College and university campuses are designed to foster a culture of learning and provide a range of environments that facilitate the free exchange of ideas. In other words, higher education’s ultimate purpose is to encourage discourse; however, major trends in the world today—increasingly fast dissemination of information, political polarization, rapidly changing technologies, as well as social, racial, cultural, and economic concerns—necessitate fundamental changes in how discourse happens. We as higher education planners must navigate these changes and examine how discourse functions in our own planning processes so that we may reinforce the campus’s long-standing role in civil society as a speaker’s corner and town square.
This year’s theme, “The Role of Discourse Today” invites us to discuss the trends shaping the campus’s role in supporting critical discourse and how institutions are responding: How are campuses adapting to honor freedom of expression while fostering a place of safety and inclusivity? What are the most formative moments in students’ college experiences that lead their worldviews to evolve? Our conference program will explore the effects—both challenging and exciting—these social, political, and technological trends have upon integrated planning on campuses. Together, we will form a new perspective on what’s next in planning and advance conversations about the challenges higher education institutions face today.
The University of Colorado Boulder is a prime example of how discourse functions within the planning process. This institution is a testament to how a campus can masterfully evolve while retaining its essence, which it achieves through engaging in authentic discourse grounded in clear values and with rigorous integrated planning. In his 1920 address to the student assembly, architect Charles Klauder outlined a plan to adopt a uniform “University of Colorado Style” building, thereby committing to making the campus unique to its place at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States. Twenty years later, University President George Norlin reflected on his vision to transform the campus from a “third-rate farm” to a respected campus community.
“I have realized that the inside is more important than the outside, that the soul is more important than the body, and to the best of my ability, I have stood for the things of the spirit. Yet, I have felt that the physical beauty of the campus – a campus worthy of the splendid setting with which nature has endowed it, a campus worthy to be the outward frame of the University’s soul, would be an educational place enhancing the morale and spirit of all who come into and go forth from its halls.”
- CU President George Norlin, June 9, 1940
Be part of the dialogue! Join us at the University of Colorado Boulder on March 27–29, 2019.