GSCOPE 2023: Higher Education, Democracy, and Controversy

October 5, 2023 - October 7, 2023
Department of Philosophy, CUNY Graduate Center

365 5th Avenue
New York 10016
United States

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  • Doctoral and Graduate Students' Council, CUNY Graduate Center


University of Wisconsin, Madison


CUNY Graduate Center
CUNY Graduate Center

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The theme of the conference & post-conference pedagogy workshop reflects the difficulty in creating and maintaining respectful discourse in higher-education classrooms, especially surrounding controversial empirical, moral, and political issues. Some argue that this is an equity issue. Undergraduate students who come from rural and/or underprivileged areas are more likely to experience alienation on campus, sometimes because they have never been exposed to certain “politically correct” language or ideas, and sometimes simply because they lack the financial and social capital that their peers have. It seems crucial (and follows from democratic and civic values) to foster safe learning environments for all students, especially those students who are more likely to feel alienated on college campuses and in elite spaces. At the same time, some argue that the aim of higher education is purely epistemological, and not civic or democratic. Proponents of this view might hold that free speech and academic freedom must be properly protected for higher education to perform its proper social function: education. What is the appropriate relationship between higher education, knowledge-production, teaching, free speech, and democracy? How can higher education instructors and professors be effective teachers in the light of these relationships?

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University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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