Speakers and Debates


April 8, 1999

Dr. Camilla P. Benbow - Trial By Fire: When research findings clash with our social values. (Also met with a freshman Honors Colloquium.)

In December of 1980, Dr. Benbow published a research paper in the journal Science that revealed sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability among high-ability students. These findings were difficult to explain using available socialization hypotheses. A firestorm developed in academia and the press.

Dr. Benbow shared her experiences in publishing this controversial area of scientific research, and what she faced in the fiery aftermath. She offered some hard-won insights on academic freedom, scientific objectivity, and the difficulties faced by scholars when their research challenges passionately held beliefs.

February 23, 1999

Professor Wilbert McClay - Evening DAS Seminar (Also gave a colloquium in History Department)

Dr. McClay spoke on "David Riesman and the Character of American Higher Education." One of his topics was Riesman's long-time advocacy of diversity in higher education. Diversity has meant something very different for Riesman than it means to most academics today. Riesman emphasizes the importance of intellectual rather than demographic diversity. And rather than emphasizing the same lock-step formula for "diversity" across all colleges and universities, namely, race and gender proportionality, Riesman would encourage a flowering of many kinds of institutions that would reflect a wide range of intellectual and pedagogical perspectives.

September 21, 1998

Professor James G. Ryan - Evening DAS Seminar (Also gave a colloquium in History Department)

Dr. Ryan described how documents in the recently-opened Soviet archives, and the availability of CIA's intercepts of coded World War II-era messages to Moscow, forced him to reconceptualize and rewrite large portions of his biography of Earl Browder, who led the Communist Party of the United States from 1932 to 1945. Ryan's talk dealt implicitly with the importance of evidence and challenged what post-modernists have been saying about the indeterminancy of meaning and about objectivity being an impossible dream.

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