Interactive discussion to focus on capital punishment

The public is invited to participate in “Social Circles of Knowledge: A Conversation about Capital Punishment,” from 6 to 9 p.m., March 8, in the University Center Building, La Sala Ballroom at Arizona State University’s West campus. The event is free; seating is limited. Interested participants may R.S.V.P. to

Social Circles is an initiative of ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, based on the West campus. Programs, to be held monthly on campus during the academic year, are designed to promote civil dialogue and offer a safe and respectful space for people with divergent opinions to share their perspectives on key societal issues.

“We want to create an atmosphere in which people can find common ground and learn from one another,” said Wanda Kolomyjec, project manager for Social Circles and a recent graduate of New College’s master of arts degree in social justice and human rights. “Social Circles events will feature a highly interactive roundtable format involving participants with a wide range of expertise, viewpoints and familiarity with the issues being discussed.”

The March 8 event will begin with a brief presentation from Dale Baich, an attorney with the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona. Baich, who also is a faculty associate in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, will discuss the history of capital punishment in Arizona.

Following Baich’s remarks, attendees will conduct roundtable discussions examining such questions as whether capital punishment is an effective deterrent, whether it offers closure for victims, and whether it is supported by religious teaching.

“Today’s political discourse is often fragmented and polarized, preventing many people from getting involved in the democratic process or understanding crucial issues from different perspectives,” Kolomyjec said. “Few news outlets reveal the range of viewpoints held by the public, and many views are rarely challenged by opposing opinions. People tend to cluster within familiar spaces, rarely challenged in their thinking or standpoint, reinforcing their opinions without deliberation. Our hope is that Social Circles can offer an alternative, creating a respectful space for exchange of experience and knowledge.”

The April 2012 Social Circles event at ASU’s West campus will focus on immigration and ethnic studies. Details about that event are forthcoming.