Friday, November 17, 2017

Dr. Jay Wendland on panel discussion: "Presidents & the Press"

Dr. Jay Wendland, Assistant Professor of Political Science, will join a panel of distinguished experts on the role of media in politics for the November 29, 2017, event: "Presidents and the Press: A Discussion of the role of the Free Media in American Politics" sponsored by the Association for a Buffalo Presidential Center and held at The Buffalo History Museum (1 Museum Court, Buffalo, NY). The event starts at 6 pm. Admission is free.

Other panelists for the discussion include Lee Coppola (Retired Dean of Journalism, St. Bonaventure University); Robert McCarthy (The Buffalo News); Jody Kleinberg Beihl (SUNY Buffalo); Rose Ciotta (formerly at WIVB and The Buffalo News, now with the Philadelphia Inquirer); and Dan Herbeck (The Buffalo News).

More details are available at the website for the ABPC.




Saturday, October 21, 2017


The Pre-Law Student Association (PLSA) is hosting a conversation on the Law School Admission Process with Luke Ramey, a representative of UB Law. Please join us on November 13 at 7:00 pm in DS 227. 

This is a great opportunity to ask questions and get insights from the law-school admissions point of view.


Food and light refreshments provided. Please contact PLSA president, Casey Young (casey.young@daemen.edu) for questions.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Thoughtful Coal Miner--"Coal, Climate, and Environmental Backlash" tour--coming to Daemen on October 24

Nick Mullins, a 5th-generation former coal miner and author of The Thoughtful Coal Miner blog, will speak at Daemen College on October 24 as part of his "Coal, Climate, and Environmental Backlash" tour. His talk is sponsored by the History & Political Science Department (History & Politics Event Series), the Department of Modern Languages, the Social Work & Sociology Department, and the Department of Global and Local Sustainability at Daemen College. 

Details: Tuesday, October 24, from 11:30-12:30, in Scheck Hall, room 202, Daemen College (4380 Main Street, Amherst, NY 14226). This event is free & open to the public.

Nick Mullins
Mullins will draw upon his personal history as a former underground coal miner and energy transition advocate to explain the socioeconomic transition currently underway in Appalachia, as the region has shifted from being a bedrock of labor rights into a bastion of political conservatism, rallying around the coal industry's claims of being victimized in a "war on coal." The story in Appalachia is a microcosm of national patterns, where strong environmental advocacy movements have been undermined by the gutting of regulatory agencies charged with protecting public health and safety as well as regulatory capture, with industry officials appointed to positions in the agencies charged with industrial regulation. Meanwhile, scientific studies and enforcement initiatives related to climate change are being defunded, and social justice initiatives undermined.

Mullins arranged the "Coal, Climate, and Environmental Backlash" tour in order to help audiences understand the issues faced by working-class communities, as well as to rebuild stronger relationships among people in different parts of the country. His talk will address a range of topics, including the following:
  • Corporate manipulation of cultural values
  • The backlash in rural communities against environmentalism and liberalism
  • Outside exploitation of Appalachian resources and people
  • The power of the Jobs vs. Environment debate
  • Learning how to communicate across political and cultural lines





For more information about the tour, visit The Thoughtful Coal Miner blog or contact Dr. Penny Messinger.
Sponsored by: the History & Politics Event Series (History & Political Science Department); the Modern Languages Department,the Social Work & Sociology Department, and the Department of Global & Local Sustainability at Daemen College.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

History and Politics Event Series Presents: The New York State Constitutional Question

Ballot Choice 2017: Open Classroom Presentation 


On November 7, 2017, the voters of New York will confront a ballot question: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” The New York State Constitution (Article XIX) mandates that this question be presented to the voters at least every 20 years. For a brief history and discussion of the convention process, see my earlier blog post and Chair’s report from the 2017 New York State Political Science Association Meeting.


The constitutional convention question is a unique opportunity for voters to review the foundation of New York State's governance and to compel a convention to study and propose necessary changes. The best way to make an informed decision on the ballot vote is to learn everything one can about the process. With less than a month to go before the vote, many New Yorkers have heard very little about the convention, or have received misinformation about the process and possible outcomes.

To help our students and interested members of the community better understand the process and issues, the History and Politics Event Series will offer a free public lecture on the New York State Constitutional Convention Question: Ballot Choice 2017. Two of the authors of New York’s Broken Constitution (2016 SUNY-Albany Press) will address the convention question in light of New York’s constitutional history, with an emphasis on the moment of opportunity that the 2017 ballot choice represents. The presentation will be followed by an opportunity for audience Q&A. This open classroom lecture is free and open to members of the public. 

The event will begin at 6:00 pm in Room 236 Duns Scotus Hall
Daemen College Main Campus
4380 Main Street, Amherst NY   

For questions, please contact Dr. Lisa Parshall (lparshal@daemen.edu), Associate Professor of Political Science and Section Chair, State and Local Politics, New York Political Science Association (NYPSA).

About the Speakers


Christopher Bopst, Chief Legal and Financial Officer at Sam-Son Logistics
Christopher Bopst is the Chief Legal and Financial Officer at Sam-Son Logistics in Buffalo, New York. Before that, he was a constitutional litigation partner at law firms in New York and Florida. He is the co-author with Professor Peter Galie of the leading reference work on New York’s State Constitution, The New York Constitution 2nd ed.(Oxford University Press, 2012), as well as numerous articles on the state constitution. He is also a contributor to and co-editor with Peter Galie and Gerald Benjamin) of a volume of essays entitled New York’s Broken Constitution: The Governance Crisis and the Path to Renewed Greatness (SUNY Press, 2016). In 2016, he was appointed to a Judicial Task Force on the New York Constitution formed to advise the Chief Judge and the New York Court System on issues related to the upcoming vote in 2017 on the holding of a constitutional convention.

Peter J. Galie, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Canisius College
Peter J. Galie is Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York (Fordham Press, 1996);with Christopher Bopst, The New York State Constitution, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2012) ; an co-editor with Christopher Bopst and Gerald Benjamin, New York’s Broken Constitution: The Crisis in Governance and the Path to Renewed Greatness (SUNY Press, 2016). Other publications include The New York Constitution and the Federal System,” in the Oxford Handbook on New York State Government (Oxford University Press, 2012) and numerous articles on state constitutional law. He was an expert witness retained by the Attorney General of New York to prepare a report for the A-G’s appellate brief in Hayden v. Pataki, “The Felony Disenfranchisement Clause of the New York Constitution 1821–1938: Background, Chronology, Origin & Purpose” (June, 2004), and co-author, amicus brief submitted to the New York Court of Appeals in the case of Skelos v. Paterson (2009) on the question: “Does the Governor have the authority to fill a vacancy in the Lieutenant-Governor’s Office by appointment?” In 2016 he was appointed to a Judicial Task Force on the New York Constitution formed to advise the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals on issues related to the upcoming vote in 2017 on the holding of a constitutional convention.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Alumni profile: Christina Auguste

Christina Auguste at Niagara Falls
Guest blog post by Christina Auguste
 
I'm Christina Auguste and I recently graduated from Daemen College's Political Science program. I had several minors: Black Studies, Global Studies, and Religion and Philosophy. In my final year at Daemen I completed an internship at the International Institute of Buffalo in their Regugee Resettlement Department, as well as writing my senior thesis, entitled "Economic Recovery and the Rwandan Genocide." It wasn't all easy, but with a healthy amount of complaining (on my part) and guidance from my instructors I was able to get it all done. 
 
Auguste with Daemen President Gary A. Olson, receiving the Canavan Award





On the eve of graduation I was awarded the Mary Angela Canavan Award. [note: The Mary Angela Canavan Award is a prestigious award recognizing a graduating senior who has made significant contributions to the improvement of student life at the college.] The Canavan Award recognized my work in creating a program to increase diversity amongst the Orientation Leader staff. Even though this project wasn't related to my coursework, I received help and support from the History & Political Science Department faculty from conception to implementation. All the professors shared my passion for the project, which made me feel like I had a team behind me. 
My advisor, Dr. Aakriti Tandon, guided me through my senior year, particularly when I was applying to graduate programs. Thanks to her, to the department, and to my peers, I currently attend New York University's School of Professional Studies (SPS). I've joined their Masters of Science in Global Affairs Program. It's a new life at NYU and a little daunting at times but I know I can always call my favorite professor, Dr. Jay Wendland, to complain, and to get words of encouragement. 
Christina poses with Dr. Jay Wendland, Assistant Professor of Political Science, after commencement.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Constitution Day: Building Civic Literacy


National Constitution Day and Citizenship Day: Understanding the Importance of Civic Education 

The United States Constitution was signed by the delegates of the constitutional convention on September 17, 1787.  Ratified and put into effect in 1789, it is the oldest, functioning written constitution in the world.  All federal and state officials are required to take an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. To satisfy the requirements for naturalization, all new citizens must pass a citizenship test which tests their knowledge of its contents and the functioning of the U.S. political system.  In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd (WV) sponsored legislation to mandate a National Constitution and Citizenship Day to encourage all citizens to reflect upon and learn about the the foundation of our constitutional system of government. 

Basic civic literacy is arguably the cornerstone of a healthy, functioning democracy. Our system of representative government is predicated upon an active and informed citizenry.  Unfortunately, while the value of civic knowledge receives considerable lip service, the quality of civic education in the United States can be viewed as lacking. A recent survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 26% of people could correctly identify all three branches of government; 33% could not name a single one. Americans' low level of political knowledge has been much lamented and is a popular subject for late-night comedy shows which feature respondents who are unable to answer basic questions about political and current events. But the lack of civic knowledge is really no laughing matter.

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For "we the people" to play an active role in shaping the system, laws, and structure of the society in which we live, we must first and foremost understand the system, its rules and processes and the history and events which led to its development. For "we the people" to exercise an informed voice, we must have familiarity with the the range of actors who exercise power in the policy making environment. Knowledge, as they say, is power.  

It is the mission of the History and Political Science Department to promote civic literacy and to empower our students in their role as citizens. To that end, we have honored Constitution Day and Citizenship Day through a broad range of activities, including educational programming, nonpartisan voter registration efforts, and the assessment and promotion of civic knowledge.  This year, student representatives of the Pre-Law Student Association (PLSA) and History and Government Clubs (H&G Club) handed out free copies of the U.S. Constitution, assisted with voter registration, and administered a quiz for students to test their knowledge of the Constitution. 

82 Students took our Constitution Day Quiz. This was a non-random sampling comprised of students who were willing to take a pop-quiz motivated by a free mini-constitution and a chance to win one of three $10 Amazon Gift Cards.



Members of the Pre-Law Student Association (PLSA) and History & Government Club staffed
a Constitution Day Table, assisting with voter registration and handing out
 free mini-constitutions and prizes for students taking the Constitution Day Quiz.

The results of our quiz were somewhat mixed. 

On the basics of separation of powers, 94% of respondents correctly identified the president as the head of the executive branch. Daemen students also did well with recalling specific details (fill-in-the-blank). 73% correctly indicated the length of the term of U.S. Senators is 6 years; 61% correctly identified the number of electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency as 270 and the number of times the Constitution has been amended as 27.  Just over half, however, correctly identified declaration of war as one of the enumerated powers assigned to Congress.

Less than 30% could answer a basic question about the constitutional process of impeachment (specifically, that it is the U.S. Senate which tries impeachment cases).  And almost half (49%) believed that Congress has the authority to revise the constitution by a simple majority vote in both chambers. (In actuality, an amendment requires two-thirds approval by both Houses of Congress followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states--a very demanding threshold).  And only 28% knew that when no candidate receives 270 electoral college votes, the selection of the president falls to the U.S. House of Representatives.  

So while our students were proficient on some of the basics, their understanding of more in-depth constitutional processes was lacking, suggesting that there is more work to be done.

For now, many students left happy with a shiny copy of the U.S. Constitution. And three students were the lucky winners of our raffle: Carly Hardick, Bryon Anglade, and Darcy Paradiso. Congratulations!





Sunday, September 17, 2017

Happy Constitution Day!

The Pre-Law Student Association and History and Government Club Celebrate Constitution Day

September 17, 2017 is national Constitution and Citizenship Day, commemorating the signing of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787.  The Constitution achieved ratification in June, 1788 having received the required approval of 9 of the 13 States (U.S. Constitution, Article 7). Consisting of 7 original articles and clocking in at just over 7,500 words, the Constitution has been amended just 27 times in the last 226 years. It is a document of extraordinary legitimacy and longevity. On this day, all citizens are encouraged to reflect upon our shared constitutional history and values, and to reaffirm our shared commitment to participating as an active, informed citizen in a representative democracy.   

To honor this day, the History and Political Science Department and affiliated student organizations, have offered a wide-range of constitutional day activities, programming, and events.  This year, we are inviting students, faculty, and staff to test their knowledge of the Constitution by taking a quick Constitution Day Quiz.  Stop by our table in the Wick Center Lobby on Monday, September 18 (from 11:00 - 1:00) and enter your quiz results for a chance to win one of three gift cards (raffle to be conducted the following week).  

We will also be giving away free pocket-sized Constitutions, a booklet containing the texts of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution, along with fun facts and historical tidbits on the founding documents.  

We will also have voter registration forms on hands and will assist anyone looking to register to vote.  (We'll even take care of the postage for you). 


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Focusing on Constitutional Reform


Upcoming Talk: "Responding to Constitutional Imperfections: The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Amendment Throughout the United States."

On Tuesday, September 12 at 7.30 pm, Dr. Parshall, Associate Professor of Political Science, will participate in a Constitution Day Panel sponsored by the Canisius College Raichle Pre-Law Center and the Bar Association of Erie County.

The panel will examine how constitutions in the United States—federal and state—are subject to amendment. The history of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the infrequency of amendments following the Bill of Rights, and recent efforts by state legislatures to convene a federal constitutional convention will be discussed. We will also present an overview of the various ways that state constitutions can be amended, such as through ballot initiative and legislative amendments. Given that the question of whether to hold a convention to revise the New York State Constitution will be on the ballot this November, there will be a focus on the methods by which the New York Constitution can be revised, and the reasons why voters have rejected calls for a constitutional convention in the past. The political obstacles to constitutional amendments, and the role of the legal community in helping voters navigate the competing narratives attending the process will also be considered.

Speakers will include:
Christopher Bopst, chief legal and financial officer, Sam-Son Logistics
Professor James Gardner, University at Buffalo Law School
Lisa Parshall, PhD, associate professor of Political Science, Daemen College
Robert A. Klump, director of the Frank G. Raichle Pre-Law Center, will serve as moderator.Image result for constitution day 2017 free clipart
Event Details 
Responding to Constitutional Imperfections: The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Amendment throughout the United States 
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 ~ 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 
Canisius College, Grupp Fireside Lounge, Richard E. Winter Student Center 
1.5 CLE credits: Areas of Professional Practice (Appropriate for all attorneys): For Information see here at the Erie County Bar Association Website. 

Daemen College Students should identify themselves at the door for free admission (Please bring your student ID). 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Welcome Dr. Karolina Krasuska!

Dr. Krasuska

Dr. Karolina Krasuska has joined the faculty of the History & Political Science Department this semester as a Visiting Assistant Professor of History through faculty exchange with the American Studies Center at the University of Warsaw, Poland. She will be at Daemen through early October and is co-teaching our 20th Century European history class (HST206) with Dr. Andrew Wise.

Dr. Krasuska is an expert in cultural studies, gender analysis, and transnational literature. Her teaching portfolio at the University of Warsaw includes classes on cultural studies, masculinities, American Jewishness, and literature.

Dr. Krasuska will give two public lectures during her visit: 
  • Women in the Holocaust on Monday, September 11, 7:00pm at Canisius College Regis Rooms
  • POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews on Tuesday, October 3, 7:00pm at Daemen College Research & Information Commons (RIC), Room 120 (Palisano Room). The POLIN Museum opened in 2014 at the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The museum will be familiar to students who have participated in recent Polish Study-Abroad classes led by Dr. Wise.  
Dr. Krasuska's public lectures are part of an extensive series of events marking Buffalo's 2017 Polish Cultural Festival, arranged in collaboration with multiple educational and community organizations (including Daemen College) and publicized through the Permanent Chair of Polish Studies at Canisus College. Four of the events in this series will be hosted by Daemen College:
  • September 14-October 27: Exhibition of Artworks by Polish artist Wieslaw Skibinski at Karamanoukian Gallery, Haberman Gagioch Arts Center, Daemen College. Opening reception on Thursday, September 14, 5:00-7:00 pm. Free and open to the public.
  • September 17: Jedliniok Folk Dance Group of Wroclaw: 3:00pm at the Daemen College Wick Center Social Room. A performance of the Polish academic song and dance ensemble. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door, $10 for students. Tickets are available at the Am-Pol Eagle Offices, 3620 Harlem Rd; call 983-5084 or 681-0813
  • September 19: Raise the Roof--screening at 7:00pm at Daemen's Research and Information Commons (RIC) Room 120 (Palisano Room). This documentary film explores the reconstruction of the roof and bimah of the 18th Century Wooden Synagogue in Gwozdziec (formerly in Poland), by artists Rick and Laura Brown, which is now the center of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The documentary is by Tari & Cary Wolinsky and is presented courtesy of the National Center for Jewish Film. Copyright Trillium Studios. Find more information at: www.polishsynagogue.com/movietrailer/
  • October 3: Dr. Karolina Krasuska's lecture on POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews--7:00pm at Daemen College Research & Information Commons (RIC), Room 120 (Palisano Room). The POLIN Museum opened in 2014 at the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto.
Join us in welcoming Dr. Krasuska to Daemen College!


Dr. Krasuska's faculty profile from the University of Warsaw:

Karolina Krasuska is Assistant Professor at American Studies Center at the University of Warsaw and also a member of the research group “Gender and Literature” at the Institute for Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. She holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from European University Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder (2010). She is the author of a book-length study examining modernist literature from a transnational, gender-oriented perspective, published in Polish as Płeć i naród: Trans/lokacje. Maria Komornicka/Piotr Odmieniec Włast, Else Lasker-Schüler, Mina Loy (Warszawa 2012). She is also the Polish translator of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (Uwikłani w płeć, Warszawa 2008). Her most recent publication is the collection Women and the Holocaust: New Perspectives and Challenges (Warszawa 2015), which she co-edited with Andrea Petö and Louise Hecht.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Campaigns That Matter


By Jay Wendland

Earlier this month, my book, Campaigns That Matter: The Importance of Campaign Visits in Presidential Nominating Campaigns was published.  This project began as my Master’s degree paper in 2010 and quickly morphed into my dissertation, which was defended in 2013.  In both of these research projects, I analyzed the 2008 presidential nominating contests and the role that campaign visits played in influencing voters’ decision-making processes.  In this book, I build off of my previous work and include data on the visits made throughout the 2012 and 2016 campaigns as well.  Throughout every campaign season, we hear about the various rallies, town hall meetings, and stump speeches candidates make, but political scientists have largely ignored the role these campaign events play in the voting booth.  Do these visits get more people to come out to cast a ballot?  And more importantly to the candidate, do they help garner votes? These are the two main questions I attempt to answer throughout this book. 

Photo from PolitiFact.com showing Bernie Sanders at a rally.  Sanders achieved record numbers of attendees at many of his rallies, including a Seattle rally that attracted roughly 30,000 people! 

However, before I could answer these questions I needed to pull together research done on various aspects of campaigns (e.g. advertising, media strategy, and political communication) to develop a theory for why visits should impact voters.  I argue that visits are an important avenue of learning for voters. When running for office, candidates are charged with convincing voters to vote for them.  Most of the research done on campaigns focuses on advertisements and media coverage, while visits have largely gone overlooked.  This is likely due to the fact that data on media coverage and ads are much more readily available than are the data on visits.  Candidates must report their campaign spending broken down by state on a monthly basis.  However, they are not required to report where they visit.  Sure there is media coverage of these visits, but there is no central agency collecting this data.  The Federal Election Commission [FEC] is charged with collecting and reporting the spending habits of candidates.  There are also various websites that report this information in a more user-friendly manor than does the FEC—like opensecrets.org.  Yet with the ever-growing number of PACs, SuperPACs, 527 groups, and 501(c) groups even keeping track of spending related to a campaign is getting to be a difficult task.  Nonetheless, these spending reports are generally used as a proxy for a candidate’s advertisements, as these are usually the biggest expenditure a candidate has.  Ads have proven to be helpful to candidates—both in mobilizing voters as well as persuading them to vote a certain way.  I argue that campaign visits should have an even larger effect than ads do, as candidates are able to personalize visits more than ads.  Candidates are given ample time to explain their issue positions and build a relationship with their audience.  In a 30-60 second ad, candidates cannot fully elaborate their position on an issue.  But, in a 15-30 minute speech, a candidate can clearly articulate their plan and try to connect with those in attendance. 

Photo from YouTube showing Donald Trump at a rally.  Throughout the campaign season, Trump continuously bragged about the size of the crowds at his rallies.  It turns out that Trump did receive an increase in support due to his visits.  In fact, Trump's visits increased his support over 100%.  

After crafting this theory, I begin my analysis by examining whether or not campaign visits are strategic in nature.  Ultimately, what I find is that they are.  Candidates spend the invisible primary phase (the year-long run-up to the Iowa Caucuses) trying to fundraise and build a name for themselves.  Then, once voting begins, candidates focus on the number of delegates they are accumulating.  Throughout the invisible primary phase, candidates are focused on states with more delegates available, those that hold early contests, states that do not hold their contest on the same day as another state, and states that uses a winner-take-all [WTA] delegate distribution.  Once voting starts, the number of delegates and shared contest dates are still important, but states that hold primaries are more important than states that hold caucuses.  Caucus states receive fewer visits, likely due to the fact that they have fewer delegates and because caucuses require a bigger time commitment from voters.  I turn then to answering the questions of whether or not visits impact mobilization and candidate preference.  In terms of mobilization, visits appear to help increase turnout for long-shot candidates.  Candidates that are well known do not seem to receive a bump in turnout due to their campaign visits, whereas candidates that are less well known do receive a bit of a bump in turnout.  In terms of vote choice, candidates that out-visit their opponent do receive an increase in votes.  So, when running for office, if you want your visits to matter, you need to ensure you are holding more campaign events than your opponent. 


Photo from NPR showing Hillary Clinton with a Cheesesteak in downtown Philadelphia in the 2008 Democratic nominating contests.  Showing affinity for local customs is one of the benefits of campaign visits.  

Ultimately what I have tried to do with this book is shed some light on the impact campaign visits have on voters.  Little has been done to analyze their effects and much more research is needed to fully understand their effects—I spend a significant amount of time in my conclusion discussing future avenues of research based on my findings.  Nonetheless, even though they have been overlooked, campaign visits do matter.  And more importantly, if we are to understand the impact of presidential campaigns, campaign visits need to be included in any discussion of how that campaign influenced voters.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Teaching American Democracy at the American Studies Center - University of Warsaw (ASC-UW)

The Course: American Democracy and Critical Perspectives

Last Fall, I was fortunate enough to be selected as the first faculty member from Daemen College to participate in the exchange program with the American Studies Center of the University of Warsaw (ASC UW). The ASC is one of the largest American Studies departments in Europe offering interdisciplinary B.A., M.A. and postgraduate programs. As one ASC student explains, the “program extends into many areas of research including history, political science, literature studies, cultural studies, and social sciences which gives us a broad perspective on America and allows students to pursue their various interests.”

The American Studies Center (OSA-UW). 
Photo credit: Lisa Parshall
The course was designed to provide a critical view of American democracy with respect to the treatment of minority groups within the United States political system. I chose as our focus, the role of Native Americans and African-Americans—two groups with distinct, yet in some ways parallel experiences, as “the first and the forced” among our citizenry (Leiker, Warren, and Watkins 2007).
Felix Cohen, the foremost scholar on Federal Indian Policy, wrote in 1953: “Like the miner’s canary, the Indian marks the shift from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall in our democratic faith” (390). Cohen’s seminal work included the following observation by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) director, John Collier:

“What sort of treatment dominant groups give to subject groups- how governments treat minorities– and how big countries treat little countries. This is a subject that comes down the centuries and never was it a more burning subject that in this year (1939). So this is the question: “How has our country treated its oldest and most persistent minority, the Indians. How has it treated them, and how is it treating them now?”
Felix S. Cohen, author of the Federal Handbook of Indian Law
Photo Credit: www.doi.gov/interiormuseum/programs/Felix-Cohen

The displacement of sovereign democratic nations in the founding of our own, and the subsequent treatment of Native Americans under federal policy, stands in stark contrast to American democratic ideals. So too has the treatment of African-Americans and the continued legacy of slavery and segregation presented a paradox for the celebration of American democracy. These brutal histories, and the contemporary realities faced by minority communities, are ongoing “problems” for a democratic political system that is founded upon the logic of equality and the promise of equal protection under law.

The design for the course was already ambitious, covering a blend of historical and contemporary issues impacting Native and African Americans as lens through which to view the effective functioning of the American political system. I had no idea in designing the course that events would conspire to make the spring semester one of the most dynamic times to be teaching a democracy course. The 2016 election and developments of the early Trump Administration provided twists that were both a challenge and an opportunity. Whatever one’s politics, the first few months of the Trump Administration have proven eventful in terms of the daily news cycle; and the functioning of the executive branch has been anything but routine.

Even as we talked about the fundamental elements of what constitutes a democracy, intelligence reports confirmed efforts at external election interference; the investigations of the House and Senate investigatory committees lurched on in fits and starts. Then came the firing of FBI director, James Comey, and Trump’s tweets about the possible existence of tape recorded conversations raised the specter of a brewing crises with shades of Watergate. Former National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, asserted that American institutions were under assault—internally as well as externally. With mounting pressures, an independent counsel was named. The ongoing litigation over Trump’s travel ban sparked more rhetoric challenging the independence and legitimacy of judiciary. The President’s first international trip revealed a United States out of accord with important democratic allies on climate and trade. On his return, Trump announced he was pulling the United States out of the Paris Treaty and there were renewed assertions of executive authority in the aftermath of two international terrorist attacks. In short, the basic foundations and function of our constitutional system of separated powers and checks and balances were on full display. 

The pace of developments germane to minority rights was no less spectacular. A course which started with a historical overview of the loss of Indian sovereignty and territory ended with the administration’s intention to privatize ownership of federal lands. Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee and the first justice in a long while to have substantial experience with Native American legal issues (from his time on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals), assumed his seat on the Court. Our classroom discussion of the Standing Rock Protests coincided with news of another leak in the newly opened Dakota Access Pipeline. Our discussion of the long history of Civil Rights, concluded recent announcements by Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, that the Department of Justice was rescinding federal investigations of state, local, and tribal authority and proposed budget cuts in the civil rights divisions in the departments of labor and education. And our discussion of voting rights was topped off by the Supreme Court’s condemnation of the North Carolina redistricting efforts for using partisanship as a proxy for race with the surprising key vote of Justice Clarence Thomas.  

All of this was set, of course, within the context of global politics, the rise of national populist movements, and a re-examination of democratic trends. As one of the students noted, “the rise of nationalistic sentiments and populism in global politics,” makes understanding “American democracy’s place in the international arena even more important.” When and how do democracies backslide?  What are the harbingers of democratic dysfunction? 

Reflecting on the timing of the course and the importance of American studies more generally, one of the students writes:

The United States, being one of the hegemons of democracy is an important subject of study. I think it is a very good time to study American Democracy, because of what’s been happening in both Europe and in the United State over the last few years. As more and more people are starting to doubt democratic systems, they are turning towards nationalistic ideas. America exerts huge influence on the rest of the world: politically, economically, culturally. Some would even say that we may be witnessing a moment, when some democratic principles are being questioned or dismantled. People assume that democracy will last forever; however, it is not so simple.


The American Studies Center Sign
Photo Credit: Lisa Parshall

Unique Perspectives on American Democracy

The students at the OSA-American Studies Center are among the best and brightest, and it was a rare treat to teach a class to graduate students who brought a unique perspective on these issues of American Democracy. Impressively, my students were not just well-versed in basic American history and politics, they were avid consumers of American news, which greatly enhanced our discussions and allowed us to incorporate current events in our consideration of democratic processes.  

Each of the students in my class had chosen the elective because of their interest in minority rights in the United States. Their broader research interests, however, were much more varied and included African-American political thought, gender and queer studies, immigration, and international politics. For several students, the consideration of Native Americans’ place in the American Political system was of special interest. “Even though I have been enrolled in an American Studies program for four years now, I had never had a class on Native Americans and my knowledge about them was very limited.”  The absence of courses dedicated to Native American tribal sovereignty and federal Indian policy is common in the curriculum of American colleges and Universities as well. 

The perspective of the course was designed to be a critical one, providing students with “more diverse and nuanced perspectives, instead of an idealized picture” of a “utopian American democracy.” For one student, the class “confirmed my view that American Democracy (just like any other democracy) isn’t perfect and there are flaws, which are often overlooked in school or university curricula.... Thanks to the broadening of my knowledge concerning Native Americans and African Americans position within the American legal system, I was able to more fully understand both the causes and the consequences of contemporary inequalities.”

As importantly, I learned a great deal from the students regarding the state of liberal democracies in Europe and Poland, and of the impact of globalization and economic decline on minority rights. Their own interests sometimes took the course in unexpected, yet no less important directions as we expanded our lens to consider the place of women and the LGBT community in politics. Overall, the interaction of  such differing vantage points helps to “force both students and faculty to step out of their bubble and confront different ideas about America and American Democracy, and greatly contributes to academic development.”

The Exchange Program Between Daemen College and the ASC-UW

The exchange program was made possible through the efforts of Professor Andrew Wise, the Director of Daemen College’s Polish Studies program in collaboration with Dr. Sławomir Józefowicz, the International Mobility Coordinator at the ASC and with the support of ASC director, Dr. Grzegorz Kość.

In Fall 2017, Assistant Professor Dr. Karolina Krasuska will travel to Daemen where she will team-teach a course with Professor Andrew Wise: HST 206, Twentieth Century Europe. For faculty and students in the classroom, the exchange is “an opportunity to learn about the different culture of studying and teaching. Even though both Poland and the United States are considered part of the so-called Western world, there are some, maybe even considerable, differences in the approach to the subject of university studies. This is a chance to see differences in the curricula; the observations may serve as an inspiration as to what could be changed or differently implemented.”

As envisioned, students who take part in the exchange would not necessarily be limited to taking coursework in the ASC (University of Warsaw) or the Department of History and Political Science (Daemen College), but may potentially take classes in other disciplines of their specific academic interest. The respective departments might, in other words, serve as a home-base for students seeking to take coursework at the partner institution, allowing them to partake in the immersive experience which comes from studying abroad. “Above all else, the exchange is a chance to experience living and/or working in a foreign country: an experience that may prove to be essential in one’s future career and life.”


Łazienki Park (Park Łazienkowski) is one of many beautiful greenspaces in Warsaw.
Photo Credit: Lisa Parshall


American students traveling to Poland will discover a safe and comfortable experience.  There is no shortage of places to explore in Warsaw, including beautiful parks, cultural and educational museums, cafes, and clubs.  The Metro system is convenient and easy to navigate. And cities like Krakow and Gdansk are easily accessible by train.  ASC students advise our English-speaking students not to view language as a barrier: in Poland “most young people can speak English at least on a communicative level, so there’s nothing to worry about.”  They also add that “some Americans might have a stereotypical idea of Poland, since we are economically disadvantaged compared to the rest of the European Union,” but note “that we are not in poverty and our cities are comparable to big cities in Europe.”  The important thing is to “keep an open mind,” and “to take the opportunity to try to learn something about the Polish culture.”

Scenes Along the Royal Way in Old Town
Photo Credit: Lisa Parshall
Special thanks to the ASC-UW class for their contributions of thoughts and observations to the blog (and whose quotes are indicated by italics).

Daemen College students who are interested in learning more about the Polish Studies Program and/or the exchange opportunity with the ASC-UW should contact Dr. Andrew Wise, Professor of History, at awise@daemen.edu.  Daemen College’s Global Programs Office can help any answer questions you may have about studying abroad and can help provide logistical support.   




References

The First and the Forced: Essays on the Native American and African American Experience.  Edited by James N. Leiker, Kim Warren, and Barbara Watkins (2007).

The Federal Handbook of Indian Law, Felix S. Cohen (1942).

The Erosion of Indian Rights, Felix S. Cohen (1953).



Monday, April 24, 2017



Chair's Report on the State and Local Politics Section of the New York State Political Science Association’s 71st Annual Conference

Why State and Local Politics Matter

I love teaching State and Local Politics. As citizens, our lives are directly impacted by the choices made by our state and local elected officials.  Polling demonstrates that citizens feel closer to and have more trust in local governing bodies than they do in our national institutions.  

Yet, there is an unfortunate lack of civic knowledge and literacy particularly regarding politics at the state level.  For many people, their daily news intake is focused on national politics (and it is not as if there is nothing to see nowadays) or on the very local -- what’s happening in their own back yard or community.  For those living outside of the capital region, the regular workings of State government are not as regularly covered by the media they consume – and what is covered may be disproportionately focused on the dysfunctional or corrupt. 

I’ll admit it: when I teach state and local government, I often focus on the dysfunction as a hook for generating student interest.  In this respect, New York is the gift that just keeps on giving.  Following a lecture just after the 2009 state senate coup, I remember a non-major approaching me after class to pronounce the whole affair as “wicked interesting” and to express shock that so many New Yorkers (himself included) could be blissfully unaware of the high drama and low comedy playing out in our statehouse.  Another semester, the class kept busy resetting the “legislative arrest clock” (seeing how many consecutive days we could go without a legislative indictment or arrest).  It was fun—until it wasn’t; until the students, as citizens, realized that we all deserved better.  And that’s what makes “gawking at the train wreck” okay – if those of us who teach state and local politics can hook our audience with the “fun” in the sometimes spectacular dysfunction, we can then turn the corner into discussing the value of being civically literate regarding the role, function, and purpose of local government.  From that somewhat unhappy starting place, we can move on to more productive avenues of discussion, including the various paths for meaningful reform. 

Since 2009 (with a hiatus in 2015), I have had the privileged to serve as the chairperson of the State and Local Politics section of the New York State Political Science Association (NYSPSA).  I have never been more convinced of the vibrancy and importance of state and local governance, or of contributions made by the academic study of state and local affairs.  My role with this professional organization allows me to work with and learn from the best.

The State Constitutional Convention Question

At the 71st NYSPSA Conference (hosted by Nazareth College in Rochester, NY), New York State and Local Politics took center stage. Among the highlights of the Conference were presentations and a Keynote Roundtable discussion of the upcoming Constitutional Convention (or Con-Con) vote.  As detailed in a previous blogpost, in the upcoming general election (November 7, 2017), New York voters will have the chance to vote on the constitutionally mandated question of whether or not to convene a constitutional convention with the purpose of reviewing and proposing revisions to the New York State Constitution. My section of the conference bought together some of the leading experts on New York State politics and reform. 

A group of scholars from the Hugh I. Carey Institute for Governmental Reform (Wagner College) and the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity (CAPI) (Columbia Law School), presented their research on “Achieving Reform Through State Constitutional Change,” situating New York within a nationwide study of state constitutional reform efforts.   

Dr. Stephen Greenwald (left) leads a discussion following the presentation on Achieving Reform through State Constitutional Change. 

Dr. Robert Herbst provided an overview of the pros and cons of constitutional conventions, highlighting many of the positive, popular elements of New York’s Constitution which were the direct result of conventions past.  A contextual frame was provided by law professor and CAPI Director, Jennifer Rodgers, who detailed the group’s ongoing research:  a comparative analysis of state constitutional provisions. Their completed study (due out this summer) will serve as the basis for specific policy recommendations, would educate voters, and inform the convention delegates as they consider revision.  Dr. Stephen Greenwald emphasized how constitutional revision might enhance representative democracy by addressing existing dysfunctions, including the devolution of decision making autonomy of state legislators.

New York’s Broken Constitution (2016), 
co-authored by our presenters details
 issues with New York's current
 constitutional design.
Saturday’s plenary session was a roundtable presentation by some of the State’s other leading experts on New York State’s constitutional history. The discussion was moderated by Robert Bullock, Deputy Director of Operations at the Rockefeller Institute of Government (RIG). (A full biography of the Keynote Roundtable participants can be found here).

Christopher Bopst, one of the co-authors (along with Drs. Peter Galie and Gerald Benjamin) of New York’s Broken Constitution (2016), set up the context for the impending ballot question, by providing an overview of the constitution and the history past constitutional conventions. He emphasized the unique power held by New Yorkers (“We the People) to bypass the legislature and demand reform via the conventional ballot vote. The convention and delegate selection processes, including the external factors which influence public and organizational support and opposition, were addressed by Dr. Dullea (a participant in past conventions and an expert on convention politics).  Dr. Galie explained the arguments for and against reform, highlighting the ways in which a constitutional convention is uniquely different from politics “as usual.”


What did We Learn?

            There’s a need for reform:
Ø  New York’s Constitution dates back to 1894. The last time a convention comprehensively studied was 50 years ago (1967); the last time there was a systematic revision was 79 years ago (1938)
Ø  The speakers identified numerous issues for review and revision, including:
o   Public ethics and anti-corruption reform
o   Campaign Finance reform
o   Legislative reforms – to create a more participatory legislative process
o   Voting reforms – to promote turnout and ease restrictions on the right to vote
o   Criminal Justice Reforms
o   Education Policy Reforms
o   Judicial Reforms
o   Local government reform
Ø  The mandatory referendum is a rare opportunity for voters to bypass the legislature and demand review and revision on a multiplicity of issues that matter most to the voters.

There is Fear of a Convention:
Ø  An Unlimited Convention/no restrictions on the convention. Once convened, the argument goes, the delegates are without limit and might eliminate the good along with the bad.  Enviornmental groups, labor unions, and advocates for the needy are among the opposition groups who fear favorable provisions might be revised or excised.
Ø  The “same old politics” and political insiders will dominate the convention.
Ø  The convention will be costly. And  (as happened in 1967), proposed changes might get rejected in the end anyway.

There is a General Lack of Public Awareness:
Ø  For many New Yorkers, the state constitutional convention may not appear to be a viable path to reform simply because they do not know enough about the process.
Ø  Thus far, the State legislature has devoted few resources to educating the citizens about the upcoming ballot choice.  Most of the outside money that is being spent, is in opposition.
Ø  In past ballot votes, the plurality of voters declined to vote on the ballot question. 

Dr. Hank Dullea provided information on the Convention and Delegate Selection Process. He is the author of  Charter Revision in the Empire State: The Politics of New York's 1967 Constitutional Convention.

The presenters collectively provided a wealth of factual information and counter-arguments which would allow voters to make an informed choice come November.  Many of the anti-convention fears, they explained, are unfounded and reflect a misunderstanding of the rich history of the convention process:

Ø  There is, they remind us, much in the New York Constitution that is good – and most of which was added through the work of constitutional conventions.
Ø  Even in cases of “failed” conventions, as in 1967 when the voters rejected the proposed revisions, many of the conventions recommendations later made their way into the constitution through the legislative amendment process. 
Ø  What conventions offer is a unique opportunity for systematic study and recommendation – it is different than politics “as usual” because the particpants are broader, the mission is directed, and the work ultimately is subject to popular ratification.
Ø  The work of the convention will depend on the delegates selected – and this is process that is open to direct democratic participation. 
Ø  The costs of the convention will be offset by the potential benefits – for example, a consolidation of the judiciary and court systems alone could produce considerable savings.

A member of the audience, Dr. Michael Armato made the insightful observation that the outcome of the convention ballot question is likely to turn on the narrative and framing of the debate.  Dr. Galie described the eternal paradox for all reformers: if people believe that the “same old” of politics is bad, and reform is framed as the “same old” politics, then there is seemingly no solution: We are left to dwell on the dysfunction without ever turning the corner toward productive engagement and change. 


Dr. Sharon Murphy, the 2017 NYSPSA Program Chair, welcomes the audience to the Conference.  Dr. Murphy is a Professor of Political Science at Nazareth College, where the Conference was held. She is also a Daemen College alumna (BA, History and Government, 1980). 

How to Learn More    

The constitutional convention question is a unique opportunity for voters to compel study and review of the foundation of New York State's governance. The best way to make an informed decision on the ballot vote is to learn everything one can about the process. Sienna College's statewide polling has found that, although 69% of New York voters support calling a convention, more than two-thirds of them have not seen or read information on the upcoming vote.

The League of Women Voters, the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the Hugh I. Carey Institute for Governmental Reform, and the New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse are a few good places to start if you want to learn more.  On these sites you will find details on the history and work of New York's past constitutional conventions, as well as information, and links to editorials and news coverage of the upcoming “Con-Con” vote. 

You may also contact me directly at lparshal@daemen.edu.
Dr. Lisa Parshall
Chairperson, State and Local Politics, New York State Political Science Association

Daemen College Students:
State and Local Politics (PSC 114) will be offered in Fall 2017 (Thursday 4-6:45).  Dr. Parshall is the Section Chair for State and Local Politics for the New York State Political Science Association (NYPSA) and a Key Votes Advisor (New York State) for Project Vote Smart.  Her research interests include New York State constitutional history and local government consolidation/reform.  She has presented her research on village government consolidation at multiple conferences.  For more information on the course, please contact lparshal@daemen.edu