NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Last fall, author, journalist, and activist Naomi Klein joined Rutgers University as the inaugural Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University.
The three-year rotating position comes with a $225,000 annual salary and was inspired by Steinem’s career, which spanned the worlds of journalism and feminist activism and allows Klein to continue in that tradition.
The position also encompasses the topics of women’s issues, human rights and social justice.
Referring to her hiring, she commented, “There is wonderful tradition of [activism in journalism], but it’s not a tradition that is usually celebrated in journalism school and it’s nice to be in a school that does celebrate that.”
Klein hopes to create a space at Rutgers for academic theorists, social movements and organizers where they can come together to have a discussion about policy.
In her first year, the focus has been digital technology, surveillance and gender. She has hosted and spoken at Women Confront Big Tech, Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny.
She has hosted activists challenging tech companies to end collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on surveillance in immigrant communities.
Klein teaches a single class at Rutgers titled “The Corporate Self,” which studies Shoshana Zuboff’s book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” and deals with the selling of information from our personal lives.
In her second year, Klein’s focus will be on the Green New Deal, a proposed resolution in Congress that addresses the climate crisis with ambitious goals for emissions reduction and massive investments in green infrastructure and jobs that promote sustainability and environmental justice.
Leading up to the big push this fall, Klein has already spoken in a few climate rallies, including the May 13 “Road to the Green New Deal” town hall hosted by the Sunrise Movement in Washington, DC.
As part of the speaking lineup that included Senators Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and many others, Klein noted how Markey came out as a “democratic eco-socialist” as he called for a revolution in the way the United States subsidizes energy.
Markey co-authored the moderate cap and trade bill, named the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which ultimately failed to pass, never receiving a vote in the Senate.
Klein believes he was able to take a far more progressive position in the current climate debate because the climate social movement has awakened large parts of the population and has shifted what is politically possible.
In an effort to further increase public awareness of the climate crisis and the Green New Deal, Klein will be hosting three town halls later this year along with many groups at Rutgers and also the policy group, The Leap, where her partner, Avi Lewis is the co-founder and Strategic Director.
The town halls will focus on different aspects of the Green New Deal that will also be tied to the goals of the Gloria Steinem Chair.
One townhall will focus on “the caring economy,” which includes work with low environmental impact, such as healthcare, childcare and teaching. Another will focus on migration, bringing to light issues such as how climate change will drive vast migration, and the last town hall will deal with indigenous knowledge.
She has expressed interest in having a teaching session on the Green New Deal with high school students and talking to Congressional representatives about the Green New Deal.
Currently only two of New Jersey’s Congress members, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Bill Pascrell, have signed on to co-sponsor the resolution.
Klein currently resides in Highland Park where her lifestyle change allows her to cut down on air travel and have a short commute to Rutgers.
Her upcoming book, “On Fire,” a collection of work that touches on the many climate and social crisis around the world comes out in September.