Queens College political science professor Ronald Hayduk, center, in discussion with his students. Hayduk is a recent co-recipient—with Professor Anahi Viladrich—of a Con Edison “Power of Giving” program grant, which will fund student research on fostering immigrant participation in civic life.
More than 30 million U.S. residents—one in 10—are non-citizen immigrants. In New York City, it’s one in five adults. They pay taxes, send their children to public schools, revitalize neighborhoods, and are hired in every sector from health care to Hollywood. Many find it takes 10 years to become U.S. citizens. Their bootstrap struggles—especially for the right to vote on matters affecting their daily lives—galvanize Ronald Hayduk as author, activist, and animated teacher.
After his visiting professorship in 2011-12, Queens College recruited Hayduk from the Borough of Manhattan Community College. In his role as associate director of the Immigration Studies Working Group (ISWG), Hayduk has been working with ISWG Director Anahi Viladrich to develop an Immigration Studies Center. QC is “perfectly positioned” to focus on America’s newcomers and “their incredible contributions,” he says. Of the borough’s “2 million residents, more than 47 percent are foreign-born.” For Hayduk, whose grandparents came from Slovakia and Salerno, Italy, the immigrant experience is “woven into the fabric of my family’s experience.” Their traditions and struggles, he recalls, were “a great source of tremendous learning, pride, discovery, and rediscovery.”
A social worker, Hayduk turned to graduate school to study how government “could be a tool for solving problems.” Taking a three-year break from his dissertation in the early 1990s, he became the director of New York City’s Voter Assistance Commission, designing “motor-voter” programs for dozens of city agencies and voter education and mobilization campaigns for non-profit and community-based organizations. In reaching out to register non-citizens to vote for community school board elections, as New York City allowed from 1969-2002, he became convinced that immigrants should remain stakeholders via the ballot box. A founding member of New York’s Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, Hayduk contends that the nation has “hidden its history” from 1776 to the 1920s, when non-citizens could vote in many elections.
The political scientist’s books reflect his persuasive reform arguments: Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the U.S. (2006) and Gatekeepers to the Franchise: Shaping Election Administration in New York (2005). Gatekeeping remains timely as several states try to clamp down on who can vote. Hayduk also co-edited From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization (2003) and Democracy’s Moment: Reforming the American Political System for the 21st Century (2002).
Recent projects including contributing to a new book on the “immigrant crossroads” in Queens (Tarry Hum in Urban Studies is co-editor) and serving as an election observer in Venezuela. The courses he taught last semester, such as “Poverty amid Plenty: The Politics of the 99%” and “The Politics of Immigration,” prompted “wonderfully rich discussions,” he notes, about “who we are as a nation.” Adds Hayduk, “I feel privileged to talk about ideas I really care about and encourage students to be active participants in shaping their world.”
Book he’s reading now: QC anthropologist Roger Sanjek’s The Future of Us All: Race and Neighborhood Politics in New York City. “This guy did some amazing work.”
Surprising fact: His days as a DJ started in grad school. “It’s New York—you’ve got to party. Friends would send me the hottest music from Niger or the Caribbean. I did some fundraisers and friends weddings, then DJ’d little clubs and bars on the Lower East Side. I still DJ in my house for parties and for fun.”