Local professors explain constitution

By Paul Williams
November 14, 2002

Angelina Wagner

Five experts presented the relevance of the American Constitution to Americans of today through a succession of lectures. On Saturday, Nov. 9 the history club of Cabrini presented “‘We the People’ The Constitution and It’s Meaning.”

Dr. Gerald Fitzpatrick, professor and chairperson of politics at Ursinus College, presented the importance of Marbury vs. Madison in establishing how powerful the Supreme Court would become. Fitzpatrick said, “The Supreme Court is a political institution. Judicial review gives judges the power to make law, not just interpret it.” Fitzpatrick gave the example of John Marshall, the chief justice of the Supreme Court during Marbury vs. Madison, who should have refused taking the case. Marshall was a relative of Thomas Jefferson and the secretary of state during John Adam’s presidency.

Linda Collier, the dean of social sciences and public services at Delaware Community College, presented after Fitzpatrick.

“The Constitution is the basic law to which all others must conform,” Collier said. “The Supreme Court is the supreme law of the land.” However, Collier did explain that some exceptions have been made. “A criminal under arrest must be read their Miranda rights under the fifth amendment, but according to the Quarels decision in 1984, the Miranda rights do not have to be read if the safety of the public is at risk,” Collier said.

A professor at Franklin and Marshall College, Dr. Donald Grier Stephenson, presented how the fourth amendment is applied today. Stephenson said, “The fourth amendment is shrinking and it is shrinking in two ways. First, by government mandated drug testing and second, by the searching of automobiles.” The drug testing is random or selective with people who are under no suspicion. Stephenson pointed out that someone who is a candidate running for state election will not have to take a drug test. “Automobiles can be searched without a warrant because of a car’s mobility factor,” Stephenson said. “However, if there is a bag or a specific compartment of the car that the police want to search, they will need a warrant.”

Christina Gafford, a junior political science and English and communications major, said, “Stephenson’s lecture on the fourth amendment had a lot of practical applications with the communication’s technology of today, like wire tapping and viewing e-mails.”

“No matter what, the most controversial decisions are church-and-state decisions,” Dr. Graham Lee, professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University, said. Graham’s presentation was about the wall between church-and-state. “Thomas Jefferson once used the phrase that there was to be a wall between church-and-state,” Stephenson said. “However, William Rehnquist, the current chief justice of the Supreme Court, believes that Jefferson misinterpreted what the founders meant. Stephenson described Rehnquist’s actions as “changing the dimensions of the wall.”

Collier asked, “Is the use of ‘under God’ in the pledge, a violation of the constitution?” Stephenson replied, “It is a clear violation because it endorses religion.”

Dr. James Hedtke, professor and chairperson of political science at Cabrini, presented his ideas on the 22nd amendment and lame duck presidents. He explained that a president would not be a lame duck if they were perceived well in the eyes of the people. “Ninety percent of presidents that the people term as ‘great’ presidents were reelected to a second term,” Hedtke said. “Ninety percent of presidents who were seen as bad presidents only served one term.”

Michaela McGowan, a sophomore secondary education with history major, said, “Dr. Lee and Dr. Hedtke both captivated the audience by speaking passionately about their subject and creating an interest.”

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