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Updated 10:00 AM September 12, 2005




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U.S. Constitution has its day Sept. 19

A reading of the U.S. Constitution on the Central Campus Diag will highlight a series of events Sept. 19 when the University commemorates one of the most important documents in American history.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., will deliver an address and there also will be a faculty-led panel discussion on "The Constitution in an Age of Terrorism."

Constitution Day was created last December when U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., a senior Democrat known for carrying a copy of the document in his pocket, added it to a budget bill. The law requires all schools receiving federal funding to recognize the Constitution Sept. 17—the Constitution's "birthday"—or on the Friday before or Monday after if the day falls on a weekend.

"As a matter of policy, we believe decisions about academic curriculum are properly left up to the faculty and should not be determined by government legislation," Interim Provost Edward Gramlich says. "In fact, teaching about the U.S. Constitution occurs regularly as part of numerous courses taught across the University.

"But, given the new federal requirement, a faculty committee has put together a very interesting set of programs. We hope members of our community will find this a valuable opportunity to consider one of our nation's founding documents."

The keynote address from Levin, Michigan's senior senator, entitled, "Contemporary Constitutional Crises: The Patriot Act, the Schiavo Case and the 'Nuclear Option,'" will be 9:30-10:30 a.m. in the Anderson Room of the Michigan Union.

The faculty panel will begin at 10:30 a.m. and includes Donald Herzog, a professor in the Law School and political science department; Bridget McCormack, clinical professor and associate dean of the Law School; David Thacher, assistant professor in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, and J. Mills Thornton, a history professor in LSA.

From noon-1 p.m., members of the U-M community will meet in the Diag and take turns reading the entire Constitution aloud. Readers will include English Language and Literature Professor Ralph Williams, U-M football player Mike Hart, and Wolverine softball standout Jennie Ritter.

A faculty committee chaired by Law School Dean Evan Caminker and representatives of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching assembled the day's activities.

Caminker says the day creates an opportunity to discuss ways the document and its interpretation have shaped some of the most hot-button issues of our time, including the potential conflict between the protection of individual liberty and the guarantee of personal/national security in the age of global terrorism.

"As the foundation of our democracy and the blueprint for our government, the United States Constitution plays a critical, if often behind-the-scenes, role in ordering our daily lives," Caminker says. "We expect this day of learning and conversation to spur creative and deep thinking about the success or failure of our Constitution in securing 'a more perfect union' for these promising and yet troubled times," Caminker says.

For more information on Constitution Day, including events and teaching resources, visit:

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