JUSTIN FORTIER ’18
In spite of a lack of college recognition or endorsement, the Churchill Institute drew a crowd of almost 100 people, including nearly 60 students to the Hilton for the opening keynote of the Inaugural Churchill Institute Colloquium, “Western Civilization, Diversity, and the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century.” The address was delivered by Princeton faculty member and McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Robert P. George. George is the Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, holds numerous fellow positions across the country, and holds a multitude of awards and accolades including the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor in the country.
George’s talk touched on the travesty of a lack of political diversity in higher education; setting the stage for a weekend of panels ranging from the current state of higher education and the role of the university, to the suppression the Great Books and the unfortunate exit of certain philosophers from being featured in college curriculum.
The Churchill Institute for the Study and Extension of Western Civilization was formed by Trinity College Professor of Political Science Gregory B. Smith in 2016, in partnership with the Alexander Hamilton Institute (AHI). Professor Smith has pulled support from across the country and has research fellows reaching from Washington D.C. to Indiana.
For the Colloquium, four current Trinity students played a big role in ensuring the success of the event. Undergraduate fellows of the institute include Mike Fries ’18, Evan Scollard ’17, Julia Gorka ’19, and Rachel Zanko ’17, who were the driving force behind the event details and the exceptional student turnout.
In the wake of four panel discussions and a collection of informal conversations throughout the weekend students weighed in. “The discussions from the panelists focused on the traditional aspects of a liberal arts education in the context of political thought. The discussion revolved around the transition away from open discourse and classical academics towards academic environments in which opinions are shouted down and not met with conversation,” Fries reflected.
Winston Brewer ’18, an attendee of the panel discussions, was impressed by the colloquium’s commitment to having “real discussions” about contested dialogue in the classroom and the politicizing of education, as well as the defense of first amendment rights on college campuses.
A group of graduates of Hamilton College flocked to the panel discussions and added vigor into the “questions from the audience” portion of the weekend. At Hamilton, the AHI has continued to foster conversation that is absent from most college campuses. The Hamilton alumni raved about the exceptional benefit the AHI brought to their collegiate academic experience. All were excited about the newly developed institute at Trinity and the promise it holds for shaping a more complete college education in Hartford.
Program highlights from the event as well as a full list of panelists such as Deputy Assistant to POTUS, Dr. Sebastian Gorka and Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame University Catherine Zuckert can be found online at the Churchill Institutes’s website, thecinst.org.