How Higher Education Can Save American Democracy

Dec 1, 2021 |
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The American Academy of Arts & Sciences invited leaders from its network of Affiliate Institutions to an off-the-record conversation about the relationship between higher education and American democracy today. Current events illustrate the threats to the nation’s democratic values and institutions. Recent public debates over university curricula, controversial interventions in the tenure process, and restrictions on academic legal testimony highlight the political pressures for faculty and administrators alike.  At this critical moment in our nation’s history, the Academy hosted a virtual convening for the leadership of our Affiliate Institutions to discuss the challenges higher education institutions face and the opportunities they have to help reinvent American democracy for the twenty-first century.

The program included a panel discussion featuring:

  • Melody Barnes, Executive Director of the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy and W.L. Lyons Brown Family Director for Policy and Public Engagement at the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia; former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council

  • Ronald Daniels, President of Johns Hopkins University and author of What Universities Owe Democracy (2021)

  • and moderated by Lisa García Bedolla, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division at the University of California, Berkeley, and member of the American Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship

Following the panel, attendees joined breakout rooms where they connected and shared ideas with colleagues from other institutions. This event was part of the Academy’s ongoing efforts to advance the recommendations of Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century.