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Last modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

IU Bloomington to mark Constitution Day with forums, Emancipation Day watch party

Sept. 11, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington will celebrate Constitution Day this month with a campus-wide watch party for a National Endowment for the Humanities Emancipation Day event and panel discussions of such topics as voting rights and education for immigrants.

Constitution Day is an observation of the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. It is designed to celebrate the revolutionary governing model established by the Founders, which has withstood the test of time by expanding at critical junctures the rights and liberties of citizens.

"Constitution Day commemorates a signal event in our nation's history, the signing of a document that remains powerful and relevant 225 years after it was written," said IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel. "It's especially gratifying that IU Bloomington faculty and students have organized such a variety of activities to observe the day."

IU Bloomington will join colleges and universities around the country for an interactive watch party for an NEH-sponsored discussion by a group of prominent Civil War historians of the Emancipation Proclamation and its relationship to the Constitution. The discussion looks ahead to the 150th anniversary of the proclamation, which took effect Jan. 1, 1863.

Alex Lichtenstein, an associate professor of history in the IU College of Arts and Sciences and a scholar of race relations and civil rights history, will host the Bloomington watch party. It will take place from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union. The watch party is free and open to the public, and students from several classes are scheduled to attend.

A discussion from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History will be live-streamed to IU Bloomington and other universities. University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers will moderate, and historians Eric Foner of Columbia University, Thavolia Glymph of Duke University, Gary Gallagher of the University of Virginia and Christy Coleman of the American Civil War Center will participate.

Also, the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at IU Bloomington is inviting students to participate in the National Constitution Day Contest, sponsored by the NEH in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The contest encourages students to creatively respond to or reinterpret historical documents related to emancipation through short essays, first-person narratives, poetry, one-scene plays, original songs, videos and more. To encourage student engagement, IU will sponsor a local contest that runs parallel to the NEH contest. Up to three $500 prizes will be given to the best entries submitted to IU. Guidelines and information about the contests are available online.

IU Libraries staff will be handing out copies of the Constitution from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 17 in the lobby of the Herman B Wells Library. Voter registration forms will be available, and the library will have an electronic display about the Constitution and an exhibit in the lobby about Congress.

Other IU Bloomington events, which are also free and open to the public, include:

  • A panel discussion at the Maurer School of Law on voter identification laws. The panel will include Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher, who successfully defended Indiana's voter ID law before the Supreme Court; Indianapolis attorney Bill Groth, who represented plaintiffs in the case; and Marjorie Hershey, political science professor in IU's College of Arts and Sciences. Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, professor and Harry T. Ice Faculty Fellow at Maurer School of Law, will moderate. The session, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Moot Court Room at the Maurer School, is organized by the American Constitution Society and co-sponsored by the Black Law Student Association and the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association. Pizza will be served.
  • A forum sponsored by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, "Voting Policy and Politics: Behind the Curtain in Election 2012." Speakers will include former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University; Fisher, the Indiana solicitor general; Fuentes-Rohwer from the law school; and SPEA faculty member Beth Cate. Leslie Lenkowsky, also a SPEA faculty member, will moderate. The forum will take place from 4 to 5 p.m. in Room CG 3059 of the Kelley School of Business Godfrey Graduate and Executive Education Center.
  • A School of Education forum exploring the question: Should non-citizens have access to the educational resources of the United States? Students will present various positions and discuss constitutional issues related to the current debate surrounding the Dream Act and President Barack Obama's decision to stop the deportation of the children of undocumented immigrants. Audience members will be able to ask questions of the presenters and to express their views on the issue and its Constitutional implications. The event will take place from 4 to 5 p.m. in Room 3275 of the Wright Education Building.

Constitution Day became a national observance in 2004, when Congress approved legislation calling on citizens to commemorate the signing of the Constitution and learn more about the founding document. Educational institutions that receive federal funding are required to hold an educational program pertaining to the Constitution.