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Posted 05.01.08

New York Times Editor Keynote Speaker at Roosevelt Conference

Richard l. Berke, assistant managing editor for news at The New York Times, will be the keynote speaker at a conference titled “Make Democracy Work,” on Saturday, May 3. The conference will run from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. and is being presented by the Wesleyan University Chapter of the Roosevelt Institution.

The conference also features panel discussions and workshops designed to highlight important components of democracy that are often overlooked or taken for granted and give them both local and national perspectives.

“We wanted to raise awareness about what democracy means and how it functions and fails in America,” says. Elana Baurer ’09, conference co-chair. “We also wanted to bring the Wesleyan and greater Middletown community together to engage in meaningful dialogue and debate."

The conference will open at 11 a.m. in PAC 001 with a faculty panel titled “Framing a Discussion for Democracy.” Confirmed speakers include Melanye Price, assistant professor of government, who will discuss events surrounding Hurricane Katrina; Eyal Rabinovich, visiting assistant professor of sociology, who will talk about the theoretical concept of democracy; and David Stein '06, Ph.D candidate at Yale University in African American studies and American studies, who will discuss the prison system in the United States.

From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., the conference will move to PAC 421 and 422 to conduct “Making Democracy Work” workshops, which according to the conference organizers is aimed at tackling “more specific elements of our democracy and how greater functionality might be achieved.” Members of Wesleyan Prisoner Resource and Education Project (WESPREP) and the Traverse Square After School Program are confirmed as participants.

The keynote presentation by Berke will run from 3 to 4 p.m. and be held in Crowell Concert Hall. Berke served as The New York Times’ national political correspondent and covered the 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000 presidential campaigns. His past beats have included Congress, the White House, and money and politics. In 1999 he was appointed to the Senior Advisory Board of the Institute of Politics of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Berke has waived his speaking fee for the event.

"As students, we see the intellectual world media as a major part of the democratic process,” says Ilona Kramer ‘08, Roosevelt Institute co-chair. “To have someone who will give us another perspective reflecting a third dimension beyond Wesleyan and Middletown, who is a part of the production of knowledge regarding the health of our democratic society is a great opportunity for expanding our understanding of the connection between media and the dissemination of information."

A reception open to all attendees and presenters will be hosted by President Michael Roth after Berke’s keynote.

Attendance to the conference is free of charge and the event is open to the campus and Middletown communities.

"We wanted to put this event together in recognition of the fact that there wasn't enough dialogue on campus about the state of our democracy,” says Lily Mandlin, ’10, one of the conference organizers. “We were working towards solutions for the symptoms of the problems rather than focusing on the root causes."

Campus Progress and The New York Times Readership Program are co-sponsors of the event.
 
By David Pesci, director of media relations