The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 13, 1999
September 13, 1999
VOL. 29, NO. 3


1999 MSE Symposium Opens This Week

Topic of student-run series is 'Redefining the Role of the Media'

By Leslie Rice

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

This theme of this year's Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium is "Redefining the Role of the Media," designed to generate a thoughtful and provocative discussion on the role of the media in American society. Director Oliver Stone, MTV's Loveline host Drew Pinsky and law professor Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, are among the speakers scheduled for the 1999 series, which opens Sept. 17 and continues through November.

Established in 1968 to honor the university's eighth president, the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium is a student-run lecture series, free and open to the public, that annually brings to the Homewood campus experts with a variety of perspectives on an issue of national importance.

Few people are immune to the media's influence, whether that influence is exerted through television, radio, print media or the Internet, this year's organizers say. The demise of political parties as distinct entities, the waning importance of the nuclear family and the rise of the Internet as a cheap and accessible form of communication all have enhanced the media's role in society.

Symposium directors Feras Mousilli, a senior, and Sehla Ashai, a junior, say the task of this year's symposium is to challenge participants to examine one of the most powerful influences in American society. How can the media, facing overwhelming growth, diversification and specialization in the industry, maintain standards of ethics in the face of corporate demands for financial success? How will American society handle the metamorphosis of media from a passive reflection of society to a political, social and cultural machine? To what extent will Americans use the media to fulfill their needs of expression and communication?

As in the past, the symposium is expected to draw 20,000 audience members. The two student chairs, selected by the undergraduate Student Council, are responsible for selecting the topics, securing all speakers, raising necessary funds and publicizing the series. The chairs receive some funding from Student Council but are responsible for raising the balance from corporations and foundations.

Covering topics like the nuclear arms race, human sexuality, freedom of the press and foreign policy and race, the Eisenhower Symposium has drawn speakers like James Carville, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Reed, Kurt Vonnegut, Carl Bernstein, Eugene McCarthy, Pat Robinson and Isaac Asimov.

Four events have already been scheduled for the 1999 series; organizers expect to announce additional speakers over the next few weeks. Future events will be included in The Gazette and posted on the MSE Symposium Web site at All lectures will take place on the Homewood campus.

Event Schedule

Drew Pinsky, co-host of Loveline, the popular show on both radio and MTV, leads off the series on Friday, Sept.17, at 7 p.m. in Shriver Hall Auditorium. A board-certified internist and addiction specialist, Pinsky began hosting Loveline 15 years ago. Mixing humor and professional expertise, he and co-host Adam Carolla answer questions from loyal young viewers and listeners on topics like teen pregnancy, sexual dysfunction, depression and alcohol and drug abuse.

Nadine Strossen and Jack Thompson will appear on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m. in Shriver Hall Auditorium. Strossen is a professor of law at New York Law School and was elected president of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1991. She has written, lectured and practiced extensively in the areas of constitutional law, civil liberties and international human rights. She is a frequent commentator on legal issues in the national media, and her writings have appeared in more than 100 publications.
   Thompson, an advocate for more responsible American entertainment, has been a medical malpractice attorney in Florida since 1977. He is credited with securing the first decency fines ever levied by the Federal Communications Commission, in a case against three "shock" radio stations. Thompson has been a guest on Nightline, Good Morning America, Oprah and many other shows.

Oliver Stone, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, is scheduled to take to the stage of Shriver Hall Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29. Stone's credits include Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Platoon, Natural Born Killers and Wall Street.

Phoebe Eng, author of Warrior Lessons: An Asian American Woman's Journey into Power, will speak at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 18 (room to be announced). Eng is also the co-founding publisher of A. Magazine, a national consumer publication targeted to the Asian population in the United States. She is a frequent media critic on issues like Asian identity and how the media shapes identity and diversity.