Western Endorses Declaration on Civic Responsibility

Western Carolina University has endorsed the Presidents’ Declaration on the Civic Responsibility of Higher Education. In the Declaration, college and university leaders throughout the United States have expressed the commitment of higher education institutions to their civic purposes.

“We believe that the challenge of the next millennium is the renewal of our own democratic life and reassertion of social stewardship,” the institutional leaders have declared. “In celebrating the birth of our democracy, we can think of no nobler task than committing ourselves to helping catalyze and lead a national movement to reinvigorate the public purposes and civic mission of higher education. We believe that now and through the next century, our institutions must be vital agents and architects of a flourishing democracy.”

The Office of the Chancellor submitted Western’s endorsement of the Declaration recently after the Service Learning Department, through the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, recommended that Chancellor Bardo become a signer.

Campus Compact, the national coalition of higher education leaders, coordinates the initiative. Some 540 college and university leaders have endorsed the Declaration.
Below are excerpts from the Declaration:

“We are encouraged that more and more students are volunteering and participating in public and community service, and we have all encouraged them to do so through curricular and cocurricular activity. … [W]e take responsibility for helping [students] realize the values and skills of our democratic society and their need to claim ownership of it. …

“Higher education is uniquely positioned to help Americans understand the histories and contours of our present challenges as a diverse democracy. It is also uniquely positioned to help both students and our communities to explore new ways of fulfilling the promise of justice and dignity for all, both in our own democracy and as part of the global community. We know that pluralism is a source of strength and vitality that will enrich our students’ education and help them learn both to respect difference and to work together for the common good. …

Key Institutional Force

“Higher education – its leaders, students, faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni – remains a key institutional force in our culture that can respond, and can do so without a political agenda and with the intellectual and professional capacities today’s challenges so desperately demand. Thus, for society’s benefit and for the academy’s, we need to do more. Only by demonstrating the democratic principles we espouse can higher education effectively educate our students to be good citizens.

“How can we realize this vision of institutional public engagement? It will, of course, take as many forms as there are types of colleges and universities. And it will require our hard work, as a whole and within each of our institutions. We will know we are successful by the robust debate on our campuses, and by the civic behaviors of our students. We will know it by the civic engagement of our faculty. We will know it when our community partnerships improve the quality of community life and the quality of the education we provide. … “We ask other college presidents to join us in seeking recognition of civic responsibility in accreditation procedures, Carnegie classifications, and national rankings and to work with governors, state legislators, and state higher education offices on state expectations for civic engagement in public systems.”

– Reprinted from The Service-Learning Sentinel (Vol. 4, No. 3 & 4, July-December 2006)


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