Category ACTIVISM

EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION

Illustration by Jess Baker

On Friday, February 12, Egyptians took their country back. After 18 days of revolt, it was the first in 30 years without Hosni Mubarak, one of the most powerful dictators in the region, and a man who just hours before resigning had defiantly declared he would see out the rest of his term. With his resignation, Mubarak met protesters’ demands to dissolve Parliament on February 13th, promising to return authority to civilian, democratically elected rule. As of this writing, The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces holds authority.

WikiLeaks, Part 1 – Background & Legitimacy

WikiLeaks is publishing documents, opening governments, changing the world.

In early 2007, Australia native Julian Assange launched the polarizing website along with other activists, dissidents, mathematicians, and computer experts from six different continents.

WikiLeaks vows to accept “restricted or censored material of political, ethical, diplomatic or historical significance,” but reject “rumor, opinion, other kinds of first hand accounts, or material that is publicly available elsewhere.” Assange and his colleagues then review and edit submissions, attained via secure online uploading applications and a discreet postal network, to publish documents that generate “maximum political impact.”Assange has pithily summarized WikiLeaks’ philosophy: “The method is transparency; the goal is justice.”

WikiLeaks, Part 2 – Media Analysis

How Free is our Press?

WikiLeaks promises their anonymous, whistle-blowing sources that they will work for “maximum political impact.” Like them or not, they keep their word. The transnational transparency-advocating journalists stormed American and international discourse by publishing secret diplomatic cables. America responded. Some consider WikiLeaks heroic, daring to speak truth to power, and some consider the organization terroristic, threatening to undermine American diplomacy worldwide.

Constitutional lawyer and civil liberties writer Glenn Greenwald, for Salon.com, finds public reactions quite disturbing.

WikiLeaks, Part 3 – Interview with FAIR

Interview with Steve Rendall, Senior Analyst for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) on WikiLeaks and American reactions to the U.S. diplomatic cable release.

Is WikiLeaks a journalistic entity?
Well of course it is, because it receives information, it collects information, it publishes information, it edits it. If you look at its website, information is edited, it’s commented upon. Of course it’s a journalistic outfit.

JACKSONADER

 

Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson Photo by David Chapman

 

On a campus that has long had a reputation for students who cared little about the world around them, calls for collective action against the powerful were met with excitement, respect, and admiration.

“The people who are not organized become serfs of those who are organized,” said Ralph Nader, author, activist, and former Green Party Presidential candidate, to great applause during a talk in Kendall Hall.

ON PROTEST & POWER

Very recent memory has born witness to the eruption of fervent protests, in both our country and the Middle East. While the protests in the Middle East have been met with violence, suppression, and yet, revolutionary progress for some, those in the United States, which have incurred hardly any governmental reaction, have amounted to little consequence for the status quo. It is my belief that this dichotomy is rooted in a millennia-old mechanic of social order and control: the tolerance of free speech as a means to mitigate social change.

GREEN & YELLOW, BLACK & BLUE

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

You might ask yourself, as one does from time to time, “What’s going on in the world right now?” I recommend you check out what’s going on in Bahrain and Libya especially because there are a lot of pictures of people burned to death or with their brains lying next to them and it’s super fucked up. There are, however, some pretty important things going on right here on the home-front, also; for instance, the shit going down right now in Wisconsin, where government employees are protesting the governor’s plan to fuck them over.

On face, this is a question of balancing the state budget in Wisconsin. The question is, “Should Wisconsin balance its budget by making state workers take a hit to their pensions and health care plans?”

Obama’s Occupations

In the 2010 midterm elections, Democrat Mike McIntyre won reelection over Tea Party Republican Ilario Pantano, who served in Iraq with the Marine Corps, in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. Second lieutenant Ilario Pantano openly admits and legitimizes his participation in the 2005 fatal point-blank shooting of two Iraqis, who on his campaign website he describes as “terrorists.”
Obama's War
The two Iraqis were executed at a detention point near Falluja, where Pantano emptied the clip of his M16A4 into these two men, then reloaded and emptied another fresh clip into their bodies — already corpses –totalling nearly 60 shots fired. A later search of the Iraqis’ truck revealed no weapons. Pantano adorned the corpses with a placard bearing the Marine Core motto: “No better friend, No worse enemy.”

Military judges dropped all charges against Pantano due to “insufficient evidence,” despite witnesses claiming the two detainees were non-threats and were kneeling on the ground prior to the shooting.

Pantano was honorably discharged and proceeded to run for Congress. McIntyre avoided both the murders and Pantano’s belief that the Park51 community center planned for New York City represents Islamic “religious, ideological and territorial conquest” of the West.

These issues of murder and anti-Islamic hate were largely sidestepped in the election, downplayed in media coverage of the campaign.

The anti-war movement in the United States is lying dormant.

Pine Ridge Poverty

Pine Ridge, a Native American reservation in South Dakota, is one of the poorest places in the Western Hemisphere:

A Lakota on Pine Ridge receives on average $3,700 annually from the tribal trust fund, less than an American citizen receiving welfare.

National unemployment rate is at ~10%.

Unemployment in Pine Ridge is at ~90%.

Alcoholism rates in Pine Ridge are over 80%.

Life expectancy at Pine Ridge is 47 years for men and 54 years for women, second lowest in the Western Hemisphere only to Haiti.

There is one dilapidated supermarket for roughly 45,000 residents on Pine Ridge, far southwest in a corner of the reservation, inaccessible to most. A middle-aged old man with skin the color of the earth and weathered beyond his years, stands beside the entrance to a memorial of his ancestors at Wounded Knee. It was here that the resistance and dream of his people died in 1890, when over 350 Oglala Lakota men, women, and children were massacred by the U.S. 7th Calvary. He tells us this story, and at its conclusion asked for a few dollars; he does this with dignity, yet it seems an activity he is accustomed to. He needs the money to pay for a two-hour, out-of-state drive to the nearest supermarket — a Wal-Mart in Nebraska — for enough food to last a few weeks, and then he will once again begin saving for the trip.

The Demise of DC++ (?)

DC++

A few week ago, College administrators finally disbanded the popular file-sharing program DC++, through which countless TCNJ students have happily uploaded and downloaded files for years. The death sentence closely followed the publication of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which quoted a current TCNJ student responsible for maintaining the “Hub,” as it is informally known.

The April 18 article, which referred to the Hub as a means of “illegal swapping of copyrighted media,” generated negative publicity for the College after it was posted on Slashdot.org, a popular technology news website.

Students who maintained the Hub this year allege that the College’s handling of the ensuing controversy has been sorely hypocritical. “Everyone in the Information Technology (IT) Department has known about the Hub for years,” said one of the program’s moderators, who asked to be identified by his alias, MrWhite. It was only after the College’s began to experience blowback from the Chronicle article that they decided to take action.

Nadine Stern, Vice President for Information Technology and Enrollment Services at TCNJ, initially told the Chronicle, “We’ve made the decision not to be detectives and not to look for it,” when asked about the presence of file-sharing on the campus network. Only four days later, however, her position changed drastically. In a sternly worded campus-wide email, she stated, “The College takes illegal file sharing seriously. Therefore, we will begin to take technological steps to block the DC++ application, and we will pursue disciplinary action as appropriate.”

The subject of that disciplinary action, a TCNJ senior who requested anonymity, said he received an email accusing him of copyright violation after the College’s IT team had traced the IP address of the Hub to his particular computer.

“The box was in my room,” said the former moderator, “but I don’t really think that constitutes any violation of copyright law.” He was summoned to meet with Ryan Farnkopf, Assistant Director of Student Conduct.

“‘The box is in your room,” Farnkopf reportedly said, “and files are being transferred through it.’” The moderator said he corrected him, responding, “No, no files were ever traveling through that computer. The computer is literally just a chat room where two people can connect directly to each other and share their files,” he explained.

The former moderator was accused of violating the College’s Computing Access Agreement, though he asserted that “nowhere in the Computing Access Agreement does it say anything specifically about file-sharing.”

Further, MrWhite said the Chronicle article “grossly distorted what the Hub is… They made it seem as if it’s like a big mysterious box, chock-full of copyrighted files that we all surreptitiously move around.” But in reality, he said, there is nothing inherently illegal about the Hub, which at its essence merely is a chat room through which users can access shared files on other computers throughout the campus network. “Because all file transfers are handled directly between the uploading and downloading computers,” he continued, “the Hub itself cannot see what files are being transferred. So there is no way for the Hub operator to know whether or not any users are using it for copyright infringement.”

Indignant, the anonymous senior said he knows of several individuals currently working for the College’s IT department who themselves actively used the Hub. And it was these same people who were apparently involved in locating the current moderator for disciplining. “It’s hypocritical that they’re going after a couple of students when full-time employees were using it,” he said.

He also said that some IT employees “spend so much time on the school computers playing video games” – in particular, Team Fortress 2 – which unlike the Hub represents an actual violation of the College’s Computing Access Agreement: “Use of College computing resources by College employees for personal use without the approval of the department in which the resource is located.”

The former moderator declined to participate in a formal disciplinary hearing, saying that it would have been a “waste of a day” because he felt he was preemptively deemed guilty. “I’m being used as a scapegoat,” he added.

Luckily, this debacle will not appear on any transcripts for the senior, but it will stay on his disciplinary record for about five years after he graduates.

FIGHTBACK TCNJ

We all know, cuts abound: money continues to be surreptitiously funneled away from public education reserves, putting desperate strain on K-12 school districts throughout the state, as well as on our own college. So where has all the aid gone? Yes, everything is being cut – ostensibly because New Jersey is trying to close an $11 billion budget deficit.

Troublesome economic times call for more careful prioritization of public funds, not aimless dismantling of any conceivable program. Education – an indispensable investment in the future – should be the last stock from which to divest.

In this spirit, a coalition of students, faculty, union leaders, college staff, and parents have joined to form FIGHT BACK TCNJ, an advocacy group aiming to build a democratic, grassroots, activist movement in defense of public education and in opposition to Governor Chris Christie’s budget cuts. Awareness, discussion and support is mediated largely through its interactive web site, FIGHTBACKTCNJ.org.

Their first major initiative was a “teach-in” on April 21, an educational event intended to increase awareness of ongoing class-oriented struggles that have culminated in Gov. Christie’s unprecedented withdrawal of state education funding.

Why care? To assume that everything will be accounted for would be naïve; to assume we can have no impact on the policy-making process is only more so. Having money is the only way to make our values correspond with concrete services and activities – whether we like or not, money is the privilege to do things.

Many of the College’s programs will inevitably have to go, and student groups face a voting process to determine what TCNJ can afford to keep. This may not be the worst of all consequences,and college students may not feel the full force of the financial burden now, but the old strategy of divide and conquer is at work.

The reality is that this burden is merely being paddled back and forth; right now high schools face the deepest cuts, but in years past higher education bore the brunt of the burden. Rather than disregard the severity and relevance of current cuts for K-12 schools and playing into the government’s stratagem, it is imperative that New Jerseyans unite to defend public education. A strong showing of elementary and secondary education majors attended the sessions, but they should not be the only ones to care about the welfare of the future. April 21 was an all-day kickoff of five sessions and an evening plenary designed to understand current budget woes within the context of a broader social narrative.

First session speaker, Trina Scordo, introduced us to the theoretical and historical basis for the existence of unions. I’ll admit I never allotted much thought to or care for unions. As far as I was concerned, they simply exist; you join a profession, you join the corresponding union – standard operating procedure. However, many people are rightfully suspicious of unions. Scordo addressed this distrust and how it came about when the bargaining process was formalized. In stuffing the working class into suits and setting them opposite the table from business officials, the working class should expect the unfortunate results – no concessions from higher-ups. Once union representatives enmesh themselves too deeply in the process, they become removed from the constituents they are supposed to represent.

But she asked us instead why, rather than being angry at government employees who receive good benefits and pensions, as Christie is encouraging the public to do, we don’t make demands and work for ourselves: for better education and better benefits? A striking point, she made. Truth is, we are tentative to make demands; the concept of “to each his due” comes under fire. What one deserves by right (as opposed to what one is entitled to by merit) conflicts with the individualism and capitalist ethic, which America holds by the claws. It is not something I could easily let go, but working from an agreed rather than decreed baseline is an attractive idea.

Students have the right to demand the highest quality teachers and professors; however, it is difficult to reform a system that does not take student complaints seriously. The session revealed the relevance of unions and how students can harness their voices. The process of how we are allowed to make change says just as much, if not more, about how much leverage we really have.

One of the second session pairs was a throwback to the 1960s: lessons from movements. One student brought up the hippie culture associated with the activism of which we tend to think – what came first, the culture or the reform? Second opinions emerged from faculty as to which historical organizations best represent the current situation and if they failed, how and why. Here’s an easy SparkNotes version: activism spreads when people who care about one issue are apt to see the struggles of another group. Every issue relates in some way to nearly every other issue, and the synergy created by individuals and groups working collaboratively makes for substantial accomplishments on all fronts. No lecture attendance necessary.

Students don’t have the power to shut anything down in order to prove a point, but they have always been the passion behind a tired work force that can do so. Even there we may be proving them wrong with recent high school walkouts – hello, empowerment.

Reactions are proof; Michael Drewniak, Gov. Christie’s press secretary, hoped to dismiss the walkouts as “motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever – and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey,” and said students “belong in the classroom.”

Governor Chris Christie was no more pleased: “The schools did a lousy job in really permitting…students to walk out in the middle of the school day. Their parents send them there not to protest.; they send them there to learn. And I have no problem with students protesting. They have absolutely every right to exercise their first amendment rights. But they should exercise their first amendment rights either before school or right after school.”

Drewniak wasn’t wrong, and said himself, “Students would be better served if they were given a full, impartial understanding of the problems that got us here in the first place.” Why are the details of the budget cuts, then, not more public than they are?

Gov. Christie has a point, students are sent to school to learn; but what drove scores of high school students to walk out on their classes? One might consider that they saw walkouts during the school day as more effective than before or after-school rallies. Regardless, having to demand an explanation for the budget cuts is as good as hiding it, and protesting in such a manner casts doubt on the willingness of school systems to listen.

Drewniak seemed to suspect students were motivated by a biased, narrow-minded understanding, and it feels that students have somehow been pitted against the rest of the state. Yet the 15 sheer scope of the budget crisis should be regarded as the real problem.

The remaining attendees gathered in the Social Science Atrium after dinner for a small but powerful rally cry to close the divide between students, faculty, and legislators. Nearing the end of the night, senior Matt Hoke made an interesting point: colleges and other institutions churn students out to replace the infrastructure of the country as we know it.

We as students are both customers and products of schools; then why are we paying so much money – money we have no power over – if the stability of the work world depends on us equally as we do on it?

The origin of unions may not appear relevant, yet as one of the last session speakers, Nagesh Rao, said, “You can’t take a snapshot of how things are today without looking at where things are and how they got there.” We may just be in the same predicament as those workers today. It may not be a comfortable thought, but there is a lesson to be learned: stagnant apathy is no way to work toward a better status quo.

I noticed during this finale, a few onlookers leaning over the second floor balcony with cool removal, crossed feet and suited, presumably for another event. I became aware of the disconnect, and it took me out of the teach-in’s warm enclave. I am sure that they only heard something about unions and students among the echoes of shouts. I am not even sure if the thought that the ensuing noise pertained to them, had even crossed their minds. Whatever your views, watch your allocation of funds, and you may be able to return to business as usual.

BRIAN R. HACKETT SPEAKS AT CPAC

TCNJ’s own Brian R. Hackett, senior political science major and former College Republicans chairman, addressed the annual CPAC convention in Washington, D.C. on Friday, February 19. Hackett was selected to appear alongside other young conservative activists from around the country. 

THE GIT ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

BY R. BARBARA GITENSTEIN

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM DECEMBER:

“I am always supportive of our students’ right and responsibility to express their political opinions, regardless of the issue under discussion or the stance they may take. Specifically, in regard to the “Freedom of religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act” (S1967/A2978), I believe the question to be considered by the legislature is one of equality and civil rights.”

R. BARBARA GITENSTEIN is the president of the College

TCNJ FOR FREE SPEECH: Support, Oppose, or Feel Apathetic Towards Tucker Max

By GLENN EISENBERG

Members of our campus community have been flinging around the terms “freedom of speech” and “censorship” without much thought to what they truly entail—rendering them nothing more than buzzwords and diminishing their actual meaning.

TCNJ ACTIVISM RECAP: FALL ’09

BY GLENN EISENBERG

Last semester was an undeniably exciting one for activists at the College of New Jersey. We organized a panel on healthcare reform, took sixty students to Washington DC for a 200,000 person march for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) equality, hosted discussions on the War in Afghanistan, counter-demonstrated homophobic street preachers, and organized many other events.

However, some activists on campus have begun to feel cast aside by some of their more radical classmates—who have, intentionally or not, belittled the efforts of their peers.

A NOTE ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY

By M.C. TRACEY

There is little momentum behind the New Jersey marriage equality bill, The New York Times website’s front page curiously suggested this evening. Somehow, however, they’re not seeing what I’m seeing. In reality, we have plenty of reasons to be (cautiously) optimistic. The NYT’s claim, I would therefore argue, is unsubstantiated. But unfortunately we’re now seeing it being reported throughout the state.

I’m not quite sure how this media narrative first materialized — but it’s being widely propagated. And it needs to be stopped in its tracks, lest public opinion be damned.

Let’s look at the facts:

Sen. Steve Sweeney, who was today elected senate president, made comments last week that were interpreted by one PolitickerNJ reporter to suggest that the senator wasn’t in favor of bringing the marriage equality bill to a vote. But in the original PolitickerNJ article, Sweeney was never directly quoted as saying this, and quickly issued a statement affirming that same-sex marriage is “an important social issue” and would be on the lame-duck legislative agenda.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg intervened, calling on Sweeney to reaffirm his commitment to the bill’s passage. After the initial dust had settled, though, it all seemed like much adieu about nothing. Again, from PolitickerNJ:

Update, 9:42pm — Citing a miscommunication with Sweeney, Weinberg offered this revised statement:

“I think there has been a miscommunication between Steve Sweeney and myself. I look forward to talking to him personally. It really is up to Senate President Dick Codey to make a decision about pushing this bill forward, and the Judiciary Committee Chair [state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) has informed me that he will post the bill.”

This, along with just about every other development related to the prospects of winning marriage equality in New Jersey, is excellent news. The result of today’s lobbying in Trenton was invigorating; we vastly outnumbered the opposition, who were out in full force. I was personally able to hand-deliver a letter from the TCNJ College Democrats in support of the bill to Sen. Sarlo. TV, radio, and internet ads are now going on the air. Public opinion polls show a plurality of support for same-sex marriage. Garden State Equality has spent an unbelievable amount of time and energy organizing the LGBT community and its allies for this very moment. Democratic legislators are aware that by reneging on their commitments, they will be upsetting a very large proportion of their progressive base.

Further, college students (including myself) have organized a large rally in Trenton, scheduled for Saturday, December 5.

Please come, and invite your friends and colleagues. Let me know if you’d like to become an admin on Facebook (so you can invite people). This rally will likely closely coincide with the time around when the bill will have hopefully been brought to a vote, so a visible presence at the State House is vitally important! The opposition is sure to be out in full-force again. By outnumbering them, we are achieving a valuable psychological victory. And remember, changing trends in public sentiment are often much more consequential than the timing of arcane procedural votes. Legislators, especially state legislators, are very sensitive to the demands of their constituents.

These are the facts, despite the alleged doom-and-gloom reported by certain media outlets. Things, I can say with confidence, are looking up. No doubt, we have to keep vigorously applying pressure to our legislators, many of whom are endlessly frustrating with their ambiguously tenuous statements of support — if only there were more Loretta Weinbergs. But think of how far we’ve come, and how close to achieving our goal we now are.

Let’s kick it into high gear.

Crossposted at Blue Jersey.

COLLEGE DEMOCRATS DIVIDED

Having missed the last few College Democrats meetings, David Chapman was surprised to learn that the group had voted to no longer actively support Jon Corzine in the upcoming gubernatorial election. But despite the unexpected revocation, Corzine/Weinberg signs still hang

RAO

Dr. Nagesh Rao is a professor of literature at the College. Nagesh, as he prefers to be called, is a proud member of the International Socialist Organization, and encourages his activist students to follow suit.

Let Them Sit

It’s only 4:00pm, and a dull pain is already starting to work its way up Yolanda’s lower back. She may only take two breaks over the course of her eight-hour day, one ten minutes long and the other thirty, so timing is key; the chastened Sodexo employee must choose wisely. Soon, a barrage of hungry students will queue in the Eickhoff Hall vestibule, their faded identification cards in tow, and Yolanda will provide them with access to the eatery. By way of distraction, the pain will be temporarily alleviated. But it will still be there, lingering, and Yolanda will still be standing.

TCNJ ACLU REVIVED

After being dormant for nearly two years, TCNJ’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is being restored. Perspective executive editor Glenn Eisenberg, with the assistance of the ACLU-NJ, has begun organizing meetings for ACLU-TCNJ. The club has had several meetings and has established the long-term goal of getting an overbearing TCNJ policy or New Jersey law changed. The club meets Fridays at 3:30 on the second floor of the Student Center above the Rathskeller.

SINGER SPEAKS

By M.C. TRACEY

Princeton professor and noted philosopher Peter Singer visited TCNJ on October 20 to discuss his new book, The Life You Can Save. His 1975 manifesto, Animal Liberation, is widely credited as the touchstone of the modern animal rights movement. Singer sat down with The Perspective to discuss vegetarianism, politics, and the rights of non-human animals.