Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Educational Forum on Immigration

Educational Forum on Immigration
THURSDAY, MAY 29, from 7-9pm
Tulane University, Uptown Campus, 102 Jones Hall

Sponsored by:
Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University
Center for Public Service, Tulane University
Common Good New Orleans

This Forum is designed specifically to educate and inform about, as well as discuss, the subject of migration as it affects our communities, the City of New Orleans, and the State of Louisiana and how the recent legislative initiatives moving through the state legislature concerning immigration fit into this subject. The Forum will consist of a panel of academic specialists on migration, immigration attorneys, community representatives, and local state legislators. The Panelists will be invited to give a 10-minute presentation on the topic followed by a question and answer period from the audience. This Forum is intended as a civil dialogue and an informational, educational event.

Confirmed panelists:
· Elizabeth Fussell, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Washington State University
· Martín Gutierrez, Director of the Hispanic Apostolate, Archdiocese of New Orleans
· Hiroko Kusada, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Loyola Law Clinic
· Rep. Juan LaFonta (D–New Orleans), District 96, Louisiana State House of Representatives
· Marc Rosenblum, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of New Orleans

· Lucas Díaz, Director, Puentes/LatiNOLA
· James D. Huck, Jr., Assistant Director for Graduate Programs, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University

For more information, please contact James D. Huck, Jr., 865-5164.

[NOTE: NOLA Bloggers, please notify people of this event. Link to this posting from your blog. Encourage folks to come out to it. Thanks!]


Eric said...

Question: Why do you need moderators for what appears to be a completely one sided political monologue? (hosted by a public university no less... and you wonder why conservatives complain about liberal bias on our campuses?)

Or am I overlooking some panelists who actually have something to say about the other side of this debate?

Huck said...

Eric - If you have read any of the other previous postings about this event that I have included on this blog, you would notice that invitations have been issued to a number of others who represent a variety of perspectives on the subject, from all sides of the debate. For instance, I specifically issued an invitation to the author of the legislative bills and to other legislators who supported them. I followed up with phone calls and verbal invitations. I have gone out of my way to try to get individuals who are advocates of these bills to speak to the reasons why they support. If they refuse to participate, what can I do about that? If you want to see the efforts I've made to include a wide variety of perspectives, on all sides of this debate, I'll be happy to share them with you. Up to this point, all of them have declined to participate. But I haven't given up and hope to enlist at least some voices that are clearly on the side of the debate that you think is absent here. What more can I do to try to recruit people to participate?

Second, the academics and professionals on the panel, are not, to my knowledge, going to speak from any ideological perspective, but on the basis of their disciplinary training and the scholarship currently being produced in their fields on the subject. I have asked them to present on what research is revealing according to the best practices in their disciplines, not to be ideologues. And that is what I expect them to do. What more can I do to try to provide information that is not ideologically based?

And, finally, not that it really matters to the point you're trying to make, but Tulane and Loyola are not public universities. They're both private universities. Even still, I would never try to hide behind the veil of some argument of a "public vs. private" distinction as an excuse for not putting on a fair and balanced forum.

Frankly, I expect that this event will provide a good balance in presenting arguments on both sides of the issue.

Eric said...

Look, if the NRA was hosting an educational forum at a public university about the societal value of concealed carry laws, moderated by NRA lobbyists, with a panel of gun manufacturers, gun retailers, and GOP lawmakers... I'd be just as skeptical if everybody involved told me it was going to be a fair and balanced presentation of the facts.

Sorry, but this is no different.

You have to admit that your advocacy on this issue would make it diifficult for somewhoe who supports these laws to believe they are going to get a fair say with you as a moderator. You have pretty much already identified support of these laws as immoral, racist, xenophobic, and hateful. This effects what kind of people are going to volunteer to be on the panel (including those who volunteer to be on it), and also what type of people are going to show up in the audience to ask questions.

I'm wondering, has the other moderator, Mr Diaz, also advocated against this legislation? What about the panelists? I agree with you that all of these people, as academics and professionals, have important knowledge to share about these issues, but it is also important to consider whether or not their participation is motivated by a political agenda. If so, then it becomes even more important for there to be an ideological counterbalance present, in order for this to be truly considered educational and not just political demagoguing. If all the panelists and moderators have a shared political agenda, then it will likely turn out to be a demagouguing event even in spite of your efforts to keep it from being so.

As to the public/private nature of the university, that isn't my concern so much as my skepticism about the pure educational value of such a forum. Our educational institutions do a grave disservice to their students when they present political advocacy wrapped in the warm blanket of educational sanction. Doing so damages the legitimacy of the intellectual authority of all academic institutions, and it happens way too often, resulitng in a growing (and increasingly tragic) distrust of our nation's academia among the general populace.

Huck said...

Eric - There is no doubt that I have strong positions and opinions on this subject. And I can understand your skepticism of this event for that reason simply because I am involved in it and am helping to plan and organize it. But too often I think there is a tendency among those who distrust the academy to always be suspect of intentions. I imagine that this would have been the case if the forum were held on our campus whether or not I were involved in planning it. All this aside, my personal opinions do not preclude my ability to participate in and plan a forum whose intention is to educate and inform. We all of us bring our biases to the table when we engage in discussion and debate. Doing so in an academic setting is no different. This fact, in and of itself, doesn't determine outcomes.

Frankly, I do not know for certain what are the political agendas or positions of all the panelists. And I find it actually quite problematic that you would make this a requirement for the event. I did not ask our academic participants to give me their personal views on the subject as a way to litmus test their "ideological suitability" for being a panelist. I simply asked them to participate because I know them to be scholars who work on the subject area from within their academic disciplines and who are familiar with the local reality as it relates to immigrants and immigration. In a sense, with regard to the academics and professionals on the panel, you are requiring, so as to assuage your suspicions about the panel, that I discern political motivations before academic qualifications as some kind of pre-condition for participation. It seems as if this is a request to de-objectify such participants in the panel on the basis of their personal politics. How is that consistent with the goal you seem to expect from this kind of event?

Given that, this forum is not as you suggest it is in your NRA analogy. Unlike the participants in your NRA forum scenario, there are people on the panel whose political positions on the issue I do not know for certain and did not ask or require to know as a precondition of their participation.

Finally, again, with regard to those panelists who do represent a clear position on the subject generally and these legislative initiatives specifically, I have tried to balance out the panel with individuals whose positions are supportive of the recent legislative initiatives as a counterpoint to them. The choice for them to participate is theirs, even if they consider it to be a suspect forum given that the invitation to participate is coming from someone like me. And, frankly, one would think that having the forum in an academic setting would be more conducive to eliciting their participation than it would be to place it in another setting.

Although you see it otherwise, this forum is not political advocacy wrapped up in the warm blanket of academic sanction. Its purpose is to bring controversial public policy issues into the protective shield of the academy where people of all points of view, advocates and academics alike, can and should find a space not only for learning about issues but also for respectful disagreement and debate around them. I would posit that what "damages the legitimacy of the intellectual authority of all academic institutions" is not putting on a forum treating a controversial public policy subject, but rather pre-judging this "intellectual authority" on the legitimacy of an event even before the event takes place.

Because of how the nature of intellectual discourse in the academy has been politicized by ideologues on both sides of issues, I understand where you're coming from, Eric; but I just disagree with you that this event is as you paint it. And I think you know me well enough to know that, all my strong personal opinions aside, I am fair and open to hearing other perspectives.

Eric said...

"How is that consistent with the goal you seem to expect from this kind of event?"

That is a very fair question, and I didn't mean to say that you had selectively handpicked people on the panel sympathetic to your political views. What I was trying to say is that your very public advocacy on the issue is likely to exclusively attract such people (especially if the other moderator has been equally active).

If I was a professor who was outraged about these immigration bills, and I saw a forum being put on with a moderator (or two) who, a week before, had argued againt the legislation in front of the state senate... I'd probably consider that event a pretty inviting soapbox to stand on.

Sometimes we pay a price for where we stand.

"Unlike the participants in your NRA forum scenario, there are people on the panel whose political positions on the issue I do not know for certain..."

You can't say with any certainty that the people on my hypothetical panel are advocates for the issue. All I told you is that they come from an industry and a political party where the tendancy is to be on one side of the issue. Just because the moderators are NRA lobbyists doesn't mean they couldn't set their bias aside for an hour in the name of academic inquiry. By the same standard you are using, a chief engineer for Smith & Wesson could sit in on the panel as long as I didn't ask or require him to tell me about his political stance on the issue beforehand. He could fairly be expected to have a wealth of special knowledge related to the debate, so any suspiciouns you might have about ulterior political motives on his behalf are unfair and should be dismissed out of hand.
See how it works?

"I have tried to balance out the panel with individuals whose positions are supportive of the recent legislative initiatives as a counterpoint to them. The choice for them to participate is theirs, even if they consider it to be a suspect forum given that the invitation to participate is coming from someone like me."

Yes, they should just shrug off the fact that the forum is being moderated by someone who openly considers them to be racist, xenophobic, and immoral. There is also a very real possiblity that they suspect this is a political rally disguised as an educational forum, and they have reservations about participating in such a farce (I'm not saying that's what it is, only that it could very easily be construed as such). As someone who has engaged you for years on a hundred different issues, I personally could trust you to be fair minded as a moderator in this kind of debate... but if I was a lawmaker who only knew that you had recently spoken against the legislation in the Senate? No, I'd consider it a political minefield and probalby a no-win situation.

Sometimes you pay a price for where you stand, and I think your advocacy on this issue compromises your right to expect to be treated as an impartial moderator, even though that's what you are.

"Although you see it otherwise, this forum is not political advocacy wrapped up in the warm blanket of academic sanction."

I hope you're right, but I am admittedly skeptical. I don't believe it is your intent to turn it into such a thing. Any chance it will be electronically broadcasted? I'd be very interested in watching it.

Huck said...

Eric - You raise some fair points. You always do. What I should say is that whenever there is as controversial an issue as this one is being publicly debated, any forum in any context is likely to be imbued with questions as to motivations and subtexts like you point out. And you are right that my public advocacy against these measures, at one level, can result in the chain of thought processes that you note. I do think, though, there is a bit of context that I need to clarify because it is informing your argument. Although I did go to the State Capitol to testify before the State Senate against one of these measure, I should probably let you know that I never got to testify. I never even got to register my opposition to the measure publicly. Even before the Committee met to start its business for the day, we were informed that measure that I was there to testify against had been pulled from the schedule and had been reassigned to another Committee. Given this, my "public" advocacy of the issue has been limited exclusively to my private blog and to some emails that I have sent from my non-work email account as a private citizen to a few legislators. I don't think that makes any real substantive difference to your point, since anyone who reads my blog and does a bit of digging can put 2 and 2 together, and any legislator who has received an email from me will know who I am and what I do.

Even still, impressions notwithstanding, my stance on these issues does not mean that this forum is anything other than a tool for education, information sharing, and debate/discussion.

We don't have plans to electronically broadcast this forum, but I am hoping that we can videotape it and then transcribe it. I don't want to hide anything about this. In fact, I would like it to be covered and disseminated as widely as possible. If we can manage to pull this off, I will certainly share it with you.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Eric.