A FEW TEACHERISMS…
Dominic Veconi ’11
Dr. Youngren: “It’s called a mixed tape because you put one tape into the tape mixer, you put the other tape in, you loop it or put one tape’s music on the other, or something to that effect, dub it, make sure it’s all where it’s supposed to be, give it to some girl in 8th grade, and then she never talks to you again.”
Student 1: “Did someone have a bad 8th grade?”
Dr. Youngren: “Man, who had a good 8th grade?”
Student 2: “I did.”
Dr. Youngren: “Yeah, well… keep it to yourself.”
“There are special programs for people like you, called Mathematics Anonymous. When you’ve been completely taken over by mathematics.”
– Dr. Schubert
Student: “Hey, Professor Freund, how are you doing?”
Dr. Freund: “Much better, thanks for asking. And look at my moves!” [bends knees]
“It’s fun to swim…” [looks to class to finish, class looks back confused, Ms. Poreba finishes] “With your clothes off!”
“You ever see girls go into bathrooms by themselves? No. Girls always go places in pairs!” [explaining diatomic molecules] – Ms. Gamper
“Walk means WALK! Two feet in front of the other!”
– Ms. Nardone
“Kevin, let me have your pencil. Let me have your glasses. Your shirt. Your shoes. Let me have your soul.” – Mr. Cho
“I’m here from negative infinity to positive infinity, except I teach first and second.”
– Dr. Rosenbaum
“So I found this site called YouTube yesterday; have you guys heard of it?”
– Mr. Nashban
“Great Danes and Chihuahuas cannot interbreed. It’s just not possible…poor Chihuahua!”
– Dr. Cordi
“God loves golden bowls. God loves wooden bowls. God loves all bowls!” – Dr. Birch
SANDWICH REVIEW: 3 LOCOS FROM ADINAH’S FARM
Sam Levine ’10, Gideon Salzman-Gubbay ’10, and Corey Switzer ’10
Three different types of turkey with American cheese and pesto: $6.50.
Choosing among the myriad of sandwiches on the Adinah’s Farm menu can be almost as difficult as finding a time for Dr. Lerner to sign your add-drop form.
We began our quest to conquer all of the sandwiches by sampling a sandwich whose mysterious name jumps off the menu. The long wait didn’t curb our excitement to try ‘The 3 Locos,’ a sandwich that we hoped would be an American-Latino-LES fusion.
The 3 Locos is as crazy as anybody would expect. It is a hefty sandwich that packs in as much flavor as a platter of salted ox tails. However, in the sandwich’s effort to provide all of the flavors under the Caribbean sun, it loses its subtleties.
What drew us to the sandwich was the exotic combination of flavors: three differently spiced turkeys, fragrant pesto sauce and a little bit of America’s best cheese. Sadly, in the making of this sandwich, the flavors had a falling out. To put it simply, you can’t taste the cheese (our favorite part of any sandwich), and the three kinds of turkey combine to form a wall of salty flesh, which, while delicious, defeats the purpose of using three meats.
While overall the sandwich was delectable we felt that there were a few areas that could have been improved. First off, turning The 3 Locos into a hot sandwich would make it all the more delicious; letting the cheese melt would release more flavor. The sandwich also tends to get a little dry. This could easily be rectified with a bit of mayonnaise. On the other hand, the pesto taste is prominent: a plus for anyone who loves a strong basil punch. The 3 Locos is a good sandwich to have when you’re looking for nothing special, just a quick fill-up before your next class.
FOOD HUNTS ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE
Mahala Greene ’09
Hungry BHSEC-ers seem to stick to a few, limited places to eat. For all the ninth graders who may not have gotten a feel for the Lower East Side’s cheap eats, here are a few places to check out
Sugar Sweet Sunshine, the incredible cupcake place on Rivington Street between Essex and Norfolk, has an assortment of delicious baked goods aside from their famous cupcakes. It is the perfect place to enjoy a late afternoon snack while lounging on their comfy, worn-in seats. If Sunshine gets too crazy, just across the street is Tiny’s, a great sandwich place with a nice view of the street and large portions. If you are walking down Houston Street to the F train, Jean’s Bagels and Ray’s Pizzeria are also good, cheap places to stop. If you’re going out for lunch, of course, a short walk to avenue C brings you to Adinah’s Farm, Moonpie and the Empanada Stand, all favorites of Bard students.
If Adinah’s sandwiches are too pricy for you, you can get a cheesy, greasy, delicious Cuban sandwich across the street from Moonpie at Papaya Express for fewer than 4 dollars. (They used to be sold at the Empanada stand). Papaya Express has an assortment of sandwiches, including falafels and gyros. Pioneer Supermarket on Avenue D also has cheap sandwiches available at the cold cut counter. Maybe not as fancy as Adina’s sandwiches, they are a different brand of tasty and are just as filling.
Clinton Street Bakery, located on the corner of Clinton and Houston Streets, is less frequented by BHSEC students, not that it doesn’t serve great food. Though it’s a little on the pricy end, Clinton Street Bakery is the perfect place to treat yourself and your friends to either a great breakfast or lunch. The lunch and breakfast menus are equally good, but their biscuits with homemade jam are a must. Their biscuit sandwich, a great big mess of melted cheese, eggs, biscuit and bacon is also delicious (I would recommend sharing it).
If you are ever looking for dinner on the Lower East Side and find yourself walking in the direction of the Delancey or Grand Street train stations, take the time to walk just a little further and head over to Eldridge and Broome. Vanessa’s Dumplings has the best, cheapest dumplings in Chinatown. Vanessa’s, newly reopened and expanded to include seating, offers four fried dumplings for just one dollar or a sesame pancake sandwich for $2.50.
These are just a few of the innumerable places to eat on the Lower East Side. If these choices do not satisfy your culinary desires, take to your feet and, with a little exploration, you’ll find countless other options.
SLUMMING IT AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS
Naomi Boyce ’10
Every film buff’s jaw dropped as Sophia Loren glided onto the stage of the 81st annual Academy Awards. Although she stood with her fellow award recipients, all accomplished in their own right, the seventy-four year old “La Ciociara” actress upstaged each of them. Her presence alone reminded each person in the Kodak theatre of a time when the art of film had an aura of simplicity and glamour.
At the most recent Academy Awards, it was clear just how much motion pictures have changed as twenty-first century technologies have developed. “The Dark Knight”, which won two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (the late Heath Ledger) and Achievement in Sound Editing, is the most recent illustration of this trend. The directors and editors applied modern technology throughout the thriller, to create the famed Gotham City. Although it was not the first to use these editing technologies, “The Dark Night” did use more than any other non-animation film this year. The movie hit the top of the box office charts, attracting fans and non-fans alike.
In contrast to highly technology-based forms of film, Sam Mendes’ “Revolutionary Road” was one of the greatest cinematic achievements of the year. Starring Mendes’ wife Kate Winslet and her “Titanic” costar Leonardo DiCaprio, “Revolutionary Road” was an intimate tale of a claustrophobic marriage in the 1950s American suburbs. Winslet and DiCaprio gave a close-to-perfect performance.
“Revolutionary Road,” like many of this year’s films, is based on a book. “The Reader” and “Slumdog Millionaire” were adapted from novels. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story and the playwright John Patrick Shanley adapted “Doubt” from his original version for the stage.
For the first time, a film produced in the east about an eastern country won the title for Best Picture. “Slumdog Millionaire” exemplifies how the age of globalization has changed the face of film. The movie is about an Indian boy who grows up in the slums of Mumbai and, against all odds, becomes the winner of the popular show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’.
THEY CALL HIM MR. GIBBS
Caleb Madison ’11 and Nathan Miller ’11
“Life’s not a competition, but there is a prize for the winner.”
This aphorism might sound like Woody Allen or Oscar Wilde, but this is BHSEC student teacher Riley Gibbs’ take on life. Mr. Gibbs’ energetic, down-to-earth teaching style has won the hearts of staff and students alike. His witticisms and mathematical puns make him a perfect BHSEC fit.
Mr. Gibbs was schooled in Southern California in a high school that he says reminds him of BHSEC. He is now a teaching fellow in the Math For America program, which pays for his Bard College tuition in exchange for his becoming a math teacher. His mathematical prowess ranges from topology, to real analysis and his love for games inspired him to write a 41 page research paper on the game Monopoly.
As much as he loves his experience at BHSEC, it hasn’t been a total life of Riley (pun intended). “The experience is exciting and stressful at the same time,” says Riley. “Knowing that I am responsible for a child’s education can be a scary thing.”
In an item of particular mathematical importance, he has a cat named Lexington.
Melanie Steinhardt ’09
It’s January 14th, and the darkened auditorium was virtually vibrating with excitement. Gideon Salzman-Gubbay, Year I and president of the Asian Culture Club, took the microphone and introduced the long-awaited second annual BHSEC Faculty Karaoke! After months of voting for the teachers who would perform and a push-back on the date, Bard students were privy to an undoubtedly hilarious event.
But watching professors sing was not the only thing on the minds of the members of the Asian Culture Club’s: all the proceeds from ticket sales and voting donations went to Citta (‘Citta’ means ‘compassionate mind’ in Sanskrit), to benefit schoolchildren in Orissa, India.
Dr. Matthews, a supporter of Citta, took the stage with a short but passionate rendition of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.” Mr. Gagstetter rapped the lyrics to “Jump” to tumultuous applause and a great deal of audience participation. Dr. Budimir set aside her conservative math teacher façade with an unforgettable dance imitation of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Dr. Mazie sang “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang; his wife joined him onstage for an impromptu dance. Finally, Dr. Freund and guest star Mr. Bally performed a fabulous duet of Pink’s “Get this Party Started.”
The karaoke event was emceed by Gideon, who supplied witty chatter between acts. In the end, he said “I think it took a lot of blood and sweat, but we finally got it done, and we did it well.”
The teachers were just as deadpan in their assessments: “I think I found my calling,” said Dr. Mazie. Students crowded around Mr. Bally, a favorite teacher in years past, who commented, “I just came back to play the cowbell.” As an afterthought, he added, “…and to see the kids.”
But it was perhaps Dr. Budimir, whose act was the most unexpected of all, who summed up the event best: “I just had a lot of fun!”
HILLARY’S REPLACEMENT: KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND
Juliet Glazer ’12
On January 23rd, Governor Paterson chose Representative Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hilary Clinton’s vacated seat in the Senate. Many Democrats are legitimately confused by this decision; Gillibrand, a Democrat who was formerly the representative of a district near Albany, has a record of conservative positions on gun control, gay marriage, and immigration.
Some say Gillibrand needed to oppose gun control and gay marriage in order to win the seat in the House, and she certainly has been switching her views readily enough. Since becoming the junior New York Senator, she has changed her stance on gay marriage and immigration, and has said she will “evolve” on gun control. Gillibrand voted against the first bailout, which angered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but she did vote in favor of the Obama Administration’s new plan.
Gillibrand, who has traveled what some have called a “calculated course” to her House seat, is the first Senator from upstate New York in nearly 4 decades. Her father was a Republican lobbyist and both he and her grandmother were involved in local politics in Albany, where she grew up.
Gillibrand interned for New York Republican Senator Alfonse D’Amato in college, and worked with the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) during the Clinton Administration. In 2006 she won a House seat in a conservative district against Republican incumbent John E. Sweeney. And now she’s been appointed to Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat. Gillibrand is currently campaigning for a special election in 2010 that she must win in order to keep her seat, which will be challenged again 2012.
A recent New York Times article claims that many supporters and residents of Gillibrand’s old district are disappointed in her for amending her views so suddenly. While in Congress, Gillibrand supported farmers and shared the views of her rural and suburban supporters. Now it seems as though she might leave them in the dust in order to satisfy metropolitan residents, who make up well over half of New York’s population. “Now that I am senator for the whole state,” Ms. Gillibrand says, “I will immerse myself in [everyone’s] issues.”
GOSSIP-FEEDING FRENZY: BHSEC GOSSIP GIRLS GOES WILD!
Sasha Pezenik ’10
Scrawled in yellow chalk on a stall door in the fifth floor girls’ bathroom are the words “the BHSEC Gossip Girl is Awesome”. Whether this was written by ‘Abby Stefans’ or ‘Constance Billiard’ herself, it did not say.
Let’s backtrack for a moment. Recently on Facebook, two new profiles added many BHSEC students as ‘friends’. For most, the extensive ‘mutual friends’ list received with the ‘friend request’ was sufficient motivation to hit confirm. However, after only a few hours, it became clear that the two profiles did not belong to mere BHSEC students. The profiles, which introduced themselves as the ‘gossip girls’ of Bard, were reminiscent of the popular book and television series, Gossip Girl. The series, narrated by the anonymous Gossip Girl, documents the lives of a drama-filled group of high school students. The BHSEC gossip girls’ reports on the comings and goings of our school took the form of Facebook ‘notes’ and by-the-minute updates to their statuses.
To most of us, the posts seemed innocuous at first. Yet ‘Abby’ and ‘Constance’s posts quickly grew less subtle, and more focused on pestering and publicly humiliating individuals. Although the posts used only initials, it was not difficult to decipher whom the reports were referring to. Although the BHSEC Gossip Girls were not around for long, their profiles and the accusatory rumors they posted inspired some gossip themselves: “It was interesting…and kind of amusing,” said a Year I, “but at some point you’ve got to wonder—why the hell are these people spending so much time on this? And why they needed to be so antagonizing.” Clearly, the two gossip girls felt it was important to stir the BHSEC gossip pot, which admittedly can be rather stagnant.
These short-lived, semi-scandalous feeds were indeed entertaining, but then the gossip feed turned vicious. Once the ramifications of these gossip feeds began to snowball, Ms. Billiard, followed by Ms. Stefans, liquidated their profiles.
It’s not certain why—their anonymity made it difficult to get an interview—but perhaps it’s for the best. It is unclear what was behind it all, or what their intentions were. Nevertheless, this episode of online antagonism will leave the BHSEC community with gossip to gobble for some time.
THE RED BULL SNOWSCRAPERS: MOUNTAIN MEETS CITY
Zina Huxley-Reicher ’09
Just in case you hadn’t noticed, for several weeks a large structure made of shipping containers loomed over East River Park. This structure was a 9-story ramp, ending in a hip jump, which was specially designed for a snowboarding event hosted by Red Bull.
After two weeks of making snow, Red Bull launched the Snowscrapers snowboard competition on February 5th, attracting the likes of Sean White, Travis Rice, and Scotty Lago. Sixteen top-notch snowboarders jumped and flipped through the air, competing for the $50,000 first-place prize.
Red Bull, as banners proclaimed, was Snowscrapers’ primary sponsor. The event was also part of the New York City Parks Department’s annual Winter Jam. This wintertime festival was held on February 7th and was supposed to continue at the East River Park throughout the week of February 16. However, due to unexpectedly warm weather, the week-long festivities were cancelled. The Winter Jam consisted of free winter activities such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and sledding.
By 3:00 pm on the 5th, East Houston was flooded with people in brightly colored snowboarding jackets. As the park filled with fans, Red Bull, Honest Tea, and many sporting good companies distributed free merchandise. The sixteen riders began to practice at about half past three. At six, the first round of the competition started. It was a jam session: all 16 riders had an hour to take as many jumps as they could.
The riders performed astonishing tricks. They competed to make it into the next round, pulling stunts such as the backside 900 and the backside rodeo. During the jam session, Terje Haakonsen landed an amazing one-footed method air, releasing one of his feet from the binding mid-trick. This feat won him Best Trick award.
Eight riders advanced to the next round, and were paired for face-offs. Each rider had two runs, and the best rider from each pair moved on to the final round. The final round consisted of two face-offs. Shayne Pospisil and Torstein Horgmo competed for 1st and 2nd place, while Scotty Lago and Travis Rice battled for 3rd and 4th. Each rider was given three jumps. Shayne Pospisil earned a surprising win, and the competition ended with a concert from Anthrax.
For those who had gotten there early enough (or were aggressive enough) to reach the front, the riders were shaking hands and signing autographs. Despite the frigid weather, energy radiated through the crowd—surely the largest throng to grace our slice of the East River since BHSEC moved to the Lower East Side.
BARD AND BARACK, THE EXPERIENCE
George Winn ’12
It was January 20th, and the BHSEC auditorium was tingling with anticipation. Approximately 300 students had assembled to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
I could feel the excitement from the second I entered the auditorium. Every seat was filled and standing room was scarce. Our nation was about to swear in its first African American President, and we, the people of BHSEC, were about to witness it. Hundreds of eyes fixed on the projection screen as dignitaries and former presidents entered the stands, followed by the Obama family.
Obama descended the steps. The auditorium fell silent. When the final words of the oath left Obama’s mouth, the students were not only overjoyed, but also relieved. Some were cheering, some were crying, and some were so stunned they couldn’t do anything but stare at the first image of President Obama. It was a monumental moment not only for Black history, but also for American history.
The administration’s decision to permit the viewing was a very popular one. According to 10th grader Nick Gumas, “it was good that our school recognized the importance of [Obama’s] inauguration and allowed us to watch it during our class time.”
Freshman Paniz Johari appreciated the opportunity to watch the inauguration with her peers: “It was more intriguing watching it with the rest of the students because you get a better feel for it and understand it more clearly than you do with the teachers being above you.”
Despite the gravity of the proceedings, there was some comic relief. Students were derisive at the appearance on the screen of outgoing President George W. Bush. Claudia Habib, a 10th grader, considered the reaction both “hilarious” and “completely fantastic.”
Though only a handful of those in the auditorium were old enough to vote, there was a sense of great accomplishment. Many BHSEC students had campaigned for President Obama or participated in rallies. Their efforts definitely paid off. Bardians, who often voiced frustration with the Bush administration, displayed their reinvigorated patriotism by finishing the national anthem even after the projector had cut out.
Not everyone attended the viewing; some students used the time to study for final exams “One of my students wanted to use the time of the viewing to go to the library and get some studying done,” said Literature teacher Elizabeth Poreba. “I think I shocked her with my strong reaction. She left me with a shrug that seemed to suggest I was overwrought. I’m not sure how she spent the next hour, but I hope her friends dragged her to the event.”
Freshman William Wu summed it up best: “It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness history.”
MARCH OF THE INAUGURATION ATTENDEES
Nora Miller ’12
It was Tuesday, January 20th, in Washington D.C., and the streets were paved with Americans. The crowd was headed towards the Mall, a vast expanse of grass surrounding the White House and the Capitol building.
The inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, was about to take place. Among the some 1.5 million people, there were the inevitable tourist types decked out in Obama paraphernalia, the D.C. residents who knew the metros by heart, and everybody in between. There were also a couple of BHSEC students peppering the crowd.
The trains to the inauguration in D.C. were crowded, but full of energy, even at 4:45 in the morning. “I swiped my Obama Metro card and waited for the yellow line,” says Shannon Grant. “People were getting to the station with suitcases because they hadn’t arrived until that morning and everyone was a bit drowsy, but it was like waiting for Santa by staying up all night.”
In the trains, people were literally piled on top of one another. It ceased to matter whether we were sitting or standing; we were all in one big heap. It was a spirited heap, though. We found ourselves starting conversations with people we’d never met, a phenomenon rare on any other day. We made friends with the mother and daughter from West Virginia, the man from Connecticut, and the family of four from California.
Spirit, however, does not make trains run smoothly. Trains were filled to capacity and then overfilled. Some had to be offloaded.
The streets of D.C. were just as crowded, but just as joyful. “Being in D.C. was spiritual,” 10th grader Aya Abdelaziz raved. “Everyone was dancing in the streets during the parade. Even though it was freezing and people were standing in miserable conditions, they were dancing to the music in the background, clapping and singing together, hours before the parade had even started.”
“It was kind of like March of the Penguins in that everyone was squished together,” Shannon Grant explained, “but we weren’t in Antarctica. And in that squished little mob was something special.”
V-DAY: VICTORY, VALENTINE, AND VAGINA
Zoe Chaves ’09
If you weren’t distracted by chocolates, teddy bears, diamonds, and loved ones this past Valentine’s Day, you might have noticed the plethora of Vagina Monologues productions going on at college campuses and other venues across the country. Or perhaps you noticed the facts about violence against women chalked on the sidewalk in front of BHSEC by our school’s feminism club, the F-Word!
These pro-woman statements are part of a larger movement called V-Day, a global campaign that began in 1998 to halt the staggering amount of violence experienced by women in the form of incest, battery, rape, genital mutilation, and sexual slavery. The V in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine, and Vagina.
A big part of V-Day is provocative performance art. Informative documentaries such as Until the Violence Stops are screened, and benefit performances of the famed Vagina Monologues (by V-Day founder Eve Ensler) are mounted. This year a new show called Any One of Us: Words from Prison, which discusses female prisoners’ experiences with violence, joined the V-Day theatrical repertoire. Noted actors, including Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho, and Winona Ryder, have donated their time and talents to the cause.
V-Day activists also educate the public and raise funds through massive community events. Last year in New Orleans, 30,000 men and women gathered at the Superdome for a two-day celebration that included speeches, theatrical performances, free medical testing, free yoga sessions, and healing circles. The event raised $700,000, which the V-Day corporation distributed to various anti-violence organizations. And V-Day isn’t just recognized by the United States; 120 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, India, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Sudan, host V-Day programs.
But not everyone is aligned with this global movement. When Eve Ensler first performed The Vagina Monologues in 1996, many were put off by her constant use of the word ‘vagina’. Mentions of the production in newspapers, radio shows, and T.V. segments struggled to avoid saying “vagina.”
Currently, the biggest sources of opposition are Catholic colleges. Each February, the Cardinal Newman Society (which routinely doles out funds to Catholic institutions) uses V-Day’s website to gather the names of Catholic colleges that intend to perform versions of The Vagina Monologues. CNS then emails administrators at each school an ultimatum: either shut down the production or lose CNS funding. One student at a Catholic college was expressly told that she would be expelled if she continued with her V-Day activities.
Despite this opposition, the movement seems to be flourishing and positively impacting women everywhere. To this day, V-Day has generated $60 million in funds and has been heralded as one of the best and most effective charitable organizations worldwide.
The group recently donated cell phones to women in Afghanistan to decrease the safety threats posed by isolation. V-Day also runs an enlightening program that discusses the violence experienced by women who were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. V-Day 2009 is focused specifically on violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where sexual violence is especially rampant because of the region’s political turmoil.
And so next year, if you’re not too wrapped up in the arms of a loved one, consider making a statement for women’s rights. See a fantastic play like The Vagina Monologues, get a hold of some facts and share them with the people you love, or take a second to be thankful for the safety and respect that you experience in your life.
THE HUNT FOR THE GOLDEN SCHEDULE
Sam Levine ’10
Three days before registration began for the spring term, I had seven hypothetical schedules drawn hastily in the back of my lab notebook. In the center, written in huge letters, was my golden schedule, complete with all my requirements, a social science, a consistent lunch period every day, and the luxury of 7th period free on Friday. In the corners were my 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choice schedules, scribbled in much smaller handwriting in the hopes that I would never have to resort to them.
Three days later, after sprinting up to the library to register, I saw that several of the classes needed to make my golden schedule work were already full, and that those smaller schedules in the corners of my notebook were quickly becoming a reality.
In speaking to students on the long line outside of Dr. Lerner’s office on Registration Day, I found that I was not the only one deciding between taking a social science and having a lunch period.
As BHSEC continues to draw more and more students away from specialized and private high schools, more and more of the already limited faculty have had to teach 9th and 10th grade, diminishing class choices in the college program. The large grants that funded BHSEC during its first five years as a start-up school are running out, and the school faces the challenge of maintaining the intimacy promised by the early college program while facing the realities of limited funds and increased enrollment.
The biggest consequence of the increasing class sizes is a lack of flexibility in scheduling. In the sciences, three-period laboratory sections fill up quickly and are difficult to switch, locking students out of several of their first choice classes. In a school that promises a plethora of classes in exchange for academic commitment, we should not be forced to choose between taking a class that interests us and one we need to gather a required credit.
In order to compensate for the lack of space in classes this semester, the administration has lifted the cap on class size in the college program from 20 to 23 students. While 23-student classes would gratify a parent with children in any other New York City public school, they pose an enormous problem at BHSEC, where the richness of a discussion is lost in such a large class.
This is particularly true for seminar classes, which are capped at 12 students at small colleges like Swarthmore and Haverford. In a seminar with 23 students, there simply isn’t enough time for everyone to contribute their ideas and stay on schedule to complete an ambitious curriculum.
Increased class size also means that teachers have less time to meet 1-on-1 to discuss a paper, or get assignments back quickly so that they can be used as a references for the next assignment.
While the name of our school and the uniqueness of its program often make us feel distanced from the decisions made by the Department of Education, the reality is that we are as much a part of the public school system as any other school in the city.
With even more drastic budget cuts ahead, and more and more families turning to public school during this financial crisis, the registration crunch will only get worse in the fall. In the interim, I wonder whether our golden schedules will remain the stuff of dreams.
IMPENDING DOOM – UNLESS WE STOP IT
Melanie Steinhardt ’09
The first week of the semester was tarnished by dreary rumblings around BHSEC. The source of this steadily brewing discontent? The proposed budget cuts that threaten the future of Bard High School Early College (both I and II).
Bloomberg’s original proposed budget would have cut 15,000 jobs in the NYC education sector; teachers who had been in the system for fewer than three years would have been laid off, and the remaining teachers redistributed. Luckily, President Obama’s Federal Stimulus Bill allotted an extra, unexpected $1 billion to New York City, eliminating the need for a mass lay-off.
It’s easy to see how this plan would have destroyed both BHSEC institutions. There are almost no professors at BHSEC II who have been teaching for over three years, meaning that the whole school could potentially shut down. Essential programs would also have been cut at BHSEC I.
The Mayor’s budget proposal excludes two important grants that help BHSEC function as it does today. The first is the $500,000 Enhanced Math and Science Grant, which has already been cut by $40,000. This grant allows all BHSEC students to take college-level math and science courses before they graduate. These types of courses include Environmental Design, Race in Science & Society, Physics of Sound and Music, and Cryptology.
The other endangered grant is the $200,000 grant that funds BHSEC II in Queens. Altogether, the $700,000 in grants go to the Writing Center, college textbooks, lab supplies, college transfer advising, three full-time and three part-time science professors, and a full-time science lab technician.
Without these funds, the programs that make BHSEC different from other schools would have to be slashed. In short, the situation is dire.
However, Whitney Bates, Student Activities Coordinator, and Dean Martha Olson are working to mobilize the students. The budget will not be finalized until April 1, so BHSEC students and faculty still have time to act.
It is imperative that everyone do their part to keep the school afloat. Everything counts, from saving money by using less paper in the library to informing assemblymen about BHSEC’s program and why it should be prioritized in the budget. Students who call or write to their personal assemblymen should emphasize that BHSEC provides an education and a foundation for college that some students may not have received otherwise; over 95% of graduates enroll in four-year programs at top colleges and universities in New York State and around the country. BHSEC is also one of only three New York State public high schools included in the Wall Street Journal’s list of top U.S. high schools. It is important to point out what the school gives to the community as a whole. The education students receive at BHSEC prepares them to become well-informed members of society.
Many BHSEC faculty and students gathered outside of City Hall on March 4th to protest against education-related budget cuts, but the results of such activism remain to be seen. If every BHSEC family writes letters to its city councilperson and state assembly representative, and continues to work with Ms. Bates and Dean Olson, there is a chance we can really make a difference.
BHSEC TACKLES THE WATER CRISIS
Noa Bendit-Shtull ’10
A dollar can buy a chocolate bar, a lottery ticket, four gumballs, or ten individually wrapped Swedish Fish. A dollar raised through the Tap Project can provide a child with safe drinking water for 40 days.
The Tap Project, which UNICEF started in 2007, aims to provide water access, sanitation facilities, and education in purification techniques for more than 90 countries.
Last year, UNICEF raised more than $600,000 during World Water Week. This year the Tap Project aims to raise $1 million between March 22 and March 28, and BHSEC is going to help. Abigail Savitch-Lew, Riana Shah, and Claire Fishman, members of the BHSEC Student Activist Network (BSAN), are leading the way. In November, they attended DROP Summit, a program that raises awareness of the water crisis among teens and teaches them how to organize within their communities to make an impact.
UNICEF, one of the organizations that attended the DROP Summit, appealed to the trio of BHSEC students because of its global scope. Savitch-Lew explained that BSAN wants to effect change beyond New York City; although it’s physically impossible for the girls to travel to Africa or Asia, where the water crisis is most severe, they can lend a hand from afar through the Tap Project.
Volunteers for UNICEF recruit restaurants to participate in the Tap Project during World Water Week. Participating restaurants will ask their patrons to donate one dollar for the glasses of tap water that are usually provided for free. The Tap Project coordinators have been very supportive of BHSEC’s involvement, and sent a representative to school to train volunteers.
“People hear all the time, turn off the tap when you’re done,” says Shah. But there is more that everyone can do to address the water crisis. According to Shah, The Tap Project allows students to “feel like they were making a difference.”
BSAN’s response to the water crisis is multi-faceted. On March 22, World Water Day, BHSEC students will be participating in a march to raise money—carrying one gallon jugs of water. Students will meet at the entrance of the National Museum of the American Indian at 9:30, and proceed to Battery Park for the walk.
Students can also contribute by encouraging their friends and family to patronize restaurants that have joined the effort. (A list of participating restaurants is available at http://www.tapproject.org.)
Another simple way to help is to avoid bottled water. “Bottled water is just stealing,” said Savitch-Lew, “making a bottled water choice is not an ethical choice.” Nestle, she explained, which owns several water companies including Poland Spring, buys naturally running, community water, bottles it, and sells it back to the public. A perhaps unintended benefit of the Tap Project is that it raises awareness that New York tap water is at least as drinkable as bottled water.
The water crisis may seem like a distant problem, but water shortages are already impacting regions of the United States. Climate change, worn infrastructure, and population growth are endangering California’s water system. And “even though New York is in good shape right now,” says Savitch-Lew, “we do have a finite amount of water.”