Class name: “Constitutional Law and Civil Rights: Gender, Sexuality, and Race”
Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Gemma Donofrio ’12
Says Donofrio about her class:
This course provides an overview of constitutional law and its effects on civil rights, with a particular emphasis on sex, gender, sexual orientation, and race. The purpose of the Constitution, as originally drafted, was to create a government that could act on a national level while also protecting the fundamental rights of some individuals. We will trace the development of constitutional law and civil rights across many areas of American life from the Founding through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and then we will look to the Supreme Court and Congress over the last 75 years to examine the extent to which they have expanded or constrained civil rights.
I hope that students gain an understanding of the reasoning behind the civil rights cases that have shaped so many areas of our lives and that students have an opportunity to think critically about various approaches to civil rights and constitutional law.
Donofrio on why she wanted to teach this class:
I am a civil rights lawyer, and I created this class to provide an overview of some of the most important civil rights laws and cases throughout history. The civil rights landscape has changed so much in even just the past decade, and I am excited to explore that with students and hear their perspectives on a variety of civil rights-related topics.
Sertbulut on what makes this class unique:
Civil rights law is constantly changing and evolving, and this area has seen a lot of turmoil, in progressive and regressive ways, in recent years. I think this course offers students an opportunity to think about the civil rights laws that shape many aspects of our everyday lives, from university admissions to reproductive rights to voting rights, and how past and current case law discusses these issues with respect to race, gender, and sexuality. This course also allows us to analyze the Constitution’s relationship to civil rights, and how and whether our interpretation of its text may change over time.
We read a lot of cases throughout the semester in this course, so I also think it’s a good opportunity for students to see whether they enjoy reviewing and analyzing case law and whether they might want to attend law school in the future.