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

How Student Activists at Duke Transformed a $6 Billion Endowment

DukeOpen campaign

Duke students petition their university's board for changes in investment practices. (Shayan Asadi)

Last October 4, a group of students clutching more than 2,000 petitions knocked on the door of the Duke University Board of Trustees meeting and requested an audience. Burly security guards barred the door on the order of vexed University President Richard Brodhead. Brodhead, visibly nervous, tried to usher the students out, calling their presence an “interruption.” Undeterred, the group resisted, asking for a chance to present the proposal they had spent almost a year crafting. The president, adamant in his refusal, returned to the meeting and shut the door.

Despite the hostile reception, a modified version of the students’ proposal—which called for the overhaul of the university’s guidelines on investment responsibility—had already found its way onto the board’s agenda. On October 4, 2013, the trustees voted to adopt the new guidelines, expanding the university’s investment oversight committee and establishing a special fund within the endowment—a Social Choice Fund—which will be invested only in prescreened, socially responsible funds.

Although the board rejected the students’ central request—the limited disclosure of the endowment’s investments—the new policy, in Brodhead’s words, reflects, “the most significant changes to our approach to socially responsible investment in almost a decade.” The board, in adopting these changes, not only affirmed the importance of socially responsible investing, but also revealed the tremendous power of thoughtful, impassioned and persistent student advocacy.

DukeOpen, the group that pushed the changes, formed in the spring of 2013 and consisted of just a small group of determined students for much of its year-long campaign. This group, of which we, along with Abhishek Bose-Kolanu and Lucas Spangher, were a part, conducted research on investment practices at other universities, met with administrators and investment officials, and, over the course of several months, crafted a comprehensive proposal in support of greater endowment transparency and investment responsibility. Committed to the belief that a university’s investments matter, that where Duke chooses to invest its nearly $6 billion endowment has a significant material and symbolic impact in the world, DukeOpen set out to bring its proposal to the board of trustees.

In the naïve hope that we might forestall complications or delays, we sent our proposal to the board of trustee’s secretary, Richard Riddell, two weeks in advance of the deadline for submitting material to the May 2013 board meeting. Riddell swiftly redirected our proposal to the President’s Select Committee on Investment Responsibility, shuttling us into what would become a seemingly endless maze of administrative committees and confidential communiqués. Getting a proposal to the board, we discovered, would prove to be an extraordinarily complicated affair.

It was, however, precisely this complexity that we sought to remedy. For a decade, students concerned about investment responsibility had to shepherd proposals or ideas through two committees—the President’s Special Committee on Investment Responsibility (PSC) and the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility (ACIR)—secure a favorable recommendation from the president, and obtain the approval of the board of trustees. The process was made more onerous by the fact that the committees met infrequently and with no regularity. In an attempt to improve the process, we requested that each committee convene monthly and proposed more robust institutional support for groups concerned about investment responsibility.

But to make that happen, we first had to feel our way through the old process. We met with the PSC in early May, and after waiting nearly a month, learned from Provost Peter Lange that the committee would not issue a judgment on our proposal. The ball had bounced, Lange informed us, into the president’s court. Brodhead turned to the Duke University Management Corporation (DUMAC)—the company that manages Duke’s endowment—for advice. Officials at DUMAC eventually informed Brodhead that while few of Duke’s peer institutions practice endowment transparency, there was little evidence to suggest that disclosing small amounts of investment information would directly harm the endowment’s returns.

It seemed that, for Brodhead, endowment transparency was no longer about finances but reputation. By disclosing information about where and how Duke invests, university officials would risk exposing the institution to unwanted scrutiny and censure. Brodhead, swayed by a combination of reputational concerns and uncertainty about the financial impact of transparency, ruled out the possibility of disclosure in the immediate future and instead commissioned a yearlong study of the feasibility of endowment transparency.

Deferring the issue of transparency, but concerned for Duke’s fragile reputation, the president then tried to spin DukeOpen’s campaign into positive press for the university. To that end, Brodhead modified our proposal—excising our sticky request for greater endowment transparency—and scheduled a vote on investment responsibility for the rapidly approaching October board meeting. Shutting down what had only ever been a facsimile of negotiation, Brodhead planned to ask the board to adopt what was now a severely watered-down version of our original proposal. He was, in a sense, giving everyone a way to win: the university could collect reputational points for improving investment responsibility and DukeOpen could walk away with the majority of its proposals enshrined in Duke’s official investment policy.

The fight over transparency had, in Brodhead’s view, ended. But we refused to budge. We had squeezed as many concessions out of the administration as we were likely to get, but withholding our blessing for the watered-down reform ensured that the university would follow through on its lesser commitments, allowed us to demonstrate the widespread student support for endowment disclosures and left open the possibility of future student advocacy on transparency. So instead of endorsing Brodhead’s amended proposal, we decided to keep pushing, hoping to mark the historical record so that future activists could look to our campaign as a model of persistent, informed advocacy.

We shifted tactics, resorting to direct action after a year of negotiations and collegial exchanges. In the week before the board meeting, we amassed 2,000 petition signatures from a student body of roughly 6,500, wrapped the campus’s prominent statues in black plastic to symbolize the endowment’s lack of transparency, posted signs and banners and convinced hundreds of students to call the offices of top-level administrators. And, on October 4, a dozen smartly dressed students walked to the board meeting and knocked on the door.

Rumors of undercover police officers, waiting with plastic handcuffs in case of trouble, floated across campus. Brodhead, stepping out of the boardroom, looked as if he was scraping the very bottom of his deep lexical reservoir for words that could stay a conflict. What he and others in his administration failed to realize, however, was just how hard we had worked to apply pressure without offending, alienating or doing anything too radical. Because, in the end, we weren’t just pushing against Duke’s administration but our own peers, a group that could be so thoroughly ensconced in a bureaucratic model of social change, so afraid for its own reputation that edging even a little outside established institutional channels could seem dangerous, radical, unthinkable.

In the short-term, our campaign made an impact: the board adopted a modified version of our proposal and in doing so vastly improved Duke’s investment oversight structure. The ACIR now meets monthly, plans to conduct regular reviews of Duke’s holdings and has promised to establish clear and efficient mechanisms by which students can bring concerns about investments to the attention of the university.

These improvements, coupled with Brodhead’s commitment to a yearlong study of endowment transparency, represent a sea change in Duke’s approach to responsible investing. Instead of simply reacting to speculative complaints about its investments, Duke will now work proactively to ensure its practices are consistent with its 2004 commitment to investment responsibility. And, by the end of this year, Duke will decide whether or not some form of endowment transparency is feasible.

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The success of the DukeOpen campaign cannot be understated. But to have any success at all we had to understand the system and become expert players in a game rigged against any team lacking resolve or savvy. Although security guards tried to block our march to the boardroom, our respectful tone, business attire and meticulously researched one-sheets made the threat of force look absurd. Security guards and plastic handcuffs may be able to slow down a movement, but they will never be able to silence modern student activists working on behalf of an idea whose time has come.

Read Next: Keegan O’Brien on Catholic students supporting LGBT rights.

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 1/24/2014?

Wind turbines

Wind turbines in Palm Springs, Calif. (AP Photo/Sandy Huffaker)

—Sam Adler-Bell focuses on labo and mass incarceration.

Would You Feel Differently About Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange If You Knew What They Really Thought?,” by Sean Wilentz. The New Republic, January 19, 2014.

I associate Sean Wilentz with two subjects close to my heart: American labor history and Bob Dylan. (I own books of his on both subjects.) So I approached this article, a hit piece directed at anti-NSA crusaders Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, with some trepidation. Wilentz, I feared, would either succeed in convincing me that these figures (lionized by the left for exposing the secret machinations of our government's security apparatus) are really paranoid fanatics, hostile to the idea of liberal governance and critical of the surveillance state only as a means of undermining social democratic institutions—or else I would wind up with a seriously diminished estimation of the writer himself. Suffice it to say, I experienced the latter. But the piece is worth reading, I think, as a demonstration of how even a very smart liberal falls victim to the delusion, more and more prevalent today, that one cannot criticize the excesses of the (surveillance/police/carceral) state while simultaneously endorsing the government's role in alleviating poverty, regulating corporations and protecting the rights of marginalized people. We can do both, and we have to. (Henry Farrell has a comprehensive dismantling of Wilentz's arguments here.)

—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.

World Report 2014: Peru,” Human Rights Watch, January 21, 2014.

With the release of Human Rights Watch's twenty-fourth annual World Report, attention has focused largely on its criticism of the NSA. However, there are also serious concerns raised regarding Latin America, particularly Peruvian president Ollanta Humala's crackdown on protesters fighting against large-scale mining projects in the region. Twenty-seven civilians have died in protests since Humala took office in 2011, and little progress has been made in investigating these cases or prosecuting military or police personal who "used force unlawfully." This condemnation comes amid reports that Newmont Mining Corporation's controversial Conga mine project could restart operations sometime this year. The Conga mine is currently on hold after violent protests against the project in 2011 caused Humala to impose a state of emergency.

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

Disrupting the Disruptors,” by Erik Forman. In These Times, January 16, 2014.

Plenty has been written about the ways in which the Internet is changing work—and worker organizing—but two recent pieces in In These Times offer good case studies. Forman's piece, on Amazon warehouse workers' recent unionization attempt, explains why the "disruption" of old industries by new, high-tech firms like Amazon makes active organizing more important than ever. Sarah Jaffe's "How Walmart Organizers Turned the Internet Into a Shop Floor," discusses ways the Internet in turn makes effective organizing possible. The articles offer some perspective on the connections among different "disruptive" trends in different industries as well as an interesting look at how exactly employers are reacting to resistance.

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

The case the media should make for Edward Snowden,” by Edward Wasserman. The Miami Herald, January 19, 2014.

Just two days before The New Yorker published an exclusive interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, in which Snowden complains that "[t]he media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account," Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, penned a fiery call to arms directed at the Snowden-obsessed media. Wasserman aptly notes that the media aren't simple observers in the Snowden affair, but his "beneficiaries and enablers," giving them the power, and indeed the responsibility, to do his enormous act of bravery justice: "We need more muscular defense, something equal to the enormity of the wrongdoing we’re all indebted to him for exposing." Instead of clouding up airspace with groundless accusations (Is he a spy? Perhaps a robot?), the media should fight alongside Snowden to challenge institutional abuses of power and create a safe environment for future whistleblowers.

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

“Finding the Promise in Promise Zones, Part 1, Part 2,” by William Becker. Huffington Post, January 17, 2014.

As the War on Poverty turned fifty, President Obama announced the designation of five “Promise Zones” within the US. The zones offer tax incentives for hiring workers and write-offs for capital investment. Some are concerned Promise Zones, which have garnered the support of Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, will have gentrifying effects. Reminiscent of the War on Poverty’s policy of “maximum feasible participation” (touched on in the recent Nation feature “The Battle Hymn of the War on Poverty”), Becker’s two-part column offers suggestions on how the impoverished can self-govern their own rise from poverty.

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

Want to Predict the Future of Surveillance? Ask Poor Communities,” by Virginia Eubanks. The American Prospect, January 15, 2014.

Eubanks discusses how the sort of government surveillance that outraged so many Americans when revealed by Snowden had long been used against many of their poorer and non-white co-nationals. Now, with government collection of electronic data, "groups of 'like' subjects are...targeted for different, and often unequal, forms of supervision, discipline and surveillance, with marginalized communities singled out for more aggressive scrutiny," she writes. "Imagine the hue and cry if police officers scanned the fingerprints of white, middle-class Americans on the street, as has happened to day laborers in Los Angeles." She argues that we must learn from such groups' experiences of surveillance in order both to fight against these injustices themselves and to try to prevent such policies being applied to society as a whole.

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

Nine charged in 2000 murder of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique,” by Amelie Baron. Reuters, January 18, 2014.

In April 2000, Jean Dominique was gunned down outside of Radio Haiti Inter, the independent radio station he owned. Dominique was a true voice of independence in Haiti, reflected in his coverage of Haitian culture, his choice to run shows in Creole—considered rural and unfashionable—and his willingness to criticize those who wielded power in Haiti. It was the latter inclination that led to his assassination; fourteen years after Dominique's death, a judge has charged nine people with planning and carrying out his murder, including a senator from former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party. It is widely suspected that the plot originated with Aristide, but he remains untouched, and to date none of the accused has been arrested. (To begin this story with Dominique's life, rather than the aftermath of his death, watch The Agronomist, Jonathan Demme's superb documentary on Jean Dominique.)

—Mara Kardas-Nelson focuses on health.

Death Dust,” by Dana Goodyear. The New Yorker, January 20, 2014.

Dana Goodyear's piece on valley fever ties together the many complex issues concerning one illness found in some of America's driest places: climate change and its impact on disease patterns; the health effects of increasing desertification; drug cost and regulation; why pharmaceutical companies, scientists, researchers and policy makers respond to some diseases, and not others. Of interest to the more ghoulish reader: the effects of valley fever and its treatment are positively sci-fi-esque. As we watch California, one of the homes of valley fever, in the grips of drought, Goodyear's piece is more timely than ever.

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—David Kortava focuses on sustainable development.

Self-Interest, Reality and Global Climate Policy,” by Steven Cohen. Huffington Post, January 21, 2014.

Steven Cohen, executive director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, argues that unless or until renewable energy is priced significantly cheaper than fossil fuels, climate change will continue unabated. He calls on the federal government to back the research to make this possible. Green entrepreneurs and climate activists undoubtedly have a role to play, but their success hinges on the efforts of the underfunded scientists and engineers working to generate solutions.

—Benjamin Pokross focuses on education and the arts.

Short Cuts,” by Eyal Weizman. London Review of Books, January 9, 2014.

This article isn't really related to my beat, but it's too good not to share. In the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, specific leaders and events can seem unimportant in the face of an unchanging political situation. In this winding essay, Eyal Weizman describes the efforts to determine Yasser Arafat's legacy by looking at the forensic analysis done on his body and the almost completed museum dedicated to him. Yet, as Weizman shows, these attempts to establish historical certainty can't obscure the complex past of the Middle East.

Read Next: Rutgers Students Take Christie to Task.

What the LGBT Movement Can Learn From Seattle Catholic High School Students

Eastside Catholic HS

A student at Eastside Catholic High School (Brandi Kruse/KIRO Radio)

Last December 19, the Seattle archdiocese fired Mark Zmuda, the vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School. His transgression? Enacting his legal, constitutional right to marry his partner, another man.

The archdiocese’s logic in pushing Zmuda out of the school rests on the idea that same-sex marriage violates church teachings, something he as a school administrator is required to uphold. This was something both parties fully understood, claims Mike Patterson—a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Seattle, who held a private, closed-door meeting with Zmuda, where, according to Patterson, “It was just one of those situations where he knew…that he needed to comport with the [teachings] of the church, and his same-sex marriage was not comporting with that.”

Whatever the reasoning, the facts are clear: once Zmuda married a man, his time at Eastside Catholic High School was over. “The dismissal of the vice principal was based on the Archdiocese of Seattle’s authority over a Catholic school,” Principal Polly Skinner wrote in an e-mail to an Eastside graduate the day news of Zmuda’s dismissal broke. “We are saddened and as a Catholic school, bound by Catholic Teaching regarding Same Sex marriage.”

Thankfully, the students of Eastside had something to teach their administrators and the archdiocese that Thursday morning. Upon hearing the news of Zmuda’s planned departure, outraged students decided to take matters into their own hands and flocked to the school cafeteria where they began a sit-in, refusing to leave until Mr. Z (as they affectionately liked to call him) was reinstated.

Students also took to social media to spread the word about Zmuda’s firing and the word quickly spread. Learning of the news on Twitter and Facebook, hundreds of students at other Seattle area Catholic high schools took action by organizing their own protests and banner drops to demonstrate their solidarity.

More than 400 students—nearly the entire student body—eventually came to occupy Eastside’s cafeteria. Moved by his students’ actions, Zmuda paid the occupiers a visit, during which he told them, “Be the leaders of tomorrow that I know you all can be, because you all can make a difference…. You’ve made a difference in my life today.” After filling up their cafeteria, students took their demonstration to the streets and rallied outside of the school, where they were visited by reporters and news teams who helped broadcast their struggle to a national audience.

Some claim that the Archdiocese of Seattle was within its rights to fire Zmuda, pointing out the rights and freedoms guaranteed to religious institutions. But what about the basic rights and freedoms of LGBTQ people to be treated equally with respect and dignity? Religious freedom need not entail the right to practice and promote discrimination.

Zmuda’s case is still roiling the region. Some are hoping he will get his job back; others are seeking a change in the school’s employment practices.

Unfortunately, Zmuda’s firing is an all too common occurrence for LGBTQ people in a country lacking LGBTQ-inclusive federal anti-discrimination laws. The ouster of Zmuda comes amid a wave of firings and forced resignations of gay men and lesbians from Roman Catholic institutions across the country, in most cases prompted not directly by employees’ sexuality but by their decisions to marry as same-sex marriage becomes legal in an increasing number of states.

Currently, only seventeen states and the District of Colombia have LBGTQ inclusive employment protections. Zmuda’s story is an example of why passing a comprehensive Employment Non-Discrimination Act—one which does not exempt religious institutions—is of paramount importance to combating discrimination. Zmuda’s story tells us that there is nothing inevitable about progress—it is something we have to fight for.

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In a time when LGBTQ people still face powerful and well-funded opposition to equality, where Democratic “allies” continue to stall and put LGBTQ issues on the back burner, where mainstream LGBT organization stubbornly persist with their narrow, “don’t rock the boat strategy,” where our victories remain tenuous and fragile—as the recent episode in Utah demonstrates—the bold, defiant and unapologetic character of Eastside Catholic High School students serves as a model to the LGBTQ movement for how to struggle and fight for the changes we urgently need and deserve.

Read Next: Dave Zirin on the LGBT movement’s taking on Sochi.

Rutgers Students Take Christie to Task

Chris Christie Bridgegate

Chris Christie addresses the bridge scandal during a news conference. (Courtesy: NBC News)

The editorial board of Rutgers University's award-winning student newspaper, The Daily Targum, weighed in on the scandal still enveloping New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in this January 21 unsigned editorial.

We’re really glad that this whole Bridgegate fiasco came to light before our term as the Targum editorial board came to an end. With all the damn editorials we have written about Hurricane Sandy relief over the past year, all the pieces we’ve had to deal with hailing Gov. Chris Christie as some kind of hero, it’s pretty poetic that we’ve now come full circle with all the revelations that were made over winter break.

For those who spent the past month in total hibernation mode—and we don’t blame you—our très gentil governor has been accused of allegedly shutting down several lanes on the George Washington Bridge to get back at a North Jersey mayor for not supporting his re-election campaign.

Inciting traffic to exact revenge on political rivals? This is seriously so Jersey, it’s ridiculous. We would say it’s funny, except that emergency medical team responses were delayed. It was also back to school season, so students faced excruciating difficulty getting to their classes. According to the Daily News, the GWB is also “a lifeline for organ transplants at hospitals” and “traffic…could mean the difference between life and death in operations.”

Now, we hear that Christie withheld Sandy relief funds from a Democrat’s severely affected district unless she agreed to a new development plan he wanted to implement in her area. Many more similar narratives are now coming to light, showing Christie in that stereotypical “Boardwalk Empire” image that we all love, and now the federal government is launching an investigation into how exactly those emergency funds were used.

This is coming from an administration that constructed a good chunk of its re-election campaign on its incredible heroism in leading the state through one of the worst natural disasters in its history. Slick.

All we can say is we feel Christie’s presidential hopes are now officially down the drain. For a guy who portrayed himself as having everything under control, it’s absurd to think that something this corrupt would just slide under his nose. He has stated that it was a member of his administration who orchestrated the whole ordeal and that he had no idea it was going down, and—like the Jerseyans that we are—we call bullshit. That just seems like the perfect card to play for a person with grander political aspirations. We should know; we all watch “House of Cards.”

And, like “House of Cards,” this kind of political strong arming happens in American politics everyday, unfortunately. It’s just lucky for us—and unlucky for Christie—that this specific incident came to light. It’s necessary and very positive for political corruption to not only be exposed but also talked about across the country in the same way that Bridgegate is. It’s just sad that New Jersey yet again makes national headlines for the wrong reasons—but, hey, nothing our editorial board isn’t used to.

When these revelations were first coming to light, Christie had the signature gall to dismiss a question about the closures by sarcastically responding, “I worked the cones, actually. Unbeknownst to everybody I was actually the guy out there in overalls and a hat. You cannot be serious with that question.”

With the way the future is looking, that doesn’t seem like such a joke now.

Read Next: Anna-Lisa Castle on Cornell's sexual assualt policy.

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading This Week?

FISA Court Order

Copy of a FISA Court order for Verizon’s metadata. (AP Photo)

—Sam Adler-Bell focuses on labor and mass incarceration.

Response to Vivek Chibber,” by Bruce Robbins. n+1, January 9, 2014.

This piece by Columbia English professor Bruce Robbins represents the latest volley in a months-old academic dust-up inaugurated by the publication of Vivek Chibber’s Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital (Verso 2013) in March. Thanks to the miraculous hype machine at Verso Press—the hip wizards of leftist publishing, imbuing new books about Marxism with the cultural relevance of a Radiohead album—the fashionably unfashionable quality of Chibber’s central argument (that universal history in a Marxist mode is not only possible but necessary), and the pugnaciousness of Chibber’s attack on venerated Subaltern Studies historians like Partha Chatterjee and Ranajit Guha, the book has become something of a lightning rod. And it’s been fun to follow the little squirmishes: Axel Andersson’s piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Robbins’s review in n+1, Chibber’s response to Robbins in Jacobin, Robbins’s response to Chibber (above), not to mention a moderated debate between Chibber and Chatterjee at NYC’s Historical Materialism conference—which Verso live-tweeted as if it were a WWE prizefight (“Y’all ready for the Chibber/Chatterjee cage match that’s about to start? #postcolonialism”).

—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.

Mexico States Leave Millions on the Table, Thwart Police Reform,” by Patrick Corcoran. InSightCrime, January 14, 2014

The Mexican government has recently deployed troops and federal police to the southwestern state of Michoacán in an attempt to disarm vigilante “self-defense” groups. These groups have sprung up in the area during the last year to combat both corrupt local police forces and the Knights Templar drug cartel. Patrick Corcoran has an excellent piece about local governments’ failure to spend some $190 million in federal funds available last year for vetting local police forces. Using this money would be a huge first step towards improving local policing capacity, filling the institutional gap that makes armed vigilante groups necessary in the first place.

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

In the Name of Love,” by Miya Tokumitsu. Jacobin, Issue 13.

Miya Tokumitsu writes about the rise of a new, Steve Jobs–approved mandate for modern workers: “Do what you love; love what you do.” She discusses the dire social and political consequences of accepting the idea that the road to happiness lies in “fun” work rather than less work and better compensation. The essay only begins to explore certain aspects of the problem, including the ways it can cut across class lines, but it does remind us that it’s not only “elites” who are harmed by the kind of thinking it represents (which helps normalize unpaid internships and the replacement of full-time professors with low-paid adjuncts): the idea that “doing what you love” is a personal choice also erases the experiences of everyone who can’t afford to do so. The essay should remind us that we can’t afford to accept social mobility as a substitute for greater equality or rely on individual solutions to collective problems.

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

Did God Make These Babies Moral?,” by Paul Bloom. The New Republic, January 13, 2014.

In his accessible and well-reasoned investigation into altruism, Yale Professor of Cognitive Science Paul Bloom asks, “Why would someone risk his life for a stranger?” Bloom’s piece opens with the story of an ordinary man who dove onto subway tracks—with a train approaching—to save the life of somebody he’d never met. Bloom uses the emergence of altruism in the human species as a reference point for a larger inquiry into evolution versus intelligent design. Is selfless morality a product of natural selection or of the supernatural? In asking where our higher moral faculties come from, Bloom takes us through an intellectual history of how scientists and thinkers dealt with the question of functional morality.

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

Court Of Appeals, Division III of the State of Washington: Appellant’s Opening Brief. January 6, 2014.

The City of Spokane and local civic groups are appealing their county’s decision to remove a citizen initiative from last November’s ballot. The initiative would elevate neighborhood associations’ decision-making power, workers’ constitutional rights and rights of the Spokane River above corporate constitutional rights within the municipality. A separate initiative removed from the ballot, though not included in the appeal, would introduce a voter bill of rights and elevate said rights above corporate constitutional rights, locally. Prompting the question: What should US citizens be allowed to vote on?

—Justine Drennan focuses on human rights and minority groups in Asia.

China’s Crackdown on Cyber Activism,” by Michael Caster. The Diplomat, January 13, 2014.

Caster looks at the ethical tensions behind a burgeoning form of Chinese online activism called the “human flesh search,” in which netizens make “an independent investigation into the personal details of suspected wrongdoers”—largely government officials suspected of corruption—and share information and images about them online. These operations can spread false rumors and “have been equated with both cyber activism and cyber vigilantism.” But Caster believes in their potential, criticizing the Chinese government’s recent threats to stifle them, and suggesting that, given individual campaigns’ success so far in prompting court actions against corrupt officials, they’re an important part of the Internet’s potential for “slowly forcing Chinese society to be more participatory and transparent.”

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

NSA phone record collection does little to prevent terrorist attacks, group says,” by Ellen Nakashima. The Washington Post, January 12, 2014.

What often gets lost in the debate between preserving freedom vs. protecting Americans from attack is the efficacy of methods used to identify and thwart terrorist plots. As Ellen Nakashima describes in the findings of a New America Foundation analysis of the specific investigative methods used in 225 cases, the NSA’s “bulk collection of phone records” had an insignificant impact. What’s more, the NSA doesn’t effectively sort through or share the data with other agencies. America’s counterterrorism complex suffers from a too-much-data problem, rather than a not-enough-data problem, and this article is a good step toward dismantling the misconception that trampling civil liberties is a necessary and effective way to fight terrorism.

—Mara Kardas-Nelson focuses on health.

Obesity Rates Are Falling Among The Affluent And Well-Educated, But Rising Among The Poor,” by Sy Mukherjee. ThinkProgress, January 14, 2014.

The article outlines the results of a recent Harvard report that finds adolescent obesity rates are falling among the wealthy while rising among the poor. There are several suggestions as to why: even though poor children consume fewer calories, they’re also less likely to exercise and more likely to rely on unhealthy food. They also may experience more stress than their wealthy counterparts. The article is important because it deals with one of the biggest health problems the United States is facing today, and demonstrates how inequality impacts our health and behavior.

—David Kortava focuses on sustainable development.

How the War on Poverty Succeeded (in Four Charts),” by John Cassidy. The New Yorker, January 14, 2014.

Last week Paul Ryan announced that the War on Poverty “has failed.” Here John Cassidy repudiates this unexamined truism of the right and discusses a new Columbia University study suggesting that poverty has declined dramatically since the mid-1960s, when the Johnson administration launched the good war and introduced the now famous phrase into public discourse. Using new, more comprehensive metrics in lieu of the crude “official poverty measure,” the researchers found that poverty has actually fallen, by some 40 percent since the mid-1960s. Moreover—and contrary to Ryan’s contention that we “keep dumping money into programs we know don’t work”—the researchers conclude that the drop is best explained by the emergence of government programs like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, housing subsidies and tax credits for the low-paid.

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—Benjamin Pokross focuses on education and the arts.

When Minority Students Attend Elite Private Schools,” by Judith Ohikuare. The Atlantic, December 17, 2013.

Judith Ohikuare brings her personal experiences to bear in a discussion of the recent documentary American Promise, which tells the story of two African-American students attending elite New York City prep schools. Ohikuare puts the film in a larger context and shows what it really takes for institutions to have a commitment to diversity.

Read Next: Jarrett Murphy on surveillance.

What Really Caused the Change in Cornell’s Sexual Assault Policy?

Cornell Student Protest

Students protest sexual assault at Cornell University. (Photo courtesy of {young}ist)

A version of this article originally appeared in the {young}ist and is adapted here with permission.

The Huffington Post recently published an article called “Cornell Revamps Sexual Assault Policies, Takes Proactive Approach.” The piece, by Tyler Kingkade, is largely dedicated to lauding my institution’s “proactive approach” to its sexual assault policies—namely, President Skorton’s meeting with students, the creation of additional committees and changes in the investigatory and judicial protocol for cases of sexual violence.

My problem isn’t with these changes; I support them for the most part, and in fact I have been active on the issue of sexual violence for much of my time on campus. However, I wholeheartedly object to the smug portrayal of Cornell and its administrative moves, the simultaneous erasure of the roles of students, faculty and staff in bringing about these changes and the characterization of the policy changes themselves as “proactive” and unequivocally progressive.

The article’s problem can be summed up by a caption accompanying one of the photos in the post: “There’s No Controversy, But Cornell Is Changing Its Sexual Assault Policies Anyway.” As one of the students President Skorton repeatedly met with, I see things differently. I call bullshit on all of it: that this is a spontaneous act of good conscience; that there has been no ‘controversy’; the euphemistic use of the word ‘controversy’ to begin with; the framing of these changes as unquestionably good; and the notion that policy improvements only happen in response to headline-making violence and heroic administrative responses.

To start, there are a few problems with the use of the word “controversy” in this article. In the context of sexual assault, “controversy” seems to be a stand-in for a number of things. (Things that the article and undoubtedly the Cornell Communications Department’s press release would rather not be associated with Cornell.) Euphemisms demand a little imagination, so here are a few educated guesses as to what “controversy” might mean in this context:

1. Sexual assault and rape. Wait, no, even Cornell’s Vice President Susan Murphy is quoted saying, “It’s clearly an issue in our society and we’re not exempt from that.”

2. Public attacks on campus. Oh right, that happens here, too. Maybe this would be the stuff of controversy if the headlines were bigger than those in the student or local newspapers—say regional publications, or maybe something with national reach.

3. Student protests. Come to think of it, there were several. Students organized repeatedly to demand the administrative changes that Kingkade characterizes as self-motivated. In the article Murphy is quoted saying, “There’s a lot more discussion about ‘rape culture.’ That’s not a phrase I would’ve heard of a year ago.” She must not have been listening because as The Cornell Daily Sun reported, student protesters were holding signs saying join us if you fight rape culture outside her office more than a year ago, and the “discussion” had been going on for years.

4. Faculty intervention. Nope, that happened, too. Forty-seven faculty members signed a letter in solidarity with students’ efforts to effect policy change on sexual assault and hate crimes.

At least we’re not “one of the schools under fire,” as the author puts it (by which he means we’re not currently being investigated by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights). This is presumably what Kingkade is referring to when he says there have been no controversies to motivate Cornell’s shift in sexual assault policies—-although by my count there have been several, because if continuing violence, a rash of public assaults, organized student protests and gross misunderstanding (some might claim willful ignorance) by the university don’t constitute controversy, I don’t know what does. It is infuriating that the bar is set so low that sexual violence on campus is not considered controversial unless an institution is under investigation by the DOE for Title IX violations. This is not just a critique of diction or the cowardly, euphemistic language of privileged liberals. I am concerned because I see this as a reflection of a larger, systematically permissive attitude toward sexual violence, an unwillingness to be candid on the issue.

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Contrary to the photo caption, there was and will continue to be controversy. Cornell is starting to implement some changes only because it became a choice between amending an archaic system or continuing to ignore an increasingly vocal bloc of students and other community members who had been demanding change for a long, long time. As The Cornell Daily Sun reported in April 2012, “If Cornell did not make the changes quickly, the administrators said, the University would be ‘out of compliance’ [with Title IX] and could be sanctioned by the Education Department.”

Policy changes are not a result of the administration’s unprompted decision to do the right thing. This is part of a long-overdue response to the ongoing and increasingly visible trauma of sexual assault survivors, the very hard work of student activists and the support of faculty and staff allies who have stepped up to do the administration’s job for it in identifying injustices, recommending remedies and demanding accountability until progress is made.

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Fifteen Millennial Movements to Watch This Spring

Save CCSF Rally

Protesters attend a Save CCSF rally in San Francisco to prevent the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges from revoking the City College of San Francisco’s accreditation. (For A Bit More Context/Flickr)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts ten first-person updates on student and youth organizing in the United States—from established student unions, to emerging national networks, to ad hoc campaigns that don’t yet have a name. Check out last year’s posts, in chronological order, here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.

To mark the new year, this week’s theme is emerging organizing. The list is far from exhaustive.

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

1. In Denver, the Testing Resistance Plans Big

In 2013, students, parents and teachers throughout Colorado protested and petitioned to reverse the tide of education policy. In 2014, we will see new tests and programs that further compromise the value of education. From January 17 to 20, a Colorado Student Power Convergence will assemble in opposition. We plan to create a campaign to boycott all standardized testing. Planning will continue at a follow-up conference in February, the Student Power Continuum, where we will reach out to parents and students to encourage them to boycott the TCAP test and organize actions leading to United Opt Out’s national conference, March 28 to 30, in Denver.

—Alex Kacsh

2. In LA, the Undocuqueer Movement Grows

Queer and undocumented immigrant youth have been at the forefront of the immigrant youth movement. Undocuqueers have developed a critical lens of the mainstream LGBTQ movement by shifting its focus from marriage equality to issues affecting LGBTQ immigrants within education, healthcare and the immigration system. Of the 2 million deportations carried out under the Obama administration, many are queer, and many are trans* women placed in detention centers forced to experience physical, sexual and psychological abuse by officials and other detainees. In February, expanding on the work of QUIP, undocuqueer leaders, LGBTQ immigrants, parents and allies in Los Angeles will launch a national LGBTQ immigrant rights organization.

—Jorge Gutierrez

3. As Title IX Sits, the IX Network Spreads

Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault is a group of current and former Arizona State University students, staff and faculty committed to ending sexual violence on and off campus. After losing a major Title IX lawsuit in 2009, ASU made a commitment to protect students from rape culture, but students’ Title IX rights continue to be violated and the ASU administration continues to protect student and faculty predators. In addition to organizing Title IX and Clery Act complaints, SDASA wrote an open letter to ASU President Michael Crow in September and subsequently confronted him about the issue of rape culture in person last month. President Crow, like his colleague Kevin Salcido, Chief of Human Resources, is more concerned with protecting the University and its reputation than with protecting students from sexual harassment and assault. SDASA hopes to add ASU to the growing list of colleges under investigation by the Department of Education for Title IX violations.

—Jasmine Lester

4. As NYU Unionizes, Hopkins Fights for Democracy

Graduate students at Johns Hopkins have organized against a plan that would restructure the university. Changes include reducing graduate student cohort sizes in social sciences and humanities, an emphasis on junior faculty and the centralization of decision-making power with the university administration. This strategic plan was formulated behind closed doors with nominal and selective input from faculty and students. More than 270 graduate students have signed a letter calling for a one-year moratorium on the implementation of the plan. Departmental directors of graduate studies, the academic council and the faculty assembly also called for a moratorium. Graduate students attempted to confront the dean in person about the lack of response to the moratorium, but were met by vice deans and campus security. Like our peers facing similar structural reforms at educational institutions across the country, the graduate students at Johns Hopkins will continue to fight for democratic inclusion in university governance.

—Kellan Anfinson, Derek Denman and Chris Forster-Smith

5. CCSF v. Disaccreditation and Debt

In October, student organizers at the City College of San Francisco launched the second Student Labor Action Project chapter in California. As part of Campus Equity Week, CCSF SLAP hosted an End the Student Debt Crisis event with a screening of Default and a panel highlighting the crippling effects of the student loan industry on students and workers. Attendees were briefed on and asked to support a CCSF SLAP campaign to keep CCSF open and fully accredited. As one of the largest community colleges in the nation, CCSF is an affordable pathway to higher education for working-class people. Nonetheless, this past July, it received notice from the Accrediting Commission for Junior and Community Colleges that it wanted to close the institution. A battle has waged on ever since and a judge recently ruled that a private commission cannot revoke the accreditation of CCSF until a trial is held to determine if the action is lawful. But the campaign will continue until CCSF’s future is fully and permanently secured.

—Shanell Williams

6. LAVC v. the Cuts

After years of statewide cuts, the accumulation of a $5.5 million deficit and the possible threat of academic probation, the Los Angeles Valley College administration cut $606,470 from the college budget on November 8. These cuts included thirty-one already-scheduled classes, part-time faculty, student tutoring services and the entire track and field team—forcing teammates to go all the way to West LA to participate. The most drastic impact was a district-mandated increase in the average class size to thirty-eight students this spring and forty in the fall. On November 26, Students Against Cuts formed to fight against the cuts. The group’s ten demands include a reversal of the cuts, a call for transparent budgeting, a decrease in salary for top administrators, living wages for campus workers, the reduction of textbook prices and an increase in the number of classes.

—Albert Sarian and Dominico Vega

7. Student Unionism in Rhode Island

This spring, students at Rhode Island College are launching the Rhode Island Student Union Project with the goal of establishing a vehicle to fight for our interests and build the power of students across the state. This past semester, the embryonic RISUP tested combative politics by resisting the administration’s attempt to arm campus police. Disrupting the “what-if” narrative triggered by a false-alarm shooting at URI last year, our efforts spurred critical dialogue across the campus and successfully led administrative officials to hold off on what we saw was a very negative policy, at least “at this point in time.”

—Servio Gomez

8. Socialism in Tennessee

In the fall, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, witnessed the birth of its first socialist organization, the Sewanee Young Democratic Socialists. Since then, along with HOLA, which promotes Latino/a cultural awareness, we have cosponsored talks by movement photographer Pocho-one and facilitated workshops to help undocumented students navigate the college application process. We also participated in the inaugural meeting of the Tennessee Student Union Project, which seeks to give students and campus workers across the state a voice against the corporate assault on higher education. Although we press forward in a historically conservative institution and region, we have found no shortage of allies.

—Brandon Kemp

9. A Working Class Union

The Working Class Student Union was founded by students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison when one student was told that kids like her could only get more financial aid if she got pregnant. The group works to bring social class into diversity discussions, connect working-class and first-generation students with others who share their background and provide ready access to campus resources. This spring, WCSU is working to publish a series of narrative videos from students and staff on campus with working class, low-income and first-generation backgrounds, providing support and validation of student experiences on campus. With this project, we hope to reach students grappling with social class issues as well as develop support services for these students.

—Marissa Hatlen

10. The Wisconsin Idea, Revisited

Wisconsin is unique in that students have a constitutional right to shared governance in the University of Wisconsin system. Still, a culture of fear and apologetic racism infiltrates the work that students across the system are trying to accomplish. Aiming to change this culture, Sankofa Squad, the statewide student association for students of color and allies across the system, is researching systematic bias and how it is harming students across the system in order to gauge the types of resources and skills required to offer equity and justice to those impacted communities.

—Lamonte Moore

11. Dignity in School

This year, the Missouri GSA Network, with the help of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, started organizing around socioeconomic justice, with a focus on student “push-out” and the school-to-prison pipeline. Homophobia and transphobia are among the primary reasons why students are pushed out of the institutions that were meant for them. In St. Louis, several schools have implemented violent and secretive practices that exacerbate youth criminalization. Our socioeconomic committee, GSAs for Justice, hosted a rally to start off the school year and will be marching in St. Louis’s annual MLK day parade. At the end of January, we will further our understanding of the school-to-prison pipeline by visiting BreakOUT! in New Orleans. On March 5, we will have our annual Queer Youth & Ally Day at the capital, which is completely run by student leaders.

—Sterling Waldman

12. Democracy at Work

The SEIU Millennials chapter in Los Angeles emerged from a conference this fall, with young worker representation from Oregon to Florida. Our work focuses on two questions: First, why are we, as a younger generation of healthcare workers, choosing the healthcare industry? Second, what issues are important to us? I got involved because I want a say in what happens in my union. I cohosted the last conference call of the year for the program in which we organized our first interlocal video conference call, scheduled for January 21. Our goals for 2014 include strengthening political action, supporting Walmart workers and winning greater income for fast-food workers.

—Manny Hernandez Jr.

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13. As New Jersey Signs the DREAM Act, Arkansas Pushes Tuition Equality

In the fall, Arkansas Natural Dreamers targeted Congressman Steve Womack and our ICE office in Fayetteville as part of United We Dream’s thirty days of action. On January 26, AND is organizing an event for Arkansas leaders to dicuss how to improve the atmosphere in the state for the undocumented community. Dreamers will talk about the importance of in-state tuition and the importance of working with our national network, United We Dream. As the movement grows, we will continue working to synchronize our actions nationwide.

—Irvin Camacho

14. As Congress Sits, Roanoke Pressures Goodlatte

In 2014, Roanoke United Families for Immigration Reform will continue pressuring Representative Bob Goodlatte, urging him to move on immigration reform this year, an issue he claims will be a top priority this year. Our organization has come a long way since our first meeting in October 2013. We held twenty days of sustained action outside of Goodlatte’s office with more than 100 people showing up throughout the month and at least thirty participating every night. This spring, we’ll continue working on reform on a national level, while also fighting to make Roanoke a sanctuary city, stopping the detention and deportation of members of our community and fighting for tuition equality and driver’s licenses for all undocumented Virginians.

—Paulina Hernandez

15. How to Document a Generation?

This spring, two online spaces, Undocumenting.com and Youngist.org, are working together to highlight the multidimensional nature of the millennial identity and to reinforce our ability to tell our own stories. Our projects have grown out of disillusionment with mainstream media’s overwhelming focus on the narratives of millennials—as in Girls or Gossip Girl—and seek to challenge the outsourcing of our stories. Our upcoming collaboration explores the dichotomy of art and journalistic writing created by young people. Future collaborations between our projects have the potential to carve out space for undocu-youth, queer kids, women of color and youth of color to exist beyond that single narrative. In the long term, we envision a mediascape that is rooted in social justice and leaves no pieces of ourselves behind.

—Sonia Guiñansaca and Isabelle Nastasia

Read Next: The Top 14 Student Activism Stories of the Year

State Supreme Court Ruling Puts NYU 2031 In Jeopardy

NYU 2031

A map of New York University's proposed expansion (Courtesy of NYU Local)

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

NYU’s expansion plans hit a snag today after State Supreme Court Justice in Manhattan Donna Mills ruled that the city illegally approved construction within public parklands without New York State’s approval. Mills dismissed five other claims against NYU’s pending construction on the two superblocks housing the Washington Square Village, Silver Towers, and Coles Sports Center.

The city’s approval of NYU’s proposal violated the Public Trust Doctrine and therefore allocated three strips of public parkland for non-park uses without proper approval. Now the university must seek the State Legislature’s approval before using these small parklands for the project.

“So NYU has to go back to square one,” said Randy Mastro, lawyer for NYU’s opposition. “Its massive expansion project is now dead, absent State Legislature approval, and that is never going to happen. End of story.”

“This is a complex ruling, but the judgment is a very positive one for NYU,” said NYU Vice President of Public Affairs John Beckman. “Five of the six petitioners’ claims were dismissed, the judge reaffirmed the City’s approval of the project, and most importantly the judge’s ruling allows us to move forward with our first planned project—the facility to provide new academic space on the site of our current gym.”

Justice Mills did not designate the Mercer-Houston Dog Run, running adjacent to Coles, as parkland. Therefore, the university may still be able to follow through with plans to build the Zipper Building, a large structure consisting of many towers.

Yet Mastro disagreed that the university could move forward with any portion of the construction plan. “It is delusional for anyone to spin that parts of this comprehensive project, which was approved as a whole and reviewed for environmental impacts on that basis, could still now somehow go forward without starting from scratch,” said Mastro. “Any such piecemeal approach would constitute a new project materially different from that previously approved by the City and requiring its own separate environmental review and approval process.”

“But the petitioners and their lawyers are wrong in the claims they are now making that this ruling would stop us from building on the gym site, or that the proposals must be resubmitted to the City Council through another ULURP,” said Beckman. “The court did not vacate the City Council’s ULURP approval and specifically rejected petitioners’ claim that the street adjoining the gym site is a park.”

A draft report created by the University Space Priorities Working Group reconfirmed the university’s pressing need for more academic space, according to Beckman. The group, formed by both faculty and students, is expected to issue its final report in the coming weeks. Hence, the university’s push to expand will not end with today’s ruling.

“The decision reaffirms the ULURP approval by the City Council,” said Beckman. ”Once we have a chance to thoroughly review the decision with our planning team and determine the precise impact of the ruling on our ability to implement other elements of the plan, we will work with the City, as lead respondent, to determine our next legal steps.”

The lawsuit ruled on today came about after the City Council authorized the university’s expansion plan, known as NYU 2031, in July of 2012. Even at the time, many faculty and Greenwich Village community members met the proposal with resistance. The Faculty Against Sexton Plan (FASP), a group consisting of faculty across the university, has gained steady traction against the university’s administration.

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“We’re thrilled by this decision, which will save NYU’s neighborhood, and NYU itself, from an expansion plan that has no academic rationale, and that would only hurt us all,” said Mark Crispin Miller, a NYU professor and active member of FASP. “That’s why thirty-nine schools and departments have passed resolutions urging President Sexton either to abort it, or rethink it.”

“It also helps explain the fact that five faculties have voted no confidence in his administration, with another three approving statements highly critical of his policies,” said Miller. Over the past year, a number of faculties held votes of no confidence against university President John Sexton, questioning his leadership and vision for domestic and international expansion. However, Sexton found his own support, most notably in the NYU School of Law, School of Medicine, College of Dentistry and College of Nursing.

“The president consistently ignored that faculty consensus, just as he ignored the protests by the whole community,” said Miller. “It’s therefore appropriate that Judge Mills has deemed his plan illegal, on the grounds that New York City, under Bloomberg, violated the public trust by handing those park strips to NYU. For if this really is ‘a private university in the public interest,’ President Sexton too betrayed that trust—as this clear legal victory confirms.”

Read Next: how the expansion of community broadband can help connect the two New Yorks.

During Finals, Students Sat-In on Racism, Walked Out on Apartheid and Shut Down ICE

UCLA grad students sit-in. (Credit: Nommo)

E-mail questions, tips or proposals to studentmovement@thenation.com. For earlier dispatches, check out the previous post. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. As Professor Gets Punished for Teaching About Race, Students Mobilize

This month, I have been a part of a broad coalition of students, artists, activists, teachers, professors, union leaders and community members who are organizing resistance to the sexist, racist and classist collegiate structures in Minnesota. This group was catalyzed by the position that Minneapolis Community and Technical College took in reprimanding Professor Shannon Gibney when two white male students complained about their discomfort during a lesson she was teaching on structural racism. We find it deplorable, albeit unsurprising, that institutions like MCTC have chosen to emphasize the comfort of white male students in lessons on structural racism, and we refuse to stand for it. Our coalition is planning direct action not only to defend Professor Gibney but to seek structural accountability in these institutions while envisioning new spaces and relationships in higher education.

—Chaun Webster

2. After Students of Color Sit-In, UCLA Investigates

On November 14, a group of twenty-five students at UCLA, collectively known as UCLA Call 2 Action: Graduate Students of Color, held an open teach-in during a member’s mock dissertation presentation in a graduate course in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. During the teach-in, participants shared important texts written by scholars of color and recounted painful and moving accounts of  racism, sexism and heterosexism within the department. The participants urged departmental leaders to consider and extend the implications of the Moreno Report to the experiences of students of color at UCLA. Immediately following the teach-in, the professor of the class circulated an e-mail to colleagues denouncing the action and insinuating that the students of color in his class staged a “protest” principally because, as poor writers, they were unwilling to accept his grammatical corrections—despite the fact that they all have received high marks on written work and did not raise his grammar corrections as cause for concern. He also forwarded his e-mail, without the knowledge of departmental leadership, to various media sources, prompting a barrage of hateful and racialized messages directed at his students. GSE&IS leadership has commissioned a faculty committee to consider racial discrimination across the school. The Call 2 Action group is working with school leadership to organize a series of town hall meetings beginning in January 2014.

—Call 2 Action: UCLA Graduate Students of Color

3. #not1more

On December 16, five immigrant youth and allies blocked the main entrance of the downtown Los Angeles detention center, protesting the close to 2 million deportations at the hands of President Obama. The action was part of a national #not1more campaign—from New Jersey, to Philadelphia, to Virginia and beyond—to grant administrative relief, like Deferred Action, for all 11 million undocumented people in the country. Los Angeles County has been responsible for deporting more people than even the controversial Maricopa County in Arizona. California immigrant youth are preparing similar actions across the state to pressure the Obama administration. At the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, our vision is to partner with other youth of color to target for-profit companies that run the nation's prisons and detention centers, such as the Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group.

—Neidi Dominguez

4. #NotYourAsianSidekick

On December 17, #NotYourAsianSidekick took off. Everyone from young girls, to Asian men, to white people, to my women of color sisters joined the conversation to discuss Third World unity, youth-empowered movement, the death of the ally-industrial complex, dismantling anti-blackness in Asian-American circles, dismantling the state, multi-racial and bi-racial issues, immigration issues, generational issues, health disparities, interfaith issues, queer AAPI people, disability and patriarchy. Our goal was, and is, to create a third space for Asian-American feminism where women of color can be in solidarity rather than fighting for a seat at the table with white, capitalist America. 

—Suey Park

5. At UMass, Students Fight for Representation

At the University of Massachusetts, students have been making a greater push for increased voting power on the board of trustees. Students from the Student Government Association and the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy have organized to support H.1088 and S.580, which would give all five student trustees voting power. When student trustees first starting serving the board in 1863, they each had a vote. But as more schools were added to the system, more voting student trustees were not. While the votes do rotate annually school-by-school, each year three schools are not represented on the board, hindering students on their respective campus. Last year, for example, UMass-Lowell didn't have the voting power to maintain a financing system that allowed students to run an account balance of $3,000 before enrolling in classes. The board's decisions range from tuition, master plans and other issues pertinent to academics and campus culture—which differs vastly between residential schools like UMass-Amherst to commuter campuses like UMass-Boston. 

—Charlotte Kelly

6. At Cooper Union, Freedom Hits the Board

As the result of Cooper Union students' sixty-five-day occupation of our president's office, the Board of Trustees agreed to include a student trustee, and to mentor a "working group," charged with finding an alternative to tuition. As the group met regularly over this past semester, the Board of Trustees demonstrated a persistent and alarming disregard for the students’ ability to organize, govern and look out for themselves. In addition to impeding and threatening to cancel the students' elections for the (non-voting) student trustee, the board blocked a proposal from the architecture school to raise money to cover future tuition bills, and tried to introduce a new code of conduct that would take power away from students' ability to engage in direct action. The board met on December 10 to discuss the working group's report, but will not make a final decision for thirty days. We hope that with a new chairman leading the board and with our new student trustee, the board will be able to find an alternative to charging tuition, but this will require a dramatic shift in the way that the board views both the students and Cooper Union.

—Evan Burgess

7. Hoodies Up

Million Hoodies Movement for Justice is a national organization working to protect and empower young people of color from racial profiling and senseless gun violence through creativity and innovation. Million Hoodies was formed in 2012 after a video which helped generate global support for the arrest of George Zimmerman. We are now calling for young people interested in putting an end to gun violence and racial profiling through direct action organizing, creative technologies and communications to join our network. In 2014, we'll be working on divestment campaigns from gun manufacturers and look to confront Stand Your Ground laws.

—Dante Barry

8. Zero Tolerance Out

On January 1, twelve years of harsh discipline practices that disproportionately impact students of color, and the creation of a pipeline to incarceration and unemployment instead of college and careers, will come to end—not because of newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio alone but also because of the powerful work of youth, who continue to organize to dismantle the pipeline to prison. In November, the Urban Youth Collaborative organized a Talking Transition Tent event to offer the de Blasio Transition Team solutions to end the criminalization of students and the over-policing of our schools. We are committed to working with the mayor and the next schools chancellor to end discriminatory discipline and push for restorative justice and social and emotional supports in schools. In the first 100 days of his administration, we are pushing for Mayor de Blasio to end suspensions for "defying authority," revise the current Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Education and NYPD to limit the ability of police to handcuff students for minor misbehavior and expand restorative justice programs. In January, UYC is launching our statewide legislative campaign, pushing to allocate $20 million to fund restorative justice programs, limit the use of out-of-school suspensions and hold schools districts across the state accountable. As students, we belong in the classroom, not jail cells.

—Urban Youth Collaborative

9. How Long Will School-Sponsored Apartheid Last?

As a result of the campaign led by Students Against Israeli Apartheid, on December 19, George Mason University will accommodate graduates, faculty and guests to walk out in protest of this year’s commencement speaker, Shari Arison. While Arison comes to Mason to promote her purported ethical business model, a joint faculty-alumni letter exposes her portfolio as being anything but ethical—financing illegal settlements, building a portion of the apartheid wall and building a highway that denies access to those of non-Jewish descent. As the letter circulated, initiating conversations throughout the university, SAIA members plastered the campus with posters exposing Arison's investment priorities. Additionally, SAIA conducted a satirical social media campaign that seized the university’s rebranding hashtag, forcing them into inactivity. A mock apartheid wall was erected in our quad displaying the message, “NO HONOR IN APARTHEID,” and featuring a large poster asking, “Who will Mason Honor Next?” surrounded by photos of other dishonorable figures, including Ray Kelly and David Petraeus

—Tareq Radi

10. Who’s Next on the Safety Accord?

On December 5, UPenn’s Student Labor Action Project, an affiliate of United Students Against Sweatshops, won its End Deathtraps campaign. UPenn is the first school in the country to mandate that its apparel licensees sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. After building support around campus—hosting vigils and teach-ins, speaking to classes, meeting with our Committee on Manufacturer Responsibility and circulating a petition—SLAP convinced UPenn President Amy Gutmann to demand that brands prioritize worker safety. The Rana Plaza and Tazreen factory fires put in question the destructive conditions of the garment industry. In response to the efforts of garment workers and student solidarity, our universities are helping realize an industry that heeds the demands of workers.

—Clara Hendrickson

Interns’ Favorite Articles of the Week, 12/13/13

Riot police

A man sits in front of a police line at City Hall during a 2011 anti–Wall Street protest in Oakland, California. (Reuters/Kim White)

—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.

Everyone Is a Criminal: On the Over-policing of America,” by Chase Madar. The Nation, December 9, 2013.

Madar examines how mindless “zero-tolerance” zeal and decades of increasing police militarization have led us to a point in which few moments in our lives aren’t managed by (mostly) boys in blue. It’s interesting to consider how police proliferation has happened alongside (or complicity with?) the development of a massive surveillance apparatus. With this in mind, it’s probably more absurd to suggest that the US is not a police state. 

—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.

Cyberlibertarians’ Digital Deletion of the Left,” by David Golumbia. Jacobin, December 4, 2013.

What does the Left look like online? David Golumbia answers in the negative: cyberlibertarians. From the hacktivist ideology, which posits that liberating information will liberate humanity, to the neoliberal corporatism of Silicon Valley, Golumbia examines the underlying politics of those who own the web. But being progressive in cyber-politics poses vexing contradictions. For instance, Google bankrolled and even coordinated protests against SOPA and PIPA, bills liberals characterized as overreaching favors to the entertainment industry. Meanwhile, online civil liberties groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are helmed by libertarians and funded by corporations. Cyberlibertarians espouse a distrust of government and a faith in private interests, both of which challenge those who value a democratic government’s role as check on concentrated capital.

—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.

What the New York Times (and France) Got Wrong About Prostitution,” by Melissa Gira Grant. Slate, December 11, 2013.

Last Wednesday, the French National Assembly passed its “fine for john laws,” placing the legal onus on customers rather than sex workers. On Monday The New York Times endorsed this position with an editorial, giddy at the thought that “governments around the world are increasingly guided by the idea that sex workers are victims.” Grant, whose book Playing The Whore will be published by Verso next year, points out that these laws still shame sex workers, pushing them farther underground. She also notes that the op-ed did not consult or quote any actual sex workers in its outpouring of progressive sympathy. As Laurie Penny wrote in her column at the New Statesman about the massive and highly publicized police raids of sex workers in London last week: “At a time when millions of women and girls across the continent are being forced to make hard economic choices—including prostitution—why does the biggest public feminist conversation still resolve around whether or not it is moral to have sex for money…?”

—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US-Latin American relations.

ATF uses rogue tactics in storefront stings across nation,” by John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 7, 2013.

This investigation exposes the coercive, shameful techniques used by undercover agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Targeting juveniles and mentally disabled adults, ATF operatives conducted dozens of storefront stings, pressuring their patrons and “employees” to procure guns and drugs to be sold at the stores and then arresting them after several months of illicit transactions. Their phony pawnshops, which paid top dollar for stolen goods, spurred burglaries and theft in the rundown neighborhoods where they were located. Jeff Griffith, a Wichita lawyer representing one of the defendants, makes the glaring, succinct point: "There is enough crime out there, why do you have to manufacture it?"

—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency, and investigative reporting.

Push to Diversify City Contracting Falls Short of Goals,” by Adam Wisnieski. City Limits, December 10, 2013.

In his second year in office, Mayor Bloomberg resurrected an anti-discrimination law that had had been killed years earlier by Rudolph Giuliani. Bolstered by a 294-page study completed in 2005, Local Law 129 set citywide goals for government agencies to grant contracts under $1 million in certain industries to companies owned by minorities and women, counteracting the stark disparity in the companies that have historically been successful in bidding for city contracts. Yet this three-part series in City Limits reveals that agencies have failed to meet almost every goal the law established. Reporter Adam Wisnieksi provides various explanations for the shortcomings, from a lack of accountability in tracking the law's results to the way it interacts with the city's preexisting procurement rules, which make it difficult for agencies to handpick the contractors they want. This reporting and, in my opinion, much of the digging beneath the headlines you find in the pages of City Limits plays an important role in holding the city government accountable to the goals it sets for itself.

—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.

Whose sarin?” by Seymour Hersh. London Review of Books, December 19, 2013.

I was sitting down to eat (and rather hungry at that) when this came over the Twitter feed on Sunday. But for the time I took to read the piece, the wiles of Limus were cast aside, dinner be damned. As Fielding would say, “Men who pay for what they eat will insist on gratifying their palates, however nice and whimsical these may prove”—and my taste was for Hersh’s piece. The meat of my repast was the revelation that the Obama government had indulged in some sort of reconstruction of evidence in trying to go to war in Syria in late August and early September. Hersh alleges, based on sourcework, that there is little evidence to tie Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Army to the August chemical attacks, and that the administration lied when it says it was sure it was the culprit. The wine was that the media misreported the story and didn’t try to verify Obama’s claims. I disagree with his article on some fronts. Intelligence gathering is (I’ve read) a complicated process, and always involves some cherry-picking. He also has utter faith in US sensors around Syrian chemical bases, which I think is certainly misplaced. Another problem is that he implies Jabhat al-Nusra could have launched the Sarin gas, which, as Dan Kaszeta, a former army chemical weapons expert, wrote in Now, is almost impossible to countenance. The debate, in any event, is interesting from the government perspective. Hersh has caught the Obama administration in yet another act of duplicity. “Can we ever trust the government on ‘National Security’ matters?” I asked myself as I finished and began to set about my evening vittles. I speared some eggplant. “Probably not.”

—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.

Obama and Castro shake hands: could this indicate a new rapprochement?” by Jonathan Watts. The Guardian, December 11, 2013.

The recent handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro has gotten a lot of flak in the US, with Senator John McCain comparing it to shaking hands with Hitler. Mainstream outlets haven’t been much better. Here is an interesting and balanced look at what the real impact of the exchange may be.

—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.

State of Deception,” by Ryan Lizza. The New Yorker, December 16, 2013.

Lizza’s piece is filled with juicy details from pivotal intelligence briefings, and appends much-needed history to the debate that many are only aware of through the leaks of NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health, and East and Southeast Asia.

Madiba in Palestine,” by Robin D.G. Kelley and Erica Lorraine Williams. CounterPunch, December 10, 2013.

In light of the American Studies Association's boycott of Israel, and as an antidote to "what Cornel West calls the 'Santa Claus-ification' of the man who was only removed from the US Terrorist Watch list in 2008," this CounterPunch article reflects on Mandela's political career by looking at his understanding and advocacy of boycotts as a strategy of resistance, his conception of the Palestinian struggle for nationhood as a global movement and his vision of citizenship not based on race or religion. While the historical contexts of apartheid and the Israel-Palestinian conflict are obviously different, comparing the necessity for a victory based "on the sharp edge of principles, struggle and solidarity, not forgiveness, apologetics, and compromise" is vital.

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