The William R. and Linda K. Cotter Debate Series was established in 1999 to recognize William R. Cotter, the 18th President of Colby College, 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 Tim Dobyns with ideas for future debates.
Fall 2017 Cotter Debate
Free Speech on College Campuses: Should There Be Any Limits?
Academies flourish with free and open discourse. But does the right to free speech include the right to share what is experienced by some as hateful? If so, who defines when discourse has crossed the line to be too vitriolic? Some are concerned that efforts to increase sensitivity and safety are suppressing frank and open discussion. Others believe colleges and universities have a duty to protect students from what some deem as hateful rhetoric that targets specific groups in harmful ways.
A growing number of conflicts in the form of large public demonstrations and event protests have created an urgent need for institutions to define freedom of expression on their respective campuses. As polarized speech may incite violent action, does a university have a responsibility to provide for the physical safety—or the right to speak—of incendiary speakers?
The Fall 2017 William R. and Linda K. Cotter Debate will explore how academic institutions can support diversity and inclusion while providing space for robust discourse, deliberation, and disagreement.
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
Previous Cotter Debates
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
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
Timothy Carr, West Virginia University
Jessica Helm, the Sierra Club
Erin Mansur ’95, Tuck Business School, Dartmouth College
Foreign Aid and the Environment (Nov. 10, 2011)
Nigel Purvis, president, Climate Advisers and nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution
James Roberts, 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 Colubmia University
John McCardel, president, Choose Responsbility
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, 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)