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Passing

There is a test. You score high enough on some scale to be given credit for the accomplishment. You are acknowledged and given the privileges afforded all those who pass.

What happens when the scoring rubric is never given to you? What if you enter this exam from an entirely different system? Perhaps, you are overqualified and pass without even trying. Perhaps, you pass but it is a struggle and a challenge. Perhaps you don’t pass.

As international scholars, much of our extracurricular work lies in passing, much like post desegregation blacks trying to figure out how light their skin had to be or DADT era officers figuring out how “straight” was straight enough to die for their country.

We live in an era where academic culture tells us that multiple viewpoints and open discourse are the cornerstones of academic progress. International students and scholars are not just welcome, but essential to the daily conduct of science, business, social justice etc.

Unfortunately, if you look closely, you may notice your students and colleagues struggle to pass. What percentage of the English language do we need to master for the exam? With the exam test our written as well as verbal abilities? Will any of the cultural competencies from our home countries/cultures be on the exam? Trick questions. All of them. Because there is no single exam. Every day and every interaction is an exam.

Personally, I speak more slowly, about 70% normal speed is passing for American English. My accent has to be at 20% for listener comprehension, slang at 0% native use. All the time.

But there is one way I pass that was unexpected. I pass for African American. Ironically, in today’s media it seems like this is the lowest rung on the USA diversity power ladder (without factoring in intersections). I pass for the citizens most likely to be shot by police, have the worst healthcare outcomes and least lifetime earnings outside of sports.

Strangely, my pass gets me invited to the table, involved in discussions on rights, liberty, equality, justice, meritocracies and privilege. Because as a Black Man, I should know the history of race in America and support those around me that are affected daily by its lasting impacts. Usually, sometime during the planning phases of whatever action the group has planned, I pipe up. Usually there is some open answer question, like every exam ever. My response includes, what abut international students?

This is where I stop passing. No longer African American. I am just black. Except, now I am a black foreigner. The mandatory blood tests can be justified, even in the same room we talk about the STD experiments on black men or birth control experiments on Latinos. Anything racist you can think of to say, becomes ok or at least legal, when you apply it to non citizens.

(Yes the blood tests are real, happening this semester. Ask an international student).

So, yeah. I guess I can no longer pass with you. Maybe a whole bunch of international students and scholars no longer will. But maybe it is better to be recognized for being 100% ourselves, than 50% passing.

If you are an international student or scholar who finds solidarity in this, please comment and share your experience. You can do so via twitter or Facebook or anonymously on the website.

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Your right to free, unlimited, restricted and costly access

Bahamians are up in arms over the right to access certain parts of the beach on Paradise Island. This is the gist.

Bahamian law states that All land in the Bahamas up to the high water mark is for public property. It cannot be sold, this means that any Bahamian has a right to access that land. in addition this means that the owners of property adjacent to that land should provide reasonable access to the beach and it is illegal to obstruct that public access point.

Paradise island is mostly privately owned by large hotels and resorts. Bahamians that work on the island need to access the island via bridges that connect Paradise Island (PI) to Nassau. (You have to pay to cross the bridge)

Historically, once you were on PI, you could get to the beach through a path next to Atlantis’ phase one next to the Riu Hotel through the Casuarina trees. the road there came directly from the bridge. On the beaches you would find various vendors and jet ski operators, braiding hair and selling trinkets. Development by Atlantis has blocked direct road and so you have to drive around a ways to the path through the Casuarinas. an alternative access point was further east near the Paradise Island Beach club.

Occassionally, there were security officers from the Atlantis or other hotels posted there (they have a fueling station there). They would often tell you that there was no beach access. They are just following orders. When you inform them that you are a Bahamian and you have a right to access the beach and that there is a labeled beach access point there, they never challenged me on the topic.

So anyway, now they have blocked of the access points again. This happens every few years. The result? Vendors who need access to the beaches block the bridge.

Here is the problem. You have a right to a resource, but the avenue to the resource is not free. You pay to cross the bridge, most likely in a car, you face harassment etc by employees of property owners and the access points are hidden, restricted or obstacles are placed in front. This will always be an issue until it becomes a problem.

In a few days the access will be restored and then the people will calm down. but it will happen again.
I suggest installing a permanent footpath on all of the beach access routes. government pays for it and the people can see it is theirs and land owners can see that is not theirs, but guess what? Bahamians will also need to respect the laws…more on that later.

For now, check out the Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Act, 2014 and

 

Leno Davis

Legal Science

These links speak to what others are doing in terms of science used as evidence in legal proceedings.
In this era of environmental degradation and our attempts to use legal avenues to stop, challenge or remediate environmental impacts, we need to go about it in the right way. I am not saying that any of the sites have it perfectly worked out. I am saying that the discussion has started and they make some great points. We need to start the discussion in the Bahamas.

http://www.environmentalevidence.org/http://eppi.ioe.ac.uk/cms/

http://www.evidentiary.com.au/index.html

http://www.cochrane.org/

Leno

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