University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher will speak tomorrow at the Council of Europe Global Forum on “Higher Education for Diversity, Social Inclusion, and Community: A Democratic Imperative,” held at LUMSA University in Rome.

In the opening plenary session, Crutcher will provide a brief history of the importance of an educated electorate, affirm America’s commitment to education and discuss opportunities for growth.

“We must do a better job providing access and opportunity to these students from diverse backgrounds. Our democracies cannot flourish when education is the privilege of the few,” he says.

Crutcher says that because university students sometimes cling to familiar social structures, college campuses can offer an ideal environment for questioning existing biases and seeking out people of different backgrounds and perspectives.

“Vigorous disagreement and the contest of ideas are central to higher education. And so I retain an optimistic view of the role that higher education can play in extending this embrace of new perspectives, and the centrality of contested ideas, to the proper functioning of our democracies,” Crutcher says.

Crutcher is concerned that whether in political dialogue or on campuses, individuals may lack the capacity to disagree. “Civility must not be code for quieting others’ opinions but a call for an energetic exchange of ideas within our richly diverse academic communities,” Crutcher says.

“Institutions of higher education are uniquely positioned, and have a unique responsibility, to model substantive and civil disagreement,” he adds. “Through such disagreements we create new knowledge and new capacities for consensus around shared approaches to seemingly intractable problems.”

Throughout his career, Crutcher has actively promoted access, affordability and inclusivity. He writes and speaks widely on the democratic purposes and civic mission of higher education. Under his leadership, the University of Richmond recently joined 30 of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities as charter members of the American Talent Initiative with the goal to increase socioeconomic diversity in higher education.  

Outcomes of the forum include an increased global commitment to higher education’s contribution to developing and advancing a culture of democracy and a better understanding of how higher education can work democratically with communities to promote inclusion and diversity.

The conference features higher education leaders and representatives of public authorities and non-government organizations from Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.  More information on the conference can be found here.

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Access and opportunity

“We must do a better job providing access and opportunity to these students from diverse backgrounds. Our democracies cannot flourish when education is the privilege of the few.”
-President Ronald A. Crutcher

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