Professors Vasillopulos and Mendoza-Botelho discuss War and Peace at UConn

By Philip Hoeps

UConn CLIR 1

Professors Vasillopulos and Mendoza-Botelho with their hosts Cathy Cementina and Steve Kenton

Over the past two weeks two of our Professors Martín Mendoza-Botelho and Chris Vasillopulos, held talks on the topics of peace and war, respectively, at UConn, for the Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR). These talks were derived from their courses in Fall 2016, Theories of War and the Politics of Peace.

Professor Vasillopulos’ session focused on the implications of war. Are the costs of war, both monetary and humanitarian, worth any potential accomplishments? He approached this question by analyzing the gains and tolls of both World Wars, as well as other modern conflicts. He also examined the aspects of human nature that can lead us to enter into wars or continue wars that had effectively already been decided.

UConn CLIR 2

Professor Mendoza-Botelho with participants Blanche Boucher (Secretary of CLIR), Joan Buck and Ann Kouatly.

Professor Mendoza-Botelho’s session began with a discussion of the systematic study of peace, in what is a relatively new field of study which came about largely to analyze the tentative peace that was maintained throughout the cold war in response to nuclear threat. The notion of peace can be largely narrowed down to two main categories, positive (harmonious) peace, in which there is a high level of well-being and social justice; and negative peace which is merely the absence of war. In this regard, Professor Mendoza-Botelho pointed out the well-known fact that the US has been at war for 222 of its 239 years since independence, despite this, the overwhelming majority of Nobel Peace Prize recipients were Americans (around one-fourth), an obvious disparity.

We wanted to thank CLIR event coordinators Steve Kenton and Cathy Cementina for inviting our Professors to speak at UConn, and if you have any questions, feel free to stop by during their office hours, and keep an eye out for these courses when they run again!

Polisci Students present their research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) 2016

By Alaina Torromeo

Sabreena Croteau presents her findings on U.S. - Saudi Arabia relations

Sabreena Croteau commenting on U.S. – Saudi Arabia relations.

On April 7-9 three of Eastern’s Polisci students Alexandra Cross, Sabreena Croteau, and Erin Drouin presented their research at the 30th Annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Eastern had 11 students accepted, a prestigious honor considering that the selection process was so competitive, with over 4,000 submissions. According to the conference “…the work of the students accepted to present at this conference demonstrated a unique contribution to their field of study.”

NCUR Alex

Alex Cross discussing issues of Russian nationalism and homophobia.

Alex’s paper (mentor Dr. Martín Mendoza-Botelho) “Straightening Out the Russian Mold: How Russian Nationalism Intersects with Homophobia,” focused on how the government of this country has entangled homophobia and nationalism. Sabreena (mentor Dr. Caitlin Carenen History) presented her Honors Thesis, “Influence and Interference: U.S. Foreign Policy towards Saudi Arabia 1956-1971.” Her work examines the beginnings of the U.S.-Saudi alliance, looking to uncover how the U.S. government felt about the relationship and how the American populace felt about it. Erin’s research (mentor Dr. Nicole Krassas) “From Tradition to Twitter: An Analysis of Traditional Media and Social Media Coverage of Sexual Assault on College Campuses” explores the use of modern media in contentious issues.

Erin Drouin presenting her findings on the use of new media in current social issues.

Erin Drouin presenting her findings on the use of new media in current social issues.

Eastern Professor Carlos Escoto, who attended the Conference with this group commented that “…the ability of Eastern students to learn from the work of other students from across the country is informative.” He remarked that there is something invigorating about the ability for students to participate in a conference of this size and to interact with other student scholars. Research and scholarly activity are seen as desirable skills by employers and graduate schools and presenting your research at a national conference is seen as a culminating activity.

The “Krassas Challenge” to support efforts to raise awareness about poverty in the U.S.

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Professors Krassas and Mendoza-Botelho at Eastern’s annual poverty awareness marathon.

At the end of the 2015 Fall semester, several faculty, staff and students rose to the “Krassas Challenge” to run some laps as part of Eastern’s annual poverty awareness marathon. Professor Charlie Chatterton runs the marathon in 1.2 mile laps around campus and those of us lesser athletes run as much as we can. Starting at 7 a.m., I was joined by senior Sabreena Croteau and sophomore Alexander Eitland. A little bit later in the morning, sophomore Emily Becher joined the group. Only Sabreena lapped me and she was gracious enough not to mock me, however several dedicated long distance runners lapped me multiple times!   By 8:15, as I was leaving the run to get ready for class at 9, Professor Mendoza-Botelho arrived to “pick up the torch” for the political science program. It was a beautiful morning for a run! Also, senior Sarah Howard, who was unable to run, dropped off a donation of canned goods to support the cause as did department secretary Brenda Schiavetti who brought an awesome 40 cans to go to the food pantry! If I have missed anyone who participated today, my apologies. Thanks to everyone who did participate and please remember the point of today’s event. As we move through our lives, we should stop to remember that approximately 15% of the U.S. population, over 46 million people, lives below the poverty line. Poverty affects children in the U.S. the most. 21% of children in the United States live below the poverty line. Have you thought about the impact that poverty has on people from inadequate housing, food insecurity, inadequate health care and inadequate transportation (just to name a few)? Aside from moral consideration, as political scientists poverty is an important subject to consider as poverty relief drives a fair amount of government policy and political rhetoric in this country and around the world.

Reflections on Cuba

By Quanece Williams

Cuba is a country that is stigmatized with being a communist country, in which the rights of citizens are suppressed. However, apart from that, it is a country that is often overlooked when learning about world history. Thus, the presentation of Cuban Educator Ariel Dacal Díaz was extremely informative. Diaz not only discussed the advantages and the shortcomings of the country as a whole, he also analyzed the bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States.

Cuban Educator Ariel Ducal Diaz speaks to the audience with help from his translator.

Díaz’s history of the country was vital and ranged from topics including the social system, the economic system, sports, political participation, democratization, and bilateral Cuba-U.S. relations. Cuba’s social system is particularly interesting because although the country is primarily poor, education and health care are free and universal. Furthermore, both are offered to every citizen from birth to death. Diaz declared this one of the country’s greatest attributes because according to him, “in many countries health care, housing, and education are commercializing but it should be a human right”.

The complex economic system was then analyzed and a timeline was provided to explain the current system that is implemented today. He shared that in 1959, Cuba had 80% of its market dominated by the U.S. and then in 1989, 85% of Cuba’s market was connected to the economy of the Soviet Union, which would eventually dissolve, leaving the country economically crippled. This significantly shaped their economic system, as illustrated in the policy that is currently implemented in regard to foreign investment, which establishes the limits (30%) of foreign capital investment.

An entertaining part of his presentation was when Diaz went into depth on the role of sports in their society. He stated that the country decided that sports are not a commodity, although the country is small and poor. He was also excited to share that the country placed 5th in the Olympics in 1992. The countries economy is intrinsically linked to the sports world because equipment was often not provided so athletes used their teammates as weights. Additionally, the poor economy is also the motivation for sports players to leave the country in search for a contract that will provide the most benefits, which further exacerbates the economic status of the country.

Political participation, one of the tenets of democracy, was another salient issue Diaz examined. He stated that the MLK Center seeks to educate the polity and outlined the requirements for participation as followed: (1) that persons want to participate (2) that people can participate (3) that people know how to participate. In addition, he shared that the Cuban culture is now dependent upon the government because of communism. Diaz also shared his notion of democracy and stated that it needs to be grassroots and comprehensible. Other tenets for democracy outlined by Diaz are the acknowledgment of another person’s rights and that democracy will not occur with just one person. Additionally, he shared that democracy must alter the perception of liberty and quoted “I am free if you are free”, highlighting that one individuals liberty is conditioned on another’s liberty (a valuable lesson for the U.S. to learn especially with the views on minorities).

The last issue important issue that was discussed was the U.S., as Cuba’s largest neighbor, exerting dominance in their country. He introduced the analogy of the levee that was intended to provide support in New Orleans with Katrina, and questioned how strong the country was to withstand the flood of the United States.

Overall, the presentation was useful because it provided me with information about the country that I was unfamiliar with. I was unaware that an embassy was opened in D.C., as well as Havana and still believed that the relationship between both countries was tenuous. However, after attending the presentation I realize as Diaz stated, “Cuba is not a paradise but Cuba is not hell”.

 

ECSU Professors Martin Mendoza-Botelho and Ricardo Perez (Sociology) pose with the Cuban guest Ariel Ducal Diaz (middle) and his translator.

 

Eastern Students visit Connecticut’s Supreme Court

Professor Broscious and the students from PSC 341 Judicial Process visited the Connecticut State Supreme Court in Hartford on October 15, 2015.  The class observed proceedings in two cases: State of Connecticut v. Kenneth Jamison and Standard Oil of CT, Inc. v. Administrator, Unemployment Compensation Act. The purpose of this trip was to allow students to experience the judicial process in practice in the state’s highest court.

Eastern students at the majestic entrance of the Connecticut State Supreme Court in Hartford

After the observing oral arguments, the class returned to Eastern for lunch and discussion.  Discussion focused on unpacking the arguments made by the attorneys, evaluating the questions posed by the justices, and differentiating between the processes of a trial court and an appellate court.

Student Comments:

This trip gave me insight on details of the courts I could never have learned from books, such as the importance of confidence and presentation. It was a great experience. Emilio Estrella

I thought it was really cool I really liked getting see all that we keep reading about in action. I also really like to get to see the attorneys and justices as people. We read about lawyers and we see them in movies but in person, they got nervous, fumbled their words, and say uhh..uhh…  Benjamin Brady

The trip to the Supreme Court was not what I expected. I thought more people showed up to hear the proceedings like in a regular trial without the jury. I was surprised by the level of interaction by some of the justices with the attorneys, I didn’t think they would have interacted as much as they did. Crystal Mayo

The trip to the CT Supreme Court was awesome. It was educational and fun at the same time, especially the political and law debates that stemmed from it on the ride home. All in all it was great! Jordan True

Going to the Supreme Court was an enjoyable experience, it was my first opportunity to be inside our Supreme Court building. The paintings on the walls, and the architecture was very interesting to see, and listening to the lawyers plead their cases reminded me of how excited I am to go to law school next year.  Raagan Wicken

I really liked the trip overall but what I liked the most was that for someone who has never been to court it was a very informational trip, being able to see it in person was much easier to put together than just learning about it! The way the court worked was very interesting to see, it’s different than seeing a court proceeding on television or like I said before learning about it through a textbook.  Shafaq Chaudhry