This week, we want to highlight an essay published this week, “I fought academia’s cult of civility and all I got was this lousy PTSD diagnosis” by Naima Lowe. In it, Dr. Lowe details how her efforts to defend students’ right to protest at Evergreen State College put her in the crosshairs of right-wing hate groups. Bombarded by hate mail and threats (some of which she reprints in this essay along with the graphic, racist images she was sent), she attempted to find institutional support. While her story reveals how institutions are not equipped to protect faculty members who are doxxed and threatened by outside groups, it also demonstrates how her institution was unwilling to help her and instead found ways to find her responsible: by deeming her behavior uncivil, by equating her anger about racism with the hate flooding her in-box, by claiming an institutional need to “remain neutral.” We were impressed by Dr. Lowe’s honesty and courage in publishing this searing account of her experiences. It is a singular story, but we think her analysis makes it useful for all of us, and we urge you to read it.
As all of you likely know, last Wednesday, on February 14th, a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 people and wounded 14 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This school shooting is the 18th in 2018, which, as Amy Goodman points out, means that there has been a school shooting every 60 hours so far this year. The ongoing death toll is painfully large: since 2012, when 26 people–including 20 first graders–were killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide and 138 deaths.
While young people are vulnerable to gun-related injury and death in many spaces beyond schools, due to the general proliferation of guns in U.S. society , school shootings provoke a painful cycle that we’ve now seen many times: outrage and sorrow; thoughts and prayers; calls for more gun control; no change in gun control laws; shooting forgotten till the next one happens.
What might make a difference and break the cycle in this case is that the young people directly affected by this latest shooting are organizing and demanding change, and they’re being joined by young people all over the country. Emma Gonzalez, whose impassioned speech inspired the photo above, called out politicians for their inaction and declared:
We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That’s going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook and it’s going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students.
Students have organized themselves to ask for change on the state and federal level: marching to Tallahassee, having a die-in at the White House, and walkouts and rallies on February 21st, the one-week anniversary of the Parkland shooting. More actions have also been planned: rally on the March 14th (one month anniversary of the shooting); a March on Washington on March 24th; and another walkout on April 20th (April 20th, 1999, was when the Columbine school massacre occurred.) There are a number of sites that are working to keep track of all the planned actions; March for our Lives’ FB page is one of those.
We are inspired by and stand with these students as we stand with all the young people who have long been organizing for change in their schools, including demanding more equitable funding; safe and supportive spaces for transgender and gender non-conforming youth; and culturally relevant curriculum including critical ethnic studies courses.
- As Lindsay Nichols, the federal policy director for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, puts it: “Children are also at risk in concerts, in movie theaters, and often very times at home. We have a epidemic of murder-suicides in this country, that are often preceded by domestic violence. And we need to look at that in that larger context and remember that schools are just—are actually, overall, relatively safe places for children to be, when you talk about the larger impact on children and on all members of our society.
P.S. If you’re a teacher or a professor, you most likely have your retirement funds invested with TIAA-CREF. Please consider signing this petition to ask TIAA-CREF to divest from gun manufacturers.
In light of the news about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct over decades and the resurgence of the #metoo campaign, this week, we wanted to provide you with links to two articles that examine the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses.
The first provides a summary of what’s been happening with Title IX regulations and guidances since the appointment of Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education.
The second article examines the parallels between the entertainment industry and academia in terms of the prevalence of sexual misconduct and how allegations are handled.
Finally, the Chronicle of Higher Education is conducting a survey about “What will it take for higher education to eliminate harassment and improve the climate? Over the years, have you seen change take place in your discipline, for better or worse?” so please consider contributing your ideas and experiences.
Final note: don’t forget to submit your burning questions to us about race/education/college campuses right here. It’s anonymous!
The recent Las Vegas mass shooting has us reflecting on guns in America and, because our habitus is the college campus, guns on university/college grounds. So this week’s links round-up brings together a few sources on this issue so that we can all be better informed:
Tower: A 2016 documentary about what’s seen as the first mass school shooting in the U.S.–a 1966 event at the University of Texas, Austin, that left 16 dead and 3 dozen wounded.
You might have heard of the “Cocks not Glocks” protest that happened at University of Texas at Austin last year. The symbol of the dildo was not chosen lightly. Students were drawing on a history of the absurdity that Texas outlaws the public display of dildos but not guns (covered in the 2002 documentary Dildo Diaries). Protest wasn’t limited to students. A dean of the school of architecture resigned at least in part due to the handgun laws and a professor is protesting them by wearing full combat gear in class.
In Kansas, at the end of the 2016-17 school year, a tenured professor resigned very publicly over similar new laws allowing guns on campus. Those laws started being enforced this last July, leading to a second professor in Kansas protesting by wearing a bulletproof vest to class, to bring attention to the issue of guns on campus.
You can look here for information about the various laws in different states about guns on college and university campuses. And this May 2017 article in the Atlantic provides insight into the complexities and burdens of enforcing gun laws on campuses.
Our hearts are heavy this morning as we woke up to the news of yet another Black person being shot and killed by the police, this time in a location close to us in Minnesota. As we grieve, get angry, and stand in solidarity with our Black friends and loved ones, we wanted to highlight a recent speech by actor and activist Jesse Williams. The linked article provides an annotated examination of the speech to give more context to the historical, systemic, and ongoing discrimination, violence, and marginalization faced by Black folks in the U.S.
We know it’s hard to figure out what to do following senseless and systemic violence like this but we know it’s important to get educated and speak up, which is why we really appreciated Williams’ speech. One way you can start to do that is by getting involved in your local chapter of #BlackLivesMatter by attending events and donating money. Also check out the still relevant #FergusonSyllabus.