Otterbein Joins Global Leaders in Commitment to Democracy

Posted Jun 20, 2019

Otterbein University President John Comerford attended the Global Forum on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy, and the Future of Democracy in Strasbourg, France, from June 20-21, to add Otterbein’s support to a movement of global leaders committing to protecting democracy. Approximately 100 higher education leaders from around the world, including Comerford, received invitations to attend this forum.

“Since its founding, Otterbein has stood for the rights of academic freedom and autonomy, as well as the freedom of speech of individuals, and we continue to stand resolute today,” Comerford said. “Otterbein believes that all voices from different walks of life must be represented, respected and valued, and we are committing to be a national and global leader in preserving democratic societies and values.”

The Global Forum recognizes that academic freedom and institutional autonomy are being subjected to growing pressure and becoming increasingly important components of a global discussion of how democracy develops – and how it should develop. The Global Forum examined a broad range of issues related to academic freedom and institutional autonomy, from politically motivated attacks on them to the effect of general public policies and legislation. Most importantly, The Global Forum will provide input to the 2020 Ministerial Conference of the European Higher Education Area.

Comerford signed a declaration at the Global Forum which states, in part: “Higher education plays an essential role in the education system and in modern democratic societies. Education is key to developing, maintaining, and sustaining a culture of democracy without which democratic laws, institutions, and elections will not function in practice: education furthers and supports a set of attitudes and behaviors that seek resolution of conflicts through dialogue, that accept that while majorities decide, minorities have certain inalienable rights; and that see diversities of background and opinion as a strength rather than as a threat.”

It goes on to state: “Education at all levels should help develop the values, ethic, and ways of thinking on which democratic societies are based and which build opposition and resilience to terrorism and violent extremism.”

The Global Forum was co-organized by the Council of Europe; the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy; the Organization of American States; and other partners, notably the International Association of Universities and the Magna Charta Observatory. It gathered higher education leaders and representatives of public authorities and NGOs from Europe and the United States, as well as smaller numbers from Australia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Check out President Comerford’s photos from his time in France in our photo gallery.

For more information on the Global Forum, visit

For more information about Otterbein University, visit