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By Thomas Curwen, Jason Song and Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

If the University of Missouri was the spark, then the fire didn’t take long to spread.

Since the resignation of its president and chancellor Nov. 10, protesters have organized at more than 100 colleges and universities nationwide. Social media sites have lighted up with voices of dissent, and what began as a grievance has evolved into a movement.

Inspired by the marches in Ferguson, Mo., and Black Lives Matter, students are taking to social media to question the institutions they once approached for answers.

Calling for racial and social reforms on their campuses, they are borrowing tactics of the past — hunger strikes, sit-ins and lists of demands — and have found a collective voice to address their frustrations, hurt and rage.

Their actions seem to have hit the mark.

Last week, the dean of students at Claremont McKenna College left the university after students protested her comments to a Latina student with the offer to work for those who “don’t fit our CMC mold.”

Tuesday night, Jonathan Veitch, the president of Occidental College, said he and other administrators were open to considering a list of 14 reforms, including the creation of a black studies major and more diversity training, that student protesters had drawn up.

Students at the University of Southern California have similarly proposed a campuswide action plan, which includes the appointment of a top administrator to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

Nationwide, complaints of racism and microaggression are feeding Facebook pages and websites at Harvard, Brown, Columbia and Willamette universities, as well as at Oberlin, Dartmouth and Swarthmore colleges.

Protesters at Ithaca College staged a walkout to demand the president’s resignation, and Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, announced a number of steps, including the appointment of a deputy dean of diversity, to work toward “a better, more diverse, and more inclusive Yale.”

For decades, students have helped drive social change in America, if not the world. Campuses, said University of California President Janet Napolitano, have “historically been places where social issues in the United States are raised and where many voices are heard.”

Over the decades, student protests have shifted attitudes in the country on civil rights and the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation and apartheid, and some of today’s actions are borrowing from tactics of the past.

Although some of the strategies may seem familiar, it is the speed and the urgency of today’s protests that are different.

“What is unique about these issues is how social media has changed the way protests take place on college campuses,” said Tyrone Howard, associate dean of equity, diversity and inclusion at the University of California, Los Angeles. “A protest goes viral in no time flat. With Instagram and Twitter, you’re in an immediate news cycle. This was not how it was 20 or 30 years ago.”

Howard also believes that the effectiveness of the actions at the University of Missouri has encouraged students on other campuses to raise their voices.

“A president stepping down is a huge step,” he said. “Students elsewhere have to wonder, ‘Wow, if that can happen there, why can’t we bring out our issues to the forefront as well?'”

Shaun R. Harper, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, agrees. The resignation of two top Missouri administrators, Harper said, showed students and athletes around the country that they have power they may not have realized before.

The protests show “we’re all together and we have the power to make the change we deserve,” said Lindsay Opoku-Acheampong, a senior studying biology at Occidental.

“It’s affirming,” said Dalin Celamy, also a senior at the college. “It lets us know we’re not crazy; it’s happening to people who are just like you all over the country.”

Celamy, along with other students, not only watched the unfolding protests across the country, but also looked to earlier protests, including an occupation of an administrative building at Occidental in 1968.

Echoes of the 1960s in today’s actions are clear, said Robert Cohen, a history professor at New York University and author of “Freedom’s Orator,” a biography of Mario Savio, who led the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1960s.

“The tactical dynamism of these nonviolent protests and the public criticism of them are in important ways reminiscent of the 1960s,” Cohen said. “Today’s protests, like those in the ’60s, are memorable because they have been effective in pushing for change and sparking dialogue as well as polarization.”

Although the targets of these protests are the blatant and subtle forms of racism and inequity that affect the students’ lives, the message of the protests resonates with the recent incidents of intolerance and racial inequity on the streets of America.

There is a reason for this, Howard said.

Campuses are microcosms of society, he said, and are often comparable in terms of representation and opportunity. “So there is a similar fight for more representation, acceptance and inclusion.”

The dynamic can create a complicated and sensitive social order for students of color to negotiate.

“Latino and African American students are often under the belief if they leave their community and go to colleges, that it will be better,” Howard said. “They believe it will be an upgrade over the challenges that they saw in underserved and understaffed schools. But if the colleges and universities are the same as those schools, then there is disappointment and frustration.”
In addition, Howard said, when these students leave their community to go to a university, they often feel conflicted.

“So when injustice comes up,” he said, “they are quick to respond because it is what they saw in their community. On some level, it is their chance to let their parents and peers know that they have not forgotten the struggle in the community.”

On campuses and off, Harper, of the University of Pennsylvania center, finds a rising sense of impatience among African Americans about social change. “As a black person, I think black people are just fed up. It’s time out for ignoring these issues,” he said.

While protests in the 1960s helped create specific safeguards for universities today, such as Title IX, guaranteeing equal access for all students to any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, a gap has widened over the years between students and administrators over perceptions of bias.

Institutions often valued for their support of free speech find themselves wrestling with the prospect of limiting free speech, but to focus on what is or isn’t politically correct avoids the more important issue, Cohen said: whether campuses are diverse enough or how to reduce racism.

Occidental student Raihana Haynes-Venerable has heard criticism that modern students are too sensitive, but she argues that subtle forms of discrimination still have a profound effect.
She pointed to women making less than men and fewer minorities getting jobs as examples.

“This is the new form of racism,” she said.

Photo: Students at Occidental College in Los Angeles spend their second day occupying the Walter G. Coons Administrative Center in protest over the administration’s handling of complaints about lack of diversity and discrimination on November 17, 2015. Occidental College students joined with the Black Student Alliance to protest a lack of diversity and said they will occupy the building until Friday, Nov. 20. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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