Unrest at Mizzou: A Timeline

Unrest at Mizzou: A Timeline

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**Editor’s Note: Tim Wolfe’s resignation as president of the University of Missouri prompted us to take a look at the events surrounding his resignation. We have complied them in a timeline here. 

September 12: Student Government President Payton Head posts on Facebook his frustrations after people riding in the back of a pickup truck screamed racial slurs at him. “For those of you who wonder why I’m always talking about the importance of inclusion and respect, it’s because I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at THIS university, making me not feel included here,” he wrote in the widely shared post.

September 17: Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, the top resident official on the Missouri campus, issues a statement deploring “recent incidents of bias and discrimination.” He calls them “totally unacceptable.”

Mizzou

October 1: A “Racism Lives Here rally” is held on campus. “White silence is violence, no justice no peace,” protesters chanted, according to a report by the Columbia Missourian newspaper.

October 4: A drunken white student disrupts an African American student group, the Legion of Black Collegians, preparing for homecoming activities and uses a racial slur when they asked him to leave. “Not only did this individual disrupt our rehearsal, but we were also made victims of blatant racism in a space that we should be made to feel safe,” the group said. Loftin issues a statement the next day, saying “racism is clearly alive at Mizzou.” “What we have done is not enough. Every member of our community must help us change our culture,” he said.

October 8: Loftin orders diversity and inclusion training for students and faculty in 2016. “This training will inform all of us about the diversity of our campus and the organizations present on campus and make us conscious of how to be inclusive in our words and behaviors,” he wrote.

In an open letter to Loftin in the campus newspaper, student leader Jonathan Butler welcomes the announcement as “a step in the right direction,” but criticizes the chancellor for not acknowledging the work of African American students in developing diversity programs and for failing to acknowledge the breadth of racial issues on the campus.

October 10: Protesters block university President Tim Wolfe’s car during the Missouri homecoming parade to voice their concerns. Wolfe doesn’t respond to their complaints, something he later apologizes for, and his car taps a protester, which angered the group. No one was hurt, but protesters later accused police of using excessive force to clear the street.

October 20: The student group Concerned Student 1950, named for the year African-American students were first admitted to the university, issues a list of demands: an apology from Wolfe, his removal from office and a more comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum overseen by minority students and faculty. There is no immediate response from administration.

October 24: Another incident roils the campus. Someone uses feces to draw a swastika on the wall of a residence hall. A similar incident had occurred in April, but with ashes, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

October 26: Wolfe meets privately with Concerned Student 1950 members, but doesn’t agree to meet their demands, according to the Missourian.

November 3: Butler launches a hunger strike, saying “Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.”

November 4: A student boycott in support of Concerned Student 1950 begins.

November 6: Wolfe issues an apology to Concerned Student 1950. “Racism does exist at our university and it is unacceptable. It is a long-standing, systemic problem which daily affects our family of students, faculty and staff,” he says.

November 8: Black football players announce they won’t practice or play until Wolfe is removed. The Athletic Department, Coach Gary Pinkel and many white players announce their support for the protest.

November 9: The Missouri Students Association’s executive cabinet calls for Wolfe’s ouster, saying the system’s administration “has undeniably failed us.” Soon afterwards, Wolfe announces his resignation.

November 10: Threats begin to circulate online towards the safety of minority students. The author of the posts on the anonymous location-based messaging app YikYak and other social media, threatened to “shoot every black person I see.”

November 11: Hunter M. Park, a 19-year-old sophomore studying computer science at a sister campus in Rolla, was arrested shortly before 2 a.m. at a residence hall for the anonymous social media posts. Some professors cancel classes, others do not, which sparks outrage from students and in one instance, resignation.

 

FIRED! SC School Resource Officer Assaults Student

FIRED! SC School Resource Officer Assaults Student

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On Monday, Oct. 26, a video surfaced on the Internet of a South Carolina school resource officer throwing a female student across a classroom.

The incident occurred at the Spring Valley High School in Columbia, witnesses said, when the unnamed African-American student refused to put away her cell phone and then refused to leave the classroom after being asked by the teacher and school principal.

The officer was then summoned and asked her to leave again. She refused, and he told her she was under arrest.

The video then shows the officer violently knocking the student down, flipping her desk over her, and pulling her across the floor.

The incident was filmed by a fellow student and was uploaded to YouTube. The video made its way around social media, prompting the hashtag #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott suspended Deputy Ben Fields after the incident, and fired him Wednesday.

Lott said that Senior Deputy Ben Fields “did not follow proper procedure”.

He “should not have thrown a student – he could have done a lot of things he was trained to do, he was not trained to throw a student,” Sheriff Lott said.

Lott said he had received expressions of support for the officer from some parents and school officials. Officer Fields had received a “Culture of Excellence” award last year by an elementary school where he was also assigned.

But Sheriff Lott said the officer had “lost control” and had not handled this incident correctly.

“That is not proper technique and should not be used in law enforcement. And based on that, that is a violation of our policy and approximately 20 minutes ago Officer Ben Fields was terminated from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.”

He said complaints had been made about Officer Fields during his time at the school – some had been upheld and some had not.

Legal action has been taken three times against the officer, according to Associated Press:

  • 2013: An expelled student claims Fields targeted black students and falsely accused him of being a gang member in 2013. Fields will go to trial in January.
  • 2009: A woman filed a lawsuit, which was later dismissed, accusing Fields of battery and violating her rights during a 2006 arrest.
  • 2005: A federal jury found in Officer Fields’ favor after a black couple accused him of excessive force and battery during a noise complaint arrest.

The deputy has not been criminally charged but the Federal Bureau of Investigation and justice department have opened a civil rights investigation into the arrest.

Fellow students at the school have tweeted claims that they have seen him behaving in a similar manner in the past, but this was the first time such an incident was caught on camera.

Sheriff Lott has said the girl was unhurt in the incident aside from a carpet burn.

However, the girl’s attorney, Todd Rutherford, told ABC’s Good Morning America that she “has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries” as well as a plaster on her forehead because of the carpet burn.

Sheriff Lott said he would “not describe the officer as remorseful, but he was sorry that the whole thing occurred”.

US Military Bombs Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

US Military Bombs Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan

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On Saturday, Oct. 3, a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was bombed accidentally after Afghan forces called for air support from the American military, Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Monday.

doctors without borders hospital bombedThe airstrike killed 12 medical staff members and at least 10 patients, three of them children, Doctors Without Borders said.

“We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces,” he said. “An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat, and several innocent civilians were accidentally struck.”

Doctors Without Borders, which also goes by the name Médecins Sans Frontières, has said that another 37 people were wounded and has called the bombing a war crime. This group works in conflict zones to help victims of war, natural disasters and other tragedies.

In a statement after the general spoke, the organization demanded a full and transparent independent investigation of the bombing.

“Today the U.S. government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff,” the statement read. “Their description of the attack keeps changing — from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government.

“The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs. The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” it continued. “There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”

Executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the U.S., Jason Cone, says the group has sent letters “to all 76 signatory countries” of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, asking them to approve an investigation.

That list includes the U.S., Cone said at a news conference in New York on Oct. 7. He urged President Obama to agree to the request.

If the request is granted, it would “activate the investigative arm of Geneva Conventions protocols,” reports NPR’s Quil Lawrence, saying that the commission, despite officially existing since 1991, has never been activated.

Saying that there have been “inconsistencies” in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, Cone also acknowledged that there may have been Taliban fighters inside the hospital, saying, “We treat anyone who is a victim of conflict… combatants [are] not combatants any more once they are wounded.”

When Will the EPA Adequately Clean Up Its Mess?

When Will the EPA Adequately Clean Up Its Mess?

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On Sept. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency officials released new data that indicates that surface water concentrations from the Animas River are returning back to normal.

Samples collected on Aug. 16 and 17 “have been validated,” the agency said.

animasThe EPA review of the data included a comparison to screening levels for exposure during recreational river use to see if the metal concentrations in the water are consistent with levels prior to the disastrous 3 million-gallon spill that contaminated the river in early August.

“Based on the results of the surface water samples in the Animas River, surface water concentrations are trending toward pre-event conditions,” the EPA said.

However, experts say that metals lining the riverbed could continue to cause long-term effects for agriculture, aquatic life and the health of those along the Animas River.

“The long-term effects are the concern that every time we have some sort of a high-water event, whether a good rain in the mountains or spring runoff next year, that’s going to stir up sediments and remobilize those contaminants that are sitting at the bottom of the river right now,” said Ty Churchwell, Colorado backcountry coordinator for Trout Unlimited.

Experts stress that the current disaster will severely damage the Animas’ fish population – one that has been diminished by heavy metals and sedimentation for years. The river has seen an almost 80 percent decline since 2000 in the fish biomass – the weight of all the trout collected in a certain area, said Jim White an aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Navajo Nation leadership also voiced fears of long-term impact as the contaminants from the Animas flowed into for 215 miles through Navajo land.

On Aug. 5, a team of workers contracted by the EPA spilled 3 million gallons of orange-colored waste from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado. The pollutants flowed into New Mexico where it merged into the San Juan River, a critical source of water for Navajo communities.

Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President released a statement to the public in regards to FEMA and the EPA’s refusal for assistance in cleaning up the toxic water in the San Juan River:

“We are extremely frustrated with the news that both FEMA and the U.S. EPA have declined our urgent requests to continue assistance to the Navajo Nation. U.S. EPA caused this entire disaster, they have harmed the people, the water and the land. I appreciated the fact U.S. EPA took responsibility and I was hoping for the U.S. EPA to prove to the Navajo Nation they are willing to hold themselves accountable. This action clearly shows otherwise. For years, we have consistently been at the receiving end of toxic spills and contamination with no adequate relief as the United States Government and Private Companies became wealthy off of the natural resources of the Navajo Nation.

The EPA doesn’t seem to want to help the people that will be affected by their government intervention for the long-term. If these communities aren’t given adequate help in the wake of this environmental disaster, there could be thousands of people that suffer for years to come.

Compassion with Caution

Compassion with Caution

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Over the last month, citizens of the world have watched the growing Syrian refugee crisis unfold on television. Thousands of men, women and children are risking their lives to flee the violence from the Syrian civil war. Many are making the treacherous journey on foot through Turkey, while others attempt to sail across the Mediterranean on makeshift rafts.

compassionAccording to Mercy Corps, more than 11 million Syrians have been displaced since 2011. The majority of these people have fled to Syria’s neighboring countries over the years – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. As violence continues in the Middle East, more than 350,000 migrants have sought asylum in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom – and it’s not ending there.

Germany expects 800,000 more migrants this year. British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged on Monday to take in up to 20,000 refugees from camps in Syria over the next five years.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, only 1,500 refugees fled Syria for the United States, though President Barack Obama has committed to accepting 10,000 more over the next coming year.

Obama’s plan has sparked a debate in Washington. Refugee advocates say the United States is not doing enough to address the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, while some congressional Republicans worry that an increase could allow terrorists to enter the United States.

“The rhetoric has been really awful,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “The difficulty of doing it is met by this Islamophobia and conflation of Syrians and Iraqis with terrorists.”

Strong opposition met previous efforts to increase the flow of Syrian refugees.

Fourteen U.S. Senate Democrats wrote a letter urging the Obama administration to allow at least 65,000 Syrian refugees to settle in the United States this past May. The following month, Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) objected to the administration’s plans to allow nearly 2,000 by the end of 2015.

“While we have a proud history of welcoming refugees, the Syrian conflict is a unique case requiring heightened vigilance and scrutiny,” McCaul, whose Homeland Security Committee has held hearings on the issue, wrote in a letter to Obama.

Although both sides of the debate in Washington present valid arguments, why can’t the United States offer these refugees compassion while exercising caution? After all, the U.S. has a history of meddling in Middle Eastern affairs that complicate the situation faced today. That history goes back almost 100 years.

Now, in an attempt to escape the horrors of war, hundreds of refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean. Small children are washing up on the shores of Turkey and Greece. Refugees face tear gas and water bombs in other parts of Europe where their governments are closing borders.

The U.S. should be a shining example of compassion to the migrants who have lost everything. Republicans raise an excellent point: young, single men of military age should be looked at with caution so that our compassion isn’t taken advantage of by ISIS or other terrorists. The U.S. can do better than just taking 10,000 refugees.

By offering compassion, the United States can be an example to other parts of the world that the Syrian refugee crisis isn’t an issue of proximity, but an issue of humanitarianism.

Free to Be Stupid, College Students

Last week, the Eta Chi chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity at Old Dominion University made national news for hanging banners from a balcony with the messages: “Rowdy and fun—hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” “Freshman daughter drop off,” and “Go ahead and drop mom off too…”.

The banners were displayed at an off-campus house and were seen by many visitors to the Virginia college town during move-in week. Concerned parents and students were quick to post photos of the banners on social media along with their reactions.

 

Students

Old Dominion President John Broderick condemned Sigma Nu’s actions along with other university administrators.

Broderick wrote that a young woman told him she had seriously considered going back home after she saw the signs but was reassured when she read the responses from other students on social media. “She realized this callous and senseless act did not reflect the Old Dominion she has come to love.”

According to The Washington Post, Sigma Nu’s national organization has suspended the chapter pending an investigation. “Any Fraternity member found to be responsible for this reprehensible display will be held accountable by the Fraternity,” said a national Sigma Nu spokesperson.

Being suspended by the national fraternity basically means that all administrative and social activities for the chapter stop pending the outcome of whatever university hearings follow an investigation.

But, aren’t these students free to be stupid college students?

There’s no doubt that these banners were crude, tasteless and stupid, but the First Amendment protects them. They are classless, but not obscene. No specific person is being threatened or disparaged and they were not directed at anyone in particular.

Broderick associating the banners with sexual assault is a considerable exaggeration. Sigma Nu members didn’t threaten anyone with sexual assault and hanging some mildly suggestive signs does not constitute an act of violence.

ODU is a public university, and is obligated to extend First Amendment rights to its students. ODU also does not own the off-campus house and cannot dictate what is or isn’t hung from its balcony regardless of the student organization affiliation of the house.

However, the fraternity brothers responsible shouldn’t have been so quick to hang up suggestive banners.

Recent media attention at the University of Virginia and the University of Alabama have put fraternity and sorority life at the center of the culture war around Greek Life, sexual assault and bad PR.

Just last year, the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at UVA came under fire for an alleged gang rape as reported by the Rolling Stone. That story turned out to be fabricated, and the three fraternity brothers are requesting a trial by jury and are seeking more than $75,000 for “mental anguish and severe emotional distress,” caused by the article and its aftermath.

And in recent weeks, Alpha Pi sorority at the University of Alabama faced harsh backlash over a controversial recruitment video that some said lacked diversity and objectified women. The video was pulled from YouTube and has since been put back up.

Overall, these past two years have been difficult in the media for fraternities and sororities across the country.

Is ODU doing more harm than good by punishing the entire chapter of Sigma Nu over some dumb actions by a couple of members?

By punishing Sigma Nu, the university is teaching its students to not take responsibility for their own actions. If a student is made uncomfortable by any message, then it is up to the individual to choose not to associate with the organization or the individuals that share that message.

381 Million Taxpayer Dollars Turned to Sludge

381 Million Taxpayer Dollars Turned to Sludge

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On Aug. 5, a team of workers contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spilled 3 million gallons of orange-colored waste from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado. The pollutants flowed into New Mexico where it merged into the San Juan River, a critical source of water for Navajo communities.

Local citizens and lawmakers alike are outraged by the lack of transparency from the EPA for the spill and now, the amount of tax dollars given to the firm responsible.

Colorado and New Mexico are now in a state of emergency because of the accident.

RiverNew Mexico governor Susana Martinez said in a press release that she is “concerned about the EPA’s lack of communication and inability to provide accurate information.” Stating that, “one day the spill is 1 million gallons, the next day, 3 million.”

Part of the frustration is the EPA’s failure to disclose the name of the contractor responsible to law makers and media outlets.

However, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that a Missouri-based firm, Environmental Restoration LLC (ER), was the “contractor whose work caused a mine spill in Colorado that released an estimated 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a major river system.”

According to a WSJ review of data, ER received $381 million in government contracts since October 2007, approximately $364 million from the EPA and $37 million from work performed in Colorado.

That $381 million is a large chunk of change for taxpayers to spend to have pollutants that were carried to the Shiprock community on the Navajo reservation.

Despite preliminary tests showing minimum adverse health effects, Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chili” Yazzie told CNN that he is waiting for a definitive all-clear before using river water on crops.

“Our community here, the very critical nature of our predicament is that we are a river-based community and we’re a strong agricultural community and the impact is very, very tremendous,” Yazzie said.

Around 750 families rely on the river to grow melons, corn and other crops.

According to CNN, the Navajo Nation is the first to announce legal action against the federal government. Yazzie said the EPA didn’t alert them about the spill until 24 hours after the incident, placing tribe members’ health at risk.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye told CNN that the spill will have a “destructive impact on the ecosystems…that the Navajo culture depends on.” Begaye also said that the Navajo Nation intends to “recover every dollar it spends on cleaning up up this mess and every dollar it loses as a result of injuries to our natural resources.”

Beyond the obvious economic impact, it is the cultural and traditional impact on the community that is the most agonizing.

The river represents a spiritual element that is the basis of the tradition of the Navajo religion and for it to be harmed is spiritually, emotionally and psychologically very difficult, Yazzie said.