Do our rights to peacefully assemble trump the demands by medical experts to quarantine indoors? Was the anti-immigration poster campaign launched by the Swiss People’s Party a bug or a feature of democracy? The Lafayette Society is the Graduate Institute’s first student initiative to hold such discussions on philosophy and its influence over 21st-century policy. In the spirit of Marquis de Lafayette, the Lafayette Society will explore the moral & historical foundations of liberal democracies around the world, and embrace with optimism the chaos and uncertainty that we find ourselves in today.
Reform is an integral part of liberal democracies, and so it is for the Lafayette Society & the legacy that it aims to build in Geneva. Following this spirit, we’re introducing a major reform to our community in the Spring of 2021: the first-ever student debate to be held at the Graduate Institute. Yet Lafayette is not a traditional debate club nor another discussion group. It is a platform for intellectual conversations that students engage with outside of the lecture hall. And our mission is to empower those conversations by bringing them to life in the arena of public conversation.
The topics of these semester-long discussions will be tailored to the Spring semester debate question (to be announced in December 2020). We will explore the topics through movie screenings, hikes, potlucks, trips around Geneva, and roundtable discussions. Then, seven faculty members from all departments will compose the judge’s panel for the Spring debate, in what promises to become an exciting tradition at the Institute. Together, we aim to stay true to the intellectual rigor and the diverse perspectives of the Graduate Institute yet in a less stressful, more communal manner.
We believe that fellow students can learn as much from each other as they can from lectures in the classroom. The Lafayette Society will provide more of these opportunities: to listen to someone else’s views on complex issues, to learn to defend your points, and to read thought-provoking articles about hot-button & current events. If you hope to engage in the battle of ideas in the spirit that we all push – not one thinker or one ideology – but each other closer to the truth, then welcome home.
We are currently recruiting our Treasurer and our Communications Director. To send us an application, please fill out this Google Form. We look forward to speaking with you on Friday, September 4th during IHEID’s initiative webinar day!

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