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Promoting Civic Virtue, Fostering Civil Debate

“The search for knowledge is most robust when deliberation occurs and diverse ideas are discussed intelligently and constructively by the students and faculty.”

Terry Rhodes, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

The UNC Program for Public Discourse is a program housed in the College of Arts & Sciences that includes faculty from across the University.

We seek to support a culture of debate and deliberation through curricular and extracurricular programs, enabling our students to be better citizens, leaders, and stewards for our democracy.

Learn more about the program.

Upcoming Events

Past Events


Defining Racial Justice in the 21st Century: Competing Perspectives and Shared Goals

In the wake of a summer of protests against police brutality, the midst of an ongoing pandemic, and the aftermath of a contentious election, the UNC Program for Public Discourse and Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies are bringing together a panel of Black academic, journalistic, religious, and political leaders to discuss and debate their different definitions of what racial justice looks like – and how it might be achieved – in the twenty-first century.

Moderated by Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times and CBS News and featuring NC State Senator Valerie Foushee, Dr. Touré Reed, and Dr. Jacqueline C. Rivers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


Public Discourse Post-Election: Is Dialogue Possible? – an Academic Perspective

The Program for Public Discourse is joined by academic experts for a discussion about the intersecting forces that influence how and whether partisans can have productive conversations in a polarized political climate. We’ll ask where we are as a state and nation and what we must do to improve the quality of our discourse and democratic processes. Additionally, we hope to provide students with academic insights into how they might consider the 2020 elections’ influence on the shape of their civic lives moving forward.

Moderated by Prof. Kevin Marinelli, Executive Director of the UNC Program for Public Discourse.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


Public Discourse Post-Election: Is Dialogue Possible? – a Frontline Perspective

The Program for Public Discourse is joined by Democratic operative B.J. Rudell and Republican operative Brett O’Donnell for a discussion that utilizes the 2020 elections as a window into the broader ways in which Americans talk about politics. Additionally, we hope to provide students with political insights from the ground level of the campaign trails, so they can better understand the choices campaigns make, along with the strategies behind them.

Moderated by Prof. Kevin Marinelli, Executive Director of the UNC Program for Public Discourse.

Monday, November 16, 2020


Free Speech on Campus

A panel discussion about the current state of free expression college campuses featuring Greg Lukianoff, Dr. Sigal Ben-Porath, and Dr. Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill.

Moderated by Prof. Kevin Marinelli, Executive Director of the UNC Program for Public Discourse.

Co-sponsored by the UNC Institute of Politics and part of #UNCResearchWeek.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Robert P. George & Cornel West in Conversation

A discussion on fostering dialogue and friendships across the political aisle.

Moderated by Thomas Chatterton Williams.

Thursday, September 10, 2020


What Principles Should Guide our Lock-Down Strategies for COVID-19, Now and in the Future?

Thoughtfully exploring perspectives with leading experts in the protection of civil liberties, economic security, and public health priority in a time of COVID-19.

Moderated by UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases director Myron S. Cohen, M.D., and featuring Warren Distinguished Professor at Boston University and director of the Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights at Boston University School of Public Health George Annas, M.D.MPH, George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and MacArthur Fellow at the Unviersity of Chicago Booth School of Business Kevin M. MurphyPh.D., and professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Audrey Pettifor, Ph.D.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Meritocracy in Higher Education

A panel discussion on what role, if any, meritocracy should play in education.

Moderated by Bowman and Gordon Gray Term Professor of political science at UNC Dr. Sarah Treul Roberts, and featuring author Dr. Caitlin ZaloomNew York Times columnist Ross Douthat, author Thomas Chatterton Williams, and The Point editor Dr. Anastasia Berg.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Coverage of this event appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education


Impeachment: Then and Now

A panel discussion about the law and history surrounding impeachment in the United States.

Moderated by Dean of the UNC Law School Martin Brinkley, and featuring CNN’s principal legal analyst for impeachment and UNC law professor Michael Gerhardt and presidential historian William Leuchtenburg.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


Thinking for Yourself: When Values Diverge from Politics

A panel discussion on ideological package deals and heterodoxy within political movements.

Moderated by associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill Molly Worthen, and featuring attorney and co-founder and president of the AND Campaign Justin Giboney and American journalist and author Jonathan V. Last.

Thursday, November 12, 2019