WCSU professors face off on Constitution Day
Debate to focus on what amendments really mean

DANBURY, CONN. — In the name of Constitution Day, two professors from Western Connecticut State University will spar against each other in a debate that may not even spare the U.S. Supreme Court justices.

At 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16, Dr. Kevin Gutzman, professor of history and non-Western cultures, and Dr. Harold Schramm, professor emeritus of Justice and Law Administration, will argue Snyder v. Phelps, a case recently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The event will take place in Room 102 of Warner Hall on the Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. It will be free and open to the public.

“I didn’t agree with any of the justices,” Gutzman said, referring to the case of people showing up to protest at a soldier’s funeral service in Westboro, Md. The soldier’s family claimed emotional distress, among other things, against the protestors. The court ruled 8-1 in favor of the protestors upholding their First Amendment rights.

While also disagreeing with the final outcome, Schramm, however, will focus on the dissenting justice’s opinion, that of Justice Samuel Alito, that the First Amendment does not necessarily “allow the brutalization of innocent victims.”

Gutzman said the issue has more, however, to with the Tenth Amendment than it does freedom of speech and the right to public assembly. He said the state, not the federal government, has the right to decide such cases.

“We basically end up with important decisions decided by federal judges instead of by having a local election,” Gutzman said. “In the end, in this case, the local statute banning behavior was disallowed. We both disagree with the outcome, but on different grounds.”

Both Schramm and Gutzman will outline their arguments in a debate-style format.

For more information on the event, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.


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