The First Amendment

    1. Core Text: Howard Gillman and Erwin Chemerinsky. Free Speech on Campus. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2017.

Hardly a week goes by without another controversy over free speech on college campuses. On one side, there are increased demands to censor hateful, disrespectful, and bullying expression and to ensure an inclusive and nondiscriminatory learning environment. On the other side are traditional free speech advocates who charge that recent demands for censorship coddle students and threaten free inquiry. In this clear and carefully reasoned book, a university chancellor and a law school dean—both constitutional scholars who teach a course in free speech to undergraduates—argue that campuses must provide supportive learning environments for an increasingly diverse student body but can never restrict the expression of ideas. This book provides the background necessary to understanding the importance of free speech on campus and offers clear prescriptions for what colleges can and can’t do when dealing with free speech controversies.

In this class, students attempt to understand the history of the problem of interpreting, legislating, advancing, protecting and facilitating free speech on campus. They learn about the deep history of struggles, legal fights, court rulings, and implementation of policies related to assuring free speech, at least as understood in one tradition.

    2. Reading List: “Free Speech Abuses,” Reading Selections
    Course developed by Rachael Collins

Because of the flood of disinformation on the Internet, it has become increasingly difficult to grapple with the negative effects of free expression. And where the First Amendment is concerned, the law concerning freedom of speech is pretty open-ended. That's because First Amendment jurisprudence was shaped by "free speech absolutism," a theory that claims the answer to problems like hate speech or fake news is not censorship, no matter how well intended, but more speech. This theory is not without its detractors, especially in recent years with the increased publicity surrounding white nationalist organizations and events that have culminated in violence and death.  Among the first to call for a “limited” First Amendment were critical race theorists who point out that the First Amendment can be used to preserve the racial status quo and is often invoked to undermine and even violate the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law. But it isn't just hate speech controversy in the arena of freedom of assembly that asks us to consider free speech abuses; it is also social media where hate speech is so prolific that people have begun to demand government oversight of its platforms.

This course will not focus on any one abuse: its readings will offer you a range of perspectives from the investigative reporter to the legal theorist on various interconnected First Amendment related problems starting with the problem of technology and ending with the problem of government secrecy and press freedom.

Climate Change

    1. Reading List: “Thinking About Climate Change,”  Reading Selections
    Course developed by Scott Lerner

This course focuses on how and why individuals, governments, and policymakers respond to climate change. Course readings explore various responses from different communities, such as the scientific community's resistance to "alarmism," the origins and proliferation of "denialism" within government (and beyond), and efforts to study the ways in which climate change's new global paradigm presents challenges for the individual to perceive and understand its scope. The course investigates contemporary solutions like carbon reduction and reforestation, as well as activist movements and fatalism.

Medical Humanities

    1. Core Text: Rebecca Skloot. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Broadway Book, 2010.

When Henrietta Lacks, a black woman from Baltimore, sought treatment for her advanced cervical cancer in 1951, the course of medical research changed forever. Treating her cancer, doctors harvested Lacks’ cervical cells without her knowledge or her consent. The HeLa cells became instrumental in the development of many groundbreaking cancer tests and treatments. Lacks died from her disease and, to this day, her family has seen no compensation for the unauthorized use of Lacks’ genetic material. In fact, they cannot even afford health insurance.

The story of Henrietta Lacks raises troubling questions of medicine, ethics, race, genetics, medical testing, and scientific research. In this course, students will not only think about the fine line between scientific advancement and personal freedoms, but about the systemic racism of our medical establishment and its systematic exploitation of black bodies.


    1. Reading List: “The Criminalization of Immigrants,” Reading Selections
    Course developed by Brian Fonken

This course examines changes in US immigration enforcement that constitute a turn toward overcriminalization. You might assume that the story begins in 2016, with the election of Donald Trump. The readings in this course tell a different tale, one that examines how migration has been recast as illegal, borders weaponized, legal rights curtailed, and incarceration expanded continuously over the past several decades. Students will pursue a range of research projects related to mass incarceration, problems in immigration courts, and the effects of an expanding set of laws dictating as criminal the everyday activities of undocumented immigrants.

Black Lives Matter

    1. Core Text (New): The 1619 Project

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. [The project contains essays on different aspects of contemporary American life, from mass incarceration to rush-hour traffic, that have their roots in slavery and its aftermath.] It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

    2. Core Text: Ruha Benjamin. Race After Technology. Wiley, 2019.
    Course developed by Ryan Chang

In 2017, Chukwuemeka Afigbo, a tech worker from Nigeria, uploaded a video to Twitter that went viral. Apparently, the device immediately dispensed soap for a white person, but not for Afigbo, who has dark skin. Afigbo [NB: there is a small typo in the original text] captioned his video with the following tweet: “If you have ever had a problem grasping the importance of diversity in tech and its impact on society, watch this video.” Afigbo's experience makes a concise and affecting case for the biases inherent in technologies we take for granted every day, ones often dismissed as incidental glitches. Afigbo sought to highlight how technology embodies a subjective perspective; the dispenser, which drips soap into hands based on the amount of light reflected physically off of the hand, also reflects the bias in the device’s seemingly objective settings. White skin gets recognized. Dark skin does not.

On the one hand, automated hand soap dispensers are relatively simple technological fixes that prevent the inevitable spread of germs in public bathrooms. On the other hand, it has racism built into its design. In this course’s core text, students read about other examples of how race is part of the codes that help us live our day-to-day lives: legal codes that determine innocence and crime, social codes that shape our behaviors, and technical codes that recommend us services and products and even dispense soap.

    3. Core Text: Kelly Lytle Hernandez, City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965. University of North Carolina University Press, 2017.

Los Angeles incarcerates more people than any other city in the United States, which imprisons more people than any other nation on Earth. This book explains how the City of Angels became the capital city of the world’s leading incarcerator. Marshaling more than two centuries of evidence, historian Kelly Lytle Hernández unmasks how histories of native elimination, immigrant exclusion, and black disappearance drove the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles. In this telling, which spans from the Spanish colonial era to the outbreak of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, Hernández documents the persistent historical bond between the racial fantasies of conquest, namely its settler colonial form, and the eliminatory capacities of incarceration. But City of Inmates is also a chronicle of resilience and rebellion, documenting how targeted peoples and communities have always fought back. They busted out of jail, forced Supreme Court rulings, advanced revolution across bars and borders, and, as in the summer of 1965, set fire to the belly of the city. With these acts those who fought the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles altered the course of history in the city, the borderlands, and beyond. This book recounts how the dynamics of conquest met deep reservoirs of rebellion as Los Angeles became the City of Inmates, the nation’s carceral core. It is a story that is far from over.

In this course, students will explore the relationship between mass incarceration and the history of systemic racism in a city close to our campus.

    4. Reading List: “Mass Incarceration and Advocacy for Black Lives,” Reading Selections
    Course developed by Rachael Collins

This course explores the contemporary problem of mass incarceration and anti-black violence as one entrenched in America's 400-year legacy of racism and discrimination. Students read an excerpt from Michelle Alexander's 2010 The New Jim Crow along with a host of subsequent work that confirms, challenges, and develops her argument that mass incarceration, like segregation in the south, was deliberate--a strategic web of policies and practices specifically intended to harm black Americans. The course scrutinizes these policies and practices within and without the prison walls and examines their long and short-term effects on communities and individuals. It also invites students to compare media coverage, public and government responses to Black Lives Matter protest movements during both the Obama and Trump Administrations and looks at Obama-era attempts at sweeping federal reform of law enforcement before considering recent attempts to roll back those reforms.


    1. Core Text: Matthew Desmond, Evicted. Penguin Random House, 2016.

In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they each struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as “wrenching and revelatory” (The Nation), “vivid and unsettling” (New York Review of Books), Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of twenty-first-century America’s most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

Students who choose this core text think about how housing and the lack thereof are deeply embedded into a history of systemic inequality in the United States. The course touches upon topics such as universal access to affordable housing, the ever growing rent burden faced by American families, and the increasing normalization of evictions.

    2. Core Text: Andrea Gibbons, City of Segregation: 100 Years of Struggle for Housing in Los Angeles. Verso, 2018.
    Course description by Brandon Wild

In City of Segregation, Andrea Gibbons demonstrates the ways that various actors have worked, over time, to produce the current housing situation in the city, in which conceptions of race remain closely linked to estimations of property value in real estate markets. Detailing the dynamic interrelationships between economics, politics, ideology, and space, Gibbons raises important questions about some of the ways that structural racism has persisted through the ostensibly race-neutral processes of market exchange and how that structural racism has also helped to foster vastly different experiences, perspectives, and priorities regarding its harmful effects. Gibbons thus pushes readers to recognize the ways that racial segregation in housing has come with a racial segregation in public concern and understanding, which then serves to protect the problem’s causal factors from any widely supported transformative action.

Some of the issues closely related to housing segregation, that this course focuses on, are the thoroughly racialized disparities in access to intergenerational wealth accumulation, adequate healthcare, quality education, environmental safety, and social and professional networks and opportunities. Along with these disparities in access exist others such as the exposure to toxic air and water, violent policing, exploitative employers, neglectful landlords, predatory lending practices, medical ethics violations, mass incarceration, eviction, and abuses related to information technology and social media. These related topics and many others show the wide variety of directions that students can take as they develop their own specific research questions in this class.

Labor and the Economy

    1. Core Text: Barbara Ehreinreich. Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. Macmillan, 2004.

What we think of as "the traditional role of women" has undoubtedly changed during the past 100 years. However, despite the educational opportunities and economic advancements of recent decades, the fact remains that advancements in the “Developed World” are dependent on a workforce from the “Developing World” -- women, for the most part, who work as nannies, maids and sex workers.

The course covers such topics as transnational families, an invisible labor force, domestic labor and worker protections, immigration, sex tourism, and modern-day slavery.  Students will discover how these problems----connected to gender, education, economics, culture, and politics---are embedded into a complex world system that often thrives on the exploitation of women of color.

    2. Core Text: Louis Hyman. Temp: The Real Story of What Happened to Your Salary, Benefits, and Job Security. Penguin Random House, 2018.
    Course developed by Julian Smith-Newman

This course considers the way people work in the 21st century, the kinds of jobs they do (or don’t do) as well as the wages, benefits, and levels of job security they receive (or don’t receive) for their labor. Much of the discussion focuses on the rise of “gig work” and the “gig economy,” which is to say, the increasing prevalence of work that is temporary, precarious, subcontracted, contingent, casualized. For some experts and scholars, the growth of this kind of work—which, according to one study, represents 94 percent of net new jobs created in the U.S. between 2005-2015 (Katz)—is a good thing, since it gives workers greater “flexibility” and “autonomy” in their lives. For many others, however, this transformation of work represents a dangerous trend, since it leads to a loss of the security and stability on which many workers—though, as we will see, by no means all workers—could formerly depend.

    3. Reading List: “Deaths of Despair: Declining American Life Expectancy,” Reading Selections
    Course developed by Thomas Williams

This section of WR 60 considers the shocking trend which is devastating the world’s richest nation: the decline in American life expectancy. This deterioration, has largely arisen out of the premature deaths of people who have been the victim of the substance abuse and suicide—otherwise known as “deaths of despair.” The course’s readings include selections from academic papers from medical and legal journals, reports from think tanks and NGOs, works of critical theory and sociology, and newspaper articles.

The course considers such topics as the opioid epidemic, the sociology of health, automation and the formation of surplus populations, increasing social isolation, the burgeoning of slums, mass incarceration, the geography of poverty, the economics of the pharmaceutical industry, the climate crisis, and Millennial burnout.


    1. Core Text: Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. Penguin Random House, 2013.

From one of the foremost authorities on education in the United States, former U.S. assistant secretary of education, an incisive, comprehensive look at today’s American school system that argues against those who claim it is broken and beyond repair; an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the privatization movement that is draining students and funding from our public schools. In a chapter-by-chapter breakdown she puts forth a plan for what can be done to preserve and improve our public schools. She makes clear what is right about U.S. education, how policy makers are failing to address the root causes of educational failure, and how we can fix it.

This course uses Ravitch’s text to think about the reasons for the current shortcoming of the American K-12 school system. Among others it looks into the problem of school privatization and the founding of charter schools exploring how these developments contribute to the persistence of unequal access to education and thus opportunities for American youths.

    2. Reading List: “Education as the Practice of Freedom," Reading Selections
    Course Developed by Rachael Collins 

"The paradox of education is precisely this; that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated."
--James Baldwin

This course will investigate the meaning and practice of education. While institutional education will indeed play a big part in our inquiry, our priority is in articulating what education means and has meant to us: the students and teacher in this course. To that extent, our investigation is personal. We will consider how our own educational experience has shaped our sense of place in the world and what it means to us to live fulfilling lives. But we will also look at that experience in the contexts of other experiences: those we will encounter in our readings and research. All of the readings and topics consider how education has been and continues to be used as a mechanism of coercion, conformity, and negligence. Some of these experiences you may identify with; others you may not. Our purpose is twofold: to understand what negative education looks like and how it works; and to understand what an education rooted in curiosity looks like and how it works. Finally, in placing so much emphasis on the individual experience and its effects, we can better position ourselves to make demands on the institutions that shape us.

    3. Reading List: “First Generation Students and the Promise of Higher Education,” Reading Selections
    Course developed by Yolanda Santiago Venegas

Did you know that in June of 2019, First Gen Students at UCI made up more than half the graduating class? Did you know that in 2020 UCI received the most applications from CA high school seniors to become the top choice for First Gen, low-income, minority students? According to the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) 42 % of the undergraduates now enrolled in the UC system are first-generation students and a growing number are students from immigrant families. The theme in this class centers the experiences of First Generation students with an emphasis on low-income students and students from immigrant families.

    4. Reading List: “Student Loan Debt,” Reading Selections
    Course developed by Devan Bailey

The explosive growth of student loan debt in recent years has generated a growing body of research and policy advocacy concerned with responding to the looming crisis. The magnitude of the issue is suggested by the role that student loan debt came to play in the platforms of candidates in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in the 2020 primaries: both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders elevated plans to respond to the student loan debt crisis. In this class, we attempt to develop a broad, historically informed perspective on the recent debates about how to respond to growing student loan debt by situating currently proposed solutions in relation to the postwar origins of the American student loan system and the waves of programs and policy changes that have followed.

    5. Core Text: Noliwe Rooks: Cutting School: The SEGRENOMICS of American Education. The New Press, 2017.

Dr. Noliwe Rooks has given a name to a devastating phenomenon gripping the movement to “reform” public school education: segrenomics. This apt framework illuminates not only the history of the campaign to privatize and deregulate American public schools, but also explains who wins, who loses, and how the forces claiming to fight for the best interest of our nation’s children have left the schools they claim to serve underfunded, underresourced, and unequal.

In this course students study the assault of the corporate world on the American public school system. The course focuses on the costs that American children of color pay for the growing trend toward privatization and the rising influence of the charter school movement that perpetuates the historical crime of segregation. The course invites its participants to think together with Rooks, how the American school system can be desegregated to grow up to the promise of offering equal opportunities to all its students.

Animal Ethics

    1. Core Text: Carl Safina. Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. Macmillan, 2015.

Weaving decades of field observations with exciting new discoveries about the brain, Carl Safina's landmark book offers an intimate view of animal behavior to challenge the fixed boundary between humans and nonhuman animals. In Beyond Words, readers travel to Amboseli National Park in the threatened landscape of Kenya and witness struggling elephant families work out how to survive poaching and drought, then to Yellowstone National Park to observe wolves sort out the aftermath of one pack's personal tragedy, and finally plunge into the astonishingly peaceful society of killer whales living in the crystalline waters of the Pacific Northwest. Beyond Words brings forth powerful and illuminating insight into the unique personalities of animals through extraordinary stories of animal joy, grief, jealousy, anger, and love. The similarity between human and nonhuman consciousness, self-awareness, and empathy calls us to re-evaluate how we interact with animals.[...]

The course focuses on current topics in animal science , studies in animal intelligence, social behavior, emotions, and communication. An animal-rights advocacy project originates from the student's interest in a particular species and the issues surrounding that species.

    2. Reading List: “Animal Advocacy," Reading Selections
    Course developed by Peter R. Cibula and Andrew Hill

This course examines the relationship between humans and nonhuman animals. The course attends to the scientific, economic, cultural, religious, political, legal, moral, ethical, and even personal dimensions of these relationships in areas such as entertainment, domestic ownership, agriculture, and biomedical research. The course invites students to think critically with animal advocates, industry professionals, and academics from a range of disciplines by surveying a variety of rhetorical mediums including journalistic sources, legislative histories, lectures, websites, and scholarly publications.

    3. Core Text - Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation by Sunaura Taylor. New York, The New Press, 2017.
From the editors: How much of what we understand of ourselves as “human” depends on our physical and mental abilities—how we move (or cannot move) in and interact with the world? And how much of our definition of “human” depends on its difference from “animal”?                

Drawing on her own experiences as a disabled person, a disability activist, and an animal advocate, author Sunaura Taylor persuades us to think deeply, and sometimes uncomfortably, about what divides the human from the animal, the disabled from the nondisabled—and what it might mean to break down those divisions, to claim the animal and the vulnerable in ourselves, in a process she calls “cripping animal ethics.”

Beasts of Burden suggests that issues of disability and animal justice—which have heretofore primarily been presented in opposition—are in fact deeply entangled. Fusing philosophy, memoir, science, and the radical truths these disciplines can bring—whether about factory farming, disability oppression, or our assumptions of human superiority over animals—Taylor draws attention to new worlds of experience and empathy that can open up important avenues of solidarity across species and ability. Beasts of Burden is a wonderfully engaging and elegantly written work, both philosophical and personal, by a brilliant new voice.

In this course, students will learn how to research and develop arguments about issues surrounding disability and animal justice. Like the book itself, students will approach the topic from an academic perspective grounded in descriptions of lived experience. 


    1. Reading List: “Tech and the Future,” Reading Selections
    Course developed by Jonathan Keeperman

This section of WR 60 considers the future of technology and the myriad ways our world will be changing, for good or ill, in the coming years and decades. We will read through a variety of essays, articles, book excerpts and other compositions that attempt to describe the implications of the many technological revolutions already underway, and speculate on those to come. We will consider such topics as artificial intelligence and machine learning, cryptocurrencies and digital commerce, advanced weapons, robots and autonomous machines, genetic modification and life extension, big data, mass surveillance, social media and online communications, space travel, transhumanism, and many other topics that will soon transcend the realm of science-fiction and touch upon our daily lives right here in the real world.  We will hear from scientists, philosophers, scholars, journalists and thought-leaders of all stripes who are grappling with these issues and how we can best deal with them at the individual level, as nations, and as a global society.