Summer Spotlight: Olivia Louthen ’22 Explores Nexus of Policy and Journalism At Injustice Watch Internship

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor-in-Chief

Junior Public Policy and Law Major Olivia Louthen. Photo courtesy of Olivia Louthen.

Public Policy and Law major Olivia Louthen ’22 worked this past summer at Injustice Watch, a “non-partisan, not-for-profit multimedia journalism organization” in Chicago which focuses on exposing institutional corruption and holding public agencies and individuals accountable for their actions.

Louthen worked extensively as part of her internship to prepare a voter guide on judges seeking re-election. In the State of Illinois, judges are elected. Louthen supported work on a voter guide by Injustice Watch that focused on Cook County, which includes the Chicago metropolitan area. “Voters do not generally have that information when they get to the bottom of the ballot,” added Louthen, noting that having this information readily available and accessible is critical to keeping the electorate informed.

The voting guide includes information about “financial interests, courtroom behavior, and judicial decisions.” Louthen added that one of her most memorable and valuable experiences was bringing her interest and experience in legal studies to bear in analyzing and interpreting these decisions for voters in the November election.

Louthen also had the opportunity to pursue research on particular issues and assist Injustice Watch with investigations into critical government issues. One of her primary projects this summer focused on efforts by Chicago’s police union—the Fraternal Order of Police—to add some of its members to Illinois’ Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, which is responsible for investigating claims of police torture and referring egregious cases to Cook County’s Circuit Court.

Louthen’s reporting, in partnership with Adeshina Emmanuel, focused on bringing the bills that proposed this membership change to the attention of the public and sought to consider what this means from the perspective of victims of police injustice.

“Interviewing those victims was, frankly, heartbreaking,” Louthen told The Policy Voice, noting the conflicts that arise between having the police as a stakeholder in evaluating actions by other officers. The TIRC also holds some sway in seeing exonerations of incarcerated inmates because of improper policing practices and issues of profiling.

Because of her positive work with Injustice Watch this past summer, Louthen is continuing to intern over the winter break and will be looking at policing in the context of the larger Black Lives Matter movement and other racial injustice initiatives which began this past May.

Her work in Public Policy and Law at Trinity greatly influenced her time with Injustice Watch and offered her the “legal perspective” when many of her fellow interns had educational focuses in journalism. That perspective, Louthen told the Voice, was “helpful in navigating journalistic investigations that are as much about law and policy as about effective reporting.”

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PBPL Co-Sponsors Virtual Panels: A Conversation With Professor Falk and A Roundtable Discussion On Title IX at Trinity

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor-in-Chief

This week saw two virtual educational panels as the fall semester concludes, demonstrating the Public Policy and Law Program’s commitment to continuing to offer enriching, thoughtful educational opportunities for Trinity students during the pandemic.

***

The first, on Tuesday, Nov. 10, was a panel with the Program’s own Professor of the Practice in Public Policy and Law Glenn W. Falk, organized by the Trinity College Pre-Law Society. The conversation included a discussion of Professor Falk’s law school background, his own tips and recollections of the law school experience, and a thoughtful discussion of career opportunities available to students in the legal field.

The full recording of the event is available to the public here and also via the video below.

Featured In The Conversation With Professor Falk

Moderators: Pre-Law Society President Brendan W. Clark ’21 and Pre-Law Society Treasurer Pearl Rourke ’21.

Panelist: Professor of the Practice in Public Policy and Law Glenn W. Falk, Esq.

***

The second, on Thursday, Nov. 12, was a roundtable discussion on Trinity’s Interim Title IX policy and the future of Title IX under the Biden administration, organized by the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, The Trinity Tripod, and Trinity’s Program on Public Values.  The discussion was led exclusively by Trinity students, many of whom are PBPL majors and enrolled in the Title IX-Changing Campus Culture course taught by Program Director Renny Fulco, and featured a diverse array of perspectives at a time when sexual assault remains a prevalent concern on-campus.

The full recording of the event is available to the public here and also via the video below.

 

Featured In The Title IX Discussion

Moderator: Brendan W. Clark ’21, Editor-in-Chief of The Trinity Tripod and Senior Undergraduate Fellow at the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.

Student Panelists: SGA Senator and Student Representative to the Title IX Working Group Jaymie Bianca ’21, SGA Vice President for Communications Maddy White ’22, PBPL Major Connor Recck ’23, PBPL Major Zachary Joachim ’21, and Clare Donohoe ’22.

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Congratulations to PBPL Major Anthony Davis ’20, Fulbright ETA Recipient for Malaysia

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor-in-Chief

Senior Public Policy and Law Major Anthony Davis. Photo courtesy of Anthony Davis.

The Public Policy and Law Department is very proud of Anthony Davis ’20, a senior Public Policy and Law major who was announced as a recipient of the U.S. Student Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grant for Malaysia this week.

The grant allows Davis to “provide assistance to local English teachers” in Malaysia while “serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States,” Trinity reported.

Davis told Trinity that he “fundamentally believe[s] education is one of the greatest equalizers” and is “excited to lend my energies to the classroom and the Malaysian society overall.”

Public Policy and Law Program Director Renny Fulco told the College that “Anthony is intellectually engaged, passionate, and committed to social justice” and that he “believes in the transformative power of education to teach tolerance and compassion and open doors to opportunity.”

You can read more about Davis’ Fulbright award and his work educating students below or here. Congratulations again, Anthony!

Anthony Davis ’20 Awarded Fulbright Grant for Malaysia

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Student Scholarship on 1918 Influenza Featured By Trinity

By Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor-in-Chief

The SATC Training Corps at Trinity College in 1918, standing in front of Seabury Hall (which at that time had doors). They were quarantined as part of the College’s response in 1918.

I had the pleasure in early April to work with the Trinity College Watkinson Archives and the College’s History Department on a digital museum documenting Trinity’s experiences and response to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

Combining clippings from Tripod articles, College documents, and various bulletins and obituaries from College publications and the Hartford Courant, I have reconstructed what little we know of the impacts on Trinity and the alumni community. It is certainly safe to say that the 1918 response bears little resemblance to the Trinity experience in the present age.

While not directly policy-related, I’m pleased to share the feature here and the archive here. Together, they are important reminders of the importance of having a historical record for our College and do, so far as policy is concerned, perhaps attest to the lack of state and national responses to the 1918 Influenza. Our institution’s varied history is doubtless always important for all Trinity students to know.

Student’s Research on Trinity and 1918 Flu Pandemic is First Exhibit in Watkinson’s Virtual Museum

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Enjoy Your Civil Liberties While You Kill My Father

Liliana Polley

Contributing Writer

A woman wearing a face mask holds a placard as supporters of the Michigan Conservative Coalition protest against the state’s extended stay-at-home order. Photo courtesy of Seth Herald/Reuters.

Pandemics are not new to this nation. Since its founding, the United States has had its fair share of health emergency crises. This country has experienced the loss of billions of American citizens to illnesses like Smallpox (1633), the Spanish Flu (1918), SARS (2002), the Swine Flu, H1N1 (2009), and now, the new “novel” coronavirus or COVID-19. Although the idea of quarantine and shelter-in-place isn’t new either, the most powerful country in the world was not prepared for the pandemic we are facing today.

What went wrong? Who is to blame for the loss of so many lives? And why isn’t the federal government doing more to try to save the American people? Under the Commerce Clause, in matters of public health, the federal government has the right to prevent the spread of a disease. However, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state governments, not the federal governments, have most of the power to place people in isolation or quarantine under specific circumstances. It is important to note that in some cases, federal-state officials have overlapping roles: a national emergency is one of those cases.

Furthermore, under the Welfare Clause, Article I, Section VIII, Clause I of the U.S. Constitution, on issues of public health, the federal government has the power and the authority to act on behalf of the American people’s well-being. Unfortunately, Congress has been silent about its powers or how to proceed during the COVID-19 crisis we are facing. In addition, the current administration has not issued a nationwide quarantine or shelter in place order forcing many states to establish such policies to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, there are still several states that have not adopted these types of policies, and the government’s failure to impose their power over those states will be catastrophic. The problem with states having most of the power is that some states have decided not to enforce closings, social distancing, quarantine, or shelter in place policies. Thus, how can a pandemic like the one we are experiencing ever be stopped without the coordination of the federal government? While I understand that a nationwide lockdown might not be necessary, a statewide federal quarantine and isolation recommendation or executive order could save thousands, if not millions of lives.

In a country like the United States, the idea of social distancing or sheltering-in-place is not possible for many citizens. Many workers are considered essential; some must work to survive, some are homeless, some lack paid family or sick days, and some feel that the state’s recommendation to shelter in place is a threat to their civil liberties. The latter one is one I cannot sympathize with, and it is hard to comprehend. The reason? My elderly father, a 78-year-old man with a severe heart condition who could potentially die if exposed to COVID-19 thanks to an irresponsible person who wants to enjoy his “civil liberties.” If it is true that we, as Americans, have rights, we also have responsibilities. During a national epidemic crisis, one of those responsibilities is to use the honor system and do whatever we can to help the most vulnerable. In the absence of strong federal government actions during a health crisis emergency, we must exercise these responsibilities. If on the contrary, you decide to exercise your civil liberties right, whether you are ill or not, you might – without knowing it – be killing my father, along with several hundred more Americans.

While a federal mandate might not entirely stop people from gathering with family and friends or wandering the isles of a Walmart, perhaps a cautionary word about social distancing from the federal government might encourage citizens to follow the honor system and help save the lives of those we love. The life you help save could perhaps be one of your loved ones.

A national health emergency such as this one should not be considered merely a state issue, and a federal response federal is required. This crisis is one where we need a strong leader providing guidance and encouragement, sadly, this is not the case. In the absence of a competent leader, it is up to us, to each one of us, to take the lead, to help our neighbors, and to lift each other up. Without a capable government, it is our duty and our responsibility to take charge and do whatever we can to stop this virus.

Please practice self-distancing, stay safe and healthy, and please, please, do not kill my father just because you want to enjoy your “civil liberties.”

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Americans to Prepare to Sacrifice their Liberty Rights to Maintain their Rights to Life

By Micki Lee Coleman-Palansky ’20

Contributing Writer 

At 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve people across America countdown the seconds to the New Year. 7,477 miles away from the New York ball drop another ball was about to be dropped in Wuhan, China. On December 31st, the government in Wuhan confirmed that there were dozens of cases of an unknown virus. On January 11th, China reported it’s first death. By January 21th, the United States had confirmed its first case. Two days later, the boarders of Wuhan were cut off by the Chinese authorities. On January 30th, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency. [1] What ever happened to a happy New Year?

By March 26th the United States lead the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases, when exactly a week earlier China reported no new local infections from the previous day. [2] China was successful in combatting COVID-19 by imploring draconian measures. China enforced unprecedented containment and quarantining measures. The government, by the use of phone location and facial recognition data tracked all citizens movements. Anyone who had exposure was sent to designated facilities. Temporary isolation facilities, fever clinics, and fever checkpoints were around every corner. 60 million people were placed under lockdown in one central province of China alone. These measures won China a victory lap around the outbreak. [3] So why can’t the United States, the most capable, robust, strongest pass China in the race?

Americans’ obsession with liberty is the reason it will not win this race. “The Constitution puts few limits on the legal power to protect the nation from epidemic disease. But power without expertise and resources means little.” [4] While there is little expertise on this issue, everyone in America is an expert on personal freedom. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. When imposing isolation or quarantine orders, there is a liberty interest. There is a loss of liberty, a protected interest. [5] For many Americans, that liberty interest is much stronger than any health interest—it is the same reason why the government cannot get any significant federal gun, environmental, and healthcare reforms passed. America’s liberty interest trumps its’ life interest.

Brady Sluder, an “advocate” for liberty rights during the COVID-19 epidemic. Photo courtesy of WKRC.

Brady Sluder: “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.” Concerningly, this was the sentiment of people across America. Herds of people continue to usher themselves into churches, stores, and other clustered areas, despite the federal order to participate in social distancing.[6]

In Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) the Court held that state police powers include quarantine and isolation enforcement, although even before then it had been an assumed power of the state. Later, In 1905, the Supreme Court really addresses the core issue in public health law, which is the right of the state to endanger the individual for the benefit of society, in the case Jacobson v. Massachusetts. Here, the Court flushed out the fundamental difference between public health law and personal care services law or medical law. Medical care law is about the individual. There the worry is about autonomy, informed consent, and most of the modern scholarship tends to come from that direction. Public health law is about the protection of the State, or the protection of the heard.[7]

The language in Jacobson v. Massachusetts parallels the language in the national security issue at hand today. “The Court saw epidemic disease as the same level of threat to the state as invasion by a hostile military force and one that was much more frequent… From an original intent analysis, the power of the states to take decisive action to stop the spread of disease is clear.” However, “Power does not equate to wisdom.”[8]

A national lockdown could not be established by statute, but it could come as an executive order. However, the practical part of a federal lockdown would mean a member of the national guard every 100 square feet, which is difficult in practice and execution.[9] More challenging than these logistics of federal and local enforcement is the likely chance that a national quarantine order would result in some sort of revolt. Many people can tolerate minor restrictions and limitations on their liberty, but once that fine line is crossed, it is hard to turn back. Liberty over life— it is the trend we see time and time again. If Americans refuse to quarantine and the government fears too strongly of the draconian approach of China, the end of this nightmare will remain a distant dream.

[1] Taylor, Derrick B. “A Timeline of the Coronavirus Pandemic.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 13 Feb. 2020, http://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-timeline.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Cowling, Benjamin J., and Wey Wen Lim. “They’ve Contained the Coronavirus. Here’s How.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Mar. 2020, http://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/opinion/coronavirus-best-response.html.

[4] Volokh, Eugene. “The Coronavirus and the Constitution.” Reason, 9 Feb. 2020, reason.com/2020/02/10/the-coronavirus-and-the-constitution/.

[5] “The Constitution and the Coronavirus.” We the People Podcast, The National Constitution Center, 19 Mar. 2020, constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/podcast/the-constitution-and-the-coronavirus.

[6] Brito, Christopher. “Spring Breakers Say Coronavirus Pandemic Won’t Stop Them from Partying.” CBS News, 25 Mar. 2020, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/spring-break-party-coronavirus-pandemic-miami-beaches/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Volokh, Eugene. “The Coronavirus and the Constitution,” 2020.

[9] “The Constitution and the Coronavirus,” 2020.

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