Featured in this week’s Harbinger!
Featured in this week’s Harbinger!
By The Student Union of Michigan
The past few decades have seen a dramatic shift in our university and universities around the country. Once widely accessible to the people of our state, University of Michigan tuition has gradually risen beyond the reach of many incomes. This forces deserving students to either search elsewhere for their education or take on thousands of dollars of debt. This trend has many causes and consequences, but for students there is one solution: student power.
Blockaders have locked themselves to tanker trucks outside of the Valero Refinery in Houston, TX.
Every day dozens of trucks like these invade the neighborhood with dangerous oil stocks and chemicals. Adding insult to injury, Valero plans to further threaten the health and safety of its neighbors by bringing tar sands from KXL into this community…The Blockade is sending a message: “Enough is Enough! No Tar Sands— Not Now, Not Ever!”
The Gaza death toll has reached 111, including 27 children, since Israel launched more than 1,350 Operation Pillar of Defense aerial and sea attacks on November 14. More than 900 have been injured.
The Israel death toll stands at three people. More than 60 have been injured by rockets fired from Gaza.
This week, unions won remarkable victories in Chicago and Quebec against the right-wing agenda of gutting public education. In Quebec, the right-wing provincial government had imposed a huge increase in university tuition, almost doubling it. This prompted student unions to organize massive months-long strikes which ultimately brought down the province government. In response to this pressure, the new Parti Québécois government immediately repealed the tuition increase.
In Chicago, the Democrat mayor Rahm Emanuel has been attacking public education and the Chicago Teachers Union since taking office, attempting to extract extra unpaid work from teachers, privatize schools, increase class sizes, strip schools of libraries, art and music programs and further expand standardized testing. After fruitless negotiations, 90% of the Chicago Teachers Union voted to strike. Enjoying massive public support, the strike was a success; the teachers forced major concessions from the mayor and his school board.
By Liana Kallman
Though we, the people may like to pretend that it is we the people who make the decisions in our country, the implementation of our laws is in the hands of a select minority: the police. This means that the way a police officer chooses to understand and enforce the law is a key part of how our country is governed. This may sound like an overstatement of the job description of a police officer, but it really is the police force which chooses and defines how our laws are enforced or ignored. For this reason, the police are among the many groups that are to blame for the injustices perpetuated by our justice system, most notably the phenomenon of the mass incarceration of men of color.
This perversion of justice arises directly from the selective implementation of “stop and search” or “stop and frisk” policies. In the fourth amendment to the Constitution, civilians are granted “the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…” The controversy lies in the interpretation of ‘probable cause’ for a search or seizure. While the Supreme Court did address the interpretation of this ambiguous phrase in the case United States v. Brignoni-Ponce (1975) by ruling that race can be used as a factor in deciding whether to stop and search or frisk an individual, the court left it up to the police to determine just how significant a factor. Judging by the statistics for stops and frisks in New York City last year, race is more than just a factor that goes along with “suspicious activity.” It is the deciding factor. Despite the fact that black and Hispanic people make up less than half of the population in New York City, eighty seven percent of all stops were performed on minorities. In fact, there were more stops performed on young black men in 2011 than actual young black men living in the city. Similar statistics can be found across the country; For example, in Volusia County, Florida only 5% of the drivers are minorities yet eighty percent of all stops and searches are performed on minorities. These statistics show an enormous racial bias in the way stop and searches are executed, leaving no doubt that racism against young men of color is a defining feature of our criminal justice system.
Recently, news has come from Iran that seventy-seven programs offered in thirty-six Iranian public universities have suddenly been closed to female students. The majority of these programs are in mathematics, health and physical sciences and other high tech fields, and women represented seventy percent of university enrollment in these programs (they represent sixty-six percent of all university students nation wide). In its response to the situation, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) points out it has taken American women three hundred and fifty years for enrollment in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields to reach parity with men, largely due to institutional and cultural bias. The AAUW fears that this will have a disastrous impact on Iranian women’s pursuit of STEM research.
Ellen, the SSU member who brought our attention to this article, had an initial response of “Whoa, I’m glad I don’t live in a country that subjugates women like that,” but immediately followed that up with an “Oy, hang on a minute…” Western women are fortunate to enjoy the same legal status as men in western countries, but women must still confront challenges that men don’t need to address in their daily lives. When we think about the plight of women in places like Iran, do we really have anything to complain about?
Famous atheist Christopher Hitchens ridiculed the story of sexual harassment in an elevator during an atheist conference written by Rebecca Watson. In an attempt at satire, Hitchens penned a letter from “Rebecca Watson” to our Middle Eastern sisters: “Stop whining will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and…yawn…don’t tell me again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.”
American women do enjoy certain legal freedoms which our sisters in some Middle East countries do not. We are indeed allowed to drive cars, we can leave the house unaccompanied and we can take part in STEM fields.
However, how many “woman driver” jokes did the average person, man or woman, grow up with? I certainly recall driving 2 accident-free hours to my grandfather’s house the day I got my driver’s license, backing in to his narrow garage stall without hitting anything, and still getting an ear full of “crazy woman driver” jokes from the old man who rented a room from him. “Why couldn’t Helen Keller drive?” Let me just say that if the punchline of that joke does not involve the fact that she was blind and lived in a time before automobiles were commonly available to the general public, the joke teller is looking to get cock-punched, even if he is 75 years old.
By Ellen Nelson
“America’s war on religion.” Religious conservatives, it seems, are using this term increasingly often. What exactly does it mean? Is the government shutting down churches? Are religious people being denied their rights as Americans? Are they prosecuted for praying? The answer to these questions is, of course, no; the “war on religion” that is being talked about so much, especially now that the election is in plain sight, is a much more enigmatic issue. First, we must determine what religion exactly is in this war. Who feels attacked and why? In the case of “America’s war on religion,” conservative Christians feel that their religious liberties are being taken away by legislation that allows homosexual people to serve in the military (and in some states, receive marriage equality), allows women to have contraception available to them in their healthcare plans and does not allow for religious teachings or practices within public schools. Despite what is known about social justice, women’s health, and the separation of church and state in our modern society, these Christians have a point; the old testament of the Bible, the scripture of Christianity, mentions the wrong in homosexuality, and that people should ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and teach the word of God everywhere. But is this all that there is to Christianity? What exactly is at stake in this war?
According to Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, a Christian is someone who is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.” So people who say that they are Christians follow the teachings of Jesus. Just what would those teachings be? Let’s take a brief, objective look at the life and message of the historical Jesus. Whether one believes he was the true Son of God or not, he was indeed a real person, confirmed by scholars, who had some important things to say.
Although there are discrepancies between the four gospels of the life of Jesus, certain teachings ring through to scholars as what was accurately said and done. We know for a fact that, above all else, Jesus wanted people to love their neighbors and enemies, that he had no tolerance for rich people and believed that religion and politics should not be mixed up with one another. In the Gospel of Mark, chapter ten, Jesus makes his feelings toward the wealthy quite clear, when a rich man asks him what he must do to go to heaven: “’You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor…Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’”
A surge of questions likely flows through people’s minds when they are handed a radical zine such as this one. The primary one: why? Why are you handing me this? Why should a student at the University of Michigan become involved? I am sure you have at least some inkling that things in this country are not as they should be. Even from just the occasional news story, it’s easy to see that our society is far from the “American Dream.” However, the wide array of societal problems can often seem alien to us here on campus. Here at Michigan, haven’t we “made it”? Aren’t we, “the leaders and the best” on our way to a bright future?
The short answer to these questions is no. Our futures, not just as students but as people, are threatened- to a degree perhaps unparalleled in the past 40 years. Both within the university and outside of it, young people face issues that challenge our right to a better future. However, while we face these great challenges we retain the right and responsibility to fight back.
To start with, let’s look at a few of the problems that confront us as students at Michigan. For many of us, a basic challenge is the ever-rising cost of tuition. Each year, the cost of being a Wolverine rises hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. In the past twenty years, in-state tuition has more than tripled (adjusted for inflation), moving education beyond the grasp of many and forcing most of us to take on crippling debt. To ensure that the University of Michigan, and college in general, remains affordable, something needs to be done to change this pattern of oppressive costs.
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