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US Women’s Cabinet Representation Falling through the “Concrete Floor”

Since 1993, every U.S. president, regardless of party, has included at least three women in his initial Cabinet. Clinton appointed four women in his second term (and five total across his presidency). Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, had three female appointees in his first term and four in his second. Barack Obama appointed four women in his first term and, eventually, another four in his second term. According to political scientists Claire Annesley, Karen Beckwith, and Susan Franceschet, the United States, for decades, has had a “concrete floor” of nominating at least three women to cabinet posts. How has U.S. President Trump fared? At this point, he has fallen through the “concrete floor” with just two women nominated and confirmed for his cabinet. This marks a stunning reversal to a decades long norm.

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Infrastructure investment, design and gender-based violence?

The Democrats, Republicans, and the White House are in the midst of hashing out a large scale infrastructure bill in the coming weeks and months. Aside from addressing the maintenance needs of much of the United States, infrastructure spending is billed as a way to boost jobs, and stimulate the economy. President Trump has also called cities dangerous war zones throughout the campaign and since taking office – a claim that has been challenged. While he has not focused in his statements on violence against women within urban areas, it is possible that his proposed new infrastructure spending could be an opportunity to address gender-based violence and some of its affects.

Baby UI Revisited: Paid Parental Leave under Trump

What are the merits of a program delivered through Unemployment Insurance? While the idea holds promise for allowing the US to finally join the rest of the developed world in providing wage supports to parents after the birth or adoption of a baby, a deeper examination of the proposed policy parameters and funding mechanisms suggests that additional work is needed to craft a national program that accomplishes key policy goals and minimizes unintended consequences.

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Title IX and Campus Sexual Assault under Trump

Two important Trump education picks have either refused to endorse or openly criticized Title IX, the landmark 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded program. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, refused to answer whether she would enforce the law during her confirmation hearing, while Jerry Falwell Jr., Trump’s pick to lead a federal task force on higher education, has stated he would like to curb the rules that require colleges to investigate campus sexual assault under Title IX. What might a rollback of Title IX under the Trump administration imply for the incidence of campus sexual assault and campus climates? The challenges and opportunities to fight sexual assault on campus are better understood when we consider 1) legislation in place concerning campus sexual assault, and 2) the role of formal and informal institutions in the enforcement of these laws. Specifically, enforcement of existing formal rules has helped to create campus climates in which it is clear that sexual violence is not tolerated, and in which victims are encouraged to come forward and report crimes because they can expect a quick, protective response. A change in federal policy will bring about a corresponding and equally important change in informal institutions, sending a chill over campuses that have only recently begun to work in earnest against campus sexual assaults.

Betsy DeVos, Focus on the Family, and our Public Schools

From 1998 to 2010, Betsy DeVos and her family’s foundations donated millions dollars to Focus on the Family. A decade earlier, she and her parents gave the organization funds to launch its political lobbying firm, the Family Research Council. Their donations helped transform Focus on the Family from a small organization centered on James Dobson’s conservative Christian parenting books into a multimedia empire with syndicated radio broadcasts, a publishing house, and an extensive online presence that promotes and echo-chambers its conservative Christian worldview. The immense investments in Focus by DeVos and her family reveal her deep connection to the ideals of the organization and to Dobson himself, who was its CEO until 2009. When DeVos states, “If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools. But, if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child . . . we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative,” we should not assume that she agrees with most educators on the definition of what constitutes a “great public school” or an “unsafe” one. Due to her financial support of Focus on the Family, it is reasonable to believe that her priorities align closely with Dobson’s. A closer look at Dobson’s public efforts to bring conservative Christian perspectives into the public conversation about schools will make the differences in these pivotal definitions more apparent.

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Gender Bias in Policing: Will Sessions Continue Progress?

On January 12, 2017, the United States Department of Justice and the City of Baltimore adopted a settlement agreement, known as a consent decree, governing changes to policing in Baltimore. On February 2, 2017, representatives from the Department of Justice and Baltimore City officials assured U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar that they remain committed to enforcing that agreement. But will Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions commit to the consent decree’s enforcement?

The consent decree was the culmination of a Department of Justice investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department, an investigation triggered by the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in April 2015 and the uprisings that followed. The investigation was wide-ranging, looking not just at police misuse of force, but a number of other deficits in policing alleged by the citizens of Baltimore. Included in those complaints was the contention that Baltimore City Police engaged in gender biased policing. The Department of Justice ultimately found evidence of gender bias in the Baltimore City Police Department’s handling of sexual assault cases: in the treatment of victims of sexual assault, particularly transgender victims, and in the failure to adequately investigate reports of sexual assault, including the failure to routinely request testing of rape kits.