On Campus, Social Justice

CC Joins College Presidents for Civic Preparedness

Julia Fennell ’21

CC students participate in classroom discussion. 4/5/23. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III / Colorado College.

Colorado College President L. Song Richardson has joined a group of 20 college and university presidents who are committed to promoting free speech and civil discourse on college campuses across the country.

College Presidents for Civic Preparedness is an initiative created by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars this past summer. It brings together a group of college presidents with differing perspectives who are all working to address the challenges of making sure young people are well-informed and committed citizens.  

“We’re thrilled to add President Richardson from Colorado College to our new initiative College Presidents for Civic Preparedness,” says Rajiv Vinnakota, president of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. “She joins a diverse coalition of college presidents – from institutions large and small, private and public – united in its commitment to ensuring students are civically well-informed, productively engaged, and committed to democracy.”

The Institute for Citizens & Scholars, formally the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, is a nonpartisan, non-profit that works to cultivate empowered, effective, and lifelong citizens.

College Presidents for Civic Preparedness is focused on three main projects: Campus Call for Free Expression; Faculty Development Institute on Dialogue Across Difference; and the Measurement Working Group.

The Campus Call for Free Expression is a commitment to urgently spotlight, uplift, and re-emphasize the principles of freedom of expression and critical inquiry on college campuses through a coordinated set of presidential and campus activities. The Faculty Development Institute on Dialogue Across Difference aims to help faculty effectively engage with free expression and civil discourse in their classrooms. The Measurement Working Group gathers data on how colleges and universities are thinking about and measuring civic learning and citizen development. College and university presidents participating in the initiative meet virtually and in-person to learn from each other and discuss this important work.

CC professor and students participate in classroom discussion. 2/13/23. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III / Colorado College.

Freedom of expression and speech is a critical part of the CC experience, and more importantly, prepares young people to be global citizens committed to creating a more just, equitable, and humane world.

“Colorado College is a community dedicated to open dialogue, civil discourse, and academic freedom,” says Richardson. “We foster courageous conversations across difference so that our graduates are well prepared to lead in a diverse democracy. Our goal is never to tell students what to think, but rather how to think, critically and with an open mind.”

“Our participation in College Presidents for Civic Preparedness is a natural extension of these commitments,” she continues. “We look forward to building on our progress, learning from fellow institutions of higher ed, and engaging as a thought partner with peer colleges and universities nationwide.”

Students and faculty at CC engage in courageous conversations every day in class, where they are encouraged to listen, share, and debate complex ideas with empathy and understanding.

“In the face of challenges, I want to reaffirm, and invite all members of our community to reaffirm our important commitment to the pursuit of learning, knowledge, and understanding,” says Dr. Emily Chan, Vice President and Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Psychology. “One of the most impactful ways we contribute is through the engaged discussions we have with students in and out of classrooms. In doing this work, we advance the core value and responsibilities of academic freedom that must be central in a community of learning.”

“As we navigate the challenges and problems of today’s world, individually as scholars and teachers, and collectively as faculty and staff at CC, I invite us to be empathetic as we exercise our academic freedom, and to think about how we can create the capacity for sustained dialogue in the midst of dissension and divergence,” says Chan, who adds that no freedom of expression policy is enough without empathy.

Joining this initiative is one of many steps CC is taking to ensure students are prepared to create a more just world.

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