Advocacy for Policy Change (LGLS 161b)

Advocacy for Policy Change (LGLS 161b), a Legal Studies course introduced in spring 2010, serves as the academic centerpiece of the ENACT program.

Taught by Melissa Stimell, director of the Ethics Center, the course 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.

The issues students explore will be different each year; past topics have included foreclosure reform, legislation to reduce the stigma of criminal records, immigrants' rights and bills targeting the poor on issues of welfare and health care.

Guest presenters include leaders of advocacy and nonprofit organizations along with elected officials, including former Massachusetts state Rep. Jay Kaufman ’68, MA’73, of Lexington.

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.