Constitution Day discussion emphasizes students’ role in democracy

Eight students gathered in Eaton Apt. 108 on Monday night to save the university from being cut off from federal funding. No, there wasn’t a rally, protest or sit-in; only a discussion about the oldest national Constitution still in use.

Congress issued a statute in 2004 requiring all schools that receive federal funding to host a program every year on Sept. 17, the day the constitution was ratified in 1789. Sen. Robert Byrd (WV) added the amendment in order to spread awareness and educate each generation about the U.S. Constitution.

Michael Froomkin and Mario Barnes, both professors in the School of Law, along with Randall Marshall, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, discussed executive action post-9/11, authorization for use of military force and the controversy caused by the Bush Administration in regards to straying from the precedents set by the Constitution.

Barnes said he believes that the reach of the executive branch has spilled over into the legislative branch, resulting in a violation of the separation of power.

“Congress has given a lot of authorization to the president, and they are basically saying, ‘Do what you need to do to get the bad guys’,” Barnes said.

Froomkin believes that democracy is withering, but has suggestions for students to prevent further decay.

“Be visible and be virtual,” Froomkin said. “In order to be informed you have to go beyond mass media because they’re only reporting on select news. Also, once you’ve worked out what you believe in, become visible because right now protest is non-existent.”

Toward the end of the discussion, the three men decided that their hope for the future lies with younger generations.

“Students have always had an amazing ability to organize that which is pure in our democracy,” Barnes said. “I think part of what it means to be a student is to realize the values we hold dear.”

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at