PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – Environmental policy students at Pace University in Pleasantville recently got a taste of what the real world is like, namely: writing legislation isn’t only about good intentions, it's about hard work and commitment.
As part of their final exam for the fall semester, the students had to lobby a real-life politician to support their bills.
Providing the straight-shooting feedback at the university’s Environmental Policy Clinic was state Assemblyman Thomas J. Abinanti, (D-Greenburgh/Mount Pleasant.)
According to John Cronin, senior fellow at the Dyson College Institute for Sustainability and the Environment at Pace, each of the students had to identify an environmental problem, then research and write a bill to solve it.
This semester’s proposed bills ranged from stronger control of pesticides to increased penalties for animal abuse, said Cronin, who teaches the course with Michelle Land, director of Pace University’s Academy for Applied Environmental Studies.
Cronin, who became the first full-time Hudson Riverkeeper I 1983, is a longtime environmental watchdog.
Abinanti really put the students “through their paces,” he said.
According to Cronin, Abinanti challenged the students with the type of tough questions they would encounter when lobbying real legislation, such as why should taxpayers pay for one student’s bill and why aren’t the penalties stronger on another bill.
Abinanti said he was impressed with the students’ presentations and was going to review their bills to see if there were ideas that could be used by lawmakers.
Last semester, the Clinic students wrote and lobbied for the Elephant Protection Act, which was introduced by Sen. Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown, and passed unanimously in the state Senate.
Murphy, fought hard for the bill's passage, which bans entertainment elephants in circuses and other venues in New York state.
“Democracy is dependent on educated citizens,” Abinanti said.
He praised the students as “well informed and well educated” and predicted they would be “leaders in enhancing our democracy.”
Cronin said the Environmental Policy Clinic provides students with a hands-on education in environmental public policy as well as analytical, advocacy and communication skills.
The students recently met with former Gov. George Pataki.
The Peekskilll native and Garrison resident discussed his political career and his groundbreaking work on environmental policy.
“Providing this type of a real-world experience is unusual in an undergraduate program,’’ said Cronin. “Dyson College is committed to providing these opportunities. One of the best outcomes is that when it’s over, students say, ‘I can do that.’”