Scranton’s “University for a Day” Explores Contemporary Issues in America

Jul 31, 2014

On Saturday, Sept. 20, The University of Scranton’s Schemel Forum will present its annual University for a Day. “Two Scranton faculty members, a constitutional scholar and a journalism expert will look at America as an oligarchy, as a nation that has come to revere its constitution, as a trans-national entity and as a nation coping with the new media era,” said Sondra Myers, director of the Schemel Forum at The University of Scranton.

Offered every fall, University for a Day features four lectures, with ample time for discussion, as well as mingling over morning coffee, lunch and a closing reception. The event will run from 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Brennan Hall on campus.

The program begins at 9:30 a.m. with “From Democracy to Oligarchy? Self-Love and the Future of America.” Matthew Meyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy at The University of Scranton, will draw on the insights of Plato and Aristotle to explore the potential role that a nefarious form of self-love plays in resistance to redistributive tax policies and the emergence of what some have called “American oligarchy,” in which power rests with a relatively small group of people.

“I’m interested in the psychology of why people claim they deserve all of what they earn (and more) and why they feel redistributive tax policies are morally wrong and unjust to them,” said Dr. Meyer. “Taken to an extreme, self-love drives businesspeople to create corporate empires, but politically we should be aware that this attitude can lead to tyranny.”

Next, Aziz Rana, Ph.D., associate professor of law at Cornell Law School, will present a lecture titled “The Rise of Constitutional Veneration.” Today the U.S. Constitution enjoys widespread support across the political spectrum, but this was not always the case. Dr. Rana will explore how the Constitution became a site of symbolic and political agreement over the course of the 20th century and how this process was tied crucially to the emergence of the U.S. as a global power. He will also discuss the effect of the modern rise of constitutional veneration on popular politics, particularly by placing limits on reform agendas.

After lunch, at 1:45 p.m., University for a Day continues with “Novel Perspectives on Our New World.” Stephen Whittaker, Ph.D., associate professor of English at The University of Scranton, examines the two most recent novels by Colum McCann, an internationally acclaimed writer, who will be at the University on Oct. 18 to receive the Distinguished Author Award from the Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library. In “Let the Great World Spin” and “TransAtlantic,” McCann braids narrative voices and re-weaves the idea of America, past and present. His powerful insight into the reciprocal motions of Irish and American experience affords a vibrant vision of the U.S. today as a trans-national entity.

“Unlike most nations on earth, America encompasses people of many ethnic backgrounds,” said Dr. Whittaker. “Colum McCann has an uncanny knack for discovering our diverse connections and making them come alive. He offers new versions of who we are and enables us to see ourselves as a more complexly cosmopolitan country than we’re used to thinking about, as well as one with a web of connections with the rest of the world.”

For the final presentation, The University of Scranton welcomes Kevin Klose, president emeritus of National Public Radio and dean of the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. In “A Quest for Truth in Twitter Time,” Klose will address the challenges we face in the new media era. “We live in an ocean of fractional ‘fact,’ with Twitter here to stay,” he said. “As citizens of a country where truth bows to no master, we must read, watch, witness and bear witness with ever-questing minds — seeking always for ‘fact’ (something that actually exists or happened) and challenging those who obstruct our quest. That’s what we owe ourselves and others in this time of twisted ‘truth-telling.’”

Seating is limited and reservations are required to attend the Schemel Forum’s University for a Day program, which is sponsored by the Neighborhood Development Fund and the Scranton Area Foundation. The participation fee is $25 for non-Schemel Forum members, which includes morning coffee, lunch and a reception.

To register, contact Emily Brees, Schemel Forum assistant, at 570-941-6206 or For more information on Schemel Forum programs and memberships, contact Sondra Myers at 570-941-4089 or

The Schemel Forum is a program of participatory learning experiences aimed at cultivating the intellect and the imagination through study and discussion of classical texts and current policies, from the arts, history and philosophy to technology and theology. Founded in 2006 through generous gifts to the Rev. George Schemel, S.J., Fund, the forum has grown quickly from a handful of informal lectures to a comprehensive enrichment program of study, dialogue, performances and special events. Session fees vary by program.


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