Current FCC Chairman Is Doing Less Regulating and Allowing More Propaganda

Under the purview of its chairman, Ajit Pai, and President Donald Trump, the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) has become less of a regulatory institution and more of a strong-arm influence towards pro-Trump propaganda. Alongside the president’s attacks on the media, Pai’s manipulation of the supposedly independent agency signals the degradation of our media landscape.

In 2012, then-President Barack Obama nominated Pai to the FCC, at the recommendation of Senator Mitch McConnell, to fill a Republican seat on the commission. He was a commissioner until January 2017 when Trump nominated him as the chairman.

At face value, Pai is a well-qualified — and ground-breaking as the first Indian-American — Chairman of the Commission. He has a plethora of experience as a communications lawyer, making him a reasonable choice for the post. In March of 2017, when Trump reappointed him chairman for five more years, scholar of internet economics and Forbes contributor Harold Furchtgott-Roth wrote, “[Pai] knows not just the detail and substance of the law but also how the law was crafted, how the law is administered, and how the law is adjudicated.”

Furchtgott-Roth painted the picture of Pai as a non-partisan person, but that has not been the case thus far. Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media have been eyeing-up a lucrative merger which would create a certifiable monopoly, reaching 72 percent of the local television market. Congress set a cap of 39 percent of the nationwide audience. Therefore, this merger would be illegal, had it not been for Pai allowing Sinclair and Tribune to utilize an obsolete statute, according to Politico.

How is this partisan? Sinclair forces its nearly 200 stations to show “must-run” conservative, often pro-Trump, segments. According to The New York Times, these must-run segments aligned Hillary Clinton with the party of slavery and called the national news media fake news. In one example, Sinclair higher-ups asked KOMO, a local news station in Seattle, to push back against an editorial from The Seattle Times which critiqued Sinclair. This shows Sinclair’s disinterested approach to journalistic independence.

The New York Times states that same station was instructed to report on a story shown to be a hoax about paid protesters at Trump’s inauguration.

Sinclair is undeniably conservative leaning, despite what its spokespeople say. Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump administration official with direct links to neo-nazis, came on a Sinclair television segment and stated that “black African gun crime against black Africans” is the real issue in terms of gun violence in America; furthermore, he said, “black young men are murdering each other by the bushel” with minimal pushback from the program’s anchors.

There was no mention by the anchors that the vast majority of most crimes are committed by a person of the same race as the victim and that “the rate of white-on-white violent crime (12.0 per 1,000) was about four times higher than black-on-white violent crime (3.1 per 1,000)” according to Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Pai, Sinclair and FCC spokespeople deny “any special favors [to Sinclair] by reviving the loophole” according to Politico.

But, according to a 2016 report from the same outlet, Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Trump, bragged about a “straight coverage” deal Trump’s then-campaign struck with Sinclair in exchange for access. Such does not sound malicious for a regular candidate, but Trump lies perpetually. He has misled the public with demonstrable falsehoods at an unprecedented rate. Allowing him — a man who has had 69 percent of his statements as of November of 2017 rated to some degree as false by Politifact — an unchecked platform is biased in itself.  

Sinclair, through its deal with the Trump campaign, put journalistic integrity aside in exchange for a special favor. Now Trump, via his appointee Pai, is returning the favor.

Pai may claim that his decision is motivated by his anti-regulation ideology, but even if that were true, his duty to protect balance in the media landscape should take precedence. The Pew Research Center reports that local broadcast media is the most trusted entity in journalism. But contrary to what many may think, “local” does not mean that the people who live near you are calling the shots. Local news, following the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger, will refer to a monopoly thousands of miles away.

The Sinclair-Tribune merger will benefit the two companies and Trump and hurt everyone else. It will create a monopoly which will drive up revenue for Sinclair, all the while providing biased takes through a channel most people trust.

On Nov. 16, Pai rolled back regulations that prevent daily newspapers from running a television station and vice versa. These regulations “potentially lead to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies” according to The Washington Post.

Mignon Clyburn, an FCC commissioner said about the move: “The already consolidated broadcast media market will become even more so, offering little to no discernible benefits to consumers.”

Two congressional Democrats, Representatives Frank Pallone and Elijah Cummings, are calling for an official investigation into Pai’s pro-Sinclair and pro-consolidation positions. This is a move which we all should support. The circumstantial evidence that Pai’s power is being utilized in collusion with the Trump administration to promote him is too much to ignore.

I do not think that it is overstating anything to say that the fate of democracy is at risk. President Trump has had numerous incidents of authoritarian tendencies; controlling the media falls into this category. Call your Senators and Representative to tell them to support Pallone and Cumming’s investigation. At the very least, Pai’s FCC is acting in favor of oligarchies. At the most, it is forming a propaganda arm and laying the groundwork for an authoritarian regime.


Clarification: At 1:59 p.m. on 11/16/2017 The Washington Post reported that FCC repealed regulations on broadcast media mergers. The article has been updated to reflect this change. Previously the repeal was written about as a potential change.

St. Mary’s Fall Sports Come to a Close

Now that the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournaments are all wrapped up, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) fall sports are officially done for the year. This means that both men’s and women’s soccer and cross country, field hockey, and volleyball all have officially concluded their campaigns. The rowing, sailing, and tennis teams will all start competition during the spring semester.

This fall, the men’s soccer team, women’s soccer team, and the field hockey team all made their respective CAC tournaments. The cross country team also was invited to compete at the CAC meet. While none of the SMCM teams were able to win a CAC tournament, the fall could still be summed up as a success for the College.

The men’s soccer team finished the regular season at 11-7 with a 7-2 record in conference. This was good enough to secure them the number two seed in their CAC tournament. As a result, they also received a first-round bye and automatically advanced to the semi-finals. The men’s squad then took on number three seeded Mary Washington University on Nov. 1. In an action-packed and very intense match, SMCM totaled sixteen shots and five corner kicks, while Mary Washington added eleven shots and nine corner kicks. The only difference between these two teams was a penalty kick in the thirty-fourth minute to give Mary Washington the advantage. They would hold on to defeat the Seahawks 1-0 and just three days later beat Christopher Newport University (CNU) in the CAC championship game, according to Nairem Moran on smcmathletics.com.

On the bright side for the second year in a row, the SMCM men’s soccer program had five players named to the all-conference team. Seniors Andrew Battin and Zack Haussler, junior Juwan Kearson, and sophomore Khalid Balogun all received first-team CAC honors, while senior Sunny Chhatani was named to the second team.

Not to be outdone, the SMCM women’s soccer team made it to the CAC semi-final game as well. After finishing the regular season at 6-9-4 (4-3-2 in conference), the Seahawks took on and defeated Mary Washington by a score of 3-0. First-year Emmey German, senior Kat Golladay, and first-year Haley Bullis all found the back of the net in the win for SMCM. The next stop for the Seahawks was the semi-final matchup against top-seeded CNU. In this match, CNU definitely dominated the offensive attack, taking twenty-nine total shots in the game. This was more than enough to pull away with a 3-0 victory. CNU then went on to take down Frostburg State in the CAC championship, according to smcmathletics.com.

In terms of the end of the season awards, the SMCM women’s soccer team held their own, with three players being named to the second team all CAC. Senior Lane Brooks, junior Emily Huey, and German all received such honors.

The SMCM field hockey team capped off a solid season, with a CAC tournament appearance of their own. By finishing their regular season 8-11 (2-4 in conference), the Seahawks were able to secure the last spot in the tournament.This was the best regular season SMCM has had since 2014.  Unfortunately, SMCM was defeated 7-1 by Mary Washington in the first round. First-year forward Hannah Dietrich scored the lone goal for the Seahawks off of an assist from junior Sydney Cline. Senior captain Alyssa Thompson had eight saves in her final collegiate game as well.

Although the SMCM volleyball team did not make the playoffs, there are still some highlights to look back on. Despite going 3-23 on the season, the Seahawks played some extremely competitive matches towards the end of the season. Three out of the final four matches of the year actually came down to the last set for the Seahawks. The wins on the year for SMCM came against Goucher College (Sept. 9), St. Elizabeth College (Sept. 16), and Lancaster Bible College (Sept. 16).

Juniors Meghan Kelley (256), Hannah Krauss (139), and Grace Seifert (131) all notched triple digits in kills for the Seahawks. Junior Marissa Dangler finished the season with 505 digs, leading the Seahawks as well. This was head coach Kelly Martin’s second season at the helm of SMCM.

St. Mary’s Basketball Seasons Set to Begin

After weeks of practices, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) are finally beginning their respective seasons. Both teams will open up play on Nov. 15 at the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center (ARC) Arena. This home doubleheader will include the men’s game against Gallaudet University at 6 p.m. and the women’s game against the Catholic University of America at 8 p.m. Both teams are looking forward to starting off the season on a high note.

For the SMCM women’s team, Nov. 15 will be the first game played under new head coach C.K. Calhoun. Coach Calhoun is now the 14th head coach in program history and is embarking on her second head coaching job. She was previously the head coach of Shenandoah for two seasons (2012-2013, 2013-2014) as well as an interim head coach at Lafayette for two different stints. In total Calhoun has coached collegiate basketball for eleven years (three at the Division 1 level) according to smcmathletics.com. This experience will hopefully bode well for the Seahawk program.

Coming off the heels of a 2016-17 season that saw the women’s team finish at 7-18 overall (5-13 in conference), the Seahawks hope that Calhoun’s new coaching regime will help propel them to even more wins this season.

The Seahawks will be led this year by seniors Kerri Kline, Christine Morin, Olivia Nowlin, Gillian Rosenzweig-Stein, and Bella Vagnoni. Kline, Morin, and junior Katie Robey will all serve as captains for this season.

Both the men’s and women’s squads will host the second annual Dan Greene Memorial Invitational, beginning on Nov. 17. The women’s team will take on Hood College on Nov. 17 and Washington College the next afternoon. For the men’s team, they will just be playing a single game against Lynchburg on Nov. 19.

The SMCM men’s team will once again face a non-NCAA Division III opponent, this year playing Towson State on Nov. 27. In previous years, the Seahawks have played teams such as Bowie State and the University of Maryland College Park. In five such contests, SMCM has posted a 1-4 record. The game against Towson will not count towards the Seahawks’ overall record but will allow them to take on a very tough opponent. In three out of the five years, the Seahawks have played a non-Division III team, they have made the NCAA tournament, according to smcmathletics.com.

This will be head coach Chris Harney’s 13th season at the helm of the men’s basketball program Seahawk program. During his tenure at SMCM, Harney has won three Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) coach of the year awards (2010, 2011, 2013) as well led his squads to three CAC championships according to smcmathletics.com. Coach Harney will once again be looking to replicate that success this season.

Meta: PDF Versions of Vol. 78, Issues 4 and 5 Are Now Available Online

For our readers who are unable to get their hands on a physical copy of The Point News, do not despair. Digital versions, both PDFs and online iterations of articles, are available here at thepointnews.net. If you are on campus, and cannot find a copy of The Point News please comment below, and we will ensure that one is delivered to a building nearby. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about The Point News feel free to contact Scott using the form below.

Click here to read Vol 78, issue 4.

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Alumni Letter to the Administration Regarding Title IX

This letter and alumni signatures were originally published here.

Dear President Jordan,

I write this letter in the hope that you will commit publicly to enforcing Title IX, in the wake of announcements by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that the federal government will be rescinding specific guidance and enforcement for schools. These include the Dear Colleague Letter, which clarified the responsibility of educational institutions to prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus, and made it easier for students to understand the nature of this responsibility. As an alumnus who has great respect and pride for my school, I urge you to continue to improve and expand upon your legal and moral obligation to support the most important patrons of your institution: the students.

With the implementation of Title IX, students came to expect that their institution would treat them equally, and that there would be legal recourse if that expectation was not upheld. Students should not only be treated with equality, but also with justice—those students who are cast aside and marginalized within almost every institution in our society can find a home in liberal arts institutions, where scholars are cultivated within an environment that expects and allows them to reach toward a better society. The goal of a college, and particularly a public honors college like St. Mary’s, is to resist the oppressive forces of other societal institutions through knowledge. Students at St. Mary’s learn to challenge those forces in society that tell them they are not worthy, that they do not deserve to fully flourish in all their potential.

The things I learned at St. Mary’s allow me to write this letter, and to see where our societal institutions fail us. Students should not be prevented from accessing the knowledge that is available at a university, which is what happens when students experience violence. Twelve percent of students at St. Mary’s said they had experienced sexual misconduct in a survey administered in 2016. National data reflect that about one[-]fifth of female students on college campuses experience sexual violence or misconduct. Incidents of sexual violence can lead survivors to experience issues with mental health, feeling safe at school, and ability to perform academically. This is compounded for survivors who face other forms of oppression, such as those who are LGBTQ+, people of color, or otherwise marginalized in society.

Title IX is just one law that helps protect students and provide justice when institutional forces and implicit bias threaten to impede that process of learning. But Title IX is not immune to institutional oppression, and can be both used and ignored in ways that do not promote justice. St. Mary’s has four active Title IX complaints open with the Department of Education. Without enforcement from federal bodies, these cases may not see the resolution they deserve. Title IX should be enforced with the input and wellbeing of survivors of violence in mind, and when it fails to do so, the best it can provide is a quick fix to a complex problem that most severely impacts those who already face discrimination and barriers to learning.

Another way to ensure Title IX is being enforced with justice in mind is by supporting students who want to be resources to their peers—who are willing to, without pay or compensation, volunteer their own emotional labor and time away from class to provide support for survivors of violence. I was one of those volunteers at St. Mary’s, and the work my peers and I tried to do was often met with a lack of administrative support, and at times, deliberate administrative resistance. According to students still attending St. Mary’s, the administration continues to fail in supporting these student advocates. School staff and administrators should be trained in how to support and train student volunteers, so that there can be even more resources and opportunities for survivors to feel safe and comfortable on campus.

Without students, and specifically those students whose essential perspectives are needed to examine and critique society, a school would not be a school. St. Mary’s would not be the well-regarded liberal arts college it is without the people who make up its body. I urge St. Mary’s to use research- and evidence-based approaches that are informed by the perspectives of diverse people to guide its response to violence on campus. Following our values in this way will help our students succeed so that they can continue to fight back against injustice without fear of losing needed support from the institution in which they put their trust.

I encourage you to follow the guidance of survivor-led organizations like Know Your IX (https://www.knowyourix.org/) and End Rape on Campus (http://endrapeoncampus.org/), and make a public statement outlining your commitment to supporting survivors and ending sexual violence at St. Mary’s.

Sincerely, and in Solidarity,

152 Alumni of St. Mary’s College of Maryland

 

No Gold Under This Rainbow for Spacey

Hollywood found itself in a new kind of spotlight starting in the month of October as dozens of celebrities stepped forward with recollections of sexual abuse inflicted by coworkers.

Among these victims was Anthony Rapp, well known for his role in “Star Trek: Discovery” coming forward with accusations against the “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey. In a late night Buzzfeed News interview Rapp recounted, after 30 years of silence, an interaction in which Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance towards him at a party. At the time Rapp, age 14, and Spacey, 26, were both performing in Broadway shows.

Just hours after the Buzzfeed interview, Spacey issued a public statement regarding the accusation on his Twitter account. He stated that he did not remember the encounter and that Rapp’s story prompted him towards introspection. In the closing sentences of the post he announced that he now chooses to live his life as a gay man.

Using coming out as a deflection for the accusation of trying to come on to a 14 year old boy is repulsive and destructive to the LGBTQ community. Gay and bisexual men have had to work extraordinarily hard to distance themselves from the false and harmful conspiracy of being predatory- specifically to minors- for decades. In coming out directly after faux-apologizing for what Spacey called “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior” with a minor, he created an undeserved association between pedophilia and homosexuality. It is those exact kinds of faulty connections that become ammunition against the community’s fight for equality. It is the example that will be brought up to try and bar the right of transgender individuals to use the bathroom they feel comfortable in, the argument against gay men adopting children, and a general smear on the image that we have been fighting so hard to recreate and reclaim.

For millions of people, coming out can be dangerous, frightening, and uncomfortable. In coming out individuals often run the risk of losing friends, being alienated from family, and being subjected to cruel and untrue stereotypes. Deciding to live one’s truth openly and with pride demands bravery, yet Spacey managed to make his personal revelation an act of cowardice. The absolute willingness Spacey showed to throw the entire LGBTQ community under the bus in an attempt to garner sympathy and save his reputation was disgusting to witness. As a bisexual woman who has faced coming out in all its apprehension and varied consequences I was deeply angered to see someone with such high standing drag it through the mud. Not only did he use his experience as a PR tool to overshadow sexual abuse allegations but he sabotaged the rest of the community’s efforts in the process.

Spacey may have tried tried to hide behind the rainbow, but his true colors were incredibly clear. Prominent members of the LGBTQ community including Wanda Sykes and Zachary Quinto were quick to reject his coming out as an excuse or distraction from his past behavior. In a tweet the day after Spacey’s statement Quinto wrote, “And I am sorry that Kevin only saw fit to acknowledge his truth when he thought it would serve him- just as denial served him for so many years”.

My anger was slightly relieved in seeing how Hollywood chose to deal with these particular allegations. It seemed as though in an instant Spacey’s agent and publicist had dropped him and Netflix cancelled “House of Cards” without hesitation. According to BBC the recently completed film he starred in titled “All the Money in the World” decided to go back and reshoot every one of his scenes with a new actor. After an entire month of accusations against other celebrities disappearing without any form of punishment, this was a glimpse of an ideal reality where some semblance of justice exists. Let this set the tone for other individuals who abuse their power or influence to harm others: the era of getting away with it, being professionally successful, and silencing victims is finally coming to a close.

#MeAt14 Holds Perpetrators of Sexual Assault Accountable

https://www.thedailybeast.com/woman-says-roy-moore-tried-to-rape-her-at-16-i-was-begging-him-to-stop

When Roy Moore, who was recently quoted at a campaign rally as saying “blacks and whites” and “red and yellows” aren’t getting along, was recently accused of committing acts of sexual misconduct in the 1970s, he responded, “If we did go out on dates, then we did, but I do not remember that.” The four women who have come forward were in their early teens at the time of the misconduct; Moore was in his thirties.

The Republican candidate, who is currently trying to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat in the Alabama Senate in an upcoming special election, and who, in August, told The Guardian that “maybe Putin is right” when it comes to gay marriage, has been compared to the biblical Joseph by Republican leaders as they trip over themselves trying to defend pedophilia for the sake of political gain.

The scandal is just one more in a recent series of unmaskings of powerful men as sexual predators, what feels like every industry and political demographic—from men like Moore who believes 9/11 may have happened because of sodomy and abortion in the United States, to comedian Louis C.K., who made so many jokes about masturbating in front of women that we really shouldn’t be surprised, to NPR News Executive Mike Oreskes. (See, even the kale-eating liberals are getting in on it!)

Moore’s comments sparked a hashtag on Twitter this week, started with a tweet by @catlawson who posted a photo of herself at the same age of one of Moore’s alleged victims, captioning it: “Can’t consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere. #MeAt14.” Hundreds have followed in her wake, sharing pictures of themselves at 14, with gleaming braces and frizzy hair, heavy eyeliner and awkward height, reminding the public: they’re kids.

It seems like we shouldn’t need a reminder about the fact that when a 32-year-old approaches 14-year-olds sexually, it’s not “dating,” it’s abuse. That 14-year-olds are children, worthy of our protection.

But we shouldn’t take those assumptions for granted. In 2015, when he was on the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore was the sole dissenting vote in a case where a 17-year-old was charged with the rape of a 12-year-old. The case had been appealed up to Moore’s residing court, where he voted against finding the defendant guilty, arguing that “that the court’s interpretation opened the door to a 10-year-old being found guilty of raping an 8-year-old,” according to ThinkProgress.

When people look at cases like these and ask why it matters — why should the personal life and failings of these men matter — what does Louis C.K. forcing his colleagues to watch him masturbate have to do with his comedy, why do we care what Kevin Spacey did on the set of House of Cards when cameras weren’t rolling, what does it have to do with their “work”?

That is my answer. It is their work. It is their personal life. It becomes everything they touch, no matter the intentions you want to read into their actions, or their art, or their votes.

Maybe this is how we clear house. It’s a painful process, watching name after name come out in the papers, hearing accuser after accuser step forward — far more painful for the victims involved and for survivors who have to relive their trauma — but it’s a necessary one. Fumigating the house. Lancing the wound.

I hope that the Harvey Weinstein scandal jolted us into this place of change, that after witnessing how deep his tendrils ran in Hollywood, how much money there was to be made by ignoring sexual harassment and abuse, that we are beginning to say “no more.”

But I’m going to check back in in eighteen months. See if we haven’t let the muck settle back into its calm, after the good shake we’ve given it this fall. See if Weinstein is making movies again. See if Roy Moore still has a career. If “when you’re a star they let you do it.”

Until then, let’s keep reminding them.

Rebecca Ritter, the author of this piece, at 14.

Embodied Palestinian Solidarity: A Lecture by Nicole Bindler

Nicole Bindler, a Philadelphia-based activist, choreographer and dancer, gave a lecture discussing her social justice-centered performance at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) on Nov. 2, 2017. Bindler focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and more specifically the Palestinian struggle for freedom from occupation under the Israeli government.

Bindler is a body-based performing artist. She is a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Artist Council and is also the founder and director of The Institute for Somatics and Social Justice.

Throughout the lecture, Bindler made reference to her extensive work as a choreographer and dancer, showing many photos and videos of her projects. She exhibited videos of her latest project WOMEN, a hybrid folk-contemporary dance detailing lives of women living under occupation. This collaboration was done with Diyar Theater in Bethlehem, Palestine.

She spoke about the Israeli occupation of Palestine through the lens of a Jewish woman, elaborating that though she grew up in a secular non-Zionist family, there was still a taboo surrounding discussion of the conflict. In college, her roommate studied abroad and visited Palestine, bringing back photos that she was hesitant to show Bindler, but eventually did, leaving what Bindler described as a lasting impact on her views of Israeli occupation.

Bindler discussed her participation in street theater, a style of theater performed in front of random people in a populated area, like a performance she did in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass. to raise awareness of the conflict. She said they created the scene to reflect the lack of mobility Palestinian people face. It depicted a woman being held at gunpoint by two Israeli soldiers as she tries to get her sick child to the hospital. She also mentioned the use of die-ins as a way to get people’s attention.

Throughout the lecture, Bindler said that, though Israeli media works very hard to make it seem like Palestinian life is not terrible, it is in fact a life of extreme oppression and lack of freedom due to the Israeli government’s control over border, and by extension, all resources. She showed pictures of one town where a giant wall had been built around the homes, except for one which lay outside the line, and instead was surrounded by a large electrified fence, remarking that they were “penned in like animals.”

In her piece WOMEN, Palestinian women use dance as a way to tell their unique stories as a group marginalized on two fronts: as those who live under occupation, and as women. During the piece the women hold bowls of water to represent the Mediterranean Sea, which most do not have access to but yearn to visit.

In general she said that access to water is unequal, citing the luxury swimming pools in Israel contrasted with the lack of water to shower in Palestine. The dancers also hold up what most would see a two fingers denoting a peace sign, but Bindler clarifies actually means V for victory, as in Palestinian victory from occupation. She notes that it is controversial for women to make this gesture because traditionally men only do so.

Bindler explains that though some may see performing arts as a trivial way to be an activist, dance has the ability to allow people to perform their feelings, trauma and joy without having to use words to educate. She stated, “I’m not naïve, I don’t think dancing will end the occupation, but to be able to express themselves through a dance is a way to remember their humanity.”

Crisis in Catalonia Evokes Memories of Spain’s Dictatorship

Encouraged by their president, Carles Puigdemont, Catalan leaders voted to declare independence from Spain after going ahead with a banned referendum on Oct. 1.

According to ABC España, the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suspended Catalan autonomy, dismissing its parliament and government and organizing new regional elections for Dec. 21 in response. Catalonia’s regional parliament then declared independence on Oct. 27 following the failed referendum. Spain’s Constitutional Court annulled Catalonia’s declaration of independence by describing it as a “serious attack on the rule of law,” according to the Court.

As the battle between the Spanish leaders and Catalonia’s separatists continues, the situation evokes memories of Spain’s dictatorship for Catalans. Francisco Franco, the dictator, reigned Spain with an iron fist from 1939 until his death in the 1970s.

According to The Washington Post, these bitter memories of Franco’s rule are of a time where their language, Catalan, was banned from schools and people were forced to adopt Spanish given names. Many Catalans are being led to believe that their oppressive history might be coming back, judging from the stories about Catalan leaders being exiled and imprisoned, Catalan media outlets being under threat and national police using excessive force to break up last month’s independence referendum.

In Catalonia, people say those remnants of the Franco era never fully went away, even if Spain made a transition to democracy in the years after the death of Franco. The Franco era was handled with a “pact of forgetting,” an “informal agreement that made any treatment of the most difficult episodes of Spanish histories, such as the horrific violence of the Civil War, unnecessary and unwelcome,” according to The New York Times. The pact left Spain’s painful history without closure.

Catalans are reminded of the ugly past everywhere. According to an interview with The Washington Post, Xavier Andreu, owner of the crowded military-antiques shop, said that Franco’s appeal endures, referring to the busts of the ex-dictator which are still manufactured and are a popular item in Madrid and elsewhere.

They also point to Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s refusal to negotiate, who they say has tried to put an end to separatism, not by persuasion but through force and fear. They claim that his center-right Popular Party never fully rid itself of its past after having been founded by Franco-era officials.

Spanish leaders are not helping settle down the Catalans’ fears either. Pablo Casado, a spokesman for Spain’s ruling party, recently warned that if former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont declared independence, he could wind up with a fate similar to that of a previous Catalan leader during the Spanish Civil War, who was executed in 1940.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Sebastian Balfour, an emeritus professor of contemporary Spanish studies at the London School of Economics, said, “I don’t think that we’re seeing the response of an old Francoism in the present.” He continued, “What we’re seeing is a sort of repressive constitutionalism: ‘This is the constitution, and we’re not negotiating it.’”

But some Catalan nationalists believe the situation is far less complicated: The Spanish government is using fear tactics, just like in the Franco years.

“They want to alienate the Catalan population from the Spanish government. And they want to impose it through fear,” said Ermengol Gassiot, head of the Barcelona branch of the hard-line CGT trade union. “Given the legal repercussions, they hope people will cease to push for independence. This is a return to the strategy employed by the Franco.”

In response to the crisis, the Spanish government fired Puigdemont and eight former members of the Catalan cabinet, then later issued an international arrest warrant for Puigdemont. They turned themselves into the police in Brussels and were released from custody a day later. Puigdemont and at least 20 Catalan politicians face charges including disobedience, sedition, and the misuse of public funds.

According to The Guardian, tens of thousands of Catalans gathered on Nov. 11, waving Catalan independence flags, holding up banners announcing, “SOS Democracy,” shining phone torches in unison, and chanting “Freedom!” Puigdemont tweeted during the protest, “Your light reaches us in Brussels and illuminates the path we must keep following.”

For many Catalans, Rajoy’s takeover of Catalonia last month and the dismissal and imprisonment of its leaders “represented a return to Francoism,” said Pelai Pagès, a historian of the Spanish Civil War at the University of Barcelona in his interview with The Washington Post. “History is not so far away.”

NS&M Colloquium: Using Mathematics to Fight Cancer

On Nov. 8, the President of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), Ami Radunskaya spoke at St. Mary’s College of Maryland about her work modeling cancerous tumor growth. Radunskaya has been a professor of mathematics at Pomona College since 1994, after completing her PhD in mathematics at Stanford University.

She is currently serving her two-year term as president of AWM, a non-profit organization that was founded in 1971. The organization’s purpose is to “encourage women and girls to study and to have active careers in mathematical sciences, and to promote equal opportunity and the equal treatment of women and girls in the mathematical sciences.” AWM currently has over 5000 members.

Radunskaya became the co-director of The Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) Program in 2011. The goal of the EDGE Program is to “increase the number of women and minority students who successfully complete graduate programs in mathematical sciences.”

Radunskaya’s work in modeling tumors began at St. Vincent’s Hospital, where she met with doctors once a month in a group called Mathematics of Medicine (MOM). Many of the doctors said they went to medical school because they couldn’t do the math, but with Radunskaya’s help, they were soon building their own mathematical models.

One of the problems with cancer research is that cancer cells start with one cell, which divides into two. Two cells divide into four, which results in exponential growth of cells. However, this model of growth is not regularly seen in tumor growth, because it would take 40 days to detect a 7 mm tumor, and after 40 more days, the tumor would be the size of a beach ball. A more accurate model would be a graph that levels off or behaves in a different way. This is where mathematics can help develop cancer research to more accurately represent tumor growth.  

Radunskaya and others in this exciting field use math equations to model growth, as well as determine how chemotherapy kills different cells at different rates.

Mathematics also provides information on how cancer vaccine trials should be run. Mathematicians are able to model how much of a vaccine should be given when it should be given, where it should be given and how the patient will respond. Based on this information, vaccines can be manipulated to extend survival rates.

Radunskaya emphasized that cancer mathematical modeling is a very large field that is constantly evolving. She encourages anyone interested to get involved. When she started her work it took her a while to learn the biology involved in math modeling for tumors, but she was able to ask her questions to the doctors she was meeting with. Radunskaya told the audience, “you can get started without knowing everything.”