“Besides simply learning material from a new angle, I also feel like I have gained a new, more logical way of approaching topics and taking all sides into account.” — From a program course evaluation
This is a course designed for students interested in law, government, and politics. It examines a wide range of contemporary issues subject to constitutional interpretation, introducing students to the constitution, the fundamental concepts of constitutional law, the role of the courts, and the legal limitations on governmental policy making.
Students discuss and analyze topics including separation of powers, federalism, freedom of speech, affirmative action, the death penalty, gun control, civil rights, and abortion. They are exposed to current constitutional challenges and are given the opportunity to explore the relationship between law and society.
Students develop skills that enable them to read and interpret Supreme Court decisions, which serve as the basis for class discussion. Debates and Moot Courts call on students to develop persuasive arguments in defense of their positions, thereby sharpening reasoning and analytical skills.
Camila Vergara is a Ph.D. candidate in Columbia’s Department of Political Science, where she focuses on constitutional and political theory. Her dissertation seeks to put forth an alternative constitutional design aimed at giving institutional form and power to democratic authority based on the works of republican thinkers Machiavelli, Spinoza, and Condorcet. At Columbia she has served as a teaching assistant in courses on justice, political theory, and the theoretical foundations of political economy. She has also served as an adjunct lecturer in political theory at New York University. She holds M.A.’s in political science from Columbia and The New School for Social Research as well as an M.A. in Latin American Studies from New York University.
Miranda Yaver received her Ph.D. in political science at Columbia University in 2015, with emphases in American politics and quantitative methods. Her dissertation explored the effects of polarization and judicial deference in expanding executive branch agencies' latitude in policymaking, and the dynamics of lawmaking when agencies do not strictly follow legislative dictates. Her broader research agenda focuses on separation-of-powers conflict in contemporary American regulatory law and policy, and she has taught courses on law and public policy, bureaucratic politics, statistics, American institutions, and courts, media, and politics. Her research has appeared in the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization and the American Journal of Political Science, with additional writing on health policy appearing in such outlets as the Washington Post and The Guardian. From 2015-16, she was a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis, and most recently was a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Yale University.