Students Aim to Bolster Tocqueville Forum
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 23:10
To compensate for decreased funding after the departure of Tocqueville Forum founder Patrick Deneen last semester, students are in the process of creating an affiliated student-run organization within the Student Activities Commission.
This new organization, called Tocqueville Forum Student Fellows, will be responsible for the undergraduate programming that the forum previously supported.
“Our first goal was to help preserve and continue to expand the great legacy of the Tocqueville Forum,” said Chris Mooney (COL ’13), interim president of the Student Fellows. “The more we work with SAC on this, the more we realize there’s a broader and bigger opportunity to improve intellectual life on campus that we’re just beginning to tap into.”
The Tocqueville Forum, which was established through the government department in 2006, has generally included a higher proportion of government majors and students in the College. However, Mooney said he believes that this new platform will allow the program to reach a more diverse group of students.
“SAC gives us more universal access to all of campus and all four different schools as well as the ability to reach out to freshmen more easily and students involved in other groups,” he said.
Jon Askonas (SFS ’13), a senior adviser for the Student Fellows group, said that the group’s mission relates to his own goals as the secretary of academic affairs in the Georgetown University Student Association.
“[The group is] a nexus of intellectual life at Georgetown,” he said. “We’re making sure the Tocqueville Forum doesn’t lose its character as a place to provide discussion for students of all political backgrounds.”
Askonas said that the student fellows plan to co-sponsor events with other student groups, including campus publications and the Philodemic Society.
One of the group’s first projects will be implementing a program called “Great Encounters,” in which faculty members will invite 20 students to discuss books that have affected their lives.
The faculty-led Tocqueville Forum, under the leadership of Interim Director Joshua Mitchell, will continue to sponsor lectures and endow prizes and fellowships. The funding for these programs comes mainly from five active alumni donors.
“We’re always looking for more donors. The size of the program is contingent upon the money that we have,” Mitchell said. “We’re running a very tight ship this year with much less money than last year, but I think it’ll be a fully adequate program.”
The future of the forum came into question after Deneen’s departure.
“I’m not sure [Deneen] is really replaceable,” student fellow Helen DeCelles-Zwerneman (COL ’14) told The Hoya in January. “I hope that the forum can continue without him, but I can’t see how it will be as great a group and … resource.”
Six months later, Mitchell said he is confident about the program’s outlook.
“I tend not to be worried because I see [the forum] as Georgetown’s sweet spot. Here, we’re committed to developing the whole person. That means more than intellectual work,” he said. “We’re concerned with the formation of citizens to deal with national and international issues.”
Dean Chester Gillis agreed that the Tocqueville Forum is a significant component of the Georgetown community.
“If the forum … continues to bring voices together, which may be dissonant voices and have differing opinions, to have civil discourse about important matters in our culture and our society and in our church and in our world and in our university, that’s a huge benefit to the world,” Gillis said. “We hope that the forum will be here for years to come.”