Civic Engagement Index (CEI) - the case of liberal arts universities from Romania

Abstract

We have arrived to a moment in history when the society we are living in is confronted with different sets of problems: hunger, crime, economic crises, natural disasters or cataclysms, and various human rights violations. At the moment the most appropriate way to solve these problems still lies with the organisms of the nation state. As such, the lack of civic sense and the increasing political apathy will only allow these problems to grow out of proportions. We are of the opinion that most of them can be counteracted if we try to educate the civic sense in people. By civic sense or engagement we understand a type of orientation towards being involved in social groups according to democratic principles. It is said the post-socialist countries are particularly threatened by the lack of civic engagement on behalf of their citizens that have reached the point where they take democracy for granted. This is why we explore the role played by universities in developing and shaping this civic attitude amongst young people. In order to do so, we resorted to questionnaires applied in liberal arts universities in Romania. These universities have a special relation to democratic principles, national pride and the perpetuation of the nation state as an ideal for its citizens and because of this we believe they represent a proper starting point for the current investigation. The areas that are targeted through the questionnaire are the following: the academic environment, the methods through which civic values are instilled in the hearts and minds of the students, and the institutional and personal factors that determine faculty to introduce civic values in their academic environments. Using the results we create the Civic Engagement Index (CEI) that can be used as a valuable benchmarking mechanism for those universities that are trying to enhance their civic engagement activities. Finally, we test the hypothesis that certain universities fail to create civic-oriented graduates and we propose ways in which the organizational culture could be transformed into a more supportive one: civic participation guides, civic responsibility classes, and service learning classes for faculty members to increase their openness towards the promotion of civic values.

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