MUB to host first installment in 'Your Liberty, Your Health' series

By Logan Hill
On February 4, 2014

Should the government require vaccination as a means of controlling the spread of deadly diseases for the sake of public health, even if that means invading citizens' bodies with shots? This question will be the first of many tackled in the spring leg of the Saul O Sidore Series beginning Feb. 13.

The series is one that deals with a different, important and sometimes-contentious issue each year, from the drug war (2012) to sustainability (2011). This year, the issue is the line where public health concerns clash with civil liberties.

This year's topic - with the slogan "your liberty, your health," and an accompanying poster depicting the Statue of Liberty in a surgical mask - is attracting a lineup of "several noted historians and public health officials and policy makers," according to Molly Dorsey. 

Dorsey is an assistant professor in the history department and core faculty member of the Justice Studies Department here at UNH. She and Rosemary Caron, an associate professor of health management and policy, have designed this series together to target "the intersection between public health, governmental authority and individual liberty," Dorsey said.

Sub-topics that will be covered during this year's series include pandemics, quarantine, compulsory vaccinations and discrimination in healthcare.

Except for the panel regarding influenza, they will be "asking an historian to speak and then, a few weeks later, asking a modern public health expert to speak," Dorsey said. "As sometimes it is easier to think about the issues involved if you have the benefit of distance [which history provides] and sometimes it is more helpful to think about the current relevance [which the current practitioners provide]."

The Saul O Sidore Lecture Series was founded on behalf of Saul O Sidore of Manchester and funded mostly by the Saul O Sidore Memorial Foundation.

"The series has, for more than 30 years, been raising critical and controversial issues facing our society," Katie Umans, assistant director of UNH's Center for the Humanities, said.

Each year, ideas are submitted - either by groups, organizations, individual students or faculty members - including a topic, potential speaker roster and a budget.

"We welcome proposals that connect the Sidore series to other significant conversations occurring on- and off-campus," Umans said. Once the idea is approved, "the faculty/staff members are in charge of all the planning: inviting guests, publicizing events and handling the budget for that year's series."

Next year's series topic will be "Activism around the World: Changing Landscapes."

Be sure to visit MUB Theater II on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 4 p.m. to hear the first spring lecture of the series, by Michael Willrich of Brandeis University, titled "The Crime of Refusing Vaccination: Balancing Police Power and Personal Liberty during the Last Great American Smallpox Epidemic."

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