Civic Engagement, Justice, and the Law in a National and International Context

A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (12 January 2024) | Viewed by 8924

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Government, Legal Studies and Philosophy, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX 76402, USA
Interests: republicanism; Hobbes & Spinoza; American political thought; judicial review; constitutional populism; political philosophy; critical theory; political theology; Augustine & ideology; civic engagement
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Guest Editor
Department of Government, Legal Studies, and Philosophy, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX 76401, USA
Interests: United States constitutional law; higher education and civic engagement

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The public role of universities is several centuries old. However, it was President Truman’s official legal recommendations for democratic citizenship that contributed to the burgeoning “civic engagement” movement that attracted national attention in the 1980s and 1990s, and that continues to structure university investments, strategic plans, as well as curriculum and assessment designs, through today. This raises a host of intersecting questions about power, justice, and the law.

First, to what end or purpose (moral, ethical, or natural law) is higher education promoting student engagement? Does and/or can the law require or incentivize different civic engagement programs to consider global or national citizenship, social justice, informed patriotism, or other goals? We acknowledge a need for sensitivity to the diversity of existing institutions, ranging from public to private to denominational colleges and universities.

Second, and related to these broader questions, especially at public universities, who is to decide? What are the legal guidelines around gatekeepers at different institutions which structure institutes and civic engagement programs, whether with respect to selecting the mission of a citizenship-related center, or deciding on equitable choices of invited speakers? And to what extent, legally, do these centers and/or civic engagement programs need to see the public or affected communities as stakeholders?

These are all themes in which power, justice, and the law overlap.

In terms of even more specific legal questions that apply, especially at public universities in the United States and around the world:

  • What are relevant legal and regulatory guidelines if an interested party is designing a new civic engagement center at a public, private, or denominational school (that accepts or does not accept federal funds)?
  • How is student activism both a challenge and an opportunity for genuine dialogue across different spheres, and what are the contemporary legal ramifications of potentially productive disruptions on campus? As we show, it is currently legal in the US for universities that accept federal funds to severely limit the free expression, protest, and assembly rights of students. Legally speaking—how is it possible to change this unfortunate reality?
  • At non-profit universities, what are the legal issues to consider in order to ensure a diversity of viewpoints among invited speakers so as not to lose tax-exempt status?
  • Many consider Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which is currently illegal on public university campuses in several American states, to represent a robust form of civic engagement. Where has DEI been legally prohibited? What are diversity, equity, and inclusion possibilities that remain in place, and what are multiple ways, while upholding the law, to still pursue a dynamic civic engagement framework?

Dr. Bolek Kabala
Dr. Casey D. Thompson
Guest Editors

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Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

30 pages, 338 KiB  
Article
Incentivizing Civic Engagement at Public and Private Universities: Tax Exemptions, Laws, and Critical Dialogues
by Eric Morrow, Casey Thompson, Payton Jones and Boleslaw Z. Kabala
Laws 2024, 13(3), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws13030032 - 22 May 2024
Viewed by 258
Abstract
What are the differences in how public and private institutions of higher education, with religious schools as a subset of private colleges and universities, approach on-campus protests in a framework of civic engagement? Unfortunately, public, private, and religious schools have all restricted opportunities [...] Read more.
What are the differences in how public and private institutions of higher education, with religious schools as a subset of private colleges and universities, approach on-campus protests in a framework of civic engagement? Unfortunately, public, private, and religious schools have all restricted opportunities of speech, assembly, and protest, despite in many cases state and federal courts ruling that this is against the law. With the goal of increasing the civic capacities of students at all institutions of higher education, we propose a mechanism of partial revocation of tax exemptions at universities that do not currently uphold a robust understanding of civic engagement opportunities for all students, which will apply to any college or university receiving federal funding, consistent with the constitutional tradition of free speech still exemplified by Brandenburg v. Ohio and the “national policy” test of Bob Jones University vs. United States. In doing so, we build on the critique of exemptions in the recent work of Vincent Phillip Munoz on religious liberty. By opting only for incentives and by not even incentivizing private institutions that continue to restrict civic engagement but that do not accept federal dollars, we affirm and support a mutually beneficial ongoing dialogue among public, private, and religious schools. This dialogue, as it is sharpened and maintained in place by our recommended policies, is also consistent with pluralism as conceptualized by Jacob Levy. Full article
13 pages, 205 KiB  
Article
Human and Divine Law at the Secular University: The Divide between Classical Liberalism and Post-Classical Liberalism
by Owen Anderson
Laws 2024, 13(3), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws13030025 - 24 Apr 2024
Viewed by 990
Abstract
The American university has been guided by classical liberalism in its defense of the freedom of speech and academic freedom. The idea is that a university is a place where all ideas and perspectives can be debated. However, this idea is increasingly being [...] Read more.
The American university has been guided by classical liberalism in its defense of the freedom of speech and academic freedom. The idea is that a university is a place where all ideas and perspectives can be debated. However, this idea is increasingly being challenged by those who want the secular university to be a place that advances a social philosophy that promises to transform society by dismantling structural racism and providing for greater equity. In this article, I will argue that both of these models have been shaped by democratic legal ideals and both share a common skeptical assumption about the basic questions of meaning that each person must answer. The legal structures developed by Westphalian modernity attempt neutrality on questions about meaning. This can be seen even in recent Supreme Court decisions affirming the individual’s right to determine meaning for themselves. This skeptical root has produced the conflict between classical liberals and the social transformation that we are witnessing at our universities. I argue for a third option that I find in the Declaration of Independence, which affirms that we can and should know the answers to basic questions which then provide the foundation for education and law. Full article
16 pages, 244 KiB  
Article
Civic Thought and Leadership: A Higher Civics to Sustain American Constitutional Democracy
by Paul O. Carrese
Laws 2024, 13(2), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws13020019 - 25 Mar 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1024
Abstract
Multiple civic crises facing American constitutional democracy—deepening political polarization and dysfunction, loss of confidence in major institutions and professions, and collapse of confidence in higher education—can be simultaneously redressed by restoring traditional civic education in universities and colleges. A nascent national reform in [...] Read more.
Multiple civic crises facing American constitutional democracy—deepening political polarization and dysfunction, loss of confidence in major institutions and professions, and collapse of confidence in higher education—can be simultaneously redressed by restoring traditional civic education in universities and colleges. A nascent national reform in public universities, establishing departments of civic thought and leadership, reintroduces a blend of classical liberal arts and American civic education. This restores a core mission of truth-seeking and Socratic debate to universities, while providing the higher civics needed to perpetuate the American legal and constitutional order through non-partisan, non-ideological preparation of thoughtful citizens and leaders with the necessary civic knowledge and civic virtues, including commitment to the rule of law and American constitutionalism. Full article
12 pages, 208 KiB  
Article
A Renaissance of Civic Education and Civic Engagement in Higher Education in the Spirit of the American Founders and Constitutionalism
by Kody W. Cooper
Laws 2024, 13(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws13010008 - 6 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1703
Abstract
A growing number of states have responded to negative trends in civic knowledge, trust, and engagement by creating new institutes or schools at state universities, with the express aim of reinvigorating civic education and thoughtful, engaged citizenship. In seeking to increase civic knowledge, [...] Read more.
A growing number of states have responded to negative trends in civic knowledge, trust, and engagement by creating new institutes or schools at state universities, with the express aim of reinvigorating civic education and thoughtful, engaged citizenship. In seeking to increase civic knowledge, champion viewpoint diversity, model civil discussion of ideas, combat polarization, and embrace the civic responsibilities of higher education, these institutes can be seen as carrying forward the American founders’ vision of civic education, the moral foundations of law and constitutionalism, and the constitutional principles of free speech and federalism. Full article
11 pages, 209 KiB  
Article
Why Equity Follows the Law
by Adam J. MacLeod
Laws 2024, 13(1), 3; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws13010003 - 3 Jan 2024
Viewed by 2827
Abstract
Renewed attention to equity in higher education is welcome because true equity helps us to reason together well. When administered correctly, the jurisprudence of equity models civil discourse and, therefore, can teach us how to carry out civic engagement reasonably. Equitable interpretation of [...] Read more.
Renewed attention to equity in higher education is welcome because true equity helps us to reason together well. When administered correctly, the jurisprudence of equity models civil discourse and, therefore, can teach us how to carry out civic engagement reasonably. Equitable interpretation of the law teaches us how to understand each other charitably. And equity’s deference to law teaches us how to reason well together about our practical problems. Law is the practical reasoning that we do together. Equity serves the ends of justice by serving law, rather than undermining it. These functions of equity in adjudication point toward a model of equity in practical reasoning and civic discourse more broadly. Research method: jurisprudence. Full article
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