University Debate Initiative

Americans are losing the ability to talk to each other, especially when they disagree. This is happening on university campuses, too, where experts say students increasingly are drawn to professors, speakers, and fellow students who have similar backgrounds and views, and are failing to learn how to engage productively with opposing voices.

To that end, the SNF Agora Institute’s university debate initiative aims to model the habits and virtues of reasoned debate across different perspectives, and the possibilities for finding common ground amid disagreement.

The debate initiative will host a pair of marquee moderated debates each year that bring to the university major speakers, such as public intellectuals, former government officials, and media personalities. The program will also fund and support a number of additional debates organized by students each semester, to enable healthy debate to be a recurring feature of campus life.

Dialogue and Debate Director

The initiative is being led by Louise Flavahan, our new dialogue and debate director, who will work in close partnership with a student committee to carry out a series of debates over the course of each academic year. Flavahan will guide students directly involved in the initiative and teach the values and methods of debate more broadly across the university.

Debate Initiative Student Committee

The Hopkins Student Organization for Programming (“the HOP”) will convene the new student committee, which will identify and select debate topics and speakers. This primarily student committee will comprise 5-7 JHU students, a Center for Social Concern staff adviser, and a faculty adviser.