Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Working with Unions to Address the National Crisis: In Solidarity

(photo credit: Morgan Gwenwald)

Glenn Geher

I went to my first union meeting at work this evening in about a decade. Since I came to SUNY New Paltz in 2000, I’ve always belonged to the union - and have appreciated the work that the good folks who run the union do on my behalf. Until recently, however, I’ve generally stayed clear of things like politics and unions. Of course, that all changed since 11/8/2016. Like many of us, I now find myself hell-bent on taking steps to address what many of us consider nothing short of a national crisis.

So I now am finding myself playing a highly active role in the progressive organization Move Forward New York, which is dedicated to helping correct the national situation as effectively and efficiently (and peacefully!) as possible. So when Debra Clinton, our fearless leader, asked me if I’d be willing to organize a Not My President’s Day rally on President’s Day, I was all in.

As a long-standing member of the SUNY New Paltz community, I quickly thought of our campus as a venue for such an event. After all, it’s got lots of space, is centrally located in town, and offices were slated to be closed that day. Then I got to thinking - how do you go about booking your campus for an event of this kind - when done under the banner of an external entity such as Move Forward New York? Hmm …

So I got thinking about who on campus might be willing to work with us to make this happen. We needed a formal campus entity to co-host this event. Then it came to me. Let me contact the union!

I’ve been a dues-paying member of UUP (United University Professions ) for years now - and I figured that the union might be up for co-hosting this kind of event. I was welcomed, by our chapter president (Beth Wilson) and by the full union president (Fred Kowal) quickly and warmly, with open arms. In short, the answer was “yes, let’s do this!”

Well, long story short, the event was a huge success (see the several media pieces on the event at the bottom of this page) - and it turned out that the synergy between the UUP and Move Forward New York was pretty much perfect.

At the union chapter meeting this evening (just a few days after the rally), both Beth and Fred gave awesome speeches. And both focused largely on the connections between the current national situation and the goals of UUP. You see, as I’d suspected, the leadership of UUP is just as distressed about the current national situation as I am. As evidence of this point, our local UUP Executive Board voted unanimously to support the UUP/MFNY collaboration with what ended up being our highly successful rally.

Further, both Beth and Fred indicated that some UUP members have not been happy with the idea of UUP formally supporting such events as the New Paltz Not My President’s Day rally or the Women’s March on Washington (UUP was the first union to formalize an affiliation with that event!). And I have to say that their responses to these criticisms spoke volumes to me. The union’s take is essentially this: The nation is in a crisis right now - and this crisis is directly affecting SUNY in a variety of ways (e.g., reduced international student matriculation, reduced international attendance at SUNY-affiliated conferences, general concerns about the welfare of public education, etc.). I’m glad to see that my brothers and sisters in the UUP see this situation exactly as I do - and are willing to stand for what is right!

Collaborate with Your Union!

If you are interested in helping fix the current national crisis - and if you are in a union, I suggest that you attend your next chapter meeting. If you’re part of Move Forward New York, or Indivisible, or one of the many organizations that has recently emerged in an effort to help fix things, you might want to see about connecting your organization with your union. Here are some reasons that such a collaboration can be a good idea:
  • There is a good chance that your union is strongly aligned with your take on the current national situation.
  • An existing labor union will have resources (per your hard-earned union dues!) that can help cover fiscal costs.
  • An existing labor union will have qualified personnel (typically including elected leadership) and staff.
  • An existing labor union is typically a formal, long-standing organization that may have helpful things such as liability insurance for hosting rallies in public places and other things that may well come in handy during this long-term struggle. .
  • An existing labor union likely is filled with an army of concerned citizens who are fully committed to the cause.
  • Labor unions are comprised of experienced political activists - skilled individuals who will gladly support your events and your cause.  
  • And if that’s not enough, an existing labor union likely has a bullhorn that you can use at rallies!

Bottom Line

We are currently in a national crisis - and if you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.

Looking for help in addressing the problems that surround us today? In addition to looking toward such groups as Move Forward New York, Indivisible, Move On, etc., I suggest that you connect (or, as in my case, re-connect) with your union if you are a member of one. For a whole host of reasons, my guess is that you will be welcomed with open arms - with an army ready to work with you - as we all work, together, to reclaim our great nation.

If ever there was a time to become politically active and rise up, that time is now. Here is to the uprising.

#UnionYes #UUP

In Solidarity, 
Glenn Geher - proud member UUP and of Move Forward New York

Join the uprising at

Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity. 

Media Coverage of New Paltz’s Not My President’s Day Rally

Full video (via Amy Dooley Mosbacher) of event:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

djt is not for me!

Patricia Haidaoui

I’m about to attend my first President’s Day event and it happens to be a “NOT my president” rally. In full disclosure, I’m not just attending this rally, I was one of the first to suggest that Move Forward New York should hold a local event, similar to the one happening in NYC. I knew immediately that speaking out on President’s Day was important, even before I could articulate why.

What is it about THIS president that makes me feel this way? Is it just the person, the policies, BOTH? I’ll admit I have a hard time understanding what folks didn’t “like” about Barack Obama. I can understand disagreeing with a policy, I didn’t always agree with him (heck, I didn’t even vote for him in the 2008 primary). But some people had (and continue to have) truly hateful things to say about him...that continues to confuse me. What did he do (besides be HIM) to warrant such negativity? Nothing, as far as I can tell.

Those thoughts have me examining my own visceral response to djt. For some reason, I can’t even fathom attaching the title “president” to the person I call “djt.” It literally makes me physically ill! Why? I know darn well I’m not a “sore loser.” I also know that this isn’t “partisan politics” either. I was a democratic Deputy Town Supervisor working for a Republican Supervisor. I have voted for local Republicans, when their policies were favorable for my town and/or region. I lived thru Reagan and two different Bushes, and never once did I feel like this. I disagreed with their policies, but was not deeply offended by them as people. Sure, I wouldn’t have wanted to go hunting with Dick Cheney, but come on, GW seems like the kinda guy you could sit next to at a BBQ and actually enjoy for a while. They didn’t frighten me! They didn’t REPULSE me!

Republicans will say “get over it” and “move on” and, worse, lately people have said that “this” is the “new normal!” But I can’t “accept” this blasphemy, this desecration of what should be a revered position. I’ve interacted with djt voters who have said their “main concerns” were jobs and the economy. For some reason, they believe that a serial swindler has the “golden touch” and will ….. do what? That’s where they lose me! But what about “all that other stuff,” I have asked them, “how can that be overlooked, even IF he was the business genius he says he is?” Personally, there is no way I CAN overlook any of it! Not the grabbing, the mimicking, the disrespect, and the tantrums. Not the cronyism, and collusion, nor the destruction of the basic tenets our country was founded on, like civil and human rights!

No, djt does not represent me…both in that I could NEVER get “on board with” any of the things he stands for, and, in that he clearly, based on all the things he has said and done, is not interested in being “my” president. As a woman, as an educator, as the spouse of an immigrant, as a Muslim, as someone who has spent a lifetime supporting the rights and freedoms of others….no, djt is simply NOT FOR ME, and you know what? That’s ok, maybe he isn’t “for you” either. WE don’t have to lower our standards, or our expectations. We can stick together, and vow to do our collective BEST to push-back against oppression, to shine light where it is dark and to show love where there is hate. WE are the citizens of this great land, who, with truth and justice as our guiding principals, will come together to stand against tyranny where ever it blocks our way!

If ever there was a time to become politically active and rise up, that time is now. Here is to the uprising.

Join the uprising at

Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Educators and the Trump Administration: This is Why Teachers Care So Darn Much
By Glenn Geher

You may have noticed that among the many kinds of individuals who are beyond outraged at the current presidential administration, educators are pretty high on the list. The appointment of Betsy DeVos, someone with zero credentials in the realm of public education, to serve as the Secretary of Education, is probably the most conspicuous reason that educators are so outraged. This makes some sense. After all, here are some facts that we know about Ms. DeVos:

* She never attended or worked at a public school in her life;
* She was fully unable to understand Senator Franken's straightforward question regarding her views on the distinction between performance-based versus growth-based assessment of learning (this stuff is sort of taught in 101 classes in Education programs);
* She literally suggested that schools in places like Montana might consider having guns on hand in case of grizzly bear attacks;
* etc.

If you are reading this blog, you're probably up on the news and you probably know the deal with Ms. DeVos.

But from my perspective, as an advocate of public education, the problem is actually much more personal. You see, for one, I only attended public schools my whole life. From humble beginnings in New Jersey (Wilson Elementary School, Grover Cleveland Junior High School, and James Caldwell High School), to two of New England's premier state universities (The University of Connecticut and the University of New Hampshire), I'm fully a product of public schools.

Further, since 2000, I have been privileged to be employed as a professor with teaching responsibilities at the State University of New York at New Paltz. While I do a lot of things in my job, it is without question that teaching is my number one priority. And I cannot overstate how much I put into my teaching. As I've argued before (see my Psychology Today post, Teaching as the Single Most Important Profession), I don't think there are any professions that are more important to society than the teaching professions. Behind every successful individual in any field is the hard-fought work of an army of teachers. Every successful physician has dozens of teachers across all kinds of levels to thank. Every successful baseball player, has all kinds of teachers, including batting coaches, to thank. Every successful politician has an army of teachers to thank as well.

In the teaching professions, we build people. We build the future. In addition to transferring knowledge to bright young minds, great teachers inspire the next generation of leaders. For my money, teachers ultimately influence the next generation within a society more so than do folks from any other profession.

In my case, I'm like a lot of other teachers. I work tirelessly. I bring my work home. I care deeply about reaching all of my students - about getting them to see that they are capable of greatness - of making a difference. When my students graduate, I tell them two things. First, I tell them to keep in touch, because I want to hear about their future successes. A teacher's primary pay is in successes of his or her alum.

Second, I tell my graduating students this: "Go out there and make the world a better place - no pressure." This is, to my mind, the bottom line of education. We are shaping the future leaders of this great nation. And we are ultimately charged, through the work of our alumni, to make this world a better place. This is how I see what education is all about.

Why Teachers Really Care about the Current State of the Nation

So this gets to my point of why teachers really care about what is happening to our great nation. Sure, we are terrified of Betsy DeVos and are concerned about future funding for public education - and all that. But for me, the concerns run  much deeper. I have been teaching college students since 1994. I have spent decades of my life working at break neck speed to educate, inspire, and guide the next generation.

And I partly do this because I believe in this country. Because I believe that these young minds will go out there and, given the American dream, will make this world a better place.

With the current administration, it's hard for me to actually believe in that right now. Do I really want to send my alum out into a nation that is pretty much at civil war? Do I really want to send my alum out into a nation that is premised on hate and xenophobia? Do I really want to send my alum out into a nation that has a madman behind the wheel? A leader who is working as efficiently as possible to dismantle every single fabric that holds together the values of the USA? Whose work on dismantling the American Dream might have effects for generations to come?

The real reason that a huge majority of teachers voted for Clinton (see this article from USA Today for data on this topic) isn't that we were concerned about the dismantling of public education (although that certainly was a consideration). The most fundamental reason that teachers so overwhelmingly voted for Clinton was this: The current administration's perspective on the world has, in one fell swoop, taken away the America that we all stand for. The America that we felt proud sending our alumni out into. The America that is based on freedom and opportunity for ALL people. From my perspective as a lifelong educator, the main reason that educators in general are outraged by the current administration is the fact that we no longer feel that we live in a country that we believe in.

The current administration literally has me feeling like all of my hard work in the domain of teaching is about to go down the drain.

If ever there was a time to become politically active and rise up, that time is now. Here is to the uprising.

Join the uprising at

Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity.