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May 2016

Feature series: SR in the curriculum

(5 May 2016)

In support of the priority to encourage socially responsible graduates, Humanities provides funding to course leaders through the annual Social Responsibility in the Curriculum competition. The aim is for Humanities students to be encouraged to think how their enthusiasm for their subject can communicate, connect or be relevant beyond the immediate demands of their course.

Each issue we will be featuring a project which has benefited from the competition. This issue, we introduce you to Dr Eithne Quinn’s project, which highlighted the role of rap lyrics in criminal trials.

Dr Eithne Quinn, from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, has run a course unit aiming to highlight the role of rap lyrics in criminal trials. Students from the Hip-Hop & Hollywood course unit have taken part in the project, which was aligned to the theme of ‘social justice’ highlighted within the University’s third core goal, Social Responsibility.

The course unit, which ran during semester one, highlighted the use of rap lyrics in over a thousand cases in the United States, and was designed to coincide with an international workshop, Prosecuting Rap, which took place at the University in October 2015. The course included a teaching session by Professor Erik Nielson, who has served as an expert witness in a number of cases, and is regarded as the world expert in this area. In addition, students were tasked with writing a mock expert report, based on real case studies, for a hypothetical criminal trial. Students also visited the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Centre to visit an exhibition on Rap Lyrics in Legal Case.

Eithne commented, “The Hip Hop & Hollywood students were highly stimulated by Erik Nielson's classes, supported by the SR in the Curriculum fund. He has acted as an expert witness or consultant in around 20 US court trials in which rap lyrics have been used, and is currently involved in several cases that carry the death penalty. Quite a tall order for a literature professor! He gave a great presentation to help launch the new essay and exam questions on Hip Hop & Hollywood, in which students get to build their own arguments about the extent to which rap has a role in courtrooms. This new ‘SR in the Curriculum’-funded part of the course has emerged as a favourite with students, helping them apply their learning to and take a position on real-world case studies."