Impeachment inquiry provides teaching opportunities for professors

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch takes a break as she testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, in the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

News about President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry has appeared in news media outlets, news feeds and Google searches. For political science students and teachers alike, this is more than an ongoing current event — it provides professors the opportunity to teach from more than just readings.

BYU political science assistant professor Adam Dynes talked about the timeliness of what he is teaching in his Principles of American Politics class.

“It’s very relevant to the class because we’re thinking a lot about checks and balances. We’re thinking about the role of Congress, the motivations of members of Congress and how that affects their behavior,” Dynes said. He listed many of the topics that have been talked about in relation to current political events.

When the topic of Trump’s impeachment inquiry first came up in class, the first thing Dynes said he was interested in looking at was the students’ opinions and observations. He dedicated 20 minutes of class to holding a discussion about the current impeachment inquiry and the impeachment process.

Dynes said he is continuing to bring up the impeachment in class to apply what they are learning to the impeachment process. He anticipates the topic being applied in future lessons as an example for their lessons on bureaucracy.

In observing and educating students about the impeachment process, Dynes said he feels Democratic power expressed within the House Intelligence Committee is not “a totally out of line process” for an impeachment inquiry.

“It’s structured in a way where the minority party, in this case Republicans, are able to ask questions as well,” Dynes said about interviewing witnesses.

During the televised meetings, however, Dynes observed that the Democrats hold an advantage because a Democrat runs the meeting, and it was the “Democrats that voted on what the process would look like.” They have more members on the committee and more members in Congress. But Dynes said this structure is normal for committees and there is nothing strange about it.

The strangeness that Dynes said has occurred within the hearings is that Democrats and Republicans will debate through the witnesses, asking them questions that would normally be asked to authorities.

Associate political science professor Adam Brown commented on the impeachment inquiry.

“Donald Trump has been accused of behaviors that appear to be impeachable offenses,” Brown said. He pointed out that “Impeachment is a political process, not a criminal process.”

The most important thing Brown said to keep an eye on during the impeachment process is whether the Republican senators will feel impressed to remove Trump from office based on the persuasive quality of the impeachment hearings.

Not only are professors teaching about the impeachment process within the classroom, but they are also speaking to students outside the classroom.

The Civic-Engagement Leadership Association has taken advantage of current events to teach about the impeachment process. To educate students about the process, Haley Grizzell, a sophomore majoring in political science, and other members of the association invited two professors to talk about the history and current impact of the impeachment process.

“From talking to students that attended the event, I learned they retained a lot of information and felt more empowered in the political process,” Grizzell said. “I think more events like this would be valuable for educating students. Friends still ask me a lot of questions about what is happening with the inquiry right now, so there is still interest and a need to be filled.”

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