Constitution Day 2014

By Caitlin Reilly, Program Associate, The American Democracy Project

Every year American Democracy Project campuses across the country celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. Constitution Day falls on September 17th each year, and this year we are celebrating the 227th anniversary of the document’s signing.

Here are some of the activities planned on ADP campuses. Don’t forget to share your own plans in the comment section!

California State University, Sacramento has planned a full week of activities, including a Constitution Quiz Bowl contest that rewards students’ constitution knowledge with prizes.  For more information, check out their website.

Emporia State University (Kan.) has partnered up with the social science faculty. Together they are building on what it has done in previous years and have invited high school students to campus to work with faculty and students for the day. Last year they had participants come from as far away at 300 miles.

Ferris State University (Mich.) has teamed up with the College Democrats, College Republicans and the Young Americans for Liberty to hand out pocket Constitutions to students. They will also have laptops available for students to register to vote through AASCU partner TurboVote.  To learn more about Ferris State’s Constitution Day activities, visit their website. For more ideas on how to implement TurboVote visit their implementation blog.

Fort Hays State University (Kan.) would like to make students more familiar with the Bill of Rights. Accordingly, they will be passing out pocket Constitutions and encouraging students to make buttons displaying their favorite amendments.

Georgia College has planned two panels, a radio show, a lecture and a Times Talk discussion, in order to educate students on the three branches of government, constitutional rights and the role of federal judiciary review, and discussing diversity in American jurisprudence and public policy.  To learn more, please visit their website.

Illinois State University has planned a panel discussion called, “Have Americans Lost the Right to Counsel?” The discussion will engage students about the right to legal counsel and due process, as well as the challenges of guaranteeing this constitutional right.

Indiana State University has planned a Pizza and Politics Discussion on the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

Keene State College (N.H.) has asked the author of The Last of the Doughboys, Richard Rubin to give a talk on campus. Learn more here.

Kennesaw State University has a week full of activities planned. Activities include a voting drive, featuring TurboVote, and talks about hunger and urban agriculture. Learn more here.

Metropolitan State University (Minn.) has asked students, faculty and staff to wear “We the People” t-shirts all day on the 17th.  They have also distributed free Constitution booklets and plan to host a screening of the documentary, North Star: Minnesota’s Black Pioneers.

Metropolitan State University of Denver (Col.) will hold a public forum, to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

Minot State University (N.D.) plans to engage students in a discussion on important civic issues and how to vote in November, through a Free Speech Plaza and by distributing information on the voting process.

Missouri State University has a number of things planned, including a presentation from author and speaker Mike Dilbeck, a screening of the documentary Invisible War, a patriotic song recital and a Constitutional trivia night.  They will also set up TurboVote registration tables across campus throughout the week, where students can register to vote, obtain absentee ballots and get text or email reminders via the TurboVote and university co-branded website (learn more about TurboVote here).  They will also release constitutional facts and quizzes hourly via their social media sites. Learn more on their website.

Northwestern State University (La.) plans to host a voting registration drive and a special presentation on Native American civil rights.

Ramapo College of New Jersey plans to honor the day with visits from New Jersey state senate president, Steve Sweeney, state senate majority leader, Loretta Weinber, and former governor Jim Florio. The campus will also serve Constitution Day birthday cake, hold a TurboVote sign up and receive a visit from “Ben Franklin” at their club fair.

St. Cloud State University (Minn.) will host a trivia event and an evening celebration in honor of the day. Learn more here.

Stephen F. Austin State University (Texas) will host a forum called, “Is the Constitution in Crisis?” They will also erect a Democracy Wall with questions aimed at sparking comment and debate among students, faculty and staff.

SUNY Cortland will host its annual Constitution Day lecture; this year’s is “The Constituting Constitution and How to Reconstitute It.”

The College at Brockport (SUNY) hopes to demonstrate the value of American citizenship by hosting an on-campus naturalization ceremony, with 60 to 70 of people who are soon to be America’s newest citizens.

The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey has several activities planned, including national speakers, films, dialogues and a visit to the National Constitution Center. National Public Radio’s legal correspondent Nina Totenberg will be their keynote speaker.  Learn more on their website.

University of Missouri – St. Louis plans to offer special menu options in the cafeteria, along with a music and spoken word program. Students can also participate by sharing what “We the People” means to them through the six-word project.

Washington State University Vancouver has planned to table on the quad, where they will offer cupcake decorating, a constitutional quiz, pocket Constitutions, a banned book exhibit, voter registration opportunities and an “Ask a Constitutional Scholar” booth.

Weber State University (Utah) has a whole week of events planned, beginning with First Amendment Day on Monday.  The campus will also host Kevin Quealy form The New York Times, and hold a constitutional debate on same sex marriage and a Constitution Quiz Show.

West Texas A&M University has set up a Constitution Day at the campus museum, which they have opened to K-12 students. They plan to close the day with a naturalization ceremony. Learn more on their website.

Western Carolina University (N.C.) plans to hand out copies of the Constitution and host a panel discussing the national and state constitutions. Learn more here.

Winona State University (Minn.) has invited Richard Arenberg, author of Defending the Filibuster, to launch their Lyceum series with a talk.

Save the Date: #ADPTDC15 National Meeting | June 4-6 in New Orleans


Mark your calendars! We’re looking forward to seeing everyone for the 2015 American Democracy Project/The Democracy Commitment National Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana from June 4-6, 2016! 

Please note: The meeting schedule will be a bit different this year — we’ll start sessions bright and early on the morning of Thursday, June 4th and will finish by 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 6th. Make plans accordingly! Everyone will want to schedule their flights to arrive by the evening of Wednesday, June 3rd in order to attend the full program.

We’ll be ending the program with a closing plenary session featuring Danielle Allen speaking about her book Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014) -you won’t want to miss it! So schedule your flights to leave after 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 6th. However, the room rate will be available through Saturday evening.

Also, stay tuned for the call for proposals in early October — proposals will be due by the end of the calendar year in December. 

2015 ADP/TDC Meeting Theme

Each year we choose a meeting theme around which a variety of speakers and sessions are dedicated. Please note, however, that while we seek proposals that address the meeting theme, we also welcome all proposals related to broader civic learning and democratic engagement topics.

The 2015 meeting theme is “Stewardship of Place: A Civic Mission of Higher Education.”

Public higher education has a number of distinct yet overlapping civic missions, including: creating informed, engaged citizens; engaging in research on topics such as civic learning and development; serving as spaces for democratic dialogue and deliberation; and identifying and addressing community needs in partnership with other community members and organizations (The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and CIRCLE, 2006).

Each of these civic missions involves the “place” where our institutions operate, and our meeting theme this year focuses on this: What role does place play in public higher education? How are our institutions involved in the multi-layered communities in which they are situated? How are our colleges and communities dependent on each other? What does it mean to act as stewards of these places, in teaching, research and service? How do we teach students to serve as stewards of their current and future communities?

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)—ADP’s parent organization and host of TDC’s national office—defines its member institutions as Stewards of Place, framing the work of these institutions as inexorably linked to the well-being of the communities, regions and states in which these colleges and universities are situated (AASCU, 2002). In a recent publication, AASCU asked its member institutions to consider their work as stewards of their communities in four distinct yet overlapping areas—economic and community development, k-12 education, internationalization, and—most relevant to our ADP and TDC work—civic learning and engagement (AASCU, 2014 – available soon!). Likewise, TDC’s member institutions, for which community is not just part of their title but their legacy, share a similar commitment to stewardship.

As we come together in June 2015 in New Orleans, we cannot think of a better location in which to explore this definition and focus on our work collectively and in alignment with this civic mission. Both the American Democracy Project (ADP) and The Democracy Commitment (TDC) share a deep commitment to ensuring that our institutions and our students are thoughtfully and meaningfully engaged in our often overlapping communities. As we join the people of New Orleans in commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and the 50th anniversary of the Higher Education Act, we will explore our individual and institutional responsibilities and contributions to our democracy both in New Orleans and in the communities in which our institutions reside.

Potential topics based on the meeting theme might include:

  • Role of place in public higher education
  • Campus/community partnerships
  • Examples of mission-driven community-based work
  • Community-based learning and research
  • Economic and community development efforts
  • Ways of mapping and measuring community impact
  • Shared institution/community events and spaces

Join us in New Orleans as we consider the meaning of place in public higher education and our role(s) as stewards of the spaces and places with which our campuses are so deeply entwined.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Partner Spotlight: Roosevelt Institute Campus Network’s Rethinking Communities Project

By Eugenia Kim

Rethinking Communities is a new project launched last year by the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network (RICN), a national student-run public policy think tank founded in the belief that students have the power to make serious change in their communities. Rethinking Communities challenges students to proactively improve university policy. Specifically, it aims to make universities aware of their economic impact as anchor institutions—large nonprofit entities that, by virtue of their mission and location, are tied to the communities in which they sit—and embrace their responsibility to those larger communities.

As students, we know that that there is a disparity in wealth distribution in this country, and that this disparity is made worse by the fact that many people have no say in their own economic futures. We also recognize that waiting on the federal government to create sweeping national change is futile. Therefore, the Rethinking Communities initiative challenges students to take action in places where they live, places they know—the communities where they go to school. The progress we hope to achieve is systematic, it’s long-term, and it attempts to build on the permanent relationships between communities and universities rather than apply simple, short-term Band-Aid solutions.

RC correctedCurrently, students who want to become engaged in politics and policy are told to volunteer, canvass, or help with voter registration. In other words, we are not asked to address systemic issues and fix the root problems. By channeling the economic and social power that universities have over the communities they reside in, we hope to tackle local issues of wealth inequality, disempowerment, and apathy born of a sense that people have no agency in their own lives.

While this initiative is largely student-led, with students researching, organizing, and writing policy suggestions, it can’t succeed without the support and cooperation of administrators, professors, and university presidents. There are many untapped, gifted students who do not know about the work we are doing. We need the help of faculty and administrators to connect RICN with other students who are also civic-minded and interested in bringing this project to their campuses.

Students also need validators once those connections are made. I never really had any interest in or thought about what a person’s civic duty should be until I was asked for my opinion  in school and in Roosevelt. Until I was given a seat at the table, I didn’t feel like I had any right to be talking. We need professors, administrators, and university presidents to push the Rethinking Communities initiative and invite students and other community members to participate.

Start by asking students the question: what do they think? Show them their voices and opinions matter by giving them the tools to truly address inequality in their local communities. Equip them with the Rethinking Communities toolbox, which can be downloaded here. Combat apathy by giving students an avenue to demand more of their universities as anchor institutions. Rethinking Communities needs your help to be a truly meaningful initiative that implements concrete change.


Eugenia Kim is a student at New York University and a member of the Rethinking Communities Project brain trust, a group of six students working to make the project run.

The American Democracy Project Commemorates 9/11

911IntroGraphicADP schools across the country are commemorating the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Read on to see what other campuses are doing and be sure to share your own activities in the comments.

Fort Hays State University (Kan.) is hosting a candlelight vigil, where student body president Arin Powers will give a speech.

Indiana State University is screening the documentary “102 Minutes that Changed America.”

If you’re looking for a way to commemorate the day on your own or with friends, try checking out the Corporation for National and Community Service. They’ve organized the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, through which you can perform community service and connect with other volunteers.

Georgia College Teach-In: Events in Ferguson, Missouri

By Gregg Kaufman, ADP National Steering Committee Member

GA college teach in_1

Georgia College Teach-in on “Events in Ferguson, MO”

A standing room only crowd of nearly 150 students, faculty, staff, and community citizens attended a teach-in at Georgia College that addressed the events in Ferguson, MO and the related issues of race, class, and inequity in American society. Panelists representing a variety of academic disciplines and campus safety spoke, after which audience members asked questions. The presentations included “The Talk” that many young African American males hear about self-protection, black male stereotypes, sociological principles such as “othering,” human geography scales, and finally a critical thinking process based on the principle of charitable interpretation.

GA college teachin 2

Standing-room only crowd at teach-in.

Approximately half the audience represented local citizens and several people commented that they hoped more teach-ins would provide opportunities for learning and dialogue. Another common idea involved hosting a conversation among campus and community citizens with the police departments that share responsibility for public safety.

A student-led educational event and candlelight vigil for Michael Brown and the Ferguson community was held the next evening on the front campus.

NICD’s Respect or Reject Campaign

By Stephanie R. South, TDC National Coordinator

The National Institute for Civil Discourse is trying to put civility back into political campaigns, and to that end, they are debuting a new project—the Respect or Reject Campaign. The American Democracy project is teaming up with The Democracy Commitment to spread the word, because we believe this initiative has some real potential to help faculty members engage and empower their students during #e2014.


Courtesy of Respect of Reject

The last presidential campaign season was one of the least civil campaigns we’ve ever experienced. This year’s midterm election campaign will undoubtedly bring the current polarized state of our democracy front and center, blaring negative campaign ads on our radios and TVs, and taking social media by storm with retweets and social shares that don’t keep pace with modern-day fact checking capacities.

We as citizens have become accustomed to seeing politicians launch campaign advertisements filled with vitriolic dialogue, sensational imagery and less than respectful depictions of the opposing candidate. Holding them accountable for their actions is a key priority in encouraging candidates to run on a platform that focuses on the issues at hand and not on demonizing the other candidate.  This can only be accomplished if the public takes a stand and renounces the behavior.  We can help to fill this role by providing an avenue that helps people find their voice.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse will seek to frame the conversation around civility and give the public a place to take a stand against the behavior, rather than sensationalizing it. In this campaign, we’re not giving politicians a voice by retweeting them; we’re giving people a place to publically state that the behavior is unacceptable and undesired.

The campaign is now live and its first round of ads is up. New rounds of ads for House and Senate campaigns will go up each Friday through Election Day. Following Election Day, Respect or Reject will release the five most outrageous ads and the five most civil ads, according to our votes. To learn more, read the Respect or Reject one-pager here.

Visit to join the conversation about campaign ads. Let’s take responsibility for the direction of our democracy.


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