Terrence J. McDonald, Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
has designated the 2006-2007 academic year as an LSA theme year on “The
Theory and Practice of Citizenship: From the Local to the Global.”
This is to acknowledge and focus attention on a general reawakening of intellectual
interest in issues of citizenship across academic disciplines and on a growing
sense that the conditions for effective citizenship are undergoing rapid change
in the new century.
Conceptions of citizenship – conventionally understood as the rights and
responsibilities held by members of a political community – have been dramatically
altered in recent decades. Developments in communications and information
technology, the unsettlement of mass migrations, the revived politics of religion,
race and ethno-nationalism, the claims of human rights, the puzzles of planetary
sustainability, and the widening gaps of access to the means of survival have
amended the inherited categories of citizenship bound by nationhood and radically
reconfigured the boundaries of public spheres in the localities, the nations,
and the world of the 21st Century.
The LSA theme year on citizenship aims to examine the role of the public university
– and this university in particular – as both a citizen and a space
of citizenship. The university is a protected sphere of universal values
and open inquiry, in which the possibilities and risks of citizenship and of civic
engagement can be studied and debated in non-partisan but engaged ways.
New knowledge, competencies and literacies – historical and political awareness,
scientific understanding, intercultural engagement, and skills for the critical
evaluation of information – are all cultivated in this space, enabling and
informing scholarly investigation as well as new strategies for public engagement.
The faculty, staff, and students of the LSA share an obligation, as a community
of citizens and as stewards of a site of citizenship, to address the challenges
posed in the new century and to try and specify the conditions for effective engagement
in public life on the local, regional, national, and global level.
In sponsoring a year of citizenship at the University of Michigan, the LSA also
intends to highlight its long-standing commitment to community collaborations
and service learning, as well as the broad involvement of its graduates in public
service, civic life, and the practices of good citizenship. This celebration
aims to acknowledge that current LSA students encounter and must engage the issues
of citizenship outside the classroom – in social groups and campus organizations,
as residents of the community, and as agents of social and political change –
and that in grappling with these broader opportunities and obligations they require
not only intellectual discussion but also frameworks and models for the effective
practice of good citizenship.