The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNCCH) board of trustees voted on Jan. 26 to approve the creation of a school dedicated to teaching students about civil discourse and open inquiry; however, faculty expressed concern that the vote was held without their knowledge.
The board voted unanimously to create the School of Civic Life and Leadership, equipped with 20 faculty and degree options for undergraduate students, that will instruct students on how to engage in public discourse, The Carolina Journal reported.
“The curriculum would be anchored in the study of core texts with particular attention to the foundations of the American experiment and all that comes with it,” board chairman David Boliek said, according to The Carolina Journal, adding that the “school would create the space for free speech [and] a culture of civil and open inquiry.”
Faculty, however, were unhappy that the board chose to vote on the resolution before informing them. (RELATED: Colleges — And Students — Took An Axe To Free Speech In 2022. Here Are Some Of The Worst Examples)
“Prior to the Board of Trustees resolution, the faculty had no knowledge about this new school of Civic Life and Leadership. Approval of courses, curricula, the creation of new schools and programs, and the granting of degrees is in the hands of the faculty at all accredited institutions of higher education,” Mimi Chapman, chair of the university faculty, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We do not have information yet, about what problem this new effort by the BOT seeks to solve.”
Holden Thorp, former university chancellor, said that the trustees “passed a resolution that wasn’t put on the agenda by the chancellor proposing something that they don’t have the power to do,” The Washington Post reported.
Despite concerns, university leadership said that the creation of the school is not a political statement.
“I don’t think about right, left, whatever. What I think about is what is in the best interest of the university,” David Boliek, board chairman, told the Post. “And this is an opportunity for us to be a leader.”
Kevin Guskiewicz, university chancellor, wrote in a Friday message to the campus community that UNCCH has “a responsibility to be a place that brings together people of diverse backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints to debate the issues of our day.” He also clarified that proposed degrees and schools are “developed and led by our faculty, deans, and provost.”
#UNC students are served by learning to listen, engage and seek different perspectives. In a campus email, Chancellor @KevinGuskiewicz said faculty will continue to find ways that we can accomplish our goal of promoting democracy in our world https://t.co/2SSOt4cPz6
— UNC-Chapel Hill (@UNC) January 27, 2023
“Our faculty are the marketplace of ideas and they will build the curriculum and determine who will teach it, just as they determined the capacities laid out in our new Ideas in Action Curriculum,” the message read. “I will be working with our faculty to study the feasibility of such a school and the ways we can most effectively accomplish our goal of promoting democracy in our world today.”
Teaching public discourse, however, is not new at UNCCH. The school’s Program for Public Discourse teaches students about “debate and deliberation” to “be better citizens, civic leaders, and stewards of our democracy,” according to its website.
“Our graduates are leaders in every field: business, sports, journalism, the arts, medicine, nursing, the helping professions, and that is not an exhaustive list,” Chapman told the DCNF. “Our graduates are highly civically engaged. This effort appears to be a solution in search of a problem, and I hope the trustees see fit to provide the campus with more detail as to their vision in coming days.”
Boliek and Guskiewicz did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. UNCCH referred to Guskiewicz’s statement.
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