Government professor Joshua Mitchell has been tapped to serve as interim director of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy and will seek to stabilize the organization after the departure of its founding director.

Mitchell, the former chair of the government department, was instrumental in hiring current director Patrick Deneen and said his academic interests align with that of the forum.

“I live, breathe Tocqueville, so I’m the obvious candidate,” Mitchell said.

As interim director, Mitchell will prioritize keeping the program afloat after Deneen leaves, a departure he characterized as a large loss to the university.

Deneen, who also serves as the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis chair in Hellenic studies, announced in January that he will join the faculty at the University of Notre Dame next year.

“The most important thing right now is to stabilize [the Tocqueville Forum],” Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Government Department Chair George Shambaugh affirmed that that the forum will continue, though on a smaller scale. Although it is housed in the government department, the program receives no money from the university. It is therefore dependent on donations to pay its staff members and hold programming, and much of its funds are currently drawn in by Deneen.

According to Mitchell, there is a fundamental question that must be answered:

“Do donors want to continue giving without Deneen?”

Shambaugh said that the university will provide bridge funding for at least a year while the forum rebuilds.

However, contracts for the forum’s two staff members have not been renewed for the upcoming academic year. Shambaugh emphasized that the university has been pleased with the work that the staff has been doing, but is unable to maintain their salaries until funding has been secured.

“Absent financial guarantees, we won’t hire anyone,” he said. “Right now there aren’t sufficient financial guarantees.”

Mitchell, who will become interim director in June, expects to hold a year of modest programming followed by a reconfiguration of the forum. He intends for the program to retain its intellectual focus, however.

“My intellectual interest is Tocqueville. It is first and foremost Tocqueville,” he said.

According to Shambaugh, Deneen narrowed the scope on the forum, a change that may be undone as the program identifies its core mission going forward.

The search process for a permanent director has not yet begun and will most likely occur next year. Mitchell believes that it is possible that he may eventually fill the role. According to Shambaugh, Mitchell is the ideal candidate to take on the permanent directorship.

“I’m a caretaker, and I have no problem being that right now,” Mitchell said.

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