Citizen Clinic Course Syllabus

Past Syllabi: [TBA]

Course Description

For individuals and organizations involved in political advocacy, cybersecurity threats are an increasingly common reality of operating in the digital world. Civil society has always been under attack from ideological, political, and governmental opponents who seek to silence dissenting opinions, but the widespread adoption of connected technologies by the individuals and organizations that make up civil society creates a new class of vulnerabilities.

Citizen Clinic at the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity provides students with real-world experience assisting politically vulnerable organizations and persons around the world to develop and implement sound cybersecurity practices. Clinic students will participate in both a classroom and clinic component. In the classroom, students will study the basic theories and practices of digital security, the intricacies of protecting largely under-resourced organizations, and the tools needed to manage risk in complex political, sociological, legal, and ethical contexts. In the clinic component, students will work in teams supervised by the Clinic staff to provide direct cybersecurity assistance to civil society organizations. Students’ clinic responsibilities will include learning about an organization’s mission and context, assessing its vulnerabilities, and ultimately recommending and implementing mitigations to the identified security risks. The emphasis will be on pragmatic, workable solutions that take into account the unique operational needs of each partner organization. Weekly lectures will provide students with the background information and tools they will need to engage with partners. Coursework will focus on partner-facing, hands-on projects. Students will be expected to work an average of 10 hours per week, although the distribution of this workload may fluctuate based upon the availability and needs of the partner.

View Semester Schedule here


1. Partner Deliverables – 60%

The largest portion of graded evaluation will be based upon your team’s work and support for its assigned partner. These deliverables may include assessments, recommendations, and guides, each tailored towards the partner’s needs. Each team will also deliver a final report summarizing work performed with their partner.

2. Individual Assignments – 10%

Two individual assignments will be given:

Current Event Discussion Lead (5%): Each student will sign up to lead one 15 minute discussion at the beginning of most lectures. Students will be expected to locate and share about a recent, current event relevant to the day’s lecture topic. Topic leaders will emphasize interesting or relevant points while other students are expected to ask questions and comment.

Contextual Briefs (5%): Each student is expected to share findings of their contextual research in one 10 + 5 minute presentation (no more than 10 minutes of content saving at least 5 minutes for Q&A) during the first half of the semester. Students will share relevant, up-to-date, sourced information on one or more PESTLE factors and, importantly, provide an analysis on those factors’ impact on their partner’s security. Briefers will emphasize why their research is relevant to their partner organization while other students are expected to ask questions and comment.

3. Team Case Study – 10%

We want students to be able to discuss and share their experience in the course with others, including future employers. We also want our partners to remain confidential and protected. This being said, each student team will submit a write-up of work performed and takeaways with sensitive information removed. The teaching team will review to ensure your experience is captured in an effective & safe manner.

4. Participation – 10%

We consider “participation” in two major components: participating in regular class discussions and participating in team & partner meetings outside of class hours.

a. You are expected to attend each official class meeting and contribute substantially to class discussions. The teaching team should be notified in advance of absences from class meetings (including Clinic Core Hours). You do not need to share the reason for the absence. Not showing up to team check-ins will also negatively impact this grade.

b. As a rule, two people from your team must attend any partner meeting or call. While you may not be able to attend every team meeting and partner engagement outside of normal class hours, you are expected to attend and contribute to your team’s effort as often as possible.

5. Team Evaluations – 10%

Throughout the course, you will submit confidential evaluation forms which ask you to evaluate the contributions of each team member including yourself. Your final course grade will be adjusted, higher or lower, if you are contributing more or less than those within your group. If there are difficulties with any team member, discuss the matter within your team and seek resolution. If you cannot resolve the problem, immediately contact any faculty member, so that we can make an appointment to discuss the situation individually or with the entire group as needed.

Late Assignments

As we want to respect the time of our partners and ensure a high level of quality control (the teaching team will review deliverables before it reaches the partner), we expect students to adhere to timelines and due dates. Each day an assignment is late will result in a letter grade deduction. Recognizing that emergencies arise and partners may require schedule adjustments, exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Code of Conduct

Each student enrolled in the course must agree in writing to the Citizen Clinic’s Code of Conduct (to be distributed) for maintaining a safe and secure learning experience and partner relationship. This Code of Conduct will be respected by all students, the teaching team, and CLTC staff and it is the responsibility of all personnel to report possible violations of the Code of Conduct to the teaching team.

Additionally, we expect all students to abide by the Berkeley Student Code of Conduct (see and act with honesty, integrity, and respect for others. (See also in a new tab)). The consequences for failing to act within these standards may include failing an assignment, a referral to the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards, a failed grade in the course, and even immediate expulsion. A note on plagiarism: even in the scope of providing a partner with a walkthrough for securing a certain account or system, you are expected not to copy material from another guide, website, article or book (word-for-word or paraphrased) without citing the source – it’s a small community and we should give credit where it is due. Other examples of unacceptable conduct include turning in deliverables created by students not currently in the course, work found on the Internet, or created by a commercial service.

Disability Accommodation

If you need disability-related accommodations in this class, if you have emergency medical information you wish to share with us, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform us as soon as possible.