What should I know about the Ripon College Center for Politics and the People’s return to all in-person events this fall?
The Center for Politics and the People at Ripon College has four in-person, on-campus events slated for the fall semester — each featuring experts on topics ranging from local government to climate change.
While the center pivoted to hosting webinars during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Center of Politics and the People co-director Henrik Schatzinger said people both on and off campus are experiencing “Zoom fatigue.”
“There can be communication disconnects, and sometimes technical errors during virtual events, whereas in-person events allow attendees to come together with subject matter experts and they can experience the energy of a live event,” he said. “With face-to-face events, we’re able to read the room better, generally speaking, and then adjust our own behaviors.
“That can be more difficult than virtual events. I think, overall, talking in-person is more effective than talking over a webcam and people have more fun.”
This year’s slate of events focuses on local government, the midterm election, voting rights and climate change.
Schatzinger said the center tries to host events during election years that help contextualize the results, as well as looks for relevant topics that have been in the news when crafting other events.
In addition, the center also looks to host book talks with authors of university-published books and tries to have at least one event with a regional or local focus.
The first event of the semester will be “Local Politics: Challenges and Opportunities.” It will take place Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m. and will be a panel discussion with three area public officials: Ripon City Administrator Adam Sonntag, Oshkosh Mayor Lori Palmeri and Fond du Lac County Board Chair Steven Abel.
The event will discuss issues such as economic development, housing and budgetary challenges.
“One goal of this program will be to identify similarities and differences between the cities and counties in how issues are approached, who decision-makers feel most responsive to, to what extent elected and appointed officeholders feel they have discretion in governing and to learn about how current approaches are working,” Schatzinger said.
The second event is “U.S. Indigenous Right to Vote: Challenges Today Reflect Those of the Past.” That is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m. and will be co-hosted with the League of Women Voters of the Ripon Area.
During the event, Renee Gralewicz will discuss strategies to expand the Native American vote in Wisconsin in a panel moderated by League of Women Voters of the Ripon Area President Ellen Sorensen.
The third event is “Planet in Peril: Humanity’s Four Greatest Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them.” It’s set for Thursday, Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m. and is a book talk with Vanderbilt University professor Michael Bess on his novel of the same name.
“This book is written by an award-winning historian of science and technology, and he talks about what he considers the top four mega dangers facing humankind,” Schatzinger said. “He will talk about some of the solutions that have been tried and why they have fallen short thus far. I think it’ll be a super exciting and interesting talk about some larger global issues.”
The final program of the fall semester is “After the Election: Now What?” It is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17, at 6:30 p.m. and will feature a panel discussion analyzing the state and national election results and exploring the outlook for 2023.
That event will feature founder and editor-at-large of news and opinion website The Bulwark Charlie Sykes, The Capital Times Capitol Bureau Chief Jessie Opoien and CBS 58 Milwaukee politics and state government reporter Emilee Fannon.
The spring semester, meanwhile, has one confirmed event so far: “The Politics of Resentment: Seven Years Later.” It is set for Thursday, Feb. 9 at 4:30 p.m.
The event will be an updated discussion on the politics of rural resentment in Wisconsin with the book’s author, University of Wisconsin–Madison political science professor Kathy Cramer.
While Cramer’s book, “The Politics of Resentment,” was released in 2016, Schatzinger said its topic is more relevant today with the polarization of American politics.
Beyond hosting events, the Center for Politics and the People has worked with Ripon College President Victoria Folse to help make it easier for students to vote this November.
Schatzinger and Folse are partnering with an initiative called “Why Bother Wisconsin?” that aims to get the student vote out.
“We won’t cancel classes, but we’re talking about how we can remove the barriers for our students to vote in November’s election,” Folse said. “Henrik, and I will be talking about how we get our young Republicans or young Democrats, as well as the center, involved in being civically engaged.”
Schatzinger has been encouraged by Folse’s support for the Center for Politics and the People.
“I’m very pleased with how positively engaged and interested the college president is in supporting the center’s mission,” he said. “She said we will work on strategizing about the center’s future going forward. She’s invested in the center.”
What this means for you:
Schatzinger added that the Center for Politics and the People’s mission remains important to the wider Ripon community, which is not immune to national trends of politicizing non-controversial issues and heated debates.
When issues become politicized, he said it’s easy to lose sight of the facts, which is why the center aims to provide a platform for people to voice their opinions and ask questions in a space that is open and inviting to everyone.
“We’re not trying to exclude viewpoints; at the same time, we really insist on having arguments based on rationality and logic instead of emotions, finger pointing and bickering,” Schatzinger said. “I think many solutions require pragmatic approaches, so we’re trying to contribute to an exchange of common sense solutions and ideas.”
How to submit:
If you have a question, the Commonwealth wants to give you an answer. Send a question, name and contact information to:
Mail: 303 Watson St., Ripon WI 54971, P.O. Box 262, Ripon WI 54971