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Category Archives: Current students
Pizza and Politics. Is the U.S. political system an egalitarian democracy or is it dominated be powerful elites?
By Kevin Schaffner
A requirement for all political science majors is to complete an internship before graduation. Knowing that one must reach out beyond school grounds to finish an education can be a daunting task but it is actually much easier than you may think.
Political Science internship opportunities are plentiful especially in the state capitol. I recently found myself in one such position. At the office of Senator Murphy in Hartford, I have been given the opportunity to serve the constituents of Connecticut while at the same time experiencing politics first hand and completing a graduate requirement. Along with participating in normal day to day office functions I have had the opportunity to attend a number of events of where I’ve had the honor of meeting a several notable figures including Congressman Larson, Mayor of Hartford Perdo Sagarra, and State Congresswoman Hilda Santiago, just to name few. Besides the opportunity to create valuable connections, this internship has provided the unique chance to help serve constituents. This comes in the form of casework. Casework ranges from constituents having difficulty with receiving electricity to helping people find affordable state housing. It is rewarding and humbling to be able to help a person who may not have any other options.
Now being half way complete with my internship I have realized the importance such a requirement as it allows a near graduate to form the foundation of a career in public service. If you doubt the importance of an internship I beg you to rethink your stance and apply, apply, apply. Even if you decide not to apply to the Office of Senator Murphy, there are dozens of offices in Hartford that provide a solid ground for those who look to enter politics.
By Adjana Bouzi
For the past few years we have, nationally, seen many people killed at the hands of the police due to excessive use of force. On the recent shooting in Ferguson, the question of what should be done has been highly discussed. Certainly, there are different viewpoints on whether the amount of force used by police is excessive or required, but an understanding of each others viewpoint may be the beginning of finding a solution. I have always wanted to help illuminate the facts behind the issue and my senior seminar provided me an opportunity to work with a fellow classmate and set up this event. I believe that this panel has shed light on some of the unfortunate circumstances that has taken place over the years and educated people on what their rights are. The viewpoints of both police enforcement and ordinary people was presented by police officers and those who had an encounter with the police. I really hope that this event will be the beginning of eradicating the trend of police brutality.
By Sabreena Croteau
During my semester abroad last spring in Paris, I witnessed many protests and demonstrations, from all kinds of different groups. On any given day, I could be walking on into a number of famous or central locations and feed myself in the midst of a demonstration, the street closed to cars and so many police officers decked out in rally gear, prepared for it to take a turn for the worst. Unlike the United States, where protests and demonstrations are not too common and it takes a lot to bring one on, protests are part of daily life for the French, especially Parisians. One could even argue that where Americans don’t protest enough, the French protest too much, turning this political tool into a boy-who-cried-wolf sort of situation.
One particular protest, though very small, stands out in my mind as particularly interesting. I was walking into the St. Michel area, about a block from my apartment for lunch – a crepe naturally – and I came across this small protest unexpectedly. As seen in the photo, this is a group of people protesting the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia. There were various people going into the center of the semi-circle of protesters to make speeches. They were all trying to call the French government to act against Russia. The main fear seemed to be that Putin (Poutine their signs said) had his eyes on more than just the Ukraine. One poster went as far as to suggest a World War III. In general, they were saying that Putin had to be reprimanded because his willingness to invade the Ukraine posed a national security threat to France. What was also interesting was the location of this protest. This occurred right across the street from Notre Dame de Paris, in the center square of a section of pedestrian roads lines with bars, cafes, restaurants, and shops… so a very touristic area that, other then this, I never saw another protest take place here. They were clearly trying to catch the attention of more than just French people, some signs were in English.
Like I said, it was a very small protest, much smaller than a lot of the others I’d seen. There weren’t even any police there. But the content and location were the interesting part. I wondered if this group was a minority, or if a lot of French citizens felt this way about Russian expansionism… Or maybe how much of Europe on the whole might feel or have felt this way.
By David Coffey
I always think it’s nice when politicians actually make an effort to be in contact with the public. That’s why I was very excited when Lindsay Hoyle, a British politician belonging to Labour Party, came to visit UCLan last Friday. Hoyle represents Chorley, a Parliament constituency in southern Lancashire-which is not far from Preston (the city in which UCLan is located).
The event unfolded with Hoyle giving a speech about the work he does for his constituency. He touched upon a variety of subjects, varying from bank bailouts, to starting his political career, to his love of Lancashire. After his speech there was a chance to ask questions, and I had the pleasure of asking both the first and last questions of the session. My first question I asked addressed the rise of extreme politicians/parties and how people can and/or should handle them.
Britain has been confronted recently with the UK Independence Party-better known as “UKIP.” One of the main focuses of this right-wing party is their anti-immigration stance. The United Kingdom, like the United States, is a country full of immigrants (all the delicious Middle Eastern food I’ve seen and eaten here in Preston is evidence of that). Based on this, it doesn’t take much to imagine the controversy of a political movement dedicated to denouncing immigration.
Hoyle summed up his strategy on how to combat extreme politics in one word, “vote.” He described it as the people’s best weapon to preserving their interests, to make sure the right people get into power. It doesn’t stop there though, he mentioned actually getting up and mobilizing oneself and others. Sitting around and complaining won’t do much… So perhaps I should rethink posting a link from a Facebook Page and actually get up and act next time…
The last question I asked Hoyle was about the financial crisis. He mentioned earlier in his speech how much he detested bankers. Yet, despite that, he still said that bailing them out most logical thing to do. I assumed that he was hoping that his country wouldn’t have to bail out any more banks. So, I asked him how he might try to avoid another financial crash.
We entertained the idea of nationalizing banks so that they wouldn’t be so influenced by market forces. Ideally, the nationalized banks would offer a competitive alternative to private banks. I wanted to speak more about this idea with Hoyle but unfortunately time was growing short and he needed to leave.
Before leaving though, I did meet with this member of Parliament one-on-one for a photo. We also ended up speaking of the possibility of having me meet with him again at his London office. Hopefully this was not the last I see of Lindsay Hoyle, maybe I’ll get another chance to talk to him about bankers
By Kevin Schaffner, ECSU Polisci Senior
On October 16th at The University of Saint Joseph’s Crystal Room I had the honor of attending a discussion between Robert J. Shiller, Ph.D., winner of the 2013 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, and Ambassador of Lithuania Žygimantas Pavilionis, Ph.D. The goal of the event, titled The New Europe, was to discuss the political and economic challenges facing Europe in the wake or Russian advances in the Ukraine.
Expecting a promising night of economic discussion and consequence of Russia’s aggression, the night quickly became a public relations campaign for Lithuania and a night of hearing Dr. Shiller’s uncertain opinions on what Russia ought to do. Deviating from the topic at the beginning of the event, both esteemed candidates traded comments on how great Lithuania is and how bad Putin is. It can be generally agreed on that Putin is not the greatest leader but the already distracted discussion took a turn off the highway when Dr. Shiller and Ambassador Pavilionis started comparing Putin to Adolf Hitler.
The Audience being mostly composed of distinguished members of the West Hartford community did not take lightly to these comments. Being part of an email thread that was meant to discuss the event, the overwhelming topic was about the insensitive comments. One email by James Sodder stated that “(the comment), Putin is worse than Hitler, explicitly devalues the Holocaust”. Another attendee, Havital Miltz commented, “I found the remark about Putin being worse than Hitler inappropriate”, she continued, “West Hartford has a large Jewish population, some of which are Holocaust survivors or descendants”. Though there may be arguable comparisons between the rise of fascist Europe and the consolidation of power by Putin as described in Robert Shiller’s article titled Parallels to 1937 online on Project Syndicate, the presentation of this theory was poorly done.
Much could have been done to present this comparison in a more professional manner, but instead the audience expecting to hear insight on the economic consequences of Putin’s aggression, found themselves hearing unsupported and rather insulting comments for the sake of promoting Lithuania’s anti-Putin agenda.
Does Voting Matter?
A discussion with Professors Chris Vasillopulos and Bill Salka
Moderator: Quanece Williams
Yes your vote matters! Lauren Grenier, Dale Thompson, Cam Wilcox
No it doesn’t… Sarah Howard, Lindsay Spitz, Pam Leizon
ECSU Communication Professor Cesar Beltran brings students to Poland and Hungary to learn on the Holocaust
As part of a Global Field course, Communication Professor Cesar Beltran, who also collaborates regularly to the activities of the Department of Political Science, took several students to Poland and Hungary last May. “History, the Media and the Holocaust” served as the overriding theme for an intense two-week Global Field Course (GFC) to Poland and Hungary, May 15-30, 2014. Given the political and military crises unfolding in neighboring Ukraine at the time, the sub-theme “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe” also served as a focus for fact-filled meetings and discussions for the eight students participating in the GFC. Six of those students were from our own Eastern Connecticut State University (the trip organizer), one was from the University of Connecticut, and one from Yale University. Professor Beltran led the GFC, assisted by a Program Coordinator provided by the academic travel contractor CISabroad.
In Poland the trip participants were able to tour scenes of the Warsaw Ghetto and Old Town, both of which were completely destroyed in inner city fighting during World War II, as well as the historic Polish Royal Capital of Krakow, which successfully avoided serious wartime damage. Krakow also served as a base for excursions to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and ancient Jagiellonian University. In both Polish cities and in Hungary’s capital of Budapest the GFC travelers met with noted European academics, European student peers, U.S. Embassy officials, and recognized experts on the Holocaust and Judaic Studies.
In a 12-page trip report one student summed up her GFC experience this way:
“Although I came on this trip to learn about the Holocaust, history, media and the Nazi aftermath, I learned much more. I was finally able to experience cultures other than my own, and I was able to use my information and knowledge bank collected over the years (the most recent from Eastern) to good use on the trip.”
By David Coffey
As many of you probably know, Scotland just had a referendum on September 18th. This referendum was to decide whether they would stay with the United Kingdom or become an independent country. The people of Scotland could either vote, “yes” in favor of being independent, or “no” to stay a part of the United Kingdom. What many of you may not have known though, was that I was actually in Scotland while the voting occurred. My experience in Scotland is one that I will not soon forget.
I arrived in Waverly station around 12 O’clock in Edinburgh and proceeded to explore the city. I was taken back by the sheer beauty of city and surrounding green fields draped in fog. What took me back even more were all the people expressing their feelings about the referendum.
It seems like on nearly every street corner there were people handing out “Yes” flyers. In addition to that, “yes” graffiti was spattered upon statues from one end of the city to the next. Scarcely a person I spoke to did not have a “yes” button on their shirt or jacket. Judging by Edinburgh alone, I was convinced that Scotland would soon become its own country-separate from the rest of great Britain.
When I actually spoke to people though, I heard many different perspectives on the matter. I asked a woman on the train about the vote, she said she was supporting a “No” vote. She explained that Scotland becoming independent would unload a mess of problems upon both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Surely, she was right that there would have bean a lot to sort out if Scotland had become independent. However, since the referendum went “no,” it’s impossible to know whether it would have been worth it or not.
Yet, it wasn’t only Scotland that was getting attention out in Edinburgh that day. Many people from Catalonia had come up from Spain to show their solidarity for the independence movement. For context, Catalonia, the region of Spain containing Barcelona, is also working for independence from the rest of Spain. In West Parliament Square, a square where many yes voters had congregated, I saw a collection of colored candles arranged as the Scottish and Catalonian flags.
After checking into a hostel, I decided to go out and experience the city’s night life. What started off as bar-hopping with a fellow American soon turned into drinking and conversing with a group of Pro-yes Scotsmen. I ended spending the rest of my night with these gentlemen, learning of their cause and what pushed them to break a centuries-old union.
The more I heard from these pro-yes Scots, the more I grew empathetic to their cause. They spoke of growing tired of things like feeling unrepresented in London. They also explained their opposition to foreign wars that Westminster had them get involved with. These concerns echoed my own issues with politics in the United States. Though I arrived with a mostly neutral mindset, by the end of the night, I was chanting “yes!” too.
The next morning, upon hearing about the “No” vote, I didn’t have optimistic thoughts about what I’d see in the streets. I thought I’d see people rioting, looting, and swearing out Westminster along with the rest of the United Kingdom. To my pleasant surprise though, it was just another regular day in Edinburgh.
The more I thought about it though, it made sense. Everyone the night before was also very civil and under control-I even had a nice conversation with some friendly police officers that were there. No one was cursing out the rest of the United Kingdom-or even the “No” campaign for that matter. Why though, was everyone so civil? I think I might know the reason…
This wasn’t something voted upon by out-of-touch politicians in London-it was a popular vote by the average people of Scotland. What I observed in Edinburgh was a strong camaraderie amongst the Scottish people –one which they would not throw away over a political disagreement. This is what the majority of the Scottish people wanted, and everyone seemed to respect that.
For better or worse, the people have spoken-and they have said they want to stay with the United Kingdom. This was a victory, a victory for democracy, I hope it ends up being a victory for Scotland too.