June 2005

Students, Faculty, Staff Call Attention to Unwieldy State Constitution

"...Signatures of 181 Alabama residents were added to a petition in support of constitutional reform. The names will be added to the statewide Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform petition count..."

Alabama Constitutionby Mary Wimberley

After 12 hours of reading on May 9, Samford volunteers got barely a third through the 1901 Alabama constitution, the longest known constitution in the world, which many say also restricts local democracy, creates unfair taxation and stifles economic development.

Readers got to page 217 of a bound copy of the constitution, published by Samford in 2000, which has 589 pages.

"We read up to the 198th amendment," said student Alisha Damron, who organized the event. As of 2005, the constitution has more than 740 amendments.

From 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., a roster of Samford students, faculty and staff took turns reading aloud from the 310,300-word document while seated comfortably in an easy chair in front of Samford's Davis Library.

The event drew attention and conversation, which is what the organizers wanted. Signatures of 181 Alabama residents were added to a petition in support of constitutional reform. The names will be added to the statewide Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform petition count.

"Students were definitely responsive to the demonstration," said Damron, a senior from Springdale, Ark., and a member of the Samford ACCR chapter. "Whether they signed the petition, stood to listen, or were stirred with conversation, it was an issue that seemed to be getting their attention."

To visually dramatize the constitution's size, students strung pages of the document on a line along the school's Centennial Walk.

The 20 readers included 11 students, seven professors, a retired staff member, and one president. Samford president Dr. Thomas E. Corts, a leader in state constitutional reform efforts, pulled his shift mid-morning.

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