Wintersession 2019

Rights, Tolerance, and Social Change

January 21-24, 2019, 8.30 AM - 3.30 PM, Founders 120

Wintersession 2019 focused on human rights, toleration, civil liberties, and social movements, and it featured prominent lecturers from Wellesley College and other academic institutions. 



9:30 AM: "International Human Rights: Discrimination Against Women in Iran," by Dr. Delaram Farzaneh, UC Davis Law School

This course introduces fundamental international human rights laws and principles. It will begin with historical origins of the human rights regime, and will continue to look at the political organs such as the Security Council and the Human Rights Council. State’s legal responsibilities under international law to promote and protect human rights will be introduced. To put things in perspective, critical human rights issues in Iran will be discussed in great details as they relate to Iran’s legal obligations under international law.

1:00 PM: "Race, Place, and Regulation," by Dr. Joshua McCabe, Endicott College

McCabe explores how seemingly benign housing regulations and tax policies work to perpetuate American racial inequality. In doing so, he makes the case for a new agenda for racial equality focused on deregulation and ending housing subsidies.



9:30 AM: "Freedom of Expression and the Liberalism of Fear: A Defense of the Darker Mill," by Dr. J.P. Messina, Wellesley College

Although many recent free speech skeptics claim Millian credentials, they neglect the more pessimistic elements of Mill's account of human nature. Once we recover the darker elements of Mill's thought, laissez-faire in the domain of expression looks significantly more attractive. Indeed, this talk argues that, if Mill is correct about human nature, we have good reason to oppose recent proposed restrictions on speech and expression, and to tolerate much speech that is false, misleading, obscene, demeaning, and even hateful. While philosophers are right to worry about the substantial moral costs of tolerating such speech, we ought to attempt to address the costs by means other than regulation. Discussion will focus on the best criticisms of this position, and what types of responses might be available. 

1:00 PM: "When Toleration becomes a Vice: Thoughts from Aristotle," by Dr. Richard Avramenko, University of Wisconsin-Madison

As a chief virtue of contemporary liberalism, toleration equips citizens to reconcile ethical disagreements appropriately in pluralistic societies. In recent scholarship and practice, however, toleration has undergone significant transformation. The tolerant citizen, we are told, avoids causing the discomfort or pain associated with uncomfortable conversations, criticism, or even difference of opinion. Regrettably, this understanding of toleration hinders rather than facilitates dialogue and conflates pain or discomfort with cruelty. To offer a more viable theoretical grounding for toleration, I turn to Aristotle’s who understands well, how toleration, taken too far, becomes a vice.



9:30 AM“The Deep State—or Double Government?” by Dr. Michael Glennon, Tufts University

The United States has had no experience with a "deep state." In the realm of national security, however, the nation has experienced what the English constitutional scholar called "double government" - - a phenomenon that has largely disappeared with the public rift between President Trump and the national security bureaucracy.

1:00 PM: "Why religion, why now?" by Dr. Monica Duffy Toft, Tufts University

There is a global resurgence of religion. This talk explains why it happened and why it happened when it did, highlighting several trends related to religion, politics, conflict and violence.



9:30 AM: "How Law Does and Does Not Change Society," by Dr. Tom Burke, Wellesley College

From civil rights to gun control to sexual harassment, activists regularly turn to the courts to try to create social change.  But is this turn to courts and law an effective strategy?  The political scientist Gerald Rosenberg argued in a prominent book that in many circumstances court-based social change was a "Hollow Hope."  Neo-institutionalist sociologists such as Lauren Edelman have demonstrated how organizations targeted by social change laws can create symbolic responses that fail to achieve the laws' underlying goals.  These lines of research and commentary may have affected some of the political choices of President Barack Obama, who has been skeptical of court-led social change.  Yet both the left and right continue to try to use the courts to achieve their ends.  In this session we will consider both the power and limits of courts and law in promoting social change.  

1:00 PM: "Social Movements and Freedom: What's the Connection?" by Dr. Fabio Rojas, Indiana University

Often, people assume that protest and resistance lead to freedom. But that is not always the case. Some movements might increase freedom, while others decrease. In this talk, we’ll talk about protest and resistance and the characteristics of movements that facilitate individual liberty.


All sessions and meals will take place in FND 120. Breakfast will be served at 8.30, and lunch will be served at 12.00.

If you have any questions, you should email or Luke Sheahan (

Funding for this project was provided by the Institute for Humane Studies.