As the planners for this year’s Veritas Forum, we felt compelled to respond to some of the criticisms in the op-ed by Benjamin Nathan, “Veritas Forum no longer rings true,” published in the Feb. 13 issue of The Williams Record. Our team greatly appreciates and deeply values Nathan’s input on the format of the Veritas Forum. We fully agree that “Williams cannot be a healthy academic environment unless we all subject our deeply-held beliefs to…rigorous cross-examination.” For this very reason, this year’s team at Williams opted to have a shorter lecture (only 20 minutes) followed by a dinner over which students can engage with one another’s deeply-held beliefs. In the spirit of fostering more rigorous discussion between students, we hoped that providing a formal space in which students can explain their own and hear others’ opinions would prove to be an intellectual gain, not loss.
In particular, we hoped that this year’s Veritas Forum would fit in nicely with the general theme of Danger, as set by the Gaudino Fund. We invited Professor Elphick because of his expertise in the field of South African Apartheid and his unique perspective on the role of religion in the process of its abolition. He plans to discuss both negative and positive effects religion has had in South African history.
As always, the particulars of each Veritas Forum depend on the circumstances that year and do not necessarily reflect a change in perspective or the adoption of a more insular framework. Last year’s Forum was intended to be a dialogue, but we unfortunately assumed that Professor Lewis would represent a secular perspective until, shortly before the event, we learned he was Catholic. This year’s Forum is intended to focus on student conversations over dinner and less on a faculty dialogue. We fully intend and are excited about hosting more events with speakers from different worldviews in the coming years, as circumstances permit.
Chih McDermott ’14,
Northeast Regional Director, Veritas Forum