College presidents debate role of global diversity on campus

To what extent should American universities recruit and admit international students? Last week The Aspen Institute—a nonpartisan forum that gathers scholars, creatives, and members of the public to address some of the world’s most complex problems—and The Atlantic convened several current and former college presidents at the Aspen Ideas Festival to debate this question. Overwhelmingly, the panelists lauded the benefits of a robust international student population.

University of California-Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said that having a diverse student body gives students “global fluency, the ability to move across borders,” and gives universities “soft power” abroad. In contrast, depriving students of a global perspective “is compromising their ultimate success,” she said.

Daniel Porterfield, president and CEO at The Aspen Institute and former president of Franklin & Marshall College, said one higher education leader who has influenced his thinking about globalism is Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, for whom Porterfield worked as a senior vice president for strategic development.

“[DeGioia] understood that Georgetown University as a Catholic institution could and should play a role in promoting knowledge and freedom around the world,” Porterfield said. He related how, as Georgetown developed programming in China, a branch campus in Qatar, and a wide range of programs with a global reach, DeGioia would challenge Porterfield and his team to keep a strong center in Washington, D.C.

The discussion of global diversity took place during a broader session on the public’s diminishing opinion of institutions of higher learning, and American debates over the state—and even the necessity—of higher education. Watch the full conversation, “Advancing Trust in Higher Education,” on The Aspen Institute’s YouTube channel.

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