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Chairman reflects on Forum

Molly Madden | Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coordinators of this year’s Notre Dame Forum event were pleased with the first semester’s events and were already preparing the series of Forum events that will take place in the Spring semester, said Ed Conlon, associate dean in Mendoza College of Business and chairman of the Working Committee for the Notre Dame Forum.

This year’s Forum topic, “The Marketplace and the Common Good,” viewed the issue from many different angles at several panel discussions consisting of University professors and alumni as well as a lecture given by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center in November.

Conlon said members of the Forum’s Working Committee and Steering Committee thought the Friedman event overall was a success and were happy with the results of the evening.

“I think that Thomas Friedman’s lecture went very well,” Conlon said. “I know that a lot of discussion took place after it among the students.”

The Forum coordinators recognized a few issues after Friedman’s lecture that they would like to work on for the future, Conlon said.

“I think there was a fair number of students there and the event sold out in two hours, but we did see a lot of empty seats. In the future, we want to look at the way tickets to these events are distributed to that the students who get the tickets are people who really want to attend,” he said.

Conlon said he and other Forum coordinators were pleased to see a high level of participation in the sponsored small group discussions the weekend after Friedman’s lecture.

The purpose of the small groups, which took place in various residence halls, was to offer a venue where students could casually discuss the issues Friedman raised in his talk.

“The discussion groups in the dorms brought up some very good points in relation to the topic,” Conlon said. “I was very pleased because students are very busy and it is often hard to get them to come to events. We did a poll of the level of attendance at these small group sessions and we found that we had around 20 or more people at every event.”

Conlon said he thought the Forum’s first semester events were successful but the Working Committee decided that Friedman’s lecture would be the last Forum event of the fall semester.

“We decided when we got into Thanksgiving that there would be too much going on,” he said. “But we are working on a number of things for next semester.”

Conlon said students and faculty could expect four Forum sponsored events spread out over the spring semester, including a lecture given by U.S. Senator Evan Bayh on the role government and politics plays in the common good.

By the time Bayh comes to campus on Feb. 21, he will have already have left his position in the U.S. Senate.

Conlon said he was slightly concerned about the level of student attendance now that Friedman’s talk, considered the “signature” event of the Forum, has passed. But was “confident” the planned events will be appealing to students.

“I think having Senator Bayh come here to talk is a big deal,” Conlon said. “Especially for the reason he left office. He didn’t feel like the officials in the Senate and House were looking out for the will of the people. I think he will draw a lot of students.”