Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Forgot How Much I Love Debate

***Before you read: Let me make totally clear that my account of how the debate went is very biased, and if I make it seem like we won the case, it may just be because I would like to THINK that we won the case (Although I think we DID win the case, but now I'm just confusing you). Anyway, my account of how the case went is very biased.***

I'm not sure why, but I was taking this debate very very seriously. It's not that I shouldn't have taken it seriously, but, as I ate breakfast and as we discussed court cases in our first class, it was the only thing on my mind. It really wasn't a huge deal, just another class assignment, but for some reason this debate held much more importance to me. I am an extremely relaxed person, and it takes quite a bit to stress me out, but for some reason this debate was stressing me out. When I say I was taking it very seriously, though, I mean my mentality, not my work ethic and preparation. Not that I didn't prepare seriosuly, I always do, just that I did not spend as much time on it as my stress would have suggested I should. Of course, though, the majority of my preparation was for nothing because the defense threw us a curveball (I'll explain that in a moment).
I worked a lot of yesterday and stayed up very late last night, but when I fell asleep, I still was nowhere near what I felt would be adequate preparation for the debate. I went to my first class, where we would review last night's cases about the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment. I'd go into detail about this, but the highlight of my day was undoubtedly the debates.
I spent all of my 12-2 PM free time on, not sleep, not food, but preparing for the debate. Yes, I missed my nap and I missed lunch. THAT is how seriously I took this.
By about 2 PM, I had put in as much work as time would allow, and I headed off to class. I felt that I was adequately prepared; however, for me to truly feel adequately prepared I need to be way way overprepared. Of course, in my preparation for the debate, I had chosen not to prepare very much for our quiz, which, while it went well enough, did not go super well. At the conclusion of the quiz, the debate began. Nancy gave our opening statement, Khadija cross-examined the defense, and Lenny answered the defense' cross-examination of our side. For anyone who didn't read yesterday's blog, here is the case description:

Rita Smith was upset and angry after her son died in the line of duty in Iraq. She joined an anti-war group and participated in a protest in San Francisco. During the protest, Rita burned a flag of the US. No one was injured by the fire. The police, who were nearby making sure the protest would not get out of control, arrested Rita and other members of her group for disorderly conduct. Rita is suing the state for violating her first amendment rights.

You (we) are representing Rita Smith.

Then it was my turn to speak. I had chosen to make the closing statement. On one hand, the closing statement can be the deal-breaker in a case if it is done correctly; however, it is also the riskiest in that a mess-up in the speech would probably be the most damaging. I had initially felt the urge to take the bull by the horns, although my problems with preparation had made me regret that decision later. My problems with preparation, though, had little to do with me and more to do with the fact that I would be defending our case against the statements of the prosecution and I would have no idea what the defense would be arguing. You see, the way this case was structured, I actually felt it was the defense that had something to prove, not the prosecution. Both sides agreed in the beginning that the desecration of the American flag was speech protected by the First Amendment. Rita Smith was suing on the grounds that her First Amendment rights were violated when she was arrested; therefore, the defense had to prove that her arrest was justified. All the prosecution had to prove was that the defense was wrong, and by doing that, we would be showing that Rita Smith's arrest was not justified and therefore not protected by the Constitution. I had prepared for all the possible ways which I thought the defense could use to try to support her arrest. Like I said, though, they threw us a curveball with something we did not expect at all.
The defense argued that Rita Smith was arrested for violating some California Penal Code against burning things in public (or something like that; I don't remember but it is irrelevant). They also argued that Rita Smith was arrested because her actions failed the "clear and present danger" test, as there was a clear and present danger in the actions she was taking. Also, while this was not an argument, they cited numerous times how my client Rita "recklessly burned" the flag and how to prevent the "clear and present danger" test from being applied, she should have burned the flag in a much more "safe" manner.
I responded to the first argument by saying that whether or not she was in violation of this penal code is completely irrelevant due to the fact that my client was charged with disorderly conduct, not of violating this penal code. If they would like to charge her with violating this code, they can, just not in this case, we is to determine strictly whether Rita's First Amendment rights were violated. Also, this violation was NOT the reason Rita was arrested; she was arrested for disorderly conduct, so I said that this was irrelevant. The possible actions that California considered disorderly conduct, as Nancy explained in her opening statement, all had nothing to do with this case. While I was the one who put into words our rebuttal to the second argument, I must give 100% of the credit to Lenny, who told me something I never would have been able to come up with without researching. It turns out that the "clear and present danger" test applies to the clear and present danger of what a speech can INCITE, not the danger of the actions of the speaker herself. Therefore, if Rita Smith was going to incite "imminent lawless action", the "clear and present danger" test would definitely have applied; however, it does not apply to whether or not the fire is a danger. I argued this, but I would have been completely stumped had it not been for Lenny telling me this. Thirdly, I just clarified that nowhere on the case description did it say anything about Rita Smith "recklessly" burning the flag; as far as we know, she may have done so in a perfectly safe manner.
After all this, I said that basically, the defense had zero reason to arrest Rita, and no justification for taking away her First Amendment rights. I also said a ton of things along the way that made no sense at all, or were repetitive, but we don't need to go over that (haha).
I'm reading this now and it makes perfect sense on paper, but let me say that these arguments did not come out nearly as nicely in class as they did here on my blog. Nowhere close. I argued all of this off the top of my head, simply from the notes I had taken while the defense was speaking, so it did not make nearly as much sense. On the other hand, I thought I did pretty well and at the end of the day, I was extremely proud of the way our team performed. The judges (Jeffrey and Luke, our teachers, and a friend of theirs who is a judge in an Indian court) ruled in favor of Rita Smith 2-1, which was a very satisfying way to conclude our effort. I have to give the other team credit, though, the side they were arguing was WAAAAAYY more difficult to argue than ours; in fact, I have absolutely no idea what I would have done if I had been arguing against Rita Smith. The other performed extremely well, which made for a fantastic debate. Also, let me make clear once again that everything I wrote above was from my point of view, which is the reason I wrote so much more about what I did than what others did; my other group members did just as much, if not more than I did. Additionally, my account of the case is EXTREMELY BIASED, and if somebody from the other team were to blog, you might get a completely different account of how the case went.
I've already written way too much, so I won't get into the other debates, but I had completely forgotten how much I love to debate. This was an awesome experience for me. I hated the stress, but absolutely loved the experience. I have to say that I would have hated it, though, if I had had to argue AGAINST Rita Smith.
Adrianne, speaking during her case.
After class, with the monkey off of my back, the rest of the day seemed to fly by. This included our visit with the director (who is super cool) of the High School Program in her office (with a photo that you can probably see on Adrianne's blog), a long dinner with Adrianne, Morvarid and a few friends we've made, Chinese food, and a few hours in the grass on campus playing frisbee and just hanging out with some friends, none of whom I knew before arriving in New York, and two random little kids who were tons of fun to play with but lost my headphones. Then again, they lost another kid's shoe, so losing my headphones wasn't so bad. Overall, though, a very fun day. It feels weird to say that I had class because I am enjoting myself so much.

The current state of our bedroom. My side of the room is on the left; I know my mom is proud :)
Also, the right side of the room is much cleaner here than it usually is; our agreement is that I don't care how messy Jack is as long as he doesn't care that I just sweep all his things under his bed or to his side of the room. It has worked out extremely well, though, as he is way more cool than he is organized. And who knows, maybe he likes it unorganized. I can respect that.

Missed Movie

I woke up today, just I have every other day: at the second installment of my alarm, around 9:00 AM. Nothing of any importance happened in between waking up and the start of class.

Class, this whole week had been centered around the First Amendment and freedom of expression. Today's focus was on the relationship between religion, the state and the constitution. All of the cases we read were Supreme Court decisions relating to religion. We covered everything from prayer in school, to animal sacrifice. Jeffrey lectured on the difference between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, of the 1st Amendment. There have been many different approaches to the relationship between church and state, which made for some interesting Majority and Dissenting Opinion.

I didn't attend any events at lunch today. I spent my time in my room, studying cases and preparing for the debate.

We started the afternoon session, with a quiz. I missed a few questions, but I got all of the extra credit. After the teacher had gone over the answers, we set up for the debates. Our round was first. The topic of our debate was a hypothetical court case. Rita Smith burned a flag in an anti-war protest. She was arrested for disorderly conduct, and is suing the state for compensation. We were the plaintiff, Smith. The defendant argued that she deserved to be arrested, because the public burning was a reckless and illegal endangerment of onlookers. We won, because she wasn't arrested for dangerous use of fire, she was arrested for disorderly conduct, which she didn't commit.

After class, we met with Ms. L., to go to the main office. There, we saw the head of the high school program. We talked with her about the nature of the program and about Columbia undergrad admissions. We took a group photo with her, but I had trouble with my camera today, so I can't post it here.

Tomi and I tried to meet with an RA at 7:00 PM, to go see the movie, Moonrise Kingdom, but we missed the group. We couldn't go on our own, because we didn't know where the theater was, so we just grabbed some food and headed back to our dorms. I decided that if I couldn't see a movie in theaters, I would watch one online, so I saw The Big Lebowski. That, was a fantastic film.

After that, I just hung out in my hall with some other students. At some point, one of my roommates suggested ordering pizza, so we all pitched in to buy some. It was really delicious. Who would have thought there was good pizza in New York?

You win some, you lose some

This morning was a challenge. Not only did I wake up very early to read the Supreme Court cases for class today, but I had to cram in studying for the quiz and working on the opening statement for the debate. I ended up taking notes for class, memorizing cases for the quiz, and only making a rough outline for the opening statement. Not the best way to start a morning, but I knew it was the best I could do in in the limited amount of time I had.

The morning lecture was interesting, as we moved on from freedom of speech to freedom/respect of religion. Majority of the cases dealt with the ban of teaching religion in public schools or banning religious rituals because they are a danger.

  • Establishment Clause - This clause is the separation of church and state. Because of state rights, the establishment clause does not deal with the federal government. The establishment clause follows three parts: 1) Strict separation, 2) Strict Neutrality, and 3) Accommodation
  • Abington School District v. Schempp - Mr. Schempp filed suit against the school district because they required children to hear and even read parts of the Bible at the beginning of the school day. Mr. Schempp's complaint was mainly in terms of his children having to do this because the family were Unitarian Universialists. The court sanctioned that organized Bible reading in United States public schools is unconstitutional.
  • Lemon v. Kurtzman - This case defined two concepts: 1) Lemon Test and 2) That for a law to be considered constitutional under the establishment clause, the law must have a legitimate secular purpose and not have the effect/advance/inhibition of religion.
  • Lemon Test - 1) Must have secular legislative purpose, 2) Must have principal effects which neither enhance nor inhibit religion, 3) Must not foster an excessive entanglement of government with religion
  • Wallace v. Jaffree - This case dealt with a dispute over Alabama statues that by stages allowed voluntary prayer, which was lead by school teachers. The court found nothing wrong with meditation in school but the religion aspects were unconstitutional.
  • Church v. City of Hialeh - Civil ordinances were passed to prevent animal sacrifices in connection with Santeria rituals. These rituals were held to be invalid by the Supreme Court.
After class, I had lunch and then went to Butler Library to type up my Opening Statement. After typing it up, I then hurried to Carman to print it out. Then I went back to class.

We first took the quiz, and based on the answers given it class, I got an A again. I'm proud of myself for studying well, but I know I need to stop cramming and space out my time better. Then we moved on to the debate. I felt I delivered my opening statement well, and I felt that Jack did a great job with the closing statement, but we definitely did not do well when we were supposed to answer questions. To sum it up, we lost the debate completely - 0-3. None of the judges voted for us. They felt that we focused too much on pointing out that no child pornography was committed instead of focusing on the commerce aspect of the case, which the other team really went off on. I was really disappointed, not just in my team but in myself. We have one more debate but I'm not very excited for it. I guess this is why I never joined the debate team at my school.

When class ended, I wasn't in the best mood but decided to suck it up because we were meeting the Director of the Program. She was really nice and was able to answer a couple of our questions about Columbia. She was sad because she is retiring from her work with the program after this summer, but wishes to return back to old habits - she's been working with this program for 24 years!

Columbia Cohort plus the Director of Columbia HSP!
After the meeting, we went to Low Library and picked up some brochures from the visiting center. I went to dinner later but after retired to my dorm and took a very long nap. I've been needing to catch up on sleep.

I'm excited for tomorrow because I'm going to see War Horse on Broadway! I've been lusting over this all week and cannot wait for tomorrow. 

Heated Debates

Vacationing in the middle of the week does not help one’s sleeping schedule. So once again I awoke a little later than I wanted- around 8:20 AM- to pick up on my morning routine. After a shower and change of clothes, I headed down to a breakfast filled with eggs, hash browns, and debate preparations. Today was the day for our Supreme Court debates to take place.  

Once breakfast ended, I went into full out debate mode. I pulled my laptop out and booted it up to start my note taking. During the debate, one could probably hear my fingers and my furious typing, trying to get every detail inscribed. My case involved who had the authority to dictate whether a person is from ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ or simply ‘Israel.’ I argued for the presidential side, stating that the president had the power to make the choice of a U.S. citizen’s birthplace on his/her passport when born in Jerusalem. The three main points against my case were that a.) presidential power when recognizing countries is only ceremonial and not substantive, b.) the act is unconstitutional, and c.) the Supreme Court does not have the authority to review this case because it is of political questioning, not legal questioning. The debate went along fairly well; my side argued the point of staying as neutral as possible between the Israelis and Palestinians. To refute each point, we went defined ‘recognize’ as ‘admitting as particular importance’ and ‘substantive’ as ‘particular importance,’ therefore by definition presidential power is substantive when recognizing foreign sovereigns. We also stated allowing the president power to dictate this issue is constitutional because it’s within the Constitution in Article 3 Section 2. And finally, we argued that the Supreme Court does have the authority to review the case because a constitutional duty- that of the president- clashes with a legal law passed by Congress known as the Foreign Relations Act.

Unfortunately for my group, we were defeated by a ruling of six to two. Then the next group began their debate over the constitutionality of searching students for weapons with/without probably cause. Once side continuously brought up the violation of the fourth amendment right, which is the right to not be searched without probably cause or a warrant. The debate was very interesting; the two sides mainly argued security over rights which applies to many aspects in our daily lives, whether it be big or small.

After our intense rounds of debating, we all were given reviews and such as well as advice from our guest judge. Apparently a debater will always show their true colors at one point; one class ended, I was asked multiple times if I debated at school and I responded with an affirmative. Evidently I spoke very fast at one point- but not the speed of spreading- and I used a great deal of hand gestures.

When I had my fill of lunch, I decided to take a nap. Sadly my always active brain would not permit my rest and I chose to work-out for a while in the basement of the Carman building. As time passed by after my work-out, I finally made my way to Butler Library for my second class. I resolved to sit in a somewhat secluded area to get more of my paper done. But alas, I still have so much work to get done.

Second class ended, and I rushed to my dorm to lay my materials down before meeting up with Ms. L in front of Lewisohn Hall for our meeting with the director of the high school program, Darlene Giraitis. It seemed the Constitutional Law class as packed with heated debates as well because class for the four cohorts ended later than usual. Nevertheless we all arrived and made our way to the director. Ms. Giraitis has been part of the program for twenty-four years- a lot of time to devote oneself for a summer program. Sadly, this will be her last summer until her retirement but it was such a pleasure to meet the woman who made our acceptance into the program run smoothly. After a few words and pictures, the Columbia cohort and chaperon made our way to Low Memorial Library to check out brochures on Columbia University. We grabbed fact sheets on the Core Curriculum, statistics, and events. Then we parted ways to our respective temporary homes to get some work done. Only three thousand eight hundred words to go…


Two words that describe my day today; busy and productive.

I woke up at 7AM to review and further prepare for my debate in class. I spent time to go over the notes I took the night before of each court case that pertained to our plan and each potential counter-argument our opponents could possibly have. The thing about me was that I was going to be the second speaker so I could not prepare a speech, I just had to be ready for the unexpected. That meant I had to be the most prepared in regards to our team and have studied all necessary information to ensure our team's success.

We had a total of two debates today, and our team went second. For the first one, I served as a judge along with the other students and listened to the arguments of both sides of the first case. The argument revolved around the constitutionality of denying a child to have a passport with the birthplace "Juruselem, Israel" intead of simply "Jureselem." Aurea was one of the speakers in this debate and she argued that It should be legal to deny the allowance of the birthplace to include "Israel" as the country because the true "ownership" of the city is still under question and the city is of world-wide importance in respect to faith. Therfore, in order to avoid future debates and tension with foreign countries in response to the passport decision and by also symbolizing that the city belongs to Israel, the president can deny the family's right to the name change. Their opponents argued that in fact, the family have the right to chose the name of their birthplace regardless of this situation and it's not an argument of right or wrong, the argument revolves around the rights specifically promised to the individuals of this country. After each of the 6 minute speakers were done, us judges casted our anonymous votes and chose the team we thought should win the debate. In the end, the opponents won.

At this point, I was really excited to just get up and approach the podium, simply ready to begin speaking. I love debating! I'm a senior member on my school varsity policy debate team and I have a very strong passion for what I do. I've been dedicated to policy debate for my entire high school career and I'm also interested in continuing to participate in college. So the fact that we had to debate in class really made me so excited from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning. By the time I was walking out my door, I was as confident as can. Yet still, I knew I was up for a challenge to go for the right of privacy on school grounds after a potential threat. Now despite the challenge, long story short my partners and I won by a very large margin. We presented ourselves to 13 individuals at the podium sitting at the head of the conference room packed with people. We endured the 13 eyes that were surveying us endlessly, the brilliant minds that criticized our every point, and the questions at the end given by a successful law student, our peers, and our professor. We emerged victorious from all of it, and we won the debate. It was a really fun session today, and whether I would have lost or won, I can truly say I would have enjoyed today the same regardless. It was a very interesting debate for all teams present and a very engaging activity that allowed us to learn in a more interactive manner. Later that day professor Porwancher asked me, "How did you like today's debate." Without hesitating I quickly replied, "I absolutely loved it."

For the rest of the day including my lunch break, I spent my time working on my research paper. I spent 45 minutes eating with my friends, and for the hour and fifteen minutes I had remaining until class started in the library, I simply arrived early and worked diligently on my work. I wanted to stay after class was over as well, but I did not have the opportunity to do that since we were scheduled to meet with the director of the Columbia High School program. She was such a charming, sweet lady and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to meet her. She spoke to us about the tremenously positive reputation of excellence the students of the Ivy League Connection have had throughout all of her experience as well as a lot of other aspects in regards to our experiences, the city, and Columbia University. We had the opportunity to even take a picture of her right after our meeting, but unfortunately I did not have my camera with me at the time. Adrianne did, however, take a picture for us with her camera.

Right after our meeting we visited Low memorial. Let me tell you that the inside is just as beautiful if not more than the gorgeous exterior of the building. There, Mrs.L said her farewells before departing to the hotel and allowing us to proceed with our daily activites. Today, I personally decided not to attend any events at all and instead work soley on my school work. I dedicated this day only to work in hopes of productivity. I did in the end succeed with this goal because right after Mrs.L left us, I quickly ate dinner and went to Butler library for the remainder of the day. Only near the end of my intense research and study session did I take a very short break to get quickly get ice-cream with a few friends from Pink Berry right across the street from the University. That was my only break and maybe the least productive part of my day. Regardless, I fully enjoyed my day and I'm satisfied with the scope of the work I've been completing. Just a little bit more to go and I'll be done with my research paper!

The "Great" Debaters

This morning was the same as usual except for one detail--there was a fire drill this morning! Fortunately for me, when the fire alarm sounded I was also ready to leave my dorm room. Some other kids, on the other hand,  weren't so lucky. The amount of student's half asleep or half dressed was staggering, but they still had it better off than the four or five kids who were stuck in nothing but towels and shower caps! Luckily, the drill only lasted for about 10 minutes, so most of the students were still left with enough time to get ready for class. 

Jeffery was the one to teach the morning session. Today's lesson covered the freedom of religion as expressed in the first amendment's establishment clause and free exercise clause. One related topics we went over was the importance of the separation church and state. We learned that there are three methods that Congress may use to ensure this separation. The first is strict separation, which dictates complete neutrality to all religions and "secular" or non-religious subjects. The second method is strict neutrality, which forbids Congress from openly aiding or abetting a religion as well as displaying any positive or negative biases towards a form of faith. The third and final method is accommodationism, which states that if Congress can pass a law concerning religion if it aids all religions equally. 

Following the theme of today's lesson, the cases that we went over dealt with the constitutional issues surrounding the freedom of religion, such as the constitutionality of prayer within public schools. The cases that we reviewed Abingdon School v. Schempp, Murray b. Curott, and Lemon v. Kurtzman. 

The last case--which dealt with the legality of the State of Pennsylvania providing supplementary funding for private school--lead to a very important contribution to the judiciary system. This contribution, now known as the "Lemon Test", is legal measure that ensures that the government does not aid a religious establishment unless they pass the following three requirements :

  1. The institution must be working towards a secular purpose
  2. The principle and primary effect of the institution's actions must not lead to the aid or hindrance of a religion
  3. The government must partake in any form of "excessive entanglement"or needless bias
If an institution fails even one of the aforementioned criteria, then the government's intervention is deemed both illegal and unconstitutional. 

Almost the entirety of my lunch period was spent panicking. I had a total of two hours to eat, finalize my research paper topic, finish editing my debate speech, and study for my quiz. Needless to say, my lunch hour was abosoluelty nerve wrecking. I'm honestly not sure of how I was able to get all of my work done in time, but somehow I did it, and with very little time to spare. 

Aside from the quiz, the afternoon class was entirely dedicated to our debates. The judges for the debates included, of course, Jeffery, Luke, as well as a guest judge who served as a clerk in an Indian court house. The debates opened my team's case. Since burning the American flag is an act protected by the Constitution, my team decided to take a different approach and tired to prosecute the defendant for creating a potentially dangerous environment. Whilst taking the role of the Prosecution, my team repeatedly brought up the fact that the defendant was not arrested for burning the flag, but violating fire safety codes that forbid the public burning of any material without the explicit permission from the State. 

As the writer and orator for my side's closing speech, I was the last person to speak for either side, and as such I attempted to leave the biggest impact that I could. Despite, being a part of my school's Speech and Debate team, I'm not the best public speaker--in fact the main reason that I joined the team was to improve my skills! Despite my initial stammering I think that I fairly well in both speaking and defending my team's arguments. However, the judges didn't seem to agree. My team ended up losing 2-1 because we failed to clearly acknowledge the constitutional issue at hand. The judges, however, admitted that both sides did very well and that our debate was one of the best in years. 

When class was over, I met with Mrs. L and the others in order to meet with Mrs. Kristine Billmyer, the directer of the High School Program. To be honest, I was somewhat afraid of meeting Mrs. Billmyer--the idea of meeting such as an important woman was certainly intimidating. However, my fears were set aside when I actually met Mrs. Billmyer. She was both incredibly friendly and incredibly helpful in answering all of our questions. After taking a picture with Mrs. Billymyer, we said goodbye to the soon-to-be retired official and headed towards our next stop, Low Library.

While at Low Library we took the time to grab some informational brochures, and bask in the building's beautiful architecture. 

After our visit to the Library, we left the rest of the day to ourselves. Lenny and I initially made plans to go on a RA trip to see Moonside Kingdom, but for some reason we couldn't find the RA, so we opted to just stay and campus and talk about various movies instead. While it wasn't exactly what I expected, it was still a very nice conversation!

Although today was a bit busy, it was overall very nice day. Aside from the earlier panicking, I thoroughly enough my day today. A day such as this just makes me more anxious for the next.