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This Week: Responses to Student Activism, White Men on Cable News, and Criminalizing Poverty

March 20, 2016

Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. STUDY: Student Activists Slowly Forcing University Presidents to Address Racial Disparities
“A new study from the American Council on Education says that student-led protests are having an impact on college and university campuses across the country. ‘Racial Climate on Campus: A Survey of College Presidents’ anonymously surveyed 567 college and university presidents to uncover how they feel student activism is changing the way students and faculty alike address race-related issues. While one president reportedly wrote: ‘The national issues have manifested at my campus as a genuine focus on eliminating the disparity in student academic achievement by ethnicity and on being more proactive in diversifying the faculty,’ the increase in conversation has only lead to modest administrative action. On four-year campuses, just 55 percent of presidents said that the racial climate has become more of a priority, and 1 percent said its importance has actually decreased. Just 44 percent of leaders on two-year college campuses feel that it is more important now than three years ago.”

2. Diversity On The Sunday Shows In 2015
“Continuing our annual Sunday shows project, Media Matters conducted a detailed review of guest appearances in 2015 on five Sunday morning political talk shows that often set the media and political agenda for the week. On each of the five shows, white men represented more than 50 percent of all guests: 60 percent for This Week, 63 percent each for Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday, 53 percent for Meet the Press, and 56 percent for State of the Union. According to the latest U.S. Census estimates, these figures put representation of white men on the Sunday shows at nearly twice their representation (31 percent) in the general population.”

3. How Black Girls Are Locked Out of America’s Schools
“Punitive policies, such as suspension and expulsion, are linked to school dropout and increased contact with the justice system, affecting these girls socially and economically for the rest of their lives. So why does this happen? First off, Morris notes that schools—unless they intentionally attempt to reverse these trends—often reflect the oppressive norms of society at large. These are the types of norms through which someone could see the temper tantrum of a black six-year-old girl as violent and dangerous. They also contribute to stereotyping that frames black girls as ‘sassy,’ ‘ratchet,’ and ‘defiant’—so much so that black girls often get labeled by their teachers as disruptive and disrespectful simply for asking questions in class. ‘I always question. And then sometimes, teachers get mad off of that,’ one girl told Morris. ‘They say I’m disrespectful. That’s my label.'”

4. Meet the First Trans White House LGBT Liaison
“For 21 years, the White House’s LGBT liaison has been either a straight woman — the first was a Bill Clinton-appointee named Marsha Scott — or a cisgender (nontrans) gay or lesbian official. But Raffi Freedman-Gurspan just changed all that. Freedman-Gurspan is a trans Latina public policy expert who was first appointed to a staff position in the White House last year. Now she becomes the first out transgender person to serve as the White House’s LGBT liaison, reports BuzzFeed. Her official title is outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel and associate director for public engagement. Formerly the racial and economic justice initiative policy advisor at the National Center for Transgender Equality, Freedman-Gurspan is no stranger to breaking barriers. She was the first transgender woman to work in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where she was instrumental in passing the state’s Transgender Equal Rights Law. Freedman-Gurspan’s work has garnered high praise for her ability to connect issues of racial and economic justice with LGBT concerns.”

5. Justice Dept. Condemns Profit-Minded Court Policies Targeting the Poor
“The Justice Department on Monday called on state judges across the country to root out unconstitutional policies that have locked poor people in a cycle of fines, debt and jail… In a letter to chief judges and court administrators, Vanita Gupta, the Justice Department’s top civil rights prosecutor, and Lisa Foster, who leads a program on court access, warned against operating courthouses as for-profit ventures. It chastised judges and court staff members for using arrest warrants as a way to collect fees. Such policies, the letter said, made it more likely that poor people would be arrested, jailed and fined anew — all for being unable to pay in the first place. It is unusual for the Justice Department to write such a letter. It last did so in 2010, when the department told judges that they were obligated to provide translators for people who could not speak English… ‘When bail is set unreasonably high, people are behind bars only because they are poor,’ Ms. Lynch said at the White House in December. ‘Not because they’re a danger or a flight risk — only because they are poor. They don’t have money to get out of jail, and they certainly don’t have money to flee anywhere. Other people who do have the means can avoid the system, setting inequality in place from the beginning.'”

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