Universities and colleges across the country are asking what the role of higher education is in supporting our democracy in the run-up to the 2024 election. This question will take center stage at Wesleyan University in February at the Democracy in Action convening, a two-day seminar seeking to make clear how students, faculty, staff, and alumni must all commit to defending democracy.
Taking place Feb. 16 to 17, the Democracy in Action convening will feature a keynote address by author, academic, reverend, and activist Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, sessions led by faculty, students, and outside experts exploring topics that lie at the intersection of higher education and democratic life, and will close with a galvanizing conversation between Anand Giridharadas, an internationally bestselling author and defender of democracy, and President Michael S. Roth ’78. The convening is free for Wesleyan students and $25 for all other attendees.
“Whatever party or candidates one supports, colleges and universities must defend democracy to defend their very mission, to defend their values of free inquiry and teaching,” President Roth recently wrote in Salon. “At this time that means calling out the dangers of tyranny while inspiring democratic practices among young people so that we can defend our country from the incendiary forces now gathering around Donald Trump.”
The convening begins on Feb. 16 with a civic engagement fair, a media literacy workshop, and Dyson’s keynote address. Then on Feb. 17, there will be a day of sessions that explore higher education’s role in shaping how we participate in democratic life and culminates with Giridharadas and President Roth.
Bringing together a panel of civic education experts and career educators, the Civic Education session will investigate how our schools can better prepare students to lead lives of active citizenship. Session panelists include Celina Su ‘99, well-known for her work on everyday struggles for collective governance, Joseph Kahne, the Co-Director of the Civic Engagement Research Group at the University of California, Riverside, and Challa Flemming ’02, a career educator, who brings two decades of experience in K to 12 education to the discussion.
Tracy Heather Strain, co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, will lead the Art & Activism session, featuring a screening and discussion to show how art can inform and inspire political and social change in our democracy.
The Media & Democracy session will bring together panelists Khalilah Brown-Dean, a local journalist focused on the intersection of identity and access to democracy, Tracie Potts, an expert on local media and former broadcast journalist, and Molly Jong-Fast, a national reporter and host of the podcast, Fast Politics with Molly Jong-Fast, to explore how changes in the media landscape have affected our trust in democracy.
Learn more about Democracy in Action and register on the website.
The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, endowed by James J. Shasha ’50, P’82, supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues.