Long-standing ExCollege course explores the meaning of privacy in U.S. law


The right to privacy has been a subject of legal importance since the founding of the United States, and in 2008, Steven Sharobem and Douglas martland thought that a course on the subject would be perfect for Experimental College at Tufts. Martland said the ever-changing legal status of the right to privacy makes the topic directly relevant to students. The ExCollege scrambles its class lists every semester, but Martland and Sharobem’s class has been running intermittently for more than a decade, establishing itself as one of the pillars of the ExCollege.

In the fall of 2008, Charobem and Martland taught a class called Constitutional law and the American educational system. A semester later, the class turned into what is now The Right to Privacy in Modern America. The lawyer duo taught the class almost every year until 2017. After a five-semester hiatus that began in the spring of 2018, the course is back this fall and tucked into the Tufts fabric.

Charobem and Martland Met at Suffolk Law School. Graduating in 2005, the couple worked together at Massachusetts Superior Court then worked together at Massachusetts Court of Appeal during two years. Together they also worked on Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for about seven years.

Now, Martland is a deputy attorney general to Massachusetts Attorney General ‘s Office, working in the constitutional and administrative law division, while Charobem is an assistant we lawyer working in the United States Attorney’s Office for the district of Massachusetts, affiliated with the Department of Justice and in the positive civil enforcement division.

The duo first heard of the ExCollege when they worked together.

“We had been exposed to some really interesting concepts while we were both in law school – as well as as interns with each other – that we thought was a really interesting way to teach law, much different from what we experienced in law school, ” Charobem noted.

The course they developed is discussion-based and encourages critical analysis of Supreme Court case.

“The idea is really to explore the details of how the right to privacy has been defined over the last … 25 to 30 years of Supreme Court decisions, and how it sort of surfaced and how it really dominated everyday life in some ways ”, Charobem noted.

Their course opened the eyes of many students and encouraged further reflection on this topic of privacy. Emma Bittar, a sophomore and current in the class, enjoys the open-minded discussions offered by the course.

“I have always really enjoyed hearing the opinions and perspectives of others, just because we all come from different places and experiences” Bittar noted. “I think it’s important to hear about it and to open your eyes to parts of the world that you might not be involved in.

According to the first year Larson burak, another current student in the class, having two professional lawyers leading the class gives students the opportunity to hear unique professional perspectives.

“I really appreciate the perspectives they bring to the discussions” Bourak noted. “The kids in the class will share our ideas, and they’ll contribute another anecdote or something they’ve come across in their professional careers that really takes it to another level and changes the dynamics.”

Bittar appreciated the way professors question students’ ideas about privacy.

“They definitely challenge our ways of thinking, I think more than I’ve really been through before, which has been really fun just to really dismantle your thoughts and then rebuild them again,” Bittar noted.

According to both the teachers and students, one of the main attractions of this course is its relevance to the life of the students.

“The cases are generally drawn directly from the headlines of the main newspapers, from the large court hearings”, Martland noted. “We spend a lot of this semester doing something new every time.”

After thirteen years of teaching, the two Martland and Charobem agreed that the best part of the class is working with students and learning from their unique perspectives.

Sharobem said he was always struck by his students’ engagement with the topic and “how willing they are to share, both from a personal point of view, as well as their own views on the subject. what they think is the best “.

In addition to enjoying interacting with students, Martland and Charobem also like to work together.

“It’s great to be two, so that we can always be there for the students outside of the classroom. When they need to meet us or talk to us about something, one of us can always know, ”Sharobem said. “I think it’s also helpful from a class perspective for the students to have our two perspectives.

Martland and Charobem create a relaxed environment where they have fun with each other while teaching.

“I really like to make fun of Steve. And I hope that some of this humor reaches the students, and that they can enter an environment that is not that serious and regulated ”, Martland noted.

Martland and Charobem know that Tufts doesn’t offer a lot of law courses, and they pride themselves on offering a course that can help students decide whether or not they want to pursue a career in the legal field. Whether or not the students decide to go to law school, the duo are equally happy to help the students with their decision.

Bourak took the course for this very reason.

“I took it in part as an investigation to find out if I was interested in law. And I think this [class], did not necessarily take me completely away from me, but perhaps channeled my interest in another direction ”, Bourak noted.

In the same way, Bittar wasn’t sure exactly what the future had in store for him in the legal arena, but regardless, taking this course gave him a more informed basis to make a decision.

“For me personally I speak of a very moving place [and] in a very empathetic place ”, Bittar noted. “I want to feel that this is really necessary in the field of law, but I also feel that sometimes it is really lacking. So, I just don’t know how it’s going to fit.

Charobem and Martland over the years, several students have entered law school, and many of them still stay in touch.

“I hadn’t realized how much I would appreciate hearing from alumni and knowing how much they are still influenced by our small class for 13 weeks. ” Charobem noted. “The fact that we’ve kind of provided them with some kind of encouragement to be where they are is a real humiliation for me.”

Martland and Charobem will not teach The Right to Privacy in Modern America in spring 2022. They would like await the end of this term of the Supreme Court, during which several unprecedented cases are on the agenda. The teachers hope to return and teach the course again next year.

The Right to Privacy in Modern America will constantly change based on current events, and this is what makes the course unique.

“I really think this course continues because it is always the opportunity to talk about what is happening in the country”, Martland noted. “All of the issues we talked about are usually at the forefront of everyone’s mind during the semester in a way that they often aren’t in many other college courses.”

Charobem and Martland are grateful for the experience of teaching this class and the 13-year journey they have made with the university and its students.

“I’m not sure he and I, when we started this business, thought we would be here in 2021. But we are and there’s a reason we’re still here.” Charobem noted. “We really love him and it’s just amazing. And we know it’s not just down to us, but it’s down to the students who are willing to put in the work, the time, and the effort.


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