Bid to Erase Arrest Records of Civil Rights Activists Considered By Courts: The arrest records of Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are being considered for expungement by U.S. courts.

As Claudette Colvin, a civil rights pioneer, aims to have her records erased from her role in the civil rights movement, similar considerations have arisen regarding the clearance of the arrest records of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The convictions of Parks and King are still upheld in Montgomery, Ala.

At the age of 15, Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white person in which she was forcibly removed by police officers, arrested and put on unspecified probation. Nine months following this occurrence, Parks, a black seamstress and activist, refused to give up her seat to a white person in which she was arrested and fined $10. Parks refused to pay the $10 fine she had been given. Likewise, King’s role in leading the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott led to a conviction and hefty $500 fine after courts ruled that he trespassed a law banning boycotts in 1956. 

“Montgomery County Circuit Clerk Gina Ishman said expunging court documents removes convictions from defendants’ record but generally does not result in the destruction of documents, such as the historical police and court records involving people like Colvin, King and Parks,” The Detroit News stated. Similarly, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey, the chief prosecutor in Montgomery, expressed his support towards the expungement of the arrest records of King and Parks. However, Bailey explained the need to attain specifics of these arrests prior to responding in court. 

In the 1950s and ‘60s, large quantities of people faced arrest across the South throughout the civil rights demonstrations. After the city of Birmingham offered pardons to people who endured arrest during these demonstrations in 1963, many former protesters expressed that they viewed their arrest records as a badge of honor towards civil rights. Hence, many people refused to receive the pardon offered by the city of Birmingham. 

Colvin explained that the conviction had never distressed her, but her family was concerned because she had never been given any notice stating that her probation concluded. According to Colvin, the worst part of the ordeal was losing friends from high school due to her act of resistance. “They didn’t want to be around me,” Colvin shared. 

As Colvin seeks to have her arrest records wiped away, she notes the symbolic nature of this decision as she aims to honor the justice that so many Black people fought and continue to fight for within the United States. 

“My mindset was on freedom,” Colvin stated as she concluded filling out the expungement request. 

Sources: The Detroit News

Europe Returns Numerous Stolen Artifacts to Africa: European institutions reckon with colonial past and return stolen artifacts to Africa.

On the week of Oct. 27, multiple European institutions officially returned looted African art. Jesus College of Cambridge became the first institution in the United Kingdom to return one of the Benin Bronzes, famous bronze sculptures from the Kingdom of Benin, which historically was located in modern-day Nigeria. The University of Aberdeen quickly followed suit. The Benin Bronzes are viewed as some of the most culturally significant artifacts from West Africa, so their ownership has been a highly contested question. A few days later, the Quai Branly Museum also returned 26 unique pieces; however, these 29 pieces are not even close to the 5,000 works Nigeria has requested be returned to them.

Other museums have agreed to return their pieces as well; Germany said that they will begin returning looted artifacts next year. However, there are still many museums who have not publicly declared that they will return artifacts to their country of origin, including the British Museum in London, which has a massive collection of works from all over the world. Many of these artifacts were acquired through colonial conquests. The British Museum has announced their openness to displaying the pieces they currently own in Nigeria, but they have remained silent on the prospect of transferring ownership.

France especially has been a loud voice in Europe that artifacts be returned. French President Emmanuel Macron said in 2017 that it was unacceptable that France should continue to claim ownership of so many looted African pieces. In 2018, he commissioned a report that recommended that French museums return works if they are requested to do so.

Just because a museum has transferred ownership of a piece does not mean that the artifact will be permanently housed by its new owners. Plenty of museums lend their pieces out to be displayed elsewhere in the world. Anyone who has visited a museum might remember seeing advertisements for a special gallery or exhibition; sometimes, these traveling exhibitions cost extra to see. Despite this, even though a piece might travel and be shown all around the world, many have argued that it still matters who has ownership of the piece. As many view ownership as a form of power, this transfer of looted artifacts symbolized an effort on the part of many European institutions to reckon with their colonial history.

This move does not erase the history that has led to this point. However, now that some institutions and governments have been public and vocal about their intentions to give these looted artifacts back to their countries of origin, many have wondered if this may spark a chain reaction wherein beautiful works of art can be a source of pride for their country and a source of beauty for people everywhere.

Sources: NBC, Reuters

SGA’s Newest Proposal Aims to Provide Grant for Several Student Leader Groups: SGA pursues grant for student leaders involved in MAAC and Student Chaplain Program.

The Multicultural Awareness Advisory Board (MAAC) and the Student Chaplain Program consist of student leaders who provide resources and support to Eastern University’s student body. In recognition of the hefty workload and contributions made by both MAAC and the Student Chaplain Program, the Student Government Association (SGA) has established a proposal advocating for the implementation of a grant. This grant would act as a means of compensating students who serve within these organizations. 

SGA has noted that both MAAC and the Student Chaplain Program are not standard clubs on Eastern’s campus, as they provide in-depth services and resources to the student body at large. “The MAAC board helps create and foster dynamic, innovative and diverse programming for the education of the student body,” SGA explained. Throughout each semester, the MAAC board has hosted and continues to host a variety of speakers and events, such as dinner and discussion events.

The Student Chaplain Program serves as emotional and spiritual support for Eastern’s students. “The Student Chaplain Program’s purpose is to be an in-residence emotional support, prayer, and community partner to residential students; ultimately they are required to live on campus and are assigned to every residence hall,” SGA stated. 

As the Students Activities Board (SAB) and the SGA Executive Board are recipients of a grant for their work in the community, SGA have used this reality to emphasize how MAAC and the Student Chaplain Program do not receive similar benefits despite also making substantial contributions to Eastern. 

The objective of this proposal declares: “We seek to advocate for student body advocates at Eastern University to receive a nominal and tangible grant for their work,” SGA shared. Therefore, SGA has recommended the implementation of grants in addressing the financial needs of MAAC and the Student Chaplain.

Regarding MAAC, SGA has proposed that the president receives $500 annually and other leadership members receive $250 annually. Regarding the Student Chaplain Program, SGA has proposed that the president receives $500 annually, other leadership members receive $250 annually and each chaplain receives basic housing rates. Overall, this proposal cost roughly $3,000 to $3,500 in yearly grants for Eastern.  It is important to note that “Since this proposal involves other groups, it does have a few stages left before it is submitted,” SGA stated. 

The enactment of proposals goes through several processes. First, the proposal is initially created, presented to the SGA senate for approval and finalized. Next, Dr. Jackie Irving is sent the proposal which is then sent to the Leadership Team. Finally, the Leadership Team discusses the proposal in which one of three options normally takes place: the proposal is approved, the proposal is denied or the proposal is sent to the Board of Trustees for further review. 

According to SGA, the inspiration behind this proposal stems from the recognition of the immense contributions made by both MAAC and the Student Chaplain Program to the larger Eastern community. “Both groups put in countless hours of training, work and dedication to their jobs and are essential components of the Eastern University community,” SGA explained.

Driving Equity Bills Bans Low-Level Traffic Stops in Philadelphia: Philadelphia becomes the first major city to ban police from stopping motorists for minor violations which disproportionately affects people of color.

In a vote of 14-2, Philadelphia city counsel made the majority decision to ban police from making traffic stops for minor violations.

The bill, passed on Oct. 14, was implemented to assist in eliminating racial inequalities among Philadelphia drivers by preventing the chance of bias in these unnecessary stops.

A previous study done in Philadelphia showed that black and latino drivers were 3.4 times more likely to be pulled over for the same infractions as their white counterparts. 

The offenses that are being discussed are ones that normally lead to otherwise unprompted vehicle searches, hence the decision to take action against the stops. Experts say “these “pretextual” stops are used disproportionately against Black and Latino drivers, resulting in excessive fees and distrust in police,” 6 abc shared. 

The type of stops being banned are categorized as secondary violations. This includes stops for bumper issues, driving with a minor obstruction or single headlight, driving with a singular broken tail light, driving without a full visible inspection or registration sticker and driving without vehicle registration within 60 days of the incident, among a few others. 

People found committing the formerly mentioned vehicle violations will still face repercussions despite the new bill. The forms of repercussion are still being discussed, but the idea of using traffic cameras to mail out citations is being considered. 

The purpose of removing the traffic stops is not to allow people to “get away” with  committing the infractions; hence the efforts being made to still provide warnings or citations for the acts. 

This bill is the first municipal legislature of its kind, and the law was put together by Philadelphia mayor, Jim Kenney and Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Danielle Outlaw. 

“This is not stopping police officers from making legitimate public safety stops. If I have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause you’re involved in criminal activity, I can make the stop,” said Francis Healy, special advisor to Commissioner Outlaw.

These changes will only be implemented in the city of Philadelphia and will not be applied or make any changes to Pennsylvania state motor vehicle code. 

In the past year, 94 percent of drivers in cases where vehicles were searched in Philadelphia were people of color.

Supporters of the new bill not only hope that the bills introduction will reduce racial profiling, but supporters also hope the implementation will free police officers to focus on more serious offenses, maximizing police resources. 

The bill was first introduced last October by Philadelphia Counsilmember Isaiah Thomas, who spoke about several instances where he experiences the racial profiling by police officers firsthand.

“I’m confident that this bill will be able to address some of the equality issues that we’ve faced in the city of Philadelphia. I think it will put us in a position where hopefully we’ll see significantly less stops as it relates to these types of traffic violations,” said Thomas. 

Sources: Fox News, NPR, Whyy (PBS), 6 abc

Haiti Pursues Safe Release of 17 Missionaries Kidnapped by Gang: Negotiations are underway to ensure the safe release of the kidnapped missionaries

On Saturday, Oct. 16, sixteen Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped by a Haitian gang.  

Among those who were abducted were five children, including an 8-month-old. The abductees are missionaries that are a part of a Christian aid organization that is based in Ohio.  The kidnapping happened just outside of Haiti’s capital, Port-Au-Prince. 

According to the New York Times, the missionaries were taken by the gang named, “400 Mawozo.”  It is reported that the gang is requesting $17 million for the release of the missionaries. 

The leader of 400 Mawazo released a video where he claimed he would kill each American if his request is not met.  The FBI is assisting in negotiations to try and get the missionaries released. 

Haiti has been in a state of chaos for years, but the kidnapping was an example of how difficult life in Haiti is. Back in July, Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse was assassinated. In addition, the country has faced horrendous natural disasters. Since the state of the country is in utter chaos, gangs like 400 Mawza have seized the opportunity to take control. 

Eric Jean Jacques, a haitian businessman, told the New York Times that the gangs have gained so much power that they do not even try to hide. He said they take their time with negotiations because law enforcement and military force cannot enter their territory.  

400 Mawozo controls the area and have been causing and inciting terror for months. According to the New York Times, they are responsible for 60 percent of the kidnappings from July to September.  They have kidnapped businessmen and police officers. Jacques says that the police are basically powerless and are not much help in situations like this. 

Negotiations for the release of the missionaries are ongoing and the gang is reported to have said that they will take as long as they need as long as they get what they want.

Sources: CBS, New York Times, NPR

Eastern’s Anticipated Football Team & Sexual Assault Concerns: A deeper dive into the selection process of Eastern’s future football coach, Title IX procedures, and student concerns.

According to a 2018 study, the amount of reported sexual assaults with 17- to 24-year-old victims during football games increased by 41 percent on home game days and by 15 percent on away game days. Given that these studies only recorded the number of reported sexual assaults, research indicates that nearly 80 percent of sexual assaults remain unreported. However, the universities used for this study contain a larger population in comparison to Eastern and consist of different regulations and values. 

As Eastern University prepares to welcome its first football team in the upcoming years, such studies and other factors have raised concerns amongst Eastern students regarding the preventative measures and resources available. Dr. Jackie Irving, Vice Provost for Student Development and Title IX Coordinator; Eric McNelley, Athletic Director; and the Student Government Association (SGA) provided insights on Eastern University’s anticipated football team and concerns related to sexual assault. 

Student leaders within the Student Government Association have acknowledged the statistics linking football game days and increased sexual assault cases. “There needs to be a clear institutional stance on sexual assault that holds perpetrators accountable, doesn’t victim blame,” SGA explained. 

Eric McNelley shared how the entire athletic department, including the athletic staff, graduate assistants, and student athletes, complete Title IX training and standard intervention annually. McNelley has a personal understanding of the impacts of sexual violence and is very passionate about this issue. Speaking of the anticipated football team, “My goal is that I do not want anyone to feel fear. We are so driven to get this right for the community,” McNelley shared. 

In addition to this, McNelley discussed the selection process for aspiring Eastern football coaches. First, McNelley initially evaluates the applicants from a football coaching perspective. In other words, the applicants are assessed on whether they have the skills and knowledge to be a successful football coach. 

 Second, the applicants that pass this evaluation participate in a second round of interviews with panelists such as Dr. Jackie Irving, Ashlee Williams, two student representatives, and several others. “We had 13 people represented on the panel – none of which have any idea of what it takes to coach a sport,” McNelley explained. In having so many diverse voices on the decision-making panel, McNelley shared his aim, as well as the entire committee’s aim, to find an aspiring football coach that will enhance the entire Eastern community. 

“All of [the applicants] talked about character and the care for the community, so I can’t wait until students get to talk to whoever they choose because I think they’ve done a really good job of vetting the coaches,” Dr. Irving emphasized. 

As student enrollment is predicted to increase, Dr. Irving explained that Eastern will be hiring a Title IX deputy, as well as other services for students. “When you increase enrollment, you have to increase services,” Dr. Irving stated. The “It’s On Us” campaign will also continue to promote educational resources and opportunities to nurture an environment of consent. 

Dr. Jackie Irving, Eric McNelley, and Student Government Association are available to address any concerns or questions that students may contain. “Anyone that would like to come speak to me, my door is always open,” McNelley explained. Students who would prefer to talk to a female athletic director regarding their concerns are always welcome to reach out to Heidi Birtwistle. “The goal is to make sure that we are doing what we need to do to support students academically, socially, emotionally, developmentally, and spiritually,” Dr. Irving stated. 

Sources: American Economic Journal, Brennan Center for Justice

China Builds 5,000-Room Quarantine Center: China’s 5,000-room quarantine center is opened in Guangzhou for oversea arrivals

Many countries have begun opening up for international travelers again, with restrictions depending on nationality and vaccination status. For visitors interested in going to China, they’ll find themselves in Guangzhou’s International Health Station, which opened on Sept. 17 of this year. These rows of grey buildings span an area comparable to forty-three football fields and can hold up to five thousand occupants, but Chinese officials predict they’ll fill up fast. According to a CNN article, the average passenger jet has three hundred passengers, and travelers will be required to quarantine for at least two weeks. For those of you not interested in doing the math, that means that the International Health Station will be very close to capacity once sixteen airplanes’ worth of passengers have arrived.

Once travelers clear customs at the airport, they’ll be transported to the facility by bus. Guests will check in and out through technology, and every measure will be taken to prevent contact with other people, including other guests. The rooms in Guangzhou International Health Station are equipped with a video chat camera and an artificial intelligence thermometer, and robots are sent to deliver meals each day. All these measures are designed to minimize contact with staff members, though all medical personnel have to undergo rigorous quarantining protocols themselves in order to prevent them transmitting any outbreak to the population at large.

This facility was constructed in just three months, a staggering construction feat given the size of the project, and it cost the Chinese government approximately $260 million in U.S. dollars. Guangzhou is the sensible flagship city for the first International Health Station, since the southern city receives up to ninety percent of China’s international travelers. While it’s the first of its kind in China, some sources suggest that other cities are already planning to build their own health stations, since China’s policies around COVID-19 suggest that there will be zero tolerance for the virus and that they plan to continue aggressive measures to prevent the spread of the illness. Sources report that Dongguan, a major manufacturing hub, and Shenzhen, known for its technology development, will be the next sites, though likely they won’t be as large as the ones in Guangzhou.

Before the opening of the Guangzhou International Health Station, visitors were expected to quarantine in specially designated facilities throughout the city, but these procedures had  a much higher chance of contamination than the almost air-tight procedure that new visitors will face on entry. There’s a good chance that these aggressive measures will prevent the spread of COVID-19 from international travelers, but one might wonder how well the travelers will fare cut off from human contact for two weeks. Let’s hope the facilities are designed to foster health in all areas, physical and mental, otherwise China may not be getting much use out of their new health stations.

Sources: CNN, News.com.au, The Caribbean Alert, CNN

Eastern Community Discusses 2022-2027 Strategic Plan: Planning for Eastern University’s 2022-2027 Strategic Plan calls for community involvement

With aims of enhancing Eastern University, Eastern leadership members have begun to establish drafts of a strategic plan that echoes faith, reason, and justice. As the construction of Eastern University’s 2022-2027 Strategic Plan has gone underway, the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness hosted virtual focus groups. 

The purpose of the focus groups was to be transparent and attain feedback on the preliminary draft of priorities that will direct the strategic plan. Major focus areas and overarching goals were discussed in order to receive feedback from the larger Eastern community. As this session focused on the preliminary draft of goals for Eastern, the feedback from this session, along with future sessions, will further guide the ensuing drafts of the 2022-2027 strategic plan.

On Oct. 13th and Oct. 15th, graduate and undergraduate students met online to learn about and provide feedback on the first draft of the strategic plan. In addition to students, staff members, faculty, alumni, and deans also attended focus groups throughout the week to evolve the conversation regarding the preliminary draft. 

The Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness brought to the community draft language in these areas: living out identity; excellence and innovation; strategic funding; diversity, equity, and belonging; and valuing employees. Eastern community members shared their unique and similar experiences, asked questions, and provided critiques. 

Utilizing the feedback received from the focus groups, the leadership team plans to continue drafting the strategic plan. According to Dr. Christine Mahan, Vice President for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, the second draft will be brought to the community in January for further discussion. “The more we communicate about it, the more useful it is,” Dr. Mahan explained.

As community involvement is a prioritized aspect of this procedure, Eastern community members are encouraged to get involved with the planning process. Community members with questions or comments are always welcome to reach out to the members of the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness. “We all look at things through a different lens, we don’t want to put together a plan for the university that is in a vacuum,” Dr. Mahan stated.

Texas Abortion Law Prompts Legal Action: Justice takes legal action against Texas abortion law

The Western District of Texas is expected to issue a ruling after the Department of Justice asked for an injunction to temporarily halt the novel abortion law.

On Oct. 1, before a Federal District Judge, the Department of Justice argued the new abortion law passed by the Texas state legislature presents a threat to the rule of law and poses a clear violation of the Constitution. The oral arguments follow a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in September, which accuses the law of violating Supreme Court precedent, namingly Roe v. Wade, which established the Constitutional right to abortions across the country.

The law, which went into effect Sept. 1, seeks to prohibit abortions after the detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat by allowing private citizens to file civil lawsuits against physicians and medical institutions that engage in abortion practices.

Although the state of Texas argued before Judge Robert Pitman that the Constitution does not prohibit laws such as SB 8 from existing, given the design of the law, the position of the Federal government is that by avoiding judicial review and delegating police powers to private citizens – rather than agencies of the government – Texas violated the constitution. 

The showdown between the state of Texas and the Justice Department comes after the Supreme Court declined to block the abortion law last month by a 5-to-4 vote, with the majority reasoning that the abortion providers did not address “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions,” NPR explained. The court, however, did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, something the Justices will do during their upcoming term. 

According to a press release by the Justice Department last month, the goal of the Attorney General is to obtain a declaratory judgment on the part of the Judicial Branch establishing SB 8 as being invalid under the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, is preempted by federal law, and violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity,” Justice.gov stated.

A ruling by the Western District of Texas is expected to be issued soon, which will most likely be appealed to the 5th Circuit if Pitman grants an injunction. 

Sources: Dallas Morning News, NPR, Legiscan, Justice.gov, NPR

Former Pennsylvania Institution Transformed into Haunted House Attraction: The dark past of Pennhurst leads to controversy after the former institution is transformed into a haunted house

Situated approximately 18.7 miles away from Eastern University, the remains of the Pennhurst State School and Hospital stand as a reminder of maltreatment and captivity. 

Established in 1908, Pennhurst State School and Hospital, originally known as the Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, officially opened and admitted residents. In addition to many other institutions in the United States, Pennhurst aimed to segregate individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from the rest of society. For over eight decades, a total of roughly 10,600 children and adults lived the vast majority of their lives, if not their entire lives, within the perpetual quarantine of Pennhurst. 

Although Pennhurst was established to care for people with seizure disorders and intellectual disabilities, the institution experienced overcrowding as many people without these conditions were admitted. Pennhurst also admitted people without parental figures, immigrants, people with mental illnesses, people who were blind or deaf, and people labelled as “delinquents.” Unclaimed by society, the individuals admitted to Pennhurst had no one advocating for their well-being or freedom. Upon entering Pennhurst, residents lost their right to leave and their ability to exercise the most basic of human rights. “Medical experimentation, cruel punishments, and the constant threats to physical and psychological well-being were part of the institutional culture,” The Philadelphia Inquirer explained. 

In 1968, Bill Baldini, a reporter, travelled to Chester County after receiving a tip surrounding the conditions at Pennhurst. Due to tight restrictions on who was allowed into Pennhurst, no reporter prior to Baldini had received such open access to the institution. Baldini was met with emaciated residents who were tied to their beds, locked in cages, and placed into solitary confinement. Immediately, the young reporter left the institution and returned with his camera crew. “And we start shooting, and my crew was mortified. I mean, I had trouble keeping them on the job, because they were literally getting sick from what they saw,” Baldini stated. 

“Suffer the Little Children,” — the title stemming from the Gospel of Mark — was a five-part series produced by Baldini and his crew regarding Pennhurst. The film depicted the neglectful and abusive circumstances that gave insights into how governmental systems can grow conditioned to the dehumanization of people. Although the release of the documentary ensued several advancements, such as the creation of early community support, the circumstances at Pennhurst continued to decline. 

On May 30, 1974, Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital was filed on behalf of former and present Pennhurst residents against the institution, its superintendents, and state officials responsible for Pennhurst’s operation. Pennhurst was officially closed as an institution in 1987, leaving a vacant building and traumatized former residents. 

In 2008, real-estate investor Richard Chakejian partnered with Randy Bates, who maintains a haunted-house business, in transforming Pennhurst State School and Hospital into Pennhurst Asylum, a Halloween attraction. Thousands of guests enter the former institution, yearning to be scared by actors dressed as bloodied patients and doctors. “PennHurst, the legendary haunted hospital complex, has opened its doors after 25 years and is accepting new patients!” the Pennhurst Asylum Haunted House website states. 

Pennhurst’s transformation into a haunted house has stirred controversy throughout the nation. “Haunted asylum attractions make people with mental illness into grotesque caricatures and perpetuate the spurious linkage between mental disorders and violence,” The Philadelphia Inquirer stated. Meanwhile, others have argued, “The public that comes through here know the distinction and the difference between making fun of something and a Halloween event,” NPR explained. 

The ethics of transforming a space of human suffering into an entertainment attraction has led to questions regarding how society views and treats those with disabilities. As the discrimination of individuals with disabilities and mental illnesses unjustly persists, activists ask haunted house attendees to think critically about what is being mimicked in the attraction and the history of the haunted houses’s location. 

Sources: The Philadelphia Inquirer, NPR, Pennhurst Asylum Haunted House, Antiquity Echoes, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia