The Constitutional Shark Tank was held Sept. 18 at Western Carolina University’s A.K. Hinds University Center. The event was hosted by Dr. Todd Collins, Director of the Public Policy Institute and Associate Professor of the Political Science and Public Affairs Department, and co-hosted by Fiona Buchanan, Social Media Ambassador to Western Carolina. Both Collins and Buchanan participate in voter registration drives on campus and try to host an event for Constitution Day each year. The Student Democracy Coalition and the Goodman Fellows also host similar events throughout the academic year.
According to Collins, “As a show of its importance, every educational institution that received federal funding is required by law to have some kind of programming to provide some educational opportunities so that students can learn more about the Constitution. In addition to the event, we also passed out pocket Constitutions on the UC Lawn during the day. This was the second year for the ‘Shark Tank’ event and allowed our students to think more about the importance of the Constitution and what changes might be needed.”
Their goal this year was to highlight the Constitution of the United States, an empowering document to this day, as well as to provoke student thought regarding the importance of the document. The Constitutional Shark Tank was an event open to students to present their ideas for constitutional amendments. Food and beverages were provided as well as informational pamphlets about the Constitution.
Collins and Buchanan received assistance from the Public Policy Institute, Students Democracy Coalition, the Center for Service Learning, as well as the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs in hosting this event.
The rules for the competition were that each student had up to five minutes to present and that the audience would then score each participant on the following values: did the presenter demonstrate the importance of the issue, did the presenter show how the proposed constitutional change would solve the issue and was the presenter clear in his/her presentation? In the event of a tie, the tiebreaker would consist of constitutional trivia questions.
The top three winners each received a $50 Visa gift card. There were eight contestants overall who were each allowed five minutes to present and five minutes to open the floor to questions. Students who competed were law, criminal justice and political science majors.
The first competitor, Regina Glubber, presented the idea to add an amendment so that de-escalation tactics were part of the constitution rather than deadly force. She argued that deadly force should be used only as a last resort and was too often used in various cases where it could have been avoided.
The next contestant presented her idea that judicial review should be added to the Constitution rather than a federal law or statute.
Riley Davis, the third competitor, wanted to abolish the death penalty and add it as a new amendment to the Constitution.
The next topic presented was a ban on private donations to campaigns in elections and switch to public financing instead. This was presented as a solution to create fair elections.
Tenae Turner argued her opinion in relation to U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. She said that there should not be a limit placed on bloggers and that there should not be a limit to the court’s ability to review cases.
A competitor discussed adding a clause to the First Amendment, specifically that having to do with freedom of speech and regards to campaign donations and financing.
The two-thirds majority vote was also countered with another presenter arguing that it should be changed to a majority vote.
The final competitor presented the idea that false presidential promises made during elections should have a consequence. She said that an amendment should be made to hold presidential candidates accountable for their promises if they reach office and gain presidency.
The event successfully engaged students in the possibility of changes to the Constitution that may be beneficial to society. Those who presented brought about strong concerns and issues relevant to today’s world.
After votes had been tallied, three winners were announced. The winners, in no particular ranking, were: Regina Glubber, Riley Davis and Tenae Turner. Each winner was awarded gift cards and congratulated by their peers.
This event offered an interactive experience for students to learn more about the Constitution and have their voice heard.