José Gómez - Peace Corps, Brazil 1968-69

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José Gómez, Executive Assistant to César Chávez, 1973-75 - Peace Corps, Brazil 1968-69

José Gómez, Executive Assistant to César Chávez, 1973-75 - Peace Corps, Brazil 1968-69

José Gómez Phone Number: ext. Ext. 6872 Office Number: COM 359 Mail Stop: COM 301 Personal Home Page E Mail:

Recent Teaching History

"How Can You Tell an American?"; 2000-1 Democracy and Free Speech; Spring 2000 Cultural Crossings: Labor, Migration and Identity in the Americas; Winter 2000 Hispanic Forms in Life and Art; 1998-99 Democracy and Free Speech; Spring 1998 Rights and Wrongs; Fall 1997 - Winter 1998 Contracts


B.A., Spanish, Journalism and Education, University of Wyoming, 1965 J.D., Harvard Law School, 1981 Graduate studies in public administration (concentration in nonprofit management), University of San Francisco, 1984-1986 Latin American literature, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua (as Fulbright Scholar), 1966-67 Spanish/Latin American Literature, University of Wyoming, 1965-66 and 1967-68 Peace Corps, Brazil 1968-69 Executive Assistant to César Chávez, 1973-75

Subject Areas of Competence and Interest

Civil rights and liberties, First Amendment law (freedom of expression, association and religion, and academic freedom), school law, nonprofit management, Spanish language, Spanish and Latin American literature, Islamic Spain, gay and lesbian civil rights

Recent and Current Areas of Interest

My interests are quite eclectic, so I constantly remind myself about the risk of not getting into enough depth in many things. In law school, I fell in love with the First Amendment, particularly free speech. I see myself doing a lot of teaching in that area. At the same time, I love the humanities and find myself trying to keep one foot there and the other in the social sciences. While these are recognized disciplinary divisions, at least in traditional academia, I resist recognizing that they are different. That's probably because I want the best of these disciplinary worlds: the analytical reasoning of the law and the aesthetic nourishment of literature. I don't mean to imply that I do not find law nourishing, but I find myself constantly yearning to balance it with the sustenance which literature gives me. One of the dilemmas I face in trying to maintain this balance is finding the time to read enough in both areas. Perhaps one way to do this will be to alternate teaching in the social sciences and humanities or to teach primarily in programs that blend the two.

My strong interest in rights goes back to my stake in society - my place. Having grown up in a very poor farm worker family and wanting to fight the social forces which kept us poor, I was very idealistic and saw the law as a tool to bring about justice. Once I was out in the world with my degrees, however, I faced the reality that the law is quite limited in what it can accomplish.

In law school, I found myself swimming upstream, resisting the pressures to prepare for a career in commercial law. Fortunately, I had Laurence Tribe for constitutional law and Archibald Cox for First Amendment law. They turned me on to my main academic areas of interest, freedom of expression. It was in their classes that I began to incubate a new theory for litigating lesbian and gay rights under the First Amendment rather than the Fourteenth. I believed that this was a viable approach because discrimination based on sexual orientation is largely an invidious reaction against the expression of lesbian or gay personhood. And I knew that such a theory was important, because free speech as a fundamental right requires the courts to apply a "strict scrutiny" rather than a "rational basis" standard in its review of discrimination claims. This can make an enormous difference in the outcome of litigation, since most plaintiffs win under a strict scrutiny standard and lose under a rational basis test. Catharine MacKinnon, then a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, encouraged me to turn my theory into my third year paper, a type of thesis. Later, in 1983, she invited me to publish it as an article, "The Public Expression of Lesbian and Gay Personhood as Protected Speech," in the premier issue of the Law and Inequality Journal, which she was advising during a visiting stint at the University of Minnesota Law School. I later expanded this scholarship by co-authoring the First Amendment chapter in a major litigation manual, Sexual Orientation and the Law.

I have always been drawn to the Golden Age of Spanish literature, which began roughly in the late 16th Century. I especially like Lope de Vega, sort of the Shakespeare of Spanish literature and possibly the most prolific writer in world literature. He wrote well over 1800 plays and hundreds of other works, including some 1600 lyric compositions. As a young university student of Spanish literature, I was attracted to the theme of vindication of individual rights in so many of Lope de Vega's plays, but I was also enchanted by his masterful literary style, especially his puns and parody, in much the same aesthetic way I had come to appreciate Shakespeare in high school. Of course, Cervantes, also from this literary era, is one of my favorites.

Recently, I have developed an interest in Islamic Spain, which predated the Golden Age. In the spring of 1997, I spent over a month extensively touring al-Andalus, as the lower two-thirds of Moorish-occupied Spain was known in Arabic. This is a neglected 700 years of Spanish history about which I hope to learn and teach more.

Are there particular authors/artists/thinkers whose work you interested and which you often ask students to examine?

Since I'm really just now starting to teach after nearly 30 years in community-based organizations and academic administration, "often" doesn't yet apply to me. But certainly in law I would expect serious students to read Tribe, Rawls, Dworkin, Emerson, Locke and Mill.

Specific Skills, Competence, Techniques:

Critical thinking skills connected with the legal analysis of cases and doing effective legal research. I prefer to use interactive presentations rather than lectures. These presentations often involve the use of hypothetical scenarios designed to elicit thinking and discussion on key issues.

What are key qualities you look for in student work? What techniques do you use to assess their work? How do you help students assess their work?

I look for signs that the students are truly engaged in their studies - that they truly love to study rather than view their reading and writing as drudgery or a chore to get out of the way. I want to see them developing a genuine interest in their writing and getting really excited about it. If they are not, and if they fail to see their writing as intellectual and aesthetic sustenance, it is painful to read. There is no depth no engagement, and therefore no joy.

In their writing, I want to see students analyze the course materials rather than simply report on the materials that they are confronting. I want them to be creative, but I also want them to fully and analytically develop their premise.

Teaching Style:

How would you characterize yourself as a teacher?

In a general way, what I am trying to do is both share my knowledge and deepen it, by teaching and learning at the same time in a way that is as relevant and exciting as possible. I try to make sense of the world in a very limited way. Knowledge is so vast that I have to be very conscious that what I know is a minute slice and accept that. Once I accept that, I do the best I can with it and with the students. I expect that they will help me to view that slice of knowledge in new and different ways. It is important for us to understand it as intimately as possible so that we can begin to see its connection to other pieces of knowledge.

I am a fairly demanding teacher, not only in the quantity of work I expect, but also in its quality. I am willing to work with students at whatever point they find themselves. I really am interested in students at both ends of the learning spectrum: I love to work with really good and advanced students, but I also enjoy working with students who have poor reading and writing skills and helping them to make real progress.

What types of students tend to do well with you?

Students who want to learn, no matter their skill level, will do well with me.

What types of students have a hard time with you?

Students who think that college is somehow just a rite of passage or who approach their studies as chores rather than as opportunities to learn will have a very difficult time with me. We are not likely to develop the rapport necessary for a productive time.

What do your student evaluations say about the way you come across to students?

Generally, they like me as a teacher. The one time prior to the 97-98 academic year when I taught full-time for the one quarter only, my students didn't want me to return to my academic dean position the following quarter. They appreciated that I had taken the time they needed to learn. They commented that I was a person who tried to understand them. Although initially some students were skeptical and even fearful because I seemed demanding, they ultimately found that I was able to be very reasonable and helpful.

Expectations about Contracts, Internships, and Evaluations

What qualities do you look for in a student who comes to you for work in a contract?

I look to see if the student is serious and capable of handling independent and advanced work. I like students who are capable of making a detailed plan for their individual learning contract and are realistic about how they are going to implement it

What information do you want to see when a person comes to look for a contract?

I want to see a detailed plan of their proposed study as well as evidence of their ability to carry it out. I usually ask students to let me see a portfolio that includes evaluations and writing samples. Students who bring to me only the individual contract are not going to be successful in persuading me to sponsor them. I see the contract language as no more than a distillation of the main points from the contract plan I require. That plan needs to give substantial detail about objectives and the academic activities that will achieve them. This should include a time line.

Interviewer: Matt Smith

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