Arcadia University’s Office of Institutional Diversity in collaboration with The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) and the Cheltenham Branch of the NAACP hosted “A Community Discussion on the Death Penalty” on Jan. 16. The event was held in commemoration of the 26th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday and his life-long ministry of promoting the ideals of inclusion, diversity, equity, access, legal representation and social justice.
E. Steven Collins, Director of Urban Marketing and External Relations and the host of Philly Speaks at Radio One, moderated the vigorous discussion. The expert panelists were Michael Coard, Esq., a Philadelphia private criminal defense attorney; Marc Bookman, Executive Director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation; and Dr. John Noakes, Arcadia’s Associate Provost of Academic Improvement and Interim Dean of Graduate Studies.
“Bringing together people from three organizations—JSPAN, NAACP, and Arcadia—provided an interesting dynamism to the discussion,” says Noakes. He notes that though all three of the panelists had the same underlying position on the death penalty—that it should be eliminated—the moderator and the audience asked challenging questions and the panelists pushed beyond platitudes.
“This kind of community and university engagement brings new ideas and new energy to the campus," he says. "We should be doing even more to bridge the University/community divide. Not only do we have much to offer, but—as this event illustrated—we have much to learn from those outside our walls.”
President Tobey (Carl) Oxholm III’s introductory comments were among the highlights of the evening. Calling attention to the ambiguities of implementing the death penalty, he reflected on the fallibility of human nature and judgment. (Read more.)
“The Community Discussion was all that I'd hoped it would be: informative, interesting, thought provoking, and pretty well attended,” says Judith I. Dalton, Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity. “Lawyers Michael Coard and Marc Bookman, and Arcadia's John Noakes served us very well as panelists as each shared real death penalty case examples and relevant statistical data describing and regarding the discrepancies of how laws and sentencing are too often applied. Our moderator, Mr. E. Steven Collins did a great job of keeping us on topic and encouraging attendees to add their voices to the discussion. Many thanks to President Oxholm and Dr. Steve Michael for welcoming our guests and sharing their thoughts on the topic and wisdoms in support of the importance of the day.”