Pre-Meeting Symposium 2022


Polarization, Partisanship, and Disinformation: What Is Higher Education’s Response?

Washington, DC - January 19, 2022

This event is only offered in-person. Separate registration and fee are required.

About the Symposium

Political polarization, partisanship, and disinformation are undermining democracy around the world. The symposium will provide opportunities for campus stakeholders to discuss how higher education should respond. 

  • How can higher education prepare students to be discerning consumers of information in the face of increasingly sophisticated campaigns to manipulate the truth and shape public opinion?
  • What types of curricular and cocurricular initiatives are most effective in helping students hone their information literacy and civic skills? 
  • How should the higher education community respond to anti-intellectualism and assaults on truth? 
  • How can higher education model and transmit the norms and values that enable civil discourse, fuel the pursuit of social justice, and sustain democracy?



JANUARY 19, 2022


All Times are Eastern


8:30 – 9:00 am


Opening Remarks


9:00 – 10:15 am


Opening Plenary on Academic Freedom

Individual Perspectives Followed by Q&A

Ronald J. Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University; Summer Lopez, Senior Director, Free Expression Programs, PEN America; Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Professor, School of Public Affairs and School of Education, American University

10:30 – 11:45 am


Second Plenary on Responding to Polarization, Partisanship, and Disinformation

Paul G. Lannon Jr., Partner, Holland & Knight LLP and Frederick M. Lawrence, Secretary and CEO, Phi Beta Kappa Society

12:00 - 1:30 pm


Lunch and Screening of TRUST ME: How Do you Know What to Believe?                                                                                                    

1:30 – 2:30 pm

Afternoon Panel - Trends in Higher Education

William E. Cox Jr., Vice President of Operations & Advertising, Diverse, and Scott Jaschik, Editor, Inside Higher Ed

2:30 – 3:30 pm


Afternoon Concurrent Sessions



Academic Freedom For What? Education for Democracy in Question

Academic freedom in the US today faces myriad threats stemming from: a divisive political climate, eroding trust in science, legislative or trustee intervention into curricular choices, self-appointed speech watchdogs, directives in funding, social media, and more. Rarely do threats to academic freedom operate in a vacuum—often, other core values essential for civic education are jointly at stake. Drawing on recent archetypal paradigms that have divided campuses, this session will offer tools for higher education leaders, scholars, and staff to assess incidents and develop proactive strategies to publicly affirm higher education’s responsibility to educate for a stronger, more just democracy.


Chelsea Blackburn Cohen, Scholars at Risk Network; Nancy Thomas, Tufts University


Democratic implications of reflection: findings from integrative learning research at UM-Flint

This panel will describe advances made by a multi-disciplinary faculty working group to expand the use of  “signature assignments” and study their impacts on democratic engagement. We will share qualitative and quantitative data from three years of surveys and artifact collection and present preliminary results from a new survey on the use of reflection in assignment design. These findings will be used to explore and contextualize the democratic elements of signature assignments and to open a conversation with others on how reflection is a powerful tool for democratic engagement.


Stephanie Roach, University of Michigan-Flint; Jennifer Alvey, University of Michigan-Flint; Tracy Wacker, University of Michigan-Flint; Kazuko Hiramatsu, University of Michigan-Flint; Rajib Ganguly, University of Michigan-Flint 


Transforming Liberal Education Within Small Colleges: A "Village Commons" Approach to Democracy and Diversity

In a deeply divided nation, small liberal arts colleges are uniquely positioned to engage and welcome diverse students from high schools in neighboring communities.  SLACs can redesign their Gen Ed curriculum for such students to center on critical issues facing local communities, states, our nation, and our world.   The session will highlight efforts at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, and Molloy College on Long Island, to work with the non-profit New American Baccalaureate Project, rededicate their institutions to serve a broader range of regional students while they gain skills and dispositions essential for success in today's complex organizations and enterprises.


Robert Fried, Northeastern University (retired); Christopher Malone, Molloy College; Shadia Alvarez, Antioch College, Yellow Springs; Eli Kramer, University of Vroclaw, Poland; Daniel McGann, Molloy College

3:30 – 4:00 pm

Closing Remarks