Police violence against Oakland parents and teachers

first_img“When parents and teachers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” This was a very popular chant during the 2019 Oakland teachers’ strike, Feb. 21-March 1. Little did anyone know at that time that teachers and parents would be physically attacked by school and city police for opposing school closures and consolidations.Oakland teachers strike and student support in 2018 focused politically on stopping the growth of charter schools in the district.Unfortunately, one of the unresolved issues from the strike centered around Oakland Unified School District’s plans to close and consolidate 24 public schools. So far, the board has only targeted public schools in high-poverty “flatland” areas (leaving untouched schools in the more-privileged “hills”). OUSD’s refusal to provide quality public schools for Black and Latinx students is at the heart of this struggle. Under the coalition name, “Oakland is not for sale!” parents and teachers have united to oppose OUSD’s “blueprint.” On Oct. 23, the Oakland school board conducted a brutal attack on parents, teachers and the community who have been actively opposing the closures and consolidations. After several weeks of protests during school board meetings, the board decided to unleash its combined police force of school safety officers and Oakland police against the peaceful protests of parents, teachers and community members. The videos of this attack clearly showed the unjustified brutality suffered by community members. The Oakland Education Association and the California Teachers Association immediately released statements condemning this attack. The OEA demanded that OUSD “issue a public apology to our students, parents and educators for the use of police barricades, over-policing, and violence at the Oct. 23 board meeting.” The teachers’ union also demanded that OUSD stop funding Oakland police and instead fund school counselors. This demand is key to a citywide campaign launched by Oakland’s Black Organizing Project.Many organizations, including United Teachers of Los Angeles, came out against the attack and in support of the Oakland community’s fight to save neighborhood public schools. The OEA is calling for the OUSD to enact a moratorium on school closures and consolidations. OEA is holding a vigil against school closures and police violence on Monday, Oct. 28 at 4:30 p.m. in front of the OUSD in downtown Oakland. Greenspan is a retired Oakland public school teacher and a member of the California Teachers Association.  For more information about this struggle, go to facebook.com/oaklandnotforsale/.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Watching sensory information translate into behavior

first_imgIt remains one of the most fundamental questions in neuroscience: How does the flood of sensory information — everything an animal touches, tastes, smells, sees, and hears — translate into behavior?A state-of-the-art microscope, which allows scientists to peer into the brains of animals in real time, may provide the answers.Built by Vivek Venkatachalam, a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Professor of Physics Aravinthan Samuel in collaboration with fellow postdoc Ni Ji, Professor Mark Alkema of UMass Worcester, and Professor Mei Zhen, a former Radcliffe Fellow at the University of Toronto, the microscope captures 3-D images of all neural activity in the brains of tiny, transparent C. elegans worms as they crawl.The microscope is described in a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.“We needed a tool to characterize the entire sensory periphery of an animal as well as the motor dynamics that reflect decision-making,” Samuel said. “This tool, in conjunction with other techniques, including behavior analysis, neurogenetics, and connectomics, will allow us to do something truly comprehensive.”What that something is, Samuel said, is to record — 10 times a second — the precise location and activity of every neuron, and to link that data with neural “wiring diagrams.”“We have long been recording behavior in worms, but we and others have concluded that, if you want to get physiologically relevant neural activity patterns, you have to look at neurons inside a behaving animal,” Samuel explained. “Only in that context are all feedback loops intact, where behavioral output modulates neural activity which, in turn, shapes behavior.”Though the brains of other animals can be imaged — similar techniques have been used with larval zebrafish in the past — whole nervous system wiring diagrams have not yet been mapped for other species.The precise location and activity of every neuron is recorded 10 times a second. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer“With the worm wiring diagram that we’ve had since the 1980s, as well as new wiring diagrams that the laboratories of Mei Zhen, Jeff Lichtman, we, and others are mapping, we can figure out which neurons are correlated with the sensory input, which are correlated with the motor output, and which are correlated with different types of decisions,” Samuel said. “We can now map complete structural and functional circuits for many behaviors.”Capturing all the neural activity in the brain, however, is easier said than done.To pull it off, Venkatachalam built a complex microscope that can not only track the worms’ movements, but also capture images of all the brain’s neurons as they fire in 3-D“What we’re doing is capturing these volumes and trying to figure out where the neurons are in that volume,” he said. “Every frame will have the neurons in slightly different positions, because the worm distorts itself as it crawls … so we wrote software that can track where those neurons are over time.”Using fluorescent markers, researchers then extract the activity of the neurons and identify which neural pathways are active. With a simple model of how the worms crawl, researchers also reconstructed the worms’ posture, enabling them to connect specific neural activity patterns to movements.“Without studying the posture over time, we don’t have a way of connecting the brain activity to what the worm does,” Venkatachalam said. “This helps us create a full picture of how activity in the brain governs behavior, and it allows us to say we understand the entire behavior this worm performs.”Ultimately, Samuel said, the microscope will be used to study a wide range of questions in neuroscience. The new tool complements and draws upon the wide range of powerful tools and knowledge already available in the worm. This is reflected in how the study arose from an extensive collaboration between the Samuel, Zhen, and Alkema labs with other C. elegans experts, including Andrew D. Chisholm at University of California, San Diego, and Jagan Srinivasan from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The prospect of future collaboration in many areas of worm neuroscience is enticing.“We can now think about C. elegans as a model for systems neuroscience,” Samuel said. “We can look at how a large number of neurons interact and how they process information in an animal where we know which neuron is connected to which throughout the animal by every synapse.”One day, Samuel said, researchers may be able to monitor all the worms’ neural activity as they grow from birth to adulthood in an effort to understand the functional and structural basis of the maturation of behavior.“Combining molecular and cellular analysis of the nervous system with structural analysis and physiological analysis … with the worm and its behaviors, we can bring all those tools to bear at once,” Samuel said. “This is what we’re looking forward to.”last_img read more

LGBTQ students discuss life on campus

first_imgLike many students, senior Melanie LeMay decided to attend Notre Dame for an elite education, to strengthen her faith and because it was a place where she felt at home.“My story about coming to Notre Dame is pretty much like any other Notre Dame student’s,” LeMay said.Two months into her freshman year, however, LeMay said she discovered she was gay and suddenly felt isolated at the University she previously called home.“It felt right, it felt real. But at the same time, it was devastatingly scary,” she said. “I felt alone and isolated and unwelcome, like I couldn’t tell anyone.”For months, LeMay refrained from coming out to her friends, and even dated a male as she struggled to come to terms with her sexuality.“After I knew I was gay, I tried to be straight. I was worried about the ramifications of my faith life,” she said. “I cared about him a lot, but I didn’t have romantic feelings for him. We broke up in April and that is what sealed the fact that I was gay.”By April of her freshman year, she said she had come out to her friends with positive results and had been welcomed into the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community on campus.“For the first time, I felt like I was coming home to Notre Dame again like I had when I first got there as a freshman,” she said. “I could be myself and be comfortable here and flourish here, and there are people who would love me and accept me for who I am.”However, that is not to say that being gay at Notre Dame is easy.In response to T-shirts that said ‘Gay? Fine by me,’ some students made T-shirts that said ‘Gay? Go to hell,’ LeMay said.“If I had been a closeted student seeing a student wearing a shirt like that, it would have just pushed me further into the closet,” she said.Senior Patrick Bears, an openly gay male, said he knows of many students who had the word ‘fag’ written on the bulletin boards outside their dorm rooms.But Bears said it is more common for students to act uncomfortable, rather than hateful, around gay students.“When I was living in Stanford, I was pretty much the gay kid on the first floor. Some of the kids would just give me weird looks when I walked by,” Bears said. “They looked as if I was terrifying, as if I had giant talons for hands.”Senior Eddie Velazquez, who knew he was gay when he decided to attend the University, said subtle looks or comments take a toll on students who are not completely comfortable with their sexuality.“It’s the equivalent of throwing a tiny pebble at somebody. If each comment is one pebble, you think it’s just one pebble, it’s not going to hurt,” he said. “Over the course of a semester, they add up to 1,000 pebbles. Suddenly, the burden is a lot heavier.”Bears attributed students’ behavior to ignorance rather than outright discrimination.“They don’t really have any experience,” he said. “It’s more or less a fear that comes out of ignorance.”Bears said students could become more educated simply by asking questions.“For most any gay person, if you have any questions, feel free to ask us about them,” he said. “A lot of us are more than willing to talk.”Another way students can help facilitate an accepting environment for the LGBTQ community is to lead by example, Valezquez said.“When you act in a positive manner and when you show willingness to accept, good vibes are contagious,” he said.One particular challenge for gay students is finding and connecting with other gay students because currently no official student club exists for the LGBTQ community, Velazquez said.“One of the concerns for gay students who do enter into our student body is that they may not necessarily find gay students to find interests with and to talk to,” Velazquez said. “Until they do find a good group of friends, it’s difficult for students to be able to relate to their peers.”Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students, an advisory group to the Vice President of Student Affairs, has meetings that attract a regular group of 15 to 20 students. However, many more LGBTQ students attend the University, Velazquez said.Despite having a smaller pool to choose from, LeMay said dating definitely occurs.“I was in a long-term relationship with another Notre Dame student my sophomore and junior year, so it is possible to date here,” she said. “I know that we interact a lot with the Saint Mary’s gay community as well, which helps the girls.”Velazquez said the dating patterns among the LGBTQ community at Notre Dame are quite similar to those of heterosexual students at Notre Dame.“They are gay students, but they are still Notre Dame students. So they still fall into the same range,” he said. “I know people who have been in the same relationship for three years and then other people who just do not take interest.”The students said Notre Dame, which is repeatedly ranked high on Princeton Review’s list of ‘Alternative lifestyles not an alternative,’ was more accepting than its reputation may imply.“There is this kind of idea that Notre Dame is a terrible place for you to be gay. It may be worse than other schools, but it’s better than a lot of schools,” Bears said.Though LeMay said she probably would not have come to Notre Dame if she had known she was gay, she has no regrets.“I’ve had a happy four years here, three of which I was out,” LeMay said. “I would not change my experience for anything.”last_img read more