Better in the open
One of the most cherished freedoms we have as Americans is freedom of speech. However distressing hate speech is to hear, as long as it does not incite violence or illegal actions, it is protected by our Constitution. If we forbid hate groups to speak or engage in peaceful demonstrations, the result may be that they go underground and engage in illegal activities like blowing up buildings. Better to keep things in the open.
Mayoral candidate and political novice Pierce Freelon’s heart is in the right place. But his stump speech – often to backers of 75-year-old Bernie Sanders – implies that other candidates are too old. I’m one of a few people elected to council before turning 35. We all had better political records to run on then our opponents’ ages.
As for those track records, some claim that non-profit board membership is a perfect apprenticeship. I’m not so sure. Boards may have demographic diversity, but often they lack the philosophical diversity found on appointed boards like the planning commission: how many art boards include opponents of state funding for the arts?
And Freelon’s stands on the issues don’t really set him apart: all the candidates are for more affordable housing, better policing, more inclusiveness, etc. With the alignment of views on the issues, the mayoral election is in danger of becoming a referendum on who claims to care the most about Durham.
Freelon does have an interesting take on being inclusive. Strangely the campaign video on his completely issue-free website – https://www.freelonfordurham.com/ – is filmed in Durham but doesn't feature any of our white, Asian or Hispanic citizens. Leaders set examples. Would Freelon encourage others to post their racially exclusive political videos?
Bottom line: Do novices really know best?
Editor’s note: The writer is a former member of the Durham City Council.
Fighting for fair pay
This Labor Day, I will join hundreds of fast-food workers holding a strike at McDonald’s. They demand $15 an hour and a union, because, as evidenced by contingent faculty at my workplace, Duke University, a strong worker organization is the best way raise wages.
The university has changed starkly in the last 40 years, from an institution dominated by full-time, tenured or tenure-track professors to one built on part-time, underpaid adjunct and graduate assistant labor. This change has been accompanied by increasing salaries for administrators and university presidents.
At Duke, where I am a graduate assistant, the president made $1.2 million in 2015, while adjuncts and graduate assistants, some of whom had taught at Duke for over a decade, depended on food stamps and other forms of public relief to get by. That is, until contingent faculty at Duke formed a union and bargained for their first contract, which increased the salary of some of the worst-paid faculty members almost 50 percent. As graduate assistants, we too are fighting for fair pay by coming together in the Duke Graduate Students Union.
As tenure-track jobs become more and more rare, I will likely become part of the increasingly contingent workforce that runs universities across the country. The brave fast-food workers and adjunct faculty here in Durham have taught me that we must change the conditions of our community and the university altogether. We must unite as low wage workers from the fast food industry to college campuses to fight for justice, fair labor practices, equality and education over profits.
This Labor Day we should honor the labor movement to whom we owe the day off (and the weekend before it!) and join the fight for justice in the university and beyond.
The writer is a doctoral candidate in the Program in Literature, Women's Studies Certificate, at Duke University.
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