An expanded slate of Nebraska Lectures opens Jan. 23 with Charlyne Berens, professor emeritus and former associate dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, discussing the state unicameral.
The talk, which is free and open to the public, starts at 3:30 p.m. in the Wick Alumni Center. Regularly offered twice a year and featuring faculty, the Nebraska Lectures: Chancellor’s Distinguished Speaker Series, has expanded in celebration of the university’s 150th anniversary. The 2019 schedule features 12 talks, one each month, exploring the history of Dear Old Nebraska U.
“These lectures will explore the rich history of Nebraska’s land-grant institution and the critical role the university plays in the Cornhusker State,” said Mike Zeleny, associate to the chancellor. “Topics will include stories about the university’s historic impacts and examine a variety of disciplines — from science to the arts and humanities to athletics.”
Approved by a statewide vote in 1934, the Nebraska Unicameral is the only one-house, nonpartisan state legislature in the United States. It met for the first time in 1937, replacing a traditional partisan, bicameral system formed when statehood was granted in 1867.
George W. Norris, then a U.S. Senator for Nebraska, led the campaign for the legislative shift, arguing that a dual-body system doing the same thing was pointless and a waste of tax dollars. Norris also insisted that the business of the state was simply not partisan and legislators should not be elected according to party label.
In her talk, Berens will examine how the single-house system has allowed Nebraska to historically avoid partisan gridlock that exists in other legislative bodies. She will also delve deeper into the history behind its formation and examine whether the system continues to meet the goals of its founders.
Berens is author of “One House: The Unicameral’s Progressive Vision for Nebraska.” Like her Jan. 23 talk, the book examines the creation of the unicameral and chronicles lawmaker struggles to remain true to the legislative body’s non-partisan foundation.
She also briefs Nebraska’s newly-elected senators every two years, outlining the history and philosophy behind the unicameral legislature.