Trustees | Western Civilization

3 Hamilton Professors Revive Planned Center for Western Civilization, in a New Form

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION   |  September 18, 2007 by Mary Andom

A scholarly center focusing on Western civilization that was rejected by Hamilton College last year is coming to Clinton, N.Y., after all, but it won’t be part of the college.

The college announced plans to create such a center a year ago, but it withdrew them months later, citing “a lack of consensus about institutional oversight” (The Chronicle, December 1, 2006).

On Monday, the center’s founders, three Hamilton professors, announced the project would be reborn “as an independent entity unaffiliated with Hamilton College.” The new center, called the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, will be housed a short distance from the campus and will operate with support from Hamilton faculty members, other academics, and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

The institute will “promote excellence in scholarship through the study of freedom, democracy, and capitalism as these ideas were developed and institutionalized in the United States and within the larger tradition of Western culture,” its founders said in the organization’s charter.

The governance issues that halted plans for a campus-based center last year focused on how independent the institute would be. A group of faculty members had expressed concerns about the center in a resolution presented to the dean of faculty. Some observers saw the differences as rooted in the culture wars between liberals and conservatives.

Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said she believed the issues of governance could have been resolved.

“I’m glad the center found a new home,” she said.

A former trustee of the college, Carl Menges, resigned from the college’s board to join the institute as a director. Last year he had pledged $3.6-million to the college to support the center that never materialized there.

The institute’s founders are Robert L. Paquette, a professor of history at Hamilton; James Bradfield, a professor of economics; and Douglas Ambrose, an associate professor of history.

J. Hunter Brown, an alumnus who will also serve as a director of the new organization, said the concept of the institute was evolutionary.

“I found it noteworthy that to obtain academic freedom, the founders had to look outside of the academy,” he said.


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