After establishing its presence on Yale’s campus, the three-year-old William F. Buckley, Jr. Program is now looking to expand.
The program was the brainchild of Lauren Noble ’11, who envisioned the program after taking a residential college seminar on William F. Buckley, Jr. and the rise of modern conservatism in 2010. According to Sterling Professor of Classics Donald Kagan, who sits on the program’s Board of Directors, the program emerged from concerns among students that politically conservative perspectives were insufficiently represented among Yale’s faculty and on campus as a whole.
“The mission of the program from the beginning, and we stand true to this now, is to promote intellectual diversity on campus, so we try to bring a variety of viewpoints to Yale, and we try to foster honest and serious debate,” Noble said.
According to Vice President Mark DiPlacido ’15, one way the program tries to promote intellectual diversity is by bringing in speakers with unusual points of view that might not be “within what is politically correct.” DiPlacido pointed to Harvey Mansfield’s talk last year about “the importance of manliness,” which DiPlacido said broadened the scope of what students on campus were willing to discuss. In that same vein, this year the program plans to sponsor a talk by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born victim of genital mutilation who has faced public criticism for her condemnation of certain Muslim practices. DiPlacido said the program decided to bring in Ali to speak because her story represents a diverse opinion.
The Buckley Program has also sought physical expansion at Yale with its purchase of Taft Mansion last year to provide a physical space on campus for the organization’s home base.
The program will host eight speakers this semester, according to Carolyn Hansen ’16, who serves as speakers director.
One of the program’s newest features is its blog, The Beacon, which was started this summer.
“The idea is just to add another channel to fill our purpose of articulating underrepresented views,” said Zach Young ’17, a co-editor of The Beacon.
In addition, the program plans to beef up its new community service initiative, the Priscilla Buckley project. Though the project has sponsored a few outings already, such as trips to soup kitchens, the program’s leadership plans to host more community service trips in the future, according to Rich Lizardo ’15, Buckley Program president.
Last year, the program also began a series of “firing line” debates with an inaugural debate between Yale Law School professor Akhil Amar and conservative politician Newt Gingrich. Lizardo said the program’s leadership has more of these types of debates lined up for this year.
But though the program intends to strengthen its presence at Yale, it does not plan to initiate chapters at other universities.
“So much of the Buckley Program is tied to Yale. For the foreseeable future, this is going to be a Yale program,” Lizardo said.
Students who are not involved in the program have mixed feelings about its presence on campus — especially its conservative bent.
Helen Price ’18 said that although she appreciates the effort the program makes to promote intellectual diversity, in practice such an effort can be problematic.
“When you invite very conservative speakers here who perhaps have controversial views on Islam or homosexuality, you essentially make Yale a very uncomfortable place for a large percentage of the people here on campus, and everyone should feel at home at college,” Price said.
On the other hand, Drake Goodson ’17 said he sees no harm in the program bringing controversial speakers to campus, adding that without controversy and disagreement on campus, there is no room for quality discussion.
This past summer, the Buckley Program took on its first research fellow, historian Alvin Felzenberg, who will receive support from the program until he finishes his new biography on Buckley’s life.