Excerpted from The Chronicle for Higher Education's "People" column, February 28, 2016.
After Baltimore was rocked by demonstrations over the death of Freddie Gray — a black man who died last spring after suffering a spinal-cord injury while in police custody — faculty members at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, in Baltimore, wanted to continue the conversation in the classroom.
The result was a course called "Freddie Gray’s Baltimore," administered by Professor Michael Greenberger, that examines issues specific to the city. It is being offered this semester for the second time.
"After calm was restored, both the president and the dean of our law school made it clear that we had an obligation to help correct the dysfunctional social policies that were at the base of all this," says Mr. Greenberger, who was on a committee that came up with the idea for the course.
The course is co-taught by several faculty members, with prominent officials such as U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, and Leana S. Wen, the City of Baltimore’s health commissioner, coming in to guest-lecture. The spring version of the course includes a new segment discussing the implications of the trial last fall of one of the police officers charged in Mr. Gray’s death.
By popular demand, the class has been reorganized so that the last two hours of the semester are given over to the students for discussion. Both terms, the class has been held in the law school’s largest lecture hall — seating about 100 people — and its leaders still needed to turn away applicants.
"Students have been so engaged because they were really familiar with the problems from their own experiences," says Mr. Greenberger. "They have grown up in their own inner-city environments. They knew what it was like to deal with police officers or public-school education, and all the difficulty of education or housing or getting health care."
"Freddie Gray’s Baltimore" is also being taught this term as an eight-week undergraduate course at the University of Maryland at College Park. Students who enrolled in the course have come up with some ideas for improving policies, says Mr. Greenberger. One student from the fall wrote a final paper suggesting a curriculum for sensitivity training for police officers, and he is working with the law school and the Baltimore Police Department to try to put such training in place. — Angela Chen