Eastern polisci students present their work at the Northeastern Political Science Association Annual Conference in Philadelphia

By Adam Murphy

A week ago, a group of us, polisci students, presented our work at the Northeast Regional Political Science Association annual conference in Philadelphia. The group included Tess Candler, Emma Avery, Mikhela Hull and me. We spent the entire weekend attending academic panels of scholar on a range of topics, together with Professors Nicole Krassas and Courtney Broscious. For me the conference was an amazing experience, as I was able to hear political scientists talk about food riots in India in one panel and educational assessment in another. Another group went to another panel entitled “Analyzing the Trump Presidency”. In her own words, Emma greatly appreciated “…the diverse viewpoints that came from around the country and the academic discourse

From left to right, Eastern students Tess Candler, Emma , Adam Murphy and Mikhaela a the NPSA 2017 Annual Conference in Philadelphia.

From left to right, polisci Eastern students Tess Candler, Emma Avery, Adam Murphy and Mikhela Hull at the NPSA 2017 Annual Conference in Philadelphia.

that took place”. Moreover, Emma and Tess presented a co-authored paper on environmental policy in congress; while Mikhela presented a paper examining child protection policy failures. My paper explored trust in government among college students. All of us received great feedback and enjoyed being able to present our research to a specialized audience. As part of this trip we were also able to take some time to view a historic city, and enjoyed our tour of the Reading Terminal Market, Independence Hall and the Philadelphia Magic Garden. In between academic panels, we were able to visit some food places unique to Philadelphia.We recommend anyone interested in presenting their research, take advantage of opportunities to receive valuable feedback from an audience and see a new city.

 

Welcoming Back Pizza and Politics

By Alaina Beyers

Economic prestige discussion

Eastern students participating in the last Pizza and Politics night.

November 1st marked the kick off of the Political Science department’s first Pizza and Politics event of the fall 2017 semester! The Political Science department, in conjunction with Eastern’s Pre Law Society, hosted an open discussion on the effects a country’s level of prestigious status has on its ability to interact politically and economically with the international community. Dr. Martín Mendoza-Botelho, Dr. Chris Vasillopulos and Dr. Patrick Vitale, each from different niches of the Department, lent their expertise as framers of the discussion by setting up individual arguments based on the three questions below to an audience of more than 30 students.

1. How do you define economic prestige from your discipline/theoretical perspective and how it relates to political power?

2. Would you say that there is a loss of economic prestige in the U.S. and in the Western World in general? If so, what are the immediate and long term effects?

3. In a globalized world (and economies), can governments still use economic prestige as a nationalist tool?

From the various responses that each of the professors gave, the students followed up by breaking into groups and conversing amongst themselves, picking out assumptions made by each professor, and deciding which of the arguments from their perspectives contained the strongest and weakest points. Members of the Pre Law Society Bianca Little, Kyle Gray, Alaina Beyers, and Taylor Moore lead the discussions in these small groups, and then reported out to the collective on the conclusions of each discussion.

Each of the professors were game to field any questions or comments sent their way from eager Eastern students, and the atmosphere of engaged excitement was tangible! Thank you to all the professors involved, the Pre Law Society, and the student audience. We hope to see even more Eastern students at the next Pizza at Politics!

For anyone interested in more information please contact the President of the Pre Law Society, Megan E. Hull at prelawsociety@my.easternct.edu.

Polisci Student Megan Hull joins Connecticut State Universities’ March on Hartford

By Joshua Newhall

Governor Malloy’s recent round of budget cuts clearly indicate that the financial crisis in Connecticut is far from finished. Even though the governor vetoed the state’s prior budget the threat of budgetary restrictions still looms over the heads of many state-run organizations.

This round of budget cuts hit the Connecticut State University system particularly hard, delivering affects that both students and faculty at the universities felt. In order to meet reductions in the budget, faculty members agreed to take three furlough days, or uncompensated days off, which has negatively affected both them and their students who have subsequently lost class time. Faculty members of the schools also received a three percent salary decrease and lessened benefits. Lastly, it is likely that student tuition, housing and meal plan fees will rise because of these proposed budget changes, along with reductions to financial aid.

From left to right, State Representative Susan Johnson, ECSU Professor David Stoloff, ECSU Political Science Senior and President of the Pre-Law Society Megan Hull, and State Senator Mae Flexer.

From left to right, State Representative Susan Johnson, ECSU Professor David Stoloff, State Senator Mae Flexer, and ECSU Political Science Senior and President of the Pre-Law Society Megan Hull.

As these changes to the state’s budget were clearly bound to impact the quality of education received at state run campuses around Connecticut, the CSU community decided to take action and express their concerns at the epicenter of these reforms, Hartford. On September 27th a plethora of professors, faculty and students from all of the State’s colleges protested at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

At this rally both students and faculty displayed their discontent for what they deemed a misappropriation of states funding away from public universities. All of the Connecticut State Universities and UConn had representatives present at the rally, including Eastern’s own Elena Tapia, David Stoloff and Theresa Bouley. Along with the presence of these Eastern professors, there were also Eastern students that took the time to voice their concern at this event. Among them, Megan Hull, senior of Eastern’s Political Science department and president of the Pre-Law Society. At the rally, Megan was able to address the press and fellow rally attendees about her personal quarrels with these new restrictive budget cuts. She gave her own story, one that can resonate with the majority of the student body at Eastern and the other state universities of Connecticut. Megan, along with her full-time student status at Eastern, also has worked full-time in order to support her education for most of her life. While she already had concerns about the debt she acquired from receiving her undergrad, Megan now faces the risk that attendance to her dream law school at UConn could be threatened by budget reforms such as this one. In her closing plea, she directly addressed the state’s lawmakers “…from both parties, to do what you were elected to do, and represent the people of Connecticut’s interests and come to a bipartisan agreement on a fair, equitable and fiscally responsible budget.”

While the future of the Connecticut State Universities’ budget is unclear, the September 27th rally certainly made one thing clear, that the body of students and faculty that were affected by this budget change will not sit by idly without vocalizing their concerns. As the state’s representatives continue the process of organizing the budget it is evident that they must reconsider the value they place in their public education, since there appears to be a clear disconnect between how the attendees of this rally and their representatives feel about how to meet these budget constraints. No matter what the outcome of the next budget proposal is, it is clear that the faculty and students of the Connecticut State Universities will stand united in order to protect their community and their education system.

Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations talks at Eastern about the dangers of unilateralism

By Zoe Marien

To talk about world peace is to talk about war. And why haven’t we stopped making war? While the United Nations is supposed to help make countries act multilaterally, Ambassador Sacha Llorenti pushed the point that some nations, such as the United States and Europe, have begun to act unitarily during his visit at Eastern as part of the University Hour program. Because of this, Ambassador Llorenti states, “We are currently in the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.” There are unending statistics that point this out, but to name a few: 40 million people have been displaced due to country conflicts, there are currently 20 million refugees, 1.8 billion people drink contaminated water daily, and about eight people have as much wealth as 3.5 billion people. To make it worse? We are facing a climate change crisis and some of the most powerful leaders in the world are not only ignoring it, but refusing to admit that it exists.Sacha

So, what do we do now? It’s hard to tell. Ambassador Llorenti seemed to be a strong advocate for multilateralism, but currently, it’s not working. The United States has refused to comply with the Paris Agreement, which will not only impact themselves but also the rest of the world. In his question and answer section, Ambassador Llorenti stated that regardless of where we are in the world, countries seem to always put “profit over solving problems.” We have made ourselves focused on money rather than on curing cancer or Alzheimer’s. Because of this, because of our love for money and lavish things over anything else, we have made ourselves unsustainable. If every single country in the world consumed goods the way that the United States and Europe does, we would need four planets in order to sustain ourselves.

To act multilaterally, we would have to come together globally. To do that, we would have switch our way of thinking and put solving problems over profit. But, as our guest Ambassador Llorenti pushed us to consider, is that even possible when so many major world powers have insisted on acting alone?

No need for Big Bucks to Run for Office

By Victoria Weiss

On Tuesday, April 4, Elona Vaisnys visited Eastern Connecticut State University to present “No Need for Big Bucks, Run for a State Office”. Vaisnys spoke about CEP, which is the Citizens Election Program. CEP provides public funding to run election campaigns for seats in the state legislature and for state offices. CEP is important because those who can campaign through CEP funding will have no special interests once elected into office. As residents of a state that was once known as “Corrupt-icut” this is a program we should pay attention to.

Elona

Eastern guest Elona Vaisnys explains the Citizens Election Program (CEP) to students.

Vaisnys visited Eastern to encourage students to consider running for state offices. All one needs to do to qualify for a CEP grant is to prove that they are a serious candidate. Elona explains this as going out into the community and raising funds as small as $5 per donor to prove that the potential candidate has support from the community. One great benefit of CEP grants is that an individual can run for state office without using funds from special interest groups to whom the candidate will owe a favor, contract, etc.

The money from CEP comes from the sale of abandoned property in the state of Connecticut. As a matter of fact, Connecticut is the only state with this type of successful program. CEP grants go towards campaigns to run for state governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller, and general assembly. All current Connecticut State officers ran their election campaigns on CEP grants, and about 89% of the current Representatives and Senators ran for their seat in the Connecticut General Assembly on CEP funding.

Vaisnys enthusiastically endorses the Citizens Election Program. She raises a thought-provoking question; if CEP is available to all and 89% of those in office make use of the program, why don’t the other 11%? What do candidates have to gain from special interest group support that support through CEP cannot provide? CEP provides candidates with money to run a clean, debt-free campaign. This way, while the candidate secures their position with the state, their job will be their top priority, as opposed to repaying campaign debts to special interest groups.

Elona Vaisnys encourages students at Eastern to consider running for state office. With passion, community support, and a CEP funded campaign, running for state office is more attainable than ever. You truly do not need big bucks to run for state office. Be a challenger and give the incumbents a run for their money.

Talk on Voting Behavior – Professor Nichole Szembrot, Trinity College

Dr. Nichole Szembrot, Trinity College, will present her paper entitled “Perceptions of Special Interest Influence and Voting Behavior” on Wednesday, April 26 at 3:00 in Webb 437. 

Prof. Szembrot

Dr. Nichole Szembrot

This paper documents voters’ perceptions of interest group influence on candidates’ policy positions and the effect of perceived influence on intended voting behavior. The literature on campaign contributions has several explanations for why interest groups contribute to campaigns and how those funds translate into votes. Closing these models requires assumptions about voters’ responses, but there is little empirical evidence on the relationship between voters’ perceptions of interest group influence and their voting decisions. This paper uses an online survey conducted during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to begin to close that gap in the literature. Subjects answer questions about their own opinions on 10 policy issues and make hypothetical choices between pairs of candidates. Then, they answer questions about the opinions of the leading candidates for president on the same set of issues. One treatment does not mention donors; another asks subjects to consider the possible influence of special interests; and a third treatment asks pairs of questions about policy preferences with and without taking donor influence into account. Respondents also rate candidates in terms of 7 personal characteristics. Controlling for candidates’ policy intentions, voters are neither more nor less likely to choose a candidate whose positions on issues were more influenced by interest groups. However, they are less likely to vote for a candidate they perceived to have received more money. When controls for personal characteristics are also included in the model, the effect of donations on vote choice disappears.

For more information contact Dr. Brendan Cunningham, Department of Economics. 

http://www.easternct.edu/cunninghambr

On Presidential Powers

By Mark Marcy

Prof Hayes Pizza Politics

UConn Professor Thomas Hayes with ECSU students Emily Margolis, Nicole Coughlin and Jared Latour

It was nice to see a full attendance at Pizza and Politics the other night for the discussion with keynote speaker, Dr. Tom Hayes. The discussion centered around the historical rising power of the presidency, the use of executive powers to circumvent the partisan divided congress, and what we can do as citizens to check the rise of authoritarianism.

To open the discussion, Dr. Hayes, outlined the historical gains in power of the presidency and how congress has allowed the president obtain these additional powers.  The power of the purse lies in the hands of the House, but presidents often present a proposed budget for the House to then push through congress.  While congress is the legislative branch, many legislative issues originate in the executive.  And, as the de facto leader of the party, the party coalesces around the president to further the presidential agenda.

Prof Hayes Pizza Politics 2

The Pizza and Politics crowd

As the evening wore on, it became clear that Dr. Hayes was not enamored with this current administration, questioned the capabilities of President Trump, and implied that the current administration is led by Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, advisors to the president.  While this is a harsh view of the administration, I must agree that this seems to be the case.  A few examples of instances where an administration that rises from outside government was uninformed about the nuances in the working of government (such as, the first Muslim nation ban), as well as a few examples of a president that didn’t know the basic’s like; the nuclear triad (among others).  Dr. Hayes suggested that the most powerful way, we as citizens, can voice our concerns about this rising authoritarianism, is to VOTE (as well as peacefully protest).

The audience had well thought out informed questions indicative of a group of polisci majors having a chat session.  It was awesome!