Saturday, January 24, 2015

SUNY Geneseo


A SUNY Geneseo professor offered her students extra credit to attend a Dec. 5 demonstration on the college’s campus protesting against the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Brown's and Garner's deaths, and grand juries' subsequent decisions not to indict their police officer killers, have drawn national media attention and sparked protest against what some view as examples of a widespread culture of police brutality against minorities.
Both Brown and Garner were black.
Jun Okada, a film studies professor in SUNY Geneseo's English Department, sent out a mass email to her students the morning of the demonstration, a little over an hour before protestors were to meet in the college's student union to organize.
“I will give extra credit to those who attend today's march,” read the mass email. “In order to get credit, I need a photo of you at the march – send to me via email.”
Hundreds of SUNY Geneseo students rallied on the College Green for the demonstration. Students also staged a “Die in,” between Milne Library and Newton Hall on the college's campus.
“It's a form of peaceful protest where people just kind of take over a public space and they lay down, mimicking and referencing what has happened to recent victims of police brutality,” explained Okada during a phone interview. “It's kind of bringing to attention, in a theatrical way, these injustices.”
Okada, whose scholarship focuses on film studies but whose classes often address social justice issues, said she thought the protests would be an excellent educational experience for her students.
“Most of the time, my courses have something to do with race or social justice,” said Okada, who's published credits include, “Cultural Odor in the Global Order: Intertextuality and the Raced Japanese Body,” and “Forfaiture: Photogenie, Race, and Homoerotic Homage in the French Remake of The Cheat.” “So it (extra credit) made sense to offer and I wanted my students to support this cause.”
Okada's students did not have another option to earn extra credit if they either did not want to attend the protest or did not agree with what was being protested.
Though she didn't offer a corresponding option to students who didn't attend the protest, Okada made clear that she offers extra credit opportunities throughout the semester. In addition to this, Okada said the amount of extra credit she offered was not enough to perceptively alter her students' final grades.
“It will add a little bit, maybe a point or two,” said Okada. “It's kind of like a slight incentive for students to get involved in activities on campus, whether it's a film screening or an event like this. I encourage them to go by giving them extra credit. Most professors will do this and that's how campus life is created; through these kinds of incentives.”
After speaking with the County News, Okada decided to remove the extra credit she awarded students for attending the event.
Speaking Monday, Dec. 15, SUNY Geneseo Interim Provost David Gordon explained that nature of the extra credit opportunity was not appropriate because it “wasn't directly connected to a course assignment and it seemed to be giving extra credit for students taking a particular side.”
“Extra Credit might be appropriate for attending and analyzing a demonstration, but not for what could be seen as expressing a particular position,” said Gordon via email. “An appropriate use, for example, would have students who attend a demonstration write an analysis or reflection in connection with questions, an assignment or a reading.”
Okada characterized the Dec. 5 demonstration not as a protest against grand juries' decisions not to indict Brown's and Garner's killers or the police who did the act of killing,  but rather a statement to bring attention to “something not right happening in our society.”
“I don't think it's a political situation, I think it's a justice situation,” she said. “Even if you're sympathetic about the choices that the police made, I think at the end of the day when so many people are being shot regularly and they happen to be young, black men, there's something wrong. So I don't necessarily think there's two sides.”

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bernice Ende

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Spread the resolve of an optimist in 2015 - Voices -

Spread the resolve of an optimist in 2015 - Voices -

Spread the resolve of an optimist in 2015

On a global and national scale, I am not optimistic about many changes for the better in 2015.  
ISIS will not be easily defeated. The genuinely evil Boko Haram will kidnap more girls and terrorize more Nigerians. Somalia will not become a peaceful state. The Chinese government will continue to muffle its own citizens and persecute Tibetans. Vladimir Putin will continue his megalomaniacal quest to re-create the Russian Empire of Peter the Great.There are a thousand less well known political problems that will not be solved this year. Georgia and Moldova will still have parts of their territory occupied by Russia.  Women in Saudi Arabia will remain constrained in what they may do. Corruption will remain seemingly indigenous in nations such as Cambodia.  Pakistanis and Indians will struggle and from time to time fight over Kashmir. Drug lords will murder countless innocent people in Mexico, Honduras, and other Latin American nations. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon will be deprived of still more of their land and their culture. Roma people in Europe will be discriminated against both in places they have lived for centuries and in nations they have migrated to.And that is only the geopolitical picture!The world will get a bit warmer, and glaciers will continue to melt. Increasingly violent weather events will devastate some places still reeling from the last such event, and it will strike at seemingly random at new spots throughout the world.  Millions will die from lack of food, vaccination, mosquito netting, sufficient nutrients and preventable diseases. The world has enough food, but it is not distributed fairly. We have the medicines to prevent and cure many diseases, yet people still die from diarrhea and measles.  Many throughout the world will die prematurely because of bad decisions they have made. How many more people — both famous and not — will die from drug overdoses and dirty needles? And how many will die this year because they are addicted to nicotine, perhaps lured to try it by untruthful and suggestive ads?Here at home, our Congress will do little to legislate for a better life and a fairer chance for most Americans. Colleges will be less affordable. We will still have millions unemployed who desperately want to work and be self-sufficient.  We will watch those to whom we have entrusted our government posture and pose and primp in front of the cameras and worry more about their re-election campaigns and poll numbers than about the state of our Union.  This year, more brave police officers will be killed — perhaps a few even assassination style such as we saw recently in Brooklyn. More young black men will die by police bullets. The United States will continue to incarcerate more of its citizens than any nation on earth, and yet our recidivism rate will remain high. There will not be much emphasis on correction in our correctional facilities. And judges will sentence children to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, something only legal in the United States and Somalia.In Rochester, we will see every day the cost of high child poverty rates (Rochester is No. 2 in this embarrassing statistic, “outdone” only by Detroit). Avenue D will continue to be a place no sane person would drive at night or, for that matter, in the daytime. The police report in the Livingston County News will be lengthy next year, with drunk drivers, drug sellers, and a couple of child molesters. There will be fires and highway deaths and injuries.However, I am an optimist, in part I suppose because I am a professional historian. There have been no wars like World War II, which in 2015 will have been ended for 70 years.  Probably 60 million died in the six years of that war, more than 50 percent of whom were civilians. Despite fears of ebola, there will be no mortality from disease like the bubonic plague in the middle of the 14th century in Europe and the Middle East that killed perhaps 1 of every 3 people.   Despite Boko Haram and ISIS and Al Qaeda, there will be no human-inflicted slaughter like the Holocaust or the Killing Fields.We are making progress in feeding people and wiping out the most desperate poverty. There are realistic people who predict that in less than 20 years, virtually no one will be living on less than $1.25 a day. I have seen desperately poor children who have the chance to go to school, and they will be part of the answer to the great problems we face. Genius is everywhere; now we must work to make opportunity to develop genius universal.I am optimistic because everywhere I meet heroic people who are, sometimes in large and often in small ways, making a difference. I think of a woman caring for 140 orphans outside Yangon, Burma. I know a young American man who spent a year in Kenya, living in an isolated spot, teaching children at no salary at all. I think of my friend Mary Derby in Geneseo, who would not take “no” for an answer from anyone if people with mental disabilities were not given their full complements of rights and the highest levels of care. I have a son who is a New York State Trooper who has helped to lock up a lot of bad guys doing bad things to fellow citizens.When I hold a charity dinner each year for abandoned and homeless kids in New York, I remind donors that all of our efforts will have no impact on the statistics of teen abandonment and homelessness. Yet, for a couple of kids our gifts make the difference between life and death. Making the world better is not easy, and most of us have no power to effect broad change. But we can change ourselves and work to make life a bit better for someone else. A billion of us worldwide or a few thousand of us in Livingston County can make quiet, profound differences.