CONSTITUTION DAY 2021: Exploring the Boundaries of Constitutionality from Multiple Perspectives (A Legal Studies Program Showcase)

By Carlos Figueroa, September 27, 2021

CONSTITUTION DAY 2021: Exploring the Boundaries of Constitutionality from Multiple Perspectives (A Legal Studies Program Showcase)

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On September 17, 1787, the U.S. Constitution was signed at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, PA.  Recently, The White House shared A Proclamation on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day signed by President Biden in commemoration of this signing and the importance of the lesser-known holiday of Constitution Day.

Constitution Day (also known as Citizenship Day) has been celebrated annually since 2005.  This day goes back to the late 1990s when Louise Leigh established a non-profit organization called Constitution Day, Inc., hoping to promote a national holiday in recognition of the signing of the new Constitution in 1787.  There is a longer history leading up to the establishment of Constitution Day dating back to the 1930s, however.

In light of Constitution Day, Ithaca College will be hosting a Constitution Day ZOOM event on Thursday, September 30, 2021, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm (EST).

Please day and times on your calendars! 

This year's theme is Exploring the Boundaries of Constitutionality from Multiple Perspectives (A Legal Studies Program Showcase).

A number of Legal Studies affiliated faculty will share work that crosses various constitutional, political, and social inter-related factors in the U.S. and abroad. 

Q/A session will follow at the end of the program in an open forum style setting co-moderated by two Ithaca College students. 

For more on past Ithaca College Constitution Day programs and events, please see here

If you have any questions, please contact Professor Carlos Figueroa.  

** PLEASE REGISTER in advance for this event: 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the EVENT.


Scheduled Program (subject to change)

Greetings and Introductions:   Prof. Carlos Figueroa (Politics/Legal Studies Coordinator)

On the history and current meaning of Constitution Day:   Cathy Michaels (Reference Librarian, Legal Studies and Communication)

Student Co-Moderators:   Serah Lawal (Legal Studies) & Carlos Abreu (Politics/History)  


Prof. AMY ROTHSCHILD, (LEGAL STUDIES):  "Human Rights in Timor-Leste’s Struggle for Independence from Indonesia" 

This talk examines the shift in Timor-Leste’s independence struggle from armed resistance and militant anticolonial rhetoric centered around the right to independence, toward nonviolent resistance and the human rights language of suffering victimhood. A main focus is on the relationship between the Timorese Resistance movement’s use of human rights discourses and practices and the Resistance’s goal of independence or self-determination. The talk uses the Timor case to reflect on larger questions concerning the historical and ideological relationship between the right to self-determination and human rights. 

Prof. ANGELA RULFFES, (COMMUNICATIONS STUDIES/PRE-LAW ADVISOR):  "How the US legal system mediates silencing" 

The umbrella of the First Amendment provides one of the strongest speech protections in the world; however, that does not mean that there are no limitations on what people can say in the United States. For example, the phrase “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater” originated in Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that even the most rigorous of free speech protections cannot shield every type of expression. The Supreme Court has recognized certain speech categories that are unprotected, and these broad limitations on speech have helped pave the way for silencing in the United States through the use of the legal system. While some avenues of silencing are engrained in the explicit mechanisms of the law, such as filing a motion for an injunction, others are an implicit by-product of the process. For example, court decisions can lead to self-censorship because of fear of legal retribution. Review of prominent free speech issues and cases illustrates how the legal system mediates silencing. 

Prof. CRAIG DUNCAN, (PHILOSOPHY):  "The Fortunes of a Legal Order" 

A libertarian strain of American political culture celebrates the “free market” and criticizes any government interferences with market outcomes as unjust.  On this libertarian view, taxes that fund a “social safety net” (e.g. Social Security, unemployment insurance, public education, affordable health care, etc.) unjustly take money from hardworking people who earned it, and give that money to “undeserving” people.  I criticize this view as simplistic.  Well-off people who complain that it is wrong to tax them in order to fund a social safety net are overlooking a key fact, namely, they are overlooking the fact that their own prosperity is not wholly self-made.  Instead, their prosperity is in part due to their unchosen good fortune of living in a prosperous society – and in particular, to their good fortune of living in a society with a stable legal order, without which the personal fortunes of wealthy people would be impossible. This stable legal order is in turn the joint product of countless daily decisions made by millions of law-abiding residents, so that in truth a stable legal order is best understood as a collective project of We the People. A social safety net is a way of ensuring that the good fortune of a stable legal order is shared among all those people who collectively contribute to that stability, and who – rather than being “undeserving” – are thereby deserving of a fair share of their society’s good fortune. 

Prof. MICHAEL TROTTI, (HISTORY):  "White Juries: Shifts in the Laws of the American South after the Civil War" 

With the Constitutional Amendments after the Civil War, the white South was no longer able to have one written criminal code for whites, another for free blacks, and another for its enslaved population.  Holding all political power after Reconstruction, what did white legislatures do?  This talk lays out number of shifts in the laws that allow for racial distinctions even in the context of racially neutral statute language. 

Prof. SCOTT THOMPSON, (COMMUNICATION STUDIES):  "Constitutional Questions in Competitive Debate" 

Intercollegiate debate is a great place to learn about the constitution, also a place where you can put your knowledge to the test.  We frequently debate about government power - constitutional questions are central.  This year we are debating about the war on terror, Presidential authority is central.  Who decides if the US can be at war, and can the President authorize lethal drone strikes anywhere in the world?  Previous topics have addressed novel aspects of the Constitution such as the relationship between the 3rd Amendment and cyber surveillance.  Four years ago, the team did extensive research into the constitutionality of police chokeholds.  10th amendment concerns are always relevant. 

** PLEASE REGISTER in advance for this event: 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the EVENT.

We the People and Beyond

We the People and Beyond

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact Carlos Figueroa at or 607-274-7381. We ask that requests for accommodations be made as soon as possible.