Utah Valley State College (soon to officially be known as Utah Valley University as of July 2008) will attract some of the world’s foremost scholars regarding the death penalty when it hosts the Third Annual Death Penalty Symposium October 8th and 9th, 2007, in Orem, UT. Sandy McGunigall-Smith, assistant professor of behavioral science at UVSC, is quoted as saying, “We hope to provide a balanced, comfortable atmosphere for people to discuss this important issue.”
Among those scholars in attendance will be Nils Christie, a professor of Criminology at the University of Oslo. He has had numerous books published regarding topics such as education, drugs and drug control, crime, and crime control. He has given lectures worldwide and has worked as a visiting professor in Jerusalem and at Oxford and Berkeley.
Also in attendance will be Bud Welch, who has won numerous awards for his prominent involvement speaking against the death penalty. Welch’s daughter Julie was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, yet he has testified against the death penalty before the United States Congress, State Senate and House Judiciary Committees, European Parliament houses, and made numerous media appearances, including meeting frequently with the father of Timothy McVeigh.
Tom Bunker from the Attorney General’s Office will be in attendance to represent the views of Utah’s policies and laws regarding the death penalty, which is still in force in Utah today in spite of a myriad of mixed emotions regarding the death penalty from Utah citizens and lawmakers alike.
UVSC students were informally polled concerning their own feelings regarding the death penalty. One student who, who wishes to remain anonymous, is quoted as saying, “I uphold the death penalty when enforced for cases where the convicted perpetrator’s crimes are considered to have been extreme with a complete disregard for humanity in general, and where DNA evidence is irrefutable. In most cases, though, it is difficult to discern when the death penalty might be justified and when it isn’t.”
Many other students seemed to echo this anonymous student’s sentiments, though over half of the students polled were firmly against the death penalty in all instances. Some students were of the mind that death is “too easy” a way out for extreme offenders, and that prison, specifically life sentences without the option of parole, is a harsher alternative than the death penalty. A few students, though, felt that there is rarely an offender beyond the ability to reform given enough time and the right circumstances, and therefore no one should be condemned to death without the option of time to reform.
The Third Annual Death Penalty Symposium will give some UVSC students, specifically members of the school’s debate team and other panel members, the opportunity to participate in the discussions relating to this hot topic of debate.
This event is open to students and the general public and is free to attend. For more information please refer to http://resource.uvsc.edu/pressreleases