2015-2016 Where Are We?

Image of map with red pin and text reading "Where are we?"

'If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are'

– Wendell Berry

Many of us here at the college are new residents or short-term visitors in Cortland. What connects us to this place, and why should we care?

For the 2015-2016 academic year, the Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee plans a year-long discussion about the “local” and its significance for thinking about economic health, environmental resilience, and overcoming inequalities of all types. We also hope the series will encourage service in Cortland and surrounding areas.

In particular, we want to engage the campus in a critical discussion of localism and privilege. Strong arguments have been made about the value of shopping locally and eating locally grown food, but has the promotion of local economies done enough to engage with problems of poverty and racial inequality? Can the poor afford to be locavores, who purchase local products produced in a sustainable manner? Does the idea of the “local” invite everyone into our “home” or wall some of us out?

For our four common readings, the committee selected a variety of texts that could speak to departments and programs across the campus. We encourage faculty and staff to infuse the theme into their courses, either through selections from the common readings or other texts related to the theme. The four selections are:


Cover of the book The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen

Will Allen, The Good Food Revolution

After years in professional basketball and as an executive for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Procter & Gamble, Will Allen built the country's preeminent urban farm-a food and educational center that now produces enough produce and fish year-round to feed thousands. Employing young people from the neighboring housing project and community, Growing Power shows how local food systems can help troubled youths, dismantle racism, create jobs, bring urban and rural communities closer together, and improve public health.

Cover of the book This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything

In this book, Naomi Klein argues that climate change is an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. 

Cover of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold 

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

This book’s essays by a conservationist and wildlife biologist focus on a small farm Leopold lovingly tended as he sought to restore a damaged natural ecosystem. He imagined a local community that included both humans and the natural world and called for a new “land ethic” that elevated love of place and the rights of the land, animals and plants above what is economically expedient. 

Cover of the book Hope and Despair in the American City by Gerald Grant 

Gerald Grant, Hope and Despair in the American City

In Hope and Despair, Gerald Grant compares two cities - his hometown of Syracuse, New York, and Raleigh, North Carolina - in order to examine the consequences of the nation's ongoing educational inequities. The result is an ambitious portrait of two cities that exemplify our nation's greatest educational challenges. The book can lend itself to discussions of inequities and school reforms here in central New York. 

 Please visit CICC’s 2015/16 Common Read webpage for further description of the book’s individual chapters.

For reading guides and other information, please see our Common Read website. Also, visit us on Facebook!

Calendar of Events

Spring 2016

February 18, 4:30 p.m., Old Main Colloquium

Place as Voice , David Franke

After moving to the Tully Valley north of Cortland, Davide Franke discovered that this ancient locale is inscribed with many competing stories of what place and nature might mean.  Making sense of these stories requires a language that can accommodate everything from geology to politics to dreams.  In this paper, he tries to reveal a place that speaks in a multiple, incommensurate voices.

February 25, 7 p.m., Sperry 104

This Changes Everything

Film Screening

Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis

March 22, 7 p.m., Memorial Library 2nd Floor

A Farm Girl - Billie: The Gillette Murder Case 110 Years After

Joseph Brownell

March 24, 7 p.m., Jacobus Lounge

The Local Opt-Out Movement: Parents’ Responses to Standardized Testing Requirements

Moderated by Anne Burns Thomas

March 29, 7 p.m., Sperry Room 106

Our Town: Cortland Then & Now

A Multi-Media Presentation

April 7, 7 p.m., Jacobus Lounge

What Porter Ranch Can Teach Us About Seneca Lake

Joe Heath and Colleen Kattau

April 11, 4:30 p.m., Sperry 104

Planning Communities as if People Eat

Samina Raja, University of Buffalo

April 18, 4:30 - 6:30 p.m., Jacobus Lounge

Through My Eyes, Café Night

Smith School talk           Smith School Talk audience

Students from H. W. Smith Elementary School

April 25, 4:30 p.m., Sperry 104

I Learn America

Film Screening

April 26, 7 p.m.. Jacobus Lounge

Welcoming the Stranger

Dylan Fresco

Fall 2015

September 23, 2015, 4:30 p.m., Jacobus Lounge

Robert Spitzer, “Did Bob Get His Gun (Permit)? What Local Gun Laws Tell Us About the National Gun Debate”

America's love-hate relationship with guns has been framed in modern times as a zero sum struggle between gun laws and gun rights—that a gain for one side is a loss for the other, and that the two are incompatible. But is that true? My research on the history of gun laws concludes the reverse - that in most of our history, the two went hand in hand.

I propose addressing the relationship between gun laws and rights by looking at the local. Most gun laws are state and local laws, not national laws. Since 2012, we have seen gun regulations strengthened in about a dozen states, but weakened in twice that number. We in New York live in a state that has strict gun laws, and these laws became even stricter in 2013 when the state legislature passed the controversial NY SAFE Act. I decided to see for myself whether my gun rights were infringed by our state's tough laws by applying for a concealed carry pistol permit, and participating in the construction of a legal assault weapon, the intimidating looking AR 15. In my talk, I will report on my experiences, and frame them in the context of the national gun debate.

Robert J. Spitzer is Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department, and the author of five books on gun policy, including most recently, “Guns across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights” (Oxford University Press, 2015).

October 1, 2015, 7 p.m., Brown Auditorium, Old Main

Cortland Old Timers Band Concert

Local community bands have a long history in the Untied States. The Cortland Old Timers Band can trace its origins to 1911.  This concert, under the direction of conductor Edward O’Rourke, will feature classic and contemporary band music related to the band’s long tradition. The event will be introduced by retired band conductor and SUNY Cortland Music Professor Emeritus, Dr. Samuel Forcucci.

October 8, 2015, 4:30 p.m., Jacobus Lounge

Martin Ogle, “Land Ethic and Gaia Paradigm; The co-evolution of two great ideas” 

The great Wisconsin naturalist and ecologist, Aldo Leopold, taught us to think of the land as a community of which we are part of.  Leopold’s famous Land Ethic became an important focus for the American conservation movement in the mid-1900s and remains so today.  The Land Ethic can inspire landowners and the local community to make personal and group decisions that reflect the understanding of they are a part of the land community.   But Leopold’s Land Ethic is founded on an older idea that has been around for as long as human culture – that of Earth as a living being.  Leopold, himself, was sympathetic to this idea, and it has occurred to all people who recognize the beauty and complexity of Earth systems.  In modern times, this idea has received a name—Gaia Theory: the scientific view of Earth as a single physiological system.

Martin Ogle, a long-time champion of Gaia Theory, has been expanding the concept as the “Gaia Paradigm” – the confluence of our best scientific understandings of Earth as a living system with cultural understandings of human society as a seamless continuum of that life.  The Gaia Paradigm is gaining traction and is a most apt partner to Leopold’s Land Ethic. 

Join Mr. Ogle for a fascinating exploration of the synergy between the Land Ethic and the Gaia Paradigm and how they may both be necessary for us to successfully address the environmental and social challenges of our day.   

Martin Ogle holds degrees in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State and Virginia Tech. He was Chief Naturalist for the No. Virginia Regional Park Authority 1985 – 2012.  He received the  2010 Krupsaw Award for Non-Traditional Teaching – The annual award of the Washington Academy of Sciences for outstanding teaching in informal and non-academic settings.  Mr. Ogle promotes a widespread understanding of the Gaia Paradigm through his workshops, programs and writings.  He and his family moved to Louisville, CO in 2012 where he started Entrepreneurial Earth, LLC.   Mr. Ogle was born and raised much of his younger life in South Korea. 

October 12 – December 18, 2015

Robert Sherrill, “Landmarks,” Dowd “Hallway” Gallery

October 13, 2015, 5 p.m., Dowd Gallery

Robert Sherrill, “Artist’s Talk”

Robert Sherrill pairs photographs with drawings in his ongoing Landmarks project. After photographing a local landscape, he uses charcoal, chalk and graphite to transfer the image into a drawing. His interest lies in exploring the nature of spatial experience and the rhythms inherent in both the landscape and the process of making marks. These drawings are not a documentation of any specific place but rather are based on the dynamic of space and how it is experienced. Presented in this exhibition are eight studies for larger works.

Robert Sherrill lives in Cortland, NY, and has been working actively as a visual artist for over thirty years.

October 15, 2015, 4:30 p.m., Jacobus Lounge

Gerald Grant, “Hope and Despair in the American City”

Gerald Grant, The Hannah Hammond Professor of Education and Sociology Emeritus

Gerald Grant’s talk, “Hope and despair in the American City,” compares two cities - his hometown of Syracuse, New York, and Raleigh, North Carolina - in order to examine the causes and consequences of the nation’s ongoing educational inequities. He explores the central question of why education reform keeps failing, tracing the answer back to public policy decisions such as redlining and blockbusting in the wake of World War II and the 1972 Supreme Court decision in Milliken v. Bradley which hardened the lines of school segregation by preventing the state of Michigan from merging Detroit’s public schools with those in surrounding suburbs. In shining a light on some of the nation’s deepest educational challenges the discussion also points toward the potential for school reform that remains today.

“In this perceptive and important book, Gerald Grant tells the modern tale of two cities. … The choice between Syracuse and Raleigh, he concludes, is the choice between hope and despair, the choice between one America and two Americas.  In most cities, he writes, there is an ‘invisible wall’ that keeps inner city children separate from more affluent suburban kids.  If Barack Obama genuinely wants to provide equal educational opportunity for children, however, he needs to take steps to tear down that wall.” Richard Kahlenberg, The Washington Monthly

Gerald Grant was born in Syracuse, New York, and graduated from Syracuse Central High School. He joined The Washington Post in 1961 and was promoted to its national staff in 1964. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1967 and earned his doctorate there in the sociology of education in 1972. In his postgraduate year, he was appointed a Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Harvard and then accepted a faculty position at Syracuse University with appointments in the departments of Cultural Foundations of Education and Sociology. He was named the Hannah Hammond Professor in 1993 and Distinguished University Professor in 1998. He has published articles in Commonweal, Daedalus, The New Republic, Minerva, the Harvard Educational Review, The Progressive, The Public Interest, The Washington Post, and other journals. His major books are Gerald Grant and David Riesman, The Perpetual Dream: Reform and Experiment in the American College (University of Chicago Press, 1978), which won the Borden Award of the American Council on Education; Gerald Grant and Associates, On Competence (Jossey-Bass, 1979); The World We Created at Hamilton High (Harvard University Press, 1988), named one of the eight best books of the year by the American School Board Journal, and Gerald Grant and Christine Murray, Teaching in America: The Slow Revolution (Harvard, 1999), winner of the Virginia and Warren Stone Prize awarded annually by Harvard University Press for an outstanding book on education and society, and of the 2000 American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award. In recent years, his work has turned to broader questions of urban social policy. His essay “Fluctuations of Social Capital in an Urban Neighborhood,” appears in Diane Ravitch and Joseph Viteritti, eds., Making Good Citizens: Education and Civil Society, Yale University Press, 2001. Grant’s latest book, Hope and Despair in the American City, was published by Harvard University Press in 2009.

October 20, 2015, 7-9:30 p.m., 1890 House  “Local Tales of Terror”

Co-Sponsored by: The 1890 House and Hollenbeck Cider Mill

1265 NY-392, Cortland, NY 13045

Phone: 607-835-6455 Opening day is 9/26/2015

Please join us one and all at Cortland’s fabled 1890 House for an evening of “Local Tales of Terror”, ghost stories and dramatic readings in the “Spirit” of the season.  Explore the grandeur of Cortland’s Castle, its many rooms, the history of the Wickwire family, the grounds and its carriage house.  Settle into a comfy nook or secure a spot by the fire and listen to our readers explain some of the local hauntings, share spooky tales or recite the classic prose of Edgar Allen Poe. Warm up with a cider doughnut and wash it down with seasonal cider. A suggested donation of $3 for students and $5 for adult guests will help support the continuing restoration work of one of Cortland’s architectural gems. For more information on the 1890 House, its events and its history please visit the website.

This event is hosted with the support of the Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee of SUNY Cortland and the cooperation of the staff and Board of trustees of the 1890 House Museum.

The 1890 House Museum aims to promote and interpret the historical and cultural significance of this property to the public. The 1890 House seeks to collect, preserve, research, display, and interpret objects that promote local and national history of America’s cultural heritage during the late 19th and early 20th centuries

The impressive limestone mansion, now called the 1890 House Museum, was once the home of 19th century Industrialist Chester F. Wickwire. Born in 1843, Chester grew up on the family farm in McGraw, east of Cortland. As a young man, he moved to Cortland and opened a grocery store on Main Street. Gradually, the grocery store became a hardware business. Chester’s brother, Theodore, joined him in the business. In 1873, the brothers received a carpet loom as payment for a debt. Adapting the loom to weave wire, Chester transformed the hardware store into a major manufacturing firm that would impact the nation.

November 4, 2015, 7 p.m., Jacobus Lounge

Get to Know Your Local Dirt:

A Community Roundtable on Local Agriculture and Nature Preserves

Main Street Farms

New York Agricultural Land Trust

Lime Hollow Nature Center

Whole Heart Café (The Local Food Market)

Moderators: Christa Chatfield and Scott Moranda

Description: Around the country, the local food movement is booming. In addition to concerns about factory farming’s environmental and food safety record, consumers want to support local farmers. By connecting with the local landscape, residents build relationships with each other and with nature. While many support this movement, some wonder how well it reaches out to lower-income families. Participants in this roundtable will share their experiences developing a culture that connects residents to locally grown food and nearby natural treasures. We will discuss the benefits of local agriculture as well as landscape and farmland preservation. At the same time, the discussion will highlight the possible challenges faced by this movement.

Monday, November 16, 2015 at 7 p.m., Exhibition Lounge, Corey Union

Poetry of Place

Using Cortland as its locus, this program of readings will explore how some poets reveal who they are by looking at where they are, and in so doing, illustrate how important a sense of place is to larger human endeavors. As poet Maxine Kumin has written, ”In a poem one can use the sense of place as an anchor for larger concerns, as a link between narrow details and global realities. Location is where we start from.” 

Thursday, November 19, 7 p.m., Corey Union Fireplace Lounge

Khuram Hussain, “From Charity to Solidarity: Rethinking Student Service in Urban Communities”

From tutoring kids to stocking food pantries “service to the community” is now a cornerstone of the college experience. Yet it is criticized for being little more than community charity. Moreover, in an era of economic dispossession, mass school closings and rising urban protest, college campuses and their surrounding communities need more from each other than charity. This talk explores the radical possibilities of service-learning as: place-based, democratic and mutually empowering for students and community members. Specifically a yearlong urban education project titled Tools for Social Change is examined as a model of service that focuses on intergroup dialogue, collaborative learning, and community organizing to build transformative student-community alliances. Ultimately the talk outlines practical and ethical considerations for pre-professional students to use urban institutions to work in solidarity with urban communities.

Khuram Hussain, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Education at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He teaches a variety of courses on the history of education with a particular focus on civil rights education and equity and access. His scholarly interests include the history of the Black press, religion and education, and culturally relevant teaching.