Red, White and Blue...Yum!
by Kari

The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate patriotism, to reflect upon our great country and the true meaning of freedom and democracy. Oh, and like most of our holidays, it’s also an excuse for FOOD – hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and, of course, JELL-O cake. With America’s Independence Day right around the corner, we all are wondering the same thing: what shall we eat? In my house, we munch until the fireworks start (after dusk).

So who’s counting calories? Not I (and certainly not Joey Chestnut)! Check out what the Food Network has on their table spreads, and whip up something delicious to bring to the picnic table this summer.

Photo: Food Network

Fireworks: proFile of Susie Kocher
by Suzette....

It never fails. Every year we read or watch the news about forest fires – usually around this time of year when the weather is hot and our landscapes are dry. Forest fires are indeed destructive and potentially deadly, but they are also a natural phenomenon. And those who help us understand wildfires – how, when, and why they happen and what to do in their wake – play a significant role in combatting, managing, and educating about their outcomes.  

One such “fire worker” is Susie Kocher. As an extension forester for the University of California Cooperative Extension in the Central Sierra Region, Susie has been on the frontlines of numerous forest fires, studying their aftermath and educating those who live in wildfire prone areas. Here is my conversation with Susie as she discusses her work on this hot topic.    

Tell us about your background – where did you grow up, where did you go to college, what did you study and why?  

I have actually had a very circuitous background. I am originally from Iowa, but I spent my first seven years in France with my American parents who were working there. I went to the University of Iowa as an undergrad and I ended up with an anthropology degree after many other choices. In anthropology is where I found my people – those who were interested in culture as I was. But I was also a physics and astronomy major at one point. I always had a hard time choosing between social sciences and the hard sciences. I find that now I have a career that connects both and that’s very exciting to me because I have always been pulled in both directions.  

I moved to Washington, DC after graduation and worked in international education and development. I enjoyed that, but I felt like I had to dress up for people to know and respect me, and I was kind of a paper pusher. So I decided I really wanted a technical skill. I had been thinking about a couple of different degrees, and I hadn’t really thought of forestry, but when I was working in international education I had helped a number of forestry students come to the United States, and I thought the subject sounded really interesting. I had thought about law school as well, but what really helped me decide on forestry as a field is that I didn’t want to work indoors all the time. I had been a girl scout growing up and spent a lot of time hiking and camping. And to be honest, I decided I never wanted to wear panty hose ever again – and I haven’t had to wear them since 1982.


5 Female-Directed Indie Films to Stream on Netflix
by Maura
As you may have heard, Hollywood has a diversity problem. And just one of the many groups affected by this is women, particularly behind the camera. For example,  The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film  found that of the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases of 2016,  just 7% were directed by women . There’s also the sad fact that only  one  woman to date has won the Best Director Academy Award – Kathryn Bigelow for  The Hurt Locker  (a hyper-masculine film, by the way) in 2009. Despite the many hurdles for women in Hollywood, there are an increasing number of exciting female directors working in the world of indie cinema, and thanks to streaming services like Netflix, you can access their films more easily than ever. Here’s a list of five incredible female-helmed films streaming on Netflix right now. Take a load off on a quiet summer evening, pour a glass of your favorite beverage and check them out!

1. Meek’s Cutoff

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Year: 2010


Kelly Reichardt is a director whose work any feminist will want to watch in full: she crafts female-centric stories that focus on working-class, rural America. Reichardt’s main muse is Michelle Williams, who has starred in three of her films to date: Wendy and Lucy (2008), the recent Certain Women (2016), and Meek’s Cutoff, the loosely historical tale of an 1845 wagon train that runs into trouble along the Oregon Trail. The group of settlers, played by Williams, Paul Dano, and Zoe Kazan, among others, set off under the leadership of Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), a guide with a lot of bluster but, as it turns out, little understanding of where he’s headed and how to navigate the unforgiving terrain of the west. The film is not a cheerful watch, as the group trudges on endlessly for weeks in intense heat, running out of food and turning on each other. What makes Meek’s Cutoff especially intriguing is the way Reichardt spotlights the women in the group, who are rendered powerless by the sexist culture of the time, and must stand in mute frustration as the men fumble their chances at survival. It’s a harrowing tale, but a necessary one.


Liberty: A Found Poem*

by Laura

The history of liberty is a history of resistance, for
Essential liberty guarantees freedom of the people.
Those who deny freedom to others remind people of great danger
To the rights of citizens.
Those who give up liberty deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Little, temporary meaning without understanding
Can encroach safety-
To obtain a free society the government must fear the people.
It is safe to be unpopular;
There’s a clear zeal, not for themselves, and
A society is not free unless we protect liberty.
Deserve it: Guard freeness of speech, for
Liberty has never come from the government.

*“Found poems” are created by using an existing source or multiple sources and rearranging words to produce a poetic text, often in free verse. My original source for the found poem about liberty is “20 Quotes on Liberty and Freedom in Honor of Independence Day” by Jeffrey Dorfman. I extracted the quotes offered by American citizens, reduced the text into short sentences, and then arranged them to create the poem. You may see parts of one of the most famous quotations about liberty: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin’s words ring true, today and always, as we consider what it means to have liberty and be free.  
Want to Resist? There's a School for That
by Suzette....

At 5:00pm on a recent spring afternoon, a group of eleven graduate students at Harvard University deposited their MA theses and then immediately launched a global program that drew more than 175,000 online participants throughout the month of April. Their creation, the Resistance School, is a “free practical training program” that seeks “to sharpen the tools communities need to organize and make sustained change that advances values of fairness, equality, and inclusivity.”  

Shortly after the School’s launch, I spoke with one of its co-founders, Yasmin Radjy, to discuss its purpose, the founders’ motivation, and the ultimate hope for an outcome. While the project isn’t focused on any particular issue or topic, the organizers have found that a large percentage of the School’s participants have been women – just as a large percentage of calls to congress in recent months have been made by women. Eight of the eleven original co-founders are also women. But Radjy shared that they “want to make sure this movement isn’t about any individual or about any particular cause. It is about collective action and a national effort.” She emphasized that “we need to learn from each other and take action.”  

And the collective outcome has been tremendous. In fact, a very diverse group of individuals participated in the first four sessions of the School – individuals from all 50 states and more than 20 countries, as well as individuals focused on a range of issues and from various backgrounds. Student organizers, retirees, first time activists, and seasoned advocates all joined in to share and learn from each other. Radjy offered that “this diversity is a sign of the kind of energy that exists [in the United States] right now. We think a lot of people feel motivated to mobilize and organize more effectively, which is why this many people are willing to join this effort.”


Academic Freedom
by Rebecca
In what seems to be a trend, this week two professors were fired for expressing controversial opinions outside of the classroom. Lisa Durden, an African American Adjunct Professor at Essex County College of Newark, got into a heated discussion about race with Tucker Carlson on his show leading to her comment “boo hoo hoo, you white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card.” Katherine Dittwyler, an adjunct at the University of Delaware, was reportedly trying to make a point about white privilege when she tweeted that Otto Warmbier got “exactly what he deserved.” These are clearly statements that could, and did, cause an outcry and evidently, some of that condemnation came from university donors and administers as both women were quickly fired. 

And it isn’t just untenured faculty who find themselves unceremoniously let go or sanctioned after making controversial statements. Along with Durden and Dittwyler, Associate Professor Johnny Williams of Trinity College in Connecticut was placed on leave this week. Last week Williams reposted an intentionally provocative story on race that suggested that bigots, if in need, should be left to die. His position was spun by some to suggest that he was speaking specifically about the recent shooting at the Congressional baseball practice. Significant threats of violence against Williams and the school resulted in the college closing for a day due to safety concerns.  

These three examples are just the most recent cases where faculty members have had their academic freedom challenged. Other examples among a growing list include Erlene Grise-Owens who was fired from her tenure-track position at Spalding University this year, she says, because she leveled a complaint against her university for failing to notify three non-tenure track minority faculty members of the potential threat posed by a troubled student. And let’s not forget a case that grabbed the nation’s attention a year and a half ago – the “parting of ways” between Larycia Hawkins and Wheaton College. What began as a Facebook post where Hawkins explained that she would wear a hijab through the Lenten season as a sign of solidarity with Muslim women ended with her departure from the institution a month later. At Wheaton, an explicitly Evangelical Christian institution, Hawkins’ decision to wear a hijab, and her comment that she felt compelled to do so because Muslims and Christians follow the same god, was enough for them to fire the college’s first tenured black woman. Additionally, though not officially a firing, in 2014 the University of Illinois rescinded a tenure track offer to Steven Salaita, who is ethnically Palestinian, after he posted anti-Israeli tweets. He sued and received $600,000 in the settlement.