food for thought: the long winter edition

As I put this links list together on Tuesday afternoon it’s snowing in Boston … again. My wife had gallbladder surgery on Friday, thankfully between blizzards, and we’ve been snug at home over the long weekend as she heals. I was grateful not only for the skilled and kind surgeon and medical staff at Beth Israel Deaconness hospital here in Boston, but also for the robust insurance my wife has through work, and also for the fact we live in a state where I don’t have to worry about being kept from her side due to non-recognition of our kinship status.

This morning we walked 1/2 mile up the road to enjoy leisurely cafe au lait at Caffe Aromi in Hyde Square — my wife’s first venture out since returning from the hospital. At the Hyde Square traffic circle we passed a group of incarcerated folks, similar to this crew, being paid less than $1.00/hour to clear roads and sidewalks throughout Boston. While I am glad that incarcerated people have opportunities to work for wages, it is deeply problematic that they are required, by law, to be paid less than minimum wage, with sketchy workplace protections at best.

Meanwhile, I logged into my work email this morning to find that people had driven to work only to be unable, full stop to find a place to park their cars. So they’d had to turn around and return home. That’s how structurally unable to handle the snow Boston is. It’s been a season of reckoning with the power of the nature world to humble human inventions like city infrastructure.

This week’s links…

Katha Pollitt @ The Nation | Republicanism vs. Multiculturalism in France (via Amiable P.G.)

Like the United States, France enshrines the separation of church and state in law, but laïcité, which is usually translated as “secularism,” is much more than that. In the United States, especially in recent years, the accent is on protecting believers from government interference, including, as in the Hobby Lobby case, excusing them from following important laws that benefit hundreds of thousands of people and that everyone else must follow. Laïcité, by contrast, is overtly anticlerical: it’s the creation and maintenance of a religion-free public space. In America, which has always been a jumble of denominations, atheists are few and Christianity is vigorous and politically powerful, and conservatives tend to support a wider public role for religion. But in France, where Catholicism is on the wane and Islam is energetic, even Marine Le Pen supports laïcité.

Colleen Flaherty @ InsideHigherEd | 15k Per Course?

Most observers agree that adjunct instructors deserve better pay, but what about $15,000 per course? The Service Employees International Union shocked even some adjunct activists last week when it announced that figure as a centerpiece of its new faculty advocacy campaign. But while union leaders admit the number is bold, those involved in the campaign say adjuncts might as well aim big, since they have little to lose. They also say they hope the $15,000 figure will force a national conversation about just how colleges spend their money, if not on middle-class salaries for instructors.

Eric Loomis @ Lawyers, Guns, and Money | Workplace Safety

One of things that drives me really crazy is when people talk about unions only in terms of financial gain. While workers (or anyone) will never turn down more money, unions are not primarily about money. They are about dignity on the job and worker power to have a say in their work life. To achieve that dignity and that voice, workers may very well want higher wages. But they may also want shorter hours, better equipment, a break for lunch, not to have to provide their own clothing or safety equipment, and an end to arbitrary firings, just to name a few of the issues workers have fought for in the past and/or fight for in the present.

Nicole Sanchez @ Medium | Which Women in Tech?

Something that everyone paying attention to diversity in tech needs to understand is this: White women speaking for us as representatives of the “diversity in tech” movement must stop. White women are a small sliver of the available talent, but are currently used as the proxy for all diversity. What works for them is not what works for us.

Nomy Lamm @ The Body is Not an Apology | This is Disability Justice

Soon after I moved to San Francisco eight years ago, I was introduced to radical crip artist/activists Leroy Moore and Patty Berne, and the project they founded, Sins Invalid. I had recently been approved for federal disability benefits, and though I have a lifelong disability and have been an activist since I was a teenager – and even though I’d spent the past fifteen years doing fat liberation work, and the past five years doing personal work around the legacy of medical trauma in my life – I had not figured out a way to integrate my politics within a bigger framework of disability activism.

Nadine Muller | An Anxious Mind

You tell yourself that things will be different once you have that holy grail, that first permanent academic job, when you can relax on a decent salary, traveling to only one place of work, being an integral part of your department and a permanent good colleague. But if you internalize the behavioral patterns described above now, during your Ph.D., they won’t ever go away. Not on their own, not without you recognizing that you are the one who maintains them, feeds them. You will continue to feel insecure, you’ll feel unfairly threatened by colleagues, you will beat yourself up because not everyone in your department likes you, because you can’t please everyone, because you do everything wrong, always. While academia can be challenging and punishing in itself, don’t underestimate the effect your Ph.D. studies can have on you. Depending on your subject, spending three years on your own and largely in your head is bound to throw up the good, the bad, and the ugly, especially if you have struggled with mental health issues before.

WBUR (AP) | Harvard, MIT Sued Over Lack of Closed Captioning Online

Advocates for the deaf sued Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Thursday, saying the universities failed to provide closed captioning for online courses, podcasts and other educational programs.

All Confirmation Bias, All the Time | Creating Just Online Social Spaces

Social spaces grow from their seed members, and as it’s been studied, people’s social networks tend to be racially and genderwise insular; White members beget more white members; men bring more men, especially in technology as we’ve found. If a space is insufficiently representative of the diversity of experiences that should be there, people will leave, having seen yet another space that isn’t “for” them. So, too, power structures reflect the initial or core body of a social group, and a social group will tend to reflect the demographics of those in positions of power, creating a feedback cycle that will be hard to break without a lot of effort. Seed your network as broadly as you can, and put people without homogenous backgrounds in power.

What have you been reading and thinking about vis a vis work and social justice this week? Share, as always, via email, Twitter, or in comments.

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