Mass Dissent

By “Every Law Student”

When it comes to the statistical side of law school, sins of omission are the worst disservice for students. Future law students rely on both admissions and employment data to decide which law school will help them attain their dreams. Graduates need this data, too, because it is supposed to be an accurate representation of who is working and where. And yet, there are still so many unknown factors. Law schools do not always choose to publicize salary data, and they do not necessarily break down the data in a way that is helpful for students. Worst of all, this data does not tell the full story of how graduates attained (or did not attain) employment.

That’s not to say that law school statistical reporting hasn’t improved since many of us started law school. On March 31, the American Bar Association began to require every law school to place its class of 2012 employment outcomes data chart on its website. This requirement is under ABA Standard 509, which requires the posting of basic consumer information in a “fair, accurate and not misleading” manner. Law School Transparency, a nonprofit dedicated to reporting the most accurate statistics possible about admissions and post-graduate employment, now publicizes this data in an easily digestible way. The group also advocates for legal education reform, including student loan reform.

But despite these improvements, there is still so much information that students and graduates need. Employment data are collected nine months after graduation, but graduates who are living on loans need to know how long their fellow grads waited to get that dream entry-level job or that temporary job that will be over in six months. Graduates may not have a large safety net that will let them pay rent and utilities until they can get a job. In the modern era, how difficult would it be to contact students to double-check their employment status twice a year for at least two years? This method could create work-study jobs for current students and foster a conversation about how to prepare graduates for an unexpected career trajectory.

All law students need accurate, detailed salary data. Expectations about how much new lawyers should be paid can run the gamut from $40,000 to $150,000. Considering how costly law school is and since private loans are non-dischargeable, knowing how much or how little that a graduate could expect to make will help students modulate their expectations and prepare a realistic budget.

Of course, the tricky part is that these needs conflict with the desire of law schools to continue attracting new students. Graduates can overcome this issue by banding together and telling the truth on their own. There is no dedicated group that collects and analyzes anecdotal data to explain how graduates got their jobs or survived that long period of unemployment. Many grads are hiding this information from most of us – their LinkedIn profiles have not been updated in months and they are cagey when you ask them what they’re up to these days. If graduates spoke the truth, and spoke it loudly so that everyone could hear, current students would have a better idea of what to expect after they remove their caps and gowns. All graduates need is a website and decent organizational skills. These anecdotes would send a clear message that these unemployment and underemployment issues do not disappear after one set of job data spanning nine months. Perhaps these anecdotes could inspire legislative improvements.

There is not much that current students can do to change the job market, but there are ways to arm us with better information so that we have a better idea of what to expect. We just need everyone’s help.

– “Every Law Student” anonymously speaks for ever-present anxieties, worries, and frustrations of most of recent law school graduates and those who are still in school. –

Will Work for Change

By Melanie Morgon

If you have seen the recent CNN film Escape Fire, a documentary that “examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care,” you will recall its laser sharp criticism on a broken health care system. The moniker offered by one of the characters in the film will come as no surprise to anyone who has had much interaction with that system: it’s a “Disease Care System.” The system doesn’t want you to die, but it doesn’t want you to get better either, because illness makes the system hum. Insurance companies and Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement policies require professionals to spend less and less time with each patient, and the results are not surprising. Doctors treat the same symptoms repeatedly, but they cannot afford to spend the time required with each patient to get to the root of the problem.

It seems that for some time, we have had similar problems with the current structure of our legal system: it isn’t designed for legal health. Far too many people, both poor and middle-class, are unaware of their own legal needs until a crisis arrives. Even those who do realize they need legal assistance are often unable to access that help, for economic and other reasons. Nor can the legal community’s pro bono contributions fill the gap. This is as true of civil concerns, such as wills and family law, as it is of criminal matters. The problem was well-articulated recently in an article commemorating the 50th anniversary of the right to counsel: there is “no shortage of lawyers to do this work”; what we lack is the will. In fact, until we develop a structure or system that will permit most people to be able to afford basic legal services, pro bono contributions will never be adequate.

Rethinking how we provide legal services, however, is one place to start. Lawyers in the profession can be at the forefront of the kind of change necessary. What is required now, and may be easiest imagined in our current era of under-employed new lawyers, is a fundamental re-casting of our roles. Developing solutions to this long-term problem will take not just creative thinking, but a radical shift in the legal topography. It will also take courage: the courage to challenge the status quo in our own profession; the courage to challenge the ways we think about working with clients and the way we think about who pays for what services; and the courage to challenge our own ideas about adequate income, even in the face of extraordinary student loan debt.

I have a great deal more sympathy now for my mechanic some years ago, who was not particularly enthusiastic when I kept asking him to keep my 1980-something Yugo on the road. As my mechanic knew, what I needed was a different car, not a repaired Yugo, but that was a solution I could not afford. I do not pretend to be a legal expert, but it doesn’t take much expertise to realize that like the “disease care system” in Escape Fire, our present structure is not designed for good legal health generally. Indeed, like the health care system, if you have plenty of cash and access to information, you probably do not have to worry too much about your legal health. So let’s say that takes care of, what, 10 percent? One percent? As for the rest, well, given the staggering numbers of middle and working class people who have basic legal needs unmet, we have a lot of work left to do. We also have plenty of evidence that the system as it exists is insufficient to meet that need, despite high numbers of unemployed new lawyers. I may not have expected to be working toward a more effective system when I chose law as a second career, but I also didn’t get into this to preserve the status quo. I look forward to finding ways to make changes and implement them with as many of you as I can.

– Melanie Morgon is graduating from Northeastern University School of Law.  Her future plans are to pass the bar, to finish a book proposal on Earth Law with a Canadian colleague, look for work (ideally in the areas of sustainable agriculture, food insecurity, but realistically, anywhere), and to spend more time with her new granddaughter. –

By Tasha Kates

If you spend your free time standing outside in a neon Legal Observer hat at local rallies or you escort employees to union votes, please turn the page. This article is not for you. For everyone else – the students who feel they do not have the time to volunteer for anything or those who want to do something positive but do not know exactly what to do – this one’s for you.

No matter what life experiences that you had before coming to law school, the intensity that greets you in the lecture hall is enough to knock you into survival mode and onto a diet of coffee and fear. By the end of the semester, any bubbly excitement that you may have had has been replaced by the paralyzing dread of trying to regurgitate all of that knowledge in your finals. A life outside of law school seems more difficult to keep or attain with each passing day.

I thought it would just be 1L that sapped our ability to do anything else but study, but apparently law school veterans have this problem, too. After surviving 1L, we choose how we spend our time inside and outside of the classroom. In our second year, we’re usually pretty busy. We can finally make our own choices about what classes to take and what activities to join. The third year brings the weight of graduation, taking the bar and finding that great first job (or one that will hire us). By the end of law school, most of us have a handful of interesting classes, a few internships and an activity or two to our names. On paper, it looks like we accomplished something.

But outside of law school, injustice still reigns. Companies stop the formation of unions. Untrained police officers violate the constitutional rights of citizens. After each violent act, authorities respond with new methods that infringe on our rights to privacy. It is not enough to read about these incidents, tilt your head to the side and think, “Oh, that’s a shame. I should retweet this before class.” Change requires thought and action, the latter of which we rarely get in doctrinal classes.

There is a momentum to change – once you start making it, you cannot stop. After this year’s Gala, I’m pretty sure that some of the best examples of how to proactively make change are found in our law schools. Both Lipou Laliemthavisay from Roger Williams University School of Law and Sharlyn Grace from Northeastern University of School of Law received this year’s student awards, and for good reason. Laliemthavisay has focused her energy on bringing people together to fight for a cause – she has organized rallies, brought the NLG Northeast Regional Conference to her school and helped found her school’s NLG chapter. Grace’s energies have been put into protecting the rights of groups – watching over those who assemble at rallies, supporting those who want to unionize and speaking up for the future of legal education.

The previous award winners in this category are just as dedicated to their causes. Both 2012 winners, Lauren Marcous (Western New England) and Marianne Tassone (Boston University), restarted their respective NLG student chapters. The 2011 winner, Liz Dedrick (Northeastern), advocated for hospitality workers and unemployed people while she was in law school. In 2010, Charlotte “Charlie” Noss (Northeastern) led campaigns to support union contract improvements for the school’s janitors, while Josh Raisler Cohn (Northeastern) served as an advocate and a legal observer to support low-income people, activists, organizers, criminal defendants and more.

All of these award winners have something in common – they understand that the social change that our communities need cannot wait three years until we graduate. At a minimum, I think we should consider a commitment to supporting others as part of our graduation requirement. We can start with just a few hours of time – let’s attend a legal observer or street law training so we can watch out for and help protect the rights of others. Let’s register for a clinic or an internship that creates or supports social change. But most importantly, let’s speak up and speak out when we see regressive actions or policies that we want to change. No cause close to your heart? No problem. Try everything.

Our classmates have done a terrific job of trying to change a bit of the world before they re-enter it as lawyers. Let’s stop waiting and watching. We can join them.

-Tasha Kates just finished her second year at Northeastern University School of Law.-

By Northeastern NLG Students

Friday, May 3rd might have been three days before 1L finals, but that didn’t stop 15 Northeastern students from joining friends, mentors and colleagues at the annual Massachusetts NLG Gala. True, we had a special reason for attending in droves this time- our dear friend Sharlyn Grace was being honored with a student award. And yes, many of us were eager to hear Professor Noam Chomsky speak, and to pay tribute to the late Emily Novick. But to be honest, we left-leaning Northeasterners are always excited for an opportunity to meet law students, lawyers and legal workers involved in the kind of organizing and movement work we envision ourselves doing as lawyers one day… after we make it through several more rounds of exams. So we were excited to hear organizer and Legal Worker Honoree Rita Sebastian and Law Student Honoree Lipou Laliemthavisay from Roger Williams University.

  

The Gala was at the beautiful Villa Victoria in the South End. There was dinner, prepared by Haley House, as well as an entertaining and not-very-silent auction (one day, after the aforementioned exams and the not-mentioned jobs we hope follow, we too will contribute here). There was great company, including many of our beloved Northeastern faculty and guild members, both lawyers and non-lawyers. And most of us stuck around for the dance party at the end, which featured a fun, multi-generational mix of music that kept us on our feet for an hour. In short, the evening was a blast.

  

There were more serious moments, of course. During the awards presentation, Sharlyn talked about her experience working with Occupy and with Northeastern service workers, and reminded us that our role is not possible without the strong organizing of people on the ground. We were pleased to hear from Occupy Boston actvist Rita Sebastian who talked about the importance and necessity of grassroot organizing and interwining of all fights for social and political change. Lipou Laliemthavisay recalled how a small group of Roger Williams School of Law students established, for the first time ever, an NLG student chapter and what organizing their chapter has been involved in. We listened to the moving tribute to late Emily Novick by her husband and son. Emily was a Guild member for a long time; she passed away in December 2012. Finally, Professor Noam Chomsky spoke about being represented by Guild attorneys after being arrested at a protest against the Vietnam War, and the important role Guild members must play in supporting social movements today. He spoke about how increased surveillance and advances in technology represent new tools of political repression and threats to free expression. Then he made it clear how necessary the Guild is in such a context, and how much vigilance and creativity we will need to muster as advocates.

   

As law students, we are lucky to be part of and supported by such a strong and active Guild chapter. This year alone we have held several Street Law Clinic trainings, participated in numerous actions and demonstrations as legal observers, and attended Guild events and happy hours to learn more about issues that are important to us and meet practitioners in the field.

The Massachusetts chapter of NLG is an important resource to us as student members, and we were thrilled to celebrate its work and legacy at the Gala.

 

By Laurel Goldstein and Steve Toff

In the United States, education – the act of imparting knowledge – has been reduced to a commodity to be bought and sold, like crude oil or soybeans. The price of this commodity has risen exponentially in the past 30 years:1 student loan debt, now at over a trillion dollars, has “surpassed credit cards as the largest source of unsecured consumer debt” in our nation.2 Interestingly, the market-driven price tags that create this student debt burden are unique to the American higher education system. Most European universities have either no tuition costs or only negligible fees. Even “poor” countries, such as Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Kenya, Morocco and Mauritius, have eliminated tuition fees. And while countless other countries still charge university tuition, none of these compare to the cost in the United States. While universities do have inherent operating costs, other parts of the world have chosen to pay for them through tax revenue: they have essentially socialized education.

A nation that chooses to invest in education is investing in its collective future. In the U.S., every state constitution includes a provision for free public elementary and secondary education, because society has recognized the value and necessity of educating its masses. No one would force a child to take out student loans to pay for high school. But last summer, Congress made it more difficult for students to finance higher education: it ended the subsidization of federal loans for graduate and professional education, and doubled interest rates to 6.8 percent. Students across this country need to come together and demand a new discourse on higher education.

In today’s economy, we need to discuss what it means to invest in our collective future. No one buried by student loans is buying a home or a car, starting a business or a family; nor is anyone investing, inventing, innovating or engaging in any of the economically stimulating activities that they otherwise might be. Instead, they are transferring money from their pockets to the banks that financed their education. These are the same banks that destroyed our economy by betting on collateral debt obligations in the housing market. It is time for a new conversation.

If we all reach out to different universities across the country, we can begin to build a national framework. If students participate in brainstorming tactics and developing materials, it will help campuses take ownership of the process. As controversial as leadership and organization can be, national officers and local/regional leadership are essential to any serious movement. We will need a webpage and written material explaining things. We should have people fill out membership cards, to track our support and make membership more tangible. As the movement takes shape, we can have founding meetings where new chapters adopt this Bill. A New Education Bill of Rights both guides the movement and introduces it to civil society, future members, supporters and opponents.

 

1 Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012. HR 4170.

2 Annual Report of the CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman. 10.16.12 (Citing: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Department of Education, Report to Congress on Private Student Loans (July 2012).)

 

New Education Bill of Rights

1. If you are a student, have student debt, know a student, or care about education, please join us in reshaping how we educate in this country.

 

2. Decisions about the costs and financing of higher education are made with no input from those most directly affected – students.

 

3. The most effective way to ensure that students have a voice in reshaping this debate is for us to come together collectively. We have been ignored because we have not demanded to be heard. Nobody can speak for us but ourselves.

 

4. We agree that education is in a state of crisis and it is time for a new discussion on the future of post-secondary education.

 

5. We support the House Bill Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, which would create a viable path to forgive much of the current student debt.

 

6. We believe that forgiving student debt without addressing the problem of costs in higher education will create an unsustainable and unstable debt bubble for another generation of students. It is time to end this cycle.

 

7. We call for a national moratorium on all tuition hikes. We ask that all schools – both public and private – freeze their tuition where it is now.

 

8. We believe in extending universal education beyond K-12 to cover all areas of “higher education.”

 

9. We should encourage our nation’s smartest and most dedicated individuals these problems and hold conferences to discuss proposed solutions.

 

10. We call on our fellow students at every university across this country to sign on to this document, and build chapters of the New Student Movement on your respective campuses.

 

11. We will reject any solution that fails to recognize the inherent humanity in the act of education. It is not a product. It is about imparting knowledge. We seek to de-commodify and humanize the process.

 

– Laurel Goldstein and Steve Toff are students at Northeastern University School of Law. Laurel just finished her first year and Steve – his second year. –

 

By  Tasha Kates (Northeastern) & Amy Mei Willis (Suffolk)

National Lawyers Guild student chapters thrive on calls to action. Whether we are calling attention to injustice or learning about issues that had not been on our radar, calls to action inspire us to get involved in our communities in new ways. Nothing is more rewarding than being part of a movement for positive social change.

In this issue of Mass Dissent, the Guild’s law students are issuing calls to action to their fellow students, law schools, those who set educational policy and the legal profession as a whole. It is our turn to inspire and challenge you to act.

In our first article, Northeastern law students Laurel Goldstein and Steve Toff propose a new bill of rights for higher education. They urge students to take a more active part in reshaping education and to address the issue of how education is financed in the United States.

Tasha Kates hopes that other students will escape the law school grind to proactively seek social change. She has been inspired by the accomplishments of her fellow (and extremely impressive) law students, especially those who have won this chapter’s NLG Student Award in recent years.

Melanie Morgon sees parallels between the health care system, which has become too focused on profit rather than patients, and the health of the legal system, which does not meet the needs of those who need it and those who can keep it going. She poses questions how to find ways to change the status quo.

Every Law Student urges law school students and graduates to demand truth in advertising for post-graduate employment statistics. Without accurate data, law students and potential law students are unable to accurately plan for their futures. Graduates, there is a way for you to help.

We also have a report from Northeastern students with their reflections on the 2013 Guild Gala, which they attended in May.

– Tasha Kates (Northeastern) & Amy Mei Willis (Suffolk) –

By Jonathan D. Messinger

International university students in metropolitan Boston, with very few exceptions, are not eligible for the blessing/curse yoke of debt many of you reading this now are enduring known as student loans. Contemporary degree acquisition can be quite an expensive proposition. By way of example, our three largest institutes of higher learning by student population, also happen to be the three most expensive—Boston ($59,100 in yearly tuition and fees), Harvard ($57,950), Northeastern ($53,226)—which each require undergraduate degree seekers, or their families or backers, to spend a quarter of a million United States Dollars over four years to earn a B.A. or B.S. Such education expenses are nothing short of obscene, deeply unsustainable and certainly worthy of further analysis.

Compounding this financial burden, international students are not allowed, due to work visa restrictions, to earn a “legal” living wage to offset these costs. And they are often subject to the whims of mercurial, culturally illiterate professors, advisers and administrators whose decisions, sometimes arbitrarily, but frequently profoundly, change these students’ professional and personal lives.

Consider the case of Makato, a Japanese student at a prominent local university studying psychology. When Makato first sought legal assistance several years ago, he was distraught because he had just been summarily expelled from his university without adequate justification, only one week before the completion of his final internship. In an all too common pattern, this university accepted his tuition money, as well as tuition money from many other foreign students in his particular course of study, then slowly and methodically reduced their group through harassment, bullying and discrimination.

Reasons given for international students not being allowed to complete their degrees included a lack of language skills (the irony that all of these young people speak and write in at least two languages when those who “judge” them for their alleged lack of English fluency mostly spoke only one language is but one very painful double standard here), a purported inability of instructors to understand different cultural learning styles, and/or that these students were working part-time at local community businesses “under the table” without official university or government permission. Such methods of exploitation are cringe worthy, especially because these international students often lack the power or the connections to fight back when they are told they will not be allowed to complete their degrees.

Makoto was verbally abused so many times by the director of his program that he cried. He was then sent to the university-approved therapist to obtain a “report” regarding his mental health. Makato wrote in his journal around that time: “I was very depressed – angry but sad. Suddenly I lost my internship, and couldn’t received the credit from the program. On top of that, I was scored the lowest which is very fatal since international students are not allowed to receive the lowest score or immigration can send me back to Japan for not studying hard enough. I visited university offices, the dean of students, my adviser and professors. No one was able to help me with this situation. The internship director told an untrue story about me to the university. She said that I was ‘always late, unfriendly, unskilled, had bad attitude, and we decided we can’t handle him anymore.’ None of this was accurate, and I felt very hurt and helpless. I needed to get a lawyer, but most of them wanted at least $5,000 to help me.”

Instead of proactively implementing solutions to help Makoto complete his degree, the university dispatched him to a therapist who produced a biased and troubling report, used in concert with the internship director’s prior statements, as “evidence” to warrant the expulsion of Makato. (Need dear readers be reminded of the brutal, sometimes suicide-inducing shame which accompanies academic failure in Japanese culture?) The good news for Makato is that he found an effective and affordable legal professional to fight successfully for his university reinstatement. His lawyer confronted the therapist directly at his office with a readied lawsuit, and simultaneously demanded legitimate administrative procedural due process from the dean of students at the university. Makato has since graduated, qualified for and obtained a work visa. He has even started his own psychology practice which promotes healing for young people in both Japan and the United States.

Other international students are not as fortunate, however. Thus we in the legal community must seek out, support and protect all the Makatos among us. We should, every chance we get, thank them for their valuable contributions to lives, and try to learn from them as much as they want to learn from us.

 

Jonathan D. Messinger is a Boston and New York-based attorney and a member of the NLG Board.

By Levon Chorbajian

Up until the late 18th century, people were pretty much at the mercy of their rulers, and people’s options were limited. They could lay low and hope for the best, flee, or rebel. Legal protections were few to nil. Since that time, semi-democratic states have arisen in the U.S. and other parts of the world that offer the theoretical possibility and sometimes the substance of justice and redress. We also have positive developments in international law. For example, the U.N. Charter has numerous sections which seek to limit the use of force by nations against other nations and the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide now makes genocide a crime under international law.

Such developments did not come in a linear progression, however, and coincided with European colonial conquest, slavery, 19th and 20th century genocides, and imperialist wars. These have cost incalculable hundreds of millions of lives worldwide. As a result, we confront a situation wherein legal avenues of redress and prevailing human rights standards co-exist with large scale unchecked violations of international law.

I would like to briefly introduce three issues that call for legal redress, but with two caveats. First, this is far from a complete list, and we can easily add the Palestinian Question, indigenous land and resource rights, and global warming, to name a few. Secondly, I do not suggest that legal avenues are the only path to justice. In fact, social movement theory makes it clear that progressive aims are best served when problems are attacked on multiple fronts employing a variety of techniques.

Imperialist wars: In the post-World War II era, the U.S. has fought a long series of imperialist wars from Korea to Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars produced politically and militarily ambiguous results, at best, and a great deal of human tragedy. They are legally questionable both in the sense that they have not been declared by Congress (as constitutionally mandated,) nor are they consistent with the U.N. Charter’s prohibitions on the use of force against sovereign states. The U.S. frequently relies on tainted claims of “self-defense”, “pre-emptive war”, and “humanitarian intervention” to provide legal cover for its actions. We need to challenge U.S. imperialist war consistently and with perseverance in whatever forums are available. This is not an easy task since superpower states assume immunity from the rules they selectively impose on others, but it is a fight worth fighting given the scale of abuse and its human consequences.

Comfort women: Tragically, these women were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese armed forces and were used by Japanese servicemen from 1931 to 1945. They are estimated to have numbered around 200,000 women, and they came initially from Korea and China, and then the Southeast Asian states. It is reported that these women had to perform 30 or more sex acts a day until the end of the war or the ruination of their minds and bodies. The Japanese government has stonewalled this issue for years, refusing to issue an official apology or pay reparations. But activists have taken some cases to court, and in 1998 a Japanese district court ruled that the government had acted illegally under international law regarding forced labor. By 2007, over half a dozen cases had resulted in decisions where victimization was confirmed. As yet, the Japanese government has not relented in its denial, and the struggle continues.

Lastly, the Armenian Genocide was carried out by the Ottoman Turkish government against its Armenian minority beginning in 1915. Within a few short years the Armenian population was reduced from around 2 million to 100,000. Up to one and a half million are estimated to have been killed. This is another case of stonewalling. Turkey operates an enormous propaganda effort in Turkey and globally to deny that a genocide was ever committed despite abundant documentation from many different sources including eyewitness and survivor accounts. Anyone in Turkey who seeks to publicize the truth about this event is criminally prosecuted (Nobel Prize novelist Orhan Pamuk, publisher Ragip Zarakolu) for the crime of “insulting Turkishness”, or killed (Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink). Outstanding legal issues include freedom of speech, a state issued acknowledgement and apology, return of Church and deeded private properties, and reparations.

The larger implication of Armenian Genocide denial is that the failure to acknowledge and punish genocide perpetrators sends the message that you can get away with it. At the time it was being carried out the Armenian Genocide was cause célèbre in the West, but it was quickly pushed down the proverbial historical memory hole. One man who noticed would later be responsible for the deaths of 50 million people, Adolf Hitler. I’ll end with a famous quote from a speech to his officer corps on the eve of the German invasion of Poland: “…our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness… with orders…to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language… Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” (K.B. Bardakjian, Hitler and the Armenian Genocide, 1985, p. 43).

 

Levon Chorbajian is a sociology professor who was recently arrested in a Keystone XL protest.

By Amy Mei Willis

South Korea is in the midst of rapid change. Just recently, the country saw the election of its first female president, Park Geun Hye. Park Geun Hye isn’t just any woman; in fact she is arguably The Woman. She was, after all, First Lady for the last five years of her father’s rule. America is no stranger to strong family political dynasties, but in this case many human rights proponents are hoping that Ms. Park does not take after her authoritarian, de facto dictator, father, Park Chung Hee. Mr. Park ruled from 1961 until he was assassinated in 1979. Under his rule, South Korea was the living embodiment of Orwell’s 1984. Speaking out about the government could get you arrested. There was a sense of foreboding and such talking was done in whispers.

It is said that Korea is the most Confucian country. Confucianism dictates clear social relationships between members of society. At the very top is the relationship between the ruler and the people. The ruler is not just a political head, but the ceremonial father of all peoples in the land. Understanding this complex relationship between the people and their worship of their leaders might lead to some logical assumptions about their attitudes. Why else would people actually fear the loss of a dictator? Parallel to the feeling of anguish about the departure of Mr. Park is the recent expressions of sorrow and/or fright in North Korea after the passing of Kim Jong Il. People felt they lost not just a political leader, but a parent – a father.

Kim used military might to control the populace, while developing a personality cult. Similarly, Ms. Park has made proclamations that she is the mother of the people and claims that she did not marry or have her own children so that she could one day be the mother to all Koreans. Perhaps it is only our own prejudices that want to suggest that she will be a softer leader simply because she is a woman.

Women’s rights have improved steadily over the years in South Korea. There is a growing acceptance of working mothers and there is a standard three month period for maternity leave. It is more common now than before to find women as principals or executives in compa nies. However, the country is still dominated by powerful males and any female in a highly ranked position of power more than likely got there because of family connections. Because of the legacy of Confucianism, people still are aware of their class and it is accepted to use bribes and gifts to gain advancement. Failure to bestow a gift to the supervisor on the first day of a new job would be a disaster. The result would be losing face, which is equivalent to losing honor but more importantly, family honor.

Marriages are unconventional by modern standards. The Korean husband is almost entirely a free agent and the wife must abide. Many husbands work in different cities or even countries from their families, maintaining a separate apartment or mistress. The wife’s duty is to stay at home and care for the children on top of any outside job she might hold. A woman, by no means, would be allowed to leave her family for work. The working woman has brought about some changes in society such as the emergence of Ms. Park. More and more women marry late or not at all. However, there is enormous pressure from society to get married simply because family is a virtue in Confucianism.

The Korean economy has slowed down due to domination by monopolies called chaebols. There has been an influx of immigration to the country, mostly from the Philippines, China or Vietnam. Many of these people are “mail order brides” sought by Korean men, due to the dwindling numbers of Korean women willing to marry.

Thus, Korea now faces the pressing issue of multiculturalism. In April 2012, Jasmine Lee became the first naturalized citizen of Korea. She was also the first non-ethnic Korean — to win a seat in South Korea’s National Assembly. This is important: the pride of “one blood” remains strong in Korea. Students who are biracial are bullied and ostracized. In fact it’s often kept a secret. It wasn’t until 2012 that biracial or multiethnic people were allowed in the army, previously a different color of skin was thought to disrupt unity. Most the distrust and discrimination is against other Asians, though it does happen to White/Caucasians as well. And it certainly happens to Black/African-American/Canadian/British people. To be Korean, you need to be ethnically Korean. As a result, few Koreans here in the U.S. can understand the concept of Chinese-American, African-American, Italian-American etc.

Despite globalization, the desire to keep Korea Korean remains. There is little knowledge of the outside world, even though nearly everyone has internet access and owns a smart phone. Culturally, it appears Ms. Park will be a conservative like Lee Myung Bak. But although the efforts of major Korean chaebol’s to stonewall against foreign media, there has been a slightly higher awareness of social issues. Recently, a popular Korean drama (K-Drama) featured a gay character. Homosexuality is intuitively against Confucian values since outside of unconventional family models procreation is nonexistent. It should be of no surprise that adoption is frowned upon even for heterosexual couples since blood ties are so meaningful.

Many foreigners who visit Korea will tell you it’s like 1950’s America there. Will Ms. Park lead Korea through the liberation of the 1960s and onward is the big question.

Amy Mei Willis is a 1st year student at Suffolk Law School and an NLG Student Representative.

By Albert Leisinger

 

U.N. and the Law:

How Haiti is Subjugated

The U.N. has opposed the lawsuit for compensation brought in November 2011 by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a group of lawyers based in Boston. It sought to require the UN to install a national water and sanitation system to control the cholera epidemic, pay compensation to Haitian cholera victims for their losses, and make a public apology for its “wrongful acts”.

Citing a convention laid down in 1946, UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, telephoned President Michel Martelly of Haiti to tell him that the UN was not willing to compensate any of the claimants. The epidemic has killed more than 8,000 people and sickened over 500,000 – about one out of every 16 Haitians. For the UN to claim immunity for a crisis that most experts are convinced it unwittingly caused through its own disaster relief mission is highly contentious. The infection is thought to have been carried into Haiti by UN peacekeepers from Nepal sent to help with disaster relief following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.” (Guardian)

The Nepalese UN troops built themselves a fort in the fertile Artibonite river valley in the north of Haiti. But their toilets were poorly constructed, and human wastes containing cholera of the exact DNA type endemic in Nepal soon infected local residents. Haiti had no Cholera for 100 years before this epidemic.

Cholera is spread by the ingestion of human wastes carrying the Vibrio cholera bacterium. Because Haiti lacks decent water and sewage systems, the epidemic once started has spread fiercely.

 

US Imperialism and Haiti

The USA has invaded Haiti at least ten times in the last 100 years. The longest occupation was from 1915-1934. The US long supported the torturer Duvallier regimes (1957-1971 and 1971-1986), under which at least 30,000 people were executed and many more tortured or exiled. In 1991 and again in 2004, the USA sponsored coups d’etat that overthrew Bertrand Aristide. In 2011, the USA interfered in the Haitian election to bring the current president, “Sweet Mickey” Martelly to power. Martelly is a self-admitted former drug dealer, and is a close political ally of the former tontons-macoute torturers who had worked for Duvallier and who organized the 2011 coup.

The reason for U.S. control of Haiti is simple: cheap labor. Wages in Haiti are about US $2.00 per day; unemployment is 80%. Conditions are the worst in the western hemisphere. On January 12, 2010, just 4 hours before the earthquake struck, a leader of the 2010 campaign to raise the Haitian minimum wage, Professor JnAnil Louis-Juste of the School of Social Sciences (FASCH), an intellectual and political leader at the university and beloved mentor of many activist students, was assassinated by gunmen near the campus . I met Prof. Juste in 2009 in one of my trips to Haiti.

Consequences of the deprivation in Haiti are deep. For example, SOFA, a women’s clinic in Haiti, with which I worked briefly during one of my trips to Haiti, has estimated that over 75% of Haitian women have been raped.

 

The UN Occupation Troops Must Be Removed from Haiti!

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established on 1 June 2004 by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1542. There were 11,000 U.N. soldiers and stationed in Haiti as of October, 2012. Many are from Brazil, others from Latin America and a few Asian nations.

MINUSTAH has committed atrocities too numerous to detail here, but include gang-rape of an 18-year-old boy in September, 2011, massacres of poor residents of Cite Soleil in 2005, the hanging of a 16-year-old activist in a MINUSTAH barracks in the north of Haiti, numerous attacks on demonstrations and protests with live ammunition, wholesale theft and robbery of Haitians, and so on. One of my Haitian friends says that when she went to Haiti in 2011, she felt that “all the guns of the MINUSTAH soldiers were aimed at” her.

The purpose of MINUSTAH is the same as the purpose of the 20,000 US soldiers sent to Haiti in the days after the Haiti earthquake: to suppress revolt and revolution.

 

The Role of the NGO’s

Non-governmental organizations in Haiti are no substitute for a decent government. For example, the Red Cross collected well over $1 billion dollars after the Earthquake of 2010. Most of this money has not even been distributed. In August 2010, the Red Cross website finally claimed to have sent some blood to Haiti: 45 pints (sic). That was eight months after the earthquake.

THE FIGHTBACK:

The teachers’ strike in Haiti, November 13-14, 2012

There is an intense Haitian movement against the UN occupation, the cholera epidemic, the economic deprivation, and the repression. This movement is almost unknown in the USA.

For example, in November, 2012, a national teachers’ strike brought 25,000 people nationwide to demonstrate in the streets. Demands of the strike included:

• back pay for teachers (I met one teacher who worked for a whole year, but was paid only for one month!)

• universal free education, guaranteed by the Haitian constitution, but never delivered.

• Vaccination of school children against cholera.

• Justice for Damaël D’Haïti, a student murdered by police three days before the strike.

The strike was fairly effective in the capital but very solid in the provincial towns. Its power was expressed in the militant mass marches. Students joined the teachers.

This article is too short to report in detail on this strike, but see the ECHO website .

 

How You Can Help

 

Sign the petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/to-end-cholera-in-haiti-and-dominican-republic

 

Demands include: (1) universal vaccination against cholera, beginning with schoolchildren. (2) cholera treatment centers staffed by Haitian health workers; (3) Haitian-wide construction of a modern fresh-water and sewage removal system.

 

Albert Leisinger is a Professor at the Department of Mathematics at UMass Boston.

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