Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Ross Cheit

Ross Cheit

+1 401 863 3523
111 Thayer Street, Room 319


Ross Cheit

Professor of Political Science
Professor of International and Public Affairs

Areas of Interest: Criminal justice, child abuse, ethics in government, the politics of food.


Ross Cheit graduated from Williams College in 1977 with honors in political economy and a coordinate major in environmental studies. He then obtained a law degree and PhD in public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He clerked for Justice Hans Linde of the Oregon Supreme Court and practiced law with Duane, Lyman, and Seltzer in Berkeley. He joined the faculty at Brown in 1987. Cheit was appointed to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission in 2004 and was elected chair in 2011.


Cheit’s primary research interest over the last fifteen-plus years involves social and legal responses to child abuse in America. This research produced numerous articles and culminated in the publication of The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children by Oxford University Press in April 2014.

Cheit also has research interests in ethics in government. He has supervised three studies of open meetings and open records in Rhode Island and published articles about tort reform and secret settlements, and about the Iran-Contra affair.

Finally, stemming from his first book, Setting Safety Standards, he is also interested in standards and regulation. Cheit’s future research will involve those issues and the politics of food in and beyond the US.


PPAI 1700T Good Government

An applied ethics course specifically for students with backgrounds in Public Policy, it will emphasize the primary themes of good government: openness, deliberation, and integrity. Students will develop an essay on good government and do research for case studies of ethical dilemmas involving public servants.

PPAI 1990, PPAI 1991 Honors Colloquium

An advanced two-semester research seminar for senior honors candidates in the public policy and American institutions concentration. Participants jointly consider strategies appropriate to researching and writing a senior paper before proceeding to individual research on topics they choose. Each participant is required to present a summary of his or her work to the colloquium.

POLS 1970  Politics of Food

How do politics and public policy shape the nature of farming and the price of food in the US? What is the extent of hunger and malnutrition in the country, and how to politics and public policy shape the responses to these issues? How well does government regulate the safety and healthfulness of food? This course will draw on a combination of case studies and scholarly work to examine these questions. The significance of globalization will also be considered but the emphasis of the course will be on American politics and policy. The course is not open to first-year students.



“In Watergate’s Shadow: The Iran-Contra Scandal,” in Orstein et. al, eds., Triumphs and Tragedies of the Modern Congress: Case Studies in Legislative Leadership. Praeger.

The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children. Oxford University Press.

“Revisiting the Jordan, Minnesota Cases” (co-authored with Andrea Matthews). Roger Williams University Law Review.


“Motivated Forgetting and Misremembering: Perspectives from Betrayal Trauma Theory” (with lead author Anne DePrince and co-authors Laura Brown, Jennifer Freyd, Steve Gold, Kathy Pezdek, and Kat Quina). Nebraska Symposium for Motivation.


“Judicial Discretion and (Un)equal Access: A Systematic Study of Motions to Reduce Criminal Sentences in Rhode Island Superior Court (1998-2003)”  (with lead author Laura Braslow). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 8(1):24-47.

Talks & Media

New York Times

Emily Bazelon, “Abuse Cases, and a Legacy of Skepticism: ‘The Witch-Hunt Narrative’: Are We Dismissing Real Victims?” (June 9, 2014).

Daily Beast

Jason Barry, “How The ‘Witch Hunt’ Myth Undermined American Justice,” (July 12, 2014).