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Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College Hosts International Conference Focusing on the Difficulties of Social and Political Discourse on Today’s College Campuses, October 20–21

“REAL TALK: Difficult Questions about Race, Sex, and Religion” features Authors Claudia Rankine, Mary Gaitskill, and William Deresiewicz; as well as Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE),

Darren O'Sullivan
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College will host its ninth annual international conference from Thursday, October 20 to Friday, October 21 in Olin Hall, on Bard’s Annandale-on-Hudson campus. The two-day conference, “REAL TALK: Difficult Questions about Race, Sex, and Religion,” asks: How can college be a safe and inclusive space for asking hard and uncomfortable questions essential to our democracy?
Hannah Arendt understood that as difficult and offensive as speech may be, free speech is at the heart of intellectual inquiry and political discourse: “Only in the freedom of our speaking with one another does the world, as that about which we speak, emerge in its objectivity and visibility from all sides.”
Students, faculty, and administrators across the country, however, are questioning whether colleges are safe spaces for talking about difficult and divisive issues. As campuses become more diverse, can colleges and universities confront issues surrounding racial, sexual, gender-based, and religious discrimination or harassment without limiting free and open discourse and a diversity of ideas? How can colleges maintain safe spaces for difficult and contested thinking while honoring their unshakable commitment to justice and equality?
REAL TALK: Difficult Questions about Race, Sex, and Religion” convenes a diverse group of thinkers to ask questions such as: How can colleges bring racial and social justice into the heart of higher education? Should colleges and universities limit speech in the name of civility? Should trigger warnings be incorporated into college curricula? Can we balance the right to practice one’s religion with the desire for inclusiveness? Are “microaggressions” the kinds of speech that should be disciplined? Does civility limit free speech?
Featured speakers include: Claudia Rankine, Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University and author of Citizen: An American Lyric; Mary Gaitskill, author of the novels The Mare, Veronica, and Two Girls, Fat and Thin; William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life; Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate; as well as Göran Adamson, associate professor in sociology at Thammasat University and author of The Trojan Horse: A Leftist Critique of Multiculturalism in the West; Roger Berkowitz, associate professor of political studies and human rights at Bard and academic director of the Arendt Center; Leon Botstein, president of Bard College; Robert Boyers, editor of Salmagundi and professor of English at Skidmore College; Alexandra Brodsky, cofounder of Know Your IX and editor at; Jennifer Doyle, professor of English at UC Riverside and author of Campus Sex/Campus Security; Janet Halley, Royall Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism and Don’t: A Reader’s Guide to the Military’s Anti-Gay Policy; Samantha Rose Hill, Klemens von Klemperer Postdoctoral Fellow at the Arendt Center; Erica Hunt, poet, essayist, and author; Carolyn Lazard ’10, writer, film curator, and artist; Angus Johnston, founder of; Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal; Christopher Lebron, assistant professor of African American studies and philosophy at Yale and author of The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time; Kenneth L. Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and author of The Definition of Anti-Semitism; Wyatt Mason, senior fellow of the Hannah Arendt Center and contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and Harper’s; Uday Mehta, distinguished professor of political science at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of The Anxiety of Freedom: Imagination and Individuality in the Political Thought of John Locke and Liberalism and Empire; Deroy Murdock, contributing editor, National Review Online, and Fox News contributor; Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center; Jana Schmidt, associate fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center, 2015–16, and teacher of the First-Year Seminar at Bard; Annie Seaton, founder and director of Bard’s Difference and Media Project and conceptual artist with the Yam Collective; Judith Shulevitz, contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, former editor of Lingua Franca, and author of The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time; Kenneth Stern ’75, executive director of the Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation; Ariana Stokas ’00, dean of inclusive excellence at Bard College; and Bard undergraduate students Sam Reed ’17, Dina Toubasi ’18, and Mark Williams Jr. ’17.
Tuesday, October 18 
7:00 p.m.     Bard and West Point: Preconference Debate

Please join us for an exciting public debate inspired by the topic of this year’s Hannah Arendt Center conference, “REAL TALK.” Bertelsmann Campus Center, Multipurpose Room
Thursday, October 20
10:00 a.m.  Welcome by Leon Botstein
10:15 a.m.  Introduction by Roger Berkowitz
10:45 a.m.  Opening Roundtable:
                    Alexandra Brodsky
                    Janet Halley
                    Mary Gaitskill
                    Moderator: Jennifer Doyle
12:30 p.m.  Lunch
1:30 p.m.   Greg Lukianoff
                  Moderator: Suzanne Nossel
                  Discussant: Angus Johnston
2:30 p.m.   Erica Hunt, Christopher Lebron, and Deroy Murdock
                  Moderator: Samantha Hill
4:00 p.m.   Jennifer Doyle and Annie Seaton
                  Moderator: Dima Khalidi
5:15 p.m.   Final Roundtable:
Alexandra Brodsky, Jennifer Doyle, Erica Hunt,
Angus Johnston, Christopher Lebron, Greg Lukianoff,
Deroy Murdock, Suzanne Nossel, and Annie Seaton
6:15 p.m.   Wine and Cheese Reception
Friday, October 21
9:30 a.m.    Introduction by Uday Mehta
10:00 a.m. Göran Adamson and Judith Shulevitz
                  Moderator: Roger Berkowitz
11:00 a.m.  Claudia Rankine
                   Moderator: Roger Berkowitz
                   Discussants: Robert Boyers, Carolyn Lazard ’10, and Ariana Stokas
12:30 p.m.  Lunch
1:00 p.m.    Conference Breakout Lunch Sessions
                1. Real Talk about Rape and Sexual Harassment on Campus, Olin 201
                    Moderators: Samantha Hill, Janet Halley, and Alexandra Brodsky
                2. Real Talk about Race and Religion on Campus, Olin 204            
                    Moderators: Ken Stern, Judith Shulevitz, and Deroy Murdock
                3. Real Talk about Class and Race on Campus, Olin 102 (Art History Room)
                    Moderators: Jana Schmidt and Angus Johnston
2:00 p.m.    William Deresiewicz
                   Moderator: Wyatt Mason
                   Student Discussants:
                                  Sam Reed ’17
                                  Dina Toubasi ’18
                                  Mark Williams Jr. ’17
3:15 p.m.    Kenneth Marcus
                   Moderator: Ken Stern
3:45 p.m.    Dima Khalidi
                   Moderator: Peter Rosenblum
Bard`s Latin Dance and AfroPulse will be teaming up to present an energetic and festive Afro Latin dance piece about peace, love, and unity following the ninth annual Hannah Arendt Center fall conference, "REAL TALK." They will be performing a fusion of African dance, Bachata, and Fiesta de Palo (a dance done in the Dominican Republic). Bard`s Latin Dance club focuses on teaching Latin dances, particularly salsa and bachata. AfroPulse provides the Bard College community with a forum where African students, those of the African Diaspora, and all other interested students come together and explore the continent in a multidimensional context.
Arendt Center conferences are attended by nearly a thousand people and reach an international audience via live webcast. Past speakers have included maverick inventor Ray Kurzweil, whistleblower Edward Snowden, irreverent journalist Christopher Hitchens, businessman Hunter Lewis, author Zadie Smith, New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus, and presidential candidate and political activist Ralph Nader. Previous conferences have explored the intellectual roots of the economic crisis, the future of humanity in an age increasingly dominated by technology that’s changing how humans live, the crisis in American education, and American exceptionalism.
For a full conference schedule and bios of featured speakers, please visit For more information or any questions about the conference, please contact or 845-758-7878.



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This event was last updated on 10-18-2016