The Critical Issues Symposium at Hope College will explore “Discerning Truth in a World of Uncertainty” on Wednesday, Sept. 27, considering strategies and challenges for sorting fact from fiction in a time of polarization and misinformation.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Featuring presentations throughout the day, the event will begin at 10 a.m. in the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse by providing an overview through a keynote address by Dr. Justin McBrayer, who is author of the book “Beyond Fake News: Finding Truth in a World of Disinformation” and a professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College. The symposium is being coordinated by the Hope College Student Congress in collaboration with the college’s Provost’s Office and other campus partners.

Watch the livestream of the Critical Issues Symposium Keynote Address 

“The polarization that afflicts our society — our politics, our campuses, our social media, our news consumption — seems to thrive on competing narratives and versions of the truth, and that’s a barrier to making decisions,” said Dr. David Ryden, who is a professor of political science at Hope and the symposium’s faculty adviser.  “It’s critically important for us to be discerning judges of information — how issues are generated, how they’re redefined and are presented to us — but it gets really difficult to figure out what ‘is’ and what ‘isn’t.’  Even the media has become binary, appealing to their respective constituencies, skewing the truth the better to entice viewers and draw clicks.”

Following the keynote, the symposium will continue with two sets of concurrent focus sessions at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. that will offer perspective for navigating the complexity of topics ranging from music and faith to critical race theory and climate change.

“We’ve really tried to identify some important issues where truth matters but where it can be really difficult to discern,” Ryden said. “We’re not necessarily trying to solve these debates, but rather to help people be discerning consumers of information on contemporary issues like these.”

The presentations at 1 p.m. are:

“Music: The Universal Language,” in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, by Robert Shipley, who is an assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies at Hope; and

“The Truth Will Set You Free: Christ, Creed and Commitment in a Confused Age,” in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall, by Dr. Jared Ortiz, professor of religion at Hope.

The presentations at 3 p.m. are:

“Critical Race Theory: From Arcane Academic Theory to Political Lightning Rod,” in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall, by Dr. Pamela Koch, professor of sociology and department chair at Hope, and Ryden; and

“Climate Change and the Search for Truth,” in Schaap Auditorium in the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center, by Dr. Jeffrey Christians, assistant professor of engineering, and Dr. Joshua Bowman, who was a visiting assistant professor of political science at Hope during 2022-23 and is director of operations at All Saints Anglican Church in Holland.

The reception will begin at 4:45 p.m. and continue until 6 p.m., and will be in the Campus Living Room on the lower level of the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center.

The college’s Critical Issues Symposium is held annually to meant to stimulate serious thinking about current issues and to provide a forum for Hope College students, faculty, and staff, along with the broader Holland community, to engage in discussion with experts. The symposium embodies a commitment to open inquiry and civil discourse guided by the highest standards of intellectual integrity.  Hope cancels classes for the day to provide an opportunity for the event.

First held in 1980, the symposium has been coordinated by the college’s Student Congress the past two years.  Last year’s symposium explored “Public Discourse,” with a focus on how to have constructive conversations.

To inquire about accessibility or if you need accommodations to fully participate in the event, please email  Updates related to events are posted when available in the individual listings at

The Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center is located at 115 E. 12th St., at the center of the Hope campus between College and Columbia avenues along the former 12th Street.  The Campus Living Room and Schaap Auditorium are both on the lower level near the building’s southwest corner.

The Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse is located at 222 Fairbanks Ave., between Ninth and 11th streets.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.

The Martha Miller Center for Global Communication is located at 257 Columbia Ave., at the corner of Columbia Avenue and 10th Street.