News @ the Beach

Expert to Speak on Campus about ISIS Threat, Root Cause of it

Possibly no other group poses a more dangerous threat to the United States and certainly the Middle East than ISIS, a brutal group of terrorists, that has seized large parts of the Middle East, and committed atrocities against women and children. Their actions leave many confused about what could be the root cause of such evil. Those and other related topics will be a focus of an expert slated to give an upcoming lecture and panel discussion at Cal State Long Beach.

Juergensmeyer

Mark Juergensmeyer

Mark Juergensmeyer, professor of sociology and global studies, and affiliate professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), will visit CSULB on Thursday, Feb. 26, to give a talk, “Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State.” Open to the public, the talk begins at 12:30 p.m. in the Anatol Center and will cover the wide range of extremist movements in all religions up to and including ISIS.

Juergensmeyer’s visit will also include a faculty panel from 2:30-3:15 p.m. and a student panel from 3:30-5 p.m.

“While religion can be a force for peace, unfortunately it also has fueled conflicts locally and globally,” said Sophia Pandya, associate professor of religious studies at CSULB. “For example, 2014 has witnessed the worsening of the Syrian civil war and the resulting formation of the brutal movement known as the Islamic State (IS). These events alone—which are both directly tied to religion—have reshaped the geopolitical situation in the region. Too many people dismiss terrorism as “incomprehensible.”

Juergensmeyer’s work sheds light on religiously-fueled violence, to help understand what “motivates extremists to spill blood in the name of God.”

Juergensmeyer is a pioneer in the field of global studies and writes on global religion, religious violence, conflict resolution, South Asian religion and politics. He has published more than 300 articles and 20 books—many of which treat confrontations between new religious movements and the “secular,” “modern,” west—including the recent Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State.

“The defense of religion provides a cover for violence,” wrote Juergensmeyer in one of his recent online posts. “It gives moral license to something horrible that the perpetrators may have longed to do, to show the world how powerful they and their community really could be, and to demonstrate their importance in one terminal moment of violent glory. Religion doesn’t cause the violence, it is the excuse for it.”

His best-selling book, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, explains the roots of religiously-fueled violence, which is used in many courses at CSULB. That book is based on interviews with religious activists around the world—including individuals convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, leaders of Hamas and abortion clinic bombers in the United States—and was listed by the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times as one of the best nonfiction books of the year.

Since the events of September 11, 2001, he has been a frequent commentator in the news media, including CNN, NBC, CBS, BBC, NPR, Fox News, ABC’s Politically Incorrect and CNBC’s Dennis Miller Show.

For more information, contact Sophia Pandya by e-mail at sophia.pandya@csulb.edu or call 562-985-7982.

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President Conoley to Encourage African-American Families to Make College a Reality

Reaching out to the local African-American community, President Jane Close Conoley will speak at Antioch Church in Long Beach on Sunday, Feb. 22, as part of the California State University’s (CSU) Super Sunday, an initiative designed to inform young African Americans about the value of higher education and encourage them to pursue it. While Super Sunday is an annual event, the university has ongoing dialogue and interaction with the African American community designed to help students succeed in pursuing a college education.

President Jane Close Conoley official portrait as of 10-28-14

President Jane Close Conoley

“Encouraging young African-American men and women to pursue the dream of higher education is very important. This has to be a priority for the students, parents and religious and community leaders. We need to all work together on this,” said Conoley. “Higher education is the key to a better future for individual students and a tremendous benefit to the social well-being and economic health in the region.”

CSU Super Sunday, the first program of its kind in the nation, launched in 2006 with 21 church partners and has flourished into an annual event where CSU ambassadors visit more than 100 churches to speak about the tools needed to successfully enter and graduate from college. Through the dedicated efforts of the university and community, more than 600,000 churchgoers have received information on a variety of topics including preparing for college, applying to a CSU campus and obtaining financial aid.

CSULB has been nationally recognized for improving graduation rates of African-American students. In the last ten years that graduation rate has increased by 30 percent.

“The power and the purpose of our university is to give every person access to the endless possibilities that higher education offers and to help make college a reality,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “By collaborating with our church partners during CSU Super Sunday, we are able to start the conversation about college early, empower children to aim high and prepare every student to succeed in college.”

After services at each of the churches, parents and students have the opportunity to engage with CSU representatives, obtain posters on “How to Get to College” and learn how to navigate CSUMentor.edu—a website that helps students explore campuses, majors and apply to CSU campuses.

Super Sunday is produced by the CSU African American Initiative—a partnership between CSU campuses and African American religious leaders. Over the years, CSU Super Sunday has grown in both size as well as impact on students.

For more information about the list of participating churches, times of service and locations, go to the CSU Super Sunday website.

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CSULB Students Serving Community, Gaining Hands-on Experience with Free Tax Return Preparation Including for Veterans

Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) students are gaining hands-on experience and serving the community with free tax return preparation for low- and moderate-income individuals as well as students, the elderly (65 and older), non-residents, the disabled and individuals with limited English proficiency. The service is provided through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. For the first time this year the program will also assist veterans.

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The VITA site is located in the College of Business Administration  (CBA) computer lab, Room 237. IRS-certified tax preparers there can assist in preparing both a federal and state tax return – all for free. The program runs through March 27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. Metered parking in Lot 15 adjacent to the CBA building is available for $2 per hour.

“Our VITA site is available to qualifying taxpayers with an income level of $53,000 or less,” explained Professor of Accountancy Sudha Krishnan. “IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing for federal and state tax returns.”

Offering free e-filing for federal and state tax returns, VITA is a cooperative effort by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This year’s program has about 60 volunteers who have been trained and certified by the IRS to prepare and e-file basic income tax and foreign student tax returns. VITA program volunteers do not prepare business tax returns, and only assist for those individuals who made less than $53,000.  The VITA program is a four-unit accounting course.

“As volunteers, their duty is to simply help these individuals in preparing their tax returns and answering their questions,” Krishnan said. “Volunteers are asked to put in at least one to four hours a week in two shifts based on enrollment.”

Training is offered in four parts: Federal tax I and II, TaxWise software, foreign students and hands-on experience. The students learn how to prepare basic returns and talk to clients. The students take online exams the week before the program begins. This year VITA volunteers will file returns for veterans and learn to deal with the issues that veterans have which other clients do not.

Those interested in having their 2014 tax returns prepared through the CSULB VITA program should bring the following items: proof of identification such as Social Security cards, including a spouse’s and dependent’s (or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration), birth dates, including a spouse’s and dependent’s, a current year’s tax package, wage and earnings statements (such as the W-2, W-2G, the 1099-R from all employers), government identification (such as a driver’s license) as well as interest and dividend statements from banks (1099 forms.)  When filing a joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

Student feedback has been positive. “It has been working out great,” Krishnan said. “We filed 930 returns in 2014. Our aim is student success through jobs and this kind of experience is what does that. Student volunteers have gone on to jobs in the profession. It goes on their resume that they volunteered and coordinated VITA. This project is vibrant and going forward. We’ve been doing it for 20 years and it’s not going away.”

Walk-ins are welcome but an appointment can be made by contacting Vita.Csulb@gmail.com. Of http://www.csulbbap.org/vita.html.

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Judging Judges: the Rule of Law – Balancing Personal and Professional Values

The “rule of law” stands at the heart of the American legal system but it does not require judges to follow the letter of the law, unaffected by political or social influences. Jason Whitehead, associate professor of political science at CSULB, has just published a book, Judging Judges: Values and the Rule of Law, that tries to get to the root of that complex and very important issue.

Whitehead book

Whitehead refocuses and elevates the debate over judges and the rule of law by showing that personal and professional values matter. He demonstrates that the rule of law depends on a socially constructed attitude of legal obligation that spawns objective rules. Intensive interviews with 25 State Supreme Court, intermediate appellate court and Federal Circuit Court judges across three states reveal the value systems that uphold or undermine the attitude of legal obligation. This focus on the social practices undergirding these value systems demonstrates that the rule of law is ultimately a matter of social trust.

“I’m trying to revive the ancient ideal of the rule of law,” said Whitehead. “We’ve become very skeptical about that over the last 50 years of American history. There has been lots of research in law and political science that either tries to debunk the idea of the rule of law or simply assumes that it doesn’t exist. What I’m trying to do in the book is to demonstrate how important it is to define the rule of law properly. The way it has been defined classically has been as a balance between the objective element of the law itself and the subjective element of the judges’ attitude toward the law. The law can seem so ambiguous and open-ended, especially in the big constitutional cases we see in the news. That is when the skepticism about the rule of law begins.”

Whitehead argues that there are four types of judicial attitudes toward law: formalist attitudes, good faith attitudes, cynical attitudes and rogue attitudes.

“The formalist follows the technical rules of the law. The `good faith’ judge acknowledges ambiguity and that there is room for give and take. They see their duty as doing their best to get through the interpretive questions that need to be dealt with and still find the right answer,” he said. “Cynical judges have the sense of being confined by the law, but only as a tool to reach a result they desire on non-legal grounds. And rogue judges come right out and say the law does not bind them at all.”

The issue of the rule of law is one of the most crucial any society can face, Whitehead believes.

“When you look at societies that are breaking down, nearly always, that breakdown is associated with a loss of confidence in the rule of law,” he said. “The title of my dissertation was `A Government of Words.’ That doesn’t sound like a good idea, to create a government of words. But this is what we do. We have a Constitution with statutes we create. We expect people to be bound by them. But that only works when you trust the people interpreting those words.”

Whitehead urges potential readers to read his book for a window into how judges think.

“It is one of the most secretive processes in America or any democracy,” he said. “One of the contributions this book can make to the average educated person is to explain how judges think about their own roles.”

Whitehead received his bachelor of arts in political science from CSULB in 1994 where he was also an award-winning member of the debate team. His J.D. came, from Willamette University in Oregon in 1997.  He earned his M.A. in 2001 and his Ph.D. in 2007, both from the USC political science department.

 

 

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