Pasquerella to Discuss Compassion Fade, Moral Courage, and Higher Ed’s Role in Democracy

Posted Mar 15, 2024

On Tuesday, March 19, Otterbein will host one of the country’s most prominent voices on issues of social justice in higher education. Lynn Pasquerella talks about concepts facing individuals in modern society, like compassion fade and a lack of moral courage. And she talks about why making higher education available to more members of our society is the key to reversing that trend.

Pasquerella will present a lecture, “Educating for Democracy,” at 7 p.m. on March 19 at Church of the Messiah, 51 N. State St., Westerville. Sponsored by the Kathy A. Krendl Distinguished Lecture Series at Otterbein University, the lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a book signing. Learn more at

Pasquerella has been president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) since 2016. She is an expert on civic engagement, access, accreditation, strategic planning, and advocacy for equity and inclusion in higher education. 

“For me, the biggest challenge facing higher education is a growing economic and racial segregation,” she said in an interview for AAC&U . “We must ensure that everybody has equitable access to higher education and, once on campus, has the opportunity to participate in the high-impact practices that we know will help them thrive in work, citizenship, and life. I am confident that liberal education is key to addressing the societal issues that we’re facing now.”

Those societal issues, and solutions, are detailed in her book, What We Value: Public Health, Social Justice, and Educating for Democracy, which examines moral distress, access to resources, and the conflict over whose voices and lives are privileged — and argues that liberal education is the best preparation for work, citizenship, and life.

She argues that our society suffers from a lack of moral courage, pointing out that when campus leaders fail to speak out on social injustice for fear of compromising relationships with donors, alumni, or legislators, they are not modeling the very things that colleges are meant to teach: critical thinking and moral reasoning.

“We must demonstrate moral courage now, as we’re facing real threats to democracy through the rise of authoritarianism, but it is not easy,” she said. “In the context of the polarization and partisanship in this seemingly post-truth era, a liberal education can help teach students to be mindful of the dangers of ideological filtering, to understand the role of misinformation in shaping agendas, and to engage in evidence-based research that will enable them to draw conclusions about the best course of action.”

Come hear more from Pasquerella at the Kathy A. Krendl Distinguished Lecture Series.