Fall 2014 SSF Events

The U.S. Constitution and the Battle Over Racial Equality Today

Rogers M. Smith, H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean for the Social Sciences and Chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Program on Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism

The author of seven books on citizenship and equality in the United States, including one that was a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History, Dr. Smith will address why America’s political leaders avoid discussing racial policies, even as many forms of racial inequality persist and deepen. Smith argues that the United States is profoundly divided between two rival conceptions of civic equality–but that common ground may be found in the bold views of the Constitution’s purposes advanced by Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Constitution and Citizenship Day Lecture, sponsored with the Department of Political Science; Department of Africana Studies; Department of American Studies; Department of Philosophy; School of Public Policy; Office of Student Life

The Unforeseen Anticompetitive and Racially Discriminatory Effects of Baseball’s North American Draft

Stephen F. Ross, Lewis H. Vovakis Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Professor of Law, and Director, Penn State Institute for Sports Law, Policy, and Research, Penn State University Dickinson School of Law

When Major League Baseball instituted its amateur draft in 1966, elite players honed their sills in widely available competitions organized by high schools and the American Legion.  Today, virtually all North American youth selected in the draft or offered major college scholarships must join private, elite, and expensive traveling teams to display their talent.  In contrast, MLB teams spend millions to train poor Latin American kids in academies, because these young men are not subject to the draft.  Professor Ross will propose modifications to create economic incentives for MLB teams to invest in domestic academies for youth unable to afford private teams.

Sponsored by the Department of Economics

Economic Freedom and the Wealth and Health of Nations

Robert A. Lawson, Jerome M. Fullinwider Endowed Centennial Chair in Economic Freedom, The O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom, Southern Methodist University

Dr. Lawson and his colleagues produce the annual Economic Freedom of the World Index.  Dr. Lawson will discuss the Index and how economic freedom impacts the wealth and health of countries worldwide.

Sponsored by the Department of Economics

W.E.B. Du Bois and the Challenge to Scientific Racism

View lecture online

Evelynn M. Hammonds, the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Director of the Program for the Study of Race & Gender in Science & Medicine at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University

A renowned researcher and author on the history of disease, on the analysis of race, gender and science, and on African-American women and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, Dr. Hammonds will discuss the ever evolving intersection of scientific, medical, anthropological, and socio-political concepts of race in the United States from the early nineteenth century to present day.

W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture, sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies; Office of the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Post-Election Forum

Join experienced political analysts and journalists for an engaging discussion of the 2014 Maryland Gubernatorial election – the campaigns, the candidates, the issues and, of course, the election outcomes.

Sponsored by the Maryland Institute for Policy, Analysis, and Research (MIPAR); Department of Public Policy

Will the Workplace of the Future Have Any Workers?

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David Autor, Professor of Economics, MIT

In this, Dr. David Autor talk offers a conceptual and empirical overview of the evolving relationship between computer capability and human skill demands. He begins by sketching historical thinking about machine displacement of human labor—which is primarily a series of grim and ultimately incorrect predictions about collapsing employment and excess leisure. Autor next considers the impact of computerization on industrialized country labor market over the last three decades, which is seen in the phenomenon of labor market “polarization” — meaning the simultaneous growth of high-education, high-wage and low-education, low-wages jobs. He will finally reflect on how recent advances in artificial intelligence and robotics may shape the trajectory of employment growth, occupational change and skill demands in coming decades.

A key observation of the talk is that journalists and expert commentators overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities that increase productivity, raise earnings, and augment demand for skilled labor. The challenges to substituting machines for workers in tasks requiring flexibility, judgment, and common sense remain immense, primarily because humans apply tacit skills and knowledge that have proved extraordinarily difficult to codify. Contemporary computer science seeks to overcome this challenge by building machines that learn from human examples, thus inferring the rules that we tacitly apply but do not explicitly understand.

Mullen Lecture, sponsored by the Department of Economics