Saul O Sidore Lecture Series

Named for humanitarian and New Hampshire businessman Saul O Sidore, the Sidore Lecture Series was established in 1979 by PSU and the Sidore Memorial Foundation. The series brings a variety of speakers to campus to address critical issues and events in politics, society, and culture, topics that reflect Sidore’s interests.

All Sidore lectures are free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended. A reception follows each lecture. Lectures are presented in the Smith Recital Hall in the Silver Center for the Arts, unless otherwise noted.

Building Justice

The 2022-2023 Sidore Lecture Series focuses on Building Justice in our communities and our world, today and beyond. What is social justice? What would that look like? Who benefits from social justice and who benefits from resisting it? Lectures will explore the broad spectrum of justice issues facing us today and how we can modify society towards a more “just” future. Topics may include (but are not limited to): voting rights, racial justice, criminal justice/ juvenile justice, environmental justice, immigration, reproductive justice, economic justice, health and disability justice, and access to basic needs.

All lectures are held in person unless otherwise specified.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022, 7 p.m. | Smith Recital Hall

We were unable to offer this program online and apologize for any inconvenience.

Are humans destined to commit ecocide?

Presenter: Len Reitsma

Can humans apply justice to non-human species and their ecosystems? The dominant world view places humans above all other species and has considered the ecosystems they depend upon as natural resources for human exploitation. Our rapid population growth combined with overconsumption is driving a sixth mass extinction. Ecocide, an emerging concept defined as ecosystem or ecological destruction mostly through human activity, is being proposed as an international crime. Increasing calls for sustainable consumption and resource use/extraction indicate a growing awareness of our eco-destructive behavior. But there is a big divide between this growing awareness and the actions and policies of governments and corporations. What levers will facilitate transformation to ecologically aware, sustainable resource use?

Dr. Reitsma, professor emeritus, grew up in Northern NJ 20 miles west of the George Washington Bridge. With a growing realization that birds and other non-human species were in serious peril, he got his Ph.D. at Dartmouth in 1990. His focus was bird ecology in the tropics and in NH. As a professor at Plymouth State, Len received two of the highest honors: the Distinguished Teaching Award as well as the Distinguished Scholar Award. His passion at PSU was teaching and maintaining a bird research program that he sustains to the present. Much of Len’s research has been driven by declines in the populations of the species he has studied. He and his wife garden, heat their home mostly with renewable energy, drive an electric and hybrid vehicle and spend most days in nature on their 115-acre American Tree Farm.

Monday, November 7, 2022, 7 p.m. | Smith Recital Hall

Environmental Justice and Health: the Ecosystem Mindset for Urban Green Spaces in Retrospect and Moving Forward

Presenter: Viniece Jennings

Urban green spaces play a multidimensional role in environmental quality as well as human health and well-being. However, limited access to quality green spaces has strained equity goals for many communities. This presentation will highlight key research on urban green spaces, environmental justice and health across the United States. It will also discuss how achieving the vision of environmental justice continues to be important for the quality of life now and in the future. 

Dr. Viniece Jennings is a purpose driven scholar, educator, and environmental professional. Her innovative research on urban green spaces and health was recognized as top research for practice by the National Recreation and Parks Association. She has published in multiple journals such as Nature Communications and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. She is a JPB Environmental Health Fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She serves as an assistant professor in the department of public health at Agnes Scott College. Prior to this role, she worked as a research scientist with the federal government where she has over a decade of experience. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 7 p.m. | Smith Recital Hall

The Civil Rights Fighters of Our Time

Presenter: Lori James-Townes

For every client’s criminal charge, there are other problems that call for repair. The client has a circle of loved ones – partners and children and parents and employers who enter into the equation, too.  Public defender professionals are in the lion’s den with their clients witnessing and pushing back on a broad systemic issue that oppresses their communities, that are riddled with the perpetuation of bias. Bishop Tutu says, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

That’s where we are now. In this session, the speaker will address: how the premise of the right to counsel is much more than sheer representation; examine whether American society structured in such a way that pushes people into the river; why is it that the poorest communities (in every sense) are predominantly inhabited by people of color; and why social justice is about addressing not only the structural disadvantages that exist but also, who benefits from this configuration and how might we get people to care.

Lori James-Townes is the executive director of the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD). At NAPD, she led the creation and planning of NAPD’s Women’s Conference, which recently hosted an 800-person virtual event headlined by Stacey Abrams. In 2021, she co-led NAPD’s first-ever National Virtual Conference for Gideon Week – bringing more than 6,500 attendees together for the largest public defense training in history. She is the principal owner of Expand-NOW, a consulting firm specializing in speaker, coaching, and teaching. Through Expand-Now, LLC, she is able to fulfill her lifelong passion for adding value to others.

Lori has also held teaching positions at Morgan State University, the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and most recently Towson University. In 2015, The Daily Record newspaper named her as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023, 7 p.m. | Online Webinar, with Projection in Boyd Science Center Room 144

Decolonizing and Indigenizing Environmental Justice

Presenter: Dina Gilio-Whitaker

As the topic of environmental justice has gained greater currency in the US with growing environmental and racial concerns, scholars are refining what EJ means in various communities. For American Indians environmental injustice begins with the history of invasion, genocide, and land theft, as Dina Gilio-Whitaker writes about in her acclaimed 2019 book As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock. As part of the 2023 Sidore Lecture Series, Professor Gilio-Whitaker will discuss her work, focusing on settler colonialism as the lens of analysis for understanding an Indigenized and decolonial approach to environmental justice. 

Dina Gilio-Whitaker(Colville Confederated Tribes) is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and an independent educator in American Indian environmental policy and other issues.  At CSUSM she teaches courses on environmentalism and American Indians, traditional ecological knowledge, religion and philosophy, Native women’s activism, American Indians and sports, and decolonization. She also works within the field of critical sports studies, examining the intersections of indigeneity and the sport of surfing. As a public intellectual, Dina brings her scholarship into focus as an award-winning journalist, with her work appearing at Indian Country Today, the Los Angeles Times, High Country News,, Slate,, Bioneers, Truthout, the Pacifica Network, Grist, CSPAN Booktalk, The Boston Globe, and many more. Dina is the author of two books; the most recent award-winning As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock. She is currently under contract with Beacon Press for a new book under the working title Illegitimate Nation: Privilege, Race, and Belonging in the U.S. Settler State, and is also a co-editor of a new collection from Cambridge University Press’s Elements Series on Indigenous Environmental Research.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 7 p.m. | Smith Recital Hall

Building Global Justice in the Face of Mass Atrocities, Crimes Against Humanity, and Genocide

Presenter: Alynna J. Lyon

The global community has been shocked by recent accusations of mass atrocities, crimes against humanity, and genocide in places like Ukraine, China, and Myanmar.  Considering these developments, the discussion will trace the development of international responses and tools to address these crimes at the global level. The presentation includes coverage of the 1948 Genocide Convention, ad hoc tribunals, the International Criminal Court as well as increasing norms concerning global justice.  Specific focus will be given to the implications for global justice in response to allegations against Russia in Ukraine.   

Alynna J. Lyon is a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. She is author of US Politics and the United Nations (Lynne Rienner, 2016), co-author of two books, The United Nations: 75 Years of Promoting Peace, Human Rights and Development 2020 (with Kent Kille) and The United Nations in the 21 Century with Karen Mingst and Margaret Karns, (Routledge 2022) and co-editor of Pope Francis as a Global Actor: Where Politics and Theology Meet (Palgrave Studies, 2018) and Religion and Politics in a Global Society (Lexington, 2013). She is editor-in-chief of the journal of Global Governance, and a faculty fellow for the Office of Senior Vice Provost, Engagement and Faculty Development.