Elizabeth Morris

Journalism and Economics Major at Ithaca College. Passions: Reading, Baking, Writing and Economics.

Ithaca residents support Bernie Sanders’ progressive policies

Ithaca and Tompkins County for Bernie Sanders sells buttons to raise money for the Bernie 2016 campaign. ©Ithaca Week Kelsey Mckim
Ithaca and Tompkins County for Bernie Sanders sells buttons to raise money for the Bernie 2016 campaign. ©Ithaca Week Kelsey McKim

Note: This story was originally published in the publication “Ithaca Week.”

By Kelsey McKim and Elizabeth Morris

Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company’s back room is split into two sections: one with extra gear and other storage, the other full of buttons, bumper stickers, pamphlets and yard signs neatly displayed on tables. It is all arranged with one goal in mind: supporting Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Ithaca and Tompkins County have been highly supportive of Sanders so far, and the group Ithaca and Tompkins County for Bernie Sanders is working to keep the trend going. Ithaca’s zip code (14850) ranks ninth nationally in campaign contributions to the Vermont senator, with $11,470 raised. This figure is based on Federal Election Commission data released Aug. 3 of individual contributions of $200 or more. Campaign donations are only one indicator of support for a candidate, however.

“From the get-go there was this huge response,” said Will Fudeman about Bernie’s popularity in the area. Fudeman has been involved with the steering committee. “Commonly with these sorts of campaigns, there might be three or four people who might be carrying most of the weight, and, I don’t know, there’s like more than a dozen really active people, and people keep stepping up.”

Past racks of leggings, sports bras, and other running attire lies the temporary office space of the group. To get to the “campaign headquarters,” volunteers walk into the store under a banner proclaiming “Bernie: Join the Political Revolution!”

At steering committee meetings, about 15 volunteers gather in this room to plan tabling events, canvassing and other strategies for the campaign. Many volunteers began campaigning for Sanders independently, but quickly merged their efforts to create a unified group. The group is not formally associated with the official Bernie 2016 campaign, according to Becky Chambers Hennessy, a member of the steering committee.

Campaign Contributions

The group has seen a large amount of support for Sanders in the area at campaign events, and according to an article by the Ithaca Voice, Bernie Sanders has raised three times as much in campaign funds from Ithaca as any other presidential candidate.

According to FEC data, 31 people from the 14850 zip code donated a total of $11,120 to the Sanders presidential campaign between April 30 and June 30. In comparison, the next-largest recipient of donations, Hillary Clinton, received $3,460 from 8 people in the same zip code between April 13 and June 28. FEC donor reports are generated quarterly.
Origin of Tompkins County Support for Sanders.

Origin of Tompkins County Support for Sanders

Tompkins County consistently supports progressive candidates, according to Don Beachler, associate professor of politics at Ithaca College. In the 2008 Democratic primary, it was the only county in New York to vote for Obama over the less-progressive Hillary Clinton.

The overall support for Sanders in the area is considered a continuation of this progressive worldview. Hennessy explained the personal reasons why she is one of many locals who support the Vermont senator.

“I realized immediately when I saw him come on the horizon that I’ve been settling and I’ve voted over the course of many elections, settling until now,” Hennessy said. “A lot of people feel that way.”

Hennessy said Sanders’ policies on health care, labor and the environment are key issues that attract local residents to his platform. Healthcare is one of Sanders’ most well-known campaign platforms; the senator supports “enacting a Medicare for all single-payer health care system.”

“Here in Tompkins County, we’re among the pioneers of the living wage movement,” said Joe Lawrence, a local “Labor for Bernie” organizer. “Bernie is the only candidate to flat-out say, ‘Fifteen bucks an hour,’ and he’s not tap-dancing around that.”

The concentration of highly-educated citizens in the area is another factor in local support for the Sanders campaign.

“Ithaca has an educated electorate,” said Alex Skutt, co-treasurer of the local campaign. “You roll a bowling ball down The Commons and you hit Ph.D.’s.”

Beachler said that education levels correlate to voter turnout.

“Education across the country is highly coordinated with voting: the more education you have, the more likely you are to vote,” said Beachler.

Because voter turnouts tend to be low across the country, this trend skews elections, especially primary elections (which have the lowest turnout rates), toward candidates favored by highly-educated voters.

Local Campaigning

Until recently, much of the group’s focus has been on courting independents or members of other parties to switch their registration to Democrat. New York State has a closed primary, which means only people registered with a party can vote in that party’s primary. In an open primary, voters of any affiliation can vote in one party’s primary.

The last day for voters to switch party affiliation was Oct. 9, and the group is now focusing on registering new voters, especially students, for the April 19 Democratic primary.

“Seeing people like Bernie Sanders that push the envelope to the left are really interesting for me,” said Charlotte Granison, who attended a debate screening hosted by the group. “Whether or not people determine him as electable, we’re seeing this movement, we’re seeing a broader expanse of ideas, and I think that’s really powerful.”

Pope Francis inspires Ithaca Catholics with his messages

soup supper (1)
Ithaca College Catholic Community during Thursday Soup Supper ©Ithaca Week Frances Johnson

Note: This story was originally published in the publication “Ithaca Week.”

By Elizabeth Morris and Frances Johnson

Muller Chapel was filled with the sounds of voices echoing, laughter and spoons clinking against bowls of chili during the Ithaca College Catholic Community’s soup supper. The excitement of the trip to see Pope Francis still lingers — heads turned and looked up, enraptured, as freshman Mary Stephenson began describing her visit to Philadelphia last weekend.

“I can’t even describe how cool it was to be worshipping with so many Catholics, seeing the Pope,” Stephenson said with a bright smile on her face. “It was just a really touching experience that I’ll never forget, really.”

Stephenson was one of 220 Catholics who planned to travel together to Philadelphia on Sunday, Sept. 27 to see Pope Francis during Mass. But with only 10 hours to go, three of four buses delayed and one bus not showing up at all, some worried that they were would not arrive in time.

As Ithaca College junior Nick Davis described being only feet away from Pope Francis, his face lit up with visible excitement.

“For being really late, we kind of lucked out because by the time we got there, the subway had no lines. We got right in and security was really quick compared to other people,” Davis said. “I don’t know if you’ve seen on CNN when the Pope would drive by and the lines of people. So the group of people I was with, we got lucky. We were three or four people back; we got really, really close to him.”

Three full buses left for Philadelphia, the last leaving around 8:30 a.m. The delay resulted in two buses reaching the security checkpoint only an hour before Mass was set to begin, but many were still able to get inside and a few were able to see Pope Francis up close.

Cornell University and Ithaca College Catholic Community students joined with members from parishes around town and travelled to Philadelphia to see the Pope perform Mass in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum.


Pope Francis’s comments on issues like the environment, LGBT community and the death penalty have struck a chord with many Ithaca Catholics.

“Part of what Pope Francis is doing is taking that thing that’s in the back of your head that you don’t really think about, and bringing it to the forefront and bringing it to a situation where you have to confront it,” David Holmes, a campus minister for the Ithaca College and Cornell University Catholic Community, said.

Teresa Clark, a biology and art double major with a minor in environmental studies, could not be happier with how Pope Francis addressed the need to take action on climate change. As a staunch supporter of the environment, Clark feels a connection with the Pope because of their mutual concerns.

Clark said that the Pope brings up “issues that we all felt strongly about, but weren’t always on the forefront, are now coming there.”

Planning the trip to Philadelphia was a long process that began in April. Joseph Mazzawi, Associate Director for Cornell and Ithaca College Catholic Community, worked with Ann Marie Eckert — pastoral associate of St. Catherine of Siena Parish — to get buses for those who were interested in seeing Pope Francis. Mazzawi and Eckert originally reserved three buses, but that was not enough.

“Eventually though, the response was stronger than we thought it would be and we ended up having to reserve a fourth bus,” Mazzawi said.

This immense response is in part because of the impact Pope Francis has had on Catholics in the community. Pope Francis’s approach towards many issues enables “people to be more receptive to the message that he speaks of than some of the previous popes,” Mazzawi said.

“Where he is trying to shine the focus of the church is a bit different than what has been done in the past, I don’t think it’s a change in doctrine, or anything like that, but he’s come out and said, I am not here to judge anyone, that’s not my place,” Holmes said.

Pope Francis’ messages about many controversial topics have increased the importance of many social issues.

Clark said the Ithaca College Catholic Community is “using the things the Pope has said in the past and especially on this visit as a lens for what to do for the semester.”

“I think it’s just refreshing to see, refreshing as a Catholic, to be in a place and a time where we can speak with a voice of hope, with a voice of encouragement to try to rally people of all faiths, of all backgrounds to really look at the social ills that are in our society and to bring about meaningful change,” Mazzawi said.

Lansing’s Yoga Farm grows business with two-week promotion

Christopher Grant, owner of the Yoga Farm, demonstrates a pose for a yoga class.
Christopher Grant, owner of the Yoga Farm, demonstrates a pose for a yoga class. ©Ithaca Week 2015, Elizabeth Morris

Note: This story was originally published in the publication “Ithaca Week.”

By Sam Kuperman, Elizabeth Morris and Katelyn Harrop

In an effort to meet the rising demand for yoga classes in Tompkins County, Lansing’s Yoga Farm has hired new staff and offered two weeks of free classes to expand its business, which opened a new studio space this summer.

July and August are slow times for yoga centers, due to good weather, but September’s cooler temperatures attract customers, said Christopher Grant, owner of the Yoga Farm.

In anticipation of these customers, the Yoga Farm opened a new set of classes in early Sept., featuring 10 teachers and 13 different kinds of classes. In addition to yoga classes, the new schedule also features other wellness courses including dance, Chi Gong and Tai Chi.

“The goal was to expose the new teachers,” Grant said. “You go to our website and there are a lot of classes, so how would you know which ones are right for you? The goal really is to open it up so people could sample without any risk.”

Instructor Emily Healy, who joined the Yoga Farm staff in June, said she has noticed an increase in class participation since the promotion began.

The first week of the promotion six to eight people averaged per class and, the second week, an average of 10 to 12 people attended, said Grant.

“When I started teaching there I’d have 2 or 3 students each week, and with the promotion, my classes have had up to 10 students these past 2 weeks-even between last week and this week there’s been an overall increase in attendance,” said Healy in an email.

Grant said these customers are mainly new clients looking for a chance to try yoga for the first time, which makes the introductory classes the most popular. During the second week of the promotion, the Yoga Farm saw an increase in customers, with two different classes bringing in 16 and 17 customers respectively.

Healy said the two-week offering period was designed to remove barriers preventing potential students from exploring new opportunities.

“The promotion was meant to really celebrate all these offerings and to allow people to sample all the different classes, and also just to get people out there to see how beautiful and inviting the space is,” Healy said. “We were hoping that, by making these two weeks very inviting, it would encourage people to keep coming back.”

Grant started the Yoga Farm in summer of 2014 in a small room over his garage with one class a week. Because of demand, Grant added a few more classes and in November 2014 he rolled out an 11 class schedule. At first he taught small classes but, as demand started to grow throughout the winter, Grant decided to renovate his barn into a studio. He opened the barn for classes June 19, 2015, with roughly 200 people attending the grand opening.

“I started asking a few other yoga teachers I know to teach classes, because I see this as being bigger than just me,” Grant said.

Yoga Farm instructor Neko Three Sixty said she first saw the Yoga Farm at the open house in June and immediately wanted to be a part of the Yoga Farm. She now lives at the Yoga Farm and teaches classes.

“It was like a vision I had seen in my mind for years, and even the color of the house and the whole thing, and I’m such a visual person,” Three Sixty said.

To follow the promotion’s momentum, Yoga Farm will be offering more permanent discounts, including discounted class passes, Healy said.

“With the growth I’ve witnessed at the Yoga Farm since I got involved, and especially in the last couple weeks, I have really high hopes of how the farm will grow and expand in the future,” Healy said. “Christopher, the owner, has an amazing vision for the place and has made it a reality. I think the vision has so much support and such a strong community of people who want to see it succeed that it’s in a really great position to keep on growing.”

Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology celebrates 100th anniversary

Visitors crowd around a bird demonstration during the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Open House
Visitors crowd around a bird demonstration during the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Open House. ©Ithaca Week 2015, Steve Pirani

NOTE: This story was originally published in “Ithaca Week” and then “The Ithaca Voice.”

By Elizabeth Morris and Steve Pirani

Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology is celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2015 with open houses and new bird exhibits. Ithaca’s own bird research and observatory is reflecting on the past, while also looking toward the years ahead. 

The lab was the brainchild of Arthur A. Allen, famed ornithologist who joined Cornell as a professor of entomology in 1915. From these humble beginnings grew the lab as it stands today, a stunning, glass-walled wedge of a building nestled into the 220 acres of nature that make up Sapsucker Woods. The lab has connected with over 12 million enthusiasts online and now boasts a community of over 200,000 citizen scientists and members.

Time, and decades of shared enthusiasm for Earth’s winged creatures have led up to present day, where the lab now stands as a nexus of Ornithology. Scott Sutcliffe, Annual Fund and Stewardship Director at the lab, said the passing of time has not nullified the initial passion that drove the lab into reality.

“It’s curious: Arthur Allen’s ideals of 1915 still live with us everyday,” said Sutcliffe. “One of his ideals was to take Ornithology out into the masses and share it with people who are interested in birds. So in many ways, we are still the same organization that he started 100 years ago, but because of modern technologies and expanding populations in the world as it is, we’ve really just grown a whole lot.”

John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Lab of Ornithology, said that the first century is just the beginning of the lab and expects much more innovation in the years to come.

“This 100-year point, it seems like a good time to be celebrating where we’ve come from and also challenging ourselves to do the things that have to be done,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said the lab is continually working to engage not only researchers, but also the rest of the world through new innovations and technologies.  

“I’m proud as heck about what this place has become, and I’m really excited about the things we still have to do,” Fitzpatrick said. “One of those things is to build a technical infrastructure that allows everybody in the world to interact with us, freely, openly — literally freely — and easily,”

To do so, the lab has taken to the web over the last few years to make birdwatching a truly accessible hobby. Ebird, an online catalog of user-submitted bird sightings that works on a global scale, is one of the ultimate fruits of this passion for integrating technology and birdwatching. Birders, like Cayuga Bird Club president and long-time birder Paul Anderson, said these technological advances are major developments in the birdwatching community.

“I think that’s been the most significant advance in the science and hobby of birdwatching – maybe ever,” Anderson said.

Miyoko Chu, senior director for communications at the lab, echoes Anderson’s sentiments, and said she has hopes that Ebird will present a new venue for people to appreciate and preserve birds all over the globe.

“[Ebird] is a really powerful tool, and something that we hope leads people to explore more of the information about birds and get more engaged in wanting to protect them,” Chu said.

With 100 years behind them, Fitzpatrick and the Lab of Ornithology seems to have no intent of slowing down. With Ebird and other online platforms gearing up for public release, the director said the next century brings with it the promise and, most importantly, the excitement that drives the lab.

“As director of the place for the last 20 years, and as someone who has worked to make something that is preeminent, my big question is what is the next 100 years?” Fitzpatrick said. “And that is the most exciting thing of all.”

Cornell and Ithaca announce cross-university partnership for agricultural education

Jim Overhiser teaches the course Science Topics Every Science Teacher Should Know to graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at Ithaca College. © Ithaca Week 2015, Elizabeth Morris
Jim Overhiser teaches the course Science Topics Every Science Teacher Should Know to graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at Ithaca College. © Ithaca Week 2015, Elizabeth Morris

NOTE: This story was originally published in “Ithaca Week” and then “The Ithaca Voice.”

By Elizabeth Morris and Emily Masters

Ithaca College and Cornell University have partnered to offer an agricultural education graduate program, starting next year. The announcement comes at a time of high demand for agricultural educators.

The new cross-university partnership will combine classes from Ithaca’s graduate education program and Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Right now we’re at a critical deficit in the country of agriculture teachers,” said Katie Bigness, coordinator for New York Agriculture in the Classroom.

The need is particularly dire in New York, said Jeff Perry, a senior lecturer at Cornell who will teach courses for the new cross-university partnership.

Within the next decade, Perry said, a significant amount of agricultural educators will retire. Retirements and new programs will fuel six to 10 job openings in high schools across New York each year, he said.

Perry said SUNY Oswego is the only other institution of higher education offering a Masters of Arts in Agricultural Teaching program with teacher certification in New York.

“There aren’t many options for students who really want to stay in the state but really want agriculture education and want teacher certification with it,” said Jeane Copenhaver-Johnson, a faculty member in the Department of Education’s graduate program at Ithaca College.

Ithaca and Cornell already have an articulation agreement allowing Cornell students with an education minor to enroll in Ithaca’s graduate education program, said Linda Hanrahan, the chair of graduate programs in education at Ithaca. The new program extends the agreement to students studying agricultural education.

“What Cornell brings to the table is a long-standing disciplinary expertise in agricultural ed that we just don’t have here [at Ithaca College],” said Copenhaver-Johnson.

“What we offer is this really carefully structured sequence that builds the rest of the teacher educator’s profile and that allows them to be part of an interdisciplinary mix.” said Copenhaver-Johnson.

Students interested in an agricultural education graduate program will enroll in Ithaca College’s Masters of Arts in Teaching program.

The program will primarily funnel Cornell agricultural undergraduates into Ithaca’s 13-month graduate education program, but candidates from other schools can also apply.

Agricultural education students will join other candidates of diverse disciplines in Ithaca’s M.A.T. program.

All education graduate students at Ithaca College take a total of 36-credits, spending the majority of their time taking fundamental teaching courses with candidates of all concentrations.

Nine credits are devoted to continued education in a candidate’s discipline. Agricultural students will fulfill those credits by taking three courses from faculty affiliated with Cornell.

Perry said he will develop one new course, a capstone based on visiting programs across New York State, at Cornell. Students will take existing education courses at Ithaca.

The graduate degree is designed to prepare students to work as agriculture teachers throughout New York and the rest of the country.

“An undergraduate or graduate coming out with teacher certification is also extremely marketable across the agricultural industry. So they then start being pulled into the industry for fairly lucrative salaries plus some really great opportunities,” said Perry.

Hannah Milligan, a senior at Cornell studying animal science and education, said she is thrilled to pursue agricultural education and will apply to the Ithaca graduate program.

“It’s always been something that means a lot to me,” Milligan said. “To be educating younger kids on where their food comes from, how they get it, how to produce, how it’s marketed, things like that.”

Poverty Trends in the United States

Many are unaware of the issue of poverty in our society, but even more people are uneducated about those who are most likely to be living in poverty: children. In fact, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 22 percent of all children live in families who have an income below the federal poverty level, for a family of four this is $23,500 or less a year. This means that 16 million children in the United States may deal with an inadequate quality of life.

This was not always the trend of poverty in the United States, between 1960 and 1995, the poverty rate for the elderly decreased drastically from 35 percent to 10 percent, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Poverty is a huge threat to children’s ability to learn, and this increasingly problematic trend in the United States needs to be assessed. Our fiscal policy and poverty alleviation should be focused more on education for children and other policies that will benefit children who need it most.

Over 30 percent of families led by single women are living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census. This is in comparison to 16.4 percent of families led by single dads. In an article in Slate, they acknowledge that the gender difference in American Poverty Rates isn’t new news, but the continual reiteration of these numbers illustrates the drastic need to focus on these growing trends in the country.

United States focused on elderly poverty and ensured that those rates went down, now it’s important to shift our focus to the children and single mothers suffering from poverty.

What do you think? How can we change these trends?

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