By Theresa Evans
The Brett Kavanaugh controversy made its way onto Rider’s campus when the political science department hosted its first teach-in of the semester for students on Oct. 9.
According to Frank Rusciano, a professor in the political science department, the topic of the teach-in was initially about refugees but, due to the “explosion” of the new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault controversy world-wide, the political science professors decided to discuss the event and titled the teach-in “Women and Kavanaugh: The Politicization of Supreme Court Nominations.”
“I feel there was much speculation and heated debate in general,” said Saadiya Alidina, a college of continuing studies senior. “It was something that was on everyone’s mind and there was no escaping it in media either. As such, I think it was important to have an open discussion about what implications Kavanaugh’s appointment had and how to channel the anger and frustration many people have with the current administration.”
A panel of professors presented for five minutes each, leaving enough time for a Q&A session with students.
Alidina Iragorri, a freshman political science major, enjoyed hearing about various aspects of the Kavanaugh case, but found that the presenters had the same political viewpoints.
“I would have liked to have heard from someone with an opposing view too so that it didn’t seem like a one-sided discussion,” said Alidina. “Nevertheless, it was very informative, especially the legal implications of Kavanaugh’s appointment as stated by the first speaker. I also enjoyed Professor Rusciano’s views from a political communication standpoint.”
Alidina felt that the professors were open to listening to and commenting on students’ oposing opinions.
“The teach-ins allow us to talk a little bit more from our perspectives, in kind of a free, safe atmosphere,” said Rusciano. “It’s like OK, we’re going to tell you what we think. You can tell us what you think and ask the questions you want.”
Iragorri believes that the teach-ins provided a safe-space for students’ opinions.
“I loved how the professors were open to the opinions of others,” she said. “They never dismissed a belief or thought a student had, even if they may not have agreed with it. This positive affirmation will only serve to encourage students to use their voices.”
Political science professors Jodi Bouer, Barbara Franz, Adam McMahon, Roberta Fiske-Rusciano and Frank Rusciano discussed various topics and related their presentations to the Kavanaugh case, including male privilege, ramifications for court decisions, how social media represents supreme court candidates, the silencing of women and political communication.
“Believe it or not, when we teach political science, we don’t have the opportunity to speak about contemporary political issues,” said Rusciano. “We try to as much as possible, if it fits into the course, but we don’t always have the slot in the class to speak about them and we, in many cases, don’t have the opportunity to speak about them with people who aren’t our students.”
Teach-ins are open to students outside of the political science department as well.
Students asked questions regarding falsely accused males, the #MeToo movement, the #BelieveWomen movement, controversy, hypocrisy and other political issues as well.
“It really helped me understand the situation more,” said Iragorri. “I felt that, after the discussion, I had a better grasp of what happened with Kavanaugh’s accusations, as well as a better understanding of the Supreme Court.”
According to Rusciano, the topic drew a larger crowd than usual.
“The main purpose is to give people an environment where they can talk, where they can express their opinions, ask their questions and so on,” said Rusciano. “And to teach people that it’s OK to talk, it’s OK to disagree and, it’s not only OK, it’s interesting and fun.”
Students were encouraged to suggest topics for future teach-ins.
“I think it’s a great forum to bring the professors and students together in an informal, out-of-class setting to discuss current topics that are in the news and may have repercussions in our lives. It allows students to voice their opinions without fearfof being penalized or having their grades affected in any way,” said Alidina.
Iragorri believes that the topic was relevant because it affects all Americans.
“It matters for women and men alike,” she said. “It’s an issue and an unfortunate progression in our country, and it should be addressed. Understanding the issues that exist in our country will allow us to make informed decisions.”