A Student Think Tank?

I attended an event today held on Capitol Hill hosted by the new “student think tank” the Roosevelt Institution event on Capitol Hill today launching their new policy journal. Speaking were Doug Bailey, founder of the Hotline, Quinn Wilhelmi, executive Director of the Roosevelt Institution, and Jesse Wolfson, the editor of their new journal, The Roosevelt Review.

I also met there a columnist for a paper at George Washington University who had written this column (or here if you don’t want to register) about progressivisim.

I also met someone from a think tank called the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. They seem like a very interesting think tank I was not aware of previously that was “Founded in 1970 by black intellectuals and professionals to provide training and technical assistance to newly elected black officials” but now studies a range of issues relevant to the African American community.

Three authors of articles from the first journal spoke briefly on their topics, which were in general sound progressive policy proposals: 1. A proposed a different approach to HIV/AIDs prevention in Africa, taking into consideration power dynamics between men and woman, 2. A proposal to increase the gas tax to reduce gasoline consumption in the U.S. and prevent ANWR drilling, and 3. A proposal to provide health insurance to uninsured children in the U.S.

I was approached by an enthusiastic student with the Brown chapter and I told her that although the ideas were good I wondered if they had thought about how they planned to obtain the political power to implement their ideas. She spoke of her personal connections with such people as someone with the Office U.S. Trade Representative and other officials and said they were building relationships. Overall I am lukewarm on the idea of the organization, it seems too much like young suits creating a platform to further amplify their already loud and privileged voices. That said, I am always one to take advantage of existing structures and when I spoke about how I thought they should be focusing on issues not generally studied by the mainstream think tanks like student voting rights, student disenfranchisement, community broadband, and the politics of communications policy and she seemed interested and took some notes.

I’d love to see them write a student-centered assessment of Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights” because the NEA and AAUP both approach the issue from the perspective of teachers, not students. What other topics deserve a wonky student perspective?

Author: Rob Goodspeed


  1. On the issue of “already loud and privileged voices” — as a Stanford student I’ve naturally struggled with the access advantage I have to the political process. If we lived in an ideal democracy I don’t think Roosevelt would be necessary, but in today’s system even the over-privileged don’t have access because the hyper-privileged are dominant. I can’t cut $2000 checks and go to fundraising lunches with the candidates, so if I want access I have to have really good ideas.

    Ultimately, I’d say judge us by what we do with the voices we’re creating for ourselves. If we do become young suits — a networking club and job fair for politically-inclined students — we will have failed in all our objectives. But if we use these voices to fight for justice, it was good that we created them for ourselves.

    It’s presumably the same struggle you have as a popular blogger from a top school. Wouldn’t it be better if all of your traffic went to the opinions of underprivileged, yes, sure, but you’re doing the best with what you were given.

  2. Hey Ross, I am actually starting a chapter at the University of Michigan of the Roosevelt Institution. Someone told me how you had a blog entry abt it. Any additional thoughts you might have abt the organization would be welcomes

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