The Sheindlin Forum will be home to the USC Annenberg Debate Series, a program that will involve noted speakers, USC students and local high school students. The Sheindlin Debate Fellows program will support USC students tasked with running the debate series.
Sheindlin told Variety that she was inspired to establish the center in an effort to foster civil discourse on the campus. She’s dismayed by the rampant reports of strife and threats of violence over speakers on college campuses at a time of extreme political polarization in the country.
“How can you make up your mind on an issue if you don’t have information,” Sheindlin said. “College campuses have historically been progressive places where a thinking person can listen to all sides of an argument. If you only want to listen to voices that support your opinion, I think that makes you small-minded.”
Sheindlin said she and her husband, Jerry Sheindlin (himself a former star of “The People’s Court”), chose USC because one of their granddaughters attends the school. She’s also become friendly with Wallis Annenberg in recent years.
“USC really is a vibrant and wonderful place,” she said. “The Annenberg School is a little gem in the midst of all of it.”
The Sheindlin Forum will formally open today with a ceremony and debate attended by the Sheindlins and Willow Bay, dean of USC Annenberg.
“We want USC Annenberg to lead these conversations and be a center of well-informed and substantial dialogue and debate,” Bay said. “This is at the heart of the intellectual and academic experience we provide, and the Sheindlins’ generous gift will allow us to expand our debate programs not only at USC, but into our wider community.”