New center to share faculty expertise on state, federal constitutions

| Judy Berthiaume

The U.S. Constitution is front and center in discussions swirling around whether President Obama should nominate someone to the U.S. Supreme Court during a hotly contested presidential election year.

And Wisconsin’s Constitution often has been referenced as Republicans and Democrats have sparred over a variety of controversial pieces of legislation and hot-button issues in recent years.

Politicians, the general public, educators and others now have a new resource they can turn to when sorting fact from fiction when it comes to issues around constitutions at the state and federal levels.

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s newly established Center for Constitutional Studies has been charged with promoting research, education and community outreach on matters related to the Wisconsin Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

“The center will serve as a hub and access point for UW-Eau Claire’s internal and external audiences who are seeking information or research on issues relating to constitutions at the state and federal levels,” said Dr. Eric Kasper, assistant professor of political science and the center’s first director. “This will be a resource that will serve our students, faculty, government officials, the media and the general public.”

The CCS will host its first event this spring.

Dr. Donald Downs, professor emeritus of political science, law and journalism at UW-Madison and the author of several books on the Constitution, will speak at 5 p.m. March 7 in Room 1614 of Centennial Hall at UW-Eau Claire.

The title of Downs’s talk will be “Studying the Constitution and Civic Education: Free Speech, Criminal Justice and Other Doctrine.”

The March 7 event will be the first in a series of speakers, seminars, workshops, conferences and other activities that will be hosted by CCS.

Eventually, the center will have its own website where it will share information about CCS activities as well as research related to state and federal constitutions.

The center’s overall mission is to promote research, education and community outreach on matters related to the Wisconsin Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, Kasper said, noting that several faculty within the political science department will be involved with the CCS.

“These are faculty who are experts on matters of constitutional law and politics,” Kasper said. “They teach courses on the state and federal constitutions, and they publish and present scholarly work on the U.S. Constitution and Wisconsin Constitution. We already have the expertise on our campus but the CCS will help us better organize resources and share information.”

Specifically, the CCS will:

• Operate as UW-Eau Claire’s public point of access when the media or the public seek information or research on issues related to the Wisconsin Constitution or the U.S. Constitution.
• Act as the university’s resource for government officials who are requesting information or research on issues related to the Wisconsin Constitution or the U.S. Constitution when they are making policy.
• Serve as the university’s forum for inviting speakers, creating lecture series and hosting seminars, workshops and conferences in the fields of Wisconsin and U.S. constitutional law and politics.
• Encourage both internal and external research collaboration in the fields of Wisconsin and U.S. constitutional law and politics.
• Support and organize faculty-student research activities in the fields of Wisconsin and U.S. constitutional law and politics.
• Complement the political science department curriculum, which stresses the exploration of constitutional law and politics in several courses and with its comprehensive major with a legal studies emphasis.
• Help UW-Eau Claire students learn more about the study of state and federal constitutional law and politics by working with relevant student organizations.

The March 7 event is sponsored by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, the College of Arts and Sciences,  the department of political science, and the UW-Eau Claire Academic Affairs Professional Development Program.


For more information, contact Dr. Eric Kasper at 715-836-4802 or kasperet@uwec.edu.

Photo caption: Dr. Eric Kasper