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If you were around for the so-called Culture Wars of the mid-1990s, you probably remember Christina Hoff Sommers — her 1994 book Who Stole Feminism? was a centerpiece of right-wing attacks on mainstream feminist theory and organizing at the time. Recently Sommers has re-emerged as the “mom” — that’s literally what they call her — of #GamerGate, that weird movement of video game fans obsessed with “ethics in gaming journalism” and what they see as feminist attacks on their hobby.

I haven’t paid more than desultory attention to Sommers since the nineties, so when I somehow wound up at her Twitter feed on Saturday I was surprised to see her supportively retweeting this:

The assertions in this tweet — that Rolling Stone “invented” its recent story on an alleged gang rape and that this supposed invention single-handedly discredits broader “rape culture” arguments — struck me as even more ridiculous than I’d remembered Sommers being back in the day, so I fired off a quick tweet expressing my surprise.

Too quick, as it turned out, because when I went back to Sommers’ timeline, I saw that it was stuffed with even weirder stuff, much of it in Sommers’ own words. Mildly embarrassed by my ignorance of her current mindset, I deleted the tweet, but as I did so I noticed that several people had already responded to it, so I figured I should explain:

This second tweet wasn’t directed to her, as you can see — I didn’t include her screen name in it, didn’t @ her on it. It was a heads-up to my own Twitter folks about why the previous tweet had disappeared. But she found it anyway, and RTed it, along with a followup declaring that “Much of the data on sexual violence is flawed. Victims need good research & smart policies—not hype.”

Sommers only has about 32,000 followers, but those two tweets unleashed a flood of responses — all, sadly, while I was on my way to my kid’s birthday party. A few of the tweets were over-the-top repulsive. Most, though, just took issue — often abusively — with my charge that Sommers is a “rape denialist.” It’s those that I wished I’d had time and space to reply to as they came in, and those that I’d like to respond to today. Because I do consider Sommers a rape denialist, and I think it’s important to say exactly what I mean.

So. Why do I say it, and what do I mean?

I mean this: Christina Hoff Sommers, in her many recent public statements about rape and sexual assault in America, understates the prevalence of rape in this country in ways that are unsupported by the evidence. She analogizes America’s rape crisis to entirely invented “crises” of the past while wildly overstating the evidence for the existence of an epidemic of false rape claims. To read her writing, watch her videos, and follow her on Twitter is to be given a wholly unrealistic impression of the scale and seriousness of rape in America. And that’s the case — and this is crucial — even if you agree with her contention that rape reporting data is seriously flawed.

Let me say that again, because this was a core claim that her supporters made on Saturday afternoon: I am not calling Christina Hoff Sommers a rape denialist because we rely on different statistical estimates of the prevalence of rape. I am calling her a rape denialist because the way she deploys even her own preferred statistics is fundamentally bogus.

Enough introduction. Let’s get down to cases.

On Saturday Sommers tweeted me a link to a video in which she critiqued a 2011 CDC study that concluded that about 1.3 million women were raped in 2010, saying that “the agency’s figures are wildly at odds with the official crime statistics, the Justice Department’s annual crime survey.” She’s referring to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which, she says, “reports that there were about 188,000 rapes and sexual assaults in 2010.”

What’s behind this discrepancy, to Sommers’ mind? Beyond unspecific methodological concerns, Sommers offers a number of concrete criticisms of the study’s questioning and statistical analysis.

None of these criticisms hold up.

To begin with, Sommers claims that “no-one interviewed” by the CDC “was asked if they had been raped or sexually assaulted,” but this claim is ridiculously misleading. The study’s core rape estimate was generated by respondents’ answers when asked whether anyone had “used physical force or threats of physical harm to make you have” anal, oral, or vaginal sex — a clear, straightforward, unambiguous description of rape. Some 620,000 of the women that the CDC reported as having been raped in the previous year — almost exactly half of the total — were the result of affirmative answers to that question.

And what about the rest? They answered in the affirmative to questions about either attempted rape or rape facilitated by drugs or alcohol. There too, Sommers dramatically misstates the statistical evidence.

As an example, Sommers makes the following claim: “Sixty-one point five percent of the women the CDC projected as rape victims in 2010 experienced what the CDC called ‘alcohol and drug facilitated penetration.'” Here she leaves the clear impression that more than three-fifths of the incidents of rape reported fell into this category, but that’s not the case. Although 61% of the women the CDC says were raped did report alcohol and drug facilitated penetration, 49% reported forced penetration, and another 41% reported attempted forced penetration. Many, in other words, reported multiple types of assault, and alcohol and drug facilitated penetration accounts for 41%, not 61%, of the reports.

But that statistical sleight-of-hand is only a small part of Sommers’ misrepresentation in this area. She suggests that the CDC counts consensual “sex while inebriated” as rape — indefensible, if true — but she does so by selectively and tendentiously quoting from the questionnaire. In fact, that section of the questionnaire — read to all respondents, but never mentioned by Sommers — states specifically that the questions within it concern sexual contact that “happens when a person is unable to consent to it or stop it from happening because they were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out from alcohol, drugs, or medications.”

Sommers knows this, but she deliberately excludes it from her writing and speaking on the topic in order to facilitate her misrepresentation of the CDC report.

Want more? Here’s more. Sommers claims that the NCVS found that there were “about 188,000 rapes and sexual assaults in 2010.” But the CDC figure of 1.3 million, as we have seen, includes both completed and attempted rape, which Sommers’ 188,000 does not. Adding together the NCVS stats for completed and attempted rape, to make it an apples-to-apples comparison with the CDC, gives us a total of a quarter million victims.

So yes, the CDC found more sexual assaults than the NCVS, and yes, they found it by asking broader questions. (The NCVS asks about “rape, attempted rape, or other type of sexual attack.”) But the gap is far smaller than she claims, the CDC’s questions are far more robust than she claims, and the one category of sexual assault that she singles out for mockery is both more reasonable and a smaller portion of the whole than she would have us believe.

Sommers urges us to reject the CDC data as preposterous, in other words, but the arguments she puts forward against it are factually weak and intellectually dishonest.

And if her data-based arguments are spurious, what she does with them is even worse. In the video linked above she describes the “women’s crisis” portrayed by research such as the CDC’s as “manufactured,” and as “madness.” On Saturday morning she tweeted that the United States is currently in the midst of a “rape panic” analogous to the wholly invented Satanic ritual abuse scare of the 1980s, driven by a “false accusation culture on campus.” And this wasn’t just a poorly phrased tweet — in it, she linked to a Time magazine column from earlier this year in which she went on at length about the Satanic abuse panic and its “striking similarities” to the rape “panic” of today. And after she tweeted that link she went even further, approvingly retweeting two readers who likened our current dialogue around rape to the Salem witch trials.

There were no witches in Salem. There were no Satanic ritual abusers running preschools in the 1980s. But even the NCVS, which Sommers cites as the “gold standard” for such statistics, concludes that nearly a quarter of a million women experience rape or attempted rape each year. Our country’s rape crisis is real, not imaginary, and it is the millions of American women who are raped, not the comparatively tiny number of men who are falsely accused, who bear the overwhelming majority of its burden.

To claim otherwise can only be described as denial.

Note | As an anti-spam measure, the first comment on this blog from any commenter is automatically sent to moderation. (Subsequent comments are typically approved automatically.) If you comment on this post, and you haven’t commented before, be patient — your comment will go up as soon as I see it.

What you see below is a new interactive map of student protests across the United States in the current academic year, which I launched in early December and will be updating through next June. (You can read more about the project in the lovely piece that the Village Voice ran this morning.) As I update the map I’ll also be updating the chronological list of actions that appears below it in this post. As of December 12 there are 160 protests and other events noted on the list, and the most recent 40 entries are being uploaded to the map. (Note that one action, the November 17 University of Hawaii graduate student protest, has been left off of the map for now, until I can figure out how to keep Google Maps from defaulting to cutting off the eastern United States with it included.)

Here’s the full list. Be sure to check back here or follow me on Twitter at @studentactivism for all the latest.

American Student Protest Timeline, 2014-15

August

  • Columbia Anti-Rape Project New York, August: Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz created a senior thesis project of carrying the mattress on which she was sexually assaulted around campus to protest the college’s refusal to take action against her assailant. The protest sparked waves of student organizing at Columbia and beyond.
  • #SlashThrasher, FSU Florida, August: Students at Florida State University staged a multi-pronged campaign to block the appointment of former state legislator John Thrasher to the college’s presidency.
  • Howard “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” Photo Washington, DC, August 13: Just four days after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, more than a hundred Howard University students gathered for a “hands up don’t shoot” photograph that quickly went viral on social media. http://www.hlntv.com/article/2014/08/14/ferguson-dont-shoot-howard-university
  • UIUC Trustee Meeting Disruption Illinois, August 22: Students staged a sit-in outside of a meeting of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign board of trustees after they were prevented from addressing the meeting in support of un-hired professor Steven Salaita.
  • Jefferson High Walkout California, August 25: Hundreds of students at Jefferson High School in South Los Angeles walked out of classes to protest widespread failures of the school administration, including scheduling errors that locked them out of needed classes.
  • HS Students March Against Principal’s Firing Mississippi, August 28: A hundred students at Rosa Fort High School marched from their school to administrators’ offices to protest the firing of their principal. http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/story/26393194/several-people-hold-protest-at-mississippi-high-school
  • Protesters Get College President’s Resignation Vermont, August 29: Students protesting at a meeting of the Burlington College board of trustees confronted the college president as she left the meeting, demanding her resignation. Incredibly, she gave it to them on the spot. Her exact words: “I resign. Happy? Goodbye.” http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/29/burlington-college-students-press-presidents-resignation/14800683/

September

  • Students Support Vocal Christian Teacher Georgia, September 9: Hundreds of students marched through the halls of Sequoyah High School in response to a rumor that a popular teacher known to inject religion into classroom discussions had been fired. The teacher, John Osborne, had taken a voluntary leave of absence. https://www.accessnorthga.com/detail.php?n=279371
  • Brandeis Sexual Assault Protest Massachusetts, September 10: Fifty students staged a protest at Brandeis University in Waltham to protest the college’s handling of sexual assault. http://www.wbur.org/2014/09/11/brandeis-sexual-assault-protest
  • Confederate Flag Protested at Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania, September 15: Bryn Mawr students staged a series of protests after two white Southern students hung a Confederate flag in their dorm, then taped a “Mason-Dixon Line” on a hallway floor in response to demands that they take it down. http://swarthmorephoenix.com/2014/09/25/bryn-mawr-campus-roiled-by-confederate-flag-mason-dixon-line-in-dormitory/
  • UD Students Demand Action on Sexual Harassment Delaware, September 19: Hundreds of University of Delaware students rallied to demand transparency and accountability in the college’s sexual harassment policies after the student newspaper alleged that a sociology professor had offered a female student a high grade in exchange for sex. http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/education/2014/09/19/hundreds-protest-uds-harassment-policy/15904149/
  • Cheltanham HS Sit-In Pennsylvania, September 19: Five hundred students at Cheltanham High School staged a sit-in against new, restrictive conduct regulations.
  • Colgate Occupation New York, September 22: Hundreds of students at Colgate University occupied the college’s admissions office for five days, protesting college policies on racial, class, and gender inclusivity, and winning a variety of concessions from the administration.
  • HS Curriculum Protest Colorado, September 22: Hundreds of students from Evergreen High School in Colorado staged a protest at a school board meeting against plans to restrict discussion of “civil disorder and social strife” in US history classes.
  • U of C March Against Rape Threat Illinois, September 24: Two hundred University of Chicago students marched in protest against an anonymous threat of rape made in response to the posting of a Tumblr list of suspected sexual predators. http://chicagoist.com/2014/09/28/university_of_chicago_students_prot.php
  • U of M Students Demand Ouster of Athletics Officials Michigan, September 30: Students at the University of Michigan staged a series of protests calling for the dismissal of the college’s athletics director and football coach after the team’s quarterback was sent back onto the field after suffering a head injury during a game. AD Dave Brandon resigned at the end of October and football coach Brady Hoke was fired in early December. http://onlyagame.wbur.org/2014/10/01/michigan-shane-morris-head-injury

October

November

  • Syracuse Occupation New York, November 3: Students staged an 18-day sit-in of an administrative building on campus. The students, who were protesting a variety of administration policies, ended the occupation voluntarily after winning a number of concessions.
  • UPR Solidarity With Mexican Students Puerto Rico, November 5: Students at the University of Puerto Rico held a day of action in solidarity with the 43 Mexican student activists who disappeared in September. The students are believed to have been kidnapped and killed by local police and drug traffickers.http://dialogodigital.upr.edu/index.php/La-UPR-se-solidariza-con-los-estudiantes-mexicanos-desaparecidos.html
  • Colorado Test Rebellion Colorado, November 6: More than five thousand Colorado high school seniors refused to take statewide standardized tests, and hundreds staged walkouts and other protests against the tests. http://www.cpr.org/news/story/thousands-students-protest-colorado-standardized-tests
  • Iowa Students Stand Against Yik Yak Bigots Iowa, November 6: Dozens of students at the University of Northern Iowa rallied in support of students on the campus who had recently been targeted by racist, sexist and homophobic posts on the anonymous social media site Yik Yak. http://www.northern-iowan.org/news/view.php/855710/UNIted-we-stand
  • HS Students Press for Better Sex Ed Nevada, November 12: Clark County high school students staged a protest at a school board meeting to demand more effective, specific, and comprehensive sexual education classes. http://www.8newsnow.com/story/27381921/students-speak-out-about-sex-ed-curriculum-at-ccsds-board-meeting
  • CSU Students Protest Mandatory Fees California, November 13: Dozens of California State University students protested the planned imposition of new mandatory fees in the CSU system. http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/CSU-Students-Protest-Student-Success-Fees–282613091.html
  • Hawaii Grad Student Protest Hawaii, November 17: Graduate students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa erected tents on campus in a multi-day protest against planned budget cuts.https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2014/11/20/grad-students-u-hawaii-protest-rumored-cuts
  • Virginia Students Protest Racist Tweet Virginia, November 17: A dozen students walked out of classes at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk to protest a tweet by an assistant principal that called interracial prom dating “every white girl’s father’s worst nightmare.” http://wavy.com/2014/11/17/norfolk-students-protest-principals-offensive-tweet/
  • U of So Maine Budget Protest Maine, November 17: Students at the University of Southern Maine took over a meeting of the university’s board of trustees to protest plans to eliminate programs and cut faculty lines to close a budget deficit.
  • UCR Tuition Protest California, November 18: Hundreds of students at the University of Calfornia, Riverside protested a system-wide tuition hike, occupying a hallway outside of the university president’s office for several hours.
  • #LiabilityOfTheMind, U of Chicago Illinois, November 18: Students at the University of Chicago launched a Twitter hashtag campaign to highlight institutional bigotry at the university. http://feministing.com/2014/11/19/uchicago-students-speak-out-against-institutional-failures-with-trending-liabilityofthemind-hashtag/
  • UCLA Student Govt Supports Israel Divestment California, November 18: The UCLA student government voted 8-2 to call on the University of California to divest from companies with financial ties to the Israeli military and the occupied territories. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-ucla-divestment-israel-20141119-story.html
  • Davis Mrak Hall Occupation California, November 18: Twenty students occupied Mrak Hall on the UC Davis campus in protest of the UC system trustees’ planned tuition hike vote, which took place the following day. http://fox40.com/2014/11/19/students-occupy-administration-building-to-protest-tuition-hike/
  • Berkeley Occupation California, November 19: Students at UC Berkeley occupied a building on campus for seven days in protest over a system-wide tuition hike. They abandoned the sit-in before Thanksgiving break, though a handful of students maintained an encampment outside the building afterwards.
  • Valier HS Sit-In Montana, November 19: Fifty students at Valier High School in Vailer, Montana staged a sit-in during school hours in support of a school staff member who had been suspended. The staffer was later reinstated. http://www.krtv.com/news/valier-high-school-staff-member-back-on-the-job-after-student-sit-in-/
  • UCLA Tuition Protest California, November 20: UCLA students protesting a system-wide tuition increase surrounded the site of a planned bonfire to mark an upcoming football game against the University of Southern California, forcing the bonfire’s cancellation.
  • West Bend HS Hall Pass Protest Wisconsin, November 20: A hundred students at West Bend High School staged a roving protest against new, larger hall passes that they say treat them like children. Police were called after students tore down posters and turned on water fountains, and one student was arrested.
  • HS Students Silently Protest Missouri Governor Missouri, November 20: A group of students rose and silently took up a “hands up don’t shoot” stance during a school assembly at the Lincoln College Preparatory Academy while Missouri Governor Jay Nixon was addressing the student body. The students, who were protesting the police killing of Mike Brown in the state and the government’s response to it, left the room peacefully when asked. http://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/students-protest-ferguson-shooting-during-governor-nixons-speech-at-school-assembly
  • WA Students Rally for Mexican Activists Washington, November 20: Three dozen students at Central Washington University rallied in solidarity with 43 Mexican student activists who disappeared in September. http://www.dailyrecordnews.com/members/cwu-protest-raises-awareness-of-disappearance-in-mexico/article_a6234720-71a9-11e4-9b39-b7b5c5be9a30.html
  • CA CC Students March For Mexican Activists California, November 20: Students at San Diego Community College marched in solidarity with 43 Mexican student activists who disappeared in September. http://www.sdcitytimes.com/news/2014/12/10/city-students-rally-for-the-missing-43-ayotzinapa-students/
  • UVA Students Protest Rape Virginia, November 22: A series of student protests roiled the University of Virginia campus after Rolling Stone magazine reported on an alleged campus gang rape that had gone unpunished. http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/a-weekend-of-protest-at-uva-as-rolling-stone-rape-story-jolts-campus-20141124
  • Norman HS Rape Protest Oklahoma, November 24: Hundreds of students walked out of Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma to protest the school administration’s handling of the rape of three girls at the school by a fellow student.
  • UCI Tuition Demo California, November 24: About 40 UC Irvine students staged a 90-minute administration building sit-in to protest a system-wide tuition hike.
  • UC Davis Tuition Walkout California, November 24: Hundreds of UC Davis students staged a walkout and march to protest a system-wide tuition hike. The students occupied a campus building for several hours. http://www.theaggie.org/2014/11/24/uc-davis-students-call-for-statewide/
  • Seattle Ferguson Walkout Washington, November 24: One thousand Seattle high school students walked out of classes and staged marches in the city protesting the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown.
  • Northwestern Rape Protest Illinois, November 24: Students called off a planned sit-in at Northwestern University after the university announced that it was abandoning plans to enter mediation with a professor accused of sexual assault.
  • UCSC Occupation California, November 24: Several dozen UCSC students occupied a building on campus for six days in protest of a system-wide tuition hike. They ended the sit-in voluntarily before the Thanksgiving break.
  • UCSD Occupation California, November 24: UCSD students occupied a lecture hall on campus for at least one night in opposition to a system-wide tuition hike.
  • Ohio U Ferguson Occupation Ohio, November 24: A hundred Ohio University students occupied an administration building on campus for several hours after the grand jury decision in the Mike Brown killing, demanding increased diversity on campus, a disarming of campus police, and other reforms. They left the building voluntarily at 2:30 in the morning.
  • Gonzaga Anti-Rape Organizing Washington, November 24: Gonzaga University’s Title IX Coordinator resigned suddenly after two weeks of student anti-rape organizing. Activists are pressing for a role in choosing her replacement. http://www.inlander.com/spokane/gu-shake-up/Content?oid=2382973
  • UCSD Frats Suspend Activities California, November 25: Fraternities and sororities at UC San Diego announced that they were suspending all social activities indefinitely after a group of frat brothers disrupted a Take Back the Night march by throwing eggs, screaming obscenities, and waving dildos at the marchers. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/nov/25/sdsu-fraternities-sororities-sexual-assaults/?#article-copy
  • Columbia HS Ferguson Walkout New Jersey, November 25: A hundred students at Columbia High School in northern New Jersey walked out of classes in protest of the police killing of Mike Brown.
  • Minneapolis Ferguson Protest Minnesota, November 25: Four hundred students walked out of South High School in Minneapolis to protest the police killing of Mike Brown. The students staged an hourlong sit-in on school property, then marched to a local police station.
  • Poly Western HS Ferguson Protest Maryland, November 25: Students at Poly Western High School in Baltimore staged a daylong sit-in at their school’s auditorium to protest the police killing of Mike Brown.
  • U of RI Ferguson Protest Rhode Island, November 25: Several dozen University of Rhode Island students staged a die-in near the college’s student union, blocking traffic on a local road. The students were protesting the police killing of Mike Brown.
  • CAPA Ferguson Protest Pennsylvania, November 25: Students at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school staged a sit-in inside the school after their principal forbade them from joining a city-wide protest against the police killing of Mike Brown.
  • Morehouse Ferguson Protest Georgia, November 25: Two hundred students gathered at Morehouse College to protest the police killing of Mke Brown.
  • Michigan Ferguson Vigil Michigan, November 25: More than a thousand students at the University of Michigan participated in a protest vigil against the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://www.michigandaily.com/news/community-members-protest-ferguson-decision
  • Clark Students’ Ferguson March Massachusetts, November 25: Several hundred students from Clark University staged a daylong protest against the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://worcestermag.com/2014/11/25/worcesters-streets-give-rise-protest-wake-ferguson-ruling/29331
  • Howard Activists Raise Pan-African Flag Washington, DC, November 25. On the morning after the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown, unknown activists replaced a prominent American flag on the Howard University campus with a Garveyite Pan-African flag, flown at half mast. http://dcist.com/2014/11/photo_howard_u_replaces_american_fl.php
  • St Cloud State Ferguson Rally Minnesota, November 25: About forty students staged a protest against the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://wjon.com/peaceful-rally-at-st-cloud-state-university-over-ferguson-decision-audio/
  • Colby Ferguson Protest Maine, November 25: Fifty students at Colby College staged a silent protest against the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://www.colby.edu/news/2014/12/02/students-protest-ferguson-grand-jury-decision/
  • Binghamton Ferguson March New York, November 25: Several dozen students at Colby College marched against the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://www.wbng.com/news/local/Students-protest-Ferguson-decision-283805701.html
  • CMU Ferguson Protest Michigan, November 25: More than a hundred students at Central Michigan University staged a protest against the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://college.usatoday.com/2014/11/26/central-michigan-university-students-protest-ferguson-decision/
  • Kent State Ferguson March Ohio, November 25: More than two hundred students staged a protest against the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://fox8.com/2014/11/25/kent-state-students-protest-ferguson-decision/
  • MTSU Ferguson March Tennessee, November 25: Three hundred students at Middle Tennessee State University staged a protest against the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://mtsusidelines.com/2014/11/mtsu-students-gather-to-protest-mike-brown-case-verdict/
  • ND State Ferguson Rally North Dakota, November 26: A group of six students staged a small protest against the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown. http://ndsuspectrum.com/ndsu-students-rally-for-michael-brown/
  • U of MD Campus Police Sit-In Maryland, November 26: More than a hundred University of Maryland students occupied a cafeteria on campus for three hours in response to the police killing of Mike Brown. They demanded a variety of reforms to the UMD campus police.
  • UCSD Ferguson Protest California, November 26: Students closed Interstate I-5 Northbound near UC San Diego for nearly half an hour in a protest against the non-indictment of Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown. The protest was organized by the UCSD Black Student Union.
  • Students Protest Elimination of Football Alabama, November 30: Hundreds of students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham participated in a series of marches and protests intended to save UAB’s football team from being shut down. The elimination of football at the college was formally announced a few days later. http://www.myfoxal.com/story/27515309/uab-students-march-in-the-streets-for-freeuab-rally

December

This has been an extraordinary autumn for student organizing in the United States. From protests against police brutality and sexual assault to anti-tuition demonstrations and a new wave of campus occupations, students have been standing up and speaking out to a degree not seen since the heyday of Occupy.

The protests of the last three months haven’t just been big, they’ve been inventive and extraordinarily diverse, too. An undergrad at Columbia created a senior project carrying a mattress around campus to shame the administration for its failure to respond to her rape, and students across the country stepped up to help her carry the weight. The killings of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and so many others have sparked sit-ins and die-ins, walkouts and speakouts. Administrators from New York to California have been forced to negotiate with and grant concessions to occupiers.

And perhaps most extraordinary has been the role of high school and middle school students. In dozens of incidents in dozens of states, such students have stood up and fought back against rape, violence, curricular meddling, and even infantilizing hall passes. They’ve been organizing and taking action, and they’ve been winning.

But although all this organizing has garnered a fair amount of interest in recent weeks, it hasn’t attracted the kind of attention it deserves. In part that’s because the agitation has been so diverse — aside from Ferguson, there hasn’t been a single national narrative tying it all together. But there’s also clearly been a lack of awareness, a lack of understanding of the scale and scope of what’s been happening.

That ends now.

What you see above is a map of fifty of the country’s most important student organizing actions of the fall semester. There are seven campus occupations on the map, along with dozens of walkouts, demonstrations, and other campaigns. The actions shown originated in twenty-five different states, and crucially more than a third of them were initiated by high school students.

This is big, but it’s just the beginning. I’ll be continuing to add material to the map in the coming weeks, both as new actions take place and as I gather more information to fill in the gaps in my knowledge about what’s happened so far. I expect to double the number of actions listed over the next few days, and to keep it growing from there.

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Savio’s “bodies upon the gears” speech, perhaps the crucial piece of oratory in American student history. It’s becoming ever more clear that 2014 is a moment of change, disruption, and promise much like the one the Free Speech Movement faced (and helped to bring into being) in 1964, and I hope this project can be of some service to Savio’s successors in the schools and campuses of today.

More soon.

Update | I’ve just noticed that the key to the pins is hard to find on the published version of the map. (Google Maps is a bit wonky and counterintuitive, it turns out — if anyone knows of a better option, give me a holler.) Here’s what the colors mean:

  • Green is walkouts.
  • Blue is demonstrations.
  • Red is occupations and sit-ins.
  • Yellow is major online campaigns.
  • Brown is other events.

Within each category, dark colors indicate actions led by college students, and light colors indicate those led by primary or secondary school students (usually high schoolers).

December 4 Update | I’ve added ten more actions to the map, and made it available as a searchable chronological list.

Are we really asking why young people didn’t vote in the midterms?

Okay, fine. Let’s talk.

But if we’re going to talk, can we start by saying that non-presidential youth voter turnout ISN’T DOWN — that it’s been essentially stable since the 1990s? Every cycle youth voter turnout is more or less the same, and every cycle it’s treated as a new Betrayal of the Nation.

And can we also note that while election-week demographic estimates of voting are always crude, the one analysis that we do have at this point says that youth turnout is actually up slightly since the 2010 midterm?

So the question “Why didn’t young people vote?” is already several kinds of stupid.

It gets worse.

We know that Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise young voters. (AS THEY ARE INTENDED TO.) And we know that Voter ID laws are getting uglier and more widespread. So if youth turnout is stable or rising, as it is, that’s actually pretty clear evidence of increased youth interest in electoral politics.

And while yes, young people do tend to vote less frequently than older people, that’s been true since before I was born, and I’m not that young anymore. Anyone alive today who’s whining about youth voter turnout is themselves part of a generation that didn’t turn out to vote in huge numbers when they were young.

The lesson here, as always, is simple: Shut up, old whiners.

Ready to move on? Okay. Let’s look at the exit polls. They show that youth were the ONLY age cohort who went majority Democratic this week.

Again: Shut up, old whiners. Middle-aged people went GOP by eight points. Stop complaining about your kids not canceling out your friends’ votes, jerks.

And the Democrats’ problem this week wasn’t a bunch of tight losses, anyway. It was a bunch of unexpectedly decisive GOP wins. A bump in youth voting doesn’t fix that. There were a few races, like the North Carolina Senate, where a shockingly huge youth turnout might have flipped the result, but not many. In Texas, for instance, under-30 voters split evenly between Davis and Abbot. That’s better for the Dems than what their elders did, but adding more 50-50 voters to a lopsided race doesn’t change the results.

Democrats got shellacked yesterday, and they would have been shellacked worse if young people hadn’t showed up to vote Dem. Youth didn’t lose this election for the Democrats — they saved it from being an even bigger disaster.

And while we’re on THAT subject, can we talk about the fact that we’re in the middle of about ten different political catastrophes for American youth right now? And the fact that the Democratic Party isn’t making any kind of a serious push on any of them?

Public higher education is being dismantled in this country. Young black men are being shot by cops with impunity. Youth unemployment is through the roof, and the jobs that do exist mostly suck. And on and on and on.

Show me the Democratic candidate who made the case for tuition cuts in this election. Show me the Democratic office-holders who are serious about reining in cops. About jobs programs. Show me the candidates who are fighting for young people, giving young people a reason to vote, a reason to be passionate about electoral politics. They don’t exist.

Democratic candidates and elected officials constantly crap on youth. And despite that incontrovertible fact, young people remain a core base constituency for the Democratic Party.

Why aren’t young people voting? THEY ARE. But how long do you think you can trick them into continuing without giving them anything back?

You want to increase youth voting? Cool. Pay attention to youth voters. Give them some wins on the legislative level. And take youth voter registration seriously — when people are registered, they tend to vote, and first-time voters have inertia working against them.

And here’s another thing we could do: Reduce the voting age to 16, like they’ve done in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Scotland.

Today in America, young people tend to start voting (or not) right as they’re moving — to college, to work, away from home. That’s a roadblock to registration, and to voting, and it’s one of the (many) reasons I support a 16-year-old voting age.

Get folks registered before they move out of their parents’ house. Get them voting. Get them in the system. People who vote stay voters. People who don’t vote stay non-voters. It’s easier to get people to start at 16 than at 18. So let’s do it. And let’s stop whining.

Lemon out.

This post is a lightly edited version of a Twitter rant from last night.

Yesterday a friend gave me her ticket to see Ruth Bader Ginsburg interviewed by Nina Totenberg at the 92nd Street Y. While I was at the talk, I tweeted that Nina Totenberg has a Notorious RBG tee-shirt, and that she wears it regularly on weekends, and that RBG gave it to her. What didn’t fit into the tweet was that Totenberg actually owns *three* Notorious RBG shirts, two of which Ginsburg gave her, from what Totenberg described — apparently seriously — as Ginsburg’s vast supplies.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg buys Notorious RBG shirts in bulk to give to her friends. That’s what I learned last night.

One other tidbit: It was widely reported a while ago that part of why RBG isn’t resigning before Obama leaves office is that she doesn’t believe anyone like her could be confirmed by the current Senate.

Totenberg asked Ginsburg about that last night, and she reiterated it, but then NT asked her the follow-up question: Wouldn’t any replacement appointed by a Republican successor to Obama be far worse, from your perspective? Ginsburg brushed that question off, saying “I’m very hopeful about 2016.”

Between what she said, the context of the question, and her inflection, I got the very clear impression that Ginsburg intends and expects to have Hillary Clinton appoint her successor.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall
StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here.

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