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Passing the buck

I think it’s about time for one of those “random thoughts and missed headlines” columns—there are just too many crazy things going on in the world and at Duke to choose just one.

1.) Duke may cut current endowment funding for Latino graduate students beginning in 2006-07.

Did everyone else catch this story too? A fraternity party ridiculing Latinos was burden enough for Latino students to bear, let alone the weight of institutional discrimination as well. Where is the uproar? The discussion? While administrators claim that future funding will simply be better tailored to the needs of Latino students, this appears spurious.

2.) Africa.

Yes, I meant that to be overly simplified. Africa has totally dropped off the map in the past few months—not that it ever was on the map of many Americans. The tsunami disaster, while horrendous, has completely wiped out concern for most other humanitarian causes. For some reason, if a tsunami devastates your country we care, but if AIDS, hunger or the legacy of colonialism emaciates your country from the inside out we don’t. We don’t even like to see movies about Africans. I was watching CNN Tuesday morning and a young black guy was discussing Hotel Rwanda and award nominations. He pointed out that Hotel Rwanda wasn’t nominated because “no one wants to see a movie about Africa anyway.” I thought he was trying to illuminate this injustice, but instead he went on to explain that The Incredibles wasn’t nominated, either.

3.) Bus drivers and many other workers at Duke face difficult working conditions and substandard wages.

This issue will probably be here for a long time, but it doesn’t have to be—the Duke community can and should lift up campus workers in recognition of their service. Outsourced workers at Duke face the greatest hardships, like the six Duke University Health System Angelica workers who faced 49-degree temperatures at their workplace and had to walk out in protest. Luckily, they got their jobs back and the heat will now be turned on before they arrive for work, but the struggle for living wages, benefits and the right to collective bargaining still rages on. During Chapel services for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I heard both President Richard Brodhead and Duke University Health System CEO Dr. Victor Dzau speak to the need for equality and fairness. I nodded my head and tried to catch Dr. Dzau’s eye from too many pews back as he championed healthcare rights. Many Angelica workers can’t afford health care on their substandard wages.

4.) Guantanamo Bay and the lawlessness of the United States.

At a party at my apartment recently, one of my good friends was like, “Yeah, not be a downer, but what the &% is up with Guantanamo Bay?!” (Don’t worry, we also drank beers and had a good time!) We all shook our heads as we looked helplessly at one another. “I mean, we are talking straight up torture—shackling in the fetal position for hours, solitary confinement in &$% boxes… We need to do something about this!” And we do. And it is inexcusable. And it is pointless.

(Oh yes, I am so much safer because some young Arab kid is being tortured in my name… Is this what freedom feels like, then?)

5) Medicaid cuts were made throughout most of the United States, with Florida enacting the most punishing reforms of all.

While many states have moved to cap Medicaid costs (and put the health of millions of low-income people at risk), Jeb Bush is pushing for a complete privatization of Medicaid in Florida. Basically, low-income people in Florida will get a health care allowance based upon their condition and then some guidance as to how to choose a provider. There is no regulation of private insurance companies and what kind of services they are obliged to cover. Read: Low-income mothers choosing bare-bones plans for themselves and their children in order to have more money for rent and food. Read: No recourse for low-income people unable to get the treatment they need to live healthy lives. Of course, Medicaid costs were spiraling out of control in Florida and many other states, but why don’t we turn to the employers who pay their workers below living wages? (Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Duke, etc.) These guys turn the profits while their workers get the shaft and then turn to government social services. Overburdened, the state is now passing the buck onto the workers themselves, who of course have no bucks themselves because they make $7 an hour.

6) Campus safety is still a concern, but SafeRides still rocks.

As a woman, I know campus safety is still a concern for myself and many others on campus. I am personally grateful for SafeRides and the kind drivers who take me home just about every night. Yes, sometimes you have to wait a while, but I see how those guys swing back around for folks who missed them the first time. We need other services as well, and recent student initiatives to escort fellow students are to be applauded. SafeRides drivers really do care (and I think I have ridden with just about all of them by now) and if anything Duke should hire more drivers and buy more vans.

And are the stone benches really better than our old wooden ones if they freeze your bum in the winter (and will most likely scorch it when the heat turns up)? Does having an iPod make me a drone-like Pod person ready to join the capitalist ranks? May I curse “the system” while I also enjoy catered receptions and cherish my Duke degree? Is there any escape from hypocrisy?

Bridget Newman is a Trinity senior. Her column appears every other Thursday.



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