Kennison Earns UUP’s Highest Honor

Headshot of Wes Kennison
Wes Kennison
Wes Kennison ’79, faculty fellow for international programs, was recently awarded the Nina Mitchell Award for Distinguished Service by United University Professions (UUP), the nation’s largest higher education union. It is the union’s highest honor.

Kennison received the award at the UUP Fall Delegate Assembly on Friday, Oct. 15.

UUP President Fred Kowal says that Kennison has consistently demonstrated consensus building, connecting different groups within the union to achieve contracts that represent everyone.

Kennison, whose several roles at Geneseo also include faculty fellow for the Office of International Programs, has been active in UUP for more than 25 years. The UUP publication The Voice noted Kennison’s involvement in the 2000 Negotiations Committee, serving as a representative for part-time faculty and staff and helping to secure them health insurance benefits. He continued to advocate for union members who are part-time as part of the UUP executive board and has been active in community service, including serving two terms as Geneseo town supervisor and chairing both Catholic Charities of Livingston County and SUNY Geneseo’s InterFaith Center.

English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, Inducts 83 New Members

On April 21, Geneseo’s Iota Lambda chapter of the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, inducted eighty-three new members. The half-hour ceremony highlighted accessibility and inclusivity, emphasizing that the honor society serves the entire English Department. Outgoing executive board president Nicole Callahan spoke to the chapter’s increased outreach efforts this year, including offering one-on-one connections to all new students in the department and significantly increasing our social media presence to help people feel connected and to get involved (see https://www.geneseo.edu/english/sigma-tau-delta).

Isabella Higgins discussed Sigma Tau Delta’s support for diversifying the Humanities curriculum, which included a petition recording student support for broadening and breaking from Geneseo’s menu of readings as well as a roundtable presentation at the annual convention where we shared local initiatives and solicited feedback from across the nation. More broadly, Sigma Tau Delta also endorses the Concerned Students Coalition’s List of Demands that would support BIPOC and traditionally underrepresented students on campus (https://speaks.geneseo.edu/?p=155). Beyond campus, our service project this year is to help The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming gather signatures of support for an inclusive community, as Jordyn Costello explained. People living with intellectual and developmental disabilities aare another group that has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic (https://tinyurl.com/yx79rr6z).

Professor Kristen Gentry spoke to this historical moment in a powerful, lyrical address, noting the induction as one of those small celebrations that, quoting Prince, help get us through this thing called Life. April 21 was the fifth anniversary of Prince’s death, a shocking loss that Professor Gentry connected to our traumatic past year of pandemic, racial tension, Black death at the hands of police, and mass shootings across the nation. Words, suggested Professor Gentry, are our solace and strength. Prince called life an “electric word,” and Professor Gentry added that “All words are electric. The words we write have the power to change lives. The way we interpret them has the power to change history. The words we speak have the power to manifest into reality. … Use electric words to make the world a better place than it was before you spoke, wrote, or read them.”

The induction closed with incoming president Georgia VanDerwater asking interested students to volunteer for next year’s e-board (contact Georgia at gv3@geneseo.edu) and with faculty sponsor Dr. Gillian Paku leading the pledge and remarking how the society has rallied in this difficult year around the STD motto: sincerity in our hopes for inclusivity and some necessary truth-speaking, alongside the craft and design of our creative and analytical work. We welcome the following students to the society and look forward to celebrating our chapter’s fiftieth anniversary in 2022:

2020

William Anderson

Jessica Apthorpe

Hannah Bentivegna

Claire Corbeaux

Jordyn Costello

Jenna Doolan

Kayleigh Eames

Kayla Eyler

Michaelena Ferraro

Daniel Fleischman

Melisha Gatlin

Aliyha Gill

Devin Gordon

Mackenzie Griffin

Valeria Guarneros

Jamie Henshaw

Walter Hoag

Sarah Holsberg

Hayley Jones

Kayla Kenny

Fatima Khanam

Anthony Lyon

Courtney Lyon

Emma Mandella

Emma Marino

Rachel McLauchlin

Kaitlyn McNulty

Rosalinda Mesbahi

Ben Michalak

Kyle Navratil

Richard Noel

Dong Won Oh

Kaitlyn Papaccio

Domenica Piccoli

Emma Raupp

Sophie Schapiro

Nickolas Schuessler

Emma Short

Hannah Sullivan

Emily Tsoi

Lyndsay Tudman

Georgia VanDerwater

Stephanie Wall

Rebecca Williamson

Emily Zandy

2021

Sarah Barber

Carly Burgio

Bridget Cain

Kathryn Capone

Elizabeth Costanzo

Caroline Crimmins

Hailey Cullen

Katelyn Daniels

Amina Diakite

Alison DiCesare

Susanna Dolan

Tess Duignan

Marin Goodstein

Kat Johnson

Zack Laird

Grace Lawrence

Macaire Lisicki

Cameron Luquer

Hannah Lustyik

Emma Meeks

Maeve Morley

Ethan Owens

Megan Palmer

Maria Papas

Maria Pawlak

Cassandra Pepe

Rebecca Perry

Samantha Phillips

Kevin Reed

Jose Romero

Elizabeth Roos

Olivia Root

Leila Sassouni

Isaac Schiller

Peter-Joseph Sharak

Lauren Silverman

Juliet Wenzel

Samuel Wright

English Department students present at Sigma Tau Delta International Convention

On Saturday, March 27, five members of the Geneseo chapter of [Sigma Tau Delta](https://www.english.org/) participated in [the annual convention(https://englishconvention.org/2021/) available to all members of the English honor society. Nicole Callahan, Jordyn Costello, Sara Devoe, Isabella Higgins, and Emma Mandella presented a panel titled “Change it Up: Diversifying Humanities” over Zoom. Their presentation discussed the overt lack of representation in most canonical works considered to be a part of the “great books’’ tradition, a list that Geneseo Humanities I and II courses are required to follow. They touched on efforts – including their recent, popular student petition – to alter the Humanities requirement at Geneseo, with the goal of making it a course that includes perspectives and representation of groups outside of the predominant white male norm. Black Humanities was presented as one innovative approach, and the panelists suggested other texts or productive pairings of texts that would meet the goal. A lively question and answer session held after the presentation was attended by students and faculty from around the country and was an illuminating conversation about the benefits and challenges of these efforts, and how they are addressed at our peer institutions. The panelists and audience members agreed that more than finding one answer to this complicated issue, diversifying Humanities requirements should be addressed through a variety of methods.

The format of roundtables only, coordinated via Zoom from Colorado, was a function of the COVID-19 pandemic. It worked surprisingly well, but we look forward to a return to an in-person convention in next year’s location, Atlanta, GA. Geneseo’s Sigma Tau Delta chapter is active all year; new members are inducted each spring, but most activities are open to all members and friends of Geneseo English. For further information about [Sigma Tau Delta at Geneseo](https://www.geneseo.edu/english/sigma-tau-delta), please contact the incoming student president, Georgia VanDerwater, or the faculty sponsor, Dr. Paku.

English department students present at Sigma Tau Delta international convention

On Saturday, March 27, five members of the Geneseo chapter of Sigma Tau Delta participated in the annual convention available to all members of the English honor society. Nicole Callahan, Jordyn Costello, Sara Devoe, Isabella Higgins, and Emma Mandella presented a panel titled “Change it Up: Diversifying Humanities” over Zoom. Their presentation discussed the overt lack of representation in most canonical works considered to be a part of the “great books” tradition, a list that Geneseo Humanities I and II courses are required to follow. They touched on efforts — including their recent, popular student petition — to alter the Humanities requirement at Geneseo, with the goal of making it a course that includes perspectives and representation of groups outside of the predominant white male norm. Black Humanities was presented as one innovative approach, and the panelists suggested other texts or productive pairings of texts that would meet the goal. A lively question and answer session held after the presentation was attended by students and faculty from around the country and was an illuminating conversation about the benefits and challenges of these efforts, and how they are addressed at our peer institutions. The panelists and audience members agreed that more than finding one answer to this complicated issue, diversifying Humanities requirements should be addressed through a variety of methods.

The format of roundtables only, coordinated via Zoom from Colorado, was a function of the COVID-19 pandemic. It worked surprisingly well, but we look forward to a return to an in-person convention in next year’s location, Atlanta, GA. Geneseo’s Sigma Tau Delta chapter is active all year; new members are inducted each spring, but most activities are open to all members and friends of Geneseo English. For further information about Sigma Tau Delta at Geneseo, please contact the incoming student president, Georgia VanDerwater, or the faculty sponsor, Dr. Gillian Paku.

English major Ben Michalak Receives Geneseo Community Engagement Ambassadorship

Ben Michalak Receives Geneseo Community Engagement Ambassadorship

English major Ben Michalak ’21 was selected as one of six students to be awarded Geneseo Ambassadorships this year. His project will involve working with the Main Street Association of nearby Perry, NY to link that community’s history of the arts to present-day artists and economic development initiatives.

During the Fall 2020 semester, Michalak was a TA for Ken Cooper’s OpenValley course that worked with the village to develop an innovative history of the Perry Knitting Company. Besides his research, writing, and digital communications skills, Michalak’s work as marketing director for WGSU helped make this opportunity possible.

On Tuesday, Feb 16 Dr. Maria Lima to share her experience creating HUMN 222: Black Humanities

On Tuesday, February 16 Feb at 1 p.m., Prof. Maria Helena Lima (English & Black Studies) will share her experience creating the course HUMN 222: Black Humanities. HUMN 222  explores The New York Times “The 1619 Project” and takes on The Times challenge to reframe American history, to consider the possibility that the origin of this country can be traced to 1619, the year that marks the arrival of the first Africans (from the land that would become Angola) to the land that would become America in all its defining contradictions.

Geneseo English department’s statement on racial justice

The English department has added a statement of commitment to action on racial justice to its website. You can also read the statement below.

Our Commitment to Action on Racial Justice

As protests continue and emerge across the U.S. and around the globe in response to the killing of George Floyd, and the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, we write to express our anger and grief. We write to acknowledge that the protests unfold not only because of these killings but because of the accumulated history of Black death at the hands of law enforcement, vigilantes, and the violence of structural inequalities. We acknowledge and mourn too many deaths, from Eric Garner to Jonathan Ferrell and Nina Pop, from Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Pamela Turner to Patrick Dorismond, from Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson to Amadou Diallo, from Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines to Atatiana Jefferson and Shantel Davis and Trayvon Martin and so many more human beings across time and geography. We acknowledge that these protests unfold also because of the toll of COVID-19 that has fallen disproportionately upon Black people because of the long-term effects both of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. We write to support Black Lives Matter and other national and local movements for justice and to commit to actions as well as words.

We write to support Black students who in both the physical and digital world must navigate Geneseo. We witness the excellent academic and creative work of the Black students in our classes, students able to thrive and innovate even while Geneseo’s spaces, like those of other predominantly white campuses, accumulate everyday careless and gratuitous insults and other obstacles to Black students’ achievement of a public liberal arts education.

As Geneseo English alumna Evelyn Mendez puts it, “Black individuals are dying inside and outside of jails and because many of us are afraid to seek help because of systemic racism….We aren’t at peace. All we want is to no longer live in fear.” We write, then, in response to her and her peers: we write to affirm the shared responsibility of our Community Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and particularly to “sustaining and expanding the diversity of our community and to making equity for all members of our diverse community a measure of our success.” That is, we write to acknowledge we can and must do more and better to fight actively against anti-Black racism.

As faculty members who study and craft literature, we rely on the long record of evidence that Black artists, scholars, and cultural critics have woven into stories of the fight against fear and the fight for peace that cannot be unpartnered from justice. These are narratives that, in the words of Geneseo English alumna Dr. Jacqueline Monique Jones, can “help us better understand the world that we’re in and the world that we want to see.” We strive in our courses to offer specific historical and cultural contexts for the texts that we teach, understanding both that art does not lie outside of history and politics and that complex stories and rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship inform the transformative Black art and activism we witness today. Such transformation is possible even and especially when it feels impossible; indeed, as Geneseo English alumna Sabrina Bramwell put it during her 2019 Senior Oration, “A core characteristic of interdisciplinary thinking is being willing to value a thought that differs from your own and use it to foster growth. With this mindset, the fear of difference is transformed to intrigue, the unfamiliar is now admired, and inclusion—the desire to hear different opinions—develops more naturally.” Discomfort is not there to be avoided but rather to be explored, not singly or by a few but by a community committed to equity as essential to inquiry.

As teachers and scholars, our commitment is to be listeners: to learn, to reflect, to educate ourselves and others. In the wake of the 2016 election, Mariame Kaba wrote that “Humility is in order across the land. It’s really OK to say that you don’t know the answers. You don’t have to pretend you do.” Kaba’s words guide us now. We commit to taking action, and in doing so commit to making Black lives the center while not asking those most affected by anti-Black racism to take on more emotional labor. We commit to be accountable for the sources, words, images, and narratives that we spread in personal and digital spaces, especially as Black Lives Matter warns of misinformation and disinformation targeted at the movement. We commit to take action within our various spheres of influence. We refuse saviorism, white and otherwise. We offer what we have and can in service to building a more just world.

Above all, we are called to commit to behaviors and structures for care and caring rather than behaviors and structures that exist only for calling to order, as Fred Moten has termed it. Such commitment must be careful. As Saidiya Hartman has affirmed, “Care is the antidote to violence.” Yet also as Geneseo English alumna Davina Ward has affirmed, “Care can exist as violence. Violence can exist as care.” We see this over and over where police, whose charge is to “care and protect,” target Black people with violence. Resources devoted to continuing such violence (such as the $230 million paid out in claims against the NYPD in 2018 alone) must be reallocated to structures for public health, mental health, and public education.

As faculty members who teach and craft works of the imagination, we must not fail to work to build the different world that protestors and students are imagining through their demands. Indeed, rather than just saying Black lives matter, we should actively work on what Geneseo English and Philosophy student Emma Mandella identifies as a new model for reparations. Citing the work of Roy Brooks, in “The Ills of American Capitalism: A New Case for Reparations,” Mandella argues for reparations in the atonement model, demanding revolutionary structural change to support Black citizens. As an alternative to settlement reparations, the atonement model emphasizes long-term efforts to address structural inequalities and systemic inequities.

We close with words from Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, who notes a truth that emerged from her experience coming into what she calls her “full power” as an adult human being during the Civil Rights Movement:

Sometimes you really need things to be thrown up in your community, everything to be turned over in such a way so you have another chance to look at what you have put together. And in any culture, any people, any history, throwing things up gives you a chance to be selective about what you will carry forward.

Note: All Geneseo students and alumni invoked in this statement have given their express consent to their work being included in this context.

English Department Mourns Passing of Emeritus Faculty Leonard Moss

We regret to report the passing away of emeritus faculty, Leonard Moss, who taught in the  English Department from the 1960s until his retirement in 1989.

His wife, Shaoping Moss, offered the following message:

Leonard Moss, my beloved husband, patient teacher and best friend, passed away on May 28, 2020, at the age of 88. The cause is heart failure. As an ardent scholar and a dedicated writer, Leonard had worked tirelessly on his writing projects one after another, producing 7 or 8 books in his life. He never stopped writing until his last day. He even wrote his own tongue-in-cheek premature obituary a few months ago, and included it at the end of his last book, “Creating an Identity.” Now it has become his formal obituary, which we have published at the Moss family website:https://mossfamilypublications.weebly.com/obituary.html

He was buried at the Gan Shalom Cemetery in Briones, CA. Our small family had a graveside burial ceremony for him on June 2.  A recording of the ceremony can be found at our family website:

https://mossfamilypublications.weebly.com/burial-ceremony.html

Shaoping is collecting remembrances to share on our website. We invite you to share your memories of Len by responding to this email. These will be shared here:

https://mossfamilypublications.weebly.com/remembrances.html

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Sinai Memorial Chapel Chevra Kadisha. You can learn more about this charitable institution here:

https://www.sinaichapel.org/donate.html

Shaoping, Eli and Sara Moss

 

 

Beth McCoy’s Students Praised by Hayes Davenport on LA Podcast

In Spring 2020, Beth McCoy taught “Expulsion and the Housing Crisis,” a SUNY Geneseo literature course contemplating narratives flowing into and out of the 2008 global financial crisis.

The course’s final assignment asked students to consider Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower alongside episodes of L.A. Podcast they’d been listening to all semester.

The podcast’s host, Hayes Davenport, mentioned Dr. McCoy’s students  individually by name because of their essays here: https://morrison.sunygeneseoenglish.org/2020/05/15/sower-what-about-l-a-podcast/
Here’s the podcast clip cued up: https://simplecast.com/s/6351e2e4?t=1h8m10s
Here’s the whole episode: https://thelapod.com/episode/go-mask-alice/