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Student Journalism and Campus Climate: An Interview with UCSD Guardian Editor-in-Chief Angela Chen

By Taylor Marvin

Once again, cultural tensions at UCSD are in the news.

Two weeks ago UCSD Associated Students Campuswide Senator Ashton Shahyad Cohen was photographed at a costume party wearing traditional Middle Eastern garb. The image was later posted to Cohen’s private Facebook profile with a caption alluding to the women posing alongside him as his “three wives”; the caption was apparently written by one of the women pictured.

After being emailed the image by a friend, fellow UCSD student Noor El-Annan disseminated the photo of Cohen on Facebook, later describing it as offensive and culturally insensitive. On April 26th UCSD student newspaper the Guardian published a front page story “Controversy Over Photo of A.S. Senator”, with the subheading “Students say image of Campuswide Senator Ashton Cohen in Muslim garb is an example of campus-wide racism.” In the Guardian piece El-Annan was quoted as “offended and disgusted” by Cohen’s decision to wear the outfit to the costume party. Cohen denied that his actions represented an anti-Muslim bias, complaining that “rather than debating the issue, [offended students] threw out the racist card.” Cohen also noted that two of the three women pictured alongside him are Muslim.

Notably, the Guardian title phrase “Muslim garb” is an inaccurate description of Cohen’s outfit, and mistakenly conflates the comprehensive term “Muslim” with the Middle East.

Front page of the Guardian, 26 April.

Front page of the 'Guardian', 26 April.

Two days later political blogger Bruce Kesler commented on the story under the vitriolic title “Palestinian Clown Union at UCSD”; Kesler termed El-Annan “a pro-Palestinian fanatic”, and asked if she and other offended students would have “preferred photos of clitorectomies, which is also a common Moslem practice?” BuzzFeed then picked up the story, publishing “A Joke About ‘Three Wives’ Re-Ignites Jewish, Muslim Tensions At California College” on May 2nd. In addition to covering the current controversy BuzzFeed summarized UCSD’s ongoing problems with campus climate, recounting the debate over the “divestment” movement at UCSD, which has unsuccessfully attempted to bar the university from investing in corporations that profit from arms sales to Israel. El-Annan is a member UCSD student organization Students for Justice in Palestine, which supports divestment; in his role as A.S. Senator Cohen has opposed it.

BuzzFeed also discusses the April 2011 “Open Letter”, a paid ad placed in the Guardian by 28 faculty authors that described pro-Palestinian student groups as “driven less by positive impulses of fraternity toward fellow Arabs and Muslims than by hateful impulses to destroy the world’s only sovereign Jewish nation.”* BuzzFeed additionally referenced a faculty response to the 2011 open letter, “An Open Appeal to Chancellor Fox and the UCSD Community”, published here April 18th, 2011.

A week later in the Thursday, May 3rd issue the Guardian retracted the story, with Editor-in-Chief Angela Chen authoring a thousand word statement explaining the reasons behind the decision. Chen termed the story “a failure of reporting,” and wrote that the Guardian incorrectly assumed that “El-Annan was speaking on behalf of the political movement of divestment when she was speaking, more specifically, about an [sic] cultural issue.” The original story was removed from the Guardian’s website, and is only viewable online through a PDF of the entire April 26th edition (Chen’s statement misidentifies the publication date of the original story).

The Guardian also offered both Cohen and El-Annan the opportunity to author guest commentary pieces; Cohen’s, “Students Should Work Towards Fostering Climate of Mutual Respect”, was published May 3rd. “Though I understand the photo could be misinterpreted, I feel the attacks were politically motivated,” writes Cohen, closing with a call for student leaders to “maintain a firm commitment  to engage in respectful dialogue and put our cultural differences aside.”

El-Annan declined to publish a commentary. When I spoke with El-Annan she supported Chen’s decision to retract the Guardian story, claiming the piece reduced the issue to “the person who posted the photo or posed in the photo, instead of the reason why the photo was being criticized.” El-Annan reemphasized that though she was “speaking on behalf of my community as well as myself,” Students for Justice in Palestine “had nothing to do with this specific incident,” and that the Guardian did not convey this distinction. Chen’s statement “addressed some [of my] concerns,” El-Annan added, “but again personalized this situation.”

To better understand the Guardian’s actions, on Monday May 7th I sat down with Angela Chen to discuss the issue and the Guardian’s role in UCSD campus climate. A lightly edited transcript follows:

Taylor Marvin: In recent years the Guardian has run numerous stories relating to the Israeli-Palestinian issue on campus; specifically, the ongoing divestment debate and the 2011 faculty open letter. What are the Guardian’s goals when covering these issues?

Angela Chen: As the official student newspaper the Guardian above all strives to be relevant to what’s happening to students on campus. Our goals in covering [the on-campus Israel-Palestine debate] are to bring up an issue that’s hugely important to a majority of campus, both those who are pro-divestment and anti-divestment. This issue reoccurs each year, is tied to a national and global political issue, and is something that’s happening on campus. In the Guardian’s opinion section we usually run two guest commentaries, giving each side a platform to express their opinions. We are the campus paper, and I think that it would be a huge act of negligence on our part if we weren’t to cover it. It is a difficult issue to cover, but is important, emotional, and has large implications.

TM: When covering these issues has the Guardian’s editorial staff ever come under external pressure, either from student groups or the UCSD administration?

AC: I have personally covered this issue for quite a while — in 2010 and this year — and we have not come under pressure from the UCSD administration; no one has said ‘you can’t publish this’, or anything like that. I don’t think there’s any direct censorship on the administration side.

On the student side, when we make mistakes — and we do make mistakes, whether in terms of mistaken terminology or bias, and we try our best to correct them — students will contact us, but it’s never anything as explicit as ‘don’t you dare record this’ or telling us how we should do our reporting, or how to write our editorials.

TM: What type of influence or contacts do you receive from student organizations?

AC: People will contact me complaining that a story misrepresented an issue. It is rare that [students] will say that they were misquoted, and never that we made up a quote. It’s more often an issue of how [the Guardian] presented information, or how an article was structured — sometimes writers or editors aren’t careful enough in editing.

TM: To the best of my knowledge article retractions by the Guardian are rare. Can you describe the process that lead to last week’s decision to retract the April 26th story?

AC: Retractions are rare; we’ve run a couple this year. This retraction was more of a personal- if you look at the story you’ll see that it doesn’t say “editorial board”; it is under my name and my position as Editor-in-Chief. The process behind the decision [involved] thinking about the Guardian and the goal of journalism in a holistic way. As I said in the piece, aside from issues of terminology people weren’t misquoted and there were no blatant accuracy issues, but having talked with both sides I think journalists have a duty, especially in issues like this, to give context and be more careful in their writing. In the past I don’t think we’ve necessarily done that.

Like I’ve said, our articles are online, and people link to them. People’s names will show up in searches. I think that it is our responsibility to look really closely at this kind of thing. Given that, the article was poorly written, it did take some things out of context, and did not include that Ashton [Cohen] had said he was reaching out [to his critics]; that’s why it was retracted.

At the same time people have already asked me if they can get their names removed from divestment-related articles published two years ago. Right now I’m still open to feedback from the general public, but it’s an entirely new can of worms to do things retroactively. I’ve never taken an article offline before besides this one, and if I were to do so again the burden of proof on the person requesting [a retroactive retraction] would be extremely heavy. Now I’m open to hearing more feedback about what we’ve done wrong, and which articles have portrayed people badly in the past. But going way back anyone could say ‘I was portrayed in a bad way’ and we have no way of assessing the claim.

TM: Are you specifically talking about removing past articles that former students say portrayed them inaccurately, or just unflattering?

AC: Some of the articles in question are just be letters to the editor, and the author will say that, for example, they are now going to law school and don’t want juvenile writing to be associated with their name. We receive a lot of these requests, and in most cases don’t take them down — it is their writing, there’s no libel or slander involved, and this is how they chose to portray themselves. The only articles I would be open to taking down are ones that can be proven to be false.

TM: Would you say that your decision to retract the April 26th article was strictly related to the article’s “failure of reporting”, or was it driven by external considerations?

AC: The majority of the decision was a due to a failure of reporting. The Guardian as an entity has been under fire from both sides, who have implied that we’re both pro-Israel and anti-Israel. I think that my retraction did consider the Guardian’s [wider] context, simply because we want to continue reporting this issue. If we write articles that even I admit are poorly written or poorly edited then we are not going to be a relevant, trusted source of information. If we retract an article it is because of the reporting, but also because it is the Guardian’s duty to provide articles that are informed, and both sides can agree portrayed them fairly. This article didn’t do that.

TM: What steps are the Guardian taking to avoid this type of situation in the future?

AC: I am trying to set up a meeting with [student organizations] to address this issue. I think one of the the Guardian’s weaknesses is outreach; we’re focused on what’s happening, but we’re not necessarily out there ourselves. Few of the Guardian’s editors are involved in other student organizations, and the staff can become very insular. I am trying to institutionalize more outreach, like attending campus climate meetings and talking to all student orgs. I am specifically focusing on the news and opinion sections, where sensitive issues are most commonly touched upon. I am personally working with these sections to develop a guide to covering sensitive issues. Obviously I’m not the expert on [these issues], but there are just some things writers are not aware of: terminology, or how to phrase questions to avoid bias. I plan on taking a bigger role on working with my editors and my writers on this. That’s something I hope to institutionalize as well, because a lot of knowledge at the Guardian gets lost when key people leave. If we can guarantee that we will regularly meet with other student orgs, we will check these guidelines, we will fact check more carefully, and it will help the role of the Guardian in the future.

—————————————————————————-

1. In recent years the Guardian has run numerous stories relating to the Israeli-Palestinian issue on campus; specifically, the ongoing divestment debate and the 2011 faculty open letter. What are the Guardian’s goals when covering these issues?
2. When covering these issues has the Guardian’s editorial staff come under external pressure, either from student groups or the UCSD administration?
3. What is the Guardian’s policy for dealing with these pressures?
4. To the best of my knowledge article retractions by the Guardian are rare. Can you describe the process that lead to this decision? What steps is the Guardian taking to ensure that this does not happen again?
5. The Guardian’s retraction statement, authored by you, references “institutionalizing many of its formerly non-existent guidelines”; can you specify how these prospective guidelines will impact coverage of campus climate, if at all?
*In April 2011 I published a post critical of the original open letter “An Open Letter To Our University Community About Troubling Hypocrisy On Our Campus” and its faculty authors, titled “UCSD Professors Accuse Student Groups of Hypocrisy, Anti-Semitism.” After hosting the faculty response letter “An Open Appeal to Chancellor Fox and the UCSD Community”, I published two counter-responses by faculty authors of the original Open Letter: “Justice in Palestine Week at UCSD” by Dr. Ron Evans, and “A Response to ‘An Open Appeal to Chancellor Fox and the UCSD Community'” by Dr. David Feifel.

Cover the Night

By Taylor Marvin

Image via Jezebel.

Image via Jezebel.

Earlier posts on Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign here and here.

From Jezebel, Invisible Children’s ‘Cover the Night’ event, intended to draw massive public attention to Joseph Kony and increased lobbying for American military invention in central Africa, was less a bang than a wimper — Jezebel reports seeing one “Kony 2012” flier in Chicago. In San Diego, I spotted one yesterday at the San Ysidro border crossing, and a friend a single letter-sized poster downtown. Remember, Invisible Children’s founder attended UCSD, and the organization is based in San Diego: if ‘Cover the Night’ was a non-event here, it likely was everywhere.

I legitimately do not understand why Invisible Children scheduled their flagship event — remember, the famous ‘Kony 2012’ viral documentary was at its core a instruction video for ‘Cover the Night’ — on April 20th, America’s unofficial celebration of weed. Invisible Children is a college campus-centered movement, and the liberal college campuses most prone to grassroots organizing also tend to take note of 4/20 — presumably the audiences overlap. I’m not claiming the ‘Cover the Night’ would have done better if it was scheduled on another day, but why compete? Did IC not believe that 4/20 would have a detrimental effect on activists’ enthusiasm for hanging posters? Or was Invisible Childrens’ evangelical-leaning leadership not aware of April 20’s implications?

Any ideas? I’m very curious.

Update: A friend in Santa Monica just told me that there’s Kony 2012 posters all over LA. Anyone outside SD or LA have updates on their city?

Syria and the ‘How’ of War

By Taylor Marvin

Peter J. Munson has a provocative post questioning whether advocates of intervention in Syria and a ‘Responsibility to Protect’ in general should be “heading down to recruiting offices to join in the effort.” Political scientist and UCSD alum Steve Saideman disagrees:

“The idea that only folks with military experience should be able to advocate the use of military force is a very dangerous one.  One of the best things about post-World War II democracies is the rise of alternative sources of information about security issues.  It used to be that only the militaries, with some rare exceptions, seriously studied war, strategy and the rest.  Having more folks study it, even those who do not have any military experience is very much a net good.”

In the comments section of Saideman’s blog Munson points out that he’s not actually arguing for the R2P crowd to strap themselves into an F-15 and start hunting Syrian tanks, but is concerned about the general ignorance about the nuts-and-bolts of military action among policy elites:

“I want the civilians to consider their calls for intervention much more seriously because I do not trust the generals to sufficiently and properly inform debate. Some of this is due to flaws in some generals’ conception of the strategic environment in past conflicts. Some of this is due to generals’ civ-mil duty to stand back from shaping debate. So when civilians say that they can advocate certain actions, then leave it to the experts to inform policy-makers before a final decision is made, this is disingenuous. The civilian policy elites will shape the debate and hand policy-makers a narrowed set of options. If policy elites have not properly laid out the costs and risks in their advocacy, then the politicians and generals are left with a skewed “decision environment,” which institutional factors predispose them to further bollocks up.”

While there’s a cynical part of me that thinks Niall Ferguson wouldn’t be so quick to blithely dismiss Iranian air defense networks if he was expected to risk his life in the wars he champions, I agree with Saideman’s view that it’s important for civilian policy elites to play the dominant role in setting foreign policy. But Munson’s right to remark “that people signing others up to ‘protect’ with glib assumptions of easy and limited interventions and quick success deserve the rhetorical jab.” Best-case-assumptions are a lot easier to make when it’s not your life at risk if you’re wrong.

I think this debate hints at a common problem: widespread general ignorance about military capabilities and limitations among the ‘International Relations’ crowd. Case in point: a recent Facebook conversation I had with a fellow UCSD IR student about the merits of a NATO intervention in Syria. There are many reasons to doubt the usefulness of a NATO mission to safeguard Syrian civilians. First off, airpower would be unable to destroy Syrian military units operating in dense urban areas without inflicting unacceptable civilian casualties. The Syrian Air Force and air defense systems, which would be the most potent the United States has encountered since Vietnam, would require an extensive air campaign to neutralize before NATO air assets could freely engage Syrian ground units. Israeli aircraft circumvented Syrian air defenses during their strike on the Syria’s suspected nuclear site in 2007 — NATO aircraft conducting a general humanitarian campaign would not have this luxury. Worse, there’s no clear path to victory in Syria. History suggests that airpower is rarely a successful coercive tool, a point Robert Farley recently argued in World Politics Review: “We now have nearly 100 years of history to demonstrate that airpower cannot conjure up the outcomes we want, when we want them.”

Most proposals for intervention in Syria lack any kind of coherent step-by-step progression from engagement to exit, replacing the “how” of military planning with magical thinking. Unlike Libyan rebels the Free Syrian Army is at best a fractious and ineffective fighting force, holds no territory and lacks heavy weapons; a NATO air campaign based around providing air support to rebel ground forces would not be applicable in Syria. At its very best a NATO or Arab League mission to establish and protect safe zones on the Syrian border would be an indefinite combat commitment, and it’s worth remembering that the Operations Provide Comfort/Northern and Southern Watch — which established civilian ‘safe zones’ in Iraq — killed US servicemen and only ultimately ended in regime change.

Syrian riot police, Damascus. Voice of America photo by Elizabeth Arrott.

Syrian riot police, Damascus. Voice of America photo by Elizabeth Arrott.

These concerns didn’t sway the UCSD student I was talking with; despite the risks, in his view morality and a “belief in democracy” make an intervention worthwhile. This is troubling. Morality should have no bearing on the decision to go to war. The United States should enter foreign conflicts only if the likely payoffs from victory outweigh the expected costs. Commenters who aren’t willing to take the time to make a realistic assessment of the prospects of military success — whether undergraduates or highly-regarded academics — cannot make a rational decision whether to go to war. Wars aren’t won by “belief in democracy” or even morality — a successful intervention in Syria rests on NATO’s ability to destroy Syrian military assets and coerce the Assad regime into leaving power. There’s no middle ground: like in Libya, entering a Syrian civil war means tying NATO credibility to the overthrow of the Assad regime. Unfortunately, there’s no line between the limited humanitarian missions fans of R2P advocate and regime change. After all, the Libyan war began strictly as a no fly zone without the goal of actually deposing Qaddafi — a fiction that lasted about five minutes. Either the violence in Syria warrants a Western intervention that would escalate violence in the short-term and perhaps lead to the downfall of the Assad regime or it doesn’t. The debate over a “Responsibility to Protect” is irrelevant to whether NATO even possess a capability to protect Syrian civilians.  Given that US ground forces were unable to protect civilians in Iraq — a sectarian, urban conflict with more similarities to today’s Syria than the recent Libyan war — I’d argue that it does not.

Debating whether we should enter Syria without carefully considering how NATO would tactically and strategically fight, and ultimately exit, the conflict is potentially disastrous. Often the military’s group think and pressure to fall in line with optimistic narratives passed down from civilian leaders hampers this assessment at the military level: as Saideman notes, “we already have enough presidential candidates saying that they will do whatever the generals recommend, as if the generals speak with one voice and think with one mind.” But what’s worrying to me is that not only do most of my fellow IR-studying UCSD undergrads ignore military realities when arguing for foreign interventions, but seem to actively disdain them. Grand theories and concern for the suffering are important. But advocating for foreign war without making an effort to learn anything about the capabilities of the US military — specific weapons systems, military history, operational limitations — is recklessly irresponsible. Saideman’s right to note that military experience isn’t necessary to be informed about security issues. But advocates for humanitarian intervention unwilling to consider the hows of military action are dangerously close to the willful ignorance and blind optimism of the Bush administration.

Police Brutality at UC Davis

By Taylor Marvin

I’m sure you’ve all seen what happened at UC Davis:

University of California President Yudof has taken some action: calling the incident “appalling” and meriting a “systemwide response”, Yudof has stated that he intends “to convene all 10 chancellors to engage in a full and unfettered discussion about how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to non-violent protest.” This is a good start. The UC Chancellors are clearly unprepared to safely address student protest, and new system-wide guidelines that govern the appropriate use of force by campus police are desperately needed. But this isn’t enough. Casually pepper spraying protesters that are clearly not threatening the police – they’re sitting on the ground – is not acceptable. At the very best its an absolutely unmerited and disproportionate use of violent force, but there’s more going on here. UC Police Department Lt. John A. Pike is absolutely relaxed as he sprayed the passive students, and it’s clear that his actions aren’t motivated by fear of the angry crowd. Instead, he’s punishing the students for disobedience. This is very, very ugly. From The Atlantic’s James Fallows:

I can’t see any legitimate basis for police action like what is shown here. Watch that first minute and think how we’d react if we saw it coming from some riot-control unit in China, or in Syria. The calm of the officer who walks up and in a leisurely way pepper-sprays unarmed and passive people right in the face? We’d think: this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population. That’s what I think here.”

Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi has put the UC Davis campus police chief on administrative leave, and has apologized for the incident, emotionally explaining Monday that she feels “horrible for what happened.” Despite this apparent remorse, Katehi is unlikely to resign. This is unacceptable, and is pure cowardice. Luckily, Chancellor Katehi has a public contact form on her website (via Sullivan). My letter:

Chancellor Katehi,

As a University of California student, I am dismayed by the police actions ordered by your administration, and your apparent disregard for the students of UC Davis. Either you are a person of integrity who takes responsibility for your actions and the actions of your subordinates, or you are not. I hope you do the right thing and resign your position.

Your continued presence at UC Davis is an affront to the reputation of the University of California system.

Sincerely,
Taylor Marvin
UC San Diego

The UC Davis police department also has posted contact information:

To whom it may concern,

According to California state employee payroll records, Lt. John A. Pike is paid a yearly wage of $110,243.12 in public money to pepper spray peaceful, patently non-aggressive student protestors. I expect better from highly paid professionals. I am dismayed that the UC Davis police department has proven itself ready to maliciously and extra-judicially punish — a valid description of Lt. Pike’s unprovoked actions — the students it professes to serve.

I hope that you will be reconsidering your department’s priorities and policies.

Regards,
Taylor Marvin
UC San Diego

Send letters to the UCD administration, and to the UC Office of the President. The UC system is state funded and, importantly, is increasingly dependent on student tuition — the public and especially current UC students have a voice. Use it.

But it’s important to remember the bigger picture here. What happened at UC Davis is a symptom, not the disease. The increasing militarization of American police forces is decreasing police effectiveness by isolating police from the civil population they nominally protect. At The Washington Monthly, Peter Moskos explains:

“In the police academy, I was taught to pepper-spray people for non-compliance. Ie: “Put your hands behind your back or I’ll… mace you.” It’s crazy. Of course we didn’t do it this way, the way we were taught. Baltimore police officers are too smart to start urban race riots based on some dumb-ass training. So what did we do to gain compliance? We grabbed people. Hands on. Like real police. And we were good at it.”

This isn’t the attitude on display at UCD. Lt. Pike’s casual demeanor as he inflicts pain on female students half his weight shows a cop with no empathetic connection to the population he serves. Really, “serves” isn’t the right word here: if UC Police Department training and culture created a climate where Lt. Pike judged his behavior acceptable, then the UCPD stopped serving the students of the UC system long ago. Lt. Pike the individual isn’t to blame, but the institution that created him. The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal elaborates with characteristic insight:

“While it’s easiest to note the incidents of police violence, the protesters’ cameras also record what’s *not* in the images. Authorities have long claimed that they were merely battling the “black bloc” of violent anarchists. But when you look at all these videos, the bogeyman isn’t there.

Instead, it’s a dozen scared kids and a police officer named John Pike spraying them in the face from three feet away. And while it’s his finger pulling the trigger, the police system is what put him in the position to be standing in front of those students. I am sure that he is a man like me, and he didn’t become a cop to shoot history majors with pepper spray. But the current policing paradigm requires that students get shot in the eyes with a chemical weapon if they resist, however peaceably. Someone has to do it.

And while the kids may cough up blood and writhe in pain, what happens to the man who does it is in some ways much, much worse.”

This is all true. However, it’s important to remember that the actions of Lt. Pike and the UC Davis campus police he represents is a pretty mild example of police brutality. That’s not to say it’s by any means acceptable, but America’s police forces routinely inflict far, far more severe violations of basic human rights. Ta-Nehisi Coates drives the point home:

“Not to diminish what happened at UC Davis, but it’s worth considering what happens in poor  neighborhoods and prisons, far from the cameras. I’m not saying that to diminish this video in anyway. But I’d like people to see this a part of a broad systemic attitude we’ve adopted as a country toward law enforcement. There’s a direct line from this officer invoking his privilege to brutalize these students, and an officer invoking his privilege to detain Henry Louis Gates for sassing him.”

What happened at UC Davis is terrifying and shocking, and UC students have a right to be angry at this insult to the integrity of our university. But lets not forget the real costs of American police brutality.

Update: Via Andrew Sullivan, Amazon users have been posting some pretty funny pepper spray reviews.

Housekeeping, Cont.

By Taylor Marvin

The voting in the $10,000 blogging scholarship I’m in the running for has been reset, apparently due to rampant cheating. Revoting would be appreciated (you can vote once every 24 hours), and sorry for the inconvenience.

Plus, if I get enough votes — at least enough to get me above 0% — I can start making hilarious “I AM THE 1%!” jokes, which I know you’re all waiting for.

On a happier note, once you’ve been quoted by dating sites, you know you’ve made it.

Housekeeping

By Taylor Marvin

I’ve been selected as a finalist for College Scholarships.org’s blogging scholarship. The recipient of the scholarship is selected by a vote, so please take a moment and vote for me; it would mean a lot. I’m up against basketball and journey-of-self-discovery blogs — which unlike political blogging people actually care about — so every little bit helps.

The scholarship is $10,000, which would come in handy, this being the Great Recession and all. Thanks!

“The Importance and Role of Women in Development: A Panel Discussion” – Live Blog

Women vote in South Sudan’s referendum on independence. 09/01/2011. UN Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran.

Women vote in South Sudan’s referendum on independence. 09/01/2011. UN Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran.

Welcome to the live blog of tonight’s Prospect event, “The Importance and Role of Women in Development: A Panel Discussion“, which is being co-hosted by the Model UN at UCSD. Together with Prospect Editor-in-Chief Megan Magee, I’ll be relaying tonight’s discussion. I hope you enjoy.

Our panelists:

  • Prashant Bharadwaj is a professor of economics at UCSD. Professor Bharadwaj received his Ph.D. from Yale University, and focuses on labor and developmental economics. He has written extensively on the economic effects of the partition of British India.
  • Nancy Gilson is the Director of Academic Degree Programs at UCSD’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. Dr. Gilson received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, and at UCSD, Dr. Gilson has taught courses on immigration, the politics of race and ethnicity, civil liberties and civil rights law, and social policy and gender. In addition to her academic work, Dr. Gilson has worked in the UCSD and IR/PS administrations.
  • Jay Silverman is is a Professor in the Division of Global Public Health, Department of Medicine, at the UCSD School of Medicine. Dr. Silverman’s academic work focuses on the public health consequences of gender-based violence against adolescent and adult women, and he has advised the WHO, UNAIDS, and UNDP.

Dr. Bharadwaj starts off with a presentation, “Growing Pains – Health and Education Challenges Faced by Young Women in India”. Professor Bharadwaj begins by explaining that health and education are important for economic growth, and are extremely important inputs in determining whether countries grow wealthier or remain in poverty traps. Because women comprise half of the population in most countries, their welfare is an extremely important aspect of development. However, women in developing countries face incredible challenges in access to health and education.

Dr. Bharadwaj begins by exploring gender discrimination in prenatal care in India, which is a relatively under explored channel of sex discrimination. Because of the widespread availability of ultrasound technology in modern India, even poor families can often determine the gender of their child early in pregnancy. Early life health is important for later life success, making prenatal gender discrimination detrimental to future human capital. Even if sex selective abortion — the most extreme form of prenatal gender discrimination — can be prevented, more mild differential levels of prenatal care can still have long term impacts on gender equity. Mothers in India are 1.1 percentage points more likely to visit antenatal clinics when pregnant with a boy, and in northern India mothers are 4.6 percent more likely to visit antenatal clinics when pregnant with a boy, and are 3% more likely to receive tetanus shots. Even more severely, they are 16% more likely to deliver in a non-home environment. This same discrimination appears in China, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even in the womb, female babies are discriminated against. This tendency towards gender-differentiated levels of prenatal care become more extreme for mothers that have already had two or three girls. Women with existing female children devote enormous effort to ensuring the health of a male fetus, while often neglecting female fetuses.

Indian law actually forbids telling expecting parents the sex of a fetus, but these laws are often flagrantly violated. There aren’t credible alternative explanations for these findings. Male fetuses do not medically require higher levels of care, nor is there any evidence of a recollection bias by Indian parents that would prompt them to recall providing more prenatal care for male children, even if they actually did not.

Dr. Bharadwaj continues by outlining his work examining educational challenges for females in India and Bangladesh. Many female students are thought to drop out of school early due to early marriages. While India and Bangladesh’s female school enrollment in quite high, years of schooling actually attained by women is low. Because the average age of marriage is 17, early marriage is a likely candidate to explain low educational attainment. Evidence from India and Bangladesh suggest that girls get married soon after puberty. Girls that reach puberty earlier tend to drop out earlier, hinting that the marriage channel plays a role in low education attainment. What can policymakers do to correct this? Raising the legal age of marriage seems like a reasonable policy prescription. However, only 35% of Indian women are report knowing the minimum age of marriage when polled, suggesting that legal marriage ages play little role in actual marriage practices, and raising the actual age Indian and Bangladeshi women marry will likely be challenging.

Next up in Dr. Nancy Gilson, with “What Does it Mean to Be “Equal” In a Diverse World: Defining Gender”. Analytically, it is widely accepted that gender equality is a universal good, but what it means to talk about equality in one setting isn’t necessarily applicable in another setting. Issues of gender equality are of paramount importance to human welfare. The World Bank, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, World Health Organization and investment bank Goldman Sachs have all argued that gender inequality hurts economic growth. CEDAW, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, was adopted by the UN in 1979, though it was not ultimately ratified by the United States.

CEDAW is emblematic of the first form of assault on discrimination against women through legal channels. But this isn’t sufficient — inequality should be seen as a collection of disparate and interlinked problems that sometimes work against each other: that is, fixing something in one area can lead to a problem in another realm. Divorce law in the US is a key example of this complexity. Despite efforts to create more equitable US divorce law, women remain more likely to fall into or remain in poverty after divorce, and still bear the majority of child care burdens. Legal efforts to reverse these disparities have been unsuccessful.

The situation in developing countries is similarly complex. Efforts to increase female education attainment by simply encouraging more girls to attend school are typically unsuccessful, because social biases — often prejudice against menstruation — make it difficult for girls to remain in school.

Today US women are more economically independent and richer than they used to be, but it’s important to note that other women are still paid to take care of the children of working women, ultimately perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Women remain stuck between a “sticky floor and a glass ceiling” — US women remain responsible for 80 percent of child care, while working equally long hours in the board rooms. When developed world women work more and are still expected to do the majority of child rearing they just sleep less — chronic sleep-deprivation is an increasingly severe problem for US women.

Attempt to combat gender inequality must be based on local contexts. This isn’t to say that gender discrimination is ever acceptable — women aren’t a cultural minority, but rather half of the world’s population! Gender can be self-defeating if you view it as simply adding or changing society by means of policy or law. Any argument about rights must be somewhere in the middle of relativism and universalism.

Last up is Dr. Silverman, with “Gender-based Violence against Women and Girls: A Major Barrier to Health”. Between 15 and 76 percent of women ages 15-49 across the globe experience Intimate Partner Violence at some point in their lifetimes. Intimate partner violence (IPV) has a major impact on global health. Women who are abused during pregnancy are much more likely to give birth to preterm or underweight children, and children born into abusive households are more likely to suffer from major morbidities. Women who are abused have much less control over their reproductive health and contraception, and IPV is a major factor in unwanted pregnancy and adolescent pregnancy.

Early marriages are also more likely to be violent. In India half of all girls are married under the age of 18, and 20 percent under the age of 16. Girls married young are more likely to die in childbirth, and are more likely to give birth to children with poor health outcomes.

Women in abusive marriages are at greater risk of STIs and HIV. Part of the abusive mindset includes the mentality that it is permissible to take risks with extramarital relations and abuse children. Abusive men’s tendency to attempt to control women violently extends to sexual control, and abusive men are more likely to practice unsafe sex. While India is not considered a high prevalence country for HIV, and enormous number of Indians — 2.5 million people — are infected with the virus. Heterosexual sex is the dominant transmission route, and married women comprise a larger and larger percentage of cases. Men’s sexual behavior is implicated in spousal transmission, and men who violent towards their partners are much more likely to engage in sexual activity outside of their marriages.

What can we do to reduce this risk? Community-based education program can be effective at reducing HIV transmission rates by increasing women’s ability to negotiate with abusive husbands’ high risk behavior.

Dr. Bharadwaj closes with an admonishment to the men of UCSD: easily seventy percent of the audience tonight is female, and UCSD males students should show more interest in gender equity issues. We can do better.

We’re now entering our question and answer segment, where our speakers will take question from our live audience and from Prospect’s Twitter followers. Thanks all around, and please continue to check out Prospect’s content and events.

You can follow questions and reactions to this event on Twitter. #prospectevents

nequality should be seen as a collection of disparate and interlinked problems that work against each other — that is, fixing something in one area could lead to a problem in another realm.

PROSPECT Event – “The Importance and Role of Women in Development: A Panel Discussion”

Monday, November 7th, Prospect, Model United Nations at UCSD, and International Affairs Group will be hosting “The Importance and Role of Women in Development: A Panel Discussion“. This panel talk will bring together multiple disciplines to discuss not only why gender equality is important but also crucial for the growth and prosperity of developing countries.

We’re lucky enough to be hosting an expert panel of speakers:

Prashant Bharadwaj, UCSD Department of Economics
“Growing Pains – Health and Education Challenges Faced by Young Women in India.”

Jay Silverman, UCSD Medical School Division of Global Public Health
“Gender-based Violence Against Women and Girls: A Major Barrier to Health.”

Nancy Gilson, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies
“What Does it Mean to Be “Equal” In a Diverse World?: Defining Gender Equity so that It Can Be Measured.”

If you’re in the San Diego area stop by, it should be an interesting and informative discussion.

Governance Failure in San Diego – An Interview with Steven Erie

By Taylor Marvin

Note: This post is part of a series dedicated to highlighting recent books by UCSD professors.

Dr. Steven Erie

Dr. Steven Erie

Steven P. Erie is a professor of political science and is the director of the Urban Studies and Planning program at UCSD, where he focuses on urban politics and public policy. In addition to Dr. Erie’s academic work, he has also served on the Governor’s Infrastructure Commission and advises San Diego public officials and city leaders. His latest book, Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis and Governance Failures in San Diego, explores the roots of San Diego’s persistent failure to deliver good governance to its citizens. To learn more about the book and government failure in my adopted city, I sat down with Dr. Erie to discuss Paradise Plundered.

 

Prospect: What motivated you to write Paradise Plundered, and what can you tell me about the book?

Dr. Erie: What motivated me to write [the book] is that I’ve lived in San Diego for 30 years, and in that time I have been involved in a whole lot of civic issues: airports, charter reform, water supply issues, etc. San Diego is a very understudied city; of the top ten cities in the country it’s the least studied, so it’s low hanging fruit. The book, Paradise Plundered, started out as Troubled Paradise, and [originally] was going to be a political biography of an understudied sunbelt city when we started the project in 2006. Over the course of five years as events unfolded, the tone and the title got darker: from Troubled Paradise to Paradise Plundered.

After the 2007 wildfires, I suddenly realized that we were no more prepared to fight major fires in 2007 than we were in 2003. I began to look into that, and realized that San Diego simply didn’t want to pay for fire safety. They wanted somebody else to do it: Cal Fire, or mutual aid with Orange County or Los Angeles County. And then of course the fiscal crisis, the pension scandal, the near permanent budget deficit… The book morphed from a political biography into a much more focused look at the City of San Diego’s fiscal crisis and related government failures. There’s a chapter on redevelopment San Diego style and a peculiar institution in San Diego called the Center City Development Corporation; no other California city has a non-profit corporation that traps all of its tax increment financing downtown. The others are all citywide, and the funding is spread to the neighborhoods, not just kept downtown. There’s a chapter on planning and the legacy projects like the Storybook library and convention center expansion, a new Chargers stadium, a new city hall. How, as we’re teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, do we go full speed forward with these monumentally expensive city projects downtown, all of them of course at no additional cost to taxpayers? So the book really became focused: four of the six chapters are on the City of San Diego since 1990 covering the fiscal crisis and its impact on public services and governance. And that’s how we ended up with Paradise Plundered, instead of Troubled Paradise.

Prospect: The book characterizes San Diego as America’s most badly governed large city. Can you elaborate on that claim?

Dr. Erie: That’s not the way that San Diego proclaims itself to the world, and actually San Diego won awards for being very well governed in the 1990s. But what we mean by badly governed is is that there is a lack of recognition of what the fundamental problem in this town is, which is the lack of revenue and resources. In the book we benchmark San Diego with the other leading ten American cities — we throw out San Francisco, because it’s a combined city/county, which throws the spending pattern there off — and San Diego today spends fifty percent less per resident on basic public services than just the average of San Jose, Anaheim, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, and the other California cities. Part of our fiscal crisis is self-induced; we want the services, but we don’t want to pay for them. But at the same time, there is San Diego’s aspiration for civic greatness in these huge downtown legacy projects in a time when we’re closing libraries. We have an unaccredited fire department, and are 22 fire stations short of meeting national accreditation standards. We have the smallest police force per capita in the country. This is not Chicago-style corruption, but instead just basically a town that wants public services but doesn’t want to pay for them, and then has to find someone to blame when there are lapses or failure in public service.

I don’t know if you want to call it the most badly governed city in the country, and it’s not an issue of official corruption — a political machine or a dominant party, etc. — it’s the fact that basic public services are not being adequately provided to residents, and we don’t see any solution in sight.

Prospect: What makes San Diego different from other California cities? Why is there such a disconnect between spending and revenue here?

Dr. Erie: There’s a very strong libertarian culture in San Diego, and it goes back quite a ways. We looked at things like voting on tax and bond measures and since 1995 sixty percent of the tax and bond measures — almost all of them requiring a two thirds vote — have been approved in the other California big cities. In San Diego: zero. If you look at city revenue and expenditures you’ll find that San Diego is the only California big city that believed in Proposition 13. Every other California city with a wink and a nod found new revenue: utility taxes, higher business license fees, higher hotel taxes… except San Diego. And that’s one of the reasons that we are in the situation that we are today, where the demand for services so far outstrips the available revenue. But there’s something about the culture here, and the absolute irony is that it’s an absolute contradiction to how San Diego was built. San Diego was built by big government. Look at the military and the State and the University of California [higher education] systems to see how jobs have been created in San Diego! But when it comes to local government there’s this strong libertarian streak, even more than in conservative Orange County. Orange County has a county fire authority, and they’re willing to pay money for it! But somehow in San Diego, there’s a tremendous demand for public services but there’s an incredible unwillingness to pay for it. We call it a free lunch town.

San Diego skyline. Image by Wikimedia user Ted Rufus Ross.

San Diego skyline. Image by Wikimedia user Ted "Rufus" Ross.

Prospect: What lessons can we draw from San Diego?

Dr. Erie: Let’s put it this way: the San Diego way has gone nationwide. San Diego was just an early, eager adopter. It goes back to the 1970s — in the early seventies San Diego’s fiscal profile is virtually identical to other California big cities. You then begin to see a divergence, particularly after 1978 and the passage of Proposition 13, which raised the bar in terms of requiring voter approval on tax increases. Somehow, other places were able to get tax increases anyway because they had leadership that convinced the public that they were an investment in the future. LA County did that to fund their county fire department in the late 1990s to the tune of $900 million, and over 67 percent [of voters] approved. But that’s not the case in San Diego: we don’t have the leadership to tell people “hey you the voters, the emperor — you don’t have any clothes.”

Tax is a four letter word in this town.

San Diego was an early adopter of this kind of free lunch attitude towards local government. What we’ve seen in the last ten to fifteen years is that it has spread throughout the state, and then nationwide. San Diego is just a precursor to an awful lot of national trends.

Prospect: What if anything can residents do to improve city governance?

Dr. Erie: Residents certainly can, but the question is what are they going to do? Right now what’s happening in San Diego is two things: one is that we’re moving towards called managed competition, i.e. city agencies have to compete with outside private firms for things like landfills, garage services, and street repair, with the argument being that the private sector can do it more cheaply. That’s not always the case — the jury is still out on the economic benefits of privatization. The other thing is that the source of the city’s fiscal crisis — its structural budget deficit — has been popularly identified as public employee pensions rather than the gross underspending on basic public services. So we now have a proposal to freeze city salaries for five years and for new hires to move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution program, which is probably going to pass. This is going to make it a lot harder to recruit and retain city workers, when they can go to [neighboring] Chula Vista and get a more generous pension and fringe benefits package.

But the crazy thing is is that people don’t realize that the spike in the pension [costs] and the so called $2.1 billion pension liability today has very little to do with the so-called generous pension programs of the late 1990s, what are called “Managers’ Proposal 1” and “Managers Proposal 2”. Those two [proposals], which increased pension payouts and also some retrospective pensions, only accounts for 15 percent of the $2.1 billion unfunded liability. The vast majority is due to investment losses. Public pension systems decided that there was a free lunch, and went to Las Vegas — Wall Street. That change [shifting pension funds from safe, low-yield investments like bonds and Treasury bills to higher-yield but riskier stocks] is the largest source of the spike in [pension] liabilities, and the pensions’ share of the city budget. The second cause is that we have systematically underfunded and diverted money from the city pension system for years. We underfunded it to pay for things like the Republican National Convention and public safety back in 1996.

The cause of the pension spike is complicated, but to this date it’s not the so-called “Cadillac pensions” of 1996 and 2001. But you’d never know it from reading the newspapers or listening to the debates in this town. [The rhetoric] is all about Cadillac pensions, and the public of power sector unions. Public sector unions were the junior partners in most of these agreements. It was really elected and appointed officials concerned about balancing budgets and not going to voters and using the “t” word — the four letter word “tax” — so they took money out of the pension fund.

Moving forward, there are going to be no revenue increases in the City of San Diego, in terms of new taxes and all of the savings from pension reform are going to be at least twenty years out. But managed competition and pension reform seem t o be the only options on the table. What’s going to happen to basic city services, to libraries, parks, and police and fire? I don’t see any easy solutions, unless some leader is willing to have the cojones to tell the public that if you want these services, you’re going to have to pay for them. And nobody wants to do that.

PROSPECT Connect – “Rethinking the War on Terror” – Live Blog

Welcome to the live blog of tonight’s Prospect event, “Rethinking the War on Terror”. Together with Prospect Editor-in-Chief Megan Magee, I’ll be relaying tonight’s discussion. I hope you enjoy.

  • Michael Provence is Associate Professor in the History Department at UCSD. He has lived and studied in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. He is the author of The Great Syrian Revolt and several articles on the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East in the early 20th century.
  • John Armenta served in the US Army Reserve in a Psychological Operations unit. During his enlistment, Armenta was deployed to Bosnia, Qatar, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Armenta is currently a graduate student in the Communications department at UCSD.
  • Joshua Rich graduated from Texas A&M in 2003 and was commissioned as an officer in the US Navy the same year. Rich graduated from Navy Dive School in 2003 and was later deployed to Afghanistan, where he served as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal officer. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Relations at USD.

Our first question:

“Ten years after the attacks of 9/11, we have seen a dramatic rise in Islamophobia in the US. From the Park 51 mosque debate and the burning of the Quran in Florida, to the controversial congressional hearing in March 2011 on the radicalisation of Muslim Americans, how Muslims, Arabs, and Middle Easterners are perceived in the US has been the subject of heated rhetoric and debate. Are these perceptions important? What effect do they have on the US effort to combat and prevent terrorism?”

To begin, panel member John Armenta argues that the US wastes time, labor and money that could be used to fight terror when we focus instead on promoting Islamophobia, which creates counterproductive generalizations like “even moderate Muslims support terrorism.” If more people think we are at war with Islam, the more these generalizations will happen.

Joshua Rich just related that in his 8 years in military he has experienced mandatory cultural training in all parts of the military to think in the way Mr. Armenta was describing, with civilians in Iraq teaching him and other US servicemembers cultural awareness. A good portion of time is spent training Afghans. Mr. Rich’s troops trained Afghans so there was a sense of responsibility for them in his units; “if we didn’t teach them the right way they would die.” As Mr. Rich says, he started appreciating cultural differences – training is one thing – “but we developed friendships with the interpreters and camaraderie with the soldiers.”

Dr. Provence emphasizes that John and Joshua have both made good points. When US soldiers go to foreign countries and meet people, it’s hard to not imagine them as human beings. “Islamophobia starts at the top.” and the events that triggered the events of the last ten years is something the United States need to critically examine. 9/11 was a criminal conspiracy, Dr. Provence argues, and the US response to it has been massively out of proportion, at enormous cost to the world. “The last decade was a period of temporary madness on the part of the American political leadership,” Dr. Provence states, and the actions of the Obama Administration have demonstrated that the US hasn’t recovered from this mistaken strategy.

Our second question:

“After 9/11 the US looked vulnerable, and the terrorist attacks illustrated a pivotal shift in US foreign policy in the Middle East. The initial reaction to the attacks can be seen in the shift of power towards the US executive branch, and the the last decade has been the US military’s most brutal period of sustained combat since the Vietnam War. How effective have US military efforts to combat Islamic terrorism been? Which tactics and strategies have been effective, and which have not?”

How effective has the US military been at combating Islamic terrorism in the decade since 9-11?
Dr. Provence responds that he does not know the answer to this question. He explains that if the definition, hypothesis, or thesis in a paper are flawed, if the premise is wrong when asking a question, you cannot access the truth value of an argument. With a faulty structural premise for the war on terror, there is basically nothing good that can come of occupying countries militarily.
For Josh: would you like to mention what it was like in Afghanistan with regards to the question?
Josh argues that not all hope is lost. We aren’t handling Afghanistan in the same way we handled the Vietnam war, where the strategy was to kill as much as possible. The tactic that is working and will work is training Afghans and engaging in special operations. 16,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and we are nowhere near that, though there were surely mistakes made during the Afghan war. The situation in 2001 held better prospects and opportunity – the military had defeated the Taliban – and where we have ended up is a shame.
What tactics and strategies have been effective, and which have not?
What are some of the costs and benefits of controversial US strategies like drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Dr. Provence replies that he doesn’t personally know the answer to this question. Instead, he answers with a metaphor: if the definition, hypothesis, or thesis in a paper are flawed, if the premise is wrong when asking a question, you cannot access the truth value of an argument. With the faulty structural premise of the war on terror, the likelihood of a successful outcome of US military operations in the Middle East becomes vanishingly small.

For panelist Joshua Rich:

“Would you like to mention what it was like in Afghanistan with regards to the question?”

Mr. Rich argues that not all hope is lost. We aren’t handling Afghanistan in the same way we handled the Vietnam war, where the strategy was to kill as much as possible — the famous “body count” logic. The tactic that is working and will work is training Afghans and engaging in special operations. Roughly 50,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and the US is nowhere near that level of losses in the Iraq and Afghan wars, though mistakes have certainly been made. The situation in 2001 held better prospects and opportunity — the military had defeated the Taliban — and where we have ended up is a shame.

Mr. Armenta argues that we have always faced the problem in Iraq and Afghanistan the fact that local people are against US military intervention. Counterinsurgency, while imperfect, seems to be a better way to address issues. Helping people by taking support away from terrorists, even if they don’t fully support the US, is valuable. There will always be groups and individuals who refuse to surrender, and that’s where counterterrorism comes in.

Next question:

“What are some of the costs and benefits of controversial US strategies like drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan?”

Drones (like the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper) are primarily built here in the San Diego area, Dr. Provence points out, so they affect our economy directly. Other costs and benefits of drone warfare are more abstract. The cost of the War on Terror to each world citizen is high — a gallon of gas now costs $4 whereas it cost far less in 2002 — a price increase Provence argues is due to the War on Terror. The cost of conflict is immeasurably high.

The costs in soldiers, as John Armenta argues, isn’t high, but the cost in dollars is extremely high. On the same theme Dr. Provence points out that one year of defense appropriations — not war — would be sufficient to fund every one of the 10 University of California campuses with nobody paying tuition for 52 years. That is less than $1 trillion dollars, which helps to put the wartime propagated debt of $5 trillion into perspective. Dr. Provence remarks that he can see from the audiences’ faces that they are unhappy to hear this, as he is.

Joshua Rich argues that one benefit of US war spending is that many Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, and Marines have acquired the opportunity for a paid education that they would not have otherwise enjoyed.

Returning to the cost/benefit dilemma of drone warfare, Mr. Rich remarks that small drones are cheaper than an M-16, allowing for significant cost reductions. Similarly, the flexibility of drones means that US service members now have a ‘middle option’ of taking out the bad guys instead of civilians.

Mr. Armenta responds that while drones can be used well, they make war too easy and too cheap. It enables the removal of ground troops in favor of just one Airman to fly in and push a button. This logic has the potential to lower the costs of war, lowering the psychological threshold required to go to war and perhaps making politicians more likely to enter conflicts.

Final question:

“We now examine the extent to which America’s national security is impacted by the perception of the US in the Islamic world. In the decade after 9-11, it has become apparent that the perceptions of the US in the Islamic world have a direct impact on US security. The argument goes that the United States’ relationship with countries in the Middle East would have a direct correlation with eradicating terrorist groups. So, it is important to ask: how can the US government work to improve these relationships?”

John Armenta responds that it is important to put yourself in another’s shoes, and the US political establishment must agree not to do anything that is overtly racist and hateful. Unfortunately, Mr. Armenta argues, this is not going to happen. He references the so-called Ground Zero mosque and American reactions, and how Muslims witnessed anti-Muslim sentiment in the US and felt that it was a larger element of American opinion than it was. This is because the voices of bigots sometimes stood out above the others. However, some religious authorities came forward and attacked anti-Islamic sentiment. The key is to establish empathy with the other.

Thanks for tuning in, and apologies to our speakers — due to the constraints of blogging live, this live blog doesn’t do their comments full justice. We’re now entering our questions and answers segment, where our speakers will take questions from our live audience and a from our Twitter followers. Thanks all around, and please continue to check out Prospect’s content and events.

You can follow question and reactions to this event on Twitter, #prospectconnect.

Update: Mildly edited for clarity — due to being written live, some phrasing was unclear or incomplete. Apologies for any confusion.