Programs and Events


Higher Education looks different in 2017. Disciplines are in constant flux. Technology is revolutionizing intellectual inquiry, research, and production. Teaching styles and classroom structures are accommodating an exponential growth in knowledge and increased societal complexity, with the mission of advancing human well-being. Yet, much of the “modern” university is still rooted in its centuries-old traditions, structures, and practices.

The Commons asks:
If you were to design the ideal University, for today and tomorrow, what would it look like?
How would it function?
What would it not be?

In essence, What is the Future University?



Misinformation in the Social Media Age

9:00am-4:00pm Thursday, November 9 | The Commons

This workshop will bring together scholars and practitioners to examine consequences and responses to misinformation and fake news in democratic societies. How these issues affect underserved and digitally disadvantaged populations will be highlighted.
Topics of discussion will include:
• What are the consequences of misinformation for democracy and civic engagement?
• How can we detect and address misinformation? What scholarly and industry efforts have been made in this area?
• How can interdisciplinary collaboration most effectively push the fight against misinformation forward?
• What countermeasures are most feasible and effective? How can scholars, industry, citizens, and nonprofit organizations work together on this?

To see the detailed agenda and to register, visit:


Mapping the (Post)Human: Yuval Harari and the Next Dominant Species

Arnab Chakraborty, English
Ramón Alvarado, Philosophy
Jennifer Abercrombie Foster, Spanish & Portuguese
Discussion Moderator: Christina Lord, French & Italian
3:30pm Wednesday, October 11 | The Commons

Attendees should listen to Yuval Harari's conversation with Ezra Klein in preparation for this discussion.

Author of the international bestseller Sapiens (2014) and 2017 "sequel" Homo Deus, Israeli historian Yuval Harari presents arguments regarding the rise and potential fall of humanity. According to Harari, human dominance is due to widespread belief in fictions (religion, money, data). But what will the future hold as superintelligent computers evolve? What is the difference between intelligence and consciousness? Will humans evolve or become obsolete in the face of artificial intelligence? Join us for a discussion of Harari's mapping of the (post)human based on an interview between Harari and Vox's Ezra Klein.


Understanding Free Speech on a University Campus
A Panel Discussion and Dialogue with Audience
Stefan M. Bradley - Associate Professor of History St. Louis University
Connie Burk - Executive Director, the NW Network
Susan Kruth - Senior Program Officer, Legal and Public Advocacy, FIRE
Frank LoMonte - Executive Director, Student Press Law Center
Moderator, Jeff Chasen - Associate Vice Provost, Integrity & Compliance, KU

7:00pm Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | The Commons
Sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, the Office of the Provost, the Department of African and African-American Studies, the Department of American Studies, and The Commons

The First Amendment guarantees a right to free speech, but how does that apply at a university? How does the First Amendment affect a university’s ability to promote the discussion and debate of ideas? How does the concept of free speech intersect with free thinking? Does the First Amendment apply differently to students, staff, and faculty? To what extent does the First Amendment protect the dissemination of research? What opportunities and risks are there for activism and advocacy among students, staff, and faculty? What can we learn from the history of activism on a college campus? How do these questions affect the future of universities?

Join us for a discussion of these questions and more, with a panel of scholars on campus activism, constitutional law, and the intersections between them.

Stefan M. Bradley is fascinated with the efforts and abilities of black college students to change not only their scholastic environments but also the communities that surrounded their institutions of higher learning. Through protests and demands, students have been able to influence college curricula as well as the policies of their schools. His book, Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s follows the black students who risked their educations and lives during the famous controversy at Columbia University between 1968-1969. Currently, he is working on Blackened Ivy: Civil Rights, Black Power, and Ivy League Universities in the Postwar Era for New York University Press. His work on student/youth activism has been discussed in the Harvard Law Review, History News Network, NPR, C-Span2 BookTV, MSNBC, BBC, and BET.Research.

Connie Burk directs the NW Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse (The NW Network). Under her leadership, the Network established the National LGBT Training & Technical Assistance Initiative and the National Q&A Institute. Connie also spearheaded two national campaigns to publicize the Network, one of which was featured in Times Square. A nominator says of Burk’s work, “One of the most important ways Connie has influenced the antiviolence movement is by bringing violence prevention and a positive vision for change to the forefront of the work.”

Susan Kruth earned her B.A. from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2007, with a concentration in music and film. After a handful of short film and documentary gigs, Susan was inspired to go to law school in order to study the ways that the Constitution protects filmmakers. While attending the University of Virginia School of Law, she served as musical director of the law school’s a cappella group, the A Cappellate Opinions, and performed in UVA Law’s spring musical comedy program, the Libel Show. Susan earned her J.D. in 2011 and is now a member of the Virginia State Bar. She got her start working to protect free speech through a fellowship with the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, Virginia. She has also completed civil rights internships with the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & AIDS Project.

Frank LoMonte returns to KU having spoken on the Free Speech in Social Media panel at The Commons in 2014. He became the executive director of the Student Press Law Center in 2008 after practicing law with Atlanta-based Sutherland LLP and clerking for federal judges on the Northern District of Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Before law school, LoMonte was an award-winning investigative journalist and political columnist for daily newspapers in Florida and Georgia. LoMonte graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia School of Law, where he was a senior editor of the Georgia Law Review. His articles about the First Amendment and media-law topics have been widely published in Education Week, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the American University Law Review, the University of North Carolina First Amendment Law Review, and in many other outlets.

Jeff Chasen is the Director of Integrity & Compliance at KU, providing independent oversight and coordination of institutional compliance. He earned a BA in 1984 and JD in 1987 from George Washington University. He is a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, the Public Risk Management Association and the Association of Governmental Risk Pools.


Preparing for a Career as a Researcher & Public Intellectual

Led by Stony Brook University Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Sacha Kopp
9:30am-12:00pm Wednesday, March 15, 2017 | The Commons
Supported by The Commons and the College Office of Graduate Affairs

This workshop will give graduate students an opportunity to work among peers from across the university to develop skills for communicating their research to an audience beyond the university.

Participants will work on framing their messages and gain experience delivering their messages to a public audience.

To register for this workshop, please email Space is limited.


The Ivory Towers Meets the Public Marketplace of Ideas

Sacha Kopp, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Stony Brook University
7:00pm Tuesday, March 14, 2017 | The Commons

How can academics meaningfully contribute to public discourse? Academic discourse is deliberative, carefully refined, and debated within the narrow community of trained scholars. Public debate is fast-paced, emotional, and global. What happens when these two cultures collide? Who loses if they don't? Please join in a conversation that challenges academics and citizens to come together.

Sacha Kopp is the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Kopp comes to Stony Brook after serving at the University of Texas at Austin as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education of the College of Natural Sciences and Professor of Physics. As Associate Dean, he was part of the senior leadership for the largest of the university's colleges. He oversaw academic, health, career advising, undergraduate research, honors programs, curricula and degrees, student success programs, instructional budget, and online learning initiatives. As a researcher, his area of study was in the physics of elementary particles. He participated in the discovery of the top quark, properties of bottom and charm quarks, and in producing definitive evidence that neutrinos, the most abundant particle in nature, have mass. He has also authored over 200 scholarly articles.


A Seat at the Table: Selection, Assessment and Belonging in Higher Education

10am-4pm Friday, February 10, 2017 | The Commons
Supported by the University Honors Program, the School of Education, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Multicultural Scholars Program, Undergraduate Studies, and The Commons

The question of merit and how it is applied is pervasive in higher education. From the selection of students, faculty, and staff, to assessment of performance, the identification of merit is often based on widely accepted assumptions and seemingly objective measures. But is merit ever objective and universal?

This one-day symposium will gather faculty, staff, and students from disciplines across the university to open a dialogue on the interrelated concepts of merit, belonging, and inclusion. While some of the conversations may be esoteric and challenging, the focus will remain on concrete, actionable, and practical ways to improve work in support of all students at the University of Kansas.


on The Future University

with Jessica Green
Thursday, February 9, 2017 | The Commons
Supported by the Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture Fund

Green is a world renowned scientist inspiring people to think about bacteria in entirely new ways. An Alec and Kay Keith Professor of Biology at the University of Oregon and professor at the Santa Fe Institute, Green is helping us see how the microbial blueprint of our bodies, homes, cities, and forests impacts our world, and our future. As co-founder and CTO of Phylagen, a DNA data harvesting and analytics company, Green envisions a future for urban design that promotes sustainability, human health, and well-being.

Green is currently spearheading efforts to model urban spaces as complex ecosystems that house trillions of diverse microorganisms interacting with each other, with humans, and with their environment. She calls it the “built environment microbiome.” As founding director of the Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center, she is working with architects and engineers to advance our understanding of how microbial communities assemble, interact, evolve, and influence public health. In addition, she is co-creating a graphic novel about the urban microbiome with graphic designer Steve Green and writer and TED Fellow Anita Doron.

Green is internationally recognized for highly cited publications in Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Her work has been featured in TIME, ABC, NBC, NPR, Forbes, Discover, Scientific American, and The Economist. She is the recipient of the Blaise Pascal International Research Chair, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and a TED Senior Fellowship. She earned an M.S. in Civil/Environmental Engineering and Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering, both at the University of California, Berkeley.