2020 Constitution Day to commemorate 8th, 19th amendments

September 14, 2020

Penn State's Constitution Day 2020 will recognize the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and contribute to intersectional conversations taking place about racism and civic engagement through its exploration of the Eighth Amendment. This year’s celebration will take place virtually at https://civcm.psu.edu/cday2020 from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17.

The 19th Amendment prohibits states and the Federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. The Eighth Amendment, meanwhile, protects individuals from excessive bail or fines or from enduring “cruel and unusual punishments. Full texts of both amendments can be found at https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution or https://constitutioncenter.org.

Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, will return to kick off this year’s Constitution Day celebration. He will be joined by Danielle Conway, dean of Dickinson Law, who will discuss “Women's Suffrage, the 19th Amendment, and the Duality of a Movement.” Representatives from four organizations that work with incarcerated individuals -- The Bail Project, the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, and the Prison Journalism Project -- will also be on hand to discuss how students can become engaged with collaborative projects around the Eighth Amendment.

Approximately 50 students enrolled in the Foundations of Civic and Community Engagement -- the only prescribed course for the Intercollege Minor in Civic and Community Engagement (CIVCM) -- will also present posters during the event, which is sponsored by the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts and the Penn State Department of Communication Arts and Sciences. Voter registration information also will be available.

Penn State, like any institution of higher education accepting federal money, is required by law to commemorate Constitution Day each year on Sept. 17. Rosa Eberly, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and director of the CIVCM minor, has been helping to coordinate Penn State’s Constitution Day celebration since they first began in 2006.

“From the beginning, I have wanted our Constitution Day activities to be student- and experiential learning-focused -- exercises in civic engagement, community development, and democratic capacity building rather than merely relying on an invited speaker to address students as passive receptacles,” Eberly said. "My goal is for students and members of our communities to engage with the document and its history, and to deliberate our possibly more perfect future union."

Travis Brisini, former assistant director of the CIVCM minor who helped organize Penn State’s Constitution Day activities in 2018 and 2019, described the event as “a revelation.”

“[Constitution Day] showed me that students have a hunger for discussing the history and contemporary precedents of their rights and obligations, and gave them a way to do so that was social and enjoyable,” said Brisini, who is now a faculty member at Louisiana State University. "We're used to thinking about the US Constitution as a dusty old tome, the interpretation of which is over and done with. [Penn State’s] Constitution Day reminds us that the document lives as we live, and that the conversations remain dynamic and pressing. It also reminded me, at a time when so much seems uncertain, that the role of debate and discussion in our democracy reaches back to the very founding of the country.

Materials from this year’s Constitution Day will be archived online after the event at https://civcm.psu.edu/constitution-day. Information and resources from previous Constitution Day celebrations are also available at that site.

For more information, contact Eberly at rae2@psu.edu.

Last Updated September 15, 2020