Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reflections on Second Semester in Higher Education Master's Program

I am officially on summer break from graduate school. I earned a 4.0 GPA for the winter semester (woo-hoo!). This was a very stressful semester (one of my classes alone assigned nearly 300 pages of reading per week!), but I am thrilled with the progress I have made in the higher education master's program. I also enrolled in a second doctoral course about the sociology of race, ethnicity and immigration. Despite my initial concerns in the first month, I was encouraged to write critical analyses of social theories and apply them to historical and contemporary issues. This course also demonstrated that I have the preparation to apply to doctoral programs in the future. I have learned so much about myself and have a finer grasp of my academic and professional interests. I know that I want to eventually pursue a career in higher education administration and policy. I also like studying social problems and proposing socially-just policy recommendations. Currently, my academic interests are access and equity, diversity in higher education, social justice education, student retention, and community engagement. I am leaning towards pursuing a career in academic and educational affairs (the curricular component in higher education). Meanwhile, I have (less than) four months of freedom to catch up on book reviews, reflect on my own personal development, and pursue my hobbies in this gorgeous warm weather. It is my time to  relax at my own pace. I will resume graduate school in September 2013.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Michigan's black unemployment rate highest in U.S.

I received this update from the Michigan League for Public Policy.
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan workers were hit hard by the Great Recession but the state’s African American workers continue to suffer a far higher unemployment rate, a new Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief finds, with Michigan’s black unemployment rate the highest among the 24 states where it can be measured.

EPI researchers Douglas Hall and Mary Gable find that the African American unemployment rate in Michigan reached 18.7 percent—nearly one in five of the state’s black workers—in the fourth quarter of 2012, about two-and-a-half times that of the white unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.
You can read the full report here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flyer: Influencing Social Policy: Positioning Social Work Graduates for Policy Careers

In December 2012, the Social Work Policy Institute published this flyer, Influencing Social Policy: Positioning Social Work Graduates for Policy Careers. I highly recommend graduate students who plan to pursue a policy career to save and read this conversation brief. Participants included both social workers and non-social workers who serve in key policy positions at the national, state and local levels, social work faculty, and recent social work graduates pursuing policy positions.
Professional social workers have long pursued careers specifically focused on influencing social policy. These policy practice positions include working as lobbyists, policy and program analysts, organizers, and advocates. Such positions can be found within the executive and legislative branches of government, with provider and professional organizations, foundations, think tanks and public interest advocacy groups at the national, state and local levels. The current economic, social and political climates provide a ripe environment for promoting social work expertise in these positions. To meet this demand it is imperative that there be on-going dialogue between social work educators who prepare students for policy practice and policy practitioners, especially those who hire entry-level policy staff.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

HuffPost: Elizabeth Warren: Student Loans Should Have Same Rate Big Banks Get

Bravo for Senator Warren for raising awareness about link between the growing student loan crisis and the highly-subsidized big banking system. It is ironic that corporations have more flexibility with receiving loans from the Federal Reserve than the average consumer. Although there is a slim chance that her bill will pass, it is a wake-up call to Americans that the era of record-profiting big banks (at the expense of the livelihoods of the poor and the middle-class) will end soon.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled her first bill Wednesday, designed to set student loan interest rates at the same level the Federal Reserve offers to big banks.

With some student loan rates set to double on July 1 -- from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent -- Warren's bill would reduce student loan interest rates to 0.75 percent, opening the Fed's discount window to students.

"Every single day, this country invests in big banks by lending them money at near-zero rates," Warren told The Huffington Post. "We should make the same kind of investment lending money to students, who are trying to get an education."

The freshman senator said she plans to mobilize students -- those most affected by student loans -- to help get the bill through the Senate. "This is about their lives and if they are active in this fight, we can make this change," Warren said.

The Fed justifies loaning money essentially for free to major banks so they can maintain liquidity during emergencies. But Warren noted that student loan debt also affects the economy. Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, reported by Washington Post's Wonkblog, found that the amount of student loan debt of Americans under the age of 25 has doubled in less than a decade, from $10,649 in 2003 to $20,326 in 2012. Along with this increase in student debt comes a decrease in the likelihood someone will take out an auto loan or a home mortgage. That burden is a drag on the economy.

Warren pointed to the GI Bill and National Defense Education Act loans, which funded her education. "It wasn't just soldiers that got the education, it was the whole economy that benefitted from that investment," Warren said. "Why not give students a break? Why not let them in on the same great deal that the big banks get?"

According to the Project on Student Debt, college students who graduated in 2011 owed more than $26,000 in student loans, which Warren said is, "crushing our young."

Warren ran for Senate promising to fight against an economic system she described as "rigged" in favor of big business. She said her legislation is intended to raise questions about why banks get a dramatically subsidized loan rate and what can be done to reduce debt burdens for students and consumers. The simple answer -- that the Fed could subsidize students instead of banks -- is an uncomfortable one and goes to a core inequality at the heart of the financial system.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Press Release: African American Leaders Band Together to Oppose Senate Immigration Bill

I was wondering when would black leaders be courageous enough to announce their opposition to the contentious immigration reform issue. I wholeheartedly agree with their policy stance. From the Sacramento Bee:

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday morning, April 24 at 9am, the African American Leadership Council will host a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to oppose the Senate Gang of Eight's 844-page plus, immigration bill.  During the conference, the Council will call on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), to protect black labor by opposing amnesty and halting efforts to double legal immigration levels, as required under the bill. 

Many black leaders have recognized the harm caused by large increases in immigration as the Senate bill entails.  As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recently reported, illegal immigration to the United States in recent decades has "depress[ed] both wages and employment rates for low-skilled American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are black men."   

"The Senate Gang of Eight's immigration bill is not only impractical, but immoral," said Frank Morris, Council leader, and former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.  "Increasing immigration levels through amnesty and new visa programs, particularly at the low-skilled level, will flood the labor market with millions more people, leading to higher unemployment, more poverty, and a lower standard of living for many in the black community."  Blacks have an unemployment rate nearly twice that of the national average.  The Senate's immigration plan to drastically increase the immigrant work force will continue to keep that number high. 

Coalition Leaders Urge the Congressional Black Caucus to:
  • Recognize the devastating impact that a legalization plan would have on low-skilled labor, particularly in the black community;
  • Remember its duty to protect black constituents by acknowledging the damaging impact mass immigration has on low-skilled workers.
"With unemployment at 7.6% this is preposterous," said Coalition member Charles Butler.  "I think most everyone can agree on the need to support working and middle-class citizens during a depressed economy.  This bill would provide green cards and residency benefits to illegal aliens when many Americans are hurting the most.  What makes sense is for America's jobs to be reserved for people who are legally entitled to compete for them."

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/23/5364961/african-american-leaders-band.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/23/5364961/african-american-leaders-band.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sign the petition: Florida State Attorney Jerry Hill, Drop charges against Kiera Wilmot

If you have been following the Trayvon Martin murder case, then this news will astound you. Racial injustice has reoccurred in Florida. A high school student, Kiera Wilmot (who is a black female), was expelled from her school district and faces two felony charges as an adult because her science experiment went awry (minor explosion that caused no damage). Science experiments can often malfunction in school. The most common punishment is generally detention or suspension. These criminal charges are not only extreme but also sends a chilly message to underrepresented minorities that a science career is not an option for them. Tell the Florida Attorney General that the state should re-examine its zero-tolerance school policies and stop making unjustified criminal examples out of black children. Sign and share this petition with your family, friends, and colleagues.

Kiera Wilmot has been described as an exemplary student and a wonderful young woman. Why is it then that an experiment gone wrong is being dealt with by the police and school as a felony offense? According to the Miami Times:

"7 a.m. on Monday, the 16 year-old mixed some common household chemicals in a small 8 oz water bottle on the grounds of Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida. The reaction caused a small explosion that caused the top to pop up and produced some smoke. No one was hurt and no damage was caused."

The principal has said that that he doesn't believe she had any malicious intentions. Yet she now faces two felony charges as an adult. These include making, possessing or discharging a destructive device and with possessing or discharging weapons on school grounds! 

I've learned that the charges have not yet been filed and this means that Florida State Attorney Jerry Hill and Assistant State Attorney Tammy Glotfelty have an opportunity to the right thing, use common sense, and drop these charges against Kiera. 

Please sign this petition to challenge any decision to so drastically charge this young woman for something that was a simple mistake. Her life should not be turned upside down, her future crushed, because someone wants to make a statement. There was no criminal activity here - she does not deserve to be punished like this. Help Kiera find real justice!

[Update #1]: Writing at BlackAmericaWeb, Gregory Kane argues that black parents of teens should steer clear of Florida, after lawmakers allowed the arrest and expulsion of Kiera Wilmot over a science experiment. The gross miscarriage of justice represents business as usual when it comes to laws and black youth.

[Update #2] The lawyer for the teenager arrested this week for a science experiment is working to prevent felony charges from being filed, according to Business Insider's Science page. Honor student Kiera Wilmot was arrested for playing with chemicals on school grounds Monday, April 29.

[Update #3] The Change.org petition was a success! After over 195,500 signatures, the Florida Attorney General decided not to charge Kiera Wilmot. The Orlando Sentinel provides more details.