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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What exactly is the American Democracy Project?
  2. What are the key assumptions leading to AASCU's American Democracy Project initiative?
  3. What research and scholarly work underlie these assumptions?
  4. What is the role of the New York Times in this project?
  5. What does the ADP mean to SUNY Brockport?
  6. What is the working definition of “civic engagement” in the context of the ADP?
  7. What are the broad student-learning outcomes of the ADP?
  8. What does the ADP mean for faculty and staff workload?
  9. Why should the campus get involved in the ADP when there are already examples of our success with civic engagement?
  10. Is this really about getting our students to register to vote?
  11. What resources are available to support the ADP?
  12. What is the timeline for the ADP? When does it begin? End?
  13. How will we know as a campus if the ADP makes a difference? Does this mean more assessment activity?
  14. Where are the “opportunities” for action?
  15. Where does the Summer Reading Project for freshman relate to the ADP?
  16. How do I get involved?
  17. Where do I get more information?
  18. If I want to inform my division or department about the ADP, are there specific talking points I should cover?

 

  1. What exactly is the American Democracy Project?

  2. The American Democracy Project is a non-partisan, national initiative conceived by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in partnership with the New York Times and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. AASCU is working to connect participating campuses, to facilitate conversation and research and to support the effort through networking. Of AASCU's 340 member campuses, 167 have currently declared participation.

    The ADP asks participating campuses to consider the growing challenges of educating a citizenry who have the knowledge, skill, values and motivation to renew our democratic principles and ensure a healthy democracy anew with each generation.

  3. What are the key assumptions leading to AASCU's American Democracy Project initiative?

    • That ‘social capital' (provided through interaction with others, the development of trust, a sense of linkage between people, participation in community) is on the decline.
    • That civics education in K-12 is declining
    • That a sense of personal entitlement is on the increase
    • That the politics of polarization is increasing
    • That rates of political participation are decreasing
    • That support for higher education is declining
    • That the interest in democracy is increasing abroad
  4. What research and scholarly work underlie these assumptions?

    The ADP campus website (click on the flag icon on the lower left portion of the Brockport home page) has links to the ASSCU and New York Times ADP web sites where numerous references for the ADP are cited. Key to the ADP are the following:

    • Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone
    • Thomas Ehrlich, Ed. Civic Responsibility and Higher Education 2000
    • Thomas Ehrlich, Educating Citizens
    • Jeddah Purdy “Suspicious Minds.” The Atlantic Monthly. January/February
    • The Civic and Political Health of the Nation, A Generation Portrait, 2002
  5. What is the role of the New York Times in this project?

    The New York Times serves as a resource by providing:

    • News, analysis and multiple perspectives through its educational services
    • Special events (for example the recent symposium for campus newspaper editors and their campus advisors)
    • Staff writers as guest speakers on campus
    • A web site for project dissemination
    • National visibility for the project and participating campuses
    • A conference for presidents and other senior campus leaders
  6. What does the ADP mean to SUNY Brockport?

  7. The ADP initiative provides opportunities for the campus to:

    • Focus on issues related to citizenship and civic engagement at an institutional level (the distinction between engaged students and an engaged campus)
    • Integrate planning with the Strategic Planning II process, the interest in reconstituting a summer reading project for freshmen and the coming national elections
    • Research, describe and celebrate the breadth and depth of civic engagement activities already present on campus
    • Engage in broad conversations about the role of civic engagement in our undergraduate programs
    • Enhance and extend curricular and co-curricular activities where the campus deems appropriate
  8. What is the working definition of “civic engagement” in the context of the ADP?

    Using Thomas Ehrlich's words, civic engagement is:

    • “Working to make a difference in the civic life our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference”
    • “Promoting” the quality of life in a community through both political and non-political processes
  9. What are the broad student-learning outcomes of the ADP?

    • To increase the understanding of democracy's conceptual and historical roots
    • To create an understanding of Contemporary issues and events
    • To provide opportunities to learn and experience core processes of civic engagement
    • To develop a commitment to act, to become invoiced in the life of the community
  10. What does the ADP mean for faculty and staff workload?

    While any new initiative requires an initial focus of attention on discussion and planning, the ADP objects can be simply embedded in the existing work of faculty, staff and students OR for those who wish to create new programs or projects the possibilities are many. Participation in the project is voluntary.

  11. Why should the campus get involved in the ADP when there are already examples of our success with civic engagement?

    While there are many examples of activities on campus that fit the definition of student civic engagement, the ADP focuses at an institutional level where the president, provost and the entire college community become involved. Additionally, ASSCU encourages the development of linkages between those on campus who are “engaged” as well as forming or deepening relationships with the broader local community and with other campuses.

  12. Is this really about getting our students to register to vote?

    Voter registration can be an important aspect of the ADP on the campus. However “civic engagement” also includes a broader set of skills, values and experiences as noted in questions number 6 and 7.

  13. What resources are available to support the ADP?

    AASCU and the New York Times provide important non-monetary support. Campus resources or other public or private sources must provide funding for activities initiated by the campus.

  14. What is the timeline for the ADP? When does it begin? End?

    AASCU considers last spring (2003) the beginning of the ADP when ideas of civic engagement were introduced in the national meetings. However each campus is encouraged to enter the initiative when the institution is ready.

    Each campus is asked to:

    • Year One: Under take a campus “audit” of civic engagement, begin campus conversations and identify possible projects
    • Years two and three: Undertake activities designed by the campus based on institutional mission, local circumstances and campus-generated initiatives.

    Note: A national meeting will be held in Albuquerque in August 2004 where campuses are encouraged to send a team of participants. The meeting will provide opportunities to share plans and experiences and to work with other institutional teams. Presentations at the meeting will address:

    • Innovative teaching/learning strategies
    • Model voter education and registration strategies
    • New national programs
    • Assessment ideas 
  15. How will we know as a campus if the ADP makes a difference? Does this mean more assessment activity?

    AASCU is interested in assessment and suggests the following activities:

    • Conducting a campus audit of civic engagement
    • Utilizing existing assessment instruments (NSSE, HERI surveys, etc.)
    • Developing new assessment activities appropriate for the campus
  16. Where are the “opportunities” for action?

    • First year programs
    • General education
    • Faculty development
    • 2004 elections
    • Campus culture
    • Assessment
    • Service Learning
    • Co-curriculum
    • Community
  17. Where does the Summer Reading Project for freshman relate to the ADP?

    The summer reading project is the reinstatement of an older tradition at SUNY Brockport. In the new incarnation Academic Affairs and Student Affairs are partnering to insure that the summer reading is integrated in discussions facilitated by peer mentors prior to arrival on campus, during orientation, and APS sections with optional discussion in blocked courses. Consideration was given to ADP themes in the title selection process.

  18. How do I get involved?

    Faculty, staff and students are invited to learn more and to get involved at whatever level they wish. Simply contact campus coordinator Cynthia Boaz. By the end of spring semester a steering committee will be formed and various working groups identified. All volunteers are welcomed.

  19. Where do I get more information?

    Extensive information and valuable links are available on the ADP web page and documents posted there (including this one) are printable.

  20. If I want to inform my division or department about the ADP, are there specific talking points I should cover?

    This FAQ document may serve as a briefing outline. Also please feel free to share any of the information posted on the ADP web site. Of particular interest are:

    • The ADP project abstract
    • The overview of Robert Putnam's book
    • George Mehaffy's PowerPoint presentation from the Spring Colloquium
    • The discussion question summaries from the Colloquium and the Town Meetings

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