Dialogues with State Legislators


We tend to think of state legislators and representatives of higher education as separate, distinct players in the world of public policy. What often goes unacknowledged are the significant ways in which they are alike. Both parties, for example, are driven by the same mandate?each is required to act as a conscientious agent for the public good. Additionally, state legislators and higher education officials abide by an identical commitment to the all-important ideals of open dialogue and free deliberation. Finally, the work they carry out as policy makers and educators must always address the interests and needs of others, most especially the constituencies of their home communities.

Despite these similarities, state legislators and higher education officials rarely take part in conversations that allow them to explore, or build upon, their common commitments. Largely absent is the opportunity to engage in deliberative dialogue; or structured, face-to-face conversations where personal perspectives and opinions about a particular policy issue (or set of issues) are tested and clarified with an eye toward developing a shared understanding of how the issue/s might best be addressed.



In September 2002 the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, in partnership with the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), the American Council on Education (ACE), and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU)?brought together college and university presidents and state legislators to discuss and share their perspectives of the ways in which the social charter between higher education and society can be more effectively articulated and sustained

The Legislative Roundtable took place in Washington, D.C. and was devised with three central goals:

1.  To create an opportunity for meaningful discussion of the role colleges and universities play as leaders in society and   contributors to the public good;

2.  To provide a forum where legislators and higher education leaders can share perspectives of their work and cultivate a mutual understanding of how each respective party seeks to enhance the development of a committed, participatory citizenry; and
3.  To model a values-based approach for future regional roundtable sessions that demonstrates commitment and the value of higher education as a public need.

Initial findings from this meeting where shared at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Colleges & Universities in Washington, DC. In addition, this effort served to inform other National Forum initiatives, such as the Access to Democracy project, that focus on the role that deliberative dialogue plays in shaping the relationship between public policy and higher education for the public good.



Theme in Action & Research: Higher Education for the Public Good

Theme in Action & Research: Deliberative Dialogue