Impressions from the Tulsa Law Review Symposium

Friday, October 05, 2012

Heather Gerken speaking at the Tulsa Law Review Symposium Last week TU College of Law hosted the Tulsa Law Review Symposium honoring the work of Professor Heather Gerken.  The Symposium named "Not Your Father's Federalism" consisted of three panel discussions: Federalism, Second-Order Diversity, and Dissent and Democracy; then responses from Professor Gerken. 

Impressions from Students

Riley Kern TU Law 2LIt was a rare privilege to attend Friday’s symposium honoring Professor Heather Gerken and her work on federalism as a means of empowerment for electoral minorities. Those of us who were able to attend had the honor of eavesdropping on an incredibly important conversation – important not only because of the subject matter but because of what it illustrated about great legal minds.

The presentations were full of earnest admiration for Gerken, which was most candidly expressed when each presenter challenged rather than agreed with her. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but academic rigor is hardly an exercise in flattery. It is the acknowledgment that each thesis has its antithesis, and that an eventual synthesis is the result of a provocative, though mutually respectful, dialogue.

We, as students, easily succumb to the erroneous assumption that disagreement makes us adversaries, when in fact it is our dissents that present the greatest opportunities to focus our ideas. This is the embodiment of Gerken’s proposition that federalism makes room for effective dissent, giving expression to peripheral voices and eventually transforming the entire discourse. It was a much-needed reminder of the potential significance of our conversations and the power of our participation.

—Riley Kern


Rachael Hughes TU Law 3LOur 11th Annual Legal Scholarship Symposium, “Not Your Father’s Federalism,” truly lived up to its title.  This all-day event was filled with thoughtful discussion, warm-hearted banter, and sincere praise for our honoree, Professor Heather Gerken.  We were very fortunate to host a diverse group of academics who all shared a common respect for Professor Gerken’s scholarship.

Professor Gerken is known as an expert in election law, and her recent work focuses on issues in federalism and increasing the voice of minorities in our election process and system of government. Needless to say, this topic struck a cord with the audience as this is a contemporary issue with many Americans eager to cast their vote in the upcoming presidential election. Each speaker both praised and critiqued Professor Gerken’s theories, which increased my anticipation of her response at the end of the day. During her discussion, I found it very endearing that Professor Gerken expressed her surprise that her colleagues were not more critical of her and fully acknowledged that she did not have all the answers to the important questions raised throughout the day. Instead of claiming to have all the answers, she claimed that the objective is to remain cognizant of these issues and open to any avenues that offer improvement. To me, this acknowledgment reiterated the reasons for Professor Gerken’s national recognition and respect.

—Rachael Hughes
Tulsa Law Review
Editor in Chief

Steven Southard