Chapter 23: Politics 365: Fostering Campus Climates for Student Political Learning and Engagement
by Nancy Thomas, Tufts University and Margaret Brower, Tufts University
College level teaching for political knowledge and engagement happens in the context of a campus climate, a combination of the norms, behaviors, attitudes, structures, and external influences that shape the student experience. Yet little is known about the attributes of a robust campus climate for political engagement. From 2014 to 2016, researchers at Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education visited nine diverse colleges and universities selected for their high (and low) levels of electoral engagement, geography, institutional type, and students served. Based on interviews and focus groups with nearly 500 students, faculty members, and administrators, the researchers identified certain attributes of politically engaged institutions. Those attributes include structures to support student well-being and social cohesion; a commitment to diversity as an institutional priority and practice; habits of political discussions in and beyond the classroom; a strong commitment to both academic freedom and free expression; students as decision-makers, with shared responsibility for each other and for the institution; respectful responses to student activism, and; a celebratory attitude toward elections and political issues. Unsurprising are the findings regarding the critical role of faculty in cultivating relationships with students and positive conditions for learning, foundational to robust student political learning and engagement.
About the Authors
Teaching Civic Engagement Across the Disciplines / Copyright ©2017 by the American Political Science Association