Guest post from Michael O’Donnell, Vice President of the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education and the Chair of the Board’s Legislative Action Committee
“Every aspect of the Regents reform agenda is aimed at ensuring that more New York State students graduate college and career ready. We have adopted more rigorous Common Core standards and are aligning our assessments with those standards…”
That claim, made by then Senior Deputy Commissioner of Education and future US Secretary of Education John King is the subject of the Benjamin Center’s latest discussion brief: “NY State Assessments: Faulty Predictions, Real Consequences.”
Poughkeepsie’s Arterial Highways
In the annual City of Poughkeepsie State of the City address Mayor Rob Rolison called for unity in order to overcome the city’s current woes. This got me thinking about the many ways that the City of Poughkeepsie is divided. There are the obvious political divides, and the divisions between the people who work in Poughkeepsie and those who live there, as well as innumerable other issues that separate its people, but the city has been literally divided by its built environment – more specifically, its highways. One, the Route 9 arterial, built in 1966 divides the city from its waterfront. The other, the east – west arterial, completed in 1979 makes an island of the city’s central business district, and deepened the economic and social divide between the north side and the south side.
Check out Dr. Eve Waltermaurer, The Benjamin Center’s Director of Research and Evaluation, discussing the results of our Women@Work’s View on Women Poll, released just in time for our NYS Women’s Right to Vote Centennial Conference!
Guest post from Despina Williams Parker, Staff Assistant for the SUNY New Paltz Dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences
This article was originally posted in the Liberal Arts & Sciences Spring Newsletter.
At the age of 5, Natassia Velez set her sights on a leadership role even more demanding than kindergarten class line leader. She had the will, the desire and the smarts. But when she boldly announced her intentions to become the president of the United States, she heard not encouragement, but laughter.
As she got older and prominent female politicians like Hillary Clinton emerged, Velez noticed a change in others’ response to her political aspirations. “People started realizing that it was more plausible for a female to be president, so they stopped laughing,” she said.
Now a senior international relations major, Velez enrolled in this spring’s “Women and Politics” course to learn more about the “barriers and pathways” for women like herself who hope to enter the political arena. Her experience so far has been both eye-opening and empowering.
Led by Kathleen Dowley, an associate professor of political science and director of the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, and KT Tobin, associate director of the Benjamin Center and sociology lecturer, the course’s first team-taught iteration offers an expansive look at the cultural, institutional and economic barriers to, as well as the opportunities for, women’s political participation in the U.S and around the globe.
Guest post from Tom Cetrino, a SUNY New Paltz Political Science alum and member of The Benjamin Center’s Advisory Board
Recently enacted legislation (A3009C/S2009C Part BBB) included a revision of Governor Cuomo’s proposal to require each county outside of New York City to prepare a plan for further sharing of service delivery responsibilities among local governments contained within the county. Each county is required to have a shared services panel that must include the chief executive of the county (typically the County Executive) who will serve as the chair, and the mayor or supervisor of every town, city, and village in the county. Additionally, the county may elect to include school districts, BOCES, and special improvement districts on the panel and in the plan.
The plan must demonstrate new recurring property tax savings by eliminating or consolidating duplicative local government services. In preparing the plan, the county must consult and seek input from the shared services panel and each collective bargaining unit with members working for the entities represented on the panel as well as community, business and civic leaders. At least three public hearings must be held on the plan.
Guest post by Glenn Geher, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, and Founding Director of the Evolutionary Studies Program, SUNY New Paltz.
My Bronx grandma, Pearl Trilling, was fond of reminding me that experience was often the best teacher. “You’ll really understand Glenn,” Grandma Trilling would say, “when the shoe pinches you.”
My experience through the years has confirmed the observation that people rarely care much about a problem until they are directly affected. When the shoe pinches you, that’s when you care.
To say the least, the shoes Donald Trump is trying to make America wear are pinching lots of people, in lots of place, in lots of ways. Think immigration. Think health care. Think the environment. Elsewhere, I’ve spoken out on all of these issues. But because I work in higher education, I feel the pinch there directly.
A few weeks ago, I was informed about an international boycott on academic conferences in the USA – supported by thousands of academics from all around the world (as reported in Times Higher Education). The abortive executive order banning Muslims from seven nations, among other presidential actions, has led scholars world-wide to organize to take a stand against what is happening in our country. (Thankfully, that order, as well as a more narrowly focused redo, has thus far been stopped in its tracks by the courts.)
Guest post by Amy Nitza, Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health
Our national politics today seem to respond only to military and ecological disasters at home and abroad. Epidemiological disasters and bioterrorism and our local and national responses to them – how they’re handled, with what consequences on the physical and mental health on our first response workers, and on our resources – deserves sustained attention. This year’s The Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) conference, Psychosocial Response to Pandemic Disasters, Infectious Diseases, and Bioterrorism, is an important opportunity for our region to increase its preparedness for this type of emergency.
Sketches for “Jam City”, a 2013 collaborative design project re-imagining Newburgh, at the Boys & Girls Club of Newburgh
The Hudson Valley is arguably the birthplace of arts in America. Last week, in a Poughkeepsie Journal op-ed, writer Sandi Sonnenfeld convincingly argued that the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), along with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) would have massive negative consequences for the reemerging arts communities here, where it all began.
Sonnenfeld, who lives in Poughkeepsie, cited a 2014 Benjamin Center study that examined the economic impact of arts and culture in the Mid-Hudson Valley, defined as Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester Counties. She wrote:
“The elimination of federal funding for the arts and humanities is especially problematic for those of us who live in the Hudson Valley. According to a study conducted by SUNY New Paltz’s Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach [now the Benjamin Center], Mid-Hudson arts and culture organizations attract 2.6 million day visitors and 1 million overnight visitors to the region for cultural events, injecting $498 million directly into our local economy every year. The local arts scene also directly and indirectly employs nearly 5,000 residents. In Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties, Arts Mid-Hudson helps provide grants to 393 organizations and individual artists. Guess where the majority of Arts Mid-Hudson’s funding comes from? From the New York [State] Council for the Arts (NYSCA), which is funded by New York state and yes, the NEA.”
Volunteerism is alive and well in Ulster County, but we face major challenges in the years ahead if we are to sustain key services in our communities.
In a recently published Benjamin Center Discussion Brief on The Who-What-Where-When-Why of Volunteerism in Ulster County we report that nearly half (45 percent) of adult Ulster County residents volunteer, twenty points higher than the national rate. In the context of falling national rates, the reasons for this breadth of volunteerism in our home county are documented with the use of national and local survey data, and are further explored and informed through interviews with nineteen leaders in volunteer-reliant organizations.
Guest post by Karla Vermeulen, SUNY New Paltz Assistant Professor of Psychology and Deputy Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health
Since the election in November, our students’ reactions at SUNY New Paltz have been on display in protest demonstrations, in the classroom, and in a small but disturbing number of acts of vandalism on campus. Their level of passion is evident, but what do students actually believe about the Trump administration’s likely effect on their lives? To find out, Psychology MA student Melissa Blankstein and I launched a survey at the beginning of the semester, “Election 2016: How Will the Outcome Impact You?”
We received 358 web survey responses from current New Paltz students. Obviously this group was self-selected, and is not necessarily representative of the entire student body, but the intensity of responses among those who chose to participate was remarkable, and seems important and worthwhile to share.