Graphic with the words Strengthening Democracy Together
Graphic with the words Strengthening Democracy Together

This is a critical moment for American higher education–and our democracy.

College Presidents for Civic Preparedness is a rapidly growing movement of campus leaders dedicated to advancing critical inquiry, free expression, and civil discourse on campus.

Convened by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars and guided by three Civic Commitments, these campus leaders are equipping today’s rising generation for civic life and for leading our democracy into the future.

Photo of a group of young people carrying protest signs on a college campus
A critical moment for higher education and American democracy
Photo of a young man addressing an assembly on a college campus
Students need civil discourse and civic skills to engage responsibly
Group photo of College Presidents for Civic Preparedness founding members
College Presidents are restoring higher ed’s role to uphold democratic principles
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Guided by three Civic Commitments, presidents are developing programming to advance civic preparedness
Photo of a group of students protesting
Ensuring students are prepared to participate effectively in a vibrant, diverse, and contentious society
    Photo of a group of young people carrying protest signs on a college campus
    A critical moment for higher education and American democracy
    Photo of a young man addressing an assembly on a college campus
    Students need civil discourse and civic skills to engage responsibly
    Group photo of College Presidents for Civic Preparedness founding members
    College Presidents are restoring higher ed’s role to uphold democratic principles
    Image
    Guided by three Civic Commitments, presidents are developing programming to advance civic preparedness
    Photo of a group of students protesting
    Ensuring students are prepared to participate effectively in a vibrant, diverse, and contentious society

      The Civic Commitments

      Presidents make the following Civic Commitments to our students, our academic communities, and the democratic society we serve:
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      Line drawing of college students in a classroom

      Educating for democracy is central to our mission.

      Line drawing of college students engaged in thoughtful discourse

      We will prepare our students for a vibrant, diverse, and contentious society.

      Line drawing of college graduates hoisting ceremonial mortar boards

      We will protect and defend free inquiry.

        Preparedness for civic engagement and the ability to engage in civil discourse is a deep challenge for open societies across the globe as well as for our college and university campuses. All of education, including higher education, need to help cultivate the skills and capabilities of constructive dialogue, active listening, respectful debate, openness to different viewpoints, negotiation, and collective problem solving. Students are arriving on campus not knowing how to talk to each other, especially those with different viewpoints, and we cannot afford to allow them to leave campus without having learned that critical set of skills.
        A photo of Garry Jenkins

        Garry Jenkins

        President, Bates College
        Society today is deeply nuanced, fractured and polarizing. Today's students need practice engaging in the difficult and uncomfortable work of confronting divergent perspectives and even misinformation. Higher education is uniquely positioned to help students learn and leverage civil discourse to build bridges of understanding. This work is challenging, but it is also essential to pursuing peace, protecting democracy, and producing informed, global citizens.
        Photo of Farnam Jahanian, President of Carnegie Mellon University

        Farnam Jahanian

        President, Carnegie Mellon University
        There is no bigger issue that exists than the growing divisiveness undermining freedom and equality everywhere. It is harder and harder to participate in the public square. Teaching the skills to address this challenge aligns with our mission of preparing our students to make meaningful change in the world.
        Photo of Laurie Patton, President of Middlebury College

        Laurie Patton

        President, Middlebury College
        In and outside the classroom, the free and open and honest exchange of ideas is imperative. Our students, and we in the faculty, administration, and staff, must seize upon this time to promote freedom of thought and expression, to embrace challenges to our assumptions, and to be exemplars of civil discourse, even with views we doubt or oppose.
        Photo of Robert Pearigen, President of Sewanee

        Robert Pearigen

        Vice-Chancellor and President, The University of the South
        It's absolutely critical that universities like UW-Madison train our students to be thoughtful, productive, and engaged citizens—our graduates must be able to assess complex information, think critically, and engage productively with those who have different viewpoints, identities and life experiences.
        Photo of Jennifer Mnookin, President of University of Wisconsin Madison

        Jennifer Mnookin

        Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
        In this time, it’s crucial that we do more than just bring people together to share the same space. We will double-down on the importance of a thriving, safe and welcoming community for everyone at Whitman. And we will make the most of the extraordinary opportunity for connection and face-to-face learning on a diverse and international campus. We will elevate the importance of constructive civil discourse, where honest conversation from different points of view is valued and leads to deeper understanding and creative collaboration.
        Photo of Sarah Bolton, President of Whitman College

        Sarah Bolton

        President, Whitman College
        The ability to have a group of committed presidents with the expertise at the Institute for Citizens & Scholars—it’s the work that Wellesley wanted to engage in. There is no established or validated path in this work, so we’re all navigating together and that’s very powerful.
        Photo of Paula Johnson, President of Wellesley College

        Paula Johnson

        President, Wellesley College
        The function of democracy and the function of higher education have these things in common: their viability and integrity require that participants actively listen to and collaborate with others who see the world differently, they require that participants genuinely respect the dignity and freedom of thought of others, and they require that participants value the free exchange of ideas in pursuit of common objectives.
        Photo of Grant Cornwell, President of Rollins College

        Grant Cornwell

        President, Rollins College
        Universities must embrace thought pluralism. For higher ed and our society, it is as vital as freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression. If we silence dissension on our college campuses, we are not serving our students and, worse, we may fail to provide them with the tools and skills the American public expects them to graduate with.
        Photo of Jeremy Haefner Chancellor of The University of Denver

        Jeremy Haefner

        Chancellor, University of Denver
        The fundamental idea is to challenge yourself—even if that means you will not always be comfortable. Being open to changing your mind, having the ability to hone your arguments, and thinking differently from multiple perspectives: these are essential skills and tools of higher education. It's imperative for leaders in higher education to do all we can to promote dialogue across differences, and that's why I'm so excited to be part of this coalition.
        Photo of Sian Leah Beilock President of Dartmouth

        Sian Leah Beilock

        President, Dartmouth
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