High on a hill was a lonely goatherd … who accidentally shot himself in the face with an arrow? The Getty just acquired the 11th-century Irmengard Codex manuscript featuring this and other fascinating illustrations of Medieval Germanic Christianity, from evangelists to religious feasts. In tempera, gold, and ink, this specific panel tells the story of Mount Gargano, where an arrow that a shepherd fired to jolt a stray bull out of a nearby cave was said to have miraculously changed paths and instead struck him (ouch). (image courtesy Dr. Guenther Rare Books, Getty Museum)

Over the past several decades, and accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the student–professor power dynamic has undergone a sea change.

Traditionally, faculty members have been viewed as the rulers of the classroom. They decide what gets taught and how. That could mean expecting students to tackle tough assignments on tight deadlines and to wrestle with ideas and information that upsets them. The underlying assumption is that students defer to the professor’s judgment (or, as some view it, the professor’s dominance).

But for a confluence of reasons, student attitudes have shifted. For one, what’s considered appropriate for a college professor to say and do in the classroom has changed dramatically, especially around topics of race, gender, and other forms of identity. For another, student deference to their teachers is not nearly as strong as it once was.

Students can be quick to judge a pedagogical choice as harmful, offensive, or superfluous to their education, say some professors, who question if their colleges, which they describe as having adopted a “customer is always right” philosophy, will have their backs if and when the customer is wrong.

In some circumstances, the choices or behavior criticized by students would have been “regarded as benign not very long ago,” said Angus Johnston, a historian of American student-activism who teaches at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York.

While this power shift can be “discombobulating” and “scary” for faculty members, especially older ones, he said, “that does not mean it’s a bad development.”

There’s reason to believe that Republicans, at least in more purple states, are worried about the kind of electoral backlash that was reflected in the referendum rejecting an abortion ban in Kansas last year and the recent midterm elections. That may actually be fueling the escalating attacks on trans people, says Rose MacKenzie, a campaign strategist at the ACLU who focuses on reproductive rights. “I think anti-abortion politicians are worried about the politics,” says MacKenzie. “They’ve turned to attacking trans youth in order to stay politically viable.”

  • For the Nation, Molly Crabapple connects the dots between the precarious state of housing in New York City and community-led efforts to combat the politicians and private equity firms behind it:

In early 2022, I was in the midst of my own holdover eviction crisis. My boyfriend and I had lived in a shabby 10-story, nine-unit loft building on Maiden Lane in Manhattan for 12 years. We loved the place with our blood and bones. Our parties were legend. How many times did we meet on our fire escape at 4 am, with cigarettes cadged from war journalists and porn stars? How many canvases—and protest banners—did we paint on our apartment’s battered floors? The heat was dodgy; black mold bloomed on the shower ceiling; rats threw banquets out front. None of this dimmed our enthusiasm. It was home.

The apartment wasn’t rent-stabilized, and during Covid, our landlord let everyone’s lease expire. This didn’t worry us at first, since he had done this before, only to swoop in later with a new contract and a higher rent. Yet I slowly noticed the telltale signs of a landlord preparing to sell his building. They were as obvious as a pigeon starting to molt. The landlord issued furious denials right up until the eviction moratorium ended. After that, we woke up to flyers telling us to cut our rent checks to a new LLC called Diamond Lane. Once those checks were cashed, Diamond Lane hired a process server to serve every tenant with a 90-day notice to vacate. It also threatened lawsuits if we did not comply.

  • The full-time freelance journalist industry is riddled with inequities, as Nicole Chung explores in an essay for Esquire about the costs of toiling as a writer or editor without fair compensation — and who can, or can’t, afford them:

I continue to grapple with the instability of this industry and what kind of opportunities will be available to me in the years to come, as well as larger questions about whether my editorial work was valued. Whether it was worth it, especially given my family’s needs. I think about who gets to be a writer or an editor, who can afford to wait for that livable salary or that higher advance. Who can choose to prioritize their creative goals, take potentially career-making risks, invest precious years in this work without the guarantee of financial stability. And I think about whose work we may be losing—whose stories we aren’t reading—because they, and perhaps their families, simply cannot afford for them to hang around and wait.

  • If the art of handwriting is dead, should we be trying to revive it? For the New York Times, Isabella Paoletto investigates the phenomenon of messy penmanship and what the shift away from pencil-to-paper writing means for us today, from education to forged signatures:

Anne Trubek, the author of “The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting,” said that when, over a decade ago, she began researching the history of writing technologies and whether the digital age was changing writing her work received a huge amount of pushback.

At the time, she said, people believed that not teaching children cursive went against traditional American values. They feared children would lose their connection to history if they were unable to read historical documents like the Declaration of Independence.

Those anxieties eventually evolved into the belief that children would not be as intelligent if they were not taught handwriting, an idea Dr. Trubek says discriminates against children who have physical disabilities.

“Anytime that there is a huge shift from one technology to another, whether it is the invention of writing, or the printing press, or the typewriter, there is this sort of rear-guard anxiety about what it means for the previously supplanted primary way for people to write,” Dr. Trubek said.

So symbols mean different things to different people, at different times and in different contexts. They’re not static, nor are they usually as simple to interpret as the swastika tattooed on the back of that neo-Nazi’s head. They have multiple levels of meaning, even contradictory ones. This is particularly the case for the far-right, who use symbols in deliberately coy and confusing ways that make it more difficult to pin down who they are and what they believe in.

In her 2020 book, the US sociologist and expert on the far right Cynthia Miller-Idriss called this technique “game-playing” — coded messages laced with ambiguity, irony and humour with which the far-right not only “troll” their perceived opponents, but help “carry extremist ideas into the mainstream.”

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

Lakshmi Rivera Amin (she/her) is a writer and artist based in New York City. She currently works as Hyperallergic's editorial coordinator.