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UK Constitution Day 2015: 'Learning, Leadership, and Civic Engagement'

By Whitney Hale

(Sept. 14, 2015) — Constitution Day, also known as Citizenship Day, commemorates the ratification of the United States Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Each year on Sept. 17th, federally funded educational institutions are required to hold educational programming in honor of this historic event. 

The University of Kentucky is honored to celebrate Constitution Day 2015 with a full day of exciting and informative events. Under the direction of the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost, the UK Division of Undergraduate Education (UGE) has led the charge in organizing UK Constitution Day 2015 "Learning, Leadership, and Civic Engagement." UGE has teamed with various student and campus organizations to promote civic engagement and learning and to celebrate our rights and responsibilities as U.S. citizens across campus. 

"Our Constitution is recognized as one of the most important documents in history. Constitutional issues — ranging from personal privacy and free speech to the role and power of our governments — inform many of the most important debates in today’s society," Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Benjamin C. Withers said. "It should be the role of a university to leverage our academic resources to improve understanding of the Constitution to better prepare citizens to participate in these debates. It is gratifying to see so many students, faculty and staff from so many of the university's colleges and units participate in this year’s Constitution Day."

UK Constitution Day 2015 will be celebrated Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. The full list of Constitution Day events include:

"Freedom of Speech for Higher Education Faculty"

This presentation on faculty speech and academic freedom will be presented by Professor Scott Bauries, the Robert G. Lawson Associate Professor of Law at UK College of Law. University Research Professor John R. Thelin, of UK College of Education, and Director of the UK Linguistics Program Andrew Hippisley, will help facilitate this conversation. The talk will be held 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Sept. 17, at the William T. Young Library UK Athletics Auditorium.

Interactive Issues Graffiti Wall for Constitution Day: "What Civic Issues are Most Important to You?"

An electronic graffiti wall will be set up near the mid-day festivities for the university community to write/draw in answers to the question posed in the title of this event. Individuals can add their responses from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sept. 17, near the Main Building north lawn. The resulting images will be projected on the UGE Constitution Day website and during the town hall meeting beginning 7 p.m. that day, in the Young Library UK Athletics Auditorium. The graffiti wall is sponsored by the student association for the Certified Nonprofit Professional Program, Transformative Learning.

"HON 251" Students' Citizen Kentucky Project

Students in the "HON 251" class have organized a program including speeches on the U.S. Constitution by invited candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot; SGA Vice President Jenna Hollinden; and a Henry Clay reenactor. In addition to speakers, a short concert will be given by Christ The King's middle school choir. The program will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Main Building north lawn. Apple pie and lemonade will be served. This program is sponsored by the UK Honors Program and Citizen Kentucky Project, the School of Journalism and Telecommunications, as well as the Office of the President and UGE.

Voter Registration and Information on Student Civic Engagement

UK Student Government Association's Constitution Day session, which will include a voter registration station and information about UK's latest civic engagement efforts, will celebrate civic processes while reflecting on the freedom that comes with being an American. The session will run from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. near Main Building north lawn. The event is organized by SGA Civic Engagement Coordinator and Gaines Fellow Trevor McNary and SGA Director of Government Relations and Gaines Fellow Boone Proffitt.

"Advocacy through Digital Citizenship"

A discussion about digital Constitution and how to advocate for beliefs and/or causes in responsible ways. The program hopes to explore ways to engage in digital dialogue appropriately with others who may have differing opinions on current national topics. This discussion will run from 12:30-1:45 p.m., in the Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Center, located in the basement of Frazee Hall. Food and drinks will be provided courtesy of the Office of the President and UGE. This event is sponsored by UK Counseling Center and the VIP Center.

"The Gender and Citizenship Challenge"

This session will be led by Chellgren Professor Kathi Kern and fellow historians, Assistant Professor Anastasia Curwood, Assistant Professor Melanie Goan, Associate Professor Kathy Newfont and Associate Professor Amy Taylor. Students will compete in teams to build a timeline of pivotal moments in the history of the United States where citizenship expanded or contracted. Topics will include: voting rights, property rights, racial and gender equality, desegregation and Title Nine. Students are encourage to come test their knowledge, learn about a "usable past," and compete for prizes from 12:30-1:45 p.m. in Room 122 White Hall Classroom Building. Food and drinks provided courtesy of the Office of the President and UGE. The event is co-sponsored by the Department of History and the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT).

"'Picking Cotton' in Context: A Discussion on Issues from the UK Common Reading Experience Book"

Join in a conversation exploring issues of sexual assault and race in the U.S. criminal justice system related to the UK Common Reading Experience (CRE) book, "Picking Cotton," by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton. The discussion will begin 5:30 p.m., in Room 114 White Hall Classroom Building. Food and drinks will be provided. This event is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Center.

"Constitutional Decisions and LGBTQ* Rights"

A forum on legislation and current LGBTQ* issues led by Joel Parker, senior honors peer mentor and Singletary service mentor, from 3:30-5 p.m. in Central Hall II's Honors Program lobby. Food and drinks provided courtesy of the Office of the President and the UGE. This event is presented by UK Honors Program.

Constitution Day Town Hall Forum — "The Power of Symbols: Confederate Imagery in the Public Space"

Moderated by Associate Provost Ben Withers with Associate Professor of Philosophy Arnold Farr, Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights John Johnson, President of LexArts Nan Plummer, and the Thomas D. Clark Professor of History Mark Summers, this program will look at the power of imagery and discuss recent interest in the movement of Confederate symbols in various communities. The town hall forum will begin 7 p.m., in Young Library UK Athletics Auditorium. The forum is sponsored by the student association for the Certified Nonprofit Professional Program, Transformative Learning.

In addition to festivities on Constitution Day, a Constitution Day Essay Contest is being held. The contest for UK undergraduates awards cash prizes for first, second and third place winners. Deadline for submission is 11:59 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18. The contest is sponsored by the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, the Office of the President and the UK Division of Undergraduate Education.

For more information UK Constitution Day 2015, visit the UK Undergraduate Education website at