Alex Constantine - October 23, 2010
Brown Daily Herald | September 30, 2010
The recent launch of "Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs," a website created by Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy Ross Cheit and five undergraduate students, is aiming to improve the range of information available to students and instructors regarding the Reagan-era scandal.
The project "provides information about the rise of the contra rebels in Nicaragua and about the Iranian Revolution," as well as the context needed to evaluate long-term government issues such as transparency and executive power, according to the website.
Cheit, who teaches PPAI 1700T: "Good Government," decided to build the site primarily to create an academic resource about the scandal for his class. The only other related source is Theodore Draper's "A Very Thin Line," a book that is now out of print, Cheit said.
"I was never satisfied with the material out there to teach Iran-Contra," Cheit said.
Cheit recruited students for the project from his "Good Government" course and through the Political Science Department listserv. The team spent nearly a year doing research, writing summaries and editing each section.
"I wanted to get involved in a big project like this before I graduated," said Ingrid Pangandoyon '10, who designed the website.
"Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs" is organized topically and explores the scandal, the congressional hearings investigating government misconduct and the legal consequences of the trials. The "Enduring Issues" section examines additional thematic topics, such as lying to Congress and executive wrongdoing.
"The website is a user-friendly way to understand a complex scandal," said Jeremy Feigenbaum '11, a former Herald opinions columnist who was involved with the project.
The team has a "public education mission," according to Cheit. By highlighting a variety of articles written about the topic and providing concise summaries of events, those who worked on the project hope to spread information and maintain an effective resource for the classroom.
"I was thinking beyond the needs of my class," Cheit said.
Recognizing that the current website is only a preliminary edition, the team seeks continuous improvement. After presenting the site to his students, Cheit gave his class a survey to ascertain useful aspects and areas for improvement.
"We are trying to make the site more functional and broader in scope," Cheit said. "It will be a fantastic site when we take it to the next level."