Join the Constitution Day Dialogue Initiative

April 2, 2019

Constitution Day is Tuesday, September 17, 2019. All educational institutions that receive Federal funds are required to hold an educational program about the U.S. Constitution for its students on or around this day. Congress established Constitution Week in 1956 “to begin each year on September 17th, the date in 1787 when delegates to the Convention signed the Constitution.” In 2004, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia included key provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2005 designating September 17th of each year as Constitution Day and requiring public schools and governmental offices to provide educational programs to promote a better understanding of the Constitution.

Campus Compact member campuses are encouraged to leverage this day for good by participating in the Constitution Day Dialogue Initiative to increase dialogue and deliberation about complex public issues. Over the last year, Campus Compact has worked with campus leaders and community partners to launch a series of local dialogues across the state with the goal of increasing students’ capacities to listen respectfully to the ideas of others and engage in both constructive and critical discussion of public questions. To participate, campuses agree to facilitate a dialogue exercise of some kind during the week of Constitution Day.

Why Dialogue?

In a context of polarization and distrust,  when 93% of the public agrees that the nation has a civility problem, this requirement presents a unique opportunity for conversations about shared values. Higher education institutions across the country are increasingly incorporating the theory and practice of dialogue across different dimensions of the curriculum, co-curriculum, pedagogy, and administration and governance. Dialogue equips students, faculty, and staff with the skills to build a shared understanding of challenges, to empathize with experiences very different from one’s own, and to create positive change from collaboration. Dialogue as pedagogy can enhance student learning, feelings of belonging, and skills for a globalized workforce and impact students’ post-college civic and community engagement.

What Now?

While campuses can opt to organize a dialogue about an issue of their choosing, Minnesota Campus Compact, in partnership with Metropolitan State University students, is developing a freely-accessible Living Room Conversations guide on the topic of the 2020 Census called, “Is it riskier to be counted or uncounted?” (This guide is not yet available but will be posted with other resources on the 2020 Census are here.) Participating campuses can use this activity. Another timely topic of interest may be voting rights, as part of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in 2020. Campuses may also host dialogues about a range of other public issues informed by the Constitution. We will collect and share dialogue resources on our website, including examples of what other campuses have done in the past.

Have questions? 

Register here for the info session on Zoom, April 17, 1-2 pm on contact Sinda Nichols.

Please complete this form to register your campus to participate. By registering your campus, you’ll help us share the story of your campus’s dialogue as part of broader communications intended to build awareness of Constitution Day dialogues around the state. Register your campus by August 1, 2019.