FACULTY MEMBER SHARES INSIGHTS ON YOUTH VIOLENCE WITH CITY COMMISSION
Not long after Kenneth Corvo came to Syracuse University, he began to share his expertise in youth violence with the local community. To that end, the School of Social Work professor was appointed to serve on the Mayor's Commission on Juvenile Violence last January.
Exposure to violence at home, school, or within the community is the most powerful influence on the rate of juvenile violence, Corvo says. The commission developed proactive approaches to violence prevention. "For example, it is not enough to say, 'The housing in a certain neighborhood needs improving.' You have to ask: 'Which of the factors that influence the likelihood of violence can be prevented? What can we do that would most likely have a positive effect?"
Corvo says the media's recent emphasis on suburban school shootings and isolated incidents of violence by children from "good" families has done little to educate the public on the realities of youth violence. Such cases have had little influence on Corvo's teaching, since they are the exceptions. "By over inflating, you don't accomplish useful goals," he says. "It's a distraction from where our attention needs to be directed."
Social factors create areas in cities where violence is more prevalent, Corvo says. In this regard, Syracuse is much like other cities he has studied. "You can actually track this. In certain areas, even the level of (crime) intervention is different."
The 30-member commission, which also included School of Education professor Carla Bradley, had few guidelines. Homicide was the initial focus. "It is the most tangible form of violent crime," Corvo says. "But the rate was much lower than we expected, given the city's size and level of economic dislocation."|
Formed as an advisory body for Syracuse Mayor Roy Bernardi G'73, the commission quickly established goals that addressed the city's particular needs. But Corvo admits it took members some time to look past their own interests. "Everyone looks at a situation through the lens of their own area of concentration," he says. "We had to get past our own perceptions."
Corvo tells graduate students at the School of Social Work to think in much the same way. Students study youth violence indirectly in Corvo's Human Development in the Social Environment class. "Part of what we train students to do is to look at things analytically, not just from a personal perspective," he says.
The commission released a full report of its study this fall. Corvo says it suggests "more focused ways of thinking about deterrence."
He is confident that at least some of the commission's suggestions will be implemented. "One thing we all agreed on is that you can only do what is capable of being done," Corvo says. "That sounds easy enough, but people don't always understand that Mayor Bernardi has limited resources and has to decide how best to use them."
FINE ARTS PROFESSOR REUNITES WITH FORMER STUDENT FOR NEW FILM PROJECT
More than 20 years ago, Henry Selick '75 sat in the classroom of fine arts professor Jerome Witkin, who remembers Selick's single-minded determination. "Henry always had a hankering for live action," Witkin recalls.
Today the two are colleagueswith Witkin providing still paintings for director Selick's upcoming film, Monkey Bone. The film, now in the early stages of development, is based on the Canadian comic book series "Dark Town."
For Witkin, the project provides yet another opportunity to extend his work beyond SU. "If we profess to know something, we also must profess to be engaged with it outside the classroom," he says. "And this project was too interesting to pass up."
Witkin's interest in the project stemmed from Selick's involvement. As director of the Tim Burton productions The Nightmare Before Christmasand James and the Giant Peach,Selick has become one of the most respected live-action animators working today. When Selick called Witkin and asked him about the project last February, the story line immediately intrigued him. "Henry said he had this fantastic script based on a Canadian comic book. It's kind of a surrealist Romeo and Juliet thing." The story follows a man trapped in "Dark Town"a place somewhere between dreams and nightmares. While his body lies comatose in a hospital, his subconscious searches for a way out of Dark Town.
Witkin has found the transition from canvas to celluloid enjoyable. "My accomplishment is special because my work has always reflected film, which is our major art form today. It's something that defines us," Witkin says. "I'm happy with the way things are going. The crew working with Henry is amazing and they've loved all my work so far."
Professor Jerome Witkin poses with some of the artwork he created for the film Monkey Bone.
Witkin's collaboration with Selick spurred his students' curiosity. "Many of these kids dream of doing what I'm doing," he says. "It's good for students to see that professors are out there doing things. Henry was once sitting in class just as they are, and now he is doing exactly what he always wanted to do. Students see that, and it's a wonderful motivation for them."
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