On November 23, 2015, just 10 days after the Paris terrorist attacks, the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest hosted a panel discussion featuring Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin (ret.) and Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs Dr. Warner Winborne '88 to discuss the nature of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), its operations, its motivations, and possible Western responses to the murder of 130 Western civilians in the heart of the French capital. It was part of a current event series held periodically to address recent world developments. Dozens of students, faculty, and staff gathered at the Wilson Center to learn more about the rising tide of Islamic extremism.
Dr. Winborne, a professor of Middle East politics who spent a year in Iraq from 2007 to 2008, first touched on Islamic jurisprudence: Muslims currently living in non-Muslim states are primarily expected to emigrate to the lands of Sharia; if circumstances preclude emigration, however, Muslims are expected to govern their families and communities under Sharia law; and third, Muslims are expected to try to change their non-Muslim host countries into states governed by Sharia law. This helps explain ISIS's ability to attract and recruit new fighters, who are often immigrants from other countries.
He next explained the dichotomy of ISIS: It operates both as a state-conquering territory, governing a population, raising taxes, providing public services, equipping an army, all of which it is struggling to accomplish with its limited funds-while also directing its efforts toward "bringing about the end of the world-in all seriousness," Dr. Winborne explained. "Their theology is dedicated to the end of times, to the end of the world. It's all there in the Sunni Hadith [sayings attributed to the prophet Mohammed]. Their online magazine, Dabiq, is named after the town in northern Syria where it is believed the infidels will attack and God will smite them from the Earth."
ISIS is trying to provoke the West into attacking them in Syria to fulfill this prophecy. "These people are trying to bring about the end of the world through the brutal and savage murder of infidels," he said. "They revel in it. They glory in it. ISIS appears to be trying to rush things along, as if by creating the signs, they could jump-start the process. They have re-established a caliphate, which the Mahdi, when he appears, will govern. Other signs include the destruction of the Ka'aba and Mecca, as well as the attack on Dabiq."
Lt. Gen. Boykin explained how ISIS changed its name to "Islamic State," (IS) and later to "ISIL" (which repudiates recognition of Israel by using the pre-1948 term "Levant"), to represent itself as a caliphate-that is, a legitimate Muslim state governed under Sharia law, which is determined to expand its borders. The term "Daesh," Boykin said, is used by some Westerners as a politically correct way to avoid mentioning "Islamic" in the group's name.
In whichever case, Boykin explained, "The European armies' turning back the Muslims at the gates of Vienna [in 1683] was a major blow to them, theologically, because the ultimate objective of Islam is to establish this caliphate. Sunni or Shia, they may have different ideas of what will bring about this caliphate, but they all believe in establishing it, and they believe that a messiah will one day reign over this super-state."
ISIS is using bank robberies, extortion, kidnapping, and the illegal selling of oil to try to finance its operations, "and they still control nine oil fields," Boykin said. Students were quick to ask what can be done to stop ISIS from expanding its borders, solidifying its position, and continuing its mass murder of Western civilians.
"In my opinion, we're wasting time trying to take down Assad," Boykin said. "He's never killed Christians, and he even let them serve in his legislature. There is no ‘free Syrian army.' We spent millions trying to train them, and all we did was give ISIS more weapons. We should align our objectives with those of Russia by keeping Assad in power [temporarily], because the alternative is ISIS. But we have yet to come up with a strategy to do that."
Dr. Winborne emphasized that he believes ISIS could be defeated in three ways: first, by destroying its capabilities to operate as a state-this includes cutting off its money supply and its supply of fighters; second, to destroy its ability to operate as an apocalyptic terrorist organization trying to fulfill a doomsday prophesy by launching greater military operations; and third, the only long-term solution, "to reform Islam from within, to categorically reject the salafistic [Sunni fundamentalism] and apocalyptic ideology."
But in the immediate future, "These fighters are motivated by bringing about the end of the world," Dr. Winborne said. "You're can't negotiate with them."
With President Christopher Howard's departure, the Provost and Dean of the Faculty Dr. Dennis Stevens will be the interim president of Hampden-Sydney starting January 1, 2016.
Dr. Stevens received his A.B. from Kenyon College and his Ph.D. from Boston College. He taught political science for over fifteen years before turning to college administration. He has published a number of articles in leading national journals, and he has published two books: Religion, Politics, and the Law (co-authored with Peter Schotten), and Challenges to Peace in the Middle East.
Before coming to Hampden-Sydney College, he served as a department chair, an associate dean, a dean, and a vice president for academic affairs at other institutions.
Stevens will return to his post as provost and dean of faculty when the new president arrives.
On October 10, 2015, a group of 14 Hampden-Sydney students traveled to Lynchburg to present their summer independent research projects at the 17th Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference for Undergraduate Scholarship (MARCUS), hosted by Randolph College.
The meeting brought together undergraduates from Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina to share their research work across many academic disciplines. Hampden-Sydney's delegation featured students from the departments of biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, and physics and astronomy.
The topics of their work included examining the regulation of genes, developing new chemical structures with industrial and biological applications, and developing new computer programs to accelerate processing of a variety of applications. The majority of the projects and the costs of attending the MARCUS meeting were financially supported through summer research funding available through Hampden-Sydney's Honors Council and Office of Undergraduate Research.
Students who presented summer work included (l. to r.): Ben Lam '17, Josh Chamberlin '17, Will Echols '17, Conrad Brown '17, Sam Sheffield '17, Kyle Grierson '16, Dane Asuigui '16, Myshake Abdi '16, Michael Bouldin '16, Mason Luck '16, Branch Vincent '16, Brant Boucher '17, William Fitzgerald '16, and Linh Nguyen '16.
Senior Lecturer of Fine Arts Mary Prevo presented a Western culture lecture on the Parthenon on September 29, 2015, at Crawley Forum. All students enrolled in the Western Culture program attended her examination of the architecture, history, and contemporary relevance of the 2,500-year-old Athenian temple.
Prevo described how the near football-field-size structure was precisely built: Columns were made narrower at the top than at the bottom to counter the optical illusion of a top-heaviness; those same columns were spaced closer together toward the corners to provide a more open entrance; and the structure's foundation was bowed slightly upward, creating a curvature of only a few inches from edge-to-edge, among other architectural nuances. Many of these precise and intricate features remain despite centuries of repurposing, military bombardment, and plunder.
The overall design, as Prevo explained, was a combination of mainland Greece's Doric and the Aegean Ionic styles. Far from being the standard of its day, the Parthenon was an "idiosyncratic combination of the two architectural traditions." The temple is covered with more sculpture than any other surviving Greek temple. Sculpture adorned the pediment on the gable ends, the metopes of the Doric frieze, and the continuous Ionic frieze wrapped around the outside of the inner cella, or inner chamber, including images of both gods and Greeks, an unusual amalgamation of both human and divine.
Like many aspects of Greek culture, the Parthenon itself has had a direct influence on a number of contemporary buildings. Design features can be seen in the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia (1824), The Custom House on Wall Street (1842), and even on Hampden-Sydney's College Church (1860).
Hampden-Sydney Trustee John Macfarlane '76 and his wife Dudley have pledged $250,000 and an additional bequest of $250,000 to endow the position of director of the Rhetoric Program. Made in honor of President Howard and his wife Barbara, the gift is intended both to underscore the importance of the Rhetoric Program and to provide school-wide operating budget relief by increasing endowment through the generation of perpetual income. According to Mr. Macfarlane, "Dudley and I are hopeful that this gift will provide momentum for the development of an endowment which grows well-beyond our initial pledge of $500,000. I can think of no more appropriate way to recognize Chris and Barbara's many contributions to Hampden-Sydney than to endow, in their honor, the Director of our Rhetoric Program-a program which resides in the very center of what makes Hampden-Sydney men special."
The Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest hosted the second annual Model United Nations Conference for 60 local high school students from six local high schools on November 19-21, 2015. More than 10 Hampden-Sydney students from the Madisonian Society and the UPLS, along with professors and staff from the Wilson Center, helped high school students with developing proposals, building coalitions, and engaging in debate on a number of issues of international importance. Students prepared for the event by studying the history, demographics, and social, economic, and political issues of their assigned countries, and then worked to develop resolutions based on their research, with help and guidance from the students and faculty. This year's topics included safe drinking water, global education, Syrian refugees, animal trafficking, Palestinian tensions, and the political unrest in Burundi.
By Maxwell Maurer '16
On November 12, 2015, forty students and faculty from the Wilson Center embarked on the annual trip to Capitol Hill, during which students interacted with alumni who work in Washington, D.C. After each session, students were able to speak with alumni about policy issues, career and internship options, and to exchange business cards. This year's trip featured sessions on a wide variety of issues facing Congress and the nation, ranging from cyber terrorism and the Middle East crisis to the 2016 national elections and challenges facing local law enforcement. Professor Emeritus Dr. David Marion has been organizing the Wilson Center D.C. trip for more than twenty years.
The first session of the day was entitled, "Security Threats to the U.S. in the Modern Tech-Oriented Global Environment." FBI Special Agent William Barnett '94; William Wright '94, director of governmental affairs for Symantec; and Jason Kello '99, a senior government relations official with the Raytheon Group, all spoke. In addition to talking about their careers relating to cyber security, they discussed the threats of cyber terrorism and the recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) computer hack. Students asked questions from the seats usually occupied by the members of the House Financial Services Committee.
The Pre-Law Society participated in their yearly tradition of visiting the Supreme Court, during which they spoke with an alumnus, Jim Young '86, a lawyer with the Right to Work Foundation, a member of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and a member of the Federalist Society. Young offered advice to the students on pursuing a career in the field of law and on applying to law schools. Young has argued several cases in front of the Supreme Court, and he was the lead counsel in Knox v. SEI, a significant California union case that he won in 2012.
Sessions on federal and state oversight of local law enforcement (James Crowell '96 and Kevin Turner '03) and on the crisis in the Middle East (Paul Cooksey '70, Hal "Trey" Lackey '85 and Jams Abbott '91) preceded a final afternoon panel entitled, "Hill Politics: A View from the Trenches," with Hampden-Sydney alumni who work for members of Congress as congressional advisors, chiefs of staff, and legislative assistants. They talked about how they found their jobs on Capitol Hill, their daily assignments, and what it is like to work on Capitol Hill.
The evening concluded with dinner at the Capitol Hill Club where students listened to Chris Stirewalt '97, political digital editor for FOX News, and Chris Cooper '93, founder and the managing director for Convergence Targeted Communications. They talked about the upcoming presidential primaries for both parties and offered assessments of many of the candidates. Students asked about Hillary Clinton's e-mail controversy, Bernie Sanders' and Ben Carson's popularity, and Donald Trump's provocative campaign.
By William Vogan '16
From October 13-27, the students of Dr. Elizabeth Deis's Rhetoric and Culture class commuted twice a week to Prince Edward County High School to tutor seniors and to help them craft well-worded and well-written argumentative research papers. The Hampden-Sydney men worked in small groups with the PECHS students in Mrs. Mary Cook's English 12 class to ensure that all of the students involved received the attention and help that they needed. Throughout the weeks, the Prince Edward students created working theses, composed outlines for the overall paper and for individual paragraphs, researched for credible sources, and compiled a working draft. During this process, Dr. Deis' class helped encourage and guide the students as they created strong and well-researched essays.
Many of the Prince Edward students were thrilled to interact with college students and took advantage of the opportunity for personal help. The H-SC students encouraged them to find solid supporting evidence for their ideas and to examine and evaluate their own ideas further. Despite the challenges, many of the students rose to the occasion and were successful in creating strong arguments.
For the College's annual Constitution Day address on September 23, 2015, the Wilson Center hosted the presentation "Magna Carta: 800 Years After Runnymede" by Professor A.E. Dick Howard, a graduate of the University of Richmond and the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. Howard earned his law degree from UVA, was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, and was a law clerk to Justice Hugo Black of the U.S. Supreme Court. Among his many other works, he wrote The Road from Runnymede: Magna Carta and Constitutionalism in America, first published in 1968. His discussion centered on the English roots of American constitutional principles.
Howard first touched on the American foundational principle of due process of law, its protection in the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments, and its lineage dating back to the Magna Carta in 1215. He also noted the early intimations of judicial review, equal protection, and the rule of law found in the text, all of which are reflected in some way in the U.S. Constitution or American jurisprudence.
He then discussed the constitutional crises during the Stuart era in the 17th century, when James VI and I, Charles I, and other Stuart monarchs wrestled with Parliament over issues such as levying certain taxes, checks and balances between branches of government, and an independent judiciary, among others issues. The ensuing constitutional documents, the English Civil War, and the Glorious Revolution-which helped to settle many of these unanswered constitutional questions-in many ways paved the way to the Americans' understanding and defense of their inherited rights as Englishmen and the more lofty natural rights during the American Revolution and during the writing of the Constitution. Today, those principles are still revered as necessary to the success of the American system of government and the preservation of the American way of life.
The Union-Philanthropic Society held a discussion on "The History and Meaning of the Confederate Flag" on November 17, 2015, in Crawley Forum.
Three professors and two students led the presentation examining the history of the Army of Northern Virginia's battle flag, the constitutional questions arising from its display, as well as the ideas, principles, feelings, and cultures the flag has symbolized to different people throughout history. Professor Emeritus of History Dr. Ronald Heinemann gave a brief historical overview of the various flags of the Confederacy, and History Professor Caroline Emmons discussed how the flag was prohibited from display as an emblem of resistance to the national government soon after the war; displayed during memorial ceremonies for fallen Confederate soldiers; used for photography with veterans; carried by organizations opposed to African-American political activity during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras; and displayed by segregationists and others opposed to the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. The flag is also flown as a sign of respect and remembrance for ancestors, for the cause for Southern independence, for regional pride, and for the constitutional principles of states' rights and sovereignty and local self-governance. Professor Warner Winborne '88 delved into Supreme Court decisions that have affirmed the constitutional protections for those who display flags and symbols, explaining how the court holds the exercise of certain speech or expressions to different levels of constitutional scrutiny. Two student speakers also expressed opinions on the battle flag's meaning today.
As one professor said, "Hampden-Sydney is a special place. At most colleges, you can't even talk about these controversial issues without backlash." The academic approach to the topic as well as the civil and balanced discourse demonstrated by the professors at the discussion was a testament to the faculty's willingness to address different sides of contentious subjects.
Quotes to Consider
"Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the Judgement Day;
Under the one the Blue;
Under the other, the Gray."
-Francis M. Finch, d. 1907
"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."
-H.L. Mencken, d. 1956
"Mind your business."
-Benjamin Franklin, d. 1790.