The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is synonymous with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. As a leader of mass movements, King was surpassed by few, and in high school textbooks he is treated as the personification of the civil-rights movement. King and other movement leaders, however, made up only one strand of the 1960s civil-rights struggle. Grassroots organizers—many now forgotten—helping African Americans in the South register to vote even as King spoke in front of the Lincoln Memorial, made up the other. The spirit of those people and the groups they belonged to, such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC (pronounced “snick”), can be found today in the dozens of grassroots groups across the country, that work to protect voting rights or expand access to a quality public education.
Since the Great Recession began in 2007, no one’s had more trouble finding work than low-income Asian, black, and Hispanic male teenagers. That’s the main idea in two recent articles in TheWall Street Journal (available here and here) that rely on research from Andrew Sum, a professor who produces a remarkable number of papers for Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies (CLMS).
Last week, Donnell Regusters heard from a co-worker that dozens of young people were occupying the Florida Capitol, rallying around the Trayvon Martin verdict, calling for the repeal of the state’s stand-your-ground law, and demanding an end to what reformers call the “school-to-prison pipeline,” so he decided to head South. “It wasn’t even up for debate,” he says. Regusters, an organizer working to reduce suspensions and school-based arrests in Philadelphia, got together a group of young Philly residents, hopped on a bus, and went down the East Coast, picking up students in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. along the way. The night after Regusters’s crew joined the protest, then going into its tenth day, national news coverage heated up: singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, a funder of civil rights actions in the 1960s, made an appearance in Tallahassee. Seeing Belafonte speak in person, says Regusters, “was insanely powerful.”
Two weeks ago, faculty at Seton Hall’s School of Law were informed their pay would be cut by 10 percent during the upcoming term. All junior (untenured) faculty were told they could be fired after the 2013-2014 school year. Seton Hall joined Florida Coastal, (10 percent of staff were fired) and Vermont Law School (one-fifth of tenure-track faculty positions were removed), in delivering a message professors not at elite schools have long feared was coming. As the legal job market remains in shambles and law school applications continue their historic free-fall, schools will be forced to undertake a variety of drastic measures to remain solvent until the millions in missing tuition dollars return. Firing faculty and downsizing staff—perhaps even closing whole schools—will soon be common; so will the appearance of the LL.M., a degree whose strange career may be emblematic of the most serious problems in legal education.