This article examines the underlying logic behind what I call the new civic rationale for university diversity. I draw on a diverse literature to explore the varying ways in which diversity could be connected to democratic participation. I argue that the prevailing conception of diversity, what I call the contact thesis is inadequate preparation for democratic participation in a diverse society because it does not challenge the “underlying liberal architecture” that shapes both the practice and scholarship of college diversity. I make the case for emphasizing a participatory culture that favors multiple and intersectional identities over fixed identities, public work over understanding, and participatory democracy over pluralist democracy. The challenge for colleges and universities in the coming years is to design curriculum and pedagogy that emphasizes diversity as a fluid, adaptable and emerging phenomenon while simultaneously grounding it within fixed ethnic and cultural identities.