After participating in an op-ed workshop last summer, scholars from across CU Boulder’s campus are making their voices heard in major media outlets throughout the country.
The workshop, “Write to Change the World,” was held as a partnership between the College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI) and the OpEd project in an effort to “elevate the research, voices and influence of CU Boulder scholars of color and other groups who are underrepresented in thought leadership,” said CMCI Dean Lori Bergen.
Founded in 2008 by the writer Katie Orenstein, the OpEd project is aimed at “accelerating the ideas and impact of underrepresented thinkers, including women of all backgrounds,” its website states.
To date, 10 of the workshop’s 22 participants have published 15 articles in outlets including The Washington Post, The Hill and The Denver Post on topics such as race, politics, the environment and technology.
“It will take literally tens of thousands of publications of underrepresented voices to change the dynamics of voice in this country, so this is really just the beginning,” said Christine Larson, an assistant professor of journalism in CMCI who studies media equity and public discourse and became a facilitator with the OpEd project eight years ago. Larson worked with CMCI’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team to bring the day-and-a-half workshop to CU Boulder’s campus last July.
The workshop was led by Larson, Orenstein and award-winning journalist Mary Curtis. Participants emerged with drafts of public-facing articles and commentary, concrete strategies for pitching and placing their work in the media and other forums of influence, and ongoing one-on-one mentoring to assist them in completing a polished piece. Their registration fees were covered by CMCI, in partnership with CU Boulder’s Leadership Education for Advancement and Promotion (LEAP); the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement (ODECE); the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA)'s Diversity & Inclusive Excellence Grant; and the Office of Faculty Affairs (OFA).
As of October, scholars from eight departments throughout the university have been published, including from CMCI, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Leeds School of Business, and the bylines continue to roll in.
“I could not be more delighted, Larson says. “I think at this time, in this cultural moment of extreme racial conflict, to have underrepresented voices from CU making public statements and putting their ideas out in the world is one of the most important things we could be seeing right now.”
Read below for a list of articles published so far:
Assistant Professor Joëlle Cruz, Communication
The Denver Post: “Urban gardening becomes yet another place where skin color matters”
“Reality is I had been caught gardening while Black in Denver,” Cruz writes, recalling a run-in she had with a security guard while tending her plot in a community garden. The experience left her considering the issues that those who are Black face in gaining access to healing during the pandemic, and dampened her enthusiasm for the hobby. “This is also how racism works; it robs us of safety and joy.”
Assistant Professor Casey Fiesler, Information Science
Wired: “Ethical Tech Starts With Addressing Ethical Debt: The rise of “zoombombing” is just the latest example of why developers need to plan for harmful misuses as much as potential costly bugs.”
Fiesler writes about CU’s transition to online learning amid the pandemic and “zoombombing”—where hackers and trolls evade privacy settings online to disrupt remote classroom learning. “Because many technology-based harms impact already marginalized people disproportionately, these are important voices to include in the design process as part of addressing ethical debt,” she writes.
Slate: “Dolls Who Code: American Girl’s “Courtney” is the game developer the ’80s needed.”
The mid-’80s was a notable time for women in computer science—because that was when they started disappearing,” writes Fiesler, pointing to a possible correlation between that drop and a rise in personal computers, which were marketed as toys aimed mainly at boys.
Professor Jennifer Ho, Ethnic Studies
The Conversation: “With Kamala Harris, Americans yet again have trouble understanding what multiracial means”
“Anyone confused about Kamala Harris’ multiraciality may recall that the U.S. is a nation that was not built by a single ethnic or racial group,” writes Ho, responding to continued discussions around Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ ethnicity. She adds that what underlies questions of authenticity are questions of legitimacy. “Multiracial people are constantly confronted by those who question their whole selves and their choice to authentically identify with multiple races.”
Scholar-in-Residence Marcia Kwaramba, Social Responsibility and Sustainability
The Conversation: "Zimbabwe’s restrictions on mobile money transfers are a blow to financial inclusion"
“The economic crisis in Zimbabwe spurred the rapid adoption and use of mobile money,” writes Kwaramba, outlining how a surge in mobile money transfers was followed by significant regulatory restrictions. These restrictions left 50,000 mobile money agents without a source of income and will likely affect rural citizens who depend on these agents to access mobile money services, she writes. Kwaramba ends the piece with alternative approaches that could protect the financial system’s integrity while still benefiting customers and merchants.
Assistant Professor Tiara Na’puti, Communication
Common Dreams: “Pandemic in the Pacific: US Military Bases Are Hot Spots for More Than Just Covid-19—They Also Make Island Territories Targets for Climate Disasters”
“Guåhan—the Indigenous name for Guam—is the hardest hit place in the Pacific region by the COVID-19 outbreak, and military transmission is clear,” writes Na’Puti, outlining the ways that the U.S. military has––and will continue to––put the people of the island at risk. “Though Guåhan floats on the other side of the world, every sector of civil society is implicated in the military war machine, public and private assets are entangled up with military contractors, weapons manufacturers, and war,” she writes.
In These Times: “The Disenfranchised Voters No One Is Talking About: Residents of U.S. Colonies”
As voters across the country express increasing concerns about voter suppression and disenfranchisement, Na’puti writes, on the island of Guåhan (Guam), “these anxieties might qualify as a luxury.” She adds that, “That’s because its residents have no voting rights when it comes to determining the country’s next commander-in-chief, even as they boast some of the highest enlistment levels in the U.S. military.”
Latinx Spaces: "Militarization Without Representation: Your Vote Could Determine the Future of the U.S. Territories"
Though residents of the U.S. territories are technically U.S. citizens, they are not allowed to vote in presidential elections. This fact is "particularly egregious given that this president will have control of the U.S. armed forces," write Na'Puti and co-author Assistant Professor Kristie Soares, adding that, "Militarization is a constant presence on islands such as Puerto Rico and Guam in the form of military bases, disaster militarism, and militarized policing." With this in mind, the authors urge voters to make the U.S. territories a central part of their deliberations, rather than an afterthought. "You are determining the future of nearly 5 million people living under militarized conditions on these islands."
Assistant Professor Jessica Ordaz, Ethnic Studies
The Washington Post: “Migrant detention centers have a long history of medical neglect and abuse: The link between medical abuse, racism and immigration runs deep.”
A recent allegation that a doctor performed hysterectomies on immigrant women in a Georgia detention center “...is only the latest case of systemic medical neglect and mistreatment in immigration detention settings,” writes Ordaz, who traces the ways medical abuse, racism and immigration have been linked throughout U.S. history. “Perceptions of immigrant women of color as dirty, diseased and hyper-fertile continued to be used to justify anti-migrant violence across the 20th century,” she writes.
Doctoral Candidate Urooj Raja, Environmental Studies
The Hill: “The US electric grid — climate change's least talked about victim”
When Tropical Storm Isaias smattered the East Coast with high winds, lightning, rain and, of course, power outages, it was yet another reminder that our national power grid isn’t up to the task of handling extreme weather, Raja writes. As climate change and extreme weather continue, she adds, power outages will be costly for those on the margins of society. “If we are stubborn enough not to recognize climate change as the silent killer residing among us, we must at the very least work on improving grid resiliency,” she writes.
The Hill: “Our country is on fire — will political leaders help?”
Responding to fires ravaging California and much of the rest of the country, Raja writes that, “With climate change-induced temperature rise and earlier snowmelt happening, it is very likely that we will be seeing more fierce and deadly fires.” In addressing this issue, she argues, it is critical that local and national political figures “make sure that wildfire policy clearly accounts for climate change and give adequate attention to how wildfires may impact other issues — namely water security and public health.”
Assistant Professor A. Marie Ranjbar, Geography
Boulder Daily Camera: “Foreign college students face ‘invisible wall’”
“International students at U.S. universities have faced unprecedented obstacles under President Donald Trump’s administration and, unless we put an end to it, we will only hurt our Colorado communities,” writes Ranjbar, adding that, as a faculty member, she’s seen a significant drop in applications and enrollment of international students. “This is a tremendous loss for CU, and for our Boulder and Denver communities,” she writes.
Assistant Professor Kristie Soares, Women and Gender Studies
Latino Rebels: “As Trump Calls Kamala Harris ‘Nasty’ People of Color Are Reminded That Toxic Masculinity Can Literally Kill Us.”
Soares writes that President Donald Trump’s remarks about vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ during a press briefing were a reminder of the threat that toxic masculinity poses––both to women and to people of color. She connects this systemic threat to the death of George Floyd and others, and to safety concerns related to the pandemic. “As People of Color, and particularly trans and non-binary People of Color, we live in constant fear of death not just because of racism, but also because of its intersections with toxic masculinity,” she writes.
Latinx Spaces: "Militarization Without Representation: Your Vote Could Determine the Future of the U.S. Territories"
Though residents of the U.S. territories are technically U.S. citizens, they are not allowed to vote in presidential elections. This fact is "particularly egregious given that this president will have control of the U.S. armed forces," write Soares and co-author Assistant Professor Tiara Na'Puti, adding that, "Militarization is a constant presence on islands such as Puerto Rico and Guam in the form of military bases, disaster militarism, and militarized policing." With this in mind, the authors urge voters to make the U.S. territories a central part of their deliberations, rather than an afterthought. "You are determining the future of nearly 5 million people living under militarized conditions on these islands."
Assistant Professor Stephanie Toliver, Literacy Studies:
Medium: “Of Monsters and Saviors, or Black Women in The United States”
In this piece published before a grand jury decided not to criminally charge officers with the killing of Breonna Taylor, Toliver writes about the state of Kentucky’s lack of action in prosecuting Taylor’s case. “The state’s refusal to prosecute represents a long history of Black women’s dehumanization in the United States, but Taylor’s murder and the lack of justice for her death presents a quandary during a time when politicians, television producers, and everyone in between call for Black women to save the United States from the clutches of evil,” she writes.
Wear Your Voice: “‘Project Power’ Delves Into the Scientific Exploitation of Black Women’s Bodies”
In making a character’s body “a site of forced experimentation,” Netflix’s new Project Power mirrors a legacy of forced and unethical experimentation on Black women’s bodies, Toliver writes. Yet when the character breaks free, the show, too, breaks with history, she adds. “Tracy’s emancipation from the medical lab symbolizes a freedom that many Black women never had.”