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The UNC Program for Public Discourse

The UNC Program for Public Discourse

By Program for Public Discourse
The UNC Program for Public Discourse seeks to foster civic virtue and democratic citizenship by promoting the rhetorical dimensions of civic engagement, including speech, dialogue, argumentation, and debate. We utilize such tools as essential means of facilitating robust public deliberation. We host public events featuring speakers who demonstrate the transformative potential of agonistic dialogue, i.e., collaborative disagreement.

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Abbey Speaker Series: Journalism and Democracy
Join the discourse: We often hear that democracy requires a free press, but what exactly is the role of the media in 21st-century America?  Should journalists strive to be objective? Is an internet connection the  only requirement for the job? How has the decline of local news and the  nationalization of media impacted American democracy? Can anything be  done to reverse this trend?  On April 5th at 5:30 p.m., the UNC Program for Public Discourse, General Alumni Association, and Duke University's Polis: Center for Politics bring together journalists from local and national publications for Journalism and Democracy, a hybrid Abbey Speaker Series event about journalism's role in promoting and maintaining democratic values. Panelists: McKay Coppins is a journalist and author currently working as a staff writer at The Atlantic, covering journalism, religion, and Republican politics. Coppins has written for numerous publications, including Newsweek, The New York Times, and Buzzfeed News, where he covered the Romney and Trump presidential campaigns. John Hood ’88 is president of the John William Pope Foundation  and a syndicated columnist covering politics and public policy whose  work appears regularly in newspapers servicing over 50 North Carolina  communities. In addition to writing for national outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, Hood has authored seven nonfiction books covering topics in advertising, business, political history, and public policy. Nafari Vanaski is a freelance writer who worked in newspapers for  17 years. After graduating from Hampton University in  1999, Vanaski worked variously as a copy editor, news editor, and  columnist for publications in southeastern North Carolina  and Pittsburgh, including Star-News and the Pittsburg Tribune-Review. Moderator: Molly Worthen is a freelance journalist and an associate  professor of history in the Department of History at the University of  North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on North American  religious and intellectual history, and she teaches courses in global  Christianity, North American religious and intellectual culture, and the  history of politics and ideology.
April 08, 2022
Abbey Speaker Series: Science and Democracy
Does politics belong in the laboratory? Is science inevitably political or does politics hinder good research?  As the 12th largest research institution in North America, this discussion is paramount at UNC-Chapel Hill. On February 8th,  the UNC Program for Public Discourse and General Alumni Association  brought together scientists from academia and publishing for Science and  Democracy, an online Abbey Speaker Series event exploring the interplay  of science and politics. Panelists: Holden Thorp ‘86 is the current editor-in-chief of Science and former chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel  Hill, a position he held from 2008 - 2013. Before his selection as  chancellor, Thorp taught at UNC for 15 years, during which time he  directed the Morehead Planetarium, was appointed as a Kenan professor  and chair of the Department of Chemistry and served as dean of the  College of Arts and Sciences. Thorp co-founded two biotechnology  companies and has written two books with co-author Buck Goldstein about  higher education's role in entrepreneurship and its relationship to the American people. Between his appointments at UNC and Science, Thorp served as provost of Washington University in St. Louis. Luana Maroja is an associate  professor of biology and chair of the biochemistry and molecular biology  program at Williams College. Her areas of expertise include  evolutionary genetics, speciation, and landscape genetics, and she  teaches courses on evolution and leads a lab researching the evolution  of barriers to gene exchange. Maroja’s work has been published in  various journals, including Ecology and Evolution, G3, and Nature, and she wrote for The Atlantic about the potential dangers of self-censorship in the sciences in higher education.  Maroja holds bachelor’s and master's degrees from the Universidade  Federal do Rio de Janeiro and a doctorate from Cornell University. Moderator: Chris Clemens is Provost and  Jaroslav Folda Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has held numerous  administrative roles at Carolina, including department chair, senior  associate dean for natural sciences, and senior associate dean for  research and innovation. In these roles, he helped launch the  Environment, Ecology, and Energy program (E3P) and collaborated with  chairs to build the research enterprise and develop the curriculum in  the College’s newest departments — applied physical sciences and  biomedical engineering. Clemens holds a bachelor's degree in  astrophysics from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate in  astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin.
February 15, 2022
Abbey Speaker Series: Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide
Join the discourse: Discussions of contemporary America often focus on the perceived differences between rural and urban residents. Are the lives and interests of rural and urban Americans really all that different?  How can city-dwellers, suburbanites, and rural residents better understand each other?    For this Abbey Speaker Series event, and as part of this year's Public Discourse and Democracy theme,  the UNC Program for Public Discourse convened a panel of experts to discuss how citizens can better understand and bridge the rural-urban divide. This event was co-sponsored by the Arete Initiative, part of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. The panel featured: Samar Ali is Co-Chair of the Project on Unity & American Democracy and a Research Professor of Law and  Political Science at Vanderbilt University, where she works at the intersection of national security, economic development, and human rights. Originally from the small town of Waverly, Tennessee, Ali credits her experience growing up there with teaching her how to connect with humanity and understand the responsibility that comes with being part of a lifelong community.  Chris Arnade is a writer and photographer who covers addiction and poverty in the United States of  America. After receiving a PhD in Physics from Johns Hopkins University,  Arnade worked on Wall Street for twenty years before exiting the industry in 2012 to begin documenting addiction in the Bronx. Since then, his work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Guardian, The New York Times, and others. His most recent book, Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America,  explores poverty and addiction throughout the United States and the divide between the country’s upwardly mobile “Front Row” and those lacking the necessary credentials and advantages. Elizabeth Corey is the Honors Program Director and Associate  Professor of Political Science in the Honors Program at Baylor  University, where she teaches courses on political science and great texts in the university’s Interdisciplinary Core. Her writing concerns what it means to be a traditionalist in a progressive society and has appeared in a broad range of publications, including First Things, National Affairs, and The Wall Street Journal. Her recent writings for Law & Liberty deal with the meaning of civility - and its necessity - in times of political polarization. Event Moderator: Marc Hetherington is the Raymond H. Dawson Distinguished  Bicentennial Professor of Political Science at the University of North  Carolina at Chapel Hill. His focus is on the American electorate and the polarization of public opinion. Previously, he taught at the Paris  Institute of Political Studies, Vanderbilt University, and Bowdoin  College. Hetherington has published several books and over a dozen articles in academic journals. His most recent book, Prius Or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide,  co-written with fellow UNC faculty member Dr. Jonathan Weiler, explores the psychological aspects of the United States’ deadlocked politics.
November 09, 2021
Abbey Speaker Series: Social Media and Democracy – Helping or Hurting?
Join the discourse: Is social media helpful or harmful to democracy? Especially after the  Arab Spring, social media was hailed as a means of democratizing information and holding leaders accountable. More recently, however,  social media has been depicted as a threat to democracy due to the ways in which online platforms appear to fuel polarization, limit and regulate speech, and accelerate the spread of disinformation and conspiracies.  For this Abbey Speaker Series event, and as part of our Democracy and  Public Discourse theme, the UNC Program for Public Discourse brings together thought leaders from academia and the tech sector to discuss whether social media can promote - or at least co-exist with -  democracy. Panelist: Rumman Chowdhury is the director of Twitter’s Machine Learning  Ethics, Transparency & Accountability (META) team. Dr. Chowdhury works at the intersection of artificial intelligence and humanity,  pioneering research in applied algorithmic ethics to learn how to use data to understand bias and evaluate technology’s impact on humanity.  Dr. Chowdhury joined Twitter after founding and serving as CEO of Parity  AI, an enterprise algorithmic audit platform developed to bridge the gap between corporations and data scientists. Dr. Chowdhury holds two undergraduate degrees from MIT, a master's degree in Quantitative  Methods of the Social Sciences from Columbia University, and a doctorate in political science from the University of California, San Diego. Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. Professor Vaidhyanathan is a cultural historian and media scholar and a permanent columnist at The Guardian and Slate. He has also contributed to numerous other publications, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times Magazine, The Nation, and The Baffler. Professor Vaidhyanathan’s most recent book, Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy,  provides a comprehensive account of the effects Facebook has had on the world, explains how social media undermines progress and thought, and offers proposals to address the problems it poses to our society. Moderator: Yascha Mounk is an associate professor of the practice of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University, where he holds a  joint appointment in the School of Advanced International Studies and the Agora Institute. His work concerns the rise of populism and the crises facing liberal democracy, and he is a senior fellow at the  Council on Foreign Relations. Mounk is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and founder of the online publication Persuasion. His writing has appeared in numerous other publications, including Die Zeit, Foreign Affairs, and The Wall Street Journal. Mounk's most recent book, The People Vs. Democracy, argues that the core components of liberal democracy - individual rights and the popular will - are at war with each other and that trust in politics is dwindling worldwide.
October 19, 2021
Debating Public Policy Series: Debating the Minimum Wage
Join the discourse: For our inaugural Debating Public Policy Series event, the UNC Program for Public Discourse invites two UNC faculty members to debate the advantages and  disadvantages of President Biden’s recent proposal to raise the federal  minimum wage to $15. Speakers: Luca Flabbi, Ph.D.(Panelist, Associate Professor @Department of Economics):  A 2004 graduate of New York University, Luca Flabbi is a labor  economist interested in gender differentials and discrimination,  bargaining in the labor market and in the household, search models  estimation. Paige Ouimet, Ph.D.(Panelist, Professor of Finance @Kenan-Flagler Business School):Paige  Ouimet has several research projects looking at income inequality and  the role of firms. She also has researched ESOP (employee share  ownership plans) and employee stock options and their impact on labor  productivity, wages and turnover. Her research agenda is concentrated at  the juncture of finance and labor economics. She is interested in in  how decisions studied in finance impact employee stakeholders –  specifically how those effects are reflected in firm performance and,  hence, corporate finance decisions. Kevin Marinelli, Ph.D.(Moderator, Executive Director @UNC Program for Public Discourse):  Kevin Marinelli serves as executive director of the Program for Public  Discourse and teaches in the Department of Communication. He teaches  courses in rhetorical studies, and his scholarship centers on public  argument. Currently, he is investigating practices of rhetorical  citizenship.
April 20, 2021
Abbey Speaker Series: The Future of Conservatism
Join the discourse: This is a recording of our virtual event The Future of Conservatism hosted on March 23, 2021. Conservatism in America has an uncertain future. On a host of issues  including populism, free trade, and nationalism, conservatives are no longer united. Now, perhaps more than ever, what it means to be a  “conservative,” where conservatism is likely headed, and where, ideally, it should direct itself are open to debate. A panel of political thinkers with different views on conservatism discussed these critical questions. The panel was composed of:  Patrick Deneen, PhD, Professor of Political Science and the David A. Potenziani Memorial Chair of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame Yuval Levin, PhD the director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute Daniel McCarthy, the editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review, published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo, PhD an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas State University. The event was moderated by Jed Atkins, PhD, the director of the Arete Initiative at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, where he is the E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Associate Professor of  Political Science. This Abbey Speaker Series event was co-sponsored by the UNC Program for Public Discourse and the Arete Initiative, part of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.
March 23, 2021
Abbey Speaker Series: Defining Racial Justice in the 21st Century
Join the discourse: This is a recording of our virtual event Defining Racial Justice in the 21st Century hosted on February 23, 2021. In the wake of a summer of protests against police brutality, the midst of an ongoing pandemic, and the aftermath of a contentious election, the  UNC Program for Public Discourse and Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies brought together a panel of Black academic, journalistic,  religious, and political leaders to discuss and debate their different definitions of what racial justice looks like – and how it might be achieved – in the twenty-first century. The panel was composed of: NC State Senator Valerie Foushee, chair of the North Carolina Black Alliance, a network of Black legislators that advocates for communities of color on a variety of issues. Touré Reed, PhD, a Professor of History at Illinois State University whose research and writings focus on the impact of race and class ideologies on African American civil rights politics and US public policy from the Progressive Era through the Presidency of Barack Obama. Jacqueline C. Rivers, PhD, a lecturer at Harvard University and the Executive Director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies. The event was moderated by Jamelle Bouie, columnist for the New York Times and a political analyst for CBS News who covers campaigns, elections, national affairs, and culture.
February 23, 2021
Free Speech on Campus
Join the discourse: This is a recording of our virtual event Free Speech on Campus hosted on October 20, 2020. A panel discussion about the current state of free expression on college campuses. A part of #UNCResearchWeek, our panelists discuss the "Free Expression and Constructive  Dialogue at UNC-Chapel Hill" report composed by UNC Profs. Jennifer Larson, Mark McNeilly, and Timothy Ryan. You can read more about the study’s conclusions and find a link to the full report on The Daily Tar Heel. Profs. Larson and McNeilly also discussed the report with the James G. Martin Center earlier this year. The panel was composed of: Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE, and co-author of the New York Times best-seller, The Coddling of the American Mind. Sigal Ben-Porath, Ph.D., a professor in the  Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill, Ph.D., Director of the Campus Free Expression Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Moderated by Prof. Kevin Marinelli, Executive Director of the UNC Program for Public Discourse.
October 20, 2020
Robert P. George and Cornel West In Conversation
Join the discourse: This is a recording of our virtual event, Robert P. George and Cornel West In Conversation, hosted on September 10, 2020, and moderated by Thomas Chatterton Williams.  Cornel West: "What I mean by 'the left' is I am talking  about the tradition, both secular and religious, that pushes back  against the logic of the market, that pushes back against corporate  power..." Robert P. George: "The form of American conservatism that I am attracted to is old-fashioned liberalism in the tradition of James Madison and Alexis de Tocqueville. A tradition that views freedom as important, not as an end in itself, but as a means to other ends." Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. Cornel West, a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He has taught at Yale, Harvard, the University of Paris,  Princeton, and, most recently, Union Theological Seminary. Thomas Chatterton Williams, a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Harper’s.
September 10, 2020