Honors Course Reflections

Natalia Albores: Blog 2

7 students and Professor Koblyka hold a plank position with their faces towards the camera. The Supreme Court steps are in the background.

Planking at the Supreme Court in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s birthday

Today was our last day in D.C. at the Library of Congress. It feels bittersweet. On the one hand, this week has been probably the hardest week (academically speaking) of my life up to this point. On the other hand, I wish I could spend another month researching in the library. In fact, a month probably would still not be long enough. I could probably come here every day for a year and still manage to find new information on my topic.

Yesterday we had an interesting day. It was a beautiful, sunny day in D.C. and it also happened to be Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 86th birthday. Recently, it was made public that she likes to keep herself active in order to stay healthy. Some of the other students and I found out that some people were planking on the steps of the Supreme Court to celebrate her birthday. Once we were finished with our daily research at the library, Professor Kobylka allowed us to walk by the Court and see what was happening. It was packed with women, girls, and even some camera crews, who all came out to celebrate RBG’s birthday by planking in her honor. A few of the students from our class, along with Professor Kobylka, all decided we should go ahead and plank as well. We even took a picture. Surprisingly, Professor Kobylka out-planked us all (he was being a showoff, just kidding).

After partaking in what I would consider, a very D.C. thing, we made our way to dinner and soon enough we were all back at the hotel. Once at the hotel, I went ahead and organized my research and began writing a blog post for the first half of the week.

Upon my reflection on this week, I can honestly say this experience is something I will never forget. It is one thing to read about the justices’ papers through the eyes of a researcher, as we have this semester through the writings of Linda Greenhouse. However, it is completely different to actually have the authentic documents in your hands and to be able to read and interpret them without any filters other than your own. My topic of research for the class was the evolution of the Warren Court’s controversial Miranda decision and how it survived the wave of Republican appointees to the Court. To be perfectly honest, I was not really sure what to expect coming into the research. I obviously had some hypotheses, but the first day I felt so lost. I flipped through files and files of information that I could not really make sense of. My stress levels were at an all time high.

That first night at the luxurious Comfort Inn-Ballston, Professor Kobylka had us all sit down at the lobby and helped ease our anxiety. Then, the second day, I came in with a more relaxed attitude and to my surprise I found some extraordinary information about one of the justices. This is where I mean that it is different to read this information through the lens of a researcher, but when I found this detail by myself hidden in the private correspondence of the justices I felt like how Christopher Columbus must have felt when he discovered the Americas. Okay, that is an exaggeration but I think I must have sat with my mouth wide open for at least a whole minute. I had to reread the correspondence a few times to make sure I was not making it up.

As the week went by, I found myself getting into a steady rhythm. Now, I obviously did not find such astonishing things as that detail every time, but every paper and detail that I found helped me get one more piece of the puzzle. Overall, it has made me understand the case and the justices’ psyche a little bit more than I did before.

This experience has been super taxing, but if it had not been it probably would have not been worth it. This is definitely a Spring Break I will remember forever. It is probably very different than what most people would call a “memorable Spring Break,” but I am forever grateful to Professor Kobylka and to SMU for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I am scared for the final product, but I can’t wait to start writing my paper with the primary source research I have completed this week. I feel a bit spoiled, writing essays in the future without first-hand research will no longer feel as satisfying.

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