Diverse, new consortium seeks to uphold critical inquiry and civil discourse as central to civic preparedness
Columbia, SC August 15, 2023 – A group of presidents of diverse higher education institutions from across the country, including Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, President and CEO of Benedict College, have joined together to champion free expression on their campuses at a crucial moment for American democracy. “We are committed to developing critical thinkers who will question, challenge, engage, and serve their communities in a meaningful and equitable way,” said Dr. Artis.
Launching coordinated yet individual campuses activities at the start of the new academic year, the Campus Call for Free Expression is an unprecedented joint effort, convened by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, to advance the principles of critical inquiry and civil discourse that are essential to prepare young people to be the empowered citizens our country needs. Campus activities will include presidential speeches, free expression trainings, outside speakers, courses, and new artistic endeavors.
The participating Campus Call presidents lead diverse campuses: Roslyn Clark Artis, Benedict College; Hiram Chodosh, Claremont McKenna College; Martha Pollack, Cornell University; Lori White, DePauw University; Vincent Price, Duke University; Jonathan Alger, James Madison University; Grant Cornwell, Rollins College; Jonathan Holloway, Rutgers University; John Jenkins, University of Notre Dame; Joan Gabel, University of Pittsburgh; Kevin Hallock, University of Richmond; Paula Johnson, Wellesley College; and Michael Roth, Wesleyan University.
The Campus Call is a project of College Presidents for Civic Preparedness, a new initiative convened by The Institute for Citizens & Scholars to facilitate shared learning and greater impact through partnership toward the goal of developing college students who are ready to be empowered citizens.
“Higher education plays a crucial role in preparing our young people to thrive and develop the skills necessary to become empowered citizens and leaders of the future,” said Rajiv Vinnakota, president of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. “This diverse coalition of college presidents – from institutions large and small, private and public – is united in its commitment to ensuring students are civically well-informed, productively engaged, and committed to democracy.”
Colleges and universities are among the few places in America where people from remarkably different backgrounds, cultures, and ideologies come together to wrestle with the complexity of what it means to be a democratic community. Many college students are encountering diversity for the first time on a tangible, personal, daily basis. They have a critical opportunity to develop the skills, habits, practices and norms needed to live in a multicultural and interconnected democracy.
The Campus Call welcomes different viewpoints, seeking only to uphold and advance free expression principles that foster intellectually vibrant students who can challenge existing beliefs and assumptions, gain empathy for those with differing values and views, reach informed decisions based on reasoned analysis, and contribute meaningfully to their communities.
In contrast to a few campus incidents that have captured media attention, the Campus Call will elevate examples of how higher education is successfully navigating the challenges of free expression and modeling that constructive dialogue is not only possible but paramount to the development of civic preparedness.
Examples of planned Campus Call activities include [delete any text in the following bullets that center on your campus, as that will be described in your text above]:
- Benedict College plans a yearlong campaign on free expression and inquiry (“#perspective) that will include key messages, campus programming, and T-shirts, beginning during freshman orientation.
- Throughout the academic year, Cornell University students, faculty, and staff will come together and engage with topics of free expression and academic freedom through scholarly and creative events and activities, including debates among invited speakers who model civil discourse and exhibitions and performances.
- Presidents at DePauw University and Rollins College, among others, will focus their annual convocation remarks on the theme of free expression.
- Duke University is hosting a summer seminar for faculty, including potential course content and best practices for effectively promoting civic discussion over sensitive topics in the classroom, and its First Amendment Clinic provides law students the opportunity to work directly with clients facing free expression concerns.
- James Madison University is partnering with the Bipartisan Policy Center to hold a free expression training for every incoming first year and transfer student.
- Rutgers University’s president will teach a course on citizenship, including free expression, through the lens of public institutions.
- Wesleyan University’s Democracy in Action program will integrate discussions of free expression into new student orientation.
The Campus Call website provides additional information, including a complete list of all planned activities, individual campus links where relevant, free speech principles, and free speech resources.
The overall Campus Call initiative is funded by a grant to Citizen & Scholars from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with individual campuses providing support for their own related projects.
About Benedict College (benedict.edu)
Founded in 1870 by a woman, Bathsheba A. Benedict, Benedict College is a private co-educational liberal arts institution offering 26 competitive baccalaureate degree programs. The Midlands HBCU welcomes students from all 46 counties in South Carolina, 30 states across America, and 26 countries around the world. The College also has a diverse faculty; more importantly, 80 percent of courses are taught by full-time faculty.
Benedict College has been highly regarded and exceptionally ranked for its programs by several academic and traditional publications. 2019 Benedict College received the 2019 ACE/ Fidelity Investments Awards for Institutional Transformation and was named the HBCU of the Year by HBCU Digest. Benedict College was listed among the top half of ranked HBCUs in the 2022 edition of Best Colleges by US News and World Report.
Benedict College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate and master’s degrees. Six of the College’s degree programs hold national accreditation: The School of Education, Social Work Program, Environmental Health Science Program, Environmental Engineering Program, Studio Art Program, and the Tyrone Adam Burroughs School of Business and Entrepreneurship.
The Institute for Citizens & Scholars cultivates talent, ideas, and networks that develop young people as effective, lifelong citizens. We unite the left, right, and center to develop breakthrough solutions that create stronger citizens in our country, and we bring these solutions to life by forming strategic partnerships with an intentionally diverse group of young people, scholars and education leaders, and civic and business leaders—including the 27,000 world-leading Fellows in our network. Together, we’re on a mission to ensure that Americans everywhere are civically well-informed, productively engaged, and committed to democracy.