Sociology students recreate civil rights trial

The room is divided — five students sit on each side, and jury members cling to the perimeter. The prosecution is on the right, the defense on the left.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” the bailiff asks.

In  the course Sociology 313: Social Movements, Ziad Munson, an associate professor of sociology, teaches students about significant movements in history by assigning character roles and holding trials Mondays and Wednesdays at 2:35 p.m. Jason Slipp, a senior instructional technology consultant, also helps teach the class.

Slipp said the students in the course are reenacting the trial of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama. The mock trial is dubbed a “Reacting to the Past” game.

Munson said he prefers using games like this one to teach his students because they are simulations of the real world and allow students to discuss cause and effect rather than just take notes.

“Instead of telling the students you need to know X, Y and Z, I tell them what their goal is and they have to figure out what they need to learn to accomplish X, Y and Z,” Munson said. “I have not told them what sources to use, they have to figure it out on their own.”

Cristiana Villani, ’19, who played Judge Eugene Carter, slammed the gavel and announced that court was in session.

Kirsten Hernandez, ‘19, who played the role of defense attorney Fred D. Gray, began questioning her witness, NaVette Smith, ’19, who played trade unionist E. D. Nixon.

The 30-minute trial saw three objections and one five-minute recess before it adjourned for the day. The prosecution requested a recess before questioning the defense’s witness. Once granted, the team exited the glass room on Fairchild-Martindale Library’s second floor and discussed the trial at a nearby table.

Students take the class seriously, researching the trial for hours before each meeting to prepare for any curveballs the…

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