Political Science in Washington, 2013

As part of the University Honors Program political science course “Law, Politics and the Supreme Court,” students and Political Science Associate Professor Joe Kobylka are spending spring break 2013 in Washington, D.C. The students are conducting research on Supreme Court cases at the Library of Congress.

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A little bit of R&R: Research Recreation!

An update from Katelyn, a sophomore majoring in journalism, Spanish and political science, and conducting research on the Supreme Court’s opinions on student rights:

Today was our first full day of researching in the Library of Congress, and it’s already shaping up to be an interesting week.

Just got our Library of Congress reader cards!

I’m researching the Supreme Court’s change in opinion on student rights in schools from the time of Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) through the current courts. I’m using the papers of the justices to get a full idea of how, and more important, why the Court changed its view of student rights in schools.

Before any of us could look at our specific research questions and really dig into the papers of the justices, we headed to an orientation with Jeff Flannery, head of the Manuscript Reading Room.

The group followed Flannery into a conference room to learn how to conduct our research. In front of each seat was a large white folder. When I looked closer, I realized there were small labels on each. Before each of us were some of the most remarkable documents in America. I saw Alexander Graham Bell’s sketch of the telephone, an appeal for bail for witches in 1692, an explanation of a macaroni maker by Thomas Jefferson….

As I scanned the room and looked closely at these original documents, it hit me that I was in for an incredible experience. I would soon be looking at the handwritten opinions of Thurgood Marshall, notes from Potter Stewart to Abe Fortas, and so much more.

After running through the rules and procedures of the library, we trekked across the hall into the Manuscript Reading Room and I called for my first boxes. I looked through Hugo Black’s papers on Tinker, finding newspaper clippings he had annotated, drafts of his dissenting opinions, and fan mail regarding his position in the case.

I’ve already explored so much, and can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store!

In the Madison building of the Library of Congress.

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