USC creates political center to encourage dialogue among students

GOP strategist Michael Murphy and Democratic political strategist Robert Shrum will lead the Center for the Political Future.(Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

With the rising political tension and the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences announced its new Center for the Political Future on Tuesday.

Led by Robert Shrum, and Democratic political strategist and the director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, and veteran GOP strategist Michael Murphy, the Center will feature research projects, endowed chairs and fellowships and public policy polling to educate students on civic participation.

According to Shrum, Unruh is an institute that encourages students to become politically involved by introducing them to political science studies with field experience. Both Unruh and USC Dornsife/The Los Angeles Times polls, which monitors popular topics amongst voters and how they view certain political figures, will be under the Center.

Murphy said the purpose of the Center is to advance a dialogue based on mutual respect for each other and the facts.

“We want to make the Center a place where we work on how to change the incentives to bring civility back to politics,” Murphy said. “We’re not expecting people to agree, but to argue in a way that respects the facts where we break this new political law of gravity.”

According to USC News, the college hopes to serve as a new model to create political discussion and analysis for the future. The center aspires to advance dialogue among partisan divisions, and to seek solutions for challenges the nation is facing.

The center will host major conferences and workshops every year where professionals and scholars can discuss rising concerns to the public in a nonpartisan manner. With this program, students will understand the reasoning behind political divisions, work to create solutions and to approach policies in various ways. Some issues that may be featured include immigration, ideological radicalization and electoral reform.

For this academic year, the Center is organizing the Law-Warschaw Practical Politics Conference after the midterm election, and will host a joint conference with USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on the practical politics of climate change.

To have students engage with political leaders, the center will feature a resident fellows program to introduce prominent figures to the campus each semester. This semester,  Dan Schwerin, former director of speechwriting for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, and Gentry Collins, former national political director of the Republican National Committee, will be invited to campus. Symone Sanders, former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, will be invited in Spring 2019.

According to Shrum, the resident fellows will teach courses at USC. For this semester, Schwerin will lead a speechwriting course and Collins will teach on the future of the Republican Party.

In addition to the new resources for students, the center will offer different types of research, such as a project on disruptive new technologies in relation to politics.

“I hope the center does two things: enriches the education and life of students, engages them politically and encourages their interest in not just politics, but being involved in the public square,” Shrum said. “I hope that the University can have an impact on the world beyond its gates. To have that impact means to bring that world to the University and to bring the University to that world.”