Episode 45: COVID-19 in the Courts w/ Dr. Susan Sterett
12:15AM Sep 19, 2023
Dr. Ian Anson
Dr. Susan Sterett
Hello and welcome to Retrieving the Social Sciences, a production of the Center for Social Science scholarship. I'm your host, Ian Anson, Associate Professor of Political Science here at UMBC.
On today's show, as always, we'll be hearing from UMBC faculty, students, visiting speakers, and community partners about the social science research they've been performing in recent times. Qualitative, quantitative, applied, empirical, normative. On Retrieving the Social Sciences, we bring the best of you UMBC's social science community to you.
While everyone experienced the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, we didn't all experience it the same way. Some of us were able to quickly and seamlessly lock down at home, completing our work via zoom, and trying to minimize the destabilizing nature of the transition. Others faced massive changes to their lives as their workplaces shut down, leaving them without a stable source of income, and so government programs stepped in to bolster the industries in which they worked. Still others struggled to manage the closure of their small businesses, as they're suddenly dammed up revenue streams were no longer available to pay down the loans they had taken out for equipment and other startup costs. And of course, many of us experienced serious illness, or had loved ones get sick. And for more than 1 million Americans, or about one in every 330, the pandemic would claim our lives. Now in 2023, with a couple of years of hindsight, it's still shocking and overwhelming to recount what we've been through together.
But the outcomes of the pandemic were also a lesson in politics, in the way that public policy, lawmaking and executive decisions at the state, local, and federal levels combined to determine what happens in the face of disasters.
This is itself a fascinating an ongoing topic of study across the social sciences. But on today's episode of Retrieving the Social Sciences, we take a close look at how courts were involved in determining the outcomes of the pandemic, and how litigation played a deeply political role in the age old question of who gets what, when, and how. To understand the role of the courts in the COVID 19 pandemic, I'm delighted to bring you my recent conversation with Dr. Susan Sterett, Professor in the School of Public Policy here at UMBC. Dr. Sterett has recently published a new book with the University of Pennsylvania Press, entitled "Litigating the Pandemic: Disaster Cascades in Court."
The book argues that while the United States experienced multiple failures of governance during the pandemic, perhaps the least heralded has been governance through litigation. This is a fascinating and timely account. And I'm really excited to break it all down in our feature interview. Let's dive in right now.
I'm delighted today to welcome Dr. Susan Sterett to the podcast, I thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
I'm delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Ian. I appreciate it.
By all means, you know, of course, we've got this fantastic book that's just come out that you've recently published. And it's on a topic that I think is certainly very stimulating to a lot of readers, very topical. And in this volume, you're describing a very specific sort of syndrome that affected governance during the COVID 19 pandemic. And, you know, I think it is plain for all of us to see that the COVID 19 pandemic impacted everyone, not just in the United States, but around the world. But I think, you know, individual's experiences definitely differed, and they differed, in at least as a political scientist, we can say, differed depending on the policies and the approaches of their state and local governments. We see this when we think about the differences in approach, like across the states in our region, you know, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, certainly, that had a big impact on the way that people experienced the pandemic. But in this new book, you're writing about how governance, and governance as it pertains to COVID-19, was partly accomplished through litigation. And I find that to be a really interesting argument, and one that I'm sure many of our listeners are thinking about, and maybe are thinking about this, and they're feeling a little bit confused. So would you mind unpacking this for us, first of all, just explaining what you mean by this? How is it the courts govern our nation's responses to things like pandemics?
I'd be happy to talk to you about that. And I think I'm going to enter with a story of how I came to the project. (Dr. Anson: Awesome). As you noted, the pandemic disrupted everyone's lives. And I was picking up my daughter from college because her college closed and she likes to listen to podcasts, and we listened to the NPR podcast "Through Line," which is a history podcast. And it's centered on a book called "Pox," which in turn centered on litigation around the smallpox vaccine and whether one can mandate the vaccine in the early 20th century. My whole career, I studied courts as governance mechanisms. And that solidly within political science, as you know, and at the same time, I find that for much of what we think of as, as politics just as a common sense understanding of politics. On the one hand, people know about courts, and on the other hand, people treat opinion polls, or what parties do as the ordinary material of political science and courts as something different. And I thought, Oh, my heavens, I might want to track that a little bit. So let's start with that point. And I did track it. And when you mentioned experiences differing, I want to illustrate how governing with courts would be part of that as well. So part two of this story, I started reading, public health commentaries that came out very quickly. Good, serious journalists, sociologists who wrote on public health. And a common point was that perhaps Americans would start trusting experts more because of the importance of expertise in the pandemic. The wonderful, superb historian, John Berry, who's written popular science books around disasters, who got a lot of press because of the 1918 flu pandemic. He wrote a lot about the politics of that and governing it, and he noted that trust was such an important mechanism. And I thought, well, one of the ways we see difference and not just respect for expertise or trust, is through the way multiple organizations and people can bring cases to court for a wide variety of purposes. And that stirs up this idea that somehow there is one expertise. I don't think right now any of us thinks there's one expertise. Dismantling the idea that there is, has been a project for conservative litigators for quite a long time. And we see that in appointments to the Supreme Court in terms of a doctrine that conservative litigators in particular would like to dismantle.
So if you wouldn't mind telling me a little bit more about what that means. So you're saying that basically, there are legal arguments to say, well, some folks have one idea about what's true, essentially, about a pandemic or about science and others are maybe calling into question our ability to make those scientific claims? Is that what's essentially happening here?
Yeah, I want to get back to those different experiences in the pandemic, because it's a fantastic question. And I hope I didn't go to on too long with my interest story. But to this point, this is really important in terms of judicial appointments, which, as you know, have been highly politicized in this country. It's, it's extremely documentable, that major conservative litigators, from multiple points of view, you might have heard and your listeners might have heard of the Federalist Society that has been very important in getting judges nominated to the federal bench. And then Alliance Defending Freedom, which works in conjunction, but more on, on freedom of religion issues, but the Federalist Society would want to dismantle something in administrative law doctrine. And I apologize, because administrative law often makes people fall asleep, but this is highly politicized, called the Chevron Doctrine, which is the judges should largely defer to the expertise of agencies. It is long been a project for the Federalist Society, to minimize that deference to administrative agencies. From the Alliance Defending Freedom point of view, elevating the importance of other principles, in addition to something like public health expertise, particularly free exercise of religion, but also freedom of speech which they join with a free exercise of religion. I could give a couple of examples if you want, but in recent Supreme Court cases, but anyway, they've also noted that those are extremely important principles in American life. And to some extent, who could disagree this idea that, that people who claim public health expertise or any kind of other kinds of expertise are absolutely always right. Particularly in conditions of uncertainty. That's not how we live. And indeed, as you see ongoing controversies about, for example, the origins of the pandemic. Many people have been noting that we do make decisions with best evidence under uncertainty and scientific understandings are a matter of process. Not one final answer (Dr. Anson: Absolutely). Yeah. But as far as to go back to the point about multiple experiences, and I promise this links to both the Federalist Society and Alliance Defending Freedom. When you note that we all had different experiences, and it had to do with state policies and local government policies. Sure, absolutely. But think about the ways some part of it had to do with legal structures that people might have objected to. So for example, we still oftentimes don't notice enough the importance of the pandemic in illness rates. And that means, by the way, and overwhelming the health system, I find that discussion gets dropped out as well. It wasn't only about whether you or I got ill. But whether when you and I get ill, it means that someone who got in a car accident can't get care,
The flattening the curve argument, right, the idea that if (Dr. Sterett: Right.) the curve is so high, that it's going to break the healthcare system and make it impossible for people to get treatment for any, any issue.
Yeah, and I don't know about you, but I live on a street with many healthcare workers, because I live in Baltimore City. Acutely aware, they were exhausted and overwhelmed, and I don't just mean this about empathy for them, it's, though I do have tremendous empathy for them, but but also about our health care system. So it's not just the rates of illness, but what that meant more broadly. But so for example, people who were in held in confinement, that means in prisons, and immigration detention centers, were at tremendous risk. Now, from a humanitarian point of view, perhaps we don't want to write off people in prisons, or or in immigration detention centers. I would hope not. But also, if you primarily care about the health care system, that is also a reason to care about people in prisons, and immigration detention centers. There were groups already mobilized to take lawsuits around or represent people within immigration detention centers and prisons. Here, we can think in particular, of public defenders in New York City. There were many, many cases brought by criminal defense attorneys, public defenders, legal aid societies, simply to get people released. This also joined with a political movement to limit in mass incarceration in this country, which has multiple parts to the puzzle. But one part of it could be getting people released. This was a big issue in both New York and in California. So that's one part where it affects people differently, just like you said, but it's individual engagements with the legal system that matter. Does that does that make sense?
Absolutely. Yeah. It's It's fascinating to think about how this is a much more micro level sort of legal discussion, compared to sort of, I think my prior coming into this discussion was to think about, you know, say, Larry Hogan says, Oh, we're going to put the, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic, we're going to put the Maryland State Police at the border. And we're going to check people's IDs or whatever, or stop them from from coming in, unless they have a sort of official business into the state. Those kinds of things that might be subject to legal challenges, because they're probably a constitutional right. That's a much more macro level sort of thing. This is about individual people who are seeking representation in in courts for things like release from prisons, where, as you've rightly identified, the risk of of COVID, especially prior to the availability of the vaccine, was just so much higher than among the general public. So that's a fascinating distinction.
Thank you. And it is important for the individuals, but remember, it links with a mass political movement. So both New York and California promised to release more people from prison. The ordinary partisan politics of that are different - or not just partisan, but the ordinary politics of that are difficult for governors (Dr. Anson: Right). That the people you might most who are at biggest risk, you might want to release are elderly prisoners who've been in for a long time whose immune systems are fragile anyway. If you've been in for a long time, it's often for a violent crime. There is very little good press to be earned by releasing people.
Absolutely. There's a political, certainly a political dimension to this as well.
There's a huge issue. So I understand your point about micro but I promise you it links to big macro issues. It was a big movement in California, which incarcerates many people, and in New York. So one way of thinking about political issues is the big principle issues like the macro constitutional claims that you note about orders. Then there, you can also think about large scale issues as coming from in the pile up or the accumulation would be I guess, a fancier word, for many, many claims, some of which are coordinated. The ACLU also got involved in this, okay in in trying to make claims to decarceration or release from from immigration detention. So did immigration advocacy groups. Another way that your point about individual engagement yet it links with a mass issue, so two together that got neglected in the ordinary press? Here's where I would link with your work though I don't have expertise in media coverage, but it got it did get coverage in the business press, is insurance claims. If you run a small business, you think that you have disaster insurance, it's very ordinary to buy disaster insurance. It may not shock you that people do not understand every element of their disaster insurance policy. And I mean no disrespect. Uh there is no way I understand every element of my car insurance policy, or actually for another reason, I might have to not the pandemic, I might have to deal with some disaster insurance. I'm not sure I understand every element of it. Okay, so people went to their insurance companies, you remember so many businesses closed, in person businesses, and their insurance companies said a variety of things, but to sum it up, what they said was we wrote in a virus exclusion after the SARS cov, one pandemic or in 2003. And yeah, I know, wow, these are first movers, they had much more reason to pay attention to this. So the dominant numbers of cases were around insurance, and failures of disaster insurance for people. Now, by the way, in my book, I link all of this to climate change. Public health reporters note that climate change is, brings greater risk of pandemics is the short story. And I think I mean, you can think of land use, you can think of global travel, there's quite a bit. But it also links in governing, climate change, as well. As we see more disasters, one of the recommendations is requiring everyone in the United States to buy into a blanket disaster insurance policy, there is always what insurance scholars have called a public backstop to private insurance. And so indeed, we have, as you may remember, massive public spending in the pandemic, it did not make up for lost business for people. And you remember, we were all encouraged to buy meals for takeout at restaurants, for example. Yeah. But it did cover people's income, but it didn't cover lost business. And then to go to the grand principle kind of things. And I love your reference, I like thinking about that the constitutional claims about border checks, but I'm gonna go in it in a slightly different but certainly related direction.
Yeah, the grand principle claims were also really important. And those do draw national press and lock into partisan debates in this country. So for example, I mentioned the Alliance Defending Freedom. There's one, political theorist who named them, I wish I could think of another name. But I love this. I'll site, her instead, Wendy Brown sites on the juggernaut of conservative litigation, particularly around religion, but they brought cases, and affiliated groups brought cases, around closures, but particularly around restrictions for accessing places of worship in the pandemic. And three cases about that made it to the United States Supreme Court. Now, we know that attendance to worship services has been in decline in recent years in the United States. So I don't know how much it affected people's, lots of people's daily lives. We got news reports about some places of worship and things. But it did absolutely lock into public debate about the importance of free exercise of religion. And people who, with expertise in litigating these issues, are making a bid for the future, as well. It's not just resolving the immediate dispute, they did get three cases before the United States Supreme Court. And part of that was about entrenching greater priority for the free exercise of religion as a principle governing American life. So those are some illustrations for you about the different ways that accessing courts and courts and governance mattered in the pandemic to many, many people. Does that answer your question?
By all means. It certainly does. And in reflecting on the things that you've just just told me, I mean, I think that this is really fascinating. And certainly it has many more layers than I had initially anticipated, as you've described, these, these various types of litigation that do ultimately affect governance and sort of how people go about living their daily lives, and perhaps even into the future. I especially think about the importance of interest groups in this story. I mean, obviously, you've mentioned a number of pretty big ones, as you were just mentioning the Juggernaut, right? The ADF. Just recently and the ACLU, you've got all these, these sorts of characters in this narrative. It's just really fascinating to think about as a political scientist, right, the way that interest groups are responsible in part as a linkage institution for connecting individual preferences to government. But I think one of the less heralded perhaps ways that they do this is through the courts. And I especially really found fascinating the thing that you said most recently in your discussion, which was about the ongoing battles that these groups have had, and continue to have about fundamental sort of ideological arguments in American society, and how the pandemic in itself became not necessarily even the whole point of the kinds of actions that these interest groups were taking, but actually, instruments in service of broader cultural and ideological debates and conflicts. And so in that sense, I mean, it's it's fascinating to think about the longer and sort of more holistic trajectory of political discussion and political challenges in America and how this story ties into that. I'm really fascinated to think about how this this goes from, as I mentioned, kind of the micro level to the macro level, how it all kind of flows together towards a more holistic understanding of politics, the United States. I mean, interest groups are extremely important, aren't they?
Yes, thank you. And I gotta say, I would include businesses on that. I mean, it was true elective business guidance decision that came up with the virus exclusion again, now a number of years ago, for example, but interest organizations, and then the parties as well, there was opportunistic litigation. I think this has gotten a bit more press around the election and efforts that states might have made to accommodate voting.
Yes, there's they're extremely important and it is partly a bid for the future. Again, the efforts to extend opportunities to vote in the pandemic remain, and governor's authority to do that remain a matter of great contention, as you know.
Absolutely. Yeah, we'll be hearing a lot more about that in the next few months as the primaries run up. And then by 2024, will certainly have, I'm sure many legal challenges to things like widespread vote by mail, schemes on things that didn't exist in many of these states prior to the pandemic. So yeah, that's that's all things to look towards the future. But I want to, I want to dive back into into your book a little bit and ask you another question specifically about the methods that you use to, to make these claims and to analyze these trends. Obviously, it's a podcast about the social sciences. So we'd like to get into the nitty gritty. So tell me a bit about these methods and the data that you used to evaluate these claims.
Okay. And I'll give two kinds of answers. One, I'll start with a data centric one, which is that it's pretty straightforward to, relatively, to track cases that make it through the federal courts. There's one federal court system, our library has wonderful access, all of that. There are some oddities about how the Supreme Court is currently handling decisions that make them slightly more complicated to track in ordinary databases, but really, that's very straightforward. What's more difficult to track is the proliferation of state court cases. And so I told you, I started by I, I'll get to the second part, actually, right now, of my two part method. One is I want to still be an advocate for what long ago was named soaking and poking. You might have heard that in graduate school. There's nothing wrong with just reading as much as you can about something. There were people who were well plugged in, well there were Global Health Reports, there were people who were well plugged in to publishers who could crank out books very quickly. One of them I think, out of Oxford, God bless him, at least thanked his wife for helping him write the book. But so they were out by late 2020. And so some of it I just read a lot. A graduate assistant helped me to track cases that I knew all I was doing for the state courts, which are difficult to track unless you're really going to look at every single one. But I'm really interested in cases they get filed. I'm interested in loser cases. Again, those insurance cases matter. But they're largely loser cases. And those are harder to track. I thought I am so biasing what I'm doing by tracking what's recorded in the news. This is not helpful. And then I kept looking, kept looking and found two parts. One, that law firm was tracking all the cases that it could, and remember the pandemic. I mean, actually, my life has been a little bit like this since then too. I'm sitting in staring at a computer screen in my home office. It can't hurt to write them. So I wrote them and said would you share your data with me? This is hard to get. How are you assembling all the state court cases? And a lawyer got back to me, a partner in the firm. And I said, Is it possible that you're doing this because you have some slack resources? And they said, Yes. And so then he said, I've got to ask how much I can share and what I can share. And and he shared the original data sheet (Dr. Anson: wow.). That was the kinds of cases, yeah, very kind. I thank them in the book. And because it's it's proprietary. It's a paid for law firm. And there were a lot of blanks in coding. And I said, Can I assume that you guys are hand coding this and you don't think that you need to share with me your hand coding? And he said, Yes. And the answers were all so courteous, very quick, and more elaborate than that. And I thought, fair enough. And I just want to sort out who's, who's doing that. Part two. Tom Baker, of the, who's a wonderful scholar of insurance, and who I've known off and on for a while, because of our scholarly communities, at University of Pennsylvania, started tracking all the insurance cases. And so I wrote Tom and said, can we talk about how you're getting this and what you're doing? And he's getting it through a paid for subscription of courthouse news. He is a wonderful scholar and put together, and this I didn't try to track with him, but he got support from law firms to do this, too. And he's putting money and teams into this, which is fantastic. So he's only tracking insurance that I can get cases filed. Everybody's really honest about what they're doing that there's no way they're getting every case filed, but that they think they're getting a good representation of the range. From what I know about the world, I would think they're probably right, they're getting a good representation of the range. And so he's got many more insurance cases than the law firms does. Makes so much sense. But still, he's they both have a lot of insurance cases. And because the firm shared their original data with me, I could look to your point about the interest groups and where the filings were going to get people released from prison. The interest groups on the soaking and poking model, I started looking at their websites as well. And then another employment law firm started tracking the employment law cases. So their numbers don't all add up. They're trying to track different things. But they're these folks who do this are trying to track something that's extremely difficult to track, that is not outcomes but cases filed that eventually lead to outcomes, and in state courts, which are difficult to find. So again, after that, I read websites, I double checked myself by looking for cases, Tom, who recognizes the data transparency conversation, did share with me, so he said, here are some judgments if you want to find them, but if you want to read them, but I could find the judgments, the judgments weren't that hard. It's just I couldn't aggregate them all. He's got a team putting that together. So I cross checked a whole lot by checking outcomes in cases. I wanted this book to be somewhat accessible, so to anybody who might be interested. But that includes disaster scholars, it's in a disaster series. As you know, people are not used to thinking about disaster. So the chapters open with individual stories, including the insurance cases. One is about very early set of cases filed by the five tribes in in Oklahoma, because they had to close their casinos. So they're relatively well resourced with regard to law. If anybody was going to win, they were going to.. They won for a while until they didn't. And then just to give you again, people a sense of the different stories. A small baseball organization, actually out of Pennsylvania, picked because they were small. And again, I got to thinking about this not as an abstract intellectual issue. But from chatting with people I knew who ran small businesses. I wasn't asking about this. These are small businesses I engaged in my life in Baltimore, and I found the stories very touching, and people do get access to the federal money. So it's not that they didn't, but it did point me to insurance, the grand principle kames. Once you know that Alliance Defending free, I mean, first of all, I probably would have checked them, no matter what. But once you recognize that they're taking lawsuits, it was very important to me to check their website, and they would advertise cases that they were taking that may not make it to a final judgment at all. And again, those are about free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and linking the two.
So how many cases overall, did you manage to sort of incorporate into this dataset? It must've been a very large number, right?.
It is. See, that's something I didn't look up before I talked to you. I, it's in the 1000s (Dr. Anson: wow). But again there's no one reliable number, and because I just kept wanting to tell one more story, I had a cut off late in 2020. I wanted to cut off before the vaccine. But for cases filed, I don't have an absolute cut off. But in the many 1000s, and I'm happy to send you a link to Tom Baker's website, University of Pennsylvania law website, I should call it because it's a team working on this. And they keep updating it, it was a joint discussion with the press that, that instead of reporting figures from that, we would link to the website because they are updating as those cases largely fail. So I didn't do any kind of traditional, what you'd be most familiar with regression analysis. Again, I had discussions about this, both the cases were in process, but they were largely going down, and so someone said to me, who thanks in social science terms, Well, there's nothing to analyze here. If they're mostly loser cases, I said, Oh, are you kidding? Really important, including for the future about how we're going to be managing disasters.
Absolutely. That's, that's really fascinating to think about how you're analyzing these cases, sort of in process, even as they're, as they're moving, you're tracking them over time, and this holistic methodology that you're using to evaluate the trends, right. It's fascinating, and we'll definitely, by the way, throw a link in the show notes, so that listeners will be able to check out that website that you were describing, if you're interested, perhaps in just checking out this incredible data collection effort, and just getting a chance to see what we're talking about here in terms of these cases, and their dispositions. And certainly just the incredible difficulty of actually finding out some of this information from state, especially state courts. I think a lot of listeners who maybe aren't as practiced in the social sciences, don't fully often understand that just because there's a website somewhere doesn't necessarily mean that it's easy to glean relevant, useful social science analyzable kinds of information from those sites. And those of us who study state and local politics are well familiar with these kinds of things like looking at, you know, county election boards, that kind of thing. These websites are often really scary because of their lack of quality, and can be very, very difficult to parse. And so it's something that requires a tremendous amount of effort. And certainly, I'm really impressed to think of both yourself, and also these other folks, either in law firms or at University of Pennsylvania, who are doing that incredibly difficult work of compiling this information. I mean, that's, that's an incredible service to the, to the discipline, to our understanding of this phenomenon.
I agree with you. And I would take no praise for that, honestly. I really admire the people who and after because I read a bunch of stuff that I wanted to read, that was very fun. But systematically collecting this, I really admire the work that has gone into that. And the other part I admire about that it as well, given all the conversations about data transparency, and you may be aware of some high profile discussions of data fraud these days. I, when you mentioned the difficulty of the county websites, I always point students to you want to pay attention to what they say is being collected. It doesn't mean they're wrong, but don't act as though it's complete. And I admire the people who will say here, here's what we're collecting. Here's the best we can do. And that's that's wonderful. Then, then you know, what you've got and what and what you don't have, it doesn't mean that it's wrong. It's just the world is necessarily incomplete. But I will happily send you links to a few different databases.
Awesome. You have, also thank you, by the way for that. But you know, on this note, I also wanted to ask you a final question. As we wrap up this fascinating discussion of your recent book, I wanted to just just quickly ask you about any additional words of advice that you might have for students who might be listening to this podcast, who are hoping perhaps to go pro in the social sciences, I always ask this of folks who come on the podcast, and especially those who have roles, where they're involved in teaching. What would you tell these students who are excited about perhaps following in your footsteps and working on subjects like this?
Thank you so much for asking that. First, and this is such ordinary advice. And maybe for that reason, it's I still have to say it. There are so many places that analytical skills are helpful, so you don't have to think about it's because I want to be a professor. Walking around as a citizen, great analytical skills are really helpful so that you at least question what you hear. It doesn't mean you have to say it's wrong, but you think about, wait, what, what, what's built into this? What do I need to know more to understand it? So, a strong sense of curiosity, this work rewards that. Another point I would say, and I know you'd agree with this, is that analytical skills are so helpful, certainly as a human walking around on the planet, but after that, in so many different kinds of work. The curiosity that is foundational to data analytical skills, is useful in about every kind of work, volunteer work, community service that I can think of. And after that, if one is thinking about jobs, the analytical skills are useful, shoot to the law students who are working on putting together the insurance database, for example. The young lawyers and any analysts, the law firm is hired to figure out how to code what a case is about that's been filed in court. It's useful in since we're in Maryland, in the wide variety of think tank and government policy analytical places that people maybe do think about, about. But really, in the for profit firms, whether it's law firms or consulting firms, an ability to think systematically about the evidence that you have for the claims that you make is invaluable everywhere. And I would invite people to think about that in the social world. And the more that you know, the more it is possible to know, because you can put it in a much richer context and can understand what things mean. And what kinds of questions to ask.
I couldn't agree with that more. You know, I have a friend here in Baltimore, who sells a lot of items on Craigslist, and on Facebook marketplace. And he said, this is my hobby, I like to do this. And I'm always really curious to understand why some people buy some of these things that I'm selling, and why other people don't, you know. Why do I get a lot of views on some of these items, and other ones get passed by? And I was like, Brad, you're a social scientist, you just don't realize it yet. You're trying to understand human behavior in a systematic way. And this is, this might be your hobby, but this is my job all the time, and I'm so excited to talk to you about like trying to understand this phenomenon. And he, he got very excited to to think about this. But I think it absolutely resonates, this anecdote, with with your point is that we're all to some extent, social sciences. But it's the training, and it's this, you know, this this approach that we develop through our study that allows us to say things maybe in a more confident way about that human behavior, no matter what we're doing, right. In a professional setting across, you know, public and private and nonprofit sectors. And so I think that's definitely advice that our students will want to hear, and certainly something that resonates with me as well. So Dr. Susan, Sterett, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your new book. We'll definitely throw all those links in the show notes there for interested listeners. This was a real pleasure, and I'm so grateful that you came by to chat with us.
Thank you so much, Ian. This was really fun. I appreciate your time, and I love your story about your friend. You take care.
Now it's time for Campus Connections, and with return to this format, we have some exciting news to announce. With the fall semester in full swing, we're really happy to welcome a new production assistant, Jean Kim. Jean, we're so happy you're working for the podcast, and I'm sure that I speak for all of our listeners when I say that we can't wait to hear what connections you make in the weeks and months to come. So Jean, tell us a little bit about yourself and what did you come up with for this connection?
Thanks, Dr. Anson. I am so excited to be a new member of Retrieving the Social Sciences. Creating the space for human connection and development through dialogue is something I'm super passionate about. So I'm happy to be here. Currently, I'm a sophomore Global Studies major on the pre law track. I'm also part of the Humanities Scholars program and honors college here on campus. Now let's get back to that fascinating discussion earlier for a campus connection. For this campus connection, I was inspired to find research on campus that takes a look into the court system. We'll be taking a look at research from Dr. William Blake, who is Associate Professor and Associate Department Chair of the political science department here at UMBC. Dr. Blake's article titled "Social Capital, Institutional Rules, and Constitutional Amendment Rates" was recently published by the American Political Science Review. This publication is a big deal as American Political Science Review publishes less than 1% of all submissions and is a top journal of the field. Congratulations, Dr. Blake. The article explores why some constitutions are amended more frequently than others. To delve deeper into the study of constitutional amendments. The work examines amendment rates as an exchange between social forces and institutional rules, analyzing data from democratic constitutions from around the world. This study showed that while constitutional rigidity decreases amendment frequency, group membership, civic activism and levels of social and political trust can negate the effect of amendment rules. The study has really fascinating and important findings for the fields of public law, constitutional and democratic theory, and social movements. So definitely check out the article. And that's all for Campus Connections this week.
Thanks so much, Jean. Once again, it's great to have you working on the pod. Now that's all for today's episode. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Dr. Sterett, and that the subject of our discussion has inspired you as much as it has me to continue your journey in the social sciences, and as always, to keep questioning.
Retrieving the Social Sciences is a production of the UMBC Center for Social Science Scholarship. Our director is Dr. Christine Mallinson, our Associate Director is Dr. Felipe Filomeno, and our production intern is Alex Andrews. Our theme music was composed and recorded by D'Juan Moreland. Find out more about CS 3 at socialscience.umbc.edu and make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, where you can find full video recordings of recent CS3 events. Until next time, keep questioning.