Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Speaks About Experiences Amidst Protest

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Speaks About Experiences Amidst Protest


Albright discussed her 40-year career in international affairs with Maxwell Dean James Steinberg during the eighth annual Tanner Lecture.

Madeleine Albright served as the United States’ first female secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 — but to her youngest granddaughter, that’s no big deal.

“Only girls are secretary of state,” Albright recalled her now 14-year-old granddaughter saying at age seven.

Albright had a conversation with Dean James Steinberg of the Maxwell School on April 5 to a packed crowd in Hendricks Chapel as part of the Tanner Lecture Series on Ethics, Citizenship and Public Responsibility. From 1993 to 1997, Albright served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and was a member of President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet.

When Albright was appointed secretary of state, she became the highest-ranking woman in government at the time. Albright said many men didn’t think she could do the job. They thought Arab leaders would refuse to work with her, but in actuality she “did not have problems abroad.”

“I had more problems with men in our own government,” Albright said. “Not because they were all male chauvinist pigs, but because they’d known me for a long time.”

It’s fitting that Albright spoke about the importance of academics in governance while at the university. As an employee of the State Department, she said she would often bring her academic colleagues over for “no fault” discussions. Albright, who teaches at Georgetown University, said she uses her government experience to help her academically and vice versa.

“It is important to be immersed in what you’ve learned and why you’ve learned it,” Albright said. When she travels abroad, she often sees her students use their education to serve their country through the foreign service. In her eyes, foreign service jobs are very dangerous. She cited the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, in which more than 200 people died in attacks linked to al-Qaida.

“We need to see diplomats as dedicated representatives,” she said.

Albright also emphasized the importance of compromise and differing viewpoints in governance. To her, the most important element of democracy is compromise.

“You don’t have to agree with somebody on everything, but our system only works when there’s respect and civility across the aisle,” Albright said. When asked about whether she would show a position adverse to that of the government, Albright drew laughs with her answer — depends on who’s president.

“It has to be done in a responsible way,” she said. “(In a democracy) there has to be some way of letting it be known that you disagree. It’s useful if people speak on the basis of rational facts, which may not happening all the time.”

As for the refugee crisis in Europe Albright had one word: horrendous. Since leaving office, Albright continues to be involved in world issues. Soon she will be heading to a meeting in Oslo, Norway to talk about the current refugee situation.

“I am a refugee,” she said, referring to her birth in what is now the Czech Republic and her family seeking political asylum in the United States. “I am incredibly grateful for being welcomed by this country.”

“We are a very big country and there’s plenty of room,” Albright said, explaining how she thinks the United States should do more to accommodate refugees.

Albright kept the conversation lighthearted, even when speaking about difficult topics. However, her presence on campus elicited a reaction that was outwardly inaffectionate.

Outside of the chapel, protesters from the Syracuse ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and ISO(International Socialist Organization), protested Albright’s presence on campus. During the lecture, two audience members on the second floor hung a banner painted with the words, “there is a special place in hell for war criminals.”

Koy Adams, a senior women’s and gender studies and sociology major described Albright as an “imperial feminist.” He referenced comments made by Albright on “60 Minutes” about U.N. sanctions against Iraq, in which she said the price of the sanctions (which the interviewer described as the deaths of a half a million children) was “worth it.”

“I see this event itself as being violent because you are inviting Madeleine Albright to talk about ethics,” Adams said. “It’s violent to say that you’re approving of kids being killed. … This is a person who claims, ‘I’m a woman helping other women’ because her actions have political power and she has political clout. She actually had adverse effects on women worldwide.”

“For me [this protest] is to spread awareness, particularly the impacts of the institutional go-ahead of having an event such as this,” he continued. “There’s a particular perception of SU as being really elitist. You know, you’re so lost in your books that you can’t connect to reality. This [event] kind of proves it.”

William Arlt, who came from a “hour-and-a-half east” of Syracuse also said he was protesting to raise awareness.

“We’re drawing visibility to the often poorly understood fact that the Democratic Party is just as imperialist as the Republican Party,” Arlt said.

Although demonstrations were taking place outside, little mention was made of it during the event. The banner hanging from the second floor was removed before Albright could acknowledge it and the people who brought it left Hendricks Chapel.

However, during the lecture, Albright did acknowledge that she has made “a number of mistakes” in some of her statements. In explaining how during crises, such as the Rwandan genocide, her department didn’t have all the information they have now, she said acknowledged a feeling many people experience.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” she said.

 Originally published at The NewsHouseImage: Stephen Sartori/The NewsHouse

2 Miles Is 2 Far — Syracuse High School Students Lobby For More Buses

2 Miles Is 2 Far — Syracuse High School Students Lobby For More Buses

5297386276_d4285a940c_bStudents, their parents and teachers at Henniger High School have launched a campaign to persuade the city school board to allow school buses to pick up students living close to schools—as a safety measure. The group turned up to lobby the Syracuse City School Board on Nov. 4, complaining that a rule that bars bus drivers from picking up students less than two miles from their homes means many students must face long, dark walks home, braving snow piles, icy sidewalks and even muggers.

Dubbing their campaign “2 Miles Is 2 Far,” community members argued these situations make it difficult for students to do their best in school, achieve, and pass Regents Examinations to graduate.

“How many of you could walk over four miles under these conditions and still function to the best of your abilities?” asked Joyce Suslovic, a teacher at Henninger.

“During the wintertime I sometimes don’t come to school because it’s too cold,” said Dieu Mukiye, a Henninger student. Mukiye lives 1.9 miles away from school. “I’m not just speaking for myself. I represent the students,” he added.

Tracy Grimm, a board member of the Greater Strathmore Neighborhood Association, said her son was denied busing because they live 1.8 miles away. At the meeting, she said she asked a district official if she would feel comfortable walking the route, and the official said no.

“Well then why are you making our kids do this?” she recalled asking the official. “Neighborhoods can go from good to bad within a matter of blocks.”

Amy Banks, a teacher at Henninger, brought up how students often walk through “dangerous” neighborhoods while commuting.

“Last week, a 15-year-old student was attacked on his way home,” Banks said. “Grown men attacked him and sliced off part of his ear.” She also explained that refugee students were especially at risk for violence. “A refugee student was also followed by five boys and beaten,” she said.

Amir Junuzovic, a teacher at Henninger, said he had heard many “horrible” stories from students and parents.

“It’s very hard to listen to the stories,” Junuzovic said. “It’s tough, but what I can do is talk to people here and try and change things.”

Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras said the school district has funded the busing of students living outside a 1.5 mile radius of schools twice.

“Centro just hasn’t given us the buses,” Contreras explained.

Given the conditions for Centro, the district may have difficulty procuring the necessary buses. According to a multiyear highway bill passed by the House of Representatives, New York State will lose $820 million in public transportation aid over the next six years. Centro would lose approximately $12 million, or $2 million per year.

Syracuse has been chronically underfunded for decades, said Kevin Ahern, president of the Syracuse Teachers Association. He urged for a push for increased funding for the district, saying it was a “drop in the bucket” for the state budget.

Contreras brought up what she said were two main issues with transporting students. Legislation about allowable expenses and implementing a fair spending formula need to be changed, she said. It would cost $4 million to bring the transportation radius down to one mile.

Contreras also clarified that the district does not designate “safe” and “unsafe” areas, so this could not be factored into whether students are bused or not.

“We agree that two miles is too far; 1.5 miles is too far,” Contreras declared. To change the system however, she said, “We need some help from others outside the room.”

Racism on College Campuses Exists — But Often Goes Unreported By Students

Racism on College Campuses Exists — But Often Goes Unreported By Students

slutzker_center_syracuse_universityAfter a long night, all Taylor Nanz wanted was a burger, and maybe some fries to go along with it. It was Halloween weekend of 2013, and the third-year Syracuse University student was in Sliders Burgers and Belgian Fries on Marshall Street with two of her friends.

While waiting for her order, Nanz noticed a white male wearing blackface, who she said, along with some of his friends, was being rude to a black waiter.

“He was flaunting it, saying ‘It’s Halloween, I can wear blackface, I can do whatever I want,’” Nanz said. “I was so mad I started yelling at him, like, ‘How do you make race a joke?’”

The man, who Nanz said was amused by her outburst, kept harassing her, telling Nanz his blackface was appropriate because he was playing a character from a movie.

Harassment based on race of the kind Nanz experienced, as well as racial discrimination, doesn’t just happen in the real world – it happens on and around college campuses as well. Blackface, for which a white performer uses makeup to portray a black character, is deeply offensive to many people, including UCLA Associate Professor Mark Sawyer. As Sawyer wrote for CNN, “blackface is always about mocking black skin and presenting stereotypical black behavior.”

Back at Sliders, Nanz asked for the manager, who happened to be white. He told her that all that mattered at the establishment was getting food to the patrons, Nanz recalled.

“Me and the waiter were the only two black people there,” Nanz said. “Everyone else was laughing because they thought it was funny that I was upset over the blackface, and that I was overreacting.” She ended up crying and leaving the building.

A year and a half later, Nanz is still affected by the incident. But she never reported it to her university, choosing instead to talk it out with friends.

In his thirteen years working with Syracuse University’s Department of Public Safety, Sr. Detective Ed Weber has never received a call based primarily on racial discrimination or harassment.

“It’s hard to prove,” he said, of cases involving racial bias. “If it is a factor, race is secondary to a bigger infraction.”

When DPS gets a call, Weber said, they begin with an investigation and eventually refer the case to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. If a student is found responsible and bias is involved, he said there is usually some type of paper, sensitivity class, or other sanctions placed upon them.

Weber cites diversity on the SU campus as a reason for the lack of reports of racial discrimination. According to the Syracuse University website, 25.6 percent of the total student population are people of color.

“It’s a very unique community,” Weber said. “We have people of every race, every nationality. People kind of know better. They try to get along.”

Chaochen Li, a junior at Syracuse University, said otherwise.

“I feel racial discrimination on the basketball court, or in the professional area,” said Li, who is an international student from Beijing, China. When he plays pick-up basketball games, he is often the only Asian on his team. He described one recent incident when he said his teammates would not let him shoot the ball.

“After the game started, I found that they wouldn’t pass me the ball, even when I was at a better spot and had empty space to score,” Li said. Whenever he would steal the ball from the opposing team, Li said his teammates would continuously yell at him to pass rather than shoot, leaving him feeling frustrated. He attributed his teammates’ attitudes about his basketball abilities to stereotypes about Asians being lacking in physical ability.

“I feel like both white and black people think they are physically stronger than Asians,” he said.

Another time, Li was working on a film project for a multimedia class with two white students. When it came to discussing the project, Li said he felt excluded.

“I’m a film major, but they wouldn’t let me talk. I mean, it’s my major,” Li said. He described how other students often negatively evaluate his abilities based on his accent when he speaks English.

Li’s reluctance to report these incidents stems from a feeling of isolation. There are not a lot of Chinese students in Newhouse; Li said including himself there are only two in the Television-Radio-Film major.

“Being a minority sometimes means you cannot talk openly about race,” Li admitted, explaining how he did not want to risk offending people he has to work with on a daily basis.

Racial discrimination occurs at other universities as well. Various college students profiled in a study by the Harvard University The Voices of Diversity disclose events of racial discrimination that are never reported to authorities. One student profiled, who was identified as Carlos, described an unreported fight between 45 white males in fraternity and four African-Americans, saying, “It kind of just blows over, and that’s it.” Another student, who was identified as Raymond, explained how he didn’t speak up about discrimination. “I didn’t want to make a big scene or say anything, because…I don’t want my grade to be affected,” the study reported him saying.

The website of The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education has a page that catalogs various racial incidents on college campuses. In September of 2014, they listed an incident involving Hanna Strong, a former soccer player for the women’s team at Syracuse University, who was recorded on video using racial slurs.

“Things like this, especially with fraternities and sororities, are always happening on college campuses,” Nanz said. According to CNN, in 2014 the University of Mississippi found a Confederate flag and a noose around the neck of an on-campus statue of James Meredith, a famous black civil rights activist. In response, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity expelled three of its members who were connected to the incident, and suspended the University of Mississippi chapter.

“We do not share the statistics regarding allegations of race harassment and discrimination but racism is real and exists on our campus and in the broader Syracuse community,” Cynthia M. Curtain said by email.

Students at Syracuse University can report incidents of discrimination or harassment to Curtain, who functions as the University’s Chief Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services Officer and Title IX coordinator.

Nanz still remembers the waiter from that Halloween episode. She recalls asking him how he could bring himself to serve the blackface-wearing patron.

“He said, ‘I can’t afford to lose my job over some stupid racist kid.’”

DJ Duo The Chainsmokers & Chance The Rapper To Co-Headline Block Party 2016

DJ Duo The Chainsmokers & Chance The Rapper To Co-Headline Block Party 2016


Alternative musician Jon Bellion will open the annual concert, which takes place in the Carrier Dome.

Chicago hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper and DJ/producer duo The Chainsmokers will be performing at Block Party 2016, University Union announced in a press release Sunday night. The concert, which will be opened by alternative artist Jon Bellion, takes place on April 29.

The Chainsmokers, the duo of Alex Pall and SU alumnus Drew Taggart, are known for their signature indie-progressive sound, as well as their humor and antics at live performances. They released their debut EP “Bouquet” in 2015, which featured the hit song “Roses,” holding the #1 spot on the iTunes Top Dance/Electronica Songs chart for several weeks. The lead single from their debut album, which is expected later this year, includes the lead single “Don’t Let Me Down,” featuring Daya. The Chainsmokers will be performing at Coachella for the first time later this month.

Chance the Rapper, whose birth name is Chancellor Bennett, recently appeared on Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” album, co-writing five tracks, and making an appearance on the song “Ultralight Beam.” He released his debut mixtape “10 Day” in 2011, with a 2013 second mixtape, “Acid Rap” receiving more than three million downloads. His musical style is jazz-infused with warm, playful qualities. In 2015, he released another mixtape, “Surf” from his collaborative project, “The Social Experiment.”

Bellion, the opener, is known for creating his own genre of music through a blend of hip-hop, pop and soul. His debut album, “The Definition” was released to critical acclaim in 2014. The lead single of his to-be-released second album, “All Time Low” recently netted him the #1 spot on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow, April 4, with a pre-sale for full-time SU/ESF students from 10 a.m. until 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6. Sales to the public will begin on April 7 at 10 a.m. All tickets will be sold online through Ticketmaster.

Student tickets cost $25 for general admission dance floor access seats, and $20 for first level general admission and second level reserved seating. An SU or ESF ID is required for the pre-sale, with a maximum of two tickets allowed per ID. General public tickets cost $34.

Students may pick up tickets at the ticket booth outside Gate E of the Carrier Dome starting Monday, April 18 at 10 a.m. Block Party,which follows Mayfest in Walnut Park, starts at 7:30 p.m.

Originally published at The NewsHouse.

Department of Anthropology Speaker Series Presents: Jason De Léon

Department of Anthropology Speaker Series Presents: Jason De Léon


“The real focus today is on death,” Dr. Jason De Léon said starkly. “The point is not to sanitize this stuff.”

De Léon, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, presented at The Land of Open Graves: Necroviolence and the Politics of Migrant Death in the Arizona Desert, a March 19, 2015 event hosted by Syracuse University’s Department of Anthropology. He is the director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term study of undocumented migration between Mexico and the United States.

Once, De Léon’s team went searching for the body of an undocumented migrant in Arizona’s Sonoran desert. They found hiking boots and a tooth, but only partial skeleton dust, he said. Close to 3,000 bodies have been recovered in Arizona since 2000, a number De Léon argued is “grossly undercounted.”

But deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border are not an unintended consequence of border enforcement, he argued. Rather, they are “highly intended.” He referred to the U.S. government’s strategy of “prevention through deterrence,” which pushes undocumented migrants into more difficult environments in the Sonoran desert. The Border Patrol’s “Strategic Plan,” a document that has evolved since the mid-1990s, originally explicitly outlined forcing migrants into “mortal danger” or “over more hostile terrain” if they tried to cross the border.

“Migrant life is constructed as expendable,” De Léon said. “Migrants are non-citizens with no rights.”

De Léon defined necroviolence as a process that “allows torture to continue beyond the moment a body stops breathing.” He called the destruction of migrant corpses acts of terror.

“The U.S. standpoint is, ‘look at how savage and brutal these Mexicans are,’” De Léon said. “But we’re not thinking about how we are directly implicated in this stuff.”

De Léon’s book, The Land of Open Graves will be published in September 2015.

Treatment Court — A Different Approach To Drug Charges

Treatment Court — A Different Approach To Drug Charges

syracusecountycourthouse3Erin D., a young woman wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the slogan “Tattooed chicks do it better” walked up to the stand.

“You wearing that to job interviews?” Judge James H. Cecile asked, much in the tone of a parent questioning his daughter’s clothing choices. “I wouldn’t wear it,” he added.

The court was the Syracuse Community Treatment Court, informally known as “drug court,” and Erin was one of 36 people who made an appearance in April 2014. In order to be eligible for Syracuse’s drug court, a defendant charged in Onondaga County must be in need of treatment for substance abuse, and have no prior convictions for violent felonies, Project Director Kim Kozlowski said. When defendants agree to participate in the program, they sign a contract admitting they broke the law and waiving their right to a trial, agreeing to treatments, drug testing, sanctions, and regular court appearances. Part of the program also involves participants getting jobs and/or attending school.

Participants have an average age of 27-31, with more males than females enrolled. Many of them are addicted to heroin, a drug that has made a comeback since its prominence in the 1970s. People usually spend close to 18 months in the program. Drug court currently has 248 participants enrolled.

Not everyone finishes the program. Laquan C. was led out in handcuffs. “I will do anything to finish,” he pleaded, desperately speaking of the progress he had made in employment and schooling. But Laquan had been given a last chance back in September, Cecile reminded him. The judge ordered Laquan to be sentenced.

“When I ask a participant, ‘hey, what’s going on?’ it is not a good sign,” Cecile said, adding “I don’t ask a question I don’t know the answer to.”

This could be seen when James D. took the stand. A tall young man with a low voice, James had earlier attempted to dodge a drug test. He admitted he had relapsed two days ago when he got high in his car. Cecile ordered that James spend a week in jail. Deputies immediately handcuffed him. As they began to lead him away, James protested, saying “Are you really going to take me in?”

“I’m making sure you’re clean for your next court date,” Cecile responded.

“It’s not the use that’s being punished; it’s the behavior surrounding it,” Kozlowski said. If participants admit to a relapse before a drug test, it is treated clinically. But if participants lie about relapsing or avoid a drug test, many times they are taken into custody.

“Graduates aren’t getting in trouble at the same rates as those who take other approaches,” Cecile said. Approximately 65 percent of participants graduate from the program.

Soft-spoken Rayshawn A., whose daughter was just born, came forward. Rayshawn smiled as Cecile congratulated him. He smiled again when Cecile told him he was free to go.

“People do it for themselves, their families, their own life,” Kozlowski said.

Father of Five in Jail on Firearms Charge Temporarily Released Over Missing Document

Father of Five in Jail on Firearms Charge Temporarily Released Over Missing Document


Against the demands of the prosecution, a Syracuse man charged with criminal possession of a firearm was temporarily released from jail on October 23, after a prosecutor proved unable to find a key document that would have kept behind bars at least a bit longer. Alfred J. Thomas, 28, of 332 Green St. Apt. 2, had been held in the county justice center awaiting an arraignment at the Onondaga County Supreme Court for 97 days.

Judge John J. Brunetti ordered him released over the weekend when no one in the court could locate the prosecution’s letter declaring itself ready to try Thomas.

Thomas was arrested on gun and driving charges on May 29, when police found him at the wheel of a car without a license but with a passenger who claimed he planted a gun in her purse, said Thomas’s defense lawyer, Irene A. Flores.

“The problem in these cases is that juries often put weight on things lawyers and clients don’t find important,” Flores said. “This woman has no criminal history, and if the jury believes her, he’s going to be convicted.”

If a defendant is held in custody on a felony charge, either the prosecution or the District Attorney’s office must send the defense a letter announcing they are ready for a trial within 90 days. The DA’s office cannot make such an announcement without the defendant being indicted by a grand jury. Flores claimed she never received a letter, while prosecutor Cindi Newtown said she had mailed it.

“This was a fast-track jury case,” said Newtown. “The people have been ready since day one.”

Brunetti ordered that Thomas be temporarily released until October 26, when the court would reconvene to assess whether Flores had actually received the letter.

“This defendant is very dangerous to the community because he knows how to work the system,” Newtown said, asking Brunetti not to release Thomas.

“I don’t have the authority to do that,” Brunetti said. “I’m doing this because of the clerical inadvertence of someone at the DA’s office.” Instead he placed conditions of release on Thomas: from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. he must stay indoors.

“If he violates these conditions, I hope the court revokes his release,” Newtown said.

Thomas rarely spoke during the hearing, only saying he was “going to stay at my momma’s house at 753 James St.”

This is not Flores and Newtown’s first time opposing each other in court. In September 2014, Thomas’ DNA was found on a stolen gun that was not in his possession. Flores was Thomas’ court-appointed lawyer, and Newtown was the prosecutor. Thomas was eventually acquitted.

“I’m ticked off that he got arrested a second time for the same thing,” Flores said.

Despite Thomas not having been violent, he has been charged with a Class C violent felony and faces up to 15 years in prison.

“They believe he’s a gangbanger,” Flores said, referring to the prosecution’s decision to pursue a stiffer charge. If a few members of a family get into trouble, “they assume you’re part of a gang too,” Flores said. “It’s unfortunate but true.”

Thomas had been severely beaten by Onondaga County sheriff’s deputies at the county justice center for refusing to submit to a body cavity search, according to Flores. Since then he has been having severe headaches and memory loss, as well as a broken tooth.

Four deputies “had pounded his head into the ground,” Flores said. One of her colleagues will file a suit for Thomas, Flores explained.

Thomas’ physical condition poses problems when it comes to employment. “He’s trying, but he can’t find anything that will accommodate him now,” Flores said, referring to Thomas’ need to provide for his five children.

Flores has a habeas corpus petition drafted on different grounds to get Thomas released if the court decides to detain him until his trial.

Said Flores, “I’d be surprised if we go to trial before February on this.”

Daily Searches at Syracuse Schools Cause Controversy at Board Meeting

Daily Searches at Syracuse Schools Cause Controversy at Board Meeting

maxresdefaultMaxwell Ruckdeschel was buying groceries when a parent of Henninger High School students asked him a question: “When did my children start going to school in a prison?”

Ruckdeschel, a Syracuse City Board of Education commissioner, was at a loss for words.

The parent was referring to metal detector searches of all students for weapons.

The daily searches, which began on October 5, are an “effort to be preventative,” said Tom Ristoff, Director of the district’s Department of Public Safety.

But some, like the parent Ruckdeschel spoke to, are concerned that administrative entry searches are sending students the wrong message. The parent, who said she had originally thought of Henninger as safe, asked Ruckdeschel, “Is there more of a weapons problem than I thought?”

“I couldn’t explain because the board didn’t hear about this until a general email sent out last week to the district community,” Ruckdeschel told the board. “Decisions in the district need to be made with better transparency…Everyone I’ve spoken to was surprised.”

“Schools are merely a microcosm of the larger community in which they are located, and greatly influenced by those events both positive and negative,” Ristoff explained in a powerpoint presentation, referencing the recent spate of school shootings and gun violence in the United States. Weapons in schools is not just a national issue; last year, three weapons were brought into three different district schools over the course of four days.

The district has been having random weapons searches since the 1990s, according to Commissioner David Cecile. “Unfortunately this is the way of the world right now,” he said.

Students have been subject to “random screenings” from 2011 onwards; the difference now is that screenings are daily.

“I didn’t make this decision lightly,” said Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras, noting that she “hates” that she has to enforce the screening process. But student and staff safety is her first priority.

Commissioner Stephen Swift agreed, adding his response to parents concerned about the searches: “Are you okay with a security check before boarding a flight?”

“I commend the district for implementing this given what’s going on in the world,” he added.

The searches are conducted by trained sentries, including some from district middle and elementary schools who assist in the mornings starting at 7:15 a.m., then return to their usual schools. “At the beginning it was slow, but everything but Henninger is fine now,” Ristoff said. To speed up the process at Henninger High School, the Department of Public Safety is asking for approval from the superintendent to have teachers assist as well, he explained.

A school principal or their designated replacement must be present during the searches. Students’ backpacks are screened using electronic baggage scanners, and students walk through metal detectors. If the metal detector goes off, students are screened individually by sentry staff.

“The intent is that everyone who goes into the building goes through the detectors,” said Contreras. She is also looking to revise the district’s bag search policy.

“We can only really search for weapons,” Contreras said. “But if we find something else, like drugs, (students) can be charged.”

When asked how students feel about the administrative entry searches, they “are thanking us on a daily basis,” Ristoff said.

Commissioner Mark D. Muhammad urged community members to “be more vigilant.” He explained that students often hide weapons around the perimeter of the school, just outside the school ground boundaries.

“This is a larger city problem, a nation problem we have to address,” Muhammad said.

Part-time YWCA Administrative Assistant Overcomes Homelessness, Addiction to Reunite With Son

Part-time YWCA Administrative Assistant Overcomes Homelessness, Addiction to Reunite With Son


Who is Francine Whitman?

Age: 44
Race / ethnicity (self identify): Caucasian
Resident: South Side, Syracuse, New York / “South edge of downtown”
Occupation: Administrative assistant at the YWCA
Hourly wage: $9 an hour, with benefits
Education level: Vocational degree and some college
Number of children: 2
Number of residents living in household: 2

A sit down with Francine Whitman

Q: Where were you a year ago?
A: A year-and-a-half ago, I was panhandling and living behind an abandoned building on James Street. I celebrated a year of being sober on January 10 this year (2015) … I’ve overcome a lot — domestic violence, addiction, homelessness, dealing with Child Protective Services. 

Q: Can you share more about your children?
A: Prior to coming into the Y, my children were in foster care. I have two children — well actually I have five children but that’s another story. I gave three up for adoption by choice. My two children were in foster care. Ethan is 9, Matthew is 18. Ethan lived with his paternal aunt through the foster care system from April 2014 until we were reunified through the Child Protection Service in April 2015. My 18-year-old lives on his own and comes by to visit often. (The YWCA provides women and their children with a residence program that contains 55 units of affordable housing.)

Q: Can you describe a brief work history and any special skills?
A: I was on disability for 10 years and prior to that just cashier, groundskeeper jobs for apartment buildings, things like that. I would say I’m a very resourceful person … I’m able to get whatever information I need.

Q: What do you like most about the job you have?
A: I think I have a lot of good mentors, strong women that I work with. I think it’s a good place to network. And I think they’re very patient here with my lack of work history. And also they’re very understanding in regards to my childcare.

Q: How do you get around Syracuse? What do you use for transportation?
A: I just recently acquired a car.

Q: Right now, what is your biggest challenge you face daily?

A: I would say my hearing is probably one for me. And the other one I have is just multitasking my son’s needs and my needs … it gets real crazy sometimes. Like yesterday he made a school project that I needed to bring to school before work and be on time to work and have him be on time to school and everybody not get in a car accident and everybody lives and shows up on time. You know just multitasking everybody’s needs.

Q: Does your son go to one of the city schools?
A: No, he falls under the McKinney-Vento Act and he’s able to be schooled in East Syracuse. The McKinney-Vento Act is for homeless and displaced children. Since we live in the Y, we are considered temporary — it’s not permanent housing. Even though we’ve been there for a significant amount of time, we still fall under that. And the school district has to pay for the transportation. That’s their responsibility, not the city’s. They send this big bus down for him; I call it his own limo.

Q: What are your options for job searching in Syracuse?
A: I haven’t really explored many options other than to look at what qualifications my desired future employers desire. I’ve only been here three months. I signed up for computer classes over at CNY Works. So I start a computer class next week. I’m going to start with the basics. Even though I know how to Google, I’ve never had a formal education with the computer if you will. So I’m starting with basic computer literacy and then Microsoft Word I and then II. So my idea is to get as many of those desirable skills that these future employers want underneath me now while I can do that. I’ve got a car, so now I need to do some real work. I’m not really exploring options. I think just being here after not working for 10 years. Even when I did work 10 years ago I didn’t maintain my employment. This is probably almost the longest job I’ve had. I would stay long enough to get paid and whatnot.

Q: In what ways has your current job helped you?
A: Just the routine of coming in and being on time and being dressed appropriately and being in tact is really where I’m focusing. And I know that might sound silly, but now I’m going to take on that computer class. You’ve got to remember I’ve really not been a responsible mother until April (2015). I originally took on the responsibility of my child. I’m gradually increasing. I’m going to increase my education and just do the next right thing. With him being a young child, you just have to make sure your childcare options are covered whether it’s school break or he’s sick or it’s a snow day or it’s (school) two hours late.

Q: What do you want others to know about you as an underemployed person?
A: I don’t consider myself underemployed. I’m on social security, and my son is on public assistance, and I get an hourly wage. So I don’t have a burning desire to take on more hours. I’m lucky in that regard.

Q: Is there anything that you would want people to know about you as a person?
A: I am a firm believer that, considering where I was a year ago, I was homeless, living outside, with no children, and not a whole lot of hope — that if you start with your small successes and build upon them, you can really get anywhere you want in life. I mean, I can’t stress this enough. I walked on the street, and people did not even recognize me anymore. I ran into somebody the other day, and they were not very nice to me back a year or two ago. And they didn’t even recognize me, so I re-introduced myself, and the person’s eyes were looking at me in disbelief. That made me feel really good, and it saddens me because they felt like their eyes were lying to them. My point is that, if you want to do anything, you can do it if you apply yourself, and believe in yourself and surround yourself with people that believe in you.

Q: Could you elaborate on that?
A: I think that’s one of the biggest things for myself, is that I am surrounded by women where I live and where I work that believe in me, and are my friends for who I am and not what I have. So I look back, and I look at where I was — living behind an abandoned building, and hanging out Downtown. And here I am today. My older son visits, I have a job, a car, a bank account. If I can do it, I know anybody else can. We support each other. In a healthy way. I think healthy relationships are the key to my success now, but they were also the barrier in my past. I think I was just as smart a year ago as I am today, in most regards, but when you have boyfriends or other friends that are addicts, or whatever, if your relationships aren’t healthy, it’s going to hinder any process, whatever it is that you’re trying to do. Once I separated myself from the negativity, I was kind of by myself until these healthy relationships could develop. You’re better off by yourself than by those negative influences because it allows you to grow, and it starts to let other people in, because healthy people don’t want to be around unhealthy people. Like my dad used to say, birds of a feather flock together.

Q: What gives you hope?
A: My past successes. I think the first thing for me that began to give me hope was when I was reunified with my son, Ethan, the 9-year-old. I think most women that have children in the Child Protective (Services) system look at the CPS system as this big, bad agency that they can’t conquer, and to a mutually satisfying arrangement. When I got him back home, they were in agreement and I was in agreement, but it wasn’t like me getting my kid back; it was them giving him back. I think once I had succeeded in that, I became very proud. The women around me at the residence were very proud of me. We have other women there that are struggling, trying to get their children back. I think that was huge for me.

Q: What causes you to feel discouraged?
A: I don’t think anything does anymore. To be honest, after the things I’ve been through it’s really hard for me to have a bad day. I just put things in perspective. Nothing probably makes me feel discouraged anymore. It doesn’t sound right, but it’s true. What makes me most likely to give up is when I’m not grounded — if I don’t have enough discipline to go to bed on time, or to do my chores. Like today I’m at work, I’m thinking about how I need to mop my floor, because my priorities weren’t where they should’ve been yesterday. I’ve got to be grounded, whether it’s getting enough sleep, or eating, or doing my grocery shopping. Self-care, you know. When I neglect the self-care, I become more likely to want to give up, and I don’t want to go to work.

Q: What were you doing this past Friday night?
A: My 18-year-old son brought his girlfriend over for the first time. He actually trusted me enough to introduce me to his girlfriend. We had burritos and tacos, and he stayed for a little bit and we visited, and then I hung out with my little guy and went to bed after they left. He let me into a little more personal space of his. Just him bringing his girlfriend around was huge — before, I could barely even get him to come home with me.

Q: And your typical weekend?
A: Lately it’s been crazy because (after I got my car), for the first month, I spent driving it around in circles. I put like 750 miles on my car in a month. And then last weekend I got my Internet and cable hooked up, so now you can’t get me out of the house. It’s family activities, like last weekend with my son, just looking at the activities for the Winterfest. They’re usually family-oriented. Whether it’s cooking, or hopefully cleaning. My Internet has me hostage. I’m overtired and need to mop my floors. One of my biggest struggles is, whether it was the car or the Internet, as I acquire more fun stuff, or even more responsibilities, is learning to ground myself — to meet my obligations.

Q: Could you elaborate on being grounded?
A: To turn the Internet off at 10, or to just do the next right thing. When I got the car, I was driving all over the place, when clearly I probably needed to be doing something else. And finally I put the car back in the driveway, and I go and turn the Internet on. It comes across as my old risk-taking behavior; as soon as everything is OK, I’ve got to go do something else. Even if it’s positive, as I’m saying now. But now, trying to manage all those bills is kind of scary for me. Now that I have a car, I have car insurance. So now I need to stop buying Chinese and Burger King. So I have something desirable in the fridge that will stop me from wanting the Chinese food. I need to stay grounded. Because my old habits want to kick in, where I could just do whatever I want and notice very little consequences. And now, my stakes are higher. And I have my little man counting on me, too. If I don’t pay the car bill, we don’t have a car. Then how is he going to look at me?

Q: Do you have a hobby? What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I like to try new things now. Whether it’s a place to eat, or to go someplace. I have opportunities now that I’ve never had before, so I like to try to embrace those. To me they’re new, and I guess to a normal person — for example, taking my kid ice-skating; that’s a new experience for me. It’s not that it costs very much money, but it wasn’t a place I was at emotionally to embrace these new ideas. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, and it’s not just a financial thing. It’s being comfortable in my own skin. And to know that I’m equal. That I have clean clothes, and that I have money to buy him a hot chocolate. I can look somebody else in the eye now, versus before, and I can view myself as an equal. I’m much more confident than I used to be, and I think I’ve got a lot of reason to be. I think that the older I get — I don’t know if it’s the older and more sober I get — but the older I get, as I hear in the 12-step meetings, and I can really resonate with it — what other people think of me is not any of my business. I don’t place so much value on whatever other people think of me. I’m comfortable with me, and it’s something I’ve never been able to be. I could’ve had a hundred bucks in my pocket five years ago and I wouldn’t have taken my kids someplace, because I wasn’t comfortable with me. So I love embracing new experiences. I have a lot of options, and a lot of choices. Recovery gives you choices. Everyone has different ones in recovery, but it’s really cool to have choices.

Q: What is the job you would like to have now?
A: I either want to do beginning case management or shelter support, something in that arena. But I don’t want to be stuck at a desk. I also have a page on Facebook. It does some outreach for homeless advocacy. It’s called Homeless in Syracuse Ny. I’ve had some minimal success. I don’t devote a lot of time to it, so for what time I have devoted I’ve received like 60 pairs of socks, hats, gloves. And I carry them in my trunk if I see somebody that needs them. I’m doing a lot of that on my own, and I’m also going to be doing the Homeless Coalition (Coalition for the Homeless) with two of our case managers. And that’s what I meant about the networking here at the beginning is being exposed to people I would not normally be exposed to in a normal environment. My ultimate job, like I said before, is case management. Using my experiences to help somebody else. I think I would find that empowering, and it makes the world a better place and makes my world a better place.

Originally published at Syracuse Jobs Matter.

Political Refugee From Cuba Says Finding a Permanent Job is a Challenge — Even After 36 Years

Political Refugee From Cuba Says Finding a Permanent Job is a Challenge — Even After 36 Years


Who is Louis Rodriguez?

Age: 62
Race / ethnicity (self identify): Cuban
Resident: North Side of Syracuse, New York
Job status: Unemployed
Brief work history: Cooking for restaurants; maintenance; asbestos removal
Education level: High school diploma
Special skill: Asbestos removal
Number of children: 0
Number of people living in household: 1

A sit down with Louis Rodriguez

Q: What is your area of expertise?
A: My main job is asbestos removal, with food service as my second choice. I cook, I have a food service certificate. I know how to cook. I know how to work in maintenance. I know how to shampoo and clean floors. But you know it’s difficult. It’s difficult to find a job in Syracuse.

Q: How long have you been in Syracuse?
A: I’m a political refugee from Cuba. I came from Miami. I lived in Miami for seven months back in 1980, and I came into Syracuse on Aug. 6, 1980. I’ve been here 36 years. But in the meantime, I’ve been living in New York, I’ve been living in L.A. I’ve been working in these places. But I’m still living here.

Q: Right now, you’re not working?
A: I’m looking for a job.

Q: What about your work in asbestos removal?
A: In 2010 I went to the asbestos course. (Asbestos removal is) the job I do most of the time but I don’t have the money for getting re-certified.

Q: What was your last job?
A: I’ve been doing different work for restaurants … like 18 to 22 hours a week. Small hours, you know. I like working 40 to 45.

Q: Do you have food services training?
A: In 2008 I went to the food services in Johnson school (Johnson Center / Adult Education, part of the Syracuse City School District) on East Genesee.

Q: Where do you live?
A: I stay at the Rescue Mission. And I came in (La Liga) and they’re trying to help me out, and I really appreciate that.

Q: How do you get around?
A: Transportation be really, really hard. I be doing long walks most of the time.

Q: Tell me about your family.
A: My family is in Cuba. I’ve been married in the United States twice, and I’ve been divorced twice. My lady, I’m not living with her now because her apartment is too small for us. I’m not used to being in a place like this (Rescue Mission). … And I was looking for a job because I wasn’t used to being in a place like this. … I got a bunch of stuff in the church, the Catholic church on North Salina. … Because I’m in the shelter, I can’t keep my TV and all that stuff so I got it down there in the basement.

Q: Were you considering leaving and going anywhere else, or going back to Cuba?
A: No, not really, no. I’m pretty familiar with the area, I know a bunch of people. I was working before in Red Lobster back in 1988 and back in this seafood restaurant that was on Erie Boulevard. … They’ve been closed almost about 21, 22 years. I worked in Miami in a Doubletree Hotel. … I worked from August 6, 2003 to 2005 and I got divorced down there. I came here in 2009. … I was working here in a big clam bar, Hinerwadel’s. It was catering, they throw big parties. It’s a clam bar, it’s a big place. A lot of companies have parties and different celebrations there. And graduations because it’s a big place. This is a seasonal job. You have to apply every year. A lot of students working there. … As soon as it starts to be a little warm, the second, third week of May. … I know their owner and the manager. I go down there and I get hired right away … but it’s only seasonal because of the weather. Because people can’t enjoy the dance and music in the cold weather.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Places to live. Working a steady, permanent job.

Q: What do you want people to know about you as an unemployed person?
A: I want them to know I’m a hardworking person, I’m reliable, I’m (good at teamwork) and I always try my best and put forth the best part of me for the company, and I be the best I can be and supply the best I can give to society and to the new generation to come.

Q: What gives you hope?
A: I’m a pretty spiritual person … my intensity and my tenacity always increases you know. I’ve been through all kinds of challenges in my life: coming here to this country myself, getting married. … I’m always keeping forward and being the best I can be.

Q: What makes you discouraged?
A: I’m always motivated for the next day to take these opportunities always. … You really, really gotta take advantage of what life offers you. You will be successful. You got to always keep the faith that you will achieve your goals. You just always gotta keep it going and go straight through with your desire and determination and you will accomplish what you wish. … I kinda avoid being surrounded by negativity. … I’ve been into health and keeping my body in shape. People say how are you 60 and looking like this, and you have all this energy. And I say I got a lot of energy and I take care of myself pretty good.

Q: What do you do with your free time?
A: Most of the time I be looking for work and I do some research in the library. I’m always trying to research about health. And I’m always trying to be positive. I like to watch a lot of sports. I’m a sports fanatic. I don’t have bad habits. I hardly drink. I don’t smoke cigarettes. And I’ve never used drugs at all. I’m into health and hygiene. My teeth gotta be really clean, my nails. Like in my apartment my lady always says to me that your apartment is better than any woman. … I like to be organized.

Q: What is the job you’d like to have now?
A: I prefer asbestos because you work in a lot of different places in the country and they pay really good. And I got a lot of experience. Food service is OK, too, but asbestos is better because I like a good sense of life. And they pay really good. So I can save better and create a better life for me and my lady.

Q: Is that your dream job?
A: Yes.

Originally published at Syracuse Jobs Matter.