In January, PSU faculty were invited to propose campus-wide lectures on pre-and post-presidential election-related topics. We were motivated to launch this lecture series because as an academic community we needed a platform to discuss these topics, learn from our faculty’s expertise, and engage in open dialog.
Professor Sager’s Lecture
We had a great turnout of approximately 150 faculty, staff, students and community members who came last week to hear the first lecture. The lecture was delivered by Philosophy and University Studies Professor, Alex Sager, on The Trump Presidency and the Ethics of Resistance.
Professor Sager began with some brutal facts about the Trump presidency, but followed very quickly by stating:
“My intention is not to tell people what to believe or what to do, let alone advise them on how to do it…each of us has to decide how to respond to these extraordinary times. May we continue with our lives and remain apolitical? What do we need to know in order to take a stand? In addition, if we do decide to take a stand, where should we focus our attention? If our convictions about justice conflict with the law, how should we respond?”
Professor Sager’s lecture explored four questions:
Why should I resist? What must I know? What may I do? When may I stay silent?
He presented information related to each of these questions and walked us through how we might think about them and form our own opinions.
- What are the legitimate political functions of a public university? (Consider possibilities other than taking a specific stand such as conducting research or providing space for civil dialogue and disagreement.)
- Does Portland State University have an obligation to take a stand on controversial topics (Keeping in mind that our community is diverse) or to actively resist policies that many consider unjust? Why or why not? If so, how should we negotiate disagreement within our community about what is just?
- Share one policy, action, or institution that you believe ought to be resisted (make sure to explain why). (Alternatively: share one cause that you believe should be supported.) Discuss how you think resistance should occur.
The conversations were rich and lively. I measure the value of these discussions based on the active engagement I observed, and partly on the fact that people did not leave the room!
About the Series
The lecture series was created to provide an intellectual lens to issues people are hearing, seeing and feeling. Many commented after Professor Sager’s lecture on how wonderful it was that we were coming together as a University community to learn and engage around topics that are at the forefront of many conversations since the presidential election.
We will continue these lectures every Thursday, from 2:00-3:00 p.m., in Hoffman Hall from now until April 20 (excluding March 23 – 30). The 30-minute lectures, followed by 30-minute discussion opportunities are open to all students, faculty and staff at PSU.
The next lecture is on March 2. Library Professor, Kimberly Pendell, will talk about Navigating Information Sources in a Time of Fake News and “Alternative Facts.” Her lecture will focus on recent examples of fake news, and provide tools for evaluating the credibility of information. Analyzing what we see and hear is vital to a functioning and healthy citizenry in our current climate. View a list of all upcoming lectures.
In case you are wondering how we selected these lectures, it was done by an invitation to all faculty to submit a brief proposal. An advisory committee comprised of Professor Jose Padin (Sociology), Professor Winston Grady-Willis (School of Gender, Race and Nations), Dean Laura Nissen (SSW), Jose Rojas Pallan (ASPSU) and Associate Vice President Jason Podrabsky (RSP) assisted in selecting the proposals.
The selection criteria were based on the level of faculty expertise related to the proposed lecture. The committee were intentional about not making judgments on the topic or the viewpoint taken.
How to Participate:
We invite you to attend these lectures and encourage students to do so as well. Faculty might consider incorporating the lectures into class assignments where relevant.
Audio recordings of the lectures and presentations will be posted within a week of their delivery.