Wednesday, January 15, 2020

9:00 AM - 3:30 PM

Worcester State University


About the Workshop

Colleges and universities can expect students to mobilize around hot and sometimes divisive issues and voter engagement, and students want to talk about public issues across disciplines and campus. At the same time, campus leaders want to avoid being the next headline. The frequency of events over just the past few weeks highlight the potential challenges: a book burning incident at Georgia Southern University over an all-school reading assignment on diversity and inclusion, student protests at Syracuse University over 16 acts of racist vandalism in the first two weeks of November, Indiana University Bloomington’s decision to continue to employ a professor who espoused racist and misogynistic views on social media, and President Trump’s executive order targeting Anti-Jewish and anti-Israel speech. While a recent study showed that not all campuses are political battlefields, that may be because, when it takes hold, political divisiveness interferes with student social cohesion and the campus climate. Faculty, students, and staff avoid political topics or it gets relegated to a few self-motivated activists and students in the social sciences. Avoiding cross-disciplinary political learning and discussion only contributes to the current political climate of extreme polarization and divisive rhetoric, misinformation and targeted social media, low confidence in government, and the rise of undemocratic forces in some segments of U.S. society. How do colleges and universities prepare for the potential tumult over the next 300+ days leading up to November 3, 2020?

In this workshop, researchers at the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University’s Tisch College will draw from their research to cover the gamut of “all things political” on college and university campuses, ranging from voting basics to managing politically charged discussions across differences of ideology and identity.  This workshop contains three Parts. In Part I, participants will examine recent trends in student voting and the practices on campus that promote inclusive student electoral engagement and leadership.  In Part II, participants learn how to lead politically charged discussions that are inclusive and candid. Part III will be dedicated to institutional planning, action, and change. 

The workshop will provide:

  • Background and Framework for Election 2020: What happened in prior elections, what to expect in 2020, promising practices in voter engagement, barriers to voting, and  innovative approaches to inclusive political engagement
  • Tools for Leading Politically Charged Discussions: Challenges in today’s political context, facilitator’s job description, active listening, asking the right questions, perspective taking, neutrality, and troubleshooting
  • Planning for Facilitating Change on Your Campus:  building coalitions and academic freedom to educate for democracy