April 4, 2008
â€œWalking up the steps to the U.S. Supreme Court felt a little intimidating, considering all the history there, (just in the building itself),â€ said Kimberly McCurrey, a junior journalism major from Rochdale.
â€œOur trip to D.C. was a wonderful experience. The highlight of the trip was hearing the arguments before the Supreme Court. I thought that I would be completely confused by the cases, but I was surprised by what I did understand,â€ said Derek Parkes, sophomore liberal studies major from Bloomfield and member of Mauleâ€™s political science honors class.
Hundreds of people were waiting outside the building for a chance to witness history being made inside the U.S. Supreme Court, and several students said they were offered money in exchange for their tickets inside. Most people entering the building are only permitted for three minutes at a time, and one student noted that there had been an Alaskan group of citizens camping outside the courthouse, in order to catch the ExxonMobil hearing determining liability in the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
â€œOften when people go to Washington, D.C., they tend to visit the historical monuments or make arrangement or stand in line for tickets to tour the Capitol Building. At the U.S. Supreme Court building they take pictures from the outside or go into the lower level to visit the museum and the shops,â€ Maule said. â€œVery, very few people go into the Supreme Court building and to witness oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. I want the students to experience what they would not experience on a typical trip.â€
Pro-life protesters were seen picketing outside the building, as well as those citizens voicing their support of abolishing the death penalty. Students commented that the actions they witnessed others taking really connected to their classâ€™ lessons.
â€œMaking a difference is one of the things we have been talking about in class and how little things that we do can make a big difference in someone elseâ€™s life. That is why it is important to get involved whether it is on campus or in your community,â€ said Amanda Turner, freshman accounting major from Martinsville, Ill.
Matthew Shidler, junior professional aviation flight major from Hymera agreed, â€œIt was inspiring to see people that were passionate about making changes in their government through their citizen rights.â€
â€œA lot of us are from different backgrounds and majors, but the issue of understanding our rights and how our government is run should be important to every person,â€ said Juanita Carothers, senior political science major from Indianapolis.
â€œWith democracy and role of citizens in decision making, there is no better place you can go than to Washington, D.C.,â€ Maule said.
The ISU students witnessed many cases during their visit. The cases that elicited the most excitement from students dealt with the governmentâ€™s legal definition of money laundering and another case about the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration when medications hurt the public. The money laundering case was brought before the Supreme Court after Humberto Cuellar was found guilty of money laundering for stashing over $80,000 under the floorboards of his car as he attempted to cross the Mexico border. Students found the pharmaceutical case especially interesting, considering the seriousness of faulty medication.
â€œThe Supreme Court makes so many decisions that affect our lives,â€ said Jenna Butler, junior legal studies major from Brownsburg.
Students also were given a private tour of the Capitol Building, and were able to sit in the gallery as the Senate was in session. Some students even brushed shoulders with senators passing in the halls.
â€œThis makes quite an impression on political science students who want toâ€¦ be a senator themselves,â€ Maule said.
Students also visited many attractions and historical sites throughout the capital, including changing of the guard and many of the nationâ€™s most popular monuments from Jefferson , FDR, Lincoln, Vietnam, Korea, World War II and the George Washington monuments to name a few. Students also viewed Smithsonianâ€™s and famous documents in the National Archives as well.
â€œMy favorites were the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. The Arlington Cemetery was also very moving. I saw a memorial for the Challenger space crew and the Columbia crew. There were so many museums that it was just impossible to see it all,â€ Parkes said.
Some students spotted Vice President Dick Cheney at their hotel and were excited that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference outside their hotel during their visit.
â€œI think going on this trip and especially going to the Supreme Court has made me more excited about learning. Iâ€™m very grateful of the opportunity ISU provided us with going on this trip,â€ Butler said.
Contact: Linda Maule, Indiana State University, associate professor of political science, at 812-237-3941 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Amanda Bedwell, Indiana State University, communications and marketing intern, at 812-237- 3773 or at email@example.com
Students in Linda Maule's university honors class have been discussing the topic of American citizenship this semester and the classroom lessons were brought to life recently when students visited Washington, D.C. to witness arguments before the United States Supreme Court.