Mauch Fellows discuss Supreme Court controversy

Sarah Baldwin, Editor-in-Chief

Presented by the political science department, the University’s Mauch Fellows held a panel over Zoom discussing the recent Supreme Court vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Mauch Fellowship Program, a collaboration between the University’s political science department and the Lewisburg area’s League of Women Voters, seeks to promote political participation among students by hosting a series of election-related forums, all facilitated by University students. This year’s Mauch Fellows include Maya McKeever ’21, Annie Maley ’21 and Jerra Holdip ’23. Before this most recent event, the students hosted their first discussion in September on mail-in voting and the impacts of COVID-19 on the upcoming presidential election.

“It is important to have the ability and resources to make informed political decisions, since voting is a way to ensure the hopeful progress of society and ensure that your needs — whether they be in regard to the economy, healthcare or any social issues — are being met, and that you’re advocating for your own voice and the voices of people who do not have the ability to vote to be heard,” McKeever, a facilitator for the discussion, said of the importance of the program. “I decided to be a Mauch Fellow because I think that having an opportunity to discuss important topics with people your age who you may not usually talk to should allow you to get other perspectives, whether from people you agree with or disagree with. I think we all deserve to have a voice in decisions that will affect our lives.”

“The forums are an important means for students to engage and debate policy issues. After attending the first event I can say the Fellows are doing a fantastic job in doing exactly this,” noted Associate Professor of Political Science John Doces, who attended the Sept. 15 event.

The discussion began with an inquiry into Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and the current hearings to confirm her as a justice. Attendees generally agreed that the Senate should wait to hear the outcome of the presidential before confirming Barrett’s nomination. “I think that a precedent was set in 2016 when they refused to hear a conversation about Merrick Garland. And that was in February, and it’s now only less than a month before the election,” Catherine Paul ’21 said.

Participants went on to discuss the role of voters in Supreme Court nominations, feeling that Barrett’s nomination is being pushed through quickly by Senate Republicans because of their fears of the Nov. 3 election results. Many also acknowledged how voters may be persuaded to change their decision based on whether Barrett is confirmed. Ralph Corbelle ’21 expressed concerns over this notion. “I think it’s a ridiculous idea that the Supreme Court would be deciding an election. I think that says bad things about the state of the government — which is already clear — but the idea that the presidential decision is decided by a vote for the Supreme Court doesn’t sound good,” Corbelle said.

The discussion then shifted to possible policy implications that could arise from Barrett’s confirmation. Holdip acknowledged that Barrett’s nomination could feasibly put the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade at risk. Many attendees expressed concern over Barrett’s use of religion to justify policy — especially given the supposed separation of church and state in the United States — and wondered how Barrett’s Catholicism would influence her treatment during the hearings.

The conversation was rounded out with a debate on the merits of lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices, as well as on the possibility of court-packing should Vice President Joe Biden win the election. “Why do we, in a political democracy, have a lifetime appointment for any position?” Taaj Maddox ’21 said. Students agreed that expanding the Supreme Court presents logistical issues, noting the possibility that U.S. President Donald Trump will appoint three justices to the Court during his tenure, and that expanding the court may make such proliferation more likely. However, Paul also understands the rationale behind doing so, as Barrett’s confirmation would create a partisan supermajority and prevent balance on the Court.

The Mauch Fellows ended the event with a review of the voting process for Pennsylvania residents and University students, reminding them of the upcoming voter registration deadline and the Union County rule no longer requiring masks to vote in-person.

“I think that the election this year has higher stakes than any one in recent history, and it is important to be informed about the issues, listen to different perspectives, and feel confident in voting,” Paul said. “I definitely found the event helpful, although in the future I would love it if more people felt comfortable speaking up and sharing their own opinions, particularly if they differ from the more vocalized ones during the event. I look forward to attending the final one.”

The next Mauch Fellowship event will be held sometime before the general election. To stay updated on upcoming forums, follow @mauchfellows on Instagram.

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