May 8, 2007

College campuses strive for diversity


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer      
SUNY Cortland college freshman Rebecca Blair, a childhood education major, Jessica Richardson and Jasmin Pack, both physical education majors, get dressed up Saturday for a Wild Wild West Carnival on campus.

Staff Reporter

Tompkins Cortland Community College and SUNY Cortland are implementing new ways to encourage ethnic and cultural diversity on their campuses. This new focus on globalization has led both campuses to create councils to look at ways to infuse diversity in the school’s curriculum and increase representation among staffing and students.
The Multicultural Life Council and its subcommittees at SUNY Cortland are working on the goal of internationalizing the campus, said Elizabeth Davis-Russell, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs and chair of the committee.
“This represents the whole institution,” said Davis-Russell, from Academic Affairs to Institutional Advancement. “So diversity is not just the responsibility of one office.” She said eventually the mayor would be asked to provide a representative to sit on the council.
At Tompkins Cortland Community College the Diversity Equity Action Council was created from what was the Affirmative Action Advisory Council in the fall as an umbrella group. It, too, has subcommittees.
“We’re developing a more proactive approach,” said Amy Trueman, a counselor at TC3 and chair of TC3’s council. She said the goal of the college is to “develop people’s skills and opportunities to know different groups.”
Seth Thompson, director of TC3’s Office of Multicultural Services, said the diversity council is also looking for students and community members who would like to serve on it. He said he would like to see at least three students on it.
“In light of the Virginia Tech incident, people are questioning different cultural norms on campuses,” Thompson said. “Hopefully this board will present different topics on social justice, social norms that may affect TC3.”
At SUNY Cortland the campus also hired two co-coordinators of Multicultural Life — Tanya Abilock and Don Lawrence.
“They have to work with all student organizations and programming,” Davis-Russell said. “It was just too much for one person to do. We were able to add another person; ideally we wanted four.”
Attracting more culturally diverse students and staff, internationalizing the curriculum and making the campus more welcoming to students are three goals of both of these councils.
Student Representation
White, or non-Hispanic, students are in the majority at both campuses, at 85.7 percent at TC3 and 79.4 percent at SUNY Cortland for fall 2006. TC3 has a student population of about 3,000 and SUNY Cortland about 7,000. Both colleges showed 0.5 percent Native Americans, including native Alaskans.
At TC3, according to figures from Institutional Research, from fall 2006 6.5 percent of students were black; 2.9 percent Hispanic; 1.7 percent Asian/Pacific, and 2.7 percent were international students, with the majority from the Dominican Republic.
At SUNY Cortland for fall 2006 student population was: 2.7 percent black, 3.9 percent Hispanic, 1.4 percent Asian/Pacific and 0.4 percent international students.
SUNY Cortland also reported an ‘other’ category at 0.5 percent and ‘unreported’ category at 10.9 percent, said Peter Koryzno, director of public relations at the college.
Davis-Russell said the college is trying to attract  more international students, faculty and scholars to the Cortland campus. One example of this is SUNY Cortland’s dual-degree program with Turkey. Two students from Anadolu University in Eskisehir started studying teaching English as a second language this fall. By next fall, there will be 11 students in the program, including four from Izmir University of Economics who will study economics. Eventually, SUNY Cortland hopes to attract at least 30 Turkish students to the program annually, according to Lara Atkins, the college’s interim director of the Office of International Programs.
Davis-Russell said a subcommittee on recruitment and retention is working closely with admissions to recruit from diverse areas.
“One of those areas is right in our backyard — Syracuse,” she said. Education students in Cortland’s Urban Recruitment of Educators, or CURE, program mentor students in the Syracuse school district. “Some of the students there will become students at SUNY Cortland,” noted Davis-Russell.
Internationalizing curriculum
In its second year is an Australian teaching fellowship open to SUNY Cortland alumni who have at least provisional or initial teaching certification in New York state, and an expansion of the program to establish a fellowship for Australian teachers in the Cortland area is in the works.
At TC3 there are also study abroad opportunities, in particular with some of the classes offered. One program in which nursing students and other students travel to Nicaragua to provide primary health care is in the process of being expanded.
Trueman said at TC3 the college will concentrate on “coordinating efforts all over the campus.” For example if a faculty member works around a multicultural theme, the college will try to offer co-curricular activities, such as speakers, to support the theme. The idea is to infuse multiculturalism into all subjects. “We can only do that by sharing information — talking to other people.”
Thompson said one English faculty member plans to focus on social justice in an English composition class. “I think that’s phenomenal,” Thompson said. “That’s a major paradigm shift for the way we offer our courses.”
Campus ‘Climate’
Thompson said TC3 just completed a campus climate survey that looks at students’ perceptions of the programs offered and how programs impact students. He said the data has not been analyzed yet, but does show that most students thought programs at the college helped build community spirit, but programs attracted low turnout because there were too many competing things going on when programs were offered, generally at noon.
“Most of students are pretty comfortable here. That’s a good sign,” Thompson said.
Alex Brumfield, from Rochester, said he has not encountered any racial issues on the TC3 campus. “It’s really calm, everyone gets along,” the freshman said.
Abilock said many SUNY Cortland students join more than one of the unions representing underrepresented students.
Varrell Eddie, a communications major with a concentration in media production and a minor in history, is such a student. After a softball game Friday at Beaudry Park between SUNY Cortland’s Black Student Union and La Familia Latina, he said he is a member of both as well as the Caribbean Student Association, and Men of Value and Excellence.
“I get involved in a little of everything,” Eddie, from Brooklyn, said. “When you learn about other people, you learn a little about yourself.”
He said the college is becoming culturally diverse. “It starts a lot with the students,” Eddie said. “Students have to make the first move. We’re doing our part and administration is starting to do their part.”
John Weinstock, a junior at SUNY Cortland, said making a connection with a Latin American country was important to him as an international studies and Spanish major, and so he set up a trip between Habitat for Humanity and the La Familia Latina clubs in Guatemala. The trip will be in January. He also has a concentration in Latin American international relationships and social philosophy.
Jonathan Estevez, a senior English major from the Bronx, said although he is not a member of La Familia Latina, he does try to support the clubs. He said he did not think there was much diversity in students or in curriculum, but said the college is trying.
“It’s just taking time,” he said.


Diocese to announce changes Wednesday

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Area Catholics can expect to find out Wednesday how the Diocese of Syracuse intends to reorganize its churches in the county.
The diocese plans to announce changes to area parishes — which could include the closing of churches, merging of parishes and/or a change from parish status to missions or devotional chapels — Wednesday afternoon at Holy Cross Catholic Church in DeWitt.
The time of the announcement has not yet been released.
The reorganization is part of a wholesale transformation of the diocese — including, along with Cortland, parishes in Oswego, Oneida, Onondaga, Madison, Chenango and Broome counties — meant to ensure the church’s long-term viability in the face of changing demographics and financial and staffing challenges.
“The goal, simply stated by (Bishop James Moynihan), is to create healthy and vibrant parishes,” said Danielle Cummings, communications director for the diocese. “What we are doing is restructuring and strengthening the church for today and for tomorrow.”
In November, representatives of the nine parishes in the Cortland Pastoral Care Area sent the diocese three recommendations for how they would like to see the local parishes restructured, two of which called for narrowing the nine churches into a total of three parishes, with one pastor for each, and one that called for consolidating all nine churches into one parish.
“The bishop has taken those recommendations very seriously,” Cummings said.
Although she could not comment on plans for Cortland County, Cummings said the diocese has looked at such factors as financial information, demographics, population, sacramental frequency and personnel in determining how the parishes will be reorganized.
“If you look at the announcements to date, the decisions have been made in response to areas that have had, for instance, a significant population decrease, or a significant shift in demographics,” Cummings said. “We’re looking for the best way to meet the spiritual needs in the diocese with the resources we have.”


Second appeal planned in air gun case

Staff Reporter

The Cortland County District Attorney’s Office intends to appeal the twice-dismissed case involving two Homer teens who shot classmates with an air gun in May 2006.
District Attorney David Hartnett said Monday that his office will appeal the case against Zachary Walter, 18, and Terry Elwood, 17.
Homer Town Justice Gary Shiffer in February dismissed charges of second-degree harassment and unlawful possession of a weapon on school grounds, violations.
In paperwork filed Friday, Assistant District Attorney Wendy Franklin says she believes Shiffer was incorrect in dismissing the cases. She does not elaborate on why she believes the decision was wrong.
Hartnett declined to comment on what his office’s arguments will be in the appeal. He said Franklin will file a more lengthy argument in two to four weeks.
“The appeal is going to speak for itself,” he said.
Walter’s attorney, Randolph Kruman, said he received the paperwork about the appeal Monday, and he plans to file motions to have the appeal dismissed on grounds of “improper procedure.” Kruman declined to comment further.
Mark Suben, Elwood’s attorney, declined to comment on the matter.
The teens were first arrested in May 2006 after one of five students the two shot with an Airsoft BB pistol filed a complaint with State Police. The pistol is clear, made of plastic and shoots plastic BBs.
Walter and Elwood were indicted in August on numerous felony assault charges before County Court Judge Julie Campbell dismissed the case in November. Campbell found none of the students the two shot had suffered any injuries, according to her decision.
After the dismissal Hartnett wrote a letter to Campbell asking her to reconsider her decision or consider any lesser applicable charges in the case. Campbell denied the request.
The State Police then arrested the teens at Homer High School on the violations at Hartnett’s request. Shiffer dismissed those charges finding he did not have jurisdiction over the case because it had already been moved to County Court.


Cuyler Town Board to vote on ATV law

Staff Reporter

CUYLER — The Town Board is expected to vote tonight on a proposal to amend the town laws  to allow all terrain vehicles, or ATVs, on six town roads.
The board discussed the matter at a public hearing April 10 but adjourned the vote after many citizens raised concerns over the issue. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has also told the board it believes the idea will bring many problems to the area.
Regional Forester David Sinclair, of the DEC, wrote a letter Friday to Town Supervisor Steven Breed in which he expressed concerns over opening the roads up to ATV use.
Sinclair said ATVs are not permitted in state forests and he feels passing a law that will allow ATVs off private property and on to public land will also encourage people to ride illegally on state land.
“Currently, ATVs are not permitted anywhere on those State forests and they are not permitted on the public forest access roads located on those forests,” he said in the letter. “The Department is concerned that opening the Town roads to ATV use, will be an invitation to off-road travel, which would result in increased illegal ATV use on the State Forests.”
Breed, a Democrat, is the law’s major proponent and is also the president of a local ATV club — Quad County Trail Riders. He told residents at the hearing that the law would allow ATV riders to ride on Keith Hill, Stony Brook, Randall Hill, Enzes, Hills and Eaton Hill roads.
Many residents raised concerns that the proposed law would invite an influx of non-resident ATV riders, create an opening for lawsuits and result in riders trespassing on private property.
Some of the local riders present at the meeting argued that most ATV riders are responsible and problems will be minimal.