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Spring Symposia

June 12, 2017

International Affairs: Population: Transforming the Global Landscape

Lewis & Clark’s International Affairs Symposium, the college’s longest-running student-led symposium, has long tackled controversial topics.

Keynote speakers, representing opposing sides of an issue, square off against each other in a debate format, which is moderated by a Lewis & Clark faculty member.

This year’s symposium, the college’s 55th, explored how population and demographic change transform different aspects of the global landscape. Refugee policy was one of the topics on the agenda. The symposium’s student steering committee and cochairs invited two speakers to discuss the issue: Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) in Washington, D.C., and Galya Ruffer, founding director of the Center for Forced Migration Studies at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University.

A few days before the symposium, it was brought to the attention of organizers that the CIS had been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. On campus and off, concerned stakeholders debated the pros and cons of disinviting Jessica Vaughan.

In a message to the Lewis & Clark community, the symposium organizers wrote: “The narrative of groups like the CIS and its founders is an unfortunate reality of our current political and international climate, and it is, in our opinion, only through rigorous debate and headstrong questioning of those narratives that we can overcome them. We can no longer afford to simply ignore that these feelings and perspectives exist within this country and many others, but we can still show our strong opposition against those perspectives by meeting them head-on as we do at the International Affairs Symposium.”

Protestors, primarily from off campus, gathered outside Agnes Flanagan Chapel and attempted to disrupt the event with chanting and other noise. However, the debate continued: Ruffer and Vaughan each delivered a 20-minute argument followed by questions from the moderator and the audience.

“[The] session on global refuges in the Chapel truly tested the mettle of the Lewis & Clark community and its commitment to thoughtful discourse, critical thinking, tolerance, and open dialog,” said Bob Mandel, professor of international affairs and the symposium’s faculty advisor, in a message following the event. “I am so grateful to all of you that, regardless of your personal viewpoint on the issues and speakers, the atmosphere within the Chapel was one of respect and civility.”

Sam Perszyk BA ’18 and Sara Neuner BA ’17 served as cochairs of the event.

Jessica Vaughan (at podium) fields questions from moderator Heather Smith-Cannoy, associate professor and chair of international affairs. (Lexie Boren BA ’19/Pioneer Log)Jessica Vaughan (at podium) fields questions from moderator Heather Smith-Cannoy, associate professor and chair of international affairs. (Lexie Boren BA ’19/Pioneer Log)

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