• AASCU Symposium on Strengthening Democracy

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    Photo Credit: Lisa Helfert for AASCU

    On March 8-9, AASCU hosted 20 provosts from HBCUs, HSIs, and AANAPIS for a symposium on Strengthening Democracy: Minority-Serving Institutions and America’s Racial Reckoning.  The group discussed the challenges of leading a campus in this seminal moment for democracy in America and the world.  

    The program was designed to provoke conversation and reflection leading to intentionally designed actions and to guide AASCU on how to best support provosts and their institutions through programming and convenings.  

    Erica Green, New York Times education reporter, provided a national context for the discussions about democracy, race, and higher education.  

    Michael Benitez, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Metropolitan State University Denver, provided valuable context for understanding the attacks on critical race theory. 

    Jaime Merisotis, president of Lumina Foundation, spoke about the urgency of the moment and encouraged us to be bold as higher education leaders. “We are in a radical moment that needs a radical response,” he told the group.

    In light of the recent bomb threats to HBCUs, representatives from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security spoke about programming designed to help colleges and universities mitigate security threats.  

    Susan Thompson, who leads the Academia Program at the FBI, emphasized the importance of campus leaders establishing a relationship with their field office representatives before an incident. Traci Silas, acting executive director, Office of Academic Engagement at the Department of Homeland Security, provided an overview of the programs, including grants, for colleges and universities provided by the Office of Academic Engagement.  

    The group heard from Elizabeth Parmelee, associate vice president for undergraduate education at Metropolitan State University Denver, a campus that has been deeply engaged in the American Democracy Project and has one of the highest college student voting rates in the country. 

    The symposium was the first of an ongoing series of convenings at AASCU’s new offices in Washington, D.C. on topics of urgency and relevance to AASCU provosts. These symposia will offer provosts a chance to take a break the distractions and demands of the campus to think deeply about a compelling topic or challenge, listen to provocative and informed speakers, and connect with peers who are dealing with the same issues and challenges.