Wake Faculty plan debate-related academic activities

For many Wake Forest University faculty, the presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 11 at the university has provided an opportunity to develop classes and public events that tie in with the 2000 presidential campaign and the debate.

“The presidential debate is generating a great deal of interest in political and social issues on our campus,” said Paul Escott, dean of the College. “I’m delighted that so many of our faculty members are taking advantage of this opportunity to stimulate learning in their specialties. The faculty, the students and the community are going to have a valuable and especially memorable experience.”

For the week leading up to the debate, the political science faculty has organized a four-day “Conference on Debatable Issues in the Presidential Campaign.” The conference, which is free and open to the public, will feature 12 panel discussions on election issues. Panels will convene at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Oct. 3-6. All sessions will be moderated by political science department faculty members and will include guest experts on such topics as foreign policy, affirmative action, health care, social security, education, taxes, immigration and world trade. All political science classes are canceled during the conference, so that those students may attend the discussions.

Among the speakers will be Meredith McGehee, senior vice president and legislative director at Common Cause; Arthur Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and co-author of the book, “Rights of Candidates and Voters;” Jerry Hagstrom, prize-winning agricultural journalist and author of “Beyond Reagan: The New Landscape of American Politics;” Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and George Ziegelmueller, a nationally recognized collegiate debate coach and scholar.

Wake Forest’s School of Law will host a “Presidential Election Symposium” on Oct. 9 from 6-8 p.m. in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1312. Journalist Jack Ford, co-anchor of ABC’s “20/20” and guest anchor on “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight,” will moderate the event.

Four nationally acclaimed experts on constitutional law will discuss campaign finance reform, how the election could shape the Supreme Court, and other election issues. Speakers will be William Van Alstyne, William R. and Thomas S. Perkins Chair of Law at Duke University School of Law; A.E. Howard, White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia; Michael K. Curtis, professor of law at Wake Forest School of Law; and Akhil Reed Amar, Southmayd Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

“We hope their comments and discussion about legal issues related to elections will provide information to the community to make a better educated choice at election time,” said Robert K. Walsh, dean of the School of Law.

Plans for other public lectures, panel discussions and events are still developing.

Allan Louden, the director of Wake Forest’s collegiate debate program and associate professor of communication, is among the faculty members focused on the educational opportunities hosting a presidential debate offers.

He is teaching a course titled, “Great Teachers: Presidential Debates,” this semester. During the week of the presidential debate, Louden will bring to campus a panel of authors who have written books on presidential debates to meet with his class. The panel will include:

  • William Benoit, University of Missouri, co-author of “Candidates in Conflict: Persuasive Attack and Defense in the 1992 Presidential Debates.”
  • Diana Carlin, University of Kansas, co-author of “The 1992 Presidential Debates in Focus.”
  • Sidney Kraus, Cleveland State University, author of “Televised Presidential Debates and Public Policy,” and several books in the Great Debates series.
  • Michael Pfau, University of Wisconsin-Madison, co-author of “Televised Presidential Debate.”
    Alan Schroeder, Northeastern University, author of “Presidential Debates: Forty Years of High Risk TV.”

Four other authors known for their research on presidential debates have been invited to join the class at other times during the semester.

In addition, Louden is working with the Wake Forest debate team to stage a mock debate a few days before George W. Bush and Al Gore are scheduled to face off in Wait Chapel. Debate team members will take the positions of the candidates on various policy issues. The event will be open to the public.

In her course, “Topics in Public Policy: Debates and Campaigns,” Kathy Smith, professor and chair of political science, will address the value of televised debates, the role of money in elections, the ethical issues raised in campaigning and debating, and the influence of campaigns and elections on the governing process.

“Presidential elections are a real test for the democratic system and the wisdom of the common citizen,” says Smith. “While transitions of power are a particularly vulnerable time for any political system, the American system has promoted peaceful and legitimate transfers of power for over 200 years.”

During the week of the debate, Smith’s class will address campaign finance and political action committees. In late September class sessions, they will look at the historical impact of debates.

Katy Harriger, associate professor of politics, is teaching a first-year seminar called “Deliberative Democracy” this semester.

“This seminar is designed to explore the theory of deliberative democracy and to practice the skills involved in such an approach to citizen involvement in politics,” said Harriger.

As one of their class assignments, students will analyze the presidential debate as an exercise in civic engagement and will write essays on their personal attitudes about politics and participation. Readings will include “The Federalist Papers,” Alexis de Toqueville’s “Democracy in America” and several other texts related to the theory of deliberative democracy.

David G. Brown, vice president and professor of economics, has developed a course titled, “Ways of Thinking About Campaigns for the U.S. Presidency.” From an economist’s perspective, Brown will cover various aspects of the campaign process, specifically poll taking and financing. Online readings accompany class lectures and teams of students will create three presidential debate Web sites: one focused on student opinions of the candidates, the campaign and the Wake Forest debate; another that helps individuals evaluate the impact of money upon campaign strategy; and a third devoted to showing the international perspective of the presidential campaign.

Weaving traditional economics with special debate-related events, the course will have students participating in a discussion of campaign finance with Advanced Placement high school students and in an interactive video conference with professors and students at Canada’s Acadia University.

Editor’s Note: For more information about any of the classes or public events, call the News Service.

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