You are here

Letter from the Chair, Winter 2023

Submitted by Stephen Dunne on January 3, 2023 - 12:18pm
Chair Prof.  John Wilkerson
Chair Prof. John Wilkerson

I’ll be teaching US Congress winter quarter for the first time in several years. My class includes a legislative simulation and there are always experienced student government types ready to show what they know. But I especially appreciate the students who discover a new talent in the midst of the class – for example, they learn that they are good at building coalitions or that they enjoy public speaking. And then there are the students who apply what they think they know about lawmaking with gusto. My all-time favorite thought that the way to get things done was to threaten her colleagues. She failed miserably, but taught everyone an important lesson about what not to do in the process!

I was reminded of that student while watching the House Speaker election on C-Span. The 20 or so McCarthy opponents, including Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) were very articulate in describing problems with the current governing process. Increasingly, lawmaking revolves around large ‘omnibus’ bills negotiated by party leaders with limited opportunities for member input. But, as a New York Times article pointed out, the opponents’ proposed reforms, such as open floor amendment procedures, will likely make governing more difficult rather than less. The Democrats learned this the hard way when they proposed a similar set of reforms in 2007. The House minority party used the amendment process to as a dilatory tactic akin to the filibuster in the Senate.  It looks like we will be watching a new generation of lawmakers learn about governing over the next couple of years!

We are very excited to have a new undergraduate academic advisor, Danny Ayala Robles. Danny is young and dynamic and will have no difficulty connecting with current students, including our veterans and underrepresented students. We also welcome Visiting Professor Dr. Chiara Pierbon, an expert on Central Asia and Europe who will be teaching courses in Political Science and the Jackson School of International Studies. Chiara graciously agreed to share her perspective on the regional and international implications of the war in Ukraine.

Finally, mark your calendar for our next faculty panel on February 27. I will moderate an interdisciplinary group of experts reflecting on the economic, political and ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence or AI. This event will be on Zoom – I hope you can make it!