Howard D. Polsky '73 Endowment for the Advancement of American Democracy and Law

April 15, 2024
Due to the generosity of Howard D. Polsky (see below for biographical information), all Political Science majors at Lehigh University were invited to submit essays on one of two topics this year:

Essay Question 1: A well-functioning democracy depends on an informed citizenry. Does generative artificial intelligence (AI) pose a serious threat to American democracy by its ability to create false, incomplete, or distorted political messaging (e.g., voice cloning, modified Google phone videos) in our elections or policy choices? Why or why not? If so, what are some potential solutions or mitigation remedies? Please explain.

OR

Essay Question 2: The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) concluded that the concept of separate but equal is "inherently unequal," and banned the practice of de jure segregation. Since Brown, judges and scholars have debated the meaning of equal protection in practice. Most recently, in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, 600 U.S. 181 (2023), the Supreme Court justices held that race-conscious admissions constitute unconstitutional race-based classifications under the Fourteenth Amendment. Many current diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs seek to ensure that under-represented ethnic minorities are afforded heightened consideration in recruitment, resource allocation, promotions, and other institutional policies. Can DEI programs be structured to achieve these objectives without violating the Fourteenth Amendment or must DEI programs be modified to emphasize color-blind objectives leading to the same outcomes? Please explain.

Essay Question 1 Winners

Collette Kissell (1st place) Essay

Collette is a junior from State College, Pennsylvania studying political science with a focus on American politics, public law and public policy. In addition, she is currently assisting in research regarding state laws to examine if they require civic education courses to be taught in special education classrooms, along with being a TRAC fellow. After graduation, Collette plans to attend law school.

Scot Dressler (2nd place) Essay

Scot is a junior from Pennsylvania. Raised in Palestine, he attended high school in Germany where he developed an interest in American domestic politics. He is currently pursuing a double major in Political Science and Philosophy with a specialization in American politics, public law and public policy. After graduating from Lehigh, Scot intends to pursue a career in political consulting in Washington D.C.

Amber Brose (3rd place tie) Essay

Jake Amidon (3rd place tie) Essay

Jeffrey (Jake) Amidon is a graduating senior from upstate New York studying Political Science with a minor in Philosophy, Law, and Public Policy. He plans to study law at Emory University School of Law in the fall of 2024 with an interest in tech and innovation law. After starting his studies here at Lehigh in engineering, he discovered his passion for the social sciences and advocating for others through the political and legal arena especially in the constantly changing technological world.

Essay Question 2 Winner

Spyrithoula Xenophontos (1st place)

 

 

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May 3, 2023
Due to the generosity of Howard D. Polsky (see below for biographical information), all Political Science majors at Lehigh University were invited to submit essays on one of two topics this year:
Essay Question 1: What are the primary strengths of the U.S. Constitution and what are its primary weaknesses? Explain. Could democracy in America be enhanced by revising the Constitution? Why or why not? Be entirely specific by way of response.

OR

Essay Question 2: Should people with extreme views (right or left) be invited to speak on campus at Lehigh University, paid for with university funds? Why or why not? Explain in intricate detail.

The faculty members and staff in the Department of Political Science are pleased to announce the following award recipients:


Essay Question 1 Winners

Scot Dressler: "The Constitution and Freedom To" (1st place award)

Scot is a sophomore from Pennsylvania. Raised in Palestine, he attended high school in Germany where he developed an interest in American domestic politics. He is currently pursuing a double major in Political Science and Philosophy with a specialization in American politics, public law and public policy. After graduating from Lehigh, Scot intends to pursue a career in political consultancy in Washington D.C.

Julianna Caskie: "Amending the Constitution: The Path Toward A More Perfect Democracy" (2nd place award)

Julianna is a senior from Fountain Hill, Pennsylvania studying political science with minors in both architecture studio and women, gender, and sexuality studies. She is one of the co-captains of the Lehigh Mock Trial team and serves as one of the youth representatives to the United Nations for Nor Luyce, an Armenian non-governmental organization. After graduating from Lehigh she will continue her studies and pursue a master's in political science from American University.

Jake Amidon: "Beyond the Parchment: Unveiling the Strengths and Flaws of the US Constitution Through a Modern Lens" (3rd place tie)

Jeffrey (Jake) Amidon is a junior studying Political Science with a planned minor in Philosophy, Law, and Public Policy. He plans to study law following his undergraduate studies with an interest in corporate or environmental law. After starting his studies here at Lehigh in engineering, he discovered his passion for the social sciences and advocating for others through the political and legal arena.

Cece Garvey: "The Constitution: A Scapegoat of the Partisan Divide" (3rd place tie)

Cece is a Sophomore from Cambridge, Massachusetts pursuing a double major in Political Science and English with a minor in Ethics. She is president of Lehigh Debate Society, treasurer of the Lehigh Letters and Literature society, as well as a member of the Club Lacrosse team, Parking Appeals Committee, Douglas Society, Student Senate, Pre-Law Society, and Kappa Delta Sorority. Cece plans on attending law school upon graduation from Lehigh University to further her education in criminal justice reform.

Essay Question 2 Winners

Liam Fager: "The Role of University; Censorship, Disourse, and Building an Academic Community" (1st place award)

Liam is a senior from New York, graduating with a major in Political Science as well as minors in Spanish Language and Global Studies. While at Lehigh, he sat on the executive and standards boards of the Penn Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, found a passion for playing the bass guitar, and co-founded The Douglass Dialogues. While working as the personal assistant to a commercial and residential real estate broker, he is also in the process of studying for the LSAT and plans to continue his graduate education in law school.

Raihan Alam: "The Criteria for the Civilized Marketplace of Ideas" (2nd place tie)

Raihan Alam is a senior at Lehigh University double majoring in psychology and political science, with a minor in philosophy. He is the founder of the Douglass Dialogues, a speaker series and student discussion club devoted to dialogue about sociopolitical issues. He is also a researcher in the Blame Lab and the Stereotyping and Social Interactions Lab, where he studies interventions to reduce affective political polarization and the psychological drivers of opposition toward collective action movements. After he graduates, Raihan will pursue a Ph.D. in management at UC San Diego.

Collette Kissell: "Stabilizing Democracy: Why individuals with extreme views should not be invited to speak at Lehigh University" (2nd place tie)

I am pursuing my bachelors degree in Political Science, centering my focus in american politics, public law, and public policy. My chosen minor is Health, Medicine, and Society, as I have particular interest in health policy within the United States. In addition to my major, I am a lead fellow for the TRAC Writing Fellows program, a member of Peer Health Advisors, and am on the Lehigh Cheerleading Team.

Jason McGuire: "Across the Aisle: Why Lehigh University Should Invite Speakers with Extreme Views to Speak" (3rd place tie)

My name is Jason McGuire. I’m studying Economics and Political Science at Lehigh. After graduating I will seek out a career in public service and run for elected office.

Spyrithoula Xenophontos: "Let the People Speak" (3rd place tie)

Spyrithoula is a sophomore from Long Island, New York studying political science with a minor in history. Outside of class, Spyrithoula is the President of Lehigh’s Mock Trial team, volunteers for the Community Service Office, and serves as Vice President of Membership for Kappa Alpha Theta. Over the summer she will be interning at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City and she hopes to attend law school after her time here at Lehigh.

 

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April 21, 2022

Due to the generosity of Howard D. Polsky (see below for biographical information), all Political Science majors at Lehigh University were invited to submit essays on one of two topics this year:
Essay Question 1: What are the origins, pros, and cons of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate? Do you think the filibuster should be kept or not? Please explain your reasoning either way and be sure to provide a title for your essay.

OR

Essay Question 2: When, and under what circumstances, did Congress change the number of Supreme Court justices in the past? Do you think that Congress should change the size of the Supreme Court today, or preserve it at nine justices? Please explain your reasoning either way and be sure to provide a title for your essay.

The faculty members and staff in the Department of Political Science are pleased to announce the following award recipients:

 

Emma Engels: "Filibuster: A Step Back or A Step Forward for Democracy?" (1st place award)

Emma is from Bethesda, Maryland and is pursuing a double major in political science and psychology, with a minor in philosophy, law, and public policy. She is a captain of the Lehigh Women’s Club Soccer team and a member of the Lehigh Mock Trial Club. Emma plans on attending law school and pursuing a career in criminal law after graduating from Lehigh.

Julianna Caskie: "The Filibuster: Impeding Democracy" (2nd place award)

Julianna is a junior from Fountain Hill, Pennsylvania studying political science with minors in both architecture studio and women, gender, and sexuality studies. Beginning in September, she will have the privilege of being a United Nations Youth Representative for Armenian Non-Governmental Organization, Nor Luyce. She plans to attend graduate school after completing a bachelor of arts degree at Lehigh to further her education in the overlap of politics and gender.

 

Steven Escobar-Mendez: "Supreme Court and Congress" (3rd place award)

Steven is a Guatemalan-Mexican from Washington, D.C., and was raised in a predominantly immigrant community in Maryland. He is a current senior, he will be graduating with majors in Political Science and Global Studies with minors in Real Estate, Anthropology, and Sociology as well as a certificate in Global Citizenship. During his time at Lehigh, Steven traveled abroad with SIT IHP Human Rights Program in the Spring of 2020 inspiring future studies. After graduating from Lehigh, Steven plans to go to law school to continue his Human Rights studies through international law.

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May 3, 2021

Thanks to the generosity of Howard D. Polsky (see below for biographical information), all Political Science majors at Lehigh University were invited to submit essays on the theme of making American democracy more effective. The faculty members and staff in the Department of Political Science are pleased to announce the following award recipients:

Charlie Aronson: "A Recipe for an Improved American Democracy: 3 Parts Locke, 2 Parts Jefferson" (1st place award)

Charlie (Class of '23) is from Orlando, Florida and is a double major (Political Science and History). He is the sixth member of his family and third generation to attend Lehigh. He is an avid sports fan, especially supportive of the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, New York Knicks, and New York Rangers. He volunteers at the Lehigh athletic department and is a reporter for the Brown and White.

 

Tanya Andino: "A More Perfect Union, For All" (2nd place award)

Tanya is a Honduran-American sophomore from Morristown, New Jersey. She is a Political Science major with two minors (Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Health, Medicine, and Society). As a first-generation college student, she is dedicated to serving the communities that have shaped her back home, on campus, and as a member of the Latin Student Alliance and as Vice President of Chapter Wellness for Alpha Gamma Delta. Tanya plans on attending law school after graduating with the hope of practicing constitutional or civil rights law.

 

Steven Escobar-Mendez: "In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union" (3rd place award)

Steven is a Guatemalan-Mexican from Washington, D.C., who was raised in a predominantly immigrant community in Maryland. He is currently a junior majoring in Political Science and Global Studies with minors in Real Estate, Anthropology, and Sociology as well as a certificate in Global Citizenship. He plans to go to law school after graduating from Lehigh to study international law.

Congratulations to all of our students!

 

Howard Polsky graduated with a BA degree from Lehigh in 1973, where he was a government major and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his JD degree from Indiana University in 1976 and was an editor of the Indiana Law Review. Howard remains active with Lehigh and is currently a member of the Advisory Board to the College of Education. From 2012-2018, he served on the  Advisory Board to the College of Arts and Science. By this endowment, Howard wishes to encourage Lehigh students to gain a deeper appreciation of American democracy and law, and to become the nation's future leaders and custodians in preserving those values as citizens and in their professions. 

Howard served as Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of K12 Inc. ( now Stride, Inc) for fifteen years until his retirement.  Stride is a publicly-traded company and America's largest provider of online education for students in grades K-12 and adult careers. 

Prior to Stride, Howard was Vice President and General Counsel of Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications, an international satellite and information technology services company.  Before being acquired by Lockheed Martin, he was employed by COMSAT Corporation for nine years, where he held both legal and senior government relations positions. From 1983-1992, he was a partner at Wiley, Rein & Fielding representing clients in administrative and judicial proceedings. He began his legal career at the FCC and was an associate at Kirkland & Ellis.