News and Notes by Date
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The Open Society University Network (OSUN)—led by Bard College and Central European University with support from the Open Society Foundations—has been elected as cochair of the Taskforce on Third Country Education Pathways, launched by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).
OSUN will cochair the taskforce with The World University Service of Canada, leading representatives from the Japan ICU Foundation, the Government of Portugal, Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, the Government of Canada, Unione delle Università del Mediterraneo, and the Institute of International Education, among others.
The task force is charged with developing best practices for higher education pathways that respond to the needs of refugees, internally displaced individuals, and others displaced by crises, as well as leading the development of advocacy strategies to ensure access and the establishment of minimum standards for institutions seeking to host students.
Dr. Rebecca Granato, associate vice president for global initiatives at Bard College, will represent OSUN. “I look forward to this work as part of our wider mission to develop the OSUN Microcolleges for Connected Learning Initiatives for displaced and host-community learners.”
Learn more about the work of the taskforce in the UNHCR Doubling Our Impact Report.
Center for Civic Engagement Director Jonathan Becker and [email protected] Team Leader Kathy Gaweda ’21 Discuss the College's Lawsuit Against the Dutchess County Board of Elections“Our essential claim is that the space on campus, which is 2,200 square feet, is far safer than the current polling site, which is approximately 700 square feet,” said Becker. “Now, we don’t only think this. The Town Board of Red Hook has asked the Board of Elections to move the polling site, and even the church, which hosts the polling site, has said that they do not believe that their site is safe.”
Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United StatesMariel Fiori ’05 and Emily Schmall ’05 cofounded La Voz magazine in 2004 as a Trustee Leader Scholar (TLS) project when they were both students. “We started this very tiny thing,” says Fiori, the longstanding managing editor, “that we wanted a newsletter in Spanish for the Spanish speaking community, and there wasn’t much around—actually, there was nothing in Spanish at that point.” Today, the magazine is distributed to 150,000 readers in eight counties in the Hudson Valley, offering important news to Spanish speakers and giving a voice to the region’s Latinx community. Laura Perez, a Bard student writer for La Voz who is originally from Venezuela, says the magazine gave her a sense of belonging. "When I arrived to Bard, I didn’t know anyone," said Perez. "The first thing I saw that reminded me of my country was the magazine La Voz in the campus center.”
The Emmy-nominated PBS series College Behind Bars, which follows Bard Prison Initiative students and alumni/ae, has upended misconceptions about people in prison, who they are and what they can achieve. Director Lynn Novick and Jule Hall ’11—a BPI alumnus and Ford Foundation program associate who is featured in the film—discuss how politics and the pandemic are affecting students in prison.
by Jessie Floyd '21
Last fall, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Quito, Ecuador through the Pitzer Ecuador program. A key component of the program was learning from a community service project. At Bard, I am a Spanish Major with a Concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Because of what I’m studying at Bard and my desire to learn about gender activism and transfeminism in a context other than the American one, I chose to volunteer for Proyecto Transgénero.
I learned that Proyecto Transgénero is a transfeminist organization that works with many different projects, each with the mission of dismantling systems of gender oppression and gender violence. The principal projects I worked with were “la Vitrina No binaria” (The Non-binary showcase), “el Sindicato de Trabajadores Sexuales” (The Sexworkers Union), “la Marcha de las Putas” (the SlutWalk Ecuador), and “la Fraternidad Transmasculina” (The Transmasculine Fraternity). More specifically, I began the process of conducting and translating interviews with non-binary people so they could share their stories about and thoughts on gender. I also helped plan la Marcha de las Putas and organized, attended, and then ran Putalleres (slut workshops). The workshops were transfeminist conversations with people who had all different types of life experiences but shared a common frustration with oppressive gender systems in Ecuador and beyond.
As part of the Pitzer Ecuador program, we were required to do an independent study and I decided to look into the question: “What does gender mean in Ecuador?”. My work involved eight lengthy interviews of people I had met through Proyecto Transgénero and in my daily life. I was very aware that I was just scratching the surface. Gender systems and gender identity are personally and socially complex. However, what I did learn definitely changed the way that I think through gender and the way that I wanted to go about studying it. Personally, I am a queer woman who has had traumatic experiences with sexual assault and sexual harassment. Until working with Proyecto Transgénero, specifically the founders Eli and Ana and activist Fabian, I had not been a part of an honest, empowering, intersectional, and authentic gender-based group. I left Ecuador with a deeper understanding of gender norms and gender bias’s connection to colonial history and colonial legacy as well as a passion for listening to others and sharing my own story.
I decided to do my Senior Project for Bard as a continuation of the project I had done on gender last fall. I also grew excited about the possibility of interning with Proyecto Transgénero this summer to learn more for my SPROJ and to help the organization with fundraising and international outreach. Given the organization’s flexibility and reliance on frequent communication via WhatsApp, I felt confident that my work could be done remotely if need be. I have not been disappointed. My weekly schedule since early July has included weekly Zoom meetings with Maria Laura, my supervisor, with her in Ecuador and me in New York, and frequent updates in our WhatsApp group chat. Recently, I’ve been working on translating the language of a GoFundMe that will raise money to help Proyecto Transgénero deliver groceries to transwomen from the Sindicato de Trabajadores Sexuales since they cannot work safely during the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve also been working on editing the video clips of the interviews I have from last fall that I wasn’t able to complete before returning to the United States. This editing has taken a significant amount of time as I learn how to use new software and transcribe quotes in my second language. In future weeks, I will be working with Maria Laura to create a proposal for virtual transfeminist workshops that might be able to stand in place of this year’s Marcha de las Putas.
I have been honored and excited to work with Proyecto Transgénero this summer. It has been wonderful to be doing something that I feel so passionately about, especially given the challenges of feeling hopeful in 2020. If you would like to support Puente Solidario (Bridge of Solidarity), an initiative run by Proyecto Transgénero to donate food and supplies to the trans community in Quito, see below.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) along with the President and students from Bard College filed a lawsuit against the Dutchess County Board of Elections for violating the voting rights of students. The lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Dutchess County, follows yearslong efforts by Bard students to establish an on-campus polling location.
The Bard College community comprises the overwhelming majority of the district’s eligible voting population at nearly 70 percent. Moreover, the current polling site is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and related New York State Law. It is inaccessible by public transportation in clear violation of New York State Election Law, which requires that polling places are situated on public transit routes. Additionally, the current polling location is a 3-mile round trip from the Bard campus on an unsafe route that lacks sidewalks and adequate street lighting. The route creates a significant hardship for voters with disabilities and the majority of students who don’t have cars. The lawsuit challenges the ongoing failure of the Dutchess County Board of Elections to comply with the New York Constitution and state laws by refusing to open a polling location on the Bard College campus.
“I am grateful to our friends at St. Johns for hosting a polling station in the church, but we now face unprecedented times that demand sustainable solutions,” said Bard College President Leon Botstein. “Not only does the Bard community constitute a large percentage of District 5 residents of voting age, but we can accommodate the social distancing demands of COVID-19, indoors and out of inclement weather, and provide a safer and more accessible alternative for everyone at the polling place.”
“The narrative that we keep hearing is that students don’t vote and are not civically engaged, but this notion does not hold up when you consider that nearly 85 percent of Bard students are registered to vote. The reality is that students continue to face intentional barriers to voting. Even in what is considered a ‘blue state,’ students must contend with ongoing voter suppression, which demonstrates how widespread this problem is,” remarked Alexandria Harris, Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “Across the country student voting rights are under assault. As student voter participation increases, so do efforts to restrict their access to the ballot box. This is why The Andrew Goodman Foundation will continue to stand with students and vigorously defend their constitutional right to vote.”
“The longstanding efforts by the Dutchess County Board of Elections to suppress student voting, which continues today with their refusal to move the polling site, has been wrong from the start. Now in the COVID era it is also dangerous,” said Jonathan Becker, Bard’s Executive Vice President and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The current site’s lack of sidewalks, inaccessibility by public transport, failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and, most importantly, its inadequate space for social distancing, makes it both unsuitable as a voting site and a danger to voters and poll workers. It is unfortunate that the Board of Elections continues its efforts to suppress student voting and in doing so, endangers the safety of the voters of District 5.”
“Fifty years ago, this nation came together across partisan lines to support the expansion of the ballot free of age discrimination through the ratification of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment,” said Yael Bromberg, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “The principles that drove the foundation of that Amendment continue to be true today: young people are critical to the practice of democracy. We must remove obstacles to the ballot—and that includes bringing polling places on campus. The Dutchess County Board of Elections has made its intentions clear: it simply does not want Bard College students to vote—counter to the values of our democracy, which are beyond partisanship.”
This is the fourth instance since 2000 where Bard students have resorted to litigation or the threat thereof over schemes aimed at limiting their voting rights. The courts ruled in favor of the students in all preceding legal actions. The current lawsuit follows years of advocacy by Bard College Andrew Goodman Student Ambassadors and their peers for an on-campus polling site. Despite support from the Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner, the Republican Commissioner has denied two timely requests to relocate the polling place, thereby prompting the current lawsuit.
The lawsuit is brought on behalf of Andrew Goodman Student Ambassador Sadia Saba; Bard College President Leon Botstein; Bard College Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Civic Engagement Erin Cannan; [email protected]; and The Andrew Goodman Foundation.
Counsel on the lawsuit are Yael Bromberg, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights for The Andrew Goodman Foundation and Principal of Bromberg Law LLC, and Michael Volpe, Joshua Rothman, Hilary Atzrott, Megan Hynes, and John Walsh of Venable LLP.
Learn more about [email protected]
Read Lawsuit (PDF)
About The Andrew Goodman Foundation
The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s mission is to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy by training the next generation of leaders, engaging young voters, and challenging restrictive voter suppression laws. The Foundation's Vote Everywhere program partners with America's colleges and universities to provide resources, visibility, and mentoring to a national network of student leaders who involve their peers in participatory democracy through long-term voter engagement, public policy, and social justice initiatives. The organization is named after Andrew Goodman, a 20-year old Freedom Summer volunteer, and champion of equality and voting rights who was murdered by the KKK in 1964 while registering African Americans to vote in Mississippi. For more information about The Andrew Goodman Foundation visit andrewgoodman.org.
About Bard College
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a 4-year residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City. Bard’s campus consists of nearly 1000 park-like acres in the Hudson River Valley. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with majors in nearly 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 11 programs; nine early colleges; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on its 160-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College has expanded its mission as a private institution acting in the public interest across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs and increase access to liberal education. Bard is known for its academic excellence and emphasis on the arts and civic engagement, and is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. For more information about Bard College, visit bard.edu.
The article highlights Bard as one of only nine colleges to achieve a voter registration rate topping 85 percent, acknowledging Bard’s longstanding commitment to civic engagement and the work of [email protected], an initiative that facilitates voter registration for students, provides information about candidates, hosts candidates forums, and protects the rights of students to vote and have their votes counted.
Bard at Brooklyn Public Library microcollege student and artist Russell Craig ’22 has installed a mural honoring the Black Lives Matter movement at the entrance of the Philadelphia Municipal Services building. The mural, called Crown, is just steps from where the statue of controversial former Mayor Frank Rizzo once stood, and the site of large protests in late spring demanding the city remove the statue, which it did in June.
“Although Kingston's air quality is, for the most part, doing well, we know that increased traffic, train activity, wood burning, and household heating systems can contribute to short-term air quality issues and long-term health issues if not appropriately managed,” said Eli Dueker, director of the Center for the Study of Land, Air, & Water, which partnered with the City of Kingston’s Conservation Advisory Council’s Air Quality Sub-Committee to form the Kingston Air Quality Initiative. “This research addresses what Kingston needs to be able to meet its sustainability goals long-term.”
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