In October 2017, political rivals David Axelrod and Karl Rove met at Hamilton College as part of a new series called Common Ground. The series, which has also paired Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice, Mike Dubke ’92 and Marc Elias ’90, and Jim Messina and Reince Priebus, brings together speakers with vastly different viewpoints, each willing to model respectful dialogue.

Earlier this month, Hamilton President David Wippman announced that the College has received funding to supplement the series with a new pilot program called “Common Ground on the Ground.”

Because Hamilton Campaign

A key goal of the campaign is to expand opportunities for the College to bring together people from different backgrounds and with different ideas and perspectives.

Support Living & Learning Initiative

The idea, Wippman said, is to “stimulate discussion of pressing social issues across a wide range of subject areas, including economics, history, literature, the arts, philosophy, law, and politics.”

In a notice to the campus community, Wippman gave examples of ideas that might attract funding as part of the Common Ground on the Ground program:

  • A program that trains peer leaders to facilitate dialogue between students with different viewpoints
  • Hosting pairs of visiting jurists, diplomats, journalists, and others for mini-courses and workshops
  • Creating new student-led publications, podcasts, online broadcasts, or video content that present varying perspectives
  • Offering programs jointly sponsored by students who represent different religious traditions
  • Creating new or redesigned courses and seminars that encourage open dialogue about polarizing issues, with guest speakers, simulations, and paired readings

The president said proposals for the new program would be evaluated using the following criteria:

  • Potential to generate meaningful experiences with enduring impact
  • Relevance and significance of issues involved
  • Balance and inclusion of different viewpoints in the same forum
  • Number of students involved
  • Sustainability or scalability, with consideration for life beyond the pilot program

Hamilton is seeking to establish an endowment as part of the Because Hamilton campaign to fund Common Ground on the Ground in perpetuity.


Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search