Voices in Focus: Anti-Hazing Bill Inspired by Danny Chen’s Suicide

Danny Chen’s mother, Su Zhen Chen, speaks at a recent press conference in Chinatown. (Photo by Aline Reynolds / Downtown Express)

In today’s linkfest, we have news of proposed legislation to curb military hazing, inspired by the suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen; a lawsuit alleging anti-Semitic bullying; a report that denies allegations of anti-Semitism at Brooklyn College; a reaction to the NYPD’s plans to combat racial profiling; and a South-Asian fundraiser for President Barack Obama.

* The bullying by fellow solders that may have contributed to the suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen was part of the impetus for a new bill to be introduced this week in Congress, Downtown Express reported.

The Service Member Anti-Hazing Act, which U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez is introducing to Congress this week, would require all branches of the U.S. military to more effectively combat hazing through targeted policies and training.

The federal bill comes on the heels of 301 U.S. soldiers’ suicides last year alone and a total of 1,100 soldiers’ suicides during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, according to Velazquez.

Velazquez announced the bill at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association offices in Chinatown, where Chen was raised.

“We cannot bring Danny Chen back,” she said, “but we can try to find some good in this tragedy by preventing future hazing incidents, and this is exactly what we’re pursuing by introducing this legislation.”

* Racially motivated bullying is unfortunately still common in schoolyards and online, but The Jewish Daily Forward had news of one family fighting back. A Long Island man filed a lawsuit against his son’s school after, he says, the boy was tormented on Facebook and in person during his freshman year of high school, to the point where he was forced to leave the school.

Robert Slade filed the suit last week alleging that officials at Northport High School on Long Island took no action to stop a group of 20 students from traumatizing his son with taunts such as “Jews are disgusting,” “Being Jewish must suck,” “Hitler was a good person” and “My love for you burns like a thousand Jews in an oven.”

* Meanwhile, in an update on a story that we have noted previously, allegations of anti-Semitism at Brooklyn College were discredited by an internal probe at Brooklyn College, The Jewish Daily Forward reported:

An internal investigation on Tuesday cleared Brooklyn College’s provost of allegations that he discriminated against four observant Jewish professors.

The report concluded that Provost William Tramontano did not act improperly in denying promotions to the three Orthodox women and one man.

“Each of the cases involved a decision based on a good faith application of academic judgment or employment procedures unrelated to any prejudice or bias,” concluded the 24-page report.

* Writing for Dominion of New York, the author and lecturer Dax-Devlon Ross reacted to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s letter outlining plans to address concerns about racial profiling and “increase public confidence” in the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program. In a letter to City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, Kelly outlines plans for projects designed to ease tensions between young people and the police, including a basic computer skills course for at-risk teens, programs that use conversation and performing arts to create interactions between young people and police, and violence reduction outreach programs.

These are all fine, admiral efforts that the NYPD should advance. However, much of the rest of the letter contains promises the NYPD has made before and failed to keep. The meat of the letter, which was addressed to New York’s City Council speaker and mayoral hopeful, Christine Quinn, promises that the department will republish its racial profiling policy, offer additional training, improve supervision and monitoring, and develop a “quantitative mechanism to identify officers” against whom civilian complaints are made.

The NYPD made similar promises in 2003, when the agency settled a previous racial profiling lawsuit. In fact, then Police  Commissioner Howard Safir outlined nearly every measure Kelly outlined in yesterday’s letter. Exactly ten years ago, during the previous lawsuit, the department issued the same order Kelly is republishing condemning racial profiling.

Ross also criticizes the tone of Kelly’s letter, which he says places the blame on the rank-and-file cops who walk the city’s streets. “It’s as if Kelly is saying they and they alone are the problem,” Ross writes, “when it is clear that the culture and policies established by the brass allow this to continue.”

Chef Vikas Khanna (Photo via Desi Talk)

* And lastly, Desi Talk‘s Ela Dutt did a writeup of the fundraiser last week for Barack Obama, where the Indian chef Vikas Khanna cooked Himalayan specialties for the president and donors, some of whom paid upwards of $35,000 a plate.

“I served more than 240 meals last night and I haven’t slept,” Khanna told Desi Talk the next day while at a Time magazine event celebrating Asia. Khanna said he was so engrossed in orchestrating the multi-course dinner which included “lots and lots of very unique appetizers,” that he did not get an opportunity to interact much with the President. “But he did claim again for the second time, that he makes better keema than me. I said that’s fine with me. But honestly, one of these days, I’m going to take him up on that.”

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  1. Pingback: Video: Immigrant Dishwasher to Presidential Chef | Voices of NY

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