Symposium On Democracy

Join Us Monday, February 17th!

Led by expert speakers, faculty and students, the Symposium on Democracy is held each year on Presidents Day and examines issues and challenges inherent in sustaining democratic societies and institutions. Founded in the last days of the American Revolutionary War, Washington & Jefferson College has been committed to fostering democracy and responsible citizenship for well over two centuries.

Fragility & Resilience: Democracy in Today’s World


Opening Remarks: Dr. John C. Knapp
8:45 - 9:00 a.m. – Olin Theater

Morning Keynote: Michael J. Abramowitz, “The Decline of Global Freedom”
9:00 - 10:00 a.m. – Olin Theater

Morning Breakout Sessions
10:30 - 11:30 a.m. – Howard J. Burnett Center

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

Afternoon Keynote: Nathan Law interviewed by Dr. John C. Knapp, “Students as Agents of Change: The Movement for Democracy in Hong Kong”
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. – James David Ross Family Recreation Center

Afternoon Breakout Sessions
3:00 - 4:00 p.m. – Howard J. Burnett Center

Evening Keynote: Serge Schmemann, “Press Freedom Under Attack: A Threat to Democracy”
4:30 - 5:30 p.m. – Allen Ballroom, Rossin Campus Center

5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

TOM Talks, hosted by the Washington Fellows
7:30 - 8:30 p.m. – Allen Ballroom, Rossin Campus Center

Keynote Speakers
Quotes on Democracy
Reading List
Videos and Photos
Morning Breakout Sessions

"International Perspectives on Democracy: A View From Non-Democratic Political Systems"

Buba Misawa, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Political Science; Director of International Studies, Washington & Jefferson College

This student panel will discuss the notions of democracy and democratic principles from the perspectives of non-democratic systems of government around the world.  Facilitated by Dr. Buba Misawa, a panel of international students will talk about the complicated relationships between culture and democracy in different political systems, with a specific focus on the political systems of their respective home countries. Room 103

“Religion and We are the People(s)”

Cynthia A. Hogan, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Washington & Jefferson College

Dr. Hogan will facilitate a roundtable conversation with W&J students and guests on the ways that “religion” can either help or hinder modern democratic views of an inclusive, pluralist, and informed citizenry. Room 203

“The Future of Democracy in America and Around the World”

James Arvanitakis, Ph.D., Fulbright Fellow: the Milward L. Simpson Visiting Professor, University of Wyoming; Pro Vice Chancellor (Research and Graduate Studies), Western Sydney University

Contemporary democracies around the world, be it the United States or Australia, have shown themselves to be resilient to shocks: From terrorist attacks to natural disasters, citizens rally and work cooperatively. Despite this, a number of social and political trends are causing fractures which are dividing us. How can these trends be addressed and overcome? These divisions are not inevitable, but we must find ways to respond to ensure the long-term health of our democratic institutions. Room 109

“Fragile Democracies in Latin America”

H.J. Manzari, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Spanish; Spanish Coordinator; Director of Latin American Studies, Washington & Jefferson College; Student Panelists: Nicole Palacios Icaza, Doménica Palacios Icaza, Selena Easley, Isabelle Kratz, Kole Morton, Chynna Wilcox, Morgan Krause, José Atiles, Visiting Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law and Society- Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

We will look at the fragile state of democracy in a few Latin American countries.  In particular, we will focus on Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and our own Puerto Rico. We will explore the frustration felt by many of the peoples of these countries with regards to the current political climate as well as the most recent protests and destabilization of governments. Room 114/Yost Auditorium

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Presidents Day Parking and Dining

On Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 17, W&J will host two major events on campus: The Third Annual Symposium on Democracy and the Admission Office’s Presidents Day Open House.

To accommodate the influx of guests on campus, we have made alternate parking arrangements for the day. These will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 17.


  • Parking arrangements for current W&J students will not change.
  • Library Lots 1 and 2: Reserved for Admission guests attending the Presidents Day Open House.
  • The Burnett Center Lot: Reserved for Symposium speakers and lecturers.
  • The Visitors Lot on Chestnut Street (the former O’Reilly Auto Parts store): Available for community guests.
  • The lower lot of the Church of the Covenant will be available for community guests.
  • Grant Lot: W&J employees can park as usual in this lot.
  • All parking meters are free on Presidents Day and those on the perimeter of campus can be used by Symposium guests and campus visitors.

Dining Services

All on-campus dining venues will have normal hours of operation on Presidents Day.

Questions can be directed to the Office of Campus & Public Safety at 724-223-6032 or x6032. Symposium on Democracy events are open to all members of campus.

Funding for the Symposium on Democracy is generously provided by the Guy Woodward, Jr. Foundation.