The “Krassas Challenge” to support efforts to raise awareness about poverty in the U.S.

Pic Nicole and Martin

Professors Krassas and Mendoza-Botelho at Eastern’s annual poverty awareness marathon.

At the end of the 2015 Fall semester, several faculty, staff and students rose to the “Krassas Challenge” to run some laps as part of Eastern’s annual poverty awareness marathon. Professor Charlie Chatterton runs the marathon in 1.2 mile laps around campus and those of us lesser athletes run as much as we can. Starting at 7 a.m., I was joined by senior Sabreena Croteau and sophomore Alexander Eitland. A little bit later in the morning, sophomore Emily Becher joined the group. Only Sabreena lapped me and she was gracious enough not to mock me, however several dedicated long distance runners lapped me multiple times!   By 8:15, as I was leaving the run to get ready for class at 9, Professor Mendoza-Botelho arrived to “pick up the torch” for the political science program. It was a beautiful morning for a run! Also, senior Sarah Howard, who was unable to run, dropped off a donation of canned goods to support the cause as did department secretary Brenda Schiavetti who brought an awesome 40 cans to go to the food pantry! If I have missed anyone who participated today, my apologies. Thanks to everyone who did participate and please remember the point of today’s event. As we move through our lives, we should stop to remember that approximately 15% of the U.S. population, over 46 million people, lives below the poverty line. Poverty affects children in the U.S. the most. 21% of children in the United States live below the poverty line. Have you thought about the impact that poverty has on people from inadequate housing, food insecurity, inadequate health care and inadequate transportation (just to name a few)? Aside from moral consideration, as political scientists poverty is an important subject to consider as poverty relief drives a fair amount of government policy and political rhetoric in this country and around the world.

Wings over politics – The Republican Presidential Candidates and the Syrian Crisis

By Meaghan McFall Gorman

The Republican Presidential Candidates and the Syrian Crisis: A Millennial Perspective

All too often the millennial generation is not considered or taken for granted. This is understandable, seeing as that a vast majority of us, despite being avid re-tweeters of social issues or political trends, do not actually vote. However, this doesn’t mean that we lack opinions, thoughts, or ideas when it comes to the future of our nation and those directly tied to us. Quite the opposite, we seem to have an abundance of opinions which span many spectrums and ideologies.

As the current President of Eastern’s Conservative Libertarian Club, I see this political involvement every time our club hosts one of our “Wings over Politics” events. We pick topics ahead of time which are not only recent political events, but are significant in the sense that they go beyond their immediate results, and have long term effects that cannot quite yet be accurately hypothesized. The purpose of these events is to discuss them so that fellow students can not only better understand them, but gain confidence in their own ability to understand and spread awareness.

During the most recent ‘Wings over Politics’ event the topics included the Republican Presidential candidates, the Syrian Crisis, and inevitably the Paris Attacks which occurred on November 14th. While the mood was somber, it did not stop the group of nearly two dozen students, of mixed ideologies, years, and disciplines, from voicing their opinions and thoughts not only on the topics themselves, but on how they interplayed.

Everything in this world is connected, as our generation certainly knows through use of social media, and what older generations fail to recognize is how this ability to connect transcends electronic devices, and manifests itself in our capacity to relate subjects and interpret their effects on one another.

A Parisian article was reviewed at the beginning of our event, to provoke thought in the group, and it presented the interesting concept that the Paris Attacks could be a deciding factor in the US Presidential elections. The group as a whole made keen observations on how the ability of a Presidential candidate, regardless of political orientation, to appear strong and resolute, and able to defend the nation, would make an impression on voters. The Paris Attacks are therefore not to be underestimated in their ability to promote fear of not only of further attacks, but of the unknown in general.

That is where the Syrian Crisis comes into play. The number of refugees fleeing Syria is astronomical, and the number of nations agreeing to take them in after the attacks is minimal. Why? Because people are afraid of the unknown, they fear that which they cannot decisively combat. The genuine likelihood of an Islamic terrorist disguising themselves as a refugee, attempting to enter the US, getting past border security, establishing themselves, and then committing an act of terrorism, are extremely unlikely. However, as the general rule unfortunately goes, it only takes one to ruin it for the many.

Understandably, there were mixed feelings and opinions about border control, and while these differing opinions were not wrong, they demonstrated the varied levels of reactionary impulse in people, which is in itself a representation of the mixed reactions that the United States and Western world as a whole will experience.

There were some students unfamiliar with the origins of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, and to supplement explanations given by attending students, an explanatory video was played, which included the Assad regime, Hezbollah, the Kurdish ethnic resistance, the Syrian revolutionary group, and the subsequent rise of the ISIS militant Islam group. Also included were the relative involvements of not only the Obama administration, but also the Arab emirate states and Russia under the direction of Putin.

Students in the group were somewhat amazed by the complexity of the issue, but rather than feel overwhelmed by the conflicts’ intricacies, students were able to appreciate the multifaceted nature of the issue. The Syrian Refugee Crisis is not going to end any time soon, the numbers of refugees seeking asylum in Europe and the United States is only increasing as the months continue, despite many countries reducing their acceptance rates or naval presence in areas where refugees are drowning en route to a better life.

This sparked much debate in the group, because the issue was seen along lines of morality; to let people suffer and die as they attempt to find a better life, or close borders and tighten security measures in order to protect our own people? These questions are now quite prominent in the Presidential campaigns on both sides of the aisle, and now the issue has sufficiently been divided by party lines. However, it was posed by students that this issue is not one of red and blue, nor right and wrong, but rather an issue of not being able to fix the root of a problem: Syria. That is not to say that the country of Syria is the problem, but rather that the inherent conflict in Syria, fomented by the Assad regime and the struggling revolutionary forces (resultant of the Arab Spring movement), is what is causing this mass exodus and all problems thereafter.

Is there a simple answer? Of course not, but it is not up to us to find the right answer, for that is an abstract and unrealistically idealist outcome for this base and depressing situation. To be human is to err, but to be human is also to do what is within ones’ own power to make a conscious effort and difference in whatever way you can. Whether that is believing in a single Presidential candidate and voting for the policies they represent, or holding true that inalienable human rights should overrule any fear of an unknown, a responsible citizenry needs to take a personal stand. As the newest generation to enter the political arena, myself and fellow millennials are not afraid to voice our opinions. While many of us seem altruistic to a fault, we understand the seriousness of recent world events and are prepared to consider their long term effects since we are the generation that will have to face those repercussions, for better or for worse.

 

Reflections on Cuba

By Quanece Williams

Cuba is a country that is stigmatized with being a communist country, in which the rights of citizens are suppressed. However, apart from that, it is a country that is often overlooked when learning about world history. Thus, the presentation of Cuban Educator Ariel Dacal Díaz was extremely informative. Diaz not only discussed the advantages and the shortcomings of the country as a whole, he also analyzed the bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States.

Cuban Educator Ariel Ducal Diaz speaks to the audience with help from his translator.

Díaz’s history of the country was vital and ranged from topics including the social system, the economic system, sports, political participation, democratization, and bilateral Cuba-U.S. relations. Cuba’s social system is particularly interesting because although the country is primarily poor, education and health care are free and universal. Furthermore, both are offered to every citizen from birth to death. Diaz declared this one of the country’s greatest attributes because according to him, “in many countries health care, housing, and education are commercializing but it should be a human right”.

The complex economic system was then analyzed and a timeline was provided to explain the current system that is implemented today. He shared that in 1959, Cuba had 80% of its market dominated by the U.S. and then in 1989, 85% of Cuba’s market was connected to the economy of the Soviet Union, which would eventually dissolve, leaving the country economically crippled. This significantly shaped their economic system, as illustrated in the policy that is currently implemented in regard to foreign investment, which establishes the limits (30%) of foreign capital investment.

An entertaining part of his presentation was when Diaz went into depth on the role of sports in their society. He stated that the country decided that sports are not a commodity, although the country is small and poor. He was also excited to share that the country placed 5th in the Olympics in 1992. The countries economy is intrinsically linked to the sports world because equipment was often not provided so athletes used their teammates as weights. Additionally, the poor economy is also the motivation for sports players to leave the country in search for a contract that will provide the most benefits, which further exacerbates the economic status of the country.

Political participation, one of the tenets of democracy, was another salient issue Diaz examined. He stated that the MLK Center seeks to educate the polity and outlined the requirements for participation as followed: (1) that persons want to participate (2) that people can participate (3) that people know how to participate. In addition, he shared that the Cuban culture is now dependent upon the government because of communism. Diaz also shared his notion of democracy and stated that it needs to be grassroots and comprehensible. Other tenets for democracy outlined by Diaz are the acknowledgment of another person’s rights and that democracy will not occur with just one person. Additionally, he shared that democracy must alter the perception of liberty and quoted “I am free if you are free”, highlighting that one individuals liberty is conditioned on another’s liberty (a valuable lesson for the U.S. to learn especially with the views on minorities).

The last issue important issue that was discussed was the U.S., as Cuba’s largest neighbor, exerting dominance in their country. He introduced the analogy of the levee that was intended to provide support in New Orleans with Katrina, and questioned how strong the country was to withstand the flood of the United States.

Overall, the presentation was useful because it provided me with information about the country that I was unfamiliar with. I was unaware that an embassy was opened in D.C., as well as Havana and still believed that the relationship between both countries was tenuous. However, after attending the presentation I realize as Diaz stated, “Cuba is not a paradise but Cuba is not hell”.

 

ECSU Professors Martin Mendoza-Botelho and Ricardo Perez (Sociology) pose with the Cuban guest Ariel Ducal Diaz (middle) and his translator.

 

PSP&G students present their work at the CREATE conference

The CREATE Conference – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern, will run this Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, April 17-18. Among the 170 students presenting their work are our own political science, philosophy and geography (PSP&G) students: Matthew Hicks, Je’Quana Orr, Harrison McNair and Alexander Zacharie. Come and support them if you can!

 

Additional information and the program can be found at: http://www1.easternct.edu/create/ or click here for the CREATE Program

“Dig Into Democracy” debate, Wednesday April 8

Come to the “Dig Into Democracy” debate Wednesday, April 8, in Room 223 in the Student Center at 7 p.m. This debate will explore the issue of corruption in American government and ways we can fix it. Free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream will be provided. The event is sponsored by Represent ECSU (representecsu@gmail.com; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/activateeasternct).