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Drew University Joins 60 College Presidents to Advance Civic Preparedness and Uphold Free Expression on U.S. Campuses

President Hilary L. Link, PhD, joins presidents of Dartmouth, Georgetown, among others

April 2024 – Recognizing this urgent moment for American higher education and our democracy, Drew University President Hilary L. Link, Ph.D., is joining 60 other college presidents of diverse institutions from across the country, including Dartmouth, Georgetown, and Notre Dame, to advance higher education’s pivotal role in preparing students to be engaged citizens and to uphold free expression on campus.

Through the College Presidents for Civic Preparedness, a unique consortium designed by the presidents and convened by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, participating presidents are dedicated to preparing the next generation of well-informed, productively engaged and committed citizens; defending free expression, civil discourse and critical inquiry as essential civic norms, and increasing thoughtful engagement and better understanding by students for the effective functioning of our democracy. The consortium, first announced with 15 members in August 2023, has grown significantly, demonstrating momentum for this movement. 

Participating presidents will take campus-specific and collective action, reflecting three shared Civic Commitments

  • Educating for democracy is central to our mission. 
  • We will prepare our students for a vibrant, diverse, and contentious society. 
  • We will protect and defend free inquiry. 

Taken together, these fresh commitments embrace both free speech and diversity, two values often pitted against each other, by instead emphasizing meaningful engagement and inquiry with different voices and viewpoints. The commitments stress diversity as a strength of both American democracy and campus life and affirm the truth-seeking role of higher education through curiosity and inquiry. They also enable campus leaders to take substantive action to promote democratic engagement among students, with public accountability for progress through publication of an annual impact report. 

“I believe fervently in the importance of educating and preparing students—leaders of the future—to embrace discomfort and challenge to their beliefs, to accept and engage with the ‘other,’ and to embrace an educational trajectory that prepares them for the world beyond campus by supporting them in engaging in respectful conflict and dialogue across difference,” said President Link.  

Participating presidents are developing campus-specific programming to advance the Civic Commitments in 2024. Drew University has a long history of civic engagement including community-based coursework, faculty-led programming related to free inquiry and bridging across conflict, and non-partisan initiatives focused on registering students to vote and be engaged in the democratic process. Drew’s civic commitments can be found in numerous University initiatives including: 

  • Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict is a long-standing University initiative that focuses on the complex ways in which people from different cultural, ethnic, and religious traditions interact and how both difference and similarity can serve as a resource for building community across difference.
  • The Center for Civic Engagement incorporates a robust Civic Actions Scholars program that works with a large cohort of students who are committed to identifying complex issues facing our world, developing creative solutions and engaging in bridge-building work to implement those solutions. 
  • The Drew Institute for Emerging Leaders prepares young leaders to foster peaceful and pluralistic relations in their communities through civil dialogue, conflict resolution, diversity, equity and inclusion, and leadership and community organizing. 

In addition to championing the Civic Commitments on their own campuses, President Link and consortium’s presidents will undertake together and through the Institute a set of collective actions:

  • Meet regularly and confidentially for peer learning and the exchange of information, ideas, practices, and tools, including on such topics as the 2024 elections and student activism
  • Help faculty engage effectively with free expression and civil discourse in the classroom by participating in the Faculty Institute on Dialogue Across Difference
  • Create and seize opportunities for shared advocacy and public outreach on civic preparedness in higher education

“Higher education has a responsibility to provide students with critical civic skills and knowledge to participate effectively in our constitutional democracy,” said Rajiv Vinnakota, President of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, a nonprofit that cultivates talent, ideas, and networks that develop young people as effective, lifelong citizens. “College campuses are among the most diverse spaces in our country, and college is an important time for students to develop the habits, practices, and norms to live in a multicultural and interconnected democracy. Doing so can create a ripple effect, making young people more optimistic and increasingly committed about their future and our nation.”

College Presidents for Civic Preparedness has been supported by ECMC Foundation, Einhorn Collaborative, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, One8 Foundation, Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Lumina Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, and Teagle Foundation, with individual campuses providing support for their own related projects.

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About Drew University

Drew University, a Phi Beta Kappa liberal arts university, includes the College of Liberal Arts, the Drew Theological School and the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. Drew is located on a beautiful wooded campus in Madison, New Jersey, a thriving small town close to New York City. It has a total enrollment of more than 2,200 students and has 136 full-time faculty members, 96 percent of whom hold the terminal degree in their field. The Theological and Caspersen schools offer master’s and doctoral degrees, and the College confers BA and BS degrees in 42 disciplines, 61 available minors, and offers 18 pre-professional programs, 19 dual-degree programs, and seven New York Semesters.

Media Contacts

For Drew University: 

Ivy Cohen

Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications

ivy@ivycohen.com

(212) 399-0026

For College Presidents for Civic Preparedness: 

Andy Solomon

Stratford Communications

andy@stratfordcommunications.com

(202) 841-9049

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