Clarion, Breakfast of Champions
The December issue of Clarion was so interesting that at the breakfast table I interrupted my wife’s reading at least three times in order to read to her passages from various articles. I especially enjoyed the articles that link our issues to broader political and economic concerns.
For example, “Always ‘On Call’ in Retail” describes the difficulties our students face when working part-time jobs with variable hours, making it impossible for them to attend classes predictably; the piece is also an informative description of an economy that ignores the needs of millions, who require regularity in their work lives.
“Where Our Money Goes” demonstrates to a readership in need of a new contract how the increased affordability of many consumer goods doesn’t do the majority of wage-earners much good when wages are declining and vital necessities such as health care, housing and education grow increasingly difficult to afford. And “Defend the Safety Net” explains how politicians’ “defense” of Social Security is often an attempt to weaken or privatize this most vital program.
It was also quite useful to learn that Benno Schmidt, chair of CUNY’s Board of Trustees, has argued in favor of weakening the rights of faculty, in his endorsement of a report by a conservative group founded by Lynne Cheney.
My wife hopes your future issues will be less compelling so she can read her novel in peace while enjoying her breakfast.
Coming together for equality
September’s massive climate march and the wave of protests against police killings of unarmed African American males represent the national marriage of the Occupy Wall Street movement with African American and Latino youth, a potent social synthesis directed against state terrorism and ecoterrorism. On December 4, they came together demanding justice for Eric Garner.
As I stood atop the steps of the infamous Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street, now the headquarters of the New York City Board of Education, and watched the thousands of protesters stream by, I marveled at the ethnic and gender diversity of the marchers, so young and fierce, determined not to let slip by the chance to finally halt the long and sordid legacy of killings that have sullied the character of American society and made it a poor example to morally tout before the rest of the world.
“Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and “Shut the system down” were the battle cries. This time the demands took on new meaning as “business as usual” was temporarily forced to a halt on bridges, highways and public squares. That it is a movement that is national in scope, and one that witnessed large international echoes on the streets of London and elsewhere, are most hopeful signs that fundamental change can happen if “we the people” remain united in our cause to achieve genuine economic, social and environmental equality.
NAACP deserves our support
In recent weeks, the legal murder of Michael Brown and so many other African American young men by police officers has given rise to national outrage. This upsurge of deeply felt emotions brought countless thousands into the streets to protest what, to many, is a contemporary manifestation of that purportedly extinct scourge, lynching. What can we do the day after we march, to have lasting impact? There are many answers. Here, I want to propose that you join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an action I have taken after letting my membership lapse some 50 years ago.
The NAACP is a truly national organization whose half-million members are organized into 2,200 chapters in 49 states and the District of Columbia. One of its central concerns has been the demand for equal treatment of black people by the criminal-justice system. In our courts, legislative bodies and the arenas that mold public opinion, the NAACP is there. Not just in the nation’s media centers but in the Deep South and small towns and cities across the US. In Ferguson, Staten Island, and Cleveland, sites of three of the most hideous recent murders, the NAACP has played an important role.
The NAACP’s program parallels that of the American labor movement, and it supports a range of progressive goals – for example, upholding the equal rights of gays and lesbians to marry. It works to broaden the voting rolls and has fought against efforts to suppress voting by minorities, young people and the poor.
For all these many reasons, I urge you to become a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Hostos Community College (emeritus)
A life is saved
In this bleak season, I would like to salute two NYPD officers from the 108th Precinct in Queens, Officers William Caldarera and Corey Sarro, who, on December 16, saved the life of my longtime friend and colleague, LaGuardia Community College art professor Bruce Brooks.
On his very last day of a 40-year career, Bruce was heading to the C-Building in Long Island City, laden with gifts for people in his department, to turn in his final grades, when he collapsed on the sidewalk. Driving by, the officers spotted the crowd gathered around him and rushed over.
Officer Caldarera determined there was no heartbeat and that Bruce was not breathing. Officer Sarro began chest compressions and LaGuardia Public Safety staff alertly brought out a defibrillator from the building. After two jolts of electricity, Bruce’s pulse came back, and he began breathing. EMS personnel transported him to Elmhurst General. Later he was transferred to Cornell Medical for a triple bypass. He is now home and recovering.
James Grantham, LaGuardia’s Director of Public Safety, informed me that the LaGuardia officers who assisted are CSA (Campus Security Assistant) Mohammed Kumal, Sgt. Richard Larreategui, Public Safety Officer George Rodriguez, CSA Devon Tomlin, CSA Frank Antwi and CSA Elijah Evelyn. They were in the process of bringing out the AED (automated external defibrillators) when they saw the NYPD officers had arrived and had started CPR. The AEDs are in all campus buildings and the Public Safety staff are all trained in their use.
Well done, Officers Caldarera and Sarro, and LaGuardia Public Safety. And thank you.
LaGuardia Community College
Work and Study
Much thanks for Shomial Ahmad’s article (Clarion, December 2014) about the retail industry’s “shift toward on-call scheduling, where workers may only find out a couple of hours before their potential shift whether or not they’re going to work.” (And thanks to Stephanie Luce of the Murphy Center for the research that Ahmad reported on.)
One unit of my course on the Economics of Labor (at John Jay College) focuses on the current rapid increase in “contingent” employment.
This article makes a great connection between that broader issue and students’ real-life dilemma of balancing work and school; I plan to use it in that upcoming class.
John Jay College
A Caring Community
I encourage and urge all of us at CUNY to work with our student governing boards and partner with local animal shelters, rescue groups, the ASPCA, the Humane Society, “pet therapy” volunteers and the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals in bringing homeless and adoptable puppies and dogs to our campuses. We shall be doing a mitzvah (a good deed in Hebrew) by possibly becoming an ally in facilitating an adoption and thereby providing a home to one of these “children of a lesser god.”
On the legislative front, bills now before the New York City Council, NYC Intros 55-A, 136-A and 146-A, would restrict “puppy mills” and more closely regulate pet stores to ensure more humane conditions and reduce pet homelessness. Furthermore, New York City is on the cusp of becoming a “no-kill” city by 2015.
It behooves us to be a caring community, choosing to do business with our nonprofits over those who profit from the wholesale breeding, suffering and exploitation of these rightless puppies and dogs.
CUNY Admissions Deserve Close Scrutiny
In discussion on the recent Atlantic article on race and CUNY admissions, let’s keep the big picture in mind.
LynNell Hancock and Meredith Kolodner are two of New York's best reporters, journalists of great integrity and enormous knowledge, especially on education. They took on a very big important story, one no other journalists had strangely bothered to try and tell: the long term impact of Giuliani-era changes at CUNY on low-income and college-needy minorities. That this aroused outrage in some quarters is no surprise. Neither is the possibility of mistakes or important information that remained shrouded. Reporters know these are the hazards of the business we've chosen. But they take nothing away from the importance of Hancock and Kolodner’s tough scrutiny of what is one of New York's greatest institutions.
CUNY School of Journalism