From Harry C. Boyte, "Higher Education Engagement Newsletter"

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(This issue of the 2014 Higher Education Engagement News is provided by Harry C. Boyte,

Higher Education Engagement News is a periodic newsletter edited by Harry C. Boyte, Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College, which responds to requests for updates and information about initiatives associated with the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP). ACP was a coalition to strengthen the public purposes of higher education organized for the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act establishing land grant colleges in 2012, on invitation by the White House Office of Public Engagement.

This issue describes the University of Minnesota Task Force on Civic Engagement in 2000-2002, a highly unusual university-wide initiative to strengthen the land grant mission by deepening the public dimensions of professional work. The Task Force resulted in the Office of Public Engagement as a university-wide resource.

Below are also several materials and reports from the work around the Task Force, as well as a link to the Wingspread Declaration on the Civic Responsibilities of Research Universities, co-authored with Elizabeth Hollander, which was influenced by my discussions and interviews leading to the Task Force.

University of Minnesota Task Force on Civic Engagement 2000-2002

Taken from the UMN website
The Task Force on Civic Engagement started in a research project by the Center for Democracy and Citizenship for the Kellogg Foundation in 1997/98. The project undertook an examination of the possibilities for renewing the public service and land grant mission of the University of Minnesota.

As a part of that effort, Ed Fogelman and Harry Boyte interviewed dozens of faculty, administrators, staff and students at the University of Minnesota, as well as stakeholders in the broader community. More than expected, the interviews created a widespread hunger for more public engagement and relevance in research and teaching. Many expressed an interest in developing a partnership approach with communities across the state. There was strong support for more student civic learning opportunities in disciplines and professional departments.

Several strategies developed to make civic mission a central topic of concern and discussion. For the next two years, the Center worked with Robert Bruininks, Provost and Executive Vice President, Craig Swan, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Vic Bloomfield, Vice Provost for Research. In the fall of 2000, Provost Bruininks appointed the Task Force on Civic Engagement charged with clarifying the meaning of civic engagement and recommending practical measures for incorporating civic engagement across the full range of university activities. Ed Fogelman was named the chair and modeled the process of civic engagement with the task force in developing the priority issues, strategies, and recommendations.

At a time of diminished public support and novel intellectual and practical challenges, the Engaged University holds the promise for a constructive new era in higher education, in which civic responsibilities and public contributions become central institutional priorities affecting research and scholarship, teaching and learning, outreach and partnership. But institutionalizing an engaged university is a complex process, with four parallel and inter-related dimensions: intellectual, structural, cultural, and political. The effectiveness of an Engaged University depends on focused efforts across all four dimensions.

A number of things were accomplished including the formation of the Office of Public Engagement, directed by Andy Furco.

The experiences also helped shape the future work of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, now the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College, and generated insights and perspectives of importance for revitalizing the democratic narrative of higher education, broadly.

I created a section on my site with a number of the documents shaped by the UMN civic engagement work. Here's the link:

Public Engagement in a Civic Mission the report of faculty interviews

Going Public, stories of faculty members who developed strong public engagements

"The Struggle Against Positivism," an essay in the AAUP magazine, Academe, on the need to dismantle the default culture of detachment, fueled by positivism, if we are to build the power and public relationships to fight back effectively against efforts to turn higher education into an on-line business.

The Wingspread Declaration, co-authored with Elizabeth Hollander, a call for research universities to recover their democratic purposes. The statement formed the basis for a "Presidents' Declaration" which has been signed by more than 600 presidents. The Wingspread Declaration can also be found through this link

A lecture at Duke, "Off the Playground of Civil Society," on the need to rethink the weak definitions of civic engagement which take work and professional work off the map, significantly informed by the work at the UMN.

A letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education taking issue with the article, “Syracuse’s Slide,” which criticized Chancellor Nancy Cantor and her innovations which led to more inclusive admissions policies for local students and deeper involvement of the university in the life of the city. The article points to the erosion of democratic purposes of higher education in an environment dominated by the national rankings. It also describes the debate in 2001 in the Minnesota Public Radio forum on the land grant tradition and the future of the UMN. MPR’s report was framed as “access versus excellence,” but this frame neglected a third alternative, "democratic excellence," at the heart of the land grant tradition of democracy colleges. The letter quotes from the inaugural address by Lotus Coffman, president of the UMN in the 1920s and 1930s, “The University and the Commonwealth.”

These themes are also elaborated in the collection, Democracy’s Education, soon available on at