Students Discuss Constitutional Law with Yale Professor Akhil Reed Amar

The Rockefeller Center hosted a Student Coffee Hour with Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University and Law School. Amar has been awarded several honors from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society. He has also been favorably cited by Supreme Court justices in more than 30 cases, has regularly testified before Congress for both Republicans and Democrats, and has written for popular publications such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, and Slate.

During the hour, many students were granted the opportunity to discuss their interests and questions about constitutional law with Professor Amar. Referring to several books he has published as well as his own pocket Constitution, Amar addressed students’ concerns with great detail.

Much of the discussion revolved around the incoming Trump administration and how the new President will shape the court moving forward by making several critical decisions, such selecting justice replacements. Another, more broad-spanning issue brought up was the growing power of the Supreme Court relative to other branches of the United States Government. As Amar stated in his books and during the discussion, judicial review is a part of the Constitution implicitly, but the Supreme Court exercises this in a much bigger way today than anticipated.

Due to the complexity of the challenges discussed, there were no clear solutions or conclusions reached at the end of the hour. Nonetheless, Amar sparked several interesting conversations and raised many points students otherwise would likely have not considered. A small group of students further engaged with Professor Amar for an additional hour or so delving deeper into some of the issues brought up earlier. Amar continually referred to passages from one of the several books that he authored and carries with him - notably America’s Constitution, to answer the students’ questions because, as he remarked, the Constitution has been the sole focus of his scholarship throughout his career as a constitutional law professor.

This is the Rockefeller Center’s second time hosting Akhil Amar on campus. In September of 2015, Amar participated in a PoliTALK student dinner as a part of Dartmouth’s annual Constitution Day celebration. Similar to his most recent coffee hour, the dinner featured an engaging discussion about constitutional issues in today’s political environment.

-Written by Niki Bakhru '17, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Communications