Liberal Education

The Association of American Colleges and Universities Releases Statement on Higher Education's Role in the Wake of the National Tragedy of September 11th

Washington, DC—September 18, 2001—The Association of American Colleges and Universities released the following statement today regarding higher education's role in the wake of the national tragedy of September 11th.

The text of the statement follows:

The AAC&U Board of Directors and Staff share with all Americans an overwhelming grief and sadness at the horrific acts of carnage the nation has endured. We extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected by this national tragedy and we share in the resolve to bring those responsible to justice.

In this moment of pain that goes beyond words, our educational communities are playing an extraordinary role. We are greatly moved by the thoughtful ways in which colleges and universities across the country have come together to support students, faculty, staff, and members of the wider community.

As educators, it is both our privilege and our responsibility to contribute to the nation's response to this tragedy by helping our students and, indeed, our entire society engage the larger meanings and implications of these seismic events. Even as we comfort the wounded, higher education also is turning a beacon on the qualities and commitments that make our democracy inspiring and resilient. The academy both embodies and imparts democracy's finest principles of intellectual freedom, reasoned inquiry, civil liberties, openness to a full range of views and experiences, and the determination to comprehend issues in all their complexity. As a society torn from its accustomed moorings, we now need our commitment to these principles in their fullest measure.

Valuing diversity and enabling constructive intergroup learning have become hallmarks of the contemporary academy. As we face the current crisis, we must redouble our efforts to build broad understanding of the diversity that is a wellspring both of our democracy and of our intellectual vitality. With others across the nation, the AAC&U community is dismayed by reports that some in our society have directed their anger at targeted groups, including Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and residents from Islamic communities around the world. We know that members of all groups are grieving together and share in the international revulsion at the violence of September 11.

We are especially concerned that questions are being raised about the presence of international students on our campuses. The events of September 11th make clear that we should do everything we can to facilitate international student exchanges. The trend to greater exchanges is one we should applaud for it holds great promise for the improved global understanding we so desperately need.

AAC&U stands ready to support the higher education community in any way we can in the difficult days, months and years ahead. We know that college leaders and faculty are working night and day to support all the members of their campus communities in this time of need. We extend our best wishes and our heartfelt thanks to them for all they are doing. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy.


AAC&U is the leading national association devoted to advancing and strengthening liberal learning for all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Since its founding in 1915, AAC&U's membership has grown to more than 1000 accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at both the national and local levels and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

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