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.
Abbey Speaker Series: Social Media and Democracy – Helping or Hurting?
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.
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.
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.
Debating Public Policy Series: Debating the Minimum Wage
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.
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.
Abbey Speaker Series: The Future of Conservatism
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.
Abbey Speaker Series: Defining Racial Justice in the 21st Century
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.
Free Speech on Campus
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.
Robert P. George and Cornel West In Conversation
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.