In the face of growing complexity and danger in the problems facing American society, there are clear signs that self-interest is undermining public interest. There is today a dangerous mismatch between the country’s urgent need for civic mindedness and the parochial attitudes of its citizens. The intense demand for economic, social, and political renewal requires a far greater sense of public purpose.”
Those are the opening lines of the background information provided to attendees at the first meeting of the Coalition of College Presidents for Civic Responsibility, held at Georgetown University in January of 1986. By the end of that year, the Coalition had settled on the name Campus Compact to capture the mutual commitment of its members to pursuing the public purposes of higher education.
In the nearly thirty years since, the landscape of higher education community engagement has been fundamentally transformed. Campus Compact has grown from a few trailblazing presidents to a nationwide network of 1100 member institutions and 34 state and regional Compacts. As campuses have deepened their engagement work, new organizations have been launched and longstanding higher education organizations have added a civic focus to their work. A substantial body of research on the pedagogy and practice of engagement has emerged. In short, many more of us do the work of engaging higher education with communities than has ever before been the case, and we know much more about how to do it well.
And yet, we cannot be satisfied. The democratic deficit Campus Compact’s founders identified three decades ago has continued to grow. Exploding inequality increasingly separates higher education from the communities most in need of the knowledge and opportunity it represents. And while many in higher education are focused on the achievement of public ends, many more must join this movement for us to have an impact commensurate with the challenge.
In March of 2016, Campus Compact will host two gatherings intended to catalyze the next phase of engagement, with deeper impact for students, communities, and democracy.
- On March 20, 2016, we will hold a summit of presidents and chancellors at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston. At the summit, presidents and chancellors will affirm an Action Statement announcing a set of commitments to apply the principles articulated in the Presidents’ Declaration on the Civic Responsibility of Higher Education.
- From March 21-23, 2016, we will hold a 30th anniversary conference in Boston; the conference’s theme is Accelerating Change: Engagement for Impact. We look forward to bringing together the wide range of people and organizations making engagement happen across the country and beyond.
We view Campus Compact’s thirtieth anniversary as an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the achievements of the last three decades, learn more about what needs to be done and what resources already exist to enable that work, and commit ourselves to take the steps necessary to accelerate and deepen our efforts.
I will be sharing more in the months to come about the these events, the Action Statement, and other efforts we will be undertaking as we head toward the anniversary year. For now, I hope you will mark your calendars. See you in Boston!