Roe v Wade and Guns

To the City College Community,

As a public institution, The City College of New York is strictly non-partisan, but that does not mean that we are apolitical.  We have, for 175 years, embraced the explicitly political mission of contributing to the democracy and justice of our society by helping to shepherd the aspirations and futures of the least served members of our society, to be a place where new Americans can gain a foothold in the United States and those born on its economic margins can develop a path to stability and security.  This is an inherently political undertaking, as is any effort at social change, and we can’t shy away from engaging developments that arise to threaten that undertaking.

For generations of CCNY students, the journey was never easy.  Alumni from every graduating class tell stories of hardship and sacrifice, hard work and challenge on their way to graduation and the benefits that followed.  For most, their ability to prosper at CCNY and afterwards depended on their capacity to make strategic decisions about their lives and their persons.  Staying safe in impoverished neighborhoods, making healthy choices, marshaling resources and focus, were critical to their pathways to success.  In each of these aspects, our community has depended on the wisdom and foresight of policymakers enabling and allowing the fullest range of personal choice and freedom, privacy and the right to self-expression.

For that community, our community, this past week’s Supreme Court decisions on Roe v Wade and on New York’s open carry gun restrictions are devastating.  In the midst of an upwelling of gun violence in our city and nation, the courts have undercut our state’s wise decision prohibiting the open carry of firearms.  As we enter the hot summer of 2022, gunshot incidents have risen sharply in our immediate neighborhood and across the city.  We are, in fact, joining an August 13th anti-gun violence march sponsored by the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce—our good friends and neighbors—designed to give voice to community concerns on this issue.  And in this exact context, the Supreme Court has mandated that our policy makers do not have the right to regulate where and how guns can enter our public sphere. 

Just days later, the Court took the astounding step of invalidating Roe v Wade, and already across the nation, states are radically restricting access this crucial aspect of healthcare—with more restrictions clearly on the docket. No person is untouched by this decision, but it clearly falls most heavily on the shoulders of people with insufficient economic or social resources. Deciding whether and at what time to become a parent is an intensely personal and private matter.  For many, wrenching decisions around parenting hinge on questions of how emotionally or materially prepared they are to raise a child. For others, carrying a pregnancy to term poses grave health risks. Children born of some form of violence, in societies where violence is disproportionally visited upon the underserved, represent another unfair burden of this law.  Forcing parenthood on every pregnant person represents an astounding curtailment of the right to navigate what are often tremendously difficult life circumstances, and bespeaks a more pervasive and ominous inclination of the government to regulate the most intensely personal aspects of our lives. 

As an institution devoted to social mobility and the wellbeing of the whole people, we particularly call out the disproportionate burden these two decisions place on under-resourced communities.  Until our society can commit to the idea that all children will be taken care of as they grow, anti-abortion legislation will have a powerfully anti-poor aspect to it.  Until our police forces are able to insure the safety of all citizens, permitting the open carry of guns, particularly in communities that have risen against such permissions, is especially reckless.

I recognize that many in our community will have reason to think that these measures represent assaults on fundamental rights and freedoms and demonstrate a special disregard for the security, the wellbeing and the privacy of our people.  I agree.  We will, in the weeks and months to come, find avenues for advocacy, debate and direct service to help cushion the blow of these decisions because the mission of this college is to motivate and participate in the elevation of the whole people. Until then, I hope we all find ways to comfort those who are particularly distressed at these developments and to rebuild a community that seems more and more to be under attack.


Vincent Boudreau Signature

Vince Boudreau

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