UWP commemorates Constitution Day with student, faculty forum

September 27, 2005

PLATTEVILLE-John Rink, University of Wisconsin-Platteville assistant professor of political science, helped launch Constitution Day at the Thomas B. Lundeen Lecture Hall on Sept. 19 by handing out pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution to all the participants. As he did, he explained that they were in good company; Hugo Black, U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1937-1971, kept a copy in his pocket at all times for easy access so as to consult with colleagues or anyone else who might bring the subject up. Rink and Tom Waters, chair of the social sciences department, hosted the first forum dedicated to educating more people about the U.S. Constitution. Rink's talk was titled "Why is it so difficult to teach people about the Constitution?"

According to Rink, if educators would focus more on the stories of individual cases, rather than mere facts or law, more people would be engaged. He also said that labeling cases or judges as examples of conservative or liberal, activist or strict constructionist isn't always helpful in understanding the Constitution.

"Judges engaged in interpreting and decision making are involved in an intensely human process. They are governed by existing law, facts, personal beliefs and the aggregate vision of society. Rarely is it as simple as placing the ideological labels that have grown up in popular mythology," he said.

Rink addressed a number of hot issues in the popular landscape and guided the audience through the reasoning of how those Supreme Court decisions were made. Whether it was free exercise of religion, affirmative action or eminent domain, Rink explained how those decisions were made, how they reflected and affected previous case law and how the social and political conditions of the time impacted and continue to impact judicial thinking.

Waters, who introduced Rink and offered background on this federally mandated day of commemoration, also offered history on how this venerated, yet little understood, document came into being. He guided the audience through the American Colonial period, through the writing of the Articles of Confederation and brought the audience to the moment of writing the United States Constitution. He reminded the audience that there is little in American History that is easy or uncomplicated.

"The Constitution was an invitation to struggle then, and it remains so today," he said.

Anyone interested in learning more about this forum or the federally mandated requirement to commemorate the U.S. Constitution may contact Carol Sue Butts, UWP provost, at (608) 342-1261.

Contact: Carol Sue Butts, provost, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, (608) 342-1261, butts@uwplatt.edu

Prepared By: Evelyn Martens, UWP Public Relations, (608) 34-1194, martense@uwplatt.edu

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