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Four universities to mark Constitution Day

Three SUNY institutions, including SUNY Cortland, on Tuesday, Sept. 20, will collaborate in an unprecedented joint, virtual civic discussion around the theme of money in politics to mark Constitution Day.

Calling itself the Freedom of Speech Team, the group, which also includes SUNY Plattsburgh, Nassau Community College and MassBay (Massachusetts) Community College will hold the three consecutive student-centered educational and participatory activities during a “Your Vote and the First Amendment” event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Organizers are concerned about political financing, especially as it influences people’s right to hear a variety of perspectives, said one organizer, John Suarez, director of SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement.

Allen Groves

“This is a timely discussion, especially with the important midterm elections arriving in November,” he said.

With that in mind, the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision will be a major topic, Suarez said. Elected representatives in districts containing the three campuses have been invited to join the virtual meetings.

Activities will include:

Each year, SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement holds a Constitution Day event to connect with students on topics related to the history of America’s government and the importance of voting.

Constitution Day (or Citizenship Day), is an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. Normally observed on Sept. 17 — the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia — when Constitution Day falls on a weekend or on another holiday, schools and other institutions observe the holiday on an adjacent weekday.

This year, organizers have asked faculty to encourage their students to register and participate in one, two or all three of the events. Those interested in learning more about the Constitution Day program may contact Suarez for more information or comments at 607-753-4391.

Meanwhile, Constitution Day organizers have reached out to their area elected officials, seeking representation from both Democrat and Republican parties, to give students an opportunity to converse with them.

“Constitution Day helps us educate our students on civics,” Suarez said. "This event will give students an opportunity to engage with elected officials."