Common Ground talk focuses on historical perspectives

Sanda Vazgec

College is a time where students have the opportunity to grow as intellectuals by being exposed to multitudes of knowledge and different ways of thinking. The Hauenstein Center offered students the opportunity to challenge their views in a seminar by Alan Charles Kors on March 16 at 7 p.m. in the Charles W. Loosemore Auditorium.

The discussion was part of the Hauenstein Center’s Common Ground series, which aims to bring light to the political and cultural issues concerning the GVSU community.

“Our programs challenge (people) to explore the possible common ground between their respective camps,” said Joseph Hogan, program manager of the Common Ground Initiative. “We aim to promote common ground for the common good.”

The most recent discussion will be lead by Alan Charles Kors, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. Kors is a historian of European thought with a special area of expertise in French Enlightenment.

Kors has two books coming out with Cambridge University Press about the origins of enlightenment atheism. He has been heavily involved in the defense of freedom of speech and due process for students since the 1980s.

“Professor Kors is a leading scholar of the enlightenment and a preeminent public intellectual whose work on academic freedom has been central to debates about the purpose of universities,” Hogan said. “At the Common Ground Initiative, we want to host speakers who are both challenging and civil. Speakers who will be open to criticism and debate, and who present their ideas clearly and with civility.”

Kors’ speech focused on the controversy over free speech on college campuses and the significant roots the principles of free speech have in Enlightenment thinking.

“(I talked about) the legacy of the French Enlightenment whose thinkers fought for freedom of thought, expression and conscience,” Kors said. “I also focus on and the relevance of that legacy to discussions and debates on today’s campuses concerning free speech and the rights of students and the threats to those rights.”

The goal of the discussion is to provide an open conversation about how universities affect students’ daily lives. Though some students may disagree with the views of Kors, the event aimed to promote freedom of expression and encourage open, honest debate, allowing students to find common ground with their peers.