social justice

ANALYSIS

UCLA’s student government has passed a controversial resolution that calls on the university to divest from companies that allegedly contribute to and profit from so-called human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – but don’t take that as a legitimate decision, or representative of the UCLA student body.

The measure successfully passed by a 8-2-2 margin Tuesday night, and Students for Justice in Palestine is already touting it “as a chance to help other communities use this tool as an avenue to attain more political agency,” according to an email it sent supporters Wednesday morning.

“The organization sees this vote as laying a principled foundation from which students from myriad backgrounds can continue to educate and organize in support of not just Palestinian rights but all causes of social justice,” the email added.

This “social justice” coalition is precisely why the measure passed by such a wide margin, despite student body uproar. Certain members of the council, who were obviously connected to certain student groups, voted in favor of the resolution in support of social justice advocacy, claiming to relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of their identities as women, people of color, and people of lower socioeconomic status.

The irony lies in the fact that Israel is the only source of “social justice” in the Middle East. Only in Israel are women accorded equal rights as men. Only in Israel are political dissenters allowed to voice their opinion, even if that opinion questions Israel’s right to exist. In Palestine, homosexuality is punishable by death, and police have been repeatedly accused of using brutal force. It is clear that the side the council chose to stand with was not the side of progress or “social justice.”

Last year, when Students for Justice in Palestine and other student groups tried to pass a similar divestment resolution, it caused such an uproar that after a nearly 12 hour, all-night student council meeting, where hundreds came to give public comments, the resolution failed in a close 7 to 5 vote.

So the activists learned from that, and regrouped. For one, they shut out the public and most media at Tuesday’s vote. Secondly, they expanded the resolution to include more companies to divest from, including Boeing, GE, Caterpillar, and Cemex.

But for those who were allowed inside before Tuesday’s vote, there was a robust debate. During the hearing, which lasted well into the night, representatives from student organizations such as Bruin Feminists for Equality and the Afrikaan Student Union demanded the measure be passed.

Other students, including former Bruin Republican President William Chakar, questioned even the idea of the council taking a stand on such a divisive and international issue.

“It is inappropriate for a student council to decide on an issue that is clearly far out of the scope of any councilmember’s office and duties,” Chakar said.

Student government President Avinoam Baral, an Israeli citizen, who was prevented from voting due to the constitutional fact that presidents only can break ties, said in a tearful statement before the vote that: “Israel is what is right about the Middle-East. … Do not ever, ever frame this conflict as an indigenous versus a non-indigenous person, because when your frame the issue that way, you are saying that I do not actually matter, that I do not have a place in my homeland.”

So the resolution passed, but student opinion is still divided.

Many students, like Shantal Razban-Nia, the Outreach Director for Bruin Republicans, believe that Israel’s security must be taken into consideration when evaluating Israeli actions: “Palestinians have often been the aggressors in their wars with Israel and I think Israel has a right to defend itself. I saw a missile detonating in mid-air when I was on a Beach in Tel-Aviv,” she said in an email to The College Fix.

Even in the face of such a conflict of opinion, the council moved forward with this resolution, effectively taking a stand in support of Palestine in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The move is mainly symbolic, as truly divesting from the companies would require major changes in the state pension system, and such changes could only happen through the University of California Regents.

But some Bruins have had enough of the political agenda entrenched in their student government.

This year, Bruins for Israel called it like they see it, creating a campaign called “Students First” that calls on the student government to “refocuses itself to address relevant student issues rather than wasting time and money.”

“This foreign policy resolution reflects a gross disregard for the appropriate scope of student government, which is supported by student body fees and the California taxpayers’ money,” the group’s petition adds.

By taking a stance on a complex, geopolitical issue the council has done many things.

It has marginalized a portion of the student body. It has glazed over the killing of five Israelis in a temple yesterday. It has pompously stated, in the face of years of international negotiations, that it knows the answer to a foreign policy question that has confounded experts for decades. It has judged that Israel’s right to defend itself is illegitimate. It has shamed American companies for choosing to sell supplies to one of America’s closest allies. And finally, it has divested not only from Israel, but also from its own relevance.

College Fix reporter Jacob Kohlhepp is a student at UCLA and vice president of the Bruin Republicans.

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Protesters in the movement known as Occupy SLU extracted hefty academic and budgetary concessions from the Saint Louis University administration, according to an agreement dated Oct. 17 between President Fred Pestello and three social justice groups.

The Jesuit school agreed to “support” several demands by Tribe X, the Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equality and the Black Student Alliance if those groups removed their encampment from university grounds by the morning of Oct. 18.

Intended as an extension of the protests that have wracked nearby Ferguson over the police shooting of Michael Brown, a young black man, Occupy SLU took over the Saint Louis University campus starting Oct. 13, dubbed “Moral Monday,” according to the Riverfront Times.

When Pestello announced Saturday that the encampment at the school’s clock tower “was voluntarily and permanently removed by a group of SLU students and the other demonstrators,” he didn’t say explicitly that the school had committed to spending money to satisfy the protesters’ demands.

“We will move to more formal and institutionalized conversations about race on our campus,” Pestello wrote. “We also will begin to devise short- and long-term initiatives that retain and attract more students and faculty of color, promote equal opportunity, and advance focused economic development in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

Pestello, who just started the job, called the efforts “completely consistent” with the school’s mission and “just the start of what” he called for in his inaugural address.

The school’s Web page for information about the “demonstration” says that 800 participants, “including many SLU students,” protested Oct. 13 “in support of social justice” and to promote a dialogue about “race and disparity in St. Louis and beyond.” It made a point of saying the protests happened “peacefully.”

The agreement that ended the encampment, however, appears to show the school buying off the demonstrators and giving them ongoing access to the levers of policymaking.

The university promises an increased budget for the African American studies program, more financial resources to retain African American students, establishment of a community center, and development of an academic “Center for Community and Economic Development.”

Perhaps most importantly, the school agreed to “bi-weekly meetings with an inclusive group” that includes Pestello “to continue to advance the University’s efforts to address inequality and poverty in our community.”

Other promises:

  • Evaluation of SLU’s current scholarship programs to better serve African American populations.
  • Additional college prep workshops for students in the area’s most disadvantaged school districts.
  • Establishment of a K-12 bridge program, including summer programs, in the Normandy and Shaw neighborhoods to help increase the numbers of college-bound students from neighborhoods in those areas.
  • Mutually agreed upon commissioned artwork.
  • Creation of a race, poverty and inequality steering committee.
  • SLU sponsorship a national conference on racial equality.
  • Appointment of a Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Community Empowerment.
  • Establishment of a diversity speaker series.

The agreement first surfaced in an uncredited photograph, with handwritten notes in the margins, that circulated “on social media and right-wing blogs,” according to the Riverfront Times report on Tuesday.

It was apparently obtained by an “insider” at the university who sent it to a St. Louis talk-radio host, though the original link to the page with the agreement says “Looks like you don’t have access to the page you requested.”

stluagreement

Pestello made his own statement Wednesday, releasing the official agreement and disputing its characterization as a payoff to protesters.

“It was not, as some have portrayed it, a list of demands,” Pestello said. “In fact, a number of the action items were suggested by me,” and they are consistent with Pestello’s inaugural calls to address “the factors that foster ongoing divisions and perpetuate the chronic, systemic injustice that traps so many of our brothers and sisters.”

Pestello continued that many of the “action items” in the agreement “were already in progress” at the school, and this week administrators have met to “establish timelines and to assign responsibilities for each item.”

It’s not clear where the university will get the money to implement those items that have a budgetary impact.

Pestello admitted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tuesday that the items “could potentially carry a significant price tag” and that the school hadn’t devised cost estimates for them.

In its own statement Sunday before the agreement went viral, posted as two images to its Twitter feed, Tribe X called the occupation “the opening salvo in our attempt to exact change” though “teach-ins” and “stark discussions regarding race.”

It decided to clear the encampment after “earnest” discussions with Pestello on making changes to campus programs and helping black youth in the area, Tribe X said.

Responding to critics who say it folded without a fight, Tribe X said it learned from Occupy Wall Street’s mistakes, concluding that “occupation for the sake of occupation would be fruitless.”

Greg Piper is an assistant editor at The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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IMAGES: YouTube screenshot, Eric Shimpach

Who knew? Who knew that math … excluded so many? For, according to the Teach For America website, “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men.”

Hmm. I wonder how the Mayans, then, managed to create their exquisitely accurate calendar long before the rapacious Caucasian came ashore?

Just don’t bring up such … “uncomfortable” questions to those who believe the “OWM” (Old White Men) theory of math. Sure, it’ll make them squirm a bit, but you’ll most likely be subjected to a litany of the usual PC nonsense, notably that you’re exercising your “white privilege.”

But I digress. EAG news.org reports:

Judging from the math curriculum recommended, this TFA group, like all other social justice educators, wants minorities to believe that what relates most to their lives in America is racism and oppression.

For example, the site recommends “Critically Conscious Mathematics” and “Radical Math.”

Radical Math was created by educator Jonathan Osler several years ago while teaching at El Puenta Academy in New Jersey. Osler taught Radical Math along-side Cathy Wilkerson, a former member of the Weather Underground Organization (with Bill Ayers) who once participated in a plot to detonate a nail bomb at a dance for military personnel at Fort Dix.

Radical Math provides hundreds of social justice math lessons obviously meant to indoctrinate. For example, lesson titles include “Sweatshop Accounting,” “Racism and Stop and Frisk,” “When Equal Isn’t Fair,” “The Square Root of a Fair Share” and “Home Buying While Brown or Black.”

TFA also includes “culturally responsive” anecdotes such as the following “to suggest that the idea that math is neutral, rational, and logical is a myth and the premise that 2 + 2 = 4 is ‘naive’”:

… a European explorer (presumably Francis Galton, the man who invented eugenics) agrees to trade an African shepherd two sticks of tobacco in exchange for one sheep. When he offers four sticks of tobacco in exchange for two sheep, however, the shepherd declines; the explorer later tells this story as evidence of the shepherd’s inability to comprehend simple mathematical reasoning and as “proof” of intellectual inferiority on the African subcontinent. But, if sheep are not standardized units, as there is no reason to believe them to be, then doesn’t it make sense that the second sheep might be worth far more than the first? And then doesn’t our premise of 2 + 2 = 4 look awfully naive?

I cannot think of a better way to keep minorities ignorant of mathematics than by turning the subject into yet another showcase for historical grievances. After all, these students/soon-to-be real world participants won’t be able to make change at the store, or prepare the EZ federal tax form, but they will know that Christopher Columbus initiated a genocide against the native peoples of the Americas …

… many of whom, it just so happens, were pretty good at math.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. Follow him on Twitter @ColossusRhodey.

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Group aims to tackle ‘what it means to have whiteness’ and how to be ‘part of the solution’

Stonehill College has launched a campus group for white students to discuss “what it means to have whiteness” – and what they can do to help offset the perceived injustices caused by their skin color.

“Exploring Whiteness” was introduced at the private, Massachusetts-based Catholic college this fall, and will delve into how “identity and privilege intersect,” an online description of the club states.

“White students want a place to explore what it means to be white,” Liza Talusan, the director of the Office of Intercultural Affairs, told The College Fix in a telephone interview. “Forever, you’ve grown up being told not to talk about it — that diversity is for brown people —they’re so scarred from being told for so long that they can’t talk about it.”

Common themes expected to be explored include “what it means to have whiteness, what is white as a cultural experience, systemic and institutional privileges that are associated with whiteness, and the ways in which white allies can interrupt the cycle of racism in our society,” a description of the group states.

The dialogue group will meet weekly, led by a couple of student facilitators, and discuss personal experiences related to diversity and how they can correct related social injustices. The group will not be focused on political or related topics.

“We don’t want them to feel like they have to have a position on political topics and risk being criticized,” Talusan said. “They’ll be given one assignment a week that just has to do with noticing. Like spending a week looking at who is in positions of power and who is cleaning up after the show. The goal for any of these groups is for people to be more aware of what’s around them.”

As the name and description suggest, only “those identifying as white” will be allowed to participate in the discussion group.

“All of our groups are self-identified, so if they self-identify as white, of course they’ll be welcome, but if they can’t articulate a connection, we’ll tell them no,” Talusan said. “It needs to feel like a safe space where people won’t judge them.”

She said the group is deliberately titled to ensure it’s not misrepresented as a “white power group,” and an online description explains the group is for “students from European heritage backgrounds who come together to discuss issues of diversity and their desire to engage in inclusion work.”

Stonehill led a pilot version of the group last year in which 10 to 12 students participated. Talusan said bigger numbers are expected for this year due to the interest shown from almost 30 students at the college’s recent activities fair.

The group held its first meeting on Sept. 8, at which four students attended in addition to the student facilitators, she said.

Talusan said she believes the group benefits the college community and hopes other colleges follow suit in establishing similar groups.

“My entire philosophy is that one type of person can’t solve the world’s problems, we have to work together,” she said. “When we run programs that exclude identities, we’re not making a lot of progress. Instead, we’re just paddling a boat with one oar.”

“We’re proud that after all of this, white students are saying ‘No, I want to be part of the solution,’” she added. “To move forward, we have to make sure all of our oars are in the water.”

“Exploring Whiteness” joins the already established cultural and diversity groups on campus, of which there are many, including clubs for Black and Asian students, and several to support the LGBTQ campus community.

The school also offers the: Campus Conversations on Diversity Series; DiverCity Festival; Diversity on Campus (D.O.C.); Diversity Networking Group; Diversity and Inclusion Networking Event (D.I.N.E.); Diversity Committee of Student Government Association; Faculty and Staff of Color Group; Intercultural Experience Program (IEP); Raising Awareness of our Cultural Experiences (R.A.C.E.) discussion group; and Stonehill Alumni of Color Group.

College Fix reporter Macaela Bennett is a student at Hillsdale College.

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IMAGE: PennStateNews/Flickr

Ask 100 people to define social justice, and you’ll get 100 different answers.

Yet this vague expression that means various things to various people has been unfurled at campuses across America as the banner under which social-progressive causes are successfully funded and pushed.

Take the Center for Social Justice at the University of Oklahoma, an initiative of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. One of the center’s biggest projects right now is to push for “reproductive rights” in a “red state.” In other words, their definition of social justice is to make it easier for women to abort unborn children in a Republican-dominated region.

At Brandeis University, their idea of social justice is “racial justice,” and it sent a team of students to the Deep South to unearth more examples of racism from America’s past.

Rutgers University links social justice with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer rights through its Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities. Its main project is to train members how to defend the rights of homosexuals.

Social justice is also combined with judicial activism, as the University of Cincinnati’s school of law teaches students how to defend perceived injustices against feminism, gender, race and income in the courts.

At San Diego State University, Students for Justice in Palestine have labeled their effort to stop the campus from doing business with Israeli companies a “social justice” campaign.

When the Catholic Loyola University Chicago passed a resolution titled “The Undocumented Student Act” that called for administrators to “support the presence and integration of” and provide financial aid and scholarships to students in the country illegally – it was done so under the banner of social justice.

Diversity, feminism, gay rights, Palestinian angst, differences in income, immigration reform – any left-leaning fan favorite that needs more “empowerment” through “social change agents” is what social justice amounts to at college campuses today.

Loyola this month released a video montage of students defining social justice in their own way, a video which purports to suggest that social justice is ultimately “love.” In reality, social justice pushes a liberal agenda on campuses under the guise of “love.” 

Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix ( Follow Jenn on Twitter @JenniferKabbany )

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IMAGE: YouTube screenshot

Following last week’s “#FelonCrushFriday” which sprung up due to the story of one (handsome) Jeremy Meeks, Harvard’s Eva Shang, the director of the Women and Men’s Empowerment and Prison Education Program at the University’s House of Public Service (there’s a mouthful), says that Meeks is no more worthy of our sympathy than other criminals. She also holds society culpable for the US’s high incarceration rate. USA Today reports:

Call me a naïve 18-year-old, but I believe that Meeks isn’t the exception. He is not the only incarcerated person worthy of our compassion.

As a volunteer, I’ve seen firsthand how affable, kind and just human people entangled with the criminal justice system can be. Walter, one of the men I worked with, cried all of one Tuesday morning because his wife of nine years was in the hospital, and he wasn’t sure if she would make it through. Like Meeks, he had children and a family and an immense capacity to feel — just like each one of us.

The American criminal justice system currently imprisons around 2.4 million people, including 71,000 juveniles. This doesn’t mean that we are responsible for 25% of the world’s evil, but rather than we’ve failed to give 2.4 million people a fair opportunity to succeed and then, once they’ve committed a crime, shoved them into a hostile criminal justice system that further alienates them from the rest of society.

Shang continues, noting that “broader society” has “cheated” many out of “the same opportunities for success,” and that “there is no fundamental distinction between ‘good people’ and ‘bad people.'”

Read the full article here.

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