Tag: higher education

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a leader in the fight for higher ed affordability, makes the POLITICO 50

There are two kinds of political activists: those who dedicate their time to a worthy political cause, and those who are absolutely awesome at it. One of those people who are absolutely awesome at advocating for a worthy political cause is Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the author of the book Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream.

Goldrick-Rab is not just a professor and an author about the high cost of higher education in this country. She’s also a staunch advocate for ideas to make higher education affordable in America, and, for her advocacy, she’s earned a spot in this year’s POLITICO 50, a list of more than 50 of the most politically influential people and institutions in America published by POLITICO Magazine. Here’s what POLITICO Magazine wrote about Goldrick-Rab’s work:

Clinton’s plan, however, was neither the highest-profile nor most radical. It was Bernie Sanders who campaigned on the issue most vocally during the primaries, pushing not just debt-free college but universal free tuition for public higher education. That idea has roots in the work of Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. In 2014, Goldrick-Rab proposed a “free two-year college option” that would cover tuition at public universities, as well as some living expenses. The plan drew on her study of more than 3,000 students receiving federal aid and Pell Grants in Wisconsin, which revealed that those students were still crippled by living costs.

I’ve never met Sara Goldrick-Rab in person, but, as someone who is an online friend of Goldrick-Rab (I follow her on Twitter), she is an absolutely awesome person who truly cares about . I’m proud of her.

You can view Goldrick-Rab’s website here and view her Twitter page here.

It’s a national tragedy that many of America’s college students are homeless

Earlier this month, Glamour magazine posted an article to their website about a subject that, while most people wouldn’t find to be exactly glamorous, is a very serious issue facing our country: homelessness in higher education. You’d have to read the entire article, which you can view here, to truly understand how serious of an issue homelessness in higher education is.

The article is about Brooke Evans, a formerly homeless student at University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) who helped start a food pantry for students at UW-Madison. In addition to her efforts to start a food pantry for her fellow students, Evans has advocated for, among other things, requiring college and university cafeterias to accept food stamps and offering free mailboxes to students at her university who don’t have a postal address. Evans has gone above and beyond in her efforts to advocate for improving the lives of college and university students in America.

Evans isn’t the only college student in this country who has been homeless while in college. In fact, federal statistics has shown that over 59,000 applicants for federal student aid last year reported being homeless, and homelessness among college students in America is on the rise. There are a perfect storm of circumstances contributing to an increase in college homelessness, most notably that an increasing number of students from low-income households are attending college, that a college or university education of some kind is needed for virtually every good-paying job in the United States nowadays, and, most importantly, that tuition and other college-related expenses have risen dramatically in recent decades.

I admire Brooke Evans’s advocacy for homeless and poor college students. We really need a lot more people like her to stand up for our country’s most vulnerable and forgotten-about people.

Bruce Rauner’s War on Downstate Illinois

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has, despite winning a very large percentage of the downstate vote in the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial election, waged a war on downstate Illinois ever since taking office, much of which involves, either directly or indirectly, his political hostage-taking in regards to the state budget (which Illinois has operated without for a very long time because of Rauner).

There are several reasons why Rauner’s destructive politics has negatively impacted downstate Illinois.

Agricultural education

Rauner has, as recently as March of this year, targeted agricultural education, which has helped thousands of Illinois farmers better understand the land and farming practices, for complete elimination of state funding. This is obviously a blatant attack against downstate Illinois by Rauner, since nearly all of the agricultural industry’s economic activity in Illinois occurs downstate.

Higher education funding in general

It’s not just agricultural education that has been negatively impacted by Rauner’s War on Higher Education. Higher education in general, and, in particular, Eastern Illinois University, have felt the wrath of Rauner since taking office. Rauner has refused to fund public higher education institutions in Illinois. Eastern Illinois University, which serves a very conservative region of the state, has been forced to lay off nearly 200 employees and is on the brink of being forced to permanently shut down.

Illinois State Museum

Another casualty of Rauner’s War on Downstate is the Illinois State Museum, which is located in Springfield. The state museum was forced to close due to the lack of a state budget, meaning that the art exhibits, natural history exhibits, and other exhibits housed at the state museum are not accessible to the public.

Whoever Democrats nominate in the 2018 election for Governor of Illinois will have to address the concerns of downstate voters in order to defeat Bruce Rauner.

While Illinois doesn’t have a state budget, the University of Illinois hires a new football coach

It is pretty clear to me that the State of Illinois, under the failed leadership of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, is completely incapable of adequately funding state universities, including Chicago State University (which is laying off its entire workforce) and Eastern Illinois University (which is in serious trouble financially due to a lack of state funding).

Yet that hasn’t stopped our state’s flagship university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), from hiring a new coach for the university’s football team. Lovie Smith, a former NFL coach, was hired by UIUC to be the university’s new head football coach. I’ve not received any word on what Lovie’s annual salary will be, but I’m guessing that it’s a lot more than any elected official in Illinois makes, and that a significant chunk of it will be paid by Illinois taxpayers.

Bruce Rauner’s Illinois has the wrong priorities. While Rauner is completely unwilling to fund higher education in Illinois, Rauner has no problem with public universities shelling out big bucks for football coaches.

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

BREAKING NEWS: University of Mizzouri president Tim Wolfe resigning, Mizzou graduate student Johnathan Butler ends hunger strike

AUTHOR’S NOTE: In this blog post, “Mizzou” refers to the University of Missouri-Columbia, and “Mizzou System” refers to the entire University of Missouri System.


Tim Wolfe, the President of the University of Missouri System, is resigning amid a hunger strike by Mizzou graduate student Jonathan Butler, a strike by 32 members of the Mizzou football team, and a pervasive racist culture at Mizzou. Upon Wolfe’s resignation, Butler ended his hunger strike and has stated that Wolfe’s resignation should be the first step towards ending racism in the Mizzou System:

However, the president of the Mizzou System stepping down should be only the first step when it comes to ending the racist culture at Mizzou and in the Mizzou System.

Make no mistake about it, racism is a serious problem at Mizzou. The student body at the flagship Mizzou campus, located in Columbia, Missouri, is predominantly white, and black students have had to deal with racial slurs directed at them regularly. In one instance, someone drew a swastika, a symbol on the flag of Nazi Germany during Adolf Hitler’s fascist dictatorship, on a dormitory wall using human feces. That is just one of many racist incidents at Mizzou.

Just because Tim Wolfe stepped down doesn’t change the fact that racism is still a problem in the Mizzou System. The next Mizzou System president should take racism a lot more seriously and fight to make the Mizzou System campuses welcoming to all Mizzou System students and faculty.

PETITION: Tell President Obama and members of both houses of Congress to oppose the Campus Rapist Protection Act

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains a link to an online petition; the link is located at the bottom of the blog post.


U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, a Republican who represents the 5th Congressional District of Arizona, has proposed federal legislation, officially called the Safe Campus Act (H.R. 3403), that, if enacted, would require colleges and universities in this country to effectively cover up sexual assaults that occur on campus, unless police become involved with a particular case.

I’m not making this up at all…that is an actual bill that has been proposed in Congress.

While the bill is officially called the Safe Campus Act, it might as well be called the Campus Rapist Protection Act, as that’s a more accurate description of what the proposed legislation would do. The legislation would make it a lot easier for college students to get away with the criminal act of rape, and, therefore, make college campuses far more dangerous than they currently are. Furthermore, the legislation would, if enacted, result in fewer people attending college out of fear that they might be raped on campus.

The legislation is backed by numerous fraternity groups, which apparently think that their members have an unfettered right to have sex with every woman they can find, even if the women don’t consent to sexual activity. No person in this country has an unfettered right to sexually assault anyone. In fact, sexual assault is a crime, and it should be treated seriously, not swept under the rug.

I’ve created a petition calling for President Barack Obama and members of both houses of Congress to oppose H.R. 3403. You can sign the petition here.

Former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott now lobbying for pro-rape legislation in Congress

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains extremely strong and profane language referring to sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.


This is one of the most repulsive ideas I’ve ever heard of…a group of Republicans in Congress, including Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), have proposed legislation that would prohibit colleges and universities from disciplining students who rape someone, unless law enforcement becomes involved in a rape case.

Guess who is lobbying for this ridiculous piece of legislation? Chester Trent Lott, Sr., the former Senate Majority Leader who is more commonly known as Trent Lott. You might remember Lott from his infamous remarks from 2002, in which he publicly defended segregationist Strom Thurmond’s third-party 1948 presidential campaign (Thurmond lost to President Harry Truman). Those remarks forced Trott to resign from the leadership of the Senate Republicans. Now, Lott is lobbying for pro-rape legislation that would make it much easier for college students to rape someone, which is a criminal act in every jurisdiction in this country, and not get caught.

While the proposed legislation is called the Safe Campus Act (SCA), this legislation would actually make college campuses far more dangerous for students. What this legislation would do is effectively force college and universities in this country to give a free pass to rapists if nobody reports the criminal act to law enforcement. Congressional Republicans and Trent Lott are supporting the idea of forcing institutions of higher education to cover up sexual assaults perpetrated by their students.

Anyone who supports this ridiculous legislation apparently believes that male college students have an unfettered right to fuck every woman they want to, even if the women don’t consent to the sexual acts. No person in this country has an unfettered right to perform sexual acts on someone else without their consent, in fact, it’s a crime to rape someone.

I’ve seen the Republican Party do incredibly asinine things in my lifetime, but this is the single most repulsive thing I’ve ever seen the Republicans do.

Hillary Clinton’s higher education affordability plan? Ridiculous work requirements!

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said this to the editorial board of the far-right Des Moines Register, a newspaper that endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 general election for president:

Make no mistake about it, work requirements for college students would encourage less Americans to attend college and would make America even more of a low-wage economy than it currently is. It’s extremely difficult for college students to work even a part-time job while attending several college classes per day. Furthermore, the vast majority of college students who do work while in college work low-wage jobs, such as flipping hamburgers at fast food restaurants. People go to college to work a good-paying job after graduation, not work a low-wage job while attending college.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders has a real plan to make college more affordable by taxing Wall Street speculation to pay for truly affordable higher education without a ton of strings attached. With countries like Germany moving to steal our nation’s future by making higher education more affordable, America can’t afford another Clinton workfare scheme.

Does the Democratic establishment overemphasize student loan reform and college affordability?

Make no mistake about it, the growing student debt problem in this country is one of the most serious problems facing this country. However, I believe that heavily emphasizing student loan reform and other college affordability measures hurts Democrats electorally.

There are two reasons why I believe that making student loan reform and other college affordability measures a key part of a Democratic campaign’s message, as Hillary Clinton has done, runs the risk of being an electoral loser for Democrats. First, most Americans don’t really care about student debt, unless they’re directly impacted by it. Secondly, emphasizing college affordability as a key part of a campaign message only resonates with voters that are directly impacted by student debt (mostly younger voters who are either in college or recently graduated from college), in effect, leaving blue-collar voters, such as poor minorities and white working-class people, essentially abandoned by the political party that best represents their interests, which is the Democratic Party.

Would I suggest that Democratic candidates drop college affordability plans altogether? Absolutely not. Would I suggest that Democrats not talk about student loan reform and college affordability? Absolutely not. In fact, I believe that the student debt problem in this country needs to be seriously addressed, as Bernie Sanders has done with his plan to tax Wall Street speculation to pay for a plan for more affordable higher education in America. However, Democrats cannot afford to abandon poor and working-class voters by overemphasizing an issue that few people in this country seem to care about.