08 March 2015

A February of note for diversity at UMN

I am a student and educator of biology. In biology, diversity is a major theme. A system’s ability to weather disaster and adapt to change depends on diversity. Genetic diversity is required for the ability to adapt and evolve. In agricultural settings diversity can buffer systems from the destructive abilities of pathogens, droughts, and other threats. In an ecological context diversity allows a system to continue functioning even if a constitute part is removed. Diverse systems are more resistant to invasion by exotic species. Our diets and agriculture draw on species domesticated by cultures across the globe. The strength of diversity is not limited to plant systems. We as humans also gain from our own diversity. Diverse perspectives allow us to see problems we may not have known about before, to find innovative solutions, and to see a new appreciation for something that we previously took for granted. We also live in a globalizing society, where it is becoming increasingly more important to be able to interact with people from many different backgrounds and cultures. All of these aspects of diversity indicate that learning and teaching which is inclusive and multicultural is important.

On February 5, 2015, I attended an Open Space event hosted by the Campus Climate Workgroup of the University of Minnesota. During that event I sat with a group working to save the Chicano and Latino Studies Department at the University, facilitated two sessions seeking to remove racial descriptors from campus crime alerts, and was a part of a session developing action items to help get the university to remove racial descriptors from its crime alerts. I was a bit skeptical of spending almost my whole day on racial descriptors in crime alerts – while I knew it needed addressed, it is just one issue of many students are facing on campus. At the end of the day, it was illuminating in many ways and I understood why that much time needed to be spent. Students, faculty, and staff got a lot out of the conversation. We discovered just how flimsy the University’s position was; we discovered how wide and unified the opposition to the use of racial descriptors in crime alerts is; we saw how this issue is part of a much bigger picture and addressing it is necessary in making change; we heard stories and people got to tell their stories; we discovered how badly the University of Minnesota needs a cultural change in its police force, and we developed very concrete ways in which this could move forward.

On February 9, 2015, I saw students stage a sit-in in the Office of President Kaler. The students were willing to be arrested to try to make the University a more inclusive place, and the University was willing to arrest them for their “disruptive” behavior. That the University was so inconvenienced that they arrested students, simply for students demanding they be supported, is distressing. The University just hours earlier had released a statement saying they supported free speech, peaceful protest, and looked forward to working with students. The actions of the administration did not follow that. People took notice of that, including the Chronicle of Higher Education.

On February 25, 2015, the Universityof Minnesota announced it was changing its policy on the use of suspectdescriptors in crime alerts.While the step didn’t go as far as students, faculty, and staff were requesting, it did put the University of Minnesota in the lead on this issue, joining only Rutgers and the University of Maryland in avoiding the use of suspect descriptors when a description is very broad. It was an important step in making the campus safer. People at the university made sure their voices were heard. Years of letters, student government resolutions, speaking up at events, and holding a sit-in of the president’s office forced the administration to listen. This also came days after a cluster hire was announced, which will give the Chicano and Latino Studies Department the tenured professor it needs to survive (I'm sure there will be a continued push to get the university to give the department what it needs to thrive).

I bring these events up to start my discussion of Multicultural Inclusive Learning and Teaching because we can’t separate the learning from the learning environment, and these events illustrate what I think we hope to achieve as educators. Universities are strong because one simply need go down the hall to talk to an expert on a number of subjects. Universities are strong because they seek to allow for diversity of thought, discourse, study, and shared governance. When we fail to live up to those obligations – by refusing community concerns even when presented with data, by arresting students for peacefully protesting, by weakening shared governance by decreasing the number of tenure-track faculty and closing important departments – we decrease our ability to be an effective institution of higher learning.

Multicultural Inclusive Learning and Teaching is the harnessing of diversity to develop the skills, resources, and knowledge base of a community. This harnessing means a recognition that human difference is important and should be seen as a strength of our society. This diversity can and should include a diversity of perspectives, educational methods, and participants. The development of skills, resources, and knowledge base can and should be relevant, and should encourage the recognition of parallels that allow one to think and apply their knowledge in multiple contexts. The community can be a community of learners in a classroom, the participants in a workshop, or even a broader community.

The events of February at the University of Minnesota directly touch on issues of Multicultural Inclusive Learning and Teaching and give us solid examples of our goals. One reason for the sit-in was an attempt to save the Chicano and Latino Studies Department. Students, faculty, and staff all passionately expressed how important such a program is – for giving diverse perspectives, for asking students to draw parallels across disciplines, and for engaging the community. This department should clearly serve as an inspiration for other programs, such as those in biology. Diverse people and cultures developed agriculture, and many of the people responsible for growing and processing our food are economically and/or socially disadvantaged. Biology has a clear impact on everyday life, and touches other subjects in terms of the science, ethics, economics, social ramifications, history, philosophy, et cetera. Many global challenges concern biological issues and will likely involve biological parts of their solution – climate change, water shortages, energy, food security, global pandemics, et cetera. The recent events at the University of Minnesota also indicate history is important. The sit-in replicates a sit-in which led to the original creation ofthe Chicano and Latino Studies Department. The development of the field of biology is important for understanding where we are now in terms of knowledge, and the cycles that scientific inquiry undergoes. Furthermore, the students are ultimately asking for an environment that is safe and allows them to take risks in their education. Creating such a learning environment is fundamental for education, and for the university system.

31 July 2014

Headlines for 31 July 2014

Check out videos and headlines with notes on: Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett singing "Anything Goes," College Humor educational video on purebred dogs, Woman discusses her abortion story with her daughter, Mother discussing her trans daughter, House GOP leadership fails to pass border bill, and Five new laws take affect in Minnesota on August 1st.

Check out just headlines on: Judge dismisses challenge to NJ conversion therapy ban, Justice Ginsburg not retiring, and WHO launches $100 million ebola response plan.

Cheat out just comics on: Ebola, and Map of all the countries one flight away from ebola.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett sing "Anything Goes"
Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett have collabortated on a jazzy album called "Cheek to Cheek." Album is due in September. I am definitely excited for this album! I'm particularly glad to see them release "Anything Goes" considering I was in a production of the musical in high school. For those who are pessimistic about society and thinking it has a bunch of new problems, listen to the lyrics of this song. Then remember it is from a 1934 musical.
This is an excellent duo, as you can also hear in Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett's previous collaboration, "The Lady is a Tramp."

College Humor educational video on purebred dogs (mildly NSFW)
Yep, human selective breeding is responsible for a bunch of the problems purebred dogs have. Problems mutts are much less likely to have. Need further evidence? Check out the bulldog skull on the right:
Image from EVOL300 Course Website
Want another one? Try a google search for a pug skull. And if you liked this video, maybe check out the one on male circumcision.

A woman discussers her abortion with her daughter
There is a movement for women to open up about their abortion to destigmatize the decision. You can check out people opening up about their experiences at NotAlone.Us . Here is one of the videos:

A mom discusses her trans daughter
Trans* stories are diverse and varied. There are many voices and different stories to tell. Here is one mother discussing her experience.

Border failure rocks House GOP leadership
Boehner has again failed to get through legislation. The speaker can't even get his own legislation through... The "Do Nothing" Congress continues...

Five new laws in Minnesota start August 1st

  1. Minimum wage increase ($8/hr, will progressively climb to $9.50 and increase automatically with inflation)
  2. Domestic abusers and stalkers will be prohibited from possessing firearms
  3. Law attacks synthetic drugs
  4. Penalties updated for data breaches
  5. Motorists must investigate collisions


Just Headlines

  1. Federal judge dismisses latest challenge to N.J. ban on gay conversion therapy
  2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I'm not going anywhere
  3. World Health Organization launches $100 million Ebola response plan as crisis deepens


Just Comics

Comic from Cagle

Image from Quartz

29 July 2014

Headlines for 29 July 2014

Check out headlines with notes on: Satanists to use Hobby Lobby ruling to block anti-choice propaganda, China plans to build super collider as US continues to fall behind on particle physics, Poll numbers show Democrat win of Oklahoma governership is possible, and New York debates if housing is healthcare (which could save money).

Check out just headlines on: US unfairly targeted Arabs and Muslims, Senators in both parties agree states must do more for higher education, Ebola kills senior doctor in Liberia, Liberia closes border crossings amid Ebola crisis, An American citizen dies of Ebola in Nigeria, A second American in Liberia has Ebola, Ebola outbreak forces West African airline to halt flights, Tentative agreement on US veterans health bill, Spacecraft reveals 101 geysers on a Saturn moon, No one knows what is causing mysterious radio bursts from space, Religious violence in 2013 displaced millions, Federal court blocks closing of Mississippi's last abortion clinic, Colorado Supreme Court stops Boulder from issuing same-sex marriages, LGB youth four times more likely to attempt suicide, Illinois issues bulletin reminding insurers that transgender health coverage is protected by law, and 4th Circuit rules Virginia same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

Check out just comics on: Superman is an undocumented immigrant, It was Obama, Death penalty, Drones, Writing, and Mary Poppins quitting over wages.


Well, well. Satanists to use Hobby Lobby to block [anti-choice] propaganda
One of the tenants of Satanism is that, "One's body is inviolable, subject to one's will alone" (Satanic Temple). Because of this, abortion is clearly an indivual's right (since a fetus can NOT persist without the use of a person's body). Another tenant of Satanism is that, "Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs" (Satanic Temple). Many states' abortion laws directly violate this tenant as they mandate patients be given false and/or misleading information. Due to the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, the Satanic Temple is encouraging people to use religious liberty protections to avoid having to recieve this anti-choice propaganda. They have drafted a letter people can give to their healthcare professionals stating how this propaganda violates their sincerely held beliefs and therefore they should be exempt from recieving it. It will be interesting to see how this moves forward.

China plans super collider
China could very well position itsself as the world leader in particle physics by building the tools needed. The nation is considering building a $3 billion collider that would dwarf the collider that confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson. I feel it appropriate to note that the United States government has several military projects that cost more than this a budget cycle. It also seems worth noting that the United States funding for the National Science Foundation this year is $7.172 billion. President Obama's 2015 budget would only give the US Department of Energy's high-energy physics budget $744 million (a 6% cut). The United State's risk of falling behind on particle physics continues to get worse.

Poll numbers show a Democrat could be Oklahoma's next governor
Voting counts. Races can be surprisingly close. In 2008, Alaska had a house race that was decided by a single vote. There are examples of 2 vote margins in: 1974, 20042006. There are many, many examples of close election results. Minnesota's Al Franken is even an example. Just because it is a midterm election this year doesn't mean it isn't important to vote.

New York debates whether housing counts as healthcare
Surprise, surprise, sometimes housing lowers the overall cost of healthcare. In the example given in this article, living at an assisted living facility for a year is half the cost of a homeless individual's emergency room visits they would otherwise have in a year. Simple cost-benefit analysis on this topic might be able to save us money and offer better care. You'd think cost-benefit analyses would make a lot of topics apolitical and obvious. I can understand needing a long debate on something that will: (a) cost more money but improve service or (b) cost less money but reduce service. That said, something that costs less money and improves service seems like a fairly simple choice.


Just Headlines

  1. Report: US unfairly targeted Arabs, Muslims
  2. Senators in both parties agree: States must do more for higher education
  3. Ebola
    1. Ebola kills senior doctor in Liberia
    2. Liberia closes border crossings amid Ebola crisis
    3. Man who died of Ebola in Nigeria was American citizen
    4. 2nd American has Ebola in Liberia
    5. Health officials fear possible spread of Ebola virus beyond West Africa
    6. Ebola outbreak forces West African airline to halt flights
  4. Tentative agreement reached on US veterans' healthcare funding bill
  5. Cassini spacecraft reveals 101 geysers erupting on icy Saturn moon
  6. No one knows what's causing these mysterious radio bursts from space
  7. Religious violence in 2013 displaced millions
  8. Federal court blocks closing of sole Mississippi abortion clinic
  9. Colorado Supreme Court stops same-sex marriages in Boulder county
  10. Gay and bisexual youth are nearly 4 times more likely to attempt suicide
  11. Illinois insurance department issues bulletin on transgender coverage (its protected by law)

Image from The Equality Network's Facebook Page

Comic from the LA Times

Comic from Cagle
Comic from Cagle
Comic from Cagle
Comic from Cagle
Comic from PhD Comics
Comic from PhD Comics

24 July 2014

Headlines for 24 July 2014

Read headlines with comments on: Churches provide shelter in Gaza and are their grounds are being bombed by Israel, and UN shelter in Gaza bombed by Israel.

Read just headlines on: ExxonMobile will comply with new employment protections, 8th sitting GOP Congress member comes out for same-sex marriage, Clarification allows medical abortions to resume in Wisconsin, Sierra Leone's chief ebola doctor contracts ebola, Another botched execution in Arizona, 2nd judge rules against right-to-work in Indiana, Jobless claims in US at 8-year low, and Colorado's marriage ban is unconstitutional.

See just comics on: Climate change, Kansas falling apart, Malaysian plane destruction, Migrant kids, Writing as a grad student, and the word feminism.


Hiding in the shadow of the pastor in Gaza
When one thinks of Israel and Palestine, they think of Jews and Muslims. There is certainly more diversity than that. As Israel and the Gaza Strip continue their conflict, some Palestinians are taking refuge in Gaza's Christian churches. These churches are not immune to Israel's attacks, with at least five Christian graveyards and a funeral service car destroyed by tanks.

UN shelter for Gazan refugees bombed amid warning of 'dire' situation
Israel has also bombed a United Nations shelter without giving it warning. According to this article the death toll for this round of fighting is 732 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.


Just Headlines

  1. ExxonMobile agrees to comply with LGBT employment executive order
  2. Florida: US Rep David Jolly (R-FL) becomes eighth sitting GOP member of Congress to back same-sex marriage
  3. Clarification on 2012 abortion restrictions allows clinics to resume medication abortions in Wisconsin
  4. Sierra Leone's chief Ebola doctor contracts the virus
  5. Arizona inmate dies belatedly in apparently botched execution
  6. 2nd judge rules against Indiana right-to-work law
  7. Jobless claims in US unexpectedly drops to eight-year low
  8. Federal judge rules Colorado gay marriage ban unconstitutional, orders temporary stay


Just Comics
Comic from Cagle

Comic from Columbia Daily Tribune

Comic from Cagle

Comic from Cagle
Comic from PhD Comics
Image from Being Liberal's Facebook Page

22 July 2014

Headlines for 21 July 2014

Headlines with notes on: HIV/AIDS researchers on shot down Malaysian airliner, Cafe serves as breastfeeding pit stop, A woman discusses her abortion, and Obama signs executive order expanding sexual orientation and gender identity protections to government contractors.

Just headlines on: Muslims and Atheists least liked in US, In general the states who raised their minimum wage also had larger job growth, Marijuana researcher fights to get her job back, John Cho casting may be revolutionary for Asian representation in entertainment media,Study finds HIV establishes viral reservoir at very early stage, Industrial disasters more likely to impact low-income communities and communities of color, Earth continuing to break heat records, More Chikungunya cases in the United States, Very-expensive very-effective drugs could increase health insurance cost, and Death toll rises to 500 Gazans and 27 Israelis in current conflict.


Top AIDS researchers killed in Malaysian Airlines Crash
A number of HIV/AIDS research experts were on the Malaysian Airline that was shot down in Ukraine. They were on their way to a conference on HIV/AIDS.

Image from ThinkProgress
British cafe offers breastfeeding mothers a pit stop
Breastfeeding is an obvious choice for many mothers. Yet, even with many juristictions having laws to protect nursing mothers, some people are so afraid of boobs and female anatomy that they will attempt to force nursing mothers to hide themselves or not nurse in public at all. One cafe, instead, is offering nursing mothers a pit stop, regardless of whether or not they are customers. This is great to see, and hopefully it catches on more. Mothers and wet nurses should be able to nurse whenever they need to, to be able to do so in public, and to be able to show as much skin as they want or need to show in order to nurse.Nursing isn't something anyone should be ashamed of, and it is appaulling that anyone would have a problem with it.

Photo from the Huffington Post
What we don't talk about when we don't talk about abortion
As I've been discussing lately, there seems to be a movement for people to start telling their abortion stories. Women's rights are actively being rolled back at the moment, and this is threatening the health, safety, and freedom of women. Coming out has been an incredibly powerful political tool for the Queer community, and I think that for the people who are willing and able to tell their abortion stories, it will serve as a powerful tool. Women you know and respect have choosen abortion. There is nothing wrong with making that decision. Let's keep abortion safe and legal. You can check out projects like Not Alone to hear and/or share abortion stories. Also remember there are a number of resources in your community if you are considering or need an abortion or other reproductive health care services. These resources include organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Obama urges Congress to ban job bias against Gays
Today, Obama signed an executive order banning businesses that contract with the Federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While this does not protect all Americans, it is a significant move forward. It will require an act of Congress to protect all Americans from discrimination in employment, housing, et cetera on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


Just Headlines

17 July 2014

Headlines for 17 July 2014

Headlines with notes on: Tesla Model 3, Nevada Assemblywoman defends opening up about her abortion, 22 women's reasons for taking birth control, and Polio eradication still possible.

Just headlines on: Belgium appoints its first transgender MP, Israel begins ground invasion of Gaza, An update on Senate Republicans (image), and Florida marriage ban struck down (image).


Why Tesla's Model 3 could be the most important electric car ever
The premise of the article is that the new Tesla Model 3 will be reasonably affordable, aesthetically pleasing, and have an infrastructure that will make it much more competitive with cars running on fossil fuels. While Nissan and Mitsubishi both have sub-40k electric cars, they look like what you'd expect an electric car to look like, and there isn't the charging infrastructure. While Tesla still has work to do on the charging infrastructure, it at least covers a fair amount of the population. Also, for those who have seen a Tesla (there are a few in the Twin Cities for example), they are gorgeous cars. I guess we will see if this new Tesla really changes the game.

Tesla charging stations, map from Gizmodo
Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores defends decision to speak out about her abortion
There is nothing wrong with having or having had an abortion. You are not alone. As the war on women continues, ending the silence on abortion might be an important tool to ensure women continue to have rights over their bodies. Women have strong and powerful stories to tell about their decisions on terminating a pregnancy. Stories have power. I think coming out has been one of the most powerful tools the Queer community has had in fighting to secure our rights. Given that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime, there are a lot of stories. There are a lot of people whose rights are at stake.

Image from Planned Parenthood
We asked 22 women why they take birth control and these are their answers
This is a photo essay. A variety of reasons are given - birth control, acne, cramps, period regulation, hormone regulation, empowerment, endometrosis, et cetera. I had to look up endometrosis, which is a condition in which the cells from the inside of one's uterus grow in other parts of the body. The photo I found the most powerful was the following:
Photo from Buzzfeed
Within reach: A redoubling of efforts should swiftly eradicate polio from its last strongholds
Humans were able to elimate smallpox from the wild thanks to an extensive vaccination effort. Rinderpest, a disease of cattle, has also be eradicated in the wild thanks to human efforts. Polio absolutely could be eradicated from human populations, ending a disease which has ravaged much of the world. This requires serious effort, but it can happen. This is a global venture, a human venture, and a way we can make a serious positive impact for future generations.

Infographic from Rotary International

Just Headlines
Image from US Senate Democrat's Facebook Page

16 July 2014

Headlines for 16 July 2014

Check out headlines with notes on: Nurse refuses to force-feed Gitmo detainee, Number of people living with HIV unchanged since 2012 plus new infections are decreasing, New pregnancy discrimination guidelines, FCC extends comment period on net neutrality to Friday at midnight, and Highway funding fight continues.

Check out just headlines on: New Thor is a woman, Court upholds use of race in UT admissions, The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota is ranked the best hospital in the country, GOP candidate mistakes YMCA kids for fearful migrants, $10 million to help tribes with climate change resiliency, Wasp released to help control emerald ash borer, Fed Chair says economy still needs Fed support, West Africa ebola tell toll surges, and Senate Republicans block a bill to fix Hobby Lobby decision.

Just comics on: Superweeds, and Immigrant children.


Nurse refuses to force-feed Gitmo detainee
The hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay continues, and so does the force feeding of these prisoners. A nurse has refused to participate. He was assigned to different duties. It is crazy to think Gitmo is still open. Both presidential candidates in 2008 ran on closing it. President Obama has been trying to close it for years and is being blocked by Congress every time. Congress needs to stop blocking this and let this facility be closed.

HIV News
1. Number of people living with HIV worldwide unchanged since 2012
2. UN: HIV infections decreasing, epidemic could be contained by 2030
Hopeful news in the fight against HIV. It still looks like humanity will live with the virus, but the hope of at least some level of control exists. Getting people tested and treated can vastly reduce new infections, and there has been work on increasing access to testing and treatment. There are likely a number of institutions in your area that provide HIV testing (some of which may be very affordable or even free), including places like Planned Parenthood, and in the Twin Cities the Red Door Clinic.

Image from ThinkProgress
Federal government releases new guidelines on pregnancy discrimination
While pregnancy status has been protected from discrimination, it has been narrowly interpreted historically. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released new guidelines. This is great news, though their is much work to do. The United States still lags behind a number of other countries on protections for pregnant women.

FCC extending net neutrality commenting time after site buckles
For those who haven't commented on net neutrality (aka preventing cable company f***ery), you now have until Friday at midnight! So far 780,000 comments have been made. The website couldn't handle all the comments and went under, so the deadline has been established. Please, please think about commenting. If net neutrality dies it may mean internet becomes a whole lot more like cable TV, and nobody wants that (except the cable companies)! You can comment at fcc.gov/comments (it is called "Protecting and promoting the open Internet").

As Congress fights over highway funding, roads feel pinch
Our infrastructure is aging. It also requires general maintainance. There is an easy but unpopular solution to this problem. Instead, Congress is looking for a band-aid.


Just Headlines
Marvel: New Thor is a woman
University of Texas flagship's use of race in admissions can stand, court rules
Mayo Clinic is tops in magazine's hospital rankings
GOP candidate mistakes YMCA kids for migrants, describes 'fear in their faces'
Bureau of Indian Affairs to start $10 million program to help tribes with climate change
Wasps let loose in Winona to fight ash borer
(Fed Chair) Yellen says economy still needs Fed(eral Reserve Bank) support
WHO: West Africa ebola death toll surges to 603
Image from NARAL Pro-Choice America's Facebook Page


Just Comics
Comic from Cagle
Comic from Cagle