Students can learn how to practice dissent in new Liberal Arts course

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — From the women’s marches around the U.S. to anti-government protests in Iran, examples of democratic dissent are all around us. A one-credit course offered by the College of the Liberal Arts this spring will look to the history of dissent to determine how and why dissent is an important part of democratic participation in general.

“Democratic Dissent: From Protest to Policy” will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays starting March 14 and running through April 25, in 108 Wartik Laboratory. The one-credit course is available to any undergraduate student as LA 297, section 2.

Students will analyze material from the Voices of Democracy archive and develop a plan for practicing dissent. The course will also include guest lectures that encompass a variety of disciplines and viewpoints. Bradford Vivian, associate professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and director of the Center for Democratic Deliberation, will teach the course.

“The goal of the course is to explore various modes of dissent in society and consider how dissent can be productive to democratic society, as well as how it can be harmful if not done well,” Vivian said.

This course is one of two special-mission classes being offered this spring by the College of the Liberal Arts as part of the ongoing Liberal Arts Edge initiative to approach real-world news and events from multiple perspectives. Last semester’s Edge seminar, “Interrogating Prejudice,” covered racial bias after protests in Charlottesville.

“The purpose of a world-class, 21st-century liberal arts education is to give people the tools to think creatively, constructively and critically about the lives they are living now,” said Paul C. Taylor, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Students interested in registering for “Democratic Dissent: From Protest to Policy” should submit a statement of interest by Feb. 15 at

The Center for Democratic Deliberation is a center of excellence in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy.

Last Updated January 15, 2018