Science Teacher Jason Seaman Stops Student Gunman in Indiana School!

Dear Commons Community,

Jason Seaman, a science teacher at Noblesville West Middle School, did not hesitate when a student walked into his classroom with a pair of handguns and then opened fire. Seaman, was shot three times as he lunged at the gunman in a bid to protect his class.

The shooter fired off several rounds before “Mr. Seaman started running at him, he’s a teacher, a science teacher — he tackled him to the ground,” a student, who did not wish to be identified told Fox 59.

“He’s a hero. If he didn’t do anything he probably would have continued shooting and a lot more of us would have been injured and possibly killed, so it was just something that most people would not have done but he was really brave to do it. “

His mother, Kristi J. Hubly Seaman, in Facebook post said her son was being treated at the Indiana Universtiy Methodist Hospital for gunshot wounds to his abdomen, hip and forearm.

“Jason is out of surgery and doing well,” she wrote. “PLEASE pray for the student that was also shot.”

A 13-year-old girl also struck in the gunfire Friday morning was transported to Riley Hospital for Children immediately following the incident and was in critical condition.

Jeremie Lovall said his daughter, a seventh-grader at the Indiana school, was in the classroom when the shooting unfoled shortly after 9 a.m. She phoned to tell her father she was alright and recalled the horrifying incident.

“She kept saying, ‘I saw my science teacher get shot,” he told the Indy Star.

Another student also in the classroom at the time of the attack told Fox 59 Seaman “swatted” the guns away from student shooter before tackling him to the ground.

He reportedly encouraged his class to run as he held down the suspect, who was taken into custody near Seaman’s classroom.

Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt said the Friday morning shooting was resolved “fairly quickly,” with many crediting Seaman with ending the shooting before things turned more violent.

The shooting is the 23rd school shooting this year in the US and comes just a week after an incident in Santa Fe, Texas in which 10 people died and 13 were injured at a high school.

God bless our teachers!


Trump Administration to Crack Down on International Students!

Dear Commons Community,

In a policy memorandum, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on May 10th that it plans to change how it calculates “unlawful presence” for foreigners in the student visa and exchange program. It will also impose harsher punishments — up to a 10-year ban from the country — for graduates who overstay their visas.

The policy, due to take effect in August, has been criticized by higher education institutions and student advocates who say the change shows the indiscriminate nature of the Trump administration’s “America First” policies. They say Mr. Trump’s aggressive immigration efforts are shutting out the nation’s leading scholars, who contribute billions of dollars to the economy in the United States, staff its leading research institutions, support its most high-skilled jobs, and contribute to the president’s own goal of strengthening the pipeline to science, technology, mathematics and engineering jobs.

“It is clear that in an attempt to ‘enhance public safety,’ the administration seeks to further close the door on academic talent,” said Jill Welch, the deputy executive director for public policy at Nafsa, the Association of International Educators. “This is yet another policy which makes the United States less attractive to talented international students and scholars.”

This policy is a blow to  the STEM disciplines especially doctoral progams that rely on talented foreign-born students. 


Philip Roth on President Trump!

Dear Commons Community,

The novelist Philip Roth who passed away on Tuesday,  has been receiving  accolades and tributes for his literary work.  Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus were among the must-read novels of my generation in the 1960s.  

Beyond his body of literature, Roth, also has provided some devastating analysis on President Trump, calling him a “callow and callous killer capitalist” and “humanly impoverished.”

In correspondence with The New Yorker last year, Roth drew parallels between Trump and aviator Charles Lindbergh, who features prominently in Roth’s novel The Plot Against America as an isolationist president during the 1940s.

“It is easier to comprehend the election of an imaginary president like Charles Lindbergh than an actual president like Donald Trump,” Roth wrote. “Lindbergh, despite his Nazi sympathies and racist proclivities, was a great aviation hero who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius in crossing the Atlantic in 1927. He had character and he had substance and, along with Henry Ford, was, worldwide, the most famous American of his day. Trump is just a con artist.”

Roth went on to eviscerate Trump:

“Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of 77 words that is better called Jerkish than English.” wrote Roth.


NY Times Editorial: Betsy DeVos and USDOE Freeing Predatory Colleges to Fleece Students!

Dear Commons Community,

A New York Times editorial today takes aim at Betsy DeVos and the USDOE for undermining investigations of the for-profit higher education industry by marginalizing or reassigning lawyers and investigators who had been assigned to this matter during the Obama years. Major investigations have been abandoned, including of the DeVry Education Group (now known as Adtalem Global Education), Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation.

The House would further weaken fraud protection in a bill to overhaul the Higher Education Act. That effort would do away with rules that deny federal aid to career education programs that have historically burdened students with loans far beyond their capacity to pay. It would make short-term or untested programs eligible for federal aid for which they do not now qualify.
Below is the entire editorial.
For shame, Ms. DeVos!


Predatory Colleges, Freed to Fleece Students

New York Times
May 22, 2018
Try as they might, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress cannot disguise that they continue to do the bidding of the for-profit college industry, which has saddled working-class students — including veterans — with crushing debt while providing useless degrees, or no degrees at all.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos claimed ignorance when she was asked during a congressional hearing on Tuesday how many of the college students who told her department that they had been ripped off were complaining about for-profit schools. The widely publicized answer is more than 98 percent.
For-profit college fraud dates back to the inception of the G.I. Bill during World War II. A congressional investigation during the 1950s found that schools had cropped up to fleece veterans, siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars while providing worthless training. Since then, Congress has intermittently tightened regulations only to loosen them under industry pressure, leading to a cycle of exploitation.
The problem became so pervasive that 37 state attorneys general joined forces to combat it. Attorneys general are not only suing abusive for-profit schools, they are suing the federal government itself, resisting efforts to weaken or ignore regulations that protect students from predatory institutions.
The federal government was shamefully late to this effort but finally found its footing after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors in 2011. In 2014, the bureau sued Corinthian Colleges, which soon collapsed amid charges that it had lured poor and working-class students by lying to them about job-placement rates — then saddled them with predatory loans.
Congress was forced to confront the problem last year when it passed the Forever G.I. Bill, which restored veterans benefits to thousands of men and women who had found themselves shut out of school when for-profit programs charged with fraud closed their doors.
Ms. DeVos seems to have learned nothing from this history. Indeed, as The Times reported last week, the Education Department has undermined investigations of the industry by marginalizing or reassigning lawyers and investigators who had been assigned to this matter during the Obama years. Major investigations had been abandoned, including of the DeVry Education Group (now known as Adtalem Global Education), Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation.
The House would further weaken fraud protection in a bill to overhaul the Higher Education Act. That effort would do away with rules that deny federal aid to career education programs that have historically burdened students with loans far beyond their capacity to pay. It would make short-term or untested programs eligible for federal aid for which they do not now qualify.
The bill would also blur the distinction between for-profit and other colleges, allowing for-profit career training programs to escape regulatory scrutiny that is now required under federal statute and regulation. This bill, in other words, is a love letter to the for-profit industry the likes of which the country has never seen.

Pope Francis:  “…you are gay does not matter. God made you like that and loves you…”!

Dear Commons Community,

Pope Francis made headlines two days ago in a conversation with a gay victim of sexual abuse by stating that “ are gay does not matter. God made you like that and loves you like this and I don’t care. The Pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.”  This is not in keeping with official Catholic dogma that teaches that homosexuality is sinful.  Here is a recap of the Pope’s statement as provided by the Independent:

“A victim of clerical sex abuse has said Pope Francis told him God made him gay and his sexuality “does not matter”.

Juan Carlos Cruz spoke privately with the pontiff last week about the abuse he suffered at the hands of a prominent Chilean priest. 

After his sexuality came up in conversation, Francis reportedly told him: “Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like that and loves you like this and I don’t care. The Pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are.”

The comments are arguably the most explicit acceptance of homosexuality publicly spoken by a head of the Roman Catholic church, which teaches that gay sex is a sin.

It is not the first time Francis’ remarks have suggested a shift in attitudes. In 2013, he told reporters: “If someone is gay and is looking for the Lord, who am I to judge him? You should not discriminate against or marginalize these people.”

The subject of homosexuality arose in Mr Cruz’s conversation with Francis because some of Chile’s bishops had sought to portray him as a pervert who was lying about the abuse, he told El Pais.

His abuser, Fernando Karadima, now 87, was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually assaulting children in 2011. He was barred from clerical duties and sentenced to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” but has never faced a criminal trial. 

This week all of Chile’s 34 Roman Catholic bishops offered the pope their resignation over a sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has rocked the country’s churches.

It is not yet clear whether Francis has accepted their offer to step down.

Mr. Cruz said the Pope had personally apologized to him for the abuse he suffered during their meeting this week.

“I was thrilled that he took what we talked about so seriously,” he added. “I felt the visit was not just a matter of protocol, of public relations.”

The Vatican has not yet commented on the Pope’s reported remarks on homosexuality.”

Here in the United States, the Catholic Church has spoken out against same sex marriages.  It will be interesting to see if and how the Vatican clarifies the Pope’s remarks.


U.S. Supreme Court Deals Blow to Workers in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision yesterday ruled that companies can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to bar workers from joining forces in legal actions over problems in the workplace. In other words, workers who are underpaid, harassed or discriminated against will have to press their cases alone in arbitration, rather than with their colleagues in a class-action case, or even with their own lawsuit.  Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, have an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times explaining the ramifications of this ruling and calling on the Congress to enact new legislation. Here is an excerpt:

“This decision, Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis, would be a blow at any moment, but it’s especially harmful now. The rights of workers are under attack. Wage theft is rampant through violations of minimum-wage laws, refusal to pay overtime and forcing employees to work off the clock. Our crude national discourse encourages all types of discrimination. And we now know better than ever how pervasive sexual harassment is.

In addition, the institutions that can stand up for workers who can’t stand up for themselves are falling short. The proportion of American workers in a union is at an 80-year low. State and local government agencies that enforce laws to protect workers are chronically underfunded. And the federal government is doing everything it can to lend a hand to predatory employers.

Class-action lawsuits are critical for workers to exercise their rights. The courts are supposed to be there to provide a forum for all people to demand fair enforcement of the law. But the courthouse doors are shut to those who are too scared or don’t have the resources to walk through them alone.

That’s why class actions, which enable people with the same or similar injuries to sue as a group, are important. Taking collective action diminishes the fear of employer retaliation and allows workers to pool resources so they can afford to bring their cases and make them more attractive for lawyers to take on.

Even an utterly routine case can cost a lot of money to litigate. Plaintiffs’ lawyers we spoke with estimated that to represent just one worker who is denied minimum wage or overtime would take more than 40 hours of attorney time. In a case like that, a typical settlement for back wages for one underpaid low-wage worker might amount to $3,000 to $5,000, perhaps less. Few private lawyers would take that case. But if a lawyer can represent a group of workers harmed in the same way by the same employer, the economics of a case starts to make sense.

Congress has the power to open the courthouse doors again for workers. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion, said as much in rejecting the argument that the National Labor Relations Act, which encourages collective bargaining, prevents courts from enforcing arbitration agreements.

“The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written,” he wrote, adding that “Congress is of course always free to amend this judgment.”

That’s exactly what Congress should do by prohibiting employers from barring workers from joining together in lawsuits. It should amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Federal Arbitration Act to make it clear that filing class-action lawsuits is explicitly protected under those statutes.

Until there is change on the federal level, states and localities should increase funding for their enforcement agencies so they can step in to vindicate workers’ rights. But government resources alone will never be sufficient, so states should pass laws allowing whistle-blowers to bring cases on behalf of the government in workplace-related cases.

The rule of law is an essential element of our democracy. That means people need a real and enforceable right to demand that laws be fairly applied. The Supreme Court has undermined this principle by saying to the nation’s workers that they get a chance at justice if only they have the means and power to pursue their cases alone. It is up to Congress to make access to justice for everyone real again by affirming the right of all workers to stand together at the courthouse door.’

While I agree totally with Gerstein and Block in their piece, assuming that the present Congress will enact anything that is beneficial to workers over corporate interests is not going to happen anytime soon.



Texas Governor Greg Abbott Continues to Promote Shotgun Giveaway Contest!

Dear Commons Community,

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s re-election campaign has continued to promote a shotgun giveaway contest days after the Santa Fe Texas high school shooting during which ten people were killed. As reported by Politics:

“The re-election campaign of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is continuing to promote a shotgun giveaway days after a shooter, armed with a shotgun and a pistol, opened fire at a Texas high school.

Abbott, a staunch pro-gun advocate, said Friday that lawmakers needed to “do more than just pray for victims and their families” following the Santa Fe High School massacre, in which authorities say a 17-year-old student killed 10 people and wounded 13.

“It’s time in Texas that we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again,” Abbott said at a press conference, where he noted that the suspected shooter used a shotgun and .38-caliber revolver he had obtained from his father.

Still, the “action” suggested by Abbott on Friday did not appear to include pulling a contest offered by his re-election campaign in which participants can enter to win a shotgun.

“Win a Texas-made shotgun!” boasts Abbott’s official campaign website. To enter the contest, which began May 1, those interested are instructed to submit their contact information online.

Abbott’s campaign also printed promotional material featuring the shotgun giveaway to hang on doorknobs. It’s unclear when and where the printed ads for the contest where circulated.

Representatives for Abbott did not immediately respond to requests for comment.”

It is comforting to see that in times of great sorrow our elected officials show deep sensitivity to the families and friends of victims.


Jimmy Kimmel on the Santa Fe School Shooting:  “They sit there with their hands in their pockets — pockets that are full of gun money — and do nothing.”



Dear Commons Community,

Last Friday in Santa Fe, Texas, there was another school shooting where nine students and one teacher were killed by a deranged individual.  It seems like every couple of months another tragedy happens in one of our country’s schools and we are resigned to the fact that it will likely happen again in another couple of months.  Jimmy Kimmel addressing the issue called out our politicians who “sit there with their hands in their pockets — pockets that are full of gun money — and do nothing.” Above is the video of his monologue.  Below is a brief account.

“On Friday night, at the start of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Kimmel talked about the shooting that killed 10 people and wounded 10 more at Santa Fe High School. He immediately called out Donald Trump, Texas governor Greg Abbott, and members of Congress for not doing enough to prevent shootings from happening.

“Once again, our leaders are sending their thoughts and prayers,” Kimmel said. “President Trump said he is with the people of Santa Fe in this tragic hour and will be with them forever. Except for when it comes time to do something. Then he will not be with them. And neither will any of the Congresspeople or governors, who don’t ever do anything because they are fearful that it will hurt them politically.”

Kimmel was referring to Trump’s tweet about the shooting, in which he wrote, “We grieve for the terrible loss of life, and send our support and love to everyone affected by this horrible attack in Texas. To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High School – we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever….”

The video included a series of shots of victims of the shooting telling reporters about their experiences, intercut with politicians announcing their refusal to enact any new gun laws.

Kimmel went on to call out government leaders for being afraid to stand up to the National Rifle Association.

“They know the truth,” he said. “They know this has gone too far. But they’re too cowardly to do the right thing. They care more about the support of the NRA than they do about children. So they sit there with their hands in their pockets — pockets that are full of gun money — and do nothing. They just wait for the outrage to pass. Because it didn’t happen to their children.”


Professor Young Kun Kim Dead!

Dear Commons Community,

Professor Young Kun Kim of Lehman College and the Graduate Center died at the age of 87 today of injuries he sustained during an assault on Sunday.  Newspaper accounts reported that Matthew Lee attacked him  in the lobby of the Citibank on Broadway at W. 96th St and made off with $300 while leaving him for dead.  

Professor Kim served City University for over fifty years.  I was fortunate to enroll in three of his classes while an undergraduate in the 1960s.  I was a political science major and his class on modern political philosophy was one of the best courses I ever had in my life.  He introduced me to Hegel, Mill, Marx and Engels.  He was a kind, generous, and gentle man who had great sensitivity to those of us who had the good fortune to be his students.  In recent years, our paths have crossed a number of times here at CUNY mostly at the Graduate Center were he regularly attended Graduate Council meetings.  We would always talk about what we were doing and he was still encouraging me to achieve and to move forward with my career.  I also remember him saying in the early years of the Vietnam War that it will be a long involved conflict that America could never win.

No one deserves to die the way he did. CUNY has lost a dear member of its family.  I will miss him.


Colleges That Are Richer Than Some Countries!

Dear Commons Community,

There are a number of American colleges and universities which have estimated endowments greater than $2 billion dollars, meaning their wealth not only exceeds that of many large companies, but that of fourteen different nations. As reported by Stacker:

“Using data from the NACUBO 2017 Commonfund Study of Endowments, Stacker compiled a list of the 50 American colleges with the most substantial endowments, each of which exceeds the total wealth of a number of nations around the world.  There are a handful of incredible locations around the world where one can’t help but feel the money that went into sculpting the grandiose ambiance. Though it used to be the case that only the likes of luxurious hotels and restaurants could synthesize these kinds of environments, stepping onto the campus of one of America’s top colleges can now have that very same effect. America’s public schooling system may be in trouble, but our top universities are anything but.  Considering not only the quality of architecture on display in many of our academic institutions, but also the commitment to funding research, investing in advanced technologies, and top-of-the-line amenities available at many colleges, it can be helpful to put some universities’ finances into context to understand the true scale of their riches.”

It will be interesting to see how U.S. Congress’ plan to tax university endowments plays out.