The Summer in Review


From Europe to South Asia, nations handled difficult questions as war as well as environmental refugees seek to escape unlivable conditions. In France, the port city of Calais was filled with migrants who sought to move into Great Britain. Those supporting the migrants pointed to strict French citizenship laws, yet others pointed to the strain migrants have put on urban centers like London. In South Asia the Rohingya ethnic group still live in the margins, as they manage an unsteady peace with local populations in countries like Myanmar. In the United States, statements from presidential hopefuls and the pope sparked new questions about the role of those moving into the country legally or otherwise.



Debates, controversy, and political upset made headlines as the 2016 presidential candidates vied for support from their respective parties. Two debates for the GOP showed Donald Trump gaining most of the limelight for his straightforward approach and controversial opinions on immigration and foreign policy. The 69-year-old real estate developer faces competition with notable neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. The Democratic Party saw dark horse candidate and socialist Bernie Sanders begin to take the lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.



Months of negotiations, two weeks of striking and a day of final discussions came to a close when an agreement was reached between the Seattle teachers and the district on a new contract just last week. Classes were delayed for several days as teachers took to the streets, protesting for further focus on students, just compensation and better resources. The new contract extends the school day, gives raises to teachers and, among other things, creates a new testing committee. Teacher unions now turn to Olympia, where the legislature has been unable to agree on a budget for public schooling.



This summer saw increased debate over Planned Parenthood, as votes on public funding for the organization took place in Congress. After the release of controversial videos in July, which some claim prove that organs from aborted fetuses were being sold to biological companies for profit. A vote to defund the nonprofit in the US senate failed to pass after a 53 to 46 vote in August. These events follow the late June Supreme Court decision to block restrictive clinic rules in Texas.



In mid-August the Obama administration moved to formalize Royal Dutch Shell’s permit to drill for oil in the Arctic. This comes after months of protest in Seattle, Portland, Bellingham and many others against the oil giant’s plans to extend their drilling efforts. Critics of the decision point to the massive negative impacts to the environment and local Alaskan communities if the oil rig was to fail. Supporters of arctic drilling say that the new project will not only lower gas prices, but decrease dependence on foreign oil. Yet, just last week the oil giant stated that it will immediately stop all plans to drill in the Arctic for the foreseeable future.



After several years of discussion and a vote earlier this year, Seattle University is now officially tobacco free. The use of most tobacco products is now prohibited on all university owned, leased or managed property. Smoking is allowed off campus, including on public sidewalks and 25 feet from any building entrance. Though chew, cigarettes and all smoke-based tobacco products cannot be used, patches, gums and other FDA-approved tobacco cessation products are allowed.



The Supreme Court made history on June 26 when they ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Polls in June indicated that the majority of the American public – about 60 percent — was in favor of the nationwide legalization. Before the ruling, 13 states had continued to ban same sex-marriage. President Obama said on the topic, “Today we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we have made our union a little more perfect.”



With the incredible increase of rents in the greater Seattle area, City Council continued to debate what response to take. Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata lead the movement for rent control, arguing that the city needs a tool to combat what they see as unjust raises and a lack of affordable housing. Grassroots campaigning earlier this year and a massive town hall meeting in June created a citywide movement. Those in favor of rent control seek to overturn a 1981 law that bans the city from raising rents. An 8 to 1 resolution passed on September 21, will urge Olympia to grant Seattle the right to regulate rent. Further bills have been passed that require 60 days’ notice for intent to sell, and an increase to 90 days’ notice for certain evictions.



On August 8, Black Lives Matter Seattle chapter co-founders Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford interrupted a scheduled speech by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in downtown Seattle. The two women called for four and a half minutes of silence for Michael Brown, an African American youth whose body was left for four and a half hours after being killed by Ferguson police. Though the protest itself sparked controversy within the Black Lives Matter movement as well as across the country, Bernie Sanders released a proposal for racial justice and economic equality that some saw as a win for the activists.



Changes made in Seattle University parking and transportation will carry through this school year. These changes include a price raise in parking passes to $255 per quarter, the use of King County’s ORCA LIFT program, and the continued subsidization of ORCA cards for student use. After freezing parking rates for 5 years, the change reflects rising city rates as well as transport costs to the institution. Other changes include a new secure bike rack in the Murphy garage and two new additions to the Nighthawk fleet.



On September 22nd, President Barack Obama officially declared the northern Californian wildfires a major disaster area. Fires cropped up from Alaska to Southern Oregon for most of the summer, yet national attention was seized in early September when fires in California began to spread rapidly. Destroying hundreds of miles worth of forests, homes, and infrastructure, the fires have forced entire communities to uproot. Work is still underway to contain the remaining fires in Lake County.



Kim Davis, chief deputy clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky gained national media attention this summer when she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses to several couples in her county. Davis cited her religious beliefs as reason to refuse service, saying she was acting “under God’s authority.” Four couples who she denied service to filed a lawsuit (Miller v. Davis), and Davis was arrested for contempt of court. She was released five days later and returned to work soon after.