Research Project Creates Forum for Nonpartisan Political Discussion

Friday, February 04, 2011

Two Fairmont State University students hope to encourage campus discourse on national and international affairs through their undergraduate research project.

The Nolton: Letters of Thought and Opinion is the brainchild of Robert Bolton of Grafton, a History and Political Science major, and Nick Oliveto of Fairmont, a National Security and Intelligence and Political Science major. The newsletter’s title meshes together the students’ names, as well as their belief that open, civic and lively discussion are necessary for the growth of a free society.

Bolton and Oliveto are classmates and Facebook friends. The idea to create a newsletter was sparked by their back-and-forth comments about political issues posted on the social networking web site. Others started to notice and respond to their comments; some deep discussions developed.

“We’re news and political junkies,” Oliveto said. “We think it’s responsible to have debate that is meaningful and thoughtful, and the best way to do that is through a publication.”

With plenty of ideas but no funding, the pair applied for an Undergraduate Researcher Program Grant in the fall of 2010. Approved by the Undergraduate Research Advisory Council, their proposal to create The Nolton received about $500 to go toward the costs of publishing and purchasing supplies for their newsletter. David Abruzzino, Director of the Open Source Intelligence Exchange (OSIX) and a faculty member in the National Security and Intelligence program, serves as their mentor.

Five issues printed in a front-and-back, legal-sized page format were distributed last semester. Topics covered have included civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the succession of North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, the release of classified documents by Wikileaks and the growth of divisive partisanship in national politics.

“The material we write is always going to be national or international issues. Due to our personal tastes, the things we cover most tend to be American diplomatic, military and legislative affairs,” Bolton said.

The Nolton premiered on Thursday, Feb. 3, for the spring 2011 semester. Bolton and Oliveto would like to encourage students, faculty and staff to contribute articles for potential publication.

“I regard The Nolton as something that is more important than Nick or myself, not that it is some hugely important and influential paper, but that we are willing to take on writers other than ourselves and let them air their ideas,” Bolton said. “We stated in our first issue and when we applied for the grant that we wanted a genuine debate among students, and we meant it.”

To submit an article or a comment to The Nolton, e-mail Articles should be 400 to 600 words in length. Watch for copies of the newsletter located by the entrances to campus buildings and on the bottom shelf of The Columns racks every other Thursday.

Oliveto and Bolton are exploring the expansion of The Nolton, as well as possibly a switch to an online format. Both hope that the newsletter becomes part of campus culture and will continue even after they graduate.

“Nick and Bob do all the work themselves,” Abruzzino said. “I’m very excited by how quickly the campus has embraced this publication. Contributors are already submitting content. The Nolton is a forum for responsible, intelligent debate on campus, and the newsletter meets a need not met by other campus publications. In talking with colleagues in political affairs, they say this is the sort of thing you don’t see at the undergraduate level on a regular basis.”