The long-awaited reopening of economies and societies—and campuses—in the aftermath of the pandemic brings with it an elated expectation of restoration and recovery: the return to normal. Yet while many of the immediate challenges COVID-19 created for colleges and universities may now begin to recede, the pandemic turned a powerful spotlight on existing challenges that had for too long been left unresolved. Particularly with respect to equity, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated and deepened trends already undermining the democratic role of higher education. Democracy requires a form of higher education that is both accessible and affordable, that is not structured by racism, and that is valued because it produces graduates who are socially and economically mobile as well as practiced in the arts of democracy and civic life.
The 2022 Annual Meeting will bring together a broad and diverse community of educators not to look back to an idealized pre-pandemic normal but to look resolutely forward. The meeting program will provide a clear-eyed assessment of the obstacles that remain on the path to a liberal education for many students today. And, finding confidence in the capacity for innovation demonstrated across higher education during the pandemic, it will also showcase and examine new models, practices, and solutions aimed at removing those obstacles and reinvigorating liberal education in service to democracy.