36 minutes | Mar 6, 2023
A Political Science Student Fights for Colombians’ Citizenship Rights
Andrés Besserer Rayas, a Political Science Ph.D. student at the CUNY Graduate Center, was conducting field work in Colombia last year for his dissertation on immigration policies when he learned about a human rights issue that appalled him. More than 40,000 Colombian citizens had been stripped of their citizenship without warning. Besserer realized that the research skills he had developed in his Ph.D. program could benefit the lawyers working on the case, and he offered to help. The Colombians who lost their citizenship had been living abroad in Venezuela. When oil prices plummeted and the Venezuelan economy went into freefall in the beginning of the 2010s, they were among the roughly 1 million Colombians who fled to their homeland. But recently, without warning, the Colombian government has revoked their citizenship and stripped them of the national identity cards they need to hold a job, access bank accounts, get on a plane, vote, and more. Besserer joined The Thought Project in late February to talk about the case, what the victims’ lives have been like, why he is fighting for their rights, and what he has learned in the process. Listen in to this timely conversation.
46 minutes | Feb 9, 2023
Architect Marta Gutman on How to Build a Better City
Architect and historian Marta Gutman became dean of the Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York last May. She is also a professor of Art History and Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center. In her research, she examines ordinary buildings and neighborhoods; the history of cities; and issues of gender, class, race, and especially childhood as they play out in everyday spaces, public culture, and social life. Long committed to promoting social justice, she began her architecture career designing public housing for the New York City Housing Authority and shelters for battered women, abused children, and unhoused New Yorkers for nonprofit organizations. She talks to The Thought Project about her research and advocacy and what advice she’d give New York City Mayor Eric Adams on addressing the city’s homeless issue. Listen in to hear her ideas on building a better future.
24 minutes | Jan 31, 2023
Charles Tien on Congress and the Contested Speaker Election
The U.S. politics expert joins The Thought Project to discuss the 118th Congress and the bruising election of Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Earlier this month, Kevin McCarthy was elected speaker of the House of Representatives without receiving the customary 218 votes. Rather, he won by using a rule that allowed only present votes to count, lowering the threshold for victory. During the drawn-out voting process, McCarthy haggled with 20 members of the Republican Freedom Caucus, who persisted in their opposition, and, in the end, he relinquished most of his discretionary power. The election of McCarthy, a Republican, marks a new chapter for the House of Representatives. With a nine-vote majority, Republicans in the chamber are calling for several investigations into the Biden administration and even threatening impeachment hearings. Today’s guest, Charles Tien, a professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College, is well suited to discuss the ramifications of McCarthy’s victory and what lies ahead in the 118th Congress. Tien researches and teaches U.S. politics, women and minorities in politics, and voting and elections. He is also the co-editor of Polity, the Journal of the Northeastern Political Science Association. Listen in for his insights.
34 minutes | Nov 8, 2022
Professor David Bloomfield on Education as a Political Football
Professor David Bloomfield, a member of the Urban Education faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center and a professor of education leadership, law, and policy at Brooklyn College, joins this episode of The Thought Project to discuss what’s ahead for K-12 education in a time of deep political division. Schools have long been places for students to learn and to learn how to become citizens. What happens, though, when parents and lawmakers on the right and left disagree about fundamental rights and freedoms and what it means to be a citizen? Books, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, are being banned from reading lists and school libraries. Approximately 33 states have introduced anti-transgender legislation that disproportionately targets transgender youth and restricts their access to sports, health care, even bathrooms. Bloomfield asserts that the attacks on LGBTQ youth could be curbed by the application of Title IX, which the Biden administration is currently rewriting. Education has made headlines in New York, too. A New York Times investigative story sparked a recent ruling from the state department of education ordering the city to work with a large yeshiva in Brooklyn to ensure that it introduced secular instruction and complied with state standards, which it was failing to meet. Bloomfield has commented on the issue over the past several years, calling it a classic case of “education rights.” Bloomfield also weighs in on the contentious reductions of the New York City Department of Education budget. He calls the cuts a “green eyeshade decision” that essentially ignored schools as community hubs that served multiple purposes during the height of the pandemic. Listen in on this timely and informative conversation.
49 minutes | Oct 20, 2022
Two Alumni Lead the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies
Since 2001, the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies (CLACLS) at the CUNY Graduate Center has worked to promote the study and understanding of Latin American and Caribbean cultures and Latino and Caribbean communities in the United States. Founding Director Laird Bergad, a distinguished professor of History at Lehman College and the Graduate Center, recently announced the appointment of his successor, Director John Guttierrez, a professor of Latin American and Latinx Studies at John Jay College, and Associate Director Mila Burns, a professor in the Latin American and Latino Studies department at Lehman College. The Thought Project caught up with Guttierrez and Burns, who are Graduate Center alumni, delighted to return in their new roles at CLACLS. Gutierrez and Burns expressed their respect for the work done by CLACLS, especially its flagship program, the Latino Data Project, which has drawn national attention since Bergad launched it in 2023. They also spoke about their interest in integrating CLACLS with the scholarly mission of the Graduate Center and making it a welcoming home for anybody at CUNY “who identifies with all things Latino and Latin America and Caribbean.” Gutierrez and Burns intend to establish CLACLS as a meeting place for CUNY faculty working on Latino studies or Latin America to discuss their research and new books. In addition to their academic credentials, Gutierrez and Burns bring practical experience to their new roles. Guttierrez was a political consultant on Latino politics in New York City and state elections, and Burns is a journalist for the Brazil television network O Global. Both are interested in contemporary U.S. Latino politics and politics in Latin America. Listen in to learn more.
39 minutes | Sep 8, 2022
Distinguished Professor John Mollenkopf on Mayor Adams’ First Six Months
Eric Adams, the second elected Black mayor of New York City, inherited a city embattled by the the Covid-19 pandemic, a slow recovering economy, and a sustained spike in crime that continues to rise. Distinguished Professor John Mollenkopf (Political Science and Sociology), a consummate analyst of New York City politics, says there’s a widespread feeling that public spaces have become less enjoyable, more insecure, and even more threatening. He says this feeling goes beyond violent crime to pedestrian safety from cars and cyclists.He also discusses how homelessness and associated mental illness makes obvious the need to build affordable housing. Listen to hear the full episode of the Thought Project podcast that explores the first six months of Eric Adams mayoralty and the challenges that confront his administration in America’s biggest city.
35 minutes | Jun 30, 2022
How to Make the U.S. Safe for Transgender People
Imagine being identified as a male on your driver’s license but a female on your birth certificate. That’s the Kafkaesque experience of many transgender individuals including scholar and author Paisley Currah, whose important new book, Sex Is as Sex Does, examines how sex functions as a tool of government. Currah, a professor of Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, joins The Thought Project to talk about his book and why the state should stop regulating gender identity. He emphasizes that ending the policing of sex is an important step toward eradicating misogyny and unequal power structures that are based on gender. “Women still do all this care work,” he says, citing one example. Marriage is another. “Gender is always about hierarchy,” he says. He makes the case for moving beyond identity politics to make the U.S. a more humane place for trans and queer people through broad policies that promote equality. These include implementing national health care, abolishing prisons, and attacking income inequality. Listen in to hear more about his groundbreaking book and his vision for true gender equality.
30 minutes | Jun 29, 2022
How LBGTQ Individuals Experience Criminal Justice
In this Pride Month episode of The Thought Project podcast, we talk to Max Osborn, a recent graduate of the Criminal Justice Ph.D. program at the CUNY Graduate Center who has carved out a niche as a queer criminologist, studying how LGBTQ individuals are affected by the criminal justice system. For his doctoral dissertation, Osborn, who is transgender and uses he and they pronouns, interviewed 42 LGBTQ individuals living in New York City to understand what their encounters with the police and with social services were like and how these interactions impacted their well-being, behavior, and sense of safety. He found, for example, that queer people, depending on the context, “altered their presentations to be more gender normative, to stand out less, to kind of anticipate what was being expected of them and sort of conform to that.” Osborn says that the LGBTQ people he spoke to described anticipating what would happen if the police or other authority figures discovered they were queer or trans. A persistent concern is whether they can pass as cisgender, knowing that gender nonconforming individuals are often targeted by law enforcement officials. Osborn learned too about the obstacles that LGBTQ individuals encountered in accessing social services and health care, including cost barriers and discrimination. Some LBGTQ interviewees shared wrenching stories about being misunderstood, mis-gendered, or mistreated. Osborn also interviewed service providers and observed that many of them were doing excellent work but were overloaded with clients. Osborn has published his work across multiple disciplines in journals including Violence Against Women, Trauma, Violence & Abuse, and the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services. Later this year, he starts a tenure-track faculty position at Villanova University. Listen in to learn more about his timely research.
47 minutes | Jun 28, 2022
Post Roe, How to Advance Women’s Rights, LGBTQ Rights
Anne Valk, a specialist in women’s history and public history, joins The Thought Project for a Pride Month conversation that touches on the curtailing of LGBTQ rights and of women’s rights by the Supreme Court and state legislators. Valk is a professor of History and director of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the CUNY Graduate Center. As a public historian, Valk focuses on the ways history is preserved and presented to people through monuments, museums, libraries, and more. Also a noted oral historian, she has written about the history of second-wave feminism and of racial segregation in the U.S. Next month, the American Social History Project will host 30 middle and high school teachers for a National Endowment for the Humanities–funded institute on teaching LGBTQ history. Valk takes a long view of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, noting that, “Roe has been eroded almost immediately since it was decided.” She adds, “The only way that positive change has happened is because of people pushing for it at all different levels and in lots of different forms.” Valk also talks about LGBTQ rights and the importance of teaching of LGBTQ history in schools, touching on research showing its benefits in boosting students’ mental health and reducing bullying. Listen in for a timely conversation about women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and what the past reveals about both.
32 minutes | Jun 15, 2022
Freeing Black People From Oppressive Mental Health Care
In this Juneteenth Thought Project episode, we talk to Britton Williams about the Black MAP Project and reinventing mental health care for the Black community. Just over 100 years ago, a white mob lynched and mutilated Mary Turner, a Black woman who was eight months pregnant, for criticizing the lynching of her husband. How did Turner’s family and community heal from this horror? Britton Williams, a Social Welfare doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate Center, explores that question and related ones through the Black MAP Project. Williams joins this Juneteenth episode of The Thought Project to talk about the Black MAP Project and her research into the ways that Black people have promoted their own health and well-being. She plans to use her findings to re-fashion mental health care so that serves Black people, free from the bias and oppression have pervaded the field. “Enslaved peoples who sought freedom through escape were once labeled with a disorder termed drapetomania,” she writes on the website. “Black people’s drive and desire for freedom was pathologized. This is only one example of the ways in which Black people have been oppressed under the guise of ‘treatment.’” Listen in to learn how Williams envisions mental health care that reflects and supports the Black community.
42 minutes | May 31, 2022
Promoting Pride at CUNY
In this Pride Month podcast, we hear from the director and associate director of the CUNY LGBTQI+ Consortium, which advocates for and celebrates the CUNY LGBTQ community. Director Jacqueline Brashears (she/hers), a.k.a. Dr. Unicorn, is a biology professor at LaGuardia Community College. She is an LGTQ advocate and trans woman who has blogged about her transition. Associate Director JC Carlson (they/them) is a student life events manager and LGBTQI+ programs coordinator at Queens College. In 2018, they founded CUNY Pridefest, which returns to Queens College this year on Friday, June 10. Brashears and Carlson discuss the history and recent expansion of the CUNY LGBTQI+ Consortium, which began at Queens College in 2017. The consortium now includes 14 CUNY campuses across all five boroughs. The CUNY Graduate Center is the latest campus to join the consortium and is collaborating with CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies to host a program during Pride Month. Listen in to learn more.
44 minutes | May 5, 2022
The Russia-Ukraine War Sets Dangerous New Precedents
The Russia-Ukraine war, now in its 11th week, continues to prove analysts wrong. This week on The Thought Project podcast, Julie George, a professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center and Queens College and a visiting professor at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, explains why the conflict confounds her and other regional experts. “It's very hard to predict how the war will unfold, in part because we predict the future based on previous events,” George says, “and a lot about this war is unprecedented and very different and reflects a different tactic taken by the Russians and by the Russian leadership.” George describes President Vladimir Putin’s stance as, "We are not going to accept failures in this war, and when faced with pushback, we will escalate and go on the offensive." George comments on the U.S. foreign policy approach to the war, including the tight coordination with NATO and the billions of dollars in aid sent to Ukraine. She likens the weapons support for Ukraine to the World War II Lend-Lease Act, and she notes that U.S. leadership is sending a “signal to Putin that the expectation for a quick war, the expectation for an easy victory, the expectation for American acquiescence and European acquiescence to this just brazen occupation of a sovereign state is something that the U.S. will resist.”
45 minutes | Apr 6, 2022
Israel’s Fractious Politics in a Fractured World
Abe Silberstein is a master's student in Middle Eastern Studies, Anthropology, and History at the CUNY Graduate Center and the associate director of the North America office of the Abraham Initiatives, an Israeli organization founded in 1989 that “strives to fulfill the promise of full and equal citizenship and complete equality of social and political rights for Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.” Fluent in issues related to U.S. foreign policy on Israel and the Middle East, Silberstein has published essays in The New York times, Haaretz, The Forward, War on the Rocks, The Times Literary supplement, UK, The Tel Aviv Review of Books, and Israel Studies Review. He joins the Thought Project as the fractious Israeli parliamentary government splits over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Silberstein unravels Israel’s complicated relationship with Russia, including their mutual interests in confronting Iran in Syria. There’s much more to learn about Middle East politics and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East from Silberstein in this podcast, a savvy foreign policy analyst.
31 minutes | Mar 11, 2022
The Pandemic Proved That the Library Is Essential
Last June, after more than a year of COVID-induced remote work, Emily Drabinski, interim chief librarian and critical pedagogy librarian at the CUNY Graduate Center, and her staff reopened the Graduate Center library to students and scholars on a limited basis. “Every student we saw, made my heart swell 18 sizes,” she says. The pandemic proved to her and others that the library is more than a portal to information. “The library is a space where you can go that is non-commercial and that is freely available to you,” she says. Drabinski is currently a candidate for president of the American Library Association, running on a platform of “collective power, public good.” She joins The Thought Project podcast to talk about why we need libraries and her priorities of openness and access for the Graduate Center library and for all libraries.
43 minutes | Feb 16, 2022
How the Abortion Pill Is Tipping the Scales of Abortion Rights
How did activists in Ireland convince an overwhelming majority of the country to vote in 2018 to reverse the country’s abortion ban that had been more or less in place for over a century? According to Graduate Center Ph.D. candidate Brenna McCaffrey (Anthropology), the change in public opinion was influenced by a relentless campaign led by women who put the issue of access to safe, medically approved abortion pills at the center of their advocacy. McCaffrey followed the campaign and is writing about it in her dissertation, All Aboard the Abortion Pill Train: Activism, Medicine, and Reproductive Technologies in the Republic of Ireland. Her research also influenced her decision to become an abortion rights activist via TikTok after the passage of the Texas abortion ban in September 2021. McCaffrey’s efforts garnered media coverage of how women in Texas were seeking alternatives to the limited options available to them and the growing recognition that the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade this term. McCaffrery joins The Thought Project podcast to discuss her research, her activism, and the future of abortion rights in the U.S.
37 minutes | Jan 28, 2022
Why Christmas Is Observed as a Day of Liberation by Black People
CUNY Graduate Center Professor Ramona Hernandez and alumna Allison Guess (Ph.D. ’21, Earth and Environmental Sciences) join this episode of The Thought Project for a timely discussion of the Hispaniola Slave Rebellion of 1521. Hernandez is the director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute and a professor of Sociology at City College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interests include the mobility of workers from Latin America and the Caribbean, the socio-economic conditions of Dominicans in the U.S., and the restructuring of the world economy and its effects on working-class people. She is the author of The Mobility of Workers Under Advanced Capitalism: Dominican Migration to the United States and co-author of Dominican Americans. Guess is a professor of Africana Studies at Williams College and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and a Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College. She is also a research fellow at the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute. The Hispaniola Slave Rebellion of 1521, also known as the Santo Domingo Slave Revolt, is the earliest documented slave revolt in the Americas. The massive uprising led the island’s governor, Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Columbus, to issue Las Ordenanças de los Negros of 1522, the earliest known set of anti-Black slave laws. Guess and Hernandez discuss the role of the laws in establishing racial regimes in the Americas and note the connections between the 1522 ordinances and the Jim Crow laws in the U.S. South and recent police practices, such as stop and frisk and broken windows. The scholars also discuss the tradition of Black-led militancy during the Christmas holiday throughout the Americas. They attribute the 1521 uprising with inspiring Jamaica’s Christmas Day Rebellion, also known as the Baptist War, that started in 1831. Hernandez remains committed to research about the 1521 rebellion. Last fall, she commemorated the 500th anniversary of the revolt by convening a national conference. She is currently involved in an archaeological project to document the location of the rebellion in the Dominican Republic. For more about the revolt and its long shadow, read the scholars’ recent post on The Thought Project blog, The First Christmastime Revolt Against Slavery in Santo Domingo: A Hallmark Strategy to Liberation.
35 minutes | Jan 6, 2022
What It Takes to Free the Innocent and Create a Just Criminal Justice System
Edwin Grimsley is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. He received his B.A. from Wesleyan University in biology. His dissertation, The Collateral and Cumulative Effects of Marijuana Criminalization, examines the racialized development of marijuana laws in the United States, and how the criminalization of marijuana possession disproportionately affects Black people. Prior to joining the Graduate Center, Grimsley spent 10 years as a case analyst at the Innocence Project where he used DNA evidence to overturn wrongful convictions. His work led to freeing seven people from prison. A multitude of experts assert that the U.S. criminal justice system is broken. The U.S. has less than 5% of the world's population but 20% of the world's prisoners. Here, Black and brown people are much more likely to be imprisoned than white people. On this episode of The Thought Project podcast, Grimsley shines a light on how the U.S. sends thousands of innocent people to prison and how science can be leveraged to prove the innocence of Black youth who were wrongfully convicted. He also discusses his latest work to address systemic injustice in the criminal justice system. To learn more about Grimsley’s work, we invite you to read his co-authored paper “Criminal and Civil Summons Court Appearance: Predictors of Timely Response to Summonses for Lower-Level Offenses in New York City.”
26 minutes | Dec 1, 2021
Stepping Forward as an LGBTQ Role Model in Tech
Joining The Thought Project today is Elaine Montilla, assistant vice president of information technology and the chief information officer at the CUNY Graduate Center. She was just named to the 2021 Outstanding 100 Role Model LGBT+ Executives list sponsored by Yahoo Finance. The list showcases leaders who are breaking down barriers and creating more inclusive workplaces. Montilla joined the Graduate Center in 2005 and is a proud member of the LGBTQ community. She is also the founder of 5xMinority, whose mission is to elevate the voices of underrepresented minorities in the tech field. A TEDx speaker and a member of the Forbes technology council, she regularly comments on issues of diversity and inclusion within the tech community. Listen in to our conversation.
28 minutes | Nov 17, 2021
NEH Funds to Boost Students’ Digital Skills Have Widespread Benefits at CUNY and Beyond
When CUNY Graduate Center Professor Matthew K. Gold tweeted last month that he and his colleague Lisa Rhody received a nearly $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help their students learn digital skills and create digital projects, he drew an outpouring of support. Close to 20 colleagues from across The City University of New York and beyond congratulated him and Rhody, and he thanked each of them. Gold and Rhody are widely respected as pioneers and proponents of the digital humanities, a once obscure area of academia that is now a significant field of scholarship and teaching. Over a decade ago, Gold founded the Graduate Center Digital Initiatives to integrate digital methods into the research, teaching, and service missions of the Graduate Center. Rhody became deputy director of the initiatives in 2015. Today, the initiatives encompass an array of research projects, workshops, labs, and degree programs. Gold and Rhody join The Thought Project podcast to talk about their new NEH grant; what students, scholars, and the public stand to gain from it; and the future of the digital humanities at CUNY, particularly with a new Center for Digital Scholarship and Data Visualization expected to open in 2022. They also define the digital humanities for non-scholars and explain what is so exciting about them. Guest co-host, Bonnie Eissner, director of communications at the CUNY Graduate Center. Listen in to learn more.
29 minutes | Nov 10, 2021
A Pandemic and Political Polarization Slam U.S. Schools
David Bloomfield is a professor of Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center and of Education Leadership, Law, and Policy at Brooklyn College. A former general counsel of the New York City Board of Education, he is regularly consulted by the media for his expertise on education policy. He is the author of American Public Education Law, Third Edition and frequently pens op-eds, book chapters, and articles. He has twice been named to the Education Power 100 by City & State magazine. Bloomfield returns to The Thought Project as schools across the U.S. have returned to in-person learning after months of remote education. While cities like New York are seeing many successes, other communities are roiled in controversy over COVID-19 safety procedures and the teaching of critical race theory. A recent school board meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia, for example, dissolved into chaos as parents thronged the auditorium to protest the school board’s support of teaching students about structural racism. The incident and similar protests in other communities prompted the Department of Justice to take action. Bloomfield comments on the fitful restart of in-person learning and the politicization of school policy in this episode of The Thought Project.