LET’S TALK

Initiative promotes civic engagement

March 15, 2021

Black and white photo of a crowd with people talking on a stage.
Photo: Colorado State University Libraries, Archives & Special Collections

DURING ONE OF THE MOST contentious national elections in history, the Colorado State University System launched an initiative to encourage civic engagement, voting, and informed discourse. The effort – called “Your Voice. Your Vote. Your Rights.” – highlights the role higher education plays in preparing educated citizens and leading difficult conversations around critical issues.

“Most Americans don’t like the way we talk to each other these days, but no one seems to know how to fix it,” Chancellor Tony Frank wrote in an essay announcing the initiative last year. “The CSU System proposes we start at the most obvious point: Let’s talk about it.”

“Your Voice. Your Vote. Your Rights.” launched in September 2020 with a new website, followed by a series of special editions of the chancellor’s monthly newsletter that focused on free speech, voting, and elections.

The project includes a robust toolkit for use by faculty and students on the three CSU System campuses, with social media graphics and guidelines, classroom resources, and information about voting, peaceful assembly, and ways to engage in civic life.

In October, the System hosted a webinar in conjunction with the initiative, “CSU Grads on the Political Frontlines,” featuring CSU alumni working in the political arena as journalists and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Panelists were from The War Horse, Politico, ProPublica, CropLife America, Fox 5 DC, the McCain Institute for International Leadership, and the U.S. House of Representatives. The webinar is available for viewing in the toolkit section of the initiative website.

Additional webinars and resources will roll out in the months ahead because, even after election season, people still need to understand their rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment.

“Free speech is the heart of higher education, and universities have a unique and important role to play in leading tough conversations around critical issues,” Frank said. “That’s the nature of what we do – we argue about ideas, we debate theories, we recognize that truth can be malleable, evolving along with the research and knowledge we exist to conduct. We sometimes fail in actuality; we don’t always function as a model of civil and respectful discourse. But no institution in our society is as suited to attempt to repair our broken discourse as a university.”

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