Constitutional conversation

Head+of+the+Political+Science+Department+Carter+Wilson+engages+the+audience+during+the+Constitution+Day+event+in+Reynolds+Recital+Hall.+This+type+of+event+is+required+at+educational+institutions+that+receive+federal+funding.+%0APhoto+by+Jackie+Jahfetson

Head of the Political Science Department Carter Wilson engages the audience during the Constitution Day event in Reynolds Recital Hall. This type of event is required at educational institutions that receive federal funding. Photo by Jackie Jahfetson

Jackie Jahfetson

In celebration of the U.S. Constitution, a group of students and three political science professors gathered on Monday in Reynolds Recital Hall to talk about the importance of the doctrine and the other political issues students and the public should be
concerned with.

NMU political science professors Steve Nelson and Ruth Watry along with Department Head of Political Science Carter Wilson presented their research on topics in light of Constitution Day to a crowd of students. Topics from gerrymandering, equal privilege and the historical aspects were the highlight of the panel conversation that followed with a Q&A session.

The U.S. Constitution has evolved since the day the first writers composed the 229-year-old doctrine, but the right to vote was never specifically stated in the Constitution, Nelson said. There’s been an expansion in the “voting franchise” and it’s had a “disparate impact” on certain groups, Nelson said, explaining, these laws have affected certain groups over others.

“You may ask ‘How does gerrymandering depress the vote?’ Well, one of the goals in gerrymandering is to create safe districts. So if you create a safe district and it’s safe for the party other than the one you identify with, this depresses your desire and your initiative to go out and vote,” Nelson said, adding, “It also polarizes our legislature.”

Equal privilege is another matter to be concerned with, Watry said. With the recent Serena Williams news, the right to equal privilege under the 14th Amendment should treat everyone the same, Watry said. No matter their race or gender, all people should be held to the same standard, she noted.

When the Constitution was first written, it was not written in “stone,” Wilson said. It begins with “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…” but from the very beginning, there was no “illusion” of a perfect society,
Wilson said.

“From the very beginning there was hope that the Constitution would continue to grow. The nation, its ideals and its vision of the future would continue to evolve, and that’s why I think our Constitution is so important,” Wilson said.

Having Constitution Day is also important to discuss how we interpret the document and how we view politics today, said freshman and political science major Matthew Fahey.

“It’s important to discuss what we interpret about the Constitution and how we view politics today,” Fahey said. “Things written many years ago still has a big impact. It comes down to constitutionality and what [the future] will
look like.”