Examining Gender and Power in Fantasy Sports

This week in North Philly Notes, Rebecca Joyce Kissane and Sarah Winslow, co-authors of Whose Game?, discuss fantasy sports and a COVID-19 world without sports.  

Over the last few weeks, sports fans have witnessed the cancellation and postponement of nearly all sporting events and seasons. Colleges and universities took the lead, with the Ivy League cancelling their basketball tournaments on March 10, 2020. Others (e.g., the Golden State Warriors) moved from announcing plans to play games without spectators to pausing, delaying, or cancelling specific events and/or entire seasons. The NBA suspended the 2019-2020 season on March 11th after a player tested positive for the virus, and on March 13th, the NCAA cancelled March Madness and all its basketball championship tournaments; the NHL suspended its 2019-2020 season; U.S. soccer cancelled women’s and men’s national teams matches for March and April; the PGA cancelled its March tournaments; and the MLB cancelled spring training games and delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks. All this left sports fans and reporters wondering how to survive a world without sports and suggesting ways to cope with this sudden loss

Whose_GameCOVID-19, however, also directly impacts a parallel sporting universe important to millions of Americans—fantasy sports. The absence of live and televised sporting events also means the absence of fantasy sports, which depend upon the performance of real athletes to determine scoring, and, thus, wins and losses. In our book, Whose Game? Gender and Power in Fantasy Sports, we focus on everyday participants’ perspectives on traditional fantasy sports—those fantasy sports in which the players manage their teams over the course of an entire season alongside people they typically know. A key motivator for playing fantasy sports is entertainment, but we find that the hobby is more than just a simple source of enjoyment for players. This is particularly so for men who numerically, ideologically, and structurally dominate the hobby and often render women outsiders. Fantasy sports offer a personalized, competitive fandom that gives participants more potent and direct feelings of control over and connection to the successes of real-life athletes than being a regular sports fan does. White, highly educated, professional men (who represent the average player) can use fantasy sports to achieve and perform an expanded yet legitimate form of masculinity we call jock statsculinity. Jock statsculinity contains elements of traditional masculinities, as men utilize fantasy sports to exert control, compete, and exercise dominance. But jock statsculinity also has a nerdy quality, insofar as competition and dominance in this space center on testing and demonstrating intellectual acumen and knowledge of statistics and sports. Additionally, jock statsculinity involves a boyish element, as men play, act juvenilely, and relive their childhood dreams of being involved in professional sports. Finally, we find that jock statsculinity is about escape—as men use the hobby to blow off steam and avoid demanding aspects of work and home.

What’s more, fantasy sports provide participants with a reason to interact with others and a valued topic of conversation. Men make greater use of and depend more fully on fantasy sports than women to “stay in touch” and bond with, typically, the men in their friend groups. Notably, this bonding frequently rests upon trash and dominance talk, which further support masculine hierarchies and, at times, create discord. Sometimes, too, men express getting overly emotional, lashing out, and finding their day or week “ruined” by fantasy sports disappointments.

Given our findings, the (hopefully temporary) loss of sports and fantasy sports in the wake of COVID-19 mean more than just a loss of entertainment and a leisure activity. For men, it means the loss of a key vehicle by which they can perform and accomplish masculinity. We see suggestions of this throughout social media as men lament having to spend “the evening with my girlfriend watching Real House Wives of New Jersey” [sic] instead of participating in the appropriately masculine world of sports. Moreover, fantasy sports’ virtual platform make it ideally suited to keeping people socially connected while maintaining physical distance. Without sporting events, this potential is unrealizable. This may be particularly challenging for men, who rely heavily on fantasy sports to bond and keep in touch with family members and friends. This suggests that they will feel the socially isolating effects of COVID-19 more so than women who are more likely to have other outlets for connection. Lastly, Whose Game? demonstrates how fantasy sports provide a key respite from the demands of work and, particularly for men, home. As work and home meld, particularly for the typical highly educated fantasy sports player likely to now be working remotely, the loss of fantasy sports will leave many scrambling for other ways to relax and connect.

Don’t Take Your Local Newspaper for Granted

This week in North Philly Notes, Mary Lou Nemanic, author of Metro Dailies in the Age of Multimedia Journalismwrites about the importance of the daily newspaper. 

I’m endlessly troubled by the politicization of the news media and their demonization as the public enemy rather than as the providers of information that is vital to our democracy. Whenever I hear the news media trashed, the 1787 words of Thomas Jefferson come to mind:

“The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Metro_DailiesI couldn’t agree more. Newspapers today are comprised of individuals who provide us with a critical public service. They should be appreciated for this, not denigrated because the exposure of the facts conflicts with a political agenda.  I wrote Metro Dailies in the Age of Multimedia Journalism to emphasize this point and to make people aware of what profiteering corporations are doing to local newspapers across the country. We need to appreciate the public service our news media provide in speaking truth to power and in illuminating the issues and concerns that are significant in our lives.

The COVID-19 (corona virus) pandemic is a good example of this. While I often go to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s website for breaking news and I regularly get email summaries of major stories, the newspaper is where I go for in-depth information on international, national, regional, and local levels. There are infographics that show the spread of the pandemic, information on school and business closings and information on the Mayo Clinic fast-tracking a vaccine. There are resources for people who have questions and there are stories with experts who debunk popular social media myths about the disease.

Studies show people prefer long reads utilizing print rather than online platforms, and that newspapers—not online sources—provide readers with most of the original reporting available. And that includes investigations of political corruption and of major community issues, such as COVID-19. Yet, a rather alarming statistic unearthed by the Pew Research Center in 2018 indicates that more than 70% of Americans believe their local news outlets are faring well financially.

However, that means few are aware of what I witnessed in the six years of my study—that major metro newspaper staffs have shrunk from more than 100 to as few as 30 under the ownership of profiteering corporations. Of the five case studies in my book, three newsrooms were stripped to the bare bones. My hometown paper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, suffered this fate at the hands of Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that made double digit profits as the staff was laid off or offered buyouts until it was reduced to approximately 45 people. This tiny staff is responsible for both a newspaper and a website covering a city of more than 300,000 people.

Dave Orrick, a union representative and state government and politics reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is even trying to broker a deal to get local investors to buy the newspaper from Alden. Alden typically buys distressed companies, harvests them for substantial profits, and then sells off the remains. No individual or group has stepped up yet to buy the St. Paul paper, but Orrick hasn’t given up hope. His dedication to his newspaper and to journalism in these troubled times is truly impressive.

My appreciation for the free press dates back to my days at the University of Minnesota where I majored in journalism. The Journalism School there instilled in me a great respect for the free flow of information. As an undergrad, I had a chance to work for the student newspaper, The Minnesota Daily, the fourth largest daily newspaper in the state and a champion of the free press. In a lot of ways, Metro Dailies, is a book in defense of the free press at a time when its credibility is constantly under assault. I urge people to protect their local newspapers from profiteering ownership and to realize that is in our best interest for newspapers to survive and continue to be watchdogs over government and disseminators of essential information so vital to our democracy.

Here’s how the gender gap in presidential politics breaks down by issue

This week in North Philly Notes, a recent commentary by Mary-Kate Lizotte, author of  Gender Differences in Public Opinion from MarketWatch about what women want presidential candidates.

Gender_Differences_in_Public_OpinionMuch has been written about the gender gap in American electoral politics. In this year marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, a Democrat cannot win in November without women voters and without minority voters, particularly African Americans and Latinx. And what the majority of women want, according to my research as a political scientist, is for a candidate who promotes social equality and policies that provide for the well-being of all.

Democratic primary candidates and President Donald Trump should take note of these influences when strategizing how to promote women’s turnout and garner women’s vote in November.

Data on the presidential vote choice of men and women by demographic subgroup from 1980 through 2016 reveals that women are more likely than men in the same demographic subgroup to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate.

The overall gender gap between men and women who voted in the presidential race that election year during that period is only 6 percentage points. But within subgroups, the gap varies in size from 2 percentage points among African Americans and to 8 percentage points among those born prior to the boomer generation. These gaps are statistically significant.

What is most striking, though, are the differences between subgroups. The biggest difference is the race gap: 99% of black women voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in those years compared to only 38% of white women.

MW-IB466_lizott_20200304153901_NS

It is still true that women, across the different subgroups, are more likely than men to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. Why? Political science research, including my own, provides insight into what issues and other characteristics explain this phenomenon. Attracting the majority of women voters, especially white women, college-educated women, and black women, requires presidential candidates to highlight a vision of a more equal society and a government that protects the well-being of its citizens through a strong social safety net, a commitment to anti-discrimination policies and a green environmental policy agenda.

Statistical mediational analysis allows one to determine to what extent different factors explain the gender gap in presidential vote choice. Each of the factors discussed below were analyzed separately, and thus, the percentages do not add up to 100%.

• Egalitarianism, or a preference for an equal society, is a political value on which there is a gender difference. Egalitarianism explains 34.56% of the gender gap in presidential vote choice.

• Support for a social safety net includes a desire for more government spending on public schools, health care, and childcare; for more government services; and for a reduction in income inequality. Women across demographic subgroups of race, age cohort, income, and education prefer a strong social safety net compared to men of the same subgroup, and this explains an astounding 60.95% of the gender gap in vote choice.

This could prove detrimental for Trump’s 2020 campaign given his administration’s proposed budgetary cuts to such programs. It also may shed light on Sen. Bernie Sander’s popularity given his income equality campaign messaging and Vice President Joe Biden’s popularity because of the legacy of the Affordable Care Act.

• Women also are more likely than men to back anti-discrimination policies and express more progressive attitudes toward women and African Americans. With respect to discrimination, women are more in favor extending rights and legal protections to gay men and lesbians. In addition, women are more in favor of affirmative action compared to men. Attitudes toward gay men and lesbians having the legal right to adopt explains 28.99% of the gender gap and having legal protections against discrimination explain 25.47% of the gender gap in presidential vote choice.

In the past, attitudes toward affirmative action and women’s role in society has not been a factor in presidential vote choice. Of course that could change given the salience of #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo.

• Racial resentment, a measure of negative attitudes toward African Americans, explains 18.21% of the gender gap in vote choice and a strong predictor of presidential vote among white and Black voters.

• Environmental policy preferences also divide men and women. In comparison to white men and college educated men, white women and college educated women want more government spending and regulations to protect the environment. Among Black Americans, both men and women report high levels of support for environmental protection policies, including government spending and greater regulations. Attitudes toward government spending and regulations to protect the environment explain 14.81% and 20.93% of the gender gap in presidential vote choice.

Simply put, women are more likely to want a candidate who advocates for policies that promote equality and provide a social safety net. To motivate turnout among and procure votes from women, candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination should stress such a vision and emphasize how they differ from President Trump on these issues, on equality, and on compassion more generally.

Mary-Kate Lizotte is an associate professor of political science in the department of social sciences at Augusta University in Augusta, Ga., and the author of Gender Differences in Public Opinion.

Color for Every Season

This week in North Philly Notes, we feature a post by Linda Eirhart, author of The Winterthur Garden Guideabout the March Bank, which flowers in the winter. 

The calendar just now says March, but the March Bank at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library near Wilmington, Delaware, has had flowers in bloom since January. Henry Francis du Pont began planting bulbs in the woodland to the north of the family home in 1902. The area is called the March Bank due to its historic flowering time in March.  The display features the minor bulbs, snowdrops, winter aconites, snowflakes, squills and glory-of-the-snow.

March_Bank_by_Lois_Mauro resizeDu Pont planted thousands of these bulbs in large drifts in the style of the “wild garden.” The planting style was promoted by nineteenth-century British gardener and writer William Robinson.  In his words, the term “is applied essentially to the placing of perfectly hardy exotic plants in places and under conditions where they will become established and take care of themselves.”  With a little care over the past hundred years, the bulbs at Winterthur have multiplied to create a spectacular display.

March_Bank_3_by_Lois_Mauro resizeOn the March Bank, giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, is the first to flower, with its lovely white petals with green markings. A close look at this simple flower reveals a variety of thin, wide, long, puckered or possibly even doubled petals. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, begins to flower slightly later and extends the white display. It also deserves a closer look for the detailed differences in the flower forms.  The different species and cultivars can provide color from fall through March.WS02 Calanthus nivalis

Color, to du Pont, was a “vast field in itself” and, in the garden, “the thing that really counts more than any other.” By 1962 du Pont had been gardening for sixty years, and the Garden Club of America had recently named him “perhaps the best gardener this country has ever produced.” At Winterthur, he created a garden of surpassing beauty that in its complexity and coherence is a marvel of ingenuity. Plants bloom almost continuously throughout the year, with outstanding areas of color coming into focus in a well-planned sequence. In turn, each area melds seamlessly with its neighbors to form a unified whole. Such sequencing and continuity did not come about without a great deal of work and planning.

WS06The spring snowdrop display is brightened with the yellow of Amur Adonis, Adonis amurensis, and winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, both with round, multi-petal flowers that resemble large buttercups.  Adonis will spread slowly in the garden, but winter aconites are vigorous growers that readily self-sow once established. Avoid planting them by smaller more delicate spring plants that they might smother.

To heighten and extend the yellow display, du Pont chose Japanese cornel dogwood, Cornus officinalis, an understory tree whose yellow flowers begin to shine while the giant snowdrops and winter aconites are still flowering.  As the snowdrops and aconites fade, this dogwood’s flowers will continue to bloom while the March Bank transitions to a brilliant carpet of blue.

Chionodoxa forbesii

Chionodoxa forbesii

Primarily responsible for the blue phase is the glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa forbesii, which covers acres on the March Bank and throughout the garden. This small bulb grows well in both the woodlands and in the lawn.  In some areas, Siberian squills, Scilla siberica are planted with it and overlap somewhat in flowering time. Early daffodils, Narcissus, add a soft yellow sprinkling among the waves of blue.

Winterthur GardenAs spring progress, Virginia bluebells, poeticus daffodils, ostrich ferns and hosta will cover the dying foliage of these early bulbs and create wonderful displays for late spring and summer. Though these displays cover acres at Winterthur, you can apply the concepts of the “wild garden,” successional bloom and layering plants to gardens of all sizes. Consider a small drift of snowdrops to brighten the winter entrance to your home or planting glory-of-the-snow in your lawn to create a sea of blue.

Du Pont experimented in the Winterthur garden for more than sixty years. The Winterthur Garden Guide shares the plant combinations and design principles that have stood the test of time.

 

 

Celebrating Black History Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we provide a roundup of some of the Press’s recent and classic Black History titles. 

The Great Migration and the Democratic Party: Black Voters and Realignment of American Politics in the 20th Century, by Keneshia Grant

The Great Migration and the Democratic Party frames the Great Migration as an important economic and social event that also had serious political consequences. Keneshia Grant created one of the first listings of Black elected officials that classifies them based on their status as participants in the Great Migration. She also describes some of the policy/political concerns of the migrants. The Great Migration and the Democratic Party lays the groundwork for ways of thinking about the contemporary impact of Black migration on American politics.

Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans at the End of Slaveryby Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer

In their pioneering book, Envisioning Emancipation, renowned photographic historian Deborah Willis and historian of slavery Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photographs—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery and a way to understand the photos as documents of engagement, action, struggle, and aspiration.  Envisioning Emancipation illustrates what freedom looked like for black Americans in the Civil War era. Filled with powerful images of lives too often ignored or erased from historical records, Envisioning Emancipation provides a new perspective on American culture.

Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith, by Tommie Smith and David Steele

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and his teammate John Carlos came in first and third, respectively, in the 200-meter dash. As they received their medals, each man raised a black-gloved fist, creating an image that will always stand as an iconic representation of the complicated conflations of race, politics, and sports. In this, his autobiography, Smith fills out the story around that moment–how it came to be and where it led him. Smith engagingly describes his life-long commitment to athletics, education, and human rights. He also dispels some of the myths surrounding his famous gesture of protest: contrary to legend, Smith was not a member of the Black Panthers, nor were his medals taken back by the Olympic Committee. Retelling the fear he felt in planning and carrying out his protest, the death threats against him, his difficulty in finding work, and his determination to live his values, he conveys the long, painful backlash that came with his fame, and his fate, all of which was wrapped up in his “silent gesture.”

Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War Americaby Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin

As Philadelphia prepares its first monument in honor of Octavius Catto, a little-known civil rights activist, the publication of a new paperback edition is especially timely. In Tasting Freedom Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin chronicle the life of the charismatic black leader, a free black man whose freedom was in name only. A civil rights pioneer–one who risked his life a century before the events that took place in Selma and Birmingham, Catto joined the fight to be truly free–free to vote, go to school, ride on streetcars, play baseball, and even participate in Fourth of July celebrations.

The Battles of Germantown: Effective Public History in America, by David W. Young
David Young, a neighborhood resident who worked at Germantown historic sites for decades, uses his practitioner’s perspective to give examples of what he calls “effective public history.” The Battles of Germantown shows how the region celebrated “Negro Achievement Week” in 1928 and, for example, how social history research proved that the neighborhood’s Johnson House was a station on the Underground Railroad. These encounters have useful implications for addressing questions of race, history, and memory, as well as issues of urban planning and economic revitalization.

Healing Our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years after the Kerner Report, edited by Fred Harris and Alan Curtis

In Healing Our Divided Society, Fred Harris, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, along with Eisenhower Foundation CEO Alan Curtis, re-examine fifty years later the work still necessary towards the goals set forth in The Kerner Report. This timely volume unites the interests of minorities and white working- and middle-class Americans to propose a strategy to reduce poverty, inequality, and racial injustice. Reflecting on America’s urban climate today, this new report sets forth evidence-based policies concerning employment, education, housing, neighborhood development, and criminal justice based on what has been proven to work—and not work.

Mediating America: Black and Irish Press and the Struggle for Citizenship, 1870-1914, by Brian Shott

Mediating America explores the life and work of T. Thomas Fortune and J. Samuel Stemons as well as Rev. Peter C. Yorke and Patrick Ford—respectively two African American and two Irish American editor/activists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Historian Brian Shott shows how each of these “race men” (the parlance of the time) understood and advocated for his group’s interests through their newspapers. Yet the author also explains how the newspaper medium itself—through illustrations, cartoons, and photographs; advertisements and page layout; and more—could constrain editors’ efforts to guide debates over race, religion, and citizenship during a tumultuous time of social unrest and imperial expansion. Black and Irish journalists used newspapers to recover and reinvigorate racial identities. As Shott proves, minority print culture was a powerful force in defining American nationhood.

The Parker Sisters: A Border Kidnappingby Lucy Maddox

In 1851, Elizabeth Parker, a free black child in Chester County, Pennsylvania, was bound and gagged, snatched from a local farm, and hurried off to a Baltimore slave pen. Two weeks later, her teenage sister, Rachel, was abducted from another Chester County farm. Because slave catchers could take fugitive slaves and free blacks across state lines to be sold, the border country of Pennsylvania/Maryland had become a dangerous place for most black people. In The Parker Sisters, Lucy Maddox gives an eloquent, urgent account of the tragic kidnapping of these young women. Using archival news and courtroom reports, Maddox tells the larger story of the disastrous effect of the Fugitive Slave Act on the small farming communities of Chester County and the significant, widening consequences for the state and the nation.

Upon the Ruins of Liberty: Slavery, the President’s House at Independence National Historical Park, and Public Memory, by Roger C. Aden

The 2002 revelation at Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park that George Washington kept slaves in his executive mansion in the 1790s prompted an eight-year controversy about the role of slavery in America’s commemorative landscape. When the President’s House installation opened in 2010, it became the first federal property to feature a slave memorial. In Upon the Ruins of Liberty, Roger Aden offers a compelling account that explores the development of this important historic site and the intersection of contemporary racial politics with history, space, and public memory.

 

Balancing academic rights and responsibilities

This week in North Philly Notes, we repost Knowledge for Social Change co-author Ira Harkavy’s recent article that appeared in University of World News, an abridged version of a keynote address he delivered earlier this year.

In my judgment, there are two core purposes of higher education in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere. They are education for democratic citizenship and the creation of knowledge to advance the human condition, which significantly involves developing and maintaining a democratic society. These purposes can be powerfully achieved through university-community partnerships.

After a long period of disengagement, higher education leadership across the United States has increasingly recognized that colleges and universities cannot hold themselves aloof from their neighbors. The fate of the university and its local environment are intertwined. Given their resources, particularly their human capital (idealistic and able faculty, staff and students), higher education institutions can make significant contributions to the quality of life in their communities and cities.

The academic benefits of engagement have been illustrated in practice – and the intellectual case for engagement effectively made by leading scholars and educators. That case, simply stated, is that higher education institutions would better fulfill their core academic functions, including advancing knowledge, teaching and learning, if they focused on improving conditions in their societies, particularly their local communities.

Service-learning, engaged scholarship, community-based participatory research, volunteer projects and community economic development initiatives are some of the means used to create mutually beneficial partnerships designed to make a positive difference in the community and on the campus.

More broadly, a burgeoning higher education democratic civic and community engagement movement has developed across the United States to better educate students for democratic citizenship and to improve schooling and the quality of life.

Turning out informed democratic citizens

Given the current development of ‘illiberal democracy’, claims of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ and attacks on science and knowledge itself, universities have an increased and pressing responsibility to contribute to both the education of informed democratic citizens and the advancement of knowledge for the continuous betterment of the human condition. For this to occur, academic freedom and institutional autonomy must be maintained and strengthened.

Stated directly, significant levels of institutional autonomy and academic freedom are necessary for intellectual creativity, free inquiry and progress. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy, moreover, are intertwined with academic and institutional responsibility.

In her speech at the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) 2019 annual conference, Joan W Scott, former chair of the AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and professor emerita at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, emphasized that academic freedom and institutional autonomy were needed to advance “the common good.”

She said: “The common good will not survive – and for that matter neither will individuals survive – without medical knowledge, knowledge of climate change, knowledge of history, knowledge of how structures of discrimination work at the economic, social, political and psychic levels to perpetuate inequalities of race, gender, sex and religion. Academic freedom protects the production and dissemination of that knowledge.

“It is that knowledge that nourishes and advances the common good. The future of the common good and of academic freedom are bound up together; the one cannot survive without the other.”

Threats to academic values

The interconnection of academic freedom and institutional autonomy with academic and institutional responsibility as well as the democratic purposes of higher education have been increasingly recognized across the world.

For example, in June 2019 a Global Forum was held in Strasbourg on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy, and the Future of Democracy (co-organised by the Council of Europe, the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy, the Organization of American States, the International Association of Universities, and the Magna Charta Observatory), involving participants from 41 countries across Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia, Asia and the Middle East.

The immediate background for this Global Forum was increasing concern that the values we have come to take for granted are now under threat in ways Europe and North America have not seen for at least three decades, since the fall of the Berlin Wall. While democracy has never been without potential for improvement, its basic premises are now questioned in Europe through nationalism and populism and attempts to advance ‘illiberal democracy’. Analogous developments are occurring in the United States.

There are, of course, differences. For example, the focus in the United States has largely been on academic freedom and its relationship to the right to free speech on campus.

In Europe, the focus has been largely on institutional autonomy. The traditional European emphasis on institutional autonomy concerns the legal relationship between public authorities and higher education institutions.

The different emphases in the United States and Europe should not be overstated however. The commonalities are much greater.

The interference of both the state and national governments in university affairs has increased significantly in the United States in recent years. The University of Wisconsin board of regents, for example, approved a policy mandating that students who disrupt speakers twice be suspended and those who disrupt three times be expelled.

Similar policies and legislation, while less punitive than those proposed (it was not approved by the governor) in Wisconsin have been passed in approximately 17 states.

Both houses of Congress have introduced similar bills that would apply to all public colleges and universities. The right-leaning Goldwater Institute has proposed and advocated for model legislation that has served as the basis of these bills requiring disciplinary policies for disruptions.

In a similar vein, President Donald Trump signed an executive order last March connecting federal funding to how colleges and universities enforce the right of free inquiry.

Needless to say, the instances cited represent increased governmental interference in university affairs, significantly affecting institutional autonomy and academic freedom. They also represent the weaponization of free speech for political and ideological purposes, which resonates with the use of laws in some European countries to limit academic freedom to support the ideology of the state.

Threats to academic freedom and institutional autonomy, of course, come from many sources, not just government. Private funding has been given with specified conditions that have influenced the content of study and the hiring of faculty.

Equally troubling is funding from private sources that subvert the core values of the university. With the rise of the so-called neoliberal entrepreneurial university, profit for the sake of profit too often appears to be the primary purpose of institutions of higher education. This, of course, has negative impacts on both research and education for the public good.

Rights and responsibilities

Academic freedom and institutional autonomy are mediated rights that come with responsibilities. Working with and contributing to their local communities are essential if colleges and universities are to function as responsible institutions. In my judgment, it is also an institutional responsibility for universities to work in democratic partnership with their community, demonstrating openness, transparency, responsiveness and accountability.

One of the best ways to practice academic freedom and institutional autonomy as well as academic and institutional responsibility is to engage locally. Local participatory democracy is necessary for the development of a democratic culture that goes beyond the crucial act of voting and extends to all areas of life.

The benefits of a local community focus for colleges and universities are manifold. Ongoing, continuous interaction is facilitated through work in an easily accessible location. Relationships of trust, so essential for effective partnerships and effective learning, are also built through day-to-day work on problems and issues of mutual concern.

In addition, the local community provides a convenient setting in which service-learning courses, community-based research courses and related courses in different disciplines can work together on a complex problem to produce substantive results. Sustained local partnerships of this kind foster the civic development of university students while advancing their academic learning and knowledge.

The local community is also a democratic real-world learning site in which community members, academics and students can pragmatically determine whether the work is making a real difference and whether both the neighborhood and the institution are better as a result of common efforts.

As colleges and universities work collaboratively with their neighbors on locally manifested universal problems, such as poverty, poor schooling, inadequate health care, environmental degradation and climate change, I believe they will be better able to advance knowledge, learning and democracy.

In so doing, they will also satisfy the critical performance test proposed in 1994 by the president of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, William R Greiner – namely, that “the great universities of the 21st century will be judged by their ability to help solve our most urgent social problems”.

Higher education should, indeed must, stand for core universal values, including tolerance, diversity and inclusivity, open inquiry, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy as well as academic and institutional responsibility are necessary for universities to realize these values and to contribute to developing and sustaining fair, decent and just democratic societies for all.

Ira Harkavy is associate vice president and founding director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States and Chair of the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy. This is an edited version of his keynote to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation International Quality Group Annual Meeting: A Global Quality Forum on 30 January.

Time to Remember French AIDS Activism

This week in North Philly Notes, Christophe Broqua, author of Action = Vie, writes about Act Up-Paris.

Since the end of 2018, large-scale mobilizations in France by activist groups have challenged the authorities and demanded more social justice. The “Yellow Vest” movement holds demonstrations every Saturday in Paris. Among the streets that they have regularly occupied—sometimes without providing advance notice to the Prefecture (as prescribed by French law)—is the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which stretches from Place de la Concorde to Place de l’Étoile, where the Arc de Triomphe is located, an area largely inaccessible for street demonstrations.

Action=Vie_SMTwenty-five years earlier, on December 1, 1993, the AIDS organization Act Up-Paris braved the difficulty of demonstrating in this same area by placing a giant condom on the Obélisque de la Concorde. They also blocked the top of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on December 1, 1994, an action illustrated by the photo on the cover of Action = Vie: A History of AIDS Activism and Gay Politics in France. At the time, Act Up-Paris was considered one of the major social movements in France. The organization met with considerable success in terms of mobilization as well as media coverage and political impact—contrary to the predictions of failure that it had initially inspired.

Indeed, when Act Up-Paris was formed in 1989, the vast majority of local commentators thought the organization, based on the American model, could not succeed. They reproached it for being a lame copy, unsuited to the French context. That it was linked to the gay and lesbian community undoubtedly added to mistrust and discrediting of the organization. The success of Act-Up-Paris, however, continues the long French protest tradition—it reached its peak in the mid 1990s. The criticism was indicative of the tense relationship between the French and the United States, rather than of the relevance (or not) of political activism in the face of the epidemic in France. Indeed, France is dominated by an ideology that claims to reject “communitarianism” in favor of “republican universalism,” but which, in reality, fears political organization of oppressed or stigmatized minorities more than anything.

Nevertheless, the success of Act Up-Paris had some limitations, particularly when new treatments led to a drop in HIV/AIDS-related mortality, at least in the Global North. Little by little, without ever disappearing, the organization got smaller, while the other dominant AIDS organization in France, AIDES—inspired by the Gay MHC (New York) and the Terrence Higgins Trust (London)—succeeded due to their commitment to helping individuals. In contrast, Act Up defined its actions as strictly political. In the 1990s, Act Up-Paris had become a major player in the AIDS fight and gay rights movements, but lost its media visibility in the following decade and was virtually unknown to new generations.

MV5BZWM2NTcxM2QtOTYxMC00OTllLWJhN2MtODBjNjA2Y2FjYmU1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzQzNzQxNzI@._V1_UY268_CR3,0,182,268_AL_This progressive erasure and oblivion slowed in 2017 with the release of the film, BPM (Beats Per Minute). Directed and co-written by Robin Campillo a former member of Act Up-Paris, the film retraced the first years of the organization in a fictional but very realistic way. It also included a tragic love story between two activists, Nathan (Arnaud Valois) and Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart). Debuting at the Cannes Film Festival, the film won the prestigious Jury Grand Prize. From the outset, critics were ecstatic in their support of the film and the emotions it stirred. When it was released in cinemas, it was a huge success; in just a few months more than 800,000 tickets were sold. This tremendous response to a past that was largely forgotten, especially among the new generation, was impressive. For younger viewers, it was the discovery of a heroic past that many people did not know about; for older viewers, the film stirred memories of difficult times or the feeling of having missed out on history.

Overall, the film enabled society to indulge in a kind of collective redemption in the face of what it had not wanted to see—i.e., an epidemic affecting stigmatized minorities who used forms of political action to survive. Far from being an isolated phenomenon, the movie success was part of a larger remembrance process affecting both the history of the fight against AIDS as well as the mobilization of sexual and gender minorities in various European and North American countries.

Alas, this rediscovery of Act Up-Paris was focused mainly in France, as the film BPM did not enjoy the same commercial success in the United States, though it fared well critically.

French history is strongly connected to American history: the founder and several important activists of Act Up-Paris went through Act Up New York, which also represented an important model for the French group. Later, Act Up-Paris became the largest Act Up group in the world.

Now that time has passed, will its history finally be discovered beyond the French borders?

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