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College Comes Together for Post-Election Dialogue

November 15, 2016

BMCC has responded to the presidential election by creating a Post-Election Support Services and Tips, on the BMCC website and presenting events such as a Post-Election College-Wide Forum held Tuesday, November 15.

The forum provided an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to come together and express their concerns, ask questions and make statements regarding the recent presidential election.

BMCC President Antonio Pérez opened the event in Richard Harris Terrace. “On a personal level, I’ve been having conversations about the election with my barber, my friends and my daughter-in-law,” he said. “This country is built on the shoulders of immigrants. My barber is an immigrant who hasn’t seen his family in 14 years. People make great sacrifices to come to this country and seek their freedom — and we are no less committed to protecting those freedoms within our college.”

Referring to President-Elect Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, Pérez said, “We value diversity, and no one person is going to change that.”

Karrin Wilks, BMCC Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, emphasized that BMCC is a safe, respectful and inclusive community for faculty, students and staff, "with a commitment to equity and inclusion.” Provost Wilks also spoke of the importance of  “open dialogue and civil discourse, even if it is difficult. We encourage you to speak your truth and respect the truth others speak."

As Vice President for Student Affairs Marva Craig and Associate Dean of Faculty Jim Berg circulated with microphones, members of the audience stood to say what was on their minds.

Sangeeta Bishop, chair of the Department of Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice, presented a petition signed by 279 faculty and staff at BMCC. “Given the outcome of the election, we strongly urge to make BMCC a ‘sanctuary campus’,” she said. “This means we will protect our students from deportation investigation once they are on campus.” 

President Pérez accepted the petition. “After the attacks of 2001,” he said, “we had a request from the FBI for student records, and we said we would not give them over until they subpoenaed the institution, which they eventually did.”

Deborah C. Harte, BMCC Single Stop and Special Services Manager, commented that DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students and those with Temporary Protected Status “experience fear, following the election, and we will continue to bring attorneys on campus to work with them regarding their immigration status.” 

BMCC students also spoke at the event. One speaker simply identified herself as a DACA student. “I came today to this forum because since the election I am afraid for my family,” she said. “Thank you to President Pérez and everyone here, for your support.”

To read more post-election comments from the BMCC community, click HERE.

Cicely Horsham-Brathwaite, Director of the BMCC Counseling Center, said, “We are here as a supportive resource to our students. We are hear to talk with them about feeling a lack of safety, hope, and the desire to have the life that they want." 

Professor of English Page Delano spoke about the importance of BMCC being a resource. "As an educational institution, we need to help our students understand some of the terrible issues ahead of us, such as the impact on climate change,” she said. “We also need to help them understand the history of anti-Semitism, the role of law, government, the United States Constitution and the press.”

Communication Studies major Hector Rivera said, “We are very afraid if we are minorities. But whatever happens, we’re all going to stand together.” Rodney Jones II (shown above), a BMCC Sociology major, said, “It’s a day-by-day process. Some days I’m good, some days I can’t leave my house. The scariest thing isn’t necessarily the politics, it’s the fact that people think this way, that we allowed it to happen. I’m still hopeful. Given the fact that Donald Trump is at least from New York City, some of his original rhetoric is changing, but then you go online and read about all these hate crimes happening around the country, and he hasn’t given a clear speech that says for that to stop.” 

Odelia Levy, BMCC Chief Diversity Officer and Special Advisor to the President, outlined three main points and services provided by the Office of Compliance and Diversity.

“Nothing has changed, regarding our policies,” she said, “and nothing will change. Even if federal laws went away, city and state laws remain.” Her second point was to encourage the BMCC community “to report any allegations of discrimination or harassment on campus. We can’t act if we don’t know about it.”

Finally, she said, “We need folks to be bystanders and ‘upstanders’. You can report the incident, even little incidents, to BMCC Public Safety, which has a presence on campus 24 hours a day. You can report incidents to the BMCC Office of Student Affairs, the New York City Police Department, or the MTA Department of Diversity and Civil Rights. The more we report, the more statistics they will amass and the better they will be able to respond.”

BMCC Professor James Blake spoke about his personal history as an activist for civil rights and someone who went to college when there were “White Only” and “Colored Only” bathrooms. “The struggle continues,” he said. “I have been listening to students, especially Muslim students …Whenever there is a setback, there is a ‘come back’, so don’t be afraid.”

Soniya Munshi, BMCC Professor of Sociology, has talked to her students about the importance of sharing feelings. “Courage is acting in the face of fear,” she said. “We have a lot of skills, history and practice fighting back.”

Munshi mentioned that there will be a teach-in, Issues of Detention and Deportation, with community organizers and other guest speakers, on Wednesday, December 7, from 2:00 p.m to 4:00 p.m. at room 1208 in the Murray building.

Other events brought up during the forum include a discussion, Decoding the Election Through a Feminist Lens on November 30 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. presented by the Women’s Studies FIG (Faculty Interest Group) through the Center for Teaching, Learning and Scholarship (CETLS).

Chair of the Music and Art department Howard Meltzer talked about his past experience working for a regional board of the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, in Texas and Central Pennsylvania. “There are people outside of New York City who share our beliefs,” he said. “While Manhattan is an island, it is not an island in its beliefs.”

Harry Mars, Director of the BMCC Office of Student Activities, voiced his concern that the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election “has activated behaviors that are abusive to women.” He urged the BMCC community “to make sure you are clear, that this will not be tolerated.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Marva Craig commented that, “BMCC has always been a safe space for undocumented students. We are one country, one institution, celebrating our diversity.”

President Pérez closed the event. “We talk about BMCC as a being family,” he said. “I assure you, we will do everything we can to ensure that no one interferes with our family.”

For more information, the BMCC community is encouraged to refer to Post-Election Support Services and Tips, on the BMCC website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Post-Election Support Services and Tips available online
  • President Antonio Perez reinforces college mission to protect diversity
  • Karrin Wilks, Provost and Senior Vice President, encourages community to "speak your truth and respect the truth others speak"

share this story »