Engaging with Current Students:
SAO Conference at Amherst April 17 - 18, 2015
Join the Amherst Family of Students, Faculty and Alumni to consider actions to improve our Democracy.
Working Program Agenda
SAO Conference – Restore Our Democracy
April 17 – 18, 2015
By the end of the conference, participants will have taken steps toward agreement on -
Friday, April 17
3:30 PM Registration opens
4:30 Welcome & discussion of conference program, SAO mission and plans, and conference
5:00–7:00 Jeffersonian Dinner Format: Table discussions of a) what is your definition of democracy,
and b) do we have a democracy? - Issues with our politics and economics that concern
you and your vision for a brighter future.
7:30 Address by Hedrick Smith open to the Amherst and Five College Community. Topic:
The Interrelationship of Our Political and Economic Problems and How Did We Get
9:15 Social hour
10:15 Adjourn for the evening
Saturday, April 18
8:30 AM Breakfast at Valentine.
9:15 Conference convenes – Plan for the Day.
9:30 Film clips addressing structural changes that can fix our politics and make our economic
system fairer, including non-partisan redistricting processes, increased voter
participation, public campaign financing, repeal of sore loser laws, open or more
competitive primary processes, re-work of Congressional rules to reduce "party line"
9:45 Panel discussion: Priorities for structural changes that would improve our political and
economic systems: Hedrick Smith, Professor Jonathan Obert, Neil Bicknell ’64 and Abe
Kanter ’15; moderator TBD, followed by Q&A and group discussion.
10:25 Ten-minute break
10:35 Breakout Sessions on Structural Changes (moderators TBD):
- Do you agree with procedural changes discussed?
- Are there other changes important but not discussed?
- How should the proposed changes be prioritized?
11:05 Breakout Sessions on Policy Issue Advocacy (moderators TBD)
- Will advocating for an increased gas tax help build political consensus?
- What is the potential for an e-voting system to increase turnout?
- Shall we support passage of the Voting Rights Act as a change priority?
- Other policy issues as the group may decide.
11:35 Plenary discussion of priorities for change – reports from breakout groups.
12:00 Lunch at Valentine
12:45 Presentation by Steven Olikara, Founder and President of the Millennial Action Project,
on The Role of Millennials in Achieving Political Change.
1:15 Panel discussion followed by Q&A: How to Engage Beyond Elections – Lessons from
the 60’s and the What Millennials Can Do: Steven Olikara, Pierre Joseph ‘15, Mitch
Meisner ’64 and Smokey Stover ‘64, moderator Kim Hetsko ‘64.
2:00 Concurrent Breakout Sessions: Moving the SAO Forward, including action programs to
promote changes discussed in the morning sessions:
1. Generating op-eds for newspapers and social media distribution;
2. Developing and promoting questions to ask 2016 candidates for office;
3. Extending SAO’s reach to students and alumni on other campuses;
4. Developing an education initiative to promote civic engagement
5. Creating a program to open democracy issue dialogues between U.S. students and
students at foreign universities. (Other initiatives as the group may decide.)
3:10 Ten-minute break.
3:20 Plenary session: Report back from breakout groups on moving the SAO forward, next
steps for the SAO and evaluation and discussion of lessons learned and suggested
improvements for future SAO programs.
4:00 Closing Comments, Speaker TBD
4:20 Conference adjourns followed by a social hour.
The Jeffersonian Dinner
Thomas Jefferson would invite men and women steeped in politics, literature, the arts, the sciences, theology, history, mores, and manners—to spend a stimulating evening around his dinner table. This was a prime source of education both for Mr. Jefferson and for the guests, all of whom were engaged citizens, eager to share and debate ideas that would shape the nation.