Can the legal system be used to address the continuing income gap between women and men? This is the main question guiding Danli Lan’s probing look into the concept of democracy and its impact on gender. Using a series of milestone legal cases, Lan highlights how institutional and social barriers have prevented women from being treated equally when it came to salaries and pension benefits (the Lily Ledbetter case and subsequent law is one of the better knowns.) Based on her reading and interpretation of these cases, Lan concludes that a better coordination of judicial and symbolic laws needs to happen in order to lessen the income disparity. Acknowledging that laws in themselves won’t change inequality, Danil Lan encouraged the audience to think about productive solutions themselves.
Kaylin Morton’s Political Science presentation on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia sought to explore the reasons behind displacement, the factors contributing to failures between the government monitoring of IDP populations, and the connections between groups in Colombia that exacerbate the growing number of IDP communities within Colombian cities. Specifically, Morton’s presentation discussed the relationship between the state, leftist guerillas, drug cartels, right wing paramilitary groups, and Plan Colombia and how all contribute to the augmentation of IDPs following the Colombian Civil War.
“Why is it that almost 40% of the representatives in the US Senate are millionaires?”
This was the question that motivated first-year student Kaija Lazda to begin a research project comparing campaign financing in the United States and in Germany. As a future German Studies major with a strong interest in political science and international relations, Kaija used her knowledge about German contemporary politics and her language skills to read through the policies of the German Bundestag and to research background material on German websites in addition to researching the US side of the matter.
In a clear and concise presentation Kaija then led the audience through her findings. One of the most intesting aspects of her investigation of US campaign financing structures was a comparison of the contributions by PACs in the 2008 presidential campaign with the role PACs have played in the 2012 campaign sofar. The millions spent by PACs in 2008 look miniscule in comparison to this year’s numbers.
One of the main differences between the US and Germany is that in Germany the government contributes almost all of the election financing and parties–not individuals–are funded based on the percentage of votes the received in the previous election. This is not to say that donations do not play a role in German politics, and the country has certainly seen its share of scandals in the last couple of years. However, as Kaija pointed out, the wealth of a candidate is generally viewed with more suspicion than in the United States.
Kaija acknowledged that her research did not yield the clear-cut superiority of one campaign-financing model over the other that she had envisioned at the outset. While she generally considers the German model to allow for a better political representation of all social groups, she does not see it as the perfect model either. Kaija plans on continuing her research during the ASC in Germany seminar in May and will use some of her findings in future IR and Political Science courses.
Today, in Bullock 103W, another presentation focused on China, but with a different perspective on human rights. Lan Mei ’14 focused on censorship and the press in China. She noted that the Chinese government has a sort of “schizophrenia” about the press. On the one hand, while their constitution claims freedom of the press, there are active efforts within the Chinese government to protect what they call “state secrets.” This is done through pressuring media outlets to remove and not report on sensitive political matters, as well as providing state press releases for newspapers to release. Some liberal newspapers release these as a form of mocking the government.
While much of the presentation was interesting, it was incredibly text-heavy, and Lan Mei did not get as much of a chance to interact with her audience because of this. However, her personal experience working for a liberal newspaper in China thanks to the Hubert Scholar Program, was very interesting to hear about. She actually wrote articles for these papers, and had to herself dodge censorship with her article about the Xinhau News Agency’s billboard in Times Square. She accomplished this by using raw material; that is, not material from her own point of view, but from an expert on the subject. Although she admitted that other articles she had written had been censored, she pointed out that it is possible to subvert the censorship in China. However, she did conclude with the fact that conservative and liberal newspapers alike in China are still being censored. She hopes to research more on this subject in the future.
At 9:25 in Room 103W in the Bullock Science Center, Rachel Burger ’11 gave a presentation on how Capitalism and Christianity have played into America’s foreign policy. She put forth the idea that our Christian values in the past have fueled our history with human rights. She stated that there were three basic tenets of America’s desired world order: Capitalism, Individualism, and Human Rights. Because of the latter two, America has always had a hard time dealing with China. And despite America’s former opposition to the China joining capitalist organizations, it has decided to use capitalism in its current policy as a wedge-using capitalism to bring in individualism and human rights. Only time will tell if this plan will work in the future. Burger hopes to research this more in the future, looking at race and how China is portrayed in America media. At the end of the presentation several excellent questions were asked about Christianity and other religions in the history of human rights, as well as the role of businesses as opposed to religion in America’s foreign relations with China. Burger stuck to her theory about the role Christianity has played in the development of human rights, but wavered on the business question. Overall, it was a good presentation, with some really interesting ideas.