Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Levinson to Lead ICH Summer Workshop

[We are moving up this previously posted announcement because the deadline of May 1 is not far off.]

Our friends at the Institute for Constitutional History have announced an Interdisciplinary Summer Workshop for Junior Faculty, to be held July 8-14, 2012, at Stanford, California, entitled “Assessing the US Constitution: Twenty-first-Century Responses to Eighteenth-Century Assumptions.”  The workshop will be led by Sanford Levinson, the W. St. John Garwood Jr. Centennial Chair in Law, University of Texas Law School, and Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin.  It is jointly sponsored by the Institute for Constitutional History and the Stanford Constitutional Law Center.  For further information, please contact Maeva Marcus, the Director of the Institute for Constitutional History, at (202) 994-6562 or

Professor Levinson explains:
It is an obvious truth that the drafters of the 1787 Constitution had a number of basic assumptions about the workings of what they called a “Republican Form of Government” and that the institutions established in Philadelphia reflected these assumptions.  To be sure, some of them, such as equal voting power in the Senate or the basis of representation in the House (i.e., the 3/5 rule), were the result of compromises, in which the losers (like James Madison with regard to the Senate) viewed the result as a “lesser evil” (to the greater evil of no Constitution at all) rather than a positive good.  Still, almost all of the institutions were defended by proponents of the Constitution, the most prominent, of course, being the collective Publius.  To a remarkable degree, America in 2012 continues to be governed through the structures established in 1787. 

The purpose of the seminar is quite simple:  To look at the justifications offered, particularly at the Philadelphia Convention and ensuing ratification debates (including, of course, The Federalist) and to assess the degree to which we find them persuasive over two centuries later.  The seminar is not about “constitutional interpretation” as that topic is usually defined.  That is, we will not be looking at the parts of the Constitution that have been significantly litigated and, therefore, “interpreted,” over the years, such as the assignment of powers to Congress in Article One, Section Eight.  Rather, we will be looking at examples of what in my forthcoming book I call “the Constitution of Settlement” (in contrast to the endlessly-litigated “Constitution of Conversation”)—bicameralism, the particular organization of power in the Senate, the presidential veto ,and  the process of constitutional amendment, among others.  
Readings will be taken from Professor Levinson’s book, Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance (Oxford University Press, 2012); The Federalist; The Founders’ Constitution; Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Constitution:  A Biography; and John Dinan, The American State Constitutional Tradition.

Workshop Leader
Sanford Levinson is the W. St. John Garwood Jr. Centennial Chair in Law, University of Texas Law School, and Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin.  Among other books, he has written: Constitutional Faith (Princeton U. Press, 1988, 2nd ed. 2011), and Our Undemocratic Constitution:  Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It) (Oxford U. Press, 2006, pb. ed. 2008).  He is also the co-editor of a widely used casebook, Processes of Constitutional Decision Making (5th ed. 2006).  He has written over 350 articles in law reviews as well as more general venues.  He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.

Stipends and Support:  Participants will receive accommodation at the Munger Graduate Residence on the campus of Stanford Law School and a modest stipend for meals.  Participants will also receive a travel reimbursement up to $250.  Workshop participants are expected to attend all sessions and engage in all program activities. 

Eligibility and Application Procedure: The summer workshop is designed for university instructors who now teach or plan to teach courses in constitutional studies, including constitutional history, constitutional law, and related subjects.  Instructors who would like to devote a unit of a survey course to constitutional history are also welcome to apply.  All university-level instructors are encouraged to apply, including adjuncts and part-time faculty members, and post-doctoral fellows from any academic discipline associated with constitutional studies (history, political science, law, anthropology, sociology, literary criticism, etc.).

To apply, please submit the following materials: a detailed résumé or curriculum vitae with contact information; syllabi from any undergraduate course(s) in constitutional studies you currently teach; a 500- word statement describing your interest in both constitutional studies and this workshop; and a letter of recommendation from your department chair or other professional reference (sent separately by e-mail or post). The application statement should address your professional background, any special perspectives or experiences you might bring to the workshop, and how the workshop will enhance your teaching in constitutional studies.

The deadline for applications is May 1, 2012.  Applications should be sent via electronic mail to Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter.