This installment of Speech Spotlight continues our exploration of different pathways for civic engagement on campus. Our earlier examinations focused on Engaging Student Voters and Supporting Student Activism.

Issue 5 centers on how colleges and universities can integrate opportunities for deliberate and meaningful political discussion into various aspects of campus life.

You can read every issue of our Speech Spotlight here. Let us know what topics interest you by emailing us at freespeechcenter@uci.edu.


Thoughts from Howard Gillman

Co-Chair, UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement
Chancellor, University of California, Irvine

In the midst of a global pandemic, a national reckoning on racial equality, and a contentious presidential election season, institutions of higher education are looking for ways to reimagine and revamp their efforts to prepare students to be active participants in American democracy. 

As such, a central component of the mission of higher education is to create knowledge that serves the public interest and to empower individuals to be productive and engaged members of society. Doing so, as the Center’s Speech Spotlight series on civic engagement suggests, requires creating a robust culture of civic participation that extends to every corner of campus life. 

To build such a culture, campuses must do more than help students cast their vote—they must help them understand why their vote matters and encourage them to explore and debate a range of political ideas and opinions, both in and outside of the classroom. Rather than avoid difficult political conversations, colleges and universities should facilitate them and encourage students to seek them out. If we wish to educate the next generation of leaders, we must equip them with the tools to use their voices to advocate for their beliefs. 

As more students return to campus this unusual fall, I hope that my colleagues across the country will join me in working to realize higher education’s civic mission by building campus cultures of democratic inquiry, debate, engagement, and participation.”

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