Amicus Curiae Lecture Series to present talk on U.S. Senate by political expert Peter Hanson


The Amicus Curiae Lecture Series continues at Marshall University with a presentation by Dr. Peter Hanson, who will speak on “The U.S. Senate’s Growing Crisis of Legitimacy,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, at Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall.  The lecture is free and open to the public.

Hanson will discuss the “Great Compromise,” in which the framers of the American constitution granted each state equal representation in the U.S. Senate regardless of its size — an arrangement that gives the nearly 40 million people of California and the 1.7 million people of West Virginia each two senators. He’ll explore whether this compromise can still be defended when, historically, the anti-democratic nature of the Senate was justified in part by arguing that it was the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body,” where decisions were made through reasoned debate. Today, routine party line votes and procedures that clamp down on debate and amendment have eroded the Senate’s deliberative role.

Meanwhile, large states are more likely to be Democratic and small states to be Republican, meaning the Senate’s grant of equal representation magnifies the power of one party over another. Hanson evaluates the legitimacy of the Senate and asks whether the Senate still deserves its prominent role in our constitutional system.

Hanson is an associate professor of political science at Grinnell College. After graduating from college, he served on the staff of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) for six years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

“One of the purposes of the lecture series is to explore ideas regarding how our Constitutional system might be improved,” said Patricia Proctor, director of the Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy. “Dr. Hanson’s work in this regard is intriguing, is based on a deep understanding of the subject, and offers a principled critique that takes into account the historical philosophies that informed the framers in designing our system of government and asks whether the system we have is achieving their original goals.”

This lecture is sponsored by Marshall’s Simon Perry Center for Constitutional Democracy with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Contact: Jean Hardiman, University Relations Specialist, 304-696-6397,

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