In 1972, New Yorkers and the nation were shocked by TV reports from a then-unknown journalist, Geraldo Rivera, on a human "snake pit" - the Willowbrook State School for "children with mental retardation," where children were shown sitting unclothed in barren wards, sometimes smeared by their own feces.
Now nearly 40 years later, one of the people who was placed in Willowbrook has surfaced in a documentary by a Pace University film and screen studies student.
Geoffrey Kappenberg, a sophomore from Westbury, New York (Long Island), has written, directed, and produced "Finding Fred", a 10 minute documentary selected for screening at the 2011 Sprout Film Festival at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Saturday, April 30 at 2:30.
"Finding Fred" shows the development of love, admiration, and enormous devotion between two brothers once separated by Willowbrook, where scandal brought nationwide attention to the conditions of the developmentally disabled in state care.
The festival is devoted to "making the invisible visible" through "films of artistry and intellect" about developmental disabilities. Kappenberg, along with Allan and Fred Goldstein, the subjects of his film, will partake in a Q&A at the end of the 2:30 program.
Spreading IT while learning it
The film exemplifies an extensive, longstanding effort by Pace's Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems to educate through immersion in technological ways to empower people.
"Finding Fred" is one of the oral history projects on individuals with disabilities that students produce each semester in Seidenberg courses conducted in partnership with the social services agency AHRC New York City. Kappenberg was a student in Professor Jim Lawler's fall, 2010 "Community Engagement through Information Systems and Technologies" course. Other Seidenberg courses educate students in ways of helping older people learn to use the internet, and teaching science and math to high school students by programming small robots.
Inherent in The Seidenberg School's activities and services to students, businesses, and the community is the belief that information technologies are tools for the empowerment of people. Established in 1983, Seidenberg is the youngest school within Pace University. Its mission is to prepare men and women for professional work, research, and lifelong participation in a new and dynamic information age. The school offers a student-oriented environment; small classes; committed teaching; research with professors; innovative programs, projects, and partnerships; and convenient multi-campus locations in New York City and Westchester County as well as online courses and programs.