the bodies of the vehicles. Amid such mayhem there was a brief moment of brawl, between the aforementioned David Julian Guerrero, and a mounted officer, which reportedly resulted in his arrest.

Students from other universities like the New School, Columbia and NYU also showed up in small numbers to show their solidarity. Members of NYU4OWS were present. They held signs reading, “One Struggle, One Fight, NYU Stands With CUNY.”

Max Liboiron, a fifth-year-doctoral student at NYU in Media, Culture, and Communication, said he saw CUNY as “an icon for the state of education in general,” citing it as one of the few universities with affordable tuition. She dreaded that impending changes at CUNY would make education no longer accessible to “students across the board, drowning in debt, who just to go to school so that you could enter a job market, where you’re not likely to get a good job and be able to pay off your debts.”

Of NYU, she said she objected to “all resources” being funneled into the international aspect of the university, while there was “zero cultural competency to back that up. I find that very unethical…5-years-ago it wasn’t like this.”

Individuals where were key in organizing the student aspect of the nationwide “Day of Action” were again at the forefront of the protest yesterday.

NYU Local also spotted some of the participants of the New School Occupation that ended last Friday. One of them, a graduate student in Sociology at New School who wished to remain anonymous said “This is a moment when students can unite regardless of what school you go to. This [the current state of affairs] affects everyone. It ties in neatly with the discussion of public education.” She has also been actively participating in the city-wide General Assemblies, which deals specifically with “common issues that affect all students: tuition increases, student debt, and value of public education in general.”

By about 6:45PM, many of protesters at the rally gradually began making their way home, after a day of what was, to a greater extent, a peaceful demonstration.

Syndicate content