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Invitation to Join the Global University Civic Engagement Movement
We urge you to join the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities to further advance the global university civic engagement movement.
Universities are enduring institutions and, we believe, well positioned to respond to the pressing challenges of our time. Like many human institutions, they are also characterized by inertia and slow to change. The Talloires Network of Engaged Universities is asking:
Can we afford to watch from the sidelines as the rise of authoritarianism and disintegration of democracy around the world redefines the popular perception of higher education, reducing universities to brands, degrees to commodities, and students to customers? Might we articulate and proactively advance a broader social understanding of the university?
What forces will drive and shape the role of the university in the 21st century? The demands of 21stcentury students who expect to customize their learning to fit their distinctive needs? Decreasing public support for universities? Mounting global competition among universities? Pressing societal issues including rising levels of inequality, human conflict and migration, and food and water insecurity? Powerful technological advancements including artificial intelligence and its impact on the nature of work and the realities of human consciousness? The coronavirus pandemic, social distancing and online teaching and learning?
We believe that the university as we know it will necessarily evolve into a nimble and responsive network of engaging spaces, physical and virtual, synchronous and asynchronous. Popular contemporary characteristics such as sage on the stage, standardized testing, disciplinary research, semesters, and specialized degrees will fade away. New ideas including reciprocal knowledge, impact-based assessments, transdisciplinary action research, continuous and on-demand learning, and collaborative problem-solving credentials and micro-degrees will emerge and take hold.
We invite you to ask yourself:
Where do I stand?
What difference will my scholarship make in the world?
In what ways does my research, teaching, and administrative leadership within higher education contribute to human dignity and wellbeing?
If you are working in a geo-political location where you may speak freely, and take a stand for justice without facing the risk of unlawful imprisonment, we ask you to exercise your power. Now is the time for bold action. A case in point is the Vice-Chair of the Talloires Network Steering Committee, Dr. Sara Ladrón de Guevara. Ladrón was elected as Rector of Universidad Veracruzana in 2013 and was re-elected for a second four-year term in 2017. She is the first woman to hold this prestigious position in the 75-year history of the university. Her leadership as Rector has been characterized by a profound commitment to social justice and activism for speaking out against corruption. In 2016, she organized and led a 60,000-person state-wide protest to demand the university’s public funds from the state government. This protest has come to symbolize the defense of the right to higher education.
The generative utility and relative permanence of higher education institutions suggests they may have a vital role in contributing to our collective survival, if they are able to evolve quickly and purposefully. Incremental adaptation, resistance to or denial of the changing global order are no longer viable options for institutions, especially universities. Let us continue to move forward, and with a heightened sense of urgency, creativity, and optimism.