A HISTORIC FOOTNOTE: In a landmark ruling on August 12, a federal judge ruled that the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. In her Floyd v. City of New York decision, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin determined that stop-and-frisk constitutes “a policy of indirect racial profiling,” noting that “blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband.”
Remarkably, in a footnote to her decision, Scheindlin invoked an investigative documentary video published by TheNation.com last year featuring Alvin Cruz, a teenager who recorded himself being stopped in Harlem in 2011.
“It appears to be the only known recording of a stop by a civilian,” she wrote. “In the recording, the officers verbally abuse Cruz, threaten to break his arm, and appear to physically abuse him. After an officer asks Cruz if he wants to go to jail, Cruz asks why the officers are threatening to arrest him, and one replies: ‘For being a fucking mutt! You know that?’”
The passage appears on page 190 of the decision, citing authors Ross Tuttle, Erin Schneider and The Nation by name. Watch the original video at thenat.in/Rd9Vfa. FRANCIS REYNOLDS
A HISTORIC EARMARK: A budget passed by the North Carolina legislature in July was noteworthy for its stark austerity measures, including severe cuts to public education. But there was one bright spot, an expenditure that was given the green light: lawmakers set aside $10 million to compensate victims of the state’s notorious forced sterilization program, which lasted from the late 1920s to the ’70s.
For decades, the Eugenics Board of North Carolina oversaw the sterilization of roughly 7,600 people for such reasons as promiscuity and “feeble-mindedness.” Some were as young as 10. Thirty-two states had similar programs, but this provision makes North Carolina the first state to compensate the victims. The money will be split evenly among those who come forward to show that they were subjected to the program. Payments will be issued in 2015.
However long overdue, such a historic measure might seem to acknowledge the error of state attempts to regulate or inflict harm on the bodies of its citizens. But in the same session, North Carolina lawmakers have severely restricted access to abortion (which could lead to the closure of all but one of the state’s clinics), disallowed challenges to racially biased death penalty verdicts and required drug testing for welfare recipients. Though the GOP-dominated legislature has largely shirked its responsibilities regarding education, healthcare and other public services, it continues to see the regulation of birth and death as firmly within its charge. JOHN THOMASON
A FIGHT FOR THE SOUL OF NYU: When The New York Times reported earlier this summer that New York University gave large loans for vacation homes to administrators and star professors, the news was not met with much shock downtown. After months of faculty votes of no confidence against President John Sexton, and amid revelations of huge bonuses given to top administrators (which prompted Senator Chuck Grassley to launch an investigation into how NYU uses its tax-exempt status), faculty, staff and students have come to expect such things.
The news followed more than a year of organizing against NYU 2031, an eighteen-year campus expansion plan that will add 6 million square feet to the campus and cost $6 billion. So far, thirty-nine resolutions have been passed against the plan, most citing its financial irresponsibility. But it was the combination of this controversial plan and the increasingly top-down leadership style of Sexton and the board of trustees that prompted NYU’s arts and science faculty to organize the first no-confidence vote in March. The vote itself is symbolic, although a similar one against Harvard president Larry Summers led to his resignation in 2006.
NYU is the most expensive private university in the country. Its students graduate with an average debt load of $35,000. With its ever-expanding roster of campuses around the world, NYU also leads the way toward the corporatization of higher education. Resistance to this model of university governance is only gaining momentum, however, as more and more facts about the administration are unearthed. “Faculty are angry that the administration and the trustees have endangered NYU’s standing by adopting the ways of Wall Street,” says Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis and the president of NYU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, “and we are all the more resolved to push for a complete overhaul.” REBECCA NATHANSON