Vital Signs: Scouting for Equality; Puerto Rico’s Student Movement Wins Big

Ben Lorber

Puerto Rican Students Defeat Fee Increase: In a major victory for Puerto Rico’s student movement, the board of directors at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) announced Saturday that they would eliminate an $800 fee that has sparked mass protests. In the spring of 2010, university students shut down campuses for two months in protest of the fee and other changes, and administrators backtracked on some of the proposals. In January 2011, at least 50 student protesters were arrested as the fee went into effect. The protests forced the resignation of UPR at the time, and catalyzed the campaign of Alejandro García Padilla, who ran for governor on a pledge to roll back the fee and took office earlier this month.

Protester Pipes Up at TransCanada Conference: On January 31, activists disrupted the PipeTech Americas Summit, a meeting of delegates from pipeline construction corporations held outside of Houston, Texas. Tar Sands blockader Ramsey Sprague disrupted a speech by Tom Hamilton, the manager of quality and compliance for TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline, by chaining himself to the speakers beside the podium. While security officials got bolt cutters to remove Sprague, he delivered his own speech lambasting the pipeline’s questionable safety record and disastrous ecological effects. He was eventually escorted out of the conference and arrested.

Seattle First City to Join Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement: Public employees throughout the city of Seattle may soon sell off their pension fund investments in some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. If the Seattle City Employees’ Retirement System sells off its investments in ExxonMobil and Chevron, it will be the first large U.S. city to divest from fossil fuels, following in the footsteps of growing divestment movements at over 200 campuses nationwide.

BSA May Lift Ban on Gay Scouts: On January 28, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would consider lifting its long-held ban on openly homosexual members. Though many have applauded the announcement, others remain critical of the proposed change in national policy, arguing that it would leave local Scouts troops free to openly discriminate. In July, the Boy Scouts announced that they were reaffirming their ban on openly gay members following a two-year committee investigation of the matter.

Ben Lorber is Campus Coordinator for Jewish Voice for Peace.
Brandon Johnson
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