Essays of the Week

Monday, July 04, 2016

Refuse to visit universities if they do not properly respond to allegations of sexual misconduct

Last month, Vice President Biden penned a searing letter to the victim in a notorious Stanford University rape case. “I am filled with furious anger,” he wrote, “both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken.”
Biden’s letter encapsulated the national outrage that erupted when the woman’s attacker was sentenced to just six months in county jail. It was also a sharp reminder that one of the Obama administration’s most ardent policy initiatives has been a concerted campaign to end the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses.
According to White House officials, top members of the administration — including the president, the vice president, their wives and members of the Cabinet — will not visit institutions whose leaders they consider insufficiently serious about pursuing sexual-assault allegations and punishing perpetrators. Biden said in an interview that he would like the federal government to “take away their money” if a college or university fails to change its ways.
As the administration nears its end, the urgency of some proposals has dissipated, but the focus on campus sexual misconduct has intensified: “Now’s the time to put the pedal to the metal,” Biden said.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Ivy League of Abusers: Elite, private institutions' dark history

African-Americans have long lived with unanswered questions about their roots, missing branches in their family trees and stubborn silences from elders reluctant to delve into a painful past that extends back to slavery. This month, scores of readers wrote to us, saying they had finally found clues in an unexpected place: an article published in The New York Times.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Human Rights and social justice: the meaning and reality of torture

In the city of Chicago, Jon Burge and his team of detectives tortured over 110 Black men and women at Chicago police headquarters from 1972 to 1991.

Instead of investigating these crimes, the City of Chicago opted for covering it up, spending:

  • 9,968,191 taxpayer dollars defending Jon Burge against claims of police torture,
  • 9,880,073 taxpayer dollars spent on the legal cases related to the Burge torture scandal, and
  • 468,000 Taxpayer dollars spent for Burge’s pension since he was terminated from the department for his acts of torture and abuse.
  • And millions more settling and defending civil and criminal cases linked to these events.

110 victims of torture, on the other hand, have had their lives profoundly changed. Some served time or lost their lives without cause, including

  • 12 torture survivors were sentenced to death,
  • 5 torture survivors were sentenced to death but were later exonerated, and
  • 11 torture survivors were exonerated.

One of these survivors, Darrell Cannon was tortured on November 2, 1983 by White detectives working under the supervision of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. He confessed, under torture, to being an accomplice to a murder. The confession led to his wrongful conviction for murder and twenty-four years of incarceration. He is now traveling the country reminding people, that torture is not a theory, an abstract idea, an imagined threat... It is real. We are grateful that he has the courage to talk about this cruel crime, of which he was a victim. He is here at the University of Iowa today to share his experience with us. 

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Resource allocation and social justice

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia *

On February 23, University of Iowa’s president, J. Bruce Harreld, held a “town hall” meeting. It consisted of a one-hour data dump followed by a poorly managed Q&A session. Unsurprisingly, very few people in attendance were able to ask questions and receive meaningful answers. However, throughout the event Harreld repeatedly mentioned two phrases—“allocating resources” and “spreading the peanut butter”—that might be key to understanding the thinking and strategy of the new leadership of the University. Should the people who are served by this public institution, mainly students, worry? The short answer is, yes. Sadly, early signs suggest that those who need resources most will not get them: students with disabilities.
Faculty who teach large General Education courses may have recently received a letter from the Student Disability Services (SDS), as I did. Most of the content of the letter is familiar, but the first recommendation is noteworthy. It reads:

[Named student] will need a copy of notes that’s thorough and more comprehensive than a PowerPoint or outline... The instructor may choose to share a copy of their own notes, make a confidential announcement to solicit a volunteer student note taker from class, or have a TA take notes.
CLAS’s Undergraduate Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee (UEPCC) noted that “SDS announced on January 21 that [it] can no longer offer testing accommodations… SDS has thus asked instructors to handle testing arrangements for these students.”  UEPCC members were unsure if instructors were qualified to do some of the tasks they were asked to do.
Why should students and their parents be worried about this change in services at this public university? Because if the administrators are willing to re-allocate resources that were meant to provide for a group of students protected by state and federal laws, one can only imagine the future of programs that provide for other marginalized social. This “resource re-allocation” is a dangerous precedent because:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Seven inconvenient truths about ISIS, terrorism

Guest Editorial (first published on Des Moines Register)

American Muslims now live with three interconnected and devastating burdens: disastrous civil wars that are turning Syrians and Iraqis into unwanted refugees, acts of terrorism by fanatical groups that are distorting their faith, and racist attitudes and acts inspired by politicians claiming to represent the citizens of the United States. None of these issues are of American Muslims’ own making. Yet they are called upon to clear their religion of perversions, argue the virtues of admitting refugees, and fight new expressions of persistent racism in America. The real perpetrators of these burdens continue to profit from their trade in the sweat and blood of the vulnerable, and the real causes continue unabated.

Undoubtedly the couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who murdered 14 people in San Bernardino, were inspired by ISIL. There is also no doubt that the order to commit such murders came from ISIL, although law enforcement officials claim that they have no evidence that “ISIS directed or ordered the attack.” The distinction between attacks inspired by ISIL and the ones ordered by ISIL reveals a lack of understanding of the ideology and practices of ISIL and an incoherent response that allows this group to carry out its genocidal agenda. This willful ignorance is present among federal law enforcement officials and politicians, especially those who are supposed to formulate a comprehensive strategy to neutralize and eradicate such threats. Importantly, the occurrence of these brutal attacks in many countries, with both Muslim and non-Muslim majorities, underscore the link between the crises in Syria and Iraq, the spread of terrorism, and increased hateful speech against Muslims. It is now abundantly clear that the longer the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars are allowed to continue, the graver the threat of terrorism around the world. Therefore, properly defining the nature of the terrorist threat facing the world and defeating ISIL in Syria, Libya, and Iraq will protect American citizens — all of them — at home and abroad, and will end the cycle of violence that is killing and displacing people from their homes and countries.

Defeating ISIL and its current and future derivative requires a comprehensive principled strategy that is built on facts, not on imagination or political spin. Through such a strategy the administration should be able to protect American citizens — including American Muslims — effectively counter ISIL’s propaganda, and stop the violent civil wars that create the kind of environment where ISIL thrives. Fearing being perceived as sympathizers to authoritarian regimes, most experts and media outlets avoid reminding the public and our political leaders of the facts and the hard truths that must guide U.S. foreign policy and security strategy. Here are some of these facts and hard truths: