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 http://www.jhu.edu/mse. All lectures will take place on the Homewood campus.