BMCC to Host Groundbreaking Interdisciplinary Conference on Social Justice

September 16, 2016

Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) will host Transcending Punishment: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Inequality & Social Justice on October 7-8 at the BMCC campus.

Conference speakers and panel sessions will focus on scholarly and practical approaches to social justice, according to Michelle Ronda, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice, BMCC, who is co-organizing the event with Benjamin Haas. Assistant Professor, Communications, BMCC.  Interested participants can register for the event online.

At BMCC, faculty and staff attend conferences to build their academic network, compare research findings and participate in debates on the most pressing issues in higher education today. BMCC professors have also created conferences that are gaining a national audience and establish BMCC as a hub for scholarly inquiry and growth. In addition to the Transcending Punishment conference series being launched this Fall 2016, BMCC Professors Margaret Barrow and Manya Steinkoler originated the annual Transitions and Transactions conference series at BMCC, in which professors share insights into the community college experience and which has featured speakers such as acclaimed poet Billy Collins, NY1 journalist Errol Louis, and pre-eminent scholar on the teaching of writing, Sheldon Blau. Another prominent series at BMCC is the Colloquium of the Modern Languages Department, which presented its nineteenth conference, “Music of the World: A World of Music,” in Spring 2016.

“The conference will also explore issues surrounding the nation’s massive and dysfunctional criminal justice system,” Ronda says. “A central theme is the paradox that a nation committed to liberty and equality also relies so heavily on the harshest punishments, which do little to solve deeper social problems that contribute to crime.”

Sponsored by the BMCC Criminal Justice/Social Justice Faculty Interest Group through the BMCC Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Scholarship (CETLS), the conference’s three feature keynote speakers include: Baz Dreisinger, Associate Professor of English, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY); Daniel McGowan, environmental activist and subject of the Academy Award nominated film “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” and Joshua Allen, a black trans-feminine organizer whose work revolves around issues of race, gender and policing.

Ronda says conference organizers hope to create a space at BMCC for those committed to social justice pedagogy, scholarship, advocacy and activism to come together to learn and share. That means carving out spaces for undergraduate students to be exposed to a conference environment: meeting new peers, learning from each other as developing scholars, she says.

“The panel sessions will be led by faculty, advocates and activists who are committed to social justice in the classroom and world,” said Ronda.

She says some of the conference topics include “Hopelessness and Social Justice Activism,” “We Fight Back: College Professors Fighting Neoliberalism at the Community College Through Social Justice” and “The Role of Modern Mass Incarceration in Social Justice.”

“Depending on who you ask, the conservative estimate is that the United States spends more than $51 billion on corrections alone, more than many of our most important social programs,” said Ronda, noting that the United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world, according to the World Prison Population List.

She says the conference will look at the “overlaps of race, class and gender and sexuality the extent to which those categories maintain a system of inequality.”

“We hope the public will join us, as we are also quite serious about CUNY’s historic mission to educate the whole people,” said Ronda.

For a full schedule and details of the two-day event, which opens at Richard Harris Terrace at 4 p.m. Friday October 7 at 199 Chambers St., as well as registration information visit the conference website.

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  • Two-day event includes keynote speakers and breakoff panel discussions
  • Conference will explore social justice issues and the nation’s criminal justice system
  • Panels will be led by noted social justice academics, activists and advocates

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