Making college free was a big topic early in this presidential campaign season, though it’s faded a little bit now. Feministing has recently published a story called “Making college free won’t fix my problems with academia” by Barbara Sostaita. In this piece, Sostaita explains how the cost of college is “only the first obstacle low-income and students of color face in our academic journeys.” She discusses the (many, many) cultural barriers, including campus buildings with overtly racist names, policies with sexist and racist histories, alienation through perpetuation of model minority narratives, lack of diversity in faculty, and more.
I think this might be the smartest article I’ve read on the subject of free college.
I’m not a proponent of free college, myself. (But affordable, accessible college–certainly!) I could give you a whole list of reasons why, but that’s not the point. The more important takeaway here is that the cultural barriers Sostaita describes are elitist, racist, sexist. These barriers are very, very wrong and very, very real. Instead of focusing on free college, perhaps we should focus on creating productive environments for students who are already at university and are struggling because they don’t see people like themselves in the faculty, because they’re facing an onslaught of microaggressions every day, because the system is built against them. Let’s start there.
Read Sostaita’s full story here
This site is fantastic for thinking about syllabus design–definitely re-visiting it when it’s time to plan fall classes! The whole thing demonstrates the importance of this statement: “Accessibility cannot be an afterthought and it cannot be assumed.” https://accessiblesyllabus.tulane.edu/
If only I’d known about this resource before designing the Public Interest Writing course I’m just finishing! A colleague recently posted this link to a listserv. The site is an “online platform for a number of interlinked research projects that critically examine the use and impact of selected social networking tools in Australian society and beyond.” Clearly, we could use something so smart here, as well. View the project here: http://mappingonlinepublics.net/
Civil rights are those basic rights needed in order to participate in the political life of a civil society. In the U.S., these rights are set out in the Constitution and its Amendments. In this country, most people are familiar with the term “civil rights” because of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which was centered on rights for black Americans. Unfortunately, civil rights are still not guaranteed for all people in this country. Pregnant women are particularly victimized.
The New York Times published an Op-Ed on pregnancy and civil rights this weekend. It makes some excellent points. Most important among them: The authors have identified 793 cases in which a pregnant woman was denied her physical liberty. This is, I hope, shocking enough for most readers. But here’s the really incredible part. The scope of this study (part of which was published as a peer-reviewed article last year) includes cases back to 1973 (when Roe v. Wade came down). But 380 of those cases–48% of them!–happened since 2005. In other words, the United States is increasingly, and at a truly alarming rate, denying basic civil rights to pregnant women.
This shouldn’t be a surprise in the wake of an election in which multiple embryonic and fetal personhood measures were on statewide ballots. But, somehow, it’s still getting very little attention. Some of the cases Paltrow and Flavin (the authors of the Op-Ed mentioned above) raise are clearly intended to remedy this:
- A woman arrested on murder charges for the “crime” of having a miscarriage. (Louisiana)
A woman taken prisoner and forced to undergo a Cesarean, for the “crime” of having a miscarriage. (Florida)
A woman forced by a judge to undergo an early Cesarean that ultimately killed her and the 26-week fetus she was carrying. (Washington DC)
These are sensational cases where the actions of the state upon a particular woman are pretty clearly wrong, regardless of political leaning. I understand Paltrow and Flavin’s rationale for focusing on these cases–they’re persuasive, and they focus on physical liberty. These authors had to limit their scope somehow; this is not a critique of them or their work. However, I’m nervous about this message because it leaves a lot of things out of the conversation. It leaves a full discussion of the civil rights of pregnant women unsaid. Physical liberty is important, yes. But pregnant women–like other human beings–also have a right to basic safety. They have a right to life, liberty, privacy, protection from discrimination, freedom of thought, freedom of expression.
And there are a lot more than 793 women since 1973 who’ve had their civil rights infringed–trampled!–if we consider the full spectrum of rights that we offer to other humans. Somebody should be talking about this.
The 1997 text Women’s Health Research: A Medical and Policy Primerheralds women’s health research as a “new discipline” (p. 7), which I find both frightening and fascinating. Some diseases (osteoporosis, various thyroid conditions, affective disorders, just for a few examples) affect women in greater numbers than men, but studies do not reflect this. This is largely because women’s health has historically been conflated with reproductive health—as though the only part of a woman that is different from a man or important at all is her reproductive system. This conflation is both maddening and difficult to advocate against (for fear of diminishing the real importance of women’s reproductive health).
However, Paula Johnson does a decent job:
Click here to view this talk on TED’s page: http://www.ted.com/talks/paula_johnson_his_and_hers_healthcare
Further food for thought: Johnson and Fee (contributors to Women’s Health Research) point out that “Women have been excluded from health research for decades” despite policy statements that attempt to remedy this (p. 3). One reason women have been left out of research studies because of “researchers’ desire for homogeneous study populations … Women’s cyclical hormonal changes were thought to confound research results” (p. 14).
Haseltine, Florence, Lynne Beauregard, & Beverly Jacobson. (1997). Women’s Health Research: A Medical and Policy Primer. Washington, DC: Health International.