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Drew University Faculty Offer Advice for Biden-Harris Administration

Experts weight in on social justice, COVID, the economy, and more

January 2021 – With Inauguration Day fast approaching, we asked Drew University faculty to offer insights and advice as the Biden-Harris administration is set to begin.

Economics

Christopher Andrews, Associate Professor and Chair, Sociology; Co-Director, Business Studies

I’d encourage the administration to open up the economy to the fullest extent possible within reasonable safety standards. I think Biden will face pressure to dole out more stimulus to small businesses that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, though the evidence that small businesses produce job growth is mixed. A clearer consensus would be spending on infrastructure. Economic research suggests that investment in public infrastructure has a multiplier effect, meaning that for every dollar spent on infrastructure, we’d also see job creation, increased productivity, and expanded market capacity. Investment in public infrastructure would have far-reaching effects for a majority of Americans in the form of not just improved roads, bridges, airports, and public transportation, but also clean energy, healthcare, and higher education.

COVID-19 and Public Health

Brianne Barker, Associate Professor, Biology

My advice for the Biden-Harris administration is to listen to scientific experts on COVID-19 and public health. I am excited and impressed by the scientists and social scientists who have been named as advisors thus far in all parts of science, medicine, and public health. That is a very good sign. I hope that they will prioritize disease prevention and disease surveillance so that we can be proactive instead of reactive in response to future health threats and limit some of the damage from those health issues.

Policing and Human Rights

Jinee Lokaneeta, Professor and Chair, Political Science and International Relations

One of the biggest unfulfilled promises that remains from the Obama-Biden administration is that Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, remains open. Forty detainees currently remain in this U.S. site. They are no longer in the public conversation. At least six of the detainees have been cleared for release but remain there, while others have been charged under the flawed Military Commissions. Twenty-two remain as “forever prisoners”  and their fate remains unclear. Guantanamo Bay is a reminder of how a rule-of-law-based democracy has accommodated a space that has been previously been defined by torture, deaths in custody, and denial of basic due process. Only the closure of such a site by the Biden-Harris administration and determining an alternate means of trying the remaining detainees will be a concrete global gesture towards a commitment to a rule of law.

Education

Patrick McGuinn, Professor, Political Science and Education

President Biden will have his hands full when he assumes office and no more so than in the area of education policy. President Trump opted to let states choose their own responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and offered little federal guidance or financial support. The result was that states adopted widely divergent approaches to in-person, hybrid, and virtual learning. Biden has supported a national return to in-person instruction and pledged significant federal financial support. Indeed, from expanding Pre-K, to increasing Title 1 aid for high poverty schools, to increasing teacher pay, Biden has proposed an ambitious education agenda in K-12; with state and local budgets defeated by the economic impact of the pandemic, such resources are desperately needed. So, too, in higher education, where he will need to work with Congress to secure reauthorization of the largest federal education law, the Higher Education Act. This offers the opportunity for a long overdue reconsideration of the separation of K-12 and higher ed, a topic I examined in detail in a recent book.

Immigration

Sangay Mishra, Assistant Professor, Political Science

Immigration is going to be one of the most challenging areas for the Biden administration precisely because of the restrictive changes made in the last four years. Some of the immediate steps that the administration should be taking include looking into reversing the changes made into asylum policy—it has become almost impossible to seek asylum in the U.S. for people who are crossing the Southern border. The U.S. has also drastically cut down on the number of refugees that it accepts annually—the Biden-Harris administration needs to reverse that immediately. Other critical actions: ensuring that the DACA program is fully back on track and expanded; reversing the Muslim travel ban ordered by the Trump administration; reversing the restrictions on granting visas to skilled workers; and thinking of ways to enact a comprehensive immigration reform with the help of Congress.

Social and Racial Justice

J. Terry Todd, Associate Professor, American Religious Studies

Be bold, Mr. Biden. You take the helm of the presidency at a time of division, confusion, and even violence. Yet there is also hope and opportunity at this very dangerous juncture, as we saw last summer, when white folks joined Black and brown people at peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. Securing access to the ballot box and expanding voting rights is key to building faith in American government and creating the multiracial, multicultural, and multi-religious democracy so many of us long for. Don’t cede the term “election integrity” to racists, Christian supremacists, and other right-wing rabble-rousers. Use the bully pulpit of the presidency to support federal and state efforts to bring more and more voters into the political process. The future we envision is not assured, so keep listening, keep working, and keep praying, Mr. President.