Civic Action

Transforming Conflict on College Campuses

February 22, 2023  • Citizenship and American Identity Program

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At this moment, the United States of America is experiencing the highest levels of societal division and social conflict in its collective memory. These divisions undermine trust in public institutions, lead to disagreement on basic facts, and make it extraordinarily difficult for people to collaborate across lines of difference.

College campuses are an environment in which this fracturing is especially acute. Higher education institutions have traditionally served as the forum where ideas are formed, discussed, contested, and refined. Colleges and universities are charged with advancing societal knowledge, grappling with complex ideas, and preparing future civic leaders. But in recent years, many college and university leaders have found it increasingly challenging to advance the mission of higher education in the context of a hyperpolarized national climate.

 The authors of this report conducted an interview-based research project – collecting insights from students, faculty, staff, and administrators at campuses across the country – to describe this undercurrent of conflict and provide recommendations for moving forward. This report is intended as a peer-informed resource for higher education administrators, faculty, and staff by diagnosing the conflict and surfacing promising directions for addressing conflict on campus.