Three Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students and one BMCC alumnus presented research findings during the 2015 Left Forum Conference at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY) on May 29 through June 1.
The BMCC students were the only group of presenters from a community college.
The Left Forum Conference invites almost 1,400 intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations as well as members of the public who discuss ideas and solutions to problems affecting various communities. This year’s conference was called “No Justice, No Peace: Confronting the Crisis of Capitalism and Democracy.”
The BMCC panel discussion included individual twenty-minute presentations by criminal justice alumnus Josean Melendez, now in his first semester at Vassar College on a full scholarship through BMCC’s Exploring Transfer program; BMCC criminal justice major Roydel Morris, who graduated May 2015 and is also headed to Vassar through the Exploring Transfer program; liberal arts major Bernadette Schaefer and communication studies major Elyse Ortiz.
The findings by Melendez, Morris and Schaefer came from their research exploring perceptions of drugs and crime in each student’s neighborhood in New York City. They completed the work as part of Professor Yolanda Martin’s criminal justice course “Crime and Justice in the Urban Environment.”
Ortiz explored conflict resolution methodologies applied at the family level. She conducted her research during a course on conflict resolution taught by communication studies Professor Jill Strauss.
Ortiz presented evidence showing effective use of dispute resolution tools in interpersonal interactions. Specifically, Ortiz used conflict resolution interviewing techniques to resolve an ongoing dispute in her own family.
Melendez focused his presentation on the role social media plays in the drug dealing trade in Staten Island public housing project Stapleton Houses. His findings indicate that a suburban distribution system of illicit drugs coupled with a pro-law enforcement environment had encouraged a different type of drug-dealing structure than what is found in other New York City boroughs.
Schaefer focused on her neighborhood, Maspeth Queens, where she documented an ongoing community debate over a planned shelter for homeless families. Schaefer used a visual ethnography in her presentation to illustrate how some residents were framing their opposition to the shelter as a safety issue.
Morris explored parts of his neighborhood along Fordham Road in the Bronx. According to Morris, underperforming public schools, lack of safe common areas and the use of aggressive approaches to policing all contributed to a thriving street-level drug trade in his neighborhood.
The students found the experience rewarding.
“I appreciated being able to talk and express my thoughts and perspective to a captive audience,” said Morris.
Schaefer agreed and also said comments from the audience were helpful.
“Their questions helped me think of further research I should be doing about this same project,” she said.
This was the second year BMCC presented at the Left Forum.
Professor Martin said the hands-on neighborhood research the students undertook enabled them to contextualize crime statistics for the conference audience.
“It also enables students to challenge inaccurate narratives on their own neighborhoods created by the media and outside voices,” Martin said.