The Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium (MSE) released its 2016 speaker lineup on Sunday night, featuring U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Nov. 17.
The other speakers in the MSE lineup include DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter activist and Baltimore native on Oct. 20; Martine Rothblatt, a transgender activist and founder of Sirius Radio, on Oct. 26; and Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist and physician, on Nov. 9.
Earlier this semester, MSE kicked off its fall season with Eric André, the comedian, writer and actor well known for his absurdist and unconventional humor.
MSE programming chair Teddy Kupfer explained this year’s theme, “Facing Fracture.” He emphasized that in a world that increasingly mutes dissent, free expression is critical.
“Emergent fractures are everywhere today. You have fracture on the material level, with the byproduct being resentment expressed through politics. You have fracture over the notion of justice, with certain groups of people bearing the brunt of the state’s monopoly on violence and asking why that’s legal,” Kupfer wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Kupfer elaborated on how this year MSE aims to bring speakers that can talk frankly about the defining issues that divide our society.
“The 2016 Symposium is bringing speakers who can talk about these particular issues — material inequality, racial justice, the role of social networks and change through entrepreneurship — without pulling punches,” he wrote.
Many students are excited that Sanders will be speaking at Hopkins. The announcement gained significant traction on social media and in the local press.
Junior Allie Bull, who worked as a legislative intern for Sanders’ office, believes his message of enacting change at the local level is essential for young people to hear.
“[It] is an important message and one that’s especially essential for young people to hear,” Bull wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Senator Sanders, whether you agree with his political views or not, really did start a new political conversation with his presidential campaign.”
MSE marketing committee member Emily Verica hopes his talk will be a catalyst that sparks debate among the student body. However, she stressed that students should not forget about the other speakers and their messages.
“[Sanders’] celebrity status is an effective avenue to get important messages out to students,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter.”But that being said I hope his big name doesn’t overshadow the other quality speakers we have and the important messages they have to share.”
Tim Shieh, one of the three executive directors of FAS, was excited about co-hosting with MSE in bringing Sanders to campus.
“We have this really great opportunity to collaborate with the MSE Symposium this year in the fall to cosponsor and co-host Senator Bernie Sanders,” he said.
Shieh further mentioned that as FAS develops their lineup for the spring, they will try to build off of Sanders’ and MSE’s lineup to bring speakers who will shed a different light on similar issues.
“In terms of the impact on our symposium lineup, I think the biggest thing is we’ll consider Senator Sanders’ perspective and try to bring even more diverse voices from that,” Shieh said. “We’re looking at MSE’s lineup, the issues that they’re focusing on and looking at how we can bring different voices to address those same issues, or address different issues that they didn’t have the opportunity to bring to campus.”
Junior Anuj Mehndiratta agrees with Bernie on social issues, but worries that Hopkins students do not think critically about his economic policy.
“I think it’s great that we are bringing a politician who has influenced our political discourse, but I worry that students won’t critically reflect on what he says especially in terms of economic policy.” Mehndiratta said. “Students I’ve spoken to sometimes struggle with making distinctions between what policies are fiscally possible, versus ones that sound great in theory but could never be implemented. So when Bernie goes on stage and says things like ‘free college tuition for everyone’ I worry that Hopkins students won’t critically reflect on his promises.”
Sophomore Lalit Varada looks forward to the fact that Sanders will be talking after the election.
“It’s better that Bernie Sanders is coming after election day because if he was coming before, most of his talk would be getting people to vote for Hillary,” he said. “But after the election he will be more free to talk about other things which I think most students will appreciate.”
President of Hopkins College Democrats Cynthia Hadler cautions not read too much into the fact that Sanders is coming after election day.
“[Sanders] is likely maximizing his speaking commitments immediately after the election because that is when universities or other hosts would pay the most for him since his name recognition and popularity is at an all time high. So I don’t think there is any significance for Senator Sanders speaking at Hopkins after the election,” Hadler wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Shieh, one of the executive directors of FAS, hopes Sanders’ talk will bring together not only Hopkins students, but the greater Baltimore community.
“One of the things that we focus on here at FAS is bringing the Baltimore community into events,” he said. “We know that there might be people who disagree with him and those who agree with him. That’s the point of having him there. To have that conversation.”