New Faculty Focus on Franciska Coleman: “What the Constitution means today is your lesson; What it means tomorrow is your responsibility”

Franciska Coleman photoToday’s New Faculty Focus from UW News features one of UW Law’s newest professors, Franciska Coleman.  Coleman is an Assistant Professor of Law and Associate Director of the East Asian Legal Studies Program.

Coleman has her J.D. from Harvard Law School and Ph.D. in Literacy, Culture and International Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the faculty of UW Law School, she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis and also held a Visiting Scholar appointment at Harvard Law School. She also taught American Constitutional Law I and II at Yonsei Law School in Seoul, South Korea.

In the article, she discusses how her background as a middle school teacher in a poor urban district shaped her research:

After my doctoral work in education, however, I realized the problem was not that we did not know how to teach poor urban students; it was that we did not prioritize teaching them. What I had thought was a problem of literacy was really a problem of power. I became deeply interested in the political powerlessness of poor and marginalized groups in society and in our failure to protect their right to self-governance. Much of my research tries to highlight the insufficiency of a paradigm of rights protection that is disconnected from political empowerment.

She also reflects on how her work connects with the Wisconsin Idea:

It is important to me that students leave my constitutional law classes not only able to apply existing constitutional law as lawyers, but also to advocate for changes to existing constitutional law as concerned citizens, whether in street protests, state debates over proposed constitutional amendments, or even citizen deliberations on the need for a new national constitutional convention. As I used to tell my Korean law students, “What the Constitution means today is your lesson; what it means tomorrow is your responsibility.” I fully believe that, and I think it’s in the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea.

Coleman’s recent work examines the constitutional implications of the country’s eventual demographic shift to a minority-majority society. She also explores ‘cancel culture’ as a byproduct of the American constitutional choice to rely on the social rather than legal regulation of speech, with particular attention to canceling speakers belonging to racial or ethnic minorities.  For more of her scholarship, see Coleman’s profile on the UW Law School Digital Repository.