New Holiday, Old Debate; Stall(ed) Progress; Bias Revisited; Confirmation Controversy
New Holiday, Old Debate
A new spin on the religion in the schools debate.
The Constitution does not allow Congress to tell schools what to teach; the Tenth Amendment gives that power to the States. A provision in a spending bill that President Bush signed into law in 2004, however, changes that for one topic—the Constitution itself.
Constitution Day (officially September 17, to commemorate the day the Constitution was adopted in 1787) was celebrated at Tufts with a panel discussion by four professors and a handful of students because, now, “each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.” It is unlikely that the Department of Education will monitor or enforce the teaching of the Constitution in schools. Apparently, the government expects schools to comply by developing “many different, creative ways to enable students to learn about one of our country’s most important historic documents,” in the words of Robert Byrd, Senator from West Virginia, who originally inserted the provision for the holiday into the bill. For Senator Byrd, patriotism is the chief aim of Constitution Day.
The issue of federal authority that this holiday raises is no different than the codification of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, or the argument that intelligent design be taught alongside evolution in the classroom. Government believes that it has some role in education, but the constitutionality of any such role is vague at best. The federal government has no authority to mandate what is or what is not taught in the classroom. Furthermore, it has no authority to enforce any requirement, which seems to be why the Department of Education has no plans to monitor celebrations of Constitution Day in every federally funded school.
Given the current uproar over “under God” and intelligent design, there is little certainty that Constitution Day will avoid a debate over its constitutionality. As much as many Americans have no problem reciting “under God” in the patriotic exercise of the Pledge of Allegiance, or learning that intelligent design debates some tenets of evolution, or taking a few minutes to read and appreciate the Constitution, it is worrisome that federal government would require any of these actions. Minimal government intervention is best, especially in matters of education. It is important for Americans be conscious of an overbearing federal government. Americans might also take a few minutes to peruse the Constitution, on their own time.
Tilton gets experimental with its bathrooms.
Tilton Hall has become the guinea pig of dormitories at Tufts. The administration is using Tilton to experiment with some new ideas. For example, instead of using FOBs or keys to get into the building—and even the individual rooms—all doors are now opened with the residents’ student ID cards.
But the big “innovation” to come out of Tilton is the conversion of all of its bathrooms to gender-neutral facilities. While some will be pleased that transgendered students no longer have to make the agonizing decision between the men’s room and the women’s room, and that the ongoing debate about whether or not to require two women’s bathrooms for every men’s becomes irrelevant, the downsides are more serious than mere disputes about leaving the seat down. A man could “accidentally” walk in on a woman in a shower, hoping to see something he might enjoy. This could have happened before, but he would have had a much more difficult time explaining his entry into a single gender bathroom. Of course, women might try something similar on men. All in all, the potential for foul play is excessive.
In fairness, many of the residents were offered, by their RAs, to create de facto men’s and women’s rooms—an offer they declined. No problems of any sort, including foul play, have been publicized. However, the semester is still young. Until they happen, it is easy to ignore forewarnings of potential problems.
Even putting such predictions aside, it is a bad idea to gender-integrate bathrooms. The fact is, men and women are inherently different, and these differences are best and incontrovertibly exemplified on the parts of the body meant to be used in bathrooms. A politically correct society may not draw boundaries between the genders, but it should still respect the ones drawn by nature. Tufts should not abuse its power and use its on-campus residents as guinea pigs in social experiments.
The investigation leaves everyone in the dark.
In April 2005, a bias incident against Tufts senior Riyadh Mohammed allegedly occurred in front of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Naturally, this caused a colossal uproar among the students, faculty, and administrators. The problem, of course, is that the bias incident had only allegedly occurred at the time of this uproar. This did not stop the Tufts Daily and the Tufts administration—along with many members of the Tufts community at large—from publicly condemning the alleged perpetrator, William Toner. The Daily published a story that implied Toner’s guilt. Immediately thereafter, a big rally against bias on the Tisch Library steps further inflamed the situation. All of this took place long before the investigation had concluded. Not about to get drawn into the ongoing witch-hunt, THE PRIMARY SOURCE remained impartial, and simply reported the facts of the incident as they were known in its August 31 issue.
Now there are new developments in this story. William Toner has withdrawn from Tufts, and the alleged victim, Riyadh Mohammed, issued the following statement in a letter to the Dean’s Office:
“Based on my understanding that (the identified student) is planning to withdraw from Tufts University and (will) be ineligible to return, I hereby withdraw all complaints made by me against (that student) and any other students and/or organizations relative to this incident that occurred on or about April 30, 2005, and wish Tufts University not to pursue the matter further.”
The SOURCE is suspicious of this turn of events. Riyadh Mohammed made a grave accusation that destroyed William Toner’s reputation (surely a factor in his decision to withdraw). Because Riyadh has since withdrawn his interest in pursuing the matter, the Tufts community will never learn what really happened that night. Lest the incident haunt Toner forever if he is innocent (and lest Mohammed go without punishment if he had an aggravating role in the incident), the Source opines that the matter should be brought to conclusion in some form.
The SOURCE hopes that the Tufts Administration and the rest of the Tufts community will come to understand the destructive potential of reckless and impulsive behavior of the kind that was on display last Spring following the incident. It is counterproductive to the cause of impartial justice, as well as to the concept that a person is innocent until proven guilty. When similar incidents surface in the future, as they surely will, Tufts should use this ordeal as a model of what not to do.
Questioning or interrogation?
The mayhem surrounding the appointment of Johns Roberts as Chief Justice to the Supreme Court is fading as his confirmation seems increasingly certain, but the circus-like atmosphere will re-turn when President Bush makes his next appointment to the court.
Democrats grilled Roberts, unsuccessfully searching for a flaw in his seemingly spotless record, criticizing his refusal to present his personal political views, and attempting to goad him into revealing how he would rule on potentially controversial issues. His confirmation now seems imminent. Virtually no Democrats or Republicans have been able to challenge his qualifications. The Republicans, who hold a majority in the Senate, are unlikely to vote against a judge appointed by Bush, and even many Democrats have expressed the possibility that they will vote to confirm Roberts.
However, finding a second candidate to fill the other court vacancy will almost certainly not be as easy. If they confirm Roberts, a judge widely considered conservative, to replace the recently deceased conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Democrats will likely accept nothing but a moderate to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose swing vote was often pivotal on the nine member court. Al-though Democrats lack the majority necessary to overturn an appointment if the Republicans all vote to confirm, they can still filibuster the selection to significantly delay confirmation. This could go on until Bush compromises with a new selection, or even until a new president is elected. Opponents of Roberts’ scoured his past without finding the slightest usable flaw they could take advantage of. It is unlikely that Bush will find another potential Justice this uncontroversial. Democrats will expose the next nominee’s slightest imperfections in the most ostentatious manner possible, doing everything in their power to deny Bush the opportunity to significantly shape the court for years to come.
While it is easy to criticize the pettiness of the Democrats, it is harder to criticize their motives. Democrats believe that their agenda represents the will of the American people and that its implementation would make the US a better place. Unfortunately, the Constitution offers no guidelines for selecting court nominees. Politicians on all sides will desire a Justice whose judicial philosophy works in their favor. It is natural for a conservative president to nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court. Roberts’ nomination was unusual for its relative cordiality. When President Bush announces his second pick, that civility may quickly go by the wayside as his nominee faces scrutiny comparable to or even greater than anything seen during the infamous Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas confirmation proceedings. The next justice may serve as the swing vote on a court with the ability to shape American politics for years to come. This may be the ugliest confirmation yet.