Via the CoCal distribution list:

*Call for Submissions*: *Teaching Poor: Voices of the Academic Precariat*

The career of college professor, giving back to the society that provided for them through education, was once a respectable path to the middle class. That class position is now slipping through the hands of the very people who helped create it, thanks to the erosion of tenured and tenure-track positions in favor of short-term contract positions without security. What should be rags to riches stories about the power of education to lift people out of poverty by providing a pathway to better jobs have become, for many academics, stories of stagnation, downward mobility, and outright impoverishment under the burden of massive debt uncompensated for by the very academy that helped contract faculty incur it.

*Teaching Poor: Voices of the Academic Precariat* will be a collection of voices from the world of so-called adjunct or contract college instructors who now teach 60-75% of all college courses in the United States and are paid wages equivalent to Walmart workers. In the tradition of Studs Terkel’s *Working*, *Teaching Poor* will honor both the difficulties and the triumphs of this new class of impoverished white collar laborers in the academic trenches, detailing personal struggles with the resultant poverty produced by low wages, crushing student loan debt, lack of healthcare and retirement provisions, and the professional and cultural costs this system levies on individuals and the students they teach.

I welcome creative non-fiction, biographical essay, short stories, poems, comics and, in the spirit of hacking the academy through digital humanities, may eventually expand to multimedia and a permanent archive of work similar to Story Corps. Length can vary wildly, but around 7500 words for prose is the average we’re looking for. Longer pieces will probably be reserved for the online archive.

This project is in its very early stages and I’m looking to see what kind of interest there is both in contributors and publishers before defining it or looking into other funding/publishing sources. I have publishers in mind (AK, Haymarket, Soft Skull, Atropos, Verso, ILR), but also welcome suggestions. I do want this to be more than a self-published ebook though, and perhaps something truly groundbreaking if we can make a collaboration work. Send your queries and submissions to Lee Kottner at by Jan. 1, 2015. That, too, is a very soft deadline, but please at least query by then.



James Legge, The Independent, October 19, 2014–Pro-democracy demonstrators returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday night, undeterred by two days of violent clashes with police.

Some came equipped with helmets and home-made foam arm protectors to defend them against police batons. “I will continue to stay here until C Y [Leung, the city’s chief executive] resigns,” said Lap Cheung, 40, who left his IT job in the United States to return to Hong Kong for the protests. He added he had no hope of a breakthrough tomorrow at planned talks between student leaders and the authorities. The negotiations will be televised live.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, officers used pepper spray on demonstrators in the shopping district of Mong Kok, parts of which have been closed to road traffic by the demonstrators since the end of September.

The protests were sparked by anger over Beijing’s proposal for electing the city’s next chief executive in 2017. The plan, set out in August, dictates that all candidates require majority approval from a committee of mostly pro-Beijing members of the city’s elite. But Mr Leung suggested yesterday one area where the protesters might find concessions is in the make-up of that screening committee. He said: “There will be plenty of room for us to talk about how we can structure a nomination system so that we have genuine choice of candidates come 2017.”

He maintained that certain things remain off the table, reiterating that civic nomination, under which Hongkongers would put up their own candidates, would run contrary to the Basic Law – the mini-constitution under which Hong Kong is governed from Beijing but maintains greater freedoms than the mainland.

During the two-hour talks, Carrie Lam, the city’s chief secretary, will lead the government team, and five members of the Hong Kong Federation of students – including Lester Shum and Alex Chow – will represent the protesters. Both Mr Shum and Mr Chow have become well-known spokesmen for the mostly leaderless occupations, which are focused on the city’s political and financial power centre.

This is the third time both sides have agreed to meet for talks, but looks like being the first meeting actually to take place. The first was called off by protesters after violence from a counter-protest, and the second was cancelled by the government after it accused students of trying to use the meeting to rally more demonstrators.

On Sunday in Mong Kok occupiers attempted to grab territory on the arterial Nathan Road. Scuffles erupted before police surged forward with riot shields, forcing the protesters back. Dozens of people, including at least 22 police, were reportedly injured in the two consecutive nights of clashes going into yesterday morning.

The police chief superintendent Hui Chun-tak said the crowd included “activists from radical organisations as well as trouble-makers” and that four men were arrested.

He said protesters “charged the police cordon, trying to occupy the road junction. Repeated warnings were issued to stop charging the cordon. However, they were all ignored.”

Mr Leung said authorities would continue trying to clear the streets “in parallel” with the dialogue. This two-pronged strategy has fanned protesters’ anger further, with many major voices in the movement claiming that the continued attempts at clearance call into question Mr Leung’s sincerity in offering the talks.

In Mong Kok, protesters appeared defiant and also angry that the city government was portraying their campaign as increasingly radicalised and violent. Igloo Novas, a student, told Reuters that Hong Kong leaders must tell Beijing the “truth”, that the majority of Hong Kong people wanted to choose candidates in elections freely. “This is one compromise I can accept from the government,” she said.

Read More: The Independent


Police removing #HongKongStudents barriers #scholarism

by Stephen Petrina on October 12, 2014

CBC, October 12, 2014– Hong Kong police began on Monday to remove barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters who have occupied several sites around the Chinese-controlled city for two weeks, according to protest group Occupy Central.

At the main protest site, around government offices in the downtown district of Admiralty, scores of student protesters faced off with police who were massing in the area, a Reuters witness said. The Hong Kong government has said the demonstrations are illegal.

On Saturday, student leaders issued an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, urging him to consider political reforms in the city and blaming the city’s unpopular leader for the demonstrations.

The letter, issued by two student groups leading the protests, said Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was responsible for a civil disobedience campaign that has seen tens of thousands of people throng the semi-autonomous city’s key thoroughfares over the past two weeks.

Thousands of demonstrators showed up in the main protest zone on Saturday, two days after Hong Kong’s government called off scheduled negotiations with students who are demanding voters have a greater say in choosing the city’s leader in 2017 elections.

The protesters have vowed to keep up the demonstrations until the government responds to their demands.

“Students walked out of classes and are occupying different places now because Leung and others have repeatedly ignored what the people want,” the letter read. “If the central government is confident, it should not be afraid to let Hong Kong people elect their own chief executive.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Friday that he was confident Hong Kong’s government can preserve “social stability.” He did not directly mention the protests, but stressed that Beijing won’t change its “one country, two systems” approach to running Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, a Chinese state-run newspaper blamed the United States for being behind the protests — a claim the U.S. State Department strongly rejected.

Read More: CBC



Daniel Schearf, Voice of America, October 12, 2014– Pro-democracy protest leaders in Hong Kong have vowed to continue their occupation of city streets after the Chinese territory’s leader soundly rejected their demands. Hong Kong’s chief executive also called their movement “out of control” and said it could not last very long.

Protesters Sunday voiced defiance after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said there was ‘zero chance’ of meeting their demands.

In an interview with TVB, Hong Kong’s Beijing-approved leader said China would never rescind its decision against open nomination of candidates for the chief executive post.

Leung also dismissed protester demands that he resign for allegedly failing to uphold Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law.

Criticizes decision

Lester Shum, deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and a protest leader, said, “What C.Y. Leung, the chief executive, said, showed that the Hong Kong government still refuse to take the responsibility to face the political issue made by, or caused by, the Hong Kong government.”

Hong Kong is to hold a much anticipated first direct election for chief executive in 2017 as part of the Chinese territory’s unique “One Country, Two Systems” status.

But China’s National People’s Congress in August set out a plan that allows Beijing-leaning officials in Hong Kong to choose the candidates the public would be allowed to vote on.

The limitation on the former British colony’s democracy sparked students to boycott classes and lead the occupation of city streets, now in its third week.

Talks canceled

The number of protesters had declined in recent days, but got a boost Friday night when thousands answered a call to rally at the main demonstration site next to government offices.

Authorities had canceled a dialogue on constitutional reform with protest leaders Friday after calls for a new wave of civil disobedience.

Despite the boost, Shum acknowledged they are struggling to maintain the momentum of the movement as it is challenged by those disturbed by the barricaded streets.

“Yeah, I believe this movement has come to face a very difficult problem,” Shum said.

“It’s that … the government use every tactics to wish to delay our movement, to wish us to come home or give up our occupation. So, what we are going to do, or what we are facing is how we can convince the Hong Kong citizens and students to support us, to still support this occupation movement,” he said.

Groups of people opposed to the occupation, including taxi and truck drivers, have demonstrated against it. There are also sporadic arguments and fights with protesters.

Protesters add tents

Nonetheless, demonstrators over the weekend added new tents to the streets around government offices in a show of defiance and determination to develop a genuine democracy.

The protest became known as the “umbrella revolution” after protesters used umbrellas to peacefully defend themselves against police tear gas and pepper spray.

People hung notes of support shaped like umbrellas to a large, wire sculpture of an umbrella and added post-it notes to those already plastered on a nearby wall.

Frankie Lam, who brought his two children to see the demonstration, said Hong Kong authorities should stop making excuses for not allowing them to directly elect their leaders.

“They can do it. Just whether they are willing to do so. So, I think, for now, the Hong Kong people will try to … cooperate with each other, to try to fight …  (against) this unfair treatment,” Lam said.

When asked whether he thinks the protesters will succeed, Lam replied, “I don’t know. But, if you never ever try, you will never ever know. Just try our best to do something for our … for the next generation.”

Lam’s elementary school-aged son posted a note that read “Do Not Give Up” in Chinese characters.

Read More: VoA


"Margaux and the Monarch"

“Margaux and the Monarch”

Ever futile is Capilano University’s game of whac-a-mole turn whac-a-sculpture, as yet one more caricature of President Kris Bulcroft has surfaced. When Blathering On in Krisendom surfaced Capilano University whacked it to pieces in May.

Now in October, where life imitates art as whac-a-sculpture, another has surfaced at the hands of sculptor George Rammell. Margaux and the Monarch is indeed a thing of beauty, mace, pen and pooch! What grand preparation for the graduation ceremony!

As Capilano’s Convocation guide indicates, “The mace depicts the authority vested in the University to…” well, fill in the blanks. “In keeping with this longstanding tradition” of a raw and visible demonstration of power, the Convocation guide indicates, “our ceremonial mace will be carried by Capilano University’s director of Buildings and Grounds.”

It is unlikely the Director of Building and Grounds will carry the entire sculpture. Just the mace. Margaux and the Monarch!

PS. Just looked outside and swear the garden gnome is now a  $^@&% ‘n mini-Margaux and the Monarch statue.



George Rammell with the remnants of Blathering On in Krisendom, which Capilano university officials confiscated and dismantled.

Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher EdOctober 8, 2014– It took 53 days for George Rammell to get back a sculpture he’d made caricaturing his university’s president and, when officials at British Columbia’s Capilano University finally returned it to him, it was in pieces.

“They gave it back to me all smashed up,” said Rammell, a former instructor at Capilano whose sculpture was seized from the studio arts building last spring by university officials on the grounds that it constituted “harassment” of Capilano President Kris Bulcroft.

“They claim they had to destroy it in order to move it, which is absolutely ridiculous. I’ve moved it myself.”

The original sculpture, titled Blathering On in Krisendom, depicted the president and her poodle as ventriloquist dolls draped in an American flag and was conceived, as Rammell explained it, as an “anti-monument” to the president in protest of her role in carrying out program cuts. Bulcroft oversaw the elimination of several programs, including the studio arts program in which Rammell taught, in a process that was later deemed by British Columbia’s Supreme Court to be contrary to the province’s University Act in that Capilano’s Senate was not consulted.

Rammell described the original sculpture as an example of constitutionally protected caricature, but Capilano’s former board chair, Jane Shackell, directed that it be confiscated from university property because it was, she said, being “used in a manner amounting to workplace harassment of an individual employee, intended to belittle and humiliate the president.”

In order to reclaim his artwork, Rammell said, he signed an agreement that stated that he would be permitted to work on the piece in the studio arts building until his employment at the university ended on July 31. After that time, he would remove the sculpture from campus and would not bring it back. Rammell said the agreement also stipulated that he would not display any photographs of the sculpture on campus until five years after the president’s retirement. (Rammell declined to share the text of the agreement he signed but described its contents to Inside Higher Ed. Capilano officials declined to comment on the specific terms of the grievance agreement, which a university spokeswoman described as related to a personnel matter and thus confidential.)

In compensation for the damages to the sculpture, Rammell said, he received the equivalent of four days’ teaching wages.

“In retrospect I should never have signed the stupid thing; I could have finished the sculpture without getting the heap back,” said Rammell.

Finish the sculpture he has. The new sculpture, made up of pieces of the original as well as newly created components, was unveiled last week in an event at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, in Vancouver. The piece has two faces, or fronts: a newly sculpted depiction of the president holding a mace backs up against the reassembled components of the original sculpture. Among the new elements of the sculpture, Rammell said a mace is intended to signify the trust placed in the university president, and a pen is intended to represent Bulcroft’s “unilateral” signing authority in eliminating the studio arts and other Capilano programs. The new piece is entitled Margaux and the Monarch, Margaux being the name of Bulcroft’s dog.

As for the American flag, Bulcroft previously worked at Western Washington University. Rammell said that while he has nothing against international hires, he did object to Bulcroft’s seeming disregard for a Canadian law, specifically the University Act.

“The whole piece is about academic freedom and everybody seems to be under threat,” Rammell said.

Bulcroft declined an interview through a Capilano spokeswoman, Borjana Slipicevic. A statement emailed by Slipicevic that repeatedly misspelled Rammell’s name said that “Capilano University is aware of Mr. Rammel’s current actions. The university is committed to a safe and respectful workplace for all faculty and staff; the decision to remove Mr. Rammel’s sculpture from campus was made in this vein. Capilano University and Mr. Rammel’s union negotiated a mutually acceptable settlement that resulted in giving the sculpture to Mr. Rammell; thus Capilano University considers this matter closed.”

As for the condition of the sculpture upon its return, the university’s statement said, “The effigy was dismantled to facilitate its removal; Mr. Rammel was advised that this was the case.”

Read More: Inside Higher Ed


Talks underway #HongKongStudents revolution resolute

by Stephen Petrina on October 7, 2014


Gu Qinger, Epoch Times, October 6, 2014– Preparatory talks are under way in Hong Kong between the student protesters and the government, but all signs suggest that normal life is not returning to Hong Kong anytime soon.

On Oct. 6, during the second round of preparatory talks between student representatives from the the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Ray Lau, Undersecretary of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, both sides have agreed to have multiple rounds of discussion, with both sides on an equal footing, and with any agreement to be enforced by the government.

Yet students are wary of the officials speaking to them.

In April 2010 Ray Lau declared on the television program City Forum that Radio TV Hong Kong should play the dual roles of being the mouthpiece and supervisor of the Hong Kong government, which angered many people in Hong Kong. Radio Television Hong Kong is the public broadcaster of Hong Kong.

The voting record of Lau during his tenure as legislator of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong does not bode well for the students’ demands.

Lau voted against legislative bills on “Defending press freedom,” “Taking a positive stand on the demands by citizens participating in the July 1 march,” “Addressing the 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre,” and “Improving social stability by breaking up the monopolies.”

“To reduce violence and reduce casualties, police will take action at the appropriate moment,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said just hours before the two sides met to plan the upcoming talks. “I encourage students, bystanders and others to leave high-risk areas as soon as possible.”

One person offering an overture towards the students was Tung Chee-wha, former chief executive of Hong Kong, and vice chairman of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.

“You guys have left behind everything to participate in the occupying movement and fight for democracy. You have made great sacrifices,” wrote Tung in a statement entitled “A Call to Those Students and Young People by Tung Chee-hwa.”

“For students and young people who take part in the protest, we have heard your democratic demands. We have heard them loud and clear,’ wrote Tung. “We understand your unwavering quest for ideals.”

That Tung addressed himself as “we” instead of “I” suggests the Chinese authorities would share his view to some extent, according to Apple Daily. In September this year, Tung Chee-hwa led a delegation of business leaders in Hong Kong to meet with Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

80 faculty members, including To Yiu-Ming, assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University, issued a statement asking the government to take a step back and calm down. It asks the government to talk to the students and respond to their demands to avoid further social division on Oct. 5.

“Leung has not been willing to give in an inch. Every time there is a dialogue opportunity, something would happen, like thugs attacking peaceful protesters,” said Professor To.

Read More: Epoch Times


#HongKongStudents defiant, regrouping

by Stephen Petrina on October 5, 2014


Eyder Peralta, NPR, October 5, 2014– Update at 10:35 a.m. ET. No Sign Of Dispersing: Watching a live feed from the Admiralty and Mong Kok areas of Hong Kong, one thing is for certain: It does not appear that protesters are going anywhere. In fact, it appears that crowds in those two areas have grown.

The South China Morning Post reports that Federation of Students secretary-general Alex Chow Yong-kang addressed the crowd this evening, saying they are preparing for talks with the government.

Chow, however, noted that their demands had not changed: The federation wants to be able to nominate whoever they want as the city’s next chief executive.

Update at 8:15 a.m. ET. Confusion:

Reporting from Hong Kong, NPR’s Anthony Kuhn says that just as some protesters announced they were leaving the area surrounding the Chief Executive’s Office, other protesters came in.

This protest, he says, has, after all, been very decentralized.

The South China Morning Post has some detail:

“As the Mong Kok protesters were divided on moving out, there was similar confusion in Admiralty as dozens of protesters re-occupied the junction of Lung Wo Road and Tim Wa Avenue (the main entrance to CY Leung’s office) just moments after the crowd voted to clear that area.

“‘We strove hard to get this site. We shouldn’t give up this site without any government decision in favour of us,’ said Ben Liu Chi-fung, 20.

“‘The chief executive’s office is an important site,’ said student Tanson Tsui. ‘I think we cannot give up the basic principle of our demonstration: to press for the government to undo the unjust electoral reform framework.’ “

Read More: NPR


#HongKongStudents protestors resolute against attacks

by Stephen Petrina on October 3, 2014

CBC, October 4, 2014–Hong Kong police said Saturday that they have arrested 19 people, some of whom are believed to have organized crime ties, after mobs tried to drive pro-democracy protesters from the streets where they have held a weeklong, largely peaceful demonstration.

At least 12 people and six officers were injured during the clashes, district commander Kwok Pak-chung said at a pre-dawn press briefing. Protest leaders called off planned talks with the government on political reforms after the battles kicked off Friday afternoon in gritty, blue-collar Mong Kok, across Victoria Harbour from the activists’ main protest camp.

Police struggled for hours to control the battles as attackers pushed, shoved and jeered the protesters. Those arrested face charges of unlawful assembly, fighting in public and assault, Kwok said, adding that eight men are believed to have backgrounds involving triads, or organized crime gangs.

The protesters urged residents to join their cause and demanded that the police protect their encampments. The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the groups leading the demonstrations that drew tens of thousands of people earlier this week, said they saw no choice but to cancel the dialogue.

“The government is demanding the streets be cleared. We call upon all Hong Kong people to immediately come to protect our positions and fight to the end,” the group said in a statement.

They demanded the government hold someone responsible for the scuffles Friday, the worst disturbances since police used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters last weekend to try to disperse them.

Hundreds of people remained in the streets early Saturday in Mong Kok, one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping areas, after the clashes.

“Of course I’m scared, but we have to stay and support everyone,” said Michael Yipu, 28, who works in a bank.

Well after midnight, the crowds stood peacefully, occasionally chanting and shouting, while police looked on.

The standoff is the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority since it took over the former British colony in 1997. Earlier Friday, the students had agreed to talks with the government proposed by Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. But his attempt to defuse tensions fell flat as many protesters were unhappy with his refusal to yield their demands for his resignation.

Unclear if scuffles were organized

The cancellation of the talks — prompted by clashes with men who tried to tear down the makeshift barricades and tents set up by the demonstrators — left the next steps in the crisis uncertain.

It was unclear if those scuffles were spontaneous or had been organized, although some of the attackers wore blue ribbons signalling support for the mainland Chinese government, while the protesters have yellow ribbons. At least some of them were residents fed up with the inconvenience of blocked streets and closed shops, and were perhaps encouraged to take matters into their own hands by police calls for protesters to clear the streets.

Read More: CBC


Tensions mount with #HongKongStudents resolve #scholarism

by Stephen Petrina on October 2, 2014


Wall Street Journal, China Real Time, October 3, 2014– Toward evening on the seventh day of protests that have rocked Hong Kong, fears grew of a confrontation. Protesters were giving the city’s chief executive until midnight to resign and said they would block him from going to work; police vowed to stop them. How the next hours played out; times are approximate:

5 p.m. Thursday: Crowds swell outside the offices of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Photos on social media show police carrying supplies of rubber bullets and tear gas into the building.  Students block a van from entering the compound.

6 p.m. Police spokesman Steve Hui says police is prepared to take “resolute” measures.

7 p.m. Organizers tell people with children and pets to clear the area around the chief executive’s office and the adjacent People’s Liberation Army complex. Students start donning gas masks and goggles. “I’m afraid, just hoping for the best,” says student Ashley Yeung, 22, who was at the protest on Sunday when tear gas was fired into the crowd by riot police.

8 p.m. Student leader Joshua Wong pleads for calm on Twitter: “Those we oppose are crazy. We don’t want to be mad like them.”

9 p.m. The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the student groups leading the protests, posts an open letter on Facebook to Carrie Lam, the No. 2 official in the Hong Kong government, seeking negotiations.

Some protesters near a PLA garrison on Hong Kong island block traffic but others try to stop them, “It’s the only road Hong Kong has!” shouts one woman through a loudspeaker.

10 p.m. Crowds are now huge at the government buildings. Police again warn protesters not to charge police lines.

11 p.m. As the midnight deadline protesters have set for Mr. Leung to resign approaches, the mood is apprehensive but crowds are orderly: They have heard Mr. Leung will speak and are waiting. Periodically chants erupt when student leaders speak.

11:30 p.m. The presidents of the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong appear at the government buildings to appeal for calm.

Midnight: The word from the chief executive mere minutes before midnight: He will appoint Ms. Lam, to meet with student protesters. He won’t resign.

Early morning hours Friday: Crowds start to disperse but many stay, saying they’re far from satisfied. “What they said was so distant from what we wanted,” says 26-year old Lawrence Chak, who still plans to spend the night with his friends at the main protest site.

The leaders of Occupy Central, two college professors and a Baptist minister, welcome talks between students and the government, but say the chief executive must still step down.

As many protesters sleep on the lawns and sidewalks, others sit with textbooks on their lap, trying to catch up with their studies after days of protesting.

5 a.m. Some protesters holding red traffic sticks try to prevent others from blocking the main roads outside the government buildings as morning nears and people start going to work after a two-day holiday.

Police plead for protesters to allow through a truck they say is loaded with food for police officers. Protesters shout back that they will pass the food in: “We can give you what you need–food, not the truck.”

8:30 a.m. The Hong Kong government says the city’s government offices will be temporarily closed.

9:30 a.m. Hong Kong stocks fall 1.2% as markets open after a two-day holiday and are down around 4.6% on the week, with crowds still in the street and many government workers unable to work normally.

Read More: Wall Street Journal, China Real Time


Censorship of #HongKongStudents

by Stephen Petrina on October 2, 2014


The Economist, October 3, 2014– Streets in Hong Kong have been filled with protesters calling for democratic reform and tweeting their experiences furiously. But in mainland China, people are struggling to discuss the unrest online. Censors have been poring over Weibo, China’s closely controlled version of Twitter, to scrub out even oblique references to it.

The chart above shows the number of deleted posts every day since April among a sample of between 50,000 and 60,000 users in mainland China. On September 28th, the most tumultuous day of the protests, deletions hit a record: 15 of every 1,000 posts, more than five times normal levels. Mentions of “Hong Kong police” and any posts with a #HongKong hashtag fell afoul of the censors. The data were compiled by Weiboscope, a censorship-monitoring programme at the University of Hong Kong. FreeWeibo, a website developed by, another Chinese censorship watchdog, captured many of the deleted posts. Most were written by ordinary users: people with a few thousand followers whose non-censored messages revealed otherwise unexceptional lives, of dinners with family and frustrations with traffic jams.

Many clearly crossed the line of tolerated discussion in China. “Whoever obstructs Hong Kong’s decision will be branded a villain of history,” read one deleted post. Some were subtler: “Hong Kong’s streets are really clean,” read one post attached to a photo of protesters lying on the ground to sleep. It was reposted 12 times before being deleted. Others managed to get around the censors by being even more indirect, such as by posting old photos of Xi Jinping, China’s leader, carrying an umbrella (a nod to Hong Kong’s “umbrella revolution”).

The lid was lifted a little on September 29th when an article in the People’s Daily labelled the Hong Kong protesters as “extremists”. Bloggers then had licence to repost the article and publish their views on it. But these too were censored. The vast majority of comments that were allowed to remain online were critical of the protests. One post by Ren Chengwei, a television actor with more than 200,000 followers on Weibo, was typical: “Hong Kong compatriots, don’t make such a fuss. You’re going too far.”


10,000 workers + #HongKongStudents #scholarism

by Stephen Petrina on October 1, 2014

Photo by Alex Ogle/Getty

Photo by Alex Ogle/Getty

Michelle Chen, The Nation, October 1, 2014–  The umbrella is a perfect icon for Hong Kong’s uprising: inclusive, aloof, a bit Anglophone and pragmatically defiant of the elements (and according to cinematic lore, readily convertible to a lethal kung fu weapon). It embodies the central plea of the protesters amassed in “Democracy Square”: a civilized demand for self-determination. Yet the biggest worry in Beijing right now isn’t the threat of universal suffrage, but what comes afterward—the struggle for social justice that Hong Kongers face they pivot between post-colonial limbo and authoritarian capitalism.

That’s the labor movement is taking to the streets with young protesters. The Equal Times reports that as of Wednesday—China’s National Day—“According to the latest HKCTU [Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions] figures, some 10,000 workers across all sectors have downed tools.” As unions representing industrial, service and professional workforces rallied alongside the youth and condemned police suppression of the demonstrators, Hong Kong labor echoed the former colony’s long legacy of worker militancy. In a call for mass strikes, the HKTCU declared, “Workers must stand up against the unjust government and violent suppression…. To defend democracy and justice, we cannot let the students fight the suppression alone.”

The immediate spark for the protests was the controversy over the electoral process. Activists were incensed that following Beijing’s decree via the proxy authority National People’s Congress, candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 executive election would be pre-approved by the mainland authorities.

But even prior to the electoral betrayal, students revolted against the imposition of Beijing-controlled nationalist curricula on public schools. Longtime residents chafed at mainlanders’ perceived aggressive economic encroachment on local neighborhoods and businesses. And even the symbols of the protest express a yearning for a change in the social and cultural reality, rather than just liberalizing political mechanics. Like the “Hands Up” iconography of the Ferguson protests, the sea of umbrellas exude both civility and defiance in the face of brutality, not looking for trouble, just demanding dignity.

At the center of their struggle for dignity is the desire to control their economic destiny. A statement issued last week by dozens of labor and community groups draws the link between unaccountable government and the divide between the plutocracy and the people:

The Chinese Communist Party has followed and reinforced almost every governing strategy used by the British colonialists. Working in tandem, the CCP and business conglomerates have only worsened Hong Kong’s already alarming rich-poor gap. …

It is true that even a genuinely democratic system may not be able to bring immediate improvements to grassroots and workers’ livelihoods. However, the current political system and the NPC’s ruling are flagrant violations of our political rights as well as our right to be heard. A pseudo-democratic system will only install even more obstacles on our already difficult path to better livelihoods and a progressive society.

But the group’s demands go beyond electoral freedom: it wants expanded housing protections and welfare policies and a government that is responsive to the economic and social concerns raised by civil society groups. With this aspiration toward a fairer as well as freer society, according to City University of Hong Kong professor Toby Carroll, many leaders fear primarily that “people in Hong Kong will convert demands for increasing suffrage into robust demands for redistribution; that in the face of plenty, those with little or no positive prospects won’t stand for obscenely concentrated wealth, power and privilege anymore.”

As Eli Friedman points out, Hong Kong is both an amazingly sophisticated and intensely unequal economy, compared to other “developed” nations. One-fifth of the population lives in poverty. The minimum wage, just recently implemented at the rate of US $3.60, hardly offsets the astronomical costs of housing, inflation and unemployment. The former colonial trade hub has lost some 80 percent of its manufacturing jobs as industries have shifted to the mainland. The most impoverished are often migrant laborers, youths and women. The radicals at the core of #OccupyCentral represent twentysomethings who are tired of the volatility of the economy and the stagnation of the country’s political system.

Read Moore: The Nation



Lily Kuo, Quartz, September 30, 2014– While tens of thousands of students continue to paralyze Hong Kong’s financial and commercial districts for a third day to demand free elections, across Victoria harbor in Kowloon the pro-democracy movement is starting to look a little different. In Mong Kok, a dense working class neighborhood, demonstrators are older, quieter, and in some ways, a little more cynical.

“The politics here are so bad. That’s why we have to fight for democracy,” 78-year old Li Kon-wah tells Quartz. Li says Hong Kong’s top official, the chief executive CY Leung answers only to Beijing, a government that he remembers most for having ordered a violent crackdown on nonviolent democracy protesters in 1989. “I was so angry. I cried,” he says, after carefully taping a sign onto a nearby bus that reads, “Blood bath Tiananmen Massacre.”

What started as a pro-democracy movement mainly among the city youth—sparked by student activists as well as another pro-democracy group, Occupy Hong Kong—is starting to capture a broad cross-section of the city’s population of seven million. The majority of these residents initially opposed Occupy’s strategy—to disrupt the city’s economy and force the government to withdraw electoral reforms that give Hong Kongers direct elections in 2017 but allows Beijing the ability to vet candidates for the city’s top office.

Now, news reports and footage of police clashing with students, as well as tear gassing or pepper spraying them, have brought more people into the streets. In Mong Kok, thousands of demonstrators, including students, retired local residents, and workers have overtaken Nathan Road, a main thoroughfare. They are decorating streets with chalk drawings of umbrellas—the latest symbol for the demonstrations—and plastering signs on a row of buses that had to be abandoned when drivers couldn’t move in crowds that descended on the street late Sunday.

 Elderly demonstrators like Li mill around the area listening to speeches, handing out yellow ribbons and leaflets. Another retiree, Chan Kin-hoi, 76, wears a hat with a sign that reads, “Oppose the communist party, save Hong Kong.” Chan says: “I’m here because I support universal suffrage.” Local workers, like delivery drivers have volunteered to bring goods to demonstrators.
Young and middle-aged professionals are also joining the protests during work breaks or after work. Grace Fu, 22, who works at an office nearby, is under no illusion that the protesters’ demands will be met. Chief executive Leung said again today the government will not change its stance on how Hong Kong elections will be run, despite the spread of “illegal” protests.
 But, says Fu, “Even if this movement doesn’t change anything, it’s good that people can now know what’s going on in Hong Kong. That would still be worth it.”
Read More: Quartz


tamar-oct1-sam-bOccupy Central

Yojana Sharma, University World News, September 30, 2014– Hong Kong university students – part of a huge, often spontaneous pro-democracy movement that has occupied the streets of central Hong Kong in recent days – said on Monday that they would extend their week-long boycott of classes to an indefinite one. 

“We urge students to boycott classes indefinitely and teachers to boycott teaching,” said the statement by Hong Kong University Students’ Union and Scholarism and other groups.

The week-long university strike that started on 22 September with rallies around the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, or CUHK, before spreading to central Hong Kong was to have ended on Friday 26 September with school-age students led by the campaign group Scholarism joining the strike for its final day. 

Instead, huge crowds surged onto the streets at the weekend and into Monday, blocking major roads. The students and public were angry about police tactics and dozens of arrests made outside Hong Kong government headquarters, where students broke through the police cordon to occupy the area late on Friday night.

The one-week class boycott has been extended because of “violence by the police force”, said the Hong Kong Federation of Students, or HKFS, which has 60,000 members and is one of the student boycott’s largest organisers.

The boycott had been called after China last month insisted that candidates for a promised Hong Kong leadership election in 2017 would be pre-selected by representatives of China, angering pro-democracy groups. Young people are demanding genuine democracy. 

HKFS and Scholarism warned that civil disobedience would spread unless Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung responds to protesters’ demands by 1 October. Possible action includes a general strike, and more class boycotts, they said. 

Occupy Central co-founder Chan Kin-man said that if Leung announced his resignation, the occupation of the key areas in Hong Kong would stop for a short period of time before they decide on their next move.

But Leung said in a press conference on Tuesday that he would not give in to demands for his resignation. Any such action before ‘universal suffrage’ was implemented would mean Hong Kong picking a new leader under the existing system.


The protests escalated after pro-democracy legislators, professors and student leaders were arrested during the police action at the government offices on Saturday morning, among them Alex Chow and Lester Shum, leaders of HKFS, three Hong Kong legislators and the convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at Hong Kong’s City University. 

Thousands poured onto Hong Kong’s main arteries demanding their release – in particular the release of Joshua Wong, 17, leader of Scholarism, a group of high-school students. Yvonne Leung, president of the Hong Kong University’s student union told media that Wong had been dragged away by police on Saturday morning. 

Michael Davis, a professor of law at Hong Kong University, or HKU, said: “The legitimacy of the Hong Kong government is at stake and they certainly undermined their position by [tear] gassing students on the streets.

“That kind of aggressive behaviour, I think, stimulated almost half the protesters to come out,” he told local radio, describing it as a critical moment for the Hong Kong government. “They really need to be trying to do something to represent Hong Kong concerns and not just Beijing concerns.”

While Wong was held for 40 hours – the maximum allowed under Hong Kong law without charges being laid – the crowds on the streets mushroomed to over 80,000, according to HKFS estimates, with police unsuccessfully attempting to disperse them with pepper spray and teargas. 

“I don’t think they [Beijing] will listen to our demands, but I am angry that the Hong Kong police treat us in this way, that is why I am here,” said a HKU law student who gave her name only as Grace. She said she had not taken part in the initial student boycotts though she had joined pro-democracy rallies through the streets of Hong Kong in early July.  

While police refused to answer many questions at a press conference, they said teargas was used 87 times at nine different locations on Saturday and Sunday. 

While many protesters had come prepared with goggles and face masks, most had only their umbrellas to protect them, leading to the protests being dubbed the ‘umbrella revolution’.

More than 70 people were arrested during clashes with police outside the government headquarters over the weekend, with CUHK offering legal advice to students who were arrested. HKU estimated that least 10 of its students were arrested and said it would provide legal advice and other support to the students. 

In a statement, HKU’s Vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson said: “We will be flexible and reasonable in understanding the actions of students and staff who wish to express their strongly-held views.”

He added a plea for all parties to express their views peacefully and constructively. “We will also be flexible in understanding practical difficulties that staff and students may face in reaching the campus during periods of transport disruption,” the statement said. 

Refusal to back down

Despite a major escalation in the protests, Chief Executive Leung – who had refused to meet with students to consider their demands – said at a press conference on Sunday that the Hong Kong government was “resolute in opposing the unlawful occupation of government buildings”. He reiterated that the Hong Kong government would uphold Beijing’s decision on elections. 

A Hong Kong government statement on Sunday said the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, or China’s one-party parliament on Hong Kong’s elections, was “legally binding”. 

Consultations on the Hong Kong election system had been scheduled to take place but the administration announced that these would now be held at a “better time” – a move that Occupy Central slammed as a delaying tactic. The administration was “just hoping people’s desire for genuine universal suffrage to fade over time”.

Leung issued a video-statement addressing Hong Kong citizens. He called on people to leave the protests, and dismissed rumours that police had opened fire or that the government was ready to call on China’s People’s Liberation Army to maintain order.

Commentary in the online edition of China’s communist party newspaper the People’s Daily blamed the unrest in Hong Kong on “extremists” backed by “foreign anti-China forces”. Pictures and reports of the Hong Kong unrest has been censored in China.

Read More: University World News


#scholarism #youth in #HongKongStudents protest #occupyallstreet

by Stephen Petrina on September 30, 2014

Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty

Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty

Wilfred Chan & Yuli Yang, CNNHong Kong (CNN), September 28, 2014– He’s one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he’s been called an “extremist” by China’s state-run media — and he’s not even old enough to drive.

Meet 17-year-old Joshua Wong, a skinny, bespectacled teen whose meager physical frame belies the ferocity of his politics. Over the last two years, the student has built a pro-democracy youth movement in Hong Kong that one veteran Chinese dissident says is just as significant as the student protests at Tiananmen, 25 years ago.

Echoing the young campaigners who flooded Beijing’s central square in 1989, the teen activist wants to ignite a wave of civil disobedience among Hong Kong’s students. His goal? To pressure China into giving Hong Kong full universal suffrage.

Wong’s movement builds on years of pent-up frustration in Hong Kong.

When the former colony of the United Kingdom was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, the two countries struck an agreement promising Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy,” including the democratic election of its own leader. But 17 years later, little resembling genuine democracy has materialized. China’s latest proposal suggests Hong Kongers may vote for their next leader, but only if the candidates are approved by Beijing.

Hong Kong is a seed of fire… the Communist Party is very scared of this tiny bit of land.

Wong is bent on fighting the proposal — and impatient to win.

“I don’t think our battle is going to be very long,” he tells CNN. “If you have the mentality that striving for democracy is a long, drawn-out war and you take it slowly, you will never achieve it.

“You have to see every battle as possibly the final battle — only then will you have the determination to fight.”

Youth awakening

Doubt him if you like, but the young activist already has a successful track record of opposition.

In 2011, Wong, then 15, became disgusted with a proposal to introduce patriotic, pro-Communist “National and Moral Education” into Hong Kong’s public schools.

With the help of a few friends, Wong started a student protest group called Scholarism. The movement swelled beyond his wildest dreams: In September 2012, Scholarism successfully rallied 120,000 protesters — including 13 young hunger strikers — to occupy the Hong Kong government headquarters, forcing the city’s beleaguered leaders to withdraw the proposed curriculum.

That was when Wong realized that Hong Kong’s youth held significant power.

“Five years ago, it was inconceivable that Hong Kong students would care about politics at all,” he says. “But there was an awakening when the national education issue happened. We all started to care about politics.”

Asked what he considers to be the biggest threats to the city, he rattles them off: From declining press freedom as news outlets change their reporting to reflect a pro-Beijing slant, to “nepotism” as Beijing-friendly politicians win top posts, the 17-year-old student says Hong Kong is quickly becoming “no different than any other Chinese city under central administration.”

That’s why Wong has set his eyes on achieving universal suffrage. His group, which now has around 300 student members, has become one of the city’s most vocal voices for democracy. And the kids are being taken seriously.

In June, Scholarism drafted a plan to reform Hong Kong’s election system, which won the support of nearly one-third of voters in an unofficial citywide referendum.

Joshua Wong could be arrested, or jailed. I hope he understands this will be a battle of resilience.
Hu Jia, Chinese dissident

In July, the group staged a mass sit-in which drew a warning from China’s vice president not to disrupt the “stability” of the city. In the end, 511 people were briefly arrested.

This week, the group is mobilizing students to walk out of classes — a significant move in a city that reveres education — to send a pro-democracy message to Beijing.

The student strike has received widespread support. College administrators and faculty have pledged leniency on students who skip classes, and Hong Kong’s largest teacher union has circulated a petition declaring “Don’t let striking students stand alone.”

China’s reaction has been the opposite: Scholarism has been named a group of “extremists” in the mainland’s state-run media. Wong also says he is mentioned by name in China’s Blue Paper on National Security, which identifies internal threats to the stability of Communist Party rule.

But the teenage activist won’t back down. “People should not be afraid of their government,” he says, quoting the movie “V for Vendetta,” “The government should be afraid of their people.”

Compared to activists in Hong Kong, activists in mainland China face a situation far more grim.

Few understand this better than veteran human rights activist Hu Jia, 41. A teenage participant in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, he remembers witnessing the carnage in the aftermath of Chinese government’s crackdown.

“At the age of 15, it made me understand my responsibility and my mission in life,” he tells CNN in a phone call from Beijing. “The crackdown made a clear cut between myself and the system.”

Tiananmen protester: I was willing to die

Read More: CNN



Donny Kwok and Yimou Lee, Reuters, Reader Supported News, September 30, 2014– Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters extended a blockade of Hong Kong streets on Tuesday, stockpiling supplies and erecting makeshift barricades ahead of what some fear may be a push by police to clear the roads before Chinese National Day.

Riot police shot pepper spray and tear gas at protesters at the weekend, but by Tuesday evening they had almost completely withdrawn from the downtown Admiralty district except for an area around the government headquarters.

On the eve of Wednesday’s anniversary of the Communist Party’s foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, crowds poured into central districts of the Asian financial hub, near where National Day festivities are scheduled to take place.

Rumours have rippled through crowds of protesters that police could be preparing to move in again, as the government has vowed to go ahead with celebrations.

“Many powerful people from the mainland will come to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government won’t want them to see this, so the police must do something,” Sui-ying Cheng, 18, a freshman at Hong Kong University’s School of Professional and Continuing Education, said of the National Day holiday.

“We are not scared. We will stay here tonight. Tonight is the most important,” she said.

Student leaders have given Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying an ultimatum to come out and address the protesters before midnight on Tuesday, threatening to escalate action in the next few days to occupy more government facilities, buildings and public roads if he fails to do so.

The protesters, mostly students, are demanding full democracy and have called on Leung to step down after Beijing ruled a month ago that it would vet candidates wishing to run for Hong Kong’s leadership in 2017.

While Leung has said Beijing would not back down in the face of protests it has branded illegal, he also said Hong Kong police would be able to maintain security without help from People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops from the mainland.

“When a problem arises in Hong Kong, our police force should be able to solve it. We don’t need to ask to deploy the PLA,” Beijing-backed Leung told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday.


The protests are widely expected to escalate on Wednesday to coincide with National Day celebrations.

“I don’t know what the police or government will do to me, but I am 100 percent sure I need to come out (tonight),” said Ken To, the 35-year-old manager of a restaurant in the densely packed Mong Kok residential district.

“We (Hong Kongers) don’t only want money. We want our kids, our future, our education,” he said.

China rules Hong Kong under a “one country, two systems” formula that accords the former British colony a degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, with universal suffrage set as an eventual goal.

Protesters massed in at least four of Hong Kong’s busiest areas, including Admiralty, the Central business district, the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay and Mong Kok in Kowloon.

“We hope all the people can hold the three main occupation points; Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. We will call these places ‘Democracy Square,” said Chan Kin-man, a co-founder of protest movement Occupy Central.

Organisers said as many as 80,000 people thronged the streets after demonstrations flared on Friday night, and many have slept out for the past four nights blocking usually busy roads. No independent estimate of crowd numbers was available.


Alex Chow, leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said the protests, which began as a gathering of students and the “Occupy Central” movement, had become much broader and attracted Hong Kongers of all walks of life.

“It has evolved into a civil movement,” he said.

“We can see the Beijing and Hong Kong governments already feel pressure, so the ‘Occupy’ movement must continue,” Chow told protesters in Admiralty.

People set up supply stations with water bottles, fruit, crackers, disposable raincoats, towels, goggles, face masks and tents, indicating they were in for the long haul.

Some lugged metal road barricades into positions on the edge of crowds, presumably to slow a police advance. In at least one location, several minivans and a truck were parked in rows in an apparent effort to block a road.

At one Mong Kok intersection, six abandoned double-decker buses have been turned into makeshift noticeboards, their windows papered with messages of support such as “Please don’t give up” and “CY Leung step down”. Some protesters nearby clapped and cheered while others played the guitar and drums.

“Even though I may get arrested, I will stay until the last minute,” said 16-year-old protester John Choi.

“We are fighting for our futures.”

Protest organisers urged citizens to donate more yellow ribbons, another symbol of the protests, and goggles to protect against tear gas and pepper spray.

Communist Party leaders in Beijing worry that calls for democracy could spread to the mainland, and have been aggressively censoring news and social media comments about the Hong Kong demonstrations.

The protests are the worst in Hong Kong since China resumed its rule in 1997. They also represent one of the biggest political challenges for Beijing since it violently crushed pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The movement presents Beijing’s Communist Party with a difficult challenge. Cracking down too hard could shake confidence in market-driven Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system from the rest of China. Not reacting firmly enough, however, could embolden dissidents on the mainland.

The deputy director of China’s National People’s Congress Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee, Li Shenming, wrote in the People’s Daily: “In today’s China, engaging in an election system of one-man-one-vote is bound to quickly lead to turmoil, unrest and even a situation of civil war.”


Financial fallout from the turmoil has been limited so far as investors gauge how severe Beijing’s response might be.

Still, Hong Kong shares .HSI fell to a three-month low on Tuesday, registering their biggest monthly fall since May 2012.

The city’s benchmark index has plunged 7.3 percent this month. Chinese shares were less troubled, perhaps because news of the protests in Hong Kong was hard to come by on the mainland.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the de facto central bank, said 37 branches or offices of 21 different banks had been temporarily closed because of the protests.

Some businesses have been directly affected, including luxury retailers in the Causeway Bay shopping mecca where protesters hunkered down.

The outside world has looked on warily, concerned that the clashes could spread and trigger a much harsher crackdown.

Washington has urged the Hong Kong authorities “to exercise restraint and for protesters to express their views peacefully”.

The protests have also been watched closely in Taiwan, which has full democracy but is considered by Beijing as a renegade province that must one day be reunited with the mainland.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said Beijing needed “to listen carefully to the demands of the Hong Kong people”.

British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed concern about the clashes between protesters and police.

The United States, Australia and Singapore have issued travel alerts.

Read More: RSN


Democracy Now!, September 9, 2014– As the fall school term begins, an Illinois college campus is embroiled in one of the nation’s biggest academic freedom controversies in recent memory. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has sparked an outcry over its withdrawal of a job offer to a professor critical of the Israeli government. Steven Salaita was due to start work at the university as a tenured professor in the American Indian Studies Program. But after posting a series of tweets harshly critical of this summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, Salaita was told the offer was withdrawn. The school had come under pressure from donors, students, parents and alumni critical of Salaita’s views, with some threatening to withdraw financial support. Thousands of academics have signed petitions calling for Salaita’s reinstatement, and several lecturers have canceled appearances in protest. The American Association of University Professors has called the school’s actions “inimical to academic freedom and due process.” A number of Urbana-Champaign departments have passed votes of no-confidence in the chancellor, Phyllis Wise. And today, Urbana-Champaign students will be holding a campus walkout and day of silence in support of Salaita. We are joined by two guests: Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke, who has canceled a lecture series at Urbana-Champaign in protest of Salaita’s unhiring; and Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a scholar who went through a similar incident in 2011 when Brooklyn College reversed a job offer after complaints about his Middle East views, only to reinstate it following a public outcry.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: As the fall school term begins, an Illinois college campus is embroiled in one of the nation’s biggest academic freedom controversies in recent memory. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has sparked an outcry over its withdrawal of a job offer to a professor critical of the Israeli government. Steven Salaita was due to start work at Urbana-Champaign as a tenured professor in the American Indian Studies Program. But after posting a series of tweets harshly critical of the summer’s assault on Gaza, Salaita was told the offer was withdrawn. Urbana-Champaign has come under pressure from donors, students, parents and alumni critical of Salaita’s views, with some threatening to withdraw financial support.

The move has been criticized both in and outside of the school, with administrators accused of political censorship. Thousands of academics have signed petitions calling for Salaita’s reinstatement, and several lecturers have canceled appearances in protest. The American Association of University Professors has called the school’s actions “inimical to academic freedom and due process.” A number of school departments have passed votes of no-confidence in the chancellor, Phyllis Wise. And today, students will be holding a campus walkout and a day of silence in support of Salaita. A news conference is being held, where Salaita is expected to make his first public comments since his unhiring last month.

AMY GOODMAN: In a public statement, Chancellor Phyllis Wise said her decision to unhire Salaita “was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel.” She goes on to write, quote, “What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them,” unquote. The school has now reportedly offered Salaita a financial settlement for his troubles. The school’s Board of Trustees is expected to take up the controversy at a meeting on Thursday.

For more, we’re joined by two guests. Kristofer Petersen-Overton is an adjunct lecturer of political science at Lehman College. In 2011, Brooklyn College initially decided not to hire Petersen-Overton as an adjunct professor for a seminar on Middle East politics. But the school reversed its decision after criticism that the decision was politically motivated. And Katherine Franke joins us. She’s a professor of law at Columbia University and the director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. She recently canceled a lecture series at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in protest of Steven Salaita’s unhiring.

Professor Franke, let’s begin with you. Talk about the facts of this case and how you got involved.

KATHERINE FRANKE: Well, Professor Salaita was previously a professor at Virginia Tech University, and he had a well-known dossier of books and articles thinking critically about the relationship between indigeneity, meaning native people, and the political environments in which they live—hard questions about dispossession, belonging, state violence and identity. And because of that important scholarly record, the University of Illinois went after him—in a friendly way, unlike what they’re doing now. And he was hired by an overwhelming vote by the American Indian Studies Program there in the normal way that we hire faculty in universities. An offer letter was issued to him. He accepted it. They paid for his moving expenses. He quit his job, a tenured position in Virginia. And he has a small child and a family and a wife, and was ready to move. His course books had been ordered. He had been invited by the university to the faculty welcome luncheon.

And then, on August 1st, he got a letter from the chancellor saying, “We’re sorry, we’re not going to be able to employ you here, because I haven’t taken the last step, which I had not informed you about before, of taking your candidacy to the Board of Trustees.” He had assumed he had an accepted job offer. He had relied on that offer—and at his peril. He now doesn’t have a home, doesn’t have a job and doesn’t have an income.

So what we now have learned, through a FOIA request and the disclosure of emails at the university, is that there was enormous pressure put on the chancellor and the Board of Trustees by large donors of the university, who said, “I’ll take my six-figure donations away if you hire this guy.” And this is as a result of some tweets that Professor Salaita made over the summer during the heat of the Gaza—the Israeli assault on Gaza. He was very upset about it. He himself is Palestinian. He was watching children die and the destruction of Gazan villages that we all watched. And like many of us, he was quite impassioned and used colorful language on Twitter to express his views, and that those tweets somehow made their way to donors at the University of Illinois. And so, the job, as been described even here in the setup, is either withdrawn or somehow not—well, what has happened is he’s just been fired. And so he’s now organizing, along with the rest of us, a response to what is a deliberate campaign by a number of political operatives who put pressure on universities like the University of Illinois to censor critical scholarship, critical comments, critical research about Israeli state policy.

Read More: Democracy Now!


COCAL X Conference (Photo by David Milroy)

COCAL X Conference (Photo by David Milroy)

Listen to Class StruggleIra Basen’s documentary of the plight of part-time faculty in Canadian universities.

Ira Basen, CBC, September 7, 2014– Kimberley Ellis Hale has been an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., for 16 years. This summer, while teaching an introductory course in sociology, she presented her students with a role-playing game to help them understand how precarious economic security is for millions of Canadian workers.

In her scenario, students were told they had lost their jobs, their marriage had broken up, and they needed to find someplace to live.  And they had to figure out a way to live on just $1,000 a month.

What those students didn’t know was the life they were being asked to imagine was not very different than the life of their instructor.

According to figures provided by the Laurier Faculty Association, 52 per cent of Laurier students were taught by CAS in 2012, up from 38 per cent in 2008. (Brian St-Denis (CBC News))

Hale is 51 years old, and a single mother with two kids.  She is what her university calls a CAS (contract academic staff). Other schools use titles such as sessional lecturers and adjunct faculty.

That means that despite her 16 years of service, she has no job security.  She still needs to apply to teach her courses every semester. She gets none of the perks that a full time professor gets; generous benefits and pension, sabbaticals, money for travel and research, and job security in the form of tenure that most workers can only dream about.

And then there’s the money.

A full course load for professors teaching at most Canadian universities is four courses a year.  Depending on the faculty, their salary will range between $80,000 and $150,000 a year.  A contract faculty person teaching those same four courses will earn about $28,000.

Full time faculty are also required to research, publish, and serve on committees, but many contract staff do that as well in the hope of one day moving up the academic ladder.  The difference is they have to do it on their own time and on their own dime.


The reality of Kimberley’s life would be hard for most students to grasp.

‘I never imagined myself in this position, where every four months I worry about how I’m going to put food on the table.’- Kimberley Ellis Hale, instructor

For them, a professor is a professor. How could someone with graduate degrees who teaches at a prestigious university belong to what sociologists now call the “precariat, ” a social class whose working lives lack predictability or financial security?

It’s a question that Kimberley often asks herself.

“I never imagined myself in this position,” she says in an interview at her home later that day, “where every four months I worry about how I’m going to put food on the table. So what I did with them this morning is try to get them to think, ‘Well what if you were in this position?’”

Contract faculty

In Canada today, it’s estimated that more than half of all undergraduates are taught by contract faculty.

 Not all of those people live on the margins. In specialized fields like law, business and journalism, people are hired for the special expertise they bring to the field. They have other sources of income. And retired professors on a pension sometimes welcome the opportunity to teach a course or two.

But there are many thousands of people trying to cobble together a full-time salary with part-time work.

They often teach the large introductory courses that tenured faculty like to avoid.  They put in 60- to 70-hour weeks grading hundreds of essays and exams, for wages that sometimes barely break the poverty line.

It’s what Kimberley Ellis Hale calls the university’s “dirty little secret.”

Our universities are rightly celebrated for their great achievements in research. That’s what attracts the money, the prestige and the distinguished scholars. But the core of the teaching is being done by the most precarious of academic labourers.

And without them, the business model of the university would collapse.

Enrollment at Canadian universities is soaring (up 23 per cent at Laurierover the past decade, for example). And while most universities are still hiring tenure-track faculty, they aren’t hiring enough to match the growing student population.  So classes are getting bigger, and more “sessional” instructors are being hired.

“It helps financially,” concedes Pat Rogers, Laurier’s vice-president of teaching.  “If you can’t afford to hire a faculty member who will only teach four courses, you can hire many more sessional faculty for that money.

“Universities are really strapped now. I think it’s regrettable, and I think there are legitimate concerns about having such a large part-time workforce, but it’s an unfortunate consequence of underfunding of the university.”

Read More: CBC, “Most University undergrads now taught by poorly paid part-timers”


Welcome Back! Or so two universities sheepishly say to new students in a wake of orientation disasters last year. At UBC, the rape chant at the Sauder School of Business this was the Ubyssey‘s top story of the year. As it went, for the same practice Saint Mary’s University conducted an extensive investigation and issued an exhaustive report– 110 pages. Administrators held or took accountability. At UBC, in Sauder, not so much. A thin 5 page report and no mention of administration– this with a bloated leadership team at Sauder.

So what happened between December 2013, report time and now late summer 2014, orientation time? Well, this summer SMU issued an Update from the President’s Council and created an Action Team. The entire orientation culture was changed. At UBC, not so much.

Sauder Dean Helsley said “There has been a lot of work done in setting expectations for what is appropriate in orientation activities.”

New activities are good.

But Dean Helsley has yet– after a year– to account for his administration’s failures or announce changes at the top that might actually trim the bloat and streamline a few of the associate or assistant deans toward the undergraduate curriculum and students. Nothing yet. Still waiting. Welcome back!



Chronicle of Higher Education, June 11, 2014–James L. Turk is retiring from his post as executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the national union representing almost all of Canada’s faculty and academic staff members, on June 30. In an interview with Karen Birchard, a Canadian correspondent for The Chronicle, he looked back on his 16 years at the helm of the organization. What follows is an edited version of their conversation.

Q. Why are you retiring now?

A. I feel very strongly that organizations need new blood and new leadership. I probably pushed the envelope by staying 16 years. I love what I’m doing and look forward to it every morning, but it’s good for the organization to have someone else do the job.

Q. Did you achieve what you wanted to at CAUT?

A. The organization has grown and moved forward. But there’s always so much more that can be done.

Q. Like what?

A. A lot of union members treat membership like their insurance company—”We pay our dues, and if there’s trouble, there’s the union to support us.” But the reality is, our biggest obligation is to defend and protect those things that are the core of what makes good university and college education possible. There are powerful forces trying to change those things, and we have to engage our members more actively in that struggle.

Q. What issue stands out?

A. One of our biggest problems, like in the United States, has been the casualization of the profession. This means a significant proportion of the people teaching at our universities are exploited, are paid a miserable amount of money, don’t have basic rights to be paid to do scholarly work or to do service, and are often excluded from participation in development of curriculum. We’ve made huge progress in unionizing them and creating the possibility for advances, but a large part of that work is undone.

Q. What’s the future for unionism for academic faculty and staff members in Canada and the United States?

A. In Canada, university and college teachers have the highest degree of unionization of any employee group in the country, and that has been vital in protecting the integrity of our universities and colleges, as well as academic freedom and the quality of education.

The situation is dramatically different in the United States, where the majority of universities don’t even have faculty unions. More than a third of the states have laws that effectively undermine unionization, so faculty in the United States don’t have the tools available to us in Canada.

Q. Is academic freedom in Canada stronger or weaker than when you started?

A. I would say stronger, in part because now almost everybody is unionized. We have such a strong expectation of academic freedom in Canada that any university administration that violates it becomes a pariah.

Q. What are you going to do next?

A. I’ve been offered a position as a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson University, in Toronto. I’m going to be working toward creating a center for the promotion of freedom of expression. I will also be doing some work with CAUT and with some individual faculty associations and a fair amount of media work around higher education.

Read More: Chronicle of Higher Ed