Roosevelt @CCNY had yet another successful semester for the fall of 2015 with many new faces and fresh ideas. We had 8 meetings, policy-writing workshops, and editing sessions; outside the classroom, we held our very first Fireside Chat on Felon-Voting Bans, and finished with our End of Semester Celebration. In addition to submitting policy pieces to the National 10 Ideas Journal, our members helped to push initiatives for the Hunger and Homelessness Campaign and Gender Resources Center with City College’s Undergraduate Student Government and NYPIRG. Off-campus, we supported fellow NYU Roosevelters with their Rally Against the Sexton Plan.

Highlights:

  • Thinks 2040 Workshop On October 8th, 2015 Roosevelt @CCNY members, both old and new, came together for our 3rd Annual Think 2040 Workshop. Think 2040 is designed to help our members brainstorm policy ideas by participating in three Breakout sessions ­ Values, Outcomes, and Policy. First, we identify our shared values. By starting off with our values, we ensure that what matters most to us is rooted in our future work. Our members’ values include Equality, Education, Empathy, Sustainability, Empowerment, Reliability, and Efficiency. Next, our members expressed the outcomes they want to see in 2040. We worked together to answer the question, “What would it mean for our values to be realized in the world?” The outcomes we seek are Universal Healthcare, equal race representation across major industries, Gender Equity, reduction in LGBTQ discrimination, and an increase in Minimum Wage. Lastly, we embarked on the most important part of the workshop. How can we create policy ideas that embody our values and help us reach the outcomes we want to see? From state­wide improvements to Pre­K curriculum to reforms for public Graduate Schools, our members completed the workshop with new policy ideas that were ready to be refined throughout the semester.

 

  • Policy Submissions Ten amazing members, Alyssia Osario, Nadia Quddus, Corianna Givens, Mike Vitelli, Sharon Shaji, Ivanna Yana Kuz, Ariel Avgi, Jonathan Pianti, Devindra Ramadhar, and Jaclyn Williams developed their policy visions for the future and submitted them to the National 10 Ideas Journal. See summaries below:
    • Student Union Spaces in CUNY: A Necessity, Not A Luxury, Author: Alyssia Osario, Policy Director of Education
      City University of New York must grant student union space to allow opportunities for student leadership development, diversity of thought, institutional critique, and community involvement. These opportunities lead to social and economic mobility.
    • Updating Minimum Wage Periodically, Author: Nadia Quddus, Policy Director of Economic Development
      Updating the minimum wage to keep up with inflation will reduce poverty and will directly help head of households that are females, especially those with families, in addition to reducing gender wage inequality.
    • Personal Finance Classes to Improve Financial Literacy and Reduce Student Debt, Authors: Nadia Quddus and Devindra Ramadhar, Director & Deputy Director of Economic Development
      By implementing a personal finance requirement for high school students in New York City, students will be more equipped to make smart financial decisions and potentially decrease student debt. This class will place an emphasis on student loans, healthy credit practices, and strategies to save money.
    • Using Early Detection Screening to Diagnose Mental Illness on College Campuses, Author: Corianna Givens, Policy Director of Healthcare
      The CUNY system in New York City should mandate that all incoming freshmen and transfer students complete a thorough mental health screening survey, provided by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). This would allow students coming into college with a mental health issue to have support from their counseling center throughout their entire time at their institution.
    • Drug-Related Restrictions in Public Housing: Decreasing Recidivism by Reuniting Families, Author: Mike Vitelli, Deputy Director of Equal Justice
      New York City should discontinue eviction proceedings for low-level offenses, remove outdated zero-tolerance policies, and expand the reach of the NYCHA Family Re-entry Pilot Program for its public housing tenants; this will unite families, combat homelessness, and reduce recidivism.
    • Gender-Based Violence: Shifting The Campus Focus From Punitive to Survivor-Centric Approaches, Author: Sharon Shaji, Policy Director of Equal Justice
      The City College of New York should provide resources and an autonomous space for survivors of gender-based violence to heal from trauma and re-integrate into the campus community, rather than force survivors to re-live their trauma through bureaucratic reporting policies.
    • Ukraine’s Volunteer Soldiers: In need of an official welfare law, Author: Ivanna Yana Kuz, Policy Director of Defense & Diplomacy
      There is no official welfare policy for soldiers of Ukraine’s volunteer battalions and their families. Ukraine’s veteran law should be amended to provide them with the same financial support given to soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
    • Togolese Prayer Camps: A Stepping Stone Toward Effective Mental Healthcare, Author: Ariel Avgi
      Togo’s limited access to mental healthcare has led to victims’ increasing reliance on abusive prayer camps. With the help of the Togolese Red Cross and BasicNeeds NGO, an educational campaign could be initiated, and camps could be turned community-based healing centers.
    • The Crisis in Syria: Join Russia in Supporting Assad, Author: Jonathan Pionati
      US non-support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime curtails its ability to affect positively upon the Syrian people’s devastation. Allying itself with Syria’s government in coordination with Russia, China, and Iran will allow for policy measures that could lessen Syrian suffering and minimize the prospects of international conflict.
    • Restructuring the Conduct of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs), Author: Jaclyn Williams
      In collaboration with United Nations bodies and NGOs, state governments should ensure that transnational PMSCs instill clear standards and professional guidelines for properly registered and licensed personnel. Establishing a collection of records can reinforce the common international human rights standards.

 

  • Fireside Chat: Felon-Voting Bans We had an incredibly thought-provoking and lively discussion about felon-voting bans, guided by Sharon Shaji, Policy Director of Equal Justice. She started us off with a concise history lesson on the origins of felon-voting bans, the stances of each side of the controversy, and current legislation related to the bans. Following the introduction, we split the discussion into two parts. First, we discussed our thoughts on law itself using the Guiding Questions. This was essential to our discussion because it helped us identify specific problems. For example, some CCNY Roosevelters did not think the law was unjust, but rather the implementation or infrastructure around the law was problematic. This classification helped us in the second part of our discussion in which we discussed practical policy solutions. Our chat of felon-voting bans examined its politics, legality, economic impact, and psychosocial connection.  Our proposed solutions were diverse and involved themes applicable to the Education sector, Equal Justice sector, and Defense and Diplomacy Sector.

    Below are assorted questions drawn from our discussion and policy suggestions:

    • Is civil death a justified concept?
      • Should it continue after someone has already paid their debt to society (i.e. Prison Sentence, Parole, and/or Probation)?
      • Should the degree of the crime of affect which felons should be banned from voting?
        For example: Violent Crime vs. Sex Crime vs. White Collar Crime vs. Drug Crime
      • Should civil death apply to both federal and state voting?
    • Should historical race relations of a state and their prison-makeup influence the state’s ability to create felon-voting bans?
    • Do felons care about getting their right to vote back? (i.e. Are they made aware that their voting rights are lost?)
      • Should the state provide civic education lessons for felons that don’t have life sentences?
        • Is prison for rehabilitation or punishment?
        • Can empowering a felon to be civically engaged help rehabilitation and stop recidivism?
        • How does the private prison industry complicate this issue?
      • Can making voting more accessible counteract the lack of civic engagement?
        • Is there a way to securely create online voting polls for federal or state elections?
          • Does everyone have personal access to computers and/or smartphones? This may still marginalize certain groups of people.
        • Can halfway houses serve as a medium to reach ex-felons for civic education?
      • Can international models/policies concerning felon-voting bans be applied to the United States?

 

  • End of Semester Celebration After a semester of campus engagement and policy writing, it felt good to kick back and relax at our celebration. Though the terrors of Finals Week were upon us, our members and alumni came together for an evening of good food and even better conversation. We looked back at all the hard work we had done and praised our ten members who wrote for the 2016 10 Ideas Series! With the Spring semester upon us, we look forward to a new set of goals, new accomplishments, and once again, another celebration!

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