Cross-Department Efforts for Constitution Day at NJCU

Cross-Department Efforts for Constitution Day at NJCU

Originally published in Engaged NJ, New Jersey Campus Compact

By Theta Pavis-Weil, Director of Student Media, NJCU

Would the average college student stop to hear about Constitution Day? To engage more of our community, this year’s planning committee decided to widen our vision for this annual event. Since Banned Books Week falls in September (close to the federally observed Constitution Day on 9/17) we broadened our scope, asking the NJCU offices of Campus Life, the Center for Community Engagement, the library, student media, and the Political Science Department to all get involved.

The Political Science Department provided faculty and students to help with the event, which was held in the Student Union. They also brought free pocket-sized copies of the Constitution. The department chair had new signs made promoting the event and a white board was positioned so that students could answer the question “What does democracy mean to you?”

At the next table, voter registration forms were available, along with candy, pens and plenty of information. Meanwhile, the Congressman Frank J. Guarini Library put together an impressive display of books that have been challenged or banned in recent years, with full-color book jackets spread across another table. Each book had information attached explaining why the book had been challenged; students were encouraged to check out these books from the library. In addition, staff put together a packet of information on graphic novels that had been banned. (Across campus at the library, a corresponding display was created, positioned near forms for voter registration.)

The NJCU M. Jerry Weiss Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (which houses recently published books) also got involved. The center’s co-director came to the event with copies of books in their collection which had been banned, along with free resources and articles explaining the problem.

One book that was highlighted was The Hate U Give. Since we felt this book would interest many students, and because a film version was about to be released in early October, a poster about the book was also displayed.

The Center for Community Engagement donated several books for us to raffle off to students, which also helped build buzz for Constitution Day. Among the books raffled off were The Hate U Give, The Catcher in the Rye, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Revolutionary Voices, A Multicultural, Queer Youth Anthology, edited by Amy Sonnie. Working together, we made Constitution Day an event students would not soon forget.