Advocacy for Policy Change


Vanessa Kerr '11 and Morgan Manley '11 (behind table, left to right) ask Brandeis community members to sign petitions and write letters in support of the MAssachusetts In-State Tuition Bill. (2010)

In 2009 the Ethics Center launched Advocacy for Policy Change, an initiative designed to encourage citizens to bring moral and ethical insights to the process of making and revising laws.

The centerpiece of this initiative focuses on Brandeis undergraduate students, through “Advocacy for Policy Change” (LGLS 161b), a Legal Studies Program course introduced in spring 2010, taught by Professor Melissa Stimell. “Advocacy for Policy Change” (LGLS 161b) combines an investigation of the ethical dilemmas that arise in the process of lawmaking with hands-on advocacy work with entities seeking to reform laws or to propose new ones.

Students choose existing laws they feel could be credibly challenged on ethical or moral grounds, or proposed laws being promoted to redress perceived wrongs. Working in small teams, students research the issues and design and implement advocacy projects designed to address the range of issues surrounding a particular law. Students work with a member of the legislature ­– a legislature mentor ­– and/or a member of an advocacy organization ­– an advocacy mentor – who help them understand the lawmaking process, connect with colleagues, and set realistic goals.

Advocacy for Policy Change (LGLS 161b) is currently being offered for Spring 2015

The issues students explore will be different each year; in 2009-10, choices included foreclosure reform, legislation to reduce the stigma of criminal records (CORI), immigrants' rights, and bills targeting the poor on issues of welfare and health care.

Guest presenters include leaders of advocacy and non-profit organizations along with elected officials, including Massachusetts State Representative Jay Kaufman ’68, MA ’73 of Lexington. Read a message from Representative Kaufman about the course.

The course concludes with "Present and Defend," a major event for the Brandeis community at which the issues are presented and debated by the students. Students also have the opportunity to compete for funding to continue their projects beyond the scope of the course.