The Saurman Provocative Lecture Series

Have you been provoked lately?

San Jose State University Department of Economics presents the Provocative Lecture Series, a forum to raise intellectual arguments on a variety of thought-provoking topics, offered in memory of David S. Saurman, Ph.D., former Professor in the Department of Economics.

This lecture series fosters the tradition in higher education of challenging ideas and developing critical thinking in an environment of respect and intellectual discourse on controversial topics. Presenters in the Provocative Lecture Series are noted for their outstanding scholarship and public speaking ability; students, faculty, the general public, as well as the media are invited.

Our goal is to help students and life-long learners develop the critical thinking skills necessary to reach their own informed positions on controversial issues. We invite you to attend, relax, ponder, and enjoy the thought process at upcoming lectures. You can also enjoy viewing recordings of past lectures at the video archive.

If you would like to support The Saurman Provocative Lecture Series, please contact Colleen Haight at For information or to be added to our events list, please contact

Fall 2018 Schedule

November 8, 2018 (Thurs.)
Howard Root
Founder and CEO of Vascular Solutions, Inc.
SJSU, SU Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  free, open to public
flyer (pdf)

"Who Watches the Prosecutors?"
Not all alleged criminal activity is prosecuted equally. Overwhelmed by cases, prosecuting attorneys must choose which cases to prosecute, but how is this choice made? Do they select complex, drawn-out cases that protect the most citizens or quick cases that are seemingly easy to win? Do they give consideration and preference to cases that bring personal prestige and advancement?
This is a story about prosecutorial discretion run amok and Howard Root is the hero of the story. He was the founder and CEO of Vascular Solutions, Inc., a medical products company. For five years, Howard and his company battled baseless criminal charges at a time when prosecutors pursued cases to meet political ends. Howard risked his company and his freedom by taking his case to court. Eventually, he was acquitted on all charges, but it was a victory that cost Howard and his company $25 million. Howard Root tells his riveting story
in a book he co-authored called Cardiac Arrest.
This Provocative Lecture challenges you to consider ways to keep prosecutorial discretion in check. CEOs have oversight from boards of directors, stockholders, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the market for corporate takeover. Who watches the  prosecutors?

October 10, 2018 (Wed.) 
Adam Andrzejewski

CEO and Founder of Open the Books
SJSU, SU Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  free, open to public
flyer (pdf)

“Knowledge is Power”
Social Entrepreneurship takes many forms. After a successful private venture, Andrzejewski decided to pursue a passion and a promise to post “every dime, online” of all local, state, and federal government spending. While some firms track the clicks and locations of private individuals, Adam’s firm turns the tables by empowering individuals to track public sector spending. Adam’s social entrepreneurship gives individuals easy access to detailed knowledge of how government entities spend taxpayer dollars. Knowledge is power; come hear a dynamic, funny, and often shocking presentation about what you can learn about
government spending when you OpentheBooks.

September 27, 2018 (Thurs.) 
Safwan Shah, Ph.D
CEO and Founder PayActive
SJSU, SU Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  free, open to public
flyer (pdf)

“Helping Low-Income Workers Get Ahead: A Market Solution”
Students will hear how an entrepreneur searched for and found a private sector way to ease financial burden on low income workers. His talk on PayActiv demonstrates the effectiveness of private market solutions to poverty issues and also the rigors of entrepreneurship!


Spring 2018

April 11, 2018 John Cochrane
“The Old Lady, the Fly and the Horse: an Outline for Economic Reform”
SJSU, Student Union Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  Free and open to the public
John H. Cochrane, Ph.D. flyer (pdf)

March 20, 2018 Clark Neily
"Incarceration Nation - How America Became the World's Leading Jailer"
SJSU, Student Union Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  Free and open to the public
Clark Neily flyer (pdf)

February 28, 2018 Jacob T. Levy
"Black Liberty Matters"
SJSU, Student Union Theater  |  5:15-6:45pm  |  Free and open to the public
Jacob T. Levy flyer (pdf)

View past lectures via the video archive