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Today, the New York Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the decision of Dutchess County Supreme Court Judge Maria Rosa to situate a polling place on the Bard College campus for District 5 voters.
The unanimous four-Judge Appellate Division panel agreed with Judge Rosa and the Petitioners Bard College, faculty, and students on all counts. The appeals court found that, following Bard’s prior 2020 litigation victory which resulted in polling location on campus, Commissioner Haight’s continued efforts in 2021 to prevent on-campus voting were “arbitrary and capricious.”
“This is an important victory, both locally and nationally, in the fight against voter disenfranchisement, in this case discrimination against youth and those protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Bard’s Executive Vice President Jonathan Becker. “It is unfortunate that the county leadership has condoned, actively or through their silence, Commissioner Haight’s efforts to undermine democracy, even as he has now wasted well over $100,000 of taxpayer money over the past decade in failed attempts at voter suppression that have been repeatedly rejected by the courts.”
“A common-sense solution to provide accessible and safe voting should not be this hard,” said Erin Cannan, Vice President for Civic Engagement. “We are thrilled to have arrived once again at a solution that works for all of our voters in District 5.”
Counsel on the lawsuit are Michael Donofrio, Esq. of Stris & Maher LLP, Doug Mishkin, Esq., and Yael Bromberg, Esq. of Bromberg Law LLC.
“When Congress and the states ratified the 26th Amendment fifty years ago, they specifically contemplated the special burdens young people face in accessing the ballot, including the lack of on-campus polling locations,” said Yael Bromberg, Esq. of Bromberg Law LLC and Twenty-Sixth Amendment legal scholar. “In Dutchess County, a single county commissioner was so intent on suppressing the youth vote, that he was willing to compromise the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), several provisions of NY Election Law, and basic COVID protocols. Today’s win means that the student, ADA-friendly, and COVID-conscious on-campus polling location can once again provide a safe and accessible option for all Dutchess County voters.”
“We appreciate the quick and decisive action by the New York courts in rejecting Commissioner Haight’s anti-voter litigation strategy and ensuring that all voters in the district will have access to a safe, convenient, secure polling location on November 2,” said Mike Donofrio, Stris & Maher’s Pro Bono Practice Leader.
“On one level, this case was about ensuring the existence of a polling place on the Bard campus, holding the Board of Elections accountable for its arbitrary and capricious decisions, and protecting the voting rights of students, BIPOC, and people with disabilities,” said Bard senior Tomas Forman, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “On another level, the case was about using the power of courts to send the message that discriminatory decisions on the part of administrative agencies that are nonsensical and simply rely on the status quo will no longer be tolerated. We as plaintiffs hope that this case can serve as a model for other institutions and groups fighting for like causes. Following Judge Rosa's determination, the Bard College community, constituting nearly 70% of registered voters in our district, will have a safe, accessible, welcoming, and convenient place to exercise their rights under the 26th Amendment.”
“Ensuring a polling site on campus is not only a huge victory for voting rights of students, but also disabled voters,” said Bard sophomore Sarah Seager, a leader of organizational plaintiff [email protected]. “Allowing voters a safe and accessible space to vote, which is what the Bard campus polling site provides, is expected of all polling sites. As a Bard community we are excited to provide that space for voices to be heard as people practice their civic duty of voting. I, along with the [email protected] team, am excited to see what the future of Dutchess county looks like when the voices of students are heard.”
Voters in District 5 will be able to vote at the Bard College polling site in the Bertelsmann Campus Center, and at the Church of St. John’s on River Road.
This ruling is the latest chapter of a decades-long fight, including legal challenges, for student voting rights by Bard College students, including Andrew Goodman Foundation Student Ambassadors. Additional information on the fight for a polling site at Bard can be read here. News about previous rulings can be read here, here, and here.
Bard College junior Sonita Alizada is one of six activists featured in the 2022 calendar by the coffee company Lavazza, titled “I can change the world.” This year’s calendar highlights activists who have devoted themselves to changing the world through art. Alizada is a rapper and refugee from Afghanistan who uses her platform to oppose child marriage. “I strongly believe that art, photography, music, and entertainment play a vital role in public perception and behavior,” says Alizada in an interview filmed at Bard's Blithewood Garden. Speaking of the other contributors, she observes, “Although we all have different back stories and our work may focus on different issues, everyone involved has focused on using their skills for positive change, and this is amazing.” Since 1993, Lavazza has published an annual calendar with accompanying photo shoots, interviews, and video series spearheaded by a leading photographer. This year it was the Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
By Alejandra Ortiz (Bard College '22)
OSUN held its inaugural Virtual Student Leadership Conference on October 9-10, giving attendees an opportunity to learn about and develop leadership skills, as well as connect with a global network of like-minded colleagues. Over 140 Students spanning the network, from 21 institutions in 68 countries, attended the online event, participating in workshops devoted to helping them learn more about themselves as leaders and as human beings. (See a map representing the global spread of attendees here.)
Speakers at four workshops focused on different aspects of leadership, including self-care, resilience, goal-setting, teamwork, networking, and time management. On the first day, Jonathan Becker (Vice Chancellor of OSUN) asked students about the meaning of leadership and William J. Barber III (Director of Strategic Partnerships, The Climate Reality Project), asked students to reflect on what is their personal philosophy as a leader and the importance of being a student of history. Barber also focused on leadership as it relates to education, action, struggle, and success within the climate justice and racial justice movements. The last speaker of the day was Jovanny Suriel (Dean for Civic Engagement, Bard College), who discussed goal setting and time management.
Speakers during the second day of the conference focused on students’ well-being and the importance of intercultural communication among leaders. Kahan Sablo (Dean of Inclusive Excellence, Bard), Annia Reyes (Director of Health & Wellness, Bard), Erin Cannan (Vice President of the Center for Civic Engagement at Bard), Sonita Alizada (rapper, activist, and Bard student), Zarlasht Sarmast (Global Fellows Program Coordinator, American University of Central Asia [AUCA]), Nurzhamal Karamoldoeva (Executive Director, CCE AUCA), and Zhamal Dzhumashova (Program Coordinator, CCE AUCA) discussed self-care, teamwork, resilience, and intercultural communication. These sessions successfully taught participants how to deal with the pressures of being a leader.
Many of the students in attendance expressed a strong dedication to improving their leadership skills so they might help solve problems affecting their home countries. Many spoke passionately about their current projects and what they needed to learn so they could reach those goals.
Organizing and participating in the conference gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own leadership skills and to check in with myself. I learned new ways to manage my time, my work, and teamwork and I appreciated that the guest speakers we gathered drew people deeper into the issues being discussed.
Seeing students actively attend conference events and participate in the exercises was a powerful reminder that there are many people who want to see positive global change. These students and future leaders hail from countries all over the world that have complex human rights problems that need to be resolved. To successfully address these issues, leaders are needed–individuals who can motivate those who seek positive change to organize, build movements, and become leaders themselves.
Overall, students who attended the conference reported learning new skills such as how to use SMART goals to manage their time and how to work effectively with teams. Many were excited to meet other students from the OSUN Network and looked forward to new opportunities to connect. Serving on the editorial team of the OSUN Global Commons publication is one of many opportunities currently available.
On October 21, Associate Dean of Civic Engagement Brian Mateo spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations for their higher education webinar series on how higher education administrators can encourage student civic engagement and participation in global issues. Mateo posits that we want students to gain a great deal more than academic knowledge from their college or university experience. “I strongly believe that we want them to be critical thinkers,” he states. “We want them to understand and practice equity, be strategic problem solvers, understand the power of reflection and active listening, [be] community builders, practice empathy, be lifelong learners, and also ultimately be engaged individuals.” Brian Mateo is the associate dean of civic engagement at Bard College, the director of strategic partnerships in Bard College’s Globalization and International Affairs Program, program director for civic engagement at the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Scholars, and a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
This fall the Bard Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) celebrated ten years of realizing Bard's vision of acting as a private institution in the public interest. CCE’s long list of accomplishments includes an array of student and institutional initiatives—from the Trustee Leader Scholar (TLS) Program and the Bard Prison Initiative's degree-granting programs to the Open Society University Network (OSUN) and dual-degree partnerships with universities worldwide.
“The reason we created Bard’s Center for Civic Engagement was because we thought that the whole that is Bard’s engagement efforts was greater than the sum of its parts,” says Jonathan Becker, CCE Director, in a short video commemorating the anniversary.
All CCE projects are animated by robust and sustainable partnerships that actively address local, national, and global problems, reach underserved populations, and tackle critical issues of education and public policy.
Paul Marienthal, Director of the TLS Program, explains in the video that students design civic engagement projects based on their own compelling interests. Some of the local projects students mounted, including Brothers at Bard, Red Hook Responds, and [email protected], are highlighted in the video.
“I still can’t believe how much we were able to accomplish,” says Ameer Shalabi, TLS Student Leader of the Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative, which helped to renovate schools, plant olive trees, and build a library in Palestine.
Becker also explains how CCE’s upcoming decade will focus on supporting OSUN, continuing to provide access to rigorous education for those who need it most, and developing meaningful partnerships with local communities.
Watch the anniversary video here.
Jalil Sadat escaped Kabul during the Taliban takeover and has settled safely at Bard College after a long and arduous trip from Afghanistan. “A month ago I had never imagined living somewhere else besides Kabul,” he told a reporter from NBC News. His life changed in a matter of hours as he watched Kabul fall, and his family scrambled to find help. His brother had worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan for years, and Jalil was a student at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). He and his family knew these connections to the U.S. put them in danger. Jalil managed to escape by convincing a U.S. Marine at the chaotic Kabul airport that his life was at risk, but he had to leave his family behind.
Jalil boarded a plane for the first time in his life and left the country. Sleeping on the ground in refugee camps, he made the trek from Afghanistan to Qatar, then Germany, and finally to the United States. When he arrived in Washington, D.C. he reached out to a Bard professor with whom he'd taken online classes as an AUAF student, and asked for help. “Seeing how people are willing to help—it's amazing,” Jalil says. He thinks about his family back in Kabul every moment of the day, and stays in close touch with them. “There is all that feeling of guilt at times ... because of the fact that I'm safe, I'm here, and my family is not.”
In August, Bard pledged to help Afghan students find safe havens to continue their studies at Bard. The College has committed to take in as many as 100 students at its campuses in Annandale, Berlin, and Simon’s Rock. The Open Society University Network (OSUN) has helped nearly 200 Afghan students depart Afghanistan and reach OSUN campuses, most of whom are attending the American University of Central Asia, Bard’s longtime dual-degree partner. More students are expected to arrive at Bard and on other OSUN campuses in the coming weeks.
Last week Bard signed an agreement with the American University of Afghanistan, an OSUN partner, to develop dual-degree programs for Afghan students in collaboration with OSUN, facilitate student and faculty exchanges, and further support AUAF students who continue to arrive in the US. “The AUAF community is proud to undertake this powerful affiliation with Bard College, and we are grateful to Bard and OSUN for stepping forward with immediate, meaningful aid to the young women and men of Afghanistan who deserve to pursue their studies without fear,” said AUAF President Ian Bickford.
Bard is offering full-tuition scholarships to up to 100 Afghan students. Learn more about the program for refugee students and scholars here.
Human Rights and Global Public Health major Verónica Martínez-Cruz has been honored for her work to bridge language barriers and ensure full and equal participation of Hispanic residents in all aspects of civic, economic, and cultural life in the Hudson Valley. State Senator Michelle Hinchey (D-Saugerties) presented Martínez-Cruz with a New York State Senate Commendation Award.
“Verónica Martínez-Cruz is doing incredible work to build language justice in the Hudson Valley and create inclusive multilingual spaces that empower our Hispanic community to participate equally in our society,” Hinchey said. “Language is power, and it can determine whether a person has access to resources, information, and decision-making processes that affect their daily lives. Verónica possesses a deep understanding of these challenges, and despite being a full-time Bard College student and working other part-time jobs, she remains a committed advocate of our Spanish-speaking neighbors. For all of Verónica’s efforts to build a stronger and more connected community, it was my honor to present her with a Senate Commendation Award.”
Martínez-Cruz has served as a Council Member for both the Kingston Food Co-op and the Kingston Land Trust, as well as serving as a freelance interpreter and translator for area organizations, including the Hudson Valley Young Farmers Coalition, Kingston Midtown Arts District, Kingston YMCA Farm Project, and Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties.
“As a faithful believer in Language Justice, it has always been of the utmost importance to me that language resources exist so that Spanish speakers and other immigrants living in and around Kingston can have access to understand and be a part of the changes that are happening every day in our community,” Martinez-Cruz said. “Although I did not expect this recognition, as I am only a small piece of the giant puzzle that is mutual aid, I thank Senator Hinchey for this great honor. Immigrants are part of our community and if we work together we can ensure not only a better future for us but also for future generations.”
Senator Hinchey gathered community members at the Pollinator Garden across from John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Kingston to honor Verónica with the Commendation Award in the presence of organizational collaborators including Executive Director of Kingston Land Trust Julia Farr, Kingston Food Co-op Council Chair Joe Greenberg, Kingston YMCA Farm Project Director and Farmer KayCee Wimbish, Kingston YMCA Farm Project Education Director, Susan Hereth, and members of the YMCA Youth Crew.
I received an exciting e-mail on September 23 announcing that [email protected] had just won another lawsuit allowing for a polling site in the campus center; this time it wasn't just an emergency ruling. The Dutchess County Board of Elections has a long history of attempting to suppress student voting rights and we all wonder if they will continue to try to keep students from exercising their right to vote. They may, but not for now. If they do, the Board of Elections will continue to use taxpayer money to support an appeal and drag out the issue. For now, we are experiencing a moment where Bard’s efforts to support students is paying off for everyone.
My involvement in the issue began this summer. I have been an active member of [email protected] since I arrived on campus in 2019. Since that time I have learned a great deal about the efforts of Bard students, faculty, and staff to get a polling place on campus, as well as the long history of efforts by other parties to suppress student voting rights.
I was one of the many students that had voted at St. John’s Episcopal Church in 2019 and at the Bertelsmann Campus Center in the 2020 election. In July of this year, I was asked by [email protected] leaders if I wanted to be part of this ongoing fight and I became a plaintiff in the lawsuit. As a plaintiff, my role was to represent Bard's student body, many of whom had voted at St. John’s in previous years and in the Bertelsmann Campus Center in 2020. I was thrilled and excited to become involved in this issue and was more than willing to fight for the rights of all students. This means more than just being able to vote. It means that Bard students and local residents will have access to a safe and accommodating polling site and that there is real value in standing up for what’s right.
The opportunity to fight for students' voting rights is exciting, emotional, and a great opportunity to learn how to advocate not just for students but also for those with whom we share our public spaces–our community.
Bard College and the University of Waterloo teamed up to win a Swift Grant award from Lever for Change. With this support, the two universities will expand their online Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice in March to engage students and faculty members from all disciplines in countries in Africa. The collaborative project aims to reach more than a million students from all over the globe to learn about climate change, climate solutions, and climate justice.
The Worldwide Teach-In is a project of the Graduate Programs in Sustainability at Bard College in conjunction with partners worldwide and the Open Society University Network’s Solve Climate by 2030 Project. For the past three years, OSUN’s Solve Climate by 2030 has been supporting globally coordinated education about the climate crisis. The project has engaged hundreds of colleges, universities and high schools– from Malaysia to Minnesota, and from Austria to Alabama– in discussions of climate solutions, across the curriculum. Targeting participation by a million students across the planet, the Worldwide Teach-in on Climate and Justice event on March 30, 2022 is perhaps the most ambitious component of the project yet, advancing a three-hour teach-in model that maximizes student involvement through faculty leadership.
“As educators, there is nothing more important than engaging students across our campuses in this extraordinary moment in which we are living,” says Eban Goodstein, director of Bard Center for Environmental Policy and director/faculty of Bard's Graduate Programs in Sustainability.
Lever for Change is a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation affiliate, whose mission is to unlock significant philanthropic capital and accelerate social change around the world’s most pressing challenges. In May 2021, Lever for Change introduced the Swift Grants fund, aimed to provide small grants to Bold Solutions Network members for collaborative projects. This fund provided an outlet for the world’s top problem solvers to leverage expertise and join forces to find creative solutions in their fields.
Lever for Change received proposals for innovative, collaborative projects addressing climate, health, and refugee support. In total, they selected five projects. Over the next year, each team will use their $25,000 Swift Grants to implement their respective projects.
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