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Discourse in Democracy

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Discourse in Democracy is a series of events designed to engage undergraduate students in political and philosophical debate about today’s most important issues.  Discourse in Democracy provides opportunities for students to become more deeply involved in their Texas State community by offering lectures and seminars by keynote speakers, chances to collaborate with professors, other students, and prominent professionals in the field at the federal, state, and local levels.  We will tackle issues that matter most to students, and you can be a part of the solution by participating in our lecture series.  The Department of Political Science invites all students to join in the discussion as we work to understand and solve our country’s greatest challenges. 

Recent Events in Discourse in Democracy

Free Speech on Campus

On Thursday, October 29th, Dr. Jonathan Zimmerman of the University of Pennsylvania spoke to the Texas State community via Zoom on “Impolitic Politics: Free Speech, Censorship, and Civility on Campus in the Age of Trump”. Over fifty students and faculty gathered in person to hear Dr. Zimmerman speak, and even more participated via Zoom. Dr. Zimmerman presented his research, starting with his focus on the topic of academic freedom and explaining how he became interested in political speech on college campuses after the 2016 election. After his presentation, Dr. Zimmerman took questions from attendees and discussed his project at length. He noted that he was impressed at the “buy-in” from the college’s many sponsoring departments, and appreciated the high level of participation from students and faculty alike. Dr. Shannon Duffy from the Department of History reported that Dr. Zimmerman was “very charismatic” and that his presentation started conversations about campus speech that are still going in her classrooms weeks later. The Department of Political Science’s Discourse in Democracy initiative was among the sponsors of the event.

 Dr. Zimmerman’s lecture was recorded by the Department of Philosophy and can be viewed here: https://www.txstate.edu/philosophy/dialogue-series/Media-Archive/2020-DS-media/DS-Fall-20-week-6.html.

Dr. Jonathan Zimmerman

Constitution Day 2020

Constitution Day 2020

On Thursday, September 17th, more than 120 students, some in-person and some via Zoom, attended the department’s annual “Constitution Day” lecture hosted by Discourse in Democracy. The speaker, Dr. Mark Graber, is the Jacob A. France professor of Constitutionalism at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law and is widely recognized as a leading scholar on American constitutionalism. His lecture, entitled “Disloyal Rebels and Loyal Unionists: The Fourteenth Amendment as a Whole,” concerned the origins of the  Fourteenth Amendment and its place in American constitutional law. The following morning, Dr. Graber conducted a seminar on the 14th Amendment attended by more than three dozen political science students and faculty.


Mark Lottman, a political science graduate student, who attended the lecture described it as “engaging and informative” noting that it highlighted “the importance of continuing to work towards ensuring equality in American society by discussing the changes in both prior to and since the Civil War.”  Another poli sci student, Jean-Marc Pruit noted that “Dr. Graber’s seminar on interpreting the 14th amendment was an enlightening, in-depth follow-up to his lecture” and involved “interesting discussions about originalist interpretations of the Constitution, Civil War and Reconstruction history, and American political development.”


The department’s Constitution Day activities were made possible by a generous grant from the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History. Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is an American federal observance recognizing the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become United States citizens by birth or naturalization.

A recording of the event can be viewed here.

DiD Hosts Pulitzer Prize Winning Reporter

On Tuesday evening, November 12th, 150 attended a lecture in Alkek Teaching Theater by the New York Times’ Tom Ricks, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Ricks’ talk explored George Orwell’s famous essay on politics and the English language and the common ground that united Orwell and Winston Churchill. Although occupying very different positions on the political spectrum, Orwell and Churchill shared a common commitment to individual freedom and a common hostility to modern totalitarianism. Prior to the lecture, students had an opportunity to win departmental swag by competing in a trivia contest on Orwell’s article. At the conclusion of his talk, Ricks fielded questions from the audience and later spoke with several students individually.

Earlier in the day, Ricks spoke to Dr. Menchaca-Bagnulo’s American Political Thought class, as well as to a history and mass communication class. He also had lunch with faculty and students from the department.

Political science major Zachary Poston noted that Ricks’ talk “offered unique insights” into two of the most “inspiring figures of the twentieth century,” while another undergraduate major, Ariel Long, was struck by the light the talk cast on contemporary issues such as “fake news.”