Saturday, December 27, 2014

Everyday Sociology: Who is Best Served by Service Learning?

Community engagement is one of my areas of interest. Teresa Irene Gonzales of Everyday Sociology posted a blog post about community engagement and service learning. More importantly, she discusses the importance of reciprocity -- that service learning should involve benefits for both community residents and faculty and staff. Too often, service learning (students generally participate for academic credit) is implemented as a one-sided project that leaves out the input / needs of the community residents.

Some colleges view community-engagement as a form of service and require students to clock-in service-learning hours via volunteerism. The belief is that students have useful skills and resources (particularly time) that may benefit a variety of communities. Through their work in various different types of communities, the students in turn gain work and educational experiences.

If implemented with only the university’s goals in mind, this process, however beneficial it may be to students, can unintentionally replicate social inequities and may place a further burden on the off-campus community group or agency that partners with the university.

Community-engagement often centers on low-income neighborhoods and residents that are within close proximity of the university. This perception of what is meant by “the community” inherently sets up a class-based dichotomy of the wealthy university (“the gown”) that has the resources (time, money, technical expertise) to help the poor communities (“the town”) that surround it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Public Libraries Add Social Workers and Social Programs - New Social Worker

The New Social Worker published an article about the various ways in which public libraries are reaching out to vulnerable populations.

Public libraries have always been democratic, serving a cross-section of the population. After all, they are public, often easily accessible, and free.

As these populations have shifted to include more of the disadvantaged population, including people who are homeless, there is a small but growing trend for libraries to include social workers—not as patrons, but as helping professionals on staff.

It’s not surprising that libraries have become hubs for homeless people or even the equivalent of day shelters. In addition to their other assets, libraries have plenty of bathrooms and no security checks.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Nation: This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach For America

The Nation released a report on the hidden weaknesses of Teach for America (TFA), the most popular and largest teacher recruitment program of its kind to address educational inequities in the nation's most distressed school districts. It spends millions of dollars annually to deflect criticism and uphold its program as the model for revamping urban education. Nonetheless, its opponents are staunch to fight back and reveal the ugly truth about TFA's practices. While TFA has become a resume-padding tool for college graduates seeking entry into top graduate and professional schools, it has dire consequences on at-risk students' learning and development.

Last year, Wendy Heller Chovnick, a former Teach For America manager, spoke out against her former organization in The Washington Post, decrying its “inability and unwillingness to honestly address valid criticism.” In recent years, such criticism has centered on Teach For America’s intimate involvement in the education privatization movement and its five-week training, two-year teaching model, which critics claim offers recruits a transformative résumé-boosting experience but burdens schools with disruptive turnover cycles.

In the interview, Chovnick referenced the extent to which Teach For America manufactured its public image, explaining, “Instead of engaging in real conversations with critics, and even supporters, about the weaknesses of Teach For America and where it falls short, Teach For America seemed to put a positive spin on everything. During my tenure on staff, we even got a national team, the communications team, whose job it was to get positive press out about Teach For America in our region and to help us quickly and swiftly address any negative stories, press or media.”

[UPDATE: January 11, 2015]: Why are school districts paying millions in "finder's fees" to an organization that places people without education degrees to teach in urban schools—even where applications from veteran teachers abound? Rachel M. Cohen, writing fellow at The American Prospect, explores another area of controversy in the Teach For America program: the start-up costs of hiring a TFA teacher, and the program’s impact on the retention of veteran teachers.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rothstein on place, class, and race: "We have a segregated nation by design."

Joshua Holland of Moyers & Company interviewed Richard Rothstein, a research fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, on the ways in which a century of racist public policies led to the development of concentrated impoverished and racially segregated neighborhoods like Ferguson, Missouri. This polarization has led to deep-seated prejudices, a myth that culture (rather than structural policies) explains urban poverty, and the lack of empathy for the plight of poor African Americans.

Joshua Holland: Most people believe that Ferguson became so racially polarized because of “white flight” — white people fled the area because of personal prejudice against African-Americans. In your report, you argue that this misses a crucial point. What are we overlooking?

Richard Rothstein: The segregation that characterizes Ferguson, and that characterizes St. Louis, was the creation of purposeful public policy. We have a segregated nation by design.

...It was done primarily with two policies: First, public housing was segregated, purposely, by the federal government, so that what were previously somewhat integrated neighborhoods in urban areas were separated into separate black and white public housing projects.

And then, in the 1950s, as suburbs came to be developed, the federal government subsidized white residents of St. Louis to move to the suburbs, but effectively prohibited black residents from doing so. The federal government subsidized the construction of many, many subdivisions by requiring that bank loans for the builders be made on the condition that no homes be sold to blacks.

Because black housing was so restrictive, there were so few places where African-Americans could live in St. Louis. So what was left of St. Louis’ African-American community became overcrowded. City services were not readily available. The city was zoned so that the industrial or commercial areas were placed in black neighborhoods but not in white neighborhoods. So the industrial areas, where African-Americans lived, became slums.

And then white residents in places like Ferguson came to associate slum conditions with African-Americans, not realizing that this was not a characteristic of the people themselves, but rather it was a creation of public policy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Chronicle of Higher Education: Make Admissions at Elite Colleges ‘Access Aware’

Raynard Kington, the president of Grinnell College, argues that elite, selective institutions with need-blind admissions should become more access-aware to increase the proportion of low-income students among their student enrollment. Here is an excerpt of his commentary from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Wealthy families, understandably, invest huge amounts of money to ensure that their children receive the best possible education starting at the kindergarten and even preschool levels. Students’ transcripts and college applications are in effect inventories of wealth-related facts: academic rigor of schools attended, grades achieved, course options, extracurricular pursuits, test scores, even involvement in "volunteer work," which admissions officers interpret as evidence of social commitment and leadership potential. Advantages in all of those areas make children from wealthy backgrounds more competitive from the start, without any need for outright consideration of family resources.

Most children from poor families—even households deeply committed to their children’s education—do not have a chance in this competition. Their families cannot make anywhere near the same investments, and it shows in their comparative performance, even when the children in question are every bit as gifted and able as their affluent counterparts.

So, what is the fix? Should we end the use of need-blind policies? In some cases, yes. Wealthy, elite institutions that are unable to admit appropriate numbers of students from poor families through a need-blind policy should instead become "access aware." In the lingo of college admissions, they should give students from poor families a "bump" when assessing their applications. It can clearly be done: Many institutions give comparable advantages to the children of alumni.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Root: 12 Ways to Be a White Ally to Black People

People across the country are shocked by the lack of justice in Ferguson, Missouri. Since Michael Brown is deceased, he cannot share what happened to him that unfortunate day when he was gunned down executive-style by a white law enforcement officer, Darren Wilson. "No Justice, No Peace" are the chants in the streets. If you want to get involved, Janee Woods from The published an excellent article on 12 ways whites (and people of color too!) can become an ally for social justice. The most important thing to remember is that even the oppressed need allies to continue the movement for racial justice.

1. Learn about the racialized history of Ferguson and how it reflects the racialized history of America. Brown’s killing is not an anomaly or a statistical outlier. It is the direct product of deadly tensions born from decades of housing discrimination, white flight, intergenerational poverty and racial profiling.

2. Reject the “He was a good kid” or “He was a criminal” narrative and lift up the “Black lives matter” narrative.

3. Use words that speak the truth about the disempowerment, oppression, disinvestment and racism that are rampant in our communities.

4. Understand the modern forms of race oppression and slavery and how they are intertwined with policing, the courts and the prison-industrial complex. Black people aren’t enslaved on the plantation anymore. Now African Americans are locked up in for-profit prisons at disproportionate rates and for longer sentences for the same crimes committed by white people. And when we’re released we’re second-class citizens, stripped of voting rights in some states and denied access to housing, employment and education. Mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow.

5. Examine the interplay between poverty and racial equity. The twin pillar of racism is economic injustice, but don’t use class issues to trump race issues and avoid the racism conversation.

6. Diversify your media. Be intentional about looking for and paying close attention to diverse voices of color on television, on radio, online and in print to help shape your awareness, understanding and thinking about political, economic and social issues.

7. Adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence as you resist racism and oppression.

8. Find support from fellow white allies. Challenge and encourage one another to dig deeper, even when it hurts and especially when you feel confused, angry and hopeless, so that you can be more authentic in your shared journey with people of color to protect principles of anti-racism and equity.

9. If you are a person of faith, look to your Scriptures or other holy texts for guidance.

10. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. If you start calling out all the racism you witness (and it will be a lot, once you know what you’re seeing), some people might not want to hang out with you as much. But think about it like this: Staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression.

11. Be proactive in your own community. As a white ally, you are not limited to reacting only when black people are subjected to violence very visibly and publicly. Moments of crisis do not need to be the catalyst. Taking action against systemic racism is always appropriate because systemic racism permeates this country. Some ideas for action: Organize a community conversation about the state of police-community relations in your neighborhood; support leaders of color by donating

12. Don’t give up. We’re 400 years into this racist system, and it’s going to take decades—centuries, probably—to dismantle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Salon: “It embarrasses them, they feel ashamed”: Why America still can’t talk about race

The progressive organization, PolicyLink, recently released a research brief ("The Equity Solution: Racial Inclusion Is Key to Growing a Strong New Economy") on economic and racial inequality in the so-called, post-racial America. People of color are still more likely to live in segregated, resource-poor, and impoverished neighborhoods than their affluent peers.

An excerpt from Salon interview with PolicyLink founder and CEO, Angela Blackwell:

Salon: Linking racial equality and economic equality makes sense, but it’s not something you often hear being promoted in more mainstream or establishment-friendly places. How do you respond to people if and when you come up against resistance or skepticism — or simple confusion, since making the link is not especially common?

Angela: One of the things I often say is that if people of color don’t become the middle class there will be no middle class in this nation. Not only are we becoming a nation in which the majority will be people of color, but the majority of young people will be people of color. Right now, 46.5 percent of all children under 18 are children of color, but 80 percent of all those over 65 are white. The median age among white people is 42; the median age among Latinos, the fastest-growing population, is 27.

We have to understand that as we become a nation of mostly people of color, that we have mostly people who would be the parents, the young earners, the young entrepreneurs. Those are the people of color who we have to make sure can be the middle class. When we think about some of the work of Raj Chetty and Emmanuel Saez, who are looking at social mobility in this country, they’ve pointed out that social mobility is very much tied to class and geography. If you’re born into a family that’s low-income you’re very likely to stay there, and if you’re born in certain areas of the country — particularly the South — you’re very likely to not have much social mobility.

Those things can also be talked about in racial terms. In the South, what we see is our inability as a nation to deal with race, and so segregated communities and disadvantaged people of color disadvantages everyone. We have to get over this holding some people back because what it means is that we’re holding everybody back. We’re not investing in a robust public education system, not invested in a robust infrastructure that could connect regions to the global economy.

This notion of being born into a certain area — we know that people who are Latino and African-American are disproportionately poor and low-income, so we have to create more pathways out of poverty, not just in terms of people who are poor having pathways out of poverty but people who are poor because of the way we have racialized opportunity in America. We cannot separate the nation’s dire need to have a strategy for a vast and stable middle class from the nation’s dire need to finally have strategies that deal with the legacy of racism and the continuing impact of racism in America.

Freep: Why Ferguson outcome should haunt every parent

From Stephen Henderson at the Detroit Free Press:

Every parent of a child of color lives, every day, in fear that a hoodie, a certain gait or an offhand remark might inspire authorities to see menace, and to strike with lethal force. I can't begin to know how to explain that to my son, now 11 and brown-skinned and beginning to look like some of the older kids I see in news reports like those from Ferguson.

Every parent in the nation should live with unease over the sustained and wretched dehumanization that assigns expendability to some children. Can we respect each other, let alone live together, if it's OK to kill some of our kids?


We are required to go deeper — back to promises made to all Americans but unfulfilled, still, for African Americans. We are required to look broader — to the swelling number of incidents that remind us, not in isolation, of how easily and without consequence black life can be taken. And we are required to think harder — about who we are as a nation, and whether we can ever reconcile enough of our history to create a future built around the idea of justice.

As black people, America breaks our hearts over and over again. No group has more reason to resent this country's very existence, built as it was on the notion of unmovable racial inferiority. And yet, no Americans have persevered so much, for so long — journeying from three-fifths of a man to president of the U.S. in just more than 200 years.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Foundations think out of box to aid Detroit

In the city of Detroit, major foundations -- Kresge, Community Foundation, Kellogg, just to name a few -- have agreed to take on greater risk in projects that need major investment -- a light-rail system and tackling blight for instance. This is an unprecedented role for the foundations, who traditionally engage in more low-key, behind-the-scenes, and specific social issues. As a native Detroiter, this news gives me hope that the revitalization of Detroit will continue to progress with great success.

Foundations are giving differently in Detroit, in a manner unseen in other American cities. And the $366 million "grand bargain," is a prime example of that.

It's philanthropy's biggest calling and its biggest collaboration in Detroit history, credited as the cornerstone in the city's bankruptcy.

The joint agreement by 12 foundations, in which private funds as well as $195 million from the state and $100 from the Detroit Institute of Arts, will be used to shore up city pensions and protect the art collection from creditors.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Social Work Policy Institute and Racial Equity

IN May 2014, the NASW's Social Work Policy Institute released a report from a think tank symposium named Achieving Racial Equity: Calling the Social Work Profession to Action. The report defines color-blind racism, how to undo racism, and examples of schools, programs and organizations that engage in anti-racist efforts. It is followed by guidelines on achieving racial equity.

Friday, October 24, 2014

HigherEdJobs: How Segregation Contributes to Opportunity Hoarding in Access to Higher Education

Sheryll Cashin is Professor of Law at Georgetown University and Scholar-in-Residence at HigherEdJobs. She writes about race relations, government and inequality in America. Over the next three months, she will focus discussions on placed-based affirmative action and higher education, segregation and opportunity hoarding in higher education as well as how to create and promote multicultural coalitions for fairness and investment in K-16 education. The excerpt below is from her seminal book, Place Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America, in which she argues that race-based and/or class-based affirmative action as currently practiced does little to help students in disadvantaged communities. She offers a new framework for true inclusion that focuses on place-based affirmative action, where colleges should admit students based on the average income level of the community they reside -- giving more consideration to students from low-income neighborhoods and school districts.

...only 42 percent of all Americans now live in a middle-class neighborhood, down from 65 percent in 1970. Because of the increasing separation of the affluent and the highly educated from everyone else, place, where one lives, often determines who has access to high-quality K-12 education and, in turn, selective higher education. Today there are only 17 counties in the United States in which more than half the population are college educated -- counties that selective college recruiters flock to, including Marin County north of San Francisco; Orange County in North Carolina's research triangle; Boulder County, Colorado; and affluent suburbs bordering Washington D.C. and New York City. In the vast majority of U.S. counties, however, college graduates are a small minority. College graduates used to be more evenly distributed, but segregation between them and high school graduates has nearly tripled since 1940.

Highly educated people are drawn to metro centers where other people like themselves live, and within the metropolis they gravitate to neighborhoods of their own kind. This is a phenomenon that transcends race. College graduates living in America's most highly educated metro areas are more residentially isolated than African Americans.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Everyday Sociology: Who Is a Low-Wage Earner?

Everyday Sociology blogger Karen Sternheimer posted an entry that defines what is a low-wage earner in American society. Contrary to popular opinion, most low-wage earners in America are adults over 20 years of age and people of color.

The report provides a demographic profile on these low-wage workers. They comprise 37 percent of those earning wages in the private sector; 39 percent of women and 35 percent of men. The vast majority—83 percent—are persons of color.

Despite the widespread belief that most low-wage workers are teens earning extra spending money while attending school, in Los Angeles few of them are teens; 38 percent of low wage workers are in their twenties, nearly 22 percent are in their thirties, and 37 percent are over forty. The majority work full time, and 36 percent have children.

The bulk of these workers are employed in restaurants, retail, health services, and administrative and waste management services. Right now, their median income is $16,000; in 2014, the federal poverty level for a two-person household is $15,730

Friday, October 17, 2014

Social Work@Simmons: The Evolution of Social Work

The Social Work@Simmons Blog released an interactive slideshow on the evolution of social work. It includes a photographic portrayal of important milestones in the history of social work in the United States from the Civil War to the present. It also includes links to the image sources from university archives and philanthropic associations. I highly recommend the slideshow for its educational value.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Useful Social Work Articles for Macro Students at The Social Work Helper

Several years ago, I posted four problems why the social work profession fails to meet its mission, particularly for macro students and students of color. In addition, I made another post about the strengths and weaknesses of social work today. Not surprisingly, social work leaders were absent on the national conversation of Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri. Social workers are supposed to be advocates for the poor and oppressed, yet social workers are rarely invited to speak as a collective voice on the news media. The "experts" are non-social workers--elected officials, journalists, lawyers, and social scientists--who are far removed from issues affecting the community at the ground-level. This trend is very disturbing and disappointing.

The contributors at The Social Work Helper has since published more recent articles that highlighted what I discussed in greater detail. I hope you enjoy what these authors have to offer because I share the same sentiments regarding the social work profession: too much focus on title protection / clinical casework and not enough focus on serving the people most in need through advocacy / policy-making. Social work pioneers such as Jane Addams, Frances Perkins, Dorothy Height, and Whitney Young would be ashamed to see how the social work profession lost sight of its mission.

Stay tune for further updates to this post.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NYTimes: Why Poor Students Struggle on College Campuses

Policymakers and researchers concentrate so much on increasing college completion rates. However, the discussions rarely focus on what happens to poor and low-income students once they arrive on the college campus. The policy roundtables often ignore the importance of social and cultural capital in determining whether a student will fit in and succeed in college. When a poor student from a rural or inner city neighborhood enters the world of the elite, he or she may not relate to their wealthy peers. It is the little things -- where you went to school, knowledge of current events and high culture, and participation in certain sports or social clubs-- that can isolate a student from the campus community. Furthermore, financial setbacks (particularly the rising cost of tuition, books, housing, and transportation) can increase the likelihood that a poor student struggles and drops out of college.
Kids at the most selective colleges often struggle academically, but they are capable of doing the work. The real key is whether they feel comfortable going to professors to ask for help or teaming up with other students in study groups and to manage the workload. At that school in Brooklyn, I taught history, leading students through writing 10-page position papers with proper citations, as well as presenting and defending their work to a panel of adults. Other teachers did the same in their subjects. Through the college application process, these students had help with every step — including convincing their parents that going away to school would be a good thing.

But once those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds arrive on campus, it’s often the subtler things, the signifiers of who they are and where they come from, that cause the most trouble, challenging their very identity, comfort and right to be on that campus. The more elite the school, the wider that gap. I remember struggling with references to things I’d never heard of, from Homer to the Social Register. I couldn’t read The New York Times — not because the words were too hard, but because I didn’t have enough knowledge of the world to follow the articles. Hardest was the awareness that my own experiences were not only undervalued but often mocked, used to indicate when someone was stupid or low-class: No one at Barnard ate Velveeta or had ever butchered a deer.

Urban students face different slights but ones with a more dangerous edge. One former student was told by multiple people in his small Pennsylvania college town not to wear a hoodie at night, because it made him look “sketchy.” Standing out like that — being himself — could put him at risk.

Another link I recommend on social and cultural capital is Peter Kaufman's Guide to Succeeding in College on Everyday Sociology.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Social Work and Cultural Competence

What is cultural competence? According to Wikipedia, cultural competence "refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, particularly in the context of human resources, non-profit organizations, and government agencies whose employees work with persons from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds." Teaching cultural competence has become increasingly important for educational and social work professionals who interact with individuals, families, groups, and communities from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) believe:
Culturally competent services are needed beyond race and ethnicity. Culturally competent social workers are also better able to address issues of gender and help persons with disabilities, older adults, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. A working knowledge of these groups’ cultures and values helps social workers tailor care so it is effective and appropriate for their clients’ needs.

Hall wrote an excellent article on teaching cultural competence in the classroom on The New Social Worker. Furthermore, the NASWpublished a standards guidebook about cultural competence in social work practice. For social workers preparing for the licensure exams, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) define the terms diversity and cultural competence.

Monday, September 15, 2014

For Black Graduate Students, Does Pursuing an Advanced Degree Matter After Ferguson? (Vitae)

Unlike their white and Asian peers, black graduate students must grapple with how does their intellectual work matter when society views blacks, particularly black men, with contempt. Several black PhD students struggle with balancing their intellectual pursuits and urge to engage in activism -- service that could enhance their research and personal development as emerging minority scholars in academe. These concerns -- what does it mean to be black on campus and in America? should students ignore or fight against systemic racism? -- adds stress, anxiety, and fear.

Watching and reading about the killing of Michael Brown—followed by the indelible scenes of tear-gas canisters and armored tanks—she looked down at her research on theoretical cosmology and thought to herself: “I can’t do this.”

“Who cares about cosmic inflation during the first seconds of the universe’s existence when black people are getting shot left and right by police officers and vigilantes?” she remembers thinking. “I felt guilty. I wanted to go to Ferguson. I wanted to be a body in the streets and a barrier between the police and my people.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lifehack: 18 Things Mentally Strong People Do

I love this infographic because I follow these principles in my personal and professional development. These are good self-care habits to follow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why Race Still Matters and Divides America after Ferguson, MO

Everyday Sociology blogger and professor, Peter Kaufman, published an excellent post on the lingering effects (and invisibility) of race in America that unfolded after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Race often intertwines with class, affecting the type of schools we attend, the neighborhoods we live, and the types of jobs we can obtain. The mass media further divides this country when people from different races living in the same community don't see eye-to-eye on the same issue, as several Pew Research reports discovered. It is a travesty that Americans want to ignore race and white privilege, yet race continues to be the most significant factor in determining who gets ahead educationally and financially in the United States. Check out this informative blog post:

Let’s be totally honest about the Michael Brown incident: it is all about race. When was the last time we read about an unarmed upper-class white male being killed by the police—much less by a Black police officer? How many predominantly white communities around the United States have a police force comprised predominantly of officers of color? And when unarmed white men or women are shot by the police, are there ever public opinion polls to even ascertain if race is significant?

To think that the case of Michael Brown (or Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Oscar Grant, Anthony Dwain Lee, or any of the other unarmed Black males who were fatally shot) is not about race is to be oblivious and ignorant about the social, historical, and political landscape of the United States. Since its very beginning and continuing to the present day, our country has been shaped, scarred, and defined by race. This is a basic sociological premise. As a sociologist, I’m grappling with how so many people can lack this elementary understanding of the society in which we live.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Washington Post: Why Sally can’t get a good job with her college degree

Welcome back to classes! As you navigate your way through the fall semester (or quarter), focus on your academic and professional goals.

This article in the Washington Post examines the realities of college graduates who cannot find work in their field, particularly women who make up 60 percent of all college graduates in the U.S.

Poor Sally. She has spent tens of thousands of dollars and four long years to get her college degree and has $26,000 in student loans to pay off, yet she can’t find a job that puts her degree to good use. Sally and her parents may be asking whether college was “worth it.”

Sally epitomizes many of her fellow college graduates who wonder why college graduates can’t find good jobs.

The experts give all sorts of explanations for Sally’s plight.

One of the most perplexing and frustrating explanations is that Sally is over-educated....

This analysis leads to a final reason why Sally can’t get a good job with her college degree.

She has the wrong degree.

Students with traditional liberal arts degrees frequently find themselves underemployed, while students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have little trouble finding good jobs in their profession. Nine out of the top 10 least underemployed majors are in STEM (law is the exception).

Women, however, aren’t studying STEM. Biology is the only STEM degree among the top 10 most popular bachelor’s degrees for women, and it comes in slightly above English language and literature as a preferred degree. Moreover, women aren’t making up for this gap by studying science and technology in graduate school — not a single STEM subject makes it among the top 10 master’s degrees for women.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Freep: The State of Charter Schools in Michigan - Corruption, Insider Dealings, and More

The Detroit Free Press has released a special investigation report on the state of charter schools in Michigan. Since the early 1990s, public charter schools have spread across the state as a solution to provide options for low-income and minority children attending failing schools. Michigan also has more charter schools operated by for-profit companies than any state in the country. As a result, for-profit educational management companies care only about the bottom-line. Until 2012, the state legislature refused to create a system of efficiency and accountability that would have prevented scams, corruption, insider dealings, nepotism ("family and friend plan"), tax evasion, and other illegal/questionable tactics. Click on the infographic below for the overview.

Saturday, June 28, 2014 Wall Street an elusive dream for black Americans

Wall Street is the last civil rights barrier against freedom that needs to be demolished. Time to protest this old boys network and show that their elitism and racism won't be tolerated much longer.
Fifty years to the day that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told a crowd of 250,000 in Washington that "the Negro…finds himself an exile in his own land," Wall Street is mostly a foreign country for black workers.
The difficult road that blacks still face in the heart of America's financial capital was underscored by news on Wednesday that brokerage giant Merrill Lynch has agreed to pay $160 million to settle racial discrimination claims by black brokers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Michigan Today: The Negro-Caucasian Club

The Michigan Today, a newsletter for U-M alumni, published a special article about the history of black-white relations at the University of Michigan. While U-M today sees itself as a champion for diversity and inclusion, it wasn't always the case in the early twentieth century. Rather, it perpetuated a racist campus climate.

The first two African-American students had been admitted to U-M in 1868. But only a handful followed, and by the 1920s, blacks still comprised just a tiny fragment of the student body. By University practice and informal understandings, they lived in a segregated sphere, joining white students only in classrooms.

In that era only women lived in University dormitories – but not the six or seven black women enrolled at U-M. They lived in a boarding house arranged by the University. African-American men lived in either of two black fraternity houses, Kappa Alpha Psi or Omega Psi Phi, or boarded with black families. They were not served at the Michigan Union, nor were they allowed into University swimming pools or University-sponsored dances.


The faculty senate’s Committee on Student Affairs recognized the group as an official student organization for only one year, and only on two conditions: It must drop its stated purpose of working “for the abolition of discrimination against Negroes,” and “the name of the University of Michigan shall not be used in connection with the activities of the Club.”

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

ThinkProgress: Getting A College Degree Won’t Protect Black Workers From The Economy’s Racial Barriers

Blacks on average face higher underemployment and unemployment rates than their White counterparts. Racial and gender discrimination in hiring is partly to blame. Read the rest of the article on ThinkProgress.

"The economy is heavily tilted against black people. In a study of entry-level job openings, equally qualified black job applicants were half as likely as white ones to get a call back or an offer. Jobs that drug test are more likely to hire black workers because without the tests, they assume black applicants use drugs. While black workers make up 32 percent of the workforce, they make up 42 percent of minimum wage workers.

Black women have been particularly dogged in recent years in graduating college: they made up two-thirds of all black students who finished a Bachelor’s Degree in 2010 and 71 percent with a Master’s. But they still struggle in other ways: when they’re working full-time, year-round, they make 64 percent of what white men make and less than both white women and black men."

In another study, researchers found that in online sales Americans would rather do business with Whites than Blacks.

Check out more ThinkProgress articles below!

Friday, May 30, 2014

InsideHigherEd: Finding a Job in Student Affairs

Sonja Ardoin wrote an excellent article about how recent graduates and career changers can find a job in higher education and student affairs. Since student affairs does not follow a standard procedure such as law or teaching, the job searching process can be ambiguous and frustrating. She also wrote an article about the interview process in student affairs. Follow these tips, and your chances of landing that dream job will increase!

Although the process of lifelong learning is vital, if you are anything like me, you know there is also practical value in being able to put that learning into practice to assist others in their growth and development (and pay back your student loans and afford to support yourself). The job search process in student affairs can be a time-consuming endeavor full of self-assessment, anxiety, excitement, and a host of other emotional and logistical complexities. It is also a numbers game. For example, in my last job search after my Ph.D. program, I applied for 46 jobs, participated in 12 phone interviews, visited 5 campuses for in-person interviews, and received 3 job offers. I like to think I am a solid candidate; the numbers also show you that I did not receive interviews with half of the places to which I applied. In fact, if you do the math, I was asked to interview with only 23 percent of the institutions to which I applied.
Here are two related articles about finding a job in admissions: Hiring in Admissions (August 7, 2009) - InsideHigherEd AND Getting Into the Admission Office (April 8, 2013) -InsideHigherEd.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Career Advice for New Graduates by Alison Green

Congratulations on earning your degree! I know you worked hard for this milestone. Now you need a job! Don't have one yet? One of my favorite authors for career advice is Alison Green, founder of the popular Ask a Manager blog. She contributed two articles on U.S. News and World Report that I highly recommend every new graduate should read to prepare for the current job market. Also check out her AOL Jobs article on resume writing tips for new graduates.

10 Key Job Search Tips for New Graduates

  1. Don't wait to start job searching.
  2. Include ll of your work experience on your resume.
  3. Don't listen to every piece of job-search advice you hear.
  4. Don't apply for everything you see.
  5. Broaden your horizons.
  6. Don't think you can't intern just because you're no longer a student.
  7. Use your network.
  8. Practice interviewing.
  9. Make sure that your email address, outgoing voice mail message and online presence all portray you as a professional, mature adult, not a partying college student.
  10. Don't panic.

How To Get a Job When You Don't Have Much Experience

  1. Figure out why you'd be great at the job.
  2. Don't worry about being a perfect match.
  3. Write an outstanding cover letter.
  4. Pay a ton of attention to soft skills.
  5. Think about what non-obvious experience you can highlight.
  6. In your interview, strike the right balance between confidence and humility.
  7. Look for ways to get the experience you lack.
  8. Be realistic.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

NYTimes: "Class, Cost, and College" and "Who Gets to College?"

Columnists at The New York Times published two well-regarded articles on social class and postsecondary transitions. Both articles examine the barriers to degree completion for low-income students and students of color. Here is the trailer for the documentary, Ivory Tower.

From "Class, Cost, and College" (May 17, 2014):
THE word “crisis” pops up frequently in “Ivory Tower,” a compelling new documentary about the state of higher education in America.

It pops up in regard to the mountains of student debt. It pops up in regard to the steep drop in government funding for public universities, which have been forced to charge higher and higher tuition in response. That price increase is also a “crisis” in the estimation of one of many alarmed educators and experts on camera.

And “crisis” isn’t even their direst appellation. Andrew Delbanco, a Columbia University professor of American studies who functions as the movie’s conscience, notes an “apocalyptic dimension” to today’s discussion of college’s failings. The movie is set on verdant campuses. It’s rife with lecterns, books and graduation gowns. And yet it’s a kind of horror story.

Scheduled for theatrical release next month, “Ivory Tower” does an astonishingly thorough tour of the university landscape in a brisk 90 minutes, touching on the major changes and challenges, each of which could sustain its own documentary.

From "Who Gets to College?" (May 15, 2014):
There are thousands of students like Vanessa at the University of Texas, and millions like her throughout the country — high-achieving students from low-income families who want desperately to earn a four-year degree but who run into trouble along the way. Many are derailed before they ever set foot on a campus, tripped up by complicated financial-aid forms or held back by the powerful tug of family obligations. Some don’t know how to choose the right college, so they drift into a mediocre school that produces more dropouts than graduates. Many are overwhelmed by expenses or take on too many loans. And some do what Vanessa was on the verge of doing: They get to a good college and encounter what should be a minor obstacle, and they freak out. They don’t want to ask for help, or they don’t know how. Things spiral, and before they know it, they’re back at home, resentful, demoralized and in debt.

When you look at the national statistics on college graduation rates, there are two big trends that stand out right away. The first is that there are a whole lot of students who make it to college — who show up on campus and enroll in classes — but never get their degrees. More than 40 percent of American students who start at four-year colleges haven’t earned a degree after six years. If you include community-college students in the tabulation, the dropout rate is more than half, worse than any other country except Hungary.

Monday, May 19, 2014

USA Today: Segregation still widespread in U.S. schools, report says

According to USA Today, American public schools are re-segregating. Furthermore, it is no longer only a black-and-white issue.

Black and Latino students are more likely to attend schools with mostly poor students, while white and Asian students are more likely to attend middle-class schools, according to a report released Thursday by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

In New York, California and Texas, more than half of Latino students are enrolled in schools that are 90% minority or more. In New York, Illinois, Maryland and Michigan, more than half of black students attend schools where 90% or more are minority, the report shows. Latinos are now the largest minority in public schools.

Black student attendance at majority-white schools steadily increased since the civil rights era but has been on the decline since the early 1990s. In 2011, only 23% of black students attended a majority white school -- the same percentage as in 1968, according to the report.

For more information, check out these articles:

Friday, May 16, 2014

PiktoChart: A Spotlight on the MSW Leader

Jessenia Reyes and other graduate students at the University of Southern California created a wonderful infographic on the flexibility of the MSW degree in macro practice. It focuses on transferable skills, common job positions, leadership roles, and general takeaways. Macro social workers can be found in education, nonprofit, and government sectors. Check it out here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SJS: The Next Step to Reinvest in Social Work

This is a very well-written piece from Social Justice Solutions. I agree that the social work profession needs a serious reinvestment (and revamping) to better serve the needs of graduates who endure low pay and high student loan debt. Furthermore, the profession needs to better serve the needs of the disadvantaged both at the local and policy level.

The trouble is that it’s difficult to be a social worker. On the job we face high volume case loads, long hours, and crisis after crisis that leaves providers emotionally and physically exhausted. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only obstacles we face. Social workers are mental health practioners who are required to have a Masters level education and usually obtain licensure in their respective states. They work towards continuing education hours and often attend conferences and trainings for specializations. Despite this specialized skillset, social workers continue to make the list of the lowest paid professionals whether it is on Forbes, career-advice, or the Bureau of labor statistics. In addition, social workers graduate with an average of over $35,000 in student loan debt. The combination of low pay and high loan amount means that social workers are having trouble keeping their heads above water. While a few loan forgiveness programs exist, few offer real availability for jobs without relocating, or have starting salaries well below the average. Some areas are also excluded from any forgiveness or reimbursement programs that are available, despite high needs, or at risk populations.
Support the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act by contacting your legislators today!

Friday, May 2, 2014

CRISP: Getting Social Workers Out of the Closet (Highly Recommended for Macro Folks!)

Charles E. Lewis, Jr. released an editorial on why social workers need to look beyond licensure and title issues and embrace all aspects (micro, mezzo, and macro) of social work in the public domain. We need to reach out to professionals with social work degrees but never refer to themselves as social workers because their positions/fields are not clinical. A person with an accredited social work degree (B.S.W., M.S.W., or Ph.D. in Social Work) should be able to call themselves a social worker.

There has been much talk recently about who can legitimately call themselves social workers. What training is required? Which licenses are needed? And, there have been many discussions about the variations of social work licenses that exist in different states. License or no license, we know that many social workers are “hiding” in non-clinical environments and in places where it doesn’t seem much social work is happening. Places like Congress, the World Bank and federal agencies such as the departments of Labor, Housing, Education and Health and Human Services (HHS). In many of these settings, social workers operate under cover. They often do not identify themselves as social workers and they have little or no connection to professional social work organizations. Yet they are trained social workers with a B.S.W, a M.S.W., or a Ph.D. from an accredited social work school, but you would never know.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Backs Michigan on Affirmative Action State Ban

In a 6-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state constitutional ban on affirmative action in public institutions in the state of Michigan. This is a loss for the future of racial equality in American higher education.

WASHINGTON — In a fractured decision that revealed deep divisions over what role the judiciary should play in protecting racial and ethnic minorities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities.

The 6-to-2 ruling effectively endorsed similar measures in seven other states. It may also encourage more states to enact measures banning the use of race in admissions or to consider race-neutral alternatives to ensure diversity.

States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities. Continue reading the main story Related in Opinion

In five separate opinions spanning more than 100 pages, the justices set out starkly conflicting views. The justices in the majority, with varying degrees of vehemence, said that policies affecting minorities that do not involve intentional discrimination should be decided at the ballot box rather than in the courtroom.
For more extensive coverage on this ruling, please browse the links below:

NYTimes: American Middle Class No Longer World's Most Affluent

According to the New York Times, the American middle class is no longer the most affluent in the world.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Nation: The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century

In 2010, The Nation published a ranking of the 50 most influential progressive activists of the 20th century. This list includes famous and unsung heroes who were utopians, radicals, and social reformers who were passionate about their issues and as a result left a lasting legacy on American society.

This list includes fifty people—listed chronologically in terms of their early important accomplishments—who helped change America in a more progressive direction during the twentieth century by organizing movements, pushing for radical reforms and popularizing progressive ideas. They are not equally famous, but they are all leaders who spurred others to action. Most were not single-issue activists but were involved in broad crusades for economic and social justice, revealing the many connections among different movements across generations. Most were organizers and activists, but the list includes academics, lawyers and Supreme Court justices, artists and musicians who also played important roles in key movements.

Some of the progressives on the list included educators and social workers: Jane Addams (2), Florence Kelley (4), John Dewey (5), W.E.B. Du Bois (7), and Frances Perkins (12).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

CRISP: Nancy Humphreys Urges Political Activism for Social Workers

Many students and alumni of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work gathered to pay tribute to Nancy A. Humphreys, who is retiring from her tenure as founder and director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work. During the celebration, she reminded students on why political social work is essential to the field.

Her message: social workers need to be involved in all phases of the political process. She gives three reasons. One, political activity is part of the profession’s mission to be both about helping people to change and working to change society. Second, she believes social workers are uniquely trained to serve in the political arena. And third, because federal, state and local policy-making and legislation increasingly has to do with social services issues, social workers’ knowledge, experience, and understanding of the social welfare system are essential to effective policy making. The bottom line is that if social workers are not willing to participate in politics we forfeit our right to complain about the fairness of the system.

Related Article [October 2015]: Legislative Field Placements & Social Work's Impact on Policy

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: Careers in Politics, Government, and Activism (2008)

Careers in Politics, Government, and Activism - Second Edition (2008) by Joan Axelrod-Contrada is a comprehensive employment guidebook (~300 pages) for persons seeking employment in public service in the United States. It includes over 75 career profiles in politics, government and activism. It also includes a wonderful foreword written by Congressman Richard E. Neal. It will leave you truly motivated to pursue this carer path!

The book aims to introduce readers to the depth and complexity of pursuing a public service career. It starts with an industry outlook to bring awareness about advantages and drawbacks in this type of work. The most common response is that people want to make a difference. The author scanned sources from industry professionals, association and employment websites, college carer centers, and books and newspaper articles. Overall, this book is very easy to read and left a positive impression on the types of job positions that exist in public and nonprofit sectors. In this world, networking (who you know) is very important to move up the career ladder.

The book is divided into three parts: politics, activism, and and government. Each job description contains a career profile with duties, similar titles, and career ladder (promotions). In addition, each career profile includes salary range, employment prospects, advancement prospects, sample of skills and experience, education and training, and tips for entry. There is an expansive appendices section containing frequently asked questions about civil service and federal employment, federal pay scale, graduate school programs in public service, advocacy groups, how to run for political office, and much more. This is a great resource if you're a recent college graduate or career changer who wants in public service.

  • Political campaigns
  • Political office
  • Local/state government - general positions
  • Local government
  • Local/state specialists
  • State/federal legislative staff
  • Other state/federal positions
  • International affairs
  • Nonprofit advocacy administration
  • Public interest law
  • Community, social and international issues
  • Lobbies, unions, and associations
  • Service programs

Friday, April 4, 2014

AP: More Americans See Middle Class Status Slipping

This is depressing news. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who say they were middle- or upper-middle class dropped after the Great Recession of 2007-2009. This provides further evidence that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Has the American Dream become a myth? Decent-paying jobs are disappearing. Educational attainment is also no longer a stable path to upward mobility. Income inequality must become a national priority.

A sense of belonging to the middle class occupies a cherished place in America. It conjures images of self-sufficient people with stable jobs and pleasant homes working toward prosperity.

Yet nearly five years after the Great Recession ended, more people are coming to the painful realization that they're no longer part of it.

They are former professionals now stocking shelves at grocery stores, retirees struggling with rising costs and people working part-time jobs but desperate for full-time pay. Such setbacks have emerged in economic statistics for several years. Now they're affecting how Americans think of themselves.

Since 2008, the number of people who call themselves middle class has fallen by nearly a fifth, according to a survey in January by the Pew Research Center, from 53 percent to 44 percent. Forty percent now identify as either lower-middle or lower class compared with just 25 percent in February 2008.

According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they're middle or upper-middle class fell 8 points between 2008 and 2012, to 55 percent.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Watch Obama's Speech on Raising the Minimum Wage at the University of Michigan

President Obama arrived today at the University of Michigan to promote his plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and to criticize the Republican's opposition to the minimum wage issue. Watch the full speech below:

Related Articles:

Monday, March 24, 2014

CRISP Launches Virtual Gallery Honoring Contributions of Social Workers in Public Policy

The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP) launched its first virtual gallery featuring a collection of historical photographs that capture the contributions that social workers have made to public policy. In the future, CRISP plans to construct a policy-based gallery/museum.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Furman Center: The Dream Revisited: Integration in the 21st Century online debate

The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University is running an online debate series entitled, "The Dream Revisited: Integration in the 21st Century." As this is the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty movement and 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, this debate is both interesting and relevant for the future of this country. This debate focuses on the role that segregation in neighborhoods and schools plays in hindering economic and racial equality:

Both residential and school segregation based on income have risen significantly over the past two decades, at the same time as the gap between rich and poor Americans has reached levels not seen since the early 1900s. There is growing evidence that, contrary to the cherished U.S. ideal of social mobility, disparities in wealth are ever more difficult to overcome and likely to be transmitted from one generation to the next.

I provide two outstanding guest posts from the discussions below:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Detroit Study: Economic segregation across racial lines is real in the metro region

A report released by New Detroit, a non-profit formed by business and political leaders in the aftermath of the 1967 riots to help bridge the racial divide in the Detroit metropolitan region, showed there are significant racial gaps in education and income, with Latinos and African-Americans lagging behind whites and Asian-Americans. The data is based on 2007 to 2011 U.S. Census figures. You can access the full report here.

In the city of Detroit, 56% of Latino adults don’t have a high school degree, the highest percentage among racial and ethnic groups in the tri-county region. In contrast, 76% of Asian-American adults in Oakland County have a college degree, the highest rate in the region.

There’s also an income gap across racial lines. In Oakland County, 25% of Asian-Americans make more than $150,000 a year, the highest among all groups in the region. An additional 22% of Asian-Americans in the county make between $100,00 to $150,000. Whites in Oakland County were the second wealthiest group in the region, with 16% of them making more than $150,000.

In contrast, 44% of African-Americans in the city of Detroit make less than $25,000, the highest percentage among racial groups in Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties. About 40% of Native Americans and 32% of Latinos in Wayne County make less than $25,000.

The report also showed that while Detroit’s population is 84% black, 56% of people who work in the city are white while 39% are African-American. The data shows that many African-Americans in the city of Detroit are commuting to the suburbs for their jobs.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

USNews: The War on Poverty Has Never Been Fully Funded

Carrie Wofford brings up an excellent point that many lawmakers, political strategists and researchers fail to mention about the War on Poverty: these antipoverty programs can work if they are adequately funded properly. Unfortunately, history reveals that poverty reduction (where income inequality has grown to levels not seen since 1964) is not a priority.
If all of the War on Poverty's programs had been fully funded in 1964, or were fully funded today, America could wipe out poverty. But, as it is, we face sharp cuts in food stamps and unemployment benefits at precisely the wrong time, when many American families are still attempting to pull out of the Great Recession. Nevertheless, the legacy of the War on Poverty – a more complex understanding of poverty and a framework for addressing it – remains strong, across party lines, today.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Social Work Month 2014 - "All People Matter"

The 2014 theme of Social Work Month is "All People Matter." According to the National Association for Social Workers (NASW) website: "We selected this year’s theme and logo to help raise awareness about the American social work profession’s 116-year commitment to improving social conditions and quality of life opportunities for everyone. Social workers across the globe believe that all people have dignity and deserve respect."

Social Work in the News:
  • Good News for Macro Social Work Practice? (CRISP)
  • CRISP Annual Donor Drive Seeks to Ensure Social Work Representation and Involvement in Public Policy (CRISP)
  • U.S. Reps say more public policy social workers needed (NASW News)
  • Reclaiming social welfare: Remembering Whitney Young (NASW News)

Don't forget to visit my last year's posts on the problems affecting the social work profession:

Monday, February 24, 2014

African American History Month: "Lift Every Voice and Sing"

In honor of African American History Month, I want to share this YouTube that encapsulates the struggles, triumphs, challenges, and hopes of the African American community. "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is the Negro National Hymn written by James Weldon Johnson and composed by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson. The lyrics celebrate Lincoln's birthday (February 12th) and his role in ending slavery in the United States. This five-minute video also provides a quick timeline of major events and figures in African American history. I hope you enjoy the choral masterpiece.

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

U-M: Over 1,000 Attend the United Coalition for Racial Justice Speak Out! Event

I provide below links of local and national coverage of the United Coalition for Racial Justice's SPEAK OUT! sit-in at the University of Michigan. Over 1,000 faculty, students, staff, alumni, and guests attended the event to hear the keynote speaker (Dr. Barbara Ransby, former U-M graduate student and organizer of the Black Action Movement in 1987), share their minority experiences and protest the lack of racial diversity on campus. You can also access the UCRJ's viewpoint (February 24, 2014) of campus climate here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sign the petition: University of Michigan -- Support Your Black Students

Today, a black alumnus from the University of Michigan launched an online petition to support the Being Black at Michigan (#BBUM) campaign and the Black Student Union's list of demands to improve African American enrollment at the University of Michigan. In November, the BBUM campaign received national attention regarding their personal experiences (positive but mostly negative) at the University of Michigan. The low black enrollment (4.1% as of Fall 2013!) has sparked disappointment and fueled protest. Black students expressed feelings of alienation, marginalization, invisibility, and the need to prove that they deserve to be at U-M even though Proposition 2 (2006) banned the use of race and gender in college admissions and state hiring. IF U-M truly wants to sustain its commitment to diversity, then it must take appropriate actions within the law to address the claims of Michigan's black student population. Sign the petition and share it with your friends and allies! #moveblueforward

My name is Lester Spence. I am an Associate Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 1991, and my PhD from the University of Michigan in 2001.

I worked hard for both of those degrees. But contrary to stories of “individual initiative,” I know my degrees didn’t come from my hard work alone. Student protest created the Comprehensive Studies Program that accepted me in 1987. Student protest created the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies where I took many of my classes, where I wrote the undergraduate paper in 1989 that led to my first book 22 years later. Student protest led to the hires of every single letter writer I had for grad school. Black students (and their allies) risked their academic careers. Risked their academic careers so years later people like me could find themselves and their purpose. Risked their careers to force the university to live up to its highest principles and values.

When I saw that black students at Michigan were forced to protest again, forced to issue demands protesters issued almost thirty years ago, I couldn’t stand by silently. We know what they’re risking. We know what they’re fighting for.

Our petition accomplishes two goals: First, the petition tells students they aren’t alone. They have received hate mail and threats. This in addition to the stress they’re already undergoing as students. Second, the university recently named Dr. Mark Schlissel (current Brown University provost) its next President. This petition tells incoming President Schlissel and other university officials that the issue of racial and economic equity are critical concerns they should not ignore.

The University of Michigan, like all prestigious institutions, is sensitive to public pressure. Adding your name will turn up the heat on university leadership and further enable students organizing for a Michigan that truly represents the leaders and best.

Tell the University of Michigan that it’s time they stand up and support student demands for more racial diversity and more economic support for poorer students.

Related Links

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Robert Reich: How more wealth is being redistributed to the wealthy in America

Robert Reich, an economist by training, published an editorial about the impact of the widening income inequality on American workers, especially poor and middle-class families. The last thirty years has seen the greatest redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich (reverse Robin Hood). I wonder how will the late John Rawls (one of the major thinkers in liberal political philosophy) react if he saw how this nation has changed from social welfare for the needy to corporate welfare for the wealthy.

For years, the bargaining power of American workers has also been eroding because of the ever more efficient means of outsourcing abroad, new computer software that can replace almost any routine job, and an ongoing shift of full-time to part-time and contract work. And unions have been hit hard. In the 1950s, more than a third of private-sector workers were members of labor unions. Now, fewer than 7% are unionized.
All this helps explain why corporate profits have been increasing throughout this recovery (they grew more than 18% in 2013 alone) while wages have been dropping. Corporate earnings now represent the largest share of the gross domestic product — and wages the smallest share of GDP — since records have been kept.
Hence, the Great Redistribution.

Check out Reich's documentary on income inequality, Inequality for All (2013).

Related links:

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Atlantic: RIP, American Dream? Why It's So Hard for the Poor to Get Ahead Today

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, this is an The Atlantic article by Matthew O'Brien that everyone should read. Although many anti-poverty programs (e.g., Head Start, Medicaid, Upward Bound, VISTA, etc.) still exist today, the United States in the last thirty years has become a nation where the gap between the rich are getting richer and the poor are being left behind. This is truly sad because the middle class is also feeling the crunch. The cost of necessities (food, housing, transportation) continue to increase. Wages and salaries has not kept up with inflation since the 1970s. Even a college degree alone does not guarantee that the poor can obtain upward social mobility. We need a domestic Marshall Plan to revitalize the middle class and our underserved communities.

Inequality is breeding more inequality. It's a story about paychecks, marriage, and homework. Now, it's not entirely clear why the top 1 percent have pulled so far away from everyone else, but there's a long list of suspects. Technology has let winners take, if not all, at least most, in fields like music; deregulation has set Wall Street free to make big bonuses off big bets (and leave taxpayers with the bill when they go bad); globalization and the decline of unions have left labor with far less leverage andshare of income; and falling top-end tax rates have exacerbated it all. But high-earners aren't just earning more today; they're also marrying each other more. It's what economists romantically call "assortative mating" -- and Christine Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, estimates inequality would be 25 to 30 percent lower if not for it.

Marriage is widening inequality today, and keeping it wide tomorrow. Well-off couples get married more, stay together more, read to their children more, and otherwise have more time and money to spend on their children's education. As the New York Times points out, economists Richard Murname and Greg Duncan have found that high-income couples have poured resources into the educational arms race at a prodigious pace the past generation. For one, the amount of time college-educated parents spend with their kids has grown at double the rate of others since 1975; for another, high-income households invested 150 percent more in "enrichment activities" for their kids from 1972 to 2006, compared to a 57 percent increase for low-income households.

UPDATE [January 8, 2014]: Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced his plan, the War on Poverty, in his State of the Union address in January 8, 1964. The national poverty rate was 19 percent in 1964. His War on Poverty project created Medicare, Medicaid, a permanent food stamp rpogram, Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America, and the Job Corps. Since 1964, much remain the same -- the national poverty rate hovers around 15 percent. The New York Times' Room for Debate has a discussion on whether the United States needs another War on Poverty. Six experts, ranging from research institutes to non-profit organizations, debate the issue. Watch the six-minute speech below:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

NYTimes: Loan Monitor Is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt

Happy new Year! As I continue to post articles about the student loan debt crisis in America, this New York Times article by Natalie Kitroeff perfectly highlights why the post-secondary financial aid system needs major reform at the federal level. Such predatory collection tactics should stop since they ignore basic human decency and compassion. Furthermore, student loans, both federal and private, should be eligible for bankruptcy protection just like medical, auto, and credit card debt.
There is $1 trillion in federal student debt today, and the possibility of default on those taxpayer-backed loans poses an acute risk to the economy’s recovery. Congress, faced with troubling default rates in the past, has made it especially hard for borrowers to get bankruptcy relief for student loans, and so only some hundreds try every year. And while there has been attention to aggressive student debt collectors hired by the federal government, the organization pursuing Ms. Jorgensen does something else: it brings legal challenges to those few who are desperate enough to seek bankruptcy relief.

That organization is the Educational Credit Management Corporation, which, since its founding in Minnesota nearly two decades ago, has been the main private entity hired by the Department of Education to fight student debtors who file for bankruptcy on federal loans.