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Going beyond the well-publicized issues of abortion, right to privacy, and affirmative action, two professors addressed the less-discussed issues surrounding the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas in a panel discussion in the Quadrangle last night. The 90 minute discussion, which took place in the Provost Tower Lounge, focused on the judicial and legislative implications of Thomas' confirmation. Both Associate History Professor Robert Engs and Associate Law Professor Ralph Smith said that they do not support Thomas' nomination. Engs, a Civil War and black history specialist, concentrated on the Supreme Court's historical composition. "For most of its history, the Supreme Court has been one, very conservative and two, very passive," Engs said. "It has done what Clarence Thomas has promised to do, avoid judicial action." "If the current Court is conservative, I'm not concerned," Engs added. "The important thing is whether the Court is passive or activist. Clarence Thomas said he doesn't believe in that, but he's a Republican, so I don't necessarily buy that." Smith, a specialist in educational and corporate law, focused on broader issues such as how Thomas' confirmation would affect Congress and the black community. "The hearings have been a miserable failure, but it's difficult to get to the right answers when you're asking the wrong questions," Smith said. Smith said that the "more troubling" questions Congress should have asked were why President Bush felt compelled to nominate Thomas, what is the appropriate role of the Senate when presented with the nomination, and why does this nomination provoke such a strong reaction in the black community. "I found the behavior of the president remarkable and outrageous," Smith said. "When he stated that race played no part, he insulted dozens and dozens of other judges. Nobody believes that race is not a factor. The question is why the president feels compelled to make that assertion." After making their own 30 minute speeches, both professors Engs and Smith fielded a few questions from the audience. In response to the question of what would happen if Thomas was not confirmed, both Engs and Smith said Bush would nominate another conservative, but probably not another black judge. Most of the 15 students at the discussion said that they found it interesting and informative. "It was more enlightening then the media has been," said Wharton junior Michael Kirkell. "But [they] did not focus on Constitutional issues."

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