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Constitution Day Considers Equality
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Mike Clemens '15
On September 25, Siena College held its annual Constitution Day celebration. The holiday has been used as an opportunity to expose students to a variety of experts on constitutional law and to broaden their understanding of America’s founding document.
Albany Law School Professor of Law Donna E. Young, LL.M. delivered this year’s keynote address. The event, which has become a tradition at Siena, invites a renowned legal mind to campus to discuss a particular issue related to the United States Constitution. Young’s address was titled “Equality Across Borders: the 14th Amendment in Comparative Perspective.”
Professor Young’s presentation reflected on the approach the United States Constitution and foreign constitutions have taken in regard to equality, focusing specifically on the impact the equal protection clause has had on the history of discrimination in America. “The U.S. Constitution is a document with enormous promise,” Young said. “But it was drafted during a period of heinous discrimination in this country.”
Young compared the United States’ model of equality with those of Canada and South Africa, drawing students’ attention to the differences that each nation has taken in addressing natural rights. “It is important to pay attention to the legal systems outside of the United States,” Young said. “Doing so helps us to better understand the achievements and shortcomings of our own Constitution.”
“Students should be aware of their rights that exist within the Constitution as well as what responsibilities we have as citizens in terms of looking at constitutional authority,” said Leonard Cutler, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science and Director of Siena’s Center for the Study of Government and Politics. “I think that Professor Young’s presentation will help to deepen that understanding.”
Siena students, already aware of the importance of the Constitution, were enthusiastic to hear Professor Young’s comments on the influence of the 14th Amendment. “All citizens should understand their constitutionally-guaranteed rights,” said Caitlin Baranowski ’14. “This lecture, will give students the opportunity to learn about how judicial interpretation of the 14th Amendment has evolved and how it affects them.”
As in past years, Professor Young’s presentation is sure to generate an important discussion among Siena’s student body. “This is not just a snapshot in time,” said Cutler. “My hope is that students will reflect on the presentation and go beyond it, ask questions and come to their own conclusions about the document.”
Contact: Ken Jubie
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