What’s at Stake: U.S. rights and responsibilities during political conflict

R. Kent Newmyer, UConn law professor, speaks in Laurel Hall to students and the public as part of "What's at Stake?" on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Speakers talked about what is going to happen in the future due to Donald Trump's presidency. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

While it is more common to spend an early Saturday morning relaxing or sleeping in, President Donald Trump uses his time differently by tweeting at his critics and supporters.

His unconventional use of social media and decision-making was the focal point of discussion at Tuesday night’s “What’s at Stake: U.S. Rights and Responsibilities during Political Conflict” event.

The lecture came at a fortunate time, as it tried to give context and guidance on how to deal with the confounding decisions and rhetoric coming from the new Trump administration.

One major topic of the night was immigration, spurred by Tuesday’s revised travel ban that restricts travel from six Muslim-majority countries.

University of Connecticut law professor, Bethany Berger summarized past immigration bans to put the executive order in historical context, while Asian-American studies and English professor Cathy Schlund-Vials argued against racial or religious persecution, drawing largely from Japanese internment in the 1940s.

This is not the first time the travel ban has caused a stir on campus, as students protested outside of the Union on Feb. 1, following Trump’s first attempt to ban travel.

President Trump’s denigrating rhetoric towards the judiciary and media were also discussed. Political science professor David Yalof spoke about the need for an unwavering judiciary, and steps to maintain the strength of that branch of government.

On the media side, Maureen Croteau, head of the journalism department, stressed the need for the First Amendment, which was extremely poignant after Trump’s combative press conference with the media last month.

Fourth-semester-student healthcare management and PNB major Gerard Hartmann mirrored this idea and said, “It seems like every news outlet these days is ‘fake news’ so I’m pleased someone talked about that tonight.”  

The highlight of the night was law professor Douglas Spencer, who focused his time speaking on voter rights, and how they are changing under the Trump administration.

Eighth-semester sociology and political science major Caitlin Briody praised Spencer’s speech.

“My favorite speaker was Douglas Spencer,” she said. He was speaking about a topic I had some prior knowledge of, but he gave me a whole new perspective on the problem (of voter rights).”

Spencer connected with the audience by predicting how states will react to Trump’s voter fraud claims, and gave advice on how to spot ways states restrict votes through voting rights laws.    

The panel attempted to give historical context on current events and inspire direct action from the student body going forward.

The panel voiced mostly liberal viewpoints and the panelists lacked a clear conservative voice.

But the Democratic voices flooding town hall meetings with their grievances during the early months of Trump’s administration were reflected in tonight’s event, an extension of this growing grass-roots movement.


Teddy Craven is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.craven_jr@uconn.edu.