Republican or Democrat. There seem to be only two options every election cycle as candidates and their supports force themselves into boxes created by party platforms.
The University of Connecticut chapter of the Campus Antifascist Network (CAN) held a panel Thursday afternoon to address opposing fascism in a college community.
Fifth-semester economics major Marlena Haddad said she attended the event to expand her worldview.
“I wanted to see a different perspective,” Haddad said.
Members of the University of Connecticut College Democrats are focusing much of their club’s efforts on getting involved with local politics and combating the effects of President Trump’s administration.
“We do a lot of issue work and advocacy in the state of Connecticut. We’ll lobby for bills we believe in,” said seventh-semester political science major and president of the UConn College Democrats Stevie Della-Giustina.
Della-Giustina said that this semester, the group is going to focus on upcoming local and national elections.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of time trying to help Democrats nearby get elected,” Della-Giustina said. “But we were also invited to go down to New Jersey to campaign for their gubernatorial race, and we’ll definitely do some phone banking for Virginia‘s gubernatorial race too.”
Della-Giustina said the club will lobby for issues that affect UConn students as well.
This year, members of the University of Connecticut College Republicans will continue their club’s history of fostering conservative debate and supporting Republican candidates while also taking part in political activism.
“The College Republicans have largely been ideologically driven, and many of our meetings have discussions and debates,” said seventh-semester economics and political science major and president of the UConn College Republicans Tim Sullivan. “We host speakers a lot and candidates will come in to talk about their opinions.”
Sullivan said the club is trying to be more active this year in local elections than they have been in the past, with a focus on supporting Republican candidates running for upcoming elections in Mansfield and surrounding towns.
“It’s not that we’re moving away from our roots of debate and ideology, but we’re trying to do both. Our job is to support Republican candidates for elections, so we’re trying to get that objective done as well,” he said.
Deemed the “world’s most persecuted minority," the Rohingya people of Myanmar (formerly Burma) are the victims of what the United Nations defines as ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar government. Government officials claim insurgents are to blame for the spike in violence, as nine Myanmar troops were killed October of last year. However, human rights groups note abuses carried out by the Myanmar Army border on a systematic genocide.
So whose responsibility is it to call for peace and justice for the Rohingya people? It is ironic and disappointing that Nobel Peace Prize laureate and State Chancellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, either remains silent or does not directly acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya. Even though Suu Kyi does not hold power over her government’s military, she has not spoken up against its brutality. Fellow laureates like South African social activist Desmond Tutu are criticizing Suu Kyi’s adamancy to remain mum about the issue, rightfully stating that “silence is too high a price.” Even the international public recognizes Suu Kyi’s lack of action is unacceptable; there are several Change.org petitions calling to revoke her Nobel Peace Prize and title.
Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken to foreign government leaders on rare occasions. Most recently, on Sept. 5, she engaged in a telephone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey is one of the first countries to directly send aide to the Rakhinae state in Myanmar, where the Rohingya mainly reside. During the conversation Suu Kyi stated “we make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights." It is difficult to agree with the Myanmar Chancellor’s statement when the Rohingya have been denied citizenship for 35 years and are not a recognized ethnicity by Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law. Being stripped of citizenship leaves the Rohingya people stateless and without the right to vote, practice their faith, or even move, so how can those individuals who are not recognized as people of Myanmar be safe from the government?
Some of the heinous crimes committed by the Myanmar Army include killing children, rape, torture, and arson. In the past two weeks alone the United Nations approximates 270,000 Rohingya have fled military aggression in Myanmar to neighboring nations like Bangladesh. However, even those fleeing are targeted; Amnesty International reports the Myanmar Army is planting “internationally banned antipersonnel landmines” along the neighboring Bangladesh border. With the Myanmar military’s breaking of international regulations exposed, one would expect the White House to promptly express its criticism; however President Trump has failed to release a statement. There is no need for United States military intervention when America has the power to stop the military aggression through shaming the Myanmar government alone. President Trump has an opportunity to add a much needed highlight to his foreign policy portfolio. A single statement of denunciation of the Myanmar government by President Trump may not only trigger neighboring countries to provide more aid efforts but perhaps even a ceasefire and solution. A direct phone call to Aung Suu Kyi by the President, not a United States ambassador, may even persuade her to publically condemn the vicious Myanmar military crackdown.
While we wait for the United States President and Nobel Peace Prize laureates to recognize injustice let us, the academic community, urge awareness about the issue. It is important to remain observant of any crimes against humanity because, though it’s not immediately apparent, we are directly affected. It is little a known fact that the greatest influx of refugees to the US are from Myanmar, not Iraq or Syria. If the Myanmar military is already breaking international rules, it’s because the army thinks no one is watching. Why is it that we still can’t, even in this social media generation, recognize a situation that is shaping up to be under the “The World’s Worst Genocides” section of our history books?
Fajar Alam is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Late last week, the White House announced that Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R) will serve as President Trump’s nomination for the next administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), according to a New York Times report. Previous administrators of NASA had backgrounds as scientists, engineers and astronauts, but if Bridenstine is appointed, he will be the first elected politician to hold the post, according to USA Today. This appointment would bring NASA more prominently into the political sphere and likely take a negative toll on the scientific integrity of the organization.
Bridenstine does have some qualifications for the job. He served as a Navy combat pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan and is currently a member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. He also spent two years as the executive director of the Tulsa Air & Space Museum & Planetarium, according to NPR. But a mere interest in space and aeronautics does not mean that he will serve as a successful administratorof NASA. A scientist or engineer would be more able to understand the feasibility of certain space missions, and they would also have the advantage of understanding the most urgent and imminent scientific discoveries that NASA should be concerned with.
Even so, Bridenstine has shared several objectives toward which he would like to drive NASA. He would like to reduce orbital debris and direct research toward exploiting resources on the moon to make space exploration less expensive. In addition to this, he supports the Orion program, which is developing a capsule that could take astronauts into deep space. He would also like to see private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin become more involved with NASA’s space exploration, and to increase the term of NASA’s administrator so that it is longer than the current four-year cycle. At the same time, he intends to bring NASA’s focus away from climate change research. Thus, it not Bridenstine’s qualifications, but the very fact that he is a politician, that would be detrimental to NASA’s research initiatives.
Regardless of Bridenstine’s political affiliations, the fact that he has a background in politics at all could drag the climate change debate into the walls of NASA. In a country where scientific data is sometimes disregarded concerning political opinion on climate change, NASA has been able to maintain the scientific nature of the issue because it collects a large amount of this data at centers such as the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. However, if NASA becomes more involved in the political sphere, the importance of this data could come under political scrutiny, and some of these centers might be shut down. By the same token, even if a state representative who served as a Democrat were assigned to the NASA post, this data might still be used to serve political purposes instead of scientific ones.
Florida senators agree that a politician might not be the best thing for NASA. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) told the New York Times that “the head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) also noted that the appointment “could be devastating for the space program”. Both senators would like to see the Senate consider some other candidates for the job.
On NASA’s executive board, a politician would simply be out of place. The nature of NASA is to focus on research for the sake of knowledge and to explore space so that we can learn a little more about our planet and our universe. As far as climate is concerned, it is NASA’s job to collect data without any political bias, so that we can learn exactly what is happening to our planet and decide objectively what must be done. The introduction of a politically affiliated administrator would disrupt this scientific objectivity, and for this reason, NASA might be better served by a candidate with a stronger scientific background.
Alex Oliveira is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.