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Democracy and Dissent Course



"Discord in the service of harmony"

Students embark on a thought-provoking journey through the corridors of the U.S. Supreme Court with our new course: Democracy and Dissent. As an integral part of BWL's Constructive Dialogue Initiative, this course delves into the heart of the First Amendment—freedom of speech—through a meticulous examination of key Supreme Court opinions.

In this course, taught by two practicing attorneys, Michael Gollub, Esq. & Steven J. Horowitz, Esq.,  students explore the dynamic interplay between majority and dissenting opinions, recognizing their pivotal role in shaping the fabric of democracy. The course delves into the wisdom of influential justices such as the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Chief Justice John Roberts, who emphasize the transformative potential of dissent in the evolution of legal principles.

Throughout the semester, students unravel the intricacies of legal opinions by studying landmark cases and relevant Law Review articles, and gain profound insights into the rhetorical dialogue between majority and dissent, shedding light on the nuanced evolution of legal doctrines.

Course Topics:

  1. Freedom of Expression/Speech, Constructive Dialogue, and its Role in Democracy
  2. Anatomy of a Supreme Court Opinion
  3. The Role and Function of a Dissenting Opinion
  4. The First Amendment
  5. Equal Protection: Segregation
  6. Equal Protection: Affirmative Action
  7. Right to Privacy/Substantive Due Process: Abortion
  8. Constructive Dialogue: Civil v. Uncivil Discourse
By the Numbers

2023–2024 Survey Results and Feedback

Students completed a survey upon completion of the course. We are proud to share these impressive survey results and positive feedback from the 2023–2024 cohort of Democracy and Dissent students.

75% feel comfortable or very comfortable expressing dissenting opinions in a respectful manner.

75% of students said the classroom environment for discussions and debates was encouraging or very encouraging.

100% of students were satisfied or very satisfied 
with the course.

100% would probably or definitely recommend the course to other students.

“I always believed that free expression and dissent were important. But after taking the course I realize the extent to which it impacts our sovereignty as a people and a nation. Reading through the cases gave me a unique and interesting lens through which to view the issues.”

Democracy and Dissent Student

“Before taking this course I didn’t understand the full extent of the dissenting voice and how important it is for a society. I now realize it's what keeps the conversation open for the future.”

Democracy and Dissent Student

“Although the course was very challenging, I really loved it and the exposure it gave me to a law school-like environment.”

Democracy and Dissent Student

"My view on dissenting has changed, as I have come to realize that it is a key part of free expression. As I learned more about it, my understanding of dissent—the meaning, and how it plays a key role—has helped shape my opinion into believing its importance because all sides of a case should be considered.”

Democracy and Dissent Student

“I now feel much more inclined to speak up and voice my true opinions knowing that dissents can be crucial to healthy dialogue.”

Democracy and Dissent Student

Key Readings