Midterm Reflection

By Daria Valan

It’s too easy to become divided.

In high school, I, alongside my peers, were given an ideology test by our social studies teacher. It was approximately 20 questions in length; some questions focused on cultural issues, some on economic issues. All questions focused on commonly held beliefs by Democrats and Republicans. This short questionnaire was given to us as we approached the legal age to vote, so, according to our teachers, we needed to know what party matched our beliefs. However, it didn’t matter if you were scored as Republican or Democrat, the true result was the beginning of a division. In high school, we began to learn that it was us versus them, you versus me, Republican versus Democrat. The test did not care about moderates or those who may belong to a third party. Instead, the test unofficially assigned you to a group, and with that comes the pressure to always support that group. Your group’s views are right, and the other side is wrong.

Throughout the 2016 United States Presidential Election, at lunch, my friends and I debated the pros and cons of each candidate. As the election drew closer and closer, tensions grew larger and larger. Friendships became strained, and the relationships of people that I previously thought of as friends ceased to exist. Myself, and others at that lunch table, stopped talking to each other. Our friend group became divided in an election that we weren’t even eligible to vote in. Because of one individual, people that I always used to hang out with now almost seemed to be enemies.

But that was high school, right?

The thing is, those lunch table divisions that began in high school continue on. We were taught an easy way to determine who to hang out with, who had the right viewpoint, and who cared more about the country and its citizens.

November 6th, 2018. The 2018 Midterm Elections. I, alongside about 50 other students and faculty, attended Hofstra University’s Election Party. There was no assigned seating, but each table seemed to represent a group: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and those looking for free food. It makes sense that people who share beliefs would want to sit next to each other as the results begin to come in. But belief systems are not what led people to sit where they did that night. The response I heard over and over was, “I wanted to sit with my friends.”

And that’s kind of the point.

We divide ourselves. We only associate people with our beliefs; beliefs that have often been assigned to us because we seem to generally believe in what one of two major parties believe in. It is easier to be around people that have the same political views, and allow all discussion to reinforce the ideas we already have.

I will be the first to admit that after the 2016 Presidential Election, I sat around asking myself how could about half the country vote the way that they did? What led them to make that decision? And that’s what I- and much of the country- is guilty of. We sit and question, but we also refuse to talk to the other side and hear what they have to say. Election night provided me with an opportunity to genuinely speak to people with different viewpoints. I spoke with someone who identifies as a Republican, and my initial reflex was to assume that we would not see eye to eye on anything. However, less then 5 minutes into our conversation, we realized we shared beliefs when it came to criminal justice reform. If I had not taken the time to speak to her, and she had not taken the time to speak with me, we never would have known we shared this opinion.

It is okay to identify as being a member to a political party, and it is okay to not associate with any of the political parties. However, when an association to one party inhibits the ability to communicate with individuals from another party, you lose a fundamental part of government. Too often we see political parties as opposing teams, fighting for completely different goals. At the end of the day, people are fighting what they truly believe is the best for the country. The reality is no single person, group, or party has the answer.

Admittedly, I lean left in political views, but I am a registered as an independent. To me, this serves as a small reminder. A reminder that I am more than a checkmark for an R or a D. A reminder that I should keep my mind open. A reminder to pay attention to the issues. A reminder to no longer allow myself become divided.

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Placing the Blame

By Madison Mento

This past Sunday, I was sitting on a LIRR train on my way to Central Park as the Student Guide for a First Year Connections Geology class field trip. Beautiful day, a little brisk but perfect fall weather for exploring rock formations in the middle of New York City. A girl I had a class with last year happened to be on the same train, so we sat together and started small-talking, catching up and chatting about the usual stuff. When she informed me that she was interning at Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, though, our conversation turned a dark corner.

The week leading up to this conversation had been a tense one. On Wednesday, October 24th, all of our phones binged with the breaking news of mail-bombs being sent to major democratic-party figures like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The potential bombs sent totaled to 14, all mailed by Cesar Sayoc. Aged 56. Pizza delivery man. POTUS lover. Democrat hater. Amateur bomber. Donald Trump obsessed.

Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Tom Steyer, Robert De Niro, George Soros, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Maxine Waters, John Brennan, Kamala Harris, James Clapper: everyone that received a package containing a potential bomb from a pizza delivery man in Florida. Not all of them democratic-party seat-holders, not even all politically employed. Cesar Sayoc is simply a man that believes in Donald Trump and the things he says so hard, that he decided to attempt the murder of everyone that Trump has ever had a public issue with. He took Trump’s words as scripture and decided that he would take those words into action.

My classmate, a 19-year-old college student, is tasked with going through the mail every day at Senator Schumer’s office. When the reports came out about the pipe bombs, she realized that her unpaid internship was now a risk to her life. Fortunately, she was told not to go through the mail until further notice. The fact that a college student interning in the city had to worry about being blown up by an amateur bomb because some guy in Florida decided that Trump’s enemies were his enemies is ridiculous and terrifying.

My Public Relations professor asked us a very interesting question in class: can we blame this man’s actions on Trump for his words or the media for their slanted reporting? Is it both? Is it either? Does Trump incite violence due to his hateful speech and public biases? Or does the media present him in such a way that only displays this hateful side? Should we be “blaming” anyone besides Cesar Sayoc himself?

Politics and politicians have always been controversial. There has never been a president that everyone in the United States agrees with on everything, and there has never been policy that benefits everyone, either. I am not old enough to remember particular public reaction to any president besides Barack Obama. However, I do not recall anyone ever acting out with violence in the same manner.

I don’t know if it’s fair to blame anyone for hate crimes. Hatred and acts of violence stem from the perpetrator, they are not simply grown from the speeches of one man. The capacity for violence is different in all of us. Some can talk the talk, and some can walk the walk. I believe that Donald Trump can only talk the talk, but his supporters have clearly demonstrated that they can walk the walk. My only hope is that violence will cease to be the method of communication from heavily opinionated people, and that time grants the security innocent people deserve.

Sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/26/politics/pipe-bombs-suspicious-packages-what-we-know/index.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/10/26/who-is-cesar-altieri-sayoc-what-we-know-about-suspected-mail-bomber-arrested-florida/?utm_term=.4b3c569a22db

 

 

An Inconvenient Truth: The Bail System

What is bail?

Bail is the idea that someone accused of a crime pays the court an assigned amount of money which is then returned to the individual when they show up for their trial. The monetary value assigned is typically dependent on factors such as the nature of crime, and the accused financial standings. Bail is only offered to those who have been determined as being not an immediate threat if released back into society.

What is the problem with bail?

Bail disproportionally affects the poor population. Often times, bail is set too high for them to be able to afford it meaning they have to wait in jail until their trial. If they had more money, then they could be released. This has created a system where thousands of people are sitting in jail simply because they cannot afford the court assigned amount of money.

What are the consequences of this?

There are severe consequences no matter what choice someone who is accused makes. A majority of people simply plead guilty. They never see trial, but they choose to just put in this plea in order to be released and try to resume their normal lives. However, being seen guilty of a crime has negative consequences from being barred from voting, being unable to collect government aid, and being discriminated against in job searches. Yet, choosing to remain in jail until trial also has devastating consequences. It could take a long time for an individual to get to trial, and at that point they may have lost their jobs, and their family relations may become extremely strained.

So why do we have it?

The intent behind bail is that is gives people more incentive to show up for their court date. If they want their money back, they have to actually come on the right day. Due to all the factors involved in the bail system it is hard to argue whether or not it is effective. However, it is absolutely fair to say that it affects the poor the most, and it forces many people to fell like they have to plead guilty whether or not they actually committed the crime.

What are the alternatives?

There are many alternatives to this system. In fact, many other countries operate fundamentally different when it comes to this process. The most logical solution is to actually abolish the system in its entirety. A vast majority of those who are accused show up for the trial date, and do not get rearrested. The penalty would simply shift from losing a certain amount of cash to facing time in prison for skipping your court date.

What can you do?

There are many ways to help fight for bail reform. One is to contact your local legislators and tell them you support reform. Governmental policy has to change in order to guarantee that no one sits in prison because they simply do not have enough money. If you would like to get even more hands on, a grassroots initiative called NYC Mass Bailout has begun freeing women and children from jails such as Rikers that are only there because they don’t have the means to pay bail. Their website is https://massbailout.com and you have the opportunity to volunteer your time, or if possible donate money to help free those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves.

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to a new year filled with many civic engagement initiatives!

The Center for Civic Engagement focuses on active citizenship for students both on-campus and within the surrounding areas. The Center organizes events, forums, conferences, debates, and more, to promote discussion and change around a plethora of issues ranging from nonviolence, social justice, globalization, and so much more.

A key way that the CCE is able to connect to the community is through partners that help promote positive change in Hofstra’s surrounding area. One example of this in action is through the Herstory Writer’s Workshop. They are a non-profit focused on bringing unheard voices into the public sphere. Every Tuesday, students come in from Long Branch High School to talk and write about a topic they may have never gotten the chance to explore before. This fosters a supportive community as well as provides an outlet to express something that once would have remained private.

Fellows, interns, and volunteers also work with other community partners to support positive change. These organizations include, but are not limited to, the Hempstead High School Initiative which offers a program in which Hofstra students tutor students attending Hempstead High; the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition, a grassroots community group that addresses issues facing the Uniondale community; and Homecoming Farms, an organic farm run by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville.

CCE is also currently working on an on-campus event: the 16th annual Day of Dialogue. The event is themed Born Free and Equal: Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It will be held on Wednesday, October 24th from 9am until 9pm. Panels, discussions, and forums will examine how current laws reflect the provisions outlined in the declaration. Some events include a simulation of a prison solitary confinement cell, discussion about the morality of the current U.S. immigration policy, and a lecture about the current state of affairs in the Middle East which talks about how cross-border cooperation could advance the possibility of peace in political turmoil.

Numerous other events are planned or are already in the works, so to remain up to date please follow us on Facebook (@hofstracce), Twitter (@hofstracce), and Instagram (@hofstracce).

Thank you and we look forward to a great semester!

 

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#NeverAgain

I can’t count the number of times that Americans have called for gun reform in my lifetime. I’ve grown up with the Internet, I’ve seen the hashtags and viral posts that appear in the wake of mass shootings. Over time I’ve become more callous. Surely after Sand Hook, after Pulse, after Las Vegas, over and over and over again, we swear that there will be change. But nothing substantial ever happens. So how have a group of high school students done what a nation hasn’t been able to? They’ve created a movement that doesn’t look like it will be going away any time soon.
On February 14th, 17 people died in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. Days later, the faces of several teenage survivors were a common sight on many news networks. Cameron Kasky wrote an op-ed for CNN saying, “We can’t ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises. And so, I’m asking — no, demanding — we take action now.” Emma Gonzalez spoke at a rally, her rallying cry of “We call BS!” eliciting cheers from the crowd. Jaclyn Corin organized a trip to the Florida state capital, Tallahassee, where 100 students went to confront lawmakers and demand stricter gun laws. From their efforts the Never Again MSD movement was born. They are adamant that they aren’t calling for a gun ban, but rather they aim to regulate semi-automatic weapons and the mechanisms that can make these guns fully automatic.
While politicians are trying to tell them that this is the time to mourn, not to rehash an old debate, the students have decided that the time to talk about what happened and what can be done will be on March 24th, when they plan to march on Washington DC. The power this group of high school students have was given to them in the wake of tragedy, but they’re not letting their fellow classmates and teachers become a statistic. The march will be called March for Our Lives, and already many other marches are being organized across the country. The GoFundMe page set up by Cameron Kasky to help fund the march raised $1.8 million of its $2 million goal in three days.
The students of Stoneman Douglas High School spent the week that was supposed to be their President’s Day break organizing and leading a national movement. No one can say that they’re “just kids” anymore. They’ve survived things no one should ever have to experience, but from their grief a national movement was born.

It Starts in the Schools: How Participating in the HHSI Defined My College Career

By Angelica Beneke

Earlier this semester, I described what I was doing every Tuesday and Thursday to the Catholic campus minister and a fellow senior. I said I go over to tutor students at Hempstead High School and have done so ever since the program was launched my sophomore year in 2015. I’m always excited to talk about the initiative with other people and every chance I get, I talk about it. I don’t do this to show off or be superior in any way. I genuinely love this program and I think it’s awesome an opportunity like this exists through Hofstra.

Interestingly enough, the fellow senior gave me the strangest look as if I told her I secretly had two heads. She then repeated “Hempstead High School?” and went on to explain how it used to be such a great school when her grandfather went there years ago, “but now it’s . . .” She said more, but I tuned her out in that moment out of reflex. Her “that’s too bad” tone and her interjection had said it all to me. Why willingly go volunteer at one of the worst schools in in the area where there are better volunteer opportunities? She didn’t intend any ill will, I’m sure.  But, as someone who has been super involved with the high school and the Hempstead High School Initiative since its inception, I was bothered by that comment then and, as I type this, I’m still bothered by it now.

Yes, Hempstead High School has an alarmingly low graduation rate compared to schools such as Garden City High School. Yes, Hempstead High School, much like Hempstead itself, has a certain reputation associated with its minority student population. Yes, I could have decided to look for other and “safer” volunteer opportunities instead of tutoring at Hempstead High School and being exposed to metal detectors not unlike those at an airport.

But, I didn’t. And I don’t regret being adamant about volunteering consistently at this school.

It’s often said that consistently volunteering changes you. I did volunteer quite a bit during my time as a student in an all girls’ Catholic high school back in Houston, Texas and those experiences, especially volunteering at elementary and middle schools, did change me for the better and made me more aware of the reality of America through the eyes of education.

Volunteering at a high school as a college student has not only reaffirmed that, but it has also opened my eyes to how those society deem as lazy, unintelligent, and uncaring because they can’t pass some state tests are actually some of the brightest, most motivated, and most hard-working individuals who only need someone to give them a chance, not drown them with more tests when they don’t meet ridiculous test standards.

I know there are more tutors than just me who are in this program, but I feel that if I wasn’t a tutor at Hempstead High School, who else would be giving these kids a chance? I may not always know the answers to the problems they have to work on, but, to them, I represent the fact that college is an option, that someone cares that they get a wholesome education, and that someone believes in their potential not just as a student, but as a person.

This worldview is something that motivates me not just to volunteer outside the program but to do my best in everything I do – classes, extracurriculars, friendships – and just give people the chances that they need.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I’ve had all positive and perfect experiences while volunteering at this school. I have struggled with trying to motivate these kids to do their homework or work on practice problems for the Regents when all they would rather do is talk among themselves about their plans for the week. In fact, I have only recently figured out ways to keep them on track whenever this happens. Plus, English isn’t exactly the most popular subject that people want to work on, especially in high school. As a result, sometimes, I’ll be awkwardly sitting at a table by myself while other students needing assistance in other subjects are being helped.

But, when these moments arise, I’m reminded I’m not alone in this initiative, thanks to the spectacular Ms. Darien, a science teacher at the school who is Hofstra’s liaison with the high school. I’m not exaggerating when I say she’s one of the reasons (after really wanting to help these students, of course) I kept coming back to this program. I could tell from day one that she genuinely cares about the high school students and the tutors and their success not only in this program, but life in general. I can’t even begin to say how many times she’s had my back throughout my time as a HHSI tutor.

Yes, I volunteer at Hempstead High School. Yes, I absolutely love it and am sad that next semester will be my last semester with the program. But, I have no doubt the program will grow exponentially after I graduate Hofstra and Hempstead High School will no longer be seen as the school for the delinquents, but a school full of smart, talented, hardworking, and witty students.

Top 3 Reasons I Should Not Have Attended a PWI: A Black Girl’s Experience at Hofstra U

1.) We may as well get it out of the way now….The Food
It’s amazing to me how there can be so many different places on campus to get food and yet I still find myself going hungry most of the time. The only things I find that I can eat consistently are the salmon, the sushi, and the boxes of frozen Buffalo wings that are sold at Dutch. Occasionally, I’ll have the shrimp or fried rice from the Asian cuisine place. As you can imagine, it gets tiring to eat the same foods all the time. Especially considering I’ve been here for four years. Why am I so limited in what I eat, you ask? If I’m being honest, my experience has been a torturous lack of flavor/taste in the foods offered at this school.
Being Nigerian on top of all that, things are even harder because Africans are so horribly underrepresented in terms of the food on campus. I’m definitely not (I repeat, NOT) asking for them to attempt to make jollof rice or anything like that, but surely they should at least be able to offer plantains every week (if not every day) instead of once every blue moon. I can’t help but feel like if I’d gone to an HBCU, there’d at least be more plugs (connections) to food that I would actually enjoy if not from the school itself then from the students.

2.) My Teachers Hardly Ever Look Like Me. And Neither Do My Classmates For That Matter.
One of the biggest gags/jokes/scams about this school is how much administration LOVES to push the narrative that the school is soooo diverse and yet…WHERE?? As was mentioned before, I’ve been attending this school for four years now. I can count how many black professors I’ve had in that time. Four…I am a senior and I’ve only seen four professors that looked like me. Four. On top of that, out of those four professors, only one of them is within my department (English). There is only ONE black professor in the entire English department. The only reason I even had the other three black professors was because I took all the African Studies courses that I could (The African Novel, African Dance, and The Revolution Will Not be Televised). The fact of the matter is, I shouldn’t have to take courses specifically geared towards the African/Black experience in order to feel represented among the faculty. I know we’re no longer considered children but representation still matters.
On the other side of that, is my peers. At the beginning of every semester, I walk into a class for the first time wondering if I will yet again be the only black student there. The answer is usually: yes. I’ve asked myself if it’s because of the classes I take (mainly literature, creative writing, and philosophy) but I’ve found that even in my general education classes, there’s usually less than 5 of us. My friends in other majors have also reported having the experience of being the only black student in most of their classes.

3.) Campus Culture in General
I want to start this off by saying that the black clubs here (ASA, NAACP, BSU, CSA, and CWC) really put on some great events. As president of the ASA, I can personally attest to how difficult it is to not only put on an event but to actually get a strong turnout as well, no matter how much advertising that is done. I know HBCUs are not perfect and not every black student who attends one will go to every black event held but I’ve seen the crowds they have at their ASA/BSU/NAACP/etc. events. It’s embarrassing to invite speakers here and only have 10-15 people in the audience. I’ve gone to other schools and witnessed how involved their black students are and can’t help but wish I could relate.
Aside from the clubs aspect, there’s also Greek life. The fact of the matter is, there’s hardly a D9 (Divine Nine) presence here. Out of the five fraternities that are considered D9 (Kappas, Alphas, Iotas, Ques, and Sigmas), we currently only have one still active on campus (Alphas). The sororities are a little better in that, out of the four D9 sororities (AKAs, Deltas, Zetas, and Sigma Gamma Rho), there are two (AKAs and SGRho) currently active on campus. At least as far as I know. Even within the chapters that are here, their numbers are small compared to the number of people in other chapters (which of course is not their fault).
It’s all just frustrating because I’ve seen the potential that all these (very important and necessary) orgs can have at other schools, especially HBCUs, and we just don’t have those numbers here.