Wake Forest’s presidential debate inspires classes, public events

For many Wake Forest University professors, 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 Wake Forest’s undergraduate 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.”

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 meet on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 12 p.m. in Tribble Hall’s DeTamble Auditorium. Panelists 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.”
  • 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.”

Mitchell S. McKinney, co-author of the book, “The 1992 Presidential Debate in Focus,” and his students will join in the discussion via teleconference from his classroom at the University of Missouri. The debate experts will discuss their work, the upcoming debate and take questions from Wake Forest and Missouri students.

The panelists will also participate in a free, public forum scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 in Carswell Hall’s Annenberg Forum. The panelists will preview the Wake Forest debate, discuss the place of debates in the political process and talk about historical trends in presidential debates.

Louden’s students have read the books by these authors and will be discussing presidential debates in class from noon to 12:50 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition, Louden and members of the Wake Forest debate team will stage a mock debate on Sunday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. in Carswell Hall’s Annenberg Forum, three 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, the influence of campaigns and elections on the governing process, and the historical impact of debates.

The class meets from noon to 12:50 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. During the week of the debate, Smith’s class will address campaign finance and political action committees.

David G. Brown, vice president and professor of economics, has developed a course titled, “A Way of Thinking About Presidential Campaigns.” 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. The pages will be posted on Oct. 4.

On Oct. 9 and Oct. 11, the class will meet with foreign journalists and members of a visiting Elderhostel group at 2 p.m. The journalists will address the principles they use when making decisions about campaign coverage.

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

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, public education, taxes, immigration and world trade.

Among the speakers will be Meredith McGehee, vice president for legislation at Common Cause; Laura Murphy, director of the Washington, D.C. office of the American Civil Liberties Union; 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; Laurel Beedon, senior policy advisor at AARP; 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, which is free and open to the public.

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.

To visit any of the classes mentioned or to arrange interviews with any of the students enrolled in them, please contact a member of the Wake Forest News Service staff at 336-758-5237, 336-758-6073 or 1-800-752-8565.

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