Cornell sorority aims to feed children, needs help

Cornell sorority aims to feed children, needs help

Gazette Column
Forget all the pop culture “mean girl” nonsense you’ve heard about sororities. The women of Beta Psi Eta at Cornell College are do-gooders with only a few more days to meet a lofty philanthropic goal. At the beginning of the academic year sorority members responded to a call from an alumna employed by the Marion Independent School District. The school had changed its policy regarding school lunches, and students with negative account balances could be denied a hot meal. “Most of us, at one point or another, have had a moment when we couldn’t have food at lunch through no fault of our own. It’s not fair to punish a child for something they have no control over. We don’t want any child to be hungry,” said Sara Renaud, Beta…
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This year of uppity women

This year of uppity women

Gazette Column
Survivors of sexual harassment and assault didn’t need a magazine cover story to justify or validate ongoing cultural shifts. Blunt and comprehensive cover stories are for the naysayers, “witch hunt” proclaimers, perpetrators and apologists who mistakenly believe this movement toward a more equal society is either overblown or will soon run its course. “This is just the start. I’ve been saying from the beginning it’s not a moment, it’s a movement. Now the work really begins,” Tarana Burke, mother of the #MeToo movement, told Time magazine. The publication named as its persons of the year “The Silence Breakers” — those who could no longer stomach merely whispering about serial perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault. These women and the millions more they represent don’t need a cover story to understand the depth and…
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Salmon is OK with doctors lying

Salmon is OK with doctors lying

Gazette Column
Janesville Republican Sandy Salmon wants to reverse a court ruling that requires doctors and other medical professionals to tell pregnant parents the truth. As a guest columnist on the Caffeinated Thoughts blog, state Rep. Salmon said she plans to introduce a bill that will prohibit “wrongful birth” lawsuits in the Hawkeye State, effectively clearing the way for health care professionals to withhold vital fetal health information from pregnant women and their partners. “Wrongful birth” cases, as I’ve written before, involve pregnancies in which physicians or other medical professionals have access to test results, not disclosed to parents, indicating the child will face severe disabilities. In the case decided by the Iowa Supreme Court, for instance, abnormalities discovered during an ultrasound were not discussed. The parents were instead led to believe “everything was fine”…
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Sexual harassment makes Iowa Capitol no place for teens

Sexual harassment makes Iowa Capitol no place for teens

Featured, Gazette Column
Legislative page program should be paused until Statehouse culture changes Each year the Iowa Senate, House and Legislative Services Agency employ high school juniors and seniors as pages. Unless persistent and significant workplace culture questions are answered, 2018 should be an exception. It’s been nearly five months since an Iowa court found that Kirsten Anderson, a former Iowa Senate Republican caucus staff member, was wrongfully terminated hours after she reported sexual harassment. It’s been more than a month since the state settled the case without an appeal, agreeing to pay Anderson and her attorneys $1.75 million from the state’s coffers. To date, no one has been held accountable. [caption id="attachment_1419" align="alignleft" width="500"] A portion of the Iowa Senate GOP's internal investigation report atop a picture of the Iowa Statehouse.[/caption] Perhaps…
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Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Senate GOP sexual harassment report is very troubling

Gazette Column
It is clear why Iowa Senate Republican leaders wanted to keep an internal investigation of sexual harassment claims secret. The rosy picture they attempted to paint of a better workplace environment is shattered. Amid public outcry and at the urging of Gov. Kim Reynolds, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix performed another 180-degree turn in this harassment saga, which began when Kirsten Anderson, the Republican Caucus communication director, won a wrongful termination lawsuit. The case was settled in September for $1.75 million — taxpayer dollars from Iowa’s general fund. The acknowledgment of guilt is all the more troublesome when paired with internal investigation findings, begrudgingly released by Dix today in the middle of the extended holiday. We now know Dix’s assertions — that the Senate is no longer is plagued by sexual harassment, and that workers do not fear reporting…
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Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Reynolds, Upmeyer must take over sexual harassment investigation

Gazette Column
Any hope that Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix is either prepared or willing to resolve ongoing sexual harassment issues at the Statehouse ended Tuesday. Dix, a Shell Rock Republican, sat down with reporters and did not directly answer questions relating to a wrongful termination lawsuit that has cost taxpayers more than $1.7 million, his own communications with the Senate Republican Caucus, findings from an ill-conceived internal investigation, reasons why a determination to hire a human resources director was nixed, or the single employment termination that came weeks after a court determined allegations of sexual harassment were true. Within a span of minutes, Dix once again repeated his court-dismissed claim that the firing of Caucus Communications Director Kirsten Anderson mere hours after she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint was…
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Iowa misses opportunity to curb teenage risky behavior

Iowa misses opportunity to curb teenage risky behavior

Gazette Column
DES MOINES — Sex educators who gathered here last week for an annual conference have reason to be concerned. Iowa’s family planning landscape has changed, making it more difficult for teens to get needed information and services. The Legislature’s decision last spring to forgo federal family planning money in favor of a state-run program that excludes health care organizations that offer abortion services provided a small window for officials to write rules and implement the system. Even now, three months after the system was supposed to be in place, questions remain. The new process is time-consuming, requiring those hoping to access services to first apply at the nearest Department of Human Services or Title X office and wait for approval. A significant portion of providers listed on the department’s website…
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Support sexual assault survivors

Support sexual assault survivors

Gazette Column
Recent social media initiatives have shown how prevalent sexual harassment and assault are, and that’s left some men (and women) wondering how they can effectively be supportive of survivors. The first thing to understand about violent crimes, and especially sex crimes, law enforcement and field experts told me this week, is survivors don’t respond in the same way. Some react defiantly, purposefully doing things that were part of the day they were attacked. Others become more cautious. Except for self-harm, there isn’t a necessarily “right” or “wrong” reaction to assault, even if the survivor later seeks counseling to modify reactive behavior. Sexual assault, as hopefully most of us already realize, has more to do with assault and violence than sex. The FBI defines “rape” as any non-consentual insertion of an object or…
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#NoMore hashtags to say #MeToo

#NoMore hashtags to say #MeToo

Gazette Column
How many sexual predators, victims of abuse and hashtags does it take before society comes to terms with “locker room talk” and the harm it causes? Sexual harassment and assault aren’t just “women’s issues,” they are a community problem. Women are not the only victims, and men are not the only perpetrators. Most studies indicate one in four women have been sexually assaulted, and one in 10 men. Break those statistics down further and you find that minority groups — women of color and transexuals, specifically — appear to be especially targeted for abuse. This week those who have purposefully buried their head in the sand were given another opportunity to observe the carnage as women and men told their stories. And, just like so many other times in recent…
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21 years of opening minds and doors

21 years of opening minds and doors

Gazette Column
When my middle daughter, now a high school senior, began to talk about pursuing a degree in biology or chemistry, I was initially surprised. I shouldn’t have been. She’s always loved math and science. Never, even as a small child, do I remember her telling me she’d like to be a teacher, homemaker or nurse — the top three options voiced by many of her female peers. Throughout middle and high school, her fascination with science and math has continued, which is unusual. While males and females show roughly equal interest at the elementary level, girls tend to abandon STEM as they age. Why is my daughter the exception instead of the rule? As much as I’d like to report her interest is due to something we did at home,…
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