Sociology Professor Cautions Against Making False Distinctions Between Incarcerated Youth and Adults

With the U.S. incarcerated population projected to grow by three percent in the next three years, criminal justice reforms must go beyond granting leniency to young offenders and “extend mercy to all individuals who have transgressed the law,” says Alexandra Cox in a Jan. 14 article published in the online Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

Alexandra Cox

Alexandra Cox

In “The Perils of False Distinctions Between Juveniles and Adults in Prison,” Cox, an associate professor of sociology, advocates for criminal justice reforms that address the “politically unpalatable” issue of sentencing for violent offenders.

Cox cites a recent National Academy of Sciences report that concludes that “lengthy prison sentences are ineffective as a crime control measure,” and argues that reducing sentencing for violent offenders is the only way to reduce mass incarceration and achieve social justice.

As liberal reformers and the public media advocate for the need to keep youth and nonviolent offenders out of the criminal justice system, they have created a false distinction in the public’s mind between the “dangerous and the ‘rest’”, notes Cox.

“While many support the idea of prison reform due to their exposure to the growing national media on the subject their sense of punitiveness remains unflappable,” Cox writes. “Students consistently draw distinctions between individuals accused of drug offenses and those they see to be deserving of prison time, and they express outrage when they learn about countries where life sentences stop at 10 and sometimes 20 years.”

Cox argues that violent offenders should be granted “a chance to live their lives, and perhaps even become college students, so that they and others can help us build knowledge about why and how violent crime begins and ends.”

At New Paltz, Cox teaches Crime and Society, Criminological Theory, Juvenile Delinquency, and Race Crime and Punishment.  This semester, she co-teaches an “Inside Out” course with Karanja Carroll, an associate professor of black studies, at a local juvenile facility with New Paltz students and students inside.  Cox’s research is about young people’s experiences of being governed in the juvenile justice system.

Cox also published (with Jane Spinak) an article advocating for independent oversight of New York’s juvenile justice system on the website on Jan. 26.

Sociology Professor Discusses Athlete Activism on Texas Public Radio

Do NBA stars wearing “I Can’t Breathe” warm-up T-shirts and the St. Louis Rams’ controversial “Hands up, don’t shoot,” pre-game pose signal the return of the athlete as activist?

Peter Kaufman

Peter Kaufman

Sociology Professor Peter Kaufman weighed in on pro athletes’ responses to the shooting deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner during a Dec. 10 interview with Texas Public Radio.

On the call-in talk radio show “The Source,” Kaufman noted the upsurge in athletes taking a stand on social issues, but said he was not sure if players’ expressed solidarity with Brown and Garner yet constitutes a “full blown movement.”

Referencing the historically negative backlash black athletes have received when attempting to comment on politically-charged issues, Kaufman agreed with fellow panelist Leonard Moore (University of Texas), that athletes are not perceived as humans entitled to express their thoughts publicly.

“We see them as a commodity bought and sold by the owners and the viewers, and we want them to shut up and play. We don’t want them to have opinions,” he said.

Kaufman cited the inequity of athletes who are expected to maintain an apolitical public persona while playing in sports that are “highly politicized.” Sports, Kaufman argued, are linked inextricably with the forces of globalization, capitalism, racism and sexism.

Kaufman criticized the U.S. educational system for not teaching social consciousness, and noted that it’s not just athletes who remain silent.

“We live in a country that’s largely apolitical, that doesn’t have an understanding of how to struggle for social change, maybe even an understanding of how to recognize social injustice. We’ve not taught in our schools about everyday heroes and everyday change-makers,” he said.

Kaufman has taught courses on Social Change and the Sociology of Sport at New Paltz.

His work on the subject of athletes and activism includes “Playing and Protesting: Sport as a Vehicle for Social Change,” published in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues (2010) and “Boos, Bans, and Backlash: The Consequences of Being an Activist Athlete,” published in Humanity and Society (2008).

Kaufman also shared his thoughts on the Brown shooting and racism in the U.S. in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency in Iran on Dec. 8.

LA&S Outstanding Graduates Honored

Students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who excelled academically and outside of the classroom were among graduates honored during the campus-wide Outstanding Graduate Awards ceremony, held Thursday, Dec. 11 in the Multi-Purpose Room.

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Philip Mauceri presented the students with certificates.

Congratulations to all LA&S Outstanding Graduates:

Alexis Moody

Asian Studies
Dennis Gross

Mia Faske
Carly Rome
Hayley Ward

Communication Disorders
Sarah McNamara
Shayna Burgess
Heidi Schmidt (Graduate)

Digital Media and Journalism
Gianna Canevari
Julio Olivencia
Alexandria Fontanez*

Maya Slouka
James Frauenberger
Karissa Keir
Danielle Brown (Graduate)

Kevin Vogelaar
Jessica Pierorazio (Graduate)
Jonathan Mandia*

Languages, Literatures & Cultures
Alexandria Fontanez*
Sarah Walling

Latin American & Caribbean Studies
Adam Repose

Elizabeth Saunders
Jonathan Mandia*

Political Science/International Relations
Andrew Roepe

Hannah Lake
Stefany Batista
Geoffrey Ralls
Morgan Gleason (Graduate)

Sarah Alestalo
Imuetinyan Odigie
Allison Smalley

Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Sudies
Emily Holmes

*Received multiple departmental awards.

Associate Professor Discusses Research on The Academic Minute

Eve Waltermaurer, associate professor (Sociology) and director of research and evaluation (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz, was recently featured on the nationally syndicated educational radio program “The Academic Minute,” speaking about her research on the intersection of criminology and public health.


Eve Waltermaurer

In her audio essay, which was broadcast Wednesday, Dec. 3, Waltermaurer explains that the close proximity of the prison environment can increase the behaviors that lead to transmission risk.

“With the fields of criminology and public health figuratively and literally housed separately in academia, the extraordinary connection between these two fields can easily be missed when, in fact, involvement with crime, as a perpetrator, victim, or officer, can independently put an individual at greater risk of poorer health,” Waltermaurer said.

She added, “While its name is long enough to make you fall asleep before the final syllable, epidemiological criminology, or the study of the intersection between crime and public health, has already been field tested to successfully improve our understanding in both fields.”

Waltermaurer holds a Ph.D. in epidemiology, with a concentration in criminology from the University at Albany. She has conducted research on violence and youth risk behaviors among other topics for the past 20 years. She is the lead editor of Epidemiological Criminology: Theory to Practice, published by Taylor & Francis, May 2013.

To hear Waltermaurer’s “Academic Minute” piece or read a transcript, click here.

About “The Academic Minute
“The Academic Minute” is an educationally focused radio segment produced by WAMC in Albany, N.Y., a National Public Radio member station. The show features an array of faculty from colleges and universities across the country to discuss the unique, high-impact aspects of their research. The program airs every weekday and is run multiple times during the day on about 50 different member stations across the National Public Radio spectrum. For more information, visit

LA&S Partners with Library to Continue Ferguson Conversation


Faculty, staff and students gathered in Student Union Building rooms 401 and 405 on Dec. 4 to discuss the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the related issues of police violence, racism and black lives.

On Dec. 4, Karanja Carroll, an associate professor of black studies, and Mark Colvson, dean of the Sojourner Truth Library, led a discussion on the controversial shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The discussion was held at noon in Student Union Building rooms 401 and 405.

The event was an informal, brown bag conversation on the events in Ferguson and related topics such as racism, police violence and black lives. Attendees, which included faculty, staff and students, were encouraged by event organizers to “listen with tolerance, disagree with respect, and support with grace.”

FBB5The discussion was the second in a series of talks organized by LA&S faculty members. On Dec. 2, Carroll, along with sociology assistant professors Alexandra Cox and Roberto Velez-Velez, held a discussion entitled, “Ferguson, Brown, Wilson and the Aftermath: Disciplinary Conversations on Race and Policing,” from 6-8 p.m. in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium. The talk built upon topics explored in the Sojourner Truth Library display, “How We Got to Ferguson: An Interactive Bibliography,” which the professors curated.

In a Dec. 4 email sent to all faculty, staff and students, SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian responded to the recent grand jury decisions to not indict officers involved in the killing of Brown and Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York. Both men were unarmed.

Christian thanked New Paltz faculty and staff for providing outlets for community discussion.

“The issues around these events are complex and inspire passionate reactions and responses from all perspectives,” said Christian. “We are glad to see the actions and outreach of our faculty and staff who have provided some forums for discussion and we encourage all to participate in this programming when possible.”

For faculty members seeking instructional resources on these topics, Cox recommended this crowd sourced teaching guide about Ferguson.


LA&S Faculty Members to Hold Talk on Ferguson, Race and Policing

Please join Karanja Keita Carroll (Black Studies), Alexandra Cox (Sociology) and Roberto Velez-Velez (Sociology) for a discussion on “Ferguson, Brown, Wilson and the Aftermath: Disciplinary Conversations on Race and Policing” on Tuesday, Dec. 2 from 6-8 p.m. in the Coykendall Science Building auditorium.

Building upon the Sojourner Truth Library display “How We Got to Ferguson: An Interactive Bibliography,” this discussion will approach the current state of race and policing from three distinct disciplinary and research perspectives.  The discussion will be aimed at building ideas about what students and faculty can do locally to respond to this national conversation.

This event is sponsored by the Department of Black Studies, Department of Sociology and the Sojourner Truth Library.

Lecture to Address Race, Gender and Mass Criminalization

SUNY New Paltz Department of Sociology and Students Against Mass Incarceration present “The Problem with Carceral Feminism: Race, Gender and Mass Criminalization,” a public lecture by Dr. Beth Richie, on Monday, Nov. 17, at 3:30 p.m. in Lecture Center 100.

Ritchie is a professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Criminology, Law and Justice, and Sociology at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Richie‘s scholarly and activist work emphasizes the ways that race/ethnicity and social position affect women’s experience of violence and incarceration, focusing on the experiences of African American battered women and sexual assault survivors.  Richie is the author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation (NYU Press, 2012) and numerous articles concerning black feminism and gender violence, race and criminal justice policy, and the social dynamics around issues of sexuality, prison abolition, and grassroots organizations in African American Communities. Her earlier book, Compelled to Crime: the Gender Entrapment of Black Battered Women, is taught in many college courses and is often cited in the popular press for its original arguments concerning race, gender and crime.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

This event received generous support from CAS, the Office of the Provost, the Department of Black Studies, the Department of History, the Scholar’s Mentorship Program, the Honors Program and Residence Life at SUNY New Paltz.  Co-sponsors include the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Native American Studies Program and the Humanistic and Multicultural Education Program.

Award Winning Filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker to Deliver Oct. 29 Lecture

By Despina Williams Parker

D.A. Pennebaker, the acclaimed filmmaker behind such documentaries as Don’t Look Back (1967), Inside the War Room (1993), and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973), will present a special lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. in Lecture Center 100.

D.A. Pennebaker

D.A. Pennebaker

Known as one of the founders of the cinéma vérité movement, Pennebaker earned the Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 for his over 60-year career chronicling such cultural milestones as Bob Dylan’s 1965 electric tour of England, Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid and David Bowie’s final performance as Ziggy Stardust.

The lecture, entitled “D.A. Pennebaker: An Evening with a Legend,” will also include a six-minute video retrospective of Pennebaker’s career and a question and answer period.

Thomas Cznarty, a lecturer in the Department of Digital Media and Journalism, reached out to Pennebaker after teaching several of his films in his Digital Media Production and Documentary Filmmaking courses. He credits Pennebaker’s 1953 documentary, Daybreak Express, with reshaping his notion of what great documentaries can be.

Daybreak Express was filmed on New York City’s 3rd Avenue elevated subway train (discontinued in 1955) and set to a jazz composition by Duke Ellington. The documentary is non-linear, with no narration and captures a unique moment in the city’s history.

Cznarty, himself an award-winning documentary filmmaker, said Pennebaker’s early film taught him that “visuals can tell the whole story.” He is excited for his students to meet a living legend.

The lecture is sponsored by the Department of Digital Media and Journalism, with additional support from the Provost’s Office, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of Fine & Performing Arts, Department of Communication, Department of History and Department of Sociology.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Human Services Concentration Faculty Hosts Successful Alumni Panel

Panel 1

Mette Christiansen introduces alumni panelists during the Oct. 3 “Life After the Concentration in Human Services” panel in Old Main.

By Despina Williams Parker

A panel of Sociology alumni counseled their undergraduate counterparts during a “Life After the Concentration in Human Services” panel held October 3 in Old Main. Human Services concentration faculty Mette Christiansen and Donna Chaffee combined their classes for the nearly three hour event.

The panel included Katie Borek (’11), Jonathan Castro (’10), John Clausson (’03), Sarita Green (’03), Briana Kane (’05), Jessie Moore (’06), Carolyn O’Neal (’07), and Deborah Walnicki (’14). Chanel Ward, the Director of the Scholar’s Mentorship Program at New Paltz, also joined the panel. She earned a Master’s in Professional Studies/Humanistic Multicultural Education in 2010.

Panel 2The panelists have varied work experiences. They have found employment as Case Manager and Street Outreach Worker at Safe Horizons, Director of Programs at Safe Homes of Orange County, Tutor at Mid-Hudson Migrant Education, Risk Management Specialist at Irwin Siegel Agency, Coordinator of Transition Services at Wildwood Programs, and at Planned Parenthood as Sexuality Education Coordinator. Walnicki, who received a 2014 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, is a Fulbright Fellow to Malaysia.


Christiansen has developed the alumni panel over the last 15 years, in hopes of easing students’ fears about life after graduation. “It gives them hope, options, and direction,” she said, noting that career exploration is a “theme that weaves itself in and out of the courses throughout the semester.”

Prior to the panel, Emily Zurner and Ben Sweet from the Career Resource Office taught students how to write cover letters and CVs. Students also brainstormed questions for the panelists in September. In November, students will have the opportunity to meet alumni who have traveled internationally during and after graduation and now use their human services and language skills in their work in local programs for “Unaccompanied Alien Children.”


Panel 3

Students in the Human Services Concentration had time to network with the panelists and ask questions about human services careers.

The Human Services concentration has cohorts of 30 students, and Christiansen and Chaffee have maintained relationships with alumni throughout the years. Local alumni frequently supervise students during the three required internships, and are eager to return to campus to speak to students.

Christiansen said her undergraduate students frequently make their availability for future alumni panels known. “They say to me, ‘When I’m done, I want to be one of those who come back,’” she said.

Christiansen enjoys the chance to interact with former students and share their success stories with the current Human Services cohort. “It’s like being a very proud mom – a professional mom,” she said.


Study Abroad Opportunity in Deaf Studies

Please join us on Monday, October 27 for a slide show and presentation on this exciting study abroad opportunity affiliated with the Deaf Studies program:

Deaf Studies study abroad presentation announcementLearn more about faculty member Rebecca Swenson’s trip to Ethiopia this past summer here:

 Deaf Education and Empowerment in Ethiopia

For more information, contact Rebecca Swenson at