Cato on Campus

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Roger Pilon, director of Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies, was scheduled to speak at the City University of New York School of Law last November about the state of the Constitution and the implications of the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito. The night before the event, however, he received an e-mail from the organizer, the president of the school's Federalist Society chapter, warning him that CUNY's "progressive community" was planning a vocal boycott of the event. In a letter to CUNY law students, a group of activists wrote, "We believe that the benefits of boycotting this event would far outweigh any benefit from an 'open debate.'" They predicted that only a handful of students would attend the event. In fact, Pilon arrived to find a crowded room full of law students eager to hear his thoughts, after which he took questions from opponents and supporters alike on a variety of constitutional issues.

America's college campuses are a hotbed of political activity, and reaching out to students has long been an important way of building support for the philosophy of liberty among the next generation. Scholars at the Cato Institute are frequently invited to address university students in the United States and around the world. They give lectures, answer questions, and debate liberal and conservative opponents on a variety of topics, giving students a new perspective on issues of politics, law, and philosophy.

Cato senior fellow Tom G. Palmer has traveled across the country to speak to college students about globalization and international trade, the welfare state, and property rights. In a speech titled "Globalization Is Grrreat!" Palmer addresses the common misapprehensions that many college students have about free trade with poor countries. Students often enter his lectures believing that globalization is exploitative, but using examples from his world travels, Palmer shows how international trade actually helps raise wages, reduce child labor, and open political debate in developing countries. Palmer has addressed large crowds at Yale University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina, among others.

Roger Pilon, Robert Levy, and Mark Moller of the Center for Constitutional Studies spoke last year at many of the nation's top law schools, including those of Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Topics ranged from the PATRIOT Act to Commerce Clause jurisprudence to proposed state and local smoking bans.

Cato executive vice president David Boaz spoke about libertarianism at Cornell University, Colgate University, and Hampden-Sydney College, and policy analyst Radley Balko discussed libertarian ideas at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2006 edition of Cato Policy Repor