Friday, September 19, 2014

Facebook Name Change

Hey friends,

It's me, Griff. The name you see above this is my birth name. It's pretty scary to show it publicly, but I'm doing so in solidarity with the drag queens and genderfluid folks that Facebook is currently discriminating against (see the link). I'd like to ask that you contact Facebook to let them know you are opposed to no-exceptions enforcement. If you're not convinced, read below:

I just learned that Facebook has officially decided to continue enforcing, without exception, their Legal Names Only policy. The one I ignored in high school when I first started to feel safe using my new name, my real name. The one many of you are ignoring right now, for many reasons: to keep your personal life private from your employers, to avoid people from your past, or, like I did, to affirm your real identity. Even after meeting with people whose physical safety and mental health are compromised by the legal name requirement, Facebook has stood by its discriminatory policy.

So I wanted all of you to know:

Since Facebook relies mostly on complaints to police names that get past their initial checking mechanisms, this policy disproportionately affects out, proud, public performers, who are most likely to be the targets of anonymous hate. That's why it's coming down hard on drag queens right now: they're visible, they're fabulous, and they're ... a threat to public safety? Facebook is targeting a historically disenfranchised group, that few people identify with, but many make fun of. That makes it easy to say: this doen't matter to US. Even if ONLY drag queens could be affected, it does matter! Depriving any of us of rights deprives us all.

But it's not just drag queens. I changed my name so that you'd know that you know someone affected by this policy. I'm one of the lucky ones: I was able to change my legal name years ago (so actually, I'm breaking Facebook's policy now ... ha). But I changed my Facebook name long before that. I was scared, sad, and confused a lot of the time. Being able to express myself online helped.

I was never physically unsafe. I never experienced bullying. I had (and have!) a loving, supportive family and a strong network of friends (thanks guys). Few of us are so lucky.

Imagine the high schooler biting his nails right now, wondering if his bullies are going to report him to Facebook and make him choose between Facebook -- his connection to new, supportive friends -- and his safety at school.

Imagine the office worker wondering if her estranged sister -- who she came out to in a moment of hope -- is going to report her and make her choose between Facebook and her job.

My brothers and sisters have enough problems to deal with. Being excluded from the world's largest social network is such a stupid, unecessary one to add.

Nor is it just transfolk. Imagine the victims of domestic violence or stalking. This policy probably serves to protect some of them from abusers who could otherwise anonymously harrass them -- I don't know the ins and outs of its enforcement and I'm sure it does some good. But enforcing it without exception can only hurt us all.

"Why not just delete your Facebook?" It's a good option, certainly better than having to use a legal name when that and one's real name are not the same. I might end up doing that myself, although I don't want to. Facebook is -- for better or worse -- my news service, my time-killer and my primary means of keeping up with faraway friends. Everyone deserves the chance to use it. Without fearing for their safety.

Please contact Facebook and tell them NOT to enforce this policy without exception.

Friday, January 25, 2013

More on Campus Energy

Here's more of the story. Right now, Oberlin is powered by two big coal boilers and a smaller natural gas boiler. To avoid hefty fines, the coal boilers need to be replaced. We're replacing them with smaller, more efficient natural gas boilers. The big efficiency bonus is that their energy output is adjustable, while the coal boilers are essentially either on or off. However, this upgrade doesn't address many issues with Oberlin's aging heating system, such as single whole-dorm thermostats. It also means that the coal torn from beheaded mountains and poisoned communities will be replaced by gas torn from fragmented shale and poisoned communities. If you take issue with my assessment of fracking, please comment on the original blog post, or email me. I have good sources that I'd be happy to share.

Anyway, the plan is not to switch to gas and call it a day. Oberlin's Office of Sustainability and many of the administrators, plus many other people, have been working hard to set up a good way forward. The long-term plan, as I understand it, calls for the creation of about seven energy zones that will be heated by combinations of appropriate technology. A couple of zones will be heated by the type of ground-source heat pumps that already supply heat to some parts of campus. The Stevenson-Carnegie zone might be made much more efficient by moving heat from cooled areas to heated ones. There are some cool ideas for these energy zones, but no whisper of a commitment. The only money committed right now is dedicated to designing the new boiler system. Nothing else is guaranteed to happen.

I think the zone system backed up by natural gas is a solid solution that takes into account the financial and environmental aspects of the situation. As a college we're doing pretty well. But as Oberlin, we could go further. Our radical history is just that - history - unless we do a much better job of standing up for what we say we believe in. It would take lots of money, probably from the endowment, and a little sacrifice from everyone who lives and works on campus, because even the biggest ground-source well field or solar thermal system would not supply heat for our current level of consumption. Insulation and other building upgrades would have to be done all across campus, fast, to bridge the gap between what we could generate cleanly and what we consume right now. You can see why I say beyond the feasible. Considering the economics of the "real world," it doesn't make sense to do such drastic things instead of putting in a pair of boilers. In my view, however, the real world has existed long before anyone studied economics and will exist long after the last person who does. And it will be incrementally poorer in species because we continued to be incrementally richer in cash.

The original blog post should be open in a previous tab, but in case something went wrong, here's the link to where you were.