• Chelsea Mourning: Harvard Students in a Snit over Her Cancellation as a Fellow

    Well, maybe “fellow” isn’t such a good title, either.

    In any case, Harvard students know oppression, imperialism, capitalism, and heteronormativity when they see it, and they are shouting back.

    Here’s the headline in the student newspaper:

    Outcry After Chelsea Manning Dropped from IOP Fellowship (The Crimson, Harvard)

    Controversy enveloped the Kennedy School of Government this weekend as critics on campus and around the country castigated the school for rescinding Chelsea Manning’s appointment as a visiting fellow this fall.

    Facing criticism on-campus and nationwide, Dean of the Kennedy School Douglas W. Elmendorf rescinded Manning’s invitation in a statement issued in the early hours of Friday, calling her selection a “mistake.”

    Now the school faces a fresh wave of controversy as commentators lambast Harvard’s decision to disinvite Manning, a transgender activist whose prison sentence former President Barack Obama commuted in 2017. –The Crimson

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    The Aggrieved Left Pushes Back

    They and Chelsea Manning are “Victims”

    The pushback from the campus left, which now sees itself in its preferred position of “blameless victim,” includes a letter condemning the university for dropping the Manning offer:

    In light of her selfless sacrifices as a whistleblower, her dedication to the truth, and her commitment to human rights, we call upon the Harvard Kennedy School to reinstate Chelsea Manning’s designation as a fellow at the Institute of Politics,” read the letter, signed by the Trans Task Force, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, and the Anti-Islamophobia Network, among several other groups. –Letter from student organizations supporting Chelsea Manning appointment at Harvard, quoted in The Crimson

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    The Crimson’s Reporting: Fair and Competent

    The Crimson article, it should be noted, is fair-minded and includes on-the-record quotes from university members on both sides of the controversy.

    Its reporting on a disputed left-right issue is actually superior to that of the NYT, Washington Post, and other media.

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    Framing This Issue is Contentious

    Comment: This dispute is framed in quite different ways by the opposing sides–and that framing matters.

    The left sees it as primarily a snub to Manning because of her gender reassignment.

    The right sees it as a reasonable decision about someone who leaked classified information.

    The left sees the leaking as a valuable public service.

    The right sees it as a crime that was properly punished by a court-martial.

    Both sides see the designation as a “Fellow” of the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics as an honor. One sees it as well deserved, the other as an endorsement of espionage.

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    FYI: The headline of this post, “Chelsea Mourning,” is a nod to Joni Mitchell:

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    Thanks to the wonderful Belladonna Rogers for this story

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, September 14

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Dreamer Deal Possible: Chuck, Nancy and Donald agree to work on deal to avoid deportations (Washington Post)

    The border wall is not included.

    Democratic leaders announced late Wednesday that they agreed with President Trump to pursue a legislative deal that would protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation and enact border security measures that don’t include building a physical wall. –Washington Post

    Republican leaders are on the outside, looking in.

    And some of Trump’s base is furious.

    In a sign of the potential trouble for the president, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an immigration hard-liner and early Trump supporter, wrote that if reports of a potential immigration deal are accurate, the president’s “base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.” –Washington Post

    Post-Irma tragedy: Eight patients died in south Florida nursing home without power during sweltering heat (Orlando Sun-Sentinel)

    Police have launched an investigation.

    Comment: One larger policy issue: Why doesn’t Florida require nursing homes to have generators?

    The Sun-Sentinel reports that 150 nursing homes (out of 700 in the state) are still without power.

    North Korea threats to reduce US to “ashes and darkness” and “sink Japan” (Reuters)

    Regional tensions have risen markedly since the reclusive North conducted its sixth, and by far its most powerful, nuclear test on Sept. 3.

    The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously on a U.S.-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday in response, banning North Korea’s textile exports that are the second largest only to coal and mineral, and capping fuel supplies.

    The North reacted to the latest action by the Security Council, which had the backing of veto-holding China and Russia, by reiterating threats to destroy the United States, Japan and South Korea. –Reuters

    Comment: Meanwhile, there are reports North Korea is preparing another nuclear test.

    US News and World Report College Rankings

    Familiar names, great schools. They compete hard against each other and are not just tops in the US, they are tops in the world (along with Oxford and Cambridge)

    Two Comments: First, students can get a great education at many schools. The important thing is to find one that “fits.” Fit depends on your needs, your interests, and your personality, as well as the school’s strengths and weaknesses and the niches it provides for students.

    Second, I don’t see how you can say Harvard ranks above or below, say, Stanford or Chicago. I think you can say that some schools rank in the very top-tier and others are a half-step back. Even that depends on whether you are interested in biology or French literature.

    You knew it was coming: CEO of Equifax called to testify before Congress (The Hill)

    Prediction: Kabuki Theater. The CEO will be contrite, the Congressmen angry.

    The CEO will say his company takes this very seriously, is really working on these problems, and will help those affected.

    The Representatives will posture for the cameras, expressing the public’s genuine anger.

    Meanwhile, this extraordinary piece of news about Equifax’s internal security:

     

    Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduces bill to make it easier to conduct medical marijuana research (The Verge)

    The Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017 would streamline the process for approving research and increase the national marijuana quota for medical and scientific research. Marijuana has been shown to have potential health benefits such as treating seizures and managing pain. –The Verge

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Mike Lipson for the Equifax BBC story

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, August 3

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Trump proposes new immigration bill; uses point-based system to favor those with high skills; will cut total legal immigration in half (ABC News)

    The bill aims to prioritize workers’ skills over family ties, and amounts to the “most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century,” Trump said. The goal of the bill would be to knock down the number of legal immigrants admitted into the U.S. each year from about 1 million to 500,000 by 2027.

    The RAISE bill would cut out the four-tiered family immigration category for green cards, paving way for a new merit-based system that prioritizes high-skilled workers who have a high level of English and “entrepreneurial initiative.” –ABC News

    Comment: The two central elements of the bill are inherently separable. Shifting to a merit-based system does not entail raising or lowering the number of people legally admitted. If lower-skilled workers are still needed for some jobs, then an amendment could admit them on a temporary basis–but only if there was some tough measures to ensure they left after that period. Right now, there aren’t.

    Bipartisan support? Not a chance. The Democrats are already lining up to say how racist it is. It isn’t.

    What’s interesting is that the cutbacks will clear bolster employment opportunities and wages for lower-income Americans–precisely the people Democrats claim they want to help. Unfortunately for Democrats, it cuts into Hispanic immigration, or, to put it differently, into the Identity Politics that is now the true heart of the party. Forced to choose between Identity Politics and Lower-income workers (including many blacks and Hispanics), the Democrats are going with Identity.

    Interesting question: will African-American Democrats go along? My bet is that they will, but that they will try to keep a low profile to avoid attention from their voters (who will be harmed). Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders will say, “If blacks and Hispanic members split on this, we’ll lose our leverage.”

    Actually, they don’t have any leverage. The real leverage will come from the US Chamber of Commerce, and it will be on Republicans, some of whom will cave.

    ⇒ Followup: What Did the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) leaders say today? Crickets

    I checked the Twitter feeds for these officers of the CBC:

    None tweeting anything about the immigration proposal. Most of the other members, even the most voluble, such as Maxine Waters, maintained twitter silence on immigration.

    Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was the only prominent CBC member I found who weighed in. Her tweet lays out the likely response of African-American Democrats: We hate Trump, so we hate his immigration bill.

     Venice “Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea’” (New York Times)

    Comment:

    • It’s true, but what’s new? Mainly increasing numbers of “day trippers” and stops by large cruise boats.
    • Venice has earned its living from tourists like these for about 400 years. Nothing new here. Nobody’s rowing ships to the Ottoman Empire anymore.
    • The solution is easy: charge day trippers to come during peak months. You see, NYT, it would work sort of like you charging more for the Sunday paper. . .
    • The more difficult problem is rising sea levels, which now flood Venetian streets and squares with depressing regularity.

     Without exactly apologizing for a misleading story, the NYT now says that the DOJ is focusing on discrimination against Asian-Americans by affirmative action programs (New York Times)

    The NYT also reports on the Asian-American lawsuit against Harvard. Harvard is not alone; there are similar suits pending against Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Penn.

    Comment: It is blindingly obvious, at least to me, that these universities discriminate against Asian-Americans. Just look at their percentages (15-25%), compared to about 50% at Berkeley, which is legally prohibited from such discrimination–and would have a hard time doing it politically in California. Granted, California has more Asian-Americans, but the proportions at the Ivies are out of whack.

    My guess is that the admissions departments say what they did about Jews 60 years ago: “We just have too many of these students who score 800 in math, 700 in verbal, and play the violin. They just aren’t ‘well-rounded.’ ” No matter that these students’ parents, like Jewish parents of an earlier generation, had modest incomes, encouraged their bright kids to study hard, and then watched as Harvard and Princeton smacked them down for far less-qualified students.

    The only argument in Harvard’s favor is one they would never use: we are a private university and, until the government nationalizes us, we can set our own damned admissions standards, even if you think they are unfair.

    The government’s response, “Hey, buddy, nice genetic research program you got there. Hate to see all the money taken away from it.” That, of course, is how the government enforces its Title IX rules on athletic programs.

     NAACP issues travel advisory, warning blacks it is dangerous for them to travel to Missouri  (The Root)

    State NAACP leaders told the [Kansas City] Star that the decision to issue the advisory was made after recent legislation passed in the state which makes it harder to win discrimination suits, the longtime and continued racial disparities in traffic enforcement, and a number of incidents that exemplify harm coming to both minority residents and minority visitors to the state. –The Root

     White House finally admits those calls to Trump from the Boy Scouts and President of Mexico didn’t actually happen (New York Times)

    Comment: If only we had a cliché to describe that thing when somebody says something he knows is not true, and then does it over and over.

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  • VERY good news on university free speech: Honoring student Matt Foldi

    The national organization that does the best job promoting free speech is FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. It is tenacious in fighting for students’ and faculty rights to speak freely and to listen to varied viewpoints.

    This year they have selected three outstanding undergraduates for their “remarkable dedication to advocacy . . . to protect free expression and due process in higher education.”

    One, Brittany Wilson, is from UNC-Charlotte.

    Another, Natalie Bao Tram Le, is from Harvard.

    And one is my friend and former student, Matt Foldi, at the University of Chicago.

    Here’s what they say about him (the whole article is here):

    Bravo, FIRE.

    Bravo, the University of Chicago, which is now in the forefront of supporting free speech, with the strong backing of students like Matt, faculty like Geoff Stone and Randy Picker, and administrators with backbone, including Pres. Bob Zimmer, Provost Dan Diermeier, Dean of the College John Boyer, and Dean of Students, John Ellison, whose letter to incoming students a year ago, clearly stating the university’s support for free-and-open discourse, stimulated a national conversation.

    And bravo to Matt, Brittany, and Natalie.

    Your fellow students don’t always know it, but you are really helping them to get a better education and a better platform to enter a world where people have different viewpoints–and need to learn how to engage each other intelligently. 

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  • Celebration in Solidarity: Harvard Black Student Graduation Is Fine. A Guest Author differs with an earlier post criticizing the event

    This guest post is particularly welcome because candid, respectful, informed debates on racial issues are so rare. And so very much needed.  Thank you, Allen. (Charles Lipson)

    Guest Author: Allen Linton II

    Allen is an advanced student in the University of Chicago’s PhD Program in political science. He also holds a BA from Chicago, and attended public schools in the city. His current research deals with youth politics, new/social media, and local elections.  Beyond the classroom, he is a member of the Chicago Global Shapers sponsored by the World Economic Forum and is interested in education, technology, sports, and media.

    Editor’s note: ZipDialog is delighted to include this post. The opinions are those of the guest author. Readers are invited to respond. At ZipDialog, we take dialog seriously.

    Linton’s piece is a response and rebuttal of the ZipDialog post: Harvard’s Black Students Will Hold a Separate Graduation Ceremony.

    The back-and-forth on Harvard’s Black Student Graduation has been insightful, but I think there are some larger experiential differences that can be raised here without driving a deliberate wedge between different groups.

    I’ve never attended Harvard (though I have friends who go there and others who have graduated), but I do attend a peer institution that has similar issues with Black students (staff and faculty) not having the best time. (Those are not only my personal views; they are confirmed in a recent diversity-and-inclusion survey conducted here at the University of Chicago. The report is available here.)

    My perspective is that Harvard’s Black Graduation Celebration isn’t a sign that students want segregation, that they are anti-diversity, that this is a hard-edged stance.

    This is much more a culmination of celebrating what they view has been a unique experience of getting through Harvard – unique in that the experiences on campus as Black students have been dismissed but are real and have affected them in important ways.

    On the discussion thread, someone asked why they attended Harvard if they felt it would be so bad for them. The answer is the same for many people who attend these places: There is a wealth of opportunity to gain in these institutions, that institutions and people in them are not bound to the errors of their past, and one hopes to NOT experience these issues during their time at the institution.

    It’s really awful to experience these things while there. Not everyone has the means to just leave. So they endure.

    Having navigated the University of Chicago as an undergraduate and now as an advanced graduate student, I’m not saying every waking moment is misery here as a Black student. I’ve had an enjoyable time, but I cannot say that my peers have had the same experience.

    It is disappointing to have police follow me or my Black peers around campus in ways they don’t with other students. It is irritating for people to assume that my area of study is on race or that my contributions in class will necessarily be about race. It’s confusing to see a place support serious inquiry but get dismissed when suggesting we cannot discuss [insert American political topic here] without recognizing the perceived differences for minority groups.

    Students do have those experiences and they change the experience at the institution. Some students may have more resolve or grounding to deal with it but the point is that no student should have to experience this at an institution of higher education. (This may sound naive but it’s an ideal, and the pursuit of ideals is how we make tons of decisions. So work with me here.)

    ◆ Ultimately, this graduation appears to be a celebration of succeeding in this particular space among students who have a unique experience. I’m sure not all Black students will be there. It is also not an either/or proposition with the entire graduation. Ideally there wouldn’t be a need for it but there is something going on with how Black students are experiencing their time at these places and that seems worthy of serious discussion.

    Stanford, Columbia, and Temple have these ceremonies. I think the conversation on this thread may be making this celebration into something far more nefarious or radial than it actually is. This quote is pretty notable to me: “Too often at Harvard, there is not cross-discipline contact between black students. So it can feel like you are the only person of color. At this graduation, we can show each other and the administration that we are here, we are strong and we are not going away.”

    So I think the celebration is self-congratulatory, but I firmly disagree with my friend Charles that it is self-congratulation “masquerading as victimization.”

    To put it simply: Harvard’s Black Student Graduation celebrates a unique experience that wasn’t always the best for reasons outside of their control. Enjoy the celebration!

    The opinions in this post are those of the guest author, Allen Linton II.

    He and ZipDialog welcome your response.