This article first appeared in the Washington Examiner.
Undergraduate students representing 29 colleges and universities from across the country gathered at Harvard’s Institute of Politics over the weekend to discuss how to better facilitate civil discourse on campus.
Unlike the stereotype of “campus snowflakes,” these students showed up with a genuine desire to find common ground and advance the political dialogue on their campuses.
The symposium — the National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement — took place from Feb. 2-4 and included panels such as "Fixing Politics in an Era of Partisanship and Distrust," "Civil Discourse: Resisting Division, Creating Dialogue," and "Learning How to Be Loyal Antagonists."
Panels were comprised of 2018 IOP Spring Resident Fellows such as former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, CNN commentator Symone Sanders, former Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges, CNN commentator Scott Jennings, and Fox News contributor Guy Benson.
“The 2018 conference program is designed to catalyze broader student participation in civil political dialogue and engagement on college campuses. Participants will identify processes and strategies to support open, diverse and inclusive political conversations,” a press release explained.
“We at the IOP are committed to supporting programs like the National Campaign, which allow students to openly discuss areas of political and social disagreement and develop strategies to expand the scope of civil discourse on campus,” said IOP Acting Director Bill Delahunt.
Students also participated in a town hall-style event, led by Harvard IOP’s director of polling John Della Volpe, where they shared opinions on the current state of politics nationally and on campus.
Jake Lyons, president of the Georgetown University College Republicans, told Red Alert Politics that he considered it an honor to be able to share his unique perspective as a conservative student from a rural, Southern area.
"I believe I was able to provide other conference attendees with a better understanding of a Republican point of view. As Scott Jennings said at the first panel, I was 'representing red America.' At the same time, I learned more about where others come at policy issues from and what challenges they face on their own campuses," Lyons said. "The programming for the conference set a great example of ways foster dialogue that I can hopefully put to use back at Georgetown. I made great connections with other delegates and their receptiveness of a diverse field of ideologies gave me hope for discourse in our country."
Participating colleges and universities include: Allegheny College; Arizona State University; Colby College; Davidson College; Elon University; Florida International University; Franklin and Marshall College; Georgetown University; Harvard University; Howard University; Louisiana State University; Mercer University; Ohio State University; Rutgers University; Saint Anselm College; Simpson College; Spelman College; Tennessee State University; Tufts University; University of Chicago; University of Delaware; University of Florida; University of Louisville; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Oklahoma; University of Rochester; University of Southern California; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of Texas at Austin; University of Utah; and the University of Virginia.