Fall 2020

The Baldy Center Blog

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The Baldy Center blog features interdisciplinary perspectives on research and current events from interdisciplinary UB scholars whose work intersects with law, legal institutions, and social policy. New blogs will be released twice a month during each academic semester. Subscribe to be informed when new blogs are posted, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for all the Baldy Center news.

Faculty Posts

Blog Host/Producer

Aldiama Anthony.

Aldiama Anthony 

Aldiama Anthony is an international student from the Commonwealth of Dominica, currently in her third year of law school at the University at Buffalo School of Law. Her interest in law began during her undergraduate studies at Monroe College, where she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice with summa cum laude honors. Ms. Anthony is currently the 2020-2021 BLSA president of her law school’s chapter, the Honorary Law Student of the Women’s Bar Association of Western New York, and the Parliamentarian for the Student Bar Association at the University at Buffalo School of Law. In her spare time, Ms. Anthony enjoys networking, traveling the world, and blogging her life experiences on social media.

BLOG POST 1

Silverman,Patterson, Wang: Taking on Stereotypes to Protect Fair and Affordable Housing Policies

Taking on Stereotypes to Protect Fair and Affordable Housing Policies. Housing project image courtesy of unsplash.

Photograph courtesy of unsplash.

Blog Authors: Robert Silverman, Department of Urban and Regional Planning; Kelly Patterson, School of Social Work; Chihuangji Wang, Doctoral Student, Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Introduction: Our article, “Questioning Stereotypes about U.S. Site-Based Subsidized Housing” (forthcoming in the International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis), grew out of work done with the support of a Baldy Center research grant. The research examined data for all public housing and other site-based subsidized properties in the U.S. in order to determine the veracity of long-standing stereotypes about these properties. Stereotypes about government subsidized housing have dominated public discourse since the early 1950s. In many respects, these stereotypes have penetrated debates about public policies designed to address the shortage of affordable housing and become a mainstay in American society. This is true when public housing is discussed, but also with respect to the spectrum of fair and affordable housing policy.

Read Blog Post 1

Blog published August 18, 2020.

Taking on Stereotypes to Protect Fair and Affordable Housing Policies

  • Robert Silverman, Professor, UB, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Kelly Patterson, Associate Professor, UB, School of Social Work
  • Chihuangji Wang, Doctoral Student, UB, Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Our article, “Questioning Stereotypes about U.S. Site-Based Subsidized Housing” (forthcoming in the International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis), grew out of work done with the support of a Baldy Center research grant. The research examined data for all public housing and other site-based subsidized properties in the U.S. in order to determine the veracity of long-standing stereotypes about these properties. 

Stereotypes about government subsidized housing have dominated public discourse since the early 1950s. In many respects, these stereotypes have penetrated debates about public policies designed to address the shortage of affordable housing and become a mainstay in American society. This is true when public housing is discussed, but also with respect to the spectrum of fair and affordable housing policy.

Today, these stereotypes have become ubiquitous. In their crudest expressions, government subsidized housing is portrayed as being composed of clusters of dilapidated, overcrowded high-rise buildings inhabited by welfare dependent black women and their children. These stereotypes are expressed in subtle and overtly ugly forms. Perhaps the most negative example of these stereotypes is the image of the welfare queen living in public housing, which has been used repeatedly to support arguments for the retrenchment of fair and affordable housing policies.

Notwithstanding the omnipresence of these stereotypes, there is scant empirical evidence to support them. For instance, our article shows that the typical government subsidized housing project is a low-rise development with fewer than 91 units, and more than 96% of government subsidized properties pass inspection. Moreover, we found that government subsidized properties provided safe and affordable housing to a diverse population of families, seniors and the disabled. Across that population most were dependent on social security and disability insurance, followed by about ¼ who were working poor families actively participating in the labor force. In fact, less than 6% of the households living in government subsidized housing identified welfare as their primary source of income. 

Despite these findings, stereotypes about government subsidized housing continue to drive public discourse. It is important to recognize that these stereotypes emerged during a moment in U.S. history when landmark legislation was passed to promote fair housing and desegregate other institutions like public schools. Stereotypes about government subsidized housing must be understood against that backdrop and as a component of a sustained backlash against civil rights in America. This backlash has hampered the implementation and enforcement of laws passed to make the U.S. a more just society. For instance, many of the policies adopted during the Great Society were short lived, losing their potency after a few short years or incrementally chipped away at by opponents to change over a longer historic arc. 

We have seen this pattern repeat itself with respect to other policies. For example, after a decade of development, HUD’s affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) rule was suspended by the Trump Administration. This action blocked the implementation of the rule, and dismantled the databases and evaluation tools designed to allow communities to use evidence-based analysis to identify discriminatory housing patterns. 

In the absence of empirical evidence, stereotypes about government subsidized housing continue to be mobilized to block fair housing initiatives and derail affordable housing programs. This is visible at the local level today, and experienced by those who attend countless public meetings where not in my backyard (NIMBY) groups reference stereotypes in their efforts to deny minority families access to hosing and schools. In essence, stereotypes are mobilized to deny African Americans, Latinos and others access to the American dream. Equally troubling, these stereotypes are often the bedrock of resistance to public policy reforms at the local, state and national levels. They have even emerged in the subtext of the 2020 presidential election as the Trump campaign endeavors to instill fear in the suburbs.   

Our article was written to cast light on stereotypes about government subsidized housing. Dispelling these stereotypes and other myths about housing is an important component of efforts to advocate for policy reform and legal protections afforded to historically disadvantaged communities.  We encourage others to build on this work.

BLOG POST 2

Jinting Wu: Disability Segregation in an Age of Inclusion: Navigating Educational Pathways through Special Education Schools in Contemporary China

Disability Segregation in an Age of Inclusion: Navigating Educational Pathways through Special Education Schools in Contemporary China .

Photograph courtesy of Debra Kolodczak, PhD, Copyright 2020.

Blog Author: Jinting Wu, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, University at Buffalo

Introduction: Across the globe, the impact of child disability on educational inequality has been relatively neglected. My current research focuses on the rising number of children with disabilities who grow up with stigma and bleak futures in China’s segregated special schools. By focusing on a uniquely marginalized population in a segregated educational setting, this research fills a compelling need to understand the intersection of disability and segregation – a dual marginality that continues to exist globally yet remains under-examined in educational, legal, and disability studies literature to date.

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Published August 31, 2020

Disability Segregation in an Age of Inclusion: Navigating Educational Pathways through Special Education Schools in Contemporary China

Blog Author: Jinting Wu, PhD,
Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, University at Buffalo

Keywords: Educational Inequality, Disability, Child Disability, Education Policy, Inequality, Culture and Society, Segregation, Special needs, Marginalized populations, Urban studies, Discrimination, Inclusivity.

Across the globe, the impact of child disability on educational inequality has been relatively neglected. My current research focuses on the rising number of children with disabilities who grow up with stigma and bleak futures in China’s segregated special schools. By focusing on a uniquely marginalized population in a segregated educational setting, this research fills a compelling need to understand the intersection of disability and segregation – a dual marginality that continues to exist globally yet remains under-examined in educational, legal, and disability studies literature to date.

Children with special needs are by and large judged unfit in mainstream Chinese schools focused on high-performing test-takers and “high quality” future citizens. Since the early 2000s, the Chinese state has intensified efforts in building special education schools as a form of “bureaucratic benevolence.” There, rising numbers of children with special needs are removed from regular school peers, and grow up with stigma and bleak employment prospects. Chinese policymakers consider special schools a necessary evil to help China transition to a fully inclusive model. 

Globally, segregated placement continues to exist even in the most inclusive education systems. In today’s China, as elsewhere, the embrace of inclusive rhetoric has not led to the disappearance of special schools. One answer to this continued structural segregation is stigma. In China, bodily impairments have historically been perceived as disorder, and subject to derogatory vocabularies and moral condemnation. The state-driven goal of cultivating “high quality”citizens with optimal physical, mental, and educational attributes intensifies parental desires to bear healthy and competitive offspring. Meanwhile, popular eugenic thoughts privilege “normal” reproductive outcomes, leading to social stigma of child disability as a source of shame and blame. Many parents conceal their children’s conditions in order to enroll them into regular schools. Some eventually opt for special schools, after seeing their children turned away or treated poorly in regular schools.

In a society upholding an ableist vision of normal bodies and academic meritocracy, special schools are sites of precarious social identities where disability intersects with class, gender, culture, and state power to tell a unique story. Marginalized populations, such as migrant workers’ children, are often denied access to local public schools because of their non-urban household registration (hukou) and low socioeconomic status. Migrant children with disabilities encounter even greater odds in obtaining state educational services, an injustice stemming from the systematic discrimination and exclusion experienced by migrant populations in urban spaces. The general absence of migrant children in urban special schools is juxtaposed by the constant physical presence of mothers who quit jobs to become full-time caretakers for their children. The deep-rooted patriarchal and ableist ideologies define motherhood primarily in raising a healthy, academically talented child. Birthing a disabled child is considered bad karma, casting a shadow over the mother’s moral social standing. 

Disability is a profoundly relational category, as a society can handicap people with or without a disability. In China’s special schools, not only are children stigmatized, but also their close relations (adult guardians and teachers) who do not have a disability yet also experience forms of disablism. Special teachers, foot soldiers of disability education, occupy a paradoxical position in simultaneously holding the space of segregation while struggling for recognition, in both being stigmatized and praised as pioneers in child-centered pedagogies vis-a-vis teacher authoritarianism in regular schools. They play a crucial role in (re)defining disability and negotiating with state special education policies. 

It is important not to point fingers at disability segregation as a complete policy failure. Globalization has not produced a homogeneous “world culture” of special education, as each country has particular social, cultural and policy contexts that drive unique responses to the global inclusive trend. What is needed is serious research to understand the subjective experience of how grassroots agents make sense of segregation in day-to-day struggle, negotiation, and creativity. This research challenges the global inclusive rhetoric as “one size fits all” and illustrates special schools not as oppressive apparatus, but transient spaces of marginality and potentiality in today’s China. It contributes to a more expansive dialogue on special education beyond the inclusion-exclusion binary and sheds light on alternative realities to gain a situated, comparative, and diversified understanding of disability education in the global south.  

 

BLOG POST 3

Steilen: The Place of Norms in Separating Power

We the People.

Blog Author: Matthew Steilen, Professor of Law, School of Law, University at Buffalo

Introduction: One of the chief intellectual discoveries of the past four years has been the degree to which government rests on norms: on a shared sense of the proper way to go about the business of government. This is unsurprising for followers of the law and society movement, with which the Baldy Center is so closely associated. From the beginning, scholars of law and society have demonstrated the limits of formalism in explaining how the law actually works. One can think of the Trump presidency as finally demonstrating for the wider world of legal scholars, the essential role of shared understandings, legal culture, accepted practice, informal conventions, and customs in our separation of powers. The judge-made doctrine has changed only at the margins, and its major holdings remain intact, but the real meaning of separation of powers has been altered dramatically.

Read Blog Post 3

Published September 14, 2020

The Place of Norms in Separating Power

Blog Author: Matt Steilen, Professor of Law, School of Law, University at Buffalo

Keywords: Constitutional law, Norms, Law and Society, Legislation, Politics, Public policy, Government, Norms, Separation of powers, Judiciary, President, United States, History, Policy, Power, Political Culture, National identity.

One of the chief intellectual discoveries of the past four years has been the degree to which government rests on norms: on a shared sense of the proper way to go about the business of government. This is unsurprising for followers of the law and society movement, with which the Baldy Center is so closely associated. From the beginning, scholars of law and society have demonstrated the limits of formalism in explaining how the law actually works. One can think of the Trump presidency as finally demonstrating for the wider world of legal scholars, the essential role of shared understandings, legal culture, accepted practice, informal conventions, and customs in our separation of powers. The judge-made doctrine has changed only at the margins, and its major holdings remain intact, but the real meaning of separation of powers has been altered dramatically.

When we think of separation of powers, we usually think of judicial doctrines that are designed to keep each branch within its proper limits, but as the new focus on norms shows, separation of powers is also about how each branch works on its own. If a branch can’t do what it was formally designed to do because of a breakdown in norms, then there will be pressure for that function to appear elsewhere in the constitutional system. One can view the administrative state this way: in the nineteenth century, as Professor Blackhawk has shown, Congress could not carry out the administrative functions it was originally assigned through the petition process and through appropriations.[1]There was little sustained political will to try to make changes to keep those administrative functions in Congress. So, in 1946, the petition process was essentially eliminated and Congress’ administrative functions were transferred to the executive branch. 

It’s worth trying to generalize this account to see what other stories we could tell. One might offer a similar story about Congress’ foreign policy functions, many of which were transferred to the President in a series of delegations beginning in the 1930s and 40s concerning trade and the use of armed force. One could tell such a story about congressional control over and supervision of the government. Congress’ impeachment function has rarely if ever, worked on the presidency, because the hold of elites on the office was broken in the early 19th century, and a party system was created to nominate presidential candidates whose parties divided precisely on the norms that should govern conduct in office. The impeachment function was replaced, in part, by judicial processes—criminal investigations, usually—whose scope was hemmed in by a variety of judicial doctrines, principally the doctrines of executive privilege and executive immunity. In recent years the doctrine of standing has been recruited to assist in limiting judicial processes to enforce the law against the President or high-ranking executive officials.

I wonder whether we could say the same thing of the legislative function, that is, of Congress’ power to make law by passing bills and submitting them to the President for signature. Just like Congress’ administrative functions, just like its foreign policy functions, just like its impeachment and oversight functions, the legislative function requires norms to work. If those norms are abandoned or prove unsustainable, then it will be impossible to use the legislative function to solve the problems that demand a national solution. The unemployment crisis triggered by the Coronavirus might fit here. Are the norms surrounding the legislative function breaking down? Recently an old article by John Murrin has been coming to mind, titled, "A Roof without Walls: The Dilemma of American National Identity." The basis thesis of that article, as I recall, was that there was not, at the time of the founding, a national political culture sufficient to sustain the operation of a robust national government. The American government was a roof without the walls of a shared culture to sustain it. What formed in its place was a veneration of the Constitution and the ongoing project of constitution-making. Today I am tempted to conclude that whatever shared, national political culture we were able to create has lapsed. Without any tissue connecting members of Congress, it seems unlikely for them to be able to work with one another in any of the ways necessary to sustain a successful exercise of the legislative function. A usable national legislative function is an accomplishment of political culture. Since we lack the culture necessary to sustain it, we should expect replacements to arise elsewhere in the system.
 

[1] Blackhawk, Maggie, "Petitioning and the Making of the Administrative State" (2018). Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law. 1972.

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