The Colgate Scene
March 2005

Promoting intellectual balance
The Center for Freedom & Western Civilization

Political science professors Robert Kraynak (left) and Joseph Wagner held a debate on "Liberalism and Conservatism in American Politics" on Sept. 30. After a post-debate audience discussion, the gathering viewed that night's nationally televised presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Pat Kabat '06 of the debate society (center) served as moderator. Co-sponsored by the debate society and Democracy Matters, the event was the first in a series designed to stimulate political discourse on campus. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

As part of its strategic plan, Colgate is creating new centers and institutes aimed at fostering civic engagement in a variety of ways. One of the first to be established is the Center for Freedom & Western Civilization, directed by Robert P. Kraynak, professor of political science at Colgate since 1978.

"The center was established last spring for the purpose of promoting intellectual diversity by providing a conservative voice on campus," said Kraynak. "A liberal arts education requires a genuine competition of ideas, but in my experience most universities today present only the liberal or left-wing point of view. The Center for Freedom sponsors speakers and other activities that challenge the prevailing liberal discourse and permit a legitimate debate to occur.

"We are interested in political debate as well as in scholarly and academic debate," said Kraynak, "in order to achieve the true meaning of `liberal education' -- an education worthy of a free citizen and a free mind." He noted that the center has brought former NYS Attorney General Dennis Vacco '74 to argue the case against a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide; former United Nations Ambassador Alan Keyes to discuss the role of religion in American public life; former New York City Mayor Ed Koch to analyze the 2004 presidential election and the war on terrorism; and Anne Appelbaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History, to discuss the relationship between tyranny and freedom.

The center's events are also designed to give students a chance to engage in political discourse with visitors. Students from Democracy Matters, the College Democrats, and College Republicans were invited to have dinner with Koch, where they argued with him about his controversial political views. Kraynak also described the spirited discussion over dinner that took place with Keyes and students from the Brothers and College Republicans.

This semester, the center inaugurated its new Leaders of the Free World lecture series. Professor Robert Kaufman of Pepperdine University spoke about the achievements and legacy of Ronald Reagan and led a brown bag luncheon discussion on the neoconservative movement in American politics, to which students from many different organizations were invited.

In addition to the lecture series, the center has established the Richard L. Stone '81 Civic Freedom Prize for students, and will offer a prize to the senior whose honors thesis makes the greatest contribution to understanding of the principles of a free society.

Also planned are a summer session for alumni and a postdoctoral teaching fellowship to be affiliated with the center.

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