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UF Hamilton Center director seeks to promote open debate, intellectual diversity

He hopes for ‘diverse array of viewpoints’ and ‘respectful civil discourse both in and out of the classroom’

University of Florida’s new Western Civilization center will encourage open debate and educate students on the values of a free society, according to the new director.

“We hope to develop several multidisciplinary programs of study for UF undergraduates that combine the best insights of humanities, social sciences, and policy fields, all centered around the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive professionally and sustain a free society,” Professor William Inboden told The College Fix via email on Aug. 13.

“We also hope to contribute a diverse array of viewpoints to the campus dialogue, and promote respectful civil discourse both in and out of the classroom,” Inboden (pictured) said.

The founding director of the center, John Stinneford, has resigned as director after one year and will return to university’s law school. He will retain the role of senior fellow of the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education.

The new director of the Hamilton Center is a historian who recently wrote a book about President Ronald Reagan and the Cold War.

He has a background in “the American presidency, the Cold War, grand strategy, history and statecraft, and religion and international affairs,” according to a university news release.

He comes from the University of Texas-Austin where he served as the executive director of the Clements Center for National Security.

“I hope that the Hamilton Center will be able to increase the courses and professional development options available to the campus community, and especially that it can provide meaningful opportunities for large numbers of UF students,” Inboden told The Fix.

Students can take courses on St. Augustine’s “Confessions” or Plato’s “Republic” this fall, according to the class catalog. Other courses will focus on authors including David Hume and Aristotle.

Inboden plans to co-teach an undergrad course with UF President Ben Sasse next spring. Sasse formerly served as a United States senator from Nebraska.

MORE: Here’s how to obtain an education in the classics

His boss “is a national leader whom I’m confident will further grow UF’s excellence and international standing, and I’m excited to work for him,” Inboden told The Fix. “I am deeply committed to the legislative mandate for the Hamilton Center ‘to support teaching and research concerning the ideas, traditions, and texts that form the foundations of Western and American civilization.’”

President Sasse called Inboden an “outstanding scholar and teacher.” He called the center “an important part of UF’s interdisciplinary commitment to rigorous scholarship, to excellent teaching, and to intellectual diversity.”

The Hamilton Center was founded last year with $3 million in funds. Since then, Stinneford established six undergraduate courses and hired a total of 19 faculty and lecturers, nine of whom are tenured or tenured-tracked, according to the university’s announcement.

The goals of the center, as spelled out in the legislation that created it, include educating students on the “core texts and great debates of Western civilization,” “the principles, ideals, and institutions of the American political order” and the “foundations of responsible leadership and informed citizenship,” as previously reported by The Fix.

The center is part of Governor Ron DeSantis’ agenda of remaking higher education in the state to focus on classical liberal arts and to move away from woke courses. As part of this agenda DeSantis has also appointed conservatives to the board of New College of Florida and tasked it with restoring its mandate to promote the liberal arts.

Recently, activist and journalist Christopher Rufo moved to dissolve the gender studies department at New College and the school has seen an enrollment boost under the new board’s leadership, as recently reported by The Fix.

MORE: UF students storm building, shout down Sasse

IMAGE: University of Florida

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About the Author
Rachel Lalgie -- University of Florida