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Barnard College Demonstrates Commitment to Free Expression by Suspending Isra Hirsi for Protesting

Plus school district drama, another union Starbucks, and Lake Chipotle 2.0 in today's Flyover news roundup.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Ilhan Omar's Daughter Busted for Activism

Today, Barnard College suspended three students, including Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN), for, in Hisri’s words, “standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide.” Hisri, identifying herself as a member of Apartheid Divest and Students for Justice in Palestine, tweeted, “Our demands include divestment from companies complicit in genocide, transparency of @Columbia’s investments and FULL amnesty for all students facing repression.” (Barnard is affiliated with Columbia University.)

In a statement, Barnard said the students been repeatedly asked to disband an encampment on the Columbia lawn and warned that they would be sanctioned for failing to comply. Hirsi's activism goes back to her teen years in Minnesota, as spotlighted in this 2019 City Pages profile.

Like many elite universities, Columbia has been targeted by the GOP-run U.S. House of Representatives for supposedly failing to respond to an alleged rise in antisemitism on campus. These House investigations have deliberately conflated protests against the actions of Israel with antisemitism and have been used to pressure universities into cracking down on campus activism (particularly in support of Palestinians), curtailing academic freedom, and rolling back diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. 

On Wednesday, Columbia President Nemat Shafik became the latest university head called before a congressional committee, where in the words of Jewish faculty members in The Guardian, she “capitulated to its mendacious premises and failed to stand up for fundamental academic principles of honest intellectual inquiry and free expression.” An example of the caliber of questioning here: Rep. Rick Allen (R-Georgia) said the Bible demanded support for the state of Israel and asked “Do you want Columbia University to be cursed by God?” 

During the hearing, Omar questioned Shafik about the doxxing and harassment of student protesters at Columbia, and Shafik equivocated in response. This exchange led some, like Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) to call Hisri’s suspension a political reprisal. In any case, Shafik might've have been less likely to call in the NYPD to disband pro-Palestinian campus protests today, resulting in the arrest of 100 or so students by 50 or so cops in riot gear, if she hadn’t felt the need to prove to House demagogues that she could be tough on ”antisemitism.” (Somewhere, Chris Rufo is laughing his ass off.) You couldn’t ask for a starker contrast with the courage displayed by the students facing suspension.

Anoka-Hennepin School Board Member Opposes Pronouns, Restorative Justice, 'Use of the Concept of Equity'

A "budget showdown" sounds like a fun and exciting bit of drama—until you realize the one Becky Z. Dernbach is referring to in this story for Sahan Journal is being spearheaded by an Anoka-Hennepin school board member who objects to the district's racial- and gender-equity efforts. 

Matt Audette is the board member in question, and he (and the conservative coalition backing him) hate these equity initiatives so much that in an April 12 Facebook post, he wrote that he wouldn't vote for a budget that included the “spreading of divisive, one-sided views.” These grown adults and their fear of pronouns! Unfortunately (or fortunately?) district officials say many of these programs are required by law, and their elimination could imperil district funding and students’ ability to graduate. Via Sahan: 

Audette’s lengthy list of targets includes any use of the concepts of “equity” or “anti-racism” with staff or students; culturally responsive teaching; land acknowledgments; social-emotional learning; several staff positions focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion; adoption of Minnesota’s new social studies standards; requiring or asking students to share their gender and pronouns; restorative justice practices; and any display of a flag other than the American flag.

Anoka-Hennepin is the largest school district in Minnesota, and students of color make up more than 40% of its current enrollment, according to Dernbach's story; they're on track to become a majority within the next decade.

9th MN Starbucks Unionizes

It has been awhile since we’ve seen a Minnesota Starbucks union election (February 2 in Moorhead, to be specific), though a new one emerged Tuesday: 10 workers voted unanimously to unionize at 2544 Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis, making the Whittier shop Minnesota’s ninth to link up with Starbucks Workers United. The multinational coffee giant has fought like hell against its 420+ locations who’ve gone union since 2021, but the historic labor push appears to be gaining incremental progress; Starbucks execs agreed to at least appear at the bargaining table in March. “We make all of their profits for them. We have all of the power in this situation,” worker Kasey Copeland told us from the picket line at 4712 Cedar Ave. in 2022. Last summer her coworker, Elizabeth Lorraine Mitchell, updated us on the battle to get Starbucks brass to table. So far in Minnesota the union win/loss tally is 9 to 2, with one withdrawn election. 

Lake Chipotle 2.0 Just Dropped?

We were of two minds about Lake Chipotle, the erstwhile folk-hero puddle that used to emerge in Minneapolis, so much so that we fought about it on this very website. Well there’s a new ad hoc body of water to celebrate and/or get annoyed about as a community: Lake McDonald’s, which apparently just bubbled up at 1558 University Ave. in St. Paul. Now, is this a shoehorned attempt at feeling something—anything—amid the dead-eyed, internet-addled malaise of life in a sinking empire? Possibly! Or maybe it’s just a lil laugh to bring residents together, a harmless civic distraction—tee-hee, look at the big puddle! This much is certain: Some yukster has already cemented Lake McDonald’s as a Google location, and the five-outta-five reviews are in! “The water looks deep, but it's really only about 6-8" at full tide,” writes Brian Blair. “Great place to park and feed the gulls and just watch the waves ripple. Peaceful.” OK, OK. Sounds nice.   

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