Gerrymandering Civic Issues Post #10

Justice portrays herself as a bronze statue brandishing scales.

She determines the weight of guilt with her hands. Fortunately, her eyes are covered with a blindfold. Thus, Justice holds no bias, but the populace does.

Equal representation holds the human condition of bias in check. However, equal representation cannot exist in a democracy hell-bent on gerrymandering.

This is not a new issue, as gerrymandering has existed within the United States since its inception. Nevertheless, the term was coined during 1812. The then governor of Massachusetts, Governor Elbridge Gerry, passed a law redistricting the state in favor of the Democratic-Republicans Party. In response, the Federalist editors at the Boston Gazette, coined the term “gerrymander” as a portmanteau of the last name of the governor and the shape of one of the new congressional districts (a salamander). This political commentary was accompanied by the following cartoon:

In its worst form, gerrymandering takes the people’s vote and makes it worthless. This is not only destructive to the election process but also to the essence of democracy. For when a single person is unduly disenfranchised then the government becomes tyrannical. A government that does not allow the will of the people to determine its action becomes tyrannical. In many ways, the United States, a beacon of democratic rule the world over, is the quintessential example of gerrymandering. For this the question must be asked: how many of our elected government officials would be in office if gerrymandering was extinct?

If we take a look back on United States Supreme Court cases, it is evident that gerrymandering is, without a shadow of a doubt, unlawful.

Take Baker v. Carr for example.

This landmark SCOTUS case helped set the precedent for “one man, one vote.” Moreover, it set the precedent that federal courts have the duty to  intervene on the people’s behalf when their state legislature impedes on their right to representation in their government.

Image result for baker v carr

Nevertheless, some of the dissenters of the Baker v. Carr case believe that the Supreme Court acted outside its jurisdiction by making political redistricting a part of its duties. The critics argue that the Supreme Court reacted in a power-hungry move. In a less contentious case,  Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that an independent redistricting commission has the right to draw the political districts of the state as long as the commission is put into place by the people of the state at the ballot box. Let’s take a closer look at the case: 

At the turn of the 21st century, Arizonans initiated the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) via referendum ballot in the form of Proposition 106. The Commission ordered for two Democrats, two Republicans, and one Independent. Furthermore, the Proposition altered the state constitution by depriving the legislature of redistricting power. The power transferred to the newly-founded AIRC due to the will of the people. However, the government never denies itself power without contention. In 2012, the Republican-majority-legislature accused the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission of unconstitutionality.  They concluded that the Commission contravened the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution. The Clause states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof…”. The legislature brought their case before a district court arguing over the usage of the world legislature within the confines of the Elections Clause. Unfortunately for Arizona’s government, the court ruled in favor of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, stating that the Proposition fully aligned with constitutional boundaries. Arizona’s legislature appealed their case to the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the Court ruled by a 5-4 majority that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission followed the Constitution flawlessly. 

Thus, it is important that the voting-age populace of the united States realizes that they have the power to change their congressional districts by a referendum. The struggle however lies within getting the topic on the ballot.

In current events, the gerrymandering question has been brought to Penn State’s own backyard.  Since the Republican legislature of the state and the Democratic governor could not compromise on a map, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stepped in and created a more competitive map.

It seems that gerrymandering may persist into the foreseeable future.

After all, those in power do not relinquish their power voluntarily.

Freedom of Speech: Civic Issues #9

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

These words are the foundation of everything. I am not being dramatic. Anytime any of us decide to open our mouth, the first amendment protects what we are saying, with restrictions of course.

Rhetoric, Deliberation, Commonplaces. Everything we have learned in this class can be connected to the first amendment.

Some countries don’t have freedom of speech. Some countries look like this:

Well, we will never know what it said.

Some people are scared that freedom of speech is diminishing amongst the masses of the United States. These people believe that if your belief is in the minority it is not protected. These people are dumb and clearly do not recognize that the first amendment protects your right to believe in what you want.

The fact of the matter is that just because your belief is in the minority, and not accepted by mainstream society, does not mean that freedom of speech is somehow disappearing.

Stories like these are preposterous:

Free Speech is Disappearing, But Do We Care?

Moreover, the fact that you cannot say things now is somewhat progressive. So yes, you may say the n-word, spic, beaner, or faggot, because that is protected by the first amendment. However, mainstream society dictates that this is wrong; which it is. Therefore, free speech is not diminishing, your ability to say discriminatory things is.

Nevertheless, I am more than happy to let people say anything they like. Please tell me to “hop back over the border” because I will correct you and tell you why this is wrong. In this way, when ignorant people say ignorant things they can be corrected. That is the beauty of the free exchange of thought.

IF the right to free speech is under threat then why does this happen:

People can disagree, as most members of both of the above marches would disagree with each other.

That is what makes the first amendment so beautiful, its ability to survive the ages. There is always the idea that freedom of speech is being impeded. That is why you elect representatives that make it a part of their agenda. If you care so much about your issues then vote; vote for freedom.



Civic Issues Blog #8 The Right to Civil Disobedience Within MLK Doctrine

“Cuando la tiranía es ley, la revolucíon es orden.” When tyranny is law, revolution is order. This is perhaps the best-known sentiment from the late Puerto Rican revolutionary Pedro Albizu Campos (Santiago 27). Extending far beyond just Campos, revolution resides in the veins of every Puerto Rican. After centuries of colonization, Puerto Rico holds the unique status of remaining a testing ground of tyranny. From Columbus’ landing to La Ley de La Mordaza to the situation in Vieques, Puerto Ricans have fallen prey to foreign powers that claim to have their best interests at heart.

This is not to say that Boricuas1have stood idly by as their natural rights were tread upon. They have risen up from time to time to protest injustices. During much of the 20th century, the United States Navy utilized the island of Vieques, part of Puerto Rico, as a testing ground for numerous weapons. Unfortunately, many of the actions by the United States would harm many of the island’s inhabitants. As a result, the Navy was met with much criticism and civil disobedience. Obviously, this idea of civil disobedience is nothing new.

Inspired by the musings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the citizens of Vieques revolted, not with arms, but with words.

After all, the pen is mightier than the sword.

First and foremost, to determine the validity of Puerto Rico’s participation in civil disobedience, it is obligatory to define the validity of civil disobedience in the first place. Basically, the justification of civil disobedience is found within a strict test established by Dr. Martin Luther King.

He constructed a litmus test for the African-American community to participate in civil disobedience during the Birmingham protests, which can be expounded upon to include all civil rights movement.

First, a marginalized community must determine whether an oppressive majority suppresses their rights, infringe upon their humanity, and commit grave injustices.

Second, the marginalized community must negotiate with the majority in an appeasement to diplomacy, after all, diplomacy can save lives. Third, the oppressed minority should self-purify itself as to not commit the same grave acts as its oppressors. Lastly, if the aforementioned fails, direct action, in the form of civil disobedience, should be premeditatedly utilized to affect change (King 1).

In order to determine if any injustices occurred to the Puerto Rican populace, the scrutinization of its history is appropriate.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus landed his ships on the island’s beaches and everything changed. From then, until the present-day Puerto Ricans have been subjugated to the worst humanity can conjure up. Soon after his arrival, Columbus demanded the native people, the Taínos, to relinquish any gold they possessed (Rigau 5).

The Taínos would fight back, but would ultimately become decimated by disease and war (Rigau 5).

Hundreds of years later, the stubborn spirit of their ancestors inspired Puerto Ricans to rise up against their Spanish colonizers.

The Grito de Lares (Outcry of Lares) set a precedent that rests in the recesses of every Puerto Rican mind. Revolutionaries such as Ramón Emeterio Betances and Segundo Ruiz Belvis led an armed rebellion in hopes of creating an independent Puerto Rico free from social stratification (Bergad 617).

The rebellion eventually was quelled by Spanish counterattacks, but it delivered a strong message via the use of extreme social disobedience in the face of tyranny (Bergad 618).

Spain would eventually give Puerto Rico autonomy in 1898, a few months before the Spanish-American war (Aponte 61).  

After analyzing the history of Puerto Rico pre-United States, it is imperative to descend into its relationship with the United States after its annexation. The island’s unique citizenship status with the mainland has caused tremendous acts of civil disobedience by the islanders.

The main question is if Puerto Ricans have justification to disobey laws. Primarily, the first culprit of oppression, the Jones Act of 1917, delivered a blow to the Puerto Rican Independence movement. The Act gifted Puerto Ricans a statutory citizenship. This gave the United States the ability to draft Puerto Rican males into the United States Armed Forces during World War One (Santiago & Meléndez 16).

In other words, Puerto Rican males over the age of eighteen were obliged to obey the words of a Congress and President they did not elect. Therefore, did Puerto Ricans drafted into the war have the right to protest a seemingly unjust law?

Before answering the aforementioned quandary, it is of the utmost importance to define what is a just or unjust law.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is, “contrary to the public good or in respect to the author” (174). In laymen’s terms, an unjust law is defined by its utility towards a magnum opus, a greater good, or if the law is within the realm of jurisdiction of the leader who dictated it.

Drawing from this mantra, it is limpid that the Jones Act of 1917 is contrary to the public good as it denies the constitutional rights of United States citizens (Santiago & Meléndez 16).

Additionally, since the law was passed without “consent of the governed”, meaning that the author of the law had no right to create it, the law becomes null and void. Once again in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “the like are acts of violence rather than law” (174).

The next part of the litmus test, negotiation, must be met before Puerto Rican civil disobedience can be justified. Within this branch of the test, it is explicit that the Puerto Rican experience regarding negotiation parallels that of African-Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dictated that, “a law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had not part in enacting or devising the law” (4). Employing King’s rhetoric, conclusions can be drawn that any law passed by the United States Congress should be null and void in Puerto Rico.

This is due to the fact that Puerto Ricans on the island cannot vote for the President, and have no membership in Congress; thus, they have “not [taken] part in enacting or devising the law” (Murriel 1). Since Puerto Ricans have no voice in the basic workings of its government, then negotiation cannot occur.

Evidently, the absence of the ability to petition a citizen’s own government results in one thing: the failure of negotiation. Consequently, the second branch of Dr. Martin Luther King’s test is met.

Therefore, through civil disobedience, the Islanders took back their rights that a tyrannical government stole. Their disobedience was justified by their respect for the litmus test established by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Letter from Birmingham Jail”.

Deliberation Nation Response to Other Group

I attended a deliberation hosted in the State College Community Center on February 22nd. The topic was about “penny-pinching” to afford college. The introductory team talked for a short amount of time, so I was still generally confused as to what we were going to talk about.

The first approach made no coherent sense. There was no actual money-saving technique explained. Their approach was basically keeping the billing and tuition the same. In all, everyone in the audience was confused, as were some of their own team members.

The second approach proposed the idea of paying for Penn State amenities by how you use them. For example, if you do not use the gym you should not have to pay for it. Moreover, they talked about paying for college per credit or entering a better lab by paying more for it. I worried about how this would affect students of different economic backgrounds. I questioned the moderators about how the college, specifically the bursar and financial aid office, would handle the different billings of thousands of students. Apparently, there is no clear-cut answer for this. I felt that their second approach did a sub-par job at explaining their approach and most of the audience was confused.

The third approach was by far the best approach. The moderators articulated their proposal very well and it made sense. Their idea was to cheapen tuition by opening up some of the amenities to the greater Penn State community. This would include allowing alumni and citizens of the surrounding areas to utilize the library and gym facilities. Apparently, this was allowed before the Sandusky scandal. Many questions were raised about student safety. I answered these comments with the obvious: there is more student on student crime in State College than non-students on students. Most people also expressed concern about working out near “adults.” I expressed the idea that technically we are all adults. Furthermore, non-students can already use the library and have access to many public buildings like the HUB. Actually, most of the buildings on campus can be accessed by the public as a vast majority of buildings are not locked. I believed that the only actual concern for student safety was in the gyms. The moderators could have fostered a better deliberative atmosphere by moving the discussion away from the idea of safety in the gym. In all, this approach did the best.

Overall, I found this deliberation to be interesting as it pertained to me greatly. I am a college student paying for my own education, so any cut in expenses would be greatly appreciated. The deliberation team for this event did a fair job, and I learned a lot by attending and participating.

Civic Issues Blog Post 7 “Juan Crow”

Should it surprise us that racism still exists in the United States?

The answers vary to this question. The most common answer amongst the white population is yes.

After Obama got elected racism died, right (Alexander 2)?  

However, most other demographics would most likely profess no.

Far too often it is evident that racism persists to raise its ugly head in our beloved land of ‘equality’. Whether it be a violent lynching or housing discrimination, racism still has yet to be extinguished. Michelle Alexander expresses her concerns over a new tool of racism in “The New Jim Crow”.

It is irrefutable that a new racial caste system has developed in the criminal justice system.

In her enlightening expose, Alexander reveals the racist techniques of the American judicial system since the start of the War on Drugs. An interesting point she brings up is the idea of colorblindness. Often many white people describe themselves as colorblind. There is an inevitable danger with this idea.

Racial disharmony in prison systems do not need blatant prejudice to survive; it needs indifference (Alexander 14). This is paralleled in countless works on the subject. According to White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era, “claims of colorblindness really are modern-day bigotry” (Bonilla-Silva).

Interestingly enough, a Georgetown University study found that “A solid majority (58%) of white Millennials believe that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities” (Jones et al. 17).

This idea of “reverse racism” is a result of colorblindness. A threat to white supremacy, “reverse racism” inhibits the progress of real racial harmony. There can be no amending the racial caste system until white millennials cast aside the thought of institutional racism against themselves and the idea of colorblindness.

In response to Alexander’s plea, “I hope other scholars and advocates will pick up where the book leaves off and develop the critique more fully,”

I answer with my take: ‘The New Juan Crow’.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the criminal justice system has attacked Hispanics in the United States. The facts are incontestable.

Overall, the United States incarcerates, “more than 1% of Hispanics in seven states.”

Furthermore, “sixteen states have Hispanic rates of incarceration higher than the highest state rate (Oklahoma) for whites” (Mauer & King 13). Some places in the United States incarcerate at an even higher rate: specifically, Pennsylvania. The evidence is damning; Pennsylvania has a race problem. The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit in Washington D.C., strengthens this claim in its report “Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity”. The report states that Pennsylvania’s incarceration rate for Hispanics is 1,714 people per 100,000. This is not only double the national average at 742; it is the highest in the nation. One of the highest incarcerating counties in Pennsylvania for Hispanics is Cambria County. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, Hispanics comprise 1.5% of the population of Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Shockingly, the jail population of Cambria County is a dizzying 46% Hispanic. Meanwhile, the white populace accounts for 93.9% of the county population and makeup 40.2% of the jail population (Vera Institute Incarceration Rates).

This confidently demonstrates discrimination in the criminal justice system on the federal level, as well as on the Pennsylvania state level towards Hispanics.

What can account for this? Some might suggest that Hispanics commit more crimes in Pennsylvania than whites. Facts prove to be an uneducated man’s bane. There is an increasing drug problem in the state (Neese 1).

Therefore, drawing conclusions from Alexander’s research, it is easily identifiable that Hispanics are, along will African Americans, punished at a higher rate for drugs in this “War on Drugs” compared to whites in Pennsylvania. It is also pertinent to know that, ‘whites [are] far more successful than Latinos in the plea-bargaining process; in fact, “at virtually every stage of pretrial negotiation whites are more successful than nonwhites”’ (Alexander 115).

Whites have an advantage of avoiding sentencing for drug-related crimes.

Overall, Michelle Alexander shines an important light on the racial backlash against progress. She demands for academics to carry on her thesis to other marginalized groups.

I do the same after reporting on the state of discrimination against Hispanics in the Keystone State. Hopefully, we will reach the day where all of us can “sit at the table of brotherhood”, but until that day we must stay vigilant. Then someday instances of racism will be far and few between. 


Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Place of

Publication Not Identified: New, 2016. Print.

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era. Boulder, CO:

Lynne Rienner, 2001. Print.

Mauer, Marc, and Ryan S. King. “Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and

Ethnicity.” (2007): 1-19. The Sentencing Project. Web. 3 Aug. 2017.

Neese, Brian. “The Worsening Heroin Epidemic in Pennsylvania.” Alvernia University Online.

N.p., 31 Oct. 2016. Web. 03 Aug. 2017.

Justice, Vera Institute of. “Incarceration Trends.” Vera Institute of Justice. N.p., n.d. Web. 03

Aug. 2017.

Transition, A. Generation In. Religion, Values, and Politics (2012): n. pag. Public Religion

Research Institute and Berkley Center at Georgetown University, 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 3 


Against Solitary Confinement Civic Issues Post 6

The Eighth Amendment states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments be inflicted.”

However, the United States presently violates millions of prisoners’ eighth amendment rights each year by subjecting them to solitary confinement.

This practice must be abolished from our prison systems due to the fact that it is cruel, unusual, and downright torturous.

For instance, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, “Researchers have demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, lethargy or chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, fear of impending nervous breakdowns and higher rates of hypertension and early morbidity. Other documented effects include obsessive ruminations, confused thought processes, an oversensitivity to stimuli, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, emotional flatness, mood swings, chronic depression, feelings of overall deterioration, as well as suicidal ideation.”

These symptoms are evident throughout all inmates subjugated to the unfair practice of solitary confinement. Luis Esquivel, a prisoner currently placed in solitary confinement for the past 13 years, stated, “I feel dead. It’s been thirteen years since I have shaken someone’s hand and I fear I’ll forget the feel of human contact.”

The Center also found that, “International human rights experts and bodies have also condemned indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement, recommended that the practice be abolished entirely and argued that solitary confinement is a human rights abuse that can amount to torture. In August 2011, Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, concluded that even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and 15 days is the limit after which irreversible harmful psychological effects can occur. Other independent human rights bodies at the UN have also expressed concern about the overall use of solitary in U.S. prisons. However, many prisoners in the United States have been isolated for far longer than just 15 days.”

And that would be an understatement. “At Pelican Bay, hundreds of prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for over a decade; 78 prisoners have languished under these conditions for over 20 years,” as per a congressional hearing on solitary confinement. Just think, 20 years in a cell block the size of a large closet. No windows. No sunlight. No talking.

No more.

No longer can we idly sit by and watch the systematic abuse of constitutional rights.

The international community has denounced the practice of solitary confinement based on countless studies and testimonies.

We as a nation cannot take pride in ourselves as a model of democracy for the world when we subdue our prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment.

The Nature of Man Civic Issues




All elements of our state of nature, at least according to Hobbes. On the opposite side of the spectrum resides Aquinas, arguing for a more benevolent view of man. Either way, they were both legendary philosophers; they just happened to have two very different views on mankind. Nonetheless, the debates they raise all rely on a very explicit quandary: what are men inclined to: good or evil?

First of all, it is imperative to note that Hobbes does not have a summum bonum – a greater good. The idea of a greater good generally shapes the outlook of any person on life and the purpose of it. Therefore, prior to divulging into the inner thoughts of Hobbes, it can already be discerned that he views mankind negatively. If there is no greater good then facilitating your fellow man is futile.

Hobbes delivers innumerable examples of this reasoning in Leviathan. He states that, “where [there is] no law, [there is] no injustice” (Hobbes, “Leviathan”). By this reasoning, Hobbes develops his “State of Nature” theory. Simply stated, the theory suggests a hypothetical society where there are no laws or government. This world is, unsurprisingly, corrupt and evil.

However, there is salvation from this inert state of destruction: the Social Contract. Hobbes proposes that the only reason man does not digress into this state and accepts a social contract is a fear of death, the desires of a “commodious living,” and a “hope of industry to obtain them” (the desires aforementioned) (“Leviathan”).

Some people believed that Hobbes ideas were insane, so he called them out. He wrote, “Let him therefore consider with himselfe, when taking a journey, he armes himselfe… he locks his chests; and this when he knows there bee Lawes… what opinion he has of his fellow subjects …Does he not there as much accuse mankind by his actions, as I do by my words” (Hobbes, “Leviathan”).

In other words, if we take precautions against our fellow man, even though there are laws that serve as deterrents, we too believe in Hobbes’ pessimistic view of man’s habit. However, Hobbes is not alone in his reasoning. Hobbes’ theories transcended generations, even inspiring one of our founding fathers James Madison.

In Federalist #51, he states, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary” (Madison, “Federalist 51”). In layman’s terms, Madison believed that men were not angels, that man is fallible.

Overall, it is indisputable that Hobbes’ possessed a despondent perspective on humanity.

On the other hand, Aquinas had a brighter view of mankind. He wrote that, “Because in man there is first of all an inclination to good in accordance with the nature which he has in common with all substances” (Aquinas 165). Interestingly enough, Aquinas also believed in a special exemption for virtuous people from law.

He prescribes, “Wherefore in this sense the good are not subject to the law, but only the wicked” (Aquinas 175). I heartily dissent from Aquinas’ position on this matter.

The main flaw in his argument lies in the fact that who is to determine the definition of a “good” man? Is “good” a measure of ethical quality or utility?

Nonetheless, it is limpid that Aquinas believes in the good of mankind.

In conclusion, the musings of both Hobbes and Aquinas have validity. Regardless, I believe that mankind is not inherently good or evil. Throughout history, humanity has committed amazing acts of benevolence and horrendous acts of evil. To describe human nature as explicitly good or evil is a misnomer, for humanity is too diverse to be limited to either or.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas. (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 16 February 2017. <http://www.sophia->.

Hobbes, Thomas. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 February 2017. <


Madison, James. “The Federalist No. 51.” The Federalist #51. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 February 2017.


Civic Issues Prompt #2

Mental Health on College Campuses:

More and more students need mental health services. But colleges struggle to keep up

Mental health is a severe problem on college campuses; this is evident. The above articles corroborate my sentiment.

I find the first article to be very interesting. The idea of using rental dogs to relieve stress is pretty cool. I would definitely invest in renting a dog from the local humane society to help myself, as well as the shelter. This is all taken from the caption of the photo at the top of the article.

Now, the actual content of the article also fascinates me. The lead sentence is such a common occurrence in the current times, ” a campus seemingly full of young, healthy college kids — Benjamin Johnson didn’t see a lot of serious physical emergencies.” This leads to the concerning fact: the decreasing quality of our mental health is the silent disease. It is filled with stigma and many times the deliberation of how to solve the problem is pushed to the sides.

Another quote from this article really resonated with me, “Seeing firsthand mental health crises and feeling pretty powerless to do anything about it.” This attests to the problem of mental health. How can we solve a problem that we feel powerless to?

Also, the article has certain graphics that may prove helpful in creating my group’s pamphlet.

Another interesting point the article makes is the fact that there is a more diverse group of students on today’s campuses compared to in the past. Therefore, the psychological services on campus need to diversify to meet the current needs. So a question that could be posed to assist in the deliberative process is: How will the increasingly diverse student body on college campuses affect our response to the mental health crisis?

Now, the second article has a very stunning photo at the very beginning. The photo utilizes bookbags to depict the more than 1,000 college students who commit suicide every year.

The second article, a New York Times piece, also accounts the mental health story of an international student. This is an interesting perspective, as confronting a mental health crisis, as well as culture shock, can lead to an even harder time overcoming the underlying issues.

In the body paragraphs, the piece focuses on different studies on the mental health of college students. For example, the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that a record of 11.9% of students in 2016 felt “frequently” depressed” Moreover, the Institute also found, for the first time, that 47% of students felt that their mental state was above average as compared to their classmates.

A more interesting report, conducted by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State, discovered that upwards of 26% of college students had purposely injured themselves (e.g. cutting, etc.) in the 2015-2016 academic year. Even more shocking, the suicide attempt rate increased to 33.2% from 23.8% from 2011 to 2016.

This article, as well as the previous one, also mentioned the increasingly diverse student body on college campuses. There are more students with older parents. There are more international students. There are more students of color. There are more LGBT+ students. There are more problems than ever and the outdated systems of dealing with mental health are not keeping up. In an everchanging world, these systems have remained static.

Adding on to the mental toll of college is the astronomical price of tuition. Students who attend college on scholarships feel the intense pressure to attain good grades to even stay in college. This affects both academic scholars and athletes here on scholarships.

According to the New York Times article, four colleges, Duke, Davidson, Johnson C. Smith University, and Furman, are pairing together to study the mental health of the class of 2018. Utilizing a$ 3.4 million budget, the colleges will follow their respective students from freshman to senior year. The project will ask volunteers about their family background, eating habits, physical activity rates, and much more to gain a sense of how different variables affect the mental health of college students.

Another promising study is the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge. this study will analyze 100,000 people to discover the causes of depression. The research team will analyze students, staff, and faculty members.

Overall, from analyzing the two above articles, I propose two questions to assist in the deliberation of the mental health topic:

  1. How does the increasingly diverse student body on college campuses affect the way we must solve the mental health crisis?
  2. How can we as a university end the stigma around mental health issues?







Civic Issues Prompt 1

Today, as in any other day, undocumented immigration is in the headlines. DACA, the State of the Union Address, and seemingly every-other tweet from a certain account speak to the controversy that is undocumented immigration. In today’s civic issues post, we will be discussing the comment section under the linked article (above).

An interesting point that I am going to focus on is the question posed by Gastil under Disagreement and Persuasion in Chapter 2: If conversations are so often among like-minded persons, can the really be deliberative? The premise is if we only talk to people that are like-minded we miss out on constructive critique. We do not have to defend our positions; and, as a result, our knowledge of the subject may fail or falter once confronted with dissuading evidence. In this way, we discover that deliberations and debate, even within a public forum such as a comment thread under a news article, can prove to be a source of intense discussion that can sway the masses, or even you.

The first comment sets the tone for the rest of the thread. “aleatico” writes with a matter-of-fact tone that is not open to deliberation. This type of tone is not conducive for deliberation, as no other person can possibly change the opinion stated. “chiefwiley” then responds to “aleatico” in the same manner. Surprisingly, both commenters are civil. However, both are also so cemented in their beliefs on undocumented immigration that this small-scale deliberation or debate will not broaden either’s understanding.

Another concerning comment was by “proudprogressive”. They said, “So…how long do you figure it will take Rump to get the death camps up and running again?” This is terribly alarmist, describing an extreme as a vain attempt to evoke emotion, the logical fallacy of argumentum ad passiones. Their comment does not add any useful information to the discussion forum because they do not utilize facts. Their comment is intended to start an argument, not host a deliberation.

There are hundreds of more comments under the article that could possibly host a deliberation. However, I will not read 316 comments to determine something that is more than likely possible.

Overall, this article discusses a topic that is more conducive to a debate rather than a deliberation. The immigration discussion has two very distinct sides, with various fringe positions off of it.


Constitutional Interpretation

Whether the Constitution is living or dead is a question that has perplexed legal minds since the ratification. Perpetuating this quandary is Ronald Dworkin, writer of “Taking Rights Seriously”. In his prose, he compares and contrasts the two schools of thought designated “judicial activism” and “judicial restraint”.

First, Dworkin notes that judicial activism must meet certain requirements. He writes, “Only if such moral rights exist in some sense can activism be justified as a program based on something beyond the judge’s personal preferences” (Dworkin 8). Complementing his reasoning are the ideas of the Warren Court. No other Court in the history of the United States was so progressive in terms of racial equality. Handing down the precedents set in cases such as Baker v. Carr and Brown v. Board of Education, the Warren Court established just what judicial activism is. It relied in a “living” interpretation of the Constitution. However, they were not without their critics, as is evident by the likes of Governor George Wallace and others asking for the impeachment of Chief Justice Warren. They dissented by stating those “moral rights” undoubtedly exist for African Americans as laid out in the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. It states, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property…” (Staff, LII).

Secondly, a key point of the judicial activism perspective is the belief that the Constitution is a living, breathing document. At its center, the dogma of a living Constitution is not a revolt against the integrity of the original document but instead keeping the document applicable to the modern-day struggles of the 21st Century in order to avoid curbing the rights of citizens. However, Dworkin warns that “Judicial activism runs the risks of tyranny.” He is not alone in this fear. It is a legitimate concern that nine people in the United States hold the power to manipulate the words of our most sanctified document to fit an agenda: whether it be a good or bad one.

This is where the argument of judicial restraint comes into play.

Dworkin poses that judicial restraint is somewhat irresponsible in a democracy. He references Learned Hand, who said, “It is wrong to suppose, that claims about moral rights express anything more than the speakers’ preferences” (9). In other words, it would be wrong, tyrannical in fact, to allow the minds of Justices to determine what morals are, as morals are defined explicitly by the mind of the beholder.

How can a person conclude what moral rights exist, let alone persist that another’s morals are, in fact, immoral?

Furthermore, proponents of judicial restraint propose that the judiciary is taking the place of the legislature when deciding cases via a living Constitution. Dworkin muses, “it [The Supreme Court] is usurping the place of the legislature, for the job of the legislature, representing the majority, is to decide whose preferences shall govern” (9). However, a fault in this argument occurs since the beliefs of the majority can become oppressive. If the “tyranny of the majority” determines that one race of people is, contrary to the rhetoric of the Constitution, subjugated below another, then does the Court not have the moral and legal duty to “usurp the place of the legislature”?

In the end, the argument between the two schools of Constitutional theory will continue to be fought between mysterious figures in black cloaks, wielding a pen in one hand and the Constitution in another. Arguably, the Constitution is both alive and dead. Without judicial activism, race relations in this union would still be stuck in 1860. On the other hand, without judicial restraint, the Supreme Court would violate the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution.

Either way, the Constitution will persist whether or not her interpreters reach a consensus.


Dworkin, Ronald. “Taking Rights Seriously.” (1977): n. pag. Pennsylvania State University.

Web. 25 January 2017.

Staff, LII. “14th Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute. N.p., 12 Nov. 2009. Web. 25

January 2017. <>.

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