Ferguson as a Case Study in Persuasion

Ferguson Event

Date and Time

Past Event
- CST

Location

Mondale Hall, Room 25

Thank you for joining the Robina Institute on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, for "Ferguson as a Case Study in Persuasion." View a recording of the symposium below. 

This symposium's launching point was the Ferguson reports, prepared and presented in a context where the findings were sure to be strongly challenged by people with contrary prior beliefs and an enormous amount at stake in maintaining those beliefs. This symposium examined those reports and used them as a case study on how people are, or are not, persuaded regarding high-profile incidents that raise complex and sensitive societal issues. Since the events in Ferguson occurred, the American public has been engaged in an important national dialogue about policing practices, race, community trust, and public safety. The dialogue is affected, and too often impeded, by people’s assumptions and biases; both the identification of problems and the development of solutions, are adversely affected.   

Starting with a discussion of the Ferguson reports by the authors of the reports, we explored the reactions they elicited. We also considered the 'science' of persuasion, as well as attempts, successes, and failures at persuasion in other contexts from the perspective of those involved in persuading and being persuaded in legal and public arenas. The symposium attempted to demonstrate that taking a more critical perspective about one’s own assumptions and biases (about, among other things, race, class, and the workings of the police and other governmental institutions) is both warranted and productive.  

This event was organized by Claire Hill. This event was made possible with generous support from the University of Minnesota Law School and the Law School’s Institute for Law and Rationality, the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, the Human Rights Center, and the Office of Advancement. Additional sponsorship was provided by the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Political Psychology, and the Hennepin County Bar Association. 

Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

5 standard CLE credits were approved by the Minnesota State Board of Continuing Legal Education office. Event Code: 245494.

Agenda

8:15 a.m.
Breakfast and Check-In
8:45 a.m.
Welcome

Claire Hill and Hon. Mark Kappelhoff

8:55 a.m.
Dean’s Welcome

Dean Garry Jenkins, University of Minnesota Law School

9:00 a.m.
Writing the Reports: Ferguson and Brown/Wilson

Speakers: Hon. Mark Kappelhoff, 4th Judicial District, Hennepin County, Minnesota; Robert Moossy, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Fara Gold, Special Litigation Counsel, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice; Christy Lopez, Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown University Law School and former Deputy Chief in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice

How were the reports written? How did the report writers understand their task? What did they do to blunt predictable objections? How did they predict objections? What assumptions did they make about the prior beliefs and predispositions of their readership? What were points of disagreement among the group? What were the points of agreement?  

10:00 a.m.
Break
10:15 a.m.
Roundtable: Journalist and Public Relations Perspectives

Speakers: Matt Apuzzo, Reporter, New York Times; Jonathan Capehart, Columnist, The Washington Post; Tracy Schmaler, Senior Advisor, Kivvit

11:15 a.m.
What Persuades, As to Controversial Subjects: A Real World Perspective

Speakers: Matthew Hutson, Author, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking; Jonathan Salem Baskin, Author; Marc Olivier Baruch, Historian

The aim of this panel was to consider how people in the business of persuading the public in fora such as newspapers and courts, do so, from the perspective of both those doing the persuading and those to whom the persuasion is directed. 

12:15 p.m.
Lunch
1:15 p.m.
Roundtable: Community Reactions to the Report

Speakers: Shawntera Hardy, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development; Brian Herron, Pastor of Zion Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN; Ebony Ruhland, Research Director, Robina Institute; Luz Maria Frias, Deputy Attorney General, State of Minnesota

2:15 p.m.
Roundtable: What Persuades, As to Controversial Subjects: A Real World Perspective

Speakers: Hon. Jed Rakoff, Senior United States District Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; Hon. Mark Kappelhoff, 4th Judicial District, Hennepin County, Minnesota; Jonathan Salem Baskin, Author; Matt Apuzzo, Reporter, New York Times; Jonathan Capehart, Columnist, The Washington Post; Tracy Schmaler, Senior Advisor, Kivvit; Shawntera Hardy, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

3:30 p.m.
Break
3:45 p.m.
What Does and Does Not Persuade: An Academic Perspective

Speakers: Arthur B. Markman, Vice Provost of Continuing and Professional Education and New Education Ventures, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Psychology; Howard Lavine, Associate Dean of the Social Sciences in the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts; John Borrows, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School; June Carbone, Professor, University of Minnesota Law School; Avner Ben-Ner, Professor, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management; Claire Hill, Professor, University of Minnesota Law School; Chris Roberts, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Law School; Susanna Blumenthal, Professor, University of Minnesota Law School

It has become increasingly clear that persuasion is no easy matter. People apparently have complex reasons for what they believe—reasons they may or may not be aware of. And what changes minds is not in any simple way “facts” (and “facts” is not a simple concept). Indeed, presentation of a fact contrary to a held belief may cause the believer to hew more closely to that belief.  

This panel considered why arguments or recitations of “facts” intended to persuade do not persuade. The underlying assumption is not that the arguments or recitations in some normative sense should persuade. Rather, the inquiry is aimed at understanding the difference between the perspectives of the person intending to persuade and the person not being persuaded. 

The experts on this panel discussed their research on how people form and adjust their beliefs. Their areas of expertise include political science, psychology, linguistics, and law.

5:15 p.m.
Final Session: Discussion Among Participants and Audience

Recording

Speakers & Moderators

Man with blonde hair and beard
Reporter, New York Times
Smiling man wearing blue glasses
Professor, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management
Man wearing blue shirt
Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School
Man wearing glasses
Columnist, The Washington Post
Smiling woman
Professor, University of Minnesota Law School
Woman with dark hair wearing blue jacket
Deputy Attorney General, State of Minnesota
Black and white photo of woman with long, dark hair smiling
Special Litigation Counsel, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Black and white photo of woman with long, dark hair smiling
Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Smiling man
Pastor, Zion Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN
Man wearing black shirt
Author, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking
Dean Garry Jenkins
Garry Jenkins
Dean, University of Minnesota Law School
Black and white photo of woman with long, dark hair smiling
Associate Dean of the Social Sciences in the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts
Woman with brown hair in blue shirt
Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown University Law School
Man wearing glasses
Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Psychology
Black and white photo of woman with long, dark hair smiling
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Black and white photo of woman with long, dark hair smiling
Senior United States District Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Smiling man with dark hair
Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Law School
Ebony Ruhland
Associate Professor, Rutgers University Newark; Former Research Director, Robina Institute
Smiling woman with dark hair
Senior Advisor, Kivvit