Our Work

University Project for Bipartisan Collaboration

Involved Institutions
Ongoing Projects

The Lugar Center, in association with several universities, has begun a project entitled the “University Project for Bipartisan Collaboration.”

The purposes of the Project are:

1) to create opportunities for bipartisan interaction between Members of Congress and between their staffs — especially those representing the same state;
2) to establish stronger links between university experts and lawmakers with the goal of enhancing evidence-based policy-making; and
3) to promote productive, non-partisan public discourse at the state and local levels

See our list of university partners >
Learn more about ongoing projects >

The Project is motivated by concerns that bipartisan interaction between members of Congress and the quality of public discourse has declined substantially during the last two decades.  This is especially true for members of individual state congressional delegations, which meet very infrequently.  We believe excessive partisanship encumbers the legislative process and reduces the reserve of goodwill in Congress and beyond that is necessary for governance under our Constitutional system. The Project also is motivated by the decline in evidence-based policy making in Congress, the over-reliance on party talking points, the loss of Congressional staff expertise due to budget cuts within the Legislative Branch, and the hyper-contentiousness of many interactions between the public and their elected representatives.  Too often Congress is legislating without reference to available empirical data or a reasonable level of non-partisan research.  And too often, public views are not factored into legislation.

Colleges and Universities have deep expertise in a wide variety of disciplines that can help inform Congressional policy-making.  The Project seeks to enhance opportunities for university researchers to present their expertise to Congressional policymakers for the benefit of their states and the country.  The Lugar Center: 1) partners with universities to devise effective methods of sharing their nonpartisan research and expertise with their Congressional delegation; 2) functions as a clearinghouse for new ideas and best practices related to university outreach to Congress and university initiatives aimed at improving public debate of national issues; and 3) serves as an information source for colleges and universities that want to join the Project.

The Project seeks to bring Members of Congress of different parties together in the interest of collaborative legislative discussion and inquiry, but it does not advocate for particular policies or philosophies.  The Project is not involved in any lobbying on university issues.  The Project is supported by funding from the Democracy Fund, a non-partisan foundation devoted to good governance.

Ongoing Projects

Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Southern Illinois University

In recent years, the decorum of town hall meetings has declined in the face of deepening political polarization. The Simon Institute is partnering with The Lugar Center to offer a set of "best practices" for the conduct of town hall meetings in Illinois. These recommendations were sent out to the Illinois delegation in July.

Indiana University

In November 2017, Indiana University held a meeting on Capitol Hill with a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives from the Indiana congressional delegation. The event, which was introduced by Senator Lugar, was centered on the university’s Addiction Grand Challenges initiative which aims to address the growing opioid epidemic in Indiana and across the country. In March 2018, IU released preliminary findings from this research and subsequent policy recommendations for federal, state, and local legislators. The university continues to work closely with members on both sides of the aisle to find tenable, bipartisan solutions to the growing crisis.

Center for Effective Lawmaking

On April 11, 2018, the Center for Effective Lawmaking, a partnership between the Frank Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy at The University of Virginia and the College of Arts and Sciences at Vanderbilt University, led discussions on federal education reform. The event was attended by Democratic and Republican staffers of the Virginia and Tennessee congressional offices. The conversations, which touched on everything from financial aid and loan accessibility to community college and technical education, were moderated by UVA and Vanderbilt professors whose research pertains to education and workforce development. The April event was the first of three in a series supported by The Lugar Center and the Center for Effective Lawmaking that brings together Hill staffers from both sides of the aisle for debate and discussion on relevant issue-areas. The July roundtable will focus on Health policy.

Duke University

On May 30, 2018, Duke University held a half-day summit with a bipartisan group of congressional staffers to discuss the upcoming Farm Bill. The roundtable discussions were led by several Ag experts --including former Lugar agriculture staffer Aaron Whitesel -- and examined current federal policies pertaining to small-scale farmers and nutritional programs. The event, which was attended by nearly two dozen people who work on Capitol Hill and in the administration, sought to inform decision-makers on best practices in enhancing the health and economies of rural America. The program was part of Duke’s quarterly series “Beyond Talking Points,” an initiative aimed at educating government officials on critical issues