Campus SaVE Act Responds to College Campus Sexual Violence

Campus SaVE Act Responds to College Campus Sexual Violence

There is an important backstory to the fight for protecting students from sexual violence. It dates back to 1986, when 19-year-old student Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dormitory room at Lehigh University.

July 25, 2015 | No comment | Read More »

Shifting Sands: New Dynamics in the Bronx Art Scene

Shifting Sands: New Dynamics in the Bronx Art Scene

The dialogue went far deeper than a mere discussion of the current landscape of the Bronx art scene. It raised questions, and some hackles, about competing community needs, gentrification, constituencies that are too frequently powerless, and big money.

July 13, 2015 | 1 comment | Read More »

Air Pollution is Making Me Anxious

Air Pollution is Making Me Anxious

A new study proposes that air pollution may impact mental health.

April 23, 2015 | No comment | Read More »

Aviation’s Poisoned Air: Aerotoxic Syndrome

Aviation’s Poisoned Air: Aerotoxic Syndrome

The scariest piece of the whole equation is that the toxins being ingested by pilots can result in “cognitive deficits,” thereby putting the safety of the whole plane in jeopardy.

July 25, 2015 | No comment | Read More »


Campus SaVE Act Responds to College Campus Sexual Violence

Stop the RapeRAVISHLYStudents starting college this coming fall (as well as those returning) will be the first to benefit from the Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE), which will require colleges to have “prevention and awareness” programs about sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and domestic violence in place. (This including same-sex violence.) Well-defined campus conduct protocol for disciplinary procedures against those accused of such crimes must be formulated. Victims are required to receive “written information” that outlines their rights, the channels available to them for reporting incidents, and the protocol for disciplinary action.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who spearheaded the legislation that took effect on July 1, spoke with reporters by phone to discuss what he qualified as, “A development I think is very important.”

The act was cosponsored by numerous Senators, and has been endorsed by twenty-nine organizations including the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Women of Color Network, and the Clery Center for Security On Campus.

There is an important backstory to the fight for protecting students from sexual violence. It dates back to 1986, when 19-year-old student Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dormitory room at Lehigh University. Her parents demanded that colleges and universities furnish statistics about on-campus crime. They founded the Clery Center for Security on Campus in 1987, and three years later took the lead in pushing through the landmark federal legislation Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act in Congress. It was renamed after their daughter in 1991.

The Violence Against Women Act, enacted in 1994, now contains the Campus SaVE Act (Sec. 304 of S. 47) in the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2013. Casey contacted the Department of Education with the request to get the SaVE Act put into play as soon as possible.

Stating that the SaVE Act was “the most significant update of the Clery Act in two decades,” Casey spoke about additional changes he would like to see made. “I don’t think this encompasses everything that needs to be done,” he noted.

Implementation applies to all colleges and universities that participate in the federal financial aid program (Title IV of the Higher Education Act). According to the Department of Education stats from school year 2011-2012, that number encompassed 7,234 institutions. Failure to comply can result in hefty fines and loss of the school’s federal student aid.

The plan is based on the template of Prevention, Reporting, and Response:

  • Institutions must have prevention and awareness programs in place that clearly define the “prohibition” of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking — as well as a clear delineation of what constitutes these crimes and “consent according to the applicable jurisdiction.” Material on “risk reduction” should be available.
  • Institutions must convey to students information about all resources offered to them if they are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking. This includes preserving evidence, victim’s rights, counseling, and legal assistance.
  • Institutions must explicitly communicate their protocols for responding to a report of a sexual assault incident, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking, and their established system for disciplinary action. This includes projected timelines, and how the type of disciplinary hearing utilized will be determined.

A key element underscored by Casey was the “Bystander Intervention” factor. He said, “Young men have to step up and help young women. Guys need to step in and show some guts. This is telling the whole community, ‘It’s your problem.’ ”

Concern for a victim’s confidentiality has been highlighted, specifically in regard to the pursuit of changing accommodations and seeking protection — such as changing a living situation or class enrollment. This enables the victim to have agency.

Casey acknowledged that the situation would not totally “change overnight,” but that the “new provisions must be enforced and monitored.” He defined it as a very clear reminder to schools, particularly those that were in opposition, “These are the rules now. You have to comply.”

In order to hold violators responsible, Casey advocated for investigations to be held accountable by “professionals well-trained in law enforcement.” He referenced the importance of “protecting people’s rights on both side of this.” Casey added, “This is not a place for amateurs.”

The December 2014 report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013 found that, “Rape and sexual assault victimizations of students (80%) were more likely than nonstudent victimizations (67%) to go unreported to police.” Hopefully, the Campus SaVE Act will enable and support young women in protecting their rights. As Casey emphasized, “Just because it’s on a college campus doesn’t mean it’s less grave.”

Image: mgyerman

This article originally appeared on the website Ravishly


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Jul 25, 2015 | No comment | Read More »

Shifting Sands: New Dynamics in the Bronx Art Scene

In the middle of June, at the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse at East 161st Street and Third Avenue, a large gathering of people came together to hear panelists parse the “New Dynamics in the Bronx Art Scene.”

The event was organized by the Hostos Center for Bronx Nonprofits (CBNP), as part of an ongoing “Public Conversations Series.” The dialogue went far deeper than a mere discussion of the current landscape of the Bronx art scene. It raised questions, and some hackles, about competing community needs, gentrification, constituencies that are too frequently powerless, and big money.

Executive Director of CBNP, Eileen Newman, introduced the proceedings. Sarah Calderon, the Director of Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, served as the moderator. Each of the seven panelists gave an opening statement — laying the groundwork for their insights.

Arthur Aviles
, Founder and Creative Director of Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, raised the question of how the creative community can “stay vibrant in a capitalistic society.” He referenced the importance of artists having space to create their work. “Bronx arts are moving around,” he said, “and the works being created are empowering to women, people of color, and the GLBT communities.”

Multidisciplinary artist, Alicia Grullón, noted, “It’s an exciting time for the arts in the Bronx.” She acknowledged that artists were being blamed for some of the recent development. “We need a wider conversation that must involve long-time residents. People are being pushed out.” Grullón originated and has been leading the Percent for Green initiative, reflecting her concern with the environment and climate change.

Carey Clark, artist and Visual Arts Director at THE POINT, spoke to the potential results that could come from artists, art organizations, and the community working together to impact public policy. Qualifying the “downtown” Manhattan art scene as “elitist,” it was clear that she was not looking to replicate that model in the Bronx.

Founder and Director of the Bronx Documentary Center, photographer Michael Kamber, embodied a very pragmatic point of view. Previously having lived in Dumbo, which he conveyed as “now all high rises,” Kamber expressed concern about what he is currently seeing the Bronx. “The church down the street from me sold for $12 million,” he said adding flatly, “I don’t think we should be in this building today. We should not be in bed with the developers.”

An ongoing concern for Dennis RedMoon Darkeem, artist and art educator, was the media “misportrayal” of the Bronx — and how that impacts the way in which “residents view themselves.”

Former Director of the Bronx Council on the Arts, Bill Aguado, who has been an activist and cultural leader in the Bronx since the 1970s, presented a succinct overview from his vantage point of four decades of involvement on the ground. “How do we define the artist?” Aguado asked rhetorically. He underscored the “people who were missing from the equation,” explaining, “There are artists from different communities who are not part of the nonprofit system and who don’t register in the nonprofit space.” He enumerated those who are creating in fashion and hip-hop, as well as subway taggers. “We have challenges within our own universe,” he stated. Determining the “proper role” for Bronx cultural organizations was key for Aguado. “We need to be in touch with individual artists.”

Rounding out the group was Edwin Torres, Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for New York City. Torres grew up in the South Bronx and was Director of the Longwood Art Project before he worked at the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. He laid out what he considered two major issues: how the Jerome Avenue corridor will evolve and the development of Mott Haven. Within that framework he placed “the social impact of the arts.”

With a move from individual statements to an exchange of ideas, specific points of view crystallized — and it was clear that there were distinctly different concepts on how to tackle the problems. The common thread, in varying forms, was succinctly encapsulated by Aviles. “We have a capitalistic mentality. The power structure is the bottom line. It’s all about the money.”

“Follow the money,” Grullón said, “and divest from those funders. She gave the Koch brothers (Think the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum’s David H. Koch Plaza) as a prime example. Grullón offered four points to ensure against displacement for artists and working class people: “Full taxation of corporations, effective community benefits agreement, housing protection and zoning, and protection of the commons.”

Kamber, who bought the building the Bronx Documentary Center is housed in said, “For me, art is very political. We’re interested in engaging the community. People need jobs.” He asked, “Why are kids dropping out of high school?” As part of the Center’s mission, Kamber has put in place educational programs to effect social change through film and photography.

Outlining the work being done at THE POINT, Clark spelled out, “We have all the arts under one roof, and the artists are involved in social engagement.” Their programs are devoted to youth development, community development, and arts and culture.

“Artists are entrepreneurs,” said Aguado. “Why can’t we support them directly? There is a lack of equity in funding. Artists get exploited and they move out. And what about creatives who don’t self-identify as artists?” He highlighted, “Poverty will always be an issue for people of color in our city.”

“The most important thing for artists,” said Aviles, is that “they have a place to live and work — and make a living wage.” When Darkeem addressed the need to have a larger discussion on the relationships between non-profits, the community, artists, and business, he suggested acerbically, “Artists must organize and not let Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. make decisions for us.”

AudienceWEBAs soon as questions were taken from the audience, sparks began to fly in reaction to the colliding agendas. In the crowd were leading activists in the community and from the arts including Deirdre Scott (Executive Director of the Bronx Council on the Arts), Ed García Conde (Welcome2TheBronx), Linda Cunningham (Co-Founder of Bronx Art Space), and Lisa Ortega (Take Back the Bronx).

The top concern was getting a clarification of the relationship between the No Longer Empty (NLE) organization (whose tagline is “Revitalizing Space, Unlocking Creativity”) and real estate developers. Manon Slome, President and Chief Curator of NLE stepped up to answer heated accusations stating, “We’re using underutilized spaces. We’re here to provide platforms. We’re not here to gentrify.”

Ortega, advocating for the agency of the Bronx community, had a different reaction about what was taking place at the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse. “It’s about us taking back the building,” she stressed. “The non-profit is part of the problem. Artists are pawns in the larger equation.” Her bottom line was, “Why are gentrifiers being allowed into the community?”

Aguado drilled down on the need for the arts to make a statement. “We have to be part of the process. Our voices need to be heard,” he said, reiterating, “Artists of color must have cultural equity.”

There was, however, definitive unanimity with the observation by Dennis that the “New Bronx” language being pushed by politicians and developers does not bode well for the borough.

Is there a conflict between artists and members of the community? Dennis was clear, “Art matters.” Kamber emphasized, “We were created to serve the underserved Bronx community.” Clark said, “THE POINT is an incubator for the arts and social services. It’s a community based arts component.”

I followed up with several people after the formal discussion had ended. Cunningham, in response to the artist vs. community concern, affirmed, “We’re allies.” Shellyne Rodriquez, who has work in When You Cut into the Present the Future Leaks Out (closing July 19) offered, “Art organizations are choked out of federal money so they have to go to private funding. Artists are pawns. How can we speak to truth if the community doesn’t trust us?”

When I caught up with Sloane, she was walking a visitor around the
Future Fix room, an exhibit put Amber BaezWEB together by Teens Curate Teens — student curators of work culled from submissions from the ArtConnection’s Student Art Program. She spoke about the curatorial training, the work being shown, and the Youth Docent Program — another feature of the NLE education engagement. On the linked events at the Courthouse, Sloane pointed out, “We achieved what we wanted by opening a dialogue.”

I went back to revisit the works in When You Cut into the Present the Future Leaks Out. I was struck by Michelle Lopez’s Untitled video, sculpture, and sound site-specific installation which examined how birds misinterpret their own images reflected in glass, thereby attacking it. In her proposal for the piece, Lopez writes, “What interests me in this construct in what it might reveal: the narcissus complex of protecting identity to the point of destruction. The futility of pecking at the window again and again without a cognitive sense, but of desire, strikes me as appropriate for such a structure as the Bronx courthouse.” Without the backstory of the ornithology that Lopez researched, and with the panel conversation reverberating in my mind, I experienced the bird as trying to crash a glass barrier — which it didn’t understand was not transparent — with repeated futility.

BirdWEBMichelle Lopez

REDline Big PosterWEBReturning to the room where the panel was held, on the opposite side was the Undesign the Redline installation created by Designing the WE. An interactive project, it laid out how “structural racism was designed into our cities and it has never truly been undone.”

There appeared to be a consensus that just holding the panel event was an important beginning in the exchange of ideas. Yet, as I heard one person remark, “It’s only the tip of the iceberg.”




 Photos: Marcia G. Yerman

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Jul 13, 2015 | 1 comment | Read More »

American Petroleum Institute Ads Target Smog Rules

epa03556207 A undated image showing plaintiff Nigerian farmer Eric Dooh showing his hand covered with oil from a creek near Goi, Ogoniland, Nigeria. According to a report of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), leaks in Shell pipelines in Nigeria occur regularly, causing harm to communities in the Niger Delta region. A group of Nigerian plaintiffs claim Shell is liable for the damage the leaks caused, while Shell claims most leaks are the result of sabotage. Reports also state fishponds and farmland have been destroyed, while most locals have no other option but to drink from polluted water. Eric Dooh from Goi (Ogoniland), Alali Efanga from Oruma (Bayelsa) and Friday Alfred Akpan from Ikot Ada Udo (Akwa Ibom), individual farmers from three different communities in the Niger Delta, have taken Shell into the Dutch civil court of The Hague in a landmark pollution case, asking for compensation for damages to their land. The verdict in the case is due 30 January 2013. EPA/MARTEN VAN DIJL +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++In a move that seems ripe for a John Oliver comedy segment, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has taken to radio, print, television, and social media to blanket Americans with the concept that our air is just fine the way it is — more specifically, that ozone pollution doesn’t require any further regulation.

They are disseminating a series of ads (one can only imagine what it cost to underwrite) that have an Orwellian quality about them. I could actually visualize the various focus groups they called in to come up with their strategy, determining how best to push hot buttons through key words and phraseology.

There’s a lot of psychology at work, and a lot of conflation. The American Petroleum Institute is suggesting that the bigger our economy, the cleaner our air will be (Guess they haven’t visited China or India.) They present the premise that along with population and economic growth, as well as the amount of energy consumed, the quality of air has improved in tandem.

Using statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency to illustrate the drop of ozone levels since 2000, the reasoning put forth is that the standards currently in place are doing the job and should be left alone.

To counter any doubts, they play the “economy card,” maintaining that the country “can’t afford unnecessary rules,” that the regulations would be the most expensive to date, and that it would be a risk to jobs growth. The top talking point that they are hoping will pack a punch is that the proposed Obama administration directives “could” cost families $2,040 annually. The print ad uses the patriotic colors or red, white, and blue to get their message across.

The website, Ozone Facts, is referenced for further information. The “About” page leads back to the American Petroleum Institute. “Energy Tomorrow” is a project of the API. It’s all about the oil and natural gas industry.

One of the quotes begins, “Reviews of air quality standards should be based on scientific analysis and conclusions, but too often EPA embraces an obvious politicization of the air quality standard-setting process…” This is situated almost directly across from a box on the left hand side of the page titled, “What they are saying.” This leads to quotes from Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).

For those unfamiliar with the records of both men, additional perspective is needed. Inhofe is an avowed climate denier who now chairs the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee (EPW). Upton is on record as having called the EPA’s Clean Power Plan “a train wreck.” According to the League of Conservation Voters, Inhofe has a 5 percent lifetime score on environmental issues; Upton has 29 percent. For the year 2014, they score 0 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

A chart on “Ozone Facts” that shows “Air Quality Progress” in the country since 1980, with ozone second on the list of “common pollutants.” The major problem is that there is no context.

Nowhere is there any mention of the health risks that are at the core of the EPA’s initiatives. Does the average citizen know that smog is basically ground-level ozone that has mixed with particle pollution and other gases? A photograph of a city enveloped in smog is visceral. It’s easy to draw the lines between a soupy haze and the fact that human respiratory systems can be impacted in a major way. Difficulty breathing, coughing, and throat irritation are all caused by ground-level ozone — which also affects the most vulnerable populations of children, the elderly, and those with asthma.

A graph on the EPA ozone website page shows a triangle divided into five sections, depicting the “pyramid of effects caused by ozone.” At the top, in red, is an area labeled “death.” It sits atop the layer devoted to “emergency room visits and hospital admissions.”

The thirty-two second TV spot put out by IAP shows a clear blue sky and features a voice-over by a woman earnestly intoning, “But bureaucrats want to change the current rules safeguarding public health, risking jobs and threatening the economy.”

Cue the Sen. Barbara Boxer quote, “If you can’t breathe, you can’t work.” She has always stressed, “Clean air is essential for a strong economy.”

Chirping birds, a love of crisp air, a blow to the lifestyle of families (who look like they came out of Leave It To Beaver), and job loss. The television ad closes with the tag line, “Don’t’ mess with success. Don’t change the strict ozone standards.”

Don Draper would be proud. He also would also have figured out a way to eliminate the all caps tag line, “PAID FOR BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE.”

Image: RVR Associates

This article originally appeared on the site Moms Clean Airforce

Tell Your Senators: Support America’s Clean Power Plan



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