communications, science, and authoritarianism: then and now

This seminar class explores the role communications and science play in societies trending toward authoritarianism, tribalism and insularity.

We compare global historical precedents and current events—in particular the Trump presidency and political polarization—with a focus on social justice realities for different populations, technology, and the immediate impacts of climate change. How do these factors affect personal and mass psychology? What are characteristics of past authoritarian regimes? How have they impacted science? To what extent does communications and politics impact science, and what are the societal consequences? We also track and analyze in real time the unfolding of the Trump presidency, and in a series of workshops, communicate directly with a range of people from different parts of the country to discuss and understand their identities, motivations, feelings and lives.

Instructors: Professor Aradhna Tripati and David Colgan, IoES director of communications. 


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For their final assignment, students write an op-ed on a subject of their own choosing, aimed at reaching audiences of various backgrounds and political ideologies. In line with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability’s focus on public science communications, we will publish some of them here.

Student op-eds

Winter 2017:

Losing childhood places in an age of regulatory rollback
The price of deportation
The future of Kentucky depends on Secretary Perry’s support for renewable energy 
Why we must understand the facts of climate change 
Donald Trump’s rocky relationships
Learning to listen: bridging gaps on a national level

Spring 2017: 

EPA proposed budget cut and its detrimental effects
Johnson and Trump
Protecting the EPA
We are certainly more divided than we think
Trump’s aversion to criticism
A vote for evil does not make an evil heart

Main image by Joe Brusky.