University of Illinois “Old” Alums Return for a Conference on the 1960s Protest Movement

A Saturday morning panel at conference on ’60s activism at UIUC

About 50 literally “old” University of Illinois alums returned to campus from around the country (and in one case, from Switzerland) to attend an October 4-5 conference about the 1960s UI student protest movements for free speech and against the Vietnam War. The conference was held in conjunction with the UI Press’s publication of a book by ’60s alum Michael Metz, entitled Radicals in the Heartland: The 1960s Protest Movement at the University of Illinois. The UI Press and the Library Archives Team organized the conference. Continue reading

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This is going to take more than windmills: Addressing Trauma at the UN Climate Summit

Climate activists from around the world converged on New York City during the United Nations Climate Summit in September, 2019, and I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute to this historic moment. There were scientists, lawyers, architects and diplomats—and of course Greta Thunberg (the Swedish teen who chastised the UN for its feeble track record on addressing the climate crisis)—but there were also artists, musicians and counselors in attendance. Yes, that’s right: counselors. Because if humans are going to survive the disruptions of the climate crisis, we are going to need to radically rethink how we relate to our planet and each other. Continue reading

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University and High School Students Collaborate to Host September 20th Climate Strike

Student climate strike at UIUC, September 20, 2019

Between September 20 and 27, over 6000 protests took place in 185 countries as part of the Global Week for Future. Students walked out of classes, workers went on strike, and millions gathered to demand climate justice and take action against corporate greed and negligence. These strikes, which were part of Greta Thunberg’s historic Fridays for Future campaign, shared the common goal of raising awareness about the dangers of fossil fuels. According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists agree that it is still possible to avoid climate catastrophe if we can dramatically reduce carbon emissions by 2030. This reduction is only possible if we increase the share of renewable energy sources (hydroelectric, solar, and wind), while keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Continue reading

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Homewrecker: Trump, the Kurds, and the Grand Strategy We Have Been Waiting For

Kurdish refugees fled ISIS in the past, and now flee the Turkish invasion

Donald Trump’s October decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria took his own advisors by surprise, not to mention the Kurdish military units that were U.S. partners in the war on ISIS during the past five years. Perhaps the only unsurprised party was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who moved quickly to eliminate the Kurdish forces across his southern border. Within days Turkish bombardment began and thousands of Kurds were fleeing south.

Trump’s policy reversal was rightly condemned as a betrayal of the Kurds, but the episode is merely one piece of a larger shift that is moving like a wrecking ball through U.S. policy circles. The trend predates Trump, but his style is accelerating the dismantling of the only platforms we have for confronting the challenges the planet faces. The reversal in Syria is a good place to start in examining the Trump effect on U.S. foreign policy and on the planet. Continue reading

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Students for Justice in Palestine Triumphs in Illinois Student Government Vote

On October 23, student organizers and members of Illinois Student Government (ISG) were elated to hear that a resolution demanding an apology from University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones had been passed by a vote of 29-4. The resolution criticized Chancellor Jones’s Massmail, which conflated criticizing Israel with anti-Semitism. In his Massmail, Jones relegates a swastika incident to a footnote, but dedicates paragraphs to the “anti-Semitic content” of a Multicultural Advocate’s student presentation on Palestine. Jones later admitted in an in-person meeting that this opinion was based on the interpretation by one student. ISG members also voted to send out their own Massmail (ISG is allotted three Massmails). The Massmail would be a factual response to the Chancellor’s email. The ISG victory came at a time when Palestinian students were being harrassed online by means of death threats and Islamophobic slurs.

Chancellor Jones’s email also included a list of his steps to ensure a safe campus, including training for housing personnel and reviews of housing policy and paraprofessionals hired. Despite this detailed agenda, there was no discussion of investigating the swastika found on campus, nor have there been any further statements on the swastikas that have appeared since. Continue reading

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Expanded Medicare for All: What It Is and What It’s Not (Part Two)

The Illinois Single-Payer Coalition-CU (ISPC-CU) is on the move. Following its successful November 16 workshop on improved and expanded Medicare for All (Med4All), held at the Champaign Public Library, ISPC-CU is laying the groundwork for further grassroots action in the local community.

Future plans include continuing to collect signatures on petitions urging Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to sign on as co-sponsors of the Med4All bill introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders. Earlier efforts conducted by one of ISPC-CU’s co-founders, CU Democratic Socialists of America, paid off dramatically. Approximately 2000 signatures were collected at the Urbana Farmers Market. Open to both organizational representatives and individuals, ISPC-CU hopes to get resolutions in support of Medicare for All legislation adopted by local governmental bodies. Continue reading

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Affordable Housing—For Whom?

Billions of federal, state and local dollars were spent on affordable housing for low income people last year. Yet 2.5 million children in the nation were homeless. Close to 700 of them were right here in Champaign County.

Most “affordable housing” dollars are spent to help people other than the poor. Funding for programs involving home ownership or new construction of multi-family complexes is favored over the one type of housing assistance that reaches the most needy households: rent subsidy. Continue reading

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African American Cultural Center Gets a New Building

The new African American Cultural Center on the UI campus

After 50 years of political struggle, the African American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois has a new building.

In 1969, the Black Student Association (BSA) and Black Champaign-Urbana activists, with support from white students, presented 41 demands to campus leaders.

One demand was for a Black Cultural Center that would serve the “social needs of Black students.”

The outcome: Chancellor J. W. Peltason authorized the creation of a “temporary” Black Cultural Center, as part his very own Special Educational Opportunity Program, popularly called “Project 500.” Later, Chancellor Peltason amended the mission of the Black Cultural Center to serve all students and all Champaign-Urbana Black residents. Continue reading

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After Statewide Coal Ash Victory, the Fight for the Middle Fork Continues

Protecting the integrity of our natural resources requires multigenerational vigilance, perseverance and dedication. Successes are rarely quick and easy, and generally only mark milestones in an unending quest to preserve what we hold dear. Such is the story of the mission to protect the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, Illinois’s only National Scenic River.

Previous attempts to dam or alter the river were met with strong public opposition and ultimately failed. Today we are again in the midst of a campaign to protect the river, this time from coal ash, a toxic byproduct of decades of coal combustion for power generation at the Vermilion Power Station. The power plant closed in 2011, but Dynegy Midwest Generation, the current owner of the property, now wants to cap and leave behind 3.3 million cubic yards of ash in three unlined pits immediately adjacent to the river. The river threatens to breach the berm holding the ash and coal ash pollutants are leaking into the river. Continue reading

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Expanded Medicare for All: What It Is and What It’s Not

Perhaps you’ve seen the video: a Vietnam veteran at a Bernie Sanders rally in Carson, Nevada takes the floor and describes how he is on the point of suicide due to the high uncovered costs of treating his Huntington’s disease. Or maybe you’ve read the recent press articles and TV news reports describing how people are dying due to rationing their insulin shots. The cost of insulin has skyrocketed, from $2,864 per patient per year in 2012 to $5,705 in 2016.

These are vivid reminders of how the current state of health care delivery in the United States kills people: kills them by virtue of inaccessibility, inadequate levels of coverage, and skyrocketing drug prices, among other deficit features. Is it any wonder that in survey after survey, people name health care as their primary concern—and not just the over 30 million that have no health insurance coverage? Continue reading

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