Undergraduate Legal Studies Research Conference

The 12th Annual Legal Studies Honors Undergraduate Research Conference JSP Building (2240 Piedmont Avenue)
Friday, April 26, 2019

Welcome Breakfast: Kadish Library, 9:00 AM

Introductory Remarks: 9:15-9:30

Panel 1: Education, Equality, and Opportunity (9:30-10:30 am)

Moderator: Alexandra Havrylyshyn, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Berkeley Law

Units of Power and Potential: The School Board

Nerelyn Hernandez-Rivera

This project triangulates multiple methods between observations, interviews, and content analysis to study how rural and metropolitan school boards respectively address issues of social justice with particular regard to race and class. Although there is existing literature on how school boards of education have responded to changing demographics or how school board members advocate for social justice, there has been little sociolegal research on how school boards of education can contribute to education reform. I focus in particular on the distinction between rural and metropolitan school boards as that distinction may be critical to understanding differences in approaches to social justice. This study examines four main areas: (1) how and to what extent social justice issues come into play in the deliberations of respective rural and metropolitan school boards; (2) what deliberative processes rural and metropolitan school boards respectively use to come to their decisions and resolve controversies; (3) how individual school board members conceptualize social justice and equity with respect to race and class; and (4) how rural and metropolitan school boards have respectively resolved issues of social justice in the past. A triangulation of research methods will be used between observation of school board meetings, semi-structured interviews with school board members and other community members, and a content analysis of past school board meeting minutes.


Beating the Odds: First Generation College Students And Their Experience with Equal Opportunity Programs

Ana Guzman

First-generation college students face many challenges during their time in postsecondary education. This study used interviews to examine how and to what extent first generation college students experience existing equal opportunity programs created to help them succeed in school. Although there has been extensive policy discussion and literature aimed at creating equal paths to success, first-generation students still experience disproportionately high drop out rates and struggle to navigate through their college experience. Rather than just equal access to institutions, my project worked to find a solution for disparities in academic attainment of first-generation college students through personal reflections on the existing equal opportunity programs in UC Schools. The study examined the following sub-questions: 1. What kinds of obstacles or limitation do first-generation college students feel they face in succeeding in college?; 2. What do first-generation college students know about existing equal opportunity programs?; 3. To what extent are first-generation college students making use of equal opportunity programs?; 4. Do first-generation students feel current equal opportunity programs encourage higher student success rates when completing college? I conducted 14 interviews of first-generation college students from UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, and UCLA to answer these questions. These interviews are designed to assess first-generation college students’ experience with equal opportunity programs and were conducted from December 2018 to February 2019.

Legislative Decision-Making and Education Funding in California and New York

Morgan Johnson

This study combines semi-structured interview and comparative methodologies to study legislative decision-making concerning state education funding. My results will be pulled from transcribing, content coding, and analyzing the interview responses I gather. I will be focusing on speaking to California and New York state legislators because of the strong similarities between the two legislatures, but vastly different outcomes in per student state education spending. Although political scientists have studied legislative decision-making, little has been done on legislators’ process of apportioning state-funded education and the potential constraint legislators from these two states may face during this process. Additionally, little of the legislative decision-making research makes use of interviews with the decision-makers themselves. While conducting these interviews, I plan to answer the following sub-questions: (1) whether legislators from these two states find state-granted funding for education to be adequate, and if not, how education funding can be improved or needs to be improved; (2) identifying the constraints each group of legislators works within and if legislators from the two states face overlapping constraints; and (3) how the differing constraints each group is working under affects their ability to reach their goal for education funding from the state. I will conduct semi-structured interviews with legislators from both states from January to March of 2019.

Panel 2: Punishment, Confinement, and State Power (10:40-11:40 am)

Moderator: Colin Christensen, Jurisprudence and Social Policy

Creating Collapse: Determining Victimhood and Policing the “Social Enemy” in the Aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

Kyle Dill

Post-disaster policing is a virtually unstudied phenomenon. Pre-existing social tensions between police officers and the communities in which they patrol are revealed and aggravated by crisis, and it is therefore crucial that we critically engage with the actions of the police during these fleeting moments of disorder. This essay will focus on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire and the violent policing of Chinese immigrants, the city’s poorest residents, and the “looter”—a figure made “real” through cultural representations of poverty and race—in the wake of the layered tragedy. I will investigate the historical relationship between anti-immigrant civilian militias and the San Francisco Police Department in the nineteenth century and the revival of this alliance following the catastrophe in 1906. In addition, I will interrogate the role of private police agencies, particularly the Southern Pacific Railway police, in controlling vulnerable populations before and after the earthquake. Through a close study of newspapers, personal letters, SFPD records, vigilante militia papers, and railway police documents, this project will spotlight the militarized policing of the “underclasses” and the cultural synthesis of poverty, race, and crime in post-earthquake San Francisco.

A History of Internment Camps in California

Kimberly Mejia

When the Trump Administration’s detention camps for migrant children made national headlines in 2018, commentators compared the camps to internment camps in other countries, overlooking the long history of internment in the United States. In fact, much of the literature on American internment camps treats them as extraordinary and isolated incidents and research has generally failed to acknowledge the gradual expansion and normalization of the use of these camps by the government. Therefore, this research project uses the case study of California to understand how the concept of the internment camp emerges throughout different moments in U.S. history. I study theories regarding detention and the concept of camp to contextualize and analyze the history of three specific internment camps– the Spanish Mission System, Dust Bowl migrant labor camps, and Japanese Internment. This project draws on both archival research and secondary analysis, in order to open a genealogical inquiry that seeks to understand the way in which the historical use of internment camps has come to impact the modern use of these camps in California and the broader American society. Despite the many contextual differences in these three internment camps, my findings show the existence of specific characteristics that are constant both in the conditions that lead to the emergence of the internment camps and the actual spaces of the camps.

Invisible Inmates: How Women Experience Punishment in California State Prisons

Dorrin Akbari

Although women are the fastest growing group of criminalized individuals in the United States, their unique voices and experiences while inside the penal system continue to be marginalized. Prison policies that impact women are not being made with women in mind. Examining the distinct ways in which prisons fail women and their families is essential for making the state-level policy choices that will shape the future of incarceration. This project seeks to understand how women in California prisons experience formal and informal types of punishment. In particular, it looks to the aspects of the prison experience female inmates perceive to be the most punishing and how they orient to that punishment. The data for this project is drawn from in-depth, semi-structured virtual interviews with women who were formerly incarcerated in California prisons. Transcripts of these interviews were content coded to determine the issues that were of particular salience to the women: exclusion from, lack of access to, and scarcity of programming; loss of familial contact; powerlessness and loss of autonomy; mental health and psychological well being; physical health and care; and privacy. Understanding how incarcerated women experience punishment is not possible without acknowledging their biographies and the multiplicity of abuse that the majority have experienced prior to their imprisonment.

Lunch break until 1 pm. Lunch will be served in the Kadish Library.


Panel 3: Interpreting, Constructing, and Mobilizing Rights (1:00-2:20 pm)

Moderator: Bonnie Cherry, Jurisprudence and Social Policy  

Understanding Social Media Users’ Conceptions of Privacy in the Age of Digital Citizenship

Yasmine Kahly

Social media is the new frontier of human engagement and interaction, fostering a digital citizenship that transcends geographical boundaries. With 263 million Americans and counting engaging in sharing behavior on social media, social media networks have become breeding grounds for the disclosure of digital data, raising the stakes for misaligned expectations of privacy protections and governmental and corporate data usage. While existing scholarship has shown that there is considerable mismatch between social media users’ expectations of their digital privacy and the reality of users’ digital privacy, it has not examined the fundamental social contract that underlies the implicit agreements between users and social media companies. Potential misalignments between users’ sense of entitlement to protections and conceptualization of their rights and the rights and responsibilities of social media companies’ could be symptomatic of larger problems of the tech age: digital divisiveness and digital distrust. Users’ sense of digital citizenship, the rights and responsibilities that underlie their voluntary participation on social media networks, informs their capability and willingness as digital citizens to mobilize their perceived rights and hold the perceived sovereign accountable for rights violations. As of this writing, there is no scholarship that evaluates digital citizenship in the context of users’ privacy conceptualizations. By examining users’ conceptions of their privacy with an experimental survey, this study examines what social media users think about their privacy within the frame of digital citizenship by examining: (1) whether or not social media users believe that tech companies, government, or both have a responsibility to protect their data and (2) what social media users qualify as justified usages of their data.

Rights Mobilization for Chinese Americans: An Intergenerational Study

Rebecca Lei

Despite the wealth of literature on rights mobilization, there is a paucity of information about the relationship between generational identity and rights mobilization. Given the effect that cultural assimilation can have on familiarity and willingness to interact with the legal system, the differences in acculturation between generational cohorts of people of foreign-born descent seems to be a significant topic to study with respect to the tendency to mobilize legal rights. In my research, I engage with these discussions by exploring how generational difference affects rights mobilization for foreign-born persons – specifically, (1) how people of foreign-born descent conceptualize their rights through the lens of law, (2) whether and how perception of rights violations differs between generational cohorts, and (3) whether and how the likelihood of mobilization differs between generational cohorts. To do so, I analyzed 12 semi-structured interviews of 3 different generations of individuals of foreign-born descent – first-generation, 1.5-generation, and second-generation people of foreign-born descent. My research focuses specifically on the subgroup of Chinese Americans; subjects were selected through snowball sampling. My findings suggested that across the board, each generation of Chinese Americans very readily viewed their issues within a legal context, although the actual likelihood of pursuing legal solutions to their articulated issues varied across generational cohorts. Moreover, the first and second generational cohorts of Chinese Americans had distinctly different viewpoints regarding rights violations, with the first generational cohort being more likely to perceive an issue as a violation of their legal rights. Although results from the 1.5 generational group did not suggest a clear consensus, responses from participants from the 1.5 generational group tended to fall between the spectrum created by the first and second generational cohorts. Additionally, the likelihood of legal action rose with the likelihood of the perception of a rights violation in the community of my study. Despite the variation in mobilization across generations, participants of all cohorts were disillusioned with the legal system at large, falling in line with the “informed disenchantment” observed by earlier scholars. With the large populations of foreign-born persons in the United States today, cultural assimilation lurks behind the scenes as a major factor in the way that many people experience the legal system. A better understanding of this generational gap is essential in the creation of law that considers the social context and circumstances of such a significant portion of the national population.

Undocumented, Unprotected, and Overworked: Understanding the Role of Undocumented Status in the Workplace

Mayra Esther Lozano

This study draws on semi-structured interviews with 15 undocumented workers from various labor sectors in Southern and Northern California. The workers are divided into two different groups: (1) first generation undocumented workers and (2) 1.5-generation DACA recipients. While existing literature on undocumented labor focuses on its economic value, this study focuses on the working conditions of undocumented people. This shift is essential in order to examine how undocumented status matters in the workplace. This study uses documentation status as a framework for understanding how undocumented workers navigate the workplace. I focus on the following sub-questions: (1) what kind of problems do undocumented persons face in the workplace; (2) How do undocumented workers understand their citizenship status; (3) how and to what extent do undocumented workers see their workplace problems as problems that can be remedied through the law; (4) how does status influence how undocumented workers think about their rights in the workplace; and lastly (5) how and to what extent does “generation” matter in how undocumented workers feel about their workplace experiences. Although undocumented labor continues to be a pressing issue in political dialogue, undocumented workers continue to be absent from the conversation. Therefore, the purpose of the study is to further uplift the narratives of undocumented workers and to provide a holistic understanding of this community.

Unconscionability, Vulnerability, and Other Constructions of the Judicial Imagination 

Anthony Carrasco

This thesis combines qualitative and normative analysis to study the way the concept of vulnerability operates within the unconscionability doctrine (UD), an American legal doctrine which permits courts the authority to invalidate whole or partial contracts they perceive as unfair. Since vulnerability is an integral concept in the conceptualization of fairness and sometimes its administration, this thesis examines how and to what extent judges presume or incorporate vulnerability when adjudicating cases involving unconscionability while providing special attention to the operation of identity. Accordingly, this thesis investigates (1) who is often included and who is often excluded from the protections of the UD, (2) upon what criteria and characteristics, if any, do judges base their considerations of vulnerability, (3) how, if at all, do racialized, gendered, classed, or religious components of the defendant’s or plaintiff’s identity interact with these judicial determinations. A 25% random sample of legal cases in Alabama,Mississippi, and Arkansas involving unconscionability will be systematically coded through qualitative content analysis.

Closing Remarks and Reception, 2:30 pm, Kadish Library

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