Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Candidate Statement: Amos Blackman

We’ve all had to ask the Question. I had to ask the Question just seven months ago, at the Public Interest Mixer. Do you remember when you asked the Question? How often do you get asked the Question? Don’t tell me you don’t know the Question.

What is the American Constitution Society?

The Question is the reason I’m running for the ACS Board. I want more people asking the Question. I want more people answering the Question. And I want more answers to the Question.

The more people that ask the Question, the more we will grow. This year, the pool of potential members has been largely self-selecting, and I would like to see ACS diversify. We should start early, attracting new members with a couple high profile events in the fall, at least one social and one intellectual, establishing ACS’s position as the premiere, full-service student group. We should partner with a wider range of student organizations, particularly public interest and identity groups that have a particular interest in constitutional law, such as CLWA, BLSA, Impact, and Law Students for Choice, among others. Let’s bolster the internal and external mentorship programs to entice potential members through the benefits that membership can provide. 1Ls are always the richest source of new membership, so we should hold more events like this year’s exam prep session, such as a “Con Law at Columbia” panel, open con law sections in the spring, and advice panels on topics like summer positions, journals, and course selection. We can leverage the midterm elections, the docket of the Supreme Court, and the Moot Court. I want every student at Columbia to ask the Question – the sooner, the better.

But it’s not enough to get more people to ask the Question; we need more people answering it, too. We need a more active membership. This year, our membership numbers exploded, but the outside the Moot Court, there was a very small core of active members. First and foremost, we have to establish committees. Commitment and consistent involvement will deepen the ties members have to ACS. We can start with standing committees on events, 1L outreach, media (bloggers!), and public interest, and encourage members to form sub- and ad hoc committees around individual events, the election, advocacy and activism, partnerships with other groups, and anything else that seems like a good idea. Every new member would be encouraged to join a committee, and chair positions are an ideal way to involve a wider variety of student leaders. But we should also strengthen membership ties through more informal means. From the most basic – an unmoderated email group for just current members – to the slightly more elaborate – maintaining a calendar of upcoming events of particular interest – I think these simple efforts could greatly increase the sense of community around the entire ACS membership. And I’d like to see more unfunded events, like happy hours, potlucks, games, and the like – just for fun. How many of you are willing to answer the Question today? We can do better.

Is there an Answer to the Question? I am running for President (and Vice President and Events Chair – I think I could help implement these ideas in any of these positions) and was Communications Director for the Moot Court. but I think don’t think there is an Answer. There are many answers. ACS is committed to a progressive understanding of the Constitution. ACS consistently brings renowned and respected thinkers to campus. ACS started the largest moot court in constitutional law in the nation. ACS attracts some of the most intellectually powerful students and faculty on campus. ACS connects forward-thinking law students, legal professionals, and policy-makers. ACS guided me through a treacherous first year of law school. ACS is resource I trust. But I am always looking for more answers. To remain strong, ACS must be at least as dynamic as the document that brings us together. Every member should bring new answers to the Question. By reaching out further for membership and enabling more of those members to be involved, we can ensure that diversity.

The current Board took on the Question with incredible tenacity. Membership skyrocketed as new members were attracted by free drinks, good food, and better events. Members were convinced to leave Jerome Greene Hall, heading down Amsterdam Ave for free drinks and up I-95 for the Student Leadership Conference. But even more impressively, members were drawn to Columbia, as undergrads crossed the street for events co-sponsored with College Scholars and law students crossed the country for the Constance Baker Motley National Moot Court Competition in Constitutional Law.

This year’s Board set the bar phenomenally high. Can we meet it? Good Question.

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