Faculty members are moving the world forward

Linda Moroney presenting on a documentary she made about election day in Rochester
Linda Moroney presenting on a documentary she made about election day in Rochester

By Evan Bourtis, Staff Writer

Bodies, Borders and Movements, was the theme of Fisher’s teach-in on Nov. 15, which allowed faculty members to present their work during back-to-back lectures.

Several different faculty members presented on their work, areas of interest and recent research that helped to drive the world forward and cross boundaries. The presentations began at 9 a.m. in Basil 135 and they ended at 5 p.m. Each faculty member showcased their work to students and other faculty members in 30 minutes or less.

The first presentation of the day was by Media and Communication professor Linda Moroney, who presented a 10-minute documentary she made about the I Voted Today stickers placed on Susan B. Anthony’s grave on Election Day. Moroney collected 12 hours of footage at Mount Hope Cemetery to make her documentary, including many interviews with some of the over 10,000 people who honored Anthony for fighting for women’s right to vote.

The participants in the film came from different backgrounds, including one woman who was a World War II pilot and another who was a distant relative of Anthony. The documentary included many powerful quotes from people interviewed and footage of the emotional crowd waiting in line to place their ballot stickers on Anthony’s gravestone.

One participant said, “I came out because Susan B. Anthony is the reason why I have a chance to vote.”

Moroney also interviewed people who expressed their feelings about the results of the election.

Although the participants were generally upset that the United States didn’t elect the first female president, one person pointed out that, “Even though Hillary Clinton lost, I still feel like yesterday was this miraculous gift to be here, in this moment, with the people of Rochester, experiencing this.”

One of the students who attended the screening of the documentary was Natalia Quevedo-De La Espire.

“I thought it was incredibly moving to see the amount of people that turned out just to honor a wonderful woman who did so much for this moment,” said Quevedo-De La Espire. “I definitely would’ve gone if I had been in this area.”

English professor Steven Brauer delivered a presentation about the civil rights issues of the transgender ‘Bathroom Bill’. Brauer explained that the Bathroom Bill, which has so far only passed in North Carolina, bans individuals from using a restroom that does not respond to their sex assigned at birth. Sixteen states have considered or are considering a similar bill, most recently Texas.  

Brauer explained that the Bathroom Bill relates to Title IX, which states that federally funded educational programs cannot exclude someone from participation on the basis of sex. The Obama administration created a guidance that extended this law to transgender discrimination. However, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos repealed this guidance in February 2017, leaving the transgender community vulnerable.

Brauer discussed how New York state has responded to this issue and explained that Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a bill last March to create more gender-neutral bathrooms. Brauer also stated that the New York state education system recommends that workers at schools accept a student’s assertion on their gender identity.

 Student Matt Holmes said that he learned a lot about the bill from Brauer’s presentation.

“I learned a lot of things about the Bathroom Bill, specifically what states did it and where we are going from here, as opposed to a couple years,” said Holmes.

Psychology professor Ryan Thibodeau gave a presentation on research he conducted about the negative stereotypes of the mentally ill. Thibodeau started by introducing the audience to two hypothetical characters, one suffering from diabetes and the other suffering from schizophrenia, to help them understand the stereotypes they hold. Thibodeau used data from a survey to show that people often labeled the person with schizophrenia as unpredictable and dangerous, but did not attribute these labels to the person with diabetes.

Thibodeau pointed out that despite these stereotypes, very few people with mental illness commit violent acts. He explained that the social stigmas towards the mentally ill are often due to their portrayal as villains in the movies and violent people in the media. Thibodeau said that after seeing the mentally ill in only this way, people may start to think of the mentally ill as something less than themselves, rather than a human being who deserves respect.

The Fisher psychology department conducted a study that shows how comfortable people were around a schizophrenic person. Half of the participants read a description of a schizophrenic person that portrayed the person in a negative light and the other half of the participants read a description that portrayed the person in a more positive light. The participants were asked to write down how they believed they were different from the mentally ill person. Not surprisingly, the study showed that people who read the positively portrayed report believed that the person was similar to themselves.    

In addition to these participants, 12 more presenters spoke about other topics related to their profession.

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