Political Science in Washington, 2015

Students in the University Honors Program political science class “The Supreme Court Seminar” are spending six days in Washington, D.C., doing original research in the papers of former Supreme Court Justices housed in the Library of Congress. Each student in the seminar has developed an independent research topic and question, and will produce a research paper.

Thanks to everyone – and then, sleep at last!

An update from Kayla, a sophomore political science and world languages major. She is studying to what extent Chief Justice Rehnquist succeeded or failed in aligning his court with his political ideology on three topics - abortion, states rights and Miranda rights: I'm sitting in my own bed once again, and I don't think I've ever been more excited about the prospect of sleep. We have come to the conclusion of our trip to DC, and my happily ever after includes a full night's sleep, something I have been deprived of all week. But despite my exhaustion, I come back from our class trip with a multitude of positive memories. The city itself is beautiful, with a deep sense of [...]

2015-03-18T16:53:48+00:00 March 18th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

The long trail to the Library of Congress

An update from Jaime, a sophomore majoring in political science and English, with a creative writing emphasis. He is conducting research on the Court’s treatment of the interaction between race and the death penalty, with a focus on the evolution of legal arguments on the death penalty’s constitutionality from Maxwell v. Bishop to McCleskey v. Kemp: “Please join me.” The words were on translucent tissue paper, in fuzzy type that looked like the letters had been rushed off before the ink had quite dried. Held up to the ceiling light, the delicate notes revealed “Neenah Onionskin 25% cotton fiber” in loopy cursive — a Google search informed me that onionskins were used, back in the day, to make copies of [...]

2015-03-18T15:56:15+00:00 March 18th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

Meeting the Justices through their words

An update from Daniel, a first-year management science and economics major. He is conducting research on the expanding notion of the Equal Protection clause through the Reapportionment Cases: It’s hard to believe we’re back in Dallas already. It seemed improbable during our first eight-hour day in the Manuscript Room, but losing track of time in the Justices’ papers came more easily than I would have imagined. There’s something to be said about holding a piece of history in your hands. Glimpses of a Justice’s personality would come out after going through numerous folders of memos and letters. Harry Blackmun had an incessant need to correct the grammar and spelling of every document he came across. Hugo Black kept both fan and [...]

2015-03-18T16:53:21+00:00 March 16th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

Patchwork of papers

An update from Anton, who is majoring in political science, public policy and English. He is researching Justice Potter Stewart’s views on the right to privacy, particularly in the area of reproductive rights: The bulk of our trip to Washington, D.C., was spent in the Library of Congress, where we conducted extensive research in the papers of various Supreme Court justices. The unique thing about my project was that the Library of Congress didn’t have the papers of my justice of interest – Potter Stewart. He gave his papers to Yale, so my research at the LoC was restricted to his colleagues’ documents. This created an interesting research experience, one that I consider worth rehashing for the purposes of this [...]

2015-03-18T16:00:40+00:00 March 16th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

Under the weather, but still a great trip

An update from Sydney, a sophomore majoring in political science and English, and minoring in Chinese. She is conducting research on Justice Blackmun's changing approach to capital punishment: On Thursday, the unthinkable happened: I got sick. While browsing the Blackmun papers, a killer cold hit me and could not be shaken. My spirits remained high, and being surrounded by concerned and always entertaining classmates and a caring professor helped to ease my pain. After an emergency trip to CVS, I found myself armed with all of the tools I would need to combat the rest of the week. The majestic Chief Justice John Marshall I finished up with all of my cases and enjoyed a final visit to [...]

2015-03-18T16:44:53+00:00 March 16th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

On an intellectual high

An update from Mollie, a senior majoring in political science and human rights, with a minor in Chinese. She is conducting research on Justice Black and his interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause: As our trip came to a close, I think most of the group was in disbelief of how fast the week flew by. You know the saying, "time flies when you're having fun," is particularly true when you're researching. Throughout the week, I felt like I was on an intellectual high. Despite getting roughly six hours of sleep each night, I woke up excited to continue my project. I am a creature of habit so having a similar routine every day eliminated distractions that inevitably come with [...]

2015-03-18T16:28:20+00:00 March 16th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

A peek inside the U.S. Supreme Court

An update from Anton, who is majoring in political science, public policy and English. He is researching Justice Potter Stewart’s views on the right to privacy, particularly in the area of reproductive rights: With the trip winding down and our research all but complete, I find myself reflecting on some of my favorite experiences of the past week. Whether it be in visiting the Jefferson Building, enjoying two great meals at the aptly named “We, The Pizza,” or sifting through the papers of Supreme Court Justices, our class journey to Washington D.C. has left me with plenty to remember. An experience that particularly stood out was our visit to the Supreme Court. The grandiose building is sure to captivate any [...]

2015-03-18T15:50:07+00:00 March 14th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

The research experience of a lifetime

Our group in the Madison building, where we conducted our research, on our last full day. An update from Kelsey, a junior majoring in history, political science and philosophy with a minor in law and legal reasoning. She is investigating the evolution of the levels of scrutiny used in 14th amendment non-racial discrimination cases: Today we are making our way back to Dallas. I am currently sitting in the Madison building of the Library of Congress taking a little mental break from my research. Sitting here, amongst my classmates that I now consider my friends and documents from some of the most notable people in our nation's history, I can't help but realize what an incredible opportunity and amazing [...]

2015-03-16T16:03:45+00:00 March 14th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

The Supreme Court: Behind the scenes

An update from Terisha, a first-year public policy and economics major. She is conducting research on how the Court handles civil liberties during war: Today was our last full day in the Library of Congress and I can’t believe that we’ll be leaving tomorrow. This week has gone by extremely quickly, and as I think about it, we’ve all gone over a lot of material and learned a ridiculous amount about our respective Justices and cases. I think the most interesting part of the research for me was when I got the opportunity to look through public correspondence. Although it wasn’t extremely relevant to my research topic, it was still nice to see how the public responded to Supreme Court [...]

2015-03-16T13:42:20+00:00 March 13th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|

Our well-oiled research ‘machine’

An update from Jiayi (Lily), a first-year student majoring in accounting and minoring in economics. She is conducting research on Justice Hugo Black's role in the incorporation process: Sitting in my hotel room and reviewing the scanned files from the past three days, I am astonished by the amount of work and the depth of research this trip has allowed me to do! The first day researching and trying to find relevant documents and quotes was a lot of fun and exposed me to a wide variety of communications among Justices that we don’t see in a textbook or a Powerpoint. With that said, the second day was even more fun in that as I learned to narrow in on [...]

2015-03-13T09:58:19+00:00 March 12th, 2015|Political Science in Washington, 2015|
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