Penn State students, faculty to educate community about U.S. Constitution

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- To mark Constitution Day 2017, Penn State’s Department of Communication Arts and Sciences in the College of the Liberal Arts is leading efforts to educate students and other community members about the U.S Constitution.

Since Constitution Day, Sept. 17, falls on Sunday this year, Penn State will mark Constitution Day on Monday, Sept. 18, from 2 to 4 p.m. in Room 134 of the HUB-Robeson Center. Attendees can pick up a free pocket Constitution at the event.

Students from at least three Penn State classes will make posters intended to educate peers and other community members about the U.S. Constitution, and online resources from CAS faculty and the University Libraries will also be available.

“Our purpose is public scholarship -- to educate, not necessarily to venerate,” said Rosa A. Eberly, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and English and director of the Intercollege Minor in Civic and Community Engagement, which has been involved with Constitution Day for over a decade.

“We want students and other members of the Penn State community to read the Constitution, know what’s in it, and know that the promises as well as the perils of the document remain vital, even after 230 years,” Eberly added.

Students interested in creating a poster for Constitution Day should contact Jeremy Cox, communication arts and sciences post-doctoral teaching fellow and assistant director of the CIVCM minor, at jlc628@psu.edu and submit their poster by noon on Monday, Sept. 11.

“We’re hoping for posters covering a wide range of topics related to the Constitution,” Cox said. “Any students who are interested in helping to engage their peers with the Constitution are welcome to submit a poster for consideration.” Students can also submit posters about constitutions from countries other than the United States, an exercise reflecting on the various influences of the United States’ founding document.

The U.S. Constitution was signed in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall 230 years ago on Sept. 17. According to Eberly, “The document used rhetoric to constitute ‘We the People’ while at the same time explicitly and implicitly excluding many who lived and labored in ‘these United States.’”

“Understanding even the basic structure of the Constitution -- the arrangement of its articles, how and why it has been amended or not, and what the several amendments accomplished or did not -- is fundamental to understanding the problems of democracy,” Eberly said.

While last year’s web resources were focused on the spaces between the First and Second amendments, this year’s will be focused on the Thirteenth Amendment, the text of which follows: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Law scholars Balkin and Levinson have called the amendment “The Dangerous Thirteenth.”

This year’s CAS Constitution Day website, still a work in progress, can be found here: http://civcm.psu.edu/constitution-day/. Check back for updates.

Follow this link to last year’s resources on “The Spaces Between the First and Second Amendments,” featuring thought-prompts from Penn State faculty, graduate students, and a special guest writer: http://civcm.psu.edu/constitution-day/past-constitution-days/2016-2/.

Read the whole Constitution here: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution.

Since 2004 all educational institutions receiving federal monies have been required to mark Constitution Day, following the efforts of West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd and Lynn Cheney, spouse of then-Vice President Dick Cheney. According to the National Constitution Center, Byrd was passionate about spreading awareness of the founding document. “Our ideals of freedom, set forth and realized in our Constitution, are our greatest export to the world,” Byrd said.



For more information, contact Jeremy Cox at jlc628@psu.edu or Rosa Eberly at rae2@psu.edu.

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Last Updated September 06, 2017