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Swarthmore Discussion Group

Spring blossoms on campus

Department Overview

A Special Message from the Board of the Swarthmore Discussion Group

The Swarthmore Discussion Group board considers the health of its members to be its highest priority. Therefore, our Spring 2021 Series — January, February, March, and April—  will be held remotely using Zoom. A decision about whether the Fall 2021 Series will be remote or in-person will be made later this year.  Until we can safely gather together again at the Inn, we hope you'll join us for a memorable online experience.

Learn more about Swarthmore College's response to COVID-19.


The Swarthmore Discussion Group (SDG) offers members the opportunity to hear knowledgeable speakers and engage in lively conversation with local community members as well as Swarthmore College staff, faculty, and alumni.

Our speakers are distinguished scholars, community leaders, and experts in their field. Following their presentations on topics including politics, foreign affairs, economics, cultural, and social issues they welcome the questions, discussion, and debate engaged in by members.

We hope you’ll join our Spring 2021 series of four monthly presentations on Wednesday evenings. We will meet online using Zoom. The membership fee includes a food item — alternating dessert and appetizer — from the Inn at Swarthmore, available for pick-up between 4:30–5:30 p.m.  the day of the presentation. No refunds are available.

Spring 2021 Swarthmore Discussion Group Series

Jan. 20  "The Policy, Politics, and Prevention of the Overdose Crisis: Rethinking Responses to the Epidemic "

 "The Policy, Politics, and Prevention of the Overdose Crisis: Rethinking Responses to the Epidemic"

Lindsey Richardson, medical sociologist and associate professor of sociology, University of British Columbia ​​​​​​

The unprecedented public health emergency of the conjoined opioid and overdose epidemics calls for innovative, collaborative, and multifaceted responses. We have yet to produce a plan that effectively matches the scale and scope of the crisis. Richardson will discuss key dynamics of the crisis and draw on core innovations emerging from Vancouver, Canada, and the United States. A research scientist at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, Richardson studies the links between poverty, drug use, and health. She has worked for 20 years to build evidence-based change that addresses the catastrophic individual, social, economic, and community costs of drug -related harm.

Feb. 24 “Accountability for War Crimes: Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future”

“Accountability for War Crimes: Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future”

Sofia Candeis, U.N. Team of Experts on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Candeias will discuss the promotion of accountability for serious crimes committed during wartime. With a special focus on crimes committed against women, Candeias will examine the normative and institutional progress made during the 1990s and reflect on how the lack of response to recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria may present a major setback for the pursuit of international criminal justice. Candeias works with the U.N. Department of Peace Operations, where she covers the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,  Iraq, Mali, and Nigeria.

March 24 “The Role of Ambivalence in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election”

“The Role of Ambivalence in the 2020 U.S.  Presidential Election ”

Catherine Norris, associate professor of psychology, Swarthmore College
John Blanchar, assistant professor of psychology, Swarthmore College

Feeling both good and bad (i.e. ambivalent) about a political candidate may influence voting behavior. Because ambivalence fails to provide behavioral guidance, it may result in lower voter turnout or otherwise affect conviction or emotional responses to a particular outcome. Norris and Blanchar will discuss an Internet-based study they conducted to examine ambivalent and mixed feelings in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and how they affected intended and actual voting, and predicted and actual feelings, about the election outcome. 

April 21 “The Illusion of Separation: Finding Hope in a Time of Climate Crisis”

“The Illusion of Separation: Finding Hope in a Time of Climate Crisis ”

Eileen Flanagan, Quaker author, speaker, and activist

Over the past five years, Flanagan has traveled widely, interviewing people on the front lines of environmental racism and climate catastrophe, while training several hundred activists working on these issues. She will share engaging stories from her travels as well as what gives her hope at a time When faith in our political institutions is failing. A graduate of Duke and Yale, Flanagan is the award-winning author of three books and scores of articles. Her forthcoming book "The illusion of Separation" shows how climate change, while daunting, offers opportunities to address some of the deepest divides in our society. A Philadelphia Quaker, she served for five years as board chair of Earth Quaker Action Team. Today, she helps people make their activism more effective and spiritually grounded.

When and Where

SDG's Spring 2021 Series convenes on the second or third Wednesday of each month from January through April. While we have previously gathered at the Inn at Swarthmore, due to COVID-19 we will hold our Spring 2021 Series remotely using Zoom. Please make sure that you use your current email address when registering, as that is the email address you will use to attend the meeting. You will receive an email with the link to participate in the Zoom meeting one week prior to the meeting.


6:30–7 p.m. Table talk via Zoom
7 p.m  Presentation begins
7–8:15 p.m. Presentation and Q & A

Location, Cost, and Registration

The Spring 2021 Series will be held online using Zoom. The fee for the series of four presentations is $80 per person. Registration opens Dec. 4, 2020. Maximum 100 participants. Registration closes Jan.  12, 2021. To register, click on "Membership and Registration" in the sidebar at left.


Contact Marty Roelandt at