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The Center for Democratic Deliberation unequivocally supports the decision of the Penn State administration to decline a request for Richard Spencer, a white supremacist and president of the National Policy Institute, to speak on the University Park campus this fall. The administration made this decision based on potential threats to public safety. First Amendment rights are a cornerstone of any democracy. But the recent Unite the Right demonstrations in Charlottesville, VA, which Spencer helped to organize, ended in an unlawful assembly—declared as such by the Charlottesville police.

The Center for Democratic Deliberation is proudly committed to promoting healthy democracy. We do so by studying the most constructive forms of public deliberation. The work of the CDD helps to foster fundamental requirements of a healthy democracy: an engaged and informed citizenry, a culture of vibrant and informed deliberation, and an understanding of dissent in all nonviolent forms. The CDD steadfastly supports the protection of First Amendment rights for all and encourages free speech as an essential condition of effective democratic deliberation.

The Unite the Right demonstrations in Charlottesville led to documented violence, injury, and even death. The CDD considers those activities to constitute domestic terrorism, not lawful assembly or free speech. In fact, we understand the violent displays witnessed in Charlottesville as threats to the principles of equality, pluralism, and nonviolence to which the CDD is dedicated. We believe that First Amendment rights are best exercised and protected by fostering those principles. The Center for Democratic Deliberation therefore stands by the administration’s decision and remains committed to studying and promoting the practice of free and robust democratic deliberation in the future.    

Director of the CDD discusses Congressional District Maps with Governor Tom Wolf

Brad Vivian, Director of the CDD, participated on a public panel with Governor
Tom Wolf about the recent PA Supreme Court decision on congressional district
maps and the affect of district boundaries on civic participation.

Here are some sources for coverage of the event:

Gov. Wolf Visits State College to Talk Redistricting

Daily Collegian: PA governor Tom Wolf addresses gerrymandering, potential changes to state's political map

WTAJ: Gov. Wolf asks for feedback on redistricting state during Town Hall in State College

Centre Daily Times: Gov. Wolf visits State College to seek voter reform input

Chris Beem, Managing Director of the McCourtney Institute, has also initiated public discussions on this vital issue. See his recent commentary here.

Kenneth Burke Lecture

When Apr 20, 2018
from 04:00 PM to 05:40 PM
Where Location TBA
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Robert Asen, Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Title: TBA

Camp Rhetoric 2018: Precarious Times, Contested Identities

When Mar 30, 2018 12:00 AM to
Mar 31, 2018 12:00 AM
Where Burrowes and Sparks Buildings
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Camp Rhetoric is a graduate student-centered, inter-university and interdisciplinary conference on rhetoric hosted by the

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Deliberation Nation

When Feb 19, 2018 12:00 AM to
Mar 04, 2018 12:00 AM
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The CDD proudly supports Penn State freshmen honors students, who invite the community to join them in deliberative discussions of local, nat! ional, and global significance and urgency. As part of the Rhetoric and Civic Life course offered as a first-year seminar through the College of the Liberal Arts, students host more than 50 opportunities for town and gown to engage together in serious conversations that challenge participants to reflect on the values that shape their decision-making on important topics of the day.

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CDD Colloquium: "Trump is a Joke: Why Satire Makes Sense When Politics Doesn't"

When Feb 20, 2018
from 03:30 PM to 05:00 PM
Where Location TBA
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Sophia McClennan, Professor of Comparative Literature and International Affairs, Pennsylvania State University

2018 State of State Conference

When Feb 03, 2018
from 12:00 AM to 12:00 AM
Where Alumni Hall, HUB-Robeson Center
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The CDD is excited to support the annual State of State Conference, organized
by student leaders on campus to promote dialogue throughout the university
regarding numerous vital issues.
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Living in a University Town: How Should We Ensure a Safe Community for All?

When Dec 01, 2017
from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Where 233B HUB-Robeson Center at Penn State
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The Center for Democratic Deliberation is excited to host social studies students from the Delta Program High School for a public issues forum. The pilot course, “Problems that Persist: Deliberating Public Issues,” has immersed students in questions of local deliberation over the past few months. You can read more about their innovative activities here:

CDD is proud to host these students for an issues forum with University Park undergraduate students, faculty, and members of the State College community. The topic will be “Living in a University Town: How Should We Ensure a Safe Community for All?” Using a structured approach to deliberative dialogue modeled on materials from the National Issues Forums Institute, students will moderate small-group conversations around an “issue guide” that they have produced. The issue guide, which describes three different policy approaches for the community to consider, has been developed by students based on extensive input from community members and leaders.  

At the Intersections: Abolition and Suffrage in the U.S. (A Case Study for Democratic Dissent)

When Oct 24, 2017
from 03:00 PM to 04:30 PM
Where 102 Burrowes Building (Grucci Room)
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Kathryn Gines

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Founding Director of the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers

This paper explores claims about the abolition and suffrage movements in the US made by Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex (1949) as well as by Alva Myrdal in “A Parallel to the Negro Problem” (1944). Gines offers a more expansive counter-narrative with attention to the intersections of racism, sexism, abolition, and suffrage in the scholarship of Ida B. Wells (Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells), Angela Davis (Women, Race, and Class), bell hooks (Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism), and Paula Giddings (When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America).

Open House


Open House

FALL 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 3:30 – 5:00 P.M. 102 Burrowes Building (Grucci Room)

  • Introductions
  • Preview of Programming and Initiatives for 2017-18
  • Director’s Message
  • Voices of Democracy Roundtable - “Democratic Dissent”


Stephen H. Browne, Liberal Arts Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences

Ebony Coletu, Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies

Abraham Khan, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Communication Arts and Sciences

Jack Selzer, Paterno Family Liberal Arts Professor

*Discussion and Refreshments

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