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2010 Forum examines global marketplace

MOLLY MADDEN | Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Notre Dame has a history of exploring issues of academic interest, but the University hopes this year’s annual Forum will also demonstrate its ongoing commitment to issues of interdisciplinary and global importance.

The Notre Dame Forum, a signature event for the University, has returned after a year’s absence. This year, the Forum will directly address the role ethics and morals should play in the reshaping of the global economy, said Ed Conlon, associate dean at the Mendoza College of Business and chairman of the Notre Dame Forum working committee.

Conlon said the University selected this year’s topic, “The Global Marketplace and the Common Good,” because it is a timely issue and as a result of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” which directly addressed the Catholic Church’s view on the issues raised by business ethics in the light of the financial crisis.

“Notre Dame wanted to build on the issues raised in ‘Caritas’ by having a year-long conversation about the role of the economy and business in furthering human development,” Conlon said. “Basically we want to discuss how markets and economies play into the overall development of humankind.”

The format of the Forum will look a little different than in previous years. Instead of a single panel discussion, it will be a yearlong conversation in an attempt to bring a broader scope to the issues facing the global marketplace, Conlon said.

The University modified the Forum’s format at the request of University President Fr. John Jenkins. This year’s Forum will feature several satellite events taking place before and after the signature event, a Nov. 3 lecture by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

“There was a sense that the Forum should not be a single event and there was a lot of discussion how Notre Dame should really dig into a topic of importance that would go beyond having a single event,” Conlon said. “The idea was to enlarge the scope of the Forum to encompass a lot of different things in relation to one topic over the course of the academic year.”

Conlon said the satellite events are intended to give the students various perspectives and background on the topics that Friedman will address in his November talk.

“People will leave the satellite events knowing the Catholic Church’s point of view on the topic but also knowing what theology has to say about the economy and the connections it draws to public policy,” he said.

Junior Shannon Crotty, a member of the working committee, said she thinks the satellite events are beneficial because they encompass multiple areas of study on campus.

“The satellite events are designed to be focused on different areas that the global economy touches,” she said. “It involves multiple different colleges and brings many different arenas together.”

The satellite events have been the primary focus of the working committee, as students and faculty worked to make sure the discussions encompass a variety of issues and appeal to the students. The first event took place on Sept. 6 in conjunction with the fall Career Expo and featured companies talking about corporate social responsibility. The next event, a panel discussion titled “Morals and Markets,” will take place Sept. 21 in Washington Hall.

The addition of satellite events was an attempt to achieve one of the main goals of the Forum, to better engage students in scholarly discussion. Working committee member senior Shanna Gast said she thinks adding satellite events before and after the signature discussion night rectified this problem.

“In the past, the Forum has always had this buildup and has been a huge event, but then discussion was started and ended with that one event,” she said. “But these issues won’t go away through a panel that comes and goes on campus. Now, there will be an ongoing dialogue all year.”

The day following the Friedman talk, there will be discussion groups between brother and sister dorms with designated student leaders to facilitate discussion about the issues Friedman raised, Gast said.

While the working committee continues to develop events and bring awareness to the student body about the Forum, Conlon said University officials are excited about this year’s topic and believe the expansion in the scope of the Forum better fulfills the University’s mission.

“One of the things I’ve heard from people is that this is the way it should be,” he said. “Notre Dame should be having yearlong discussions on topics of importance and this topic is not one that’s going to go away. A great university should make information like this available to the student body, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”