Swearer Center Signs National Pledge to Prioritize Civic Engagement

Leading higher education organizations mobilize to engage all college students in civic learning and democracy engagement
September 30, 2021

The Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University has joined dozens of higher education and student success organizations to announce a Shared Commitment to make democracy learning a top priority for postsecondary education.

Democracy faces monumental challenges in the United States and worldwide. In this pivotal moment, our Shared Commitment calls on the higher education community to take concerted action to help build readiness to tackle urgent public problems, together.

Urging equity-committed civic learning, the signatories call for civic inquiry, practice in civil discourse, and collaborative work on real-world public problems to be part of each postsecondary student’s educational pathway.  

“Civic engagement isn’t just about voting–it is a framework for everything we do,” noted Executive Director Mary Jo Callan. “The Swearer Center is an important place on Brown’s campus for students and colleagues to advance habits of democracy and civic engagement. By signing this pledge, we are signaling our commitment to growing this work, and we invite others to join us.” 

The Shared Commitment pledge was organized by the Civic Learning and Democracy Engagement (CLDE). Founded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), Complete College America (CCA) and College Promise, CLDE is working in partnership with civic learning organizations and initiatives across the United States. It builds from the revival of civic learning already spreading across K-12 and hundreds of postsecondary institutions, spurred by the work of many educational organizations that endorsed the Shared Commitment. 

The CLDE coalition will work on four goals to engage college students with democracy’s future:   

  • Quality and Equity: Build commitment and capacity—across postsecondary education—to make civic learning and democracy engagement an expected part of a quality college education for all students, with equitable participation by students from historically excluded communities as a top priority.

  • Democracy Engagement: Engage students with democracy’s history, present and future in a diverse United States, in U.S. communities still struggling to reverse inherited disparities, and in a globally interdependent world where authoritarianism is on the rise.

  • Collaborative Problem-Solving: Prepare each postsecondary student, through creative combinations of general education, arts and sciences studies, and career-related studies, to work directly on selected public problems that society needs to solve—e.g., racial injustice, inadequate healthcare, disinvestment in public education, housing affordability, climate change, the digital divide, assaults on human rights, and more.  

  • Policy Commitment: Secure policy support for and robust public investment in the goals listed above.

“A multitude of departments, centers, faculty, and students across campus are already deeply engaged in work that supports these commitments,” remarked Callan. “Signing on to this statement is an important symbolic gesture aligned with the very purpose of the Swearer Center and indicates our intention to explore, expand, and clarify our own civic engagement work as we embark on a strategic planning process over the next year.” 

To learn more about the Swearer Center’s efforts on civic learning and democracy engagement, visit brown.edu/go/civic-engagement

To sign the Shared Commitment statement, join the CLDE movement, and share your own work toward the CLDE goals, visit www.CollegeCivicLearning.org