The University of Texas at Austin - Civitas Institute

Civil Discord

A unique collaboration between three academic entities that share a commitment to free speech, civil discourse, and the urgent necessity of connecting across scholarly, political, partisan, and ideological lines.

Mar 21
Mar 22
5:30 PM - 5:30 PM Hogg Memorial Auditorium



Is liberalism doomed? Was 1619 or 1776 the true founding of America? Is the traditional university broken beyond repair? Is racism or anti-racism the greater threat to the health of the university? On March 21-22 of this year, on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, we plan to have it out. Passionately. Brilliantly. Humorously. Humanely. Respectfully. Vigorously.

Civil Discord is a unique collaboration between three academic entities in Austin that share a commitment to free speech, civil discourse, and the urgent necessity of connecting across scholarly, political, partisan, and ideological lines. Through a series of moderated arguments on issues of great public significance, featuring some our nation’s best scholars and writers, we will model the life of the mind in a democracy.



Free and open to the public. Paid parking available at San Jacinto Garage, 2401 San Jacinto Blvd.


Thursday, March 21, Hogg Auditorium

5:30 pm    Opening Welcome   Ann Huff Stevens, Justin Dyer, Pano Kanelos

5:40 pm     Keynote Panel Coleman Hughes, Peniel Joseph

Should We Strive for a Colorblind America?

Moderated by Ann Huff Stevens


Friday, March 22, Etter-Harbin Alumni Center Ballroom

10:00 am     Welcome    Ann Huff Stevens, Justin Dyer, Pano Kanelos

10:30 am    Dialogue 1     Richard Reddick, John McWhorter

Is Racism or Antiracism the Greater Threat to the Health of the University?

Moderated by Naomi Campa


11:30 am     Dialogue 2    Stephanie Shonekan, Adam Seagrave

Is 1619 or 1776 the True Founding Year of America?

Moderated by Justin Dyer


2:00 pm Dialogue 3    Ann Huff Stevens, Pano Kanelos

Is the Traditional University Broken Beyond Repair?

Moderated by Jeremi Suri


3:10 pm Keynote Dialogue    Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg

Is Liberalism Doomed?

Moderated by Ryan Streeter


4:30 pm Closing Reception


Participant Bios


Ross Douthat joined The New York Times as an Opinion columnist in April 2009. His column appears every Tuesday and Sunday. He is also a host on the weekly opinion podcast “Matter of Opinion.” Previously, he was a senior editor at The Atlantic and a blogger on its website.

He is the author of The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery, which was published in October 2021. His other books include To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism, published in 2018; Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (2012); Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class (2005); The Decadent Society (2020); and, with Reihan Salam, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (2008). He is the film critic for National Review.

Michelle Goldberg became an op-ed columnist for the New York Times in 2017 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. Her books include Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, which won both the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize and the J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award. She is an on-air contributor to MSNBC and has written for The New Yorker, The New Republic, Newsweek, The Nation, The Guardian, and many other publications. Goldberg has reported from countries including Israel, Ukraine, India, Iraq, Uganda and Nicaragua. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

Coleman Hughes is a writer, podcaster and opinion columnist who specializes in issues related to race, public policy and applied ethics. Coleman’s writing has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Quillette, The City Journal and The Spectator. He appeared on Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 list in 2021. His first book, The End of Race Politics: Arguments for a Colorblind America, is forthcoming from Penguin Random House in February 2024.

Peniel Joseph holds a joint professorship appointment at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the History Department in the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also the founding director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD). His career focus has been on “Black Power Studies,” which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies, law and society, women’s and ethnic studies, and political science.

Pano Kanelos is the founding president of the University of Austin. From 2017 to 2021, Dr. Kanelos served as the 24th President of St. John’s College, Annapolis. After earning degrees from Northwestern University (B.A.), Boston University (M.A.), and the University of Chicago (Ph.D.), he taught at Stanford University, the University of San Diego, and Loyola University Chicago.

He served most recently as dean of Christ College, the Honors College of Valparaiso University. An outspoken advocate for liberal education, he oversaw the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts, comprising a network of more than 100 colleges and universities. Among the earliest participants in the Teach for America program, President Kanelos is as passionate about teaching as he is about writing and scholarship. He founded the Cropper Center for Creative Writing at the University of San Diego and is a noted Shakespeare scholar, having served as the resident Shakespearean in the Old Globe MFA Program and the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Shakespeare Studies Program at Loyola University Chicago.

John McWhorter teaches linguistics at Columbia University, as well as Western civilization and music history. He specializes in language change and language contact, and is the author of The Missing Spanish Creoles, Language Simplicity and Complexity, and The Creole Debate. He has written extensively on issues related to linguistics, race, and other topics for Time, The New York Times, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and elsewhere, and has been a Contributing Editor at The Atlantic. For the general public he is the author of The Power of Babel, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, The Language Hoax, Words on the Move, Talking Back, Talking Black, and other books, including Nine Nasty Words and Woke Racism, both of which were New York Times bestsellers. He hosts the Lexicon Valley language podcast, has authored six audiovisual sets on language for the Great Courses company, and has written a weekly newsletter for the New York Times since August 2021.

Richard Reddick is the inaugural Senior Vice Provost for Curriculum and Enrollment and the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. He comes to this position after serving the last several years as inaugural Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach for the College of Education at the university and serving as Professor in the Program in Higher Education Leadership in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy (ELP) at the university.

Adam Seagrave is Associate Professor of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University. He is co-author (with Stephanie Shonekan) of the forthcoming book Race and the American Story (Oxford University Press, scheduled release March 2024), and co-founder of a wide-ranging educational project of the same name begun at the University of Missouri in 2017. His first book, The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2014. He has also published Liberty and Equality: The American Conversation (University Press of Kansas, 2015) and The Accessible Federalist (Hackett Publishing Co., 2017). In addition to his academic scholarship and teaching, Seagrave served on the Executive and Steering Committees, and co-chaired the Political Science Task Force, for the Educating for American Democracy project from 2019- 2021. He was awarded the American Legion National Education Award in 2021 for his achievements in K-12 civics education. He also spent seven years as the inaugural Managing Editor of the academic journal American Political Thought. Seagrave writes and teaches widely on topics relating to American political thought and history, with a particular focus on the relationship between racism and American ideals.

Stephanie Shonekan is Professor of Music and Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland. Shonekan’s dual heritage combining West Africa with the West Indies allows her to straddle the Black world comfortably. She has published articles and book chapters on afrobeat, Fela Kuti, Nigerian and African American hip- hop, soul music and country music. Her publications explore the nexus where identity, history, culture and music meet. Her books include The Life of Camilla Williams: African American Classical Singer and Opera Diva (2011), Soul, Country, and the USA: Race and Identity in American Music Culture (2015), Black Lives Matter & Music (2018), Black Resistance in the Americas (2018), and Dear Department Chair (2023). Her forthcoming co-authored book with Adam Seagrave, Race and the American Story is the result of a project they collaborated on while they both taught at the University of Missouri.

Ann Huff Stevens is the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin and the David Bruton, Jr. Regents Chair in Liberal Arts. She is a distinguished scholar of economics who came to UT Austin from The University of California, Davis, where she served in a variety of leadership roles, including chair of the Department of Economics, chair of the Economics Graduate Program, interim dean of the Graduate School of Management, and founding director of the Center for Poverty Research.

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