Tag Archive | "Social Justice"

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YES – Should the U.S. close the School of the Americas?

Posted on 09 October 2008 by Jason Ardanowski

The School of the Americas, which has been known as WHINSEC (the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) since 2001, trains 700 to 1,000 Latin American leaders every year in U.S. military tactics, counter-terrorism, suppression of the narcotics trade and, according to the non-governmental organization School of the Americas Watch, torture and the violation of human rights. Even in its latest guise as WHINSEC, this school presents a misleading image of the United States to Latin Americans and to the world at large. It ought to be shut down.

There is little doubt or debate that the School of the Americas in its original guise, between 1946 and 2001, condoned and encouraged the use of tactics that were fundamentally demeaning and uncivilized. When the Pentagon released training manuals from the School into the public domain in 1996, outsiders were shocked to read the brutal interrogation methods of these manuals. They involved practices such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, targeting of family members and similarly abhorrent tactics. Joseph Kennedy II, the son of Robert Kennedy, then serving as a Massachusetts Congressman, said, “These manuals taught tactics that come right out of a Soviet gulag and have no place in civilized society.” Surely the United States would not stoop to Stalinist tactics as a matter of course – but it did.

I do not doubt that WHINSEC has remedied the most egregious errors of the School of the Americas. Also, I recognize that since narcotics trafficking is so pervasive in many Latin American countries, we ought to share policing best practices with our allies in the Organization of American States (OAS). Still, there are alternative venues, such as Interpol, to exchange our policing best practices without the historical baggage of the School of the Americas. Also, the closing of WHINSEC would make a lot of sense in the course of a holistic re-examination of American foreign policy in the 21st century.

Barack Obama said in the first presidential debate, “In the ‘60s… the ideals and values of the United States inspired the entire world. I don’t think any of us can say that our standing in the world now, the way children around the world look at the United States, is the same.” (Source: CNN.com transcript). If Senator Obama is elected, it seems that a major re-evaluation of our foreign policies is in store. Our policy towards Latin America is a big component.

During the Cold War, United States policy towards Latin America was single-minded. It had one goal: prevent Communist regimes from sprouting in the region by any means necessary, including aiding and comforting military thugs who brutalized and tyrannized their people. The end of the Cold War didn’t change the single-mindedness of U.S. policy towards Latin America, only the target. Instead of preventing Communism, we now prevent the drug trade and ally with anybody who can help us in the endeavor.

The heavily regulated legalization of marijuana, the reduction of draconian penalties for the possession, use and import of harder drugs, and the comprehensive reform of our broken immigration policies along the lines suggested by Senator John McCain would take our foreign policy towards Latin America off of a “War on Drugs” footing, enable us to focus on economic development and the reduction of trade barriers with Latin American countries and give U.S.-trained leaders a humane image in their home countries. To achieve these worthy ends, WHINSEC should be speedily closed.

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NO – Should the U.S. close thea School of the Americas?

Posted on 09 October 2008 by Austin Wozniak

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), also known as the School of the Americas (SOA) is a major United States endeavor to prevent the creation of hostile regimes in the Western Hemisphere, thereby improving the National Security of the United States. It is a classic example of a good idea and a noble goal that was poorly executed.

It is undeniable that a handful of the graduates of the School of the Americas took part in crimes against humanity. The school trained Special Forces and police of many Central and South American nations in an effort to give those nations the means to successfully prevent hostile or abusive regimes in the region. The manuals given to students, however, contained methods to control a population through fear, rewarding the death of enemy combatants with bounties and methods that could be (and were) used to torture the populace of those countries. These policies are abhorrent and were a mistake on the part of the United States, the Department of Defense and the graduates of SOA that used them. However, this is indicative of the need to change those policies, not of a need to abandon the entire plan. To that end, in 1992 the Department of Defense retracted the offensive manuals, officially declared them to be contrary to the policy of the United States and stopped teaching things that violated human rights.

The School of the Americas was created during the Cold War to prevent the spread of communism to this hemisphere. This was consistent with the policy of the US government since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 declared that the US would not tolerate interference of European powers in the Western Hemisphere. Aiding and training friendly governments remains the policy of the US to this day. America and the Western Hemisphere is dramatically different today than it was in the Cold War, but the threats to freedom are no less significant and the needs of our allies are no less real. Venezuela, under the leadership of Hugo Chavez is moving ever closer to dictatorship status and it is influencing other governments to follow suit – Bolivia is a prime example under “President” Evo Morales. Venezuela has also threatened the security of a real democracy in the area in Columbia. Columbia is a good example of WHINSEC graduates appropriately using their training. The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia rebels (FARC), allegedly supported by Venezuela and the Drug Cartels, have been kept in check thanks to the training the Columbian military has received at SOA. Drug Cartels themselves have seen their power decrease markedly since the days of Pablo Escobar and the Cali Cartel’s army of mercenaries ruled half of Columbia, thanks in large part, to US training and assistance.

Closing the School of the Americas would be a grave mistake and would jeopardize the security of a region that more than ever needs to be able to protect itself. To be clear, SOA should not train its graduates to manipulate people through fear or to torture victims. However, it should provide true Democracies with a level of security available through a trained military, because the change in the world order has not removed the threat to freedom that continues to thrive where people are least able to protect themselves.

It is morally right and tactically sound to provide democracies committed to freedom with troops trained for excellence and imbedded with traditional values associated with Democracy and the US Military. No one can argue that the policies of SOA were abhorrent and demanded change. But if changes have been made and similar threats remain, abandoning the policy would be foolhardy and not in the best interests of the United States. The need for improvement is not grounds for the dismissal of a program. WHINSEC needed improvement, and it got it. It is probably true that there are many things that it could still do better, and if changes can be made to improve the end result created by SOA then let’s make them. No program in this country is perfect, nor is this country by any means perfect. The continual quest to better ourselves is a large part of what makes this country great, and it is a quintessential component to what it means to be an American. So let’s improve the SOA. Let’s teach not just skills and tactics, but values and decency. Let’s choose our allies with care and not out of fear or convenience. Ultimately, let us carry on the American tradition of continually seeking betterment and support the School of the Americas as a means to protect freedom and ensure the safety and security of this nation and our neighbors.

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Practice social justice, respect the wealthy

Posted on 09 October 2008 by Robert Christensen

Social Justice has become an extremely engrained part of Marquette’s identity. Catholic social thought focuses on concepts such as dignity, solidarity and the common good. Groups on campus such as J.U.S.T.I.C.E., Soup with Substance and Midnight Run center on social justice issues by focusing most of their efforts towards ending poverty and human rights violations. Both of these are extremely noble goals certainly worth pursuing but I believe a negative, possibly unintended consequence, has resulted from social justice thought; the hatred of rich people.

Many social justice activists bring up the detrimental effects of an increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor. But rather than ask the question, “Why aren’t the poor closing the gap?” they typically attack the rich asking, “Why do you make so much money?” In many of the debates I have listened to over the past few years many students have an extremely disillusioned view of the upper class. They focus on individuals like Paris Hilton who is only rich because she inherited her wealth and corrupt businessmen who made their money through unethical business practices. But these individuals are in the minority of the wealthy in America. The majority of the rich made their money because they have worked hard or innovated products that have improved our own lives.

These wealthy businessmen create jobs and spur economic growth. This will add to their personal wealth but it will also add to the wealth of others. Marquette University’s expansion has only been made possible by rich individuals who donate to the school; the building of the new law school depends on such individuals.

When we observe the richest of the rich we have a tendency to ask whether or not they deserve all of their money. Alexis de Tocqueville said it best when he stated, “There is… a passion for equality which incites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level.”

This “depraved taste for equality” needs to be avoided by social justice activists as well as the rest of society. The rich have earned their money, whether they inherited it or made it as a result of their own personal hard work; therefore they deserve to keep it and should not be ridiculed for
having it.

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Rescue Mission continues to instill hope in poor of Milwaukee

Posted on 07 February 2008 by Katie Pope

With a long tradition of service and compassion toward the poor, the Rescue Mission has become an integral part of the Milwaukee community. According to the Mission’s Web site, it yearly reaches 300 of the neediest children in Milwaukee and provides shelter for 200 men daily. Last year, the Rescue Mission sheltered nearly 1,000 women and children.When asked about the true aim of the Milwaukee Rescue’s Mission, Executive Director Pat Vanderburgh simply replied that the Mission provides necessities and “wants to give people direction.”

Although simplistically stated, this goal is much more intricate than it appears. The Mission and its staff work tirelessly to give spiritual and material help to the homeless and poor of Milwaukee.

They currently operate three different programs: Safe Harbor, a men’s shelter; Joy House, an emergency shelter for women and their children and Cross Trainers, a tutoring program for children and a brand new school.

Safe Harbor is the Rescue Mission’s oldest and most traditional program. In the winter, it has the capacity to offer 250 men emergency shelter, said Vanderburgh. The Mission also offers a long-term residential program, which lasts 18 months. For the first year, men receive educational support and job training. Then the Rescue Mission helps find residents a permanent job, as well as transitional housing.

Joy House is for single mothers with children. Typically, women are at the Rescue Mission for four to eight weeks, said Vanderburgh. They usually spend at least two weeks taking classes in money management and other life skills. The Rescue Mission is unique because they let mothers and grandmothers keep their children with them during their stay.

Cross Trainers is the Mission’s newest program. According to the Mission’s Web site, it began as a tutoring program for children in the surrounding neighborhoods who are an average of one to two grade levels behind other children their age.

Volunteers work with children and teenagers to raise their grade level, as well as inspire them with the desire to achieve. This is with a program in which Marquette students commonly volunteer.

Recently, the Rescue Mission began its own choice school, Cross Trainers Academy. The school currently houses kindergarten, first and second grades. The Mission does have plans, however, to add third grade to its curriculum and possibly more grades after that, said Vanderburgh.

The Rescue Mission continues to grow and develop after roughly 110 years in existence, as a result of its dedicated and caring staff.

Cross Trainer’s Tutoring Coordinator, Brittany Vilar, shared that in her experience, the children “just need someone to love them and be consistent with them. The tutors are important because they show the children that someone cares.” The volunteers, as well as the staff, are essential to the purpose and goal of the Mission. They make it what it is.

Today the Rescue Mission is known and recognized for its service to the Milwaukee community through hope and compassion. What was born out of a challenge to local Christian businessmen in 1893 has grown to become Milwaukee’s largest homeless shelter.

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Program seeks to provide laptops for all

Posted on 13 February 2007 by Aaron Morey

Computers have changed the way Americans live, and it is easy to assume the whole world shares in our progress. But the way we live is not the case in many parts of the world, so the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is attempting to change that.

OLPC is an organization devoted to building a laptop called the XO that is inexpensively distributed in third-world countries. According to a BBC report, OLPC is also considering selling the $100 laptops to the general public.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte founded the OLPC project. He believes one of the biggest challenges facing the third-world is a lack of educational opportunity. He wrote on OLPC’s Web site, www.laptop.org, that OLPC is “an education project, not a laptop project.”

To combat the education gap, Negroponte wants to sell low-priced laptops to the governments of developing nations, who can then distribute the computers to its children.

While they haven’t made a final decision, selling these laptops to the public marks a change in the philosophy of the project. The original plan was to produce the computer only for children in developing nations. According to OLPC’s Web site the computers were customized with a distinctive green color and compact look so no one could easily sell an OLPC computer on the black market. Consumers from developed nations would not be eligible to buy or sell it.

The new plan is under consideration because the XO is turning out to be more expensive than OLPC anticipated. The computers themselves cost under $100 each, but shipping prices could raise the price as high as $150. To offset this cost, the OLPC wants to sell the XO to the public for $200. For every computer purchased at $200, the OLPC project will send another computer to a third-world child.

The OLPC project has been criticized by some technology writers and bloggers. Critics argue the last thing poor or undereducated children need is an electronic gadget. They say $100 a government would spend to buy each computer could be better used to purchase food and vaccines or be used to pay teachers and fund schools.

Initially, I agreed with this argument. I was put off by the idea of selling the XO to the general American public. Why should Americans, who have more expendable income and access to high-tech gadgets than most other countries, get to buy computers intended for the poorest people in the world? But the arguments about sharing the cost to developing countries changed my mind.

With a little more publicity, the One Laptop Per Child project could become a major force against poverty. If wealthier consumers are willing to take on part of the financial burden of educating children, why shouldn’t we let them?

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The beginnings of a great tradition of compassion in Milwaukee

Posted on 13 February 2007 by Katie Pope

To many passers by, the Milwaukee Rescue Mission at the southeast corner of Wells at 19th streets carries little significance. But closer examination of the Mission’s history reveals a significant relationship to Milwaukee’s homeless.

The idea for the Mission originated in May 1893 during the passionate speeches of B. Faye Mills at the Grand Avenue United Methodist Church. Mills challenged local Christian businessmen to begin a Mission for the less fortunate, said Pat Vanderburgh, executive director of the Mission.

Mills started a collection amounting to $5,000 to rent rooms for the homeless on Wells Street, between Second and Third streets. In 1910, a building was erected at Fifth and State streets to serve as the Mission’s first shelter. This building lasted roughly 76 years until the Bradley Center, home of the Marquette Golden Eagles, was built.

Part of the structure on Wells, where the Mission currently stands, was originally built to be used as a teachers’ college in 1885. In the 1880s, the state authorized an initiative to build many teacher colleges in the area, Vanderburgh said.

The teacher’s college was incorporated into University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee several years later and moved to its downtown campus. The Mission’s building was slightly expanded, and Girl’s Tech, a vocational high school for women, moved in.

Today, carvings and statues on the building can be seen from the parking lot on Kilbourne Avenue. They were added when the girl’s school opened.

This institution did not last very long either, and in the 1970s, Wells Junior High School opened in its place. Like the institutions before it, it soon closed, and the Rescue Mission was able to finally acquire its current home.

For about six years, the Rescue Mission ran youth programs in the Wells Street structure until it finally moved in 1986, Vanderbaugh said. It has survived and thrived there ever since, finding a home on the edge of Marquette’s campus.

The portion housing Safe Harbor, a men’s shelter, is the oldest part of the building, and the rest easily fits into the block that the Mission owns, creating a safe refuge for men, women and children.

The sizeable four building structure for which the Rescue Mission is known and recognized today allows its staff to serve the Milwaukee community and reach out to those in need.

The Rescue Mission found a permanent home in the Wells St. building, as the needy are able to find a home within it. The building finally has a permanent purpose, and the Mission finally has a permanent place.

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Nationally renowned political science scholar to speak at Marquette scholar to speak at Marquette

Posted on 08 November 2006 by Sarah Kirby

On Nov. 9 and 10, Marquette will host two lecture events presented by the 2006-2007 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Dr. Margaret Levi. The Marquette Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa: Zeta of Wisconsin, the Political Science Department and the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council are sponsoring these events.Levi will speak about two different topics. On Nov. 9, the topic is “Transforming Self-Interest and Developing Pro-Social Preferences,” and the lecture is open to the public. The next day, Levi will be talking about “Global Justice Campaigns,” an event open to only the Marquette community.

Levi is a highly decorated political science scholar who is currently the Jere L. Bacharach Professor of International Studies and the Director of the Comparative Historical Analysis of Organization and States at the University of Washington, Seattle. She has also authored a number of books including Consent, Dissent and Patriotism and Of Rule and Revenue. She served as the President of the American Political Science Association in 2004-2005.

“Dr. Levi is a role model who embodies what many students would like to achieve,” said Dr. Steven Millen Taylor, President of the Zeta Chapter and Associate Professor of French.

Levi also holds several community commitments. According to the University of Washington Web site, she has served on the Jobs for Justice Workers’ Rights Board and was a member of the first coordinating committee of Scholars, Artists and Writers for Social Justice. In an email interview, Levi has studied and written about a number of social justice issues that interests her, and in which she has been involved. This includes AFL-CIO protests at the 1999 WTO Ministerial in Seattle and fair trade coffee and living wage campaigns.

“Occasionally my involvements directly influence my research. They also affect the way I teach the Introduction to Labor Studies,” said Levi. “I address these campaigns and encourage students to do research on them or to do Service Learning with them or labor unions.”

She said she encourages students to do this also through Service Learning and has created a class to learn how to do campaign-oriented research. For that, she won the Public Service Teaching Award at the University of Washington.

Taylor stressed that, although Levi is a political science scholar, her lecture topics are relevant to students who are studying other disciplines as well. He said that her work and community involvement relate to the values and mission of the Marquette community. The Marquette Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa sponsors such events regularly and brings in scholars from various areas, including English, Classical Languages and the hard sciences.

“We have done this on a regular basis since we were given our charter,” Taylor said. “As faculty and administrators, we feel that visiting scholars are important. They show what Phi Beta Kappa stands for. This is why we invest time, effort and money to bring them to Marquette.”

The primary sponsor of these lecture events, Phi Beta Kappa, is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honors society. Only ten percent of the country’s collegiate institutions have Phi Beta Kappa, and only ten percent of arts and sciences graduates of these “distinguished” institutions are invited to join. Some famous Phi Beta Kappa members include NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, author Michael Crichton and founder of Amazon.com Jeff Bezos.

All Phi Beta Kappa members have a wide array of backgrounds, interests and achievements. For Levi, she said her experiences with these groups influenced her research, teaching and opinions.

“I feel that I have an obligation to bring a critical eye to the social movement organizations and causes that concern me,” Levi said. “I see my role as raising hard questions about the effectiveness or organizations and the extent to which they are accountable to rank and file.”

Members of the Marquette community, from faculty to administrators to students, are always very excited to host scholars like Levi.

“We’re very much looking forward to hosting Dr. Levi next week and encourage the Marquette community to attend her public lecture on November 9,” said Dr. Stephani Richards Wilson, Phi Beta Kappa member and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Dr. Levi is a distinguished scholar and we’re hoping her talk will generate a rich discussion and exchange of ideas.  Anyone interested in social justice, good government, or how individuals can make a difference will most likely benefit from her remarks.”

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University hosts annual Sexual Violence Awareness Week

Posted on 27 September 2006 by Dan Zagrodnik

Marquette University’s Center for Health Education and Promotion held its annual Sexual Violence Awareness Week last week. The theme was “Steps Towards Change,” and included events, workshops and speakers to raise awareness and promote education for sexual violence prevention and awareness.

The week began on Sunday with the “Be Part of the Picture” kick-off event.

“[The event was designed to] raise awareness and education about the issues by attempting to create the world’s largest human awareness ribbon,” said Amy Melichar, coordinator for health education and promotion on campus. “Guinness World Records has been contacted for documentation of the human ribbon.”

Melichar also stressed the resources available on campus.

“[These are helpful] for students to get the help and support they need,” Said Melichar.

One of these organizations, HAVEN, or Helping Abuse and Violence End Now, is designed to help anyone affected by sexual violence, stalking or relationship violence to create a safe and caring community on campus.

She also addressed recent reports of increased cases of sexual violence on campus.

“The increase may be because of improved educational efforts on campus, causing more people to come forward for help,” Said Melichar.

The kick-off event also included speakers to address the issue of sexual violence.

“Sexual violence is a people’s issue,” said Dr. Amelia Zurcher, professor in the English Department. “We need to help create a culture where everyone can be free.”

Zurcher also noted that 25 percent of women and eight percent of men have been assaulted or raped, and that women between the ages of 16 and 24 are four times more likely than any other age group to be assaulted. Additionally, 42 percent of victims will not tell anybody about their assault during the first year after the incident.

Another speaker, Jerry Fischer, the associate director of University Ministry, stressed the importance “that men became aware that it is also a men’s issue.” He added that “the subtle abuse which happens everyday sets a negative climate which is not the way God planned it.”

The week also included the O’Donnell Hall 72-hour Teeter-Totter Marathon that helped to raise funds and awareness about sexual violence.

“There must be a day and age where woman are treated differently,” said Ryan Grusenski, a resident assistant at O’Donnell Hall. “That day and age is now.” Grusenski also added that he “hopes that men can realize the role they play and be aware of the language they use and how woman are treated.” Grusenski also stressed that the work for the event was mostly done by residents.

The marathon lasted 72 hours straight, from Sept. 17 to Sept. 20, regardless of the time of day or the weather conditions. Over 125 O’Donnell Hall residences rode the Teeter-Totter, in addition to sending out letters raise additional funds. All proceeds from the marathon are being donated to the Task Force on Family Violence, an organization that provides support and services to people with problems related to domestic abuse. Last year, over $3,000 was raised for the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center of Milwaukee.

The Teeter-Totter Marathon is in its fourth year and was started by former O’Donnell Hall Director John Merchant. The week also featured a speech by Teri Jendusa Nicolai, who shared a story about how she was beaten with a baseball bat by her ex-husband and left for dead. Other events included informational sessions on human rights and social justice, True Life: I Have Been Sexually Assaulted, a candlelight vigil and a self-defense workshop.

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