Sept. 8, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Tara Lestarjette
The U.S. Government designated Sept. 17 as a day to commemorate the signing of the U. S. Constitution in 1787 and to provide educational awareness to communities.
To honor this occasion, Sam Houston State University’s American Democracy Project, history and political science departments and John de Castro, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, are joining together to sponsor the annual Constitution Day events on Sept. 15-16.
“The basis for Constitution Day provides an opportunity for institutions of higher learning to educate the community of the importance of the Constitution,” said Melinda Kovács, assistant professor of political science and chairman of the Constitution Day committee.
“Constitution Day allows our campus to reflect on our participation in the tradition and value system of the Constitution, while at the same time inserting SHSU in the flow of larger scholarly discourses,” Kovács said.
By inviting speakers from other campuses each year, the event plugs SHSU into a group of universities that extend their celebrations beyond their own campuses.
The lectures will begin on Sept. 15 at 4 p.m. in Academic Building IV's Olson Auditorium when Henry Steck, professor of political science at State University of New York at Cortland will discuss “How James Madison and Federalist No. 10 and No. 51 Helps Me Think About 21st Century America.”
A series of speakers will follow on Thursday (Sept. 16) in Lowman Student Center Room 320.
Frank Fair, professor of philosophy, will speak on “It's All a Matter of Interpretation: How Judges Make Law” from 9:30–10:50 a.m.
“In recent years there has been a great deal of controversy in our society about what philosophy should guide judges in their task of interpreting the law,” Fair said. “(Supreme Court) Justice Scalia and Justice Breyer, have written extensively on the subject, and in this session we will look at several of their various theories and see what implications they may have for a number of cases, such as Roe v. Wade and several other controversial areas of Constitutional interpretation.”
Jeff Littlejohn, assistant professor of history, and Phil Sinitiere, visiting assistant professor of history, will address “Religious Liberty in the 21st Century” from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.
“We will discuss the recent debate on the religious positions of the founding generation,” said Littlejohn. “Religious liberty is an American invention, and it is important for every American to understand the intentions of the founding fathers in regard to religion. We will cover some very controversial topics.”
Constitution Day will end with Mike Vaughn, assistant dean of the College of Criminal Justice, who will discuss the “Evolution of the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause” from 2–3:20 p.m.
The event is planned by the Constitution Day committee and involves members from the departments of history, philosophy, political science, criminal justice and mass communication.
Lectures are free and open to the public. Attendees will receive “The Hip Guide to the U.S. Constitution,” a pocket edition of the Constitution.
According to Kovács, roughly 300 attended last year’s Constitution Day and as many or more are expected this year.
“Constitution Day places us in the flow of constitutional history and puts us on the map for all the speakers and their host institutions,” she said. “With practically all colleges and universities participating in Constitution Day, this event is an exceptional vehicle of intellectual exchange, and SHSU has been impressive in its participation.”
“Over the last few years I have been able to see how Constitution Day has grown in importance and visibility on our campus,” said Kovács. “It has been a delight to watch the event grow to the point where today, there is a pattern or tradition emerging.”
According to the U.S. Senate website, the purpose of Constitution Day is, “To encourage all Americans to learn more about the Constitution. In 1956 Congress established Constitution Week, to begin each year on Sept. 17, the date in 1787 when delegates to the Convention signed the Constitution.”
In 2005, Sept. 17 of each year was designated as Constitution Day, requiring federally-funded schools to provide educational events to the community.
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