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Lecture series exploring inequality begins Feb. 8

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Melissa Osgood

How deep does inequality in America run? Can – or should – anything be done about it?

These critical questions form the backdrop of a semesterlong, in-depth series of lectures on the topic of inequality, hosted by the College of Art and Sciences’ Program on Ethics and Public Life (EPL). The series, which begins Feb. 8, will include prominent visiting speakers, seminars and public conversations about social, political and economic inequalities.

Schedule of inequality lectures
Feb. 8: Benjamin Page (Northwestern): Political Inequality
Feb. 22: Miles Corak (Ottawa): Unequal Economic Opportunity
Feb. 29: David Grusky (Stanford): Limits to Competition and the Growth of Inequality.
March 14: Prudence Carter (Stanford): Racial Inequality
April 11: Cecilia Rouse (Princeton): Educational Inequality
April 25: Karl Alexander (Johns Hopkins): Interaction of Family, School, and Society in Shaping Inequality

Each speaker will give a Monday afternoon public lecture at 4:30 p.m. in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall, followed by a question-and-answer period. They will also lead a workshop for faculty and graduate students along with students taking a concurrent weekly seminar. Visitors will also get together informally with Cornell faculty and students working on their topics.

The lectures will address such topics as unequal political influence, unequal opportunity, the concentration of income and wealth at the top, the persistence of stark racial inequalities, inequalities in education, and what sustains poverty.

“The study of inequality is one of the college’s central priorities,” says Scott MacDonald, senior associate dean for arts and humanities and the Norma K. Regan Professor in Christian Studies. “While we have many social scientists working on the subject, this EPL series is a good example of how the humanities can provide context and depth for broader conversations.”

EPL, a program of the Sage School of Philosophy, promotes interdisciplinary learning about moral questions concerning public policies, and social, political and economic processes.

“Like all of our past series, this will be a powerful source of mutual learning among many disciplines and will enrich discussion of deep concerns that are shared throughout Cornell,” says Richard Miller, EPL director and the Wyn and William Y. Hutchinson Professor in Philosophy. He cites the 2013 series “After the American Century: Fears and Hopes for America’s Future,” in which more than 50 faculty and more than 40 graduate students from 10 Cornell departments took part in workshops and get-togethers, while hundreds of people from Cornell attended public lectures.

In an additional initiative this year, Miller is planning discussions of the lectures based in West Campus residence halls. “My hope is that undergraduates with diverse political perspectives will exchange and inform their views of inequalities, partly in response to the six lectures,” he says.

The series is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Inequality, Institute for the Social Sciences and University Lectures Committee.

All lectures are on Mondays, 4:30-6 p.m. in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall.

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