More information

More info about the Advocacy for Policy Change initiative.

Read or download Advocacy for Policy Change: Brandeis students work to reform Massachusetts law (September 2010) [PDF], excerpts from the work of students in the Spring 2010 "Advocacy for Policy Change" course (LGLS 161b).

New Course: Advocacy for Policy Change

January 19, 2010

The Ethics Center has launched a new initiative designed to encourage citizens to bring moral and ethical insights to the process of making and revising laws. The centerpiece of this new initiative focuses on Brandeis undergraduate students, through a new course in legal studies called “Advocacy for Policy Change,” which will be taught in spring 2010 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 perceived as unjust or to propose new ones that redress social wrongs. Students will engage with the complexities of shaping laws for constituents who hold diverse viewpoints, and they will explore the nuances of how bills progress through the legislative process.

Guest presenters will include leaders of advocacy and non-profit organizations along with elected officials, including Massachusetts State Representative Jay Kaufman ’68, MA ’73 of Lexington. Representative Kaufman will introduce students to how work gets done in the State House, provide insider insights into the legislative process, and confer with students on their group research projects.

Legislative advocacy projects are a key feature of the course. Prof. Stimell and her students will choose an existing law they feel could be credibly challenged on ethical or moral grounds, or a proposed law that is being promoted to redress a perceived wrong.

Working in small teams, students will research the issues and design and implement an advocacy project designed to address the range of issues surrounding the particular law. Students will work with a member of the legislature ­– a legislature mentor ­– and/or a member of an advocacy organization ­– an advocacy mentor – who will help them understand the lawmaking process, connect with colleagues, and set realistic goals.

The issues students explore will be different each year; this year, choices include 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.

The course will conclude with a major event for the Brandeis community at which these issues will be presented and debated. Students will also have the opportunity to compete for funding to continue their projects beyond the scope of the course.

Advocacy for Policy Change is supported by generous multi-year commitments from Center board member Norbert Weissberg and his wife, former board member Judith Schneider.