About Us

The Helvidius Group and the Journal of Politics & Society

The Helvidius Group is a student organization at Columbia University, established in 1989 by Peter Tomassi, CC ’91, to provide a forum for undergraduate discourse on issues concerning law and public policy. The Journal of Politics & Society is the realization of that mission. Originally an annual magazine distributed to Ivy League universities and to members of Congress, it has adopted a more scholarly focus and has grown to encompass all of the social sciences. The Journal is not affiliated with or sponsored by any political organization, and it remains staunchly nonpartisan.

Today, the Journal of Politics & Society, with its particular focus on undergraduates and interdisciplinary coverage, is the only scholarly publication of its kind. Now in its twenty-third year, the Journal only considers academic papers submitted by undergraduates. In a process comparable to the peer review and editing procedures of professional academic journals, selected papers are rigorously edited by the Editorial Board, itself composed exclusively of undergraduates. Alone among undergraduate periodicals in the United States, the Journal is commercially distributed nationwide. Traditionally distributed to American universities and research libraries, the Journal was first sold in Barnes & Noble in the spring of 2007. Broader distribution has allowed the Journal to provide academic and lay audiences alike with fruitful commentary on contemporary social and political issues.

In addition to publishing the finest in undergraduate scholarship, the Journal has also featured the works of noted public figures and scholars. The guest essay, the only segment written by non-undergraduates, contextualizes the research in the Journal within the broader sociopolitical dialogue. Past contributors include former President Bill Clinton, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Senator Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn, Human Rights Watch President Kenneth Roth, Anthony Marx, and Kenneth Waltz.

The Helvidius Group has also provided counsel and guidance to emerging undergraduate and graduate academic journals such as those at the United States Military Academy, Tblisi State University in Georgia, and Columbia University.  It welcomes the questions of students looking to establish or develop similar publications at their institutions.

The Name

The Helvidius Group is named for Helvidius Priscus, a Roman statesman and philosopher of the first century A.D. Known for his virtue and independence of mind, Helvidius Priscus was a staunch advocate of republican government at a time when the imperial mode was ascendant. His defense of senatorial prerogative and opposition to dynastic succession brought him into direct conflict with the Emperors Nero and Vespasian, both of whom banished him. Executed by Vespasian’s order in 79 A.D., Helvidius Priscus was an early martyr of responsible government and freedom of speech.

During the ratification debate that followed the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Helvidius Priscus was the pseudonym of Anti-Federalist James Warren. Helvidius Priscus thus took his place alongside Cato and Cincinnatus among the pantheon of Roman republicans. The Helvidius Group notes that Warren’s wife, Mercy Otis, engaged in the same debate under the pseudonym, “A Columbian Patriot”. The Columbia connection, however, is somewhat tenuous—James Madison as Helvidius was opposed by Columbia alumnus Alexander Hamilton in the famous Helvidius-Pacificus Debate over the legitimacy of a proclamation of neutrality by George Washington in 1793.

The Helvidius Group disclaims any position on senatorial prerogative, dynastic succession, federalism, and U.S. neutrality in foreign wars due to the positions of Helvidius Priscus, both real and attributed.

The name Helvidius is rarely encountered in modern discourse, but Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) provided an interesting exception during a speech, as reported in The New York Times on November 20, 2002. According to Byrd, at 85, Fills the Forum With Romans and Wrath, Senator Byrd articulated the courage displayed by Helvidius Priscus in opposing Vespasian. The Helvidius Group seeks to continue his tradition of intellectual freedom and individualism.


The Helvidius Group has several different affiliations and relationships within Columbia University.

As an undergraduate student organization, Helvidius is officially an academic club recognized by the Activities Board at Columbia (ABC), a governing board that oversees more than 150 different student organizations on campus. Approximately 40 percent of the Helvidius’ annual budget is awarded by ABC. As an ABC organization, Helvidius is advised by the Student Development & Activities office within the Division of Student Affairs. Currently, David Milch serves as the Helvidius’ adviser for all non-academic issues.

Click here to view a PDF copy of Helvidius’ ABC constitution.

Helvidius maintains a close financial and academic relationship with the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. ISERP is Columbia’s institute dedicated to interdisciplinary social science and provides approximately 40 percent of Helvidius’ funding. ISERP Chair Professor Peter Bearman serves as one of Helvidius’ academic advisors.

Helvidius has had a close relationship with the Department of Political Science for over a decade. Despite theJournal‘s interdisciplinary focus, historically many of essay submissions have developed from political science papers. The Department provides administrative support and approximately five percent of Helvidius’ funding. Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations Jack Snyder serves as one of Helvidius’ academic advisors.

Helvidius also receives financial support from the sale of the Journal, subscriptions, advertisements, and donations. Read more in the Support section.

As a subsidiary of the university, Helvidius enters into contractual obligations and holds copyrights under the auspices of the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, a section 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The Columbia name and crown are used with permission.


The Helvidius Group is a recognized student group within Columbia University, a section 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. Donations may therefore be tax-deductible, but you should consult a qualified tax adviser for the tax status of donations. The Helvidius Group accepts donations from individuals and groups in any amount. Contributors who donate over $50 will receive a complimentary copy of the Journal and contributors of at least $200 will be listed prominently in the next edition of the Journal.