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Program for Public Discourse


Upcoming Events

Abbey Speaker Series: Are Election Security and Voter Access Compatible?

On September 18th from 5:30pm-7:30pm in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union Auditorium, the Abbey Speaker Series returns with “Are Election Security and Voter Access Compatible?” Six weeks before Americans head to the polls to choose their president, UNC political science professor Jason Roberts will moderate a conversation between Derek Bowens (Durham County Board of Elections), John Fortier (American Enterprise Institute), and Sophia Lakin (American Civil Liberties Union).

The event is co-sponsored by Carolina Alumni.

Students who attend in-person can get CLE credit. No tickets are necessary. Seating is first-come-first serve, but we will reserve tickets for guests who are coming from outside Chapel Hill and who are not currently working for or attending the university. Please email for reserved seats.

Pizza in the lobby afterward!

Derek Bowens joined the Durham County Board of Elections in June of 2017 as the Director of Elections. Previously, Bowens was the Director of Elections in New Hanover County, North Carolina and has served as an election administrator since 2012. He has been nationally recognized by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the National Association of Counties (NaCo), and CompTIA for innovation in election administration. He also sits on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Election Officials and is a member of the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections (CSSE), the Bi-Partisan Policy Center’s Election Workforce Advisory Council, the Union for Concerned Scientists Election Science Taskforce, and the Partnership for Large Election Jurisdictions (PLEJ).
John C. Fortier is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on Congress and elections, election administration, election demographics, voting (and absentee voting), the US presidency, and the Electoral College. Before rejoining AEI, Fortier was director of governmental studies at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the principal contributor to the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project. He is the author and editor of After the People Vote: A Guide to the Electoral College (AEI Press, 2004; fourth edition, 2020), Second-Term Blues: How George W. Bush Has Governed (Brookings Institution Press, 2007), and Absentee and Early Voting: Trends, Promises, and Perils (AEI Press, 2006). A prolific writer, Fortier has been published in scholarly journals and the popular press, including Politico and The Hill.
Sophia Lin Lakin is the director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Voting Rights Project, where she directs and supervises the ACLU’s voting rights litigation strategy nationwide. Lakin has an active docket protecting voting rights and combatting voter suppression and discriminatory redistricting plans across the country and has led or worked on successful challenges to discriminatory voting laws in multiple states including North Carolina. She has testified on election law issues before Congress numerous times and has written opinion pieces for The Hill and The Boston Globe. Before joining the ACLU, Sophia clerked for the Honorable Raymond J. Lohier, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Honorable Carol Bagley Amon of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Jason M. Roberts (moderator) is a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the co-author of The Politics of Ballot Design (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform (University of Michigan Press, 2013), and various editions of The American Congress (Rowman and Littlefield). His research has appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and other outlets. He has served as a member of the Orange County, NC Board of Elections since 2019.
Date: September 19, 2024
Times: 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
Audience: Public Event
Venue: Frank Porter Graham Student Union Auditorium

Abbey Speaker Series: Is Liberal Democracy in Danger? 

Join us on October 1st in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union Auditorium from 5:30-7:00 pm for a conversation between Richard Ebeling and Michael Meeropol about threats to liberal democracy, both past and present. The event is co-sponsored by the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program and Carolina Alumni.

Pizza in the lobby afterward!

Students who attend in-person can get CLE credit. No tickets are necessary. Seating is first-come-first serve, but we will reserve tickets for guests coming from outside Chapel Hill. Please email for reserved seats.

Richard M. Ebeling is professor of economics at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He is recognized as one of the leading members of the Austrian School of Economics and is the author of numerous books, including “For a New Liberalism” (American Institute for Economic Research, 2019) and “Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian Tradition” (Routledge, 2010). Professor Ebeling has also served as president of the Foundation for Economic Education (2003-2008) and the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics (2020). 
Michael Meeropol is professor emeritus of economics at Western New England University, Springfield Massachusetts, where he also served as department chair. He is the son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the only American couple ever executed by the United States for conspiracy to commit espionage. His publications include “Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution” (University of Michigan Press, 2017) and “We Are Your Sons, the Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg Boston” (Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1975), co-authored with Robert Meeropol. 
Graeme B. Roberston (moderator) is professor of political science and director of the UNC Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies. His research and teaching focus on authoritarianism, and he is especially interested in how authoritarians manage and seek to influence both supporters and opposition. Roberston currently serves as associate editor of comparative politics for the American Journal of Political Science. Along with Samuel A. Greene, he is the author of Putin v. the People: The Perilous Politics of a Divided Russia (Yale University, 2019).
Date: October 1, 2024
Times: 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
Audience: Public Event
Venue: Frank Porter Graham Student Union Auditorium

Student Fellows

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The Agora Fellows program provides undergraduate students a space to experiment with public discourse in a collaborative environment of their peers.

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We invite all faculty to schedule faculty consultations or participate in our seminars and workshops.



We seek to offer the broader UNC community and general public perspectives on important issues that they may not otherwise get on campus.