After an unusual semester of silence regarding the Boe Forum on Public Affairs, the Supreme Court’s longest-serving justice has been scheduled to speak at this year’s on March 9, 2016.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity when you get a sitting Supreme Court justice, not just a retired justice,” government professor Peter Schotten said. Although justices are busy, the Boe Forum has enough prestige to draw Scalia to South Dakota.
Scalia is known for interpreting the Constitution with what he believes the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote it, as opposed to the more modern and arguably more popular belief that the Constitution is a “living document” that changes with the culture. This philosophy is called originalism, and, according to Center for Western Studies Executive Director Harry Thompson, it will be the topic of Scalia’s talk in March.
Scalia also has very clear opinions about where the lines of power should be drawn. He is not only concerned about what the Court decides, but how they decide it and whether it is its place to make a ruling.
Thompson thinks students will enjoy hearing Scalia speak.
“He is witty, he is brilliant, he is humorous, he is biting,” Thompson said. “He can also laugh with anyone.”
“Scalia is historic, proactive, interesting, controversial and, therefore, a very good speaker,” he said.
Sophomore Rachel Polan sees it differently.
“He rubs a lot of people the wrong way,” she said. “I think they should have chosen someone less controversial.”
In recent years, the Boe Forum has generally been held in the fall. This year is different because Justice Scalia is not available to speak until March.
The selection process, however, was unusual. It began in the fall of 2014, differring from most years in which the process starts six to eight months before the event. Also different about this year is a professor suggesting a speaker. Generally a topic is selected before the speaker, and while that is true to an extent this year, government professor Peter Schotten recommended that the Boe Forum committee consider Justice Scalia.
As is the tradition, there will be time after the talk for students to ask questions. These students are expected to be pulled from Schotten’s classes. Even for those not able to ask questions, Schotten thinks that government students and those studying law specifically will enjoy and learn much from the opportunity to hear Scalia speak.
“I am quite excited for Justice Scalia to come speak at Augustana,” sophomore government major Hannah Norem said. “He writes the most colorful Supreme Court opinions, so I hope that translates to an entertaining but informative night at the Boe Forum.”
Tickets are open to the public and, according to Thompson, are going quickly. Roughly 2,000 tickets have been reserved with a maximum seating in the Elmen Center of 3,400. Thompson encourages students who are interested to reserve tickets soon, which can be done at augietickets.com.