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University Forum to be presented online for fall 2020

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 08:28am

University ForumFor 46 years, The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) premier speaker series, University Forum, has brought renowned scholars, artists, activists, and journalists to Hattiesburg.

This fall, things will be a little different. To assist with local and national efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all of the talks will be hosted online.

“We could bring speakers to campus and restrict attendance to ensure everyone was safe, or we could hold Forum online and make it easy for everyone to participate,” University Forum Director Dr. Andrew Haley said. “It was an easy choice. Forum online will be free and open to everyone.”

Breaking with another recent tradition, there will be four speakers instead of three. All will be hosted online and information on how to attend these lectures will be posted at All of the talks can be accessed with a web browser and anyone interested can sign up at to get an email invitation to the talks, although pre-registration will not be required. The talks will be held on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m.

*The first speaker comes from a famous family. Nontombi Naomi Tutu is the daughter of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Growing up black and female in South Africa exposed her to the hardships that come from hate and division at a young age. Now, Rev. Tutu is the Missioner for Racial and Economic Equity at the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, North Carolina, the founder of Nozizwe Consulting, and a tireless advocate for bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to acknowledge and celebrate their shared humanity. She will speak about “truth and reconciliation” online Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

*Tutu will be followed by three other speakers who believe we deserve the world we want and not the world we inherited. Paul Tough is one of America’s leading thinkers about education. He recently authored The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us. In the book, Tough asks difficult questions about who higher education serves -- the rich or the poor, and offers advice to educators, students, and parents. Tough is a contributing editor at the New York Times Magazine and has also served as a reporter and producer for the public radio program, “This American Life.” He will speak online Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m.

*Two weeks later, James Forman, Jr. will login to talk to Hattiesburg. He is a professor of law at Yale University and a leading critic of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color in the United States. Locking Up Our Own, explores the support that Black mayors, judges, and police chiefs, fearful that the successes of the Civil Rights movement might be lost, gave to the war on crime in the 1970s. Locking Up Our Own won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction. He is the son of Civil Rights activist James Forman and grandson of author, activist and previous University Forum guest Jessica Mitford. He will speak online on Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m.

*Dr. Marjorie Spruill is a former USM professor of history and a former director of USM University Forum. Last spring, she was slated to speak to the Forum as part of a year-long celebration of women securing the right to vote in the United States. When COVID cancelled her appearance, she agreed, with some regrets, to visit Hattiesburg virtually. On Nov. 10, seven days after women exercise their vote in a presidential election for the 100th time in the nation’s history, she will talk about the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and the role the South had in making women’s history. Dr. Spruill is the author of New Women of the New South: The Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States and Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights. She is professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina and will speak at 6:30 p.m.

“Fall 2020 will be different, but with four incredible speakers addressing some of the most pressing issues that the nation faces, University Forum is being true to its tradition, and everyone is invited,” Dr Haley said.

University Forum is presented by the USM Honors College. Learn more about the program at