Monday, June 25, 2012

Law and Learning

I awoke at six this morning; you would think that since this bustle of college tours is over that I would be sleeping in. But not this time! Breakfast started at seven, following orientation at nine. Nathalie and I both awoke somewhat groggy and both irritated at how early it was, but overall in good spirits and excited for the day ahead of us. After taking showers and getting dressed, we met Kristen and the other girls in our suite and left Carman to go to John Jay for breakfast. Since everyone would be eating breakfast at the same time, a huge line occurred and it took us a while to get food. Not only that, but it started pouring rain! I knew I had a long day ahead of me.

Breakfast was pretty standard. I got a heap of scrambled eggs, pancakes topped with maple syrup, sausage, and grape juice. Kristen then took this time to pass out our folders, which contained our IDs, a brief history of Columbia, two maps, listing of where my class would be, and some documents regarding residential trips. After eating breakfast, we waited in a long line to be let into Lerner Hall, where orientation would take place. Once we were seated, it took a while for the orientation to begin. I dozed off a bit but fully awoke when Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" began blasting over loud speakers and a PowerPoint containing pictures of past summers through Columbia's high school program. Once the PowerPoint was over, Mrs. Kristine Billmyer, the assistant dean, gave a speech instilling her confidence in us, restating the important behavioral standards, and giving us a brief history of the program. It has been going on for almost thirty years! Right after, Sofi, an RA in Hartley, spoke on behalf of all the RAs and listed some residential trips that will happen soon, including a trip to Times Square, another trip to the beach, etc. It all sounds so exciting!
Soon after, we were dismissed and I went to Hamilton Hall, where Constitutional Law is being held. About thirty students are in the course and two graduate students teach the course. Our instructor for today was Jeffrey Lenowitz, who just completed his 7th year for his PhD with a focus in political theory and constitutional law at Columbia. Luke MacInnis is our other teacher, and while I don't know much about him yet, he did say that he just completed his 5th year for his PhD at Columbia. Since I do not know much about Luke yet, I will speak about Jeffery (both prefer that we call them by their first names).

Jeffrey is fascinating. He has a certain charm to him that is serious yet on the brink of sarcasm to keep the humor flowing. He also definitely knows what he is talking about, as he rattled off notes for over an hour and barely looked at his notes. I can tell he is definitely passionate about political science and that we will have a lot of fun in this course. The first thing we did was pass around a syllabus, which gives details about the course:

"You will be introduced to the Constitution, the fundamental concepts of constitutional law, the role of the courts, and the legal limitations on governmental policy making. We will discuss and analyze topics including separation of powers, freedom of speech, affirmative action, and civil rights."

Participation is the main bulk of the course, as we will be having two formal debates but also playing a lot of "Constitutional Jeopardy." We will have three quizzes and then have a 5 to 6 page research paper "in which you will construct a legal argument on one of the topics discussed in class." We will also be taking an all-day field trip on July 10th to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. I can't wait to see what this class has in store for me.

After brief introduction and a quick read-through of the syllabus, Jeffrey jumped right into notes. The pace almost shocked me but I was able to get my pen out in time. We went over:
  • Intro to the Constitution - This is the hardest document of alter, but judges can alter the law, especially in the Supreme Court. The constitution is robust, vague, and very hard to change. The American Constitution is also the shortest one! Constitutional Law sets forth the laws of our country and questions our government and society
  • 2nd Amendment (Right to Bear Arms) - No one takes this amendment literally since you can't just go around carrying guns
  • Supreme Court - This was created by the judiciary act of 1789. There are 9 members of the Supreme Court: 1 chief justice, and 8 associate justices. John Roberts is the current Chief Justice and Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American associate justice (appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson). John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States. Justices serve for life until they retire but have to commit high crimes to be impeached. 7 to 8,000 cases are petitioned to the Supreme Court but usually up to 100 cases are accepted. Most times the justices do not agree with one another.
  • First to Fourth Components - The first component states the facts and how the case got to the Supreme Court. The second component lays out the law and defines the legal questions. The third component addresses the legal principals and the fourth component announces the disposition.
  • Articles of Confederation - This document gave too much power to the states and was even more difficult to interpret than the constitution. Creating the constitution was illegal because the creators of the constitution didn't amend the Articles of Confederation.
  • Bill of Rights - The bill of rights are the first ten amendments. It all began when the Americans freed themselves from Great Britain's rule and started their own central government and Continental Congress. Anti-federalists used the Bill of Rights to create fear against the constitution because they claimed the Bill of Rights eliminated the rights of citizens, and the first version of the Bill of Rights was rejected. However, the Bill of Rights eventually was accepted.

Lots of notes, right? There are way more than that but then I would be writing a novel (kidding). After we finished notes, Jeffrey let us out over an hour early since he wanted to make sure we used all of our time in the afternoon session. After leaving class, I was going to go to the first-day festival, but it got canceled due to the cloudy and rainy weather. So instead, I went to John Jay and had a meal of chicken wings and salad with Morvarid and Aurea, who both seem to be enjoying Presidential Powers but are conflicted about what to do their research papers on. After conversing with them, I went back to my dorm and took a very long nap. Then I awoke and went back to Hamilton for the afternoon session.

During the afternoon session, we dissected the first ten amendments and figured out the clauses, as well as defining vague terms. We then had ten minutes to memorize (not really) seven pages filled with legal terms such as acquittal, trial jury, felony, and habeas corpus. We then played Constitutional Jeopardy, a game in which Jeffry either:

    •    says a term and has us define it
    •    gives us the definition and have us figure out the term

My group tied for second, which made me a little sad at first because if we had gotten first place we would've gotten an extra point on Friday's quiz. But I held my head high and happy since we got majority of the questions right.

After class ended, the ILC cohort went to Lerner Hall and met up with Ms. L! It was nice to see her again. She asked us how our classes were and confirmed that we will be having two dinners soon but that we will be back before curfew. Also, to my and Tomi's dismay, we discovered that the textbook for our class, Constitutional Law and Politics, Volume 2: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (8th edition), sold out! Our only option is buying it on Amazon if we want it by next week (when we actually need it). Ms. L graciously offered to help us pay for it, which I really appreciated.

After the meeting, Tomi, Morvarid, Aurea, and I went to the dining hall and ate a wonderful dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread. After leaving, Lucas actually came to get dinner, so we sat with him to eat ice cream and watch him eat. Once that adventure ended, we four girls went to Morvarid's dorm carrying work so we could study. She lives in a single and her room is huge, so we didn't have to worry about possibly disturbing a roommate.

We were assigned a reader, which contains several analogies and different Supreme Court cases. For tonight, we're supposed to read three analogies and two Supreme Court cases. It's a lot of reading but I think I can handle it, after I finish this blog I'm going to finish reading the Supreme Court cases. Here is a list of our reading for tonight:
  • Federalist 10
  • Federalist 51
  • Marbury v. Madison
  • Ex Parte McCardle
  • McCulloch v. Maryland

My dissected reader
The first of tonight's reading
So many notes!
I'll admit that I did not know that Constitutional Law would be this much ready, but I'm up for the challenge. Besides, study groups make everything more fun. After over an hour of studying, we ordered a pizza and ate out on the green near College Walk. Even though it was dark, the main library looked absolutely gorgeous and it was a very relaxing night.
The view from Momo's dorm
Delicious pizza
I'm a true pizza addict
Girls! (= (minus Aurea)
After the pizza break, we went back to Morvarid's room and studied for about forty minutes more before calling it a night and heading back to Carman. I thoroughly enjoy Constitutional Law and cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings me. At Columbia, every day is an adventure.

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