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bigdataData Analytics and Democratic Processes

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ira Rubinstein, Senior Fellow at NYU’s Information Law Institute and former Associate General Counsel at Microsoft, will talk about his work-in-progress “Voter Privacy in the Age of Big Data,” and other issues associated with the application of data analytics tools to the processes of democracy. This talk is jointly sponsored by Moritz’s Data Law, Ethics, and Policy Program, and the OSU Democracy Studies Program.

SymposiumDemocracy Studies Co-sponsors History and Future of Election Law Panel with the Ohio State Law Journal

Friday, November 20, 2015
Saxbe Auditorium, Moritz College of Law

The goal of the symposium were to look systematically at the past in an effort to consider the possibilities of future developments in various areas of election law. There were four panels: (1) The History and Future of Redistricting and Gerrymanders, (2) The History and Future of Campaign Finance, (3) The History and Future of Voting Rules and (4) The History and Future of Election Law Generally. Panelists and Moderators included:

[9:00-9:15 a.m.] Welcome and Opening Remarks by Ned Foley.

9:15-10:30 a.m.] Panel I: The History and Future of Redistricting and Gerrymanders (Moderator: Professor Stebenne). Nick Stephanopoulos; Kareem Crayton; Stephen Ansolabehere.

[10:45-12:00 p.m.] Panel II: The History and Future of Campaign Finance (Moderator: Professor Tokaji). Richard Briffault; Anthony Gaughan; Nate Persily.

[1:00-2:15 p.m.] Panel III: The History of Future of Voting Rules (Moderator: Professor Huefner). Ellen Katz; Erik Engstrom; Alex Keyssar.

[2:30-4:00 p.m] Panel IV: The History and Future of Election Law Generally (Moderator: Professor Foley). Rick Pildes; Pam Karlan; Zephyr Teachout; Bruce Cain.


Rick Hasen Discusses Campaign Finance

October 8, 2015

On October 8, 2015, Rick Hasen, the Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, discussed his new book, Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections.  OSU President Michael Drake introduced the event.



PubRogers-public-service-blog-1024x730lic Service Inspiration

October 5, 2015

Former Ohio Attorney General Nancy Rogers talked over lunch to an intimate group of students interested in careers in public service. Rogers, a current professor and former dean of the law school, provided sage advice on entering public service, seizing and turning down opportunities, and knowing when you are ready for a leadership role.



Amar SquareAkhil Reed Amar Discusses New Book

September 21, 2015

On September 21, 2015, Akhil Reed Amar, the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, discussed his new book, The Law of the Land:  A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic.  Amar, a renowned legal scholar, discussed how regional understanding of law and justice influenced constitutional law throughout the nation’s history.



Democracy Studies Seed Grant Leads to $632,000 Lyle Spencer Research Award

September 17, 2015

Grant to Examine How Local School Control Affects Student Achievement, District Administration

A team of researchers that includes two Ohio State University professors and Democracy Studies affiliated faculty, has been awarded a prestigious grant to examine how local voter control of public schools impacts student learning in the classroom and the day-to-day administration of American school districts.

Ohio State professors Vladimir Kogan (Department of Political Science) and Stéphane Lavertu (John Glenn College of Public Affairs) received the $632,778 award from the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation to fund a research project on education governance and accountability.

Kogan and Lavertu, along with their co-principal investigator, Emory University political scientist Zachary Peskowitz, will be collecting a decade of data on local school district elections across 20 states and applying rigorous statistical techniques to understand how the politics of public education affect school administration, instruction, and student learning.

Dr. Stephane Lavertu is an Associate Professor at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and is an Affiliated Faculty Member of Democracy Studies

Dr. Vlad Kogan is an Assistant Professor in Political Science and an Affiliated Faculty Member of Democracy Studies.

Dr. Vlad Kogan is an Assistant Professor in Political Science and an Affiliated Faculty Member of Democracy Studies.

“Many popular education reforms — from dissemination of school report cards showing how students are doing to the opening of publicly funded charter schools — are based on the assumption that local democratic control over public school districts is broken. Many of these assumptions are based on faith, rather than facts. We have only a very limited understanding of voter behavior in these local elections, and how election results translate into the day-to-day administration of schools and student achievement in the classroom,” said Lavertu. The Education Governance and Accountability Project is designed to fill precisely this gap.

The three-year project builds on a pilot study the researchers recently completed in Ohio. The pilot study was funded by OSU’s Democracy Studies Program.

The findings from the Ohio pilot challenge much of the conventional wisdom about local school district elections. For example, the researchers found no evidence that lower ratings on state school report cards led to more electoral accountability for school board members. However, they did show that certain performance information influenced school levy elections — but in a perverse way, with voters withholding public funds from what they perceived to be low-performing schools, even when these schools were actually quite effective.

Another part of the pilot study showed that Ohio levy elections had an important impact on school district administration and student learning. The defeat of a levy resulted in one week less of student learning the following year, they found.

The funds from the Spencer Grant will be used to build on the Ohio pilot and expand data collection to at least 19 other states.

“Local school boards are the most common elected office in the country, yet very little research has examined them. Our findings to date raise important questions about how political processes shape public education in this country, and we expect that our work with the Spencer Foundation will lead to in even more important insights,” said Kogan.

John Glenn Visits First Year Students at Law School

March 25, 2015

At noon on Wednesday, March 25, an informal group of 13 first-year law students sat down for a working lunch of sorts in the Public Service Law Center.

Two professors, Marc Spindelman and Terri Enns, brought the students together after the students expressed interest in one day possibly working in politics and government.

For this, the group’s first meeting, the students, who fall on all sides of the political spectrum, were told only that there would be a special guest – a surprise – and to dress in business casual clothing. About five minutes before the special guest arrived – just enough time for the students to regain their composure, if necessary – they were told his name: Senator John Glenn.

That’s right: The 93-year-old former U.S. Marine Corps aviator, engineer, NASA astronaut (the first American to orbit the earth in 1959), and former U.S. Senator (from 1974 to 1999) was about to join them for an intimate lunch discussion about his life and career in public service.

As Glenn and his wife of nearly 72 years, Annie, walked into the room and took their seats at the long table, Professor Spindelman began to make his introductions. Spindelman called Glenn a national hero, anJohn Glenn 115-XLd Glenn, who appeared still sharp as can be in his ninth decade, promptly cut him off. “Ah, that’s alright. ‘Here’s Johnny’ will work,” Glenn said, to roars of laughter.

After a caveat about his less-than perfect vision and hearing – unfortunate products of the aging process – Glenn, who grew up in New Concord, Ohio, and studied engineering at Muskingum College, proceeded to tell a condensed version of his life story, interspersed with nuggets of hard-won wisdom and advice for this future generation of lawyers and elected officials.

He recalled that a high school civics teacher named Harford Steele ignited his initial interest in politics. “He was a great teacher – he really made civics come alive. It was one of the few courses in high school I really looked forward to each week,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything that would be more satisfying than representing other people in some level of government and trying to make the country better.”

He put his political ambitions on hold to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and the Korean War, and then to pilot the NASA Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, on a test flight to orbit the planet. Glenn returned from space a household name – and, all modesty aside, a national hero – and then decided, he said, that “if I ever was going to be serious about going into politics, that was the time to do it.” After running for the U.S. Senate in 1970 (and facing defeat by his opponent, Howard Metzenbaum), he persisted and was elected to the Senate in 1974.

A life in politics, he noted, is far from easy. “You’ll be criticized for all sorts of things. You’ll have to raise money beyond belief to run these days,” he cautioned the students. “People will call on you for party loyalties beyond what you want, or major contributors will sometimes want you to vote a certain way that you don’t want to vote. I never did change my vote because of a campaign contribution, ever. And I’m proud of that. I tried to base my votes on what was best for the greatest number of people.”

He also recalled influential words of advice on the topic of leadership, which were delivered by American historian and writer Douglas Southall Freeman at a graduation ceremony for new platoon leaders during the Korean War. According to Freeman, Glenn said, three basic points of leadership could be applied to just about any profession, from the military to politics: Know your stuff; be the best and most honest man or women that you can be; and finally, the people you are leading must believe that your decisions are truly made in their best interests.

He lamented the partisan antics that dominate today’s political climate, and applauded the bipartisan group of students for coming together for civil discussion.

“As I understand it, some of you have a Republican bent and some of you have a Democratic bent, right?” he asked the group, who nodded in affirmation. “I’m glad to see you mixing up here, and I hope you keep talking to each other about things that are important to this country. God knows there’s hope for this country yet as long as there are people like you who are willing to sit and talk to each other and plan careers that may include being elected to public office, which is what we need.”

1L Melissa Wasser, a 1L from McDonald, Ohio, grinned widely as she talked about Glenn’s visit immediately after the fact.

“I had heard from fellow students that Senator Glenn and his wife are known to come around the law school on different occasions, and I was always excited by the possibility that they would,” she said, adding that, for her, the timing of his visit could not have been more perfect, given that a week ago she applied to the Glenn College of Public Affairs’ dual degree program with Moritz College of Law.

“He has a really great story and seems to be very passionate,” Wasser said of Glenn. “I really appreciated his advice on leadership… We only have three years here, and to hear Senator Glenn talk about how we can use our law degree to truly make a difference was very influential.”

Democracy Studies Sponsors National Security Simulation

November 14, 2014

National Security Simulation blog-X2Ohio State students stepped into the shoes of lawyers, policymakers, intelligence analysts, and reporters dealing with a series of realistic national security crises ripped from the headlines. Real world law, policy, and fact applied, and student decisions determined the simulation’s outcome in Ohio State’s second annual National Security Simulation, sponsored in part by Democracy Studies. Students from the Moritz College of Law, John Glenn School of Public Affairs, Mershon Center for International Security Studies, several other graduate programs, Intelligence & Security Studies, and School of Communications participated. A “Control Team” led by Moritz Professor Dakota Rudesill drove the players toward particular issues and dilemmas.  Seasoned practitioners from Washington and Ohio State played key non-player roles, such as President of the United States (History Prof. Peter Mansoor) and White House Press Secretary (Communications School Prof. Nicole Kraft).  Chief Judge James E. Baker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and former Legal Advisor to the National Security Council, keynoted, emphasizing the importance of integrity and good process in decision-making.

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