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Prindle and Conflict Studies to host ‘The Trials of Muhammad Ali’ outdoor screening on September 17

Come out to the Prindle Institute on Wednesday, September 17 at 8 PM for an outdoor screening of the 2014 documentary The Trials of Muhammad Ali. Movie snacks will be provided including apple cider and DIY s’mores around Prindle’s fire pit. Bring blankets to enjoy this film on the Prindle Courtyard lawn as you get a closer look at the life of one of the most celebrated athletes and public figures of all time. The film, directed by Bill Siegel of Kartemquin Films, recounts the difficulties that Ali faced as he converted to Islam and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, specifically addressing the conflict between personal values and public image.

Here’s an excerpt from Mick LaSalle’s review of the film in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“There’s history as it’s remembered, and then there’s history as it happened. This documentary gives us the latter, and it’s a true education…’The Trials of Muhammad Ali’…documents a crucial decade in Ali’s life, and over the course of the film you can see him changing his public strategies, or perhaps just changing as a person.”

And another from Bruce Ingram’s review for the Chicago Sun-Times:

“…As a testament to inner strength, or epic stubbornness, or both, “Trials” is a mind-blower. Especially when you see the way Ali stood firm — and seemed to grow and mature — as he became a highly visible lightning rod for all of the most hotly contested social and political issues of the late ’60s.”

Watch the trailer on the film’s website here. This screening is co-sponsored by Prindle and the Conflict Studies department.

Need a ride? The DePauw bus will leave the UB for Prindle at 7:45. We hope to see you there!

‘Green Dot’ Methods Reduce Power-Based Violence

The Prindle Institute is excited to welcome Dr. Dorothy Edwards, founder of Green Dot Strategy to DePauw for a lecture this evening in the Green Center for the Performing Arts, Kresge Auditorium at 7 PM. Dorothy will discuss Green Dot and ways that campus communities can work towards a healthier, safer social environment. This event is presented by the Delta Gamma Lectureship of Ethics and Values.

The Green Dot violence prevention program aims to eliminate instances of power-based violence (including sexual abuse, domestic violence, and bullying) by emphasizing the role of the bystander. This innovative method draws attention away from placing blame on either the perpetrator or the victim, as that’s where debates usually get messy when it comes to issues of violence. By shifting the focus to the bystander, Green Dot is able to empower individuals by helping them recognize potential “red dots,” or situations that could lead to violence, and encouraging them to actively intervene and perform positive “green dots” to prevent the situation from escalating. The Green Dot strategy “targets all community members as potential bystanders, and seeks to engage them, through awareness, education, and skills-practice in proactive behaviors that establish intolerance of violence as the norm.”

With power-based violence so prevalent in our society, it can be easy to get discouraged about how to bring about change. Green Dot is well aware of this, and its strategy is informed by an impressive amount of research about how to most effectively communicate with individuals about violence, helping them to understand that bystander actions can be highly impactful. A promising recent study by Ann Coker at the University of Kentucky revealed that the Green Dot method significantly reduced the amount of reported sexual assault cases at high schools that implemented its strategy.  The study found “a greater than 50 percent reduction in the self-reported frequency of sexual violence perpetration by students at schools that received the Green Dot training, compared to a slight increase at schools that did not.” This is incredibly hopeful news for Green Dot and those working towards violence prevention. It’s a clear indication that Green Dot’s mission to “measurably and systematically reduce violence within any given community” is within our power. We hope you’ll join us for Dorothy’s lecture to learn more about ways that DePauw and Green Dot can work together to improve campus climate.

Wayne Hsiung of DxE Inspires Student Activism

Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere, spoke at DePauw University this past Wednesday, September 10.DSC_7352

Wayne Hsiung calls himself a “Journeyman”. He advised Depauw students that you learn a whole lot about yourself and the world through diverging from a path with which you are not happy or satisfied. After studying law and working as a law professor for some time, Hsiung decided to enact change in his life by pursuing his passion for grassroots community-based organizing.

DSC_7366Just 10 months ago, Hsiung co-founded Direct Action Everywhere. DxE is a grassroots organization fighting for animal liberation from abuse. Hsiung emphasized the word “direct” to highlight DxE’s focus on directly challenging the opposition and inspiring a network of resistance. According to Hsiung, much of the organization’s success can be attributed to an understanding that “it’s not about being nice, it’s about being effective.” Hsiung revealed that anger is a driving force behind demonstrations.

Much of the action that DxE has taken in the last year has been in direct opposition to Chipotle’s inhumane treatment of animals. By organizing public protests at the restaurants themselves, DxE prompts customers and passersby to contemplate the ethics behind the consumption of animal products. What corporate structures and systems of oppression do we support by buying into the practices of chain restaurants like Chipotle?DSC_7385

The slogan, “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence” characterizes DxE’s campaign strategy.

Hsiung reiterated, however, that the mission of DxE is not to convert individuals into vegetarians and vegans, but instead to inspire a network of activists even if that doesn’t mean becoming vegan. It’s about “inspiring ordinary people to speak out in mass,” he says. Only then can we transform not only individual behavior, but also society’s belief systems at large. “Connect, create, inspire.” -DxE


Should Professors Ban Student Emails?

A few weeks ago Spring-Serenity Duvall, an assistant professor of communications at Salem College, banned student emails. It began with a syllabus policy identifying when students could email her for things, the idea being that students simply shouldn’t email for things that they could easily find out for themselves. But the list became complicated, and finally she decided to…ban all student emails, unless it was to set up an appointment to come see her. As draconian as it sounds, Duvall self reports success, and even that her students enjoyed the policy. As this article notes

After one semester, Duvall said, the email policy has been an “unqualified success.” She reported spending less time filtering through “hundreds of brief, inconsequential emails,” and noticed that students came to class better-prepared and wrote better papers. She allowed one exception to the rule — students emailing her content relevant to the course. During her decadelong career as a college instructor, Duvall said, she has never received more phone calls and more student visits during her office hours. 

Students, in turn, gave the course better evaluations than previous cohorts, and rated Duvall’s concern for their progress and efforts to make herself accessible as “excellent.” Only one student out of 48 had something to say about the email policy — a quibble about not being able to ask simple yes-no questions — but even that student endorsed Duvall’s preference for in-person meetings.

But is this really a good policy? Should professors ban student emails? Danielle DeRise, responds to the above article arguing that they should not. Interestingly, not because she thinks the policy is draconian, but that students ought to figure out email etiquette for themselves. As she notes:

But isn’t there something to be said for letting young adults — especially those enrolled in a communications course — navigate the delicate rules of student-professor etiquette on their own? For letting them fail at it even? Suppose you email about a problem your professor deems trifling. The two worst consequences are (a) no response or (b) a snippy response. In my own college days, I sent emails that at the time seemed vital but that I now recognize as self-absorbed and/or irritatingly Type A. After a few terse one-liners from professors I admired, I became a less zealous emailer.

What do you all think? Is it permissible for professors to ban email, or not?

Trouble in paradise? Hawaii’s homeless population faces problematic legislation

The politics surrounding treatment of homeless populations has long been an area of ethically problematic legislation. The latest conflict in this trend can be seen in Hawaii, where officials are considering legislation that will move the homeless away from tourist areas. The proposals will also criminalize “sitting, lying down, defecating and urinating on sidewalks in Waikiki and other public places.”

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What the Ray Rice Video Suggests About Our Moral Thinking

At 1:00 AM on September 8 TMZ posted a disturbing security video showing Ray Rice, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, punching his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, rendering her unconscious. At 11:18 AM the Ravens tweeted that Rice’s contract had been terminated. At 11:41 AM, the NFL tweeted that Rice had been suspended from the league indefinitely.

Here’s at least one odd thing about this: it was already known that Rice punched Palmer and rendered her unconscious. As early as February 2014 there were reports of what the video depicted. So, why the outrage now? Why the sudden calls for action? After all, nothing morally relevant is changed by the fact that now many people have seen the punch rather than merely having been told about it.

Perhaps you’re like me, though. Although there were reports of the incident in February 2014, you weren’t aware of the incident until now. There’s nothing about seeing the incident that changes its moral features, you might say, it’s just that the video gave the story a wider reach and now you’re aware of it. This, in turn, increased the pressure on the Ravens and the NFL to take action.

That’s perhaps a comforting thought, at least with respect to our reaction to the case (it’s not so comforting a thought with respect to the Ravens and the NFL). But it masks a thought that is less comfortable, even for you and me. The less comfortable thought is that even if you or I had known about the incident in February, we still probably wouldn’t have responded in the same way as we did after seeing the video. Why? Because there is considerable psychological evidence that our moral responses to cases are strongly influenced by our emotions. [1. For a nice, accessible, summary of some of this research, see Joshua Greene’s 2013 book, Moral Tribes (Penguin Press) His website includes additional papers on the same topic] And—for most of us anyway—seeing a video of domestic violence is much more emotionally engaging than reading a dry report of the same thing.

This should give us pause. Sure, suffering might feel worse if we see it, but does it really make it worse? It seems not. A seen punch hurts just as much as an unseen one; a child that we see starving suffers just as much as one that we do not see. There’s an important lesson here: our moral psychology can sometimes fool us into making spurious distinctions. Our proximity to suffering or way of learning about suffering is not plausibly a morally relevant feature of it, but we often treat it as if it is.[2. This is not a new point. In his 1972 paper, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”, Peter Singer writes: “The fact that a person is physically near to us, so that we have personal contact with him, may make it more likely that we shall assist him, but this does not show that we ought to help him rather than another who happens to be further away.” (p. 232).] This can have profound consequences, not just with respect to domestic violence in the NFL, but with respect to us playing our appropriate moral role in the world.

TheSkimm: Is “Reading the News” Overrated These Days?

“I really should read the news, but I _______”. Insert excuse here. This might be a direct quote from myself this morning at breakfast.

We’ll admit it. We’ll even take pride in it: We’re busy, we’re caught up, and we’re stressed. Yes, Iraqi citizens are getting bombed and victims of the Ukraine conflict are losing family members daily, buuuuut I have 3 papers due this week, I have to find a summer internship, and my roommate’s gonna kill me if I don’t do my laundry soon.

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Humorous (but Serious) Critique of Student Loan Problem

Don’t be fooled by the (sometimes) off-color nature of this examination of the student loan problem. Through the humor, Oliver identifies some serious moral worries about the nature of what we might call the student loan problem.

Highlights include:

  • Total student loan debt is more than auto-loan debt and more than credit-card debt.
  • Student loan debt is a unique kind of debt that cannot be discharged via bankruptcy protection.
  • The fact that it’s not dischargeable via bankruptcy protection is made morally worse by the fact that it is one of the easiest kinds of debt to secure, at a time when the consumers are at their most vulnerable.
  • The for-profit college industry is a huge driver of this problem.

What do you think should be done about the student loan problem? Should student loans be dischargeable via bankruptcy protection? Shoulthere be restrictions on the for-profit college industry’s access to federal loans for students? Let us know what you think.

Can Death Row Inmates Save Lives?

There is no question that, in many cases, it is ethically wrong to kill. But is it possible for it to be ethically wrong to save a life?

In an “ethically troubling” situation in November 2013, death-row inmate, Ronald Phillips, requested to donate his organs (his kidneys to his mother, and his heart to his sister), one day before he was scheduled to face lethal injection.  While this life-saving intention seemed rather simple, this unprecedented case of death row donation in the state of Ohio presented a conundrum of ethical issues to Ohio governor, John Kasich, who asked for an additional 230 days to review the case. Kasich eventually denied Phillips’ request to donate his organs, contending that the act may not be medically feasible.  Regardless of the verdict, this case remains to hold ethical importance because of the nature of the different parties involved.

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Unrighteous Sundays: Is the NFL unethical?

This past weekend marked the beginning of the National Football League’s regular season schedule. Jeb Lund of The Guardian decided to commemorate the opening with an article entitled, “Does watching the NFL make you evil?” His op-ed is an eye opening collection of ethical criticisms concerning America’s favorite game. Lund points to examples of racism, sexism, corruption and all encompassing corporate greed that will cause even the most hardcore fan to rethink the way in which they view the National Football League.

Football is no longer just a game; it is a billion dollar industry. This transformation of innocent athletic competition into profitable business has created a plethora of moral conundrums that everyone, especially those who follow the league with a near cult-like devotion, must come to face. Lund points out the unwillingness of the NFL or its fans to take action in the name of these ethical dilemmas and how our personal moral compromises due to our love of the game will only perpetuate the current system. So, should we sideline our fandom because it is the ethical thing to do? Do you believe that “…when the game is right – when it really goes right – it is beautiful enough, even for just a little while, to let us forget everything else?” And what does it say about our collective societal values if we are willing to let our morals take a backseat to athletic entertainment.

Read what Jeb Lund has to say and see if you’re still cheering come this Sunday.

Emma Sulkowicz Protests Sexual Assault with Performance Art

By taking on a voice of its own, performance art often eclipses the common perception of art as simply inert. Emma Sulkowicz, a senior Visual Arts major at Colombia University, is doing just this by protesting her rapist’s presence on campus for her senior thesis.

In the above video, Sulkowicz shares that she was raped on the first day of her sophomore year in her own dorm room. The university did not take actions to dismiss her rapist from campus. In a performance art demonstration that is nothing short of courageous, Sulkowicz plans to carry her mattress around with her everywhere she goes on campus until her rapist is expelled from the university.

The development of preventative sexual assault policies has only recently taken on a wide discursive presence on many college campuses. Student activists working to break the silence around sexual assault are pushing universities to evaluate the effectiveness of their policies. Organizations on my own campus, such as Code Teal, have emerged in response to the existence of sexual assault on campus to create a space for discussion and action.

It can get very complicated when cases of sexual assault must be processed on multiple levels, both on campus and on an official level. With so many cases beingdropped and perpetrators being let off the hook, I must question whether a motive to keep instances of sexual assault to a hush on campus influences administrative response.

Nevertheless, students like Sulkowicz are inspiring these conversations and forcing both students and administration to address a need for taking progressive preventative measures.


Political Offices for Sale?

Today, Former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and his wife of 38 year, Maureen, were convicted of 14 counts of conspiracy, bribery, extortion and other related charges that point to a scheme to sell the Governor of Virginia’s office which McDonnell held up until January of this year. Evidence shows that the McDonnell’s accepted over $177,000 in gifts and cash from dietary supplement executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr. A key part of contention for the defendant and the prosecutor was whether or not the McDonnell’s took these gifts with the intent of selling the office. According to Virginia ethics law, they were not prohibited from taking $120,000 in undocumented loans or the gifts like Armani dresses, Rolex watches or a check to pay for their daughter’s wedding.  This raises an interesting point in my eyes: why isn’t this illegal? Is it because the money was not used for anything state related?  Ethics laws should be in place to punish those who abuse their power- so why do they not apply in the McDonnell case?

Despite these charges, McDonnell argues that he gave Mr. Williams “the bare, basic, routine access to government and nothing more” (Gabriel 2).  Evidence shows that the McDonnell’s used Mr. Williams as a personal bank; they would borrow money whenever they needed too. Is this ethically sound? I wonder if Bob and Maureen McDonnell had been ordinary citizens who borrowed money and accepted gifts from a friend if 14 charges against them would still exist. This is not the first political scandal of the year; “Bridge gate” concerning Chris Christie occurred in late January and made American question his moral character as well. Does the American public deserve to demand a higher moral character from our elected officials?  Or should we allow them to slip up morally sometimes?

Find the full article concerning Former Gov. Bob McDonnell here.

Who Owns the Space Behind an Airline Seat?

There is a battle going on in passenger airplanes all over the country between passengers who think they have a right to recline their seat and the people in the seats behind them. The story broke last week when a man installed a new invention, The Knee Defender, to prevent a woman from reclining her seat. The airline attendant asked him to remove it, and he refused – presumably insisting on his right to not be encroached upon.

It’s now an interesting question: who has the right to the 12 inches of space. Josh Barro argues that the right goes to the person who controls the reclining function, because use of the reclining function was part of the purchase. He further argues that passengers to have to pay the person in front a fee to have them refrain from reclining. However, you might think that the person behind the potential recliner has purchased access to the space behind the seat. They would also have presumably purchased a right to the use the seat tray as they see fit. It’s also conceivable that the airlines have simply oversold the space, and have created a situation where there are incompatible claims on the same space. Damon Darlin argues (contra Barro) that the Knee Defender is a good thing because it evens the negotiation playing. Instead of being slammed into by the person with the advantage (the recliner), both sides are on equal negotiating ground.

Now, even philosophers are weighing in.

What do you think? Do seat recliners have the right to recline, or do the people behind the seats have the right to their leg room? Is it permissible to use The Knee Defender to stop a recliner?

Is Stealing Really Wrong?

In this video, Kate Manne, a philosophy professor at Cornell University,  offers a critical examination of the traditional notion that stealing is inherently wrongShe focuses on the case of The Barefoot Bandit. He grew up in dire straits, and he worked his way up from stealing bread to stealing planes. He committed over 100 burglaries, but for silly things. He’d sneak in to take a bubble bath, or eat a pint of ice cream. Sometimes his thefts were very large, but he was never violent and never confrontational. He ended his spree by stealing a plane and going to the Bahamas. Upon being arrested, the 18 year old was hailed by some as a folk-hero.

After polling the audience, we discover in the video  that almost half the audience has some sympathy for this criminal. She then lists off a host of real and fictional people who achieve cult status, but are primarily known for being thieves. Consider Yogi Bear. We don’t seem to have a problem with Yogi Bear, and so Manne notes that all of these examples show that we are, in her words, “a bit schizophrenic” with our attitudes toward the maxim that stealing is inherently wrong.

She calls this feeling of sympathy The Permissiveness Intuition. The video goes on to explore the moral psychology of that intuition, and she tries to articulate why some of us might have this permissiveness intuition. She then tries to tackle the question as to whether we are justified in having the permissiveness intuition. In other words, she asks – are some of us right when we have this permissiveness intuition. (The discussion of the permissiveness intuition starts at the 14 minute mark and last for only 10 minutes).

What do you think? Why might some people feel sympathy for these kinds of thieves? Are these intuitions reasonable?

The Celebrity Nude Leak: What’s in a View?

By now, most people have heard that nude photos of nearly 100 celebrities, including actress Jennifer Lawrence, were stolen and posted to the internet by a hacker. The resultant leak has sparked both an FBI investigation and significant public outcry. On one hand, it is relatively easy to evaluate the morality of the hacker’s actions. But do those who simply view the photos share the blame?

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Abolitionists Unfrozen

This article, by DePauw History professor David Gellman, originally appeared in Historians Against Slavery on August 15, 2014.

If all the great abolitionists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were cryogenically frozen, who would you reanimate to help liberate the world from the scourge of slave labor and human trafficking today? Frederick Douglass? William Lloyd Garrison? Harriet Tubman? Are there any antislavery activists you would just as soon leave in cold storage?

The culminating paper assignment in my “The American Experience: Abolishing Slavery” course asks students to contemplate such questions in order to thread history together with contemporary society. When we think of the millions of present-day victims of bondage, neither triumphalist narratives nor facile condemnations of the past remain satisfying. But, if I have done my job right over the course of the semester, the students have figured that out already and just need a final prompt to confirm the urgency of history as a tool for reimagining and reconstructing the world.

The actual written text of the topic is less glib than my opening paragraph suggests. Slavery is a somber subject. Still, one walks a fine line engaging 19 year-olds. I want them to take the subject and themselves seriously. Common sense and humility, however, tell me that writing a college paper is not saving the world—that almost all traditional writing assignments are exercises, indeed games, through which students play at being the intellectuals, leaders, activists, and citizens that they are in the process of becoming. The assignment reads more like this:

Apply what we have learned from attempts to abolish slavery in colonial America and the nineteenth century U.S. to the problem of contemporary slavery. Which types of people, organizations, and ideas from the past does the world most need now? Which ideas, people, organizations, and ideas would you transport from the past to the present if you could?

But when explaining the assignment verbally or when pushed to answer the inevitable student questions What do you want? and What are you looking for?, the cryogenic conceit of the assignment becomes more explicit. The disciplined imagination that scholar James Axtell identified as the stuff of good history is also, the topic proposes, the stuff of social and political engagement. Or put another way, this final paper topic gives me one last chance to drive home to students that there is no readily searchable right answer to really important questions, just the answers that they wrestle out of themselves from within.

So then the practical questions become: What sorts of readings do I deploy during the semester to prepare the students for this capstone encounter with today’s global slavery? What, as the course ends, do the students have inside that they can start to pull out and craft for the printed page?

I organize the course around biography. I feature the lives of women and men who played significant roles in the struggle against slavery in North America from colonial times through the Civil War. The cast of characters rotates from one version of the course to the next, a combination of quality texts, thematic coverage, and representativeness guiding my selections: Douglass, Garrison, Sarah Grimké, and Angelina Grimké have been staples. Tubman, John Brown, and David Walker have stimulated lively discussion and debate. Quaker pioneers Anthony Benezet and John Woolman have made valuable appearances, and Samuel Sewall’s 1700 essay “The Selling of Joseph” provides a useful prologue. In the 2014 version of the course, Solomon Northup became an irresistible addition, particularly since we were able to bring the film 12 Years a Slave to campus that same semester. Marcus Rediker’s retelling of the Amistad rebellion extended the biographical reach of the course across the Atlantic. Thanks to Richard S. Newman, students found Bishop Richard Allen’s life as a “Black Founding Father” compelling. Weighing Abraham Lincoln’s role in emancipation consistently provides a provocative climax.

I should pause here to point out that no matter where the students come from, except for Lincoln, Tubman, and perhaps Douglass, these men and women are almost entirely new to them, a headshot and a sentence in a high school history textbook not counting for much. Thus, while there are many other ways to organize a course on abolishing slavery in the U.S.—economics, political structure, ideological development—using personal narratives to get at larger structures has distinct advantages. Not only does biography make abolitionism accessible, this genre also emphasizes how people go about making choices to resist, denounce, and organize against injustice. The final essay about the present then becomes a logical but not over-determined outgrowth of the history we have just finished studying.

Still, to enliven this distant world of texts—and make the connection to our own–human resources can help. Each time I have taught the course, we have taken a voluntary field trip to Conner Prairie, Indiana’s marvelous living history park, for the “Follow the North Star” program. For an intense hour, participants inhabit the roles of fugitives treading the knife’s edge between the underground railroad and re-enslavement.

The best classroom debate could never replicate this poignantly designed experience. One year, I began the course with the DeWolf family, not only screening the documentary Traces of the Trade about a white family coming to grips with the legacy of their slave-trading forebears, but also inviting into the classroom Thomas DeWolf, one of the participants in the film and author of his own memoir. The most recent time I taught the course, local folk music legend and retired math teacher Mike Van Rensselaer held my class spellbound playing classics from the abolitionist songbook on the banjo and guitar. And in 2012, Historians Against Slavery founder James Brewer Stewart graciously discussed his biography of William Lloyd Garrison with the class. Embodying the historic struggle against slavery through guests and field trips enhances the prospect of bridging then and now.

Finally, in the closing week of the semester, we jump from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century by reading arresting accounts of human trafficking around the world. I have featured a different book each time: Kevin Bales, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy; Kevin Bales and Zoe Trodd’s edited volume, To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories by Today’s Slaves; and David Batstone, Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–And How We Can Fight It. These books have different strengths as teaching tools. Bales surveys the world with a combination of scholarly and journalistic acumen; Batstone functions as a latter-day abolitionist tract, as he portrays the heroic work of contemporary antislavery activists. But I found the Bales and Trodd collection of autobiographical accounts to be the best fit, dovetailing particularly well with the biographical theme of the course. Like the slave narratives of an earlier era, these accounts beckon to the reader’s moral imagination.

Still, the distance is unsettling. To go from the Civil War Amendments to children prostituted in Thailand and brick kiln laborers in the thralls of debt bondage in India, or to migrant laborers in Florida and housekeepers in Washington, D.C., does feel jarring. But I would argue that for students, history is always thus—an intimidating leap from then to now. No matter where one ends the nineteenth-century abolitionists’ story, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the unraveling of Reconstruction into Jim Crow, the light switch of the present must get flipped. My hope is that rather than feel frozen in their tracks by the horrors of the contemporary world, students will find the abolitionist footsteps they wish to follow.

Will you join the ALS Bucket Brigade?

If you have scrolled through any social media newsfeed in the past few months, you’ve probably watched your share of ALS Ice Bucket challenge videos.  Hilarious, but heartfelt, this viral phenomenon raises awareness for ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.  Those who suffer from ALS experience paralysis due to the degenerating connections between nerve cells in their body, and eventually fall victim to this horrible disease.

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