Politically Themed Lectures Further Civil Discourse

Spring 2018 Issue

Susquehanna University hosted a series of events during the spring 2018 semester meant to further civil and intellectual discourse on campus. The events were in keeping with the university theme for the year-conflict.

Two politically themed events brought to campus conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro to discuss the First Amendment on college campuses and former Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell to present A Progressive View of America.

The events were organized jointly by the College Republicans and College Democrats.

Rendell praised the two groups for working together and announced he would donate $500 to each organization from his honorarium.

“That is such an important thing for them to act together, to try to begin to chip away at the polarization that’s ripping not only Washington, but Harrisburg, Springfield and Sacramento,” Rendell said.

Shapiro’s lecture sparked controversy and a small-scale student protest on the evening of the event. Security measures were taken to ensure that those who opposed the speaker’s views had a safe space in which to protest.

“These events show that a university setting is the perfect place to hear and react to a variety of viewpoints, and that it can be done peaceably,” said Linda McMillin, provost, dean of the faculty and co-chief operating officer at Susquehanna. “Part of our educational mission is to help students learn how to listen to opposing viewpoints and engage in civil debate and deliberation with each other.”

Several events were held to help the campus community prepare for the Shapiro and Rendell lectures.

A faculty/staff panel, moderated by speaker of the faculty David Steinau, addressed questions submitted by student organizations. Panelists were Michele DeMary, department head and associate professor of political science; Jeff Mann, associate professor of religious studies; Anna Andes,
associate professor of theatre and women’s studies coordinator; teacher-in-residence Harvey Edwards; and university chaplain Scott Kershner.

A Let’s Talk luncheon was held in advance of the events to discuss peaceful protest and expressing dissent on campus. Following each speaker’s visit, Let’s Talk luncheons helped students unpack the messages and discuss their reactions and opinions with each other.

Additionally, Blough-Weis librarians created an online fact-checking guide to help the campus community to process and respond to the Shapiro

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