Harrison Hall in winter

Janus Lecture

Spring 2017 JANUS Forum: “Can Both Black and Blue Lives Matter?”
Thursday, April 27, 2017; written by Madeline Zick

Reflecting on this past spring’s JANUS Forum, I would say it was one of our most successful forums. Of course, that depends on how you define the word ‘success.’ This time around, I would say that in anticipating what obstacles we might face and bouncing back when things didn’t go as they should, the members of the JANUS Executive Board and Steering Committee, along with the help of Advisor Dr. Haney and Political Science Program Coordinator Ruben Garza, succeeded.

The first obstacle was when one of our original speakers for the lecture was unable to make it last-minute. So for the first time, our Forum was postponed to take place after spring break, on a Thursday evening. (If you’re at all familiar with event planning on campus, a university-sponsored event on a Thursday isn’t always well-attended.) Nevertheless, we thought we could swing it, and despite the event taking place on the second-to-last week of class and a change of venue—in moving to Taylor Auditorium in FSB instead of Wilks—we made it work.

To speak on the forum’s topic, “Can Both Black and Blue Lives Matter?”, we brought in former Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley and Heather MacDonald, the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. MacDonald over her career has covered a variety of topics, including higher education, immigration, policing, homelessness and homeless advocacy, criminal-justice reform, and race relations. Her newest book, The War on Cops (2016), warned that raced-based attacks on the criminal-justice system, from the White House on down, are eroding the authority of law and putting lives at risk. Meanwhile, O’Malley served as Governor of Maryland from 2007 to 2015. Previously having also served as a prosecutor, he also served as city council member and mayor of Baltimore, where his public service for the city spanned 15+ years.

The Forum also ended up being one of the most engaging we’ve had at Miami. O’Malley and MacDonald verbally spared over topics including preventative policing, the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and criminal justice reform. Though there was the occasional discontented murmur from the audience, the discussion playing out in the room remained civil.

And with the controversy surrounding Ann Coulter’s speech at Berkley leading up to the same day as our Forum, along with MacDonald’s recent experience at Claremont McKenna (protesters had blocked her speech venue and so she had to do a livestream into the venue), we achieved what many universities have struggled to accomplish of late: free and honest debate on the issues.

I’ve been told before that there’s a certain Midwestern quality to sitting down, hearing both sides of an argument, and coming to one’s own conclusions. I couldn’t agree more. That said, there are also people who come into our Forums having read up on the issues and developed their views—that’s fine too. These people usually find a voice in the speakers we bring. This time, following the event several students posed for individual pictures with O’Malley, while a local police officer got his copy of MacDonald’s book signed. These instances give me hope in that in the current political climate there is still such a thing as civic duty and that there is merit in understanding why someone believes as they do. For without civic duty and understanding, how would we solve our nation’s challenges? I am proud that we have a place for such discussions at Miami and am looking forward to our next Forum this fall.

Visit the Janus Forum website for information about upcoming Forums.