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Liberty University Bars College Democrats, Democrats to Apologize

Liberty University Campus Democrats were bannedEarlier this month, the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University decided to decertify its chapter of the Campus Democrats club. This means the group cannot use Liberty University's name on any of its materials, can't advertise events on campus, and can't use any university funds. Why? Because its parent organization, the national Democratic Party, "supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the 'LGBT' agenda, Hate Crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc".

Rachel Maddow goes into more detail:

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These idiots are going to be sued, have their tax exempt status revoked, or both. Americans United for Separation of Church and State laid out a pretty solid case as to why what Liberty did was illegal, and has filed a formal complaint to the IRS. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), however, states that it's entirely within Liberty's rights as a private university to do so - once again, property rights discourse trumps all other legal arguments with them.

Reaction to the decision has been almost universally condemned. Young Democrats of America has set up a petition you can sign here.

Today the club members met with Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. to negotiate how the club may be recognized again. And one of the conditions Liberty is setting is a public apology:

After meeting with Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. today, members of Liberty University’s Campus Democrats club said they are developing a proposal that would let the club regain officially recognized status while promoting a pro-life agenda.

The club also is drafting an apology to the school and a retraction of some statements it made to the news media last week after the university revoked the club’s official recognition.

Maria Childress, the club’s staff adviser, said Falwell and other administrators criticized the club for its comments to the news media. A meeting of club representatives and university administrators lasted almost two hours today.

And the Administration has made it clear that they aren't budging when it comes to funding - which is likely to be the crux of any court case against them. Those clever Dems! They must know that classic maxim, "power concedes nothing without groveling apologies."

I've included the entire "cease and desist" letter the club got from the Liberty administration:

When it Comes to Education, Democrats Hate Democracy

Late last month, Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came out swinging against elected school boards:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that mayors should take control of big-city school districts where academic performance is suffering.

Duncan said mayoral control provides the strong leadership and stability needed to overhaul urban schools.
He acknowledged Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso, asking how many superintendents the city had in the past 10 years. The answer was seven.

"And you wonder why school systems are struggling," Duncan said. "What business would run that way?"

After the forum, Duncan told The Associated Press that urban schools need someone who is accountable to voters and driving all of a city's resources behind children.

"Part of the reason urban education has struggled historically is you haven't had that leadership from the top," he said.

Arne Duncan Renaissance 2010In a sense, I can understand his motivation: as head of Chicago Public Schools, he was a direct recipient of abrogated school board power. The democratic, decentralized, and much-lauded Local School Council system in Chicago (which was created in the late 80s through tireless grassroots community organizing against the very bureaucracy Duncan would end up running) was systematically gutted and ignored under his tenure. It also isn't surprising that his main line of attack is that institutions of learning and governance aren't run enough like businesses. Duncan's Renaissance 2010 program was written and handed to him by the big business players in Chicago and elsewhere.

Now the Center for American Progress, through its panoply of blogs, is pushing the idea with some help with Mayor Bloomberg. Both CAP's Wonk Room and Matthew Yglesias blogs talked up the idea that really, having fewer elected officials means more democracy. Tom Vander Ark at the Huffington Post called what little democratic control we have over our schools to be a "strange historical remnant." Yglesias took the idea and ran with it, all the way to its monarchical end:

I think this is part of a larger issue about getting democracy right in the United States. There was an assumption, at one time, that you could make government more democratic and accountable by, in essence, multiplying the number of elected officials.

In retrospect, I think this was based on flawed logic and faulty assumptions that forgot to account for the fact that people have a limited amount of time they’re realistically going to spend monitoring public officials.
I think part of the answer is that states should probably adopt unicameral legislatures and consider cutting down on the number of independently elected statewide officials. But cutting down on the quantity and influence of hyper-local electeds and putting responsibility in the hands of visible figures like the mayor and city council is crucial.

Apparently Bloomberg did an interview for ThinkProgress, part of which featured him extoling the virtues of dictatorial control over schools, teachers, and students, with the help of bogus, cooked numbers:

My favorite part is near the end, when he says: “...you could literally end democracy as we know it here in this country… without an educated public. And when you have these school boards that are fundamentally controlled by special interests, the truth of the matter is that students come last, if at all.” Fewer elected officials = more democracy! It all makes perfect sense now!

Thankfully, regular readers largely countered and ridiculed such a position:

The flipside of Matt’s point is that when a single local elected executive is responsible for EVERYTHING, it’s pretty hard to hold him or her accountable for any specific thing. If you like what Bloomberg’s doing with, say, public safety and housing but don’t like his education policies, how do you hold him accountable? You can’t cast half a vote. On the other hand, a school board subject to being voted out of office can be held accountable.

And one of the commenters actually mentions what progressive reform of our school systems would look like:

The other kind of reform that is possible is to empower parents and teachers, but in order to do that you don’t need to gather power into the office of the mayor- you need to distribute power into the neighborhoods, families, and classrooms.

Another tip-off is the exaggerated concern about the “special interests”. Matt isn’t talking here about the textbook publishers and computer sellers- a mayor who doesn’t know anything about education isn’t going to tangle with those “experts”. And he isn’t talking about the real estate industry that wants to keep school taxes low- no mayor is going to try to trim the horns of the real estate barons.

No, when Matt is talking about “special interests” he’s referring to teachers and parents. Transfer the powers of the school board to the mayor’s office and those “special interests” will have just as much influence as the rest of us in an election- which is to say, none.

Authoritarian, bureaucratic schools are a bipartisan affair in politics - which means it's going to take a lot more than mere elections to reclaim our country's educational systems.

Obama's Education Policy is "giving George W. Bush a third term"

Obama hearts Bush on Education Policy!I just ran across a great article from Education Week looking at the striking similarities between Obama's Department of Education and George W. Bush's.

The writer also interviews the always-awesome Alfie Kohn, teacher union officials, and some right wing policy people (Bush Administration, AEI, etc.). It's one of the best mainstream analyses of Obama's education priorities that I've seen in awhile.

The money quote is pretty early on in the article:

"He is operating almost in a straight line from President Bush," said Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University, who co-writes a blog for edweek.org. She has criticized core elements of Mr. Obama’s K-12 agenda, such as his enthusiasm for the charter sector and what she worries is an overreliance on standardized testing to judge schools and teachers.

"Obama is, in effect, giving George W. Bush a third term in education," said Ms. Ravitch, who served as an assistant secretary of education under the first President Bush.

 The article is behind a barrier at edweek, so I've reposted it below the fold:

Students Defy Right Wing Politician and Screen Porn Flick at UMD

University of Maryland screening of Pirates II Stagnetti's Revenge - featuring Senator Andy Harris and the Student Power

Student organizers with the Student Power Party screened a portion of the high-budget porn/satire "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" last night, after a panel discussion on censorship and free speech.

The film was originally to be screened last week in the theater of the student union in conjunction with a talk about safe sex - but once Maryland state legislators in heard about it, conservative lawmakers headed by State Senator Andrew Harris threatened to pull all $400+ million of state funding to the school if it went ahead with the screening. UMD Administration was all too happy to comply, all the while insisting that they did it of their own accord.Baltimore Sun:

Linda Clement, vice president for student affairs at Maryland, said the decision to cancel the film was her own and based on a variety of factors.

"I think people were concerned about portrayal of women, concerned about violence, concerned about our students and decision-making processes," she said. "We were losing sight of the educational value that might come from some kind of exercise like this, so it just seemed like the best thing to do."

Clement said it was appropriate for state lawmakers to be debating what films a university shows on campus. "I think state legislators have the right to weigh in on many, many issues regarding state agencies," she said.

As Marc Fisher of the Washington Post put it, "At the University of Maryland yesterday, the school's top brass faced a classic test of their allegiance to the ideals of open inquiry, freedom of speech and academic independence. They flunked big time."

While the UMD bureaucrats were scrambling to kiss rings in Annapolis, student organizers seized on the moment to give everyone an object lesson in freedom of speech and student power. Members of the Student Power Party reserved a large room and screened the first half hour of Pirates II, after a rousing panel discussion by UMD professors and a lawyer for the ACLU.

This was certainly a victory for student power and direct action - "you won't screen the film? Then we will!" And this was also a great example of the Streisand Effect: that is, attempts to censor something often only result in many more people hearing about and seeing it. Student organizers also did a wonderful job with messaging and media strategy. If Student Power Party members win the UMD student government elections going on today and tomorrow, this may be a hint of what an energized, aggressive SGA will look like.

State Sen. Harris, who despite his best efforts is left with egg on his face, is now arguing that the Regents should come up with a policy regarding pornographic movie screenings on campus. Of course, he's clear as to what he wants that policy to be. As the Washington Post reported, "Harris said the university pornography policy should require that 'you can't have university-sponsored XXX entertainment on campus.'" Thankfully as a Republican he doesn't have a lot of legislative clout in the legislature, and everyone involved knows that University funding isn't in jeopardy. It's telling, however, that the group of people most aware of this fact, the Administration, were also the first to abandon free expression on campus. And from the start that's what this controversy has always been about: it hasn't been about pornography itself (which I'm sure most everyone has strong opinions regarding), but about how deep into campus affairs government officials can reach and meddle.

NYU College Republicans and Democrats Lecture TBNYU on How to Create Radical Change

HURR DURRIn a move reminiscent of The Wall Street Journal criticizing David Graeber's anarchist credentials, the electoral and reformist student groups at NYU did their best at hand-wringing and concern trolling, through a press release (of course sent out after they knew how everything would turn out).

NYU Students and Administration Members,

Though “Take Back NYU!” (TBNYU) has raised legitimate concerns regarding the conduct of the NYU administration, we, the undersigned believe that these concerns should be expressed in a more constructive manner within the avenues that NYU has established for student advocacy.

Many NYU students support budget disclosure, financial aid reform, greater sensitivity to student concerns, and increased openness and transparency. However, we believe that:

1) TBNYU’s tactics are confrontational and disrespectful in a manner that alienates sympathetic students and prevents the university from constructive and respectful engagement.

2) TBNYU’s demands are too disjointed. Broader student support can only be achieved if demands are coherent and focused.

3) TBNYU’s conduct is not appropriate to the gravity of the situation and does not encourage the thoughtful discourse necessary.

We urge that the NYU administration not dismiss the concerns of TBNYU and continue to pursue an amicable end to the situation. Should they be raised in a more constructive and appropriate manner, whether by TBNYU or any other student group at NYU, we hope the administration will not close the door to future discussion on the issues.

We, the undersigned:
NYU Students Organizing for America
Students of Color and Allies
Think Torch
NYU College Democrats
NYU College Republicans
Political Union & Review at New York University

"Golly gosh! Can't we win a better university without ruffling any feathers? What if we just kept asking nicely urging NYU to open its books and for the Administration to cede power to democratic structures?"

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, TBNYU activists and allies can easily determine the mental status of their fair weather friends.

Arne Duncan: Your Voice for a Commodified Education

Militarized Campuses: a Bipartisan Affair

rotcLast week, Barack Obama confirmed what many had hoped was a misstatement made in the primaries. Washington Post:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took the occasion to chide Columbia for its lack of on-campus ROTC. "I don't think that's right," Mr. McCain said. "Shouldn't the students here be exposed to the attractiveness of serving in the military, particularly as an officer?" Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) readily agreed, calling Columbia's anti-ROTC stance a "mistake." 

Flash back several months:

From last night's Democratic debate, as reported by The Hill:
Obama and Edwards both said that they supported withholding funding from higher education institutions that do not provide ROTC programs to students. Clinton initially said she would enforce laws to stop funding but later said of prominent schools that do not have ROTC programs that "there are ways they can work out fulfilling that obligation."
What they were talking about is the Solomon Amendment — a law passed in 1996 (and upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court) that allows the Secretary of Defense to strip a college or university of all Federal funding if the school bans/prohibits ROTC or any other military recruitment on campus.

If you recall, the LGBT and anti-war communities flipped out at this, and rightfully so.

Having ROTC and military recruiters on campus violates many university non-discrimination regulations. To create sympathy for their argument, the Post casts it in classist terms of elite universities being the only ones without recruiters. But the long shadow of the Pentagon does reach these institutions, in the form of "defense" research into everything from smart bombs to spy satellites to bioweapons. 

And the Post wraps it up with a bit of flag waving:

"Don't ask, don't tell" is a misguided policy. For the time being, though, it is the law of the land, and we see no sign that the Ivies' protest is having any impact on it. Meanwhile, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines defend all Americans, gay or straight.

But it is having an impact, as all boycotts do (to a greater or lesser extent). They're also serving as an example to others. As more and more universities refuse to bow down and subsidize Empire, we'll see reduced capacity for another set of Middle East (or South American) adventures, which is, scarily, still a possibility nomatter who wins in November.

Update on the Greek Student Movement

In prep for a presentation I'm giving at Muhlenberg College this weekend, I ran into a nice (if a bit dated - April 2008) summation of the current state of the student movement in Greece - particularly its resistance to neoliberal "reforms." (Check out our earlier coverage of the issue early last year for some background.) Apparently the joint work between students and faculty against these reforms has for the most part collapsed.

News Roundup: 7/28/08

New Zealand students offer new bounty for arrest of Condoleezza Rice for war crimes


A group of New Zealand students offered a higher reward Saturday for the citizen's arrest of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for war crimes after another group withdrew their own bounty, accusing police of threatening them.

Canadian student faces deportation from Israel following protest

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