St. Olaf College | News

Institute for Freedom and Community launches spring speaker series

The Institute for Freedom and Community spring speakers are (from left) Peter Singer, John McWhorter, Leslie M. Harris, Phillip W. Magness, and Gary Saul Morson.
The Institute for Freedom and Community spring speakers are (from left) Peter Singer, John McWhorter, Leslie M. Harris, Phillip W. Magness, and Gary Saul Morson.

The St. Olaf College Institute for Freedom and Community will host four events this spring featuring several speakers on the theme of “Contemporary Controversies.”

All of the events will be virtual, free to the public, and accessible to stream through the Institute’s website. Events will include a conversation between each invited speaker and Morrison Family Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community Edmund Santurri. Registration is not required but is encouraged.

The spring series will kick off February 16 with “The Point of View of the Universe: A Philosophical Conversation with Peter Singer.” The author or editor of more than 50 books, including Animal Liberation, Singer is an internationally known philosopher and the creator of a nonprofit organization named for and inspired by his 2009 book The Life You Can Save. Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and a founding co-editor of the Journal of Controversial Ideas.

On March 14, the Institute will host Columbia University Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature John McWhorter for “Antiracism as Religion.” McWhorter is the author of several books on language and race, including Words on the Move, The Language Hoax, The Power of Babel, Nine Nasty Words, Losing the Race, and Woke Racism. He is the host of the language podcast Lexicon Valley and writes a twice-weekly newsletter for The New York Times

The speaker series continues March 22 with two speakers in conversation on “The 1619 Project.” Northwestern University Professor of History and African American Studies Leslie M. Harris is a specialist in pre-Civil War African American history and the author or editor of five books, including In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City and Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (with James T. Campell and Alfred L. Brophy) and has participated in several public history projects. American Institute for Economic Research Senior Research Faculty and Interim Research and Education Director Phillip W. Magness has taught public policy, economics, and international trade at institutions including American University, George Mason University, and Berry College, and has had his writing appear in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, and other publications.

The series concludes April 21 with “Partisan Science and Other Fundamentalisms,” a conversation with Gary Saul Morson, the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of Arts and Humanities and a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Northwestern University. Morson is the author or editor of 20 books on topics in philosophy and literature. With Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, he wrote Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities and How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us.

Established at St. Olaf in 2014, the Institute for Freedom and Community encourages free inquiry and meaningful debate of important political and social issues among students, faculty, and the general public. To that end, the Institute sponsors a range of programming opportunities, in addition to the lecture series, to further cultivate civil discourse within the context of the liberal arts. Subscribe to the Institute’s YouTube channel, follow the Institute on Twitter, or sign up for the quarterly newsletter to receive regular updates and information about Institute programming.