Bill and Linda CotterThe Cotter Debate Series was established in 1999 to recognize William R. Cotter, Colby’s 18th President, and his wife Linda K. Cotter. William R. Cotter received his undergraduate degree and his law degree at Harvard before striking out in a career in international governance and development. He spent two years in Northern Nigeria as assistant attorney general and crown counsel served as a White House fellow under Lyndon Johnson, and was the Ford Foundation’s representative to Colombia and Venezuela. From 1970 to 1979 he was president of the African-American Institute, a nonprofit organization concerned with African development. As Colby’s president from 1979 to 2000, he increased international study opportunities, made significant progress in diversifying the faculty and student body, more than doubled library space, more than doubled the percentage of tenure-track women professors, and helped push Colby higher in the ranks of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges. Cotter led the College through the difficult process of ending the fraternity system, and during his presidency, the endowment increased over fifteen-fold.

Please contact Assistant Director Sherry Berard with ideas for future debates.


“Can UBI (Universal Basic Income) contribute to decreasing inequality in the US?”

Michael Strain American Enterprise Institute) and Amy Castro Baker, Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Moderated by Assistant Professor of Economics Rob Lester

Wednesday, Nov. 20th | 4 pm | Ostrove, Diamond 142

High rates of inequality have led policymakers in the US and across the world to rethink the social safety net.  One option is the provision of a “universal basic income” which would provide an unconditional cash transfer to every citizen.  How would UBI affect economic inequality and the lives of workers in the US? Is it affordable without significantly revamping other government welfare programs?

These and other questions will be explored in the second Cotter Debate sponsored by the Goldfarb Center. On one side, Amy Castro-Baker is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and is a Principal Investigator on the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, the basic income experiment being conducted in Stockton, California.  On the other, Michael Strain is the John G. Searle Scholar and director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute with a research emphasis on labor and public economics.

“Can Our Institution Respond to Current Threats to American Democracy?”

Bruce Cain, Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University and David Brady, Bowen H. & Janice Arthur McCoy Professor in Leadership Values, Stanford University

Moderated by Professor of American Government Sandy Maisel

Monday, October 28 | 7 pm | Parker-Reed, SSWAC

Democracies around the world—in Brazil and Venezuela, Hungary, Turkey, and Great Britain, and elsewhere—have been challenged by popularly elected leaders who have acted far outside of traditional democratic norms. This year’s first Cotter Debate, sponsored by the Goldfarb Center, addresses whether American governmental institutions are capable of responding to the threats to decision-making norms seen during the first three years of the Trump administration. Two Stanford professors, David Brady, the Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Professor of Political Science and Leadership Values, and Bruce Cain, the Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences and the Eccles Family Director of the Center for the Study of the American West, are friends and colleagues, but hold different views on this most important topic. They will present these differences and engage in discussion with the audience on this important topic.

Coffee and dessert bar will be served!


Previous Cotter Debates

Trade Wars (October 18, 2018)

Soumaya Keynes, the U.S. economics and trade editor for The Economist
Dean Baker, Senior Economist and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)Moderated by Professor Andreas Waldkirch, Colby College.

Read More

Free Speech on College Campuses: Should There Be Any Limits? (November 16, 2017)

Jon A. Shields, associate professor of Government, Claremont McKenna College
Laura Beth Nielsen, director of the Legal Studies Program and professor of Sociology, Northwestern University
Jon Zimmerman, professor of history of education, University of Pennsylvania
Moderated by Neil Gross, professor of Sociology, Colby College

Read More

American Democracy? (March 29, 2017)

Benjamin Page, Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making, Northwestern University; author of Democracy in America? What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It (Forthcoming).
Roslyn Fuller, scholar; author of Beasts and Gods: How Democracy Changed Its Meaning and Lost Its Purpose (2015)
Peter Levine, associate dean and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Tufts University; author of We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America (2013)
Moderator: Joseph R. Reisert, Harriet S. Wiswell, and George C. Wiswell Jr. Associate Professor of American Constitutional Law, Colby College

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Genetically Modified Foods: Perils and Promises (Nov. 8, 2015)

Stephen Moose, Professor of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois
Judith Chambers, Ph.D., director, Program for Biosafety Systems International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Washington, D.C.
Jonathan Latham, co-founder, and executive director, Bioscience Resource Project
Jodi Koberinski, 2015 Oak Human Rights Fellow at Colby

Read More

Hydraulic Fracking: Economic Boon or Natural Disaster?

Timothy Carr, West Virginia University
Jessica Helm, the Sierra Club
Erin Mansur ’95, Tuck Business School, Dartmouth College

Read More

Foreign Aid and the Environment (Nov. 10, 2011)

Nigel Purvis, president, Climate Advisers and nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution
James Roberts, a research fellow for Economic Freedom and Growth, The Heritage Foundation

Social Security Financing for the Future (Apr. 3, 2011)

Henry Aaron, senior fellow and Bruce and Virginia MacLaury Chair in Economic Studies, The Brookings Institution
Stuart Butler, distinguished fellow, and director, Center for Innovation Policy, The Heritage Foundation

The Amethyst Initiative: The Legal Drinking Age in America (Oct. 29, 2009)

David Rosenbloom, president and CEO, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
John McCardel, president, Choose Responsibility

Whose Interests Does Academic Freedom Protect in the Age of the Internet? The Individual or the Institution? (Apr. 27, 2008)

Robert O’Neil, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression at the University of Virginia, and former president of the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin
William L. Thro, university counsel and assistant professor of government at Christopher Newport University, and former solicitor general of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Healthcare Reform in America (Apr. 27, 2008)

Michael F. Cannon, director of health studies at the Cato Institute
Dr. Hugh Waters, associate professor of international health development, Johns Hopkins Blomberg School of Public Health

Urban Transportation Policy (Oct. 8, 2007)

Todd Littman, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Protection of Free Expression and an authority on the 1st Amendment.
Sam Staley, university council and assistant professor of government at Christopher Newport University

The People, The President, and The War: Who is in Charge? (Nov. 29, 2006)

Jeff Selinger, a Ph.D. candidate in government, Cornell University
Chris Appel ’07 and Ralph Kettell ’07, Colby College

Maine Ballot Question I: 'Do you want to reject the new law that would protect people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit based on their sexual orientation?' (Nov. 2, 2005)

Michael Health, Maine Christian Civic League
Ted O’Meara, Maine Won’t Discriminate

Balance Between Effective Policy and Human Rights Concerns When Battling Terrorism (Apr. 14, 2005)

Rand Beers, former White House counter-terrorism adviser
Margaret Crahan, Dorothy Epstein Professor of Latin American History at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
Jack Devine, Center Intelligence Agency (ret.)
Joseph Saunders, deputy program director, Human Rights Watch

Privatization of Social Security (Apr. 3, 2005)

Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics, Boston University
Steven A. Sass, associate director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and author of The Promise of Private Pensions (Harvard University Press, 1997)