Washington’s War On Poor Grad Students


By Jill Richardson for Other Words – The Republican tax plan winding its way through Congress includes a special middle finger to the nation’s graduate students. It’s a little bit wonky, so stay with me here. I’ll explain how it affects me, since I’m an actual graduate student. Going to grad school would’ve been entirely out of reach for me if I had to pay full tuition for my education. Getting a PhD takes at least five years and often more. I don’t have a spouse, trust fund, or parents to cover my cost of living or my tuition. If I had to pay for my own education, it would’ve been simply out of the question. This is hardly uncommon. How many adults do you know can forego five or more years of income while simultaneously paying thousands of dollars in college tuition each year? Since the answer to that question is “not many,” universities employ graduate students as poorly paid labor in exchange for an education, health insurance, and a very low wage. In my case, I’ve worked as a teaching assistant for the past three years while also attending classes at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Other students worked as research assistants. A lucky few got funding that allowed them to pursue their own research. The rest of us had to work. Forbes mentions some magical places where graduate students are given stipends up to $50,000 per year. At Wisconsin, we weren’t so lucky.

The Time Of The Intellectual-Activists Has Come


By Creston Davis for Truthout – A crucial element of change happens when people realize that the current state of things no longer works. Change is a fundamental aspect of all areas of life — growth requires change. But institutions that benefit from keeping things the same have a vested interest in resisting change. The more powerful the institution, the more it seeks to resist change. Even the threat of change is a threat to powerful economic and social institutions because change shifts perspective and imagines a different world. There are many examples of how established institutions resist change. Take the example of religion. The Christian church in both its Protestant and Catholic variants is notorious for resisting change, in part because it claims to hold absolute truths about the meaning of life, and so the act of challenging the authority of the church is to threaten the very foundations of its monopoly on the absolute. The more in debt a citizen becomes, the less likely they will participate in local democratic processes. Another example is the dogmatic belief of a “free-market” economic ideology that sides with privatization of goods and services for the 1 percent, over a public and shared commons for the 99 percent. Financial institutions like banks, insurance companies and hedge funds, private corporations like mainstream media, even the European Union and the United States are institutions that have greatly benefited from this neoliberal economic ideological monopoly.

How You Can Make Your Own Education When College Isn’t An Option


By Staff of Black Youth Project – At this point in human history, college has become damn-near mandatory for acquiring employment and, dare I say, being validated as a functional adult in our society. The “prestige” of attending an institution of higher education yields visions of flying graduation caps, late nights studying in the library, and long, long, looong walks across campus to get from this class to that. The whimsicalness of attending a university also comes with continually rising tuition costs that dump mountains of debt upon the shoulders of teenagers and young adults who may not have access to enough scholarships and government assistance to ease those burdens, which can take a toll on your mental health. The internet–a virtual space which we are continually told is only for memes, Black Twitter draggings, and long rabbit hole journeys on Wikipedia–can be a great resource for alternatives to university. It provides opportunities to help create a cheap, independent curriculum that can help Black students to build a career or business. Here are a few ways that one could create a sustainable career by using the internet to cultivate an untraditional education and acquire skills necessary to succeed in the workforce or as an entrepreneur. Rewarding careers that contribute to society are not limited to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. And white knowledge production through the academic institution is not the only legitimate way to learn.

Public Higher Ed Skews Wealthy

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By Rick Seltzer for Inside Higher Education – A majority of the country’s top public universities have grown less accessible for the most financially strapped students since 1999 — and at the same time, they have grown more accessible for wealthy students. More than half of selective public institutions, 54 percent, have reduced the share of students they enroll from families with incomes in the lowest 40 percent of earners, while also increasing the share of students they enroll from families that are among the country’s top 20 percent of earners. Put differently, 217 out of 381 top public institutions enrolled a larger share of wealthy students even as they reduced their percentages of low-income students. That statistic is key to a provocative argument about dwindling access in a new report being released today by the left-leaning think tank New America. The think tank is releasing its findings as part of a reportanalyzing publicly available data from the Equality of Opportunity Project, a study of U.S. social mobility combining public information on higher education with deidentified tax records from students and their parents. The Equality of Opportunity Project received coverage early this year for showing that a handful of prestigious colleges enrolled more students from the top 1 percent of families sorted by income than they did from the bottom 60 percent. Other coverage of the project included the argument that college rankings incentivize institutions to favor wealthy students. New America has also published a series of blog postslooking at the data and what they show about higher education and mobility.

Ohio State Denies Request To Have Richard Spencer Speak On Campus


By Brandon Carter for The Hill – Ohio State University has denied a request to rent space for prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus, citing public safety concerns in the wake of Spencer’s appearance at the University of Florida earlier this week. “The university has deemed that it is not presently able to accommodate Mr. [Cameron] Padgett’s request to rent space at the university due to substantial risk to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the university,” a lawyer representing Ohio State said in a letter to an attorney representing Spencer’s associates and obtained by The Guardian. Earlier Friday, a lawyer for Spencer said he would file a federal lawsuitagainst the university if it denied a request for Spencer to speak on campus. WOSU reports that Ohio State senior vice president Christopher Culley told Michigan attorney Kyle Bristow last week that the university could not accommodate a request to rent space, but the lawyer held off suing while the school looked into “other alternatives.” Bristow told WOSU he is seeking an injunction to force the school to rent space for Spencer’s speech.

How U.S. News College Rankings Promote Economic Inequality On Campus


By Benjamin Wermund for Politico – Meanwhile, there is no measurement for the economic diversity of the student body, despite political pressure dating back to the Obama administration and a 2016 election that revealed rampant frustration over economic inequality. There is, however, growing evidence that elite universities have reinforced that inequality. Recent studies have produced the most powerful statistical evidence in decades that higher education — once considered the ladder of economic mobility — is a prime source of rewarding established wealth. One report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation found that kids from the top quartile of income earners account for 72 percent of students at the nation’s most competitive schools, while those from the bottom quartile are just 3 percent. Fewer than 10 percent of those in the lowest quartile of income ever get a bachelor’s degree, research has shown. The lack of economic diversity extends far beyond the Ivy League, and now includes scores of private and public universities, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project, which used tax data to study campus economic trends from 2000 to 2011, the most recent years available. For instance, the University of Michigan enrolls just 16 percent of its student body from the bottom 60 percent of earners.

Protesters Confront Betsy DeVos At The Harvard Kennedy School


By Spencer Buell for Boston Daily – Protesters, some standing with their fists in the air and waving signs that included the words “white supremacist,” swarmed to greet Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Thursday night at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. DeVos, despised by advocates for public schools and victims of on-campus sexual assault, was there to give a talk about her pro-“school choice” views on education. As she has done since her appointment to the position by the Trump administration, DeVos in her speech argued for the promotion of alternatives to public schools, advocating for policies that would give parents the option to send their kids to privately-run charter schools, diverting funding from public schools pay for it. “I came into office with a core belief: it is the inalienable right and responsibility of parents to choose the learning environment that best meets their child’s unique, individual needs,” she said, according to prepared remarks provided by the Department of the Education. “Now, I’ve been called the ‘school choice Secretary’ by some,” she continued, “I think it’s meant as an insult, but I wear it as a badge of honor!” During the speech, video taken at the event shows a pair of students standing up silently in their chairs and unfurling a pair of signs. One read “white supremacist” in all-caps. The other read “Our students are not 4 sale.” Dozens more students stood silently in the hall, also brandishing signs.

Georgetown Law Faculty Take A Knee To Protest Jeff Sessions’ Campus Visit


By Ryan Grenoble for Huffington Post – Professors at the school have vociferously opposed the visit by Sessions. In an open letter published ahead of the event, signed by around a third of the law school’s faculty, professors lambasted it as “hypocritical” and “troubling.” “We, the undersigned, condemn the hypocrisy of Attorney General Sessions speaking about free speech,” the letter reads. “Sessions is a key cabinet member in an administration headed by a President who spent last weekend denouncing athletes engaging in free expression and calling for them to be fired.” “This kind of government chilling of speech is precisely what the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is meant to prevent,” the letter continues. “A man who fails to recognize paradigmatic violations of the First Amendment is a poor choice to speak about free speech on campuses.”

Jeff Sessions Is Met With Protest At Georgetown Law

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By Karen Sloan for Law – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions received a frosty reception from some students and faculty at Georgetown University Law Center, where he delivered a talk on free speech Tuesday. In anticipation of his arrival, 30 faculty members on Monday released a letter stating that Sessions was an inappropriate speaker to tackle that subject because he and the Trump administration have repeatedly attacked First Amendment rights. About 130 students claimed on Monday that their tickets to Sessions’ talk were revoked. “It is extraordinarily hypocritical that AG Sessions wants to lecture future attorneys about the importance of free speech on campus while excluding the wider student body from his very own ‘safe space,’” said Daniel Blauser, president of the campus’ chapter of the American Constitution Society. On Tuesday, about 100 protestors gathered in front of the law school, some with duct tape on their mouths and carrying signs critical of Sessions, according to The Washington Post. Sessions’ speech comes as several college campuses have been rocked by free speech controversies. Violent protests or the fear of such have led to the cancellation several planned speeches by conservatives at the University of California, Berkeley. Sessions spoke for about a half hour, referencing recent free speech incidents at UC Berkeley, Virginia Tech, Brown University, and Middlebury College. “Freedom of thought and speech are under attack,” Sessions said. “It is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought—a shelter for fragile egos.”

Shame: Harvard Welcomes Spicer, Spurns Manning


By Francine Prose for The Guardian. Boston, MA – I graduated from Harvard in 1968. (Officially, my diploma was from Radcliffe, the now disbanded women’s college, but all of our classes were at Harvard.) That year, Harvard’s graduation speaker was the shah of Iran, and many of us wore black armbands and boycotted the ceremony to protest against the oppressive Iranian government’s human rights violations. In 1993, I returned for our 25th reunion. The graduation speaker was Colin Powell, the defense secretary, who had supported the Clinton administration’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay members of the military.

James Comey's Rough Reception At Howard University


By David A. Graham for The Atlantic – The former FBI director has been at the center of controversy for months, but protestors at the historically black university on Friday focused on his history of comments about race and policing. The start of the school year can be tough for anyone, even if you’re the 56-year-old former director of the FBI. While James Comey has found himself at the center of the country’s major political controversy this year, on Friday he was the object of protest for reasons that had nothing to do with Russia, Michael Flynn, or Donald Trump. On Friday, Comey addressed Howard University’s convocation, the ceremony starting the year and welcoming the new freshman class. As a prominent public figure who’s teaching at Howard this year as the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy, Comey could look like a natural pick. Or maybe not. When Comey came to the lectern at Cramton Auditorium in D.C. on Friday, he was met by cheers, jeers, and singing. For several minutes, as the enormously tall Comey stood quietly and awkwardly, a group of students protested his appearance. They sang civil-rights songs—“We Shall Not Be Moved”—and chants: “I love being black.” Other demonstrators gathered outside. Comey eventually got started, speaking through more disruptions. However much Comey made sense as a convocation speaker, it makes sense that he’d face protests too. Even setting aside Comey’s specific background, Howard is a particularly engaged campus even among historically black colleges.

Senate Military Spending Increase Alone Could Fund Free College


By Alex Emmons for The Intercept – ONE OF THE most controversial proposals put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign was a pledge to make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Critics from both parties howled that the pie-in-the-sky idea would bankrupt the country. Where, after all, would the money come from? Those concerns were brushed aside Monday night, as the Senate overwhelmingly approved an $80 billion annual increase in military spending, enough to have fully satisfied Sanders’s campaign promise. Instead, the Senate handed President Donald Trump far more than the $54 billion he asked for. The lavish spending package gives Trump a major legislative victory, allowing him to boast about fulfilling his promise of a “great rebuilding of the armed services.” The bill would set the U.S.’s annual military budget at around $700 billion, putting it within range of matching the spending level at the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. To put that in further perspective: If the package becomes law, U.S. military spending would exceed the total spending of its next 10 rivals put together, going off of 2016 military spending estimates from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Put another way, with a $700 billion military budget, the U.S. would be spending more than three times as much as China on its military, and 10 times as much as Russia. According to SIPRI, the U.S. already accounts for more than a third of all military spending.

Who Is Michael Morell? The Harvard Fellow Resigned To Protest Chelsea Manning


By Emma Kerr for Bustle – Michael Morell, a former CIA deputy director, resigned from his Harvard fellowship because the university appointed Chelsea Manning to one as well. Harvard announced on Wednesday Manning would be added as a fellow to the school’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, citing her network security expertise and activism for transgender rights on Twitter. In response, Morell sent a letter of resignation to Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf that read: I cannot be part of an organization — The Kennedy School — that honors convicted felon and leaker of classified information. Manning served seven years in prison after being convicted in 2013 for releasing confidential military documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison. She was pardoned by former President Barack Obama in January. In his resignation, Morell, who was twice acting director of the CIA, said he believes the country should “stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information.” He wrote: Senior leaders in our military have stated publicly that the leaks by Ms. Manning put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk. As an institution, the Kennedy School’s decision will assist Ms. Manning in her log-standing efforts to legitimize the criminal path that she took to prominence, an attempt that may encourage others to leak classified information as well.

UB Students Protest Commencement Speaker Betsy DeVos

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By Elizabeth Janney for Baltimore Batch – Students last week were also protesting against DeVos at another campus, this time in Arlington, Virginia, where the education secretary announced plans to roll back Title IX guidelines regarding sexual assault. Under the Obama administration guidelines, schools were told to use the lowest standard of proof, called “preponderance of the evidence,” in prosecuting sexual assault cases. In an address at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School last week, DeVos said colleges must raise the burden of proof in order to protect the rights of both victims and those that they accuse because “the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students.” Said DeVos: “Any perceived offense can become a full-blown Title IX investigation, but if everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment.” Her statement drew criticism for equating the harm done to falsely accused students with the suffering of assault survivors. The University of Baltimore stood by its decision to invite DeVos to speak at the fall commencement, issuing this statement on Facebook…

Time For Revolt On US Universities

Graduate workers rally for a fair contract at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (TAA - Graduate Worker Union of UW-Madison | Facebook)

By Molly Mapstone for Socialist Worker – AS STUDENTS and faculty arrive on campuses in the coming days and weeks, they will face increased austerity, as university administrations prioritize profit over education, and corporate interests over the people who learn and work there. At the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison, there are several important and diverse struggles on the horizon that will shape how we take on the neoliberal university and how we build the solidarity we need among students, faculty and campus workers. Members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA), which represents graduate student employees, are in a fight for the life of their union, as the administration seeks to gut their ability to organize their co-workers. Last semester, the university police pulled a Black student from a Black Visual Culture class and arrested him, for allegedly painting anti-racist graffiti in response to racism on campus. Sexual assaults are on the rise at UW, with no clear plan from the university to take action. State legislators threaten the accreditation of the medical school with no push back from the university administration.