Democracy Project Sponsors Author Cornel West

Posted: September 20, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Rey Banks

Democracy is defined as “[a] government in which the people hold the ruling power either directly or through elected representatives.” Although the explanation seems simple, educating students about how to understand democracy as a system that involves rights and responsibilities of civic engagement in one’s community, nation, and world is an ambitious undertaking—one that is being tackled by the Democracy Project at George Mason.

Based in the Office of the Provost, the Democracy Project seeks to produce graduates who understand and are committed to engaging in meaningful actions as citizens in a democracy. “The project invites us to become more committed as agents of positive change and as active participants in our own nation and as members of a global community,” says Marilyn Mobley McKenzie, associate provost for educational programs and campus coordinator. Instead of letting elections and the legislative process “just happen” to citizens, the goal of the Democracy Project is to promote engagement in that process.

The Democracy Project hopes to realize this through campuswide dialogue, cocurricular programs and special events. One such event is the visit this week of noted scholar and Princeton professor Cornel West during the Fall for the Book festival. West will discuss and sign his recently published book, Democracy Matters, on Thursday, Sept. 23, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall. “I am encouraging as many students as possible to attend this important discussion and have asked professors to show their support by awarding extra credit opportunities for their students who attend,” says McKenzie.

The Democracy Project is sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the New York Times. Through participation in the project, Mason joins an impressive list of colleges and universities represented in 49 states. Here at Mason, the project uses its web site to coordinate the various curricular and cocurricular efforts already taking place on campus.

McKenzie has ambitious plans for the Democracy Project. Additional speakers will be engaged, voter registration drives launched, and more campus events and forums scheduled. The project will also sponsor an essay contest this fall.

For more information on the project and other civic engagement initiatives and organizations, see the Democracy Project web site or e-mail McKenzie at mmkenzi@gmu.edu.

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