Category Archives: Students

Toronto Schools push Students to join Israeli Military

Canadian law makes it illegal to recruit soldiers for a foreign state. But, the line between enticing impressionable young people to oppress Palestinians and formal recruitment is unclear.

Today an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others was delivered to Justice Minister David Lametti calling on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the IDF. The formal legal complaint names Israeli government officials operating in Canada. But, some Toronto schools that entice impressionable young minds into joining the IDF also deserve attention.

Whether or not there is a formal plan, this is how it appears to work: the elementary schools hold performances by Israeli military bands, organize fundraisers for groups supporting non-Israeli ‘lone soldiers’ and celebrate the IDF in other ways. As the kids move through high school, former and current Israeli soldiers talk to them about the IDF, which sometimes appears part of the Israeli consulate’s recruitment drives.

Netivot HaTorah elementary school promotes the IDF and non-Israelis who join it. A January Netivot HaTorah Facebook post explained that a “‘donut day’ fundraising initiative raised over $750 for an organization called Garin Chayalim — a program that supports IDF lone soldiers.” A decade ago the school’s president, Dov Rosenblum, reportedly boasted to the Canadian Jewish News that “at least 15 alumni serve in the IDF.”

Bialik Hebrew Day School also promotes the IDF. Its website notes, “Tzedakah programs such as Shai Le’chayal help students feel a sense of responsibility to the Israeli community by sending gifts to Israeli soldiers. Similarly, having the opportunity to interact with IDF Band soldiers, who visit to perform for the school, reinforces these feelings.”

The Toronto Heschel School had the IDF Nachal Band play last September and organizes other initiatives supportive of the Israeli military.

At Leo Baeck an Israeli emissary spends a year at the Toronto elementary school and when they return, noted the Canadian Jewish News, “engages with students by way of live video chat from their Israel Defence Forces barracks dressed in their military uniforms.” Students also pay “tribute to Israel’s fallen heroes” and fundraise for Beit Halochem Canada/Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel, which supports injured IDF soldiers.

Leo Baeck and the other elementary schools feed students to high schools that promote the IDF and joining that force. The IDF Orchestra has performed at TanenbaumCHAT and Canada’s largest private high school organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives. Last week its Facebook described “an effort to raise money for the IDF. Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of our students and staff, we are happy to report that members of an army base in the south of Israel now have a nice spot to sit and enjoy their version of ‘10-minute break.’”

The school holds regular “IDF days.” A summary of one in January noted, “Shavuah Yisrael continued today with @IDF day. The @tanenbaumchat community — under the leadership of our Schlichim [Israeli emissaries] Lee and Ariel — showed their support for the Israel Defence Forces by wearing green, eating green and donating green! Proceeds from the delicious green-sprinkled donuts that were sold during 10-minute break are being donated to help the well-being of Israeli soldiers on active duty on behalf of TanenbaumCHAT thru the Association for the Soldiers of Israel – Canada.”

The school’s website advertises a fund that assists students wanting to join the IDF. It notes, the “Continuing Studies in Israel Judy Shaviv Memorial Fund ‘Keren Yad Yehudit’ assists graduates to serve in the IDF, study or volunteer.”

The high school also celebrates graduates who have served in the IDF and has them speak about joining the Israeli military. According to its site, “During Shavua Israel (Israel Week) in February 2020, Seth Frieberg ’08 [graduate] spoke to students about his experiences as a Lone Soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. Bringing into focus his personal connection to Israel, he noted that ‘this was basically 14 months where every day I was doing something that, for me, was a meaningful and substantial way to give back to Israel.’”

Alongside the Israeli Consul General, serving Israeli colonels have also spoken at the school. In May 2019 Colonel Barak Hiram spoke to the students about “being a new recruit and a seasoned commander in the Golani Brigade.”

Serving IDF soldiers also speak at Toronto’s Bnei Akiva. Some of the high school teachers biographies state that they served in the Israeli military and the school celebrates the Israeli military in other ways. “Love Bnei Akiva?! Love the IDF?! Come run the Jerusalem Marathon with us! Bnei Akiva has partnered with Tikvot and together we are raising funds to help injured IDF soldiers and terror victims recuperate!”, reported a 2018 school Facebook post.

Bnei Akiva honours alumni who served in the IDF on its webpage. “Bnei Akiva Schools is proud to honour our alumni who have served courageously in the Israel Defense Forces”, its website explains. Its LinkedIn profile notes, “upon graduation, students typically spend at least one or more years of study in Israel, and many serve in the IDF.” The school’s Wikipedia page is even more blunt: “the school strongly encourages graduates to attend the IDF in Israel.”

The World Bnei Akiva movement has an academy in Israel that offers six-month preparation for non-Israelis planning to join the IDF. To get a sense of the religious movement’s anti-Palestinian outlook, the secretary-general of World Bnei Akiva, Rabbi Noam Perel, called for revenge after the 2014 murder of three Israeli teens. “The government of Israel is gathering for a revenge meeting that isn’t a grief meeting. The landlord has gone mad at the sight of his sons’ bodies. A government that turns the army of searchers to an army of avengers, an army that will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins,” Perel wrote on Facebook in reference to the biblical tale of David, who killed 200 Philistines and gave their foreskins to King Saul as the bride price for his daughter. “The disgrace will be paid for with the blood of the enemy, not with our tears,” Perel concluded.

Bnei Akiva School and TanenbaumCHAT entice their students into joining the Israeli military while the aformentioned elementary schools prepare young minds to revere the IDF. It’s unclear whether Bnei Akiva School and TanenbaumCHAT’s actions – a formal investigation would no doubt uncover a great deal more evidence – contravene Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act.

Legal questions aside, should Ontario schools funnel youngster into a foreign military engaged in a brutal 50-year occupation?

Please take a minute to email Justice Minister David Lametti to ask him to investigate recruitment in Canada for the Israeli military.

The post Toronto Schools push Students to join Israeli Military first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Anti-Chinese Racism Sets Stage for New McCarthyism.

More than a dozen young visiting scholars from China had their visas abruptly terminated in a letter from administration of the University of North Texas (UNT), Denton, on August 26, in a letter dated …August 26!  The letter informed the students that they could return to campus from their lodgings to pick up belongings, but all other access was closed to them. The students and fellows were given no explanation.  They were left with no legal basis to be in the U.S. and began scrambling for the very few and very expensive flights back to China.

At first the UNT administration simply stated that all those funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) were terminated.   According to Wikipedia, the CSC is the main Chinese agency for funding Chinese students abroad (currently 65,000 with 26,000 of them in the US) and an equal number of foreign students in China, some from the US. (Americans interested in CSC scholarships to study in China can easily find information here. There is nothing secret or nefarious about CSC; the US has agencies that offer similar aid to scholars.)

The University at last offered an explanation of sorts in a statement by its spokesperson, the Vice President for Brand Strategy and Communication (VP for BS and C) as reported on September 10 by the North Texas Daily: “UNT took this action based upon specific and credible information following detailed briefings from federal and local law enforcement.”  The VP for BS and C was “unable” to provide more details. Local police later denied any role in such briefings.  It was the feds who provoked the discharges.

If these young students were doing something illegal or in violation of University rules, then they should be told what it is and presented with evidence so they could answer such charges.  That is what we in the U.S. claim to believe in.  If their crime is simply soaking up ideas, that is what education is all about and most assuredly that is what science is all about.  If certain areas of research are classified, then scholars working in those areas should be screened and get classifications.  And if the US does not want CSC-sponsored students here, then reasons should be given and no more visas allowed. None of that has been done. The students were found guilty of something, they know not what, and dismissed!

Although UNT may not be well known nationally, it is rated as an “R1” or top tier research university, one of about 130 institutions falling into that top category and receiving federal research funding.  It is troubling that such action by an institution in this category and the beneficiary of federal largesse has not drawn more condemnation for its action.  And it is even more troubling that this occurs in an atmosphere of anti-Chinese hostility in the wake of Covid-19, marked by physical attacks on Chinese Americans.

Have we forgotten the racism directed against Chinese and codified into federal law the Chinese Exclusion act of 1882, the only U.S. law ever enacted to prevent all members of a specific ethnic or national group from immigrating to the U.S.?  Other such legislation followed, such as the Immigration Act of 1924 which effectively barred all immigration from Asia, including, of course, Chinese.  The rationale given by the politicians for all such heinous legislation was that Chinese were stealing “our jobs”.  Sound familiar? Notoriously the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 gave rise to the “Driving Out” period where Chinese were physically attacked to the point of brutal massacres designed to drive Chinese out of unwelcoming communities, the most infamous being the Rock Springs and Hells Canyon Massacres.

The anti-Chinese and anti-Asian sentiment has continued down the years in one form or another, but it has had a resurgence recently with the meme that China’s prosperity has been at the expense of Americans. This narrative does not remind us that U.S. corporations and investors offshore jobs for greater “returns,” but claims that Chinese are pilfering our technology.

Some time back The Committee of 100, a prestigious organization of leading Chinese Americans, commissioned a study on Chinese and other Asians charged under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA)., covering a period from 1996 to 2015  Some of its conclusions are as follows:

1.)  Up to 2008, Chinese were 17% of the total defendants charged under the EEA; from 2009-2015 under Obama this percentage tripled to 52%.

2.)  21% of Chinese were never convicted of espionage, twice the rate for non-Asians.

3.)   In roughly half the cases involving Chinese the alleged beneficiary of the espionage was an American entity; roughly one-third had an alleged Chinese beneficiary.

In sum a much higher rate of indictment for Chinese but a lower rate of convictions.  So the additional “attention” given Chinese was not warranted.  It seems that something changed after 2009.  What was it?  This time was the period when Obama’s Asian Pivot was put into play.  The Pivot targeted China both militarily by moving 60% of US Naval forces to the Western Pacific and economically with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) designed to isolate China from its neighbors.  Is the increased harassment of Chinese under the EEA another aspect of the strategy expressed openly in the Pivot?

This legal attack on Chinese has continued under the present administration, but the NTU case adds a new wrinkle.  Here there was no legal action, but an action apparently taken by the University.  However, hidden pressure to oust the students came from a federal agency or agencies.  This should be no surprise since it fits in with FBI Director Christopher Wray’s “Whole of Society” approach to confronting China unveiled last February and reiterated in July when he said, “We’re also working more closely than ever with partner agencies here in the U.S. and our partners abroad. We can’t do it on our own; we need a whole-of-society response. That’s why we in the intelligence and law enforcement communities are working harder than ever to give companies, universities, and the American people themselves the information they need to make their own informed decisions and protect their most valuable assets.” (Emphasis, jw) It looks like the FBI and or its “partner agencies” gave UNT officials “the information they needed” to throw out the Chinese students without any reason given or charge made.

Consider the position of those UNT officials when they found themselves visited by federal “authorities” and “asked’ to cooperate.  When the FBI “asks” for cooperation, it is making an offer that is perilous to refuse.  It would take considerable courage to say “no”. But that is precisely what the UNT administrators should have done if they were to live up to the presumed values and ideals of our society and universities.  The question also arises as to how many other universities have been approached to take similar steps.  It seems unlikely that UNT is alone.  But it is very likely that other Universities, wealthier and with a bevy of VP’s for BS and C, might have handled the whole matter in a discrete way and in a way that makes it appear that such suspensions are not a wholesale matter.  Perhaps other more “polished” university authorities would not own up to the dirty deeds but keep them as secret as possible.

Let us take it a step further. What if you were approached by one of these federal agents and “requested” to keep an eye on a Chinese colleague, friend, neighbor or co-worker.  Would you have the courage to refuse?  And as the confrontation with China heats up, a peace movement is arising to counter it.  In fact, anti-interventionists are popping up across the spectrum on left and right to oppose policies that take us on the road to war with China. Will the peace advocates be targeted in the same way, on the sly as well as within a “legal” framework by the FBI and other federal agencies?  And will the precedent established in cases like the UNT case make such federal actions more acceptable?  Will those working for peace be labeled as puppets of Xi?

“First they came for the Chinese,” it might be said.  And in the future, under the “Whole of Society” approach, they may come for anyone who chooses to work for peace with China rather than take a path to war.  Anti-Chinese racism, repugnant in and of itself, is also one part of setting the stage for a new and more dangerous McCarthyism.  It is time to stop the madness before it devours us all.

• This essay was first published on Antiwar.com

The post Anti-Chinese Racism Sets Stage for New McCarthyism. first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Anti-Chinese Racism Sets Stage for New McCarthyism.

More than a dozen young visiting scholars from China had their visas abruptly terminated in a letter from administration of the University of North Texas (UNT), Denton, on August 26, in a letter dated …August 26!  The letter informed the students that they could return to campus from their lodgings to pick up belongings, but all other access was closed to them. The students and fellows were given no explanation.  They were left with no legal basis to be in the U.S. and began scrambling for the very few and very expensive flights back to China.

At first the UNT administration simply stated that all those funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) were terminated.   According to Wikipedia, the CSC is the main Chinese agency for funding Chinese students abroad (currently 65,000 with 26,000 of them in the US) and an equal number of foreign students in China, some from the US. (Americans interested in CSC scholarships to study in China can easily find information here. There is nothing secret or nefarious about CSC; the US has agencies that offer similar aid to scholars.)

The University at last offered an explanation of sorts in a statement by its spokesperson, the Vice President for Brand Strategy and Communication (VP for BS and C) as reported on September 10 by the North Texas Daily: “UNT took this action based upon specific and credible information following detailed briefings from federal and local law enforcement.”  The VP for BS and C was “unable” to provide more details. Local police later denied any role in such briefings.  It was the feds who provoked the discharges.

If these young students were doing something illegal or in violation of University rules, then they should be told what it is and presented with evidence so they could answer such charges.  That is what we in the U.S. claim to believe in.  If their crime is simply soaking up ideas, that is what education is all about and most assuredly that is what science is all about.  If certain areas of research are classified, then scholars working in those areas should be screened and get classifications.  And if the US does not want CSC-sponsored students here, then reasons should be given and no more visas allowed. None of that has been done. The students were found guilty of something, they know not what, and dismissed!

Although UNT may not be well known nationally, it is rated as an “R1” or top tier research university, one of about 130 institutions falling into that top category and receiving federal research funding.  It is troubling that such action by an institution in this category and the beneficiary of federal largesse has not drawn more condemnation for its action.  And it is even more troubling that this occurs in an atmosphere of anti-Chinese hostility in the wake of Covid-19, marked by physical attacks on Chinese Americans.

Have we forgotten the racism directed against Chinese and codified into federal law the Chinese Exclusion act of 1882, the only U.S. law ever enacted to prevent all members of a specific ethnic or national group from immigrating to the U.S.?  Other such legislation followed, such as the Immigration Act of 1924 which effectively barred all immigration from Asia, including, of course, Chinese.  The rationale given by the politicians for all such heinous legislation was that Chinese were stealing “our jobs”.  Sound familiar? Notoriously the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 gave rise to the “Driving Out” period where Chinese were physically attacked to the point of brutal massacres designed to drive Chinese out of unwelcoming communities, the most infamous being the Rock Springs and Hells Canyon Massacres.

The anti-Chinese and anti-Asian sentiment has continued down the years in one form or another, but it has had a resurgence recently with the meme that China’s prosperity has been at the expense of Americans. This narrative does not remind us that U.S. corporations and investors offshore jobs for greater “returns,” but claims that Chinese are pilfering our technology.

Some time back The Committee of 100, a prestigious organization of leading Chinese Americans, commissioned a study on Chinese and other Asians charged under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA)., covering a period from 1996 to 2015  Some of its conclusions are as follows:

1.)  Up to 2008, Chinese were 17% of the total defendants charged under the EEA; from 2009-2015 under Obama this percentage tripled to 52%.

2.)  21% of Chinese were never convicted of espionage, twice the rate for non-Asians.

3.)   In roughly half the cases involving Chinese the alleged beneficiary of the espionage was an American entity; roughly one-third had an alleged Chinese beneficiary.

In sum a much higher rate of indictment for Chinese but a lower rate of convictions.  So the additional “attention” given Chinese was not warranted.  It seems that something changed after 2009.  What was it?  This time was the period when Obama’s Asian Pivot was put into play.  The Pivot targeted China both militarily by moving 60% of US Naval forces to the Western Pacific and economically with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) designed to isolate China from its neighbors.  Is the increased harassment of Chinese under the EEA another aspect of the strategy expressed openly in the Pivot?

This legal attack on Chinese has continued under the present administration, but the NTU case adds a new wrinkle.  Here there was no legal action, but an action apparently taken by the University.  However, hidden pressure to oust the students came from a federal agency or agencies.  This should be no surprise since it fits in with FBI Director Christopher Wray’s “Whole of Society” approach to confronting China unveiled last February and reiterated in July when he said, “We’re also working more closely than ever with partner agencies here in the U.S. and our partners abroad. We can’t do it on our own; we need a whole-of-society response. That’s why we in the intelligence and law enforcement communities are working harder than ever to give companies, universities, and the American people themselves the information they need to make their own informed decisions and protect their most valuable assets.” (Emphasis, jw) It looks like the FBI and or its “partner agencies” gave UNT officials “the information they needed” to throw out the Chinese students without any reason given or charge made.

Consider the position of those UNT officials when they found themselves visited by federal “authorities” and “asked’ to cooperate.  When the FBI “asks” for cooperation, it is making an offer that is perilous to refuse.  It would take considerable courage to say “no”. But that is precisely what the UNT administrators should have done if they were to live up to the presumed values and ideals of our society and universities.  The question also arises as to how many other universities have been approached to take similar steps.  It seems unlikely that UNT is alone.  But it is very likely that other Universities, wealthier and with a bevy of VP’s for BS and C, might have handled the whole matter in a discrete way and in a way that makes it appear that such suspensions are not a wholesale matter.  Perhaps other more “polished” university authorities would not own up to the dirty deeds but keep them as secret as possible.

Let us take it a step further. What if you were approached by one of these federal agents and “requested” to keep an eye on a Chinese colleague, friend, neighbor or co-worker.  Would you have the courage to refuse?  And as the confrontation with China heats up, a peace movement is arising to counter it.  In fact, anti-interventionists are popping up across the spectrum on left and right to oppose policies that take us on the road to war with China. Will the peace advocates be targeted in the same way, on the sly as well as within a “legal” framework by the FBI and other federal agencies?  And will the precedent established in cases like the UNT case make such federal actions more acceptable?  Will those working for peace be labeled as puppets of Xi?

“First they came for the Chinese,” it might be said.  And in the future, under the “Whole of Society” approach, they may come for anyone who chooses to work for peace with China rather than take a path to war.  Anti-Chinese racism, repugnant in and of itself, is also one part of setting the stage for a new and more dangerous McCarthyism.  It is time to stop the madness before it devours us all.

• This essay was first published on Antiwar.com

The post Anti-Chinese Racism Sets Stage for New McCarthyism. first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Policing Is Not Your Concern”

As the dust settles after the end of the University of Michigan’s (UM) historic eight-day strike, autopsies investigating the labor action are already being churned out. Why the strike ended, who is responsible for breaking the strike, and what future labor action at UM will look like are now questions that will doubtlessly rise to the forefront of debates among laborers at the university for many months—if not years—to come.

But we cannot allow those truly responsible for curtailing labor action to sink into the background: the university administration. Now is the time we should turn our focus to its functions, given it is an oblique and imposing assemblage that has been and will be difficult to reckon with. We know that it has already systematically worked to obstruct meaningful labor action across university campuses in the US. As we are made increasingly precarious as laborers and graduate student workers in the academy, what will our relationship be with university administration?

The presence of the university administration is clearly changing. In the past, the administration has only been exceedingly present and visible to those of us imbricated in its labor structure—faculty, staff, and graduate student workers. To us, it has historically and methodically directed its punitive dimensions, projecting its power and control over our employment and the budget to keep us in line. As laborers, we understand that its power to police is the core function of the university administration.

This also explains why, in the past, the administration has been less visible to undergraduate students. As customers paying a fee for subscribing to the academy, undergraduate students were meant to be strategically courted by the university. The administration’s core policing function is not attractive to consumers, and it has strenuously sought to keep itself less visible. Of course this, like in all circumstances of American life, was a raced and gendered experience. Some people are less likely to be courted than others.

Yet, under the conditions of COVID-19, the punitive appendage of the university administration is becoming perhaps its only one—it is making itself omnipresently visible both to consumers and to its laborers. The activity of customers (undergraduate students), after all, has taken on new threatening dimensions to administrations. What used to be part of the commodified university package—the “campus experience”—that the university once worked to sell is now a threat because of COVID-19.

Here, it is important to realize that the university’s apparatus to police is multifold. On one hand, universities across the US maintain an extensive and expensive campus-dedicated police force while also collaborating with municipal police. On the other, the actual university administration itself is a policing entity. It works to circumscribe students, workers, and faculty alike by holding finances, grades, and choices in its iron fist; to monitor, surveil, and record its student bodies; and ultimately to punish all people studying and working at the university when the occasion rises. We see these two phenomena—campus police and the policing function of the university administration—as inexorably imbricated. They work together to keep graduate students, staff, campus workers, faculty, and even students, from being able to effectively protest reckless university decisions altogether.

To understand the role of university administrations—disciplinary, punitive, and policing—one should turn to the various cases of labor actions that have dominated university laboring scenes in 2020. Students, workers, and student workers at the University of Michigan may have been the only ones to strike against a public university in the US during the Fall 2020 semester (so far), but they were not the only ones who agitated against university plans to reopen this fall. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) was one of the first public universities to open—and it was also one of the first that had to go online because of the alarming spike in COVID-19 cases among students, as predicted by graduate students, workers, and everyone who agitated to keep the universities remote. Formal labor action in the form of a strike may not have happened at UNC, but campus workers, graduate student workers, and staff were far from silent in the face of the looming campus reopening. In both these universities, campus police and municipal police presence on campus has been an issue of contention between those performing labor actions and the university administration.

Comparing the labor actions of these two different university worker groups—given that they followed different labor actions, had different organizing capabilities, and were operating in different labor environments—merely demonstrates the continuous logic that undergirds university administrations across the nation. Both administrations refused to credibly negotiate with workers or listen to their concerns. Both fabricated evidence that showed that their plans to open would be “safe.” Both lied when it suited them to do so. And both ultimately threatened workers, especially graduate student workers, when push came to shove. The reasons why these administrations’ reactions were so similar and so punitive toward university laborers were, as we will evidence here, because of the neoliberal impulses of the corporate university.

Labor Actions and Their Contexts

The Graduate Employee Organization’s (GEO) strike demands did not appear out of nowhere. These demands have a lineage that can be traced to GEO’s engagements with the University of Michigan administration earlier in the year. Throughout the winter semester, GEO was bargaining for its 2020-2023 contract. Considering that COVID-19 became more of a concern in the later stages of bargaining, demands for randomized testing and transparent public health models were not included as part of contract negotiations. However, our demands around racial justice were part of those negotiations, and as is expected from the university administration, discussions of disarming and demilitarizing were promptly dismissed and “off the table.” As contract negotiations concluded and fears over the university’s plans for the fall semester began to rise, GEO attempted to engage the university specifically over COVID-19, and it is in this stage of negotiations where a majority of the strike’s direct COVID-19 demands were first made known, such as emergency stipends, flexible childcare subsidies, and increased assistance for international graduate students navigating uncertain terrain around visas, work requirements, remote courses, etc.

Dismissing GEO’s COVID demands as financially infeasible, the university reminded graduate students that they received a pay raise while others across the university saw pay freezes. All the meanwhile, the administration continued business as usual, boasting about multimillion dollar gifts to the university, and approving credit lines to continue its capital projects. This tactic is, of course, nothing unusual. Similarly, graduate student workers have agitated at UNC for years to raise the base stipends, and during COVID-19, they have worked to secure a universal one-year funding extension and emergency funds across all departments—both of which have been dismissed by the university bureaucracy and individual departments as being similarly financially unfeasible. Even in the case of the history department, which has suspended graduate student admission next year, it is not clear that any of the funds saved by not paying salaries of new graduate student workers are going to tangibly increase the salaries of current graduate students (although the history department has granted funding prior to suspending student admissions next year). In fact, it’s not clear where the “savings” are going to go. Financial insecurity and the infeasibility and further financing precarious workers are oft-weaponized tactics by university administrations across the US.

The UM’s financial inconsistencies, claiming both impending financial doom for the university and a very strong financial position with a $12 billion endowment and a diverse revenue stream, coincided with the mass protests against police brutality in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, as well the Washtenaw County Police’s assault of Sha’Teina Grady El in Ypsilanti, MI, a neighboring town to Ann Arbor. Alongside several other graduate student organizations at UM, GEO called upon the administration to take tangible steps in living up to anti-racism, with a specific demand of beginning disengagement from police forces with known discriminatory practices and disarming campus police, picking up the demand UM refused to engage on during contract bargaining. During its early negotiations with GEO during the strike, the administration refused to engage in discussion around the graduate student workers’ policing demands, claiming campus policing falls outside of the union’s bargaining sphere and as separate from the COVID demands. However, GEO sees the two as inextricably linked, and when looking at the university’s opening plan, so does it. To enforce social distancing, and specifically to prevent large-scale parties off campus, UM created its “Michigan Ambassador’s” program, an initiative created in collaboration with the Ann Arbor Police Department. With the backdrop of months of protests against police brutality, the university of Michigan saw a new policing body made up of students, AAPD officers, and DPSS officers as the solution to create a COVID-safe campus. Deliberately ignored by the administration is how this initiative immediately puts Black and brown students in a double bind of danger.  Not only are they brought back onto campus with limited testing and no contact tracing, but on top of that, police are the mechanism used to ensure so-called safe behaviors.

It is against the background of being dismissed by the University as GEO advocated for a safe and just campus throughout the end of the winter term and through the summer that GEO’s strike emerged. Starting at 5am on Tuesday, September 8, and in the pouring rain, GEO members began the first shift of a twelve hour long picket. The trade union members who arrived at their construction sites respected our picket lines, and they continued to do so throughout the strike whenever GEO picket lines were at their job sites. The university administration’s approach of simply dismissing GEO and its demands became immediately more punitive, filing an unfair labor practice on the first day of the strike. On Wednesday, things began to snowball. That morning, undergraduate residential advisors went on strike without the protection of a union, citing the lack of protections and no hazard pay. Late that evening, the University administration came to GEO with its first offer.

While filled with many threats of retaliation, including a possible injunction should the strike continue, the offer did not include sufficient responses to GEO’s demands for greater testing, flexible childcare subsidies, and a universal remote teaching option. Additionally, the administration stood firm in its refusal to entertain the thought of engaging around our anti-policing demands. Throughout the four-hour long meeting, strikers weighed these fears of retaliation against the fact that the deal contained few wins. Furthermore, GEO members had to grapple with the question of what GEO would be signaling to the non-unionized RAs who just began their strike if the union accepted a deal that did nothing to keep them safe. Ultimately, the membership overwhelmingly voted to reject the deal, and picketing continued through Friday when another group of non-unionized undergraduate workers, the student dining staff, began a work slowdown, an amended strategy due to threats of retaliation had they started a full strike.

GEO’s initial strike authorization only lasted until Friday, 11 September, and with no offer on the table, which meant no non-retaliation clause, GEO membership authorized a strike extension. Throughout the weekend, the provost and president sent out a flurry of emails noting their willingness to come to the table and engage in good faith discussions with GEO. However, to the contrary and to reiterate the emails’ rhetoric, President Schlissel simultaneously sued UM’s graduate students, filing a court injunction that would force GEO members back into the classroom and underscoring the administration’s “good faith” negotiations. On Monday, and with a looming injunction over our heads, GEO returned to the picket lines, continuing the strike through Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening, GEO members reconvened for another general membership meeting to discuss and vote on UM’s second offer. Between the first and second offer, GEO made most of its tangible gains around childcare. Regarding the anti-policing demands, the second offer included the creation of a task force and a reevaluating the Michigan Ambassador’s program. Taken comprehensively, the second offer was just as insulting as the first. And while the university’s proposal had not changed significantly, the context in which strikers were agitating had. After the injunction hearing, those on the picket line would not have the protection of the union. To continue agitating with the injunction in place would shift punishment from the academic and university realm and into the legal sphere, placing our Black, brown, and Indigenous peers at greater risk. Furthermore, the irrevocable damage of a court filing abstractly mentioned in the 9 September meeting was now very real. GEO could not survive a court battle with UM lawyers. As graduate student workers, we have few protections, and the university administration made the conscious and intentional decision to attack the strongest protection graduate student workers have at our back: GEO. UM quickly engaged the courts, signaling loud and clear how it is unafraid to invoke hard punitive measures. GEO did not accept this second offer because of its content. GEO membership accepted the deal because to reject it would pave the way for the University to destroy our union.

Well before the strike, UM saw GEO’s demands that advocated for protecting the campus community and greater Ann Arbor community from seeing the town turn into a COVID-19 hotspot. Against the advice of its own ethics committee, the University of Michigan brought back a significant majority of its students to campus without honestly engaging with faculty, students, and staff about the risks. Now, both the campus and Ann Arbor community are left at risk. With inaccurate updating, it is unclear exactly how many cases of COVID-19 there are on campus. President Schlissel’s “public-health informed” semester was said to be based in science. Yet, as was found out through GEO’s strike, the models used to justify reopening campus had too wide of confidence margins and now the dashboard houses inaccurate and unhelpful data, leaving us wondering how the administration is using science to protect its community. When science didn’t work, the administration turned to policing. At both ends of the process of monitoring COVID-19, the administration enlists police forces to deal with students and workers. Roaming the streets on weekends, the police punish students hosting large gatherings and then later when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in the dorms, often campus security is called to escort them to quarantine housing.

The case of UM clearly demonstrates how the two veins of policing in the corporate university—campus police and the university administration’s policing capacities—are deeply intertwined. To further evidence the pervasiveness of this relationship across all US universities, we now turn briefly to UNC.

Labor Actions, Workers, and Allies

UNC has a history of graduate student worker strikes. After a semester of agitation which tore down the silent sam confederate memorial, in Fall 2018, TAs refused to submit final grades for students until the Board of Trustees rescinded their promise to erect a space that would continue to enshrine  the toppled racist edifice.

This was not the end of graduate student worker action in the last few years. At UNC, labor action has often been channeled between the Anti-Racist Graduate Worker Collective and the local UE150 union. When UNC’s university administration announced its plans to reopen over the summer, the administration anticipated student backlash, and therefore formulated a plan to misdirect workers’ ability to agitate effectively: endless meetings that yielded no tangible results. For instance, early on in the agitation, activists were told by the university administration that they would only communicate via the Graduate and Professional Student Federation (GPSF), which they considered to be the only legitimate elected and representative body and therefore the mouthpiece of graduate students. When graduate students managed to get GPSF to pass a resolution that campus should remain remote (among other demands), UNC administration promptly ignored that resolution. In another instance, UNC students were told repeatedly that, if the Orange County Health Department (OCHD) mandated that the university close, UNC would adhere to that mandate. UNC students and workers were urged to email the OCHD at volume to beg them to issue this mandate. What UNC administration didn’t admit at the time was that the OCHD has no ability to issue mandates, only recommendations. When the OCHD did issue a recommendation not to open on campus, the administration then, predictably, ignored it.

There are countless examples of this sort of misdirection that occurred throughout the summer—and by the time August came around, the writing was on the wall. The university administration never intended to listen to workers, regardless of what happened, in order to meet that sacred bottom line. They were willing to sacrifice students and vulnerable staff no matter the cost, and had already proven it by sickening 37 student athletes and staff by July 2020. As in the case of the UM,  at UNC similarly linked demands for pandemic relief to the ending of police presence on campus, understanding, like the UM workers, that the deteriorative impact COVID-19 among the communities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color has been exacerbated by racist policing across the US. UNC responded by posting police at dorms to “welcome” students back to campus—and more importantly, to ensure that students adhered to the frankly impossible distancing guidelines. Police were frequently employed to issue citations to students allegedly not correctly distancing—a move that, predictably given the racist core of police, most frequently targeted Black students most.

The lack of strong organizing and direct labor action over the summer cost the UNC and wider Chapel Hill community dearly. Hundreds of known COVID-19 cases spread in the first two weeks of students living on campus, and likely thousands of unknown ones since UNC sent students home without exit tests. At the same time, we had no clear allies: faculty were signaling obliquely they were unwilling to strike or support a strike, graduate student workers were divided, campus staff were similarly without a consensus. Yet, it is unclear whether direct labor action would have yielded a different outcome, given what we now see from the UM.

The Neoliberal Afterlives of Corporate University Action

In the wake of two modes of labor organizing—one with the support of a sanctioned union (UM), and one occurring in a hybrid form where students were divided between working within a union and outside of one (UNC)—we can now begin to draw conclusions about the kind of university system we now inhabit. After all, in neither case did the university administration attempt to engage in compromise. It seems that to universities now, any amount of labor organizing among graduate student workers on campus is too much labor organizing—on both campuses, the university moved to quash it without engaging in true-heartened negotiation. Furthermore, this is not the only circumstance in which university administrators have attempted to aggressively curtail labor action, as in the University of California-Santa Cruz’s infamous firing of 54 graduate student workers for engaging in a grade strike in Spring 2020 (41 who were eventually rehired due to continued graduate student worker agitation). Given this, what conclusions can we draw about the role of the university administration?

It’s obvious now: the core function—perhaps its only function—of the university administration is to police students and laborers alike. Its multidirectional ability to police, both through dedicated campus police that police our bodies and the university administration’s policing logic that circumscribe our range of choices, have been detrimental.

For generations, our collective ability to engage in labor actions has been deliberately undercut, both at the state level and at the level of our universities. From state legal impediments like right-to-work laws, to deliberate university decisions to keep workers weak, like the fact that graduate student worker stipends at UNC do not even come close to the minimum livable wage in Orange County, it is clear that the state and the university work hand-in-hand across the country in attempting to destroy our possibilities for labor action. Dragging its heels on providing conditions to benefit us, it is quick to lash out when its commodities (classes and grades) are threatened, levying injunctions and the omnipresent threat of firings and wage withholdings when it sees fit. The neoliberal corporate university seeks to individuate us as political-economic actors, to depoliticize us as laborers, and, failing that, to punish us aggressively for daring to envision a better future.

What does this mean for the future of university solidarity organizing?

At first glance, conditions appear bleak. But the university administrations are in a crisis mode. Reckless reopening plans across the country have sickened mass populations of students, staff, and workers across the US. Campuses have become the new national hotspots, contributing about 40,000 new cases since campuses began reopening in August (as of 11 September 2020). Class action lawsuits are pouring in. Some estimates show that college enrollment in the coming years could fall as much as 20%. All of these facts line up very dangerously against the business-as-usual model that corporatized universities have attempted to employ in the Fall 2020 semester.

Yet, UNC has now all-but-officially announced that it plans to once again attempt to open for Spring 2020, and UM continues to go about its business without the faith and support of many faculty and graduate students. What will the university administration do to protect this decision—and other dangerous, reckless, and selfish decisions like it—going forward now?

The post "Policing Is Not Your Concern” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Policing Is Not Your Concern”

As the dust settles after the end of the University of Michigan’s (UM) historic eight-day strike, autopsies investigating the labor action are already being churned out. Why the strike ended, who is responsible for breaking the strike, and what future labor action at UM will look like are now questions that will doubtlessly rise to the forefront of debates among laborers at the university for many months—if not years—to come.

But we cannot allow those truly responsible for curtailing labor action to sink into the background: the university administration. Now is the time we should turn our focus to its functions, given it is an oblique and imposing assemblage that has been and will be difficult to reckon with. We know that it has already systematically worked to obstruct meaningful labor action across university campuses in the US. As we are made increasingly precarious as laborers and graduate student workers in the academy, what will our relationship be with university administration?

The presence of the university administration is clearly changing. In the past, the administration has only been exceedingly present and visible to those of us imbricated in its labor structure—faculty, staff, and graduate student workers. To us, it has historically and methodically directed its punitive dimensions, projecting its power and control over our employment and the budget to keep us in line. As laborers, we understand that its power to police is the core function of the university administration.

This also explains why, in the past, the administration has been less visible to undergraduate students. As customers paying a fee for subscribing to the academy, undergraduate students were meant to be strategically courted by the university. The administration’s core policing function is not attractive to consumers, and it has strenuously sought to keep itself less visible. Of course this, like in all circumstances of American life, was a raced and gendered experience. Some people are less likely to be courted than others.

Yet, under the conditions of COVID-19, the punitive appendage of the university administration is becoming perhaps its only one—it is making itself omnipresently visible both to consumers and to its laborers. The activity of customers (undergraduate students), after all, has taken on new threatening dimensions to administrations. What used to be part of the commodified university package—the “campus experience”—that the university once worked to sell is now a threat because of COVID-19.

Here, it is important to realize that the university’s apparatus to police is multifold. On one hand, universities across the US maintain an extensive and expensive campus-dedicated police force while also collaborating with municipal police. On the other, the actual university administration itself is a policing entity. It works to circumscribe students, workers, and faculty alike by holding finances, grades, and choices in its iron fist; to monitor, surveil, and record its student bodies; and ultimately to punish all people studying and working at the university when the occasion rises. We see these two phenomena—campus police and the policing function of the university administration—as inexorably imbricated. They work together to keep graduate students, staff, campus workers, faculty, and even students, from being able to effectively protest reckless university decisions altogether.

To understand the role of university administrations—disciplinary, punitive, and policing—one should turn to the various cases of labor actions that have dominated university laboring scenes in 2020. Students, workers, and student workers at the University of Michigan may have been the only ones to strike against a public university in the US during the Fall 2020 semester (so far), but they were not the only ones who agitated against university plans to reopen this fall. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) was one of the first public universities to open—and it was also one of the first that had to go online because of the alarming spike in COVID-19 cases among students, as predicted by graduate students, workers, and everyone who agitated to keep the universities remote. Formal labor action in the form of a strike may not have happened at UNC, but campus workers, graduate student workers, and staff were far from silent in the face of the looming campus reopening. In both these universities, campus police and municipal police presence on campus has been an issue of contention between those performing labor actions and the university administration.

Comparing the labor actions of these two different university worker groups—given that they followed different labor actions, had different organizing capabilities, and were operating in different labor environments—merely demonstrates the continuous logic that undergirds university administrations across the nation. Both administrations refused to credibly negotiate with workers or listen to their concerns. Both fabricated evidence that showed that their plans to open would be “safe.” Both lied when it suited them to do so. And both ultimately threatened workers, especially graduate student workers, when push came to shove. The reasons why these administrations’ reactions were so similar and so punitive toward university laborers were, as we will evidence here, because of the neoliberal impulses of the corporate university.

Labor Actions and Their Contexts

The Graduate Employee Organization’s (GEO) strike demands did not appear out of nowhere. These demands have a lineage that can be traced to GEO’s engagements with the University of Michigan administration earlier in the year. Throughout the winter semester, GEO was bargaining for its 2020-2023 contract. Considering that COVID-19 became more of a concern in the later stages of bargaining, demands for randomized testing and transparent public health models were not included as part of contract negotiations. However, our demands around racial justice were part of those negotiations, and as is expected from the university administration, discussions of disarming and demilitarizing were promptly dismissed and “off the table.” As contract negotiations concluded and fears over the university’s plans for the fall semester began to rise, GEO attempted to engage the university specifically over COVID-19, and it is in this stage of negotiations where a majority of the strike’s direct COVID-19 demands were first made known, such as emergency stipends, flexible childcare subsidies, and increased assistance for international graduate students navigating uncertain terrain around visas, work requirements, remote courses, etc.

Dismissing GEO’s COVID demands as financially infeasible, the university reminded graduate students that they received a pay raise while others across the university saw pay freezes. All the meanwhile, the administration continued business as usual, boasting about multimillion dollar gifts to the university, and approving credit lines to continue its capital projects. This tactic is, of course, nothing unusual. Similarly, graduate student workers have agitated at UNC for years to raise the base stipends, and during COVID-19, they have worked to secure a universal one-year funding extension and emergency funds across all departments—both of which have been dismissed by the university bureaucracy and individual departments as being similarly financially unfeasible. Even in the case of the history department, which has suspended graduate student admission next year, it is not clear that any of the funds saved by not paying salaries of new graduate student workers are going to tangibly increase the salaries of current graduate students (although the history department has granted funding prior to suspending student admissions next year). In fact, it’s not clear where the “savings” are going to go. Financial insecurity and the infeasibility and further financing precarious workers are oft-weaponized tactics by university administrations across the US.

The UM’s financial inconsistencies, claiming both impending financial doom for the university and a very strong financial position with a $12 billion endowment and a diverse revenue stream, coincided with the mass protests against police brutality in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, as well the Washtenaw County Police’s assault of Sha’Teina Grady El in Ypsilanti, MI, a neighboring town to Ann Arbor. Alongside several other graduate student organizations at UM, GEO called upon the administration to take tangible steps in living up to anti-racism, with a specific demand of beginning disengagement from police forces with known discriminatory practices and disarming campus police, picking up the demand UM refused to engage on during contract bargaining. During its early negotiations with GEO during the strike, the administration refused to engage in discussion around the graduate student workers’ policing demands, claiming campus policing falls outside of the union’s bargaining sphere and as separate from the COVID demands. However, GEO sees the two as inextricably linked, and when looking at the university’s opening plan, so does it. To enforce social distancing, and specifically to prevent large-scale parties off campus, UM created its “Michigan Ambassador’s” program, an initiative created in collaboration with the Ann Arbor Police Department. With the backdrop of months of protests against police brutality, the university of Michigan saw a new policing body made up of students, AAPD officers, and DPSS officers as the solution to create a COVID-safe campus. Deliberately ignored by the administration is how this initiative immediately puts Black and brown students in a double bind of danger.  Not only are they brought back onto campus with limited testing and no contact tracing, but on top of that, police are the mechanism used to ensure so-called safe behaviors.

It is against the background of being dismissed by the University as GEO advocated for a safe and just campus throughout the end of the winter term and through the summer that GEO’s strike emerged. Starting at 5am on Tuesday, September 8, and in the pouring rain, GEO members began the first shift of a twelve hour long picket. The trade union members who arrived at their construction sites respected our picket lines, and they continued to do so throughout the strike whenever GEO picket lines were at their job sites. The university administration’s approach of simply dismissing GEO and its demands became immediately more punitive, filing an unfair labor practice on the first day of the strike. On Wednesday, things began to snowball. That morning, undergraduate residential advisors went on strike without the protection of a union, citing the lack of protections and no hazard pay. Late that evening, the University administration came to GEO with its first offer.

While filled with many threats of retaliation, including a possible injunction should the strike continue, the offer did not include sufficient responses to GEO’s demands for greater testing, flexible childcare subsidies, and a universal remote teaching option. Additionally, the administration stood firm in its refusal to entertain the thought of engaging around our anti-policing demands. Throughout the four-hour long meeting, strikers weighed these fears of retaliation against the fact that the deal contained few wins. Furthermore, GEO members had to grapple with the question of what GEO would be signaling to the non-unionized RAs who just began their strike if the union accepted a deal that did nothing to keep them safe. Ultimately, the membership overwhelmingly voted to reject the deal, and picketing continued through Friday when another group of non-unionized undergraduate workers, the student dining staff, began a work slowdown, an amended strategy due to threats of retaliation had they started a full strike.

GEO’s initial strike authorization only lasted until Friday, 11 September, and with no offer on the table, which meant no non-retaliation clause, GEO membership authorized a strike extension. Throughout the weekend, the provost and president sent out a flurry of emails noting their willingness to come to the table and engage in good faith discussions with GEO. However, to the contrary and to reiterate the emails’ rhetoric, President Schlissel simultaneously sued UM’s graduate students, filing a court injunction that would force GEO members back into the classroom and underscoring the administration’s “good faith” negotiations. On Monday, and with a looming injunction over our heads, GEO returned to the picket lines, continuing the strike through Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening, GEO members reconvened for another general membership meeting to discuss and vote on UM’s second offer. Between the first and second offer, GEO made most of its tangible gains around childcare. Regarding the anti-policing demands, the second offer included the creation of a task force and a reevaluating the Michigan Ambassador’s program. Taken comprehensively, the second offer was just as insulting as the first. And while the university’s proposal had not changed significantly, the context in which strikers were agitating had. After the injunction hearing, those on the picket line would not have the protection of the union. To continue agitating with the injunction in place would shift punishment from the academic and university realm and into the legal sphere, placing our Black, brown, and Indigenous peers at greater risk. Furthermore, the irrevocable damage of a court filing abstractly mentioned in the 9 September meeting was now very real. GEO could not survive a court battle with UM lawyers. As graduate student workers, we have few protections, and the university administration made the conscious and intentional decision to attack the strongest protection graduate student workers have at our back: GEO. UM quickly engaged the courts, signaling loud and clear how it is unafraid to invoke hard punitive measures. GEO did not accept this second offer because of its content. GEO membership accepted the deal because to reject it would pave the way for the University to destroy our union.

Well before the strike, UM saw GEO’s demands that advocated for protecting the campus community and greater Ann Arbor community from seeing the town turn into a COVID-19 hotspot. Against the advice of its own ethics committee, the University of Michigan brought back a significant majority of its students to campus without honestly engaging with faculty, students, and staff about the risks. Now, both the campus and Ann Arbor community are left at risk. With inaccurate updating, it is unclear exactly how many cases of COVID-19 there are on campus. President Schlissel’s “public-health informed” semester was said to be based in science. Yet, as was found out through GEO’s strike, the models used to justify reopening campus had too wide of confidence margins and now the dashboard houses inaccurate and unhelpful data, leaving us wondering how the administration is using science to protect its community. When science didn’t work, the administration turned to policing. At both ends of the process of monitoring COVID-19, the administration enlists police forces to deal with students and workers. Roaming the streets on weekends, the police punish students hosting large gatherings and then later when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in the dorms, often campus security is called to escort them to quarantine housing.

The case of UM clearly demonstrates how the two veins of policing in the corporate university—campus police and the university administration’s policing capacities—are deeply intertwined. To further evidence the pervasiveness of this relationship across all US universities, we now turn briefly to UNC.

Labor Actions, Workers, and Allies

UNC has a history of graduate student worker strikes. After a semester of agitation which tore down the silent sam confederate memorial, in Fall 2018, TAs refused to submit final grades for students until the Board of Trustees rescinded their promise to erect a space that would continue to enshrine  the toppled racist edifice.

This was not the end of graduate student worker action in the last few years. At UNC, labor action has often been channeled between the Anti-Racist Graduate Worker Collective and the local UE150 union. When UNC’s university administration announced its plans to reopen over the summer, the administration anticipated student backlash, and therefore formulated a plan to misdirect workers’ ability to agitate effectively: endless meetings that yielded no tangible results. For instance, early on in the agitation, activists were told by the university administration that they would only communicate via the Graduate and Professional Student Federation (GPSF), which they considered to be the only legitimate elected and representative body and therefore the mouthpiece of graduate students. When graduate students managed to get GPSF to pass a resolution that campus should remain remote (among other demands), UNC administration promptly ignored that resolution. In another instance, UNC students were told repeatedly that, if the Orange County Health Department (OCHD) mandated that the university close, UNC would adhere to that mandate. UNC students and workers were urged to email the OCHD at volume to beg them to issue this mandate. What UNC administration didn’t admit at the time was that the OCHD has no ability to issue mandates, only recommendations. When the OCHD did issue a recommendation not to open on campus, the administration then, predictably, ignored it.

There are countless examples of this sort of misdirection that occurred throughout the summer—and by the time August came around, the writing was on the wall. The university administration never intended to listen to workers, regardless of what happened, in order to meet that sacred bottom line. They were willing to sacrifice students and vulnerable staff no matter the cost, and had already proven it by sickening 37 student athletes and staff by July 2020. As in the case of the UM,  at UNC similarly linked demands for pandemic relief to the ending of police presence on campus, understanding, like the UM workers, that the deteriorative impact COVID-19 among the communities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color has been exacerbated by racist policing across the US. UNC responded by posting police at dorms to “welcome” students back to campus—and more importantly, to ensure that students adhered to the frankly impossible distancing guidelines. Police were frequently employed to issue citations to students allegedly not correctly distancing—a move that, predictably given the racist core of police, most frequently targeted Black students most.

The lack of strong organizing and direct labor action over the summer cost the UNC and wider Chapel Hill community dearly. Hundreds of known COVID-19 cases spread in the first two weeks of students living on campus, and likely thousands of unknown ones since UNC sent students home without exit tests. At the same time, we had no clear allies: faculty were signaling obliquely they were unwilling to strike or support a strike, graduate student workers were divided, campus staff were similarly without a consensus. Yet, it is unclear whether direct labor action would have yielded a different outcome, given what we now see from the UM.

The Neoliberal Afterlives of Corporate University Action

In the wake of two modes of labor organizing—one with the support of a sanctioned union (UM), and one occurring in a hybrid form where students were divided between working within a union and outside of one (UNC)—we can now begin to draw conclusions about the kind of university system we now inhabit. After all, in neither case did the university administration attempt to engage in compromise. It seems that to universities now, any amount of labor organizing among graduate student workers on campus is too much labor organizing—on both campuses, the university moved to quash it without engaging in true-heartened negotiation. Furthermore, this is not the only circumstance in which university administrators have attempted to aggressively curtail labor action, as in the University of California-Santa Cruz’s infamous firing of 54 graduate student workers for engaging in a grade strike in Spring 2020 (41 who were eventually rehired due to continued graduate student worker agitation). Given this, what conclusions can we draw about the role of the university administration?

It’s obvious now: the core function—perhaps its only function—of the university administration is to police students and laborers alike. Its multidirectional ability to police, both through dedicated campus police that police our bodies and the university administration’s policing logic that circumscribe our range of choices, have been detrimental.

For generations, our collective ability to engage in labor actions has been deliberately undercut, both at the state level and at the level of our universities. From state legal impediments like right-to-work laws, to deliberate university decisions to keep workers weak, like the fact that graduate student worker stipends at UNC do not even come close to the minimum livable wage in Orange County, it is clear that the state and the university work hand-in-hand across the country in attempting to destroy our possibilities for labor action. Dragging its heels on providing conditions to benefit us, it is quick to lash out when its commodities (classes and grades) are threatened, levying injunctions and the omnipresent threat of firings and wage withholdings when it sees fit. The neoliberal corporate university seeks to individuate us as political-economic actors, to depoliticize us as laborers, and, failing that, to punish us aggressively for daring to envision a better future.

What does this mean for the future of university solidarity organizing?

At first glance, conditions appear bleak. But the university administrations are in a crisis mode. Reckless reopening plans across the country have sickened mass populations of students, staff, and workers across the US. Campuses have become the new national hotspots, contributing about 40,000 new cases since campuses began reopening in August (as of 11 September 2020). Class action lawsuits are pouring in. Some estimates show that college enrollment in the coming years could fall as much as 20%. All of these facts line up very dangerously against the business-as-usual model that corporatized universities have attempted to employ in the Fall 2020 semester.

Yet, UNC has now all-but-officially announced that it plans to once again attempt to open for Spring 2020, and UM continues to go about its business without the faith and support of many faculty and graduate students. What will the university administration do to protect this decision—and other dangerous, reckless, and selfish decisions like it—going forward now?

The post "Policing Is Not Your Concern” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Education is a Public Obligation and Individual Right

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, and Part IX.

The system of education in the US is failing at every level except for private, heavily endowed or extremely costly institutions for the wealthy and privileged. Students of all ages are increasingly viewed as “profit centers” for private enterprise to exploit. Private charter schools now operate many public schools for the benefit of their investors, not their students.

Public state-run universities that were founded on the principle of free education to all are no longer fully supported by public resources, and have become unaffordable to many. Students must take loans, which are profitable to the banks but chain the students to debts that often last nearly a lifetime. The federally guaranteed student loan programs that began in the early 1960s were a response to the gradual disappearance of free public universities. It was a way of passing on the cost to the students while assuring a nice profit to financial institutions. It follows the trend of helping the wealthy elite put their greedy hands in the till until there are no public trusts that are not contracted out to for-profit institutions.

This is a disgrace that must end. Many countries in the world provide better quality and more complete public education supported by taxes and thus by the entire community. Education is necessary and must be free and accessible in order to assure that all individuals are able to participate to the fullest in building their future, defending their rights, and empowering themselves and their community. It is hard to imagine a viable nation or society that does not invest public funds in the welfare of its people.

Here are some of the changes that need to be made in order for public education to keep its promise to the public and where all persons have equal access to a quality education, regardless of income level:

  1. Full and free high-quality public education must be made available to all persons at all levels of education and training up through the highest levels of graduate and medical school. Public funds must be prohibited from being used to subsidize private schools. There will be no charter schools.
  2. Public education will be supported by federal funds only, so as to assure equal educational opportunity to all, regardless of state or territory of residence.
  3. Funds for public education will be provided to native first nations at the same rates as to U.S. states and territories. First nations will have complete discretion over the administration, teaching curriculum and standards of their educational institutions.
  4. The expenditure per pupil will be the same nationwide except for cost variations due to cost of living in different localities. Class size will be standardized nationwide in accordance with recommendations by ,and through negotiation with, teacher unions and educational associations.
  5. A universal, federally funded childcare program for pre-school and young schoolchildren will be provided. The service will be accountable to the parent users and the caregivers.
  6. Subsidized university housing will be made available to students in public universities who maintain their academic standing, and according to need.

Avoiding the Obvious: Skim Reading, Exams and the Internet

It is the anxiety-inducing nightmare for the studious: A dream where you find yourself in an exam hall, which might, on ordinary days, be a gym or some other facility.  It is repurposed for that most cruel of blood sports: sorting out the learned from the dolts, the prize winners from the dunces.  The stern invigilators gaze as you like vermin to liquidate.  You are seated on a firm stool, rarely comfortable. You have been checked to see if you have any cheating accoutrements.  Permitted items: scrap paper, a pencil, an eraser.

Before you, apart from the often blue-rinsed wonders wishing to smother you, is the “exam paper”.  It has a “cover sheet”.  The most evident rule, one that does not apply to reading many, say, Australian newspapers, is to not start at the back and work your way to the front. (The back-to-front principle is sound on some level, as Australian sports writing can, in many ways, be more catchy and sprightly than the political dross at the front.)  Not so with your conventional exam papers.  The front sets tone, temper and tempo.

For those sitting exams now, in whatever fanciful mode they are delivered in, the same problems arise.  But another complication has been added: the enormous, mind numbing distraction of the Internet.  Infinite choice can have a negating effect; such an endless buffet destroys a capacity to consume nourishingly. According to sociologist Todd Gitlin, “If you have infinite choice, people are reduced to passivity.”

From this garden variety of choice sprung the social media netizen, the hyper-networked operator of several tasks, meaning that none are done proficiently.  Such a figure is incapable of the deep read.  Such an action becomes one of glancing, skimming, and gazing. Profundity is not consumed and is, for the most part, shunned.  Maryanne Wolf looks at this in the context of the skim reader, saturated with the distraction.  Babies and toddlers are “pacified” by the iPad; school children get stories from smartphones; boys play games instead of reading; parents read their Kindles and wade through newsfeeds and emails.  “Unbeknownst to most of us, an invisible, game-changing transformation links everyone in this picture: the neuronal circuit that underlines the brain’s ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing – a change with implications for everyone from the pre-reading toddler to the expert adult.”

The digital medium is not so much the message as an obfuscation of it.  “Studies on ages from elementary school students to young adults,” noted Wolf in 2018, “indicate that the slower, more time-demanding processes involved in comprehension and attention to details are adversely affected when reading the same content on digital mediums.”

The modern instructor (forget the term pedagogue, which is now being done to death by modern management, class room theories and political correctness), is left with a bewildering array of efforts that repudiate the self-evident front page, the instruction manual, the damnably obvious.  The truth is not out there so much as somewhere, lurking on some digital platform.  One student email suggests that she “heard from somewhere” (vagueness is golden in gossip) that she only had to answer one question from each section in her exam.  Never mind that the front cover of the set paper states, with punchy clarity, that all questions have to be answered, and not doing so will sink the grade.

To answer an exam, the person sitting it will deploy various strategies, except the obvious one.  The obvious one is described in simple terms in a resource book for teachers.  The section titled “Typical exam mistakes and how to avoid them” states the following: “The first most common mistake in exams is not reading the exam or task instructions properly.”  To think we know what to do is not the same as actually understanding what is expected. “Read everything carefully and read the instructions twice or three times to make sure you understand what you have to do.”  Not bad advice.

When answering exams, there will be the chancing opportunist, the ambitious cheater, the diviner.  In that mix can be added the social media mind, addled by availability, rumour and chat room feeds.  While not exactly on point, this could be regarded as a symptom of “secondary orality”, that manifestation of the post-literature world described by Caleb Crain with such force in 2007. In such a culture, disagreeable ideas are put aside as unworkable and undesirable; we “fall back on hunches”, take refuge in our instincts.  This is not helped by learning platforms which are larded with so much screen information so as to infantilize the user.

An interesting study on how such platforms as Brightspace or Canvas actually serve to impair student learning could be gathered from the fine-boned resistance against downloading certain links, especially those that lead to the intimidating sight of multiple pages. Unless the image is instant and obvious, dashingly glitzy and the soul of brevity, going to a link that states “course guide”, where all the material is available, is hard going indeed.  Preference is given on finding spread material through “tabs” and “modules”, much of it repetitive.  Let the user stroll through a series of clicks, and all will be well.

Wolf suggests that we need a new literacy for the digital age, in line with a deeper understanding about a very battered neutral circuitry. But what we are getting is an illiteracy profound and pronounced.  And reading the front page of an exam paper was never exactly the sort of thing that was done by many in any case.

Are We Up Against the Wall Yet, Alma Mater?

If all values are system values, what do we make of trending lawsuits filed by students against their college campuses? Is it something like the demand of an air traveler who gets downgraded from first class to coach? The analogy seems to have merit. At least it reminds us of flying.

Campuses have about five categories of bills they send to students: tuition, student activity fees, parking, meal plans, and housing. Tuition goes to the academic budget. Student activity fees go into the infrastructure of extracurricular life, student organizations, counseling, libraries, health services, etc. In public debate, the term tuition often collapses all five categories into one.

On the more obvious side, meal plans and housing should be refunded if students are ordered to leave campus. But this means that funding for food service workers and housekeeping staff suddenly goes to zero. Bundled with any refund of this type–however obvious–will be a question of layoffs.

Parking also seems like an obvious refundable claim. But again, parking services are self-funded through fees, and any refund is going to delete money that was budgeted for payroll.

Student activity fees get complicated, but the general theme is applicable. Wherever a campus is collecting fees, they are funding staff workers, and wherever fees are refunded, budgets for salaries begin to disappear.

Activity fees are complicated, because many services remain open to students, particularly counseling and emergency services, even if staff are working at a distance.

Which brings us to the difficult question of tuition itself, the money paid for academic, um, tuition. Students are correct to argue that online education is not the full experience of in-person education. For some fields of study, the difference can be a wide one. Drama, fine art, chemistry lab, etc., involve experiences that may be impossible to simulate online.

Students complain on the internet that moving their math classes online was especially difficult, which is an interesting thing to think about. Here we see the value of real-time personal attention to student questions and posture. The teacher can see everyone slumping down and make adjustments on the spot. Eye contact, unmediated by Zoom, is a wonderful teaching tool, and we can thank the pandemic for the crash course in the embodiment of it all. Teaching math is a deeply embodied transaction. Is that why my high school math teachers were coaches, too?

Literature was also mentioned by students on the internet. They missed the spontaneous discussion of the assigned materials, even if they were perfectly suitable for online delivery. Stanley Fish once asked, “is there a text in this class?” It all sounded so postmodern at the time, but here comes the pandemic, and we more plainly see how the text may be a kind of occasion for higher education, but never the education itself. There is a good reason why we continued to hold classes for several centuries, long after the printing press made it possible for everyone to read the books on their own.

As students were abruptly shifted from classroom to laptop, the feel of shock was widely confirmed. It was like being downgraded from first class.

However, we should not let the structure of our rant obscure the value of online education for those who need it most. Think of the soldier overseas, the working mother of three, or the 19-year-old who already has classes on campus plus a job as night clerk at your local hotel. Or perhaps the unemployed worker who wants an educational upgrade right away. Students such as these have competing pressures to consider, and online education is their preferred vehicle.

Two questions are important to ask about the difference between online and in-person instruction. Is there any difference in delivery cost? Did your online literature class leave your professor behind when it moved from class to laptop? Did the academic sector of campus find itself doing less work? Were teachers fired on the spot so that online classes could be lumped together into even more mind-numbing aggregations of distance packages? If the cost of delivering semester credits remained the same, how is it fair to demand refunds of tuition–when tuition is defined as the academic portion of the bill?

The second question is, what choice did the schools have? There are several related questions: If the pandemic made the move to online education necessary, and if online instruction involved the same payroll, and if other students were receiving online instruction by choice prior to the pandemic, just how much money do we think the school should pay back? Should the schools have simply refunded tuition to all classroom enrolled students and stopped trying to help them complete their semester credits?

And if schools have to re-budget their credit-delivery tuition to a lower amount, how do you expect them to make up the difference? Larger class sizes? Fewer instructors? Surely you are not expecting across-the-board cuts to administrative salaries? Do you really think that’s how things work?

At any rate, I think students will likely benefit from the recent right-wing shift in our national courts. There was already a culture war on liberal sentiment, the liberal arts, and liberal education prior to the pandemic. Lawsuits that demand refunds for the academic emergency seem to play into a picture of colleges as elite liberal leeches who probably deserve a whipping of some kind.

Recalling our thesis of system values, the student lawsuits also represent a dialectical moment when higher education in America is viewed increasingly as the student’s problem to finance. The state has been shaving its share of commitment for many decades now–at least since Reaganomics–transforming a system of public finance into a system of student debt, a.k.a neoliberalismo. In this social moment, student lawsuits are social expressions of pushback against this system of values, where Alma Mater, or nurturing mother, is dragged into court for a sad family feud.

Meanwhile, all the student energy directed against local campus administrations has had the effect of deflecting pressure from the national stage just as several trillions of dollars have been allocated for COVID-19 relief. And according to the usual calendar of campus politics, the game is over. Once finals are done and grades are in for the Spring, college student activism usually goes into hibernation for at least several months.

We have seen no evidence that widespread student discontent was ever effectively delivered to the doors of Congress in the form of an appeal for direct federal relief. This may be a failure of media coverage or research on our part. Instead, we have seen Congress allocate modest relief funds for college students and campuses. In an election year, Congress would, in theory, be most susceptible to students organized to advocate and vote. But the pressure was never brought to bear at the Congressional level, where the real money is.

Forbes reporter Adam S. Minsky, Esq., reports that progressive Democrats wanted to award $30,000 in student loan relief across the board. As the final package of the HEROES Act was being negotiated prior to the House vote of May 15, the dollar amount of student loan relief was cut to $10,000, and the scope of relief was restricted to borrowers who demonstrated some defined forms of hardship.

There is money in the House-passed HEROES Act that can flow to public campuses, but the amounts are less than what organized higher ed interests groups had asked for. And this is another sign that the higher education community was unable to mount much of an organized voice at the national level during March, April, or May, preoccupied as they were with the day-to-day work of getting semester credits completed, slashing budgets for the next academic year, and generally contemplating the lifeboat ethics of who gets shoved off.

Meanwhile, back in the nation’s capital, the majority leader of the Senate and the President of the United States both promise that none of this modest HEROES money, in support of the public sector or higher ed, is going to see the light of day. If students are able to claw back funds through lawsuits, and if the HEROES Act dies in the Senate, the legacy of 2020 will be what?

The American tragedy here is that Mencius was correct. The personality of the ruler flows down through the kingdom. We have become a flock of bickering grackles. Above us, we fail to notice if that sky remains devoid of any farsighted, graceful eagle. If all values are system values, what system will we reach for after final grades are in?

The 5th Coronavirus Relief Package We Need

The coronavirus depression is fast becoming as deep as the Great Depression. The federal government’s response has been too little, too late.

While sickness and death spread, while unemployment and small business failures soar, while health care and essential workers lack personal protective equipment (PPE), Congress is in recess until May 4.

The childlike dummy, Donald Trump, spouts bad advice daily in his televised briefings. Thursday he said we could beat the coronavirus by injecting disinfectants or somehow shining ultraviolet radiation inside our bodies.

Meanwhile, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is MIA. Is he sitting on a park bench somewhere feeding bread crumbs to pigeons?

Since the lockdown started five weeks ago, 26 million people have applied for unemployment insurance. But many qualified people have yet to receive unemployment benefits, or even get their applications accepted through overwhelmed state unemployment insurance agencies.

Economists estimate that the real unemployment rate may have reached 23% in April, which is about as high as it ever got in the Great Depression. The economy had contracted nearly 50% four years into Great Depression, while economists predict a contraction of 25% to 50% over a few months now.

Many of these temporary layoffs are turning into permanent job losses as businesses fail, particularly the small business that provide half of the nation’s jobs. Half of small businesses went into the lockdown with less than a month of cash reserves to cover fixed expenses like rent or mortgage and utilities. When small businesses run out of cash, they are dead.

The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was supposed to keep these small businesses going, but like the unemployment insurance program, the loans are not getting to most people and the money allocated is far from enough to meet the need. 60% of small businesses have applied, but only 5% small businesses have received PPP funding.

When the lockdown started, Obama’s Small Business Administration head, Karen Mills, predicted a small business failure rate of 20% in a “best case scenario” and 30% in a “good scenario.” With a nearly 100% failure rate by the federal government in responding to the coronavirus depression, the carnage among small businesses and their workers is looking like a worst case scenario.

Big businesses are getting bailed out. Much of the money designated for small businesses has been snatched up by big businesses before small business’s applications were even considered. The half a trillion allocated for big businesses is being doled out to Trump cronies without disclosure of the recipients and without restrictions against firing workers or bonuses for executives. The Federal Reserve has cut its overnight borrowing interest rate for banks to zero and is engaged in unlimited trillions of dollars of quantitative easing to backstop corporate debt.

Meanwhile, essential workers—in hospitals, grocery stores, public transit, sanitation, food processing, package handling, delivery—are working in most cases without adequate or any PPE. We have already lost 83 transit workers to COVID-19 in New York City. We must demand an OSHA Temporary Standard to provide enforceable PPE protection for workers.

Most of the elements of the 5th Relief Package we need have been introduced by various members of Congress, but they won’t be included if we don’t speak up and demand real emergency relief.

Here are measures the 5th Relief Package should include to protect our health and well-being during the crisis:

– Medicare to Pay for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment and All Emergency Health Care
– Defense Production Act to Rapidly Plan the Production and Distribution of Medical Supplies and a Universal Test, Contact Trace, and Quarantine – – Program to Safely Reopen the Economy
– An OSHA Temporary Standard to Provide Enforceable PPE Protection for Workers
– $2,000 a Month to All Over Age 16 and $500 per Child
– Loans to All Businesses and Hospitals for Payroll and Fixed Overhead To Be Forgiven If All Workers Are Kept on Payroll
– Moratorium on Evictions, Foreclosures, and Utility Shutoffs
– Cancel Rent, Mortgage, and Utility Payments; Federal Government Pays Those Bills; High-income People Pay Taxes on this Relief
– Suspend Student Loan Payments with 0% Interest Accumulation
– Federal Universal Rent Control
– Aid to State and Local Governments Sufficient to Keep Essential Services Running
– Universal Mail-in Ballots for the 2020 General Election

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that over the last 600 years, the economic depression after pandemics persists for about 40 years, in contrast to much faster recoveries after wars. The difference is that capital is destroyed in wars that has to be rebuilt, but not in pandemics. Coming out of this pandemic, we should destroy the productive capital stock that has been heating up the planet and poisoning the environment and replace it with clean energy, zero waste production systems.

To rebuild our economy when it is safe to go back to work, we should invest public money on the scale needed to put everyone to back to doing what we should have been doing before the coronavirus crisis hit in order to protect our climate and our people. I have detailed a 10-Year, $42 Trillion budget for an Ecosocialist Green New Deal that would create 38 million new jobs rebuilding all of our production systems for zero-to-negative greenhouse gas emissions, zero-waste recycling, and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030 in order to reverse the climate crisis and other environmental problems.

This full-strength Green New Deal includes an Economic Bill of Rights to end poverty and economic despair. It provides for a job guarantee, a guaranteed income above poverty, affordable housing, Medicare for All, lifelong tuition-free public education, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits. We need the Green New Deal now for economic recovery as well as climate safety.

Harvard’s Fossil Fuels Formula: Engagement before Withdrawal

“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it,” urged the Earl of Chesterfield in a letter of advice to his son penned in 1749.  “No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”  This has not tended to be the view of university governors the world over, notably in the field of ethical investments.  The elite heavy weights have shown their flabbiness in the area, dragging in their approach to matters of environment and the climate.  Money is just that; where it goes, in terms of investment, is of little moral consequence, lacking smell and ethical baggage.  Industry is there to be, and here, the word is essential, engaged.

Harvard University, one of the wealthiest teaching and research institutions on the planet with an endowment of $41 billion, is something of a specialist in this.  In 2013, the university’s President Drew Gilpin Faust adopted the position of “engagement over withdrawal” on the subject of fossil fuel divestments.  At the time, Faust considered any full divestment measure as unwarranted and unwise: the endowment fund was to be seen in purely self-beneficial terms, “a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”

Playing the fiddle of an amoral politician, Faust attempted different measures of dismissiveness and reassurance: climate change did pose “a serious threat to our future – and increasingly our present”, and the university would be incorporating “environmental, social and governance” into its investments, thereby aligning with “investors’ fiduciary duties”.  Such an approach guaranteed an indefinite series of postponements on the matter.

By April 2017, the Harvard Management Company, the entity responsible for managing the finances of the corporation, felt that some move was required.  Colin Butterfield, heading the natural resources section at the HMC, accepted that climate change was a “huge problem” and that a “pause” in fossil fuel investments would take place.  Slyly, Butterfield shifted the focus, distinguishing between direct and indirect investments in the industry.  “What I can tell you is, from my area, I could honestly say that I doubt – I can’t say never, because never say never – but I doubt that we would ever make a direct investment with fossil fuels.”

In 2019, Harvard’s new broom, Lawrence Bacow still preferred “engaging with industry”.  In a surprise appearance at a forum hosted by Divest Harvard and the Harvard Political Union in April that year, he gave a model lesson on intellectual skiving: Teach, research and convince, and the industry itself will change.  Till that was done, the fossil fuel matter could be postponed.  “We need to engage with those whose behaviour we need to change.  We need to engage with industry.  We do that through scholarship; we do that through our teaching.”

Donning his weighty business hat, Bacow played the role of cold realist, warning against any policy coitus interruptus.  Divesting from fossil fuels was not the same as tobacco, where a full-scale enterprise of withdrawal through the university from research to labs could be implemented.  “The day after, if we were to divest, we’re going to turn on the lights.  We would still be dependent on fossil fuels.”

It has been a long, acrimonious battle.  The Harvard President and Fellows have tended to swat the claims away, regarding them as callow and unrealistic.  The students, in turn, have sought to have their case taken seriously, engaging in their own little bit of climate change lawfare.  In 2014, a lawsuit was lodged in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts, featuring an 11-page complaint and 167 pages of supporting exhibits asking the court to force divestment on the students’ behalf.  The measure failed at first instance and on appeal, though campaign managed, along the way, to gather support from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, climate change scientist James Hansen and the Cambridge City Council.

The central problem in such climate change litigation remains one of conviction.  Courts refuse to cast a distant eye upon the future, expecting evidence to be as immediate, clear and incontestable as possible.  The argument by the students was precisely one of current action to prevent environmental dystopia, a case for future, potentially imperiled generations.  Instead, the students failed to show they had legal standing to challenge fossil fuel investments for their negative impacts on academic freedom and education at Harvard.  Their interests were “widely shared” with thousands of their peers at Harvard; their connection with the subject matter was not sufficiently “specific” or “personal”; and their allegations on financial mismanagement were too speculative to be accepted.

Both the Massachusetts Appellate Court and the lower court also came to the same conclusion on rejecting the merits of a new civil wrong on the “intentional investment in abnormally dangerous activities”.  The students had, in the higher court’s assessment, “brought their advocacy, fervent and articulate and admirable as it is, to a forum that cannot grant the relief they seek.”

The Bacow formula of engagement has been tinkered with, if ever so slightly.  As a tentative nod to the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, and in response to a resolution adopted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in February, the endowment was instructed to develop an approach to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its investment portfolio by 2050.  Full Postponement Bacow had now transitioned to Partial Postponement Bacow.  “Harvard’s endowment should be a leader in shaping pathways to a sustainable future,” he wrote to members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “With this in mind, the corporation has directed the Harvard Management Company (HMC) to set itself on a path to decarbonize the overall endowment portfolio.”

In doing so, few toes will be tread upon in this new approach, as it “considers the investment portfolio as a whole, rather than simply targeting the suppliers and producers of fossil fuels.”  Possible partners, he warned, would not be demonised, as they had “committed to transitioning to carbon neutrality and to funding research on alternative fuels and on strategies to decarbonize the economy.”

The reaction from Divest Harvard showed an expected mixture of “I told you so” satisfaction tinged with regret.  “Until today, the administration has claimed that the endowment should not be used for political purposes.”  Finally, due to the pressure of student, faculty and alumni, Harvard had “acknowledged its duty to mitigate the emissions its endowment has been fuelling for decades.”  Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard was less complimentary: the university had taken “a step in the right direction”, but the plan was “insufficient”, making fossil fuel companies “cooperative partners”.

Former college president James L. Powell assessed the nature of managing an endowment sternly in a recent letter to the New York Times.  “The fundamental principle of endowment management is that future student generations should benefit to the same extent as the current generation.  By investing in the very companies whose products cause dangerous global warming, Harvard violates that principle and bets that it can profit from the success of those companies.” Such betting is set to continue – at least till 2050.