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The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

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Updated: 54 min 9 sec ago

ET Ep 3: Galactus

November 2, 2018 - 12:52pm
EXTRA TERRESTRIAL IS YR MEDIA’S SONIC SPHERE. GALACTUS WAS PRODUCED BY 7SINZ WITH VISUALS BY JULIA TELLO.

The post ET Ep 3: Galactus appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Discovering RYL Pt. 3

November 2, 2018 - 12:51pm
HERE’S PART 3 OF OUR TRAILER FOR REMIX YOUR LIFE, YR’S IN-HOUSE MUSIC PRODUCTION UNIT. 

The post Discovering RYL Pt. 3 appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Young Candidate Profile: Meet Kalan Haywood of Milwaukee

November 2, 2018 - 12:41pm

At 19-years-old, Kalan Haywood is already making history in politics.

The Milwaukee teen is running to represent Wisconsin’s 16th Assembly District. And if the Cardinal Stritch University student is elected, he’ll be the youngest lawmaker in the state.

Haywood won the August primary, defeating five Democrats in a race with no Republican challenger. He’s pretty much secured the seat unless there’s a successful write-in candidate.

Although Haywood is still in his teens, he’s spent much of his life dedicated to creating change for his Milwaukee community and sharpening his political skills. He volunteered on his first political campaign at 13-years-old. At 15, he was elected to the Milwaukee Youth Council, serving as president for two years.

YR Media’s Nayo Campbell spoke with Haywood about his historic race and what he hopes to accomplish if elected .

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length

Nayo Campbell: When did you first fall in love with politics?

Kalan Haywood: When I was eight years old. In 2009, I met (Milwaukee) Mayor Tom Barrett. I listened to him talk about his job and his vision for the city of Milwaukee. It was in that moment that I said I want to do what he does.

After that initial introduction with the mayor, I went on the Internet and learned about him as well as politics in general. But it really wasn’t until I was in middle school that I learned about the Milwaukee Youth Council, a 15-member body who represents young people in their district. We dealt with the city budget and legislation regarding youth issues.

In addition to the Milwaukee Youth Council, what other activities did you participate in to gain experience?

I volunteered on my first campaign when I was 13 for State Representative David Bowen. That was my first experience on a campaign and being really involved. I was just as nervous knocking on doors at 13 as I am at 19. So I worked on his campaign until he won, and then I interned inside his office in Madison, WI.  

After that, I worked as an intern for Alderwoman Coggs for a summer and helped her organize the Bronzeville Week, which is a really big week here in Milwaukee and is an event that celebrates African American culture. From there I was also able to work with Senator Lena Taylor. So I was able to work both at the state and also city levels to get a feel for different aspects of politics.

What made you decide to run at the age of 19 and in this election?

When I was in high school I was debating whether I was going to run for a city, country, or state seat. But when I looked at my ties to my district, I realized I was educated and raised in the 16th district, my church is in the 16th district and I’ve done community work within the district. When I was looking at the current landscape from a young person’s perspective, I realized the district needed that perspective to shake things up. I knew there was no better time to run and that I should just go ahead and take it.

What are the top issues facing young people in Wisconsin’s 16th district?  

So the 16th district is extremely unique. We have some of the wealthiest people in Milwaukee, but also some of the poorest people. Whether you’re a young person, middle age or elderly, we all have the same top concerns. One is education. We have to make sure young people are getting a good quality education, whether it’s K-12, going to college or a trade school. Another one is employment, and that includes young people. We have to make sure we have life-sustaining jobs so we can build wealth.

Across the country, there is a cycle of poverty that has trapped people for many generations, and they can’t seem to break that cycle because of not getting properly educated and not getting good jobs. So I want to make sure that there is proper education so that can create more good jobs and build wealth. So with education, getting people employed—that breaks the cycle of poverty, but it also leads to us having safer streets.

Do you feel like your age helps or hurts you in regards to getting others to support you?  

I would say because of my many years serving in the city, many people knew I was going to run and told me to do it. But when I decided to run, people would say maybe you should wait or you are too young.

So at the start of the campaign, a lot of people doubted me. But now we’re at a point where I’ve changed their minds, and they see that I’m going to make things happen. People are excited to see that I have the energy. They see the possibility that I will be able to go get things done because I have the time to do it.

How do you balance still being a young person and having a social life?

I’m still young, so of course, I want a social life. But it has always been about prioritizing. Over the last few years, I’ve had to sacrifice—not going to a party to get work done. Hopefully, in 2020 I can get some help and get more people to run. But right now it’s all about prioritizing in order to make a change.

The post Young Candidate Profile: Meet Kalan Haywood of Milwaukee appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Election Day Walkouts Planned to Get Students to Vote

November 2, 2018 - 12:07pm

Youth-led activism organizations across the country have banded together to rally young people to walk out of class and march to the polls to cast their vote on Election Day.

#WalkoutToVote is the inaugural initiative of the Future Coalition, a network of national organizations that prides itself on being entirely youth-led and “founded by young activists, for young activists.”

There are about 500 walkouts planned at schools across the country.  

YR Media correspondent Kyra Azore spoke with Katie Eder of Milwaukee and the executive director of 50 More Miles, one of the organizations under the Future Coalition, about their efforts to get young people to vote in this midterm election.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Kyra Azore: Why is it important for young people to vote in this particular election?

Katie Eder: Young people have in the past showed up to the polls in very low numbers. Which is really disappointing because while we may only be 25 percent of the nation’s population, we are 100 percent of the future. And we need to make sure that as our future gets built around us, that we have a say in it.

If we come together and collectively all decide that we’re going to go to the polls, we can have an immense impact on the outcome of this election and therefore what the future of this country looks like.

Are you worried about any backlash from school administrators from your efforts of encouraging students to leave class?

As we’ve seen from walkouts earlier this year, there are administrators who are really supportive and love that students are taking action. And then there are some who are not as supportive. We are expecting the same thing this time, and all we can do is offer support and resources to students who are planning walkouts.

Voting is not political or polarized, but it’s about civic engagement. We are really hoping that administrators will see and hear students when they say that ‘I want to be a part of this process.’ We’re hoping that’s the message that administrators can then take to heart and work with their students to put on really successful walkouts.

#WalkOutToVote isn’t just about high schools. How are you targeting college campuses to get those students to walk out?

It’s all about changing the culture around voting. We have some middle school kids who are doing walkouts as well, which is really cool.

Most everyone in college is eligible to vote, so that’s a big target demographic in asking to walk out. We are working with college students to design a walkout structure that really fits for colleges.  What we’re thinking is more of a march to the polls where students make it communal and visible.

#WalkOutToVote isn’t necessarily just about getting up from class and leaving, but the biggest part is making voting something that’s a community event. Something that is visible, something that is heard and seen by people all across the country.

In the past, we’ve seen young people really turn out to vote in presidential elections, but not usually for a midterm. How are you working to change the narrative surrounding when your vote matters?

We are really encouraging young people to get informed about voting, about who’s on the ballot and what a ballot looks like. I think voting, in general, can be a very daunting process. Our votes have even more of a greater impact when it comes to the local and state elections. No matter where you are, your vote is going to have an impact on the election. Young people are showing up in local elections because those often are what’s going to affect us, our community and our family and friends most directly.

What do you say to young people who are feeling discouraged in our current political climate and feel like their vote doesn’t matter?

It can be very discouraging and we all, I think, are discouraged at times when we see things happening with our political system. I think that it’s very easy to feel like “what’s the point?” And we all go through that at some level. But we can’t stop fighting. We can’t stop using our voice.

Right now, we might be in a time where it feels our voices aren’t being heard and our perspectives aren’t being taken into account. But the truth is we’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to get there eventually. We’re going to continue to try to make this country have a future that we all want to live in, and I think we’ll get there.

Future Coalition is a coalition of youth-led organizations across the country. Will you all continue to mobilize and work together after the midterm election?

Yes, we have some very cool projects in the works. #WalkOutToVote is just the beginning of Future Coalition. We have some really awesome different projects that we’re all collaborating on and that other organizations are doing that the Coalition is supporting.

This is just the beginning for the youth movement. We’re going to continue fighting and demand change, because I think it’s going to make us really powerful and really impactful moving forward.

The post Election Day Walkouts Planned to Get Students to Vote appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Black Students Worry Their Vote is Diluted

November 2, 2018 - 9:19am

I graduated in 2017 from North Carolina A&T State University, known as A&T, the largest historically black college in the nation. Until my senior year, the entire school was in the mostly black 12th district, represented by Alma Adams – an alum of the school. But two years ago, the campus was split into two districts.

North Carolina is one of the most blatantly gerrymandered states in the country. Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s political map was unconstitutional, as it disadvantaged black voters. So the map was redrawn. But again in 2018, it was ruled to be unconstitutional for favoring Republicans.

When A&T was split into separate congressional districts, it was divided right down Laurel Street. I walked along Laurel Street with Braxton Brewington, a student voting activist.

“We are in District 6 — we are right in front of Bluford Library. Then across the street you have District 13. So that’s a whole different representative. People are walking across the district line everyday, whether they know it or not,” Brewington said.

With A&T’s divide, one black university is now in two districts, both of which are majority white and represented by Republicans. Two years ago, when the split happened, Republican map-makers said they were not trying to break up the black vote. Still, many students have their doubts.

“To me, it just looks like you’re taking all of our voting power and you’re diluting our vote,” said Love Caesar.  


Braxton Brewington is a student voting activist at North Carolina A&T. (Photo credit: Kamaya Truitt)

Student activists like Brewington are also worried that the split down the middle of campus could prevent students from voting altogether, because of the confusion as to where to cast a ballot. I watched Brewington tabling in the cafeteria, asking individual students whether they were registered and checking to make sure they knew which of the two districts they were supposed to vote in.

Officials at the local board of elections are aware of the confusion on campus around getting to the correct polling place. However, Guilford County elections director Charlie Collicutt pointed out a silver lining.

“You could argue that A&T has two representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives instead of one. So yes, the party might be opposite of what the majority of that campus is statistically, but at the same time you’re doubling your representation,” he said.

The new district lines are actually simpler than the old district 12 lines, which looked long and skinny, like a snake. But activists say the split district at A&T is part of a larger trend across the state that impacts young voters.

“We’ve seen wave after wave of voter suppression efforts targeted at both black voters and young voters. So young black voters are at the intersection of being the recipient of double-time voter suppression,” said Allison Riggs, a senior staff attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

 Allison Riggs is a senior staff attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. (Photo credit: Kamaya Truitt)

Although the district map of North Carolina is due to be re-drawn, it won’t happen in time for the 2018 midterm elections. So for now, student activists at AT&T will keep working to register their classmates on campus, hoping that on Election Day their voice will be heard, despite being split.

The post Black Students Worry Their Vote is Diluted appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Our Favorite Songs from 16-Year-Old Texas Native Splurge

November 1, 2018 - 11:10pm

Texas is notorious for being an influential rap scene, Rap-A-Lot Records, a record label founded by James Prince paved the way for the success of southern rap alongside their most notable act the Geto Boys. The Geto Boys were one of the first acts to put Texas music on the map. Following the long legacy of Texas rap, artists like Pimp C, Bun-B, Slim Thug, and Trae Tha Truth paved the way for many artists after them. Since then we’ve seen the rise of many young artists like 18-year-old rapper Tay-K who is actually from the same neighborhood as Splurge. Texas is definitely becoming a solid hub for hip-hop music.

Distorted 808’s, playful yet sprinkled with game raps and a knack for rapping without hooks is the recipe for a quintessential Splurge track. We first caught wind of Splurge via a dance video by Lil’ Uzi Vert and 10k Cash. East Arlington rapper Splurge is one of the most promising acts to come out of Texas. Already, Splurge has racked up millions of views on YouTube, and is only 16 years old. Splurge can easily rip a beat with just a simple 808 pattern, snare, and some hi-hats. He compliments his straightforward beats with his infectious bars to create something raw, and organic. We put together our favorite songs from East Arlington’s own below.

Beat By Jeff

“Beat By Jeff” is named after Splurge’s go-to producer, Beat By Jeff. This track shows the world what the duo is capable of.

Free Granny

Splurge turnt the summer up with multiple singles “Intro Part 2” and “Free Granny.” He matches both tracks with violent 808s and playful bars.

Backwoods

“BackWoods” consists of a crazy piano pattern also complemented with classic Splurge bars. “BackWoods” is unique because it’s one of his more popular songs that actually has a melody to it, different from fan-favorite songs like “Intro Part 2” and “Beat By Jeff.”

Racks

“Racks” is my favorite song from Splurge. This track will be stuck in your head all day. Unlike most of his other songs he catches our attention with an infectious hook, shying away from his usual song formula.

Basic Bitch

In the past few months Splurge has dropped project after project, and most recently, has delivered us with two new singles “Basic Bitch” and “No Case.” From listening to the two tracks, he does not plan on slowing down.

Intro Part 2

One of Beat By Jeff’s greatest features is his subtlety. To the untrained ear “Intro” and “Intro Part 2” sound similar, however, both tracks contain subtle differences, he delivers “Intro Part 2” with more energy and more intense 808s. “Intro Part 2” is probably his most successful song yet.

The post Our Favorite Songs from 16-Year-Old Texas Native Splurge appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Adult ISH: Femme ISH

November 1, 2018 - 7:59pm

Muslim-American Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad yacks evil smoked salmon and wins an Olympic medal. Young actress Sydney Sweeney (Eden from The Handmaid’s Tale) gives sound advice to her dead character. Then co-host Merk kicks Nyge off the show and brings on YR Media correspondent Charlie Stuip to chat about vajayjays and pap shmears!

The post Adult ISH: Femme ISH appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Adult ISH: Love ISH

November 1, 2018 - 6:46pm

Actor Percelle Ascott (Netflix’s The Innocents) dishes out a South London slang lesson and calls out co-host Nyge’s fake British friends. Comedian Joel Kim Booster (Comedy Central, Conan) spills the secrets to his 17 dating app traps. Then co-hosts Merk and Nyge chit chat on whether ghosting is ever justified…especially if Merk’s toe jam is involved.

The post Adult ISH: Love ISH appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Young Candidate Profile: Meet NY’s Morgan Zegers

November 1, 2018 - 2:49pm

After graduating from American University in May 2018, Morgan Zegers returned to her native town of Malta, New York to run as the Republican nominee for the New York 113th State Assembly.

At 21-years-old, Zegers isn’t letting her age stand in the way and says she’s ready to stand up against “corrupt business-as-usual Albany politics.” As a business owner of a small specialty wood crafting business, Zegers wants to push for quality economic development opportunities. And as a recent college graduate, affordability is high on her list of priorities.

As a young female Republican, Zegers gets a lot of questions about her political views. Recently she spoke with YR Media’s Nayo Campbell to discuss her platform, introduction to politics, and the changes she hopes to make.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Nayo Campbell: What prompted you to run for office?

Morgan Zegers: I realized that everything I care about and was worried about was stemming from the state level. I hadn’t really been involved in politics before but I said, I’m going to get involved with the state level, what’s my next step? And I talked to people in the community, and they said that our local state assembly needed somebody with a little spunk and energy who can go to combat that corruption and who can go to bring a more positive outlook for the future of the state. So I said, okay, I’ll run.

What are the challenges of being a young Republican in New York?

I definitely thought it would be more difficult because there are stereotypes against Republicans. But my community is very Republican in the first place, so people have been kind of looking past my age and they’re more focused on my values and what I’m bringing. But the problem for me being a young Republican woman is I get asked to do a lot of interviews to talk about my campaign and instead they want to talk about national issues like the border wall, President Trump, Hillary Clinton, the #MeToo movement. So it’s my job to kind of redirect the conversation to my campaign, and I’ve had to learn that the hard way.

For females, it’s sometimes harder to break the glass ceiling into politics, but especially being young. What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Being young in politics, you have to balance accepting advice from people and being appreciative because they are your elder and they want to help. And then there’s also that balance of go-with-your-gut feeling.

For me, I had a lot of issues where my gut feeling was telling me one thing, but the people were saying, “You know, I have more experience than you, you should do this differently.” And so now I look back and I knew that my gut was correct and I should have gone with my gut on a lot of those decisions, and I kind of regret that. So it’s more about learning how to balance respecting your elders but also being firm with my views.

What are some issues facing young New Yorkers that you hope to address?

The young population in upstate New York is the population that is fleeing in search of better opportunities. So I’m focused on affordability, Main Street economic development, and ethical leadership.  

I want to tackle the cost of higher education. I think my perspective as a recent graduate, as somebody who went through the public school system here and who experienced that workforce development plan that we currently have, I can really add important insight to lowering the cost for students across the state. And that’s something I want to take on. So I am focused on the nit-picky things around New York state, the cost of homes, the cost of education and workforce development plans that we have. It’s all incredibly important, especially at the state level.

The post Young Candidate Profile: Meet NY’s Morgan Zegers appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

The Effects of DeVos’s New Campus Sex Assault Policy (Part II)

November 1, 2018 - 2:49pm

Editor’s note: For Part 1, click here.

Title IX, a federal statute most commonly associated with women’s access to sports, also requires schools to look into allegations of student sexual misconduct. But, in practice, how do schools deal with these sorts of allegations?

Since 2001, the Bush and Obama administrations have both released guidances on how schools should interpret Title IX and enforce sexual misconduct policies. Now, the Trump administration is preparing to release its own set of campus sexual assault policies, which are expected to increase protections for the accused and limit liability for schools.

Equal Rights Advocates Staff Attorney Maha Ibrahim explained to YR Media how these new campus sexual assault policies might play out in practice for students who make claims of sexual harassment and for the accused. Equal Rights Advocates is a national non-profit that works to ensure women’s equality, including survivors of campus sexual assault.

This interview has been edited for length.

How will the proposed regulations change the rights and protections for students who claim they’ve been sexually assaulted?

These new proposed regulations are very dangerous for and potentially harmful to victims.

If a school provides for a Title IX hearing, the proposed rules would allow a survivor to be directly asked questions by his or her rapist. Under previous guidance, direct questioning of the survivor by their alleged rapist was not permitted—the questioning had to come from a school official.  The proposed rules also allow mediation to be used to resolve sexual violence, where the 2001 guidance explicitly prohibits mediation in cases of sexual violence, as it has been proven to be traumatic for survivors.

What protections and rights do accused students stand to gain?

The accused will become a specially protected group of individuals under these regulations. They will benefit from a higher burden of proof for a finding to be made against them. This is not just a higher burden than for any other act of student misconduct in a school investigation context, such as stealing or vandalism, but it is a higher standard of proof than almost all other civil matters.

Accused students will also be allowed to have additional rights of appeal that are not extended to students who have been harmed by the accused. In its most troubling extrapolation, a Title IX attorney we’ve worked with often refers to this as “special rights for rapists.” 

This means students can face more accountability and intervention from their schools for plagiarizing a classmate’s work than for raping a classmate. We really have to let that sink in. 

Will schools still be liable for sexual assault and harassment between students?

Schools will still be held liable for sexual assault and harassment between students. Schools can be held liable through students filing lawsuits in court, or individuals can file with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, which can require schools to change their policies.

But the standard to hold a school liable in court is already high. A plaintiff has to show that their school was deliberately indifferent to their complaint(s). 

The proposed regulations themselves are in fact deliberately indifferent to victims. If they become law, then proving to a court that your school provided even less process and protections to you as a victim than this Department of Education has required under Title IX will be nearly impossible.

Would schools still have to address sexual assault in the case of an off-campus party?

This is arguably one of the biggest changes in the regulations. As written, schools will only be required to address harassment or assault that occurs on campus.

The DOE’s proposed rules would only hold schools accountable for formal complaints filed through proper authorities. Do you know what this means? Why would this be challenging for victims of sexual harassment and assault?

This means that schools would only be accountable if a formal complaint is filed with certain designated individuals at the school or in the district, most likely the Title IX Coordinator. This poses a number of barriers to victims of sexual harassment and assault.

At the K-12 level, there are concerns students will not be able to comprehend formal complaint forms or be able to legally sign them on their own. Additionally, K-12 students are far less likely to be able to find a school district official who is at a central district office in order to file a complaint of sexual harassment or assault. At all educational levels, victims who have been assaulted are unlikely to report or discuss their assault with individuals who they do not know or trust. Previously, schools would be held accountable if any “mandated reporter” knew or had reason to know sexual assault or harassment occurred. This included all teachers, professors, teacher’s aides, resident assistants, and all school employees. By not holding schools accountable for reports to trusted individuals who are not “proper authorities,” victims will be even less likely to be able to gain access to the resources they need to regain or protect their access to education after harassment or assault.

The post The Effects of DeVos’s New Campus Sex Assault Policy (Part II) appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Splitting The Black College Vote

November 1, 2018 - 10:50am

If you want more info on this topic, make sure you check out our full magazine feature on North Carolina A&T by clicking here.

Are you ever confused about where you should vote? Do you worry whether your vote counts? Reporter Kamaya Truitt looks at the strange case of North Carolina A&T State University, which state legislators divided into two congressional districts. Student activists say it’s a case of gerrymandering to split the Black vote. They’re mobilizing to make sure their voices are heard. 

Reporter: Kamaya Truitt

Producer: Dilsey Davis

Senior Producer: Stephen Talbot

The post Splitting The Black College Vote appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

What You Should Expect from Your First Pelvic Exam

October 31, 2018 - 11:41am

Anyone with a vagina knows that they come with some upkeep — and we’re not just talking about period products. Once you turn 21, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you get your first pelvic exam.

As common as pelvic exams are, many girls remain in the dark when it comes to What. Actually. Happens. And that lack of knowledge not only sucks, it can be downright dangerous.

When it comes to something as intimate as a pelvic exam, what IS normal? No worries — we have real REAL talk answers to all your pelvic exam questions. We went to Dr. Vanessa Jacoby at UCSF to ask what should and shouldn’t happen in a pelvic exam.

A pelvic exam has multiple parts to it. Here’s what actually goes down:

Pre-Exam: Personal Questions

Your provider will ask you questions relevant to your health, relationships, and sexual history. The goal is to help determine your risk factors for certain conditions in order to best treat you. Many of the questions will be about sex — but the way they’re asked shouldn’t feel judgey or sexual. And If you don’t want to answer a question, you don’t have to!

Part One: External exam

Let’s take a look under the hood, shall we? This is when your clothes come off and your provider’s gloves must come on. You’ll get a hospital gown and a tarp to cover your crotch (and side note, you don’t need to shave for this. They’ve seen it all). They will be looking for any signs of infection, like redness, bumps or lumps. Your doc might touch you very lightly, but nothing is going IN at this point.

Part Two: The Pap Smear

The second part of the pelvic exam is the pap smear. Take a deep breath, because NOW WE’RE GOING IN, Y’ALL. The purpose of the test is to check for abnormal cells, which can turn into cervical cancer if untreated. To do so, your doc is going to put a speculum into your vagina, open it up so they can see what’s happening in there, and then use a tiny spatula to collect a small sample of cells from your cervix. It shouldn’t hurt — but it’s not going to feel great.

Part Three: The “Bimanual” Exam

Gynos call this the “bimanual exam” because it requires two hands. You may end up calling it the “my-doctor-has-their-fingers-in-my-vagina-but-not-in-a-sexual-way” part of the exam. Your doc will put one to two gloved fingers into your vagina, while pressing gently on your stomach with the other hand. They’re checking for things like an enlarged uterus, ovarian growths, or unusual positioning. The fingers shouldn’t move around or anything. But are they all up in your business? Yup.

So that’s what’s supposed to happen. And even though it’s a bit gross to think about, here are a few important things that should NEVER happen:

  • No one should ever watch you change into your gown.
  • You should not be completely uncovered — it’s not a Brazilian wax.
  • Your provider should never comment on your body in a sexually suggestive way.
  • Your provider should never touch your genitals with an ungloved hand.

It’s a lot to process, but the good news is that you also have rights as a patient. Here are a few you should know about going into your exam:

  • You can stop the exam and leave at any time (even mid-exam).
  • You can request to have the clinic provide a chaperone (usually a nurse or medical assistant) to stay with you in the room. Or you can bring a friend, family member, or partner and say you want them in the room for your exam.
  • You can ask your provider to tell you before they touch your body, or let you know what they are going to do before they do it.
  • You can ask if they can use a smaller speculum (there are different sizes).

There you have it — a pelvic exam demystified. The truth is, even if your doctor is awesome and does everything right, a pelvic exam can still make you feel weird. But knowing more about what to expect will help you determine for yourself where “weird” ends and “wrong” begins.

Reported by Charlie Stuip; Video Edited by Chaz Hubbard and Pablo De La Hoya; Camera operators: Liz Tril, Chaz Hubbard, Pablo De La Hoya; Produced by Teresa Chin; Edited by Lissa Soep

The post What You Should Expect from Your First Pelvic Exam appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

How Betsy DeVos Is Rewriting Campus Sex Assault Policy

October 30, 2018 - 3:51pm

Editor’s note: This is Part 1. Click here for Part 2

It’s been just about a month since Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite allegations of a sexual assault from when he was in high school 30 years ago.

The Senate’s dilemma at his confirmation hearing—to determine the credibility of accuser and accused—is mirrored in school districts across the country. In cases of sexual misconduct involving students, administrators are tasked with investigating and deciding on consequences. This heavy burden is legally required by Title IX, a broad federal law guaranteeing equal educational access between women and men.

Now, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is planning to release new campus sexual misconduct policies that are expected to increase protections for the accused and limit liability for schools.

Equal Rights Advocates is a national non-profit that works to ensure women’s equality, including survivors of campus sexual assault. In an email interview, Staff Attorney Maha Ibrahim shared ERA’s concerns about how the Trump administration’s policies would affect schools’ handling of sexual harassment and assault allegations. 

This interview has been edited for length.

What are schools currently required to do—under Title IX—when a student reports sexual assault?

The 2001 guidance, issued by the George W. Bush administration, stated that schools are required to:

  • Investigate whether harassment or assault occurred, and
  • Publish procedures for the prompt and equitable resolution of sexual harassment complaints, and
  • Address the sexual harassment and assault if it was serious enough to limit or deny a student’s ability to participate in school programs.

However, this guidance was vague, and schools were still uncertain of what these procedures should look like or how to provide a fair and equitable resolution.

Under the Obama Administration, a series of letters and guidance documents were released to clarify these requirements for schools.

However, the Trump Administration revoked the Obama-era guidance in 2017, leaving a huge gap in guidance for schools. This means that schools once again do not have clear direction on how to address sexual assault or harassment.

In our experience, this lack of clear guidance and trauma-informed, common-sense requirements — a “Wild West” where different schools and even different employees within a school are just “winging-it” — results in tragic outcomes for students.

What do we know about the Department of Education’s proposal for a new campus sexual assault policy?

The Department of Education’s proposal introduces a number of very serious and problematic changes.

First, the new rules would only apply to sexual assault that occurs on campus. This means that if an assault occurs at a student’s home, on a school trip, or if there is any online sexual harassment that occurs outside of school hours, schools would not be required to investigate. This ignores the fact that even if assault occurs off campus, it more often than not affects the ability of the victim to access education. 

Second, the proposed rules would limit the duties of school employees to respond to sexual harassment by only requiring individuals who have the “authority to institute corrective measures” in a school district to respond to sexual harassment. This will likely be limited to Title IX coordinators and certain school officials, meaning people such as teachers’ aides, playground supervisors, cafeteria workers, and RAs on college campuses would no longer be required to report if a student tells them about sexual harassment or assault, or if they witness sexual harassment or assault.

Third, the proposed policies would also allow schools to delay their own investigations, perhaps indefinitely, if there is a police investigation occurring at the same time.

Criminal investigations can take a long time to complete, and by deferring to police, schools may be able to use this as an excuse to not investigate until students graduate or otherwise leave the campus by transferring or dropping out.  And many victims don’t want to file criminal charges.  The criminal process is difficult, long, and can be very re-traumatizing.

Fourth, the new regulations also encourage retaliation against individuals who report sexual assault by allowing schools to punish both victims and witnesses if the school thinks a complaint or a statement was made in bad faith. This could have a chilling effect on survivors coming forward.

Fifth, these new standards also make it easier for religious schools to opt-out of being required to comply with Title IX.

What is the current legal standard schools apply to sexual harassment? How would raising the legal standard be challenging victims of sexual assault?

Under the Obama-era guidance, [schools relied on a legal standard called preponderance of evidence, meaning] schools had to determine if the harm or harassment reported in a complaint was more likely than not to have occurred. Under the new guidance, the standard is sharply raised to clear and convincing evidence. This is an incredibly high standard for student misconduct investigations.

Preponderance of the Evidence requires the tipping of the balance of evidence in favor of the victim in order to hold the alleged harasser accountable. This is the standard of proof that is used in nearly every non-criminal case.

Clear and Convincing Evidence is a legal standard usually reserved for criminal charges, which requires proof that it is substantially more likely than not that the alleged act or acts occurred. This legal standard requires evidence that is strong, clear, and leaves no doubt when presented. It is only one step below the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.

Clear and convincing evidence almost never exists in cases of sexual harassment and assault, where it often comes down to he-said, she-said, and where witnesses are often not witnesses of the assault itself, but of events and communications surrounding the assault, as in “she called me right after the party and she was crying and said he raped her,” or “I saw that she was passed out and I saw them go in the room where she was and lock the door,” not “I saw them rape her,” or “here are photos of them harassing and molesting him.”

The post How Betsy DeVos Is Rewriting Campus Sex Assault Policy appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

The Push for the Youth Vote

October 30, 2018 - 12:34pm

Gustavo Tellez-Mendoza has tried everything to get his peers to vote. A sophomore at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he spent last summer on high school and college campuses in the Central Valley with a clipboard in hand — dancing, blasting music, and doing whatever he could to get the attention of passersby.

His goal was simple: to talk to someone long enough to ask them what issues they cared about and, hopefully, to get them to register to vote. But a lot of the time, his efforts were fruitless.

“The response was ‘I’ll wait until I’m 18’ and then when they were 18, they said, ‘I’ll wait until I’m older,’” Tellez-Mendoza said. “I would get really frustrated.”

UC Santa Cruz students talk to young voters in preparation for Central Valley Freedom Summer. Photo courtesy of: Central Valley Freedom Project.

Tellez-Mendoza’s work was part of the Central Valley Freedom Summer Project (CVFS), a non-partisan effort out of UC Santa Cruz that deploys college students each summer to mobilize their communities around grassroots causes. In particular, CVFS targets low-income youth voters in a region that has historically lacked a strong civic infrastructure.

Veronica Terriquez, director of CVFS and a professor at UC Santa Cruz, says despite the challenges some students faced, she’s noticed an unprecedented wave of energy from young people in California’s Central Valley and beyond.

“Young people today are experiencing political shock in their own short lifetimes,” Terriquez said. “They’re seeing dramatic changes in the environment, with immigration and more… and that is creating a new level of political interest.”

Following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. and divisiveness under the Trump administration, a wave of activism has signaled a forceful political enthusiasm among young people on issues like gun control, immigration, the #MeToo movement and climate change.

In the months leading up to the midterm elections, media outlets have speculated as to whether this might be the year young people show up to the polls in record numbers. Youth organizers are hopeful for high turnout on Nov. 6, having spent the last two years trying to galvanize their peers not only to show up to marches and protests but also to vote.

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg is the director of CIRCLE, a non-partisan think tank that focuses on civic engagement among young people. She says that while she doesn’t know what the turnout for young people will be next month, she’s optimistic that it will improve by a noticeable amount.

“The energy among young people right now is really real,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said. “It’s not just us getting excited about the Parkland students and voter registration numbers.”

But historically, young people have made up one of the least reliable voting groups, especially in non-presidential elections. In 2014, for example, about 20 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds voted, compared with an average voter turnout of around 36 percent.

Researchers say there are a number of reasons young people vote less frequently than their elders. Young adults move often, are faced with logistical and legal hurdles to casting their ballot, or simply don’t know how. Issues like healthcare and tax policy, which motivate some to vote, may not affect 18-29 year-olds as much as they will later in life, and many young people don’t see value in voting when their priorities aren’t always a focus for politicians.

To combat these obstacles, bands of young people across the country have taken it upon themselves to rally their peers to the polls.

Ryan Deitsch is one of them. He’s a recent graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. and a survivor of the mass shooting there that killed 17 educators and students in February.

Deitsch, 18, spent the summer on a bus full of other Parkland survivors on the Road to Change tour, a cross-country effort to register young voters and advocate for stricter gun control regulation. The group made stops from Newton, Mass. to Dallas, Texas and Oakland, Calif.

At a stop in Sioux City, Iowa, the activists spoke to a group of 10 to 12-year-olds and led them on a lobbying visit to Rep. Steve King’s office. Deitsch says that even those students, years away from voting in their first election, “knew what had to be done.”

“Even if this election doesn’t exactly change the game…these kids are going to be the ones that do,” Deitsch said. “I saw the looks in their eyes. They want to be heard.”

The Road to Change tour and this wave of youth engagement comes at a time when millennials will soon surpass Baby Boomers as the generation with the largest share of the electorate, according to Pew Research Center. But the enthusiasm around this year’s midterms may be higher than average across all age groups.

On this year’s National Voter Registration Day, more than 800,000 people updated their registrations or registered to vote for the first time – a record number, according to the non-profit that coordinates the event.

The stakes are particularly high for a midterm year, with an atmosphere of heightened partisanship and the struggle for the majority in the House and Senate riding on the outcome of several close races in states like Arizona, North Dakota, Florida, and Texas. In a number of competitive elections, the youth vote has already proven decisive.

In June, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District. Hers was perhaps the most celebrated victory in a wave of upsets that shared a similar narrative — relatively young progressive challengers, many who are people of color, pushing out longtime political veterans. From the primary election victories of Andrew Gillum in Florida to Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts, analyses by CIRCLE show that young voters have played a critical role.

Pressley’s district, for example, has a high density of college students and saw an overall median increase of about 160 percent compared to voter turnout in 2014. The precinct covering Boston University’s Student Village, though, saw 400 percent more votes cast in the primary compared to four years ago, according to data from CIRCLE.

Those numbers are “staggering,” according to Kawashima-Ginsberg.

Still, organizers on the ground say getting that energy to translate to high youth turnout in the midterms can be challenging. A recent NPR-Marist poll found that only 60 percent of respondents age 18 to 29 said the 2018 Congressional election is “very important,” the lowest out of any age group.

But voter enthusiasm isn’t the only difficulty that concerns youth organizers: institutional barriers and lack of trust also stand in the way.

Jolt Initiative, a Texas-based organization, is focusing on registering young Latino voters.  Photo courtesy of: Jolt Initiative.

Gabriela Garza, 23, is president of the University of Texas, Austin chapter of Jolt Initiative, which organizes young Latinos across the state.

According to a recent study from Jolt, by 2022, a third of Texans eligible to vote will be under the age of 30, and the majority will be Latino. Garza is hopeful that this year, they will be a big political force in Texas.

But young Latino voters have traditionally been underrepresented compared to other young people. In 2014, around 14 percent of Latinos 18-29 years old voted in the midterms, about six percentage points lower than the age group on average.

Garza, who is from south Texas, says she grew up around people who doubted that their vote mattered. She says Latinos across the state, especially among the young Latino community, need to be convinced that their votes can make a difference.

“We have to be really realistic… and acknowledge that there is a reason that we don’t feel like our voices matter,” Garza said. “There’s a reason that we don’t feel motivated to vote, and it’s because the people that are in office and the people that are running for office still aren’t fighting for us.”

Immigrant communities, prominent in states like Texas and California, face additional challenges to voter participation that aren’t as prevalent among non-immigrant populations, according to UC Santa Cruz’s Veronica Terriquez. She says that young people whose parents aren’t eligible to vote can’t learn the habit of voting from seeing their parents do it.

“But immigrant raids and the fear of losing DACA are very real to people,” she said. “And I think that’s pretty motivating.”

Students working with Loud Light are hoping to increase the voter turnout among young Kansans. Photo courtesy of: Loud Light

With early voting already underway, voter suppression has become an increasingly urgent concern for many young organizers. Davis Hammet, 28, is the founder of Loud Light, a non-partisan organization in Kansas that focuses on civic engagement. Hammet is originally from Florida but works in Kansas in part because of what he describes as some of the strictest voting laws in the nation.

One such barrier in 2014 was a law that required Kansans to provide proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. This past June, a federal judge ruled that the requirement was unconstitutional. But Hammet says other obstacles, such as voter ID laws and requiring voters to register well before Election Day, are still at play in Kansas and nationwide.

“I see a lot of the same issues and attitudes toward voting as with past years that make me wary,” he said. “It’s hard to vote when you’re 18. There’s confusion, there’s apathy… does your vote even matter?”

Madeline Ames, 20, is a student at Kansas State University and a fellow with Loud Light. She says that despite the roadblocks young voters face, she stresses a bottom line to her peers: “legislators don’t care if you don’t vote.”

With a week until the midterms, Ames and many other young organizers are watching to see if their efforts will be visible not only in turnout numbers but also in election results.

“The optimistic side of me has to say so much has happened this year… there’s no way the numbers can’t increase,” she said. “But the pessimistic side of me says the ones who were already going to vote are the ones making all the noise.”

Categories: Blog

Embracing My Skin Tone This Halloween

October 30, 2018 - 11:41am

When you’re a girl with brown skin, there aren’t that many costume options for Halloween. For years, I used to dress as white characters from my favorite movies.  

For Halloween, I’ve been Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Harley Quinn from Batman.

Last year I went as Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz. I had the blue checkered dress, pigtails and those famous red shoes. Even though I was wearing an iconic costume, some people still didn’t recognize me. I guess because Dorothy is white, and I’m not?

I started questioning why I always went as a white character. Is whiteness something to emulate? So this year, I decided to represent my community in my costume.

I’ve decided to dress up as someone black— Dionne from the movie Clueless. It’s ironic, right? When I went as white characters, I was the protagonist. And now, going as a black character, I’m the token best friend.

But it’s still a costume I’ll be more comfortable wearing. Because my skin, my hair, my facial features are inherent to this character. I don’t have to spend Halloween night explaining who I am.

Categories: Blog

Young Candidate Profile: GA’s Inspiring Aisha Yaqoob

October 30, 2018 - 10:59am

Growing up in a conservative and wealthy community was a major factor in pushing Aisha Yaqoob to challenge the status quo.

After years of actively advocating for immigrant rights at the Georgia State Capitol, Yaqoob believes it’s time for her have a seat at the table. The 25-year-old is running to represent District 97 in the Georgia House of Representatives.

If elected, Yaqoob would be the first Muslim woman to serve in the Georgia State House, according to Georgia Rep. Sam Park for House District 101.

YR Media correspondent Sarah Belle Lin spoke with Yaqoob to learn more about her story and if elected, how she plans to address priorities like immigrant rights, access to education and voter engagement.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Sarah Belle Lin: What are some of the issues facing young people in Georgia?

Aisha Yaqoob: We don’t have good need-based programs here in Georgia, so I would like to allocate some funding there. Part of my platform is reforming the HOPE scholarship, which was originally intended to cover 100 percent of public university tuition for students who graduate from high school with a 3.0 GPA. I was able to get 100 percent of my tuition at the University of Georgia covered through the HOPE scholarship.

When I was in my first year, there was a lot of debate around the HOPE scholarship, and that took funding away from my scholarship. After my first year, I only had 75 percent of my tuition covered. Ever since then, my funding has decreased. I’m fighting to reinstate and expand the HOPE scholarship so that it’s going beyond a 3.0 GPA and so that more students have access to the HOPE scholarship.

Why should people vote for you?

I have observed the changing demographics of our district and state over the past 15 years. Up until this point, all of my work has been in a nonpartisan space, so for me, it’s not about party politics. It’s about the issues we can work on together, the similarities we have and how we can make sure we’re working toward a better Georgia for everyone.

Can you describe the moment when you felt you needed to get involved in the political scene?

Four years ago, I was working for a nonpartisan nonprofit, Points of Light. My boss at the time, Michelle Nunn, had stepped down because she was running for U.S. Senator for Georgia. A lot of my friends and coworkers volunteered for her campaign, and that’s how I got involved in politics – by canvassing and attending events for Nunn.

In the fall of 2014, I started my master’s program in public administration and policy at the University of Georgia. In 2015, I had an internship in Washington D.C. where I got to work for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Doing that solidified my passion for working in government. One of the big things that came out of the summer internship was meeting so many people around the country who had been engaged in their communities to get people out to vote. That was a new concept for me because it was something that I had tried to do in 2014, but was unsuccessful. I started to ask around: how do you get a community that has never been engaged in politics before to show up?

After that internship, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I could get my community registered to vote. That led me to create the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, an organization aimed solely to register and engage Muslim voters in Georgia. It launched officially in January 2016, and for the rest of the year after graduate school, I ran my organization because I understood how important the 2016 election was going to be for our Muslim and immigrant communities. I was able to put together a team, and we registered over 1,000 voters. We increased the turnout of our community in a way that we’ve never done before.

How have you advocated for civil and immigrant rights and how do you plan to continue with this goal?

For the last couple of years, I have been a lobbyist at our State Capitol and fighting against anti-immigration legislation that gets introduced every year. I’ve been the one talking to legislators behind the scenes about why some of these bills are so horrible. I’d love to see some legislation aimed at providing more access for immigrants – whether that’s access to health care, education, and language.

I want to increase the presence of immigrants at the State Capitol by making sure that more immigrant families and community members have access to come and advocate for their issues. I’ll also like to set up more advocacy days, making sure that they understand that they have representation at the Capitol. Lastly, I would like to encourage more immigrants to run for office in two or four years.

What are your future political goals?

People assume that I want to run for higher office, and I don’t know if that’s the case yet.

I want to make sure that I do this job justice first and do right by the people in my district before I decide to do anything else. If I do run for anything else, I don’t think it would be anything federal because I have a passion for local and state government. A lot of really important change can come from electing progressive and thoughtful people at the state and local level.

The post Young Candidate Profile: GA’s Inspiring Aisha Yaqoob appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Learning To Love My Curly, Kinky Hair

October 30, 2018 - 8:35am

Growing up, I hated my natural curly, kinky hair. I remember asking God to give me longer, straighter hair.

Throughout elementary school, my mom always kept my hair braided with extensions. She thought it was the easiest way to keep my hair looking nice.  But eventually, it got so expensive that she stopped paying for it.

In middle school, I walked in with my natural hair. I thought “my hair is crazy nappy.”  I was already self-conscious, but then my friends started asking where my braids went. Their questions made me even more insecure.

One day, I read a book about self-worth and becoming a better me. It helped me learn to love myself, and I thought my hair would be a good first step. I reached out to my aunt for tips about natural hair care.

She helped me find products and styles that worked for me. I started wearing twist-outs and braided ponytails, and started loving my hair the way it naturally grew — kinky, curly, beautiful and all mine.

I realized I can’t change the hair I was born with, so I had to find the beauty in it.

Categories: Blog

College Students Hopeful for Higher Minimum Wage

October 29, 2018 - 5:56pm

A $15 minimum wage could soon become a reality if activists can get their platform up and off the ground after nine years of a stagnant $7.25 federal minimum wage.

For working college students supporting themselves, a higher minimum wage could mean less stress about finances and more time for studying and extracurricular activities.

To examine the impact of higher paying minimum wage jobs on worker pay and the effects on employment, a group of UC Berkeley researchers evaluated minimum wage workers in six cities that took the lead in raising the minimum wage above $10: Chicago, the District of Columbia, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.

The report published in September, “The New Wave of Local Minimum Wage Policies: Evidence from Six Cities” shows an increase in worker pay and “no significant employment reductions.”

Less time working, more time studying

If the minimum wage increased and workers could work fewer hours, more time could be dedicated to studying and extracurriculars, according to Mariam Turner, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Turner said additional time for studying would have been helpful during her undergraduate career.

“The time I would have been able to spend studying had I not been working probably would have helped my grades a lot,” Turner said. “People have to work so much in undergrad to make up the cost of their life. It has a serious effect on grades, social life and everything because you can see a dramatic increase in my grades from when I was working 15-20 hours per week to when I was working max 10 hours. So I could only imagine what it looked like if I had zero jobs.”

According to the Department of Labor, 29 states plus the District of Columbia pay minimum wage workers more than the federal minimum with the District of Columbia holding the no.1 highest minimum wage at $13.50. Washington state is second at $11.50 and Massachusetts and California are tied for third at $11 per hour — though California has plans to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have already adopted minimum wages between $12-$15. In addition, nine other cities are working toward adopting the same minimum wage range.

While minimum wage workers in these three states earn close to the $15 minimum wage that activists are lobbying for, employees in 14 other states are still earning the 2009 minimum wage value of $7.25 per hour.

Expenses are costly and working is a way to keep up

According to the National Association of College Stores, textbook prices increased by nearly 40 percent from 2006 to 2016. An average textbook in 2016 costed $80.

“That’s the part that gets a little difficult,” said Camil Corcuera, a journalism senior at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA.

On an average week, she works 30 to 32 hours per week at an off-campus job for a $12-per-hour wage. As a financially independent, full-time undergraduate, Corcuera receives financial aid and a first-generation Hispanic student scholarship, which together, cover her full tuition — but even with the aid, Corcuera pays for her own expenses.

Corcuera makes roughly $1,450 per month, which goes toward her $700 rent, utilities, car payment, insurance, groceries and gas. Corcuera says raising the minimum wage to $15 would eliminate some of the stress at the end of the month when money is tight.

“If I had to fill up my car with gas, I could just fill it up instead of thinking maybe I won’t drive there because I don’t want to waste gas going there,” she said. “So all these thoughts you have to run through I think that $15 an hour would put an ease to it, and still let me live the same life I live or maybe a little bit better, but I wouldn’t feel so stressed out about money.”

Working more for less has its trade-offs

Corcuera takes three courses per quarter, which is one course less than the typical course load. She says she’s taking lighter course loads throughout college in order to make time to work. But even that has its trade-offs she says.

“Finding experience they expect you to have before getting into a job while you’re working a minimum wage job is the part I’m still trying to figure out,” Corcuera said. Like Turner, who had also wanted to participate in clubs and organizations, the time allocated to work comes at a price, less opportunity to become involved in personal interests or major-related organizations.

“I look back and I think about all the things I could have done if I had a little more free time,” Turner said. “There were so many organizations I could have joined, after-school stuff I could’ve done… I remember seeing everybody going off and doing fun things and I’d be like, ‘oh cool it’s time for my shift.’”

Even with a National Merit Scholarship she received from getting high grade marks in high school, the full tuition scholarship still did not cover housing off-campus and personal expenses.

Turner would make roughly $450 per month, and pay her half of the room each month, leaving about $100 or less leftover. She relied upon student loans to pay for her utilities and other expenses.

Some analysts criticize raising the minimum wage because an increase could lead to fewer available jobs and a larger income gap.

Turner thinks otherwise.

“I don’t think raising the minimum wage would cause a shortage of jobs or anything because the jobs will still exist,” she said. “You can’t just say, we’re paying people more now, we don’t need a barista, I don’t understand that argument.”

Additionally, Turner thinks that the income gap already exists, with students who have families who help them to pay for college and financially independent students who do not.

While raising the minimum wage would have effects across the economy, the impact that shift could have on student’s overall wellbeing seems obvious on the surface. What’s harder to see is what long-term effects on the nation and economy a less stressed, more financially stable student pool would have.  

Categories: Blog

College Students Create PAC to Help Dems Win Midterm

October 29, 2018 - 2:15pm

Noah Levy was studying abroad in France when the idea first came to him. While the American University student went on sightseeing trips across Europe this spring, he also worked remotely on volunteer projects for Ben Jealous, the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

As he prepared to return to the U.S., Levy knew he wanted to do more. Now Levy, alongside college students from around the country, has launched Fact PAC, a political action committee providing free data and behavioral-science consulting to Democratic candidates who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it.

The group says it has already partnered with nine campaigns across the South, including several state senate candidates in Alabama, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. With the midterm elections rapidly approaching, Fact PAC, which officially launched Aug. 20, hopes to be part of the movement that turns historically red districts blue this November.

“We look for people who are not incumbents, and we look for candidates who are running in places that are not necessarily covered by national media nor are being invested in by outside organizations,” Levy said. “We want to follow the mission of flipping districts from red to blue as opposed to just simply preserving the blue ones.”

Fact PAC offers three services, including help with grassroots organizing and behavioral insights, which tests voters’ responses to different campaign messages. But Levy and his team have been primarily focused on database consulting, a service that provides campaigns with a searchable database of voter history in their district based on public data.

“We show precinct by precinct how many people have turned out, how many people have registered, how many people stay at home, for each and every election cycle,” Levy said.

The group then creates a “heat map” showing the concentration of registered voters who have or haven’t turned out in previous elections. Using the map, candidates can identify the areas in their district that would benefit most from grassroots efforts, such as going door-to-door to talk to voters.

Levy was inspired to offer the service after building a similar database last fall for Mariah Phillips, a Democratic candidate for Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District.

“The data was remarkable because you would see that each and every individual precinct would only be lost for the Democrats by, let’s say, 100 people,” Levy said. “When I created this database back in November and December, I realized, ‘Oh my god, maybe more campaigns need this.’”

Levy and his chief of staff and co-founder, Cornell University student Alex Davis, say that it may be too early to see the impact of their work since the midterms have yet to take place. But they pointed to David Sadler, a Democrat running for state senate in Alabama, as an example of how their work can make a candidate’s life easier.

“He is a father of three children, he has his own business that he runs, and he’s essentially running his own campaign,” Levy said. “Someone like him does not have time to make all these fundraising calls to get the money that he needs to hire someone like me.”

By taking money out of the picture, Fact PAC is making it easier for candidates to take advantage of data to improve their campaigns, Davis said.

“As the political landscape changes, the ways that things are done have to change,” Davis added. “They don’t change on their own.”

Davis, who first came to know Levy when they both volunteered for the Jealous campaign, said this is the first election cycle where he is “awake and aware of everything that’s going on, both here and abroad.”

“With Democrats suddenly winning these district races that they weren’t predicted to win, I just had a real itch, a real burning desire, to get involved … and be part of something bigger than myself,” Davis said.

A surge of teenage political activism and young people running for office shows that Davis isn’t alone. Fact PAC’s team alone consists of students from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Cornell and American.

Part of the group’s mission is to show that young people have a lot to offer campaigns, whether as consultants, interns or volunteers, Levy said. He also hopes to motivate more young people to challenge the political status quo and to not fear the inevitable rejection that will come along the way.

“I want to inspire other students to do exactly what I’m doing, but better than me,” Levy said. “I want people out there to understand that it doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter how young you are.

“If you’re competent, and if you market yourself to candidates, then you can make a world of difference.”

Categories: Blog

How to Bullet Journal: A Visual Guide

October 29, 2018 - 11:04am
Need some help getting organized? Try bullet journaling with these quick and easy steps.
Categories: Blog

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