Yearly Archives: 2020

MFA student William Conlon, in 1960 and 2016
MFA student William Conlon, in 1960 and 2016

Back when Bill Conlon was an undergraduate at Southern in the early 1960s, he happened to know Walter Tevis, who was teaching creative writing at Southern at the time and later went on to write the novel The Queen’s Gambit, upon which the wildly popular Netflix miniseries is based. Based on Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, The Queen’s Gambit is a coming-of-age drama created for Netflix in 2020. Tevis also wrote The Hustler, which was made into a movie starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason; The Color of Money, which was made into a film starring Newman and Tom Cruise; and The Man Who Fell to Earth, which also was made into a film, starring David Bowie.

But when Conlon knew Tevis, he was a writing teacher and “a superb storyteller.” Conlon is himself a storyteller, and is now a graduate student in the English Department‘s MFA in creative writing program. Here Conlon shares his own story about his early years at Southern and his friendship with Tevis.

Tell me a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Have you lived in the New Haven area your whole life?

I was born at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., on July 8, 1942. The oldest of six siblings, I attended St. Mary’s School and graduated in 1956 with the English prize. I spent three years at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Conn., and graduated with honors from Derby High School in 1960.

What was it like to be an undergraduate at Southern in the early 1960s?

I started my studies at Southern Connecticut State College in the fall of 1960. In May 1963, I married and moved to New Haven where I worked, 3-11, at the Hospital of St. Raphael since the summer of 1960. Marriage, employment, and fatherhood impacted my involvement at Southern, scholastically and socially. After SC² became SCSU, I transferred to the class of 1965 to enroll in the B.A. program and escape student teaching. Unfortunately, low grades prevented my graduating, and I didn’t earn my B.A. until 2016.

In what ways is it different to be a graduate student at Southern in 2020?

I am presently retired from the work force and enrolled in the MFA program in creative writing. Devoting adequate time to my studies allows me to appreciate the admirable faculty of Southern’s English Department. I earn the grades that I dreamed of as an undergraduate. I also have time to partake of activities like answering this questionnaire.

I understand that you knew Walter Tevis, who wrote the book The Queen’s Gambit, on which the popular miniseries is based. Tevis taught creative writing at Southern when you were an undergraduate student here. How did you know him, and what was he like?

When Walter Tevis taught at Southern, he was well known as the author of The Hustler. I was never in his class. We did meet and chat on a number of occasions. We lived equidistant from the Yale Bowl Café on Derby Ave. Passing the café on my way home from work, I would look through the window to see if Mr. Tevis was at the bar. I would then check my pockets for a spare half dollar for a couple draft beers and join him. Mr. Tevis was an affable gentleman and a superb storyteller. He enjoyed talking about the pool room he ran, off campus, at the University of Kentucky where he majored in English. He said that the fixes that got the entire UK basketball team banned from the NCAA took place in his poolroom. He later wrote the science fiction novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth. He also talked about making the movie of The Hustler, his role as technical advisor, and hobnobbing with the movie stars. He spoke of being at the home of George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst when Liz Taylor and Richard Burton dropped in for cocktails. He suggested that I take his class, but I couldn’t envision finding time to write.

What made you want to enter Southern’s MFA program? Have you always been a writer? Where are you in the program, and what kind of writing do you do?

After finally earning my degree, I took advantage of the generous CSCU program for senior citizens and continued taking courses. I took introductory courses in creative writing because I had often dreamed of writing as I am sure most avid readers sometimes do. My excellent teacher, Jason Labbe, encouraged me to apply for the MFA program. Before taking Jason’s classes, I had never written anything other than school assignments except for a one-page story when I was in second grade. I applied to the program, and I was accepted. Presently, I am about halfway through the 48-credit program. My major is fiction writing. I have been writing mostly stories about after-hours night life in the 1970s. During these past two semesters, I have explored a burgeoning interest in writing poetry.

How are virtual writing classes going?

The virtual writing workshops have gone remarkably well. One misses the camaraderie that is part of the workshop experience, but I believe my writing has improved as it would have in the classroom environment.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I would advise any aspiring writer to take beginning courses in creative writing to ground oneself in the techniques of craft. Then write and continue writing and write some more.

an early photo of Walter Tevis
Walter Tevis, around 1960

a doctor in a white coat administers a vaccine in the arm of a patient

The CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) program, based at both the SCSU College of Health and Human Services and the Yale School of Public Health, is using a major CDC grant to advance several community-based initiatives, including promoting the importance of flu vaccinations as a way to ease the burden on health care systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alycia Santilli is the Director of CARE.

According to CARE’s data, during the 2019-20 flu season in New Haven, more people of color than whites were hospitalized due to the flu: 35 percent of Black and 31 percent of Hispanic residents, compared to 22 percent of white people. This year, with COVID threatening to overwhelm health care facilities, keeping people safe from the flu seems more crucial than ever. So CARE is engaging in outreach within city neighborhoods, with seven newly hired community workers visiting places like food pantries, senior housing, barber shops and hair salons, to talk to residents about the flu vaccine and encourage them to get vaccinated. The New Haven Register recently published an article about CARE’s efforts to calm residents’ fears about vaccines and encourage them to get vaccinated:

“Flu Fighters Combat Vaccination Fears in New Haven”
By Sujata Srinivasan December 16, 2020

 

Professor Marian Evans and her Women's Health class meet virtually with author Rachel Kauder Nalebuff.
Professor Marian Evans and her Women's Health class meet virtually with author Rachel Kauder Nalebuff.

Students in Assistant Professor of Public Health Marian Evans’ Women’s Health class at Southern are getting hands-on writing experience with a New York Times best-selling author.

Rachel Kauder Nalebuff is the author of My Little Red Book, an anthology of stories about first periods, collected from women of all ages from around the world which was widely acclaimed and published in 2009. New Haven-based Nalebuff is at work on a second rendition, “Our Red Book.”

Not only did students get the chance to experience a guided writing exercise led by Nalebuff, they are writing pieces that the class will review, and they’ll pick some of the best stories to send to Nalebuff for possible inclusion in the book.

Nalebuff’s collection started in 2003 as a family oral history project, when she learned that her great-aunt got her first period on a train while fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland. Authors such as Meg Cabot, Erica Jong, Gloria Steinem, and Cecily von ZiegesarIt contributed to My Little Red Book.

The subject matter is a good fit for Evans’ course, which covers everything from women’s health and consciousness, sexuality, menopause, health equity and privilege, women’s rights and reproductive rights, and, of course, the menstrual cycle.

“I push students to think about menses and the messages that we receive from our society about our periods,” Evans said.

Evans and Nalebuff met several years ago, when they worked on a choir in the New Haven area. Evans actually had been using Nalebuff’s My Little Red Book in her curriculum; passionate about similar issues, the two developed a friendship.

Nalebuff reached out to Evans this fall when she began commissioning writers, artists, and activists to contribute pieces for My Little Red Book, which will include stories “that highlight period stories across gender identities, and the work of activists, writers and artists working today.”

“I wanted to see if she had anyone to recommend for a contribution,” Nalebuff said. “I was commissioning longer pieces, and so my starting place is trusted friends and colleagues, and Marian is one of them. She’s an educator and mentor, and she also has thought about conceptions around menstruation, where they come from, and their origins and taboos.”

Evans enthusiastically responded that her class could be a great starting point.

“Rarely do students get to work with a New York Times Best-selling author, and I wanted my students to be able to work with one,” Evans said. “And hopefully there will be a few class submissions that will be included in the book. Rachel and I decided to build two sessions to make sure the students knew what she was looking for, it gave us an opportunity to read some of the new entries and to do a guided writing session.”

Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, author of "My Little Red Book"
Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, author of “My Little Red Book”

Michele Leite said the class and writing session have made her reflect upon how someone’s experience of menstruation can shape their identity. (At age 61, Leite is a junior who is interested in self-designing a degree in health education and public health with a focus on women, gender, health and aging.)

“The experiences women have, they are important to share,” Leite said. “They may be embarrassed or ashamed, and if they hear other people’s stories, they understand that we are sharing a collective experience. Sometimes hearing a story can calm something in someone’s head.”

Nalebuff concurred: “I keep coming back to an interview in the book with musician Madame Gandhi, who says that stigma is one of the ‘most effective’ forms of oppression because it keeps us isolated, through our struggles and our joys. Sharing our words becomes a way to take our public health education into our own hands, and to collectively feel into an often hidden realm of the human experience.”

Even if the students’ contributions do not make it into My Little Red Book, Nalebuff has agreed to donate $1,000 to the class to give as a donation to a charity of their choosing, and Evans plans to “definitely build in a writing piece similar to what we have done with Rachel for this class and incorporate her book along with it.”

“The world is crying for connection and relationship on simple things,” Evans said. “It is my hope that students will take away a few messages. We all have stories about our periods and their experience and stories are important for the next generation. I also want them to know that we can take something so simple as the story of our first periods and turn it into a best-selling book.”

 

Interested in Contributing to “Our Red Book”?

Nalebuff has an open call for submissions on her website (http://www.mylittleredbook.net/submit_story.php) for “Our Red Book,” which will include stories that highlight first-period experience across gender identities and be published by Simon & Schuster in the U.S. and Virago in the UK in 2022. The deadline is January 2021. Written contributions should be under 1,000 words and or shorter. Contributions can take many forms (essays, interviews, poetry, comics, a hybrid form).

Stories can be about first periods, last periods, missing periods, not having a period, and other meaningful period stories across ages. New commissioned stories include perspectives on being trans and feeling “period negativity,” one writer interviewing their two grandmothers, free-bleeding while running a marathon, a story from a father about caring for his daughter, and coming of age in a family separated by borders.

Susan DeNicola, Principal of The Obama School; Peyton Northrop '20, teacher at Obama School; Justin Pelazza, SCSU graduate student, elementary education; and Haley Dattilo, current SCSU undergraduate
Left to right: Susan DeNicola, Principal of The Obama School; Peyton Northrop '20, teacher at Obama School; Justin Pelazza, SCSU graduate student, elementary education; and Haley Dattilo, current SCSU undergraduate

We have come to view technology as a blessing, a miracle of our modern times. Its ubiquity is a testament to its astonishing popularity and scope of influence in our lives — it has become less a luxury than a necessity. Yet for all its benefits, when it comes to teaching grade schoolers, technology is a poor substitute for face-to-face interaction, collaborative learning, and, most of all, flesh-and-blood teachers.

When the Barack H. Obama Magnet University School opened on Southern’s campus on Jan. 7, 2020, it was impossible to imagine that it would shutter its building two months later. Citywide closures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus sent administrators and teachers scrambling to pivot lessons online, and although the Obama School aims to integrate the latest educational innovations into its curriculum, no one could prepare it for an overnight transition from one mode of instruction to another.

“This has been a real learning curve for everybody,” says Principal Susan DeNicola, ‘86, M.S. ‘90, 6th Yr. ‘99. “Even for the people who were extremely tech savvy, this has definitely been a real shift in the way we were teaching prior to the pandemic.”

But teachers at the Obama School have more than adapted to the new setting; they have embraced it in an effort to advance the school’s mission to serve as a nationwide model in pedagogical practices. This includes an opportunity for Southern education majors to immerse themselves in experiential learning.

This year, however, student teachers Justin Pelazza, who will be graduating with an M.A. in teaching, and Haley M. Dattilo, an undergraduate in early childhood education, have had to fulfill their student teaching requirements “without ever setting foot into a classroom with students,” as Pelazza puts it.

While both Pelazza and Dattilo are permitted to teach live from empty classrooms, it was a different story back in March; teachers simply posted assignments online and expected students to complete them.

“We couldn’t get a handle on what was happening then, but once we became live in September we got a chance to see the kids’ faces,” says DeNicola.

Susan DeNicola, Principal of The Obama School; Peyton Northrop '20, teacher at Obama School; Justin Pelazza, SCSU graduate student, elementary education; and Haley Dattilo, current SCSU undergraduate

Of course, live instruction brings with it a new crop of challenges. In the first weeks of school, students spent time familiarizing themselves with the features available on Google Suite and Google Classroom, their new homeroom, so to speak.

“It was a lot of teaching them how to do simple tasks, like copying and pasting or creating and resizing a text box,” says Pelazza, whose fourth-grade class had no trouble operating a computer.

Although logistics may burrow into class time, Pelazza admits that, generally speaking, lessons tend to move at a slower pace online. Not only must he toggle among four separate devices, he now spends twice as long getting through mini-lessons as he would in a traditional classroom setting. That is, a 10-minute lesson may now take up to half an hour.

That’s just the beginning. There’s also the inevitability of distractions now that students are grounded at home and the question of how to ensure their focus remains on the teacher. “It was very challenging to keep [students] interested in what we were doing because they had more unrestricted access to the Internet and got distracted by what was going on around them,” according to Dattilo, who student teaches kindergarten and third grade.

This potential for distraction is mainly why teachers like to use interactive online tools to keep students engaged throughout the day. Each morning students log into their Google Classroom accounts and check a digital notebook displaying their schedule for the day, complete with links to assignments and various activities. Sometimes these links direct them to sites such as Padlets, an online notice board; DreamBox, which incorporates math lessons into games; or Epic, an extensive digital library. “We use a variety of different programs to supplement the education in all areas of the curriculum,” says DeNicola.

Online learning resources also provide ways for teachers to give incentives to inattentive students. For instance, Peyton R. Northrop, ‘20, who student taught at the Obama School last spring and later subbed for fourth grade, says the most obvious sign her students were slacking was when they kept their cameras off. In turn, she decided to use a reward system to motivate them—if they handed in their work on time, then they would each earn ‘Dojo Points.’

“Kids would earn points toward a goal. Before the pandemic we would watch a movie or maybe have a pajama day. When we went virtual, we did little things, like play trivia games on Kahoot! at the end of the week,” says Northrop, who was recently hired as a pre-K teacher assistant at the school.

As one would expect, preschoolers and kindergarteners require a less rigorous approach to online learning. Their school day is broken up into smaller, more manageable chunks, and, unlike older students, they mainly rely on weekly packets and crafts sent to them by their teachers.

“Because we’re not there with them, they cut and paste, draw pictures, and now they’re learning to write sentences and sound them out,” says Dattilo. “They don’t know that in kindergarten you’re supposed to come into the class and sit on the carpet.”

The amount of time students spend sitting in front of a computer is based on grade level. Preschoolers and kindergarteners assemble for their morning meeting, go off to work asynchronously, and then return for their next lesson. They’re on and off all day. Older children break off for lunch and recess, but they’re on until their 2:45 p.m. dismissal. Always there is a teacher available during breaks to address questions and offer additional support.

Sadly, remote learning is not as easy as firing up Google Meet and switching on a webcam — with students’ home lives flashing through a screen, there is also the legal matter of privacy. “Once you become live in a classroom, you’re seeing into students’ homes, and they’re also seeing into yours,” says DeNicola. “We had to make sure that, legally, everything was being done correctly.”

Teachers completed a Mandated Reporter Training at the beginning of the school year to learn about ways to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect. “When we are virtual, it is a window into our lives, but it’s good to have that background knowledge on their home lives,” says Northrop.

It is amid challenges, however, that a sense of community grows. The relationship between parents, who have been crucial in their children’s education, and the Obama School has been greatly strengthened, says DeNicola. Teachers, as well as student teachers, have been handling the conversion to digital format gracefully, and, as DeNicola points out, the experience is preparing student teachers to thrive in any environment.

The ultimate blessing in disguise, though, may be that the pandemic struck at a time when our society enjoys a high level of technological sophistication. “We made sure that every student had a device, whether it was an iPad or a Chromebook. The district even provided hotspots and Wi-Fi,” says DeNicola.

Of course, students at the Obama School seem to be adapting equally well, if not better, to the changing times. Roughly ten percent of the student population is absent daily—a number that mirrors pre-pandemic attendance rates. “Growing up in such a tech-fluid world, I think our generation was better prepared for it and was able to readily incorporate more tech into their lives,” says Northrop.

The days of traditional education may not yet be behind, but innovation is certainly on the rise.

Philosophy Professor David Pettigrew

December 14, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in Paris. Following three weeks of negotiations, the Dayton Peace Agreement — also known as The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina — was signed in Dayton, Ohio, on November 21, 1995, and formally signed in Paris, on December 14, 1995, bringing an end to the international aggression against Bosnia and the resulting genocide.

Philosophy Professor David Pettigrew has long been involved in advocating for the victims of atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While his efforts are part of a personal commitment to human rights and social justice, Pettigrew’s work on Bosnia also has an academic dimension, expressed through his lectures, publications, film screenings, and other work. He also teaches a holocaust and genocide studies course at Southern.

Pettigrew recently published an op-ed essay in Al Jazeera Balkans on the Dayton Accords, following his co-organizing of the online international symposium, “Bosnia: 25 Years After the Dayton Accords 1995-2020,” which took place on November 5-6, 2020. His essay — “Confronting the Tragic Legacy of the Dayton Accords” (the text of which is below) — sets forth fundamental structures for the possibility of transitional justice for Bosnia and the region. The things he proposes will provide the possibility for long-awaited constitutional reform that would respond to the destabilizing influence from Republika Srpska and as well as to rulings from the European Court of Human Rights. This essay was also featured as a lead essay (in German) in the “Memorandum on the Dayton Peace Accords,” which was published by the Society for Threatened Peoples [Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker], an NGO based in Germany.

Since the essay’s publication, Pettigrew was interviewed on FACE TV/Sarajevo by Senad Hadžifezović, a prominent journalist and TV show watched in the region and around the world. It was posted on YouTube and so far has more than 50,000 views. He also presented virtually a paper for KRUG 99 for their special session on the Dayton Peace Accords, and was again interviewed, this time by Al Jazeera Balkans, for publication in Sarajevo.

Among other invitations for interviews and participation in a podcast and a webinar, Pettigrew was also invited by Ben Moore, director of The Center for Bosnian Studies at Fontbonne University,  to participate in a panel discussion, “Bosnian Studies: Scholars’ Perspectives on an Emerging Field.”

Pettigrew’s essay follows.

“Confronting the Tragic Legacy of the Dayton Accords, 1995-2020”

As we reflect on the legacy of the Dayton Accords, it should not escape our attention that Bosnia and Herzegovina was the victim, from 1992 to 1995, of international aggression from Serbia and from Croatia. Indictments and convictions at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have identified Serbian and Croatian nationals, including Presidents Tudjman and Milošević, as members of Joint Criminal Enterprises responsible for orchestrating the aggression. At the end, “Mladić addressed a letter to Milošević, copying General Perišić, to express his gratitude for the ‘invaluable’ assistance that the VRS (Army of Republika Srpska) had received from FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) authorities”. Mladić said he could not have done it without them.

Of course, Milošević was eventually indicted for genocide and other war crimes in 2001 as part of his own designs on “Greater Serbia.” Perhaps we should also recall that Bosnia had already sued Serbia for Genocide in the International Court of Justice in March 1993. Eventually, the ICTY Chamber found that the criminal enterprise in the Prlić case involved Croatian nationals “whose goal was to permanently remove the Muslim population from Herceg-Bosna.” However, in spite of being eventually implicated in Joint Criminal Enterprises, both Tudjman of Croatia and Milošević of Serbia were signatories to the Dayton Accords in 1995. Milošević was representing Serbia, as well as representing the leadership of Republika Srpska, by virtue of a “Patriarch Paper,” since Mladić and Karadžić were already indicted for war crimes and were unable to attend.

There were, however, representatives of the Bosnian Serbs at Dayton who had not yet been indicted. These included Momčilo Krajišnik and General Zdravko Tolimir. But both Krajišnik and Tolimir were also eventually indicted and convicted of war crimes. Hence, the problematic character of the negotiating team should have provided some foreshadowing of the fate of the peace agreement. In the years following the Dayton Accords, both Croatia and Serbia have worked to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign state. Each has encouraged separatist/secessionist initiatives in Bosnia (Herceg-Bosna and Republika Srpska), arguably pursuing their territorial goals from 1992. Their tactics to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty have included anti-Muslim and nationalist propaganda.

There has also been the internal source of destabilization: Republika Srpska. It was Milošević who oversaw the legitimation of Republika Srpska at Dayton, one of the two entities “demarcated” by the agreement. The founders of Republika Srpska had officially declared the geographic territory of Republika Srpska and subsequently sought to secure the territory as ethnically homogeneous. The ICTY Trial Chamber in the Karadžić judgment determined that there was a common plan “to permanently remove the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory.” Indeed, having officially declared the ethnically homogeneous territory, the founders of Republika Srpska carried out their aggression from 1992-1995 against the civilians of Bosnia, committing atrocities that have been judged to be war crimes, including genocide. However, in spite of the atrocities for which perpetrators had already been indicted–the ICTY had been formed in May 1993–at Dayton, the Bosnian Serbs were “rewarded” in the sense that Republika Srpska, the territory they had declared and violently transformed in name and deed, was recognized and legitimized as an official entity within Bosnia, an entity that would undermine Bosnia’s national sovereignty for the next 25 years.

Following the legitimation of Republika Srpska in 1995 as an entity in Bosnia, the authorities have undertaken concerted efforts, in spite of Annex 7, to prevent non-Serbs from returning to the homes from which they were forcibly expelled, thus continuing efforts to achieve the goal of ethnic homogeneity. Such efforts have included the intimidation of returnees through hate speech, genocide denial, the glorification of convicted perpetrators, and suppression of memorials for the victims.  In addition, Milorad Dodik, now member of the Presidency of Bosnia, and former President of Republika Srpska, undermines Bosnia’s existence by challenging decisions of the national court and threatening secession. Republika Srpska seeks to prevent Bosnia from functioning as a state, undermining any hope of restorative justice that would lead to reconciliation. Genocide denial and threats of secession have been wielded by the leadership of Republika Srpska with impunity. The failure of the international community to respond to these destabilizing provocations have led to the public celebration of the genocidal atrocities, a phenomenon Hariz Halilović has referred to as a “triumphalism” that retraumatizes the victims and threatens a repetition of the atrocities.  Sadly, “triumphalism” is part of the legacy of the Dayton Accords.

In 2014, a plaque glorifying Mladić, for example, was installed on a hill from which his forces assaulted the civilians of Sarajevo, and in 2016, a plaque commemorating Karadžić was affixed to a student dormitory in Pale. A monument that glorifies the perpetrators has stood in the middle of Višegrad for years. Sculptor Miodrag Živković has created numerous nationalist monuments glorifying the Serb forces that committed the very atrocities that have been judged to be genocide and other war crimes.  These provocative monuments to the perpetrators, such as in Bijeljina, which is dedicated to “The Fallen Serb Fighters,” are a form of genocide denial that insults the memory of the victims. This again, is part of the tragic legacy of the Dayton Accords.

When I spoke with Richard Holbrooke, the lead negotiator at Dayton, in a brief conversation in 2009, I identified the recognition of Republika Srpska as a legitimation of a genocidal geography, and as a dehumanizing zone of discriminatory exclusion that continues the founding genocidal impulse by its very existence. I proposed that the political existence of Republika Srpska needed to be challenged through constitutional reform that would reverse that dehumanizing zone of exclusion. He said he agreed with me completely, but he doubted it would be practical. He described the founding leaders of Republika Srpska as opportunists, thugs and criminals. In his book To End a War Holbrooke had already expressed his frustration with recognition of Republika Srpska, stating that “to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina into two independent parts would legitimize Serb aggression.” In 2005, in his Foreword to Derek Chollet’s book, The Road to the Dayton Accords, Holbrooke wrote “I still regret…agreeing to let the Bosnian Serbs keep the name ‘Republika Srpska’ for their entity. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic was right when he told me it was a ‘Nazi name’.”

The Dayton Accords attest, then, to the failure of the international community to recognize and stop a genocide in progress, from 1992-1995; the failure to create a just peace at Dayton; and the failure to support state-building in Bosnia in the past 25 years. As Republika Srpska wields genocide denial, challenges to the constitutional court, and threats of secession with impunity, the international community’s failure has betrayed the possibility of a meaningful future for the next generation and has undermined the possibility of restorative justice.

As we mark 25 years since Dayton, it is imperative that the international community confront this tragic legacy.  One crucial initiative would be for the High Representative, who has the responsibility to oversee the peace, to use his BONN powers to implement a law against genocide denial and against the glorification of convicted war criminals. This would be important for the survivors who are traumatized by these threatening and dehumanizing acts.  A legal framework for such legislation can be found in the Council (of the European Union) Framework Decision of 28 November 2008, on “combating … expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.” The Framework Decision indicates that “Member States shall … insure” that “publicly condoning, denying, or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide is punishable.” Switzerland and Belgium have passed such laws against genocide denial. These laws, based on a tradition of laws against Holocaust denial such as exist in Austria and Germany provide a conceptual model for this long overdue legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Denial of a genocide is an act of hatred and discrimination, since it minimizes or justifies the barbaric crimes suffered by the targeted group, minimizing not only the crimes but also the suffering, and in this way the denial entails a threat that the crime could be repeated. The denial identifies the group as unworthy of empathy or protection against harm and renders the group vulnerable to a repetition of the harm. Such laws in Bosnia would need to criminalize the denial of not only the Srebrenica genocide, but of all war crimes that were committed, along with hate speech, as well as the glorification of war criminals and celebration of the atrocities.

Finally, it is imperative for the international community to resist and condemn threats of secession and destabilization and to recognize Bosnia’s sovereignty by expediting its membership in the European Union and its entry into NATO. A law against genocide denial, EU membership, and entry into NATO, should be the focused goals now in order to address the tragic legacy of Dayton and to support long overdue state-building in Bosnia.

David Pettigrew, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy
Southern Connecticut State University
Member, Steering Committee, Yale University Genocide Studies Program

 

student Jierah Reid, '22, with VP for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree
Student Jierah Reid, '22, with Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree in the campus food pantry

Southern student Jierah Reid, ’22, was recently named one of 30 randomly selected winners in Sodexo’s “Spread The Joy Sweepstakes” as part of its fall resident dining promotion series. Sodexo is the university’s dining services provider. This national prize sweepstakes focused on the positive things we can spread – like joy to others – giving students across the United States the chance to win one of 30 $500 donations made in their name to their campus food pantry or a local hunger-related charity. This comes at a time when food pantries are deeply in need of donations, given the COVID-19 environment. Reid selected the SCSU Food Pantry as her charity beneficiary. In addition to the donation, Reid will receive a $100 VISA® gift card to spend any way she would like. Reid presented the food pantry with her $500 donation at a recent event held in the food pantry, which is located in the Wintergreen Building.

The SCSU Food Pantry opened October 28, 2020, and 40 dedicated volunteers ran the pantry six days a week during the fall semester. To date, over 1,400 lbs. of food have helped 50 SCSU student shoppers in 132 visits. The food pantry is open over the semester break on Mondays from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and Wednesday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The pantry recently added a baby section of diapers, food, and wipes. There are plans to stock more refrigerated and frozen items to better support the needs of SCSU students.

Reid is a junior at Southern. She is majoring in Healthcare Studies with a concentration in Clinical Research and a minor in Public Health. Reid is an active member of the Southern community; she has been involved in the Residence Hall Association since her freshman year and is currently serving as an RA. Reid is passionate about supporting others and says the SCSU Food Pantry is something she is a huge advocate of. Of the sweepstakes win, Reid said, “I want more students to be able to benefit from the food pantry. My hope is to eliminate the stigma that may be attached to the service and instead have the food pantry embraced as an valuable campus resource. There are so many students who are in need, whether they’re residents or commuters, I want them to see this and know about it. I hope this will raise awareness and build momentum for the SCSU Food Pantry so it can continue to expand its offerings and become something more people are comfortable utilizing.”

Featured at more than 600 Sodexo-managed colleges and universities nationwide, Sodexo’s fall resident dining promotion series featured a number of safe, physically distant events for students in addition to the Spread The Joy Sweepstakes. Two core dining showcase events, #RockTheBlock and Foodie Revolution, celebrated the beautiful outdoor weather and capitalized on the historic 2020 election with themed foods, activities and more.

Sodexo, Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com), the leading Quality of Life services company in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, delivers On-site Services in Corporate, Education, Health Care, Government and Remote Site segments, as well as Benefits and Rewards Services and Personal and Home Services. Sodexo, Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD., funds all administrative costs for the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation (HelpStopHunger.org), an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $22 million in grants to end childhood hunger in America. Visit the corporate blog at blogs.sodexousa.com.

Brody in a festive mood

The year 2020 has been a year when we can all use a little extra comfort, and coincidentally, 2020 is the year when Brody arrived on campus.

A male yellow Labrador Retriever, Brody was originally being trained as a service dog for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program, a nonprofit organization that “provides superbly bred and trained dogs to people who are blind and visually impaired.” But because he maybe liked chasing squirrels too much to be an effective guide dog, he became available for the University Police Department to purchase from the Guiding Eyes program with federal grant funding.

Brody’s primary purpose at Southern is to keep the campus and the Southern community safe. He is trained solely to locate explosives and can recognize nearly 30 different explosive odors.

Brody lives at home with his handler, University Police Officer Paul Glynn. Officer Glynn has been with the University Police for four years and prior to that was with the Burlington, Vermont Police Department for 26 years. Last spring, the K-9 team attended an 8-week training academy with the Connecticut State Police K-9 Unit and graduated in the 210th Explosive Detection Class. Brody was one of nine dogs that graduated on May 8; his “classmates” were dogs from the Connecticut State Police, Vermont State Police, Newington, New Hampshire Police Department, the United Nations Police Department, New Haven Police Department and Yale Police Department.

In addition to his explosive detection capabilities, Brody is being used to enhance the Southern Police Department’s commitment to community policing, as Brody will be dual-purposed as a “comfort canine.” In this role, he will provide comfort and affection to Southern students, faculty, and staff, as well as the Southern community. Research has shown that dogs can have a positive impact on campus communities, as they help reduce anxieties in a variety of situations, and Brody’s presence on campus is meant to ease anxiety in a variety of situations, such as exams, stressful workdays, and personal crises. The university has held a number of “therapy dog” visits on campus over the past several years, particularly during stressful times like final exams week, but those dogs came from off-campus organizations. Now Southern has its own therapy dog in Brody.

By interacting with the Southern community on a daily basis, the K-9 team will have increased opportunities to educate students, faculty, and staff on safety concerns and encourage positive encounters with law enforcement. Brody is available to members of the Southern community, whether for an upcoming event or just a visit to relieve stress and brighten a day.

Brody is NESPAC (New England State Police Administrator’s Conference) certified and will be expected to assist throughout the greater New Haven area, and possibly in New England, for major public events such as the Boston Marathon or VIP visits.

View a photo gallery of Brody’s time on campus

Aliza Awan takes classes at Southern virtually from her home in Pakistan.

Aliza Awan, ‘21, studies Recreation, Leisure and Sport Management with a Concentration in Therapeutic Recreation at Southern. An American citizen, she is currently taking classes virtually from Pakistan. Before fall 2020, Awan had never taken an online course before.

AWAN: “I came to the United States with my family in 2009 and have studied here ever since. But after the pandemic, I was home bound for more than 5 months. In the middle of all this, I got news that my mother, who is living in Pakistan, my birthplace, had fallen sick because of diabetes. When Southern switched to a virtual environment, I returned to Pakistan to be there for my mother.

“I live in a city called Rawalpindi, which is a 1- or 2-hour drive from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. I belong to an ethno-regional community called ‘Punjabi.’ The area I live in welcomes different cultures. There is a church close by and several other worshipping places for different ethnicities.”

Awan describes Pakistan during COVID:

AWAN: “Pakistan was under complete lockdown when cases began to rise above 17,000 or more; there was no exception of leaving the house unless of an emergency. Businesses were shut down, and masks were mandatory. If you were seen without a mask, police were allowed to serve a beating to that specific person. Small businesses were unable to progress. Many shopkeepers began risking their lives and secretly opened their shops to provide for their families. Gradually, there was a drastic decrease in the number of cases and so the government chose to lift the lockdown, but shops were not allowed to stay open after 8 p.m. If anyone passed the curfew the police force were given full authority to forcefully shut them down. Now the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has announced a second wave of lockdown due to a slight increase in the cases. Nothing yet has happened and people are not taking safety precautions, only the schools have switched to digital classes, and businessmen don’t go to offices on daily basis.”

Awan in Pakistan

Awan says that virtual learning takes on another element of difficulty due to the time difference.

AWAN: “Pakistan is 14 hours ahead of America. When it is 8:00 a.m. in the U.S., it is 6 p.m. in Pakistan. I took 5 classes this semester, one of which is fully online. The first couple of weeks were intense for me because of jetlag and constant family gatherings. I also had issues with my wifi connection, since Pakistan is known for power shortages at random hours.

“My first lecture begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. The second begins at 9 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m., and the third class begins at 1:25 a.m. and ends at 2:40 a.m. On Wednesdays, I have one class, which begins at 3 a.m. and ends at 5 a.m.

“The class at 3 a.m. is extremely difficult because I can only sleep for a specific amount of time and it may not be a lot to help me stay awake at that time. At first, when I faced jet lag, I used to sleep all day and wake up in the evening when it was time for my lectures. I tried my best to manage everything all at once but there were times when I did not have the energy to stay concentrated. My mom used to stay up with me in case I slept. I did drink coffee many times just to stay up for this class. The only good thing about my class on Wednesday was that I did not had any other class prior to this class — I only had to attend the class at 3 a.m. till 5 a.m. and on Thursdays I had to get up around 2 p.m. to fully prepare myself for the three classes. I may not have been efficient in my studies, but I was definitely the most appreciated student, which I am thankful for.

“Facing these circumstances made me realize how difficult it is for several students who have more rigorous schedules and who take their classes from abroad. I wouldn’t include myself in their category because I am not nearly as strong-willed as them. According to me, a student who manages to stay up after midnight just to attend a 1-hour lecture and complete assignments is a force to be reckoned with because of the seriousness they show towards their work. There are many students who are doing this, and I don’t have the right words to describe how much I appreciate their enthusiasm.”

Awan talks about 2021 and life after graduation:

AWAN: “Since I have only one year left to earn my bachelor’s degree, I am eager to do internships in Pakistan, if they offer, and in America. Since I am a U.S citizen I have the benefit of traveling at any time anywhere, but due to traveling restrictions it has become difficult. If universities reopen in U.S. I will come back to complete the next semester and hopefully graduate. If this isn’t the case, I will stay in Pakistan and complete the rest of the semester. I really appreciate my teachers for recognizing my hard work and my determination.

“After gaining enough experience I aim to open a clinic or institute of my own in Pakistan, which will complement my degree. I am choosing to benefit from this degree so I can help the minority culture in Pakistan. There is a division between classes — I hope to provide my services to the lower class of Pakistan.”

Awan’s professor Maddalena Lolaico, instructor of Italian, Department of World Languages and Literatures, describes Awan’s determination:

LOLAICO: “I am impressed by how Aliza is engaged in my class. She is always an active participant, even when her internet is slow. She is a model and an example for other students. In a time where our students struggle to be in a synchronous class, she is trying her best.”

Santa greets a young fan at the 29th annual "Friends of Rudolph" event, held at Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven.

Every December, Southern and the New Haven Police Department co-sponsor a “Friends of Rudolph” program that collects new, unwrapped toys to give to local New Haven families in need. The event typically begins with an arts and craft session and then a gift-giving assembly in Lyman Center. The day’s events are run by volunteers, including SCSU faculty and staff members, students from various campus clubs and organizations, New Haven police officers, and New Haven area high school students.

This year, because of safety precautions around COVID-19, the 29th annual university-sponsored Friends of Rudolph program was a drive-up event held at New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park. Santa and his elves were on hand to distribute coats, toys, books, and more to members of the community. Southern and the New Haven Police Department were joined as sponsors by 94.3 WYBC, The City of New Haven, The Youth & Recreation Department, and the university’s community partners.

View a gallery of photos from the event

Santa’s helpers sort through toys and coats inside the Lighthouse Point carousel building.

 

Volunteers fill Christmas stockings for veterans.

COVID-19 has presented countless obstacles and losses over the past nine months, and now, with the holiday season upon us, many folks are feeling the challenges of COVID even more intensely. Lisa Siedlarz, student loan coordinator in Financial Aid and Scholarships, is doing what she can to make the season a little brighter for veterans, a group that is close to her heart.

Lisa Siedlarz being interviewed by WFSB

For the past 12 years, Siedlarz has coordinated a holiday stocking drive for veterans, collecting donations of treats and small gifts and organizing a team of volunteers to help her stuff and deliver the stockings to the VA Hospital in West Haven. She started making holiday care packages for soldiers when her brother was serving in Afghanistan, and after he returned home, she began making stockings for veterans at the VA.

WFSB interviewed Siedlarz recently about her work: “New Haven woman on a mission to bring joy to veterans this holiday season” (Dec. 1, 2020). She plans to shop and fill the stockings soon, and will drop them off at the VA in mid-December.

Donations Siedlarz has received for filling the stockings